How Lynbrook Got Its Name

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By Arthur Mattson

Lynbrook Village Historian

March 2, 1998 (Originally published March 11, 1986)

A more extensively researched version of the following article appears in Mr. Mattson's new book, The History Of Lynbrook.

Most residents of our village know that LYNBROOK is an anagram for BROOKLYN, with syllables transposed, but few know that our village was once named after one of Long Island’s oldest and most distinguished families, the Pearsalls, and that it has an interesting history dating to before the American Revolution.


Long before the Europeans came, the Rechquaakie (Rockaway) Indians settled here along with their neighbors the Masepeages (Massapequa), Merriacks (Merrick) and Canarsies. The name Rechquaakie is a corruption of Rokawanhaka, which means "Our Place of Laughing Waters", an apt name because the Rockaway Indians thrived on the plentiful shellfish from the bays to the south. Their peaceful life was shattered by the arrival of the English settlers, who saw the Indians as primitive, near-animals. As Richard Denton, the founder of Hempstead wrote, "They have decreased by the hand of God from six towns to two small villages. A Devine Hand makes way for the English by cutting off the Indians by wars with one another or by some mortal disease." In 1643 the Indians signed a treaty ceding all the lands from the Hempstead Plains south to the Merrick Road.


An historical marker in front of Lynbrook Village Hall proclaims: "LYNBROOK - ESTABLISHED 1785". The date comes from a 19th Century Methodist Prayer Book which indicates that by 1785 a small community of 40 houses had been established near Merrick Road and Ocean Avenue, close to where the Rockville, or Sand Hole Cemetery is today. In 1790 a 20 X 30 foot Methodist meeting house was built on land donated by Isaac Denton. Benjamin Abbott, the first preacher, rode a 300-mile circuit on horseback to reach his widely spread Long Island parishioners. The intersection became known as Parson's Corners.


The land to the west of Parson's Corners, near what is today the center of Lynbrook, was called Bloomfield. Much of the land was owned by one family, the Pearsalls. The Pearsalls had been among the first European settlers to come to Long Island. They arrived in 1639, only 30 years after Henry Hudson explored the Hudson River. The Pearsalls were Englishmen who had sailed up from their Virginia tobacco farms and took a liking to the free economic climate offered by the Dutch on "Lange Eylandt". They were among the founders of Hempstead, Flushing and other settlements.


By the time our village got its start in 1785, the Pearsalls had already been on Long Island for almost 150 years. But unlike families such as the Baldwins and the Hewletts they had not had a place named after them. They had tried, naming the Hell Gate area (in Queens County) Pearsalls, but the name did not stick. About 1830 Wright Pearsall purchased some land at Hempstead Avenue and Merrick Road, at the intersection we today call The Five Corners. An historical marker marks the spot where Pearsall opened a general country store. Wright Pearsall's store became so widely known that the corners and the surrounding community soon became known as Pearsall's Corners. The name Pearsall's Corners stuck for about 40 years until just after the Civil War. At that time a post office and railroad station were built and the simpler name Pearsalls came into use on postmarks and train schedules.


Pearsalls had long been a hub for road transportation, linking the East Rockaway and Far Rockaway ports to the Hempstead and Jamaica population centers. When the Southern Railroad extended its line through Pearsalls in 1866, the stage was set for a growth spurt. Pearsalls' own newspaper, "THE ONCE A WEEK", had this to say about the growing village in 1876: "Probably there is no South Side village which offers more inducements to people to locate than does Pearsalls. This picturesque, lively and enterprising little settlement, located upon a level tract of land does indeed make an attractive appearance. Everything to make a place desirable can be found here:


·         General Country Store / W. Pearsall & Son

·         Hotel / M. Bowley

·         Oyster, Confectionery & Billiard Saloon / S. Furman

·         Fancy Goods Store / Mrs H. G. Mott

·         Fancy Goods Store / Mr. Clark

·         Fancy Goods Store / Mrs. Welling

·         Blacksmith Shop / M. Mount

·         Blacksmith Shop / T. Box

·         Blacksmith Shop / J. Bedell

·         Wheelwright Shop / Dikeman

·         Wheelwright Shop / G. W. Strickland

·         Shoemaking Establishment / W. W. Williams

·         Shoemaking Establishment / M. Stein

·         Florist / Seally Bros

·         Coalwood & Feed Depot /  D. Langdon

·         Feed Store / W. Pearsall & Son

·         Steam Factory for Toys / C. Sherman

·         Law Office / G. A. Mott

·         Physician's Office / Dr. Hutchinson

·         Dental Rooms / [Microfilm Unreadable]

