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Oyster Bay’s Civil War Connection Is Illustrated by the Roosevelt Collection

James A. Roosevelt Collection at the Oyster Bay Historical Society

Oyster Bay Historical Society Executive Director Philip Blocklyn took several documents from the newly acquired Elizabeth Roosevelt Collection to share with members of the Life Enrichment Center earlier this year. His topic was centered around Black History month and the way in which the new collection unveiled elements of the Roosevelt family’s participation in the Civil War that resulted in President Abraham Lincoln declaring the Emancipation Proclamation, and freeing the African American slaves who were the workforce of the agricultural south.

He said, “What I brought here today is a lot of material that was from a parallel descendent of President Theodore Roosevelt, TR’s uncle, James Roosevelt. Elizabeth Roosevelt, James Roosevelt’s great-granddaughter put together a very impressive collection of the family documents and what they did between the 1860s to the present. It’s a great donation - stored in two boxes – and we put together the highlights of the collection for that first show in February, some of which I have here. It is all original material, there are no facsimiles or copies. Many of the documents are from the Civil War period, from 1861 to 1865.”

He also brought two exceptional letters, “One letter from TR to Jack Roosevelt; and one from TR’s son Quentin written about six months before his death,” he said.

Mr. Blocklyn focused on James Roosevelt, (Elizabeth Roosevelt’s great-grandfather and TR’s uncle) saying, “He was a banker, he is believed to have rented property in Oyster Bay the summer of 1870, the Trousdell house; and later built in 1881 his home Yellow Banks in Cove Neck. So he was an Oyster Bay resident and was a New Yorker.

“What we show here, are his papers during the Civil War. He was a banker and a humanitarian and was very instrumental in raising support for union soldiers in the field through what was known as the Sanitary Commission which became the Red Cross.

“As a member of the Union Club in NYC, he raised funds to create the first New York black regiment, the 20th. After it was filled, they added the 26th to fight in the Civil War. Eventually there were 175,000 black soldiers, in 175 Regiments of 1,000 people each,” explained Mr. Blocklyn.

The documents are part of the Oyster Bay Historical Collection that are available for viewing by appointment. Please call 922-5032 and ask for Nicole Menchise, librarian and archivist. Consult websit obh.org for more information.