By Jean Beattie May, Warwick Village Historian
Sesquicentennial, – a mighty word which, if you were surprised the first time you read or heard it, you might be considered to have hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. The dictionary defines it as “a fear of large words.” If, on the other hand, you enjoy using long words, you might be called a “sesquipedalian, one who uses long words.”
Either way, by now, you know that the Village of Warwick is celebrating its Sesquicentennial, which translates to 150 years since its incorporation. Recognition of this occasion has been happening for the past few months with talks, walks, concerts and recently, a Valentine’s Day Dance for seniors with a turnout of over 200 people. A glance at the Events Calendar on the Warwick Sesquicentennial Website will give you an idea of the exciting upcoming plans for the rest of this celebratory year.
In researching what happened in Warwick 150 years ago, I was inspired by the day book kept by a relative, Albert Maurice Hoyt (1823-1885) whose farm, known as “Kilcare,” was located on the site of the Conference Center on Hoyt Rd. Albert’s father, Maurice Hoyt, probably purchased the 125 acre farm in the 1840s. Albert married Erminda Hoyt, one of the twelve children of James and Lydia Hoyt, whose farm of 30 acres was located in the heart of Warwick village and whose house is now the Key Bank.
Albert notes at the beginning of his journal that he bought it from his brother-in-law, William H. Hoyt, and paid $1.80 for it. William ran the telegraph office in town along with selling paper goods.
Folks coming to Warwick for the first time and looking for a place to stay could find a notice posted by the General Passenger Agent at the Warwick Valley Railroad station that described Kilcare as “a perfect place to bring the family for a country outing.” Noted on the poster was the following information: it was located three miles from the Warwick railroad station, could accommodate 20-25 guests in twelve sleeping rooms in the house. Rates were $8 per week for adults, $4 per child and $6 per week for servants.
Transient guests paid $1.50 each a day, with no discount rates given for season guests. A good three-seated carriage would transport you from the station at no extra charge. Livery accommodations for your horse were good; bass, trout and pickerel could be found four to nine miles away in the Wawayanda and Greenwood Lakes. Guests were served vegetables raised on the farm along with fresh milk, eggs and poultry.
Daily Comments in Hoyt’s Book
Albert Hoyt’s book contains daily comments for the years 1864-1869 written in pencil in bold script:
Jan. 13, 1865: “William Henry Hoyt drowned with the ship Melville last Saturday.” (William was Erminda’s brother who had sold Albert the journal. He had been asked by the Town to travel to Hilton Head with John Houston with $4,000 to pay for substitutes to fight in the Civil War.)
Mar. 4, 1865: “Abraham Lincoln inaugurated president 2nd time.”
Apr. 3, 1865: “The news from the Army is good today. Richmond taken and the news at Warwick at 2 pm. Celebrated this evening.”
Apr. 15, 1865: “The sad news of the murder of President Lincoln and Secretary (Seward and son getting well.). A dark day for our country. Plowed in the morning, rain in the afternoon.” And the next day: “The Church and private houses dressed in mourning. Showers and cooler.” A few days later: “Revs. Vandevier (Reformed Church), Timlow (Amity Church) and Cox (Old School Baptist Meeting House) delivered addresses on the death of President Lincoln.”
Jan. 4, 1867: “Received $8 dividend on Railroad Stock. Sold eleven turkeys for $29.51; Jan. 15, 1867: Paid taxes – $107.
Jan. 16, 1867: Snowed last night and blowed very hard; the biggest banks of snow we’ve had in a year.
Jan. 21, 1867: The snow is very deep; more shoveling in the roads; finished thrashing the oats – 80 bushels in all. (This blizzard produced such cold temperatures that the East River froze over completely and led to the decision to build the Brooklyn Bridge.).
One of my favorite entries is that Albert paid Anna Pierson $.50 to shell 1-1/2 bushels of black walnuts. (If you have ever shelled black walnuts, you know what a dirty and smelly job it is.)
Local Farmers Can Relate to the Litany of Chores Included in the Day Book
Local farmers can undoubtedly relate to the litany of chores included in the day book, but can they think of doing it all without the mechanization that we have today?
From planting and harvesting buckwheat, oats, rye, corn, potatoes, peas, parsnips, and other vegetables, to peaches, apples, pears, quinces, to raising sheep, cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and horses, to making maple syrup, apple cider and vinegar – it was a life of constant hard work with seemingly few pleasures.
Church on Sundays was one of the few respites. Both Albert and Erminda sang in the Reformed Church choir for many years, and Albert played the French horn in a local band. When summer came, he writes: “took the boys to the Double Pond (Wawayanda Lake). They caught 65 fish in the creek after we came home.”
Hoyt Family Reunion of 1866
Albert also reports that he and his father attended the Hoyt family reunion held in Stamford, CT in June, 1866. He writes: “540 Hoyt family members sat down to dinner together.” They had gathered from 14 states (two from California) for three days. Unfortunately there is no record of where they all stayed, but the picture of the gathering is shown here in front of the Stamford Congregational Church which was later demolished. As can be seen, the ladies wore their finest hoop skirted dresses, probably right out of the Godey’s Ladies’ Magazine.
Hudson River Artist Builds ‘Aladdin’
In 1869, the well-known Hudson River School artist Jasper Cropsey began building his elegant house, which he named “Aladdin,” just up the ridge from the Hoyt house. The workmen for the house – stair builders, carpenters, mantle makers, tilers, fresco painters, gilt molding and curtain makers, are all recorded as staying at Hoyt’s “Kilcare” and the chances are that Mrs. Hoyt probably had to cook for them all when they stayed there.
‘The Happy Couple’
A clipping from the Warwick Advertiser of 1872 notes that, “Mr. and Mrs Albert Hoyt, residents near this village, were the victims of a pleasant and complete surprise. Early in the evening about 80 or 90 friends and relatives… celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Hoyt’s married life…several of the visitors took the liberty of forcing numerous presents upon the happy couple, the most noticeable of which was a solid silver tea set of seven pieces, a set of chairs, and a silver cake basket. The evening was spent right merrily by all present and will be long remembered by those who participated.”
Albert Hoyt died in 1885 at 62. His obituary states that he “never knew an enemy.” After his death, Erminda moved to the Village, joining several of her remaining siblings, and lived in the 1810 house on Main St. until their deaths.