Memory Lane



The Blacksmith Ledger of Jonas Hawkins

When Phil Selveggio, author of the book Frederick Gilbert Bourne: Forgotten Titan of the Gilded Age, contacted us about his recent discovery of a 19th century ledger book of a Sayville blacksmith, we were immediately interested in learning more.  It’s not every day that original records part of local history pop up out of nowhere.  He agreed to meet us at the Common Ground in Sayville to tell us more about his find and how he obtained it.

Phil, who is a certified farrier (i.e. blacksmith specializing in horse-shoeing), was contacted unexpectedly by someone who thought he might be interested in a ledger from the mid-1800s of a blacksmith who lived and worked in Sayville. Thinking the book, which was primarily the business accounting of Jonas Hawkins, could provide significant historical insight into the daily working life of a local blacksmith, Phil decided to make the purchase.  It contains details of the blacksmith’s business from 1860 to 1866, especially significant considering that that time period covers the entire Civil War era.

The customers listed in the ledger are a who’s-who of Oakdale, Sayville, and the surrounding area. Some of the most familiar local names mentioned are Ludlow, Edwards, and Strong. The work Jonas Hawkins did for his client was quite varied ranging from horse-shoeing to repairing tools and wheels. Payment was mostly in the form of cash, but sometimes there was an exchange of his work for other interesting items, such as cabbages or potatoes.

After he is done with scanning the ledger, Phil plans on researching details of the contents of the book and also Jonas Hawkins’ life. What is currently known about Jonas is that he was born either June 24th or 25th, 1817, in Lake Grove, New York. (1)  On September 22th, 1840, he married Keturah Newton, who died on May 27th, 1861. (2) Several years later, he married Catherine Bassett, and by 1870 the family was living in Milford, Connecticut, where Jonas had become a merchant. (3) He died in Milford in 1892 at the age of 75. His obituary reported that businesses in Milford were shut down during his funeral, and all the proprietors attended his service to show their respect for him. (4)  His life’s journey came full circle when he was transported back to Long Island to be buried with first wife, Keturah, in Union Cemetery in Sayville, New York.

  1. According to the book Hawkins Genealogy, 1635-1939: Record of the Descendants of Robert Hawkins of Charlestown, Massachusetts, Jonas Hawkins was born June 24, 1817. Tombstone states birthdate as June 25, 1817. Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 11 October 2020), memorial page for Jonas Newton Hawkins (25 Jun 1817–26 Jul 1892), Union Cemetery, Sayville, Suffolk County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Aislin (contributor 46535342).
  2. Hawkins Genealogy, 1635-1939: Record of the Descendants of Robert Hawkins of Charlestown, Massachusetts.
  3. 1870 U.S. census, Milford, New Haven, Connecticut, population schedule, page no. 21, dwelling 119, dwelling 183, family 145, database with images,
  4. New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) 26 July 1892, page 3.

Philip Selvaggio Interview