Speaker Bill Birns focuses on Burroughs


The Town of Lloyd Historical Preservation Society  provides a new look at the life of the region’s favorite naturalist, John Burroughs.  Speaker Bill Birns focuses on Burroughs’ philosophy of life and appreciation of nature, reflected in the title Birns has given his presentation: “‘I Go To Nature To Be Soothed and Healed:’ John Burroughs & The American View of Nature.”

Bill Birns shares Burroughs’ love of nature, especially his attachment to the Catskills, where Burroughs spent his childhood and senior years, and where Birns has lived and worked for 40 years. 
Birns is the current president of the Board of Trustees of Woodchuck Lodge Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the historic lodge in Roxbury, NY, where Burroughs spent summers from 1910 until his death in 1921.  The lodge began as a cabin built in the 1860’s by Burroughs’ brother on the family homestead land, where John Burroughs was born and raised. 

Many Hudson Valley residents may be more familiar with Slabsides, the cabin in the woods in West Park, NY, which John Burroughs and his son Julian built as a forest retreat near their more elegant home overlooking the Hudson River.  But Burroughs, born in 1837, was always drawn back to the Catskills, which shaped his love of nature as a boy.  In his writings, Burroughs described the region as a “land of wide, open, grassy fields, of smooth, broad-backed hills, and of long, flowing mountain lines.”  It was indeed this nature that “soothed and healed him,” where, in his later years, his spent hours sitting on the broad deck he added to his brother’s simple cabin, writing nature essays and pondering the beauty of what he saw.

As a young man, Birns – like Burroughs – taught in Catskill Mountain schools.   Birns graduated from Union College and holds a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Linguistics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. His 1986 dissertation was a study of the dialect of the Catskills.  Both the speaker and his subject wrote about the Catskills, with Burroughs focusing on nature and Birns on regional history and culture.  His book, A Catskill Catalog, is a collection of essays published in 2011 by Purple Mountain Press.

TOLHPS sponsors monthly public programs from September to June, usually on the first Monday of the month.  Vineyard Commons, where the April program will take place, is at 300 Vineyard Avenue, about a mile and a quarter from the Hamlet of Highland on Route 44/55, just south of the Hudson Valley Rehabilitation Center.  To reach the theater, turn into Vineyard Commons and follow signs to Building 6.  Early arrivers get the best parking spaces.  Free refreshments will be served.  For more information, call 845-255-7742.

Monday, April 3, 2017
7 PM
Building 6, (Vineyard Commons Theater Building)
Vineyard Commons, 300 Vineyard Avenue (Rte 44/55),  
Highland, NY 12528

The program is free and open to the public. Free refreshments. 

Posted in Press Releases | Leave a comment

Hidden Treasures of the Hudson Valley


On Saturday, March 18th at 1 PM, the Plattekill Historical Preservation Society is pleased to welcome Tony Musso, author of Hidden Treasures of the Hudson Valley Volumes 1 & 2. Each of these feature 55 sites throughout the local upstate New York region that, while not widely known, boast significant ties to, among other things the American Revolution, early American industry and local and national politics.

Mr. Musso plans on combining his presentation of both volumes to cover the local area from Mohonk over to Pawling, including places in the Towns of Marlboro and New Paltz.

His presentation uncovers locations of existing buildings such as early stagecoach stops and prominent inns that served as meeting places for some of the nation’s first political leaders, aging structures that line the streets of local cities, towns, and villages that served as critical components of the Revolutionary War, early American industry, and social hubs during past centuries.

Tony Musso has had a 38-year career with the US Post Office, besides being a freelance correspondent for the Times-Herald Record and a well-known speaker. He is presently a weekly columnist with Gannett Newspapers.

Other books by Mr. Russo include FDR & the Post Office; Setting the Record Straight Vols. 1 & 2; Staatsburg: A Village Lost in Time and Hidden Treasurers of the Catskills.  Signed copies of his books will be available after the presentation.

You are invited to join us at the Plattekill Historical Preservation Society headquarters (the old Plattekill Grange hall), 127 Church Street (off Route 32), Plattekill.   PHPS has updated and made a number of improvements to the old 1903 Grange building, besides providing a number of historic displays to be viewed while you are there.  We look forward to seeing you!  Admission is free and refreshments will be served. For more information, call (845) 883-6118.

