Monday, April 19, 2010

"The Decadent Hudson River Aristocracy"

                                                         April 19, 1938
     Dear Carl,
           Today I covered the territory between Poughkeepsie and Beacon including Beacon. Beacon used to be called Fishkill  on the   Hudson and many folks   stick to the name  (Fishkill on further back  inland).  It is now so named on account of the  Beacon Mountain.
           The   first town you come to is Wappingers Falls named after the Indians.  A girl and boy who worked on the  Tribune have taken over The  Chronicle there  and I got   a few names from is her.  The town does not appear to have much.    The Mesier family gave their farmhouse in the center of the town and some land, which now houses the  town council room and the welfare offices.  The WCTU have given the usual pump dated 1894 with the inscription “Let him who is thirsty drink.” A little further on I took the road to the right off 9B leading to New Hamburg where  a family named Reese of New York descended. The Mesier family  has a real manor house with a great hall and portraits and   elaborate grounds.  Their landscaping is  in the tradition.   Only the servants were there and they didn't know much but they   said the   old man would be delighted to tell plenty. They  are well heeled I gathered.  I them went on into   the town of New Hamburg and  called on Captain John E. Frazier who was widely known as a Hudson River boat  captain.  It was  one of the many disappointments of the last few days. He is picking daises  and could only show mm that he still had a   license and reel off  names  of ships, say how everybody knew how  well he knew the river.  I am saving Capt. Moses  Collyer[1] because I almost know he will have something and we can pick him up at  Chelsea on our way  to Beacon.
           I tried to get  something out  of New Hamburg because it sounded as though it ought to be good.  The Drakes and Millards settled the town. It is small but has three  churches. The RR rips right thru is and makes house cleaning and sleep hell.  Good shad fishing. Miss Katherine Millard I talked to but  she had nothing but  a curious recipe for Scripture Cake, which  I  copied down. Every ingredient is given a quotation from  the scriptures. The two families    were and   still  are in  the lumber business.  She had save a clip on the  Mary  Powell and was one  of the  ones who were  in love with the ship.  It must  have stopped running about 1913 after 51 years, having started running about  1862.  Only two Captains operated her Father and   son, A.L. Anderson and A.E. Anderson.  Took 27,000 trips,   1,154,000 miles,  and 150,000 passengers  every year. Miss Mallard said  the backbone  is  the best part of  the shad; fewer bones. She rolls  the shad in flour pepper-salt and  fries in Crisco.
           Back to Frazier for minute. He was nearby when the  Sunnyside  sank and a   lady was drowned. He took some people  to see the General Slocum the   next   day after the   accident.  Beefs about Captains Hudson river not   getting any  pension. Companies  cut  them out and Roosevelt has not   been good to them. They resent paying a fee for licenses $10. The companies used  to pay $15O a month then   cut  it to $25 and in 1933  stopped altogether.  Frazier  is receiving state old age pension. Some of the other Hudson River captains  are Ed van Wart of Athens in Green County,  Aerion Rea of Newburgh, Thomas Hillis  of  Kingston,NY and  Mel Hamilton.
           Alfred van Santford  (spelling my be wrong)  was head of the Day Line and the company has always been a family affair. The old man refused to let his boat[2]s run on Sunday because he was very religious and finally consented provided there were services on board.
          I went over to Beacon via Mattawan. Mrs. Van Huyton still hadn’t found the pamphlet on Eustacia. But I went to the next house where Mr. Louis Whittimore[3] lives with his wife and sister, Grace Whittimore. Louisa de Windt married a man named Whittimore and these are her children. Caroline, another sister married AJ Downing. She (Grace) said it  was  strange Downing drowned because he was  en excellent   swimmer. He saved a couple of ladies but one of then he went back for grabbed him and choked him. She allowed as how these days he probably would have known enough to give her  a sock.  Grace is a little  queer but perhaps  if you  see   her you can recall  something to her about  Downing.  Louie Whittimore is very interesting. He said Caroline who married Downing was the only de Windt (the spelling was later changed to having a d in it  as a result of   someone finding   a tomb   in Holland with   the  name spelled that way) who  got a worthwhile husband.  All the others,  he said,   got fortune hunters.    Louisa married a second time to   a man named Clarence Cook who was a newspaperman.
      He showed me a half burned diary, which  was rescued from the old de Windt house.  (John de Windt gave new houses to his daughters as they married on his  place.) They thought  it was John Adams’ diary while at the   Court  of St James. But I soon was reasonably sure it was not. However, it  is   interesting.  It  is probably the diary of John Adams Smith, the  son of Col Wm Stephens Smith and  Abigail Adams,  the John Quincy Adams’  only  child. They had several children one of whom married,  a daughter, married Peter de Windt, son of John.  This John Adams Smith was very self-analyzing and his  dairy is very amusing.  I don't believe it’s been published. It’s dated Report of  1820,  London. He copies down a  letter he presumably wrote and  signs   it J. Adams  Smith.  A book they had said something about  his being in the  diplomatic  service and said  none  of  the  children amounted to very much.  It  is not quite clear why  the diary was there except that he was fond of his   sister  Caroline de Windt or Mrs. Peter de Windt.
      The whole Whittimore family are strange and  seem to like your being around. You have to let them ramble on in their own way and Louie  told all  the family gossip such as Grace's daughter de Lancey being found poisoned by herself in a woods. Had many lovers  and had plenty   of money.
      The Seamans have been bleeding her for all the money they   can  get.    George Seaman's father married the youngest of the de Windt   girls. He is  a closer relative than his wife.  But  she is a "busybody"  says Mr. Whittimore   and maybe she  can  tell us  something. She was supposed to there today.
      The Seaman place is on 9D just before you get into Beacon. It must have been rather lovely once. George Seaman came to the door in his tattered tweeds. He  can’t tell much about  Downing just rambles on about having worked for the telegraph Co. (Mexican) in New York.  Said the sons and daughters of the old places all went away and used to come back only for vacations and weekends. They all went into business in New York. Whittimore said Seaman and his wife kept trying to have boys but it was no use after  they had six or  seven girls. They have absolutely no money and the place is heavily mortgaged. Next to them is some orphan’s home, waiting vulture-like to devour the  Seaman place when they are finally licked.  But you will drop by there  and get the picture. Mrs. Seaman was due back  from New York tonight but when I left she hadn’t  showed up. We'll  catch her over the weekend. Remember we must to mention that Miss Helen Kenyon of Vassar sent us.
The Verplancks
      As  I pulled out of the Seaman I was  terribly depressed. I hadn't got anything with much lift  to it and the picture of the decadent Hudson River aristocracy was  sad.  I took  the road to the famous Verplanck place. On the way  I got  off the road and found myself at the old Newlin place.  I talked to a young housewife who was living in the place and you get the picture.  She was a village girl and her husband's family had bought the place.  She was pleased to be mistress of the big house even though she was  not quite  socially acceptable to the Verplancks and the  old families. She showed me how to  get  to Bayard Verplanck’s place.
      He  is  charming.  He caught on as soon as  I came  in the door and we sat down and  talked and puttered over things  for several hours. He is a local banker in Beacon fairly well-heeled and built the house he is living on about twenty five years ago. It is next door to the remains of the old Verplanck  house built in 1722. It burned down a few years ago. The ruins are still  standing. It is called Mt. Gulian[4] and Col. Knox and some others founded the Society of Cincinnati[5] which, as you know, is composed only of the eldest  sons of the officers of the American Revolutionary Army.
He and his  wife were present several years ago when it burned.  They think some   incendiary did  it as  there was  one  in the neighborhood. When the fire was nearly out they left  a gardener and a constable and another man  in charge to watch it the rest  of the night as  it was still smoldering. Just before sunlight they saw through the stone   window frame a flare  of light. All four men suddenly realized that  it was not the  fire but   that a lady in hoop skirts was holding a candle high in the air while a gentleman in Colonial costume  was hurriedly writing at a desk.  The gardener whose name was Angus McCloud later described the man to  the Verplancks and all agreed that it was Uncle Bill or William E. Verplanck. The  light died down again and that was all they saw.
      Bayard Verplancks's house is built on Spookfield so called because the story that runs  in his family says that when Henry Hudson came up  the river his crew stopped just below the house and came up to a brook that runs through there  to get  fresh water.  They met some Indians  and  one   of the  sailors was trying to make a deal of trading a knife for some furs or something from  the Indian.  They quarreled and the sailor killed the Indian.  On certain nights you  can still see the Indian looking for the sailor and the knife. For generations the plowboys have used the story as an excuse to knock off work promptly at dusk because they claim they are afraid.
      The Verplancks received their land directly from  the Francis Rombout Patent or the Rombout Patent in 1683. They are friends of  Spingarn[6] but you know all  about him. We are to stop in and see Mrs. Samuel Verplanck at her place, Roseneath. Also a  man named Gilland Howland, editor of the Beacon News. Try and read The History of Abraham Isaacs Ver Planck and his male descendents  in American by  William Edward Verplanck 1892.
      The Verplancks had a faithful Negro servant named James F. Brown who served them at Mt Gulian from 1829-64. He kept a diary of  the doings at the house and what his orders were which are several volumes. Mrs. Samuel Verplanck has it, I believe. One night some southern planters were the guests at dinner of the Verplancks and there was a bad row. They demanded that he be returned. The Verplancks and some others raised enough money as a result of the row to pay for James Brown’s freedom.