·         Drug Store / H. A. Graef

·         Carpentering Establishment / S. Symons

·         Carpentering Establishment /  T. Stansbury

·         Barber Shop / C. Maler

·         Milk Depot / C. Maler

·         Butcher Shop / T. Mott

·         Grocery Store / M. Dibble

·         Grocery Store / Maler

"We have a fine schoolhouse and a commodious church. A short drive takes you to the East Rockaway landing where it is a most delightful sail through the South Bay to the shores of the broad Atlantic . Pearsall's is but 16.3 miles from New York, connected by the numerous trains daily by Southern Railroad. Our roads are first class, our soil is excellent. In fact we have every requisite to make this village pleasant and desirable to reside in. [THE ONCE A WEEK, 1876] "

This kind of salesmanship certainly worked because in the 15-year period between 1879 and 1894 the population of Pearsalls increased from 500 to over 2,000 people.


Hundreds of people vacationing from overcrowded Brooklyn and New York City liked what they saw in Pearsalls and decided to stay. Many of the new arrivals kept their jobs in the city and became commuters on the Southern RR. And some of them had a keen businessman's eye for real estate values. These men wrote numerous, mostly anonymous letters to the editor of the SOUTH SIDE OBSERVER, the Newsday of the day, putting forth their view that the name Pearsalls did not have enough marketing pizzazz.


On February 12, 1892, an editorial appeared in the SOUTH SIDE OBSERVER, the leading newspaper of Long Island's South Shore: "A number of Long Island villages have within a few months changed their names, and it has been suggested that Pearsalls follow suit. The present name is somewhat proprietary and many of the citizens think a more euphonious cognomen would be desirable." That editorial set off a storm of protest and counter argument between Pearsalls' newer residents and the establishment. The controversy drew comment from as far away as New York City. On May 1,1894, after two years of verbal warfare, the name Pearsalls was officially changed to Lynbrook. Diehards continued to refer to the village as Pearsalls until the 1920's. Even today, there are residents who believe the even older name of Pearsall's Corners should be restored.

To the newcomers to Pearsalls, choosing a new name became synonymous with social progress. Here are some of the Letters to the Editor which appeared in the early 1890's:

".....a new name would add 20% to the value of real estate." (2/19/92)

"There seems to be something about the name Pearsalls (when mentioned on the trains) that brings out a slur of unkind remarks." (2/26/92)

"A majority of commuters using this station have signed a petition to have the name of the station and Post Office changed. The preference is for Wyndemere."(8/4/93)

"The current name, Pearsall's obnoxious." R.D. Jaques (9/8/93)

"I am in favor of anything which will lift us out of the ruts, and scour the rust off our social and business machinery....Have we any more reason for naming our village Pearsalls than for calling it Nebuchadnezzer or Phil McCool? Roanoke, Bristol, Centreville, Marietta, Sandringham, Damascus, Ceylon, Memphis, Plymouth and Prospect Plains are among the names suggested. The above are the sentiment of the most intelligent and progressive people in this vicinity." (3/11/92)

" sidewalks, new rows of trees along the streets, new public lamps, a host of newcomers, filled with the spirit of progress and last, but not least, a new name for the place." (3/25/92)

"The Pearsall Improvement Association [later truncated to `The Improvement Assoc'] was formed last week. 40 members. Goals include sprucing up own homes, give concerts, get decent sidewalks, street lighting." - H.R. Jaques, Sect'y (3/31/93)

"The name of LYNBROOK is of course the name of Brooklyn transposed. One end of the future metropolis would be Brooklyn, the other Lynbrook. The name of Pearsall's Corners will be a thing of the past." (8/11/93)


Thoroughly disconcerted by the attacks against the status quo, the Pearsalls establishment struck back with haughty sarcasm:

