James H. (James Hadden) Smith.

History of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

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Online LibraryJames H. (James Hadden) SmithHistory of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 15 of 125)
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tants," was provisionally annexed to Ulster county,
where its freeholders were entitled to vote, as
though they resided there. It retained that con-
nection till October 23, 1 7 13, when having increased
in population, it was deemed " necessary that they
should have county officers of their own," and by
an act of the assembly "Dutchy County" was em-
powered to elect a supervisor, treasurer, assessors
and collectors.!

In 17 19, the county was divided into three
wards designated Northern, Middle and Southern,
each entitled to a supervisor. The North Ward ex-
tended from Roelaff Jansen's Kill south to Cline
Sopas Island, (Little Esopus Island,) the Middle
Ward, thence to Wappinger Creek, and the
South Ward, thence below the Highlands to the
south border of the county. Each extended from
the Hudson to the Connecticut line, the present
west line of the Oblong, across which they were
extended December 17, 1743. December 16,
1737, the county was divided into seven precincts —
designated Beekman, Charlotte, Crom Elbow,
North, Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck and South East
town — with municipal jurisdiction similar to that
of towns. The wages of each Supervisor was
limited to three shillings per day. Some of these
names are lost in the subsequent divisions which
took place. From these seven precincts others
were subsequently formed : North East, Dec. 1 6,

* These original counties were: Albany, Cornwall, (now in Maine,)
Dukes, (now in Massachusetts,) Duchess, Kings, New York, Orange,
Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester.

t The records of the county previous to 171S, if any were kept, are
either lost or destroyed. The first recorded election of Supervisors was
held at "Pocopsang,." April 5, lyzo, and Johannes Ter Boss, of the
South Ward, Heniy Van Der Burgh, of the Middle Ward, and WiUiam
Traphagen, of the North Ward, were chosen. The first meeting of these
supervisors was held January 20, 1721, at which time county allowances
were made to the amount of £^0. 4s. 7d. The bills of Trynte Van Kleek,
wido^v, for victualing the assessors and supervisors, amounting to nine
shillings, and of Jacobus Van Der Bogart, for horse fodder furnished the
assessors, amounting to three shillings, were allowed.

1746; Pawlings, Dec. 31, 1768; Amenia, March
20, 1762 ; and Frederickstown, March 24, 1772.
Rombout and Fishkill Precincts are also men-
tioned in records of the colonial period. Beek-
man was reduced by the formation of Pawhngs.
Charlotte and Rhinebeck, — the latter of which
included the lands purchased of the widow
Paulding and her children by Dr. Samuel Statts,
all the land granted to Adrian, Roosa, and Cotbe,
the land. patented to Col. Henry Beekman June 5,
1703, and the Magdalen Island Purchase granted
to Col. Peter Schuyler, and derived its name from
the first settlers, who were from the Rhine, and the
original proprietor, Colonel Beekman — formed the
original town of Clinton. Amenia included
portions of Amenia and North East, and the
whole of Washington, Pleasant Valley, Stanford,
Clinton and Hyde Park; North East, named
from its geographical position in the county, em-
braced the Little or Upper Nine Partners'
Tract. Poughkeepsie corresponded with the
present town of -that name. March 7, 1788, the
county (except Clinton, which was formed March
13, 1786,) was divided into eight towns,* viz:
Amenia, Beekman, (from which a part of Freedom —
now LaGrange — ^was taken in 1821, and a part of
Union Vale, in 1827,) Fishkill, (from which a part
of Freedom was taken in 1821, East Fishkill, in
1849, and Wappinger,in 1875,) North East, (from
which Milan was taken in 1818, and Pine Plains,
in 1823.) Pawling, (from which Dover was taken
in 1807,) Poughkeepsie, (from which the city of
Poughkeepsie was taken in 1854,) Rhinebeck,
(from which Red Hook was taken in 181 2,) and
Washington, (from which Stanford was taken in
1793-) Two other towns were subsequently
formed from CUnton in 182T, Hyde Park and
Pleasant Valley, making the present number of
towns, twenty.

