[Transcriber's Note: Page headers in the original are treated as sidenotes in this e-text. Obvious printer errors have been corrected.]
NEW YORK AND ALBANY
FROM KINGS BRIDGE TO "THE FERRY AT CRAWLIER, OVER AGAINST ALBANY," BEING AN ACCOUNT OF A JAUNT ON FOOT MADE AT SUNDRY CONVENIENT TIMES BETWEEN MAY AND NOVEMBER, NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FIVE
BY C.G. HINE
HINE'S ANNUAL, 1905 BOOK I.
Entered, according to act of Congress, in the year 1906, by C.G. HINE, in the office of the Librarian at Congress, Washington, D.C.
The Hudson Valley, above all other places in this country, combines historic and romantic interest with the beauties of nature. It is one hundred and fifty miles crowded with the splendors of mountain and forest and river, and replete with incident and legend. To quote George William Curtis: "Its morning and evening reaches are like the lakes of a dream." Everyone who visits New York comes or goes, if possible, by the river route. Few know much of anything, however, about the Old Post Road, that one-time artery of travel and trade, whose dust has been stirred by the moccasin of the Indian and the boot of the soldier; whose echoes are the crack of the stage driver's whip and the whistle of the startled deer; whose bordering hills were named for the wild boar and the wild cat, and along whose edges are still scattered the interesting relics of a past that the passenger by steamer or rail can never know.
Take it in May or June when all nature is fresh and green, with fleecy clouds above, and below a bank of wild azalea or an apple orchard in bloom. Or try it in the Fall when the woods are as gay as the painted butterfly. Each season holds out its own attractions.
Few places can equal the Hudson Valley for the Autumn panorama. The brilliant colors of the deciduous foliage intermingled with the dark of the evergreens rise from the blue of the river to the blue of heaven with every variety of tree and shrub to lend a hand in the illumination. It is red gold and yellow gold, purple and fine linen, and all manner of precious stones when the sun puts a crown of glory on some great tulip or sparkles in the gorgeous maple leaves. The colors are so splendid that even Turner, in all his glory, could not equal one of these.
There is no office at which to buy a ticket for this Post Road route. It is Shanks' mare, with an independence and freedom that no other mode of travel knows. To be sure, one can also take it on horseback, by bicycle or automobile, according to fancy and finances, and, provided he does not exceed the speed limit, it matters little how he goes. The speed limit naturally differs with the individual. The writer thinks that three miles an hour is fast enough—a pace that enables one to keep his eyes on the picture and does not necessitate a continuous inspection of the road.
Naturally the weather plays its part in such an open air journey, and this is particularly the case if the trip be made on foot. It is the loss of the landscape, blotted out by the mist, rather than the physical discomfort of being caught in a rain squall, that counts. In fact, if one is protected by a light rubber cape, and will take the storm philosophically with a mind to enjoy it and rise superior to the drip on his knees, there is huge satisfaction in being alone with the patter of the rain. But the loss of the landscape is serious in such country as the Post Road deals with. An instance of this comes vividly to mind in connection with the Wiccopee Pass and the plain south of Fishkill. As I first saw it of a perfect June evening, it was as delicately beautiful as a bit of silver filigree, but another time, in September, the mist hung low on the mountains. It was either raining, or had just stopped, or was about to begin again, and it had been doing that or worse all day and the day before, and that which had been a delight in June was now a matter of so many miles to be disposed of as quickly as possible. There is a local expression in these parts, applied to certain phases of the weather: "As black as a black hat", which one can better appreciate after he has seen the scowl with which an Autumn storm can sweep down these mountains. Good May or June weather and the soft delight of Indian Summer are equally enjoyable, but avoid the Ides of March, or, in other words, the days of the equinoctial.
The amount of baggage is best decided after one has tramped it a bit. At first the tendency is to take the various little luxuries that are so necessary at home, but after they have been pulling at the shoulders all day long and the unaccustomed strain has developed possibilities in the way of aches undreamed of before, the conviction is gradually forced on the wayfarer that every ounce counts, and next time many of the "necessities" are left behind. A light suit of pajamas, a pair of extra sox and a thin rubber cape are greatly to be desired. A wash rag, nail brush and small piece of soap, tooth brush, comb and shaving outfit, extra eye glasses, small corkscrew and court plaster—all these can be carried in a "tourist's bag" slung from one shoulder, and these are enough, with a bit of talcum powder and vaseline for chafed spots. Over the other shoulder hang a small, light camera and take the Post Road home with you to dream o'er of Winter nights.
New York to Albany by the Old Post Road.
In 1703 the Provincial Legislature passed a "Publick Highways" act, part of which reads as follows:—
"Publick and Common General Highway to extend from King's Bridge in the County of Westchester through the same County of Westchester, Dutchess County and the County of Albany, of the breadth of four rods, English measurement, at the least, to be, continue and remain forever, the Publick Common General Road and Highway from King's Bridge aforesaid to the ferry at Crawlier over against the city of Albany."
This, being in the reign of Queen Anne, was at first known as the Queen's Road, but in due time became known as the Albany Post Road.
Stages for the north originally started from Cortland Street; later the starting point was moved up to Broadway and Twenty-first Street, and as other means of conveyance improved and multiplied, the point for starting was moved north and further north until finally the railroad was finished through to Albany and the stage coach was a reminiscence of bygone times.
It is "159 m. from N. York" to Albany by the Post Road, as the old mile stones figure it. When they were set up, a hundred years or so ago, New York City was south of the present City Hall, and one can get some idea of the city's growth when he knows that there still exists on Manhattan Island a stone imbedded in a bordering wall along Broadway, and in about its proper place, in the neighborhood of Two Hundred and Fifteenth Street, which reads "12 miles from N. York."
[Sidenote: KING'S BRIDGE.]
This trip starts with King's Bridge, built by Frederick Philipse in 1693. That bridge—which, like Mark Twain's jackknife, that had had two new handles and six new blades, but was still the same old jackknife—still connects Manhattan Island with the main land, being supported on stone piers that are said to be the original ones used. There is but one other bridge in the entire trip to Albany that can rival its antique and aged appearance, and that crosses the Roeloff Jansen Kill in Columbia County. Just East of the King's Bridge was the "wading place" of the Indians, and later of the Dutch, where the valiant Anthony Van Corlear met his fate, and, according to Irving, gave the stream its present name.
To one who likes to speculate as to what might have been, had things been different, King's Bridge affords large opportunity for thought. It seems always to have been a favorite haunt of the human race, its encircling hills and accessibility by water no doubt being responsible for this popularity. Extensive beds of oyster shells testify to former Indian occupancy, and the Dutch appear to have shown the same preference for this quiet nook, though they finally pitched their tents at the lower end of the island which furnished larger opportunity for trade. If the city had been established here, would we to-day be taking our pleasure jaunts into the country where now is the Battery, and would our antiquarians still be discovering Indian remains in that region?
Bolton's History of Westchester County says that the site of the present village of King's Bridge was that originally selected by the Dutch for their city of New Amsterdam, it being a spot protected from the blasts of Winter by the encircling hills, and it may have been that the swamps of Mosholu Creek gave them pleasurable anticipations of dykes and ditches—a touch of home. They had but to re-name the creek and make it a real Amster Dam.
Spuyten Duyvil Hill toward the west was known to the Indians as Nipnichsen. Here they had a castle or stockade to protect them against the Sauk-hi-can-ni, the "fire workers", who dwelt on the western shore of the great river Mohican-i-tuck, and from which later came that delectable fire-water known as "Jersey lightning," against which no red man is ever known to have raised a hand. In later days three small American redoubts, known as forts Nos. 1, 2 and 3, crowned this same hill. One of these is now doing duty as the cellar walls of a dwelling. On the rise of ground to the east known as Tetard's Height, was Fort Independence, or No. 4. This series of eight small forts, which covered the upper end of Manhattan Island from the heights of the adjoining mainland, seem to have been more ornamental than useful, as they fell into British hands with little or no fighting. No. 8 overlooked Laurel Hill, on which stood Fort George.
In the early days King's Bridge appears to have been the only connecting link with the mainland, for not only did travelers for the north go this way, but it seems that those for the east also availed themselves of this approach to the mainland, as Madam Knight, on her journey from New Haven to New York, in 1704, speaks of coming to "Spiting Devil, else King's Bridge, where they pay three pence for passing over with a horse, which the man that keeps the gate set up at the end of the bridge receives."
