From Yonkers to West Point along the Hudson River

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Passing Glenwood, now a suburban station of Yonkers, conspicuous from the Colgate mansion near the river bank, built by a descendant of the English Colgates who were familiar friends of William Pitt, and leaders of the Liberal Club in Kent, England, and “Greystone,” once the country residence of the late Samuel J. Tilden, Governor of New York, and presidential candidate in 1876, we come to

Hastings to Dobbs Ferry

Hastings, where a party of Hessians during the Revolutionary struggle were surprised and cut to pieces by troops under Colonel Sheldon. It was here also that Lord Cornwallis embarked for Fort Lee after the capture of Fort Washington, and here in 1850 Garibaldi, the liberator of Italy, whose centennial was observed July 4, 1907, frequently came to spend the Sabbath and visit friends when he was living at Staten Island. Although there is apparently little to interest in the village, there are many beautiful residences in the immediate neighborhood, and the Old Post road for two miles to the northward furnishes a beautiful walk or driveway, well shaded by old locust trees. The tract of country from Spuyten Duyvil to Hastings was called by the Indians Kekesick and reached east as far as the Bronx River.

Dobbs Ferry is now at hand, named after an old Swedish ferryman. The village has not only a delightful location but it is also beautiful in itself. In 1781 it was Washington’s headquarters, and the old house, still standing, is famous as the spot where General Washington and the Count de Rochambeau planned the campaign against Yorktown; where the evacuation of New York was arranged by General Clinton and Sir Guy Carleton the British commander, and where the first salute to the flag of the United States was fired by a British man-of-war. A deep glen, known as Paramus, opposite Dobbs Ferry, leads to Tappan and New Jersey. Cornwallis landed here in 1776. It is now known as Snedden’s Landing.

At Dobbs Ferry, June 14, 1894, the base-stone of a memorial shaft was laid with imposing ceremony by the New York State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, which erected the monument. There were one thousand Grand Army veterans in line, and addresses by distinguished orators and visitors. The Society and its guests, including members of the cabinet, officers of the army and navy, and prominent men of various States, accompanied by full Marine Band of the navy yard, with a detachment of Naval Reserves, participated in the event.

Voyagers up the river that day saw the “Miantonomoh” and the “Lancaster,” under the command of Rear-Admiral Gherardi, anchored mid-stream to take part in the exercises. During the Revolution this historic house was leased by a Dutch farmer holding under Frederick Phillipse as landlord. After the war it was purchased by Peter Livingston and known since as the Livingston House. Arnold and Andre were to have met here but providentially for the American cause, the meeting took place at Haverstraw.

The Indian name of Dobbs Ferry was Wecquaskeck, and it is said by Ruttenber that the outlines of the old Indian village can still be traced by numerous shell-beds. It was located at the mouth of Wicker’s Creek which was called by the Indians Wysquaqua.

Tappan Zee to Piermont

Tappan Zee.— The steamer is now entering Irving’s rich domain, and Tappan Zee lapping the threshold of “Sunnyside,” seems almost a part of his very dooryard. The river, which has averaged about a mile in breadth, begins to gradually widen at Hastings, and almost seems like a gentle, reposeful lake.

Piermont, whose “mile-long-pier,” built many years ago by the Erie Railroad, hardly mars the landscape so great is the majesty of the river, is seen on the west bank with Tower Hill rising above it from which four states are seen. The view includes Long Island, the Sound and the Orange Mountains on the south, with the Catskills to the north and Berkshires to the northeast. Louis Gaylord Clark, a friend of Irving, and an early literary associate had a cottage on Piermont Hills.

Turning to the eastern shore, we see “Nuits,” the Cottinet residence, Italian in style, built of Caen stone, “Nevis,” home of the late Col. James Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton, the George L. Schuyler mansion, the late Cyrus W. Field’s, and many pleasant places about Abbotsford, and come to

Irvington and Sunnyside

Irvington, on the east bank, 24 miles from New York, once known as Dearman’s, but changed in compliment to the great writer and lover of the Hudson, who after a long sojourn in foreign lands, returned to live by the tranquil waters of Tappan Zee. In a letter to his brother he refers to Sleepy Hollow as the favorite resort of his boyhood, and says: “The Hudson is in a manner my first and last love, and after all my wanderings and seeming infidelities, I return to it with a heartfelt preference over all the rivers of the world.” As at Stratford-on-Avon every flower is redolent of Shakespeare, and at Melrose every stone speaks of Walter Scott, so here on every breeze floats the spirit of Washington Irving. A short walk of half a mile north from the station brings us to his much-loved

