Washington’s Headquarters captured between 1859 and 1869-Collection of Newburgh Historical Society, Newburgh, NY.

NEWBURGH, NY – On November 9, 2014, the Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands will host a talk on Newburgh’s manufacturing history at Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site. Industrial Historian Russell Lange, former President of the Newburgh Historical Society, will deliver his popular talk titled, “Made in Newburgh”. For 150 years manufacturing drove the economy of Newburgh providing jobs for over 8,000 men and women. Open to members and the general public, this free talk will take place during their annual meeting starting at 3 P.M.

 On the Fourth of July in 1850 the State of New York opened Washington’s Headquarters Newburgh. Locally, the Hasbrouck House that General George Washington took up as his headquarters during the latter part of the War for Independence was saved from possible demolition. Historically, that date marks the origin point of public preservation in the United States. Within the next two decades the nearly 3 ½ acre park the historic headquarters sat within was enlarged to 6 ½ and since, the promise to maintain this plot of land was kept. Beyond its boundaries, the rest of Newburgh continued to expand. The early 1709 settlement that once transitioned into a village was incorporated into a city in 1865. The old mills and farms that enveloped the area were replaced by manufactories, businesses, and residences. By the turn of the century industry surrounded the historic headquarters and this sliver of the past would not go unaffected.

Lawn being cut with a Coldwell Lawn Mower, ca. 1920. Photo collection of Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site, Newburgh, NY, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

At a time when an interest in the historical significance of the country aligned with patriotic expression, images of Washington’s Headquarters could be seen adorning the print advertisements of some businesses. The proprietors of the Standard Oil Company of New York featured in an 1920’s advertisement the image of headquarters alongside the quote, “Here, at the close of the American Revolution, Washington issued the proclamation of peace and disbanded the old Continental Army.”

Some businesses local to the City of Newburgh also included the image of the Newburgh headquarters in official stationery as can be seen in a 1887 billhead of the Jacobs’ Baking Powder Company.


1887 billhead of Jacobs’ Baking Powder Co. Collection of Newburgh Historical Society, Newburgh, NY.

The merging of the Revolutionary War headquarters and modern industry extended beyond print advertisements. The site’s grand lawn put to the test lawn mowers manufactured in the City of Newburgh. A photograph from the 1920’s captured the building and grounds superintendent, Robert A. McMeekin, mowing the lawn with a new Coldwell lawn mower. Children and local citizens could be seen gazing upon the superintendent from the east porch of the headquarters building.

Coldwell Lawn Mower Co. on Newburgh waterfront factory. Collection of Newburgh Historical Society, Newburgh, NY

Thomas Coldwell, a Newburgh inventor, found his own success with manufacturing lawnmowers in the 1890’s after nearly 20 years in the business. Coldwell’s original factory sat just south of Washington’s Headquarters before it moved to Newburgh’s north end after a fire destroyed it in 1910. By the end of his life in 1905 Coldwell held over 20 patents in the lawn mower field.


September 29, 1981 factory fire just south (left side of the image) of the museum building. Photo collection of Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site, Newburgh, NY, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

In September 1981 the collection at Washington’s Headquarters 1909 museum was threatened by a raging fire in a vacant factory directly south of the site. The museum, which opened to the public in 1910, was boasted to be fireproof and in the very early morning on September 29th this claim would be put to the test before sunrise. The old factory was once the Cleveland-Whitehill building where the company manufactured the “Newburgh Never-Rip” brand of overalls, shirts, and pantaloons.

Aftermath of September 29, 1981 factory fire just south of the museum building. Photo collection of Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site, Newburgh, NY, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

As close as the museum was to the inferno flames, the building did not catch. However, the uncontainable heat scorched the museum’s south side damaging shutters and melting window panes.

In his talk, Russell Lange will continue to illustrate the picture of an industrial Newburgh that surrounded Washington’s historic headquarters. Steam engines, lawn mowers, blue jeans, perfume, paper boxes, muslin cloth, automobiles, Christmas trees, camel hair coats and “Fabby” were all produced in Newburgh. Today most of it is gone. The talk will go into greater depth describing the rise and fall of Newburgh’s manufacturing base telling the tales of Newburgh’s inventors and entrepreneurs and their products.

Washington’s Headquarters is located at the corner of Washington and Liberty streets within the City of Newburgh’s east end historic district. Light refreshments will be provided during the 2014 Annual Meeting. For more information please call (845) 562-1195.

The Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands (FSHSHH) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-for-profit organization that exists in order to benefit three New York State Historic Sites – Washington’s Headquarters, New Windsor Cantonment, and Knox’s Headquarters. The supported historic sites gain from this organization’s mission to increase public awareness of the three sites’ historical and educational significance; to raise funds to be used to supplement the educational, programming and collection needs of the sites; and to offer quality education and history related items for sale to site visitors. For more information in regard to membership contact us at

Fire destroyed factory adjacent to Washington’s Headquarters. Photo collection of Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site, Newburgh, NY, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

A.J. Schenkman, Historic Huguenot Street’s Consulting Historian, teaches history in the Lower Hudson Valley. He is the author of numerous books and articles. His most recent books include “Murder and Mayhem in Ulster County,” “Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs & More,” and “Washington’s Headquarters Newburgh: Home to a Revolution.”  A.J. has columns in both The New York History Blog, and is a history blogger for The Times Herald Record. He is also a VIP for Teaching the Hudson Valley. He has been featured in numerous publications, venues , radio, and television.

Posted in City of Newburgh, Education, Firefighting, Historic Sites, Hudson River, Landmarks, Lost Landmarks, Museums, Orange County, Town of Newburgh | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plattekill’s Mysterious Stone Site

Hidden within the woods in the town of Plattekill is a mysterious stone structure that has defied definition for centuries. Often referred to as “the Ancient Indian Dam,” the purpose of the slowly sinking length of stacked stone has never clearly been determined, though later explorers of the site have come to believe that the site actually had little or no connection to Native Americans in the area.

The site in question is obscured from view, located in a dense wooded area east of Route 32 in Plattekill and is the source of a small creek that flows south, eventually emptying into Orange Lake in the town of Newburgh. It is a curved length of piled stone in an area that was once known as the Bog Meadow or the Pine Swamp for its perpetually damp soil and water features.

For many years peat was harvested from the bog…and stories of surprising finds in that peat abound, including the discovery over time of human and animal bones and remnants of old farm equipment entombed in the peat. One unfounded story concerns the unidentified remains of a Civil War solder, whose skeleton was discovered propped against a tree in a sitting position – supposedly the only clues to his identity were the preserved boots and cap he was wearing. Other reports of quicksand and mysterious blind fish in vernal pools have surfaced over time.

Early Plattekill settlers who came upon the stone site near the bog deduced that it had been created for use by early Dutch trappers or that Native Americans had constructed a dam that could flood more than 100 acres of the swampy land at a time. An entry in the 1881 History of Orange County, New York refers to the area as the Stone Dam Meadow and “Beaver Dam Creek” and states “early settlers attributed the erection of this dam to the beavers. The work is certainly not beyond the skill of these ingenious animals.”

In Philip Smith’s 1887 book, Legends of the Shawangunk, the author who wrote of larger than life characters, murders and panther attacks in the region described the Plattekill stone site as “one of the greatest curiosities” in Ulster County. He noted that the site contained “two stone walls joined at an obtuse angle…about one hundred and fifty yards in length, eight or ten feet in height…and four feet in width at the top.” Smith dismissed the idea that Native Americans had built the wall and suggested that perhaps the site was once part of the ancient road system or “Mine Roads” though the Shawangunks.

Ralph LeFevre, a Plattekill school teacher at the Gerow School near the Bog Meadow, and later the editor of the New Paltz Independent, wrote that the dam was at least 200 feet in length and made up of “thousands of cart loads of stone.” In his earlier records of the site, he wrote of its possible use as an ancient Indian dam, though he later concluded that the structure was most likely constructed by very early settlers long before the formation of the town of Plattekill. Periodically LeFevre would run updated stories about the site – though little new information was brought forth through these articles, they would inspire letters to editor with new theories put forth by readers who would make trips to the site in an effort to solve the mystery.

The late Ed “Pop” Wager, a former town constable, wrote of hunting fox near the site as a young man and marveling at how fox would jump on top of the wall to avoid getting their feet wet in the streams and swampy land beneath the structure. He recalled a large lake, nearly half a mile across, that was there when he was young but which had mostly dried up when he returned to the area years later, leaving only moss covered stones. Wager’s own theory was that an early family had attempted to create a saw mill on the site to take advantage of the towering pines that grew in the swamp. His discoveries of metal shovels and forged nails near the old lake bed led him to claim that the wall was not constructed by Native Americans and was not as old as others had claimed. He did concede in his memoirs that any history of “the fabled Indian” dam would always contain “some truth and some guesswork.”

