Even before John Ogden purchased lands in the Quogue area from the Indian sachem Wyandanch in 1659, settlers from Southampton traveled to Quogue to harvest hay from its broad meadows. They loaded the hay onto barges or rafts and poled them back to their farms in Southampton. By the 1790 census, there were only 12 families said to be living in Quogue, a shortened version of Quaquanantuck, an Indian word denoting a cove or estuary.
Once railroad service reached Riverhead in 1844, summer boarders began pouring into oceanside communities such as Quoque. Locals refer to it as the ‘boarding house era,’ when wealthy New Yorkers came east once the weather warmed and rented rooms at hotels and rooming houses. That era lasted well into the early 1900s and also ushered in a building boom of sorts when the regular summer boarders began building homes of their own.
In the late 1800s, the beaches in Quogue gleamed a shimmering black. The sand was rich with iron ore deposits, which drew the attention of Thomas Alva Edison. He planned to try to extract the valuable ore from the dunes, but his efforts were dashed by happenstance as a storm came and washed the iron ore depoisits away, never to return them. As Edison once wrote: “during the twenty-eight years that have intervened,[the iron ore] has never come back.”
A very large oak tree, partly hollow, stood for decades along Old Country Road in East Quogue and was a virtual post office for Quogue’s early settlers. They called it the “old box tree” and placed their mail in the tree’s hollow center to be picked up and exchanged by post riders. In 1894, the tree was damaged by fire and removed to the Quogue Post Office. Today, that portion of the tree is still on display at the Old Schoolhouse Museum on Quogue Street.