“Sunnyside.” Irving aptly describes it in one of his stories as “made up of gable-ends, and full of angles and corners as an old cocked hat. It is said, in fact, to have been modeled after the hat of Peter the Headstrong, as the Escurial of Spain was fashioned after the gridiron of the blessed St. Lawrence.” Wolfert’s Roost, as it was once styled (Roost signifying Rest), took its name from Wolfert Acker, a former owner. It consisted originally of ten acres when purchased by Irving in 1835, but eight acres were afterwards added. With great humor Irving put above the porch entrance “George Harvey, Boum’r,” Boumeister being an old Dutch word for architect. A storm-worn weather-cock, “which once battled with the wind on the top of the Stadt House of New Amsterdam in the time of Peter Stuyvesant, erects his crest on the gable, and a gilded horse in full gallop, once the weather-cock of the great Van der Heyden palace of Albany, glitters in the sunshine, veering with every breeze, on the peaked turret over the portal.”

About fifty years ago a cutting of Walter Scott’s favorite ivy at Melrose Abbey was transported across the Atlantic, and trained over the porch of “Sunnyside,” by the hand of Mrs. Renwick, daughter of Rev. Andrew Jeffrey of Lochmaben, known in girlhood as the “Bonnie Jessie” of Annandale, or the “Blue-eyed Lassie” of Robert Burns:—a graceful tribute, from the shrine of Waverley to the nest of Knickerbocker:

Scott’s cordial greeting at Abbotsford, and his persistence in getting Murray to reconsider the publication of the “Sketch Book,” which he had previously declined, were never forgotten by Irving. It was during a critical period of his literary career, and the kindness of the Great Magician, in directing early attention to his genius, is still cherished by every reader of the “Sketch Book” from Manhattan to San Francisco. The hearty grasp of the Minstrel at the gateway of Abbotsford was in reality a warm handshake to a wider brotherhood beyond the sea.

Washington Irving

While he was building “Sunnyside,” a letter came from Daniel Webster, then Secretary of State, appointing him minister to Spain. It was unexpected and unsolicited, and Webster remarked that day to a friend: “Washington Irving to-day will be the most surprised man in America.” Irving had already shown diplomatic ability in London in promoting the settlement of the “North Western Boundary,” and his appointment was received with universal favor. Then as now Sunnyside was already a Mecca for travelers, and, among many well-known to fame, was a young man, afterwards Napoleon the Third. Referring to his visit, Irving wrote in 1853: “Napoleon and Eugenie, Emperor and Empress! The one I have had as a guest at my cottage, the other I have held as a pet child upon my knee in Granada. The last I saw of Eugenie Montijo, she was one of the reigning belles of Madrid; now, she is upon the throne, launched from a returnless shore, upon a dangerous sea, infamous for its tremendous shipwrecks. Am I to live to see the catastrophe of her career, and the end of this suddenly conjured up empire, which seems to be of such stuff as dreams are made of? I confess my personal acquaintance with the individuals in this historical romance gives me uncommon interest in it; but I consider it stamped with danger and instability, and as liable to extravagant vicissitudes as one of Dumas’ novels.” A wonderful prophecy completely fulfilled in the short space of seventeen years.

Northern Point of Palisades

The aggregate sale of Irving’s works when he received his portfolio to Spain was already more than half a million copies, with an equal popularity achieved in Britain. No writer was ever more truly loved on both sides of the Atlantic, and his name is cherished to-day in England as fondly as it is in our own country. It has been the good fortune of the writer to spend many a delightful day in the very centre of Merrie England, in the quiet town of Stratford-on-Avon, and feel the gentle companionship of Irving. Of all writers who have brought to Stratford their heart homage Irving stands the acknowledged chief. The sitting-room in the “Red Horse Hotel,” where he was disturbed in his midnight reverie, is still called Irving’s room, and the walls are hung with portraits taken at different periods of his life. Mine host said that visitors from every land were as much interested in this room as in Shakespeare’s birth-place. The remark may have been intensified to flatter an American visitor, but there are few names dearer to the Anglo-Saxon race than that on the plain headstone in the burial-yard of Sleepy Hollow. Sunnyside is scarcely visible to the Day Line tourist. A little gleam of color here and there amid the trees, close to the river bank, near a small boat-house, merely indicates its location; and the traveler by train has only a hurried glimpse, as it is within one hundred feet of the New York Central Railroad. Tappan Zee, at this point, is a little more than two miles wide and over the beautiful expanse Irving has thrown a wondrous charm. There is, in fact, “magic in the web” of all his works. A few modern critics, lacking appreciation alike for humor and genius, may regard his essays as a thing of the past, but as long as the Mahicanituk, the ever-flowing Hudson, pours its waters to the sea, as long as Rip Van Winkle sleeps in the blue Catskills, or the “Headless Horseman” rides at midnight along the Old Post Road en route for Teller’s Point, so long will the writings of Washington Irving be remembered and cherished. We somehow feel the reality of every legend he has given us. The spring bubbling up near his cottage was brought over, as he gravely tells us, in a churn from Holland by one of the old time settlers, and we are half inclined to believe it; and no one ever thinks of doubting that the “Flying Dutchman,” Mynheer Van Dam, has been rowing for two hundred years and never made a port. It is in fact still said by the old inhabitants, that often in the soft twilight of summer evenings, when the sea is like glass and the opposite hills throw their shadows across it, that the low vigorous pull of oars is heard but no boat is seen.

