A flag that once flew outside the Post Office in Upper Port’s former Echo neighborhood has been returned to Port Jefferson and now resides at the Village Center.
The flag is unique in that it contains only 46 stars. It had flown outside the Echo Post Office between 1908 and 1912. Village historian Chris Ryon has traced the timeline of the 46-star flag.
“The 46-star flag originated when Oklahoma became a state in 1907,” Ryon said. “The following 4th of July in 1908 produced the flag at 46 stars, as stars are always added to the flag on the 4th of July. In 1912, it was reduced from 46 to 48 stars as two more states were added, Arizona and New Mexico. This flag lasted until Hawaii and Alaska were added in the late 1950s.”
Before the current boundaries, “the post office was right against the railroad tracks in Upper Port Jefferson,” Ryon said. “This area was called Echo – Echo was a racehorse and that’s what he was named. The post office was the building on the right as you crossed the train tracks to Port Station Jefferson That building is still there, but it’s an empty building right now.
On April 10, Lee Squires Sussman and his son Grayson Sussman Squires met with Ryon to exchange the flag. “It’s been in the family and passed down from generation to generation,” Ryon said. “She decided it belonged in Port Jefferson.”
A journey through time
Last week, TBR News Media reached out to Lee Squires Sussman for an exclusive interview. Through our correspondence with her, which included a telephone interview and an email exchange, she detailed her genealogical background and her family’s place in local Port Jefferson history.
“I grew up outside of Washington DC,” she said. “My father, Donald Fleming Squires, was assistant director of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History when I was a child. When I was 12, we moved back to Long Island, to Stony Brook, because my dad decided he really wanted to go back to his roots and get back to science, not administration. She added that in moving back to Long Island, her father was looking “to give back to his home community, so he went to work for Stony Brook University.”
In 1965, Donald Squires helped found the SBU Marine Science Research Center, the predecessor of the current School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. A renowned marine biologist, he has written several books on the waters outside of New York and Long Island. “Interestingly, by the way, when we came back to Stony Brook, we moved into a rental house while we looked for somewhere to live permanently,” Sussman said. “This house was a house that my other great-grandfather, Harry Fleming, built in Stony Brook.” She added, “We were really going back to our roots.”
A family memory
“My great-grandfather was Charles A. Squires and he was the flag’s first owner,” Sussman said. “He flew past the post office in Echo, New York. After his retirement, my great-uncle, Dwight Squires, took over as postmaster. When he retired, I understand my great-grandfather left it to my uncle Dwight.
At one point, Dwight had given the flag to Sussman’s grandfather, Charles W. Squires. Charles W. kept the flag until the mid-1990s and passed it on to his father, Donald. When Donald moved to Tasmania, he gave her the family artifacts.
“All the photos, the certificates, the family Bible, the flag and all of that came to me when my dad moved overseas,” Sussman said. “I’ve had [the flag] stored in my living room in a sea chest which was also passed down from family.
After years of putting away the flag, she began to wonder what to do with this family heirloom. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a high school friend had referred her to Ryon. The two men got in touch and agreed to meet in Port Jefferson to exchange the flag.
“I have five kids related to Squires,” Sussman said. “I discussed with the children what to do with some of these assets. We all agreed that the flag would be best at home where it could be seen. It was just a matter of finding the right time to get to Long Island and hand it over to Chris so he could display it in Port Jefferson.
Legacy of the Squires
Around the time Sussman began having children, she and her father became deeply interested in the history of the Squires family. Her father contacted Tiger Gardiner, author of “The South Fork Squires, Long Island, New York”.
“I would say his life’s work was the Squires family genealogy,” Sussman said. “She documents the Squires very early on Long Island. When my father left me all the photographs and all the objects when he went abroad, that’s when I started to get involved in the research of the Squires family. It was very easy because I had everything I needed.
Sussman described the pride of continuing this Squires tradition, documenting and sharing his genealogy for future generations. When asked how she would like the Squires to be remembered, she responded for their hard work, selflessness and vision for education, which she said were central to their value system.
“The values the Squires family passed on to me were that public service and hard work are the foundations of success,” she said. “There were times when my family members had money and there were times when my family members lost all their money. When money ran out, they offered help and shelter to those less fortunate.
Sussman also recalled the renovations made to his grandfather’s house to accommodate and shelter the needy, adding, “During the Depression, the attic had been converted into two apartments and the basement had been converted into two more apartments where lived less fortunate people. These values are really ingrained for all of us and they are very clearly part of what made my family members click.
Civic engagement and public service were also very important. “They were very involved in their community and never stopped exploring,” she said. “These are things that are a gift to any community beyond philanthropic gifts – a sense of pride in your local environment and a willingness to help.”
Sussman said his family members were acutely aware of the importance of education and passed that value on to their offspring.
“History is so much bigger than all of us. There’s no point in leaving it in a box at home.
—Lee Squires Susman
“There was a sign printed at my great-grandfather’s print shop in Echo that we had a copy of at home,” she said. “I gave one to Chris. It says “We study to please”, which was an older way of saying the more modern “we aim to please”. Interpreting the meaning of this sign for her, she said: “For me, it has always been an indicator of how important studies were for my family.
Today the Squires family flag hangs inside the center of the village. Reflecting on his joy at seeing the flag once again displayed to the people of Port Jefferson, Sussman said, “History is so much bigger than all of us. There is no point in leaving it in a box at home. It makes me incredibly happy. I shed more tears over the photos of that flag hanging in the center of the village than I can believe. It makes me incredibly happy to see him back home.