[1] Captain Moses Collyer was photographed by Marguerite Bourke-White and Croswell Bowen, and provided steam boat stories for Carmer’s The Hudson.
[2] Alfred Van Saantvoord entered the day boat business in 1856, and controlled the New York to Albany business by 1863, the beginning of the Hudson River Day Line. After his death in 1901, his son-in-law, Eben Erskine Olcott continued to grow the line, until it declining traffic in the Depression.
[3] Louie Whittemore, George Seaman and others are melded by Carmer into the interlude with man in tweed knickerbockers in Carmer’s “In a Mountain’s Shadow, “ in The Hudson.
[4] Mount Gulian, hub of the Rombout Patent, was built around 1730, and occupied by members of the Verplanck family until the fire in 1931. It was restored for the 1976 Bi-Centennial. James Brown’s journals reside at NYHS in NYC.
[5] The Society of the Cincinnati, is a fraternal organization, was initially created to support veteran officers of the Revolutionary War with membership limited to direct male descendents of the original officers.
[6] Joel Springarn, former professor of comparative literature at Columbia University in New York, and one of the co-founders of the NAACP in 1916, at the Troutbeck Inn in Amenia, NY, was a friend of Carmer.

The Intercollegiate Regatta at Poughkeepsie.

Boat Racks and Work on Walkway Over the Hudson, 2008, Lucey Bowen

                                                            April 18, 1938

      Spent  some hours, very long hours,  with James Reynolds  whom  I had hoped would have some interesting  stories about  sporting events  etc on the   Hudson.  But he is tough.  Seemed to want me to  copy down dates and   names of  ships that passed by Poughkeepsie. He read at length from old dairy of his   Grandfather who kept  a record of the big news  events of the day most of  which he got  from the New York  Commercial Advertiser. The only  amusing passage I could  see was one  about "A pair of porpoises passed up  the river today  going as far as Red Hook.  It was said that they were on an excursion etc. etc."  If you   want it I made arrangements to go back and copy it and a couple  of other things.
      Reynolds   is  a typical sportsman.  He  seems  without any  imagination but he did bring the  Intercollegiate Regatta to Poughkeepsie.[1]    He was a single skull oarsman who  won many cups. He gave the  old boathouse but  rowing has since died  out.     It was his  idea to bring the   Intercollegiates here. He went  to New York  and  the officers  of the association there said it would be too rough.  He brought them here and  entertained them at  the Nelson House.  Then took them out on a tug.  They were  convinced.

[1] The Intercollegiate Regatta was held at Poughkeepsie from 1895 until 1949, and made Poughkeepsie the rowing capital of the United States. The course was 4 miles long, timing determined by the tides, and drew thousands of spectators to Poughkeepsie. Rowing at Poughkeepsie has experienced a revival at both the high school and collegiate levels.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Some Snippets and Violets from Rhinebeck


 April 15,1938
Dear Carl,

      All yesterday and today I helped Nik paint his house. Tonight I went again to see Mrs. Davis who works at the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank and is interested in local history.
      She said there is a Dr. Thomas, a clergyman of New York  who says that the author of   The Night Before Christmas did not write it but that one of his ancestors named Livingston did. He has as much proof as a Baconian. Says Livingston had horses  in his  stable  named Prancer and Dancer etc.  and  that he  had written a lot of other verse in the s same meter as the poem  Says that the alleged author picked it up  somewhere and sent it  to the Troy paper.  In his old age when he signed a paper saying he bad written it that he was in his dotage. If you are interested I can go   into  details.  The Livingston family all had red hair and lived at Livingston Manor in Fishkill.
      An article  by  Dr. Henry  Booth for the Dutchess County Historical Society is   supposed to  contain  interesting matter. Mrs.  Davis   seemed then to  have run out of any stories such as the Tory story I  thought   so  good.  She   seemed to have mostly a hodge podge of things, which I will  pass on in   the hope they might suggest something or dovetail with something you want.
      de Chastellux's two   journeys give something of life on the  Hudson. Matthew Vassar    once wanted to   put a statue of Hendrick Hudson on Bannerman's  Island.  It used to be called Pollopel Island after a Polly Pell who lived  there and eloped much against her Father's wishes. Another elopement  was that   of Elsie Derieimer who  eloped from the   second  story window of her house  in Poughkeepsie. Her Father felt that his eldest daughter should get married first and  therefore objected to  the youngest getting   married.  There is a  Glebe House now occupied by  the Junior League.   It is on  land known as Glebe lands  which were a gift from   the  Crown so as to   support  the local church.
      There   is a crackpot across the river from Poughkeepsie who raises Cain about Roosevelt calling his place Krumb Elbow.   Says his place is Krumb Elbow. Maps   show him  to be wrong and anyway the Roosevelt's don't call  their estate Krumb  Elbow   according  to   his  Mother.   The newspapermen used the word because the   section near Hyde Park  is called that. The  fierce resentment up here   against Roosevelt  is curious. That he is a  neighbor and   given the countryside very favorable  publicity is  unimportant  to   them.
      Off Newburgh Bay is a spot  called the Dancing Room[1] where  the  Indians are supposed to  have danced.     Peekskill was  founded because John Peek  sailed up   the Hudson and  got   stuck in   the mud at Peekskill Bay. Immigration from Holland has not stopped. Mrs. Davis knows  several Dutch who have come over in recent years and   settled in and around Poughkeepsie. At Rhinebeck during the week or so before Easter the schools are closed  so  that the  school children can   join in picking violets. Practically every family fusses  a little with violets.  The prosperity of the town is deeply affected by the  vogue in wearing violets.[2] Mrs. Davis heard  from an old lady about a cave near the site of her burned down house and it was supposed to lead into the banks of the Hudson but she has never been able to get the boy scouts to do anything about it.


[1] Danskammer, located north of Newburgh, opposite New Hamburg and the outflow of Wappinger’s Creek.
[2] The vogue for bouquets of violets died out after World War I, and growers turned to anemones.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lover's Leap from the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetary


                             Poughkeepsie, N.Y.                                                               
                             Wednesday, April 13
Dear Carl,

