By James H. Smith

Part One



POUGHKEEPSIE is one of the most beautiful and attractive cities in the State, and one of the most delightful of the many charming localities in the valley of the Hudson with its varied associations, its mountains of wonderous grandeur, its fruitful plains, and vales of rare scenic beauty. In varied natural scenery it is scarcely surpassed by any; while for wealth, culture, refinement--all those qualities which adorn a noble life--it is the peer of all.

It is located on the steep slopes of the rolling hills which form the east bank of the Hudson, and, mainly, on the elevated table-land above, the greatest average elevation of which is 202 feet above high water in the river. It lies nearly midway between Albany, the capital of the State, and New York, the commercial metropolis of the United States; and enjoys an unrivalled land and water transportation. Some of its streets have the fault of most old Dutch towns, in being crooked and contracted, but its more modern streets are regular and spacious. The principal ones are kept scruptiously clean, and nearly all are profusely shaded with handsome trees, so that the city, when viewed from the river or a distant eminence, presents in spring, a mass of foliage from which only the steeples and taller buildings protrude; and when the autumn has tinted them with its rich and varied tracery, it presents a scene of indescribable beauty. Many of the streets are neatly paved, and most of them are lighted by gas. Its eligible situation, the salubrity of its climate, and the advantages afforded by its excellent institutions of learning and religion, have led many people of wealth and culture to take up their abode here. Of its peculiar institutions and varied industries we shall speak in subsequent chapters.

The settlement of the city dates, according to the best authorities consulted, from the last decade in the seventeeth century, but in precisely what year and by whom the first settlement was made is not known. The first settlers were Dutch, and among the first, if not the first, was Baltus VAN KLEECK,(*The true name of Baltus VAN KLEECK was Balthazar BARNTZ. The name by which he is known to the present generation was acquired by the elimination of the surname BARNTZ, a common practice among the early Dutch, and the addition of the words von(from) and KLEECK,(the name of the place in Holland from whence he came.) who, it is generally conceded, built the first substantial house on the site of the city in 1702. It was constructed of rough stone, and stood on the south side of Mill street, a little east of Vassar street. In its gables and just beneath its eaves its walls were pierced with loop-holes for musketry, as a means of defense against Indians, who were then numerous in the county, though, such were the pacific relations which subsisted between the natives and the early Dutch settlers, its defensive properties were never called into requisition; for, happily, this locality was free from the frightful massacres and devastating agencies which, at an early period, harassed the settlers in the Hudson Valley, and later those in the Mohawk Valley and what was then the western frontier.

This old house, around which clustered so many of Poughkeepsie's most hallowed associations "was strong enough to resist the busy fingers of decay for centuries; but, like many another building in our changeful land, hallowed by events that touch the sympathies of our higher nature, it was compelled to give place to more modern structures." It stood for nearly a century and half a venerable old relic of the long ago past; but, having come, by inheritance, into possession of the VASSAR family, it was torn down in 1835, in response to the demand of a progressive impulse. The rough hewn stone lintel of the main door, on which is cut the date of its errection and the initials in duplicate of the name of its orriginal owner, is preserved in the basement wall, close to and partially below the pavement on the Vassar street side of the residence(on the corner of Mill and Vassar streets,) of the late Matthew VASSAR, Jr., who was a lineal descendant of VAN KLEECK, his father, John Guy VASSAR, the elder brother of Matthew VASSAR, the founder of VASSAR College, having married Margaret, daughter of Baltus VAN KLEECK, and great-grand-daughter of the pioneer of that name. Little is known of the antecedents or personal history of Baltus VAN KLEECK; and of his many descendants not many are left in the county. He was a brother of Moriahakin, wife of John HARBERDRINK or HARBERLING, of New York. He represented this county in the Colonial Assembly from 1715 till his death in 1717, being the second representative in that body from this county. His children were: Barnet, who married Antinetha TALMATER; Johannes, who married first Alida TERBOSS, and, second, Catharine VAN DER BOGART; Lawrence, who married Jacoba LEWIS, and died in 1769; Peter, who married Gertrude LEWIS; Sarah, who married Peter PALMATIER; and, Elizabeth, who married John KIP. Decendants of his to the eight generation are now living in this county, and are numbered among its most thrifty and respectable inhabitants. Mr. George M. VAN KLEECK, of Poughkeepsie, father of John, Henry, Robert, Richard and Hester, wife of Jacob V. OVEROCKER, of that city, and a great-great-grandson of the pioneer Baltus, has a diagram in his possesion showing many of the descendants to the seventh generation. Other early settlers were Dutch families names VAN DeBOGART, VAN BENSCHOTEN, VAN BERGH, VAN WAGENEN, De GRAAFF, LE ROY, PARMENTIER, MESSIER, OSTROM, HOGEBOOM, FILKINS, SWARTWOUT, FREER, HEGEMAN, and LIVINGSTON, and others who have been named in connection with the early land transfers in the town of Poughkeepsie. The names of most of these, though having undergone slight orthographic changes, are perpetuated to the present generation, and are borne by some of the most worthy and honored residents of the county.

