Old Landmarks About
By Mrs. Genevieve M. Van Duzer
Read Before Fortnightly Club,
Published three parts in the Warwick Valley Dispatch
March 7, March 14, &
Transcribed by Jackie Canevari
When this subject was first assigned
to me I enquired of my father, Mr. J. H. Crissey,
what he considered our oldest landmarks. Without hesitation he replied Sugar
Our local authority, Mr. Henry Pelton, was next questioned. He as promptly answered that our landmarks were any objects that from earlier times had served to fix a starting point or mark a boundary and that he had found anything and almost everything so used from “The notch on top of the rail fence” to “The place where a thunder-struck tree formerly stood.” The farm of a neighbor of ours has for its place of beginning “a monument in the wilderness.”
One of our leading lawyers being appealed to said he always thought first of the old stone houses that are so numerous in this vicinity. From this consensus of opinion I conclude land marks are of three kinds:
First, Nature’s own, the mountains, and springs, trees and streams.
Second, those constructed by man for his comfort or convenience that have become landmarks, such as highways and bridges, mills and dwelling houses.
And third, markers placed for the
sole purpose of defining boundaries or measuring distances, our
The first landmarks of which I find
mention in connection with this part of the country are the mountains. The
Wawayanda Patentees claimed that the east boundary line of their patent,
granted them 1702-3, was along the tops of the Schunnemunk
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
conducted the case for Wawayanda. We should be deeply grateful that the matter
was taken up at the time, for the testimony there given we get our only
information concerning many of
For instance, Samuel Vantz, being sworn, states he has lived in
had the mill at Belvale at one time. Path is supposed
to have started near the mill. On the following day “May 20, , Richard Johnson sr. saith
he came into the country in 1746. Never knew or heard how
Deliverance Conkling, 71 yr old, born by Butter Hill moved to Wickham’s Pond when he was 8 years old and went away at 19 years old to Haverstraw. He says the Goose Pond Mts. Used to be called Cromelines Pond where they went to kill geese. During the hearing fifty of the oldest inhabitants and most representative men of this region gave their quaintly worded testimony, and got it in record.
The oldest hand made land mark I can
find is a certain King’s Highway that the record states was laid out in 1735,
and was 40 rods wide. Beginning at Newburg –
“Certificate of Laying Out of a King’s Road – 40 Rods Wide”
Recorded at the request of Messrs. Thomas Smith and William Mapes, Commissioners for the Precinct of Goshen, this 29th day of October, 1736.
November 20th 1735, at the request of Msrs. Benjamin Ask, Thomas Dekey, Richard Buell, Thomas Wright, Lawrence Decker, Joseph Perry and others of Wawayanda in Orange County, in the Province of New York, we have laid out a certain King’s Road of forty rod wide, beginning at or near the corner of Mr. Vincent Matthew’s Improved Land at or by Goshen road; thence running as the Old road runs about two rods to the north of Mr. Gold Smith house and thence along to a certain place to the Otterkill by a butter nut tree standing in the Loe Land; then from the butter nut tree over the brook up the Valley to the old path or road and so along the old roads to Cromelines Creek; then along the creek on the west side of the creek though the fence as the old road formerly went to the house of the said Cromlines; then along the south side of the swamp running to the old road. Then along the old road on the north side of Joseph Perry’s fence & so along the old Road to Lawrence Decker’s house on the south side of the house; along the side of the hill over the Crossway; then along the old Road through Thomas Blains fence on the South side of his house and so over the Bridge; then along the road as it goes to Abraham Wintfield house on the south side of the said house; then along the Old Wagon road tell it come near the Duble kill; then directly to the intended Bridges over the Duble Kill; then along on a strait course to the house where young Jacob Decker lives on the south side of the said house; then along the road that runs to Gold’s Plantation over the said Kill till it comes near the house of Thomas Dekey house; then running from the said road northward over the creek or run and so along the north side of the said Thomas Dekey’s barn & so to his house.
