The Fay Cousins in Port Washington

When Michael Fay arrived in Brooklyn in 1854, not only did he have his uncle Lawrence Lyons already living there, but also an older cousin, Thomas  Fay, the son of his uncle John Fay. Born around 1827, Thomas was almost ten years older than Michael. In the 1900 census Thomas stated  that he had emigrated to the U.S. in 1850, but there is a record for a Thomas Fay (b. 1826), arriving in New York on November 4 of 1848. This certainly could have been him.

     In that same census Thomas stated he married in 1854. His wife was Catherine Callahan, and she had arrived in 1852. There are no marriage records for this couple in any of the  New York City Catholic parish records, so the presumption is that they were living in Brooklyn at the time. It appears that they did not stay in Brooklyn long however, but shortly after getting married moved to the Port Washington area in the town of North Hempstead Long Island.

     In 1855 a group of businessmen from Staten Island had invested in planting oysters in Manhassett Bay, the body of water leading from the Long Island Sound into the harbor at Port Washington. This resulted in the establishment of a thriving commercial oyster farming business that drew many new families to the area.  At first sloops from New York City would dock in Port Washington to pick up the shellfish. Later when a railroad station was opened barrels of oysters were shipped directly by train to the city markets.

     By 1860 Thomas, working  as a laborer, had purchased a house in Port Washington valued at $800,  and was raising his family there. Things were going well enough that he probably wrote home to Ireland urging his younger brother to join him in the States.

    Laurence most likely arrived in New York in May of 1863 on the ship “New World”, right in the middle of a Civil War that was tearing the country apart. We don’t know if he immediately joined his brother in Port Washington or lived in Brooklyn for awhile. His chances for meeting a woman would certainly have been much greater in the bustling city than in a small port village. He ended up marrying  a native New Yorker of Irish extraction, Mary Louise Flynn, around 1867-68, although again we have found no marriage records. Their first daughter, Ella Louise, was born in May of 1869.

   A map of Port Washington, published in 1873 , shows an L. Fay dwelling on the Harbor Road at the approximate location of Thomas Fay’s dwelling in 1864, when Thomas and others had petitioned the town for road improvements. On that same map it shows that Thomas Fay had relocated to the corner of Sandy Hollow Rd. and Harbor Rd., overlooking the Mill Pond leading out to Manhassett Bay. I believe that Thomas probably sold his former house to Laurence. Two years later he was the sponsor when Laurence was granted Naturalization in the Queens County Court.   

The Dwellings of Laurence and Thomas Fay – 1873
The Millpond Looking Towards Manhassett Bay

         Laurence Fay made his living as a laborer, sometimes doing  farm work. He had two daughters, Ella Louise and Frances. While Louise made a living as a dressmaker, Frances became a teacher, however neither of the girls ever married. Lawrence and Mary eventually moved to Sandy Hollow Rd. too , purchasing a large tract that had three two-story dwellings on it (ref. 1906 Map). In December of 1910 Laurence passed away while at his nephew Thomas’s house in Port Washington. His death certificate, filled out by his nephew,  gave his birth date as July 18 of 1831 and listed his parents as John Fay and Bridget Quinn. He was just shy of 80 years old.




Lawrence’s wife, Mary, died two years later. The girls then took rooms together on Main St. in Port Washington, but during the Depression they both relocated to Prospect Park West in Brooklyn. Frances died there of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1932. Ella Louise however  lived till 1960, dying at 91 years of age. The entire family is buried together in an unmarked plot  in  St. Mary’s Cemetery in Flushing, Queens.





  Thomas Fay’s family trajectory was the polar opposite of his brother’s.  Thomas and Catherine had ten children of their own, eight of whom survived, and then they adopted another son.  Almost all the children married , resulting in some forty two grandchildren. Thomas was active in town politics, running sucessfully as a town constable for around ten years . By 1870 he had become an oyster planter but later diversified into selling real estate. He also worked as a foreman for Murray and Reid sand dealers for the last fifteen years of his life.

     According to Thomas’s obituary, towards the end of his life his mind “gave away”.  In 1900 he and Catherine were living with their daughter Jennie and her family, when a longtime friend, Rev. Father Doran of Brooklyn, who had been the pastor at St. Mary’s Church in neighboring Roslyn, recommended to the family that Thomas be placed in the State Hospital in Poughkeepsie. In December of 1901 he was brought upstate, but he only lasted there ten days before passing away.

    Catherine continued living with her daughter until she died in January of 1919. 

The Family of Thomas Fay of Port Washington
(click to enlarge)