       What is probably one of the most  amazing views on the Hudson(except of course Beacon) is Lovers Leap. It was named because a couple who could not enjoy their great love went up there and he pushed her off first and then jumped after her. I looked it over carefully and it’s an ideal spot for such a thing. Another story goes that an Indian maiden jumped off because of her love for another Indian b/ a white man. In recent years there have been a couple of summer houses where Poughkeepsie people used to go and take their lunch. The fact that it was part of a cemetery[1] and also that almost to the top. a Doctor named MacIntosh had a red brick mausoleum built. 
      About a year or so ago a wealthy doctor of about 50 years old lost his eighty-year-old housekeeper named Alice M Whittier. He went all over the countryside I mean even on Long Island and Woodlawn and bought options on places to bury the old lady whom he apparently adored. Woodlawn is still trying to get back his option for purchase.  Then right on the  tip-top built a tower-like mausoleum and in it put the casket of Alice Whittier  (died Nov 15,1930) and the casket of Harry E Whittier died Dee 27, 1912. That's all  I know for now. Poughkeepsie people are sore. It’s a beautiful spot.  I went up  there today and  three middle   aged Poughkeepsie ladies were there just looking.  They said it’s getting to be sundown.  It’s awful up here then.     I want that you should see the Hudson from there.  It will do something strange to you.  You can see the course where the great regatta is held and you can see the town and the raping of the banks of the Hudson by the RR and the factories along the banks at Poughkeepsie. You can seem glimpses of the great estates and the two bridges thread like spanning the misty river. The winds that blow up there are different from the winds back from the river and anywhere else for that matter. They are heavier and sharper and more changing and say different things. But Jesus, these are supposed to be factual reports.
      Lowden's Dictionary of Gardening published in England In 1835 said the   Vanderbilt Place at Hyde Park was the greatest estate from a landscape point of view in all of America. Andrew Jackson Downing’s niece lives at Beacon, New York.  Her name is Mrs. George W. Seaman. I really think  this looks important enough for you to see her. We have a nice introduction to her from Miss Helen Kenyon.[2] Also De Lancy Verplanck of Beacon is a guy to see. Also Mr. George Van Vleet of Pleasant Plains.
      Tomorrow night I am spending the evening with Mrs. Elsie Davis of the bank who I told you about. She says she has made memos on a lot of stuff to tell me. I have a letter to Mrs. Prosse at Kinderhook who owns and lives in Lindenwald, the home of Martin van Buren.  It’s from Elizabeth Brownell.
      Went down again to see about the shad fishing. Arranged for the loan of a life preserver if you can't swim although there's no danger. I believe I told you Jim Reynolds of 130 S Hamilton is the authority on sport on the Hudson River.The shad fisherman time the placing of their bboats so that when they come within fifty feet of the bridge piers or the China anchor (a pile of stones used to build the bridge) ir any obstruction the tide turns back suddenly. Get it. Timing.                     
       Went to Adriance Library today and took a look at the Baroness Riedesel’s account  of her experiences in America. Believe me it’s amazing. And there's plenty in it about along the Hudson that gives it a good tie  in.  Christ, it took eight days to get the whole damn army across the  river at Fishkill.
            Here is  the way  it’s printed so if you want to try and get it in the NY Public  Library

by   MRS GENERAL RIEDESEL Translated by Wm L Stone

      The title is long and involved but begins with The Memoirs of etc. Gee I'd like to own that book.
            They say there was a feature story  on the Glass  Tomb at  Salt Point but the  city  editor of  the paper here never heard of it. I am hoping to check the reporter who wrote  it. They say you can actually see the bodies when the  sun is just right in the mausoleum.
            A guy who tried to start a newspaper around here named Leonard Mara of 12 Baker St. is supposed to have a lot of dope on whales but I am a little concerned about his being in the literary business too. But it won’t hurt to contact him mildly.
            Will you drop me a postcard care of Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York and tell me what day next week you  want  to come  up for the shad fishing.  Also maybe you   can make  a couple of high spot calls on that day if   you have time. I think  I'll   work out of Poughkeepsie until the distances up  and down the river get too far. Also I'm getting so that a lot of Vassar people are thinking of names and items about the  Hudson. It makes  a swell  entree  in gathering dope  too.    I may  run over to the farm[3] on Sunday. But otherwise I'm in Poughkeepsie.
            By the way I hope you'll be very critical  about  what I'm doing and if you want  to move on or go deeper into  certain things or anything just  say so.  I'm  sort of going ahead blindly. Anyway  if you come up for shad  fishing you can give what  you   think in person.
            More Shad fishing. They used to catch in the old days the Albany beef or sturgeon and they tore the hell out of the shad nets. Some times they caught a cow and then they used the roe for baiting eel pots. They'd give you a pail full of the roe for nothing. Can you imagine? It was fresh caviar.


[1] The Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, established 1853, “At the top of the Hill is the Whittier Mausoleum constructed in 1932 by Dr. Emile Alfred Muller, an internist and surgeon from Manhattan. Shortly before his death, he searched for the perfect spot to find eternal peace and he finally settled on this breathtaking site in the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, for a memorial to his housekeeper, Alice Whittier and his family. Also known to locals as ‘Lover’s Leap,’ a name derived from the legend of a Native American woman who chose to jump from the cliff to her death rather than consummate and arranged marriage.” From A Walking tour of the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery.
[2] Helen Kenyon was the first woman to chair Vassar College’s Board of Trustees, and raised the funds for the physical education facility which bears her name.
[3] Hidden Hollow, Sherman, CT.
Copyright 2010 Estate of Croswell Bowen

