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2018-11-28 / Columnists

Copiague: Early years of William E. Hawkins - Part 1

by Sandi Brewster-walker

“Amityville Tract Sold - Bingham & Fitzgerald sold the estate of Charles H. Ireland to William E. Hawkins (Jr.), the tract of eight (8) acres adjoining Wild Goose Farm, at Amityville, L. I. (East Amityville section later known as Copiague). The estate of George Jervis sold through the same brokers to the same buyer a tract of five (5) acres fronting on Great Neck Road. Mr. Hawkins has added both parcels to his farm, which has an extensive frontage on the South Country Road,” the Evening Post newspaper, April 7, 1909 stated.

William E. Hawkins, Jr.’s estate, and the Wild Goose Farm along with Marconiville, Nassau-Suffolk Hospital (known as Lakeside Hospital), and American Venice were milestones, that had significant influence, and impact on the development of the small Copiague community!

In the 1880 US Federal Census, the 15-yearold William Elton Hawkins, Jr. (1865-1951) was enumerated with his parents, William E. Hawkins, Sr. (1816-1881), who married Theda Elton (1841- 1922) in 1863, and lived on Elizabeth Street, Derby, Connecticut. The other children in the household were 14-year-old Royal (1866-1941), and 12-year-old Samuel (1868).


Silver -Laced Wyandotte Bantam Poultry Silver -Laced Wyandotte Bantam Poultry Derby is bordered on the north by Ansonia, known for the manufacturing of corsets, hoop skirts, copper, brass, rubber, plastic, molding, tubing, iron, casting, sheet metal, foundry products, and Hawkins Skates. It was a manufacturing city that had transitioned from an agricultural community to an industrial economy!

William Hawkins, Sr. was a son of Abraham Hawkins, Sr. (1859), and Chloe Tuttle (1791- 1868) of Ansonia, a city in New Haven County on the Naugatuck River, known as the “Copper City.” In 1836, Abraham (Jr.) was a blacksmith and entrepreneur with a business located in the Birmingham section of Derby, Connecticut.


American Brass Company American Brass Company In 1837, the brothers Abraham ( Jr.) and William (Sr.) began manufacturing carriage axles and springs. Two years later (1839), the brothers built a small factory on Main Street, Birmingham (Derby), a downtown section of Derby. Six years pass, Henry Atwater, of New Haven joined the brothers in founding the Birmingham Iron & Steel Works.

Just five-years later, William (Sr.) left the company, and purchased Plumb & Beach, a stone factory, changing the name to Hawkins Manufacturing Company until 1859.

Next, William (Sr.) purchased an old copper mill property, and added an iron foundry for making axle boxes and other casting. By 1865, it was the largest manufacturer of carriage axles. After his company dissolved, he purchased the Downs & Bassett factory, applied for patents, and began manufacturing Hawkins Skate, as well as wrenches, and other hardware. This was the Post-Civil War entrepreneur environment in which William Elton Hawkins, Jr. was born.

Ansonia, CT – PostcardAnsonia, CT – Postcard
Years before arriving in Copiague, Long Island, William ( Jr.) attended the Gunnery School in Washington, CT, a private 50-acre boarding school founded by Frederick W. Gunn, an abolitionist and teacher.

As a young man, William became a stamp collector focusing on international, unused stamps, as well as misprint in perfect condition, and he continued throughout his adult years in Manhattan, and Copiague.

William began his professional career as an employee of the Chase Brass & Copper Company, in Waterbury, CT, founded in 1876. Soon after, William married Nellie C. Jones (1874), his first wife, and moved to Sixth Ave, Manhattan. The couple gave birth to William E. Hawkins, III in 1889.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (known as the Eagle), March 31, 1894 reported, the 28-year old, William (Jr.), of Manhattan had incorporated, the Donlon & Miller Manufacturing Company, of Brooklyn, to make and sell gas, electric, ornamental, metal, glass, onyx, marble, brass works, and fixtures.


Washington Times - Great War – 1914 Washington Times - Great War – 1914 The article continued, the amount of capital stock is $50,000, consisting of 5,000 shares at $10.00 each. This was the same year, Charles M. Bergen was building, “… a two story and attic frame cottage a t We s t Babylon,” according to the Eagle, November 26, 1894. It would have all the latest improvements!

Just six-months later, the Eagle, April 3, 1895 reported trouble with the new corporation. “Application was today made to Justice (Edgar M.) Cullen of the (NYS) Supreme Court for an order requiring all persons concerned to show cause, why the Donlon & Miller Manufacturing Company should not be dissolved. The petitioners on the motion were Arthur S. Miller, John F. Miller and Frederick Feizer, who, together with Lewis M. Coddington and William E. Hawkins, form the board of directors.” The petition was granted!


William E. Hawkins Estate, in Copiague William E. Hawkins Estate, in Copiague During the same time period, Charles M. Bergen was building a second much larger cottage, which would be the largest in the area on Main Street, Copiague, according to the Eagle, April 8, 1902 issue. He also had a summer cottage on Oak Island Proper!

In 1903, Hawkins’s company, the American Brass & Copper Co. was headquartered on 243 Canal Street, NYC, when they were complainants against two employees: William O’Brien (18 years old), a shipping clerk; and Joseph Lehman (32 years old), a trucker. O’Brien and Lehman were charged with grand larceny and held on $1,000 bail for stealing on February 10, “a case containing 25 gross of brass electric holders valued at over $60,” adjusted for inflation would equal $ 855.60. Both men confessed, stating “…they sold the property to Samuel Pollin, and Max Newman, partners in the gas fixtures business.” Pollin and Newman were charges with receiving stolen property! The detectives testified, they believed that the stealing had been going on for about a year, and amounted to several thousand dollars, according to the Eagle, William spent the next 6-years reorganizing and growing his company.

