Poulianos/Poulos Family: First Greeks in Setauket, Long Island, New York
By: George Moraitis
Arriving in America:
 Among the many Greek families who left Greece, during the immigration years, were three sons of Konstantinos Poulianos of Icaria, (Ikaria) Greece: John (Ioannis), Anthony (Antonios), and Louis (Elias). They came to America between 1905 and 1920 choosing to gamble everything on a chance for a better life.  Leaving behind their home that offered few opportunities, they and other Greek immigrants began their great adventure knowing that they might fail but insisting on their right to try for a better life. They sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and after passing the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, they began the Poulianos/Poulos American history.
 Family oral history states that John Poulianos left his home on the Greek island of Icaria at the age of eighteen for the 'new world' - somewhere about the year 1905. He made his way through Ellis Island in New York and went to Warren and Youngstown, Ohio, where he worked as a commercial painter for over a decade.
After about twelve years, he moved to New York City, where he shared a rented two room apartment (with cooking facilities) on Madison Avenue with other Greek men. He found a job working at Columbia University in the kitchens. Jobs were not easy to come by, but John - like many immigrants - found his job through his fellow Greek villagers. These were tough times for the Greek immigrants since they were targets of anti-Immigrant hatred.
Before long, John left Columbia University to work for the John Raptis Painting Company. This job took him out of New York City to Long Island and to the Port Jefferson - Setauket area. By 1917, John had settled in Port Jefferson taking a job with the Frank Stein Painting Company and working as a cook in the Elk Hotel and Restaurant.
1920 was a big year for John, he and his brother bought a home and he married. John and his younger brother, Anthony, purchased a farm in South Setauket which would serve as the family homestead until it, burned in 1975. John and his new wife, Georgia, did not live on the farm, but instead lived in a second floor apartment on top of Terry's Barber Shop in Port Jefferson. In 1921, the twins, Konstantinos (Gus) and Demetrios (Jimmy) were born. In 1922, the family moved to a house on Maple Place also in Port Jefferson where a third son, Peter, was born. In 1923, They moved again to William Street where a fourth son, Alexander (Alex) was born. They would soon move to their permanent residence on Sheep Pasture Road in the 'Gildersleeve' house that was built by the Loper Brother builders of Port Jefferson.
The four sons went to the Port Jefferson High School. Peter and Gus remained in the family home, neither of them married. James and his wife, Polly did not have any children. Alex and his wife, Helen had two children, Georgia and John II.
John Poulos, (Ioannis Poulianos) died in 1944 at the age of fifty-seven. His wife, Georgia lived thirtyfour years longer until her death in 1978. Three of the sons are deceased: James in 1980, Peter in 1986 and Alex in 2003. Gus still lives at the family home on Sheep Pasture Road. John, Georgia, Peter, Alex and his wife, Helen are buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson. Due, to his World War II Army service, James is buried in the National Cemetery in Calverton, Long Island, N.Y.
Antonios (Anthony) Poulianos, younger brother to John, came to America around 1915, at about the age of eighteen. Uncle Tony, as he was called, went into the United States Army, serving his time in France during the First World War. Upon returning to America, Tony took his separation money of $600.00 and combined it with his brother, John's limited savings and together they purchase a farm on Pond Path in South Setauket, New York from Frederick Smith, son of Amos C. Smith, in 1920. Tony was the first to establish a thriving a dairy and egg business in Port Jefferson.
In 1920, Konstantinos Poulianos, father to John and Tony, wrote to his sons in America from Greece to inform them that they were to receive their brother, Louis (Elias) , his wife and their daughter. Louis was shortly to complete his tour of duty in the Greek Army and was coming to America. In their father's letter, Konstantinos recommended that Tony wear his American Army uniform to Ellis Island so that it would be easier to get Louis and his family through the procedure of Ellis Island quickly. Tony refused to wear the uniform but did go to Ellis Island to meet Elias (Louis), his wife, Mary (nee: Frangos) and their daughter, Thespina. Louis and Mary relied on Tony for many things during their first years in South Setauket, including his ability to speak English.
Tony, when he had married his new wife, Athena, built a house on Liberty Avenue, near the gates to Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson. He soon after sold the farm to his brother, Louis. Tony continued to be hard working holding several jobs at once. He worked as a baker in the Jim Melluses Bakery in Port Jefferson and was still selling vegetables wholesale. Later, he went to work for the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Northport, New York for many years where he would finally retire. Tony and Athena lived in Port Jefferson for many years. But, because of failing health, he sold his home and moved to a garden apartment in Port Jefferson Station. Both Anthony and Athena died in 1981 and are buried in the Cedar Hill Cemetery, leaving no children. Family stores include many memories of the bungalow of which Tony bought at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. Nieces and nephews of two generations would often stay for many nights during the summer months.