Tales of Whaling, Shad Season and Scandal in Poughkeepsie

                             Poughkeepsie, N.Y

                             April 12, 1928
Dear Carl,
      This morning went down to the river docks and chewed the fat with some of the old time fishermen who were there either just coming in or drying and stowing their nets. Any day this week you care to come up you can go out with any of half dozen of these men. They seem to want to show off their knowledge of the business. I will pass on what dope I got later in this memo. But I think I had better bring up what I have got so far to date. Last night when I finished which was 8pm I was too tired to begin the first memo.
      I called on Mrs. Fred Lovejoy yesterday whom Mayor Spratt said had an ancestor who was a Hudson River whaler. The ancestors name was Alexander Fox and he owned property in Poughkeepsie and came from Connecticut. He was not a whaler but Mr. Fred Lovejoy sent me to a boat builder named George Buckhout. I finally found Buckhout down at the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club. He has built some very nice boats but recently sold his boat-building place next to the yacht club to a relative of Jake Ruppert.  He hangs around down there. He had a grandfather who was a whaler but out of Warren. Massachusetts. His name was Jacob Emery Buckhout and he sailed on the Brutus in 1854. He used to tell stories about going in swimming with the girls on the Sandwich Isles who wore nothing but a smile. However, didn’t press him for any stories as Jacob was not a Hudson River whaler. Buckhout sent me on to Mrs. Elsie Davis of the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank who, I discovered, much to my delight, had done all the work on whaling in Poughkeepsie.
      She is quite a remarkable woman. Has read all your stuff and has been gathering your kind of stuff on her own for years out of sheer love of good stories and for setting down what really happened. A lot of what she found she put in a little house organ for the bank and I am sending on a copy to you. I got quite a few items from talking to her yesterday (Monday) but first I'll give a couple of highlights on whaling in Poughkeepsie.
      Newburgh and Hudson took it up first and some Poughkeepsie people had a few shares in it. Then there was a movement to have Poughkeepsie get in on the business. The Poughkeepsie Whaling Co was organized and incorporated April 20, 1832.  One of the organizers was Matthew Vassar who founded Vassar College. Another company was organized April 30 1833,   just a year later. Some of the ships of the Poughkeepsie Whaling Co. were the Vermont, the Siroc and the Elbe. The Dutchess Co has had a fleet of six or seven ships some of the names were the Newark, the NP Tallmadge (named for a charter member of the co), and the New England. Skilled whaling help was imported from New Bedford among them James Marble. Mrs. Davis says there was a mutiny on the Vermont. You will note that New York papers carried items that Captain Norton died on Charles Island where he had been left badly injured. The date is April 29 1835. If you are going through any New York papers (the Evening Post seems to have carried some stuff about Poughkeepsie) you may find further details. Mrs. Davis has still been unable to get any logs or records at all on this mutiny or any of the other voyages.

