The History and Ownership of 71 Union Avenue Lynbrook


By Arthur Mattson

Lynbrook Village Historian

January 27, 1998

Copyright protected

The names of many of Lynbrook’s -- and Long Island’s -- best known families, the Doxeys, Smiths, Abrams, Riders, Pearsalls, Driscolls, Hewletts, Underhills and Lyons, are intertwined with the history of the house at 71 Union Avenue. Many of Lynbrook’s streets are named after the families of 71 Union’s owners. The house was also home to two genuine Long Island heroes, one a war hero, the other a more gentle hero. They were David Driscoll, one of the Civil War’s most honored soldiers, and Alma Kurtz Underhill, a widow, who 100 years later fought to save the historic house at 71 Union, Lynbrook's most historic house, from demolition.

Smith Doxey (as in Doxey Place and Doxey Brook, Lynbrook)

Owned house from (?) to February 7, 1850 .

Smith Doxey sold the "land and premises" to Epenelus (Apenelus) Smith.

Apenelus Smith and Mana Smith (as in Smith Street, Lynbrook)

Owned house from February 7, 1850 to July 29, 1851

It is not yet known when Apenelus Smith and his wife Mana Smith acquired the house and land at 71 Union Avenue. The title search shows the date they sold it, July 20, 1851. At the time of the sale the Five Corners of today’s Lynbrook was named Pearsall’s Corners and Union Avenue was just a dusty farm road not yet named on the maps. Even then the Smith family was one of Long Island’s oldest families. Apenelus Smith may be connected to the namer of Smithtown. At any rate, Smith Street in Lynbrook is named after this family. On July 20, 1851 the Smiths conveyed the premises and 2 acres to Stephen Rider and Elizabeth Rider. [Source: Queens County Records, H. Walling Map of 1859, in Lynbrook Public Library]

Stephen Rider (as in Rider Avenue, Lynbrook)

Owned house from July 20, 1851 to his death

Little is known as yet about the Stephen Rider. Lynbrook’s Rider Avenue is named after this family. Rider bought the house at 71 Union on July 20, 1851. He later married Elizabeth Abrams. After Rider’s death, some time before 1868, Elizabeth became sole owner of the house. She later remarried.

[Source: Queens County Records.] [Confirming source: H. Walling Map of 1859, in Lynbrook Public Library]

Elizabeth Rider Pearsall, nee Abrams (as in Pearsall's Corners, Lynbrook's former name; as in Pearsall Avenue, Lynbrook; as in Abrams Place, Lynbrook)

Sold house on July 5, 1872

Elizabeth Rider Pearsall was born Elizabeth Abrams. The Abrams family is one of Lynbrook's oldest and most numerous. Lynbrook’s Abrams Place is named after this family. Elizabeth lived all her life in Pearsalls. After her first husband Stephen Rider died, Elizabeth became sole owner of the house. She later married Uriah Pearsall, a widower.

[Sources: 1) Queens County Records 2) Genealogy of the Pearsall Family by Clarence Pearsalls, 1927.]

Uriah Pearsall and Elizabeth Rider Pearsall (as in Pearsall's Corners, Lynbrook's former name; as in Pearsall Avenue, Lynbrook)

Owned house 1868 to July 5, 1872

Uriah Pearsall was the second husband of Elizabeth Rider, widow of Stephen Rider. Uriah Pearsall and Elizabeth were married on Oct. 24, 1868. This was Uriah’s third marriage. Uriah, who was born in 1810, was a direct descendant of Henry Pearsall, a founder of Hempstead in 1640. He was also a cousin of Wright Pearsall, the founder of Pearsall's Corners, the early name for Lynbrook from about 1845 to 1894. Throughout the 19th Century and well into the 20th the Pearsalls were the most influential family in the village. Lynbrook’s Pearsall Avenue is named after this family. The Pearsall name was also applied to the Lynbrook’s Pearsall Brigade, one of the country’s only private militias. Another such militia was the Rough Riders of Long Island’s own Teddy Roosevelt. Uriah Pearsall died on June 17, 1878, after ten years of marriage to Elizabeth, and six years after they sold the house on 71 Union. He is buried in the Old Sand Hole Cemetery.

On July 5, 1872, four years after her marriage to Uriah Pearsall, Elizabeth Rider Pearsall sold the house to David Driscoll, a Civil War hero, who had returned home to Pearsall’s Corners.

[Sources: 1) Genealogy of the Pearsall Family by Clarence Pearsalls, 1927. 2) Queens County Records 3) Mattson, Arthur, "How Lynbrook Got Its Names" Lynbrook Public Library.]

David Driscoll (One of Long Island's most distinguished war heroes)

Owned house from July 5, 1872 to May 12, 1891

David Driscoll was born in 1841, the son of Capt. John Driscoll, an Irish immigrant, and Mary Driscoll, both of Pearsall’s Corners. He is one of Long Island’s greatest war heroes. In 1861, the year the Civil War broke out, Driscoll was a 20 year-old, living with his parents at 105 Smith Street, in Pearsall's Corners. On October 21, 1861, Driscoll enlisted in the Union Army, and was assigned to Wheeler's 13th Individual Battery, NY Light Artillery. Driscoll, afraid to tell his parents that he had enlisted, hid his newly issued uniform in the barn.

