The following, transcribed by Amy Feldner Lawlor, was published in the Mar. 7 1917 issue of the Warwick Valley Dispatch. It was written by Mrs. G.M. Van Duzer which she read before the Fortnightly Club on Feb. 26, 1917.
When this subject was first assigned to me I inquired of my father, Mr. J.H. Crissey, what he considered our oldest land-marks. Without hesitation he replied Sugar Loaf Mountain, Mt. Adam, Mt. Eve and the Warwick Mountains. He added that they were the only ones he ever needed to find his way about.
Our local authority, Mr. Henry Pelton, was next questioned. He as promptly answered that our land-marks were any objects that from early 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 the top rail of a 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 to 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 land-marks, such as highways and bridges, mills and dwelling houses.
And third, markers, placed for the sole purpose of defining boundaries or measuring distances, our New York and New Jersey state line monuments, and the few remaining mile stones by our roadsides are good examples.
First Landmarks Are the Mountains
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 and the Warwick mountains to the province of New Jersey. The proprietors of the Cheesecocks Patent, which comprises the eastern part of the Town of Warwick, contended that the division line did not follow the crooked mountains, but ran in a straight course from the Highlands to East Jersey. This would have brought the line of division near Wickham’s Pond. Upon the question of just what mountains were included in the term Highlands, seemed to hinge all the controversy leading up to the famous trial or proceedings to determine the boundary. The hearing was held at Yelverton’s barn at Chester in the spring of 1785. Official record of the same is in the County Clerk’s office at Goshen.
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 from the testimony there given we get our only information concerning many of Warwick’s pioneers, and it is obtained at first hand and under oath.
For instance, Samuel Vantz, being sworn, states he has lived in Warwick 55 years. He incidentally tells us that Col. DeKay came the same year he did, 1730; that Benjamin Ask was here before they came. He then makes a further statement in regard to land-marks that were old in 1785, when he says, “From Warwick to New York before Sterling forge was built they went in a foot path by the south end of Long Pond – 40 years since the forge was built at Sterling, the old Indian path entered by Dr. Bald’s and went by the north end of Long Pond…Wawayanda is within a musket shot where DeKay lived.”
Dr. Bald had the mill at Bellvale at one time. Path is supposed to have started near the mill. On the following day, “May 20, 9 o’clock, Richard Johnson saith he came into the country in 1746. Never knew or heard how sterling or Sugar Loaf got their names – about a mile and a half southeast from Mr. Welling’s was the place he first set down.”
Goose Pond Mts. Were Called Cromelines Pond
Deleverance Conkling, 71 yr. Old, born by Butter Hilled, moved to Wickham’s Pond when he was eight 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 this hearing fifty of the oldest inhabitants and most representative men of this region gave their quaintly worded testimony and got it on record.
The oldest handmade landmark 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 Newburgh-Goshen road, it came via the present villages of Craigsville, Chester and Warwick to DeKay’s. I will read the land-marks used in 1735 to indicate its course. Of them all you will notice not one remains except the streams, and they then bore the same names that they do today – Otterkill, Cromline’s creek and Double Kill.
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 DeKay, 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 Kings Road of 40 rod wide, beginning at or near the corner of Mr. Vincent Matthews 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 Otter kill by a great walnut tree by the said kill; then along as the old Road runs to the house of John Penknoes (Pinckney) on the south side of the house by a butter nut tree standing in the Low Land; then from the butter nut tree over the book up the Valley to the old path or road and so along the old road to Cromelines Creek; then over the kill to the hill; thence along the creek on the west side of the creek through the fence as the old road formerly went to the house of the said Cromlines; then as the road runs up to Ruloof Swartwouts house on the south side; 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 and so to Cornelius Deckers and so along the old Road to Lawrence Deckers 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 said house; then along the old Wagon Road till 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 said houses; then along the road that runs to Golds Plantation over the said Kill till it comes near the house of Thomas Dekey; then running from said road northward over the creek or run and so along the north side of the said Thomas Dekeys barn and so to his house. (Signed) Tho Smith, William Mapes.
Recorded, Liber B. page 483, October 29, 1736, Orange County Records.
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 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 the more ancient name for that lake. It passes Cornelius Decker’s and Lawrence Decker’s – wherever Lawrence lived, was the first land sold by Benj. Ask from his farm called Warwick, 1719. If the Wawayanda creek is mentioned at all it must be indicated as the Crossway, for we come next to Thomas Blain who settled first 1721 where Mr. Mabee now lives, two miles south of our village and afterward moved to the farm owned by Milton Sanford. Thence to Double Kill or New Milford, and to Gold plantation, thence to Decay’s house and barn. All along the way are most interesting landmarks. The fine springs by the roadside are as carefully noted in General Washington’s map of this locality as are the bridges, G. mills and taverns. G. mills on a Revolutionary map means simply a harmless, necessary grist mill; for in those days distilleries were too numerous to mention.
Finest Spring is on Col. Houston’s Place
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 hid behind while his Whig neighbors searched for him. Of course it was all woods about the rock in those days and the hiding was better than it would be now.
The Great Washington Spring
Right in this village in Charles Decker’s meadow near the railroad tracks is a spring that Mr. Milton Wood always said was found paved with flat stones when the first settler came. Supposed to have been done by the Indians. Just below town is the great Washington spring. Near it the Washington Elm stood like a sentinel for more than a century after Washington’s troops had camped there. He must have had a large force with him that time, for this wonderful spring did not supply enough liquid refreshment and we read that Genl. Hathorn’s wife assisted in carrying out something very satisfying by the milk pail full from her home to the camp.
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 an old map as Curtie Vantine’s spring. Next it is Curtis’ fountain – last in Orange County Atlas – as Curtie Cantines, at least the brook is, spring not designated.
At Mr. John Hynard’s is another Washington spring, and until recent times a large Washington oak kept it company. Having now followed the old road not only beyond our town limits but out of New York State, so I will hasten to return by the same valley road and will mention some of our vanished landmarks along the wayside.
The milestones that were placed all the way from the State line to Newburgh, 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 Washington’s Revolutionary map, 1778, they are not shown, though “mileboards” nearer Newburgh are indicated.
I was told years ago that Benjamin Franklin was instrumental in having these stones placed and that they extended far into Jersey. This is tradition only, but well worth investigation. I cannot find anyone who remembers having seen one below the 32-mile stone just this side of the Jersey line. The 31st milestone was at the Amzi Fancher place, the 30th is in its place at Mr. Mabee’s and the 29th by Mr. Fuller’s place and we are all familiar with the 28th one in front of Dr. Pitts’ residence. The 27th stone is built into Mr. W.W. Van Duzer’s gate post – having been moved a short distance from its original location in order to place it permanently in the masonry. Still another, the 25th, is near Mr. Chas. M. Houston’s. All are on the west side of the roadway. This half dozen are the only ones I can locate now. Near the 25th milestone the road makes a long curve to the west. Some sixty years ago an effort was made to straighten it by making a new road connect the ends like the string of a bow. After the new road had been built repeatedly, and as often disappeared in the marsh, they tried once again with the result that a horse and cart disappeared with the road bed. The curve is still there. The sink hole was called Hell Hole from its resemblance to the bottom of a pit. So giving a real New England flavor to the nomenclature.