OYSTER BAY, New York -- Interwoven in the history of Oyster Bay, NY, a hamlet on the North Shore of Long Island, are untold stories of African Americans that have played significant roles in shaping the fabric of the town.
The incredible life of David Carll is one of these stories and his great-great-grandchildren Denise Evans-Sheppard, Actress and Singer Vanessa Williams, Iris Williams, and Francis Carl are sharing that story in celebration of Black History Month.
"David Carll was born a free man right out outside of Cold Springs, New York, and ended up residing in Oyster Bay," said Vanessa Williams.
As a free man, he did not turn a blind eye to the culture that surrounded him. In Oyster Bay, there were African American men, women, and children that were enslaved and he wanted everyone to experience the same freedoms that he had.
When a colored regiment was established in the State of New York, David Carll enlisted into the Civil War and was assigned to the 26th United States Colored regiment. He understood his responsibility to ensure the freedom of all.
"When it was time for him to come home from the Civil War, $300 bounty was given to any person that enlisted. David Carll purchased property and that is when Carll Hill was built," said Denise Evans-Sheppard, Executive Director of the Oyster Bay Historical Society.
Since its purchase in 1865, five generations have raised families on the property. 'Carll Hill' has served as the backdrop for family gatherings and a constant reminder of the incredible legacy of David Carll.
Through the family's extensive research of the life of David Carll, they came across his pension file, a written document about his experience in the Civil War at the National Archive in Washington, DC.
This document allowed the family to visually see the man that they had heard about for all of these years.
"As Black people in the United States, we don't have the opportunities at times to see photos of us in the 1800s that we can say those are our family members," said Vanessa Williams.
This discovery was a pivotal point for the family. Not only did they have the property as evidence of his contributions to society, now they can see the man himself.
In July 2018, Pine Hollow Cemetery, the final resting place of David Carll, was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The land is owned by the Hood African Methodist Episcopal Zionist Church of Oyster Bay, New York.
"We have a lot of shoulders to stand on, said Francis Carl. "David Carll is the most courageous man that I know of."
Oyster Bay is home to many unsung heroes and David Carll is one for the history books. His legacy is a big beautiful family that will continue to make him proud.