Celia Tryptichs

Displays on Patchogue literary couple, Elizabeth Oakes Smith and Seba Smith. They met when she was an aspiring young writer and he a local newspaper editor in Maine. Transplanted to New York, Washington, and Brooklyn, they arose to popularity and moved in prominent 19th century literary and political circles, nationally and internationally. Seba Smith, in the guise "Capt. Jack Downing," became the father of a folksy, but pointed, form of political humor that later saw echos in the works of Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and Bob Hope. Seba Smith's initial barbs struck at President Andrew Jackson and his administration. Smith later took aim at powerful U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benson, through a parody of his memoirs, in My Thirty Years Out of the Senate. Elizabeth Oakes Smith was even better known. She was an accomplished poet, author, abolitionist women's rights and suffrage advocate, a much sought lecturer, and could verbally fence as an equal with the luminaries of the age. The couple knew Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Longfellow, Tennyson, Webster, Calhoun, and Clay among many others, and had their own very popular literary salon. But, in 1860, when Seba's health went into serious decline, he was advised by his doctor to seek the more salubrious clime of the countryside, and for some reason, the couple moved to Patchogue, where (in 1868), Seba died. Elizabeth, was embarassed and suffered a major decline in popularity fell afoul of the Lincoln administration and of popular opinion when her poet son, Appleton was caught, twice, trying to run guns and slaves (directly from Africa, a long-banned trade) to the Confederacy, in 1860. He was probably a connection with (and interest in) one or more of the Patchogue cotton mills (situated not far from his house), which were in sudden need of cut off supplies of raw materials. Trading with the Enemy was far more common than once thought, and there is a new, eye-opening book out (of that title) on the subject, that documents Northern mill owners' longstanding sympathy and collusion with Southerners and their "peculiar institution", slavery. Appleton was jailed in New York, escaped, but was caught on Fire Island, and rejailed in Boston. Elizabeth tried to secure Appleton's release and wasn't above trying to pull political strings. A cell door seems to have been carelessly left unlocked, guards looked the other way, and he escaped through a window, to a ship bound for England. Later he showed up in North Carolina, where his mother, after a time, after the war, joined him. Sadly, Elizabeth Oakes and Seba Smith lived long enough to see their work go out of style. Both now rest near the site of their former house, which they had called "The Willows," on the East side of Lakeview Cemetery. Appleton, following his habit of failed business ventures, and a short, ironic stint as a U.S. Congressman, is now buried in North Carolina. --MHR