The "Neutral Ground" came down to this point, and during the Revolution it was the borderland over which the raids of both belligerents swept. Congress, recognizing its importance, ordered in May, 1775, "That a post be immediately taken and fortified at or near King's Bridge, and that the ground be chosen with a particular view to prevent the communication between the City of New York and the country from being interrupted by land."
Here in January, 1777, Major-General Heath attacked a body of Hessians under Knyphausen and drove them within their works, but the Americans were in turn driven off, and again in 1781, in order to afford the French officers a view of the British outposts, the American Army moved down to King's Bridge when the usual skirmish followed—in fact, it was a storm centre so long as the British occupied New York.
The Macomb mansion, a fine house even to-day, once the home of Major-General Alexander Macomb, the "hero of Plattsburg," still overlooks the waters of Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Originally a tavern, it was purchased about 1800 by Alexander Macomb whose son, Robert, was ruined by the destruction of Macomb's Dam, which went down before the embattled farmers, with whom it interfered. The Macomb family was a band of sturdy fighters, all of the five sons taking an active part in the militia or the regular army, but the reputation of the family rests principally on the glorious deeds of Alexander in the war of 1812.
[Sidenote: THE VALE OF YONKERS.]
The Post Road, known in these days as Broadway, follows the eastern edge of the Mosholu swamp to Van Cortlandt Park, through what is called the Vale of Yonkers. Here is Vault Hill, one of the points selected by Washington on which to make a display for the benefit of the British while he quietly led his main army south for the operations against Cornwallis. On a clear day the hill is in plain view from Manhattan Island, and the camp fires and general indications of activity on its summit helped materially in the scheme to deceive the enemy. The hill has its name from the fact that it was used as a burial ground by the early generations of the Van Cortlandt family. The property was sold in 1699 by Hon. Frederick Philipse to his son-in-law, Jacobus Van Cortlandt (a brother of Stephanus Van Cortlandt of Cortlandt), and the mansion was erected by Frederick Van Cortlandt in 1748. Northeast of it is situated Indian Field, memorable as the scene of an engagement between the British and the Stockbridge Indians, resulting in the practical annihilation of the latter.
The road shortly becomes a village street and so continues into Yonkers. In 1646 the Indian sachem Tacharew granted the land to Adrian Von der Donck, the first lawyer of New Netherland. The Indians called it Nap-pe-cha-mack, the "rapid water settlement," the "settlement" being located about the mouth of the stream now known as Sawmill River. The Dutch called their settlement Younkers, Younckers, Jonkers or Yonkers, derived from Jonkheer, a common name for the male heir of a Dutch family.
The old Philipse manor house, now Yonkers's City Hall, was erected about 1682, the present front being added in 1745. In its palmy days it is said to have sheltered a retinue of thirty white and twenty colored servants. Here was born Mary Philipse, July 3, 1730, the heroine of Cooper's "Spy," and the girl who is said to have refused Washington. In January, 1758, she married Col. Roger Morris. Tradition tells how, amid the splendors of the wedding feast, a tall Indian, wrapped in his scarlet blanket, suddenly appeared in the doorway and solemnly predicted that the family possessions should pass from its control "When the eagle shall despoil the lion of his mane." The mystery was explained later when the property was confiscated because of the royalist leanings of the family.
The site of Pomona Hall, burned some twenty years ago, where Burr took refuge for a time after the Hamilton duel, is now occupied by a modern public school. It bordered the Post Road toward the northern edge of the village, commanding a fine view of the Hudson.
Just inside the northern township line of Yonkers, in the river's edge, lies the Great Stone, Mackassin, of the Indians, the "copper-colored stone," an enchanted rock which was an object of veneration, and on whose flat surface the aborigines probably held sacred feasts. Originally it stood out in the water, but the railway embankment has changed all this, and now it is overshadowed by great advertising boards which the pale-face provides for his traveling brother to feast his eyes upon.
For some miles, practically as far as the Croton River, the way is lined with the fine estates of the wealthy, some made notable by reason of their owners, as Greystone, the former home of Samuel J. Tilden. It is no uncommon thing to have some particularly fine lawn pointed out as the most perfect in the country. If what the local patriots say is true, there is at least one such in every village hereabouts.
This region is a bit too thickly settled for the pedestrian who, with his knapsack slung over his shoulder, receives more attention from nurse maids and children than is sometimes comfortable, but it is easily possible to send one's impedimenta on by rail if the night's stopping place can be figured out in advance, and he can then progress without fear of gibe or jeer.
Greenburgh, "Graintown" bounds Yonkers on the north. Here, the present site of Dobbs Ferry, was the Indian town of Weck-quas-keck, "the place of the bark kettle." It was the unprovoked murder of an Indian here and its subsequent revenge that led to the massacre of the Indians in Jersey and the following Indian war which brought the Dutch almost to the last extremity.
Hastings, the first town beyond Yonkers, covers the old Post Estate. In early times the inhabitants seem to have developed a rather unenviable reputation as sports, cock fights and horse racing being mentioned as the principal amusements. Here, in 1776, a troop of Sheldon's Horse ambuscaded a body of Hessians, only one of whom escaped. Peter Post, who appears to have helped lead the enemy to destruction, was later caught by them and beaten, being left for dead.
As the traveler enters Hastings he passes the former residence of Dr. Henry Draper. The old observatory, built in 1870, still stands, though damaged by a recent fire. Here Dr. Draper made the first photographs ever taken of the moon. The name of Draper should be revered by every amateur photographer. The father of Henry, Dr. John William, was a friend of Daguerre, and it is said that in this building was developed the first portrait negative. The dwelling is beautifully situated on the high river bluff and affords a wonderful view up and down the watery highway.
Close on the road stands an old forge or smithy where Washington's officers were in the habit of having their horses shod when in the neighborhood. The place also boasts a "Washington Spring," but its chiefest natural glory is a great walnut tree which tradition says was, away back in the Indian days, a Council Tree of the Weckquaskecks. In one of the Draper cottages once lived Admiral Farragut, whose wife used the first prize money he received to purchase some needed article for the local church. There are few places that hold so many and varied interests for the pilgrim as the old Draper homestead, and none whose hostess could be more gracious to the stranger.
[Sidenote: DOBBS FERRY.]
The road winds along the sides of the hills, sometimes fifty, sometimes one hundred and fifty feet above the water, and many are the beautiful vistas through the trees and across the well-kept lawns. By this time the solid wall of the Palisades is beginning to break and the outline of the Jersey hills becomes more varied. But we are just now interested nearer home, for as one approaches Dobbs Ferry he steps on almost holy ground. Here is the Livingston house, where, after the fighting was all over, Washington and Governor Clinton met the British commander, General Sir Guy Carlton, to make the final arrangements for peace; here the papers were signed which permitted of the disbanding of the American Army, and in which the British gave up all claim upon the allegiance and control of the country.
So far back as 1698 a Dob was located here. On account of the ferry the place was an important one during the Revolution and many interesting incidents happened in the neighborhood. It was here that Arnold and Andre planned to hold their first meeting, but accident prevented their coming together; and it was here that Sir Henry Clinton's representative met General Greene, October, 1780, in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the execution of Andre. In July, 1781, the American and French armies were encamped on the hills round about while preparations were being pushed as though for an attack on New York, pioneers being sent forward to clear the roads toward King's Bridge. Even the American army was wholly unaware of Washington's intention to strike Cornwallis, and the British were so completely deceived that the American troops reached the Delaware before Clinton awoke to the situation.
Those patriotic Democrats who mourn the extravagance of the government in granting pensions may be interested to know that the first pension ever granted by the United States was to a Dobbs Ferry boy named Vincent, who was crippled for life by a gang of Tory cowboys. The boys had been making remarks of a somewhat personal character which annoyed the gentle cowboy who, catching three of them, killed two and permanently injured the third.
Of this class of freebooters Irving writes: "In a little while the debatable ground became infested by roving bands, claiming from either side, and all pretending to redress wrongs and punish political offenses; but all prone, in the exercise of their high functions, to sack hen roosts, drive off cattle and lay farm houses under contributions; such was the origin of two great orders of border chivalry, the Skinners and the Cowboys, famous in Revolutionary story. The former fought, or rather marauded, under the American, the latter under the British banner. In the zeal of service, both were apt to make blunders, and confound the property of friend and foe. Neither of them in the heat and hurry of a foray had time to ascertain the politics of a horse or cow which they were driving off into captivity; nor when they wrung the neck of a rooster did they trouble their heads whether he crowed for Congress or King George."
