MVB, Report on the petition of the town of Islip and the remonstrance of Huntington, 27 February 1816
The attorney-general, to whom was referred the petition of the inhabitants of the town of Islip, and the remonstrance of the trustees of the freeholders and commonalty of the town of Huntington, in the county of Suffolk, referred to him at the last session of the Legislature, reported as follows, to wit:
That the property to which the said petition and remonstrance relate, are three islands in the great bay commonly called the South Bay, lying between the main land of Long-Island, and the great beach which extends along the south side of Long-Island, and divides the ocean from the said bay: That the said islands are distinguished by the names of Cap-tree, Oak and Grass islands, that being nearly overflown at high water they are incapable of permanent habitation by man, and their principal value consists in the production of large quantities of sedge or salt hay, and the furnishing of good stands or places for fishing and fowling:
That the prayer of the petitioners is, that the title of the state to the said islands should be granted to them. In support of the right in the state to do so, they alledge that the title to the said islands has long been a subject of controversy between the town of Huntington and the proprietors of Nichol's patent; that it has been decided in the supreme court, that the said islands were not included within Nichol's patent, and that the present chancellor has, on a bill filed by the said proprietors of Nichol's patent to be quieted in the possession of the said islands, decided that the said islands do not belong to the claimants under the "Nichol's" patent, and at the same time declared his opinion, that the town of Huntington had no title in the same. They therefore conclude that the title to the premises in question is in the state, and ask a grant of them to the inhabitants of Islip, and by way of inducement to a compliance with their wishes, alledge their contiguity to the said islands, and the possession which they have had of the same, but which they do not pretend has been either undisturbed or under a claim of right in themselves.
The remonstrants alledge that the title to the said islands is in them; that they have had a controversy in the courts of common law and equity for twenty years with the claimants under the patent of "Nichols," in which they have expended large sums of money and been subjected to great labor and inconvenience:
That although the chancellor declared his opinion against their title, that opinion was not an opinion necessarily expressed with a view to the settlement of the rights of the parties, but merely incidental and bearing upon the question of costs only; that the bill was filed to establish the title claimed under the Nichols' patent, and as such was dismissed; that although they have been much oppressed by an extended scene of litigation with the claimants under the Nichols' patent, and think that no steps ought to be taken by the state which might give rise to new disputes, or which might impeach their title to the same, or disturb them in the possession thereof, which they alledge that they have had for very many years; still, that if the legislature should think that the interest of the state requires a judicial investigation of their title, they will not complain, but will contest the right of the state in a court of justice, and until that right is maintained they think it would be unreasonable in the state to transfer it to Islip.
The attorney-general has not been able to obtain a copy of the chancellor's opinion, the same being in the city of New-York; but from a personal conference with his honor, he is satisfied that the account given of it as above, by the trustees of Huntington, is substantially correct.
On the part of the town of Huntington, the attorney-general has been furnished with an abstract of their title, which accompanies this report, and which, although he is not prepared to say that it furnishes evidence of complete title in Huntington, he is well satisfied there is sufficient prima facie evidence of right, to preclude the propriety or justice of a compliance with the request of the inhabitants of Islip.
All which is respectfully submitted.
MARTIN VAN BUREN, Attorney-General.