(Signed) Tho Smith, William Mapes
Recorded, Liber B. page 483,
This is our oldest road. I failed to
find anyone who could tell me just where the houses of Mr. Vincent Matthews,
Mr. Goldsmith or Rulouf Swartwuots
were located. All the trace of the fine Cromeline
house is gone, only a small stream serves to keep his name in mind. At Joseph
Perry’s we are presumably in the neighborhood of Wickham’s
Pond, as Perry’s Pond is more ancient name for that lake. It passes Corelius Decker’s and Lawrence Decker’s – wherever Lawrence
Decker lived, was the first land sold by Benj. Ask from his farm called
Of the springs, one of the finest is on the farm that until recently was the Col. Houston place. Very near this spring is the stone house owned by Dr. Pitts. It was built by a James Benedict about 1796 or 1798, soon after his marriage to Mary Wheeler. Here my great grandmother, Maria Benedict, was born in 1800. As a child I delighted in her stories of olden times and particularly of the wild animals, that she said came at night from far and near to drink at that spring. She used to hear the wolves howl there many a time. In front of this house in a pasture field is the Tory rock that a man his behind while his Whig neighbors searched for him. Of course it was all woods about the rock in those days and hiding was better than it would be now.
Right in this village Charles
Decker’s meadow near the railroad tracks is a spring that Mr. Milton Wood
always said was paved with flat stones when the first settler came. Supposed to
have been done by the Indians. Just below the town is the great
Another large spring on an adjoining farm must not be confused with the Washington Spring. It is confused enough in its own name as it is. I find it first on the map as Curtie Vantine’s spring. Next it is Curtis’ fountain – and last in Orange County Atlas – as Curtie Cantines, at least the brook is, spring not designated.
At Mr. John Hynard’s
that were placed all the way from the State line to Newburg, thirty-two in all,
have so nearly disappeared that they may be included under this heading. The
history of them would be interesting if it could be found. On
I was told years ago that Benjamin
Franklin was instrumental I having these stones placed and that they extended
Stone houses have been extensively used as land marks.
The last third of the eighteenth
century seems to have been the Stone House Age in
One of the finest examples of the period is known as the P.E. Sanford homestead. Built by General Hawthorn,1773. It has his initials together with those of his wife and the date of the building on the south gable. The General was a Quaker – as well as a soldier. Mr. Samuel Pelton remembered attending Quaker meetings at his home.
On the north – west corner of
I have been unable to learn when it was built except that it was prior to the Revolution.
The tavern of Francis Baird – built
in 1766 – is of interest for having furnished entertainment for all of the
notable people of Revolutionary times who had occasion to journey from New
England and Newburg to Philadelphia and the southern colonies. While
The stone house built by Libbeus Lathrop was torn down by E. Mills Bradner when he built the house now owned by Mrs. J. D. Pickslay. We next come to the home of the Misses Benedict. It was built by their great – grandfather, James Benedict, son of the minister, and was well built. The partitions are almost solid – being of the kind styled “log-cabin.” Uprights or binders were stood up every three of four feet, and the partitions of 4-inch square timbers laid up with a yellow clay mortar between them. The plaster was put on those – no lath being used. Its builder evidently believed in preparedness – for the house had a spring in the north-west corner of the cellar, so making the family reasonably secure in case of an attack by Indians – the place could have been defended for a long time. This house was completed and the family moved into the new home in 1780. From that time to the present it has been owned by the descendants of this James Benedict, and for over a hundred and thirty-six years has been noted for that old fashioned hospitality that has never yet been improved upon.
The next ??? James – 1796 or 8, and
was a fine one for those times. Opposite the point where the
Following the road from the old school house site toward Sugar Loaf, we come to the stone house near the road leading to the City Farms. This too has been a Benedict homestead for many years. The south end was built by a Mr. Burroughs bout 1739-40. Occupied by Philip Burroughs in 1778. The City Farms property was in early times owned by the Wisner family. Mr. Wisner’s house stood at the north end of the present mansion, between it and the road. That Mr. Wisner “lived a musket shot of where” Phillip Burroughs did was proved for one fine day Phillip ??? some where down in front of his house, took aim at Mr. Wisner over by his home and fired. Why he did it is a long story, and it is not a land mark so I will not tell it now. The bullet hit the Wisner door frame.
At the end of Wickham Pond is another over interesting old stone house. Owned by the descendants of Herman de Clark. The walls are the thickest I ever remember having seen.
