(2010 Estimate) 1,344,436
In 1670, Daniel Denton reported to England that the inhabitants of Long Island "are blessed with Peace and Plenty, blessed in their Country, blessed in their fields."
The Dutch controlled Manhattan, then known as New Amsterdam, in 1640, when a small group of New England British arrived hoping to relocate near Oyster Bay. Dutch authorities soon forced the Englishmen eastward where they eventually established the town of Southampton.
Three years later, on December 13, 1643, another band of adventurous New Englanders crossed the Long Island Sound from the Connecticut towns of Weathersfield and Stamford. The colonists landed at Manhasset Bay, traversed the thick North Shore woodlands, and established the town of Hempstead near clear streams and ponds.
The 50 original families planned carefully and purchased, from Sound to sea, a large tract of land from the sachems (leaders) of the Massapequa, Merioke and Rockaway Indians who inhabited the region. The small number of Indians in Nassau declined rapidly through disease brought by the settlers. Today many Native American place names are a reminder of Long Island's original residents.
The settlers also received a Dutch patent permitting the incorporation of a town government that still provides local services on Long Island today. In 1664, the British ousted the Dutch from New Amsterdam and established New York colony. The small hamlet of Hempstead hosted the first colonial convention of 1665. There, leaders adopted the "Duke's Laws" which established basic government for the new colony.
In 1683, Long Island was divided into three counties: Kings, Suffolk, and Queens. Queens County included western Long Island, as well as the present day towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay. The towns grew slowly as a quiet agricultural area through the early 1700's, although its plains provided ideal sites for colonial horse racing tracks.
On January 1st, 1898, all the western towns in Queens County became part of New York City. The eastern towns--Hempstead, North Hempstead, and Oyster Bay--were excluded from Greater New York but remained part of Queens County.On January 22nd of that year,
a citizens' meeting in Allen's Hotel in Mineola set the stage for the secession
of the three towns by proposing the creation of a new Nassau County. The name
was proposed since it reflects the region's earliest Dutch and English colonial
heritage, and was used for Long Island as the "Isle of Nassau" honoring
William III (1650-1702), who was King of England, Stadholder (governor) of the
Netherlands, member of the House of Nassau, and great-grandson of the Prince of
Orange. After a bitter battle in Albany, the law creating the new county was signed
by Governor Frank S. Black on April 27th, to take effect on January 1st of 1899.
County residents elected the officials of the new county and chose the location
of the county seat within one mile of the railroad station Mineola. Today, it
is still an easy walk from the Mineola railroad station to county buildings actually
located in adjacent Garden City.
The courthouse referendum indicates
the important role the railroad played in local growth. By the end of the Civil
War in 1865, tracks ran along the center, and the north and south shores of the
Island. By the turn of the century, the Long Island Rail Road had become the dominant
means of transportation to New York city. In 1911, the railroad completed direct
rail service to Pennsylvania Station in the heart of Manhattan. The population
of Nassau's small villages along the railroad lines swelled with commuters, leaping
from 55,448 in 1900 to 303,053 in 1930.
Towns located along the tracks--Port
Washington, Rockville Centre, Freeport among them--experienced rapid growth as
the population expanded with commuters and local businesses to support them. Trains
and steamboats also brought tourists to the picturesque seaside. Waterfront communities
such as Sea Cliff, founded as a Methodist camp meeting ground, blossomed. The
wooded North Shore attracted prominent New Yorkers to establish vacation homes.
In the early 1900's, up to the Depression of the early 1930's, North Shore
farmlands became the site of luxurious country estates for wealthy New Yorkers.
The Long Island "Gold Coast" across the entire north shore of Nassau
has left a legacy of elegance, open space, and spectacular architecture still
on Nassau County New York