Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck was born two hundred and ninety three years ago this spring. His life is as intriguing to me as it was over twenty years ago when I first started researching his life. During that time I have uncovered many aspects of his life, as well as those of his immediate family, that were not commonly known or perhaps even overlooked by prior researchers. One of these is his ledger that is on file at Washington’s Headquarters Newburgh, State Historic Site. It is the only known ledger, kept by Colonel Hasbrouck, known to still exist. It is particularly valuable because it covers the years during the American Revolution.
Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck was born in 1722 in Ulster County just outside of New Paltz, New York. He later relocated in 1749 to what would become Newburgh, where his mother Elsie Schoonmaker purchased 99 acres of land. After marrying Tryntje DuBois, Hasbrouck brought her to her new home in June 1751. The couple had several children named: Mary, Rachel, Joseph, Abraham, Cornelius, Jonathan, and Isaac. Hasbrouck’s 99 acres would form the heart of his farm, mills, and merchant activity, which he would expand for the rest of his life. As his wealth increased, his home was also enlarged until it took its present form by 1770. This later included a store. It is during the late 1770s that Hasbrouck started keeping an account ledger.
Jonathan Hasbrouck took a leading role in his community as a Patriot when conflict started with England. The veteran of the French and Indian War, was appointed a Colonel, by the Provincial Congress, on October 25, 1775. He was placed in command of the 4th Ulster County Militia. Prior to this his activity centered on the Committee of Safety formed in Weigand’s Tavern. Once the regiment was formed in 1775, the focus now centered on outfitting the regiment for what was looking more and more like a prolonged conflict with England. Albert Gedney Barratt wrote that 4th Militia’s service can be divided into “three periods in different localities; first, in guarding the pass in the Ramapo Valley, second, in garrisoning the forts in the Hudson Valley, and third, in protecting the county borders.” Some of these phases are reflected in the ledger, especially pay for service at Fort Montgomery.
What is equally fascinating about the ledger is the plethora of names of various participants involved, not only in those preparations for war, but also garrisoning Fort Montgomery. A look at some of the specific entries within just the first few pages, we find that supplies are received by Hasbrouck for powder and lead to be used in the “defense of the states.” Still others list what men served at the fort and what they were paid for while at the fort. Yet another entry reads that Captain Conklin was given a “French Musket,” which can tell us what types of weapons were available to the militia in and around Newburgh in 1776.
It is believed, partially because of exposure to the elements while serving at Fort Montgomery, Hasbrouck became sick. This would figure prominently in his decision to resign his officer’s commission in May 1778. The other reason was most likely to resume his life as a merchant supplying the army. His mills, for example helped supply flour the army. In addition, there are other interesting notes pertaining to his profession as a merchant, miller, and store owner. For example, an entry of “three hundred dollars” for “1900 pounds of tobacco” was recorded, which was an important commodity. His oldest surviving son Cornelius Hasbrouck was sometimes involved in transporting. In the spring of 1779, he carted “8 hogs heads of rum” and took in “1600 dollars” for it which he shared with a Joseph Gashire. Much of the entries pertaining to 1779 deal directly with the fortune that the Hasbrouck family as merchants in Newburgh which include references to flour, hops and other commodities.
Later entries, especially those made by family members after Jonathan Hasbrouck dies in July 1780, pertain to the lands that the Hasbrouck’s owned in and around Newburgh. They are for various taxes to be paid on family lands in New Windsor and Newburgh. These taxes range from poor taxes to county taxes. After Hasbrouck’s death, his wife Tryntje continued to pay these various taxes even during the time when General Washington occupied the home as his headquarters from 1782-1783. Tryntje’s exact whereabouts during this time aren’t known for sure. What is telling is that an entry reads “received Newburgh”, possibly indicating that even as Washington lived in her home, she might have been in the area. Many earlier historians believe, however, that Tryntje relocated to New Paltz. Still other historians believe that Tryntje might have resided in one of the tenant houses that Hasbrouck’s owned.
A unique aspect of the ledger which deserves some attention is that it appears a family member might have used a few blank pages in this the back for recording recipes. It cannot be definitively proven who this person actually was or if it even was a Hasbrouck. They are interesting for delving into the Hasbrouck’s culinary tastes; if, once again, they are actually Hasbrouck family recipes.
The recipe for Washington Cake stands out as more or less the same recipe for Martha Washington’s Great Cake, which was one of George Washington’s favorites. There is a recipe for ice cream, which has been around since the time of Washington and was even served by Jefferson – both presidents had ice houses. Also contained in the ledger are recipes for macaroons, apple tarts, and puff pastries. Once again, the author of these recipes is not recorded.
The ledger of Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck should not be overlooked, as it provides a glance into the life of a prominent merchant and also offers information pertaining to the American War for Independence in the Lower Hudson Valley. It is also a rich resource for genealogists hoping to trace various individuals and their corresponding locations during specific times in the conflict. Perhaps one day another ledger will be found that was kept by Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck, but until then, this is a great source.
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.