Miss Raymond, whom Nik[1] introduced me to at Vassar, has been a great help. (Nik took me to lunch). She showed we some documents which showed the sale of one-sixteenth part of the Vermont for the sum of $562.50 on June 10, 1837. Apparently, that was the way they financed the purchase of a ship. Conklin was one of the charter members and organizers of the company. Miss Raymond also showed me an insurance policy for the buildings, cooper, and ship’s materials of the Dutchess Whaling Co. The date was 1843. It was assigned to the Mutual Safety Insurance Co. in Nov. of 1843 as security for a loan. The days of whaling in Poughkeepsie were drawing to a close. The New York Post said around Nov. 10, 1838 that speculators in whaling in Poughkeepsie had all but ruined the town. The Poughkeepsie Eagle as you will see in the copies of items in the bank house organ, didn’t like the Post suggesting that all wasn’t well. I can’t figure out why Constant Norton was listed as the Master in the deed, which was made two years after his reported death in 1835.
      Miss Raymond helped me go into details of Matthew Vassar’s whaling activities. We find Foster Rhea Dulles, in the book Lowered Boats: A Chronicle of American Whaling, saying:
“Among the owners of the New England and the other vessels of the Dutchess Whaling Co. (She’s wrong; it was the Poughkeepsie Whaling Co.) was a prosperous brewer named Matthew Vassar. The profits of his whaling venture, it is interesting to note, helped to swell the fortune he was able to leave to Vassar Female College as an expression of his belief that ‘women, having received from her Creator the same intellectual constitution as man, has the same right to intellectual development.[2] Whaling from Poughkeepsie did not, however, survive the increasing difficulties the industry encountered after 1840. There had been a number of successful voyages and in 1843 three of the whaling company’s seven vessels brought back 1,770 barrels of sperm oil, 5,700 barrels of whale oil and 57,000 pounds of whalebone. But this was almost the end. Poughkeepsie found it necessary to sell its fleet, as had Hudson and Newburgh and this unusual chapter in whaling’s history came to a close.”
      We looked in Matthew Vassar’s Autobiography and letters but found no mention of the whaling business. Presumably his interest was largely one of investment.
      Before going on with whaling data, I will mention that Matthew Vassar had some dealings with your friend A.J. Downing.[3] In Vassar College and its Founder by Benson J Lossing we read:
      “The late A.J. Downing, the eminent rural architect and landscape-gardener was called to explore it (Springside, Vassar’s Estate), suggest a plan of avenues for walks and drives, and a design for a porter’s lodge. William C. Jones, and Engineer of the Hudson River Railroad Co. made correct topographies … Laborers were employed in the ruder tasks of preparing the grounds for the more skillful workman who, in time, wrought out the beautiful creation of Nature and Art, the Springside of today … from the design of Mr. Downing, a porter’s lodge, a cottage, barn, carriage house, ice house and diary room granary, an aviary for wild and domestic fowls, apiary, a spacious conservatory and neat gardener’s cottage, and a log cabin in the more prosaic portions of the domain, where meadows and fields of grain may be seen, were erected.”
      Downing thought enough of the carriage house and stable “in the Rustic Pointed Style” to include it in the Fourth of Edition of his Cottage Residences, John Wiley, 1860, pages 186-7, Design XV.
      There are some whaling implements at the Kimlin Cider Mill on Swift's Hill, which were thrown out of the museum at Poughkeepsie and taken in by the old guy there. I’m going up to see them and maybe get a picture or so Kimlin is supposed to be able to give me some Hudson River dope.  Hope to get to see him today.
      The buildings that housed the whaling business down by the river are no more. Buckhout didn't have any recollection of hearing any stories about whaling. It didn't make much of an impression on anyone. Mrs. Davis says she is sure that a lot of farm boys came to Poughkeepsie and shipped out just for the adventure. She says the mutiny was probably because they boys found they didn't like the business so well and wanted to come home. It must have been difficult for the boats if they cane back here in the winter as the river was frozen for a few months out of the year. Incidentally, ice boating used to be a great sport on the Hudson but it has passed (like so many of the things we are looking into) because the river is kept open by icebreakers all winter as far as Albany. Most of the sailing of small boats on the river around Poughkeepsie seems to be not much. Buckhout says the folks seem to go in for speedboats more these days. He has built several hulls for speedboats. He remembers the whaling wharf at Poughkeepsie. But it has since passed on. I believe dismantled. The whaling was started here because some--New Bedford people thought whaling ports should be located more inland in case of attack. I believe New Bedford had been subject to some attack (according to Silas Hinckley[4] whom I just talked to now). The New Bedford whaling people went up the sound to Connecticut but were rebuffed.  The Hudson River people thought it good idea and there must have been some loose capital floating around. Anyway the three towns went in for it, as I said. I imagine one of the reasons it failed was bad management.  After all they had to hire all their skilled workers from New Bedford. Probably the New Bedford captains wanted plenty large salaries from coming over to the Hudson.
      Will do a whaling job on Hudson and Newburgh when I get there. That's about all I have been able to get except what you will get in the house organ. Mrs. Davis has exhausted (as you will see) the newspapers in Poughkeepsie for the period. She asked groups and people she knew to look in their attics for logs or anything of the voyages but nothing has turned up as yet.
