Last month, Legislator Bridget Fleming joined colleague Legislator Al Krupski of the First District, as well as the Riverhead Town Board, for the designation of the Bell Town Heritage Area in Aquebogue, noting the significance of its rich African American history and contributions to Riverhead Town. Just north of Hubbard Avenue, it became a settlement during the 1930s by four brothers from Powhatan County, Virginia
The four Bell brothers Mansfield, Condry, Ezekiel and Melkiah, migrated during the Great Migration to Aquebogue and purchased thirty-two residential lots, which created an African American and Native American area called Bell Town. For an occupation, the Bell brothers took up farming, fishing, and entrepreneurial efforts, helping to jumpstart a life for their families.
They served in the church, played in the gospel band, and taught their children about the Bible, in which Mansfield’s daughter, Mary Alice Bell, would go on to be an ordained minister and pastor of Praise Christian Revival Center in Riverhead. For nearly 100 years since its founding, the Hamlet of Bell Town has brought out local poets, musicians, clergy, and so many other talented individuals who have shaped our community in positive ways.
Fleming noted, “Bell Town’s historic designation is an honorary title given its unique heritage and perpetual character, in which the Bell Family continues to play a positive and vital role in the local community, adding to the cultural vibrancy of the east end and helping to keep the area’s history alive.”
Image: (from L-R) Leg Fleming, John V.H. Halsey, Lillian Crowder, Rev. Mary Bell Cooper, Marilyn Banks Winter, and Elena Rivera Williams