Explorations of the site in the mid-1970s ruled out use as a wall built for defense or as a dam, but offered little more in the way of explanation. A professional dowser invited the site around the same time explained that the site had astrological connections and might have been built by Welsh men around 650 B.C. who had lived in a small village near the site for a period of approximately 70 years before moving away from the area without a trace. Further investigation and the use of aerial photography showed a faint trail from the site leading to the Danskammer area in the Town of Newburgh – a Native American worship site also referred to as the Devil’s Dance Chamber.

Additional studies in the 1980s indicted a directional alignment between a series of balance rocks or “standing stones” at the Ellenville Ice Caves, and in Dutchess, Westchester and Rockland Counties – the lines of which all meet or cross over the Plattekill site.

Despite an abundance of theories over the past century and a half, the origin and purpose of Plattekill’s ancient stone site continue to remain a mystery. And, due to the nature of land on which it is constructed, the wall – whatever its purpose – has continued to sink over time; combined with the extensive vegetation that hides most of it, the “fabled” site is quietly fading into obscurity.

Please note: Plattekill’s “Ancient Indian Dam” is located on private property and is not accessible to the public.

Posted in Civil War, Landmarks, Orange County, Shawangunk Mountains, Strange Stories, Town of Newburgh, Town of Plattekill, Ulster County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

There are Ghosts on the Street

Haunted Huguenot Street-HHS

NEW PALTZ, NY (October 20, 2014) – Historic Huguenot Street has announced the return of its signature Halloween event, Haunted Huguenot Street. This year will feature fresh interpretations and interactive activities for guests rooted in the legends and history behind Historic Huguenot Street. Haunted Huguenot Street programming will run for two weekends, October 24 – 26 and October 31 – November 2.

Interpretations and special night-time tours will span across the National Historic Landmark District. Guests will be taken to the Jean Hasbrouck House and the burial ground to hear haunting tales about the macabre and paranormal, featuring a story taken directly from the 18th century diary of Abraham Hasbrouck. Guests will then participate in one of Mrs. Gertrude Deyo-Brodhead’s infamous Murder Mystery parties at the Deyo House. Finally, guests will visit the Abraham Hasbrouck House to discuss how “ghost stories” become a part of history.

“We’re staying true to our site’s history and educational mission by providing visitors with an experience that sheds light on actual facts, fears, and events that have taken place on the street over the course of its 337-year history,” said Kara Gaffken, Director of Public Programming. “The truth behind these stories is sure to bring out the eerier side of Huguenot Street after dark.”

Burial Ground New Paltz-AJ Schenkman

“Our mission is to engage our guests in experiences that show what it really meant to be a part of Huguenot Street hundreds of years ago, while highlighting how their legends and folklore fit into shaping today’s history,” said Thomas Weikel, Director of the Guest Experience.

Haunted Huguenot Street tours will depart from the DuBois Fort Visitor Center hourly beginning at 4 pm, with the final tour leaving at 8 pm, on October 24 – 26 and November 1 – 2. On October 31, tours will depart from the DuBois Fort hourly beginning at 7 pm, with the final tour leaving at 10 pm. Complimentary donuts and cider, provided by Dressel Farms (, will be available at the DuBois Fort on October 31.

Pre-registration is strongly encouraged. Members, seniors, military, and students $20. Non-members $25. Without pre-registration, $30 at the door. See a preview:

A National Historic Landmark District, Historic Huguenot Street is a 501(c)3 non-profit that encompasses 30 buildings across 10 acres that was the heart of the original 1678 settlement, including seven stone houses that date to the early eighteenth century.  It was founded in 1894 as the Huguenot Patriotic, Historical, and Monumental Society to preserve their French and Dutch heritage.  Since then, Historic Huguenot Street has grown into an innovative museum, chartered as an educational corporation by the University of the State of New York, that is dedicated to protecting our historic buildings, conserving an important collection of artifacts and manuscripts, and promoting the stories of the Huguenot Street families, from the sixteenth century to today.