Some thirty-five years ago certain esthetic inhabitants of Dobbs Ferry, having long desired to change its name, finally succeeded in arousing enough interest to warrant the calling of a public meeting for the purpose of discussing the question. The general sentiment was that the new name should have a patriotic tinge. The names of Paulding and Van Wart were favorites, with a strong leaning toward the former. Finally one well-meaning but rather obtuse gentleman arose and said that he knew both of these men; that he did not approve of Paulding; that Van Wart was just as prominent in the Andre capture, and besides was a Christian gentleman, and he proposed that the Van be dropped, and the town christened Wart-on-the-Hudson. The proposal appears to have been made in all seriousness, but the ridiculousness of the situation killed the scheme, and that common piece of clay, Dobbs, still reigns supreme.
The fine roads and the rush of a vanishing automobile remind one by the very contrast of the days when the Post Road was a main artery of travel.
Here is a description of the delights of a stage coach journey:
"A stage journey from one part of the country to another was as comfortless as could well be imagined. The coach was without springs, and the seats were hard and often backless. The horses were jaded and worn, and the roads were rough with boulders and stumps of trees, or furrowed with ruts and quagmires. The journey was usually begun at 3 o'clock in the morning, and after eighteen hours of jogging over the rough roads the weary traveler was put down at a country inn whose bed and board were such as few horny-handed laborers of to-day would endure. Long before daybreak the next morning a blast from the driver's horn summoned him to the renewal of his journey. If the coach stuck fast in a mire, as it often did, the passengers must alight and help lift it out." No wonder a man made his will and had prayers offered in church for his safe return before he ventured forth. But even such a conveyance was a luxury. As a rule people traveled on foot, carrying their packs on their backs. The well-to-do rode on horseback, and in some places post chaises with relays of horses every ten or twenty miles could be obtained. What would the ghosts of such travelers say to-day, should they stumble on a Pullman car or a dust-compelling devil wagon? Our very expressions of speech are modeled on the common, every-day things of life. Fifty or a hundred years ago the man who was a "slow coach" to-day would be "geared low."
[Sidenote: COL. JOHN ODELL.]
At least two of the many interesting buildings hereabouts are worth noting. Standing back from the road a quarter of a mile or so, and within the compass of the Ardsley Club grounds, is a plain little cottage whose clapboards show no mark of the planing mill. Here once lived the redoubtable Col. John Odell, whose father, Jonathan, languished in a British prison in New York because his son was fighting under the flag of freedom. At the time of his capture Jonathan Odell was living on the Odell Estate, which was later sold to a son of Alexander Hamilton. It is told that the Hessians hanged a negro slave of Odell's three separate times in an effort to make him disclose the hiding place of certain hogs with which the said Hessians were anxious to fraternise.
[Sidenote: CYRUS W. FIELD.]
A step further on stands the former residence of Cyrus W. Field, whose place, known as Ardsley, at one time covered some five hundred or more acres extending from the Post Road over the ridge to the Sawmill River. The house was built in the day of the mansard roof, and is not a particularly picturesque creation, but every American is interested in the man who succeeded in linking his country with the outside world as did Cyrus W. Field.
As we proceed toward the land of enchantment the surroundings seem to take on a more mysterious air. Sounds that awhile before meant nothing more than the wind in the trees now begin to make one think of the rush of galloping cowboys or Hessians on mischief bent; or, if perchance we catch through the gathering dusk a glint of white on the river below, may it not be that Flying Dutchman who, tired of the narrow bounds of the Tappan Zee, is trying to steal out to the open ocean while the constable sleeps, but the cause of such speculation is gone almost before the speculation itself takes shape. However, the abode wherein so many of these marvels were clothed in becoming language is close at hand—Sunnyside. No better description of the place can be had than the artist's own: "About five-and-twenty miles from the ancient and renowned city of Manhattan ... stands a little, old-fashioned stone mansion, all made up of gable-ends, and as full of angles and corners as an old cocked hat.... Though but of small dimensions, yet, like many small people, it is of mighty spirit and values itself greatly on its antiquity.... Its origin in truth dates back in that remote region commonly called the fabulous age, in which vulgar fact becomes mystified and tinted up with delectable fiction.... The seat of empire now came into the possession of Wolfert Acker, one of the privy counsellors of Peter Stuyvesant.... During the dark and troublous times of the Revolutionary War it was the keep or stronghold of Jacob Van Tassel, a valiant Dutchman.... Years and years passed over the time honored little mansion. The honeysuckle and the sweet briar crept up its walls; the wren and the phoebe bird built under its eaves.... Such was the state of the Roost many years since, at the time when Diedrich Knickerbocker came into this neighborhood.... Mementoes of the sojourn of Diedrich Knickerbocker are still cherished at the Roost. His elbow chair and antique writing desk maintain their place in the room he occupied, and his old cocked hat still hangs on a peg against the wall."
From here to Tarrytown is but a little way. Tarwetown, "wheat-town." It is odd that two names so dissimilar in sound as this and Greenburgh, and both of Dutch origin, should mean the same thing. The Indian village here was Alipconck, "the place of elms." Like all this region the place is full of the romance which Irving created, and of stirring incidents of Colonial and Revolutionary days. Chief among these are the remains of the Philipse domain, the capture of Andre and the legend of Sleepy Hollow, into which the old Dutch Church has been woven. The church yard contains some beautiful monuments to the dead.
It is an odd coincidence that the Whitewood tree known as Major Andre's tree, near which the capture was effected, was struck by lightning the day that news was received at Tarrytown of Arnold's death. A monument now standing on the edge of the road has taken the place of the tree. We all know how the Skinners, Paulding, Van Wart and Williams made this capture which disclosed the treachery of Arnold. It was indeed a fortunate combination of circumstances that led these three incorruptible men to the right spot at the right moment.
How many times did the death knell of independence seem on the point of being tolled, and how many times did the god of chance throw his weight into the ascending scale of the Colonists. But for a lapse of memory, the attempt of the British in the Summer of 1777 to capture the Hudson Valley and separate New England from her sisters might have been as successful as it proved disastrous. Lord George Germain sent Burgoyne peremptory instructions to proceed down the Hudson, and the instructions to Howe to move north to meet him were equally peremptory, but the latter were pigeonholed and forgotten for several weeks, and when remembered it was too late. Washington had decoyed Howe to Pennsylvania, and Burgoyne, lacking the expected support from the south, was defeated by the farmers.
Pocantico, "a run between two hills," the Dutch called it Sleepy Haven Kill, hence Sleepy Hollow. "Far in the foldings of the hills winds this wizard stream," writes the grand sachem of all the wizards, who wove the romance of the headless horseman and the luckless schoolmaster so tightly about the spot that they are to-day part and parcel of it. The bridge over which the scared pedagogue scurried was some rods further up the stream than is the present crossing, for in those days the Post Road ran along the north side of the church, and the entrance was originally on that side of the building, while now it is on the western end which faces the present road.
The name Frederick Philipse was originally written Vreedryk, or Vrederyck, Felypsen, the former meaning "rich in peace," indicating, we presume, the difference between his peaceful occupation of breaking into the new wilderness and that of his ancestors in Bohemia who, being persecuted for their religious opinions, fled to Holland, from whence Frederick emigrated to New Amsterdam, some time before 1653, becoming a successful merchant, and later a patroon. Sen, meaning son in Dutch, Felypsen meant the son of Felyp, Frederick the son of Philip. On the west bank of the Pocantico Philipse built his first manorial residence, called Castle Philipse on account of its strength and armament, it not only being loopholed for musketry, as was common in those days, but was also defended by several small cannon. All these evidences of the strenuous days of old have been covered by unsightly clapboards, and the place as it stands now looks as though it might have seen better days, but gives no hint of its former important station. It is related that in 1756 a Virginia colonel named Washington called here to pay his respects to the beautiful Mary Philipse, but the lady saw nothing attractive in the tall, ungainly countryman. In 1784, when the state parcelled out the confiscated lands of Philipse, this part fell into the hands of Gerard C. Beekman, whose wife was Cornelia Van Cortlandt, a connection of the Philipse family. An interesting incident connects this place with the Andre matter. Some time before his capture, John Webb, one of Washington's aides, left a valise containing a new uniform with Mrs. Beekman, asking that it be delivered only on a written order. Some two weeks later Joshua Het Smith, whose loyalty was at that time regarded doubtful, called and asked for Lieutenant Webb's valise. Mrs. Beekman disliked the man, and refused to deliver it without the order, which Smith could not produce, and he rode away much disappointed. Andre was concealed in his house at this very time, and the uniform was wanted to help him through the American lines. Thus Mrs. Beekman forged the second link in the chain leading to the Andre capture.
