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 25 of 125)
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other property, against loss or damage by fire."
James Emott, James Mabbett, Alexander Forbus,
Abraham Bockee, Thomas Taber, Daniel D Akin,
Homer Wheaton, Wm. H. Bostwick, John T.
Schryver, Stephen Thorn, Silas Germond, John M.
Ketcham and James Vincent were the first directors.
The directors are chosen annually, and transact the
• business of the company in Poughkeepsie. The
first officers were: — James Emott, President;
James E. Slater, Secretary. The charter expired
at the end of twenty years and was extended by act
of April 9th, 1855, for twenty years from April 12,
1856, and under the general insurance laws, for
thirty years, from April 12, 1876. April 30, 1868,
it was made optional with the company to receive
from parties applying for insurance " all cash for
premiums in lieu of a deposit note," for which the
original charter made provision.

Mr. Emott was succeeded in the presidency by
James Mabbett and George Wilkinson, the latter
of whom held the office till his death, Jan. 21, 1881,
since which time no president has been elected. Mr.
Slater was Secretary till his death in 1850, when
Owen T. Coffin was elected. He resigned in 1851,
when LeGrand Dodge was elected and has since
held the office.

The company commenced business without a
dollar, taking premium notes from the insured and
a percentage thereon as a nucleus for a surplus.
Over a million dollars have been paid for losses and
expenses without calling on the members for a
dollar's assessment on premium notes, and during
the forty-four years of its existence the company
has had but one law suit, but has paid every loss
sustained by its policy holders, whether by fire or
lightning. The company has been very successful,
mainly under the efficient direction of the Secre-
tary, Mr. Dodge', who, during his thirty years'
management, has increased the surplus from $16,-
000 to $ 1 50,000. The premium for many years has
uniformly been about 1.6 per cent. June i, 1880,
the date of the 44th annual report, the number of
policies in force was 23,374, and the amount cov-
ered by insurance, $27,548,384. About one-half
the insurance is from Duchess county, the rest
being from Long Island and the river counties. It
is almost entirely confined to farm property.




Early Courts— Courts First Authorized in
Duchess (Bounty— First Court House and
Jail in Duchess County— Assessments of
Wards and Precincts at Different Periods —
Subsequent County Buildings — Their Con-
struction AND Destruction — Jail Limits —
County Poor House — Duchess County Civil
List — Miscellaneous Appointments to Dis-
tinguished Positions — Delegates to State
Constitutional Convention — State Sena-
tors — Members of Assembly — First and
County Judges —Surrogates —District At-
torneys — Sheriffs — County Clerks — Coun-
ty Treasurers — County Superintendents of
Common Schools — School Commissioners —
Presidential Electors — Senators and Rep-
resentatives IN Congress.

IN 1683, an act was passed directing that a
Court of Sessions be held by three Justices of
the Peace, twice each year, in each of the twelve
counties erected that year, except New York and
Albany, in the former of which it was to be held
four times, and in the latter three times, each year.
It determined all causes, civil and criminal, by a
jury, but actions exceeding ;^5 could be removed
on application to the Court of Oyer and Ter-
miner. By the act of 1691 and ordinance of 1699,
the functions of this court were confined to crimi-
nal matters, and civil cases were transferred to the
Court of Common Pleas, which was first estab-
lished in New York and Albany in 1686, but in
the other counties in 169 1. Not, however, till
thirty-seven years after its formation as a county
did Duchess enjoy this judicial tribunal, for, from
Oct. 18, 1 70 1, it was provisionally attached to Ul-
ster county. This Couit was originally composed
of one judge and three justices, but in 1702, it was
ordered that the judge be assisted by two or more
justices, all of whom were appointed by the Gov-
ernor, and hold office during his pleasure. It had
cognizance of all actions where the matter in de-
mand exceeded in value the sum of ^^5. July 2 1
1 7 15, the General Assembly authorized the con-
struction of a "county house and prison" in this
county, and July 6, 1720, Governor William Bur-
net passed an ordinance for establishing Courts of
Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace
therein. The latter document is an interesting one
and we reproduce it : —

" "Whereas, In the Establishments of the Courts
of Common Pleas and the General Sessions of the