A.J. Schenkman, Historic Huguenot Street’s Consulting Historian, teaches history in the Lower Hudson Valley. He is the author of numerous books and articles. His most recent books include “Murder and Mayhem in Ulster County,” “Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs & More,” and “Washington’s Headquarters Newburgh: Home to a Revolution.”  A.J. has columns in both The New York History Blog, and is a history blogger for The Times Herald Record. He is also a VIP for Teaching the Hudson Valley. He has been featured in numerous publications, venues , radio, and television.

Posted in Cemeteries, Education, Landmarks, Museums, Strange Stories, Town/Village of New Paltz, Wars | Leave a comment

The John Ellison House in Vails Gate

Knox's Headquarters, SHS-A.J. Schenkman

Perched at the end of a rolling lawn, in Vails Gate, is an often overlooked historic site that played a significant role in the American Revolution. This home not only hosted many notable officers during the Revolution, but it was also possibly where the famous Newburgh Letters originated. Once the home of a successful area merchant named John Ellison, it is today known as Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Site.

The structure we view today was built  in 1754, according to Ruttenber’s History of New Windsor, by William Bull and constructed in the Georgian style. It is important to point out that the clapboard structure adjoining the home was built later in 1799. Although the home was originally built by John’s father Thomas, for himself, it later became the residence of John and his wife Catherine. They were given the home  as a wedding present. The newlyweds moved into the house in 1764.

The home which was located just off the King’s Highway allowed John, a successful area merchant, to closely manage the grist mill that his father had constructed in the 1740s. Ellison’s mill sat alongside the Silver Stream. John would grind primarily wheat into flour. Many visitors to the site do not realize that the region was well-known for its wheat until the Hessian Wheat Fly destroyed the viability of wheat in the region. The Ellison wheat was shipped to New York City where the Ellison family had docks. Once the wheat made it to New York City, Thomas, Jr., John’s brother, supervised operations. Unfortunately, the Ellison mill is long gone, but remnants of it can still be seen today.

Horatio Gates -National Portrait Gallery

Starting in 1779, John, his wife Catherine, and their slaves, were displaced by Continental Army officers wishing to use the home as a headquarters. It was from 1779 to 1782 that Henry Knox, Nathaniel Greene, and Baron von Stueben made the home their headquarters. This is even thought, as  Janet Dempsey writes in her book Washington’s Last Cantonment, that the Ellison’s were known to have ”Tory leanings and connections: Thomas’s daughter Elizabeth was married to a notorious Tory Cadwallader Colden, Jr., but their prominence in the community saved them from harassment.”  Perhaps the most disruptive stay to the family was the when Horatio Gates arrived in 1782 to oversee ”the 7,000 soldiers and 300 camp followers that made up the winter cantonment in New Windsor.” General Washington was also nearby in Newburgh at the Hasbrouck house.  However, unlike with the Hasbrouck house where Tryntje and her family were forced to leave their home for Washington, the Ellison Family remained in their home while Gates used it as his headquarters.

Knox Headquarters-AJ Schenkman

While Gates was quartered in the home, it would become forever associated with the Newburgh Conspiracy. According to Michael Hattem, writing for Mount Vernon, on March  10, 1783, an inflammatory address written by Major John Armstrong, aide-de-camp to General Gates, was circulated at a meeting of officers. The issue revolved around pay owed to the officer by Congress. They were frustrated and feared that they would not receive the back pay owed to them. Armstrong’s “address implored the men to abandon the moderate tone of Washington’s entreaties to Congress in favor of a forceful ultimatum. If Congress did not comply, the army should threaten to either disband—leaving the country unprotected—or refuse to disband after a peace treaty ending the war was signed.” Some insist that Horatio Gates was behind the address, but it has never been proven. However, once Washington heard about the disgruntled officers, he made his way over to the New Windsor Cantonment on March 15. He addressed the officers and quieted the potential mutiny of his officers.

Once the war ended the home returned to the Ellison family. John Ellison died in 1814. The home eventually passed to his nephew Thomas because John and Catherine never had children. In 1917, fearing the destruction of the home, it was was purchased by the Knox Headquarters Association. Five years later, the Brundage Bill of March 1922, allowed the New York State Legislature to take possession of the home along with fifty acres. It was given to New York State as a historic site for the People of the State of New York to enjoy. A large scale restoration commenced that would not be completed until 1954.

General Knox's Headquarters-AJ Schenkman

Knox Headquarters is open for public tours from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Wednesdays through Sundays.

It is located at 289 Forge Hill Road, Vails Gate.

For more information call the site at 845-561-5498.

