When the country store
was the community hub
December 15, 2006 | 06:41 AM
Centereach and Selden came from humble beginnings before being transformed into the bustling communities of today. In 1885 the Bayles Long Island Handbook defined New Village, as Centereach was formerly known, as an old settlement of farmers on Middle Country Road just north of Lake Grove. The community stretched approximately three to four miles long, housing a Congregational church and a population of 200.
Selden was defined as a village with only 48 residents and a Presbyterian church. As a farming community Selden produced large quantities of melons and early garden vegetables. To reach selden from New York City one needed to take the Long Island Railroad to Waverly Station and board a stagecoach.
The stagecoaches ran through Centereach and Selden from New York City heading to the east end. The Pfeiffer's general country store built around 1735 in Middle Island was formerly a tavern and one of the major stagecoach stops on the way to and from New York City. The country store, in operation for over 100 years, was a major part of people's lives as it supplied all the farmers' needs from groceries or clothing to good conversation.
Since Pfeiffer's store doubled as the post office for approximately 60 years, farmers came daily to pick up their mail and collect supplies. The store housed shoes, clothing, yard goods, groceries, hardware, feed, grain and any other commodities a family may have needed. The store was set up to house clothing to the rear of the shop with counters around the sides. Barrels and boxes housed crackers, sugar, tea, coffee, oatmeal, raisins and other grocery goods. Foods weren't packaged in those days, but weighed out by pounds from the barrels. In the back storage room hung hams and bacon with more barrels containing salt pork, vinegar, and molasses. During their daily visits to the store, farmers would bring in their butter and eggs as payment to purchase other supplies for their families.
Pfeiffer's was not only a store and post office, but also the community's center for socializing. On winter days there was always a crowd of men and boys congregating around the pot-bellied stove discussing the latest gossip or political issues. Many community issues were settled while men warmed themselves around the stove. For recreation a checkerboard was set up and used daily. That checker board developed quite a few champion players over the years.
In 1971, the former country store, hub of Middle Island's former social circle, was burned down by firemen to make way for a gas station. An old era had ended and the quiet farming community of yesterday was now being transformed into a development of residential homes, shopping centers, and banks.
Some Brookhaven History by Thomas R. Bayles, Long Island Forum, March 1974, p. 48-52.
The Country Store by Brookhaven Town Historical Society, The Early Years in Brookhaven Town
Bayles' Long Island Handbook, 1885, by Richard M. Bayles