      To get back to shad fishing. A guy named Torrens who fishes out of the Dutton Lumber Co. yards (there's a story in their getting lumber from Seattle in the present day). He draws a little and writes fishing pieces and wants to do anything he can for us. His name is Torrens . You can go out with him or one of the more folksy natives. He told me about "plugging.” While we were   talking one of the fishermen said; "The next time it happens I'm going to give it to him. I pretended we was friends today and said how-de-do but the next time I'm going to shoot.....over his head of course…but he's going to get a good scare.” Torrens said the fishermen lay their nets in front of each other some times and it's called plugging. There's a guy across the river whose house you can see from Poughkeepsie who is famous as a shad fisherman. The house looks interesting and he's fished for 40 years. Will get him. The danger in shad fishing is the big ships. The nets are kept 25 feet below the surface of the water so that ordinarily the ships pass over them, but if the ship hits a buoy, the propeller winds up the net and it's good bye fifty bucks which is, it seems, about what a good net costs. Foreign substances get in the net and fish they don't want.  Silas Hinckley says to the old days the fisheries used to catch sturgeon and they threw them back, caviar and all and sturgeon was called Albany Beef? Why? He don’t know. Today I noticed they caught a couple of mackerel. When they catch carp they put them in tanks on the railroad and sell them to the Jews, “because there’s something in the Jew’s religion that makes him want things alive.”
      Now I have not got any good stories on either shad fishing or whaling but only some background. Will look out for anecdotes. But I have a few leads and stories I picked up in the past two days, which I herewith pass on.
No names in this one. The guy who  told it to  Mrs. Davis never would tell her. When the Revolution came the die-hard Tories had to flee Poughkeepsie.  Some of them went to Nova Scotia where they founded prosperous communities. One farmer was fleeing and he went to a neighbor and said:  "I am turning over my farm to you while I am gone. You will care for it and when the trouble and strife are over I will return. You can keep whatever you make on the place."  Ten years or so he returned. He knocked on the door of his house.  The neighbor answered the door and said what do you want. The man said "Why neighbor, I've come for my farm. Don't you remember me ?"  "I do not," said the neighbor. "Get off the place.” Then the old Tory uttered a terrible curse on the house forever, and ever since then that house has had trouble murder, violence, suicide  and death. Mrs. Davis is trying to find out the names.
      Next to the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club is a lonely brick house rather lovely in a way. I noticed a curious half buried brick oval beside it. I learned it was the old Tower house. Years ago before the Civil War old man Tower set up a blast furnace. He sold pig iron and grew rich . During the Civil War he got $120 a ton for his pig iron. He was nouveau rich I guess. He moved from the beautiful aid brick house and into town. Later when he grew even richer he built a place further up on the Hudson in the Downing tradition I believe. His houses symbolized his rise in wealth. Then all the blast furnaces seem to stop working gradually and we come to an old guy who lived at the turn of the century. He had a yacht and was apparently a typical rich man's  son.  He had a yacht and was traveler and great deal at Newport  etc. He took up with a telephone girl and when his wife would ask for the carriage and horses they were away being shod or something the servants said. Finally she began to hear tales. She telephoned him one day to find out when and if he was coming home.  She learned something or other presumably he wasn't coning so she went into her son's room and when he rose from the bed to greet her she shot him dead and then turned the pistol on herself.
      It is the greatest of the scandals in Poughkeepsie and called the great tragedy. Hinckley believes that “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” is very true up around here. Do you think the Tower family really could be a symbol of the rise and fall of an industrial Hudson River family. Want any more on that if I can find it?
      Odds and ends. Mrs. Davis says Miss Reynolds says she has seen 47 ways of spelling Poughkeepsie in the old records. The Guggenheims took to changing their name sometimes in years past to Cookingham. Result much confusion in county records. A Captain Vaughn came marauding along the Hudson. The Gill Family made ready to flee. I believe he was a Tory captain. Aunt Dina (colored) had her baking in the oven. She would not leave all her baking.
She insisted on staying. When they came. The soldiers or marauders smelled the good things in the oven and Aunt Dina made a deal with them that she’d a feed them with the   good things if they’d not burn and  destroy the house.  They didn’t. When the Gill family  sold  the  place a few years ago  they made provision  for the family cemetery  to be moved to a regular cemetery. One of  the Gill family requested that the remains of Aunt Dinna be placed beside that of the  Gill  ancestors.[5] Mrs. Davis verified this story writing  to some relatives  of the Gills in the West •
      There is said to be a glass tomb you can look into at Sands Point.  Will check.
      Delafield Street was beautiful in its day. There are restrictions or were which made the houses stand back 60 feet from the road so as to maintain a clear vista to the Hudson. Apparently there were alternating periods of appreciation and ignoring of the Hudson. Mrs. Davis speaks of the gingerbread architecture as Mansard architecture. She doesn’t know what the word means nor do I.
      It is said that in London in St Ethel Berga’s Chapel there is a stained glass window of  Henry Hudson discovering the  Hudson. Prayers were offered in this   Chapel for the  welfare of the voyage before it took place. I thought Hudson was Dutch.[6]  Why London ?
      Do we want the  story  of  Andrew Jackson Davis,  the seer of Poughkeepsie? He had quite a following and influence.
      The Mary  Powell,  a passenger boat,  seemed to have excited the love and   admiration of the Hudson River folk and   great   sadness was  felt at her passing.  She was   considered a   “Lucky boat”  and  happiness and good fortune  seeded  to have followed her with her  beautiful lines all her long life.  She went out of  commission recently.
      One  of the  things that is supposed to   have brought wealthy New Yorkers along the  Hudson with their fine estate was  the yellow fever scare  in 1830. How will we cheek this?
      One of Henry Hudson’s sailors is  supposed to be buried I believe around Fishkill. Lovers Leap, which is near the Hinckley place may have a story behind it. Will check.
      Back to shad; Here are some ways of cooking. You bleed them by  cutting em in the back of the neck.  Lay on brown paper and  season with salt and   pepper. Wipe off water etc with a cloth. Then fry in olive oil until a  golden brown.. Fry the roe in olive oil but only if it is not broken open “because otherwise you will think all hell is  broken  loose.”
      Baked Shad.  Empty the   belly and fill with vinegar. Sew it up   in belly and   then bake until golden brown.  The vinegar is  supposed to  melt the bones.   True?  I don’t  know/  The dressing   is  made with bread, onions, chopped celery and parsley.. Shad is bringing 40 cents a  pound in New York  these days.