Most soldiers in the Civil War left the service as soon as they could, generally after a one-year stint. Some even paid others to fight in their place. Driscoll fought for four years, seeing many of the War's worst battles from Virginia and Pennsylvania to Tennessee and Georgia. He fought at Fredricksburg, Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg (where his artillery unit defended the Union line against Pickett's Charge, suffering 10% casualties), Lookout Mountain, Mission Ridge, Kenesaw Mountain, and Murpheesboro. Driscoll rose to gunnery sergeant. He was discharged on July 18, 1865, shortly after the last fighting stopped. Driscoll was awarded many medals for his military achievements, one of those medals was awarded by President Abraham Lincoln. That medal is in the possession of a Lynbrook resident.

In 1872, four years after his army discharge, David Driscoll bought the house at 71 Union using the money he had sent home to Mary during the war. At the time, the house sat on two acres of land. He lived there with his wife for over twenty years, finally returning to his parents home, at 105 Smith Street, where he died. That house is now gone. Although all the earlier residents of 71 Union had Lynbrook streets named after their families, oddly, there is no Driscoll Street in Lynbrook. With the destruction of the Driscoll-Pearsall-Underhill House at 71 Union, the Driscoll name will disappear from memory in Lynbrook.

[Sources: 1) Brooklyn Eagle, "David Driscoll, Vet of Civil War, Dies", November 8, (?). 2) Queens County Records, title search by LHPS. 3) Interview 11/5/96 with Driscoll descendant (who wishes to remain anonymous). 4) Richard Rollins' Pickett's Charge, info available @ 5) Also SUNY Morrisville College Library, "N.Y. at Gettysburg, pg. 108, "Numbers and Losses" @

John Lyon, as Referee (as in Lyon PlaceLynbrook) and Lewis L. Fosdeck. as Executor of the Last Will and Testament of Abraham Hewlett (as in Hewlett, Lynbrook's neighboring village)

Owned house from May 12, 1891 to April 3, 1893

It is not yet known why there was a referee/receiver’s sale of David Driscoll’s property. Nor is it known why the estate of Abraham Hewlett purchased the property and held it for less than two years.

[Source: Queens County Records]

William Jonas Hall and Lizzie M. Hall, his Wife

Owned house from April 3, 1893 to December 6, 1902

Nothing is yet know about the Halls.

[Source: Queens County Records]

George L. Kurtz and Alma Kurtz Underhill, his Daughter

Owned house from December 6, 1902 to 1995

George Kurtz , a German immigrant, purchased the house in 1902 for $3,350. George and his wife raised four children in the house at 71 Union. Alma (Kurtz) Underhill, the Kurtz’ married daughter moved back into the house after George Kurtz died, ca. 1940. In 1969, Alma was a widow, still living at 71 Union. That year Lynbrook School District 20 began condemnation proceedings in order to acquire the entire 71 Union property. The plan was to demolish the house in order to enlarge the ball field south of Lynbrook High School. Alma began a ferocious, one woman campaign to save her house. She spoke up at School Board and Village Board meetings to make her case known. She wrote letters to newspaper editors and to State and local officials. Newsday wrote about her campaign to save the house. Finally, the District agreed to modify their plan. They settled for the rear acreage of 71 Union, the site of the Kurtz’ barn and part of their former Victory Garden, and allowed Alma to keep her house. She lived there until she died. [

Source: Nassau County Property Records, Newsday, various Lynbrook residents]

Rivero-Stein Construction Corp., A/K/A Paramount Construction Corp.,

57 Woodlawn Avenue, Valley Stream, NY 11581

Current owner. When Alma died, her heirs sold the house. It was purchased by a developer who wishes to destroy the house and build multifamily housing. This plan will, if successful, bring about the end of the rich history of the house at 71 Union Avenue.

[Source: Various Lynbrook Village Building Dept. documents including "Demolition Notice" Stamped Dec 3.,1997, obtained via FOIL.

Questions still remain about the house: Why did one of Long Island’s most famous war heroes end up with his property being sold by a referee/receiver? What are the contents of the buried cistern buried on the site? Is there an Indian burial ground at the rear of the property, as family history tells us? What is the origin of the unusual brick structure in the basement?

ADDENDUM (1/27/98)

Here is a late update on recent research on the house:

1) A county document recently discovered shows that the house dates back to at least 1838. We are investigating the document further. [Source: J. Cooper]

2) A local expert on local 18th and 19th century basements and foundations has indicated that the unusual, curved brick structure in the basement was undoubtedly a root cellar. This type cellar dates the house as late 18th or early 19th century. [Source: J. Bishop]

3) A local expert on glass and pottery found, on the property, at a depth of two feet, an apparent prehistoric implement. The tool has been is shaped to fit in the palm and appears to be a scraper or rough cutting tool. The tool is being evaluated by an archaeologist. [Source: A. Leoni. ]

4) The location of the cistern has now been approximated, using a 1940’s photo of the backyard "Victory Garden".

[Source: photo in Lynbrook Library Historical Collection, donated by M. Seeley (Alma Underhill’s daughter)]