The growth of the little settlement was slow. A view of Poughkeepsie in 1736 shows only eleven houses on two streets, and the Dutch Reformed Church, which was a conspicuous object in the sparse settlement now so populous and beautiful. In 1756, SMITH the historian of New York, said it then scarce deserved the name of a village. But in 1715, when the construction of a court house and jail was authoriized, it was made the county seat, and in 1734, when the first courts were established in the county, it was continued such because as the ordinance said, it was near the centre of the county, which was doubtless true of the settled portion of the county, which was then confined to a narrow selvedge along the west border.

In 1758, says Henry D.B. BAILEY, "Poughkeepsie made but a sorry appearance. On the south side of main street, east of the Dutch Church and burying ground, was the residence of Paul SCHANCK; his store stood adjacent the burying ground. East of his residence was the school-house, a small building painted red. West of the Dutch Church was the court house. * * * The next building west of the court house was the Dutch parsonage, and along the sloping hillsides to the river there were some twenty houses. The VAN KLEECK house * * * was the most prominent hotel. * * * On the north side of Main street, east of where the Poughkeepsie Hotel is now located, there were a few houses and stores, and west of the hotel were a few lawyers' offices, and you have all there was of Poughkeepsie in 1758." (*Historical sketches, 23-24.)

From a map of the village made from a survey of Henry LIVINGSTON, May 10, 1799, (in which year it was incorporated,) and now on file at the clerk's office in Poughkeepsie, we gather much interesting and authentic information respecting the village at that early day. The north corporation line then extended from the river a little above the mouth of Kidney's Creek, due east 37 chains, 30 links, to the point where that stream is crossed by the post-road, and thence due east 92 chains, 70 links, (in all 130 chains from the river;) thence south 1@ 30' west 135 chains, 90 links to the south-east corner of the corner of the corporation; thence due west 130 chains to the river, at the mouth of a small stream emptying into it a little below "Ship-yard Point," and the old LIVINGSTON House to both of which are reference has been made in the history of the county during the Revolutionary period.

On this old map, Main street is not laid out west of the post-road, which corresponded with Washington street north of Main, and with Market street south of it. The river was reached mainly by the "Upper Landing Road," which corresponds with the lower part of Mill street, which was not opened at that time east of Washington; the "Union Store Road," corresponding with Union street, and "Davis's road," corresponding with Pine street, and named from Davis' store at its terminus on the river. At the terminus of "Union Store Road," at the Lower Landing, was a union store, which gave name to the road. At the foot of the "Upper Landing Road," was the store and mills of R. L. LIVINGSTON.

The residents of the post-road, beginning on the north, were, on the east side, T. NELSON, H. A. LIVINGSTON, (the only two named till we reach Main street,) V. BARBER, at the north-east corner of the post-road and Main street, Roye V. KLEECK, ---- BAILEY, ---- NOXON, A. SMITH, ---- SMITH, (between Main street and the "Road to John V. D. BURGH"s,") ---- ROMINE, ---- MYER, P. FREER, ---- VIELIE, N. FREER, I. FREER, E. FREER, S. FREER, and S. S. FREER to the south corporation line; on the west side, I. NELSON, near the north line, N. MYER, ---- OFEROM, ---- DOFFIE, and ----ELLISON (to Main street) BAKER, HENDRICKSON, ALLEN, COOKE, HOFMAN, DEYO, HARRIS, KIP, DAVIS, MOTT and TAPPEN, (to Pine street,) and I. READE, a little back from the road, and the only one living on the west side below Pine street. On the west side of the road, nearly midway between Kidney's creek and the Fallkill, on the old Thomas NELSON property, now the estate of Mr. Orrin WILLIAMS, stood the "Gallows Tree," which Mr. William S. MORGAN, of Poughkeepsie, who was born in 1807, recollects as having been standing in his early manhood. Near the junction of Main street was a tannery. An Episcopal Church stood on the site of Christ Church on the north-east corner of Church and Market streets. A little below this, on the same side, was the clerk's office. The court house stood on the present site.