The little old Dutch church is believed to be the oldest church edifice now standing in the State. It was built in 1699 by Frederick Philipse. Irving says of it: "The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll surrounded by locust trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent whitewashed walls shine modestly forth like Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement."
"To look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there, at least, the dead might rest in peace," and there Irving himself rests in peace with a plain white stone at his head which modestly tells that
SON OF WILLIAM AND SARAH S. IRVING
NOV. 28, 1859
AGED 76 YEARS, 7 MO. AND 25 DAYS
North of the church and on both sides of the Post Road are the remains of the one-time Beekman forest, whose thickets once served the deer for a cover. So long ago as 1705 it was necessary to enact game laws for the protection of these animals, which were even then in a fair way to being exterminated.
[Sidenote: ST. MARY'S CHURCH.]
The six miles to Ossining are largely made up of handsome estates lining both sides of the road. Here and there nature still litters the earth with weeds and bushes, or the farmer tends his crops, leaving a fringe of wild things to border his domains, but as a general thing such inelegancies are suppressed, and the roadside is ordered with the same precision as are the lands on the other side of the wall. Those pleasant little friendships with unkempt nature are not so frequent as we find them further on. However, while there is little "delight in disorder" there are many beautiful places belonging to those favored with an abundance of this world's goods. Such names as Gen. John C. Fremont, Anson G. Phelps, Gen. James Watson Webb, Aspinwall and others are or have been of this region. Some two miles before we come to the village of Ossining stands St. Mary's Church, erected in 1850. Surrounded by tall trees, the little edifice looks as though it might be some mysterious "church in the wood" of a medieval romance, and one almost expects to see a little bridal party dash up on horseback with no time to lose, in the belief that the grim old father is close on their heels. We naturally think of a church as a centre of population, but here is a quaint little building which the traveler comes on unexpectedly in a patch of woods by a rather lonely stretch of road. The temptation to turn aside and investigate is strong until, the wind rubbing one tree trunk against another, a long groan is heard that sends a cold shiver down the inquisitive's back and damps his ardor for discovery. After all it's best out in the bright open road where the birds sing and the sun dispels all thought of gloom.
Ossining, "a stony place," was variously written Sin-sing, Sing Sing, Sin Sinck and Sink Sink. Spelling was an incident in those days, not an art. Here again we must fall back on Irving for our facts. He says: "A corruption of the old Indian name O-sin-sing. Some have rendered it O-sin-sing, or O-sing-song, in token of its being a great market town, where anything may be had for a mere song. Its present melodious alteration to Sing Sing is said to have been made in compliment to a Yankee singing master who taught the inhabitants the art of singing through the nose." The Indian village here bore the same name before the Dutch appropriated the country.
No very important events of Colonial or Revolutionary history are recorded in immediate connection with the town, though it is related that here is still preserved a small cannon known as "Old White," said to be the one which, at Teller's Point, compelled the British Vulture to slip her moorings and so leave Andre in the lurch. At one time mining operations were conducted at this point, but they came to naught, and now the town is noted as a resort for guests of the state.
[Sidenote: BLACK HORSE TAVERN.]
As we approach the Croton River the road takes a right-angled turn, down which a fingerboard points, indicating that Peekskill lies that way, but the old Post Road kept straight ahead, following the banks of the Croton until a favorable place for crossing occurred, when it took advantage of the opportunity and started back for the Hudson, in order to get around Hessian Hill. The marshy breadth of the Croton's mouth was probably too much for the bridge builders of early days. Along this road a short half mile is the one-time celebrated Black Horse Tavern. It was not only a house of refuge for travel-worn humanity, but was also a popular meeting place for the neighboring farmers, and a place of political gatherings.
[Sidenote: VAN CORTLANDT MANOR.]
We stick to the more modern road which crosses the Croton by means of two bridges landing one at the door yard of the old Van Cortlandt manor house. The view up the river from the bridge is a beautifully soft landscape. On the left stands the old "ferry house," so important a means of communication between the two sides of the stream that Washington, during the Revolution, stationed a guard here for its protection. The manor house, a modest two-story building, hidden in vines, built of the rough brown sandstone of the region, gives no indication of decrepit age. It so happened that just before my visit its stucco covering had been removed, disclosing to view the portholes for musketry intended to discourage the too enthusiastic approaches of its Indian neighbors. This stucco was spread over the building when the grandfather of the present generation of Van Cortlandts brought his bride home.
The father of the first "Lord of the Manor" was a landholder in the City of New Amsterdam, owning a tract along Broadway where now is Cortlandt St. The son was the first mayor of New York born in America; this was Stephanus Van Cortlandt. He advanced large sums of money to the government, and as compensation obtained, in 1697, a Royal charter for "Lordship and Manor of Cortlandt." The present building is thought to have been started by Gov. Thos. Dongan, about 1683, as a hunting lodge, an ideal situation on the bank of the Kitchawar, as the Croton River was then known, protected alike from the north and east winds.
Irving says of the family at the time of the Revolutionary War:—
"Two members of this old and honorable family were conspicuous patriots throughout the Revolution. Pierre Van Cortlandt, the father, at this time about fifty-six years of age, was a member of the first Provincial Congress, and President of the Committee of Public Safety. Governor Tryon had visited him in his old manor house at the mouth of the Croton, in 1774, and made him offers of royal favors, honors, grants of land, etc., if he would abandon the popular cause. His offers were nobly rejected. The Van Cortlandt family suffered in consequence, being at one time obliged to abandon their manorial residence; but the head remained true to the cause, and subsequently filled the office of Lieutenant-Governor with great dignity."
The history of the house records other interesting events besides those of war: From its high veranda the great Whitefield preached to crowds who were seated on benches on the lawn. The memory of this time has been kept green by a small brass plate, recording the fact, which is attached to a post of the veranda.
The whole air of the place is so homelike and comfortable that the traveler could easily pass it by never dreaming that the career of this vine-clad nest is one that many a more pretentious dwelling would be proud to own to.
The old Van Cortlandt family cemetery is situated on a hill west of the house and west of the road. Here lie the remains of that Mrs. Beekman whose distrust of Joshua Smith prevented him from securing a disguise for Andre. Along the southern foot of this hill lies the Haunted Hollow.
[Sidenote: TELLER'S POINT.]
For-years "the walking sachems of Teller's Point" held nightly councils here, the ghosts of departed Indians, whose last resting place on this Point was disturbed by the white man's plough and spade, but their clay has long since been burned into bricks and their shades have scattered in all directions; some of them no doubt looking down on us to-day from Manhattan's lofty skyscrapers.
An Indian castle or fort defended Teller's or Croton Point from up-river tribes, and it was here that old Chief Croton died while defending the firesides of his people, he being the last warrior to go down before the invaders. But though dead he yet walked, much to the inconvenience of belated travelers, more especially those who, having passed a friendly evening with hospitable neighbors, found it somewhat difficult to lay a straight course for home. However, nothing has been heard of his ghostship of late, and it may be that the materialistic spirit of the present age, which does not know a ghost when it sees one, has sent him off to some more happy haunting ground.
[Sidenote: HESSIAN HILL.]
[Sidenote: ARNOLD-ANDRE MEETING.]
