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Part 1:  The First Townsends

The earliest group of Townsends were three brothers who stood up for the rights of people oppressed for their religious beliefs. Learn more about how they faced persecution after they signed one of America’s first declarations of individual rights.

Part 2: “Stirring the Pot”

Samuel Townsend was on the side of the Patriots, but what exactly were the “calls for revolution”? Find out more about the events the led to the Revolutionary War and the early days of the Patriot fight for independence.


Part 3: “Samuel and the Acadians”

In the 1750s Samuel Townsend risked his reputation and his freedom to support the rights of a group of people called Acadians. Discover this little-known story of the group of people who were later called Cajuns.

Part 4: “Ship Shape”

The Townsends were merchants and owned a fleet of trading ships. As the shipping industry grew in the colony, so did the fortunes and fates of some of the earliest families. Explore the role of shipping in the growth of New York.


Part 5:  Indigenous People and the Early Dutch Settlers

Explore the first groups of people who settled on Long Island, where the story begins: the first Native Americans, the first Europeans, the first enslaved Africans, and the first free people of color.

Part 6: “Indentured Servitude and Debt Peonage”

What was the system called indentured servitude and how was it different from slavery?


Part 7:  “Tom Gall and Jupiter Hammon”

Find out more about Tom Gall, the first enslaved person freed on Long Island, as well as America’s first published Black author, a poet named Jupiter Hammon.

Part 8:  “Rising Tensions”

Learn about how the Continental Congress was formed to organize an American response.


Part 9: “America’s First Valentine”

Read the entire poem Simcoe wrote and presented to Sally Townsend on Feb. 14, 1779, as the first known valentine given in the United States.



Part 10:  “Crossing Paths with the Founders” 

While Robert Townsend was writing secret letters to George Washington, his older brother Solomon was having his own adventure, meeting Benjamin Franklin in Paris, France. Find out about his incredible journey and follow another character in Liss’s story who crossed the Atlantic with the man who would become America’s second president, John Adams.


Part 11: “Before He Was a Traitor”

Find out about Benedict Arnold’s early successes as a hero for the American army in 1777.

Part 12:  “Can You Chain a River Shut?”

How is it possible to close the mighty Hudson River by stretching an enormous iron chain across it? Find out what part the Townsend family played in this incredible feat of engineering.


Part 13:  “The Beginning of the End”

Discover how the French helped Washington’s army defeat the British in Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.


Part 15:  “Solomon and his Ironworks”

At the end of the war, Solomon Townsend owned a large ironworks and had an anchor shop in New York City as well. One of the people he employed was Gabriel Parker, who was now a free man, though all the other members of his family were still enslaved.

Part 16:  “If Fieldstones Could Talk”

Simple unmarked natural fieldstones were often used to mark the graves of enslaved people. Learn about the early geological forces that formed Long Island and consider the importance of a simple stone.