Sorting out the early years of these old Riverhead hamlets is rather tricky. The name Aquebogue was first applied to the entire area of the Aquebogue purchase. Later, it was attached to the ancient village now called Jamesport. After the development of another settlement a few miles to the west, the new community was called Upper Aquebogue, and the older one was called Lower, or Old, Aquebogue. The original Jamesport was not laid out until 1833 on the Bay. By a curious shift of names, Jamesport became South Jamesport, Lower Aquebogue became Jamesport, and Upper Aquebogue acquired for all time thereafter the ancient name of Aquebogue.
For simplicity's sake, let's just say that today's South Jamesport was founded as Jamesport in the early 1800s by James Tuthill, who had dreams of turning the tiny Peconic Bay community into a major shipping port. In 1833, Tuthill named his town James' Port, laid out streets and built a dock. What Tuthill didn't consider was that the waters off Jamesport were much too shallow at low tide to accommodate cargo ships. Today's Jamesport began around 1690, when the first settlers built homesteads and attracted tradesmen to their midst, establishing a modest 18th-Century commercial outpost.
Bunker fish oil was a boom product in Jamesport for many years. Crews of fishermen would head to Peconic Bay in season and weave a seine sometimes a half-mile long to harvest the bunkers, also called menhaden. The small fish were then processed for crop fertilizer or oil used in lamps and for paint. About 15,000 bunkers were used to fertilize an acre of land, so it was not unusual to see catches in the hundreds of thousands.
Methodists discovered the rural serenity of Jamesport in 1835 and set up camp in a grove of magnificent oak trees. They returned summer after summer for their annual Methodist assembly. They erected tents at first, later replacing them with attractive Victorian cottages.