Last modified: 2012-11-24 by rick wyatt
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image by Jens Pattke, 14 October 2005
An orange-red flag bearing the town seal.
I found a letter regarding the Brookhaven town seal and flag in a file at the Suffolk County Historical Society. It was written by David Overton, the Town Historian. It is undated, but from the Town Supervisor's name on the letterhead it was done sometime after 1981 and probably before 1992.
THE BROOKHAVEN TOWN SEAL
The Official Brookhaven Town Flag
The Town of Brookhaven seal and flag go hand in hand with each other. The ancient seal, used by Town Trustees, placed in the center of a red or "cerise" background fringed with gold became the official flag for the Town of Brookhaven in the year 1955.
The use of the Town seal was originally authorized by a Town Patent issued through Governor Thomas Dongan and dated December 27, 1686. Thomas Dongan, whose titles included, Captain General, Governor in Chief, and Vice Admiral, served under his Majesty, King James, the second. Dongan's territory included the Province of New York. I quote from the Patent, commonly known as the 2nd Patent: "The said trustees of the freeholders and commonality of the Town of Brookhaven do, and may have, and use a common Seale."
The seal as we know it today, is different from the first seal which was used until the mid 1700's. The first seal had no date, was oval in shape, and bore the words: "Brookhaven" on the left side and "sigillum" (Latin for "seal") on the right, crossed whaling harpoons, a whale lance, and the letter "D" in the center. The wreath probably signified peace. The harpoons and lance indicated the most profitable industry in 1686. The letter "D" was the letter assigned to Brookhaven by the Duke's Laws under Governor Nicholls in 1665, and was used as a cattle earmark. The letters "A", "B", and "C" were assigned to East Hampton, Southold, etc.) Although the seal was quickly adopted soon after 1686, it was not until a 1752 document was discovered in 1932 that a near perfect sample was found. All others prior to that date were either cracked or defaced to the point of being impossible to identify completely.
Through a period of years the seal changed until 1955 when the current seal was designed. The new design retained the wreath, the whaling tools, and the letter "D", but added the words "Town of Brookhaven" and the year 1686.
Even though the year 1686 was an important date in our history, the Brookhaven Town Bicentennial Commission in 1976 felt that the date of 1655 was more appropriate. It was on April 14, 1655 that the first written record of any kind was recorded in our town. On April 14, 1655 the first deed of record transpired between the Setauket Indians and a party of six white pioneers. The Indians sold to the pioneers a huge tract of land extending from the Smithtown line to Port Jefferson and from Long Island Sound to the middle of the Island.
In the year 1955 the seal, without any date, was superimposed on the cerise background and so declared as the official flag of Brookhaven.
David A. Overton
Brookhaven Town Historian
A few points to note:
When I inspected three town flags yesterday two of them had 1655 and one had 1686! For what it is worth, the two with 1655 both appeared new, but were outdoor flags along the waterfront, exposed to a lot of sun and wind, while the third flag was an indoor flag, but appeared rather old. Given the difference in exposure to the elements, the age differential between the two versions is probably even greater than it appears. So possibly the flag originally had no date, then was replaced by a version with 1686, and then more recently replaced by 1655 [1655 was the date of first purchase of land from the Native Americans within the towns present borders, and 1686 was the date the town received a charter from the colonial governor.]
Ned Smith, 3 August 2004
The current seal was adopted in 1955, the Brookhaven tricentennial year, with on it 1686, the year they became a town. They had been a town earlier, but colonial governors had a habit of invalidating earlier grants and forcing the
inhabitants to apply for new charters for exorbitant fees. A seal without date was placed on the flag, although it is possible this was done sometime in 1955 before the time in that year when "1686" was added to the seal. They appear to have used a flag that did have the year anyway, although when they started to do so is uncertain.
In 1976, the USA bicentennial, they changed the date to 1655 on the seal, the year the colonial settlement started. It isn't really clear if that also applied to the seal on the flag. At some point the flag that wasn't even supposed to have a year was changed to the same year as the seal, though we have nothing to indicate that the description of the flag has changed. There may well have been resolutions establishing the changes, I just do not have knowledge of them.
What is clear from my own personal observation is that: 1- older flags exist, bearing the older seal with 1686; and 2- newer flags exist, bearing the newer seal with 1655.
Ned Smith and Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 15 October 2005