As the road winds up and over the western slope of Hessian Hill, just north of Croton Landing, three panoramas follow each other in rapid succession, all strikingly beautiful. The first two are different views of Teller's or Croton Point, with Hook Mountain and the Palisades in the distance, that Teller's Point from whose banks Colonel Livingston bombarded the Vulture, thereby leading to the capture of Andre, by this one action saving, possibly, the collapse of the War for Independence. From a further spur of the same hill comes into view the broad expanse of Haverstraw Bay with its background of jagged hills known as Clove Mountain and High Tor, under whose shadow Arnold and Andre met. Elson's concise and graphic description of this event is worth quoting as it stands: "On a dark night in September, 1780, Benedict Arnold lay crouching beneath the trees on the bank of the Hudson a few miles below Stony Point, just outside the American lines. Presently the plash of oars from the dark, silent river broke the stillness, and a little boat bearing four men came to the shore. Two were ignorant oarsmen, who knew not what they did, the third was the steersman, one Joshua Smith, who lived in the neighborhood, while the fourth was a young and handsome man who concealed beneath his great overcoat the brilliant uniform of a British officer. The young man, Major John Andre, adjutant-general of the British army, was put ashore, and he and Arnold, who had long been secret correspondents, spent the night in the dense darkness beneath the trees. Here the plot to place West Point into British hands was consummated, and at the coming of dawn Andre did not return, as at first intended, to the English sloop of war, the Vulture, which was lying in the river waiting for him, but accompanied Arnold to the house of Smith, the steersman, a few miles away. Arnold returned to West Point, and Andre waited his opportunity to reach the Vulture; but shore batteries began firing on her, and Smith refused to venture out in his little boat."
[Sidenote: VERPLANCK'S POINT.]
Beyond Hessian Hill the road keeps inland along the high ground that slopes down to Verplanck's Point, named after the son-in-law of Stephanus Van Cortlandt, to whose wife this part of the estate fell. It is worth while to walk out to the brow of the hill for the sake of the view and the historic memories it brings up. The "Kings Ferry" so often mentioned in the annals of the Revolution connected this with a sandy cove on the north shore of Stony Point opposite—Stony Point, "a lasting monument of the daring courage of Mad Anthony." The ferry made Verplanck's Point an important spot, and naturally it was fortified as well as was Stony Point. Here Colonel Livingston was in command in September, 1780, and it was he who, building better than he knew, hurried the small cannon down to Teller's Point which, at break of day, drove the Vulture down the river, the first link in the chain of events leading to the capture of Andre, for Smith, his guide, becoming frightened, refused to put the Englishman on board the waiting sloop of war, as agreed, and instead brought him across the King's Ferry to start him on his way to New York on foot.
On October 5, 1777, Sir Henry Clinton landed three thousand men on Verplanck's Point, apparently for the purpose of attacking Peekskill, but really with intent to deceive General Putnam, who was in command of the town, and for once this Connecticut Yankee was fooled into doing just what the enemy wished, for he drew his troops back to the hills and did not know until too late that the English forces, under cover of a friendly fog, had been ferried across to the west shore for the purpose of attacking Fort Montgomery. Clinton was on his way north with all the troops that could be spared to help Burgoyne, and Putnam, who had the general command of the Highlands, with only fifteen hundred men, could not hope to cope with the superior forces advancing from the south, so he retired along the Post Road through Cortlandtville to Continental Village, the main entrance by land to the Highlands, where the public stores and workshops were located, and from which he was compelled to again fall back as Sir Henry Clinton, having captured the river forts and burned Peekskill, advanced.
Peekskill on the one side of the river and Dunderberg on the other guard the lower end of the Highlands. The town is named after the first settler, one Jan Peek, whose earliest mention in history is as the builder of an inn in New York City, on Broadway near Exchange Place, in sixteen hundred and something. It seems that Peek was something of an explorer and, when navigating these waters, he mistook the present Peekskill Creek for the passage up the Hudson, entered the creek and promptly ran aground, and, being aground, concluded to stay.
John Paulding, one of the three who captured Andre, received for his distinguished services, as was meet, a fine farm situated in Peekskill that had been confiscated from its royalist owner; thus we see that virtue is rewarded, treason punished and the state plays the generous role without any expense to itself. Mr. Andrew Carnegie himself could not have managed the affair better.
In September, 1777, the village was sacked and burned by the British and the neighboring country was pillaged. The chapel of St. Peter's was erected on the site of the military magazine destroyed at this time. The one historically interesting building that was left in the town, the old Birdsall residence, has gone the way of all flesh. It was Washington's headquarters whenever he was in this neighborhood, Lafayette dwelt under its roof, one of its parlors was used by the Rev. George Whitefield in which to hold services, but the building protruded into the street and the good people concluded that rather than walk around it any longer they would tramp over its grave.
In Cortlandtville is located the former residence of Gen. Pierre Van Cortlandt, erected in 1773. A tablet placed on the building says: "General George Washington with his aides slept in this house many nights while making Peekskill their headquarters in 1776, 1777 and 1778. It was the house of Pierre Van Cortlandt, member of Colonial Assembly, member of the 2d, 3d and 4th Provincial Congress, President of the Committee of Public Safety, a framer of the State Constitution, First Lieutenant-Governor of the State of New York, Colonel of manor of Cortlandt Regiment." The building is rather modern in appearance, suggesting comfort rather than strenuosity.
Here the Van Cortlandt family found a safe asylum when the manor house on the Croton was no longer tenable. In March, 1777, General McDougal posted his advance guard here when the British took possession of Peekskill. Eighty of his men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Willet, receiving permission to attack some two hundred of the British that had taken possession of a height a little south of Cortlandt's, did so with such success that the enemy retreated, and the entire command, some one thousand strong, becoming panic stricken, betook themselves to their shipping under cover of the night and sailed down stream.
A great oak which served the purpose of a military whipping post, still stands just east of the Van Cortlandt house.
The old parochial church of St. Peter's stands on the summit of a little hill near by, a simple frame building erected in 1766 by Beverly Robinson and others as the result of a visit of Mr. Dibble, of Stamford, Conn., in 1761. With him came St. George Talbot, who says: "The state of religion I truly found deplorable enough. They were as sheep without a shepherd, a prey to various sectaries, and enthusiastic lay teachers; there are many well wishers and professors of the church among them, who doth not hear the liturgy in several years." In the church yard stands the monument to John Paulding, one of the Andre captors, who was born in Peekskill.
Just east of the Van Cortlandt house the Post Road turns toward the north, where one of the old mile-stones marks "50 m. from N. York." In the angle stands one of the inns of stagecoach days which was standing as long ago as 1789, as in "A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America," published by Christopher Colles in that year, the inn is put down as Dusenbury's Tavern. The author of this old-time road book may have been something of a joker, or he may have had a small grudge against the Presbyterians, as among the symbols he used, the one indicating a church of that denomination is so noticeably like a windmill as to call forth a gentle smile. The inn is now the dwelling of Mr. Gardiner Hollman, himself a relic of earlier days, who carries his eighty years with an ease that bespeaks a life of steady habits. He is quite ready to show the building to the curious and explain its interesting features. The front room on the right is said to have held the prisoner Andre for a short time when he was being taken from North Castle by way of Continental Village to the Beverly Robinson house, Arnold's former headquarters, and used as such by Washington after the traitor fled. Aside from one or two old pieces of furniture, and an open Franklin stove, the only interesting relic the room contains is a small work-box which was given by Theodosia Burr to her friend Mrs. McDonald, of Alabama, who in turn gave it to a sister of the present owner.
[Sidenote: GALLOWS HILL.]
From now on the Post Road is all that a country road should be. It plunges immediately into a thicket of tall weeds, Joe Pie and goldenrod mostly, which shoot up in many instances six feet above the ground. After crossing the creek the road begins the steep ascent of Gallows Hill, where Putnam hanged a British spy in spite of Sir Henry Clinton's attempts to prevent it. This summary action seems to have tempered the Red-coats' curiosity, as "Old Put" was not bothered afterward. One of a small bunch of chestnut trees west of the road where it tops the hill is pointed out as the gallows tree, although early accounts speak of a rough gallows having been erected. There is a story to the effect that one Hans Anderson, a farmer of the neighborhood, was the hangman, and that he was finally worried into his grave by the ghost of this same spy, who would not leave him in peace; but no mention is made of the tough old General having been so bothered.
[Sidenote: CONTINENTAL VILLAGE.]
Continental Village lies at the northern foot of Gallows Hill. The British destroyed the stores the Americans were unable to take with them and burned the village, leaving, it is said, only one house standing, the property of a Tory. Whether this building is still standing is somewhat uncertain, though one is pointed out as such.
