The Nineteenth Century

The Montauk were increasingly dispersing from the "reservation" at the tip of Montauk peninsula, and were appearing, (through the Federal censuses) in Southampton, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Southold, Greenport, Brookhaven Town, Smithtown, Oyster Bay, and New York City - usually as laborers, farm hands, domestic servants, seamstresses, etc.

On the "reservation" the Montauk continued trapping fur animals for the pelts, shooting fowl, harvesting oysters, raising their stock and gardens. Ice and perch were harvested at the ponds in winter: berries were picked and sold for money for shoes. They continued their craft work, making bowls, squaw brooms, scrubs, and baskets.

Still the most lucrative (and dangerous) occupation was the ocean whaling which had supplanted shore whaling by the late 1700s. The Montauk were well represented In the International crews - Azoreans, Fijians, Seychelle Islanders, Filipinos, and others - who manned these floating whale oil factories.

One of these early whalers was Isaac Cuffee of Sag Harbor; others were Jason Cuffee, John Hannibal, Thomas Cuffee, John Kellis, Caleb Cuffee, Epenetius Peters, Silvester Cuffee, Solomon Ward, Nathan Green, Leroy Beaman, John January, Vincent Joseph, Thomas Beaman, and the noted Stephen Pharaoh was steersman on the schooner Susan in 1860.

Other occupations were related to the increasing tourism on the East End: driving bathers to the beach In a buggy, delivering Ice, working In the hotel. Another source of income was exhibiting themselves as Indian Royalty at county fairs, or excelling in sports, such as the noted pedestrian racer, Stephen Talkhouse Pharaoh, who was signed by P.T. Barnum.

This increasing tourism sparked the sale of Montauk peninsula by the Town Trustees to Arthur Benson In 1879 for development as a resort. The remaining Montauk families were 'bought out:' they say lied to. Two houses were moved off Montauk to Freetown, the others were burned and all their possessions stolen, according to Marla Pharaoh's Autobiography. A court case was begun by the Montauk In 1896 to regain their land: It continued until 1917 and bankrupted them. Judge Abel Blackmar declared to more than 20 Montauk In the courtroom and scores waiting outside that the tribe had ceased to exist and that they had therefore lost their claim to the reservation.