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History of Merrick, NY

Page history last edited by Bill Keogan 4 years, 4 months ago


Clock at the Merrick LIRR station




Merrick is an area in Hempstead township, on the south shore of Nassau County,  about  twelve miles east of  the edge of New York City.  Demographic information about Merrick is available through American Fact Finder.



In 1643, John Carman and the Rev. Robert Fordham arrived from New England with a group of settlers and paid approximately $100 for an area of land approximately the size of the Town of Hempstead.  Memories of the Merricks relates that in 1643 a member of this group, Jonathan “Rock” Smith,   became the first European to set up a farm in the Merrick area.. MOTM.


When these early settlers arrived, much of Long Island was considered part of the Dutch colony of New Netherland.





 Depiction of John Carman and the Rev. Robert Fordham purchasing

land from Chief Tackapausha.


Writing in Freeport as It Was about the purchase of land by English settlers from the local Indians, Clinton E. Metz says that “A glimpse of the original treaty shows why its vague wording led to legal controversies between the races.”  Sometime after the sale Metz continues “An epidemic of smallpox and other diseases contracted from the Europeans” likely killed more than half of Long Island’s Indians.  Metz sums up by saying ”Indian policy toward the white man went through six stages: friendly help, misunderstanding, a short period of fighting, quick defeat, and near-slavery.”


An Historical Sketch of Merrick, Long Island,  1643-1900 contains the following:
"Although title to the township was made sure from the
time of settlement in 1643, lands were held in common
until 1647, when the first division took place among the
original sixty-six owners. Other divisions rapidly fol-
lowed, and "Akers of Medowe given out to the Inhabit-
ants of Hempstead," says Flint, is a frequent entry in the
old town books. Town meetings fixed the day to begin
cutting salt grass, before which no one had the right to
use sickle or scythe, for the marshes were held, last of all,
in common. In 1712 the commons contained about 6,000


The word Merrick comes from the name of the Meroke Indians, a branch of the Algonquins.  The Merokes lived in this area before English settlers arrived in the 1640s.  ENYS


In 1645, Caleb Carman became the first white child to be born in the Merrick area. 


Hewlett homestead built in 1687


In 1649, the family of George Hewlett arrived in America.  Some of them later settled in the Merrick area.  The Hewletts built a home on the northeast corner of Merrick Road and Merrick Avenue in 1687.  The Hewletts bought a thousand acres that stretched from Merrick Avenue to Newbridge Road.  There were Hewletts living in Merrick right into the 20th century.  This house was torn down in 1963.


According to the entry about Merrick in Wikipedia, “During the colonial period, Merrick became a trading center because vessels could enter Jones Inlet and sail up deep channels to docks beside what is now Merrick Road. During the War of 1812 these channels, canals and coves made Merrick a haven for buccaneers who preyed on merchants. Pirates in whaleboats once robbed prominent landowner George Hewlett and two friends while they were duck hunting, ripping the silver buttons from their coats. At one point, residents armed with muskets captured one bandit leader and shipped him to New York in irons for trial.”


 "An Historical Sketch of Merrick, Long Island, 1643-1900" by Charles N. Kent includes this:
“The constabulary was the militia, and that there was a 
frequent demand for their services a single incident will 
illustrate: ‘John Jackson's Store, west of the Mill-dam 
at Merrick, was robbed by some Whale boats under Cap- 
tain Dickie. The Militia went in pursuit. The western 
division was under Joseph Raynor, and the eastern under 
George Hewlett. Dickie was captured, and sent to New 
York. Not long afterwards, George Hewlett, with two
friends, was gunning on the marsh, when a whale boat 
rowed up, took his gun, silver sleeve buttons, and some 
money, and consulted whether they should take their hats 
and coats.’" 


In the 19thCentury Merrick, with its access to the ocean, was a center for agricultural trade.  The area also had four paper mills along the Merrick River.  ENYS


Roadhouse and stage coach stop on Babylon Turnpike


Memories of the Merricks notes that Joseph and Philetas Smith operated a roadhouse on Babylon Turnpike near Meadowbrook Road in the 1840s.  This building served as a stop in the mid 19th Century for a daily stagecoach carrying mail and passengers from Jamaica to Babylon.  It also likely served as Merrick's first Post Office.