Posted in Press Releases | Leave a comment



HYDE PARK, NY — The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will present LISTENING TO THE ROOSEVELTS: ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, “FIRST LADY OF RADIO” at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home. Hosted by Library Director Paul Sparrow — in conversation with Anya Luscombe of University College Roosevelt — this program will include selected audio recordings of Mrs. Roosevelt as she talks about the Dutch Royal Family, Pearl Harbor, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a range of public issues. Attendees are invited to put down their mobile devices and experience Eleanor Roosevelt as listeners did in the age of radio. Registration is required. Visit www.fdrlibrary.org to register.

Eleanor Roosevelt became a prominent radio personality during the 1930s and 1940s. She began appearing on the radio during the 1920s, speaking about public issues on New York stations. When she became First Lady she was interviewed on countless radio shows, commenting on news events and public policy. She also hosted several current events programs. In 1939, WNBC called her the “First Lady of Radio.”

Anya Luscombe is Associate Professor of Media at University College Roosevelt, the Netherlands (in the province of Zeeland from which the Roosevelt ancestors came). A former BBC journalist, her research interests are media history and Eleanor Roosevelt’s use of media. She is the author of FORTY YEARS OF BBC RADIO NEWS: FROM THE SWINGING SIXTIES TO THE TURBULENT NOUGHTIES and several articles on Eleanor Roosevelt and Radio.

Please contact Cliff Laube at (845) 486-7745 or email clifford.laube@nara.gov with questions about the event.




Posted in Education, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Old Town’s Notable Residents


One of my favorite burial grounds/cemeteries is the Old Town Cemetery in the city of Newburgh. One of the many reasons it is a favorite destination is because of the notable people interred within its bounds. Two such notables are congressmen, Thomas McKissock and Jonathan Fisk.

McKissock was born in Montgomery, New York on April 17, 1790. The Directory of the U.S. Congress, states that he studied medicine and law. Walter Case Anthony writes that his early schooling was at the Montgomery Academy. Once admitted to the bar, he practiced in Newburgh. In 1847, he was appointed a pusine justice of the New York State Supreme Court. A pusine justice is a junior judge. Although Marcus T. Reynolds had been nominated by the governor and confirmed by the N.Y.S. Senate, he refused the position. McKissock was Governor Young’s second choice.

McKissock was elected to the 32nd Congress from March 4, 1849 to March 3, 1851. Although he ran for re-election in 1850, he was defeated for the 9th district. After his defeat, he continued to practice law. He is listed in the Newburgh Directory for 1864 as having an office at 27 Third Street in Newburgh.

Thomas McKissock passed away on June 26, 1866. According to a local paper, his funeral was held on June 30 ,and he was buried in the Old Town Cemetery. He was buried not to far from Congressman Jonathan Fisk.

Jonathan Fisk was not born in Orange County, but in New England. He was born in Amherst, New Hampshire on September 26, 1778, where he started out his professional career as a teacher. Walter Case Anthony, wrote that he was certified to teach grammar, writing, and math. He would not do this for long.

McKissock Grave-Find A Grave

In 1795 he moved to Ware, New Hampshire to further his studies and continue his teaching. This time he studied Latin and Greek. Once again, according to Anthony, he moved, this time to New York City. Fisk studied in the law office of Peter Hawes. He continued to earn money teaching. In 1799, he was allowed to practice law before the Court of Common Pleas in Westchester County. As his abilities were realized he was allowed to practice law before the state supreme court as well as the court of common pleas in both Orange as well as Ulster Counties. This was in 1800, when he also relocated to Newburgh.

Jonathan Fisk was elected to 11th Congress in 1808, for the 3rd district. He would be elected again in 1814, where he would represent the 6th district. Eventually he gave up his seat in Congress to become a S.S. Attorney.

Fisk briefly left Newburgh for New York City in 1815 when he was appointed by President James Madison a U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Eventually Fisk returned to Newburgh in 1820, and continued to practice law. Anthony wrote in his book about prominent lawyers in Orange County published in 1917, that Fisk was investigated for charging large fees while he was a district attorney. It was believed that it hurt his business, even though he was cleared of wrong doing. He died in Newburgh on July 13, 1832.

Fisk and McKissock are two of many distinguished citizens of Newburgh buried in the Old Town Cemetery. There are prominent military men, merchants, and Captain Henry “Bully” Robinson’s mausoleum. The Cemetery is located between Grand and Liberty at South Street, next to the Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Posted in Cemeteries, City of Newburgh, Education, Landmarks, Orange County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Making of New Paltz: A History Series by  Carol Johnson, with Margaret Stanne

September 15, 1677, Indian Deed.


