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Long Island Avenue Renamed To Honor Samuel Ballton, An Enslaved Man Who Later Became A Farmer & The 'Pickle King'

GREENLAWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Emotions bubbled over Wednesday for descendants of an enslaved person who later escaped and served in the Union Army.

They flew in from Atlanta and Los Angeles -- descendants of the enslaved man turned Pickle King -- for the honor and renaming of Boulevard Avenue in Greenlawn, a hamlet in Huntington, Samuel Ballton Way.

"Celebrating the fulfillment of freedom for all. Juneteenth is an official holiday here in the town of Huntington," Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said.

Samuel Ballton (Photos provided)

That fulfillment of freedom was mired in racism and roadblocks for Samuel Ballton, who was born into slavery in Virginia.

He escaped during the Civil War, surviving on bacon and flour, and served as a union soldier before finally settling in Greenlawn just after the Long Island Rail Road arrived in 1873.

"Despite all the things that were going on, wound up in a position of ownership, leadership, changed a community, saved agriculture," descendant Lula Ballton said.

"A blight attacked all the cucumbers here, and Sam is the one who found the variety that was resistant," Huntington Town Clerk Andrew Raia said.

A self-made scientist ahead of his time, working as a sharecropper, he grew a seasonal record 1.5 million cucumbers for pickling, earning him the unofficial title of proud "Pickle King."

"He was a great family man ... civic leader and a builder," descendant Carl Ballton said.

Despite the oppressive times for African Americans in which he lived, Sam Ballton embodied self-help principles. He never attended school but managed to excel in nearly everything he touched.

With proceeds from his farming, he purchased land in Greenlawn to build houses that have survived centuries.

"It's really been inspiring us to just take another step forward," descendant Leighann Ballton said.

His fifth generation grandchildren are looking ahead while honoring their past.

Samuel Ballton died in 1917.

His legacy will also be honored with a historical exhibit inside Huntington Town Hall.

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