HISTORY OF THE CITY OF POUGHKEEPSIE
HISTORY OF DUTCHESS COUNTY, NEW YORK
By James H. Smith
In 1812, the village which was then growing rapidly, had a population of about 3,000, five churches, (a gain of three since its incorporation in 1799.) four hundred and twenty-two inhabited dwellings, (many of the older ones of stone but the later ones of wood or brick,) forty-nine stores, shops, &c., an academy, two well-sustained weekly newspapers, (the Poughkeepsie Journal and Republican Herald,) Paraclete POTTER's (now Archibald WILSON's,) bookstore, and "elegant and spacious" hotel, (the Poughkeepsie Hotel,) then recently built, and "five serpentine roads" connected the village on the plain "nearly a mile east" with the river. Its commerce employed "eight large sloops or packets," which sailed weekly to New York. (*Spafford's Gazetteer of 1815, 276; Vassar College and its Founder, 28.)
The war of this period was a disturbing element, and here, as elsewhere, where the opinions touching the questions at issue were sharply defined, tended to retard the development of its industries, though in some repects, perhaps, it stimulated for a time an abnormal development. This was especially true of domestic manufactures, which were fostered by the heavy duties imposed on imports for purposes of revenue. On the restoration of peace and the removal of these import duties the country was flooded with foreign goods; manufacturing industries consequently became stagnant. The large imports which followed depleted the country of specie. The currency greatly depreciated, values were affected, and trade and commerce were generally disturbed.
In 1824, however, the village had made some progress. The number of its houses, stores and shops had increased to six hundred. It had the same number of churches, (one each for the Methodists, Baptists, Friends, Episcopalians and Presbyterians, (*No mention is made of the Reformed Dutch Church, and singularly enough, for it had then had a continued existence of a century. Hence it would appear that there were six instead of five churches.) a bank, a Lancasterian school, in addition to the academy, three cotton factories, "two extensive breweries and a distillery," and two or three printing establishments. It had the same number of "serpentine roads" leading to the landings, but its commerce required "ten large sloops or packets.(*Spafford's Gazetteer, of 1824, 425, 426.)
The population was then about 5,000. None of the streets were paved, except Main, from Academy to Washington, and Cannon, from Academy to Market. Its commerce was carried on by sloops of about one hundred tons burden, and four of these left for New York each week. Steamboats landed at the foot of Main street every night, to take passengers for New York or Albany, but many people still traveled by sloops. The thoroughfares which was regarded as streets were few, only Main, Market, Cannon, Academy, Washington, Mill and Union being considered anything more than roads. Two-thirds of the streets which were in use forty years later were not opened, but occupied what was then an agricultural country. (*Isaac PLATT, in the Poughkeepsie Eagle of May 5, 1864.)
One decidedly marked event occurred this year (1824.) Gen. LAFAYETTE, the distinguished French-American patriot, who visited this country that year as the nation's guest, to review the scenes and services of his younger days and renew the pleasing acquaintances then formed here, honored the little village with his presence, on his trip up the Hudson from New York to Albany. He arrived in New York, in company with his son and secretary, on the 15th of August, in the packet ship Cadmus, preferring, with his customary simplicity, the accommodations of an ordinary passenger in a packet ship to those of a United States frigate, which the Government had tendered him.
After a most brilliant reception in New York, he embarked on the steamboat James Kent, which was chartered by that city for the occasion, and after a brief detention at West Point and Newburgh, arrived at Poughkeepsie at half-past two o'clock in the morning. His approach was announced by the discharge of cannon from the bluff just below the landing; upon which also, a fire from large piles of seasoned wood, saturated with tar and turpentine, which was kindled and fed by hundreds of boys who were entrusted with the duty, blazed high and filled the air with lurid smoke till daylight.