This eight-week course will cover the development of the town and village of New Paltz from 1678 to the present. Did you know that the introduction of public services led to the creation of the Village? Or that the borders with the neighboring towns changed the geography of New Paltz? Discover how the development of the different hamlets and neighborhoods helped shape the New Paltz we know today.

Carol Johnson has been the Coordinator of the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection of the Elting Memorial Library for 30years. The collection is considered the best genealogical and local history collection in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and its strongest focus is on the town and village of New Paltz.

Margaret Stanne, Assistant, Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection, is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and lifetime resident of New Paltz.

Register at the Circulation Desk, cost: $50. Join us in the Steinberg Reading Room for this eight-week series, 3-4.30PM, kicking off on Sunday, March 19th – May 14th, 2017.

There will be no presentation on Easter Sunday, April 16th, 2017.

Posted in Education, Press Releases | Leave a comment

“A History of American Women in Song”

NEW PALTZ, NY (February 27, 2017) – On Saturday, March 11, Historic Huguenot Street will host a performance by Linda Russell in honor of Women’s History Month in the Crispell Memorial French Church. Russell’s performance, “A History of American Women in Song,” will explore the role of women’s lives in society from the 18th century to the 19th Amendment, featuring broadsides, laments, murder ballads, love songs, parlor melodies, and suffrage anthems that reflect the changing status of women in society. Now is a critical time in our nation’s history to acknowledge women’s progress over the centuries and recognize that the protection of women’s rights remains a topical issue.

For 30 years, Russell has explored America’s past through song. She served as 18th century balladeer at Federal Hall National Memorial in NYC, and her performances are in demand at historic sites, schools and community centers around the country. She has recorded eight albums of traditional and historical music. Russell has performed at Historic Huguenot Street a number of times, and her presentations never fail to be engaging, thoughtful, and informative.

Following the performance will be a reception in the DuBois Fort catered by The Village Tea Room for a continued discussion of the role of women in historic and current events. Copies of Russell’s albums will be available for purchase in the Museum Shop, and an exhibit highlighting the untold stories of Hudson Valley women will be on display.

This event will begin at the Crispell Memorial French Church (60 Huguenot Street) at 4 pm on March 11. Pre-registration is required at huguenotstreet.org/rsvp. $25 general admission, $22.50 for seniors, children under 12, military families, and Friends of Historic Huguenot Street (those who have donated $50 or more within the calendar year).

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 New Paltz 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 the nationally acclaimed collection of stone houses.  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 Department of Education, 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.

Posted in Education, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Eli Hasbrouck Part II

Eli Hasbrouck Grave Courtesy of OTC

The following year, Eli appeared in various publications directly related to his cultivation of grapes. He grew what he called the Anna Grape in his garden. It was prized as a variety because it was free from rot. Eli was drawn to the grape because of it color. A.J. Downing thought highly of it. It was said about the grape, “the raisins had the sweet rich flavor and aroma of those from the Muscat of Alexandria.”

Eli married again in 1855; the same year his brother Jonathan died. He married Margaret Van Wyck, of Fishkill, on February 13. The same time period he re-married, Eli was listed in the census as being worth $18,000. His occupation recorded as “gentleman.” Eli was in fact a merchant and farmer. Where Eli lived during this time was listed in business directories as 167 Liberty Street in Newburgh. In addition to his large family, his sister Mary also lived with the family until her death in 1856.

If his late brother lost the family homestead because of bad business deals and  loans, Eli was well off enough to have a servant/laborer. He had at least three servants. Samuel Carrier of Connecticut seemed to pose a problem for Eli . He wrote, [Carrier] “ has been intemperate which is the cause of his poverty. He is likewise troubled with rheumatism.” This was sworn to by Eli and sent to the Alms-House. His other two servants were both from Ireland. They were Mary Flanagan and William Moore.

By 1860, Eli’s wealth continued to grow. The 1860 census lists a combined worth of $30,000. This would be about a million dollars in 2014 dollars. He continued to reside at 167 Liberty Street, and was also involved in the civic affairs of Newburgh. This included being a member of the Centennial Committee, and a volunteer firefighter His son and namesake most likely worked in the dry goods business that was started by  Eli Hasbrouck. His love of Newburgh extended to the home where he was born.

