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Back to the Past - Renaming Yaphank's Lakes

In the recent past, the lakes in Yaphank were always referred to as the Upper Lake and the Lower Lake. I was therefore surprised when I first read L. Beecher Homan's book "Yaphank As It Is and Was, and Will Be" published in 1875. I found on page 48 these words - "As long as the waves murmer (sic) on the shores of Willow Lake, and the groan of Sweezy's Mill are wafted to the ears of the Villagers, the name of Sweezy will remain fresh in the annals of Yaphanks History."

I knew that Sweezy's Saw Mill had created the Mill Pond that was called Upper Lake, but now I learned that the Upper Lake had also been known as Willow Lake. A number of years later I found two other references to the old names of Yaphank's lakes:

"Where can you find a better place for skating than on the twin lakes-Willow Lake and Lily Lake? Children large and small, have fun enough in the healthy and exhilarating exercise and sport." - The Patchogue Advance Dec. 9, 1882.

"Willow Lake is still left in a shallow condition in order to make repairs on the mill, and there are many fears that sickness may be caused. There is much talk of appealing to the Board of Health to stop this public nuisance." -
The Patchogue Advance Sept. 29, 1883.

In 2008, while working on a PowerPoint presentation entitled "Yaphank, A History in Pictures", I used Upper Lake and Willow Lake interchangeably as I did Lower Lake and Lily Lake when old photographs from that time period appeared in the presentation. The audience found it charming and people began bringing up the old names. It was the Coalition to Save the Yaphank Lakes that first asked the source of the old names and it was the Coalition that approached Councilman Connie Kepert, who proposed a resolution to rename the lakes Willow Lake and Lily Lake. The Brookhaven Town Board voted and passed the resolution on August 19, 2008.

The Coalition to Save the Yaphank Lakes had Willow and Lily Lake signs made that also explained the historical significance of the sites. With Yaphank being bombarded on all sides with changes that are not always sympathetic to its historic past, isnt it refreshing to go back to the past for a change?

Karen Mouzakes, Historian
Yaphank Historical Society
June 8, 2010