An article in the New York Times noted “The landmark Lannick house [was] built in 1866 by Charles Fox, the founder of what is now the Long Island Rail Road, and named for a family that owned it later.”  NYT 



Charles Fox, president of the South Side Rail Road, had this house built in 1866 at the

corner of Merrick Road and Merrick Avenue.   The site is now occupied by a Starbucks

and other stores. 


The South Side Rail Road, the predecessor of the Long Island Railroad, came to Merrick in 1867, making the area more accessible to people from New York City.  ENYS  With the arrival of the railroad, Merrick started to become an area where families from Manhattan and Brooklyn, such as the Cammanns and the Kents, had summer residences. MOTM




In 1867, William E. Hewlett and Francis Miller built the shed pictured here

to shelter passengers waiting for a train in Merrick.



Picture of William E. Hewlett (standing) 

with school teacher Thomas Wheeler



The Long Island Camp Meeting Association established a Methodist campground in 1869 on sixty acres in what is now North Merrick. ENYS  The camp meetings in Merrick were part of  the Third Great Awakening, a general heightening of religious activity in the United States at that time.


Methodist camp meeting in Merrick.


According to AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF Merrick, Long Island, 1643-1900,  the non-denominational Union Chapel had existed in Merrick since 1875.  The text continues: 

“Services were held for several years with considerable regularity, but there was never a settled minister, his place being supplied by students from the Seminaries, engaged for each Sunday at the rate of seven dollars and fifty cents and expenses.  Large congregations resulted for a time, but gradually interest in the services declined. It became difficult to make the necessary payments and reimburse the young theologians. Efforts were made to transfer the property to other denominations in the nearby villages, but without success, and it was finally sold at foreclosure.





 The Cammann House-- This house was located on the north side of Merrick Road

 about midway between Lindenmere Drive and Babylon Turnpike. Originally, it was the

 ancient Joseph Carmen farm house. Mr. Herman Cammann bought the Carmen property 

in 1890 and rebuilt and enlarged the house and his son Edward C. Cammann lived

here for many years. Mr. Edward C. Cammann was one of the organizers of the Merrick library in 1891.








The Narwood house


In 1880, William Hewlett built what later be known as the Isaac Narwood house.  In the early 1960s the Merrick Library was moved to this site at the coorner of Merrick Ave. and Narwood Ave.  MOTM



Cammann's Pond


Hermann H. Cammann had a "beautiful summer home at Merrick... erected in 1885 and since that time Mr. Cammann [was] identified with the interests of Long Island, especially in Nassau county."  For another profile and a photo of H. H. Cammann see this site.



The Bonnie Hame-Skyfield House


The Bonnie Hame-Skyfield House was built in 1889 by Theodore Bartow on land purchased from William E. Hewlett.  The house was located at the corner of Merrick Road and Merrick Avenue, land now occupied by Merrick's Post Office and a bank. 



Church of the Redeemer in 1963 


The Episcopalian Church of the Redeemer was incorporated in 1890.  It was built on property formerly occupied by the Union Chapel (see above).


Merrick Library was founded in 1891, by Edward C. Cammann and Richard P. Kent, two young men in their late teens.  After being housed in three temporary accommodations, the library was moved to a cottage in 1897.


Fourth home of  the Merrick Library built in 1897


The population of Merrick in the 1890s was about 500 people. MOTM


In 1900, Merrick Library published An Historical Sketch of Merrick, Long Island, 1643-1900 : Written for the Merrick library by Charles N. Kent, father of Richard P. Kent.  The text of this book is available online.



Merrick Avenue in 1912.



In Merrick's early days, education took place informal schoolhouses, such as one on the Hewlett farm.  According to Yesterdays in the Merricks, there was a schoolhouse built in 1839  that served the area until a new one was built in 1892.  In the latter part of the 19th Century, Merrick was part of a school district that included Bellmore.  It was not until 1900 that Merrick had its own school district--Common School District 25.  Its first school board was headed by Hermann H. Cammann. The district's first public school was a one-room building, which housed thirty-eight students and one teacher.  