The South Side Signal, March 27, 1909, mentioned, William E. Hawkins had purchased the Charles H. Ireland estate, known as Wild Goose Farm. Hawkins also purchased a 5-acre tract from George Jervis. Both parcels were added to his growing estate.

The Suffolk County News (Sayville), April 30, 1909 related, construction was beginning on a new $30,000 summer residence (inflation rate $830,883.28) for Hawkins on the South Road. The building would be 78x138 feet in dimensions, and wooden construction. “Arthur S. Austin has the contract for the carpentry work and A. A. Pearsall for the masonry.”

As William was buying East Amityville (Copiague) property, his first marriage was in trouble. The South Side Signal, September 25, 1909 stated, a case went before the New York State Supreme Court, Justice Charles L. Guy. William E. Hawkins was a defendant in two suits brought by Helen C. Hawkins, his wife. He declared the plaintiff’s name was not Helen C. Hawkins and never was, but that it is Nellie C. Jones.

One action was for a legal marriage separation, and the other a suit to recover $30,000 worth of bonds of the American Brass & Copper Company.

“Mrs Hawkins charged in the later suit that in November, 1906, her husband told her that he had a chance to sell his stock in the company and could get more for it if he had 10 shares that she held. She said that she gave them up, but that he has failed to account for them. She wants the $30,000 with interest from 1906. Mr. Hawkins declares that the plaintiff was never the owner of the shares, but that he gave them to her as security for a loan of $1,000.”

William related, when he paid back the loan, his wife wouldn’t give up the stock, so he paid her a bonus of $ 1,000 and then got it. The motion before Justice Charles L. Guy was to vacate an order of Justice Amend’s for Mrs. Hawkins’ examination before trial. But, Justice Guy refused to interfere! Back in Copiague, the Wild Goose Farm was growing in commercial farming.

The American Poultry Journal, January, 1910 published a Wild Goose Farm advertisement. Charles M. Smith, the manager was listed along with William E. Hawkins the proprietor. “Breeders, importers and exhibitors, of forty (40) varieties of bantams, and three hundred varieties of pigeons, 1,200 premiums, cups and specials won at New York, Houston, Hartford, Baltimore, etc., in 1908-09. Send stamp for price list to Charles M. Smith, manager.”

During the year, William was back in court again, in 1910, the American Brass & Copper Co. filed an answer on Aug. 1 in US Court to the complaint of Perkins Electric Switch Manufacturing Co., of Connecticut. “The suit is for an injunction, accounting, profits, damages and costs, and claims infringement of patent rights secured by Charles G. Perkins for improvements in incandescent lamps.” Hawkins was asked that the complaint be dismissed with costs against the defendant company, according to the Wall Street Journal, Aug. 2.

The William E. Hawkins estate was still being increased in size. The County Review (Riverhead), March 7, 1913, published a notice, William E. Hawkins purchased the Milton Strong tract on the north side on Main South Road near the land of John Berry, of Babylon. As he expanded the estate different buildings were added.

The South Side Signal, March 14, 1913 stated, “Dittman Brothers have nearly completed moving several large buildings on the W. E. Hawkins place at Copiague.”

The South Side Signal, March 27, 1914, at a Babylon Town meeting stated, “Copiague residents, seventeen in number, signed a petition asking that $4,000 be appropriated for dredging from the mouth of the creek to as far north as possible and to build a dock. William E. Hawkins has offered to pay the remainder of the cost of dredging the creek up to the South Country Road.”

William was now the largest Copiague taxpayer, the Eagle, April 3, 1914 related, he “made a proposition to the board whereby the town should dredge the Great Neck Road Creek to a certain point and he would take up the digging where they left off. Mr. Hawkins urged that the sum of $20,000 be increased to $25,000, so that all the dredging required could be done without cutting down the appropriation for any one section. All agreed that the Copiague project was one which ought to be put through if the money were voted, as the creek would be a permanent improvement and a lasting asset to the town. The question of increasing the dredging sum will be taken up by their meeting tonight.” Besides getting involve d in community improvements, William had joined the social high society activities in the area!

The Eagle, August 5, 1914 reported on the Long Island summer colonies along the Great South Bay, and how there was a gap in the social life because of the prolonged absence of Mr. & Mrs. Samuel T. Peters, of Islip.

On May 24, the Eagle had mentioned, “There was a great exodus for Europe last week.” The newspaper continued, Mr. and Mrs Samuel T. Peters, accompanied by their son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Harold H. Weekes were on the Lusitania, and they will go to Aix-ies-Bains for the cure returning to Islip, L. I. late in July.”

Back in 1914, William Hawkins married his second wife Cornelia J. (Udall) Bergen, of Bay Shore. The South Side Signal, July 24, 1914 published in their marriage column under the Babylon Town Records on June 30. The South Side Signal had received an announcement of the marriage from London, England. Four days after the marriage announcement, the Great War started in Europe on July 28.

William E. Hawkins, Jr.’s estate was increasing its acquisition of property, and the Wild Goose Farm had become a successful commercial farm. With his second wife, he had married into New York High Society, and the Social Register, a lifestyle unlike his hometown Derby, Connecticut.

The following year, the Lusitania on May 7, 1915, would be torpedoed by a German U-boat, sinking her in 18 minutes.

Sandi Brewster-walker is an independent historian, genealogist, freelance writer and business owner. She is the chair of the Board of Trustees and acting executive director of the Indigenous People Museum & Research Institute. She has served in President Bill Clinton’s Administration as deputy director of the Office of Communications at USDA. Winner of the Press Club of Long Island’s 2017 Media Award – 3rd Place for Narrative: Column.

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