Jacob Corwin

Jacob Corwin
Middle Island

Longwood's Journey

                             Ordinary Man, No Ordinary Hero

 Many people overlook the common men and women who lived during the Revolutionary War and their contributions to their community and their nation.  Jacob Corwin is not one to be overlooked. His contributions to this country are immeasurable.

            Jacob Corwin was born in October of 1745 in Southold. He was the son of Matthias and Mary Corwin. In 1771, Jacob relocated to Brookhaven town lived on the North side of Middle Country Road, across from Artist Lake. Jacob lived during the turbulent times of the American Revolution. Life was difficult under British Control. In April 1775, fighting broke out at Lexington, Massachusetts. Colonists were asked to sign the Association, stating that they supported the Patriot cause and the ideas of the Continental Congress. Jacob signed this historical document in June 1775. He enlisted in the Minute Man Company at Aquebogue on March 21, 1776, under the command of Captain Paul Reeve, and served until June of that year.  Jacob also appears in the 1st Regiment of Minute Men of Suffolk County, commanded by Col. Josiah Smith.  In May of 1776, he enlisted as a Volunteer and Priest Soldier in a company commanded by Captain Jonathan Bailey.

In May of 1776, Jacob traveled by boat with members of his regiment to New York City and was stationed at the barracks at Greenwich.  Here Jacob’s company was assigned to the building of a fort that, according to Jacob’s pension application, General Washington would visit and spend three nights. This fort was one of thirteen built in New York to ensure safety from an impending attack by the British.  While stationed at Greenwich, Jacob related that they came under fire by British ships of war as they passed up the North (Hudson) River. 

While engaged in the service, Jacob had the opportunity to experience a trial and execution.  Thomas Hickey, Washington’s bodyguard, who had been bribed by the British, attempted to poison the peas of General George Washington.  Hickey told a Jamaican-American patriot and a server at the party, Pheobe Fraunces, that the general was to attend about his plot so that she could infuse the poison.  Phoebe quickly told her father of this and he, Sam Fraunces, “took the peas, went into the backyard and scattered them to the chickens.  Six chickens were very quickly dead.”  (Dr. Edward Beasley…) Jacob Corwin’s pension application states that he was a witness to the execution.

Jacob was unfamiliar with the hard labor that building a fort entails and took ill with fever. He was sent to the hospital where he stayed for three weeks before being sent back to Southhold to recover.

Sometime between 1775 and 1780 Jacob married Sarah (last name unknown) who was born in 1755 and died in 1816. A son Jacob was born in 1781 who died unmarried in 1806. A daughter Sarah married John Smith and a daughter Mary Ann married (1) Hurtin and (2) Higgins. Both daughters were mentioned in Jacob's will dated September 5, 1832.

After the war, Jacob settled down to life in Middle Island. Jacob was ordained as pastor at the Wading River Congregational Church and served from November 1787 to October 1800. His home in Middle Island was opposite Artist Lake, which for a while was called Corwin's Pond. A road running from there northward towards Wading River was called Corwin's Road (now called Curran's Road). He was succeeded at the Wading River church by his nephew Rev. David Wells whom Jacob had raised from boyhood. On April 2, 1815 Jacob organized the Congregational Church at New Village (Centereach).

Jacob Corwin
             The Corwin home, on the north side of the Middle Country Road, across from Artist Lake.

Jacobs wife Sarah died in 1816 at age 61. In May of that same year Deacon David Davis of Yaphank died and subsequently David's widow Mehetable married Jacob.

 As a minister, he was involved in many of the communities activities. In 1805 he signed as a witness to the freedom of two slaves of James Woodhull of Brookhaven Town.

It was in the confines of our very school district that Jacob spent the last years of his life, before his death on September 20th 1833. He is buried in the Middle Island Cemetery next to his first wife Sarah and their son Jacob. His second wife Mehetable died in 1859 and is also buried in the Middle Island Cemetery next to her first husband David Davis. In his will, as with others of this time, items such as animals and property  were left.  “First- I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife Mehetable Corwin one cow, one sheep, one swine, and all the furniture that was hers when I married her…” (Corwin, Jacob. Last Will and Testament.)

Jacob Corwin may have only been a common citizen of the newly formed United States when he served in the American Revolution, but his lack of fame didn’t stop him from becoming an important figure in the gaining of independence.  Who ever said the  common man couldn’t be a hero?

 Written by,
Erin Waters
June, 2003

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