Many thanks to the Suffolk County Historical Society!

unnamed-2Charles A. Codman, 1911. (From the Modern Times Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Image copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Charles A. Codman, shown here as if lecturing, was a highly respected citizen and a pioneer settler of the Modern Times colony and later of the village of Brentwood. He and his wife built a house on the corner of Second Avenue and Brentwood Road, where he lived for nearly 60 years. The structure was over a hundred years old when it was eventually torn down for commercial development. An artist and a writer, Codman’s original handwritten manuscript entitled “A History of Modern Times,” and a copy of his “Legend of the Red Owl,” are both in our collection, along with his framed color drawing of the red owl and various other documents. According to the red owl legend, on a cold winter night in 1877, a small red owl visited Codman and revealed itself to be the spirit of an Indian warrior whose bones remained unburied near the back of Codman’s house. Codman found the bones and buried them as instructed by the owl, who returned one more time to thank Codman for a job well done.

Modern Times was founded in 1851 by Josiah Warren, a Boston-born reformer and nonviolent anarchist who advocated for the “sovereignty of the individual.” He purchased over 700 acres of land on the south side of the LIRR tracks in the area that is present-day Brentwood. He laid out streets and advertised for pioneers. The colony of 100 persons settled in the new village, cleared the land, built log cabins, and planted large gardens that became their chief means of support. In 1857, the population of Modern Times had doubled to 200, and the colony had a number of thriving businesses–the Time Store (a general store/supermarket), a printing plant, a carriage factory, a harness and saddlery shop, a furniture-making factory, and a box factory. For a number of years Modern Times held a peaceful existence free of government, jails, rules, and regulations. All this was disrupted when the economic panic of 1857 and the Civil War brought an end to the colony. Thus by 1864, Modern Times became Brentwood.


The Suffolk County Historical Society’s PHOTO OF THE WEEK Series is created by head research librarian Wendy Polhemus-Annibell using historic primary source materials from our local history library’s extensive archives. To subscribe, visit our website or send an email request to Wendy at

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