Peace hitherto in the County of Dutches, on the
East-Side of Hudson's River, over against the
County of Vlster, there has been no Courts of
Common 'Pleas or General Sessions of the Peace
Erected and Established to be holden and kept
within the said County, but the Inhabitants of the
same County have sometime formerly been sub-
jected to the Jurisdiction of the Justices of the afore-
said County of Vlster. For Remedy whereof for
the Future, I have thought fit, by and with the Ad-
vice and Consent of his Majesties Council for the
Province of New York, and by virtue of the Power
and Authority unto me given and granted under
the Great Seal of Great Britain, and do hereby
Erect, Establish and Ordain, That from hence-
forward there shall be held and kept at Poghkeep-
son, near the Center of said County, a General Ses-
sions of the Peace, on the third Tuesday in May,
and the third Tuesday in October, yearly and every
year for ever, which General Sessions of the Peace,
in every Sessions, shall not continue for longer
than Two Days, but may finish the business of the
Sessions, possibly, in one Day, and that from hence-
forward there shall be held and kept at Poghkepson,
near the Center, of the said County, a Court of
Common Pleas to begin the next Day, after the
said Courts of General Sessions of the Peace Ter-
minates, and then only, if Busines require, to hold
and continue for two Days next following, and no
longer, with the like Power and Jurisdictions as
other Courts of Common Pleas in other Counties
within the Province of New York, have used and
enjoyed, any former Ordinance, Practice or Usage
to the contrary hereof in any wise notwithstanding.
'■'■Given under my Hand and Seal at Anns in
Council at Fort . George, in New York, the
Sixth Day of July, in the Seventh Year of the
Reign of our Sovereign Lords George, by the
Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France
and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, S^c.

W. Burnet.
"By Order of His Excellency in Council,

Is. Bobin, D. CI Counr*
The court house and jail, though authorized in
1715, were not, says French,! g-pparently com-
pleted till thirty years afterward. Pursuant to the
act of 1715, a meeting was held at the house
of Leonard Lewis, in "Pockepsen" June 22,
17 17, and Capt. Barendt Van Kleeck and Jacobus
Van Der Bogart were chosen commissioners to
build a court house and jail. The meeting was
summoned by an order signed by Lewis Leonard,
Barendt Van Kleeck and Johannes Terboss. It
commanded Cornelius Van Der Bogart to summon
the people to attend. The certificate of the result
is signed by Lewis Leonard, Judge, and Capt.
Barendt Van Kleeck and Machill Palmateer,
Justices. I The land wher eon the present court

* Documentary History of New York, ///., 972, 97J.
\ Gazetteer of the State Of New York, 268.
t Poughheepsie Weekly Eagle, July 8, 1876,



house stands, and on which the first one was
erected, was conveyed in 17 18, by deed, by Henry
Van Der Bogart to Barendt Van Kleeck. The origi-
nal building was not erected until 1746. Its con-
struction was again authorized by the Provincial
Legislature in 1743, and it was built under the
supervision of Commissioners, of whom Henry
Livingston was chief, who were appointed to re-
ceive and disburse the money raised for the
purpose. Mr. Livingston received his authority
as financial manager from the Justices of the Peace
of the several precincts. The document is signed
by Justices Jacobus Swartwout, Francis Filkin,
Laurence Van Kleek, John Montross, Mordicai
Lefifert, John Tripp, James Duncan and John
BrinkerhofF. The precincts were assessed accord-
ing to their population and valuation to pay for
the building of the court house. The amount
assessed was about $18,000, of which Rhinebeck,
then the most populous and wealthy, paid nearly
$S,ooo, Rombout, over $4,000, and Poughkeepsie,
less than $2,500. In 1760, an act authorized the
conversion of a jury room into a jail, and four
years after money was raised to complete the
arrangement. This building was destroyed by fire
in 1785, and April 11, of that year, ;^i,S°o were
appropriated for its reconstruction. Cornelius
Humphrey, Peter Tappen and Gilbert Livingston
were the building committee. A further tax of
£■2,000 was ordered in 1786, and of ;^i,3oo in
1787. In the meantime the prisoners were sent
to the Ulster county jail*

The first record of taxes — for the years 1716
and'17— bears date of Jan. 17, 1717. The amount
of property assessed in the North Ward was ^426,
the tax on which was £i^ 19s, 4|d; in the Mid-
dle Ward the assessed valuation was ^^554 and
the tax ;^33 9s. 6Jd ; in the South Ward the
assessed valuation, was ;^32o and the tax, ;^ 19
6s. 7d. Thus the assessed valuation of the county
was £ 1,300, and the tax, £^2 15s. sfd. Of this
^30 IS. 9d. was directed to be paid to A. D.
Peystern, Receiver of the King's tax at New York,
and the rest to Leonard Lewis, Treasurer of the
county. The tax list for the North Ward is
signed by Henricus Beekman and Hendrick Kip,
assessors ; that for the Middle and South Wards,
by Henry V. D. Burgh, Johannes Van Kleeck,
Loanworens Van Kleeck, James Hussey and
Jacobus Van Der Bogart, assessors. The collect-
ors of this tax were Johannes Buys, Cornelius Van

Der Bogart and Matthys Slegt. It is evident, how-
ever, that taxes were collected previous to this, for
a receipt for taxes is mentioned, dated New York,
July 6, 1715, signed A. D. Peyster, Treasurer of
the Province. In 1723, there were 179 taxable
inhabitants in the county.*

The following table shows the assessment of
precincts in 177 1 : —


Southern ■ ■ •




Rhinebeck . . . ,
North East. .

