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from: " The Concise History of Dutchess County"
Of Native Americans, Palatines, Moravians and Patents.
One of the five original Hudson River counties, the others being Albany, Ulster, Orange and Westchester, Dutchess was established as a civil unit in 1683. At the start of the white settlement, its growth was so slow that it was provisionally attached to Ulster County. Because of its topographical advantages, however, coupled with its adaptability to agriculture, Dutchess forged ahead of its neighboring counties and, during the latter half of the eighteenth century, became the second largest county in the Province of New York. Albany County, with much more territory, had the largest population.
Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the physical features of Dutchess County in appraising its growth. From the days of Indian settlement, Dutch sovereignty and the beginning of English rule, the county's topography was an important factor in shaping its development. Bordered by the broad "highway" of the Hudson, it had easy access to the river. Its rolling country was not such as to make communication difficult from any section. With rich agricultural resources, it grasped the opportunity for trade with the world outside.
Ulster, the neighboring county across the river, did not have such ready communication with outside markets. Its mountainous country did not give it easy access to the Hudson. The physical features of Putnam County to the south were believed to have destined its separation from Dutchess, in 1812. Communication from the Highlands of Putnam to the less mountainous sections of Dutchess was difficult. In no section of Dutchess were there cliffs or high ridges such as to bar easy travel to the river.
While Dutchess County has been known as a conservative, home loving community from its early days, it has always taken advantage of opportunities for diversified enterprise. Aside from its physical advantages, it may be set forth at the outset that the manner in which the white inhabitants took possession of the land had a fundamental bearing on its use.
Part of the land was taken by outright purchase; part of it under leases, but none under the manorial system, which, prevailing in some other counties, retarded development. To be sure, Dutchess was slow to turn its resources to the common good; some of the leaseholds were similar in effect to manorial tenure; but there were pioneers who, eventually taking title to properties, gave the county the spark for progress which determined its advancement.
It may be well to point out at the start that the Indian inhabitants of Dutchess County were not warlike. They got along peaceably with the early white settlers, who bought land from them. While men of the Dutch East India Company were interested in Dutchess County, as with other lands along the Hudson River, for what they could get out of it, there was no development of fur trading posts here. Such traffic at New York, Albany, and Kingston was accompanied by disorders, even warfare. In Dutchess, the Indians set the pattern for the peaceful existence which attracted whites to settle in the area, to build homes and make their living from the land.
Before colonization, Dutchess was thickly forested, and abounded in wild life. Early historians refer to the presence in the county of black bear, wolves, panther, porcupine, fallow deer, moose and buffalo. One writer spoke of Indian dealings in the skins of female lions, while another said the buffalo once roamed the Highlands.
Indian occupation of the east banks of the Hudson River was largely by the Mohicans, who made up a branch of the Lenni Lenape, or Delaware Nation. Various tribes of the section were dominated by the Mohicans, with the Wappingers holding the chieftaincy in Dutchess County. There were other smaller tribes here, and evidence of a score or more village sites, nearly half of them on the Wappingers Creek, and several on the shores of the Hudson.
While the Indian life of Dutchess lacked the spectacular character of the aboriginal exploits of neighboring counties, such as in Ulster, with its Esopus wars, there were some interesting developments, principal among which was the establishment of a Moravian Mission at Shekomeko, in the town of Pine Plains. A brief chronicle of the Moravian efforts of evangelism among the red men of Dutchess is included at this point because it highlights the meagre information about Indian occupation of lands within the county.
Headquarters of the Moravian Society in the Western World were at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Moravians had met with reversals in other fields when Christian Henry Rauch arrived in New York in July, 1740, and accepted an invitation of Chiefs Tschoop and Shabash of the Mohicans to come to Dutchess County. The two Indians chiefs were converted to the Moravian faith. In January, 1742, Rauch, and Gottlob Buttner, who had joined him in the field, were called to a synod at Oley, Pennsylvania. They were accompanied by Shabash, one of the two original converts, and Seim and Kiop; and at the Pennsylvania community took place what one historian described as the first fruits of the Moravian Mission in North America-the baptism of three Indians.
The red men received Christian names, as did Tschoop, who later, at Shekomeko, was baptized under the name of John. In the summer of 1742 there was formed at the Pine Plains colony what was described as the first Christian congregation of Indians in this country. Count Zinzendorf, of the religious order, came here for the baptisms. At the end of 1743, the congregation of baptized Indians numbered sixty-three, and the Moravians had enlisted such a following that their activities became disturbing to other white colonists in the area.
From the start, the zealous and self-sacrificing labors of the missionaries had been damaging to enterprising traders who sold liquor to the Indians. Again, the French and Indian War was used as a pretext by some whites to arouse hatred against the Moravians, who were accused of abetting the French cause. The Indians had been generally sympathetic with the French, because of the strong influence over them of the Jesuit missionaries.