      The  sailor  of Hendrick  Hudson, I just see by my notes, is buried below Dr.   Slocum’s sanitarium  Craig House at  Beacon.  Am to check Spy Hill It dovetails with what  I know about   Enoch Crosby.
      New York was  the   last  state to  ratify the  Union and Poughkeepsie  supposed to be the first capital of New York. Beacon Hill is so named because
of the light and signals on it. Lafayette spent a winter at Brinkerhoff in the old manor house. Was ill. The Society of Cincinnati was founded at Beacon.
      This sounds like it may be interesting. There is a Doodle town at Stony Point so named after Yankee Doodle. Am to check George Briggs Buchanan. He also has some story about their knocking over a statue. Sounds like it may be some Gay Nineties prank.
      It looks like a chapter on Hudson River Sport is to be indicated or have you thought of it?   Silas Hinckley says the ice boating was something grand. Poughkeepsie was the champions. There was a great deal of rowing in shells. Still is some. The IMB Ward Brothers were famous. Jim Reynolds of 130 South Hamilton is a nut on sport on the Hudson and knows all the history etc of the various sports on the Hudson.
      Miss Raymond says there was a period when she was a girl at Vassar when it was the thing to take night rides on the Hudson in boats. They rented some sort of steamboats. You get back to the alternating periods of appreciating and ignoring the river.
      One of the old industries here in Poughkeepsie was the dye wood industry. Woods were brought, I believe from South America and dyes made from them. The Innis[7] family grew rich on the business. There is an Innis street here. Yes, it is the family of the painter[8] of the landscapes (yes?) probably their money gave him the leisure to become a painter Rhinebeck has the oldest hotel in America so the story goes. At Rhinebeck they floated logs down the river and there are some branding irons for branding the logs.  To see a Mr. Winny there.
      Have you looked at the log of Robert Jouet, first mate on the Hendriek Hudson who kept a log? There is some of it in Mrs. Davis’ house organ.
That's the odds and ends. You will notice I have Jotted done everything almost as it came on my notes.  Now I haven one story on this memo and I think is the nuts. Hope you do.
      Baroness Fredericka Riedesel and her little children were the wife and children of a Hessian officer. They whole bunch of Hessians were captured at Saratoga, I believe, a few thousand of them. They were all marched to Boston where it was thought provision would be made for them to be shipped back to Hesse in Germany. The little Riedesel family were piled into a cart and taken along. Plans didn't materialize as planned in Boston and it was figured to be cheaper to quarter them for the winter in Virginia. They went down the Hudson Valley crossed over at Fishkill and were reviewed somewhere by General Washington who bowed graciously to them. They entertained Lafayette at dinner and he was glad to get a good home cooked dinner according to the Baroness. It seem she wrote her memoirs when she got back home where she was received with a great ovations. And it has been translated into English date 1867. Looks to me like the whole story is there all set and   it ties in easy with the Hudson Valley because they traveled along these parts. The Baron also wrote his memoirs but it’s not nearly so good. The book is here so if you can't get it in the Public Library I will do a Job but as I understand it you want me to do more leg work because you can do the library hunting easier. Yes?
       A friend of Carrie Chapman Catt's[9] told teachers here that she understood that  the reason whaling was brought up here in the Hudson was  that the barnacles were easier to get off in fresh water... Sounds like bunk   to me.  The protection  story in an  inland  port sounds more  reasonable.  What  do  you think of getting a local paper to do a   little feature story deploring   the lack of old whaling logs ? You  could give out such a story when you come up for the shad fishing.
      Note the feature story on shad fishing. Probably an annual feature  story for local papers
      Rhoda Hinckley   thinks   that  the  story of General Kosciuszko who fortified West Point and was a charming Polish gentleman would be worth your while. President MacCracken is very much interested in details of the  General’s stay here.
      I seem to gather material much faster than I can get in down in memo form.  But so far I have gone ahead on the theory that it would, be better to get what I've got down before it gets hazy in my memory.  What do you   think?
      Also I have gone on the theory that what   I can send you already in print is so much velvet and that I should not   stop much to assimilate it as you can look it over any time. Yes? Or no?
      Am sending along the Legends of the Shawangunks[10]  (pronounced shon-gum) as you   see. Philip H Smith again. It’s supposed to be a valuable book so please keep it.  Funny thing an old lady in Sherman asked me if I wanted it. I was not sure what its significance was. But the Shon-gum region is just across the river here and certainly in your alley. What little I looked into it seemed like the nuts. Tom Quick[11] must be a good border hero. But I must warn you the story of catching the Indians with the   split log was also told about Miles Standish.   Catherine du Bois   seemed like a   good yarn.  However you can see for yourself.
      No luck on showboats. Most people think they didn’t exist.
      Note the dope on Hudson River pirates in the second   to   last   page of the house organ for Oct 1937.     Is the   Captain Kidd story true? I think all in all that I better play up to Mrs. Davis as she seems to have an almost inexhaustible supply of stuff and I believe a lot of it she does not even know she has.  But what she has set down seems good to me at that.
      Its way past ten and I think I'll call this off.  This is the first memo and very rough and just dashed off. I wanted to get  it  down and   you can ask for more  on any of  the stuff that hits you.
       Am sending along the Shongum stuff. You know the region is right across the river here, I read some of it. Please save it as the book is valuable I’m told. I’ll tell you later how I got it. Accident. Came across it in Sherman.[12]
       See the clipping on the shad fishing in Poughkeepsie. I guess it’s a regular feature story every spring.
       It’s 10 pm now and I’m getting tired and will try and get this off. Will telephone you Wednesday night at 7:30 pm. Tell Alice not to answer the phone at 7:30 pm if only she is there as I will make station to station and then, if Carl you are not there, I won’t have to pay. 