General Sir William Howe, in his dispatches to Sir Henry Clinton, dated at Fort Montgomery, October 9, 1777, says: "Major-Gen. Tryon, who was detached this morning with Emmerick's chasseurs, fifty yagers and royal fusiliers and regiment of Trumback, with a three-pounder, to destroy the rebel settlement called the Continental village, has just returned and reported to me, that he has burned the barrack for fifteen hundred men, several store-houses and loaded wagons. I need not point out to your excellency the consequence of destroying this post, as it was the only establishment of the rebels on that part of the Highlands, and the place from whence any body of troops drew their supplies."
The place was soon reoccupied by the Americans as a point at which to collect stores, and various military encampments were strung along both sides of the road from here north.
[Sidenote: POST ROAD.]
For the space of some two or three miles the road is a grass-grown track through a rough country. As one proceeds he can appreciate the difficulties that beset the retreating soldiers, laden with such stores from the village as they could carry with them on the retreat. Now and then an unkept farmhouse appears, but there is little life; it is possible to walk as far as Nelson's Mill, some eight miles, without passing a team of any sort, and hardly any one on foot, but, like Goldsmith's village street the wayside is
"With blossomed furze unprofitably gay."
Joe Pie weed, as heavy-headed as a sleepy child, alternating with the straight stemmed goldenrod, while every wall is adorned with snapdragon or Virginia creeper, the scarlet product of the deadly nightshade, or the silvery remains of the clematis—this in August or September. If one goes this way in the Spring there is the wild azalea against the edge of the woods, and the woodland flowers come trooping down even to the wheel tracks.
It is forty years since the telegraph abandoned this abandoned highway, and the tramps left with the telegraph poles. One old inhabitant says it used to take a considerable part of her time each day to feed the gentry who applied, for she, being afraid of them, never refused. To-day, over this part of the road, the tramp is as scarce as the stage coach. To be sure the law may have something to do with it, for any one who lodges information against a tramp gets $15, and the gentleman of leisure presumably suffers accordingly, as the farmer is not likely to assess himself merely for the pleasure of housing lazy humanity.
Just beyond the fifty-fourth mile-stone stands one of the old inns which is put down by Christopher Colles as Travers's Tavern. It still offers shelter to him who will seek, as I discovered when caught by a sudden shower.
From the last hilltop, before Nelson's Mill is reached, is a glorious view of the "Golden Gate," the notch between Storm King and Breakneck, through which the Hudson flows, and, in summer floods of gold from the setting sun. On all sides are hills and valleys. It seems as though the whole world is on edge.
Here stands sentinel a tall old mile-stone by the road side demanding of every one that passes the countersign—Wonderful!
Down the steep hillside the road now lunges to Nelson's Mill or Corner, once a relay station for the stage coach horses, and a mill site for many generations, and now we are looking up at the mountains instead of down on them. The road floats up and down the gentle swells of the valley's floor, each bend bringing into line another view of the Fishkill Mountain with a new foreground or a different framing of leaves and branches, and each calling aloud to the camera which gorges itself on trees and rocks and mountains.
[Sidenote: CLOVE CREEK VALLEY.]
We are in the valley of the Clove Creek, under the shadow of the Fishkill Mountain, in a hollow where the dusk of evening comes early, and the gloom and solitude of the shortened day make one readily understand why travelers of old halted at this north entrance to the Highlands, rather than run the chance of being overtaken by the dark in the depths of its loneliness. Cooper could hardly have hit on a more fitting place for the adventures of the Spy than these woods and mountains offered.
[Sidenote: WICCOPEE PASS.]
About four miles south of Fishkill, in Wiccopee Pass, a bronze tablet by the roadside announces that:—
ON THE HILLS BACK OF THIS STONE STOOD THREE BATTERIES GUARDING THIS PASS, 1776-1783.
The hills referred to and others in the neighborhood are fifty to one hundred feet high, and as smoothly rounded and regular as though moulded in a large-sized tea cup and turned out in little groups, making one wonder what sort of giant children could have been playing here. Legend relates that long, long ago, even before the mighty Manitou ruled, this region was peopled by a great race as tall as the tall forest trees. They lived on roots and leaves and hunted the great water rats that dwelt in houses built of mud and sticks in the lake that filled all the country north of the Highlands. These animals were fierce fighters, and dangerous even to their giant foes when the latter were caught at a disadvantage in the water, whither the great men repaired for frequent bathing.
It was a give-and-take world in those days. The giants would square accounts at the first opportunity by turning the next rat caught into funeral baked meat in remembrance of the departed brother, and there the matter, as well as the rat, ended. But there came a time when a swarm of the rats surprised a group of bathers, and there were many desolate firesides that night. Then a great council was called to decide on a means of revenge, but as they could not swim and boats were unknown, the concourse was like to break up with nothing accomplished when a daughter of the tribe arose and suggested breaking down the barrier which held back the water, thus putting the enemy on dry land, where he would be helpless. The plan was approved, and soon all were at work at the narrowest spot with trees torn from the hill sides and such rough tools as they could command, and now a small stream begins to work through which, washing out the earth and smaller stones, becomes a flood thundering down the lower valley. In a few days the region was drained and the enemy exterminated, but their houses remain even unto the present time. The present Fishkill Mountain was the "long house" of the watery tribe gradually solidified through the ages into the hardest of hard trap rock, and the little conical hills that we see in the Wiccopee Pass were the play houses of the baby rats. But alas the giants, having no longer any place to bathe, began to be troubled by a hardening of the skin and joints, and their great bodies would at last fall to rise no more; but, as if in very mockery, whenever a giant fell a spring of water would bubble from the ground and a rivulet would soon be searching out a path for itself among the rocks and woods.
The traveler knowing nothing of the legend might suppose that sometime the waters swirled and eddied over this region, and that our symmetrical little hills are deposits made at that time.
[Sidenote: REVOLUTIONARY BURIAL GROUND.]
[Sidenote: WHARTON HOUSE.]
The Post Road now passes through a fearsome piece of woods, coming out into the open again where the mountain drops quickly to the plain, and we are in the sunshine once more. Looking back at this time of day, about 7 o'clock of an early June evening, one sees a curious effect of sunlight and shadow, against the dark mountain background, the sun outlines with vivid distinctness every tree and bush or stone wall or weed with a silvery halo, and seems to intensify the fresh verdure until all nature swims in green. Soon another of the old mile-stones appears, as usual on the west side of the road, and opposite is a small granite monument which commemorates the graveyard of the soldier dead in the adjoining field, where there are probably more revolutionary dead buried than in any other spot in the State. This neighborhood was a headquarters for part of the army between 1776 and 1783. A step further on is the Wharton House, known to both history and romance. The building was used as army headquarters during the seven years that war raged up and down the Hudson Valley. The names of both Washington and Lafayette are closely associated with its history, and it is also the house referred to in Cooper's "Spy," from which Harvey Birch helps Henry Wharton to escape. Here Enoch Crosby, the real spy, was subjected to a mock trial by the Committee of Safety. Crosby had given information of a band of Tories and allowed himself to be captured with them, was tried with them and, in order to keep up the deception and preserve his usefulness, was remanded to the church-prison with the rest. The Wharton House was erected by the Van Wyck family, and is still in its possession. In a wheat field across the road lies the fallen stump of the "Whipping Post," a monument to the methods of correction used in the Continental army. The next house to the north is said to be constructed of timber taken from one of the old barracks.
The road over which we have been traveling was once an Indian trail. Shortly before the French and Indian wars Lord Louden passed through this country, and in order to get his baggage train through, the trail became a road under his direction.
The Fishkill Creek, which scuttles across the level floor of the valley just before one enters the village seems in too much of a hurry to get away from its peaceful surroundings, which are attractive enough to make mortals wish to linger, but which do not stay the brawling stream. Both the mountains and the brook were the Indian Matteawan, the "Council of Good Fur," but the Dutch christened it Vis Kill or Fish Creek, and the more musical native name had to give way.