The Headless Horseman

According to Irving “Sunnyside” was once the property of old Baltus Van Tassel, and here lived the fair Katrina, beloved by all the youths of the neighborhood, but more especially by Ichabod Crane, the country school-master, and a reckless youth by the name of Van Brunt. Irving tells us that he thought out the story one morning on London Bridge, and went home and completed it in thirty-six hours. The character of Ichabod Crane was a sketch of a young man whom he met at Kinderhook when writing his Knickerbocker history. It will be remembered that Ichabod Crane went to a quilting-bee at the home of Mynheer Van Tassel, and, after the repast, was regaled with various ghost stories peculiar to the locality. When the “party” was over he lingered for a time with the fair Katrina, but sallied out soon after with an air quite desolate and chop-fallen. The night grew darker and darker. He had never before felt so lonesome and miserable. As he passed the fatal tree where Arnold was captured, there started up before him the identical “Headless Horseman” to whom he had been introduced by the story of Brom Bones. Nay, not entirely headless; for the head which “should have rested upon his shoulders was carried before him on the pommel of the saddle. His terror rose to desperation. He rode for death and life. The strange horseman sped beside him at an equal pace. He fell into a walk. The strange horseman did the same. He endeavored to sing a psalm-tune, but his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. If he could but reach the bridge Ichabod thought he would be safe. Away then he flew in rapid flight. He reached the bridge, he thundered over the resounding planks. Then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of launching his head at him. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash. He was tumbled headlong into the dirt, and the black steed and the spectral rider passed by like a whirlwind. The next day tracks of horses deeply dented in the road were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin.” All honor to him who fills this working-day world with humor, romance and beauty!

Lyndehurst, Helen M. Gould’s residence. A short distance north of “Sunnyside” is the home of Helen M. Gould, whose modest and liberal use of wealth in noble charities has endeared her to every American heart. The place was first known as the Paulding Manor House, where William Paulding, early mayor of New York, and nephew of one of the captors of Andre had his country home. It is a beautiful specimen of old time English architecture, with a suggestion, as some writers have noted, of Newstead Abbey. This part of the Hudson is particularly rich in beautiful residences, rising tier upon tier from the river to the horizon. Albert Bierstadt, the artist, had here a beautiful home, unfortunately burned many years ago.

The Old Post Road from New York to Albany is in many particulars the richest and greatest highway of our country.

Tarrytown and Tappan

Tappan. —Almost opposite Irvington about two miles southwest of Piermont, is old Tappan town, where Major Andre was executed October 2, 1780. The removal of his body from Tappan to Westminster was by a special British ship, and a singular incident was connected with it. The roots of a cypress tree were found entwined about his skull and a scion from the tree was carried to England and planted in the garden adjoining Windsor Palace. It is a still more curious fact that the tree beneath which Andre was captured was struck by lightning on the day of Benedict Arnold’s death in London. Further reference will be made to Andre in our description of Tarrytown, and also of Haverstraw, where Arnold and Andre met at the house of Joshua Hett Smith.

Tarrytown, 26 miles from New York. It was here on the Old Post Road, now called Broadway, a little north of the village, that Andre was captured and Arnold’s treachery exposed. A monument erected on the spot by the people of Westchester County, October 7, 1853, bears the inscription:

On this spot, the 23d day of September, 1780, the spy,
Major John Andre,
Adjutant-General of the British Army, was captured by
John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart.
all natives of this county.
History has told the rest.

