2018-08-29 / Features

Willets Family Has Queens & Long Island Roots

Buckley Summer Day School is now located on the former Willets Family Farm in Nassau County.Photo Buckley Summer Day SchoolBuckley Summer Day School is now located on the former Willets Family Farm in Nassau County.Photo Buckley Summer Day SchoolThe namesake of a heavily travelled and well-known thoroughfare has its origins in Nassau County.

Isaac Underhill Willets (December 7, 1819 – October 10, 1899) was a Long Islander and prominent farm owner best known today for the road named after him, Willets Point Boulevard and I.U. Willets Road. The road (in today Western Nassau County, which until Jan. 1, 1898 was part of Queens) was built in 1850 through the middle of his lands. He complained that there were too many roads on Long Island to begin with.

In Willets’ time, the road was known as Westbury Road.

Today Buckley Summer Day School now occupies the land on what was Willets' property.

Willets was born to David Willets and Deborah Whitson in Westbury and had relatives in Bayside and Whitestone. He married Mary Cromwell on December 29, 1843. By 1849, Willets had one of the largest farms in the area. His farm was located in the area where North Hills and Herricks meet. This area was once known as Plattsdale.

Isaac and Mary had five children: Marietta Willets (1844–circa 1910), Sarah C Willets (1844–1891), Isaac Willets (1855–?), Edwin C Willets (1858–?), Emma Willets (1852–1912).

After his death in 1912, the 216-acre (0.87 km2) farm was purchased with the intentions to build a large cemetery. These plans fell through after a political battle and a state law was passed banning the creation of any new cemeteries in Nassau County.  

The Willets family was prominent in Quaker affairs on Long Island. David Willets, an ancestor of Isaac U. Willets, came to America from Wales in 1650. 

In 1845, members of the Willets family purchased a homestead on Cow Neck (near present-day Port Washington).

Another prominent Long Island family, the Sands Family, the namesake for Sands Point, had previously owned this house.

–Jason D. Antos

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