6. John Milton (Montauk)

Ditch Plains
The water known today as Ditch Plains. Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsAmericasroof

In 1855, the 1,444-ton ship John Milton embarked on an ambitious three-year voyage, stopping in San Francisco, Peru, and Virginia before heading back to its home in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In the time the ship had been gone, a 160-foot lighthouse had been erected at Ponquogue Point in Hampton Bays. The Shinnecock Lighthouse first shone its light in January 1858.

A month later, the John Milton was sailing just east of Long Island when it ran into a severe snowstorm. In the middle of the storm, the captain confused the Shinnecock Lighthouse, which he didn’t know existed, with the Montauk Point Light and unknowingly steered his ship off course. The ill-fated ship crashed on the rocks five miles west of Montauk Point Light, which is known today as “Ditch Plains.” Over 30 of the crew’s frozen bodies later floated ashore, 21 of which were buried in East Hampton’s South End Burying Ground. They are honored with a monument.

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