Putnam County Stories

John Barton Hawks - A Highlands Farmer
1820 - 1895
[Some insight into the "-"]

The transcription of this Local Tale is dedicated to my great grandfather and LIFE-LONG highland farmer , John Barton Hawks [1820-1895]. He married Freelove IRELAND 29 March 1840 in Fishkill, Dutchess County, NY. Freelove IRELAND was b. 1823 -d.1902. She was the daughter of James Ireland and Nancy Shaw and granddaughter of Abraham Ireland, [b. Bef. 1755 d. Bet. August 1839 - 13 January 1840]. In filling John & Freelove's "-" which is really what counts and has the most meaning, I am confident there were many days on which Freelove (IRELAND) Hawks toiled in the field along side her Highland Farmer - It was in these fields her Highland Farmer was found deceased on 22 October 1895 - so as he toiled so did he meet his earthly demise. This sketch - although a "Tale" - I believe adds insight into their life on East Mountain Road South (Philipstown) in the Highlands of Putnam County, NY - Putnam County was formed out of Dutchess County, NY in 1812] It was in the Highlands of Dutchess and Putnam Counties New York where this couple lived, laughed, loved and procreated - their offspring numbering 11.

Local Tales and Historical Sketches


Henry D. B. Bailey

John W. Spaight, Publisher

Fishkill Standard Office

Fishkill Landing



What a contrast there is in the circumstances of mankind, often engaged in the same occupation, more particularly those who are engaged in agriculture. This may be in a measure owing to the difference in the management of their farms, and the productiveness of the soil. Often do we witness the rough and sterile land on the mountains, while in the valleys below lie beautiful farms, unobstructed by rocky knolls or worthless swamps, and when brought under cultivation affording rich returns to the husbandman, while the farmer on the mountains, practicing the most rigid economy and industry, often has to contend with poverty through life.

We may inquire why this is so? Why are some portions of the country so rough and broken when a few miles in an opposite direction it is almost destitute, if not entirely, of rocks and stones? The only answer that can be given is, infinite wisdom has made it so.

Situated on one of the highest elevations of the highland mountains , is a farm-house that was owned by one family to the third generation, and the occupant was called the highland farmer . From his doorsill he could look down on the rich valleys of the Fishkills , and in Summer he could see the golden harvests, and in Autumn the ripening fields of corn stretching through the valleys, interspersed with mellow orchards and flocks and herds. He often inquired of himself why his forefathers settled on the mountains and entailed on their posterity poverty, when land was so cheap in the valley. The highland farmer now was in straightened circumstances, for he had a large family to support. The large forests which covered the farm when his grandfather settled there, had now nearly disappeared, for they were obliged to market a number of cords of wood yearly to help maintain their families. This privilege now was denied him, for he had hardly sufficient fuel to supply his own fire. He was obliged to turn out every haying season, to help the farmers in the valleys get their hay in, in order to obtain a few loads of coarse fodder to enable him to keep his few cattle through the winter, and often he would feed them so scanty that he would lose one or more from starvation. Under circumstances like these, the highland farmer was often depressed in spirits. His old dilapidated dwelling was getting leaky, for the shingles and clapboards were falling off, his children were poorly clad, and his rocky farm produced less every year.

It has often been remarked that man conforms to the country in which he lives. If it is rough and unproductive, he is generally unpolished himself, for he has not the advantages of those who live in countries where wealth and refinement prevails. The highland farmers opportunities were limited, and often would he go to the village to purchase some necessaries for his family, and the rich farmers would congregate at the village store to converse on the topics of the day, when the highland farmer would listen very attentively to their conversation, and he often contrasted his situation and opportunities with theirs, which often time made him very unhappy.

The highland farmer had a well balanced mind, and he often regretted living there, in that rough and broken country. Had he left there when he was young and emigrated west and purchased new land, he might now have been a wealthy and influential citizen, and his children would have had better opportunities and occupied higher positions in society.

The highland farmer had now arrived at the meridian of his life, and the prospect of his ever bettering his condition was by no means flattering, yet he could submit to all this if he could only improve the condition of his family, for this was his greatest trouble, and this no one knew but himself. His wife and children often discovered that he was unhappy, for he would sit hours with his family, during the long winter evenings, without attempting any conversation, and at times he could not refrain from weeping, and they often inquired the cause of his sorrow, but he would not inform them.

The winter of 18 _ _ was a very severe one. The snow had fallen the latter part of November and remained till spring, and during the winter months it covered the earth four feet deep on the mountains and more than three feet in the valleys, and at times the wind would whirl it into eddies and pile it up in huge masses along the wayside, rendering the roads often impassible which caused much suffering among the poorer classes. It was difficult for those living on by-roads to get to mill or store, or even to the woods for fuel. The highland farmer had to cart his fuel on his back, beating a path to the woods with the aid of snow shoes to keep him from sinking through the snow to the earth. The nearest mill to him was in the HIGHLANDS , and there too he was obliged to go on foot. The snow had formed a crust on the surface sufficient, with the aid of snow-shoes, to hold up the weight of the heaviest man. This enabled the highland farmer to take a bag of grain upon his back to the HIGHLAND mill and return in safety. ********** The emigration West the following Spring was so rapid, to Chicago and Milwaukee, that produce was shipped from Ohio to those western States to supply the emigrants with food.******* This rendered the price of grain in the eastern States very high, and enhanced the value of land in our river counties. Land speculation had caused good farming lands to sell for one hundred dollars per acre, and farms on the mountains even were sought after. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .[this tale goes on but is not transcribed here]

