Posted on | April 15, 2010 | 1 Comment
After Sylvester Randall’s final departure for the California gold fields, his son John stayed in Miller Place, and in 1867 married Eliza Catherine Davis. The young couple resided with John’s mother Fanny and brother Stephen in Miller Place, where they had three children:
- Eloise, born 1868
- Forrest, born 1870
- Edna, born 1872
In March 1876, John and his young family moved from Miller Place to Yaphank, leaving his mother and brother to care for the farm. At his new rented farm in Yaphank, he started raising, buying, and selling livestock, and raising cash crops including hay. When the landlord’s son unexpectedly moved into the house with his bride, John and his family returned to the home of his mother and brother in Miller Place. At this time, according to his journals, John was looking for a farm to purchase, and after inquiring about and visiting several in the area, on Tuesday, March 24th, 1885, he bought a farm of his own: “I have been to Mt. Sinai and have bought John Phillips farm will take possession as soon as possible.”
The John Phillips farm, built in the 1720s, was (and still is) one of the oldest homes in the area. Charles Phillips, John’s father, is rumoured to have chosen the name Mt. Sinai for the town, changing it from “Old Mans” in the 1840s. He also established the first post office in the town, and as postmaster, ran the office from his home. When John Randall purchased the Phillips farm, he not only purchased the 75-acre farm, but inherited the role of postmaster as well. John retained this position until his death in 1886. His wife, Eliza Catherine Randall, then became postmaster and held the position until 1907.
It was there that John’s only son, Forrest Bradley Randall, then just 15, would develop his work ethic and his refine skill as a farmer. On April 29, 1886, John died suddenly at the age of 45. He had, according to his journal, been fighting what he described as stomach pain, so much that at times he was unable to do anything. The doctor’s treatments caused vomiting and worsened his condition for several days after. John’s passing left his wife, daughters Edna and Eloise, and 16-year-old Forrest on their own, which suddenly forced Forrest to take on his father’s role as the provider for the family and caretaker of the farm.
Based on information in his journals, John had been raising and producing more than was necessary for an average subsistence farm. On Long Island at that time, many farms operated at the subsistence level, growing vegetables as cash crops to sell locally and keeping just a few cows for their own needs. The number of calvings recorded in John’s journal was indicative of an unusually large herd for that time; this in combination with their activities in improving the pond, clearing land, raising cash crops, and buying and selling livestock all suggest they were turning the farm into a viable business.
John and Forrest and others in the community also sold cordwood; they describe repeatedly in their journals how they loaded schooners beached near Miller Place. One time John mentions that they moved 36 cords during one low tide cycle. According to the journals, they cut the wood, hauled it to the beach with horses, and left it stacked there until there was enough to fill a boat. This wood was shipped to the growing cities around the shores of Long Island Sound. This income provided John and Forrest with cash to pay for improvements at the farm. Just 3 years after his father’s passing, at age 19, Forrest Randall had established himself as a successful farmer and had a new barn and outbuildings erected on his farm.