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Signs for newly restored mile-marker stones unveiled in Laurel, Orient

12/20/2015 6:00 AM |

mile marker sign

It just became easier to locate where the area’s newly restored mile-marker stones start and end between Laurel and Orient.

Southold High School students Aidan Vanderburgh and Sam Basel, both 17, secured funding to install the signs explaining the mile-marker stones’ history.

Aidan and Sam applied for grant money through the William G. Pomery Foundation to install one of the signs in Orient. Funding for the Laurel sign — located on private property on Franklinville Road — was obtained from Southold Town.

Both signs were unveiled Saturday.

For more than a year as part of their Eagle Scout project, Aidan and Sam have worked to restore the mile-marker stones that were placed along Main Road and Route 48 in 1829.

Zach Studenroth, the director of the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council, said during the ceremony that he believes it’s fitting that the signs’ unveiling coincides with Southold Town’s 375th anniversary this year.

How the markers came to be wasn’t clear until earlier this year.

A recent investigation by Oysterponds Historical Society historian Amy Folk debunked the long-held myth that Benjamin Franklin placed the mile markers throughout town in 1755. They were, in fact, installed nearly 75 years later by the town, she said.

[Related story: Were Southold mile markers really placed by Ben Franklin?]

In a way, the new signs unveiled Saturday still gives credit to Franklin.

“According to local legend,” the sign reads, “Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin set milestones in 1755 that mark the post road from here to Orient Park.”

“We had all believed the Ben Franklin legend,” said Jim Grathwohl of Southold Town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. “That’s why we’ve decided to continue that legend.”

Wearing a Franklin-style hat, Mr. Grathwohl added: “It’s part of our history and it survived until about six months ago … But it’s nice to think that Ben lives on in this legend.”

mile marker sign

As for the restoration work, the two scouts had to assess each mile-marker stone’s repair needs.

“On some of them, like this one [in Laurel], it was a simple process,”Aidan said. “It only needed a little cleaning, but then we had other stones that were way off and needed to be straightened up to make them look nice.”

Other markers that were missing were later found at the town highway department and one was located in the basement of the Custer Institute in Southold.

Now all 24 markers have now been located, restored and placed back in the ground.

Rich Vandenburgh, Aidan’s father, said both scouts worked very hard on the project and couldn’t have done it without guidance from Mr. Studenroth and Joel Snodgrass of Steward Preservation Services.

Mike Basel, Sam’s father, said the boys were involved with every aspect of the project, from getting approval from the Boy Scouts’ National Council, to mapping out the site using GPS. In addition, they contacted each private property owner that had markers on their land and asked for permission to enter the property in order to restore the mile-marker stones.

“There was really a lot involved in the whole making of this project before the physical work even began,” he said.

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Top photo: Eagle Scout candidates Aidan Vandenburgh and Sam Basel in front of the Laurel mile-marker stone and new informational sign. Jim Grathwohl of Southold’s Landmarks Preservation Commission also attended Saturday’s event and wore his Benjamin Franklin hat. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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