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 16 of 125)
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% Cofin's Letter; Natural History, Part V., Agriculture, vi, 23.

II Blodgett's Clivmtology, 148-150, which vatAt^ Niles' Register, AprU
". 1835.

and elevation is 49.67° — a difference of 1.07" to
be attributed to other causes than altitude and lat-
itude. At Red Hook, in latitude 42° 2', at an
elevation of fifty feet,* twelve observations showed
the temperature to be 48.81°, while the tempera-
ture due to latitude and elevation is 49.13° — a
reduction of .32° by other causes than latitude
and elevation. The mean temperature of the
State, as determined /rom 59 localities and 577
observations, is 46.49°; the mean annual maxi-
mum, from 59 localities and 550 observations, 92°;
the mean annual minimum, from 59 localities and
551 observations, 12°. The following is a com-
parison of the mean temperature, and annual
extremes of heat and cold, with the average of the
State during the same years : —

Poughkeepsie. Red Hook. State.

Mean temperature, +4-25° -I- 1.92° 46.49°!
" annual maximum, -1-4.24° -I- .75" 92°
" " minimum, -h 2.33'^ -1-3.42° 12°

" " range, +1.91° —2.67° 104°!

The Hudson Valley, like the valleys of New
York generally, has less rain than the hills or
elevated lands. The quantity of water precipitated
in rain is proportioned to the temperature, and
not to configuration or proximity to the sea ; but
there are practical exceptions to this general prin-
ciple, and an example is furnished in the district
which includes the highlands and mountains of
most parts of the New England States and New
York, which has more rain than would fall to it by
the general rule. There is some evidence that the
contact of atmospheric volumes with these alti-
tudes induces a share of the precipitation. We
find the greatest quantity for the State near the
Highlands of the Hudson, and a diminution from
this line both towards the sea and inland. Here
topography and configuration influence the result
very much. The rain-fall in the region of the
Southern Highlands exceeds that of other portions
of the State in the spring, fall and winter, very
largely in the latter season, while it is less in the
summer season. In the Hudson Valley, as shown
by observations between 1825 and 1855, made at
eleven academies and colleges and two military
posts, 36 inches was the annual rain fall. This is a
falling off of at least four inches from the country
in the vicinity on either side. The elevated por-
tions of the State, including Albany, from observa-
tions from 1820 to 1850, at thirteen academies,
gave a corrected average of nearly 39 inches ; and

* Both Poughkeepsie and Red Hook are at the level of tide water, but
the height of the instrument in each case was assumed to be fifty feet,
t -t- means more, and — , less than for the State.
X Covin's Letter.



as the points of observation are in most cases in
valleys more or less below the general level of the
country, it would be safe to assign 40 inches as
the average quantity for the district inclusive of its
valleys. Observations at Poughkeepsie Academy
during fourteen years gave 38.13 inches, and at
Red Hook Academy, during ten years 34.73
inches.* Observations made at Stanfordville in
this county in 1879, show the total precipitation
in rain, snow, etc., to have been 39.535 inches.f

The healthfulness of the climate as compared
with that of other counties in the State is indicated
in a measure by the percentage of deaths. The
rate in this county is 1.17 j while the average for
the State is 1.15. Just half the counties in the
State present a better showing than Duchess, while
two others equal it. The maximum rate — 1.41 —
is in Madison county ; the minimum — .85 — , in
Clinton. t The mortality in Duchess, however,
would seem to be due to other causes than cUmatic
influence; for the census of 1880 exhibits a re-
markable longevity among its citizens. In the
city of Poughkeepsie there were 635 persons of
seventy years or over, 95 of eighty years or over,
and 1 1 of ninety years or over. In the county,
outside of the city, there were 1,994 of seventy
years or over, 410 of eighty years or over, 38 of
ninety years or over, and 2 of one hundred years
or over, (Honora Fitzgerald, of Amenia, aged
107, and Prince Crosby, of Wappingers Falls,
aged 100;) thus making a total of 3,185 persons
in the county who had reached man's allotted
time on earth. §

The soils of the county are embraced within
the two districts which Prof. Emmons denominates
the Eastern and the Hudson. The former is a
narrow belt of country extending from the Sound
to the head of Lake Champlain, and embraces a
large proportion of the counties of Duchess,
Columbia, Rensselaer and Washington ; the latter
comprises the valley of the Hudson.

