The following, transcribed by Amy Feldner Lawlor, was published in the Mar. 14 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.
Stone houses have been extensively used as landmarks. The last third of the eighteenth century seems to have been the Stone House Age in Warwick Township. Nearly all were built during that time. Only the briefest mention can be made of a few of them in this paper.
One of the finest examples of the period is known as the P.E. Sanford homestead. Built by General Hathorn, 1773. It has his initials together with those of his wife and the date of 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 Main and West Streets in this village – formerly stood the house built by Col. Charles Beardsley – and afterwards known as the Cassady stone house. This was taken down in 1864 when the brick corner store was built by Thomas L. Van Devort and Francis M. Woodhull. Mr. J. Harvey Van Duzer kindly furnished this in formation.
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 the notable people of Revolutionary times who had occasion to journey from New England and Newburgh to Philadelphia and the southern colonies. While New York was in possession of the British this old highway of ours was a much traveled one. I only wish it might be called Coloniel Road from one end of the village to the other, for that is exactly what it was – and a most important road too – but I suppose the residents of Oakland Avenue would object.
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 or four feet and the partitions of 4-inch square timbers laid up with a yellow clay mortar between them. The plaster was put on these – 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 been improved…The next…James – 1796 or 1798 and was a fine one for those times. Opposite the point where the Stone Bridge or Wisner Road joins the main road, south of the residence of Mrs. Wm. Dunning, was located one of the oldest school houses. It was of stone – those on the front being nicely faced. After it ceased to be used for school purposes, the stones were all removed to the Jonas Seeley Farm, near Sugar Loaf – and used by Mr. Seeley to build a fine wall around his family burying ground. Here one would think they might have found a final resting place – but private burial plots are vanishing fast and Mr. Geo. Turfler, the present owner of the farm, tells me that after the graves were removed – those stones have again started their travels – having already so well served the living and the dead one wonders what will be their mission next.
Following the road from the old school house toward Sugar Loaf…the stone house near the road leading to the City Farms. This too was a Benedict homestead for many years. The south end was built by a Mr. Burroughs about 1739-1740. Completed 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 Philip Burroughs did…somewhere down in front of his house, took good aim at Mr. Wisner over by his home and fired. Why he did it is a long story, and it is not a landmark so I will not tell it now. The bullet hit the Wisner door frame.
At the end of Wickham Pond is another very interesting stone house. Owned by the descendants of Herman de Clark. The walls are the thickest I ever remember having seen.
Beyond the brick school house at Sugar Loaf may be seen one of the last of the old fashioned well-sweeps. It is in daily use.
This brings us out of the town of Warwick again. But while in Chester I wish to mention one thing that cannot fail to be of local interest, as we are all more or less familiar with Greycourt station;
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 Ask, Warwick’s pioneer, and Daniel Cromline, who in 1716 built the first pretentious house in this region. A home dignified enough to be called Greycourt, for the building of which he had engaged skilled stone masons from England. William Bull came in to the county primarily to work on this house, not to marry Sarah Wells, though that was about the next thing he did.
The Cromline house stood on the east side of the highway, south from Craigville. Eagers history tells us it was “the largest and best house from New Windsor to New Jersey.” It is to be regretted that all trace of it is gone, but when we know that in 1813 the trustees or village board of Newburgh were determined to open a street through Washington’s Headquarters, and only offered the owner $750.00 for his old stone house if he removed it himself, we can be surprised at nothing.
Only after a hard contested lawsuit were the owners able to save their property, now Newburgh’s most cherished possession.
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 on the Hudson. Claudius Smith always tried to get the powder or failing in that to steal the oxen that were used to haul it to the river. No doubt Mr. Carpenter wished the Kings Highway had been eighty rods wide, instead of forty when he had such a highway ma as Claudius to deal with.
Mr. L.J. Stage assures me that forty rods wide is 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.