Total. .

No. of




J 84

J, 583












£ s. d.


151 12 I

* Sketches of Local Hhiory, by Benson J. Lossing, LL. D., in The
Dutchess Farmer, Dec. 12, 1876.

The second court house, located on the site of
the first, was built of stone, in the old Dutch style
of architecture, and was surrounded by a picket
fence. The jail was in the north end, and con-
tained two tiers of arched cells, the first under-
ground, where prisoners charged with the higher
crimes were placed. The southern half was occu-
pied by Mr. Hatch as a tavern. Here the judges
and jurors boarded during the sessions of the court.
It was no uncommon thing to see " the court,''
jury, counsel, sheriff, constables, prisoner and all
adjourn to Mr. Hatch's bar for drinks. On one of
these social occasions, the prisoner, a horse thief,
slipped away from his custodians. When the judge
resumed his seat, the fact was rnade known to him.
At first he said nothing, but appeared to be in deep
thought. Finally he arose and with more than his
usual gravity, deUvered himself as follows: —

" Gentlemen of the Jury — I am told that the
prisoner has informally taken leave of the Court,
and gone the sheriff knows not whither. This gives
the case before you a more complex phase, as the
statutes distinctly provide that the prisoner shall at
no time, during trial, sentence or punishment ab-
sent himself from the officers of the law. There-
fore it only remains for me to say, that further pros-
ecution in this case must be postponed until the
return of the d — d scoundrel who has thus inform-
ally trifled with the dignity of the Court and the
people of the State of New York."

"The Courts in those days were composed of
rough hewn timber, yet we venture to say their
justice was equal to that dispensed by the judiciary
at the present time."t

This building was destroyed by fire on the night
of T hursday, Sept. 25, 1808, and the act was at-

"^P^ghkeefsie Weekly Eagle, July 8, 1876. Historical Sketch and
Directory of the town of Fishkill, '866, p. 62.
t The Sunday Courier, Poughkeepsie, March '6, 187J.



tributed to the criminal inmates of the jail, who
were removed to the Farmers' Hotel, then kept by
Amaziah Blakeslee, on Cannon street, nearly op-
posite the Duchess County Academy, which then
occupied the site of St. Mary's church. None of
the public documents in the clerk's office were
destroyed, and the October terms of Courts were
held in the Reformed Dutch church. An act for
the reconstruction of the building was passed
March 24, 1809, and $t 2,000 was raised for that
purpose. James Tallmadge, John B. Van Wyck
and John Van Benthuysen were commissioned to
superintend its erection. In 1810, $13,000 addi-
tional was raised, and the building was completed
soon after. It is a plain stone edifice, 50 by 100
feet, and its walls were covered with stucco in 186 1.
It contains the county clerk's office, which under-
went some improvements in its interior arrange-
ments in 1877-78, and the other county offices
except that of Surrogate, which is a small one-story
brick building immediately in its rear. Originally
the jail was in the same building, but in 1856, its
condition was represented by the Senate Commit-
tee as extremely unfit for its purpose and unhealthy
to its inmates. The present jail, which is in the
rear of the Poughkeepsie National Bank and to the
west of the rear part of the court house, is a brick
structure, and was erected in 186 r at a cost of
$10,901.51. The jail hmits of Duchess, as laid
out pursuant to the order of the Court of Common
Pleas at the January term of 1809, by David
Brooks, Clerk of said Court, Joseph C. Fields,
Sheriff of said county and James Tallmadge, Jr.,
President of the Trustees of the village of Pough-
keepsie, comprised four and three-fourths acres
of land. In former years, when imprisonment
for debt was in vogue, fifty to sixty adjudged
debtors have been known to circulate within these
prescribed limits for months, and in-some instances
for twenty years or more.*

The poor-house of Duchess county was originally
located at Poughkeepsie. In i74r, an act was
passed for the better rehef of the poor of the coun-
ty, and to remove certain scruples the Supervisors
had to raising money for the maintenance of the
poor. The poor-house is now located in Washing-
ton, three miles south-east of Washington Hollow.
In 1856, a change was contemplated in the method
of supporting the county poor, and in that year an
act was passed empowering the Supervisors, when-
ever any two successive boards should vote a

*The Sunday Courier ai Sept. 14, 1873, gives a minute description
of tliese limits, wlaose boundary marks liave long since been obliterated.

change expedient, to contract for the support and
maintenance of the poor, and to sell the poor-
house buildings and lands and divide the proceeds
between the city of Poughkeepsie and the several
towns in the county, in proportion to the amount
of taxes paid by them respectively.

