Beginnings: Once called Hermitage for an elderly recluse who lived there in a shanty, Peconic was where early Southold residents came when the founding settlement became too crowded. It wasn't until the late 1860s that people began referring to the region as Peconic, thought to be derived fom the Indian word for ``nut trees.'' Located just west of Southold, Peconic's soil was as rich and fertile as any on the North Fork. When the Irish came in the 1850s, they sharecropped in Peconic until they could afford to buy their own farms. Polish immigrants did the same 50 years later.
Turning Point: In 1844, the railroad made it to Greenport, opening up another route to New York City markets besides the Sound. The only problem was the train did not stop in Peconic, which deeply disturbed the farmers there. Their petitions for a stop were of no use. So the farmers decided to take matters into their own hands. They took goose grease and skunk oil and applied it to the rails for about a mile west of the village. When the steam-powered engine reached the slippery rails, its wheels spun furiously until it came to a halt just about where the residents hoped to put a station. Soon after that, Peconic became a regular stop, ensuring that the farmers could ship their produce to market.
Artists Colony: By the turn of the century, fledgling artists, some of whom studied at the Art Students League in New York City, found their way to the North Fork. Among them was Irving Wiles, who founded the Peconic school. Wiles and other artists such as Edward August Bell incorporated the summer and winter landscapes of the North Fork into their impressionist paintings. And they won awards at exhibitions such as the Paris Exhibition of 1889. Bell's cottage, known as Bell Buoy, still stands.
Momentous Visit: Seeds for the atomic bomb were planted in Peconic. Albert Einstein summered here, and it's where, in 1939, he wrote his famous letter to President Franklin Roosevelt urging him to investigate nuclear fission and its uses.