Honoring Past Residents: Northeast Queens’ Matinecock Indians

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    A walk through the neighborhoods of the northern part of Queens, College Point, Whitestone, even Bayside, will reward the urban enthusiast with glimpses of the small Long Island North Shore towns they used to be. There are town centers at 14th Avenue and 150th Street in Whitestone, along College Point Boulevard between 14th and 18th Avenue, and Bell Boulevard between Northern Boulevard and 35th Avenue. The spaces between these town centers, once meadows or farmland, have been filled with block after block of one and two-family homes and seem to have been thoroughly “folded” into a uniform Queens fabric: definitely not the dense, urban feel of a Soho or a Park Slope, but not the thoroughly suburban atmosphere of a Levittown or Hicksville. The two “northeasternmost” of Queens’ neighborhoods, Douglaston and Little Neck, however, have a different tone: they somehow seem carved out of the rather exclusive, monied precincts of the Nassau County townships immediately to the east, Great Neck and Manhasset. Both neighborhoods are served by a short shopping strip along Northern Boulevard, and the area’s hilly topography doesn’t lend itself to block upon block of similar-looking ranch houses.

    For centuries before the mid-1600s the Matinecock Indians, a branch of the Algonquin, had lived on the peninsula where Douglaston Manor is today as well as lands to the south and east, including today’s Little Neck (a “neck” here meaning a plot of land. The term is also seen in adjoining Great Neck as well as Gravesend Neck in Brooklyn.) Little Neck Bay’s wealth of seafood, including the huge oysters that grew here then, sustained the tribe. In the 1600s, European settlers also turned their attention to the area, not only for the clams but for the harbor, which offered easy access to water traffic. The British and Dutch soon had bartered, or some say swindled, the Matinecocks out of much of their ancestral lands, except for a small portion called Madnan’s Neck (possibly named for settler Ann Heatherton, “Mad Nan” although it could also have been shortened from the Indian name for the area, Menhaden-ock, “place of fish.”) In 1656, Thomas Hicks — of the Hicks family that eventually founded Hicksville — forcibly drove out the “last of the Matinecock” in the Battle of Madnan’s Neck at today’s Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway.

    When Northern Boulevard was being graded and widened in the early 20th century and the graves of the Matinecocks were discovered in the path of the roadway, they were reinterred in the Zion Episcopal Church Cemetery, Northern Boulevard just east of Douglaston Parkway, in 1931. A stone marker, designed in two pieces on either side of a tree, is marked “Here Rest the Last of the Matinecoc(k).”

    BQ.marathon

    In November 2014, Community Board 11, serving Douglaston and Little Neck, voted unanimously to name the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway after the Matinecocks, the approximate site of Thomas Hicks’ war on the Native Americans centuries ago. There are still  descendants of the Native American tribe living in the area. New street signs will be installed within a few months.

    Shown is a building on the southeast corner, one of the oldest in the neighborhood, presently the offices of Bryce Rea Real Estate.

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