April 7, 1863, David S. Tallman, John Ferris
and Albert Emons were commissioned to sell the
old poor-house property, which consisted of 105.22
acres of land and buildings, located opposite the
present city alms-house in Poughkeepsie, and pur-
chase other farming lands not less than 50 nor
more than 75 acres, and not less than eight nor
more than fifteen miles from Hudson River, upon
which to keep the county poor ; and they were
authorized to erect upon the lands so purchased
suitable buildings for their accommodation, the
entire cost of land and buildings not to exceed
$20,000. May 9, 1863, they sold the old poor- ,
house farm and buildings at auction for $19,605.55,*
and agreed with the purchasers to pay seven per
cent, on that amount for their use until April i,
1864. May 28, 1863, they received a deed for
74 acres, i rood and 29 perches of land in the
town of Washington from Daniel H. Lyon, for
which they paid $6,182.24, and contracted with
him for the purchase of an additional 29 acres, 3
roods and 29 perches adjoining it at $55 per acre,
subject to the approval of the Supervisors. The
latter purchase was legalized and confirmed by the
Legislature in 1864. (Section i, chap. 286.) The
Commissioners also contracted with Orlando J.
Rust to erect a building 130 feet long, 32 feet
wide, two stories high, with basement, to be built
with wood and filled in with brick— the timber i.o
be in the main, white oak and chestnut — and roofed
with slate, and completed by April i, 1864. The
separate maintenance of the poor of the county
and the city of Poughkeepsie was authorized by
the Legislature in 1863, and Dec. 9th of that year,
the Supervisors directed the Commissioners to pay
to the Aims-House Commissioners of the City of
Poughkeepsie $3,172.60, that being its share of the
proceeds pf the sale of the poor-house property.

The building erected for the poor in 1863, cost
$14,380, including boiler and heater, but was illy
adapted to the purposes for which it was intended,
imperfectly ventilated, destitute of conveniences for
bathing, and did not admit of a proper separation
of the sexes. In 1864, a lunatic asylum was built
at a cost of $5,944.34. It is a plain two-story

*The auctioneer was Henry W. Shaw, {yosh Billings i) of Pough-



wooden building, 24 by 36 feet, containing eighteen
cells — nine on each floor — with grated doors and
barred windows. In 1865, a house for the keeper
was erected at a cost of $5,764.92, and in the same
year repairs and other buildings cost $3,877.63.
The entire cost of the poor-house property previous
to i88r, exclusive of ordinary running expenses,
_ amounted to over $45,000.

" The evils resulting from the want of adapta-
tion becoming more evident year by year, the
County Visiting Committee of the State Board of
Charities reported its condition to the Board of
Supervisors in 1876, and again in 1877, afterwards
addressing an open letter to the citizens of the
county." A committee of Supervisors was ap-
pointed, and in the spring of 1879, many repairs
were made. But the building was still in an un-
satisfactory condition, and on the recommendation
otthe committee a further appropriation of $1,000
was made. This sum proved inadequate to accom-
plish all that was needed and contemplated, but
sufficed to perfect a desired object — a complete
division of the house and grounds into two depart-
ments — which was economically accomplished,
more by a skillful re-arrangement and utilization
of material on the ground, than by the erection of
new buildings. Various other changes and im-
provements were made, involving the changing of
the front of the house from the west to the north ;
but they were not all that could be desired. The
Superintendent, David S. Tallman, entered upon
* the duties of his office Jan. i, 1880, at which time
the number of inmates was 160. Nov. i, 1880, this
number was reduced to loi, against 106 the same
time the previous year. The average number of
paupers in 1880 was 114, a reduction of 22 as
compared with the previous year. The average
cost of support per week was $2.24. The total
amount of receipts, including appropriation,
($r2,ooo,) was $13,771; the total amount of
disbursements, $13,420.28. April i, 1880, the
books showed one hundred and forty-two resident
paupers, of whom ninety-five were men, (twenty-
seven Americans,) forty white women, (twenty-
three Americans,) six colored men, and six
colored women, twenty-three foreign women, sixty-
two of foreign birth, five blind, eleven insane, four
aliens, and one mute of fifteen years, removed
September ist, to the institution at Rome. The
majority were old and feeble, and the remainder of
the class usually found in poor-houses, indolent,
weak-minded, victims of unfortunate circumstan-
ces. Religious services are held semi-monthly in

