Mitchell Farms History

Mitchell Farms Civic Association

Port Washington, NY 11050

 


The Mitchell (Mitchill) Family
The Mitchell family from Old Windsor, County of Berks, England, was represented in America in the 17th century by Robert Mitchell, Sr. (1670-1743) who came to New York in 1694 and was a farmer in North Hempstead. He married twice, Phebe Denton Thorne and Hannah Van Wyck Cornwell, members of distinguished Long Island families. Two of his children were prominent members of Cow Neck community, as Port Washington was known before 1857. One son, Robert Jr. (1732-1789) married Mary, daughter of William Latham who owned the Plandome Mill along with extensive land holdings in the area of present day Leeds Pond. Robert and Mary's children, one of whom, Dr. Samuel Latham Mitchell, became a United States senator, inherited the Latham Property.

Mitchell Farms in Cow Neck (Port Washington)
Another son of Robert, Sr. John Mitchell (1716-1792) had received 50 pounds as well as a share in the proceeds of selling land from his father's estate. In the 1760's John purchased land for a farm. The land was bordered by the Bauter property to the north; Onderdonk to the east; Kissam-Whitehead to the south and Manhasset Bay (or Cow Bay) to the west. Originally this land was part of the Thomas Hicks' patent.

John Mitchell married Deborah Prince (d. 1806). In 1769 he secured the lumber to build his home called "Manhasset Hall" (said to have contained 36 rooms by the Mitchells). (After 1887 that home was known as "The Anchorage," so named by the Stannard family.) John and Deborah's son John Mitchell (1742-1823 married twice, first Rebecca Hewlett and then her sister Jane, daughters of Benjamin Hewlett and Susannah Whitehead.

John Jr. was an ardent patriot during the War of Independence. In 1783 a raiding party which broke into the Mitchell home murdered his son Benjamin. The Mitchells established a cemetery where many of John Sr.'s descendants, including Benjamin, are buried; that cemetery is off New Street and Fifth Avenue.

John Jr·'s son Captain Whitehead Mitchell (1782-1862) was the captain of a sloop named "Sydney Darling." The family continued to farm the land; he is listed as owning 138 acres of land. Whitehead lived during a period of time when the predominately agricultural economy in Port Washington was beginning to change. Oysters had been planted in Manhasset Bay and Port Washington was becoming a center for harvesting them. Baymen were coming to Port to earn a living, and in 1860, Whitehead sold building property to the the Van Pelts, Jarvises, Thatchers and Thompsons along Shore Road (now Lower Main Street) in the areas between today's Second and Third Avenues.

Whitehead, married to Margaret E. Cornwell, had a son Charles W (1816-1902); Charles W. foresaw the enormous potential for land development in Port. Rather than farm he drove a stagecoach from Mitchell's landing on the waterfront, west of his home, to Sands Point where the Sands Point Hotel, from 1850 to 1898, had become a well established resort. Charles W. had married Hannah Covert (1816-1902), an heiress to the Jacob Covert property, which was adjacent to Mitchell's land. It is on Hannah's property which extends to Main Street, that Carlton Avenue was built. That road goes through the Covert property and runs into the Mitchell Farm property.

Charles W. Mitchell established Carlton Avenue in 1863 and during this same period of time that much of his property was divided by survey into building lots. A survey of 1855 contained 1097 lots. Mitchell began to sell land where Carlton, Second, Third, Fifth and Bayview Avenues are todav· The baymen who were thriving with the clam and oyster industry were eager to buy lots from Mitchell. Later, of course, this same land would be purchased by men who worked for the sand and gravel companies as well as commuters, who after 1898 when the railroad was extended to Port Washington from Great Neck, found the trip into New York City convenient.

From 1862 until 1877, Charles W. Mitchell with his wife Hannah and his sister Phoebe sold over sixty parcels of former Mitchell Farms land. A large piece of property near the Mitchell homestead extending from the bay eastward to near present-day Mackey Avenue was retained by the family. The home, nearby land and waterfront property were purchased in 1887 by Elbert Stannard who was in the salvaging business. By the end of the 19th century Dr. D. Preston Wysong secured a sizeable piece of property to the east of Carlton Avenue, as did John Murray, the owner of a sand and gravel company.

Charles W. Mitchell was a pioneer land developer in Port Washington. It should also be noted that his daughter Wilhelmina helped to establish the Port Washington Library and became its first librarian. Her brother Samuel (1847-1916) became commissioner of highways for the Town of North Hempstead. While Samuel's children and grandchildren were born in Port Washington, the family no longer lives here.

Family portraits of Hannah Covert Mitchell and her husband Charles W. Mitchell. Hannah had inherited property from her father, Jacob Covert; this land was adjacent to Mitchell Farms. Carlton Avenue was built from Main Street into the Mitchell property. Hannah, her husband Charles, and two of their children, Samuel and Wilhelmina, are buried in the nearby Mitchell Family Cemetery.

 

Click here for a map of the Mitchell Farms area in 1873

Click here for a map of the Mitchell Farms area in 1906

Source:

Historic Mitchell Farms

By George L. Williams

Copyright by the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society

This informative book and other Port Washington books are available for sale from the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society's Online Museum Store.

If you'd like more information, their address is

The Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society

336 Port Washington Boulevard

Port Washington, NY 11050

 

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Last Revised: 1/26/00, G. Friedman

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