The expected arrival of the distinguished nobleman had filled the streets with people. There was a constant stream of wagons and carriages coming in from all parts of the country, and whole regiments, as it were, of young men galloping in on horse-back. Before the dawn of day all the military, consisting of one company of artillery, one of cavalry, two of infantry and one of rifflemen, were in line in full uniform. Gen. BUSH and staff, Gen DAVIES and staff, Gen. VAN WYCK and staff, and Col. CUNNINGHAM with the regimental staff of the 84th, were also out in full uniform and mounted. All were on Kaal Rock at the first gleam of the day, and the General was saluted by a battery of artillery while still on board the steamboat, which displayed the flags of various nations.
On landing LAFAYETTE accompanied by Gens. VAN COURTLAND, FISH, and LEWIS and Col. HUGER, of South Carolina, (the latter of whom was noted for his attempt to rescue the Marquis from the prison of Olmutz,) was conducted to a splendid barouche drawn by four white horses, and escorted through Main, Academy, Cannon and Market streets to the FORBUS House, where he addressed and inspected the military, and listened and feelingly replied to an address of welcome tendered him by Col. H. A. LIVINGSTONE. As he passed down the lines of military he recognized an old soldier, and regardless signs of poverty his appearance displayed, cordially shook his hand. After receiving the respects of the ladies in the central hall of the hotel, where they had impatiently awaited an opportunity to greet him, he was escorted to the Poughkeepsie Hotel, where an excellent breakfast was served. Opposite LAFAYETTE, who sat at the head table, sat Major SWARTWOUT, a soldier of the Revolution, then ninety-five years of age. The intermeddiate seats were occupied by some of the most prominent residents of the village, among whom was James TALLMADGE, Thomas J. OAKLEY, James EMOTT, Henry A. LIVINGSTON, Smith THOMPSON, Matthew VASSAR, Gen. BRUSH, Paraclete POTTER, Nathaniel P. TALLMADGE, Alexander J. COFFIN, John ARMSTRONG, Jr., Dr. THOMAS, and that "Nature's nobleman," Walter CUNNINGHAM, who acted as marshal of the day.
LAFAYETTE and his party re-embarked at ten amid salutations of artillery and musketry and other demonstrations of joy and proceeded to the beautiful residence of Gov. Morgan LEWIS, at his county seat at Staatsburgh, where they partook of a sumptuous collation; and thence, after touching at Kingston, proceeded to Clermont, the residence of Chancellor LIVINGSTON. (*Ibid; Local reminiscences in the Sunday Courier of June 22, 1873; Clarkson's Clermont or Livingston Manor, 155.)
In 1829, the population of Poughkeepsie was about 7,000. There were three weekly newspapers, all issued on Wednesday. "By such an arrangement," says S. P. HEERMANCE, "the people of the village and county received news but once a week. The reason assigned for issuing all the papers the same day was to accomodate the mail carriers and to have them all carried around the village at one time by the same carrier. John CORNISH was the carrier. It was a long time before the astute publishers discovered that each office might circulate more papers, and at the same time accomodate the public, by chosing different days of the week for publication."