A.J. Schenkman, Historic Huguenot Street’s Consulting Historian, teaches history in the Lower Hudson Valley. He is the author of numerous books and articles. His most recent books include “Murder and Mayhem in Ulster County,” “Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs & More,” and “Washington’s Headquarters Newburgh: Home to a Revolution.”  A.J. has columns in both The New York History Blog, and is a history blogger for The Times Herald Record. He is also a VIP for Teaching the Hudson Valley. He has been featured in numerous publications, venues , radio, and television.

Posted in Museums, Orange County, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shooting Dice at the Primrose Social Club

Craps Game Rochester, New York-Library of Congress

A well dressed man entered the Primrose Social Club located at 11 Railroad Avenue in Kingston at 1:00 in the morning on October 12, 1931. The club, which occupied the 2nd floor of the Cook Building, was for members only. William “Chuck” Connors, who was president of the Primrose stopped the man. He asked him his business. The man explained that he was looking for a high stakes craps game, and was told there was one going on inside. Conner told the man that the Primrose was for members only. After watching the man exit the building, Connors and an associate proceeded to a local café for a cup of coffee.

The man that Connors had stopped was correct. There was a craps game going on inside one of the Primrose Social Club’s rooms. By 2:00 am, eleven men stood around the craps table. According to The Kingston Daily Freeman, those present were Connors, Harry Gage, Shale Alcon. Arthur Mains, Mack Rose, Edward McDonough, Albert Partlan, Frank Calvin, Warren Miller, Thomas Dolan and Frank O’Conner.

Sometime around 3:00am, a car pulled up in front of the Cook Building with five men inside. Four men exited the car including the man who had earlier been looking for a craps game. A fifth occupant of the car remained behind the wheel with the engine idling.  The men made their way up to the second floor till they came to a closed door. One of the men knocked on the door to the room where the men were engrossed in their gambling. McDonough opened the door, and was met by a gun leveled at him. The man with the gun uttered, “stick’em up!” McDonough instantly compiled, and the bandit motioned behind him saying “come on in.” Three more men appeared also holding guns. All four made their way over to the craps table.  There was between 40 and 400 dollars on the table. When later questioned by the police, none of the men could remember the exact amount. The gunmen ordered the men at the table to put their hand’s high up in the air. One of the gamblers made a sudden move. It was met with a hail of gun fire.

When the gunfire stopped, Galvin had been creased across the abdomen; Dolan and Miller were each shot through the leg. A third man,Frank O’Conner, was crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood. He had been shot once above the right eye. When the survivors ran up to O’Conner, they saw he was still breathing. One of the men in the room ran to a phone to call the police. He requested a doctor and an ambulance. O’Conner and the other three men were rushed to Kingston Hospital where Doctors Snyder and Krom waited. Twenty minutes after the shooting, O’Conner was pronounced dead. An autopsy conducted later would reveal that the bullet had splintered his skull. The other three men were treated and released.

Chief of  Police Wood stated that none of the members of the Primrose that were present could figure out why the gunmen targeted their game. The police had two theories. Their first theory was that the bandits were out for revenge on a member of the club. A second theory was that someone had tipped the gunmen off about the craps game. Meanwhile, O’Conner, twenty-nine years old, a book keeper for a local company, and a justice of the peace for Rosendale, was driven back to Rosendale under the care of Undertaker Frank J. McCardle. Funeral services were later held at St. Peter’s Church on “Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock where a High Mass of requiem will be offered for the repose of his soul.” The four shooters who burst into the room were never found.

Posted in Bringing the Wicked to Justice, City of Kingston, Strange Stories, Town of Marbletown, Town of Rosendale, Ulster County | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Haunted Huguenot Street

Photo Courtesy of Historic Huguenot Street

New Paltz, NY-October 24 – 26 and October 31 – November 2, Historic Huguenot Street will transform into Haunted Huguenot Street with special interpretations of the Jean Hasbrouck House, the burial ground, the Deyo House, and the Abraham Hasbrouck House. Guests will hear legends of hauntings, participate in Mrs. Gertrude Deyo-Brodhead’s infamous Conundrum Party, and explore the art of haunted interpretation.

Pre-registration is encouraged for interpretations.

Members, seniors, and military $20.
Non-members $25.

$30 at the door.

The program will be from 4 – 8pm, except October 31 which runs from 7 – 10pm.