Foes of the Moravians ultimately commanded sufficient influence to direct the attention of Governor George Clinton to the Shekomeko colony. The missionaries were ordered to appear before the Governor and his Council in New York in July, 1744. They were acquitted of any wrong doing, but were cautioned to conduct themselves so as to arouse no further suspicions. Up to this point, charges against the Moravian leaders had been made in line with edicts against the Jesuits, but the hearings failed to link the Moravians with the Catholic order. The Provincial Assembly, on September 22, 1744, adopted a law which spelled the doom of the Shekomeko Mission. Under this statute, all persons were required to take the State oaths, and a license from the Governor, and consent of his Council, were required of those who chose to live among the Indians. The Moravians had conscientious scruples against taking oaths.
On December 15, 1744, under orders from Governor Clinton, the sheriff and three peace justices of Dutchess County appeared at Shekomeko, and gave notice to the missionaries to cease their teachings. Messrs. Rauch and Buttner were among the leaders summoned to appear in court at Poughkeepsie. Buttner was too ill to appear; the others heard the State Act read; its provisions were considered as exacting too heavy a penalty to permit continuance of the evangelizing effort. While the mission was revived from time to time for some years thereafter, the odds against the Moravians were too much for them to bear. Buttner, who had become probably the strongest champion of the cause, died in February, 1745, and was buried at Shekomeko. He exhorted his Indian friends to be faithful to the end.
As has been indicated, the territory of the Wappingers Indians embraced a large part of Dutchess County. Each tribe was headed by its sachems and counsellors; the Indians made their own laws. The symbol of the Wappingers was the opossum, often tatooed on the person of the Indian and rudely painted on the gabled end of his cabin.
Sachems of the Wappingers included four which were mentioned in official documents. One of them, Goethals, was present at the treaty of peace consummated with certain tribes of river Indians on March 6, 1660, by Peter Stuyvesant. Tseessachgaw represented the Wappingers at the last treaty signing by Stuyvesant with the Indians on May 16, 1664. The name of another, Megriesken, appears on an Indian deed for the transfer of land to the whites in Dutchess County, and embracing Rombout Patent, about which more will be detailed later. Daniel Nimham, who became chief of the Wappingers in 1740, was noted for his attempt to recover lands of the Philipse Patent (of the present Putnam County), of which the tribe was said to have been defrauded. Nimham died at the battle of Courtland Ridge, Westchester County. With some forty followers, including his son, the Indian chief espoused the cause of the Colonists in the struggle with the British.
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Although Dutchess was mapped out as a county in 1683, first legal residence in the county was not established until four years later under a land purchase from the Indians with confirmation of title by the Colonial Governor. Robert Sanders, an Englishman, who was an interpreter between the Indians and Europeans, and Myndert Harmense Van Den Bogaerdt, a Dutchman, purchased land embracing the present city of Poughkeepsie, which is the county seat of Dutchess. As of June 9, 1687, Sanders and Harmense ( for so the latter was known, rather than Van Den Bogaerdt) leased a large part of their holdings to Baltus Barents Van Kleeck and Hendrick Jans Ostrom.
This leasehold also marked the beginning of permanent legal residence within the entire county, according to contemporary historians.
Dutchess County was not named after the Dutch, but as a compliment to the Duchess of York. Her title was derived from the French word, duchesse, and was spelled with a "t" until 1755, in which year Dr. Johnson, the English lexicographer, dropped the "t," and also the final "e."
Sketch of the first house of record in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County. Known as the Van Kleeck House, it was the home of Baltus Van Kleeck, one of the original settlers. Was built by Van Kleeck in 1702; demolished in 1835
Lands upon which Messrs. Van Kleeck and Ostrom agreed to settle were described by the Dutch as "Iying in the Lange rack" and "called Minnisingh and Pochkeepsin." "Lange rack" was the broad expense of the Hudson River extending north and south of the approximate center of the shoreline of Poughkeepsie, a total distance of about ten miles. This straight section of the river was called "the Long Reach" by Robert Juett, mate of Henry Hudson's "Half Moon,"when Hudson sailed up the river, in 1609. "Minnisingh" was believed to refer to high ground in the Dutchess Turnpike east of the present Poughkeepsie, while "Pochkeepsin" was one of the numerous spellings of the county seat.
This same colorful "Long Reach" of the Hudson contains the present four-mile course for the Poughkeepsie Intercollegiate Regatta, annual rowing event, which has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to Poughkeepsie's shores and Dutchess County. The course begins at Crum Elbow, not far from the river estate of President Roosevelt; it extends south to a point below the mid-Hudson vehicular bridge at Poughkeepsie.
