Long Island's Hidden Past: Oyster Sloop Priscilla

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WEST SAYVILLE -

There was a time when the bays surrounding Long Island had oysters growing in great abundance.

News 12 Long Island's Danielle Campbell and Brian Endres take you back to a time when a fleet of sailing ships known as South Siders scooped up their precious cargo by the tons.

MORE: Long Island's Hidden Past | Photos

Oyster Sloop Priscilla is the oldest of her kind. The ship was among a fleet of 500 boats that once worked the Great South Bay from Patchogue to Jamaica in the late 1800s.

Priscilla was built in 1888 by famed boat builder Elisha Saxton of Patchogue. It was built for Capt. George Rhinehart, an oysterman in Lawrence, who named the boat after his wife Priscilla.

Rhinehart worked the boat in Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways, providing much-needed food to New York City's growing immigration population.

On average, the sloop would dredge up to 3,000 pounds of oysters. 

After 12 years of service on the South Shore, Priscilla did another 50-plus years dredging for oysters in the Long Island Sound.

Capt. Jim Romaine, who captains the boat now for the Long Island Maritime Museum, says his hope is that Priscilla will continue sailing for another century.

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