According to E.M. Ruttenber, a “One arm-chair-one of the set in use in Head-quarters during Washington’s occupation, and known as “Washington’s Chair” was presented to Washington’s Headquarters by Eli Hasbrouck. A portrait of Eli was also gifted to the museum. Finally, a fire shovel remained in the house. Most likely, Eli told the curators that it had never been removed from the house, and was there during Washington’s stay at the home.
Towards the end of the century Eli’s combined worth almost doubled from the 1860 census to $53,000. He had a domestic servant as well as a gardener. Mary, a daughter, born in 1834, still lived at home. She is listed  in the 1870 census as without an occupation. Eli listed himself as a retired merchant. Eli Hasbrouck passed away the following year at his home on Liberty Street on December 28, 1871. Eli was interred in the Old Town Cemetery in Newburgh. His place of burial is marked by a large obelisk. He is buried along with his first wife and two children who predeceased  him.

The obituary in the newspaper was short, “relatives and friends are invited to attend the funeral at his late residence No. 167 Liberty Saturday December 30, 3 p.m.” After Eli died, Margaret remained in the home on Liberty Street for a time. Census records show that her sister Cornelia moved in with her shortly after the death of Eli. However, post 1873, to the end of her life; she appears to reside at 73 Grand Street. She died March 23, 1897. The Newburgh Telegraph remembered, “She died strong in the faith of the gospel, desiring ‘To depart and to be with Christ’ and we fully believe that when he shall appear, she also will appear with his Glory”

Eli Hasbrouck was a well known individual, in Newburgh, during his long life. He was also involved in the civic affairs of Newburgh. It is because of Eli that we know some of the Hasbrouck history of Washington’s Headquarters, Newburgh. His own home no longer exists. In fact, little is left of Eli’s life other than his obelisk  in the Old Town Cemetery.

Posted in City of Newburgh, Historic Sites, Hudson River, Museums, Orange County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eli Hasbrouck Part I

Eli Hasbrouck House-Liberty and Campbell _Newburgh Historical Society

When people visit Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, New York  they are also visiting a Hasbrouck house. This home and farm, from the 18th century to the mid -19th century, belonged to the Hasbrouck Family until New York State acquired it. The home would become the first historic site of it kind in 1850. Some of what we know about the Hasbrouck’s life there came by way of his grandson Eli Hasbrouck.

Eli was the great-grandson of one of the founders of New Paltz named Abraham Hasbrouck. He is known by local historians as “Abraham the Patentee,” a reference to the patent or land grant that he helped secure. Abraham the Patentee’s family had fled Europe because of religious persecution (they were Protestants in a largely Catholic country). Abraham’s first son was named Joseph. He married Elsie Schoonmaker in 1706.Shortly after the couple married they secured a large grant of land in Guilford which was just outside New Paltz. Hasbrouck and Schoonmaker had a large family of ten children, the last child was Jonathan Hasbrouck born in 1722.

Jonathan Hasbrouck’s mother Elsie purchased property in what is today Newburgh, New York in 1749. Jonathan would not only enlarge the stone home that was already on the property, but spent a lifetime acquiring property. By 1767, he was listed on tax records as one the wealthiest individuals in Newburgh. He married Tryntje DuBois in 1751, and the newlyweds moved to Newburgh. They had several children; Joseph, Mary, Rachel, Cornelius, Jonathan, Isaac and Abraham.

Isaac was born on September 23, 1761. It was Isaac who eventually took possession of the fieldstone home of his father. Roughly four years after his father’s death, in 1784, Isaac married Hannah Birdsall. The couple would have five children Jonathan III (1785), Sarah (1788), Israel (1789), Rachel (1793),  Eli (1796), and  Mary (1799).

Eli, according to the family bible, was born on March 17, 1796, in the family’s old stone house. When Eli was ten years old his father died. A year later his mother died. Still considered a minor, Francis Crawford was appointed Eli’s guardian. Historic Huguenot Street’s archives holds an itemized account between Jonathan Hasbrouck III, and Eli. It was countersigned by Crawford. This document involved the care of Eli Hasbrouck by his brother. Most likely Eli lived with his brother who also owned 3 slaves according the 1810 census.

Jonathan Hasbrouck III inherited the old stone house we know today as Washington’s Headquarters, State Historic Site. Eventually Eli would inherit lands near the old stone house.  He married Hannah Belknap on September 24, 1816. They were married by Rev. Johnston. The couple would have 9 children. However, shortly after their 9thchild was born, Hannah died on Monday, September 30, 1839.

Eli Hasbrouck WHQ SHS

In 1849, the State of New York took possession of the home built by Eli’s grandfather. This was because of a default on a loan by Jonathan Hasbrouck. His financial troubles forced him to relocate to New York City. The 1850 census lists him living with one of his sons.  After repeated attempts to save the home, it passed out of the family forever. Eli, seems to have escaped the financial problems that plagued Jonathan III. E.M Ruttenber later wrote that some of the house’s history was remembered by Eli.

