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

. (page 103 of 125)
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 103 of 125)
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in a given number of years, — usually three, — it is
probable that active measures to induce settlements
were instituted soon after the issuance of the

The unfavorable opinion early entertained of
the lands in this vicinity, which certain Dutch
burghers from Ulster county reported were not
worth crossing the river for, doubtless had the
effect to retard settlement; for as late as 17 10,
says Mr. Brinckerhoff, the number of famiUes on the
patent did not exceed a dozen. That portion of

* See pages 49 and Jo.

the patent which fell to the lot of Rombout's
daughter was settled at an earlier period than that
which fell to the Verplancks, for the minor heirs
interested in the latter were an additional obstacle
to the settlement of those lands ; hence for many
years, it is probable, there were few if any others
than those located on the former. The exceptions
specified in a mortgage deed given by Roger Brett
and Catharine his wife, to Robert Watts and Rob-
ert Surting, executors of Gylob Shelly, June 3,
1713, afford some indication of the sparseness of
the settlements at that time. That deed covered
all the land secured to thein by the division refer-
red to, " excepting and reserving always out of said
premises, one tenement, grist-mill and water course
thereunto belonging, together with three hundred
acres of land adjoining the said mill, now or late in
possession of said Roger Brett, or his assigns, and
also, one hundred and fifty acres now or late in
possession of John Terboss ; one hundred acres of
such land, now or of late in possession of John
Buys ; one hundred acres of said land now or late
in possession of Casper Prime ; eighty acres of said
land, now or late in possession of Peter De Boys;
sixty acres of said land, now or late in possession
of Yowreb Springstead. Also, five thousand acres
lying and being in any part of the hereby reserved
premises.'' Inasmuch as these are the only persons
named in that instrument it is fair to presume that
few if any others were located on the lands covered
by it.

Francis Rombout, from whom the first titles to
lands in Fishkill were derived by the settlers, was
a native of Holland and was sent as an apprentice
to New Amsterdam (New York) by the Dutch
East India Company. At the expiration of his
apprenticeship he engaged in business in that city
with Gulian Verplanck, forming a co-partnership
which lasted several years. He was for several
years alderman of New York and mayor of that
city in 1679. In September, 1683, he married
the widow Helena VanBall, (nee Teller,) whose
first husband was named Bogardus. The only
fruit of this marriage was one daughter — Kathar-
ina (Catharina) who was born in New York, and
at the age of sixteen married Roger Brett, an
Englishman, and a merchant of that city. A few
years later she and her husband took up their
residence in Fishkill, on the lands which, after the
death of her father, in 169 1, became her heritage.

The precise year of their settlement here is not
known ; but Jan. 10, 1709, they gave a joint bond
(they had previously partitioned the tract between



themselves so as to hold it in severalty) to Capt.
Gylob Shelly, of New York City, to secure the
payment of £z99^ ^s., with which, it is believed,
they built a dwelling house and grist-mill the fol-
lowing year. That house is still standing in Mat-
teawan, opposite the Dibble House, and is known
as the Teller mansion from having been for many
years the residence of Hon. Isaac Teller and his
sisters. It is a long, low, one-story building,
eighty-seven by thirty-six feet, its sides and roof
having originally been covered with cedar shingles.
An extension roof and wing have been added to
it; otherwise it remains the same. During the
Revolution when it was owned by a wealthy gen-
tleman named de Peyster, who succeeded Madam
Brett in its occupancy at her death in 17^64, it was
often filled with officers and soldiers, and salt was
stored in its cellar for the army. It is now owned
and occupied by Mrs. Margaret VanKleeck, widow
of Rev. Robert B. VanKleeck, a well known Epis-
copal clergyman in this vicinity, who died in 1880.
Mrs VanKleeck is the only representative left of
her father's family.

The grist mill was located at the mouth of the
Fishkill, on its north bank. Its site is now marked
by the ruins of the Newlin mill, which was
destroyed by fire Sept. 9, 1862. It was the first
institution of its kind in the town or county, and
exerted an immense and beneficial influence on
the settlements in this locality. It was a promi-
nent point in geographical descriptions at an early
day, for it was the center from which diverged
roads in various directions. It ministered to the
necessities of a wide section of country and
vastly meliorated the harsh conditions of pioneer

Orange county long paid tribute to Madam Brett's
mill, as it was familiarly called. As tending to
establish the date of its erection, approximately
at least, we may state that April 6, 1711, Roger
Brett and his wife, then of New York City, condi-
tionally conveyed to Thomas George of that city,
in consideration of ^^'zso, three hundred acres of
land with its appurtenances, including the "tene-
ment" and grist mill. This indenture was not
recorded in the clerk's office in Poughkeepsie until
May 17, r867.