By 1924, Louis and Mary were established well enough to purchase the farm from his brother, Tony. It served as the focal point for the family for the next fifty years. The family made a living by farming and extra cash Louis earned working as a laborer. Louis and Mary quickly took over Tony's dairy business that was operating from the farm.
Mary Poulianos, (Poulos and sometimes, Poulinos, as she was sometime known in the area), ran the farm and had the dairy and egg routes in Port Jefferson. Her clients included private homes and such establishments as the Elk Hotel and Restaurant on Main Street. She also took care of her children. Louis and Mary had five more children after they had arrived from Greece. Thespina (Daisy) was born on the Greek island of Icaria in 1916. Visiliki (Bessie) was born in 1921.  By 1922, Athena (Ethel) was born on the farm with Dr. McCrea as the attending doctor. Stelios (Steve) was born at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson. Elpiniki (Alice), my mother, was born in 1927. Nicholas was born in 1933, the last to be born on the farm, the doctor being paid by chickens and eggs. The children's names, for the most part, were changed by the Setauket School principal and the Americanized versions were written on their school records.
Louis supplemented the family's farm income by working in construction. He worked on building the John T. Mather Memorial Hospital where some of his children were born. Often, these supplemental construction jobs took him far from the farm and Long Island. It was on one of these construction jobs in Indian Creek, (near Pittsburgh)Pennsylvania, while he was painting a bridge, where he died in 1943 from a heart attack.  He was fifty-two. Mary died in 1970. Both Louis and Mary are buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in the family plot. 
Family Folklore:  Life on the farm:
Family life on the farm differed very little from farm life in Greece. Farm life was harsh, especially during the Depression years and during the winter seasons. Even so, America promised a better life and fulfillment of grander dreams that were no longer possible in Greece. The Poulianos family learned what other immigrants had to learn: save as much as possible to survive. America was all things to all people.
Farm life meant hard work. The cows had to be milked by hand, fields had to be cleared for planting of crops and livestock had to be tended. The farm had also sheep, goats, chickens, pigs and the family dog. Work included making goat's milk cheese (Feta) and shearing wool from the sheep. There were plenty of eggs and bacon. There were also apples and other fruit trees on the property. There was a produce stand out on Pond Path.
Cows had to be led to pasture early in the morning after the first milking, brought back to the barn for the afternoon water and oats. They were led back to the pasture and later returned to the barn for the late evening milking. The farm did not have a bull. So the family paid a 'stud' fee. This was done in order for the cows to continue to produce milk after a calf was born. Cows often had such names as Bessie and Susie. Calving was not always easy. One family story recounts how the vet, with a long glove on, had to reach for the calf. Louis would take apples from his large orchard to the cider mill at the end of Hub Road. This mill was patented and began operation in 1863 by George W. Hawkins. It was still milling in the early twentieth century. It is the mill portrayed by genre painters, William Sidney Mount of Stony Brook and William M. Davis of Port Jefferson twenty years later.
According to family tradition, Louis would ferment apple cider into 'hard cider' as well as brewing beer and making wine and Greek Ouzo (Anisette). Family stories indicate that there were many parties with plentiful drink during the life on the farm, especially during the Prohibition era. Louis was known to share with his friends and relatives as well as neighbors. The police turned a blind eye Louis' beverages since he was very good to his neighbors, especially during the Depression. He helped them by giving them food and dairy products. And so, the police would tip Louis off before an inspection of the farm for 'moon-shine'. But, he did not always get clear. One day, Mary, who did not approve of his enterprise, took an axe to the beer still that was in the cellar.
Toil in the field was a hard task indeed. Firewood had to cut from the woods up the hill. Big logs had to be carried down, cut and split to size and stacked. The older daughter, Daisy, mainly did this.  Rats and foxes often raided the chicken coops, which housed over three thousand chickens. It was a chore to control vermin that pestered crops and other livestock as well. However, cleanliness was of the utmost concern of any dairy and egg business. Cleaning of old hay and manure in the barns was a daily chore that was shared by all the Poulos children. Hide and seek in the hay piles became a favorite game while working in the barns. Cleaning the barn, feeding the animals and chasing down the cows were just a few of the chores done by all the children and later by the grandchildren.
The Setauket farmhouse and the homes which John and Anthony had in Port Jefferson would soon let rooms to other Greeks, who would come to Long Island from New York City for a weekend or summer vacation. Soon, the American public from other parts of the city would rent rooms at the Poulos' homes and vacation on Long Island. Later in time, the Poulos farmhouse grew. The larger the house grew, the more boarders they were able to take and collect rent from. The house grew to have fifteen bedrooms, four bathrooms (plus one in the barn) and three kitchens. The main kitchen was to prepare the milk and of making cheese. The cooking of main holiday meals were cooked in this kitchen. They were able to rent out large parts of the house for the boarder's use. Sick people would come to the farm for the fresh foods and fresh air in order to get well. It is told that the city's newspaper ads would read: "If you want to get well - Go to Mrs. Poulos". The twenty-plus acres of land were rented out to the United States Department of Agriculture and private farmers. Mary continued to rent rooms until her death in 1970, at the age of 79. From 1920, until the house was destroyed by fire in 1975, Poulos family members with their children lived and worked on the farm. Today, what was called, 'The Poulos Farm' is now 'Pond Estates' development on Pond Path, South Setauket.