Merrick schoolhouse in 1916


An article called "What's Doing in Society" on page 7 of the New York Times dated August 23, 1901 said:

At Merrick L.I. on Wednesday evening a dramatic entertainment was given for the benefit of the town's library, and Evert Janssen Wendell played in "A Game of Cards," assisted by Charles F. Kent, Jr., Henry S. Blake, and Miss Mary Kent.  This was followed by "A Pair of Lunatics," in which Mrs. Woodruff Leeming and Richard P. Kent acted.  "Who Is Who" closed the entertainment, and in this appeared among others Edward C. Cammann, Miss Ruth Kent, and Miss Celestine W. How.   

An article in the Brooklyn Eagle entitled "The Island's Social Circles" about this same event reported on an early automobile excursion.  The large and jolly party started out in Freeport in a week old automobile.  They drove to the entertainment in Merrick, after which they rode out to the Massapequa Hotel for refreshments "in record time."  They then returned to Freeport at a more leisurely pace.



Merrick Road 1908


An article, "Beauties of Merricks," in the Brooklyn Eagle dated August 5, 1902 stated:

"The most beautiful section of the Merrick road is at Merrick, the village from which it takes its name.  Here it runs under a grand foliage of big girthed trees, between glimmering lakes and over rustic bridges spanning picturesque streams.  Within sight are the waters of the Great South Bay and the beach."


Yesterdays in the Merricks (p. 35) relates the following: “The only industry in Merrick, the Midmer Church Organ Works, began operations in Brooklyn in 1860.  In 1907 the plant was moved to Merrick on the north side of the tracks, east of Merrick Avenue.  At first, the factory employed 30 men, and the company built homes for them on Miller Place”  YITM .


Midmer Church Organ Works



A photo of Merrick Avenue near the corner of Oakwood in the early 1900s.



Merrick's business section in 1916


St. John's Lutheran Church was started in 1917. 



Early picture of St. John's Lutheran Chruch




The Merrick LIRR train station in the 1920s.



Sunrise Highway was constructed in the 1920s as a four-to-six lane arterial highway from southern Queens east to Massapequa in Nassau County.


The book Memories of the Merricks asserted that “The 1920s hit Merrick like a bomb; development went up on all sides, and the prices were not low.  The population approached 5,000.”   This growth after World War I was aided by the electrification of the railroad in1925 and the building of the Southern State Parkway in 1927.  ENYS 



A flag waving crowd celebrated the electrification of the railroad in May 1925. 

Muller's hotel is in the background.


In the 1920s the rural nature of the area began to change noticeably as a number of large properties in Merrick were sold to real estate developers.  MOTM



Merrick Gables house


The construction of the Merrick Gables houses starting in 1927 made up a significant part of Merrick's development during these years.  A New York Times article dated March 13, 1927 said "The plan of development includes the building of a quantity of novel stucco Spanish type all-year-round homes.... The restrictions provide for each house to be on a plot of at least fifty feet."  



Fire Company Number 2 in 1924


Merrick's growth in the 1920s coincided with the beginnings of three new houses of worship in the community.  The Roman Catholic Curé of Ars Parish began as a mission church of St. Barnabas Parish in Bellmore in 1922.  Bishop Thomas Edmund Molloy established  Curé of Ars Parish  on Oct. 10, 1926.  The Community Presbyterian Church of Merrick and the Merrick Jewish Centre- Congregation Ohr Torah were both founded in 1929.



This school, on the corner of Merrick Avenue and Smith Street,

was built in 1923 and cost $135,000.




Merrick picture postcard.


Growth seemed to have leveled off in the 1930s.  In 1940 Merrick had a population of 2,935.  North Merrick had 2,072 people. NYT


The first stretch of the Meadowbrook Parkway was built between 1932 and 1935 to relieve traffic congestion on the Wantaugh Parkway, which had been the only route to recently opened Jones Beach State Park..  During the 1930s the Meadowbrook entended north only as far as the Southern State Parkway.  The Meadowbrrok was extended north to connect with Northern State Parkway in the 1950s.


A newspaper called The Meroke was started in 1934.  This publication later became Merrick Life.


Like other communities on Long Island, Merrick saw another jump in population in the years after World War II, so that by 1984, Merrick and North Merrick had a combined population of some 30,000 residents.  NYT


The Kiwanis Club of Merrick was founded in 1949 . The club began with just 25 members.


The Merrick United Methodist Church was establed in 1950.