The first house on the right after crossing the stream is one of the Colonial relics of the place, but the principal buildings of interest are the Episcopal and Dutch churches. The first, being frame, was used as a hospital during the Revolution. The Provincial Congress, when it was compelled to leave White Plains, removed to Fishkill, and at first attempted to use this church for its sessions, but the place had been so befouled by flocks of pigeons that a move was made to the Dutch Church. It was during this time that Washington crossed the Delaware, and he sent to the Congress sitting here for reinforcements, but no troops could be spared from the defense of this region. The church bears a tablet which relates history, as follows:
"Trinity Church, organized in communion with the Church of England by the Rev. Samuel Seabury, 1756. The first rector Rev. John Beardsley, Oct. 26, 1766. Reincorporated Oct. 13, 1785, and Oct. 16, 1796. This building was erected about 1760. Occupied by the New York Provincial Convention, which removed from White Plains Sept. 3, 1776. Used for a military hospital by the army of General Washington until disbanded June 2, 1783."
The Dutch Church was stone, and was soon used as a prison by the Americans. Probably the most famous prisoner it contained was Enoch Crosby, the spy, the hero of Cooper's novel, who escaped with the help of the Committee of Safety, the only ones who knew his true character. The second time he was captured the officer in charge being nettled at his previous escape, had him guarded with extra care, but again the Committee of Safety lent a helping hand and Crosby was free once more.
Fishkill, settled in 1683, is one of the old towns. It was the largest town in the county during the Revolution, and in 1789 was one of the seven postoffices in the state; but its glory has departed and it is now a pleasant village living in its memories of the past. Here lived and worked the blacksmith, J. Bailey, who forged General Washington's sword. Joshua Het Smith was arrested here for his participation in the Arnold treason plot. The Dutch Church was built about 1725, its roof then sloping up from all four sides to a cupola, holding a bell. The window lights were small, set in iron frame (a good prison), and the upper story was pierced for muskets. This was all changed soon after the Revolution, but the stout walls still remain.
[Sidenote: WAPPINGER FALLS.]
Beyond Fishkill the Post Road traverses a high plateau whose fertile soil is well cultivated, a country beautiful after its kind, but to one fresh from the grandeur of the Highlands the stretch of six miles to Wappinger Falls seems but a tame affair, with only one of the old mile-stones left to tell the tale of long ago. This seemed to read "71 M. to N. York."
A country school was having recess as I went by, the master sitting in the shade outside reading, while the boys were playing the national game and the one little girl stood by admiring their prowess.
Wappinger Falls preserves the name of the Indian tribe that once held sway over these uplands. The falls around which the village has grown up are lined with factories and factory ruins, which latter lend an added charm to the natural beauty of the scene, for even in a dry time water enough tumbles down these rocks to make the place a delight. The village contains an interesting relic of the past in the old homestead of Peter Mesier, a New York merchant, who settled here about the close of the Revolution.
Between here and Poughkeepsie the trolley plies. Its tracks run through the grass by the roadside, the poles blend with the trees, and this usually unsightly modern convenience hardly mars the beauty of the landscape.
Not a mile-stone was to be seen on this piece of road, but down by the river, at a corner of the Livingstone Mansion, evidently taken from its original station on the old road nearby, and marked "80 M. from N. York," reposes one of the lost guardians of the highway. The stones appear to have all been set along the west side of the road, so that they were compass on a cloudy day as well as distance markers, and a man had but to know his right hand from his left to be sure of his direction.
[Sidenote: LIVINGSTONE HOUSE.]
The Livingstone house, built about 1714, stood on a point on the river bank on what is now the southern edge of Poughkeepsie. Facing the south it overlooks the river for miles, while in front was a sheltered little harbor for river craft, but this has been filled in by the manufacturing concern that now owns the property, and nothing is as it was, except the house. During the Revolution the place was the home of Henry Livingstone, whose well-known patriotism led the British, when ascending the river in October, 1777, to bombard the building, as they did so many others. One of its shingles, pierced by a shot at that time, has been left in place as a reminder of the incident. It also draws attention to the difference between the hand-split shingles of those days and the machine-sawed ones of the present.
Poughkeepsie is the Apo-keep-sinck of the Indians, the "pleasant and safe harbor" where canoes were safe from wind and wave. The name is said to be spelled some forty-two different ways in the old town records. The "safe harbor" was made so by rocky bluffs projecting into the river; that on the south being known to the Dutch as Call Rock, though it did not sound like that in the vernacular. From this rock old Baltus Van Kleeck and his neighbors were wont to hail passing sloops for news or passage.
An Indian legend associated with the little cove here has the same comfortable and satisfying outcome as the old-fashioned romance, when it was not so necessary to be realistic as in the present day. A war party of the Delawares, after a successful raid on their neighbors, the Pequods, reached this spot on the return journey, laden with spoils and captives, among the latter a young chief who, after the manner of most Indian tribes, was offered the choice of joining the tribe of his foes or suffering death by torture. Being a Pequod Patrick Henry he chose the latter, and preparations were made for his demise, when a beautiful maiden interfered. She was also a captive from the same tribe, and much in love with her doomed tribesman. During the delay thus caused the party was unexpectedly attacked by a band of Hurons, and the maiden fell prize to the latter. The chief escaped, and disguising himself as a wizard, visited the Huron camp where, strange to say, the maiden promptly fell ill upon the arrival of the strange medicine man, who was employed to effect a cure. They fled under cover of the dark, appropriating a handy canoe for the purpose, and the Hurons followed in the next boat, but the Pequod, landing his beloved at the mouth of the Minnakee Creek, turned on his pursuers and, like the true hero of legend, drove them off single handed. The lovers returned home, married, and lived happily ever after.
Poughkeepsie, on account of its central position, was early chosen as the county seat, and became the scene of many stirring incidents during the stirring times of '76. But few mementoes of those days are left, however. The Van Kleeck house, at one time a tavern, used by the Dutchess County Committee as a meeting place in 1774 to elect delegates to the first Continental Congress, has disappeared. The Legislature in its migrations around the state met here in January, 1778, at the call of Governor Clinton. Clinton himself, during this time, occupied the Clear Everett House, which is still standing on Main Street, and is open to the public as a museum.
The great struggle which was to decide whether New York should join the newly formed National Government was fought out in Poughkeepsie. On June 17, 1788, the Convention of the People of the State met to deliberate on the new Constitution. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and Chancellor Livingston, a magnificent trio of pleaders, were the principal speakers in favor of the Union, while Governor George Clinton and others, whose names are not familiar except to students of history, headed the opposition. New York separated New England from the South, and was necessary to the Union, but there was a powerful party headed by Governor Clinton which opposed the plan. The Governor, in fact, had the majority with him, and when Hamilton and the others carried the convention by only one vote, it was a greater victory than the narrow margin would indicate. Poughkeepsie was a "safe harbor" in which to build ships, and it was here, in 1775-6, that the frigates Congress and Montgomery of the Continental navy were built under the supervision of Captains Lawrence and Tudor.
[Sidenote: HYDE PARK.]
Leaving Poughkeepsie the intervening six miles to Hyde Park are so park-like that the place seems to come naturally by its name. The road is of the best, the bordering fields are under a high state of cultivation, interspersed with groves of beautiful trees, through whose aisles are to be seen occasional glimpses of the Hudson and, on a clear day, the distant Catskills that, like low-lying clouds, top the nearer hills of the middle distance. The place is named for Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, Governor of the Province at the beginning of the Eighteenth Century. Jacobus Stoutenburg, the first settler, built a stone house which still stands on the east side of the road in the southern edge of the village. It has the reputation of having been a Washington headquarters, and is a fine example of a Colonial farm house. Only once during the Revolution was there anything approaching a battle in Dutchess County, and that occurred here during Vaughan's raid up the river, when he burned the landing and a shop or two. He was opposed by a small body of Americans whom he bombarded from the river with no serious results.
James K. Paulding, author, and Morgan Lewis, Revolutionary general and chief justice of the state, once lived in Hyde Park, as did Dr. Samuel Bard, Washington's physician, whose dwelling is placed in Christopher Colles's road book, previously mentioned, as situated on the east side of the Post Road, between the eighty-eighth and eighty-ninth mile-stones.
The next ten miles to Rhinebeck through Staatsburg covers a picturesque country, sometimes too rough for much cultivation, but all the more attractive to the eye on that very account.
Staatsburg or Pawlings Purchase: The earliest owner of this region that I find mentioned in local histories was Henry Pawling, who died in 1695. His heirs sold the property in May, 1701, to Dr. Samuel Staats, of New York City, and another. This was the son of Major Abram Staats, of Albany, who figured largely in the early history of Columbia County. The only man of note living here during Revolutionary days was Major John Pawling, a friend of Washington and an active patriot. His stone house, built in 1761, still stands on the Post Road.