For More Information call: Main Office & Library: (845) 255-1660 or visit their website:

Posted in Cemeteries, Education, Historic Sites, Landmarks, Shawangunk Mountains, Strange Stories, Town/Village of New Paltz, Ulster County | Leave a comment

An Artist’s View of the Mid-Hudson Bridge

The Town of Lloyd Historical Preservation Society (TOLHPS) will present “An Artist’s View of the Mid-Hudson Bridge” on Monday, October 6, 2014 at 7:30pm.

Artist Franc Palaia, who calls the Mid-Hudson Bridge “an object of inspiration,” will share his passion for the bridge and “the basics of bridge history,” along with bridge art and images from the catalogue of the show he curated in 2009. The program will be held at the Vineyard Commons Theater, 300 Vineyard Avenue, about a mile and a quarter from the Lloyd hamlet of Highland on Route 44/55. To reach the theater, turn into Vineyard Commons and follow signs to Building 6 or The Bistro.

For more information, call 845-255-7742, visit the TOLHPS website at, or look for the Town of Lloyd Historical Preservation Society on Facebook.

The program is free and open to everyone.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Enterprise and Courage:The Civil War Years at Lake Mohonk

Mohonk Mountain House-Library of Congress

While tensions brew between North and South during the 1850s, an idea brews in the mind of an Ulster County farmer.  His idea is simple yet grand:  establish a must-see destination at a remarkable lake high atop the Shawangunk Mountains.  Discover how it all began at Mohonk Lake as local author Robi Josephson presents this fascinating illustrated program.

Robi Josephson earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from SUNY New Paltz, writing her master’s thesis on John Burroughs in and around the Shawangunks.  Before writing full-time, Robi worked as a free-lance consultant in grant writing, publications editing, and collections cataloguing, the last two for the Mohonk Preserve.  She also worked as a gatehouse attendant and security officer for Mohonk Mountain House.   Robi taught briefly but realized she loved local history much more.  Robi is the author of Mohonk: Mountain House and Preserve, Arcadia Publishing, 2002 and co-author with  Bob Larsen, of An Unforgiving Land: Hardscrabble Life in the Trapps, A Vanished Shawangunk Mountain Hamlet.  Her book will be available to purchase following the presentation.

The following lecture will take place at Desmond Campus for Adult Enrichment, 6 Albany Post Road, Newburgh.  To register or for further information please call 845 565 2076. This lecture will on Friday, Oct. 10, 10 am – Noon and the  Fee is:  $15

Posted in Civil War, Education, Landmarks, Shawangunk Mountains, Town/Village of New Paltz, Ulster County, Wars | Leave a comment

“Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs, and More,” a lecture by A.J. Schenkman

Sing Sing (prison) with Warden Osbourne-Library of Congress

Situated in the scenic Hudson Valley, Ulster County is a lovely location to make a home and raise a family, but it wasn’t always so pleasant. Unsavory characters and immoral events have sullied its name. In the 1870s, the Shawangunk Mountains inspired fear rather than awe, as groups like the Lyman Freer and Shawangunk gangs robbed and terrorized locals, descending from the protection of the wooded peaks. Kingston was torched, arson blazed in Kerhonkson, and even the Mohonk Mountain House was threatened by flames. In 1909, the Ashokan Slasher’s bloody crimes and sensational trial captured headlines across the country. Discover these and other salacious stories buried in Ulster County’s history.

A book signing will follow the presentation.

A.J. Schenkman, Historic Huguenot Street’s Consulting Historian, teaches history in the Lower Hudson Valley. He is the author of numerous books and articles. His most recent books include “Murder and Mayhem in Ulster County,” “Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs & More,” and “Washington’s Headquarters Newburgh: Home to a Revolution.”  A.J. has columns in both The New York History Blog, and is a history blogger for The Times Herald Record. He is also a VIP for Teaching the Hudson Valley. He has been featured in numerous publications, venues , radio, and television.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

  • 6:00pm – 7:00pm
  • LeFevre House (1799 House)
  • 54 Huguenot St
  • New Paltz, NY, 12561

Posted in Bringing the Wicked to Justice, Shawangunk Mountains, Strange Stories, Ulster County | Leave a comment

The Galeville School

Recently, I received the following image of the former one-room Galeville School in the town of Shawangunk from reader Kim Kosteczko of Wallkill, which prompted a closer look into the history of this little building. Standing near the present-day intersection of Albany Post Road and Long Road, the school was constructed in the early 1800s as part of the Galeville District No. 13 of the Town of Shawangunk. (Based on a sign found inside the building, the school may have been known as No. 9 at one point in its history.) It was located next door to the Galeville Methodist church, and most likely housed the church’s Sunday School, as was common among the rural schools at the time.