The Lakeside School was built in 1952. MOTM


The Merrick-Bellmore Community Concert Association was formed in 1953.



Members of the Merrick Bellmore Community Concert Association in 1965.


Merrick Film Forum was founded in the late 1950s to offer the community an

alternative to the standard movie fare.


The Birch School came into existence in 1961.  It was later expanded. MOTM


In 1960 the people of M e r r i c k voted in favor of a bond for the construction of a new library   building.  The New York Times reported  the dedication of the new library at 2279 Merrick Avenue on November 25, 1962, saying the building was 14,000 square feet and could hold 75,000 books. 


The Merrick Library that opened in 1962 



The Orthodox Congregation Ohav Sholom was formed in April 1962.




Skating on Cammann's Pond


Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church was established in 1972.


The Merrick Symphony came into existance in the mid-1970s.


Cammann's Pond off of Merrick Road


1n 1984, the New York Times had an article called “If you’re Thinking of Living in Merrick."  This piece noted that Merrick had fifty-one civic and cultural organizations, including Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary Clubs, the Merrick Film Forum and the Merrick Symphony.   The article went on to mention that there "are four synagogues in town - two Conservative, one Reform and one Orthodox - and seven churches - two Catholic, one Episcopal, one Baptist, one Methodist, one Presbyterian and a newly completed Greek Orthodox Church topped by a copper dome.”  NYT'


The orthodox synagogue Young Israel of Merrick was incorporated in 1987.


The Long Island Mar Thoma Church was incorporated in March 1988.  Initially, the church rented the church building owned by the Church of the Redeemer for Sunday worship. By the end of 1994 the Mar Thoma church purchased the church building and the property for 1.3 million dollars.


The Grace Reformed Baptist Church was formed in 1995 as a union of the First Baptist Church of Merrick and Calvary Baptist Church of Amityville.




Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in Merrick, NY


The Norman Levy Park and Preserve opened to the public on October 22, 2000. This award winning Town of Hempstead preserve serves as a plant and wildlife sanctuary, as well as a tranquil respite for residents."


Trail at the Levy Preserve


The Merrick Herald newspaper began publishing in 2004.


Front entrance of the library that opened in 2005


The current Merrick Library building opened in the fall of 2005.  On December 6 of that year Newsday reported "After three years of working to expand and improve its offerings, the Merrick Library has opened its new building. The library, which was established in 1891, grew too cramped for its previous facility, and in 2002 voters approved a $10 million referendum to make improvements.  The new library, which opened Friday, has an expanded children's area  with a programming room, a larger multipurpose room for community groups and cultural programming, a teen room with computers, wireless hot spots and a new self-service checkout."



Merrick inlet.



In autumn 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged Merrick and the surrounding communities.  In the aftermath of the storm Merrick Library acted as a warming center and community hub,  welcoming an overflow of people, who came to get information about disaster relief, use computer facilities, charge cell phones, study and escape the cold temperatures.  During this crisis, the library opened two additional days it had originally been scheduled to be closed to serve the needs of the community.






In March of 2020, the community had to deal with the Corona Virus.  In an issue dated 3/17/2020, The Merrick edition of the Long Island Herald reported, “School is out across all of Bellmore and Merrick until April 1, according to an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Monday night.“  The paper also noted that local schools “ will continue to hold educational activities through Infinite Campus. The online student management system allows teachers to send out assignments, provide lessons or send links to other educational platforms, such as Google Classroom.”


The virus also affected Merrick business, churches, and institutions such as The Merrick Library, which closed its doors on Saturday, March 14, for an indefinite period of time.  The library did continue to provide certain services virtually, including access to e-books, audio-books, databases, and offering reference service via e-mail.



Over the years, Merrick has been the home to a number of notable people, including Godfather author Mario Puzo; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream; actress Lindsay Lohan; and Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul R. Krugman. 


For additional historical photographs of Merrick, check: https://nyheritage.org/contributors/merrick-library






Comments (2)

Maureen Garvey said

at 1:59 pm on Jun 2, 2010

Bill, did you take these last pictures? Very pretty.

Bill Keogan said

at 2:12 pm on Jun 2, 2010

Thanks. I took pictures of the Gables, Cammann's Pond, the Levy Preserve, and the inlet.

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