Historical Society















The Bethpage Purchase

In 1695 Thomas Powell, the area's first settler of European descent, arranged a formal deed with three Native American clans: the Massapequas, the Matinecocks, and the Secatogues. This agreement is known as the Bethpage Purchase. Powell and his family had moved into what is now Farmingdale eight years earlier, in 1687. The place of the deed-signing was Broad Spring, at the present intersection of Quaker Meeting House Road and Merritts Road, Farmingdale: the date was October 18, 1695. A state historical marker marks the site. Powell was one of the founders of the area's first faith community, the Bethpage Friends Meeting, in 1698.



The deed seems to affirm the positive relationship of Powell and his family to the Native American neighbors, as it gave them the liberty of hunting and gathering food throughout the area of the Purchase.

Powell's Bethpage Purchase is still a large tract, covering about fifteen square miles or almost ten thousand acres. In addition to present-day Farmingdale and Bethpage, the area comprises all or parts of East Farmingdale, South Farmingdale, Melville, North Massapequa, Old Bethpage, Plainedge, and Plainview.  (See map.)

For almost the next 150 years, descendants of Thomas Powell were virtually the sole inhabitants of the Bethpage Purchase area, having a largely self-sufficient agricultural economy. This isolation was broken with the completion of the Long Island Rail Road to Farmingdale in 1841. Settlement then entered a new phase, with additional homes and shops, a second house of worship, and a post office being soon established. Steady development continued into the second half of the 1800s, leading to the establishment of two fire companies in Farmingdale.

The only portion of the Bethpage Purchase incorporated as a village is Farmingdale. The incorporation took place in 1904. Long Island's first public institution of higher learning was founded in 1912 as a school of agriculture. It is now known as Farmingdale State College.

During the 1930s a large portion of the late Benjamin Yoakum's estate was purchased by the State of New York and developed as Bethpage State Park, with five 18 hole golf courses.  In 2009, as in 2002, the fabled "Black Course" will be the site of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament.

During World War II, and for decades afterward, Republic Aviation in East Farmingdale and the Grumman Aircraft Corporation in Bethpage built thousands of military aircraft for the U.S. and its allies. Republic Airport evokes memories of the local aircraft industry, and is one of the busiest general aviation facilities in the Northeast.

The communities of the Bethpage Purchase area reflected the rapid suburbanization of eastern Nassau County which took place in the 1950s and early 1960s. As an example, the Farmingdale Public Schools grew from one school building in 1952 to nine in 1961. The communities of the Bethpage Purchase area together have over 100,000 residents.

Thomas Powell and the six Native American signers of the Bethpage Purchase could have little envisioned the growth and development of this tract when they met on an autumn day in 1695!



Printable map of

Bethpage Purchase

(click map to enlarge)

2009 Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society - All Rights Reserved