Early Transportation in Dutchess County--Part 1

By James H. Smith

Chapter XI

Internal Improvements-Routes by which the Pioneers Reached their Wilderness Homes-Navigable Streams- The Public Highways-Indian Trails-Early Roads-Early experiments in Steam Navigation at De Koven’s Bay

        We have given some attention in a previous chapter to the subject of pioneer settlements; in this we purpose considering the means by which the pioneer reached his home in the wilderness, and the projects of internal improvement which subsequently engaged his attention. As we have seen, the first settlers came by way of the Hudson, near which the first settlements were begun. Settlements slowly progressed in the interior, along the streams, which were the first, and, for some years, almost the only highways in the country. Gradually they diverged from these into forests, unbroken, except by the small rude clearings made by the Indians, following the well-worn trails left by the latter, and from these branched off into routes indicated by blazed trees, which were the forest guide boards, and by their aid the forests were traversed from one locality to another. But these human denizens could not prosper in their isolated settlements; they must needs open communication with each other and to points affording a market for their surplus products; to this end roads were indispensable and of the first importance.
        In 1731, the number of inhabitants had increased so that an order was made by the Justices of the county to lay out a road to Dover, and employ freeholders to assess damages for property taken, etc., the object being to enable the people “to come down to the market or common landing at Poughkeepsie.” (Poughkeepsie Weekly Eagle, July 8, 1876). In 1738, the Assembly passed “an act for the better clearing and further laying into public high roads in Duchess County.” Sauthier’s map, published in 1779, shows a principal road extending through the towns bordering the HUDSON, known as the post road, with several others branching from it, one at its intersection with Crom Elbow Creek, extending thence north to Rhinebeck and Red Hook to Tivoli (Hoffman’s Ferry), and having three branches extending northerly and north-easterly into Livingston Manor; a second, extending from Rhinecliff, (Kip’s Ferry), easterly to Thompson’s Pond; a third, north-easterly from Fishkill to Verplanck’s Mill, on Sprout Creek; and a fourth, south-easterly from Fishkill, through Putnam County, to Danbury in Connecticut. Two roads entered the county on the east from Sharon, one extending westerly to the central part of the Great Nine Partners’ Tract, and the other south-westerly across the Oblong, terminating below Dover. Another road intersected that extending from Rhinecliff to Thompson’s Pond near the intersection of Clinton, Milan and Rhinebeck, and extended south-easterly through Clinton, Washington, and Dover, crossing the Oblong Road, apparently, near Dover Plains, thence to New Fairfield and Danbury in Connecticut. A map accompanying Anburey’s Travels, in 1777, shows only one road, (which, however, is not indicated on Sauthier’s map.) It enters the county from Sharon, and passes south-westerly through Nine Partners, Hopewell, and Fishkill, crossing the Hudson to Newberry or Newburgh). The map accompanying De Chastellux’s Travels, 1780-1782, shows the same road; but what is called “Nine Partners” on the former, is designated “Neventsorp” on the latter, which also shows the post-road running parallel with the Hudson. The road indicated on the latter maps is the one pursued by the British army under Burgoyne after the Convention at Saratoga, to Charlottesville in Virginia. But we need not multiply details in regard to these common highways; suffice it to say that they multiplied according to the needs of the people.

It is an interesting fact that one of the first experiments in steam navigation was made within the waters of this county-at Dekoven’s Bay below Tivoli-by Chancellor Robert R. LIVINGSTON and an Englishman named NESBIT, the latter of whom was employed by LIVINGSTON to build a steamboat at that place, in 1797, from plans furnished by LIVINGSTON. The project was unsuccessful, but the effort was renewed, and the ultimate success achieved through the liberality, perseverance, and intelligent energy of LIVINGSTON, combined with the genius of Robert FULTON, whose acquaintance he made in Paris, while serving as ambassador to the French Court. In August, 1807 the “Clermont,” named from Chancellor LIVINGSTON’s home on the Hudson, but called by the incredulous populace “Fulton’s Follly”, the first successful steamboat, with its quaint wooden boiler, was launched at New York, and on the 7th of September following set out on her first trip to Albany. The distance of 150 miles was accomplished in thirty-two hours. The following advertisement appeared in the Albany Gazette of September 2, 1807.

        The North River Steamboat will leave Pauler’s Hook, (now Jersey City) on Friday, the 4th day of September, at nine o’clock in the morning, and arrive at Albany on Saturday at 9 in the evening. Provisions, good berths and accommodations are provided. The charge for each passenger (Clarkson’s Clermont or Livingston Manor, 123-138) will be as follows:

        To NEWBURGH           14 Hours    Fare $3
        To POUGHKEEPSIE     17 Hours    Fare $4
        To ESOPUS                   20 Hours   Fare $5
        To HUDSON                 30 Hours    Fare $5.50
        To ALBANY                 36 Hours     Fare $7


Typed and submitted by Richard Coon

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