THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF FLATBUSH
by Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt
Our Dutch ancestors were slow to accept innovations. It is probable that before
the beginning of this century their manners and habits had remained
for generations the same. Such is no longer the case. We need only go back a
few years to find customs which have now ceased to exist. Neither Flatbush,
nor any of the towns on Long Island settled by the Dutch from the Netherlands,
differ for that reason from other towns and villages in the State.
Nearly every trace of Dutch descent has been swept away; there only
remain the reminiscences and traditions, while the old family names mark the
localities still, as the projecting peaks mark the submerged rock.
All that relates to home and kindred has its interest, especially when we
know that the home is soon to be broken up and the ties of kindred sundered.
In this we find our excuse for calling together the family circle of Dutch
settlers in Kings County, to talk with them of changes which have taken place
in social life, and to review customs and habits which are almost forgotten.
It seems presumptuous to dignify with the name of history this fragmentary
account of old familiar things; perhaps we might offer it as the
"landscape of the age" in which the actors of Dr Strong's History lived. As
such it may help us to understand some things which time is every day rendering
Dr STILES, in his history of Brooklyn, apologizes for giving comparatively
unimportant minutiae, with the plea that it is "for those who are to come after us,
and to whom these matters may be to a considerable extent unattainable except
through our pages." He continues: "'Posterity,' it has been said, 'delights in details,'
and to many of our readers themselves, if they should live to a good old age, years
will bring a truer appreciation of the value of these little points, which are not
unheeded in the rush and bustle of the active present."
We may plead in the same words for the many apparently unimportant things
which we have related; they may be so familiar now as to be almost unworthy
the record, but they will grow in importance as the years pass on.
As one gathers a leaf or presses a flower from a spot which is full of
pleasant memories, so we gather these leaves, and present them as memorials
of the pleasant garden spot of which, in time, there will be little left save
these mementoes which we here offer.
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