The following quaint ballad-verses on the young hero give a realistic touch to one of the most providential occurrences in our history:

He with a scouting party
Went down to Tarrytown,
Where he met a British officer,
A man of high renown,
Who says unto these gentlemen,
“You’re of the British cheer,
I trust that you can tell me
If there’s any danger near?”
Then up stept this young hero,
John Paulding was his name,
“Sir, tell us where you’re going
And also whence you came?”
“I bear the British flag, sir;
I’ve a pass to go this way,
I’m on an expedition,
And have no time to stay.”

Young Paulding, however, thought that he had plenty of time to linger until he examined his boots, wherein he found the papers, and, when offered ten guineas by Andre, if he would allow him to pursue his journey, replied: “If it were ten thousand guineas you could not stir one step.”

The centennial anniversary of the event was commemorated in 1880 by placing, through the generosity of John Anderson, on the original obelisk of 1853, a large statue representing John Paulding as a minute man.

Tarrytown was the very heart of the debatable ground of the Revolution and many striking incidents mark its early history. In 1777 Vaughan’s troops landed here on their way to attack Fort Montgomery, and here a party of Americans, under Major Hunt, surprised a number of British refugees while playing cards at the Van Tassel tavern. The major completely “turned the cards” upon them by rushing in with brandished stick, which he brought down with emphasis upon the table, remarking with genuine American brevity, “Gentlemen, clubs are trumps.” Here, too, according to Irving, arose the two great orders of chivalry, the “Cow Boys” and “Skinners.” The former fought, or rather marauded under the American, the latter under the British banner; the former were known as “Highlanders,” the latter as the “Lower-Party.” In the zeal of service both were apt to make blunders, and confound the property of friend and foe. “Neither of them, in the heat and hurry of a foray, had time to ascertain the politics of a horse or cow which they were driving off into captivity, nor when they wrung the neck of a rooster did they trouble their heads whether he crowed for Congress or King George.”

It was also a genial, reposeful country for the faithful historian, Diedrich Knickerbocker; and here he picked up many of those legends which were given by him to the world. One of these was the legend connected with the old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow. “A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say the place was bewitched by a high German doctor during the early days of the settlement; others that an old Indian chief, the wizard of his tribe, held his pow-wows there before Hendrick Hudson’s discovery of the river. The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, is the apparition of a figure on horse-back, without a head, said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, and was known at all the country firesides as the ‘Headless horseman’ of Sleepy Hollow.”

Sleepy Hollow Church

The Old Dutch Church, the oldest on the Hudson, is about one-half mile north from Tarrytown.

It was built by “Frederick Filipse and his wife Katrina Van Cortland in 1690.” The material is partly of stone and partly of brick brought from Holland. It stands as an appropriate sentinel near the entrance to the burial-yard where Irving sleeps. After entering the gate our way leads past the graves of the Ackers, the Van Tassels, and the Van Warts, with inscriptions and plump Dutch cherubs on every side that often delighted the heart of Diedrich Knickerbocker. How many worshippers since that November day in 1859, have come hither with reverent footsteps to read on the plain slab this simple inscription: “Washington Irving, born April 3, 1783. Died November 28, 1859,” and recall Longfellow’s beautiful lines:

“Here lies the gentle humorist, who died
In the bright Indian Summer of his fame.
A simple stone, with but a date and name,
Marks his secluded resting place beside
The river that he loved and glorified.
Here in the Autumn of his days he came,
But the dry leaves of life were all aflame
With tints that brightened and were multiplied.
How sweet a life was his, how sweet a death;
Living to wing with mirth the weary hours,
Or with romantic tales the heart to cheer;
Dying to leave a memory like the breath
Of Summers full of sunshine and of showers,
A grief and gladness in the atmosphere.”
If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might
steal from the world and its distractions, and dream
quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of
none more promising than this little valley.
Washington Irving

Sleepy Hollow Church, like Sunnyside, is hidden away from the steamer tourist by summer foliage. Just before reaching Kingston Point light-house, a view, looking northeast up the little bay to the right, will sometimes give the outline of the building. Beyond this a tall granite shaft, erected by the Delavan family, is generally quite distinctly seen, and this is near the grave of Irving. A light-house, built in 1883, marks the point where the Pocantico or Sleepy Hollow Creek joins the Hudson:

To one loving our early history and legends there is no spot more central or delightful than Tarrytown. Irving humorously says that Tarrytown took its name from husbands tarrying too late at the village tavern, but its real derivation is Tarwen-Dorp, or Wheat-town. The name of the old Indian village at this point was Alipconck (the place of elms). It has often occurred to the writer that, more than any other river, the Hudson has a distinct personality, and also that the four main divisions of human life are particularly marked in the Adirondacks, the Catskills, the Highlands and Tappan Bay:

The Adirondacks, childhood’s glee;
The Catskills, youth with dreams o’ercast;
The Highlands, manhood bold and free;
The Tappan Zee, age come at last.