The Eastern district, though long and narrow,
is very constant in its character, features and pro-
ductions throughout its entire range. The soil,
resting upon the Taconic system of rocks,
consists of the debris of those rocks, which, ex-
tending far to the north, and in the direction of
the drift, have not changed its character. It is
finer than those derived fr om the primary rocks,

'BlodgeU's CHmatolosy, 345,343, JS!, 354.

t Prof J. Hyatt's Paper on The Periodic Distribution of the Rain-
fall at Certain Stations, read before the Poughkeepsie Society of
Natural Science-, Jan. l8, 1880.
X Census of 187S.
§ The Sunday Courier, gf Poughkeepsie, Oct 3t, 1880.

and possesses a superiority from the facility with
which finely divided matter absorbs the floating
gases of the atmosphere. Some difference exists
in its chemical composition ; and some of the
differences observed in crops are due to elevation,
combined with other causes necessarily connected
therewith. The Taconic range is composed of
slate, with a granular limestone at the east base
and a sparry limestone at the west base. All the
minor ridges have a direction parallel to the main
ridge dividing the States and a like composition ;
the limestones usually occupying the valleys as
well as the sides of the mountains further east.
West from the main range their height and steep-
ness diminish. There are no elevated plains. The
principal plains border the valley of the Hudson,
and are rather sandy, with an underlay of clay.
The arrangement of the hills in this district is
such as to favor vegetation, and to admit, even
invite, useful improvements in draining and irriga-
tion. Generally the slopes are gentle, but steeper
upon the west than the opposite side. The hills are
susceptible of cultivation to their summits, and are
not broken by the rugged and outcropping rocks.

Though these soils are by no means clayey, as
much alumina is frequently obtained from them as
from the tertiary clay. This is a good feature and,
in durable soil, one upon which mechanical fertili-
zation may be employed without annual loss.
Without excei)tion they contain less lime than is
requisite to form the best and most productive
kinds of land. The best materials for fertilizing
them are lime and peat, of each of which there is
an abundance. They should be composted, which
is the only way in which they can be usefully em-
ployed. Leached or unleached ashes are a useful
addition to this compost, inasmuch as there is a
deficiency of potash in the soil to meet the de-
mands of the cultivated crops.

The soils of the Taconic system are rarely
excessively leachy, but some are moderately so.
For a leachy soil it is proper to make a bulky ma-
nure, consisting of burnt clay, ashes, peat or organ-
ic matters, the whole of which is only moderately
soluble, but, when exposed in a porous soil, it re-
quires the influence of the air to bring it with suf-
ficient rapidity to a state fit for the consumption
of vegetables. In a close and compact soil,
the solubility of the manure may be greater; for
then it may be retained for the future use of plants,
if not required immediately.

What are called cold lands are not uncommon
in this district. They lie on the slopes of hills,



frequently 200 or 300 feet above the valleys. This
condition is produced by the agency of many
springs, which issue from the hillsides, and saturate
the earth with water, in the shape of small foun-
tains, which percolate through the soil and sub-soil
on their way to the valley below; but this evil may
be cured by draining, which is the most efficient
means of improving the soils in this district.

These soils require draining more frequently
than western ones, in consequence of the peculiar
structure of the underlying rock, which, in the
Taconic district, is invariably placed edgewise,
or at an angle varying from 15° to 30" ; and the
layers or strata are compacted so closely, that
water seldom or never finds its way into the rock,
and hence must pass through the soil ; and if this
is not very porous, the water passes off slowly, and
is frequently detained so long that the soil is most
of the time saturated with it.

Magnesia is a common element in the soils of
this district, and to this element Prof Emmons at-
tributes the excellence of the crops of corn, which,
he says, "is so much at home upon the gentle
slopes of this system." " At any rate," he adds,
"in no other district is this crop so perfect, so
sound and rich, as in Dutchess, Columbia, Rens-
selaer and Washington counties. Comparing this
crop in the eastern district with that of the west,
we unhesitatingly give preference to the former, as
being more thrifty and sounder in the kernel, and
better filled out. There is a limit, however, at
which maize ceases to ripen in this district. For
example, along the Taconic range between Massa-
chusetts and New York, at the height of about
t,ooo feet above tide, it dwindles to a short slender*
stalkj and yields but small tapering ears. This limit
is often marked by a line of frost during the cold
months, to which it very frequently descends, form-
ing a distinct icy line of congealed vapor upon the
forests, and upon the trees of the cultivated fields."*

