Established in 1686, the Trustees of the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town of Southampton are one of the oldest governing bodies in North America. There continuing charge is the stewardship of more than 25,000 acres of undivided, colonial-era lands consisting mostly of Southamptons shores, water ways, marshes, and bottomlands.
The Trustees responsibilities in doing so include:
Preserves public access to the water;
Upholds the traditions of a maritime community;
Advises the Town Board on coastal related issues;
Informs the public of the Facts of Coastal Issues and Policy;
Represents the best interest of the freeholders;
Maintains and protect surface water quality;
Regulates dock and bulkhead construction and impacts;
Promotes sustainable harvest of commercial shellfish and finfish;
The Dongan Patent
The Dongan Patent established the Board of Trustees of the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town of Southampton in 1686. The patent, a document which granted the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town of Southampton access and rights to common underwater land, rights of way to the water, marshland, and common areas, also created the Board of Trustees to act as stewards for these title lands.
His Majesty King James II of England through his General Governor, Thomas Dongan, granted over 25,000 acres of land, instituting the first official government in the Town of Southampton. Local, state, and even the Supreme Court of the United States have repeatedly ruled that the Dongan Patent is as valid today as it was in 1686. The Dongan Patent guarantees every town freeholder's right to access and use this land and its resources. But with these rights comes responsibilities.