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Gardiners Island.                 more selected entries

Gardiners Island (3,000 acres/1,214 ha)

Located in Gardiners Bay between Long Island's North and South Forks, it is 7.5 x 3 mi (12.07 x 4.83 km). In 1639 Lion Gardiner purchased the island, then called Manchonake, from the Montauk tribe and initially called it the Isle of Wight. It was the first English settlement in what became New York State, and a carpenter's shed built there in 1639 is the state's oldest wood-frame structure. The royal patent, granted to Gardiner by Charles I on 10 Mar 1639-40, gave him the "right to possess the land forever." A new patent was issued by Gov Richard Nicolls in 1665. The island was established as a manor in 1686 and annexed to East Hampton in 1688 for town government purposes. In 1699 Capt William Kidd left part of his treasure with John Gardiner, and although that was later turned over to colonial authorities, treasure hunters have sought booty on the island ever since. During both the American Revolution and the War of 1812, British fleets lay at anchor in Gardiners Bay and plundered the island for cattle and other provisions. Most proprietors lived on the island for long periods, but starting in 1920 the land was leased to other parties as a hunting preserve. Due to debt and inheritance taxes, the island was sold in 1937 to a Gardiner cousin. Since the 1980s it has been the subject of a title dispute between two descendants. Central to the conflict is the future use of the land, each side accusing the other of wishing to sell or develop it. Gardiners Island is, as the dispute highlights, an important wildlife preserve. Its grasslands and tidal wetlands are home to the largest colony of nesting osprey in New York State as well as to other endangered birds. It also has the largest stand of white oak in the Northeast.

Gardiner, Curtiss C. Lion Gardiner and His Descendants (St. Louis: A. Whipple, 1890)

Jennifer Steenshorne


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