Posted in City of Newburgh, Historic Sites, Hudson River, Museums, Orange County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tory William Caldwell

The name William Caldwell first caught my attention while researching the August 12, 1781, raid in Wawarsing. His name was mentioned again in Governor George Clinton’s public papers. It was also in connection to the August raid which, it was believed, was lead by Caldwell who was then a Captain.  During this raid he led other Tories and Native American allies along the frontier in Ulster County. His name was hated along the frontier.

William Caldwell was born around 1750 in Northern Ireland. Prior to the American Revolution, Caldwell came to England’s North American Colonies first settling in Pennsylvania. The same year of Lexington and Concord, Caldwell was offered an officer’s commission in the British Indian Department. Caldwell fought with Lord Dunmore’s forces, taking part in the storming of Norfolk, Va, early in 1776. According to Canadian Biography, Dunmore was defeated, and  Caldwell had to be evacuated by sea to New York. During the storming of Norfolk, Caldwell was wounded.

The United Empire Loyalists of Canada states, that Butler’s Rangers were formed, in 1777,  and he was commissioned a captain. Caldwell was stationed at Fort Niagara. The following year he participate in the Wyoming Valley Massacre in Pennsylvania. “In September 1778 he led an attack on German Flats (Herkimer) in the Mohawk Valley of central New York, where he destroyed all of the buildings and grain in the area.”

Caldwell became well known in Western Ulster County when he attacked Wawarsing on August 12, 1781.  A force of 300 Iroquois and, according to the Brigade of the American Revolution’s April 2006 newsletter, 90 of Butler’s Rangers raided Wawarsing. This raiding party from Fort Niagara was led, it is believed,  by Captain William Caldwell.

His partisan attacks lasted well into 1782, when he defeated Colonel Crawford at Upper Sandusky in Ohio. During this battle he was shot through both legs. The war came to an end for Caldwell with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. After the war he was granted lands in Upper Canada along with other Loyalists. Eventually he became a merchant in Amherstburg. He would once again serve England in the War of 1812. After the War of 1812, Caldwell continued his life as a merchant. He spent the rest of his life in Amerherstburg, where he died February 20, 1822.


Posted in Catskill Mountains, Education, Revolutionary War, Strange Stories, Ulster County, Wars | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Grange

Did you ever wonder when and why the organization for GRANGES was started and what drew so many people to join them?

The Grange was founded as an agricultural organization in 1873, at a time when agriculture was the primary occupation of rural citizens. Agriculture is still important to the Grange and its members know that the economic welfare of rural communities is still strongly influenced by the economic stability of agriculture.

Many people stop at the historical society’s headquarters (the old Plattekill Grange Hall) to reminisce about attending BBQs, dinners, plays, minstrels and dances at the Grange. It was family oriented and a popular gathering place. According to 1930s newspapers, the Plattekill Grange #923 had over 330 members!

There was also an active Junior Grange program that drew those ranging in age from 5 to 17, and many adults still remember the activities held. The Junior members, along with the adults, provided displays yearly at all the local county fairs – a number of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ribbons that were won are now on display at the PHPS headquarters.

The Plattekill Historical Preservation Society has invited and will welcome a speaker from the NYS Grange’s Capital District to give a talk and explore the beginning history of the Grange. The Grange’s original charter and a list of the original members will be on display, along with a number of their artifacts.

Admission is free and refreshments will be served!

For more information, call (845) 883-6118 or visit the Plattekill Historical Society page on Facebook!

at 127 Church Street, Plattekill, NY (just off Route 32)

Posted in Press Releases, Town of Plattekill, Ulster County | Leave a comment
  • Blog Author

    AJ Schenkman

    A.J. Schenkman is the author of numerous books and articles. He is Consulting Historian for Historic Huguenot Street and Town of Gardiner Historian. 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

    Debra Conway

    A former Features writer/Columnist for the Times Herald-Record and Director of Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History in Narrowsburg, Debra Conway is currently the Executive Director of The Delaware Company, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ... Read Full

    Matthew Colon

    Matthew Colon enjoyed nearly a decade in public history working and volunteering for organizations including Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site and the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands. Read Full

    Shannon Butler

    Shannon Butler is a Park Ranger of Interpretation and Education at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Hyde Park New York. She has also interpreted the Senate House State Historic Site in Kingston New York. Read Full
  • Categories

  • Archives