The residents on Main street, then known as the "Filkin Town Road," beginning at Washington St., were, on the north, RADCLIFT, HOFMAN, DAVIS, VAN KLEECK, DUYKINCK, THOMPSON, LIVINGSTON, TAPPEN, CLOUSE, NASH and YELVERTON, to H. A. LIVINGSTON's Mills, at the junction of Main and Mill streets, and EVERIT, DE REIMER, BECKWITH, SEABURY and M. V. BROMMEL to the east line, while just over the line was F. HARRIS, and a little north of him, E. FREE; on the south side were BOSWORTH, BILLINGS, BRAMBLE, CURRY, HOBSON, CALDWELL and EMOTT to LIVINGSTON's Mills, and the last within the limits. Near the east line and back from the road was L. B. LEWIS. The Dutch Reformed Church then stood opposite Market street, on the north side of Main street, on the site of the Poughkeepsie Hotel.

On the "Upper Landing Road," on the north side, resided DeGRAFF and BAYEUX, the only ones named, and on the south, BOWMAN and B. VAN KLEECK. On the west side of a road corresponding with Bridge street north of Mill, lived two families named LANSING, the southerly one being P. LANSING. No other residents are named north of the Upper Landing Road and west of the Post Road within the corporation.

On the north side of the Union Store Road, near Market street, (or on the south side of what is now Main street, west of Washington,) lived a man named BROWER. On the same side of the road, and near the river lived M. TAPPEN, NORTH and EVERSON, with a pottery between the former two. On the south side were ARDEN, McKEEN and JOHNSON in the central part, and CARPENTER, near the river.

On the north side of "Davis's Road," near Market street, lived families named MYER and OAK, but none on the south side. I. STEVENS lived a little north east of "Shipyard Point," and was the only one named south of "Davis's Road" and west of the Post road.

On the south side of Cannon street were families named SMITH, NOTT, COOKE, THOMAS and WEAVER(?) while in the angle formed by Academy and Cannon streets stood the old academy. On the east side of Academy street, which was then opened only to Montgomery street, lived families named SMITH and GRAHAM; and south of Montgomery street, (which then together with Southeast Avenue formed the "Road to John V. D. BORGH's,") near what was then the south terminus of Academy street, lived a family named WHITEHOUSE. These, with a family named BOYCE, living on the west side of Southeast Avenue, near the south corporation line, were the only others living (or named,) in the territory comprising the sixth ward and half of the fourth ward. N. FREER lived just south of the corporation line, a little east of the Post Road. West of Smith street, (then called the "Road from Crom Elbow Creek,") nearly midway between Main street and the coporation line, lived a family named NORRIS; and on the east side, near the corporation line, one named S. FREER. These, with the exception of those named on the east side of the Post Road,(Washington St.,) and on the north side of the "Filkin Town Road," were the only ones living in the corporation in the angle formed by those roads, comprising the present fifth ward and the third, except that part lying between Bridge and Washington streets.

The Post Road, south from the corporation line, extended through the lands of Henry LIVINGSTON, and on this, near the head of "Rust Plaets Kill," lived William FREER, while near the river, at the mouth of that stream, lived T. MITCHEL. Further south on the Post Road was the H. LIVINGSTON place, and still further, south, the residence of E. PAINE.

The tax list of the village of Poughkeepsie for 1805 contains 368 names. The entire assessment of real and personal property was $399,650, and the rate of tax four mills on each dollar, making the entire amount of tax collected $159.86. At that time the population may be supposed to have been about 2,500, as in 1810 it was 2,981. In 1849, at which time the population had increased to 11,080, the corporation expenses amounted to $16,096.80, which was a fair average as they appeared from year to year. (The Sandy Courier, of Poughkeepsie, Feb. 2, 1873.) Thus while the population had increased only about four-fold, the corporation expenses had increased more than a hundred-fold. In 1880, when the village had more than a quarter of a century before had become a city, and the population had increased to 20,207 inhabitants, while the equalized valuation of its real and personal estate had increased to $11,833.167, more than a fourth of the entire valuation of the county, the municipal tax had increased to $245,339.01. and the State, County and City tax combined, to $317,203.20.

In the same book in which appears the tax list for 1805, is the following somewhat remarkable document, which we may venture to say, was among the first temperance efforts put forth in this County. Coercion however was substituted for moral suasion, which is now the prevalent aggressive weapon. We quote:--
Pursuent to an Act of the Legislature of New York entitled An Act concerning the estates of habitual drunkards, passed March 10, 1821, we do hereby designate and describe [here follow thirty names of persons] of the town of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, in said State, to be habitual drunkards, and we hereby require you not to give or sell under any pretence, in any way or manner, spirituous liquors to said drunkards, except by direction or on the certificate of a regularly licensed physician, that the same is necessary for the preservation or recovery of the health of said drunkard, under the penalty for every offence of the sum of ten dollars.
John NELSON, Robt. C. NOXON Overseers of The Poor."
"N.B.--The names of those that give sufficience of a thorough reformation will be blotted out of this list."

Continued in Part Two.

Typed and submitted by Janice Sanford

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