The county lies upon the east bank of the Hud-
son, extending thence east to the Connecticut line,
and is about midway between New York and Al-
bany, being centrally distant from the latter about
seventy-five miles, and from the former about sev-
enty miles. It is bounded on the north by Colum-
bia County, and on the south by Putnam. It is
geographically situated between 41° 25' and 42°

* Frederickstown, (now Kent, ) which like the precinct of that name,
derived its name from Frederidt Philipse, and its present name, to which
it was changed April 15, 1817, from the Kent family, who were e^j:ly set-
tlers ; Philipstown, from which a part of Fishkill was taken in 1806, and
which, Kke Philips Precinct, formed March 24, 1771, derived its name
from Adolph Philipse, the patentee of Philipse Manor ; and South East,
in Putnam county, but then in Duchess, were formed as towns March 7,



4' north latitude, and 3° 5' and 3° 33' east longitude
from Washington.* Its area is 486,254 acres.f its
greatest length nortli and south, thirty-eight miles,
and breadth, east and west, twenty-six miles.

The following table shows the number of acres
of improved land in each town in 1820 and 1875;
the total number of acres in each town, and the
total equalized valuation of real and personal prop-
erty in 1880; and the population in 1820 and


Improved Land, Population.




"875. §












1 7. '45




52, 321











* '.255.557


East Fishkill


Hyde Park ,

La Grange..













North East


Pine Plains
Pleasant VaUey....
Po'keepsie, Town .
do City..


Rhinebeck ...


Union Vale.
Wappinger .

Total 342,811






W Stafford's Gazetteer., 1824, 149.

§ Census Reports,

'i Proceeding's 0/ the Board of Supervisors of Duchess County, 1880,

** Included in Fishkill.

+t Included in North East.

it Included iu Beekman and La Grange.

|§ Included in Fishkill.

The surface of the county is diversified, and
produces a variety of soil and scenery. It is gen-
erally hilly ; but mountainous in the east and south.
It may be divided into two great valleys : that on
the east bounded by the Taconic and Mattea-
wan or Fishkill mountains, the former of which,
occupying the east border of the county, rise from
300 to 500 feet above the valleys, and i,ooo to
1,200 feet above tide, and the latter, extending in
a broad range, north and south, through the cen-
tral part of the county, with a spur extending west
along the south border to the river, have an average
elevation of i,ooo above tide, while the highest
peaks, along the south border, attain an altitude of
1,500 to 1,700 feet ;t that on the west spreads

* The meridian of Washington corresponds with the seventy-seventh
west of Greenwich.

t Report of the Committee on Equalization of the Board 0/ Super-
visors, 1880 The Census of 1 87s says it contains 472, 1 3 5 acres ; Frenches
and Hough's Gazetteers of New York, 518,400, (810 square miles ;)
Burr's Atlas 4^<},joo ; Spafford's Gazetteer of iSz^ 464,000, (725 square

t Old Beacon, two miles east of Matteawan village, is 1,471 feet above
tide : and New Beacon or Grand Sachem, a half mile south of the same
place, is 1,685 feet above tide. These eminences derive their names from
beacons placed on their summits during the Revolution. Their illumined
crests were visible for a long distance up and down the valley, and were
a pharos to give warning to the patriotic. " From the top of the latter,"
says BarhN,{Historical Collections of the State of New York,^ "the view
on the south embraces the country upon the Hudson for 25 miles, to Tap-
pan Bay ; on the south-east includes Long Island and the Sound ; and
upon the north-east and west comprehends, in the diameter of a circle
fifty miles in extent, scenery of every diversity, blending the beauties of cul-
tivation with the stern and unchangeable features of nature."

between the Fishkill Mountains and the high bank
of the Hudson. The decUvities of the Taconic
Mountains, and those on the south border, are
generally steep, and in some places rocky ; but to-
wards the north, the latter decline more gradually,
and the country assumes a rolling character, broken
by rounded hills. West of the Fishkills, and be-
tween the streams, are rolling ridges, whose line of
bearing, from south-west to north-east, corresponds
with that of the mountains. They terminate upon
the river in a series of bluffs from loo to i8o feet
in height. Some of these are broken by deep
ravines, and become isolated hills. The mountains
upon the south border form the northern extrem-
ities of the Highlands, in whose "awful defiles,"
says Irving, in his authentic history of New York,
by Diedrich Knickerbocker, "it would seem that
the gigantic Titans had erst waged their impious
war with heaven, piling up cliffs on cliffs, and hurl-
ing vast masses of rock in wild confusion ;" and
through whose "stupendous ruins," "at length the
conquering Hudson, in his irresistible career towards
the ocean," having burst the formidable barrier,
rolls " his tide triumphantly." A break in these
mountains, in the east part, opening toward the
south, and known as the Wiccopee Pass, was care-
fully guarded during the Revolution, to prevent the
British from capturing the American stores at
Fishkill and turning the works at West Point. A
considerable American force was stationed at the
upper extremity of the pqss during the campaign
of 1777.