the dining-room, which is in the basement of the
building ; and for such as choose, a way is provided
to attend the Catholic Church. Children at two
years of age are placed in the Orphan House at
Poughkeepsie, or Colored Orphan Asylum in
Brooklyn. The institution is deficient in its pro-
visions for the sick. Medical attendance is secured
twice a week, but no rooms have been set apart
for their especial care and comfort. The house
work is done by the women, and most of the farm
work by the men. The building is heated by
steam, and water is conveyed to the wash-house,
where it is obtained by the inmates for use. In
. December, 1880, the Supervisors appropriated
$1,500 to complete the repairs in progress on the
building, and the Superintendent was authorized
to purchase earthen bowls and plates to replace the
tinware then in use, also chairs for the dining-
room in place of benches, and to put enameled
covers on the dining tables,*

Duchess County Civil List. — Duchess county
has produced many men of talent and eminence in
the various professions, and has always been ably
represented in legislative bodies. " It was so in
the Provincial Assembly," says Mr. Lossing, " and
especially so when, in 1775, British rule was dis-
carded and a Provincial Convention took the
political power of the province under its control.
In that convention Duchess county was represented
by Egbert Benson, Morris Graiham and Robert R.
Livingston. The latter was the eminent Chancel-
lor, whose name has been made immortal by his
connection with the first successful efforts in steam
navigation. In the New York Provincial Congress
and Convention from 1775 to 1777 inclusive, when
a State government was formed. Duchess was rep-
resented by men of mark, such as Derick Brincker-
hoff. Dr. Crane, Jacob Evertson, Morris Graham,
Henry Hoffman, Cornelius Humphrey, Jacob
Kane, Jonathan Landon, Gilbert and James Liv-
ingston, Robert G. and Robert R. Livingston,
Richard Montgomery, (who was slain at Quebec,)
Ephraim Paine, Zephaniah Piatt, Beverly Robin-
son, Nathaniel Sackett, Guysbert, Henry, John
and Paul Schenck, Melancton Smith, Peter Ten
Broeck, James Vanderburgh and Theodorus
Van Wyck."t

Duchess county has furnished two Lieut - Gov-
ernors of New York— James Tallmadge, elected

* Twelfth and Fourteenth Annual Reports of the State Board of
Charities, of which body Sarah M . Carpenter, of Poughkeepsie, is Com-
missioner for the Second Judicial District ; Proceedings of the Board of
Supervisors of Duchess County, for 1880, and other documents.

t Sketches of Local History, in The Dutchess Farmer, Dec. 12, 1876.


Nov. I, 1824, and Peter R. Livingston, the noted
politician, who spent most of his life in Rhinebeck,
and who, on the death of Gov. DeWitt Clinton
Feb. Ti, 1828, and the assumption of the guberna-
torial duties by Lieut.-Gov. Nathaniel Pitcher, was
elected President of the Senate Feb. 16, 1828 ;
one staff officer, J. Watts de Peyster, of Tivoli,
who was appointed Adjutant-General of the State,
Jan. I, 185s ; three Secretaries of State, Thomas
Tillotson, of Red Hook, appointed August 10,
1801, and again Feb. 16, 1807, Robert R. Tillot-
son, of Red Hook, appointed February 12,
r8i6, and Homer A. Nelson, of Poughkeepsie,
elected November 5, 1867 ; two State Treasurers,
Joseph Howland, of Matteawan, who was elected
Nov. 7, 1865, and James Mackin, of Fishkill,
elected Nov. 6, 1877 ; three Attorneys-General,
Egbert Benson, of Red Hook, appointed May 8,
1777, Morgan Lewis, of Rhinebeck, elected Nov.
8, 1 791, and Thomas J. Oakley, of Poughkeepsie,
elected July S, 1819; one Canal Commissioner,
James Hooker, of Poughkeepsie, appointed Feb-
ruary 8, 1842; one Inspector of the New York
Prison, James Teller, of Matteawan, who was
thrice appointed, first April i, 18 11, again March
17, 18 1 5, and again Feb. 24, 182 1 ; two members
of the first Board of R.egents, Anthony Hoffman,

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 25 of 125)