The Hudson district is closely related to the
Eastern. Its slaty or shaly rocks, and sandstone
and limestone beds, furnish, when mixed, a soil
much Uke that of the Eastern district. There is,
however, more alluvial matter, broader meadows,
and a less undulating surface. Beneath the river
bottoms there reposes a stiff calcareous clay ; and
departing a Uttle from the river, and ascending its
sloping bank, we find sandy plains, which, however,
are underlaid with the same stiff clay, a marine de-
posit of modern date. No part of t his district

*In 1874, Duchess ranked only forty-ninth in the average yield of In-
dian com per acre— 24.11— below the State average, which was 31.33

rises into mountains. Steep bluffs are common,
but rarely exceed 300 feet in height. As an agri-
cultural district it is important; but it has been
longer cultivated, and hence is more exhausted
than the Eastern district.*

In the Hudson Valley we find the rocks and soil
of the lower part of the New York system, together
with a few granite, gneissoid, and hornblendic
boulders, but these constitute only a small propor-
tion of the matters composing the soil. From the
east rise of the valley west to the river, the bould-
ers and soil are derived from the Champlain group.
The soils in the valley differ in many respects from
those of the Taconic slate district. The slates
or shales are more decomposable, more calcareous,
and the beds of limestone are more extensive.
Hence we expect the soil contains more lime, and
is, in general, more favorable for agriculture. The
rocks, too, are less disturbed. This district con-
tains a distinct formation of clay and sand, which
imparts a pecuUar character to it, approximating
those of the west wheat district. This formation
gives a degree of stability to the soil which is not
possessed by the soils of the Taconic district.
But the principal difference between the soils of
this and the adjacent districts, consists in the fine-
ness of the former. The Taconic slates furnish
no small amount of the debris or soil; and the
Northern Highlands furnish their materials, though
less plentifully. The extensive beds of clay with
their accompanying sands, which form one of the
most important features of the district, are formed
from the detritus of the rocks of the Primary and
Champlain divisions, the Hudson River slates and
shales, decomposing and forming clay.

Argillaceous soils are improved by paring and
burning, the latter process converting their astrin-
gent salts of iron to the peroxide. By ignition, the
close texture ofthe clay becomes open and pervious;
some of the materials composing it become more
soluble; the color of the clay, which, by this pro-
cess becomes red, absorbs more heat; and we may
reasonably conclude that clays thus treated become
better absorbers of the nutritive gases, as ammonia
and carbonic acid.

Wheat t was once the great staple of production

* "Duchess," says Spafford, "took an early lead in the introduc-
tion of gypsum as a manure, with the most decided advantage." The
committee appointed to confer with the State Board of Equalization in
1880, stated, by way of argument, " that the county had been drawn away
upon the farmers' hay wagons."

t In l8js, Duchess county sent more than one-third of all thograin
shipped to New York city from the several counties ofthe State. Her
contribution was 838,043 bushels, while the aggregate quantity was
2,3°9i307 bushels. {.Gordon's Gazetteer a/ New York.) During the
year ending June i, 1840, there were ^,so^,^<^X bushels of grain raised
in the county, ( r/ie Sunday Courier, of Poughkeepsie, August 3, 1871 ;)
and in 1874, 1,513,007 bushels. (0»«« 1875,)



of the Hudson Valley ; but it has ceased to be a
profitable crop, unless it be for family consump-
tion, in consequence of the essential losses the soil
has sustained in the successive croppings to which
it has been subjected.*