There were the usual farm vehicles and equipment in order to run the farm, both horse drawn and motorized.
'Cousin Gus' Poulianos would tell of a story of when his father John and his family would walk to the farm from Port Jefferson. He would say, "Sheep Pasture Road and Pond Path were a dirt roads back then." So the family would spend the whole day on the farm. Upon arriving on the farm there was plenty of food, dancing and, of course, wine. The story continues, as it was time to go back to Port Jefferson, everybody would pile into Louis' Model-T Ford. On the way back to Port, the headlights went out and Gus and some of the other brothers would climb on the hood of the car and light up the road with flashlights. However, because of dimmed lights and drink, Louis would many times drive off the road into roadside wooded areas. Of course, Louis' older brother, John would be cursing, in Greek, about the car and his brother's driving. For I am told that he hated automobiles and especially that one. Nicholas would tell of a story of how, at a very young age, he would drive vacationers to West Meadow Beach. One time, while driving on Pond Path on their way to the beach and the tire on the car caught a rut in the road and the car flipped over, people and all. He flipped the car upright and continued on their way.
Greeks were so proud of their adopted land that on the Fourth of July, Alice's godfather, Stavos Raptis, would purchase hundreds of dollars worth of fireworks and shoot them off on the farm for all to enjoy. Neighbors would come around and watch the beautiful display. Army soldiers, from Camp Upton in Brookhaven, would be marching across the farm's property and Mary Poulos would invited them into the house for a home-cooked meal. Louis would pack up surplus canned goods and drive up to 'Chicken Hill' and distribute these goods to the poor that live there.
Yet, one of the most critical moments in the family's Americanization process came when the 'Poulianos' surname was legally changed to 'Poulos'. The Poulos name remained as such for many years to come. However, in later years, the families of John Poulos and Anthony Poulos had the name legally changed back to Poulianos so they would not lose their roots of their name. The family of Louis Poulos retained the name of Poulos.
Times were not always rosy. Family members found a letter from the local Ku Klux Klan threatening harm to the family because of their thriving dairy business in Port Jefferson. The K.K.K. objected to foreigners running local businesses. Ethel remembered her mother asking, in Greek, "What is this K.K.K.?" She could not understand how such hatred could be possible. One day, Louis found both his milk wagon horses maimed during his route, possibly done by some local members.
The Poulianos family had proven themselves as good neighbors by helping others in time of need with shelter and fresh foods. The older daughters worked as volunteers at the local Red Cross, American Legion Halls, and Veteran's Hospitals and at the National Guard Units on Long Island during the Second World War. All Poulianos/Poulos males served in the American armed forces. There are Poulianos/Poulos family members belonging to many Greek and American philanthropic organizations. Many family members belong to the AHEPA,  the Pan-Icarian, Philoptochos and other organizations. They belong to the local Greek Orthodox Churches. Community members and local school officials came out for Louis' funeral in 1943 and some had traveled many miles from out-of-state for Mary's in 1970.
This is a small story of my grandparents: Elias and Mary Poulos of Icaria, Greece and South Setauket, Long Island, New York. My wife, Barbara and I, along with our baby son, George were the last family members to live on the farm when my grandmother had past in the month of August of 1970. I also had the opportunity to visit the little home they left behind on the Greek island, to which they never returned. I stood there on the very same ground they once stood before making the choice to leave and I thank them for all the sacrifices they made for my generation to have a better life here in America.
As of all of us, we have the opportunity to learn much of our European roots and our past family history here in America. We can learn either from the oral histories of our relatives, written history found in family bibles or general ethnic histories learned in school. Through these histories we can learn of the life-styles of the 'Old World' and of the life-style lived by our older generations who came to America. They can bring up memories that were suppressed for years and to see their joy or sorrow to re-tell of them and to re-live that memory. It is a thrill for the younger generation to seek and research their history. We have inherited many traits from them. Their blood runs in our veins. We have learned to work very hard, to save and make America the best life that we can make it. We imitate our immigrant ancestry in doing so. We make their history our history. These newly arrived immigrants were part of American history. They were creating history. They lived through the high immigration period, the Depression and the war years. They were creating history - history in the making!
We are today still making history, either in the world of technology, music or new philosophical ideas. We are creating history and at times recycling old ones. Everything we have done and do today are historical events and should be cherished as such for future generations. Our past family history reminds us in a remarkable way of how these past events influence our lives that can mold our future. Their values and attitudes that had been brought to us from the 'Old Country' have shaped our 'American' character. Our past history is our roots, our heritage that has been handed down to us. Their history is our travel back in time to our very being