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.

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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.

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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.

Posted in Education, Town of Shawangunk, Ulster County | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

John B. Krom, Civil War Veteran

George H. Sharpe-Library of Congress

Captain John B. Krom rose early on the morning of April 7th, 1908. He exited the Hotel Belmont, in High Falls, which he had owned since the 1860s, making his way from the hotel he had once shared with his late wife Elizabeth, to the barn a short distance away. He had no way of knowing that it would be the last time he would take that walk.

Captain Krom entered the barn and slowly made his way over to the hay mow, which was the part of the barn where the hay was stored. As a few minutes stretched in to hours, people in the hotel he owned became alarmed when Krom failed to return. Charles Christiana, a local cooper, was sent to check on Krom. He found Krom collapsed on the floor of the hay mow. According to The Kingston Daily Freeman, Dr. Frank Johnston was summoned but it was too late – he pronounced Krom dead. The coroner Abram Kelder listed the cause of death as heart disease.

FW Beers Map of High Falls 1875-Ulster County Clerk's Archive

A day later, an announcement in the same paper set the funeral for April 8th at 2:30 at the Belmont. After the funeral, a procession made its way to the HighFalls cemetery where Krom was laid to rest next to his wife Elizabeth – she had died some two decades before him. Thus ended the interesting life of an individual who is now relatively unknown.

During Krom’s lifetime, his acquaintances knew that he was more than merely the proprietor of the Belmont. Before he purchased the hotel, Captain Krom, as he was known, was a respected local teacher and Civil War officer. At one point, he also worked in the thriving cement industry in High Falls.

Krom was born on August 20th, 1839. He was the son of William H. Krom and Hannah Burns. His parents felt it was important to educate their son. Krom attended school in High Falls and then went on to attend the Roxbury Academy located in Delaware County. The Kingston Daily Freeman pointed out that at the Academy, Krom shared a class with Betty Gould, the sister of the famous Robber Baron Jay Gould. Once he graduated, Krom took various jobs which included working with his father who was employed by Delafield and Baxter Cement in High Falls. He went on to work for a cement company, also in High Falls, called F.O. Norton. John B. Krom was also a teacher. He taught in the winters in Flatbush and New Paltz.

When Fort Sumter was attacked in 1861, it ushered in the Civil War. Krom rallied to the Union cause as he cautiously watched events unfolded in the nation. In 1862, the urge to save the Union was too great. Along with Captain Snyder, Krom raised a military company, Company C, for the 120th Regiment. Krom was commissioned a 1st lieutenant. In 1863, he became a captain.

Shortly after being mustered, Company C and the rest of the 120th Regiment were transported by steamer to the Park’s Barracks in Manhattan, which is today known as City Hall Park. They arrived early in the morning of August 26th, 1862. By the evening, the 120th left for Washington, D.C. where they drilled constantly before taking a more active role in the Civil War. Their first camp, called Arlington, was on the confiscated estate of General Robert E. Lee. Amongst other battles, Krom participated in the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg before being wounded in the Wilderness Campaign in May 1864. He was wounds significantly enough to be honorably discharged. Once he recovered from his wound, which was believed to have been to one of his hands His merits throughout the war resulted in him being made a brevetted major.

When he returned to Ulster County, Krom resumed teaching. This time he taught in Kerhonkson as well as working for the F.O. Norton Cement Company. Eventually Krom was elected school commissioner for the second school district in 1866, and remained in that position until 1869 when he bought the Hotel Belmont. During this time, according to the The Kingston Daily Freeman,in 1868, he married Elizabeth Lefevre who lived in New Paltz. Mr. and Mrs. John B. Krom would have seven children.

Krum Grave in High Falls Cemetery-A.J. Schenkman

According to a eulogy published in The Kingston Daily Freeman, Krom purchased the Belmont Hotel in 1869 and moved from his home, which was near the falls, to the hotel which was downtown in High Falls. A stage was available to pick up guests in Rosendale in order to bring them to the hotel. According to the Century House Historic Site, ”a stage left Rosendale daily, except Sunday, at 10 am, 12:30 and 3:30 pm; fare 25 cents.” It is interesting to point out that in later census material, Krom continued to list his occupation as a teacher, which he worked on in the winter months when business at the hotel was probably slower.

The Belmont was also the backdrop for veteran reunions of the 120th Regiment. These reunions went on late into the night complete with campfires, music, and remembrances. One raucous reunion occurred in the winter of 1888 and involved George H. Sharpe who was the commander of the 120th. The reunion might have been a needed distraction from the death of  Elizabeth a few years earlier. She died after an illness lasting about a week.  Krom was left with several small children. He eventually re-married.

All that remains of the Hotel Belmont which stood on the corner of Route 213 and Bruceville Road is a small barn. The Belmont Hotel  burned in 1960. The small barn remains as a silent memorial, as does the obelisk in the High Falls cemetery with the epitaph Krom wrote for his wife: “She made home happy.”


Posted in Civil War, Education, Town of Marbletown, Town of Wawarsing, Ulster County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family Heritage Day at the New York State Archives

The New York State Archives and the Archives Partnership Trust, along with the NYS Library, Museum and Office of Public Broadcasting, will present a full day of programs and activities for parents, children, families and all of those who have an interest in exploring their personal family heritage. This first time event will be held on Saturday, October 11, 2014, at the NYS Archives Library and Museum, 222 Madison Ave, Albany, NY. Family Heritage Day is free and open to the public.

Sessions include: Preserving Your Treasures; Genealogy 101; See, touch, and then smell American HeritageTM Chocolate; Research the History of Your Home, Genealogy for African-American families, Family Recipe Scan and Share and much more!

Visit for a full schedule and to register for sessions with limited space.

Posted in Education, Museums | Leave a comment

Author Russell Shorto to Appear

Best-selling Author Russell Shorto will appear at Marist College in Poughkeepsie on Thursday, October 9, and at Historic Huguenot Street on Friday, October 10. Shorto is a senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute in Albany, NY and a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. He has also written for The New Republic, The Nation, GQ, The New York Times Book Review, and The New York Times Op-Ed Page. He is the former director of the John Adams Institute, an independent American culture center in Amsterdam. He has written extensively on Europe, history, politics, and the religious right in the U.S. His latest book is Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City.

Marist College: 7 p.m., Nelly Goletti Theatre. Free and open to public. For more information, contact Marist College Public Affairs at
845-575-3314 or

Historic Huguenot Street: Reception at 6p.m., lecture at 7 p.m., followed by a book signing. 81 Huguenot Street, New Paltz, NY 12561. For tickets, visit $30/$25 – members ($20/$15 Lecture only)

Posted in Education | Leave a comment
  • Blog Author

    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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