Agriculture is the leading branch of industry,
"but the prestige this county once had, by reason
of its nearness to New York, has passed away with
the improvements in transportation and the con-
stant drain upon its fertility, incident to the kind of
farming necessary to produce profitable results."!
The soil is adapted to a wide range of crops, but
there is not one, perhaps, that is peculiarly a char-
acteristic of the county ; yet it ranks high in the
gross value of its farm products. The gross sales
from its farms in 1874 amounted to $3,178,920;
which was exceeded by only nine other counties in
the State. The cereals, especially corn, oats and
rye, are produced abundantly; but wheat and buck-
wheat, less plentifully. Tobacco is quite extensive-
ly raised. Though not specifically a dairy county,
the butter made is large in quantity and excellent
in quality, while the production of milk for the
New York market is an important and leading
industry, especially in the eastern portion. For
this reason hay is a large and staple crop. Sheep
raising is an important industry in the eastern por-
tion of the county, but far less extensive than half
a century ago. Pork is a staple production. Fruit
of excellent quality is raised in large quantities,
and grapes, which are already successfully and ex-
tensively raised, are receiving increased attention,
especially in the Fishkills. The grapes from that
locality, says an article in the New York Herald,
in 1876, have "obtained an enviable reputation in
New York City." The same writer says, "The
finest grapes of out-door culture in the United
States are probably grown by Messrs. Van Wyck &
Johnson, at their vineyard back of Fishkill." In
cultivated area the county is excelled by only twelve
counties in the State ; in the cash value of its farms,
by only six ; in the value of farm buildings other
than dwellings, by only one ; in the value of stock,
by twelve ; in the value of tools and implements,
by twelve ; and in the cost of fertilizers used, by

The manufactories of the county, though not very
numerous, are some of them quite extensive and
valuable; but the disparity between agricultural
and mechanical pursuits is increasing to the detri-

* Natural History of New York, Part V., Agriculture, by E. Em-
mons, 6, 7, 213, i4J, ^ii-2S(>, 263, 326, 327-

t Report of Committee to Confer with State Board of Equalization,
Dec. 4, 1880.

ment of the latter. From 1870 to 1875 the num-
ber of manufacturing establishments in the county
decreased from 602 to 499 ;* nevertheless we may
fairly question if their value has materially de-
creased, though we have not the data at hand to
determine this. In 1836, the county ranked
second in its manufactories, being surpassed only
by Oneida County.f In 1832, it ranked third in
the State in the number of cotton mills, having
twelve, while Oneida had twenty and Rensselaer,
fifteen ; third, also, in the amount of capital in-
vested — $445,000 ; second in the number of spin-
dles in use — 17,690 ; third in the number of pounds
of cotton annually manufactured — 833,000 ; fourth
in the value of cloth produced — $1,952,000 ; fourth
in the number of pounds of yarn sold — 185,500;
second in the value of yarn and cloth produced —
$333,500; and second in the number of persons
sustained by said establishments — 1,974. It was
in the front rank in the number of manufactories
6 — (Orange County having the same number.)
The only three from which reports were received
employed a capital of $186,000, (while the six in
Orange County employed only $192,762 ;) and 197
operatives, (a number exceeded only by Rensselaer,
which reported five factories ;) paid wages amount-
ing to $42,179, (exceeding all others;) used 156,-
000 pounds of wool, (exceeding all others;) and
manufactured goods to the value of $196,250,
(exceeding all others.) It had three cupola and
air furnaces, making 855 tons of pig iron. Eleven
counties excelled it and three equaled it in num-
ber, while only four excelled it in production. It
had, also, one blast furnace, making 836 tons of
pig iron and 5 tons of castings. Six counties ex-
celled it in number, but none in quantity, if we
except Orange, which included also the blast fur-
nace at Cold Spring, Putnam County. It employed
in these iron industries 295 persons, who had 967
dependents.^ In 1880, the county produced 61,-
637 tons (of 2,000 pounds each) of all kinds of
pig iron,§

In 1880, the assessed valuation of real estate
was $36,045,422 ; assessed valuation of personal
property, $6,217,232; the indebtedness of the
county for which bonds had been issued, $277,-
000; total indebtedness of county and city, ex-
clusive of school districts, $2,345,947.70. ||

* Censits of 187s.

+ Gordon^ s Gazetteer of the State of New York., 425.

Xlhid, 336, 337-

§ Letter of James M. Swank, Philadelphia, Secretary American Iron
and Steel Association, and Special Census Agent to Collect Iron and Steel

II Census of 1880.




Geology — Underlying Rocks of Duchess
County — Rocks of the Champlain Division

Rocks of the Hudson River Group — Grit

AND Slate Rocks— Utica Slate Group-
Trenton Limestone Group — Black River
Limestone — Calciferous Group — Barnegat
Limestone — Roofing Slate — The Taconic
System — Metamorphic Rocks — Dolomitic
AND Granular Limestone — Duchess County
Marble — The "Stone Church" — Stea-
tite—Iron Ore Abundant and of Good
Quality — Galena — Copper — Silver — Gold
— Primary Rocks — Granite — Hornblende —
SiENiTE — Gneiss — Mica Slate — Augite Rock
— Greenstone — Alluvial Deposits — Shell
Marl — Peat — Sink Holes— "Spook Hole"
— Clay Balls and Calcareous Concretions —
Mineral Springs — Gas Springs — Subterra-
nean Streams — Inflammable Gas — Sulphate
of Iron — Bog Ore — Manufacturers of
Bricks — Topographical Changes— Drift De-
posits—Smoothed AND Scratched Surfaces
of Rocks — What They Indicate.

