On Presidents Day, it’s a good time to remember the region’s rich connection to the country’s early history, and the future presidents who made their way visit a fellow Founding Father.
In 1791, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, along with fellow Virginian James Madison, stayed at the what’s now commonly referred to as the Terry-Ketcham Inn in Center Moriches while visiting William Floyd, a major general in the Continental Army who lived in Mastic, and whose Old Mastic House is now part of the Fire Island National Seashore.
Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and Floyd was a signer.
According to the Ketcham Inn Foundation, which preserves the circa 1693 building and runs a museum there, the location was originally called the Moriches Inn and has served as a tavern, inn, stagecoach stop and public house.
During the time of Madison and Jefferson’s visit, the U.S. capital was in New York, and the duo was on Long Island to investigate a plague of Hessian flies, which were damaging the American grain industry.
Jefferson, the country’s third president, also documented the Unkechaug language while visiting the Poospatuck reservation.
Madison, who followed Jefferson as the fourth president, was a key framer and defender of the U.S. Constitution.
The inn at the time was owned by William Terry.
In another connection to Floyd, Madison was once engaged to Floyd’s daughter, Kitty, who was 15 years his junior. But she called off the engagement in a letter, saying she was planning to marry another.
Ten years later, Madison met a woman named Dolly.
William Terry’s descendants sold the property to Andrew Ketcham in 1852. It was used as a local courthouse and other purposes and stayed in the Ketcham family until the early 1900s.
It remained in use until 1989, when a fire broke out to portions of the building.
The property, at 81 Main St., has since been restored and serves as a living history museum. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Monday and Tuesday (June-October, 12-4 p.m.)
Thursday and Friday (1-5 p.m.)
Saturday and Sunday (March-December, 10-4 p.m.)
Contact: (631) 878-1855