For many years William Nicoll was the Assemblyman for Suffolk County and he held the Speakership for fifteen successive terms. Although William Nicoll was the first and by far the largest of the patentees of what is today the Town of Islip there were five other lesser patentees: Andrew Gibb, Thomas and Richard Willets, Stephanus Van Cortlandt, and John Moubray. Andrew Gibb, whose patent consisted of the land between Orowoc and Champlain
Creeks, like his colleague William Nicoll was also a lawyer and a public servant. Andrew Gibb succeeded William Nicoll as the County Clerk of Queens and later as Town Clerk of Brookhaven.
In these early days many settlers of the new towns did not lavish affection unto the Church of England. Far from it. . . One of the earliest accounts of the Church of England here in Suffolk County is a vigorous objection to the use of The Book of Common Prayer. In 1685 at a Brookhaven town meeting Samuel Eburn was requested to discontinue using The Prayer Book in worship services “. . . in regard to some tender consciences.”
However, by 1702 The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel had appointed the Reverend George Keith to evangelize the huge area from Boston/Massachusetts to Charleston/South Carolina. The Society had been formed in England to help the Church of England give assistance to the Church in the American Colonies and elsewhere. The Society had three aims. First, native Americans were to be won over to the Christian Faith forming a political alliance with the British colonial power. Second, the colonial settlers were to be re-evangelized and reclaimed for orthodox Christianity as understood by High Church Anglicans. Third, the increasing number of African slaves being brought to work in North America and the Caribbean were to be instructed and baptized, affirming their humanity if not their freedom.
But there was very little progress . . . In 1704 the Rector of Trinity Church/New York reported that in Suffolk County there was “. . . neither a Church of England minister, nor any provision for one . . the people generally being independent and upheld in their separation (from the Church of England) by New England ministers.” This is hardly surprising inasmuch as the early settlers in Suffolk County were for the most part New England Puritans deeply prejudiced against the Church of England. Ever persevering, the Society sent the Reverend James Wetmore to Setauket in 1723 where he remained for two years. A regular succession of ministers, funded by the Society, followed him and this support by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel continued until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
By 1730 the present Episcopal Church in Setauket was erected. At first it was called Christ Church but early on this was changed to Caroline Church to honor the Queen of George II. Accordingly, Caroline Episcopal Church/Setauket is recognized as being not only our Mother Church of Suffolk County but also the oldest building still being used for Episcopal services in the county.
The establishment of Caroline Church/Setauket in 1730 was followed by Saint John’s Episcopal Church/Huntington which was founded in 1745 and in 1765 Saint John’s Episcopal Church/Oakdale was erected. As a rule, one clergyman was believed to be in charge of all three Churches: Caroline Church/Setauket, Saint John’s Church/Huntington, and Saint John’s Church/Oakdale. According to Harry Havemeyer’s “Along the Great South Bay,” Saint John’s Church/Oakdale was built “. . . largely at the expense of the Nicoll family.”
In 1710 the colonial legislature authorized the organization of the Town of Islip. Its inhabitants were few and not until 1720 is there any record of a town meeting. Eighty years later -–in 1790 – the Islip census lists only 106 heads of family for the entire town and in 1808 our hamlet had but a single store. More from Harry Havemeyer’s “Along the Great South Bay”: “. . . the census of 1810 showed that there were just 855 people in the entire township. Farming and lumbering were the major activities. Those who did settle had to be almost self sufficient. There were few shops, only one church, and very modest local government.
A soft cover booklet, “Picturesque Bay Shore, Babylon, and Islip”, published in 1894 and available at the Islip Public Library, states on page 69 that an Episcopal Church was organized in Islip in the 1660’s and that a fine church edifice was erected in 1766 which was destroyed by fire in the early 1800’s. Be that as it may, by all accounts the year 1847 marked the beginnings of our Parish of Saint Mark’s.
At this very location our Church building was located but the only record found so far of when it was constructed is the corner stone bearing the date of July 4, 1847 which is now preserved on top of the 1879 corner stone of our Church building.