I. A “New Babylon”
"New Babylon" stone tablet from Nathaniel Conklin's home.
Babylon Town has a rich and colorful past. History records that in 1710, Captain Jacob Conklin built the first home in what is now the Town of Babylon, hamlet of Wheatley Heights. Conklin sailed with the infamous pirate Captain Kidd. It is unclear whether Conklin was forced into service by Kidd or was a willing accomplice. One version of the tale claims that Conklin escaped from Kidd while the ship was docked in Cold Spring Harbor, hiding among the Native Americans and later purchasing land from them. The other version is that Conklin was a full participant in Kidd's escapades and simply chose to disembark when the ship reached Long Island. What is certain is that, subsequent to his service with Kidd, Conklin possessed a large sum of money, which he used to purchase vast tracts of land.
On of Jacob Conklin's son, Colonel Platt Conklin, was an ardent patriot serving in the Revolutionary War. He married Phebe Smith and they had one child, Nathaniel. It was Nathaniel Conklin and his mother Phebe who named Babylon in 1803. Nathaniel Conklin moved his sons and his mother from their home in Dix Hills to build a new life on the largely undeveloped southern portion of Huntington Town. Upon discovering that their new home would be next to a tavern, Phebe Conklin reportedly proclaimed the area to be another "Babylon" – referring to the indecent depiction of Babylon from the Bible. Seizing on this, Nathaniel Conklin called the community "New Babylon" and inscribed these words on a stone tablet in the chimney of his new home. The name "Babylon" caught on quickly and in 1830, the Federal Government gave official recognition by changing the name of the Post Office from Huntington South to Babylon.
The 1803 Conklin House as it appears today. In 1871, the house was moved from its original location on the northeast corner of Deer Park Avenue and Main Street, to its present location just south of the railroad tracks on Deer Park Avenue. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in 1988.
II. Huntington South: The 19th Century
“Huntington South” was the name generally assigned to the southern portion of the original Town of Huntington, which is now the Town of Babylon. (While there is a current community known as South Huntington, it should be confused with the historical reference of Huntington South.)
In the 1800s, access to the Great South Bay supported industries related to fishing, clamming and boat building, and two railroad lines supported industries that shipped produce, bricks, lumber and other goods to New York City. The railroad also brought vacationers to enjoy seaside resorts.
As Huntington South grew in the mid-1800s, friction developed between the North and South. Many residents from Huntington South found it a burden to attend Town Board meetings and access government services because the residents needed to travel to the north side of the Town of Huntington. A particular issue that ignited a cry for division of the Town was a road project in the Village of Huntington. Since the Village was unincorporated, the costs of the controversial project were applied to all the real property in the Town of Huntington, including Huntington South.
The South Side Signal, which began publication in June 1869, in Babylon Village, was the most vocal opponent of the road project. The first printed suggestion of dividing the Town of Huntington appeared in the February 12, 1870 edition of the Signal. Henry Livingston, founder and editor of the Signal, cited the rapid growth of the south shore communities and control of the Town by Huntington Village as the primary reasons for dividing the Town.
The South Side Signal building originally located on Main Street in Babylon Village. The building later became the Red Lion English Pub. Unfortunately, the historic building was demolished in 2019.
Henry Livingston, founder and editor of the South Side Signal newspaper.
As the momentum for division grew, a series of town-wide meetings were held where some individuals endorsed the idea of a three-town division. A referendum was held on January 27, 1872, and, by more than a 2 to 1 margin, the voters supported a two-town division.
III. Birth of the Town of Babylon: 1872
The proposed new town appears to have been universally referred to as the Town of Babylon, taking its name from an influential community on the south shore. Following the referendum vote to divide the Town of Huntington, a commission of prominent citizens met, and within a week established the boundaries of the new Town, which were suggested by James T. Morris of Amityville. The northern border of the new Town of Babylon was created “one mile north of the Long Island Rail Road.”
John R. Reid of Babylon, and J. Amherst Woodhull and David Carll of Huntington were appointed a committee to take charge of the Bill and secure its passage by the Legislature. Judge John R. Reed drafted the Bill. On February 17, 1872, the newly elected Suffolk County Assemblyman John S. Marcy introduced the bill to the New York State Legislature. The bill was approved on March 13, 1872. (Interesting note: J. Amherst Woodhull was the Supervisor of the Town of Huntington, and David Carll was the brother of Elbert Carll, who would be elected the first Supervisor of the Town of Babylon.)
The legislation provided that the first annual meeting of the Town of Babylon would "be held at the hotel of P.A. Seaman and Son in the Village of Babylon on the first Tuesday of April." The Seaman Hotel was actually the historic "American House" hotel, which stood at the northwest corner of Deer Park Avenue and West Main Street, in Babylon village.
The American House Hotel and Tavern was erected about 1780 by Jesse Smith.
Elbert Carll, the first Babylon Town Supervisor
At the first Town meeting, five resolutions were approved.
- 1st Resolved that an appropriation of $1,500 be made for the support of the poor of said Town;
- 2nd Resolved that an appropriation of $200 be made for the repairs of roads and bridges of said Town;
- 3nd Resolved that an appropriation of $1,000 be made contingent expenses;
- 4th Resolved that the Islands be hired out to the highest bidder at Public Auction at Babylon;
- 5th Resolved that the privileges of the Bay be exclusive for the citizens of the Towns of Babylon and Islip and that said privilege be protected from encroachments of other Towns.
The official seal of the Town of Babylon was authorized at a meeting of the Town Board on April 2, 1878. The American eagle represents the nation. The clam and the oyster above the bird, the eel in the beak of the eagle and the fish below are representative of the diverse marine life that constituted the main industry of the town in the 1870s. The original seal had a blue center surrounded by an outer circle of white. In 1964, the bands were colored yellow for contrast.
The first step in forming the new government was nominating candidates for public office. At a meeting in Amityville, a union or coalition ticket headed by Republican John Robbins was nominated. In Babylon, an opposing coalition ticket led by Democrat Elbert Carll was nominated. In a tightly contested election, Carll became the first Supervisor of the Town of Babylon with 364 votes to 349 votes for Robbins