Ryn Beck, Rein Beck, Rhynbeek, Reinebaik, Rhinebeck, was the name at first applied to that region back from the river and located on the property of William Beekman, which was occupied by the "High Dutchers," while in Kipsbergen, on the river bank, lived the "Low Dutchers."
In 1710 Colonel Robert Hunter, Governor of the Province, came over with a considerable colony of Palatines from the Rhine country, some of whom settled on the Beekman property as above, and are said to have given the place its name, which first appears in a deed of 1714.
Kipsbergen: There is no evidence to show that any one settled here before 1700, though the region was purchased from the Esopus Indians as early as 1686 by Jacobus and Hendrick Kip. The Kips are said to have been great believers in large families, but, in spite of this, the local chronicler states that a few years ago there was but one of the name left in the territory of ancient Kipsbergen, and it is said that some of the land he possessed had never known any owner but a Kip or an Indian. To-day Kipsbergen is only found on the older maps.
Landsman Kill may have been the boundary line between the High and Low Dutchers, Rhinebeck and Kipsbergen. The name obtains either because its water power was reserved for the "Landsman" or landlord, or because one Caspar Landsman, whose name appears in the early records may have lived along its banks. The stream once ran a grist mill for Gen. Richard Montgomery.
A very interesting side excursion here, of some six or seven miles, starts toward the river from the hotel corner in Rhinebeck, and comes out on the Post Road again a half mile or so south of the starting point. It affords wonderful views of the Catskills and the Hudson, the Shawungunk and lesser mountains toward the south. The property owners do not welcome the stranger within their gates, but he is allowed to look over the fence to the views beyond.
Where the road turns south on the river bluff is the entrance to the Kip place, Anckany, named for the Indian chief with whom the original Kip bartered for this property. An attractive old stone house stands on the roadside here, but a quarter of a mile further on is the place that, of all others, along the Post Road, retains the old-time atmosphere, the "Heermance" place, built on Hendrick Kip's south lot in 1700. This is the house that Lossing says was erected by William Beekman. The place soon (1716) passed into the possession of Hendricus Heermance, and in due course to Henry Beekman, whose daughter became the mother of Chancellor Livingston.
A distinct line on the east end of the present building seems to indicate that the original house was very small; the heavy sashes and the distorted little window panes of this old part read a clear title back to the early days, which is duly confirmed by the iridescent condition of the glass. Under the eaves, looking toward the river, were once two portholes; no indications remain of one, but the other is a round opening large enough for the muzzle of a small cannon, but so close to the roof as to make it seem improbable that it was ever intended for purposes of defense. The present tenant remembers when this was a jagged hole without form or comeliness, though at present it is a clean, round opening, and this suggests that there may be something in Lossing's story that the hole was made by a cannon ball from one of General Vaughan's sloops of war in 1777, though local authorities do not appear to place much credence in this theory.
The road continues south for some two miles through and beyond Rhinecliff, traversing beautiful woods bordering Ex-Governor Morton's grounds, but before entering the woods comes a delightful outlook toward Kingston and its mountain background that is all the more pleasing for its unexpectedness. Still further, and opposite a schoolhouse, a road strikes off toward the south, and here is the entrance to Wildercliff.
The Rev. Freeborn Garrettson, being invited to Rhinebeck to preach, met Catherine Livingston while there, and in 1793 they were married. Six years later they purchased a place on the banks of the Hudson, calling it Wildercliff—Wilder Klipp, a Dutch word meaning wild man's cliff, from the fact that early settlers found on a smooth rock on the river shore a rough tracing of two Indians with tomahawk and calumet. Garrettson was educated in the Church of England, but left it to become a Methodist; a man of strong personality, he soon rose to a prominent place in the church. Being a native of Maryland, he was naturally a slave owner, but becoming convinced that slavery was bad, he set his blacks free. Wildercliff was the most noted gathering place in the country for Methodists, and the house was always full. His daughter, Mary, kept up the traditions of the place, and it is said such entertainment kept her poor.
The view down the river from here is something never to be forgotten; the dazzling effect of the sun on the water, the hills of the further shore, and the grand expanse of the picture which is only limited by the condition of the atmosphere, must be seen to be appreciated.
Returning toward the Post Road the highway passes through the Camp Meeting Woods, where the Rev. Mr. Garrettson inaugurated those camp meetings which have made this spot as sacred to the Methodist heart as is Wildercliff itself.
In the angle formed by the return road and the Post Road is an extensive estate—Grasmere—which was planned and begun by Gen. Richard Montgomery who, however, did not live to enjoy the fruits of his labor. His widow finished the house, but dwelt here for a short time only. The house was burned in 1828 and rebuilt and enlarged in 1861-2. The Montgomerys originally lived in a small cottage situated on the Post Road near the northern end of the village. The house has disappeared, but the fact is commemorated in the present name of that portion of the highway.
A pleasant little story is told of General Montgomery's last days in Rhinebeck. His last Sunday at home was spent with his brother-in-law, Livingston. When the General and his wife were about to leave he thrust into the ground a willow stick he had been carrying, remarking with a laugh that they could let it grow as a reminder of him until he came back. The General never returned, but the stick grew to a great tree which has ever since been known as the Montgomery Willow.
[Sidenote: PINK'S CORNER.]
At Pink's Corner, in the northern edge of Rhinebeck, stands the "Stone Church" of the Lutherans, built some time during the Revolution, but the church site is much older, as there are grave stones in the burial ground dated as far back as 1733. The Post Road sweeps around the church, and as one approaches from the south it looks as though he must needs go to church or take to the fields.
[Sidenote: RED HOOK.]
It was thick weather when I traveled the country between Rhinebeck and Race Place, and the mist hid the distant hills and dulled the nearby Autumn tints, with now and then a shower to make the roads the better for the sprinkling. All nature had taken the veil, and there was little to see beyond the adjoining fields, and these, lacking the magic touch of the sun, were but dull companions. The towns, however, kept jogging past at frequent intervals, Red Hook being first on the list, the first mention of which is in 1751, when certain baptisms are recorded as occurring in Roode Hoek. The place is said to have its name from the fact that a marsh covered with ripe cranberries was the first thing that caught the Dutch eye in this spot. As one passes through the town he sees a guide-board pointing to Barrytown on the river, some three or four miles away, where that Gen. John Armstrong once lived, the author of those celebrated addresses published to the army at Newburg, which might have resulted in trouble among the troops had it not been for Washington's level head.
There are some old buildings in Red Hook, but none of historic interest. It was here that I passed the last of the old brown sandstone mile-stones; above here they are of some white stone that looks like coarse marble, and from their general illegibility are evidently not as well fitted to stand the rigorous northern climate as are their brown brothers from the south.
Upper Red Hook: The recorded history of most of these towns begins with the early church records. When the population grew dense enough to warrant it, a new church organization would be formed to accommodate those living in a neighborhood distant from the nearest house of worship, and as soon as this happened the good dominie or the scribe of the church would begin to record history; so of Upper Red Hook—all we know of its early beginnings, starting with a record of baptisms in December, 1785, comes from this source.
The road now passes into Columbia County, where everything is, was, and ever shall be, Livingston. The family manor is on the river bank, six miles away, but the family, like the locusts for number, has spread up and down the river for a hundred miles or more.
In this county the Township of Livingston contains the villages of Claremont, after the manor on the river; Johnstown, after John Livingston; and Linlithgow, after the old home in Scotland. Dutchess County knows them and knows them well, likewise Westchester, while Rensselaer, on the north, counts them among her prominent citizens.
[Sidenote: ROBERT LIVINGSTON.]
It appears that human nature was much the same two hundred years ago as at present. It is said of Robert Livingston, first lord of the manor, that he "was shrewd, persistent and very acquisitive; his zeal in this direction leading him sometimes to adopt questionable methods to advance his interests. He always exerted himself to obtain riches and strove continually to promote his family." But we have scripture for it that "men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself." In March, 1711, Lord Clarendon wrote: "I think it unhappy that Colonel Hunter (Governor of the Province) at his first arrival fell into so ill hands, for this Levingston has been known many years in that province for a very ill man.... I am of opinion that if the substance proposed be allowed, the consequences will be that Levingston and some others will get estates, the Palatines will not be the richer."