The Life of a Patriot
General William Floyd was born at present Mastic, Long Island,
NY, in Brookhaven Township. He was the second child and eldest
of two sons in a family of nine. His father, a prosperous farmer
of Welsh ancestry, kept the children busy with chores. As a
result, his education consisted only of informal instruction
at home. When Floyd reached his 20th year, his father and mother
died within 2 months of each other, and he inherited their large
estate on Long Island along with the responsibility of caring
for his brothers and sisters. Six years later he married. His
bride helped care for the family and assisted in managing the
farm, for which slaves supplied most of the labor. A community
stalwart, Floyd also devoted considerable time to the affairs
of the Brookhaven church, occupied the position of town trustee
(1769-71), and moved up in the ranks of the Suffolk County militia
to a colonelcy in 1775.
The Revolutionary movement in New York was much less fervent
and started later than that in the other colonies. The spirited
Massachusetts opposition to the Tea Act in the later half of
1773 and in 1774 created the first major ferment in New York.
One of the scattered focal points was eastern Long Island, where
Floyd lived. He and many of his neighbors attended meetings
that extended sympathy and aid to Massachusetts and protested
the closing of the port of Boston by the British. Despite such
local outbursts, by the end of 1774 New York was one of only
two Colonies, Georgia being the other, in which the patriots
did not control the government. For this reason, the Revolutionaries
operated mainly on a county basis.
In 1774 Suffolk County sent Floyd to the Continental Congress.
He remained there until 1777, returned in the period of 1779-83,
and in the interim served in the State senate and on the council
of safety. Yielding the floor of Congress to the other New York
Delegates, he labored without special distinction on a few committees.
But worry about the welfare of his family presented a major
detraction. In 1776, when British forces occupied Long Island,
his wife, son, and two daughters fled northward across the sound
and took refuge in Middletown, CT. where his wife later died.
It was in this year of 1776 that Floyd signed the Declaration
of Independence as a New York delegate. During this time, the
redcoats used his home at Mastic for a barracks, and Loyalists
plundered his lands and belongings. When he brought his children
back in 1783, he found the fields and timber stripped, the fences
destroyed, and the house damaged.
After the war, Floyd sat for several terms
in the State senate, attended the constitutional convention
of 1801, supported the Federal Constitution, won election in
the years 1789-91 as a Representative in the First Congress,
served as a presidential elector in four occasions, and became
a major general in the New York militia. His second wife, whom
he had married in 1784 bore him two daughters.
About at this time, Floyd acquired an interest in western lands.
The year of his marriage, he purchased a tract in central New
York at the headwaters of the Mohawk River in the environs of
present Rome; he supplemented this three years later by obtaining
a State grant of more than 10,000 acres in the area. He spent
most of his summers visiting and developing the acreage.
In 1803, in his late sixties, at a time when most men possess
lesser ambitions, Floyd deeded his Long Island home and farm
to his son Nicoll, and set out with with the rest of his family
to make a new life on the frontier. During the first year, he
built a home at present Westernville, NY. There he succumbed
at the age of 86 in 1821, and was buried in the Presbyterian
-Adapted from Robert G. Ferris and
Richard E. Morris' book Signers