THE underlying rocks of Duchess county are
classed in the Geological Reports as the
metamorphic rocks of the Primary system and the
Champlain division of the New York system. The
former occupy a narrow belt along the east border
of the county ; the latter extend thence west to the
Hudson River and beyond it. Rocks similar in
character to the Shawangunk grit, and the inter-
stratified and overlying red rocks, range north
through the county from Fishkill, near Matteawan ;
and Prof Rodgers, though doubtful about the geo-
logical age of this formation, inchnes to the opinion
that it is equivalent to the new red sandstones,
which are associated with trappean rocks in this
State ; though Prof Mather, assuming their identi-
ty with the rocks they resemble, infers for them a
greater age. These red grit rocks, like those they
resemble to the south, are in a highly inclined po-
sition, often vertical ; and were observed in hun-
dreds of localities in this county and those north
of it to Vermont.

The rocks of the Champlain division consist of a
series of slates, shales, grits, Hmestones and siliceous
and calcareous breccias and conglomerates. Some
plutonic rocks which have been intruded among
them have modified their aspect in many places,
and formed metamorphic rocks. Along their east-
ern line of outcrop these strata have been much

deranged in position since their deposition, having
been broken up and tilted at various angles, bent,
wrinkled and contorted in almost every conceiva-
ble manner, and elevated into hills and mountain

The rocks of the Hudson River group occupy a
large part of Duchess county. They are mostly
slates, shales, and grey, slaty and thick-bedded
grits. The slates and shales are generally dark-
brown, blue and black ; the grits are grey, greenish
and bluish-grey. They are stratified and conform-
able, alternating a great number of times without
regularity. Prof. Mather, from insufficient data,
said they contained few fossils except fucoids, and
such, until recently, has been supposed to be the
fact. But investigations made by Mr. T. N. Dale,
Jr., in the spring of 1878, and subsequently by
Prof. J. D. Dana, Mr. R. P. Whitfield, Curator of
Geology in the American Museum of Natural His-
tory, New York city, and Prof. W. B. Dwight, of
Vassar College, has shown them to be highly fos-
sihferous, and resulted in " the determination by
paleontological evidence of the Hudson River
group in the slates, and the calciferous chazy and
Trenton groups among the limestones. These re-
sults substantially confirm in general the views of
Mather, and the earlier views of Prof Hall, as to
the horizon of these rocks, though the particular
distribution and relative positions of these various
formations when fully explored and mapped out,
will be found to differ considerably from any pre-
vious conceptions."*

The rocks of the Hudson River group, and of
nearly all the Champlain division, are remarkably
well developed in this county. They are well, ex-
posed to view, and capable of rigid examination
and identification on the rocky shore of the Hud-
son from the mouth of Ancram creek to Red Hook;
the rocky islands below Red Hook Landing ; and
from Red Hook Landing to Barnegat (now Clinton)
Point. They range through the towns of Red
Hook, Milan, Rhinebeck, Clinton, Hyde Park,
Pleasant Valley, Poughkeepsie, La Grange and
Wappinger. The grits, shales and slates, which
are mostly composed of fragments of the lower
rocks of the Champlain division, are interstratified,
alternating a number of times. Most of the grits
are calciferous and effervesce slightly with a strong
acid when taken from a sound rock that has not
been exposed to weathering. The coarse greenish
grit that occupies so prominent a place in Rens-

* The results of some Recent PaleontologicaZ Ixacstigations in the
Vicinity of Poughkeepsie, by Prof. W. B. Dwight, read before the
Poughkeepsie Society of Natural Sdence, April 21, 1880.



selaer county becomes finer farther south and forms
a mountain mass extending through the five towns
first naniied. Veins of quartz abound in this rock,
which has an aspect almost trappean ; also, more
or less abundantly, in all the rocks of this group ;
but more frequently it is only the proper joinis that
are filled with quartz and calcareous spar. Rocks

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 16 of 125)