Widgets Magazine

Hallockville Museum Farm’s Beth Motschenbacher Talks The War of 1812 and Hallockville History

Q: What’s your connection to Hallockville and the North Fork? A: I’m the assistant director here, responsible for event planning, publicity and a variety of other things! I grew up in Southold, and I’m thrilled to be connected to this great community organization. I’ve been with Hallockville for about 3 years.

Q: What’s Hallockville?

A: Hallockville Museum Farm is a nonprofit, 501c3 that’s been around since 1980; prior to that, the Hallock family members lived in the homestead from 1765-1979. The nickname “Hallockville” came about because so many Hallock family descendents lived along this stretch of Sound Avenue.

Our mission is to connect the community to our shared agricultural heritage. We interpret 250 years of North Fork Agricultural history through a variety of programs and exhibits. We host school field trips, offer lectures, classes, workshops and other programs.

Q: What can visitors experience at Hallockville?

A: Museum visitors can explore the 1765 Hallockville homestead, and learn about North Fork farming life in the 18th and 19th centuries. We have 19 buildings that range in date from 1765 to 1937, including a smokehouse, shoemaker’s shop, barns, and even the “Sprout House,” which was used exclusively for packing Brussels sprouts in the 1800’s.

They can also tour the 1931 Cichanowicz farmhouse which interprets the life of a Polish immigrant family during the Great Depression on the North Fork.

Q: Polish immigrants in particular?

A: There was a wave of Eastern European and primarily Polish immigrants that came here during the turn of the century and peaked during the 20s and 30s. They settled on many of the Sound Avenue farms and in Riverhead.

Q: Hallockville’s a farm—do visitors get to see any farm animals?

A: We have animals to show what a typical family would have had—a few cows, a few sheep, a few chickens. Visitors can interact with the animals, but it’s not a petting zoo.

Q: When can people visit Hallockville?

Our hours vary with the time of year.

From mid-May through the end of December, the museum tours and exhibits run Friday, Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 pm. We welcome visitors to the museum by appointment year round as well. Our special programs and events are ongoing throughout the year, even when the main museum exhibits are closed.

Q: Speaking of special events, you have one this weekend about the War of 1812. That’s a war Americans don’t hear much about it seems. What’s its connection to Hallockville?

A: Well, a battle took place just north of Hallockville, in the Long Island Sound and shoreline, October 11-13, 1814. This weekend is the 200th anniversary.

The battle was between British ships and the American Revenue Cutter Service ship the Eagle. (Before the Coast Guard existed, the Revenue Cutter service was an important part of the maritime trade, handling customs enforcement but also protecting American interests during time of war.) The battle started when the Eagle was overtaken by three British ships that were patrolling Long Island Sound.

The Eagle was driven ashore here, and local militia—Sound Avenue farmers—rushed to its defense. The farmers joined the American sailors and held off the British using cannons (that they had dragged up the bluffs from the beach) and rifles. Despite their best efforts, the British succeeded in capturing the Eagle and towing it off to Plum Island, where they were stationed during the war.

Q: Wow, what a pocket of hidden history. In the 40+ years I’ve been visiting and living out here, I had no idea the War of 1812 arrived on our shores. So what is Hallockville doing this weekend?

A: On Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm visitors can come—bring a picnic if they’d like—and interact with people portraying the farmer militia.

For historical accuracy, the re-enactors will be in casual period dress, not full uniform regalia. Visitors can learn about this battle, the varying ways it was told by the Americans and the British, and this weekend join us to see what War of 1812 era military life looked like.

The militia will camp here and do firing drills and other period performances. Both male and female re-enactors will put on a period fashion show, and we’ll have a guided walk to the battle site.

Beyond experiencing the re-enactors, their camp and performances, visitors can enjoy the museum and see our ongoing Defense of the Eagle exhibit which features War of 1812 replica uniforms and some of the actual cannon balls fired in the battle. They were recovered on neighboring farm fields years later.

Admission to this special event is free for children; we suggest a donation of $3 for adults.

Q: Free for kids and $3 for adults? Wow that’s cheap—very generous of Hallockville.

A: Yes. Hallockville is a community organization. We’re supported by memberships, donations, revenue from special events, and modest grants. We’re not a state, county or town facility. This particular War of 1812 event is supported in part by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities.

Q: Beyond the museum and special events, Hallockville runs a summer camp too, doesn’t it?

A: Yes. We partner with Peconic Community School to present Arts on the Farm summer camp, a five week program. Kids can come for as many of the five weeks as they’d like. Each week features different, traditional art themes, such as woodworking, fiber arts, organic gardening and garden crafts, for ages 6 to 13. Details for Arts on the Farm 2015 will be posted at Hallockville.com and PeconicCommunitySchool.org early in the new year.

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