OYSTER BAY - As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s only fitting to tell the tale of North America’s first Valentine, which was sent in Oyster Bay in 1779.
At the time, Washington’s troops were defeated in the Revolutionary War and British troops were occupying homes on Long Island. British Col. John Simone, a commander of an elite force called the Queens Rangers, set up his encampment in Oyster Bay at the Townsend Homestead, now known as Raynham Hall, says historian Michael Goudet.
Sally Townsend was a young teen patriot at the time. Goudet explains that the British soldiers were captivated by her, but it was Simone who took it one step further by writing her a Valentine poem.
“This is the first piece of paper that one person gives to another that we know in North America that has ‘won’t you be my Valentine,’” says Goudet.
The romance never had a chance to blossom though. As the war continued, Simone returned to England and married another woman. Sally lived out her days in the home as a spinster. Goudet says she kept the Valentine until she died.