The principal streams besides the Hudson, which
form the west boundary, are the Fishkill, Fallkill,
Sawkill, and Wappinger, Crom Elbow and Landi-
mons Creeks, tributaries of the Hudson, all flowing
into it in a south-westerly direction, Sprout Creek,
a considerable branch of the Fishkill, Ten Mile
River, a tributary of the Housatonic, Swamp River,
a tributary of the latter, Roelaff Jansen's Kill, flow-
ing through a portion of the extreme north part of
the county, and Croton River. There are innum-
erable small streams tributary to these, which rise
in springs upon the mountain slopes ; and among
the highlands in the central and eastern portions
are numerous beautiful little lakes, noted for the
purity of their waters and the beauty of the scen-
ery immediately about them.

Hudson River is the most important and the
most picturesque of the interior water courses of
the State. Its basin occupies about two-thirds of
the east border of the State, and a large territory
extending into the interior. It rises from springs



and lakelets on Mt. Marcy, a peak of the Adiron-
dacks, towering to the height of 5,467 feet above
tide, the highest land in the State, and is fed by
numerous branches which cover the whole moun-
tain chain of the Adirondacks. It descends rapidly
through narrow defiles into Warren county, where
it receives from the east the outlet of SchroonLake,
and from the west the Sacondaga River. Below the
mouth of the latter it turns eastward, and in a
series of rapids and falls breaks through the barrier
of the Luzerne Mountains. At Fort Edward it again
flows south, with rapid current, frequently inter-
rupted by falls, to Troy, 160 miles from the occean,
where it becomes an estuary, its current being
affected by the tide; and from thence to its mouth
it is a broad, deep, sluggish stream. Above Troy
it receives the Hoosick from the east and the
Mohawk from the west ; the former rising in west-
ern Massachusetts and Vermont, and the latter in
the north-east part of Oneida county. Below Troy
its tributaries are comparatively small. About
sixty miles from its mouth it breaks through the
rocky barrier of the Highlands, the most easterly
of the Appalachian mountain ranges ; and along
its lower course is bordered on the west by a nearly
perpendicular wall of basaltic rock 300 to 500 feet
high, known as "The Palisades." South of the
Highlands it spreads out into a wide expanse
known as " Tappan Bay." In its whole course it
is 300 miles in length. At its mouth the Hudson
is navigated by the largest ships ; it opens a sloop
navigation to Waterford, from which place it is
connected by Champlain Canal with Lake Cham-
plain at Whitehall. At present it is navigable for
ships to Hudson and Athens, and for sloops and
steamers to Troy. Boats formerly ascended to
Fort Edward, with portages around the rapids. At
Poughkeepsie, from the high point above the ferry
dock to the landing opposite near the ferry dock,
the river is 2,420 feet wide. The depth of water
in the midle is forty-nine feet; and the average
depth on either side, 51 feet. The mean rise and
fall of tides at Poughkeepsie is 3.24 feet; at Tivoli,
3.95 feet. The mean rise and fall of spring tides
at those places is 4 and 4.8 feet respectively; and
of neap tides, 2.4 and 3 feet.

The Fishkill is a name compounded of the En-
glish word Fish and the Dutch word .S"///, (meaning
creek,) and, like the mountains in which it rises
was called by the aborigines Matteawan, a name
whose euphony has not been improved by the
change. The name signified, says Spafford, "the
country of good fur." The stream was called by

the early Dutch settlers Vis-Kill. It rises by two
main branches in the town of Union Vale. The
easterly branch is known as Gardiner Hollow
brook; the westerly and most northerly one, as
Clove Stream; they unite near the center of the
town of Beekman, and thence the main stream
flows in a south-westerly direction through the cen-
tral parts of East Fishkill and Fishkill, and empties
into the Hudson near the south border of the latter
town. It presents numerous cascades, and fur-
nishes a valuable hydraulic power. It receives in
its course many small streams, the principal of
which is Sprout-creek, which rises in the south-
west part of Washington and north-west part of
Union Vale, and flows in a south-westerly direc-
tion through La Grange, forming the boundary
between East Fishkill and Wappinger, to near the
center of the west border of the former town, where
it unites with the Fishkill. The latter stream, (the
Fishkill) is rapid in the upper and lower parts of
its course, but sluggish through the Fishkill plains.
From Fishkill village to its mouth, the fall is 187
feet in a distance of five miles, affording ten val-
uable mill sites. It propels several manufacturing
establishments in Beekman, and the extensive fac-
tories of Matteawan and Glenham.