The name of Verplanck is one of great import-
ance in the annals of this State, and the old Ver-
planck mansion is one of great historic interest to
this town. Philip Verplanck, who was a son of
Jacobus Verplanck and a grandson of Gulian, was
a native of the patent, but his public life graced

other fields. He was an engineer and surveyor,
and a man of great ability and attainments. Ver-
planck's Point, in Westchester county, (opposite
Stony Point,) on which Fort La Fayette was erected
during the Revolution, was named after him. He
represented the Manor of Cortlandt in the Colonial
Assembly from 1734 to 1768. Wra. B. Verplanck
was a Member of Assembly from this County from
1796 to 1798. Daniel C. Verplanck, who was
likewise a native of Fishkill, was a Representative
in Congress from this County from 1803 to 1809,
and was appointed Judge of this County March 11,
1828. He was a man of much liberality and
amiabihty of character. He was the father of
Gulian C. Verplanck, who was born in Fishkill
August 6, 1786, and, though most of his life was
spent in New York City, is justly deserving of a
prominent place among the representative men of
this town. He represented New York in the As-
sembly from 1820 to 1823; in Congress from 1825
to 1833; and in the State Senate from 1838 to

The Verplanck homestead, situated on a blufi"
overlooking the Hudson, about one and one-fourth
miles above Fishkill Landing, is rich in historic as-
sociations, and is one of the few old houses re-
maining in the town. It was built a little before
1740, with the exception of an addition to the north
end, which is of more modern construction. It is
built of stone, and is still in an excellent state of
preservation. The roof, which is long and steep,
descends to the first story, and is supplied with
dormer windows. A winding carriage road leads
to it from the highway through a broad and undu-
lating lawn, shaded by venerable trees. It was oc-
cupied until recently by the widow of Samuel Ver-
planck, brother of Gulian C. Verplanck. It is
made famous by having been for a time the head-
quarters of Baron Steuben during the Revolution,
and still more so by the fact that under its roof was
organized, in 1783, th^ Society of the Cincinnati,
of which Washington was the first president, an
office he retained till his death. The meeting
for that purpose was held in the large square room
on the north side of the passage, which is carefully
preserved in its original style; and there, too, a
committee consisting of Generals Knox, Hand,
Huntington, and Captain Shaw, formulated and
adopted its constitution.

One of the principal tracts of land deeded by
the Verplanck's, and, indeed, one which comprised
the major portion of their lands in this town north
of the Fishkill, was that purchased by Johannes



Coerten VanVoorhees* of Philip Verplanck, of the
Manor of Cortlandf, which was deeded June 20,
1730. It lies north of and adjoining the lands of
Madam Brett, and projects across the north line
of the town into the town of Wappinger.

For many years the progress of settlement was
very slow ; and not until about 1720 was there a

there were only 195 taxable inhabitants in the
County, forty-seven of whom were in the South
Ward. Among them were the Mousiers, Lassinks,
Lownsberrys, Schoutens, Walderns and Dinges. In
that year, says Mr. Brinckerhoflf, Jacobus Swart-
wout was elected Supervisor; Peter Dubois and
Thomas TerBoos, Assessors ; John De Larger and


blacksmith within the limits of the County, says
Mr. Bailey. The nearest blacksmith to the Fish-
kill settlers was at Wiltwyck, (Kingston.) In 1723

* "This name has been variously written VanVoorhes, VanVoorhees,
and Van Voorhis, the latter being the form now in use. It is derived by
the addition of the former residence of his ancestors to the family name —
a practice which was common to the early Dutch settlers of this country
—"voor "meaning '■ before," or "in front of," while the terminal
portion of the name has reference to the village of Hees or Hies near the
town of Kuinen, in the province of Drenthe, in the Netherlands, from
whence the family came to this country. For a detailed account of the
Van Voorhis family see close of this chapter.

