The Death of Colonel Hasbrouck

Possible Room where Jonathan Hasbrouck died on July 31, 1780-HABS/HAER

During my twenty years of research, two books, and many articles about Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck, there seems to finally be a renewed interest in his life. Sometimes while I am lecturing, individuals want to talk to find out more information about him. The most frequently asked questions are what he looked liked? Are there any surviving portraits?  How did he die? What better day to address this then on the 234th anniversary of his death.

What we know about Jonathan Hasbrouck’s physical characteristics and death come by way of his brother Abraham Hasbrouck who lived in Kingston, New York. Abraham for most of his life kept a diary of important events. Some of these events were related to the weather, family history, and deaths.  It would seem from reading the diary, of which there are many copies, that Abraham was present at the deaths of all his brothers and sisters. One of those was his youngest brother Jonathan.

Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck lived in the present day City of Newburgh with his wife Tryntje, as well as his surviving children; Isaac, Mary, Jonathan, Jr., Cornelius, and Rachel. His field stone home is still standing and later became Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh in 1782. Today it is a state historic site and is located on 84 Liberty Street in Newburgh. It is important to point out that Jonathan did not survive to see his home become a military headquarters for Washington.

In the summer of 1780, Jonathan was 58 years old. He was a successful merchant, slave owner, a former militia colonel, as well as owning extensive properties, and mills on Quassaick Creek . His mills were used by the army, and he made a lot of money because Newburgh had become a depot for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. His brother recorded that Jonathan was 6’4” “well shapen and proportioned of body, good features, full visage or face but brown of complexion, dark blue eyes, black hair, with a small curl.” He continued that his brother was strong and tended, when he was younger, to be “corpulent and fat,” but because of “many sicknesses or disorders” the last 30 years he was not so anymore. The most recent illness occurring in 1777.

Abraham is silent about these sicknesses other than in 1777, when he had “great issue flowing from his breast.” Some have speculated that exposure to the elements, while stationed at Fort Montgomery the year before, contributed to him developing pneumonia. It is evident from his correspondence with George Clinton, in the early summer of 1777, that he was in poor health. He concluded his letter with, “ I should see you myself , but as my state of health is at present I am entirely unable.” He eventually recovered until the summer of 1780.

When Jonathan actually became ill, in 1780, is open to conjecture because in various transcriptions of his brother’s diary the time period varies. The original diary is considered lost at this time. However, the version in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s collections(NYG&B) states that the illness lasted three weeks starting on a Sabbath. This would have placed the beginning of Jonathan’s illness on either July 9 or 16. The onset of the illness was a sudden stoppage of water (urine). He was in dreadful pain and Doctors Osburn(Osborne) and Bard were summoned to the Hasbrouck’s home which was considered quite out of town. The passage describing the procedure to gain some relief for Jonathan is omitted from the NYG&B transcription, but is included in Kenneth E. Hasbrouck’s which he copied from Joseph E. Hasbrouck.

The doctors did draw his water or urine from him with an instrument called “the catheter and repeated it several times or frequently during his illness.”   However, by July 29, even with the catheter, urine,”would not run from him.” Abraham reported that, “his urine or water was so thick of gravel and matter or corruption that it could not be drawn from him by said instrument.”  What he was diagnosed with was “the gravel and an ulcer in the neck of his bladder.” Although Jonathan suffered terribly his brother recorded that he “retained his sense or judgment until his last dying hour,” which came at 12:30 am on July 31, 1780.

After a short service Jonathan was buried on Tuesday, “upon the burying place on his own land, lying alongside two of his sons” (Abraham and Joseph died in 1772).  This burying ground was located between “his house and the North River.” During the early 19th century the Hasbrouck Burying Ground was moved.

According to, the late City of Newburgh Historian, A. Elwood Corning, the Hasbrouck burying ground was torn up during construction on Colden Street. Efforts were made to remove as many remains as possible. However, the remains of Jonathan and his wife Tryntje were never located. During road work, a skeleton was found and by some proclaimed as those of Jonathan Hasbrouck.

An article written in the Sunday Telegraph in 1899, reported that George W. Shaw remembered, as a boy, men working in the area of the Old Hasbrouck property where it was known the family burying ground had been located. The workmen found a full skeleton, which again it was believed to be the skeleton of Col. Hasbrouck. This is because the other family remains had been found in the same area and removed to the Old Town Cemetery. Charles H. Hasbrouck, a great-grandson of Colonel Hasbrouck’s stated, in the same paper, that neither Jonathan nor the remains of his wife were ever found creating doubt in his mind as to what name should be attached to the remains. These remains, which were never identified, were buried in St. George’s Cemetery under an old Sycamore Tree which was still standing as of six years ago when I last looked.

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