GORDON, in his Gazetteer, published in 1836, gives us a most minute description of the village, which was, he says, "one of the handsomest and most thriving of the State." The village plot contained about 1,768 acres, upon which some forty streets were laid out, several of them well paved and compactly built upon. Many of the stores in Main street "might be admired in Broadway," whilst many dwellings in more private parts of the town showed "wealth and taste." On the 1st of January, 1835, there were seven hundred and eight dwellings, seven churches, (Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed and two Quaker,) an academy, a Lancasterian school, a powder house, two markets, four banks, with an aggregate capital of $850,000. (the Bank of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County Bank, Farmers' and Manufacturers' Bank and the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank,) the Poughkeepsie Whaling Co. and Dutchess Whaling Co., each with a capital of $200,000 and two ships at sea. April 10, 1835, a company was incorporated for the manufacture of silk, with a capital of $200,000, and were "pursuing their object with great spirit." There were ten licensed physicians, twenty-one practising attorneys, eighteen dry goods stores, thirty-five groceries, two china and crockery stores, four jewelry stores, three book, two drug, three hardware, six hat and cap, three chair, eight boot and shoe, nine millinery and four merchant tailor stores, twelve tailor shops, seven saddle and harness-making establishments, three establishments for wagon and carriage making, three printing offices, each issuing a weekly paper, two tanneries, two leather stores, two tallow chandleries, two furnaces, two marble and stone yards, two ship yards, two brick yards, three machine shops, three tobacco and cigar manufactories, five stove and tin-ware establishments, two furniture ware-rooms, one brewery, two malt-houses, one pump and block factory, one Venetian blind factory, five cooper shops, nine blacksmith shops, eight public houses, fifteen victualing shops, three plow factories, four freighting establishments, two potteries. There were on the Fallkill, in addition to the industries already mentioned, four flouring mills, one dye-wood mill, one saw mill, one cotton factory, one pail factory, two buildings used as machine shops, in which were four establishments fitted up with turning lathes, a sash factory and a planing mill.
This was a period of great activity in the development of Poughkeepsie's enterprises, and the village is said by GORDON to have increased nearly one hundred percent during the last preceeding six years. The population in 1836, as we learn from the Poughkeepsie Eagle of Jan. 6, 1866, was between 7,000 and 8,000. There were, says that paper, seventy-nine streets, thirty-eight of which were opened in that year, four reading rooms, four newspaper offices, nine places of worship, five engine houses and three schools.
The great impetus given to the development of the village at this period was due to what is known as the "Improvement Party," which was composed of such men as Paraclete POTTER, George P. OAKLEY, Nathaniel P. TALLMADGE, Walter CUNNINGHAM and Gideon P. HEWETT. With the help of John DELAFIELD, of New York, and other enterprising men, they projected and accomplished great things for the village. They cleared the forest from College Hill, gave the eminence that name, and errected upon its summit an imposing edifice for educational purposes, seventy-seven by one hundred and thirty-seven feet. They laid out and planted Mansion Square. They caused to be surveyed, mapped and named, at an expenditure of more than $100,00, twenty-six new streets and north of the Falkill, and half as many south of Montgomery street, on the farm of Bronson FRENCH, all of which appear on a map of Poughkeepsie, made in 1836, by Henry WHINFIELD, an English civil engineer, then in the employ of the "Improvement Party." They organized and put into operation a whaling company, of which the late Capt. BARNARD was the managing agent; built the large wharf known as the "Whale Dock'; constructed the fine barque N. P. TALMADGE for the whaling service, and sent several ships to sea. Upon the PARKER and WILLIAMS estates north of the Falkill and east of the old Albany post-road, now North Avenue, they laid out lines of streets and gave them the following names: William, Green, Star, Willow, Morton and Falls, running parallel with North street. At right angles with that street were: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Hamilton and Clinton, the northerly extension of the latter from North street being the present Buckingham Avenue. East of Clinton street and south of College Hill were Oakley, Emott, Cottage, Mansion and Thompson streets, all terminating at Smith street.
Other improvemnets made during the five years from 1831, were the construction of a reservoir, with pipes, &c., to supply the village with water for fire purposes, at a cost of over $25,000; one thousand feet of dock and bullhead, including the new ship yard and dock of the whaling companies, which alone had a water frontage of four hundred and fifty feet; a new brick brewery nearly two hundred feet long; a silk factory of brick, thirty-six by one hundred feet, four stories high; a new market and village hall, at a cost of $20,000; two Episcopal churches; a new Baptist church on the site of the old one; a Catholic church; a second Presbyterian church; a large coach factory; a young ladies' seminary of large demensions; two elegant banking houses; a new postoffice and range of offices attached; a splendid mansion house opposite the park, which was highly ornamented and stocked with deer; about forty fashionable modern dwellings, mostly of brick, in the immediate vicinity of the new park. During the latter years upwards of one hundred and sixty dwellings were built. Property had risen greatly in value, and in 1835, there was not a single unoccupied tenement in the village.