One now widely accepted explanation of the meaning of the name "Poughkeepsie" evolves from a story surrounding the first legal settlement in the community. Johannes Van Kleeck and Myndert Van Den Bogaerdt, sons of the original settlers, frequented a spot close to the present New York-Albany Post Road, less than two miles south of the present courthouse at Poughkeepsie. The Indians followed a trail to this same point, known by the two boys as Rust Plaetz, and meaning Resting Place. The Indians had another name for the spot, which was marked by a spring, and, so the story goes, surrounded by cat-tail reeds, a small stream issuing from the spring. They used three words to describe it: uppuqui-meaning lodge covering, the name of the cat-tail reed; ipis-little water; ing-meaning place; and freely translated, "The Reed-covered Lodge by the Little Water Place."
The Dutch and the English settlers spelled the name phonetically, and it appeared in various combinations of letters. In the Van Kleeck-Ostrom lease it was "Pockkeepsin." A more familiar later form of the word was "Apokeepsing," resembling uppiquiipis-ing, until the "A" was dropped; and out of Poughkeepsing there came the accepted name, "Poughkeepsie."
So much for the name of the principal city of Dutchess County. The date, June 9, 1687, is now recognized as not only marking the beginnings of permanent legal residence of white men in Poughkeepsie, but in the county as well. Prior to that time there were undoubtedly transient residents in the county, but there is no documentary evidence pointing to an earlier legal white residence than that at Poughkeepsie. Early local historians set forth that the first settler may have been Nicholas Emigh, or Eighmie, presumed to have arrived at Fishkill, southern Dutchess, at an early date. These historians conceded that authorities differed as to the exact date of settlement, although one writer placed Eighmie in the county as early as I682. It remained for the late Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, careful historian of the modern period, to lay before the public the complete story of the Van Kleeck-Ostrom lease and its significance as fixing the time of the first legal white residence at Poughkeepsie.
To be sure, early settlements in both Fishkill, to the south of Poughkeepsie, and Rhinebeck, to the north, were contemporaneous with that in the present county seat. Peter Pieterse Lassen, an ancestor of the late historian, Benson J. Lossing, is known to have been living at the mouth of Jan Casper's kill in 1688. In 1700, Hendrick Kip built a house in Rhinecliff (town of Rhinebeck). All of the early settlers lived close to the river; it was not until the early part of the eighteenth century that the thickly wooded interior of the county was opened to home sites.
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Bordering the Hudson River for a distance of approximately forty-five miles, Dutchess County's rolling acres extend easterly to the Connecticut line. Columbia County forms the northern boundary. In the southern portion is the Fishkill Mountain range, a part of these majestic ridges forming the northern end of the Highlands, and extending along the southern border of the county to the Hudson River. Dutchess is flanked on the east by the Taghkanic Mountains, which rise from three hundred to five hundred feet above the valleys and one thousand to one thousand two hundred feet above tide water. Old Beacon and North Beacon, of the Fishkill range, are the highest peaks, with respective elevations of 1,471 and 1,665 feet above tide. The present city of Beacon, within old Fishkill town, was named after one of its overshadowing mountains. It was atop these mountains that "beacon" flares were lighted during the Revolutionary War. Extending from the northeastern part of the county, the Taghkanic Mountains pass in a southwesterly direction into Putnam County. The Hudson River provided a passage through them. On the west side of the river, these same mountains extend into New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the chain forming the easternmost range of the Appalachian Mountains.
In general, the western part of Dutchess is rolling upland, bluffs along the Hudson rising from 100 to 180 feet.
Principal among the streams which flow into the Hudson from the interior of the county are the Wappingers Creek, the Fallkill and Fishkill, the Sawkill and Casperkill, and the Landsmans and Crum Elbow creeks. The Ten Mile River runs in a southerly course throughout the eastern part of the county. Whaley and Sylvan lakes are among the largest of the numerous bodies of water.
While this chronicle of Dutchess will not attempt to detail ramified geological features of the county, it may be said that the rock formations and diverse soil and mineral deposits have contributed materially to its development. From the Taghkanic Range has come mineral wealth. Extensive marble quarrying in eastern Dutckess has given way to a present-day wartime magnesium processing industry,*
(*Wartime magnesium industry at South Dover, in eastern Dutchess, was discontinued in the latter part of 1944.)
with the extraction of the highly valuable metal from limonite deposits. Iron ore mining formed a thriving industry of an earlier day. Hudson River slate was quarried in the western part of the county, and southern Dutchess, in particular, produced building brick from its clay deposits. Throughout the rural areas, natural resources have made the county rich in a variety of agricultural pursuits.
The first chapter goes on to describe and explain the early patents, but space prevents its inclusion here. This book is part of my " Concise History" (of Hudson Valley counties) series, and is expected in late 1996. (Orange and Ulster Counties have already been published.)
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Copyright © 1995 by Richard Frisbie -- All rights reserved.