This was the spot that Irving loved; we linger by his grave at Sleepy Hollow with devotion; we sit upon his porch at Sunnyside with reverence:

Thrice blest and happy Tappan Zee,
Whose banks along thy glistening tide
Have legend, truth, and poetry
Sweetly expressed in Sunnyside!
Whose golden fancy wove a spell
As lasting as the scene is fair
And made the mountain stream and dell
His own dream-life forever share.
Henry T. Tuckerman

Nyack

Nyack, on the west side, 27 miles from New York. The village, including Upper Nyack, West Nyack and South Nyack, has many fine suburban homes and lies in a semi-circle of hills which sweep back from Piermont, meeting the river again at the northern end of Tappan Zee. Tappan is derived from an Indian tribe of that name, which, being translated, is said to signify cold water. The bay is ten miles in length, with an average breadth of about two miles and a half.

Nyack grows steadily in favor as a place for summer residents. The hotels, boarding-houses and suburban homes would increase the census as given to nearly ten thousand people. The West Shore Railroad is two and a half miles from the Hudson, with (a) station at West Nyack. The Northern Railroad of New Jersey, leased by the New York, Lake Erie and Western (Chambers Street and 23d Street, New York), passes west of the Bergen Hills and the Palisades. The Ramapo Mountains, north of Nyack, were formerly known by ancient mariners as the Hook, or Point-no-Point. They come down to the river in little headlands, the points of which disappear as the steamer nears them. (The peak to the south, known as Hook Mountain, is 730 feet high.) Ball Mountain above this, and nearer the river, 650 feet. They were sometimes called by Dutch captains Verditege Hook.

Perhaps it took so long to pass these illusive headlands, reaching as they do eight miles along the western bank, that it naturally seemed a very tedious point to the old skippers. Midway in this Ramapo Range, “set in a dimple of the hills,” is Rockland Lake, source of the Hackensack River, one hundred and fifty feet above the Hudson. The “slide way,” by which the ice is sent down to the boats to be loaded, can be seen from the steamer, and the blocks in motion, as seen by the traveler, resemble little white pigs running down an inclined plane. As we look at the great ice-houses to-day, which, like uncouth barns, stand here and there along the Hudson, it does not seem possible that only a few years ago ice was decidedly unpopular, and wheeled about New York in a hand-cart. Think of one hand-cart supplying New York with ice! It was considered unhealthy, and called forth many learned discussions.

Returning to the east bank, we see above Tarrytown many superb residences, notably “Rockwood,” the home of William Rockefeller, of the Standard Oil Company. The estate of General James Watson Webb is also near at hand. Passing Scarborough Landing, with the Hook Mountain and Ball Mountains on the left, we see

Ossining

Ossining, formerly known as Sing Sing, on east bank. The low buildings, near the river bank, are the State’s Prison. They are constructed of marble, but are not considered palatial by the prisoners that occupy the cells. It was quarried near by, and the prisons were built by convicts imported from Auburn in 1826. Saddlery, furniture, shoes, etc., are manufactured within its walls. There was an Indian chieftancy here known as the Sintsinks. In a deed to Philip Phillipse in 1685 a stream is referred to as “Kitchewan called by the Indians Sink-Sink.” The Indian Village was known as Ossining, from “ossin” a stone and “ing” a place, probably so called from the rocky and stony character of the river banks.

The heights above Tappan Zee at this point are crowned by fine residences, and the village is one of the pleasantest on the river. The drives among the hills are delightful and present a wide and charming outlook. Here also are several flourishing military boarding schools and a seminary for girls. The old silver and copper mines once worked here never yielded satisfactory returns for invested capital. Various industries give active life and prosperity to the town. Just above Sing Sing.



MLA Source Citation:

Bruce, Wallace. The Hudson; Three Centuries of History, Romance and Invention. New York: Bryant Union Company. 1907. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 9 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/new-york/yonkers-west-point-along-hudson-river.htm - Last updated on Jan 6th, 2014


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