The Preface of this work gives insight into why these stories are considered "Tales"

Local Tales and Historical Sketches


Henry D. B. Bailey

Fishkill Landing

John W. Spaight, Publisher

Fishkill Standard Office



This volume of local tales and historical sketches is the result of many years, and not the product of a day. When the author began his literary labors, he had no idea that his writings would ever be voluminous enough to make a book, or of sufficient value to be collected in such permanent form. He was in the habit of writing a tale or a sketch, and contributing the same, either to THE FISHKILL STANDARD or the POUGHKEEPSIE TELEGRAPH, in which they were eagerly read by the subscribers of those papers. His first published tale was " The Tailor and the Bachelor," a simple story of life's vicissitudes. This was followed at irregular intervals by others, culminating in his latest and most pretentious effort, "Dominie Van Nist's Courtship." Having a deep love for the olden times, he took a great interest in historical matters, and has brought to light many facts bearing upon the early history of DUTCHESS COUNTY, and especially the towns of FISHKILL and EAST FISHKILL, which the future historian will find of great value. To obtain these facts has cost him considerable time and labor, but his love for the work incited him to go on without expectation of pecuniary reward. A great many historical facts are woven into Mr. Bailey's tales. In fact, these are written with such a degree of naturalness that the only fear is that those who are not well acquainted with the early history of the County, may take fiction for fact, and so be unconsciously led astray. The chapters devoted to sketches of history, however may be relied upon as correct -- at least so far as the author has been able to get information.

Mr. Bailey is a native of this County, having been born at JOHNSVILLE, in the town of EAST FISHKILL, on the 27th of December, 1813. He did not commence his literary labors until his forty-second year, but since that time has been a valued contributor to the local press. This book, which has been the result of so many years labor, and written while in the prime of his manhood, contains so many facts of historic interest that it will be regarded as an authority in many respects, and will be looked to by future historians as a mine from which to gather facts relating to the early days of this section of the County.

Mr. BAILEY did intend writing a history of DUTCHESS COUNTY, but his advancing years, and other difficulties of a physical nature, have deterred him from his work. He has expressed to us his regrets that he did not, ten years ago, make a systematic canvass of the County with that end in view. Knowing his industry and capabilities, we can but join in the regrets which he has expressed.

The fact is, we are drifting along with scarcely an effort to preserve from fast approaching oblivion the thousands of interesting facts, recollections, and reminiscences of the past, relating to our country, which are attainable now, but which in a few years more will be utterly lost. How many have passed away within the decade just closed, whose memories could recall incidents of three and four score years past, which would have been of great value to the historian; but they are gone, and with them is buried the knowledge they possessed. Our county is rich in material, and under a master hand would yield a fund of authentic historical incidents that would make a book of surpassing interest and value. We hope the historical researches begun this year by a gentlemen in one of our neighboring towns, will result in the publication of a full and reliable history of the county.

The photographic portrait of Mr. Bailey, which forms a frontispiece, is an admirable one, and will be so accepted by all who know him. The engravings are mostly from "Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution," published by the Harper Brothers, New York, whose kindness we are indebted for the privilege of using the same. They add very much to the interest of the book.


Fishkill Standard office, October, 1874

[Ginny Note: Many of the Bartons, Irelands, and Hawks resided on East Mountain Road in the Highlands in what is today Philipstown, Putnam County this area borders East Fishkill, if you go down one side of the mountain from where my great grandfather's property was, you come down into Wiccopee a/k/a Johnsville in Dutchess County and if you go down the other side of the Mountain you are in Philipstown, Putnam and a just a little further west you come to Cold Spring and the Hudson River I have researched the land on which my great grandfather lived and it was indeed rough and rocky. I have often wondered how my great grandparents managed to farm it and produce enough for their family but then again there was always the wood lot from which the wood was sold when needed. At one point I am told that nearly the entire mountain was cleared in an effort to proved fuel for the Cold Spring Foundry which produced Cannons for the Civil War]


Poughkeepsie News Telegraph - July 12, 1884 - Our Own County - Rural Happenings

News and Noteworthy Intelligence - for News Telegraph Readers - Cold Spring

[among other noteworthy items . . . . .]

"During the recent thunder storm a cherry tree on the premises of John B. Hawks was struck by lightning and completely torn in pieces, some of the pieces being thrown 80 feet from the tree, and what is remarkable the same tree was struck about 18 years ago, at the same time in the season, and your correspondent being present each time"

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John Barton Hawks Obituary from the Nelson Scrapbook, Volume 2, Page 45, published in the Putnam Courier of October 1895, and in possession of the Putnam County Historical Society, Cold Spring, New York.

John Hawks, a well known farmer of Philipstown residing near the Dutchess County Line, was found dead in a field near his residence on Tuesday. Coroner Wood was notified and took charge of the remains. It is supposed that the cause of death was apoplexy. Age 75 years.

Submitted by "Ginny"
Copyright 2006 - Virginia A. "Ginny" Buechele
HTML by "Ginny"

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