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 Winifred <I>Petty</I> Denton

Winifred Petty Denton

Springs, Suffolk County, New York, USA
Death 1 Dec 2010 (aged 101)
Riverhead, Suffolk County, New York, USA
Burial East Hampton, Suffolk County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 62719867 · View Source
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Winifred Petty Denton, of 493 Old Stone Highway, East Hampton, who was born on Old Stone Highway in Springs and lived on the same street for 100 years, died at the Peconic Bay Skilled Nursing Center last Wednesday at the age of 101.

In a 2008 interview with The Star, Mrs. Denton painted word pictures of old East Hampton in what Bess Rattray, the interviewer, called, a "lovely, even elegant Bonac accent," her vocabulary sprinkled with "what today are archaic turns of phrase."

"You take salt pork, and you slice it down, dice it out. Then you try it out," Mrs. Denton said in describing how to start a true Bonac chowder. The verb "try" is used in the same way it was in whaling days to describe the rendering of the blubber of whales. Mrs. Denton was known for her chowder and clam pies.

She was born March 25, 1909. Her parents were Nathaniel Hayes Petty, a bayman known as Cap'n Nat, who was also born on Old Stone Highway. Her mother was the former Emma Jane Bond from Cutchogue. Later in life, her father was hired by wealthy second-home owners to captain their yachts.

"Truth be told, we looked forward to the wealthy people coming in summer because they left a lot of money here. We used to call them ‘the city people,' " Mrs. Denton recalled.

The youngest of eight children, she spent much of her youth walking long distances along dirt roads without alternative transportation. Shops were few and far between in Springs. Her father ran a gas station in front of the family house, and kept a small store where neighbors could buy a loaf of bread.

"The poorer class of people, and that's what we were classed as, never had a great deal of anything. And yet I was a very happy child. When I look today at what children have. . . . It's a big contrast." She recalled a dish her family called Poverty Stew that was served during hard times. Its ingredients included potatoes, onions, and salt pork — "chowder without the clams or the fish."

Mrs. Denton said shopping was done via mail-order catalogs. "I had two dresses. They were pink and blue." When she turned twelve she started work as a domestic for Mrs. Charles Ross, whose husband was a Methodist minister. She also worked for the Maidstone Club, and for Mrs. Dennistoun Bell at the nearby Bell Estate.

Getting to school was a challenge. At age eight, Winnie, as she was known, was considered old enough to walk to the old wooden schoolhouse on School Street, about two miles each way. She started high school, where the East Hampton Middle School is now, on Newtown Lane, but had to depend on a ride from a neighbor. The trip home was by foot, however. The difficult logistics combined with her courtship with Charles William Denton Jr. put an end to her formal education.

She married Mr. Denton in 1928. The couple stayed together for sixty-one years until Mr. Denton's death in 1989. He was a builder and constructed houses into which his family moved, a total of four, all on Old Stone Highway.

After his retirement at the age of seventy, the Dentons "lived on the water," clamming or fishing from a dory from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. through the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Mrs. Denton's brothers and sisters have died, as have four of her five children. Her daughter, Jane Elizabeth White, lives in Springs. She leaves nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Denton was the oldest member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in East Hampton and St. Peter's Chapel in Springs. The latter is an annex of St. Luke's located across the street from Mrs. Denton's childhood home. She was a member of St. Peter's Ladies Guild and the East Hampton Ladies Bowling Travel League.

In 2003, her clam pie recipe along with her memories of bygone days received the tribute of the Springs Historical Society and the Ladies Guild. In 2006, she was honored by the Lost Tribe of Accabonac.

On Monday, Mrs. Denton was buried at Green River Cemetery in Springs following a funeral service at St. Luke's.
Published in The East Hampton Star on December 9, 2010.




  • Created by: Ryan D. Curtis
  • Added: 9 Dec 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 62719867
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Winifred Petty Denton (25 Mar 1909–1 Dec 2010), Find A Grave Memorial no. 62719867, citing Green River Cemetery, East Hampton, Suffolk County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Ryan D. Curtis (contributor 46858513) .