"The solid and substantial residents are, like myself, satisfied with the name as it is" (3/9/92)

"While we duly appreciate the great sacrifice made by these benevolent citizens who left their beautiful city homes to labor among the deluded and barbarous backwoodsmen, we believe most of those who have most to say about the poor ignorant inhabitants would not be included in the missionary circle had they been obliged to pay 50 cents for membership." (5/12/93)

"I propose the name Jaquesborough, the latter being more euphonious than Lynbrook and will not be confused with Brooklyn." (7/29/93)

"When did the privilege of substituting some other than the real name of a village devolve upon a society of a few weeks' growth or the commuters of a railroad? Next we shall read of two or three individuals saying 'We the people of the United States RESOLVE, that Long Island shall henceforth be called Short, that Brooklyn must be turned wrong end and that New York is antiquated and will be called Old York." (8/18/93)

"Lynbrook? Ha! Ha! Where's the brook? Why not York New?" (9/22/93)


One writer from Hempstead made what was surely the most eloquent statement offered by either side when he argued persuasively for holding to tradition and decried the practice of renaming old villages:

"It is not in accordance with a spirit of progress to change things simply because they are old or connect our thoughts with the events of long ago. Traditions and local history should be carefully preserved; and nothing is more repugnant to the preservation of these traditions than the pernicious and foolish habit, which seems to have become so popular of late on Long Island, of altering the names of old villages. Some were named after the original inhabitants of the place, as for instance Hallet Cove, which has been changed to the meaningless Astoria. Cow Neck which was long and justly famous for its excellent pasture land, has been named Manhasset, which is the name of an indian tribe on Shelter Island, thus being totally inapplicable to Cow Neck. More recently, the village of Baldwins, bearing the name of one of Long Island's oldest families, has been given the senseless cognomen, Millburn. And now we are informed that the village of Pearsalls --- also named after an old Long Island family --- is to have its name changed to the singularly inappropriate one of Wyndemere, and as an alternative it is suggested that it be called Lynbrook, which is a word recently manufactured for the purpose, and absolutely meaningless. Perhaps it will not be out of place to repeat the warning given by Mr. Thompson, the historian of Long Island: `Old names, like old friends, should not be changed for light and transient causes, much less for whim and caprice." - S.S., Hempstead" (8/18/93)


Pearsalls had no local government in the 1890's (incorporation was to come in 1911) so a local, ad hoc referendum was held on April 4, 1894. With the newer, more numerous residents providing the impetus, the change to Lynbrook was approved. Formal adoption came on May 1,1894 when the Post Office and Railroad accepted the change. The adoption of the new name, Lynbrook, marked the crest of a wave of change that pushed a country farming and fishing village into the 20th century. The nostalgic country charm invoked by the name Pearsall's Corners is today only a dim memory

======================================================================== Endnotes: ======================================================================== (1) The SOUTH SIDE OBSERVER, published in Rockville Centre, is quoted throughout the article. A date in parenthesis is used after each such quote. All cited issues are available on microfilm at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

(2) 1785 data from THE BOROUGHS OF BROOKLYN & QUEENS, by Henry Isham Hazleton, pub. 1925. Avail at Brooklyn Hist Soc. Also see SO.SIDE OBSERVER (Sep 8&15,1883) for reference to Sand Hole, Parson's Corners and Brower's Corners.

(3) HISTORY AND GENEALOGY OF THE PEARSALL FAMILY, vol. 2, by Clarence Pearsall, pub. 1928. Avail in Brooklyn Hist. Soc.

(4) See A PEARSALL GENEALOGY by A Mattson, in the Lynbrook 75th Journal.

(5) 1879 pop. data from LIRR brochure, quoted in LYNBROOK LEGACY, by S. Wilner. Avail in Lynbrook Public Library.

(6) ONCE A WEEK, Pub. in Pearsalls 1876. Available on microfilm at the LI Museum, Hofstra University.

(7) 1894 pop. data in LYNBROOK ANNUAL (900 families), interpolated by me to 'over 2000 people'. SO. SIDE OBSERVER (Apr 8,1892) says pop. 4000 in the summer.

(8) METHODIST PRAYERBOOK. References to it may be found in the Lynbrook Historical Collection, under "Religion".