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(Reprinted as courtesy of OnMontauk.com)
When European settlers first came to Long Island in the early 1600's, they found the island inhabited by Native Americans of the Algonquian group, loosely divided into bands, grouped together into a confederacy under the leadership of the Montauk Sachem, who was considered to be the ruler from Montauk to the western end of the island. Prior to contact, the Montauks, like many Native Americans, did not reside in one place but ranged over a territory. What we know about these early inhabitants is meager, since they did not have a written language. They ate abundantly from wild game such as deer and wild birds, from fish and crustaceans, and grew corn, squash and beans, gathered berries, herbs and roots. They hunted whales in canoes and used the entire whale including whale oil, which they burned in large clamshells or rocks. It was the Native American who taught the Europeans how to whale. They built forts, and one of the largest was on the hill where the Montauk Manor now stands. The Montauks were quite friendly with the early settlers, however disease ravaged their tribe. Their numbers declined and the tribe was eliminated by order of the State Supreme court in 1910.

The first European settlers in East Hampton were a group of English men and women who came here from Massachusetts. The settlers purchased land from the Montauk Indians in 1648, which extended from Southampton's eastern boundary to Napeague beach. It wasn't until 1665 that Wyandanch, the grand sachem of the Montauk tribe, gave the settlers the right to pasture their livestock on Montauk. In 1686 the Montauk Indians sold Montauk to a group of East Hampton settlers, known as the proprietors, who owned the land in joint trust for almost 200 years.

So began Montauk's history as a summer pasture for cattle, sheep and horses. The annual cattle drives were on May 1 (going on) with a return on November 1 (going off). These annual cattle drives in which some 1200 to 1500 cattle would come from all over Eastern Long Island were a big local event, and townspeople went out in numbers to watch the riders herd their livestock.

While on Montauk, the keepers guarded the herds. Three houses were built to house them. Except for the lighthouse, they were the only buildings on Montauk until the late 19th century. First House, located just where the hills called the Nominicks rise from the flat plain of Napeague, burned down in 1774 and was never rebuilt. Second House, built in 1797, is now a museum run by the Historical Society. Third House, overlooking Indian Field on the grounds of Theodore Roosevelt County Park, dates to 1806 and is now run by Suffolk County as a museum.

The Montauk Lighthouse was commissioned by George Washington and built in 1797. It was a Coast Guard station for many years and its signal light and foghorn warmed ships to stay clear of the treacherous rocky shoals that extend outward from the point. The lighthouse is now operated as a museum by the Historical Society and is visited by a million visitors annually.

  • Pirates and Smuggling
    Legend has it that treasure chests of pirate booty are buried in Montauk. Captain Kidd supposedly left two chests of his loot in Money Pond. No pirate loot has ever been found, however in more recent history plenty of loot, in the form of liquor, could be found on Montauk's beaches. During the 13-year prohibition period, the Rum Runners, as they were called locally, used Montauk as a drop-off place for liquor. Old timers remember signals from ships moored out past the legal limit rousing the men to sea in small boats to bring in the cargo under the cover of darkness. The cargo, liquor, was brought to the sand dunes in small boats, where it was dug into the dunes, to be later picked up and transported to New York City in armed trucks.

  • Montauk Tourism
    Montauk Tourism began when the heirs of the early proprietors sold Montauk for $151,000 to Arthur Benson who brought out his influential friends and built a few houses at the point. They called themselves the Montauk Association. These houses now enjoy historic landmark designation. Carl Fisher, who purchased Montauk from the heirs of Arthur Benson in 1926, fell in love with Montauk in the 1920's whose rolling hills with little vegetation reminded him of moorland in England. He built the Montauk Manor, the office building in town, the golf course, the yacht Club, Tudor style homes and even a Tudor village for the workmen in anticipation of a summer playground for the elite. His grand vision of Montauk as the Miami Beach of the north ended with the Stock Market Crash of 1929, but Montauk's popularity as a tourist attraction continues to grow.

  • Places to Shop
    Are you anxious to catch up on some reading while on the beach? Or maybe you need a new cocktail dress for some evening dazzle. And sometimes that sweet tooth just has to be indulged. Whatever you're craving, you're sure to find it in Montauk or surrounding Hamptons shops. Here are a few to get your started:

    The Book Shoppe on the Plaza in Montauk is the only source for the best selection of local authors and books of local interest. We also carry a complete line of paperbacks, children's books and new releases. Services include special orders and if you call ahead, we'll have your selection waiting for your arrival. For scheduled readings and events, call us at 631.668.4599. We welcome e-mail inquiries at the bookshoppe@hamptons.com


    30 flavors of fresh homemade fudge; chocolate, nuts, pretzels, popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream, old-fashioned candies and novelties. Cappuccino and espresso too. Open days in the summer 10 am -11 pm. 41 Edgemere Street. 631..668.4724


    With thousands of acres of parkland and miles of off-road trails, they have bikes for sale or rent, along with knowledgeable staff to help you with your choice. In need of a lesson? They guarantee they'll teach anyone to ride in just one hour! 631.668.8975. Located just west of the flagpole between Montauk Hardware and John's Pancake House.


    A large selection of items specifically suited for use on or at the beach. Beach chairs, tanning lotions & oils, sunscreen, kites, toys, boogie boards & much more. 631.668.4499

    Claudia and Brad have prepared a wonderful selection of exquisite gifts for you to choose from. You will find a gift for any occasion in this one of a kind gift shop. 631.668.5409

  • Things to Do
    It may be called The End because of its location at the tip of Long Island, but Montauk is just the beginning of a fantastic getaway. If you have a couple weeks or just a weekend, Montauk holds treasures that you won't want to miss. So, let's start with the obvious—fishing. If you're an angler, you'll think you're in fisherman's paradise with both saltwater and freshwater fishing available. How you do it is up to you too. Charter a boat for a group of friends or simply surf cast for a calmer experience.

    If you're into mammals of epic proportions, you'll certainly want to take a whale watching cruise any number of the five varieties of whales that populate the local waters as well as dolphins and rare fish as well. While you're out cruising, you'll probably see the famous Montauk Point Lighthouse. Be sure to come ashore and explore the Lighthouse Museum to learn more about this seafaring region.

    If you're more of a landlubber, you'll be knocked out by the hiking trails and beach explorations of the Montauk area. Be sure to do some horseback riding in the area for an unforgettable experience. Hither Hills State Park is perfect for family fun ranging from camping, nature walks and movies. And what would a true vacation be without a few rounds of golf? The Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course is an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones championship course that's both challenging and relaxing.

    And of course there's shopping. Whether you're looking for some designer fashions or simply a few souvenirs, you'll find what you're looking for in Montauk and surrounding Hamptons shops. And don't forget the fabulous food. Seafood. Beach food. Fine dining. It's all available in Montauk and the choice is all up to you. Sunrise to sunset, the days in Montauk can be as busy or laid back as you like. But one thing's for sure, amid all the exploring and discoveries you're sure to find the one thing you may have lost—yourself.

Gurney’s Inn Resort Spa & Conference Center
290 Old Montauk Highway - Montauk, NY 11954