Gardiners Island: A nearly 400 year family history of pirates, treasure and triumph

An aerial view of Gardiners Island

By Nicole A. Flotteron - Hamptons

Gardiner's Island - Approximately five square miles in size, Gardiner's Island, a part of the town of East Hampton, has a rich, tumultuous history that spans nearly 400 years of ownership by the same family.

It is the only real estate intact in the United States that is part of an original royal grant from the English Crown.

The Island has survived Indian wars, pirates, invasion by British forces, war, and family issues.

It is home to more than 1,000 acres of old growth forest, the largest stand of white oak trees in the Northeast, 1,000 acres of meadows, rare, birds, Indian artifacts, and structures that date back to the 17th century.

Robert David Lion Gardiner, the last heir to bear the name Gardiner, said of his founding ancestors survey of the Island, "When he walked over it he found it had magnificent forests, saltwater ponds and fresh streams that he could dam and use for his lifestock."

The island was settled in 1639 by a man named Lion Gardiner after he retained a grant from King Charles I of England.

Gardiner purchased the island from the Montaukett Indians after his support of the tribe during the Pequot War, in exchange for a large black dog, a few Dutch blankets, and some powder and shot.

Originally called the 'Isle of Wight' after the Isle of Wight in England, the royal patent issued to Gardiner gave him the "right to possess the land forever," as well as the title "Lord of the Manor."

In 1641, Gardiner's wife gave birth to a daughter named Elizabeth, who was the first English child born in New York, and would be responsible for initiating the first witch hunt and witch trial in the American colony.

In February 1657, 15-year-old Elizabeth lay deliriously ill in East Hampton.


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