Wappinger Creek, the largest in the county,
derives its name from the Wappinger or Wap-
pingi tribe of Indians, who dwelt at its falls near the
Hudson, and called it Maevenawasigh, "a large
good stream and cascade." On Sauthier's map it
is called the " Great Wappingers Creek." It rises
in Stissing Pond, in the town of Pine Plains, and
traverses the county from north-east to south-west,
for a distance of about thirty-five miles, passing
diagonally through Stanford, across the south-east
corner of Clinton, diagonally through Pleasant Val-
ley, and from thence forms the bouridary between
the towns of Poughkeepsie, LaGrange and Wap-
pinger. It unites with the Hudson at New Ham-
burgh, nine miles below the city of Poughkeepsie.
It receives many streams on either hand, and sup-
pHes many valuable mill seats. It is everywhere
a highly picturesque stream.

Ten Mile River rises by several branches in the
east part of the county and in the town of Sharon,
Connecticut. It flows south through Amenia and
Dover, and in the south part of the latter town
deflects east into Connecticut, emptying into the
Housatonic. Its tributaries from the north, ,Was-
saic and Deep Hollow Brooks, do not much ex-
ceed five miles in length ; and Swamp River from
the south, rising from a morass in Pawling, (which



is also the source of Croton River, which supplies
the city of New York with water,) may have a
course of about eight miles.

Cro7n Elbow Creek, a name compounded of the
Dutch Crom (crooked) and the English Elbow,
and given also by the Dutch to a sudden bend in
the river a little above the mouth of this creek,
where it is contracted to a narrow channel between
rocky bluffs, is a very crooked stream, some eight
or ten miles in length, rising among the hills at the
intersection of the towns of Milan, Clinton and
Rhinebeck, and flows in a south-westerly direction
to Union Comers, near the central part of the
town of Hyde Park, where it turns at nearly right
angles to the west, uniting with the Hudson near
the village of Hyde Park. In its upper course it
forms the south half of the east boundary of the
town of Rhinebeck, and the north half of the west
boundary of Clinton. It is a placid brook for the
greater part of its course, but has much fall in its
passage through the high bank of . the Hudson,
where it supplies some mill seats. On Sau-
thier's map and in some old deeds this creek is
called Fishkill, a name, indeed, which has been
applied to a vast number of streams in this

The Fallkill, sweetly called by the Indians the
Winnakee, signifying " leap-stream" is a small, but
was once a valuable mill-stream. It rises in the
town of Clinton, and for the first six miles flows
rapidly over a rock or gravel bed, between high and
rocky hills. Below this point to the city line, it
moves for the greater part of the way sluggishly
along its crooked channel through muck, swamp
and low meadow land. Here it receives its load
of decomposing vegetable matter, which, together
with animal matter, the surface drainage from the
streets, and the refuse from tan-pits and slaughter-
houses within the city limits, deposited upon the
bottoms and banks of the several mill ponds within
the city, proved so deleterious to the health of the
citizens of Poughkeepsie, that it necessitated the re-
moval of most of the dams and the straightening
of the channel through the city. It is a " quick
stream," speedily affected by rains, the soil which
covers its rocky hills being shallow and not reten-
tive of water ; for the same reason it rapidly
resumes its natural flow. It reaches the river by
a series of cascades in the north part of the city,
emptying into what was once a sheltered cove,
which the aborigines called Apokeepsing, or "safe
harbor" from which the beautiful rural city upon
its borders derives its name. Several of the smaller

streams, with which the county abounds, furnish
excellent mill sites.