[1] Nikander Strelsky, Ukrainian nobleman, friend of the Carmer’s, was a Vassar Professor and became part of Hudson Valley folklore in Carmer’s “The Swans of Olivebridge.”
[2] Croswell Bowen was a frequent visitor to Vassar College before and after he attended Yale University.
[3] Carmer was very interested in A.J.Downing, the subject of the chapter “Hudson River Aesthete,”  and the doomed hero of “The Fatal Hudson Steamboat Race,” in Carmer’s The Hudson.
[4] Silas Hinckley seems to have come from a line of Lake Champlain steamer captains, and may have himself been a river boat captain.
[5] “Dina Gill was an eighteenth century African American slave owned by Theophilus Anthony. According to local legend, she was left behind to guard the house when the Gill family fled the approaching British troops in the year 1777, and she singlehandedly managed to save the house by bribing the troops with a good home-cooked meal.”
[6] Henry Hudson was English, but sailed for the Dutch West Indies Company.
[7] Active in the latter three-quarters of the 19th Century, the Innis Dye Works is located on Water Street next to the Metro-North Hudson Railroad Line.
[8] George Inness, landscape painter and Swedenborgian, actually came from a family of Newburgh grocers.
[9] Carrie Chapman Catt, internationally recognized leader of the woman’s suffrage movement, and founder of the League of Women Voters.
[10] Legends of the Shawangunks, 1887.
[11] Tom Quick, “Indian Slayer” of the Delaware.
[12] Croswell Bowen had purchased a small farm, Hidden Hollow, in Sherman, CT, just across the border from Quaker Hill and Pawling, NY. 
Copyright 2010 Estate of Croswell Bowen