Jonathan Titus and the Revolution

The first known document concerning ownership of the Huntington Pottery is a deed which refers to the the sale of the Pottery by Jonathan and Sarah Titus to Samuel J. Wetmore & Co. on February 27, 1805

Portion of a May 1805 deed for the Pottery (collection author)

For Jonathan Titus, the pottery was an investment rather than a trade. Titus held important positions in the town. He had a license to sell liquor and ran a ferry service between Huntington and Norwalk, CT.

Jonathan, a widower with two young children, married Sarah Wood in 1761. Sarah’s first husband, Isaac Brush, passed away when Sarah was 33, leaving her to care for (by most accounts) six children, from nine-year-old Platt Brush to infant Naomi. Between 1762 and 1774, Jonathan and Sarah had four daughters of their own.

Huntington, July 23, 76. Yesterday the Freedom and Independence of the Thirteen United Colonies was, with beat of drum proclaimed at the several places of parade, by reading the Declaration of the General Congress together with the Resolutions of our Provincial Convention thereupon: which were approved and applauded by the animated shouts of the people who were present from all the distant quarters of this district. [Huntington Town records, including Babylon, Long Island, N.Y. (Volume 4)]

A month later, the British Army successfully invaded Brooklyn County (western Long Island). General George Washington, surrounded and outnumbered, ordered the evacuation of his troops. Many slipped back to Manhattan, but Long Island patriots headed east and then north across the Sound to enemy-free Connecticut. They left their families behind and gathered again to serve in the Continental Army.

U.S. Army-Artillery retreat from Long Island-1776; 
Akron, Ohio: The Werner Company, 1899; LCCN 95507855

For the remainder of the war, Long Island suffered a long and arduous occupation by the British, including forced labor and the confiscation of homes, processions, and livelihood.

A particular nemesis for the British during the occupation was Ebenezer Prime, Huntington’s outspoken Presbyterian pastor.

No part of Long Island suffered more severely in the war than Huntington, the parish of Mr. Prime, which was a prosperous town, and specially important to the enemy on account of its central position and its well- protected harbor. The British troops were quarteredon the inhabitants, whom they treated with all the rigors of war, destroying their crops and wasting theirgoods, or using them without recompense. The Presbyterianchurch, in which Mr. Prime had so long ministered,was taken for a military depot, and the pulpitand pews were broken up and used for fuel. Thepastor’s house was occupied by the troops, and hisvaluable library used for lighting fires, mutilated bythe destruction of portions of sets of books, or recklesslyscattered abroad. [Prime, E. D. G.. Notes, genealogical, biographical and bibliographical of the Prime family. Cambridge, Mass.: University Press, 1888]

Spying, conducted by both loyalists and patriots, was a new and more daring occupation. The story of the Culper Spy Ring is an exciting one. The section of Huntington around the harbor is now called Halesite in honor of the ill-fated Connecticut school teacher who landed at Huntington Harbor.

Halesite is where the Huntington Pottery was located, and no doubt close to where Hale secretly landed on his covert trip  from Connecticut to New York. Captain Nathan Hale was captured by the British, and before his execution, expressed his famous regret.

Pyle, Howard; 1880; NYPL Digital Collections.

All the members of the Titus Family were on the Revolutionary side. Many of them served in the Armies, visiting their families at Huntington at night, crossing the sound with muffled oars. Some of them were drowned in attempts to escape the British press-gangs. [The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, Frederic Gregory Mather January 1, 1913 J. B. Lyon]

Jonathan Titus was not a young man when, at 51, he joined the Huntington Militia and then the Continental Army, rising in the ranks from Private to Captain. Jonathan Titus Jr. joined the 4th New York regiment under his father’s command. Together they fought at Saratoga, Valley Forge, Monmouth, and Stony Point. Captain Titus retired in 1781 at 57 years old, but his son continued to fight for independence throughout the siege of Yorktown and beyond. Jonathan Titus Jr. was honorably discharged when he was 29.

Long Islanders did not know freedom until the war ended in 1783.

George Washington made a Victory tour in 1790 and stopped in Huntington in April to express his gratitude. Grateful residents of Huntington swarmed to the tavern to hear a short address by Washington.

Friday 23d. About 8 o’clock we left Roe’s, and baited the Horses at Smiths Town … thence 15 miles to Huntington where we dined … The house we dined at in Huntingdon was kept by a Widow Platt, and was tolerably good. [Diary of George Washington, from 1789 to 1791; Embracing the Opening of the First Congress, and His Tours Through New York, New England, Long Island, and the Southern States. Edited by Benson J. Lossing. New York: Charles B. Richardson & Co., MDCCCLX]

Section of a mural likeness of George Washington during his 1790 Huntington visit. The 2010 painting by Jane Spalholz adorned a building near the original site of Platt’s tavern.

Locally produced pottery, both redware and stoneware, would have been essential during the years of occupation, but I believe that if the British tore down the church to use the lumber and blockaded the Long Island Sound, there must have been a severe shortage of fuel for the wood-burning kilns. And who would manage the Pottery while Titus, if he owned it at the time, was off fighting a war for five years? Mysteries yet to be solved.

Jonathan Titus died in 1808, nine years after the American victory for independence and three years after selling the Huntington Pottery to Samuel Wetmore & Co. His headstone affirms, “He was a worthy Veteran, a true Patriot and Honest man.” Recognition should also be given to his wife Sarah and all the women who cared for their families throughout the belligerent occupation.

1805 Deed for the Huntington Pottery: Front, Back and Cover

It transfers one quarter ownership from Timothy Williams to Moses Scudder within the partnership of Samuel Wetmore & Co.

(Collection Karen Rae Levine)

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