In 1841, Poughkeepsie had seventy-nine streets and one thousand and fifty-five dwelling houses, exclusive of other buildings, thirty of which were erected within the year, mostly fine brick or frame buildings. There were twenty-five dry goods, fifty-one grocery, four drug and two crockery stores, fourteen shoe stores and shops, six hat stores, ten public houses, twelve victualing rooms, ten millinery, three hardware, five stove and tin, two glove, five watch and jewelry, two confectionery, and two book stores, twelve tailoring establishments, two chair ware-rooms, one book bindery, nine markets, (two of them public,) five saddle and harness, nine carriage and waggon, ten blacksmith, three paint, three machine, two turning, two toy, and five barber shops, three furnaces, two brass foundaries, two gun factories, four grist, two saw, and one dye-wood mill, three plow factories, two leather stores, two tanneries, three tobacco and cigar factories, three malt houses, two breweries, three livery stables, four coal, six lumber, two marble, and two ship yards, three freighting companies, three printing offices, issuing five papers, (Telegraph, Eagle, Journal, Casket and Thomsonian,) five bakeries, two carpet and two lock factories, one rope walk, two woodware and four cooper shops, three pump factories, two brick yards, two soap and candle factories, one sperm candle and oil factory, three sash and blind factories, two frame making establishments, one morocco establishment, one paper hanging establishment, two potteries, one comb, one pin, one paste backing, one umbrella and one band-box factories.
There were four banks, (Dutchess County, Farmers' and Manufacturers', Poughkeepsie and Poughkeepsie Savings Bank,) with an aggregate capital of $1,050,000. The other incorporated companies were the Poughkeepsie Silk Co., the Dutchess Whaling Co., the Dutchess Mutual Insurance Co., and the Dutchess Guards. There were twelve churches, (Baptist, Congregational, two Episcopal, two Friends, two Methodist Episcopal, one Presbyterian, one Reformed Dutch, one Roman Catholic, and one Zion Methodist--colored,) a colligiate school, the Dutchess Academy, a Lancasterian school, five female seminaries, a male boarding school, a high school, and eighteen other schools, a lyceum and reading room with a cabinet and stated lectures, three other reading rooms, a circulating library, thirty-two lawyers, sixteen physicians, (three Thomsonian,) three dentists, and a population in 1840 of seven thousand seven hundred and ten. (*The Sunday Courier, of Poughkeepsie, August 3, 1873.)
DISTURNELL, in 1842, speaks of an incorporated company for the manufacture of locomotive engines and railroad machinery, which had then erected "large buildings, not surpassed by any in the State." The Dutchess Whaling Co., then owned five ships engaged in the whaling trade. One of the two breweries is described as being, "very extensive, perhaps the largest in the State, being capable of making 30,000 barrels of beer annually." Three plaster-mills had been added to its manufacturing industries; and its three brick yards were "manufactured of the finest kind of brick in large quantities." In addition to its whaling ships, three steamboats, three freight barges and eight sloops were engaged in transporting produce and merchandise to and from New York and other places on the river. "No place on the Hudson," adds DISTURNELL, "exceeds this village for beauty of location, and preeminence in refinement and wealth of its inhabitants; surrounded as it is by one of the richest agricultural districts in the Union, it may justly be ranked as the queen of villages in the Empire State." In 1843 its schools became free.
The year 1846 marks an epoc in the history of the village, for on the 19th of October in that year, the magnetic telegraph was introduced into Poughkeepsie, at an earlier period than in New York city. The office was located over the postoffice in Garden street, and a Mr. CURTISS was the operator. (*Poughkeepsie Weekly Eagle, April 8, 1876.)
