Located in Southwestern Suffolk County, New York, Babylon is bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, to the east by Nassau County, to the west by the town of West Islip and to the north by the hamlet of North Babylon. What is now known as the town of Babylon and Babylon Village (an incorporated part of the town of Babylon) was originally referred to by locals as either South Huntington or even Huntington South. Sparsely settled from its founding around 1689, the common industry along most of the region bordering the Atlantic Ocean – including both South Oyster Bay and Great South Bay – was the harvesting of salt hay, which was popularly used at the time for cattle feed and bedding. By 1803 a relatively coherent community had grown in the area, including Nathaniel Conklin’s family and they were desperate for a new name for the community in an attempt to remove the connotation that the area was a sleazy layover for Long Islanders on their way west towards New York and others points. Legend has it that Nathaniel Conklin’s mother, a devout, church-going sort compared her new hamlet to the biblical Babylon, referring to the hamlet as a “New Babylon,” and despite some initial reluctance among locals, the name stuck. Strangely, the adjacent section of what was then called Islip town was originally also considered a part of Babylon, New York and is now considered the unincorporated hamlet of West Islip. www.descol.hr
By 1865, Babylon had become a major station for what was known as the South Side Rail Road and the Central Railroad of Long Island, closer to the shore which were later bought by the Long Island Railroad – in fact, both lines are still part of the Long Island Railroad with the South Side line taking passengers to the far eastern point of Montauk while the Central line takes passengers to Mineola and Hicksville. And with the development of the railroad, Babylon, New York quickly became the getaway to the nearby barrier beach resorts of Fire Island. Countless vacationers, arriving by train and coach would spend times in the luxurious hotels of the area. However, with the construction of the Captree Causeways in the 1950s, Babylon New York ‘s place as a resort destination had fallen off – despite Fire Island ‘s immense popularity, even to this day.
But interestingly enough, Babylon has an important role in baseball history. Several of the black service personnel who worked at the Argyle Hotel, one of the most important and luxurious hotels in that region of New York had formed a baseball team, the Babylon Black Panthers. Historical accounts suggest that the Black Panthers were the first professional black baseball team in America. The Panthers were so dominating that Walter Cook, a New Jersey-based promoter put up the money for the team to travel – as the Cuban Giants. Ironically, the Babylon, New York-based Cuban Giants didn’t have a single Cuban ballplayer but they were largely considered to be the “World Colored Baseball Champions” of 1887 and 1888. Babylon has kept some part of its history as a baseball history as Babylon High School uses the Panthers name.