Jacob Terboos, Overseers of the King's Highway ;
John Buys and Garret Van Vliet, Overseers of
Fences. In 1730 the number of taxable inhabit-
ants had increased to 71. Jacobus De Peyster
was then the Supervisor ; Johannes Ter Boss and
Jacobus Swart wout. Assessors ; John Brinckerhoff
Clerk; Francis Drake, Surveyor of the King's
Highway, through the Highlands ; John Schouten,
Surveyor along the road from Wappingers to



Madam Brett's mill; and Cornelius Bogardus,
Surveyor of Madam Brett's bridge. The period
of 1740 was one of much progress and improve-
ment. The population increased more rapidly
than at any prior time. The names of the follow-
ing freeholders attached to a petition Aug. i, i739>
to have "the highway that used to run from Wec-
opee along the south side of the Fishkill * * *
altered and turned over said Fishkill at east end of
Judge Ter Bushes' land, in the County road lead-
ing along the north side of the Fishkill," are worthy
of preservation, as indicating many of the settlers
of that period. They are as follows :—


John X Schouten,


Johannis Wiltsie,


Jacobus Swartwout,
Symon Schouten,


Johanes X Sorin,


Garret Nooststraud,
Phillip Smith,
Henerick Rosecrans,
Samuel Hallsted,
John Montross,

Francis Brett,

Hasten Schenck,
Jacob Brinckerhoff,


Wm. X Leston,

mark. '

Johanis Brevort,
Wikham Brorwin,
Benj. Roe,
Willem Suchat,
Nathaniel Yeuming,


Johanis X Young,


Henry Monfort,
John Flenwilling,
Johannis Roosenkraus,
Dirck Hegeman,
Isaac Lossing,
John Mills,
Tunis Schouten,
Marc Ostrander.

We need not reiterate the events succeeding the
occupation of New York by the British in 1776,
which brought to Fishkill a large number of refu-
gees from that city, and made it for a time the seat
of the fugitive Legislature, an important depot of
military supplies, necessitating its defense by troops
arid fortifications for their protection, and to pre-
vent a flank movement by the British through the
Highland passes on the stronghold at West Point,
and which made it a veritable hospital and burial
place for the hundreds of patriot soldiers who lan-
guished and died here from wounds and disease.*

• Sec chapter XIV, pages 119 — 141.

Jarry X Schouten,


Peter Monfoort,
William Drake,
Theod. Van Wyck,
Stephen Ladoae,
Jon. Van Vleekeren,

- his

Johannis X Middowe,


Geo. Brinckerhoff,
Robert Brett,

Chamas Hauve,

Aendris Schenten,
W. Ver Planck,
Hendereck Van Tossell,
Tho. Stillwill,
Henry Wright,


Peter X Ostrander,


Joshaway Griffen,
Cornelius Hegeman,
Joseph Houson,
Isaih Dalsen,
Jacob De Beysteur,
CorneUus Wiltsie,
Benj. Hoybrook,

Here, too, was the retreat for naked soldiers, to
which they were sent when their clothing, patched
until nearly every substance of originality was lost,
was no longer fit for duty; rather when it ceased
to provide a decent covering. How little can we
imagine the sufferings and privations of those he-
roic men, who, wrote Washington, eat at one time
every kind of horse-food but hay. The Marquis
De Chasteilux bears testimony to the fact that the
number occupying this encampment in the woods
were counted by hundreds, and that they "were
not covered even with rags." He also testifies to
their courage and patience.

The barracks and "huts" occupied by the sol-
diers stationed here were located on the level
plateau south-east of Fishkill village, between the
residence of Isaac E. Cotheal and the mountains.
The former were given to the inhabitants at the
close of the war, and were taken down and the
material used in the construction of dweUings.
The soldiers committed many depredations in the
neighborhood says Mr. Bailey. " They robbed hen
roosts for miles from their barracks, and every fence
rail along the highway from Fishkill to Brincker-
hoffville they took for fuel. They strippedjthe siding
off the old Presbyterian church as high as they
could reach, to boil their camp kettles." The offi-
cers' quarters were at the " Wharton House," made
memorable by its association with the hero of
Cooper's story of the Spy, and now the residence
of Sidney E. Van Wyck. Washington also quar-
tered here, likewise at the house of Mathew V. B.
Brinckerhoff. It stands in the angle formed by the
old post road and the new road to Fishkill Hook,
and care has been taken to preserve as nearly as
may be its original appearance. It is one of the
few buildings in the town which ante-date the Rev-
olution and has been owned by the Van Wyck fam-
ily every since its erection. On the opposite side
of the road, a little to the south, and near the foot
of the mountains, is the soldiers' burying ground,
neglected and almost unknown, where moulder the
remains of hundreds of patriots, whose devotion
and blood secured for us the inestimable boon of
liberty. Near it, along the old post-road, is a row
of venerable black walnut trees, nearly two feet in
diameter, in which, it is said,'"" are iron rings, now
buried by successive annual growths, to which re-
cusant soldiers were tied while undergoing punish-

There are various documents extant having ref-
erence to the mihtary stores located here, but they
are of too fugitive a character to possess miich his-



toric interest, except as corroboratory evidence, if
that were needed, and do not warrant the devotion
of space to their production here. Denning's
Point, just north of Duchess Junction, is memora-
bly associated with the Revolutionary period, from
having been the jilace of residence of Captain
William Denning, who was a member of the
Provincial Convention of New York, and in that
position contributed his influence to those measures
which carried forward the operations of the war.
In 1780 he was elected one of the Board of Com-
missioners of Finance of the United States, and
associated with Robert Morris in the management
of the public finances. The stately oaks on the
Point, known as the Washington oaks, sheltered
Washington and his generals, who found a generous
hospitality in the Denning mansion. The present
residence on the Point, now the property of Homer
Ramsdell, was built in 1813, by W. Allen.