In 1850, Messrs. MATHER and BROCKETT (*Geographical History of the State of New York,190.) made carpets, cutlery and firearms as principal articles among its varied manufactures. The product of its brick-yards was large in quantity and superior in quality. Its population was then about 9,000. Four years later (March 28, 1854,) the village was incorporated as a city; and the following year, (1855,) its population had increased to 14,726; its churches to eighteen in number. It had five banks, and its principal manufactures, consisting of pig iron, carriages, carpets, pins, chairs, drugs, files, sewing silk and ale, required a capital of something like a million of dollars, and employed 625 men. (*French's Gazetteer of New York, 274, 275.) In 1872, the number of its banks had increased to seven, and their capital to $1,585,000. It had three daily and and three weekly newspapers. A street railroad connected its two depots, the one in the western, and the other in the northeastern part of the city. An iron bridge of fifty feet span had been erected over the Fallkill, whose tortuous channel through the city, proving a cause of sickness, had been straightened and certain of its dams and ponds removed. Its excellent water-works were then in the process of construction. Its population which, in the meantime, had increased to 16,699 in 1865, and 20,080 in 1870, has since remained almost stationary, decreasing in 1875 to 20,022, and again increasing in 1880 to 20,207.
An incident of historic interest transpired in the city in 1880, in the removal of the remains of the Irish patriot, NEILSON, who suffered imprisonment, exile, poverty and death, in consequence of his devotion to civil and religious liberty. The plain slab which marked his grave in the Episcopal cemetery in Poughkeepsie, where he had so long lain, bore the following inscription:--
A native of Belfast, in Ireland, and
Editor of the Northern Star,
WHO DIED AUGUST 29, 1803.
If the memory of a man who discharged
all the duties of his station in life as
a father, husband and persecuted
patriot, claims a tear, here
the tribute is due.
In the presence of five of his descendants--his only surviving daughter, Mrs. McADAM, of Yonkers, N. Y., and her four daughters--and a large concourse of ladies and gentlemen, his remains, which were converted to dust, were carefully gathered, inclosed in an urn, and conveyed, under the escort of a procession, to the Rural cemetery, where they were re-interred with appropriate ceremonies.
Poughkeepsie was incorporated as a village March 27, 1799; (*Many authors among them Mr. LOSSING, erroneously state the date of the village incorporation to be 1801.) and as a city, March 27, 1854. As a city it originally comprised four wards, but in 1865, the number was increased to six. Unfortunately the earlier records of the village, like those of the town of Poughkeepsie, are either lost, or have not been preserved; but we are able to give the names of most of the village residents, and the principal city officers from the time of the incorporation:--
||James S. SMITH
||James TALLMADGE, Jr.
||Thomas L. DAVIES
||Solomon V. FROST
||John S. MYERS
||Nathaniel P. TALLMADGE
||George P. OAKLEY
||Jacob VAN BENTHUYSEN.
||Gideon P. HEWITT
||Hubert VAN WAGENEN
||John M. CABLE
||Matthew J. MYERS
||Samuel B. JOHNSTON
||George B. ADRIANCE
||E. Q. ELDRIDGE
||Jacob DE GROFF
The first city officers, from April 17, 1854, to March 12, 1855, were: Mayor, James EMOTT; Alderman--1st ward, Benjamin B. REYNOLDS, Wm. H. TALLMADGE; 2d ward, James T. HILL, James H. SEAMAN; 3d ward, Henry S. MARTIN, Wm. A. FANNING; 4th ward, Lewis F. STREET, Henry D. VARICK; Chamberlain, Robert N. PALMER.
The following have filled the offices of Mayor and Chamberlain since the incorporation of the city:--
||Robert N. PALMER
||H. D. VARICK
||Chas. W. SWIFT
||Robert E. TAYLOR
||Joseph G. FROST
||Frederick W. PUGSLEY
||W. Morgan LEE
||H. G. EASTMAN
||Joseph G. FROST
||J. B. CARPENTER
||George H. WILLIAMS
||H. G. EASTMAN
||Lewis BAKER *
||Sherman H. LEROY
(* Died in Denver, Col., July 13, 1878.)
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