A circa 1936 image of the Galeville Schoolhouse and the Kosteczko dairy farm in the Town of Shawangunk. Pictured is Mikolaj Kosteczko. Courtesy of Kim Kosteczko, from the collection of the late Nellie Kosteczko Thoday Harris.

Today the area known as Galeville is residential, but it once was a thriving hamlet that included a blacksmith shop, a general store, a spoke-making shop, a sawmill and grist mill, a hotel and a post office. A covered bridge crossed the Wallkill River, and a dam in the river just south of the bridge ensured that the mills ran steadily. A weekly newspaper, The Galeville Weekly Casket, had a brief run in the mid-1800s. The hamlet also served as a stagecoach stop prior to 1868, when the railroad arrived in the nearby hamlet of Wallkill (known then as The Basin).

Kosteczko notes that the property adjoining the school was once owned by her husband’s family and that her husband’s grandmother, Mary Kosteczko, helped to maintain the building during the 1920s and 1930s. After her husband Mikolaj passed away at the age of 49, the young widow continued to run the family dairy farm while raising seven children. Mary also made sure to tend the woodstove in the school building each morning before the children arrived and made water available for the students to carry to the school. The teacher at that time, Vivian McLean, lived in town and would arrive by horse and wagon; classes would be canceled in the winter when the snow as too high for her to make the trip.

In May of 1938, the tiny school and two of Mary’s children were featured in the Middletown Times Herald. A picture of six students, along with Mrs. McLean, bore the following caption: “In addition to being one of the oldest district schools in Ulster County, the Galeville School this year has a new claim to distinction – three sets of twins, two of them from one family, among its sixteen pupils. Donna and Dorothy, aged five, and Ruth Ellen and Rosemarie, nine, are twin daughters of Mr. and Mrs. L.W. Myers, who moved here from Oklahoma last November….The other twins are Joseph and Frank Kosteczko, fourteen-year-old sons of Mary Kosteczko. Both of them are in the eighth grade.”

The Galeville School had separate entrances and cloakrooms for boys and girls and a potbellied stove where the teacher would often heat soup for the students during the winter months. According to an account in Elaine Terwilliger Weed’s history One Room Schools of the Town of Shawangunk, 1800-1943, the schoolhouse also had “two outhouses, one for the boys and another for the girls. A solid wooden fence separated them. Both outhouses were ‘three holers’ and had three holes of different sizes.” (The wooden fence is visible in the image above.)

During the early to mid-1800s, the Galeville School had a higher enrollment than many of the other rural schools in the area. It was common for 40 or more students in grades 1-8 to be taught by a single teacher. The school served as community center and students actively participated in civic activities including raising money for the Red Cross, hosting a Christmas party for the community and planting trees around the property each year as part of an Arbor Day celebration. They raised funds to sponsor a traveling library from the New York State Education Department and organized Health and Safety and Sewing and Homemaking clubs.

With the arrival of the railroad, according to the late historian Frank Mentz, “the bustling Galeville began to be no more; by 1910 it had become so deteriorated that you never have known that a hamlet was ever there.” Enrollment at the Galeville School declined sharply and only a handful of students were listed on the attendance rosters of the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1930s, most of the rural districts in Ulster County were becoming part of centralized school districts, and Galeville was absorbed into the Wallkill Central School District.

Though they continued to attend classes at Galeville, students at the tiny school contributed articles for the district newspaper and participated in central district activities such as spelling bees and field days. The last class finished the 1942-1943 school year at Galeville before the school shut its doors for the final time. The following year, students were bussed to the central school building in the hamlet of Wallkill. The school building was sold at auction in 1945 and converted into a private residence, which it remains to this day.

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    AJ Schenkman

    A.J. Schenkman teaches history in the Lower Hudson Valley. He is the author of numerous books and articles. His most recent books Include Murder and Mayhem in Ulster County and Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs & More, and ... Read Full

    Elizabeth Werlau

    Elizabeth Werlau is an English teacher in the Hudson Valley and is the historian for the Town of Plattekill in Ulster County. She has authored and contributed to several books on regional history, including her most recent publication, Murder and ... Read Full
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