Beyond the brick school at Sugar Loaf may be seen one of the last old fashioned well-sweeps. It is in daily use.
This brings us out of the town of
The earliest settlers on Wawayanda
Patent were Christopher Denn, of whose coming we so
often hear in connection with the wonderful adventures of Sarah Wells. Benjamin
house stood on the east side of the highway, south from Craigville.
Eager’s history tells us it was “the largest and best
house from New Windsor to
Only after a hard contested lawsuit
were the owners able to save their property, now
The next time you are stranded at Greycourt, look along the L. & H. R. Ry. Embankment, toward Maybrook at the point where the railroad appears to meet the hills on the edge of the meadows, is about the place the first Greycourt was located.
Nearby at Craigville
were the powder mills of John Carpenter, great – grandfather of Mr. B. F. Vail.
Here was manufactured a quantity of powder for the use of the Continental Army
Mr. I. J. Stage assures me that forty rods wide was not a mistake. The English law specified that the woods and underwoods and everything that could afford a lurking place for man or beast were to be cleared away for a space of forty rods wide.
A very old road crosses the town of
There are old stone houses in the Edenville neighborhood that I would like to mention, but can only take time for one now. The home of Mr. George H. Davenport was built by a Revolutionary soldier, Lieutenant Herman Rowlee. The extreme poverty of many of the patriots after the close of the war is well illustrated by a story his descendants vouch for.
Lieutenant Rowlee had but one suit of clothes. His wife washed his trousers after he retired for the night and placed them over a chair – back before a good fire, in order to have them dry by morning. The chair tipped during the night and burned up – and the clothing also. The Lieutenant had to remain in bed the next day till his wife and a kind neighbor hastily constructed a new pair.
Ten years later he built this good stone house in which his ten children grew up. And he accumulated enough property to leave them all a legacy at the time of his death.
In the olden times many were the
industries that flourished on our water courses. Far up in the mountains on
what is termed the
Bellvale was once a very busy
hamlet. There have been grist and saw mills, also a woolen mill on the creek at
that place since early times; and to Bellvale also belongs the honor of having
had the first and for many years the only forge and tilt – hammer in what is
now the whole state of
The dam for this old forge can be
plainly seen in Bellvale village. At a forge on Long House Creek near Bellvale,
bits, stirrups and saddle – trees or frames, were made by a Mr. Peck for our
army during the was of 1812. The Indian Long House, from which the stream took
its name, is supposed to have been near the late C. R. Cline homestead, now
Fred Houston’s. From
Eighty-two years ago this spring,
the stones from Wood’s grist mill dam were built into the
Following down the creek we come to
the upper ford southeast from the Capt. Benedicts place. At our
Further down stream were important
mills at Sandfordville. They were owned by the McCamleys and by the Wheelers at one time. General Hathorn run a forge on farm afterward owned by Edward
Davis. This was later changed into a carding and fulling
There are many land -marks that we do not find either by following the roadways or streams.
It is difficult to decide which of
them all to mention. The northeast line of the Ira A. Hawkins farm coincides
with the old
Our most important land – mark from
a historical standpoint, is of course, the ruins of the Sterling Furnace, where
in 1778, the iron was produced for the great West Point chain, the second to be
placed across the Hudson at West Point. This one, made in the Town of
We do not have to go beyond our
village limits to visit a spot of great historic interest. At the corner of
The first minister, James Benedict,
and his wife Mary Blackman, were buried beside the first Meeting House. The
building - a log house, built prior to Revolution. All traces of it and the
graves, that we know to have been beside it, are gone. The fine oak trees that
have shaded the place have vanished, but I believe the time will come when the
spot will be suitably marked.
Items in square brackets [ ] have been added by the editor to help explain the
text. A map of the valley as it appeared in 1805, with many of the sites mentioned, is printed
 Editor’s note: Many of the old mile markers have either been removed or hidden. We do not note their here, as their value to unscrupulous collectors makes them very vulnerable to theft.--sg
On or near property adjacent to the small stream crossing under
 And still is, in 2003!
 The Smith-Burroughs house still stands at the road leading to the correctional facilty. The Wisner homestead was on the prison property. An historical marker stands near the spot today.