When the British force which destroyed Kings-
ton ascended the Hudson they showed their animos-
ity by firing a few shots as they passed Fishkill
Landing. Some of these it is supposed, have
since been found and are now preserved as relics
of that period in the Washington Headquarters at
Newburgh. We observed there two cannon balls
which were discovered in digging the foundation
of the Duchess Hat Works at Fishkill Landing in
the spring of 1875. One is four inches in diame-
ter and weighs eight and a half pounds ; the
other is five inches in diameter and weighs eight-
een pounds. There also is a grape-shot found in
the bank of the river near Fishkill Landing; a
spontoon or half-spear used by Lieut. VanWyck
in hunting Cow-boys and Skinners in the Fishkill
Mountains during the Revolution — a weapon
which Gen. Charles Lee regarded as superior to
the bayonet in close action ; the sword won by
Capt. Abm. Brinckerhoff, one of Fishkill's most
gallant sons; an old pocket book which belonged
to Col. Abm. Schenck, of Fishkill ; the razor of
John O'Neil, father of the late John O'Neil, of
Fishkill Landing, who was a camp barber among
the Jersey Blues, and is said to have often used it
in shaving Washington, LaFayette and other
officers, and various other interesting relics from
different parts of the county.*

* Prominent among these we noticed the cannon ball which was fired
through the Livingston house below Poughkeepsie by the ship of war
Asia, while on her way up the river with the British fleet in October,
1777, and another taken from its bed in the slate rock near that house;
charred wheat, from a quantity burned by the British at Red Hook on
Ihe same expedition ; and two powder-horns made by Samuel Moore, at
Poughkeepsie, in 170?, one ■*' May ye nth,'' and engraved with the
cities of New York and Albany and other devices. The other has an
engraved map of the. villages and forts from New York to Fort
Stanwix. .

We pass over for a little the varied industries
and institutions which Fishkill developed during
the intervening eighty years to the period when
her citizens were called upon to re-assert with the
force of arms the principles of liberty and unity,
and to perpetuate and amplify the legacy of free-
dom. It is to be regretted that, owing to the
partial destruction of the town records and the
incompleteness of the files of the local papers
during that period, we are unable to give as fully
and connectedly as might be desired her share in
the great rebellion.

Fishkill's patriotism found expression almost
simultaneously with the echo of the first notes of
war which reverberated through the land. The
Denning Guards of Fishkill Landing offered their
services in a body to Gov. Morgan, and measures
were instituted to form a volunteer company in
that village. At a meeting held April 22, 1861,
over which Judge Davis presided, the roll of the
Fishkill Landing volunteers was filled, and on the
23d the officers were elected. Henry Wiltsie a
young lawyer, was chosen captain. On the 25th,
$600 had been subscribed for the support of their
families. The company left on the cars for Albany
on the 26th of April, and became Co. C of the
1 8th Regiment, which enUsted for two years.

About the middle of August the companies of
Capt. DeWint and Capt. Samuel Adams each
numbered forty-three men. These companies be-
came Cos. F and H of then 128th Regt., a history
of which has been given.* We give the list of
officers of these companies and the names of the
privates from Fishkill, which then, it should be
remembered, included Wappinger.

Co. F. — Captain, Arthur DeWint; ist Lieut.
John J. Williamson ; 2d Lieut., Charles A. Ander-
son ; Sergeants, numbered from ist to sth in the
order named, Henry Rotherby, Charles Van Tine,
Daniel Warren, David H. Van Amburgh and Fran-
cis H. Brett; Corporals, numbered from ist to 8th
in the order named, Augustus M. Myers, Joseph
Seymour, Samuel Speedling, Lewis Pearshall, Aus-
tin H. Terry, Jeremiah Boice, William Bailey and
Robert Pickels; Privates, William Games, John
Worden, Peter Williams, Alfred J. Smith, David
Hawks, George N. Wood, John Matthews, Jr.,
Jacob Palmer, Augustus Eyth, Henry Gerard,
Isaac Sevine, James E. Post, John W. Hughes,
Leonard Lawson, WiUiam J. Lester, Delaney L.
Meyers, John M. Farrell, John Boone, John Din-
geer, Joseph O'Malley, E. Augustus Brett, Isaac P.