The streams and lakes within the county were
abundantly stored with choice fish during the early
years of settlement ; but the contamination of their
waters by the refuse from factories and other
causes depleted them. Measures have been taken
to restock them. About 1822, pickerel were in-
troduced into Thompson's Pond, a beautiful sheet
of water lying in the eastern part of the town of
Stanford, by James Dudley and one or two others
whose names are not remembered. They were
taken from one of the numerous lakes in Western
Connecticut, carried across the country in wash-
tubs, and safely deposited. They lived and mul-
tiplied abundantly. Mr. Dudley was one of the
most skillful anglers for trout in all that region of
country. He carried on blacksmithing in connec-
tion with a small farm near "the old separate meet-
ing-house," which, in early times, was widely known
as " the yellow-meeting-house," and was a guide
point in all that part of the country. But, like
many other old landmarks, it has gone, and little
remains to mark the spot where it stood so long,
except "God's acre" adjoining it, where rest the
remains of many of the early settlers of that fruit-
ful and beautiful valley.

About the same time pickerel were transplanted
from New Milford, Connecticut, to Silver Lake, on
the borders of the towns of East Fishkill and Beek-
man. They were transported in large casks across
the country, a distance of full twenty miles.

In December, 1877, the Supervisors appointed
a committee, consisting of J. S. VanCleef, P. A. M.
VanWyck, Albert Emons, James H. Weeks, David
Warner and Peter H. Christie, to stock the waters
of the county and to enforce the laws relative to
the taking offish. In 1878, the committee reported
that, " as far as your committee are informed, the
waters of this county suitable for salmon trout
have been suflSciently stocked. During the last
few years there have been distributed of this fish
through public and private efibrt not less than 150,-
000, a large proportion of which seem to have per-
ished, either because the water was not adapted to
them, or because they were devoured by their nat-
ural enemy, the black bass ; and it is respectfully
suggested that the efforts at stocking our streams
for the coming year be confined mainly to brook
trout and land-locked salmon."

The climate of Duchess County is agreeable and
healthful, though, from the elevations of some por-
tions of it, it is colder than some of the adjacent



counties.* The relative temperature of different
sections of the State, while it depends chiefly on
latitude and elevation, is modified in some degree
by a variety of other circumstances, such as the
situation in regard to the sea, or other large bodies
of water, both as it respects proximity and direc-
tion; the configuration of the surface, whether level
or hilly, and the position and shape of the hills, the
nature of the soil, and the extent of cultivation in
the surrounding country.!

The difference of vegetation between the eastern
and western parts of the State is from ten to fifteen
days in favor of the latter. The harvests are gath-
ered earlier, and vegetation continues longer. The
peach tree, in the same parallels along thfe Hudson,
is sickly, and in the Mohawk country rarely bears
fruit. In the eastern part of this county vegetation
is from eight to ten days later than along the Hud-
son. Between Sandy Hill and the Matteawan
Mountains the harvest is earlier by a week than
on the Mohawk between the east limits of Mont-
gomery County and the west limits of Herkimer
County. South of Matteawan Mountains, ap-
proaching the sea coast, the climate is milder and
vegetation earlier, and of longer continuance than
in the north and west. J

In the Hudson Valley, the extreme summer heat
is greater by several degrees than in any other sec-
tion of the State. There is no other place in the
State where the thermometer has risen so high on
an average each year as at Montgomery, Pough-
keepsie and Lansingburgh. This must be under-
stood as applying only to the hottest days in' each
year, and not to the average of the seasons. As
we ascend the Hudson, the opening of spring grad-
ually becomes later, the difference between the
vicinity of New York and Albany being about a
week.§ It is also characterized by the opposite
extreme. In 1835, a year of great severity of cold,
the thermometer at Poughkeepsie reached —35°
on the ^th of January. At New Lebanon, Colum-
bia County, the mercury froze the same day, a
condition requiring a reduction to — 40^". ||

Observations made during a period of eleven
years at Poughkeepsie, which is in latitude 41° 41',
and at the level of tide water, showed a tempera-
ture of 50.7 4°, while the temperature due to latitude

* Geographical History-of New York, Mather and Brockett, 187.

t Letter of James H. Coffin, a tutor in Williams College, dated Sept.
4, 184J, and published in Natural History of New York, Pari K, Ag-
riculture, 12.

t Gordon's Gazetteer of the State of New York, 64.

Online LibraryJames H. (James Hadden) SmithHistory of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 15 of 125)