*See pages 148 to iSS of this work.



Ball, George W. Hauver, Theodore Y. Smith, John
Raferty, Sylvester H. Brady, William Agnew, God-
frey Lodge, Owen Hall, George V. Hall, Cornelius
Ireland, Charles Lawrence, James Rogers, George
W. Brower, George H. Pollock, Silas Partington,
Solomon Lawson, William Partington, Charles W.
Brower and Frederick Schuff.

Co. H. — Capt-ain, John A. VanKeuren; ist
Lieut, Henry H. Sincerbox ; 2d Lieut., Sylvester
H. Mase ; Sergeants, Columbus S. Keys, Charles
Davidson, Benjamin T. Benson, Caleb S. Hoat-
ling, Garrett Dillon ; Corporals, Hiram Rons, Ben-
jamin F. Chamberiin, Abner B. Mase, George N.
Culver, John S. Fosbay, Mark Sheperdson,
Charles S. Wilber, Walter Hicks ; Privates, Francis
Marston, Frank Stephens, John Cherry, Edwin H.
Bogardus, Thomas Mahan, Joseph Doxey, Joseph
Cherry, John F. Keys, S. F. Churchill, George W.
Swords, William Conklin, George W. Farrington,
George VanVoorhis, Joseph E. Depew, William
Odell, Benjamin T. Benson, Charles Weller, Will-
iam Althouse, James Hervy, John P. Way, Stephen
Yeomans, James E. Munger, Dwight Cotterel,
George F. Deacon, William Townsend, George F.
Falconer, William Bartley, Valentine VanNostrora,
Benjamin Crowther, James Green, Anthony Vin-
cent, Stephen Farrington, C. L. Keys, John Ger-
mond, Jeremiah D. Wood, James Armstrong,
Joseph Ambler, Theodore Bowne, A. B. Hartson,
John Stotesburg, Wilder N. Marsh.

The following named persons in other companies
are assigned to Fishkill : Thomas Flinn, Charles
A. Smith, W. J. Monfort, J. T. Eckert, H. Vande-
water, Cornelius Williams.

Fishkill issued two hundred and thirty-six County
bonds, at $500 each, amounting to $i 18,000.
They are being paid off at the rate of $5,000 per
annum. The last become due in 1884.


Fishkill, though the oldest, is one of the least
populous of the many villages in the town. It is
situated northeast of the center of the town, near
the creek from which it derives its'name, about five
miles from the Landing, with which it is connected
by rail and stage. Few villages surpass it in beauty
of location ; and while the construction of railroads
has detracted from its importance by withdraw-
ing its business to other centers, it will ever possess
strong attractions as a place of residence to those
who desire a retired situation combined with
scenic beauty. The historic associations which

cluster around it will ever give it a prominence in
the town's history.

It is a station on the Newburgh, Duchess &
Connecticut Railroad, and the New York & New
England Railroad, by which it is distant 5.94 miles
from Duchess Junction, and 6.7 miles from Fish-
kill Landing. The Newburgh Transfer Co.'s
stages connect it with the latter place. It con-
tains four churches, (Dutch Reformed, Episcopal,
Methodist Episcopal and Catholic,*) a union free
school, two hotels, (the Mansion House, kept by
I. J. Kern, and Kniffen's Hotel, kept by John L.
Kniffen,) a newspaper office, (the Fishkill Journal,
George W. Owen, publisher,) the Fishkill Savings
Institution, a paper bag manufactory, eight stores,
two blacksmith and wagon shops, (kept by J. Wil-
ber and John Mitchell,) two shoe shops, (kept by
N. Lane and E. B. Allen,) a marble shop, (kept by
James E. Dean, who is also the postmaster,) and
had in 1880, a population of six hundred and

During the Revolution it was one of the largest
villages in the County, though even then its size
must have been very inconsiderable ; for DeChas-
tellux tells us that in 1780 there were not more than
fifty houses in the space of two miles, while Anbur-
ey tells us that in 1777 there were not more than
that number in " near three miles." The first settle-
ment was made about the beginning of the eighteenth
century ; the first house still exists, says Mr. Bailey,
in 1874, and is now owned by the Southard family.
Zebulon Southard, the grandfather of the present
occupant, purchased his farm of Madam Brett,
in 1760. It is the first farm east of the creek in
the west end of the village. Southard* was the
brother of Daniel, Richard and Gilbert Southard,

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 103 of 125)