The first preaching in DUCHESS County was probably by ministers of the Reformed Dutch Church. Two societies
of that denomination were formed in the county in the year 1716, by the Rev. Peter Vas, of Kingston:- one being
located at Poughkeepsie, and the other at Fishkill. These were the first organized churches in DUCHESS.
A deed of land was given in 1718, for the use of the inhabitants of Poughkeepsie for a burial place, and plot for
a meeting house, wherein the worship of God was to be conducted in the Low Dutch language. The deed bears date
December 26, 1718, and was acknowledged before Leonard Lewis. The ground deeded was on the corner of Main and Market
Streets. The older inhabitants will remember the mean old buildings which covered that ground until the year 1830,
beneath which were the remains, thickly planted, of the earlier people of Poughkeepsie. In that year these remains
were removed, and the fine buildings which now cover the front of the ground were erected. The late Gilbert Brewster
built several of them, and that corner of Main and Market Street was long known as "Brewster's Corner."
The entire plot was devoted to burials. As the city grew this ground was wanted for building lots. At first the
desecration was permitted so far as to allow the inhabitants to put buildings upon the ground, but were not allowed
to have any cellars under them. In a little while, human bones began to appear about the streets, and around the
dumping grounds, the people being inclined to transcend their privileges somewhat, some excavating underneath their
houses unobserved. Finally the ground was dug over, the bones carefully picked out, and placed in a vault to the
rear of the Smith Brothers restaurant.
The first Reformed Dutch Church edifice was built on the opposite side of Main Street; and there, in the rear of
the store, may be seen the graves and gravestones of a burial ground attached to that meeting house. It was demolished
about the year 1819, when the one was erected that was burned in January, 1857, and which stood on the site of
the present First Reformed Dutch Church of Poughkeepsie.
The Dutch Reformed Church in this country (the exact counterpart of that in Holland) adhered to the custom of having
preaching in the Low Dutch language, with great tenacity. The first of these churches in America were planted at
New York (the Nieu Amsterdam), Flatbush, Esopus and Albany. That at New York was founded at or before the year
1639. It was the established religion of the colony, until its surrender to the English in 1674, when the Church
of England took its place.
The first judicatory higher than a consistency among this people was a coetus formed in 1747, with no higher object
than that of advice and fraternal intercourse. The first regular classis was formed in 1757, which involved the
church in unhappy collisions, two powerful parties being formed within its bosom which carried on a war of words
for several years, and, at times, threatened the church. It was, in a large degree, alienated from the mother church
in Holland. Finally, in 7766, John H. Livingston (the father of the late Colonel Henry A. Livingston, of Poughkeepsie)
went from New York to Holland, to prosecute his studies, in preparation for the ministry, in the Dutch universities.
He was then a young man; but his representations produced a favorable disposition toward the American church. Its
membership declined, in consequence of the persistence in preaching in the Dutch language, and Dr. Laidlic, a native
of Scotland, was the first minister of that church in America, who was expressly called to preach in the English
Mr. Livingston was a native of Poughkeepsie, and received the degree of D. D. at Utrecht, in Holland, in 1779.
During a portion of the Revolutionary war, he preached in the Dutch language in the first Dutch Reformed Church
built in Poughkeepsie. He was appointed President of the college at New Brunswick, N. J., in 1807, and there spent
the remainder of his life, prolonged till 1825.
There was no settled pastor over the Dutch Churches of Poughkeepsie and Fishkill for several years after their
organization. They, however, enjoyed the occasional services of the Revs. Peter Vas, of Kingston, Gualterus Dubois,
of New York, Vincentius Antonides, of Kings County, and Mr. Van. Deusen, of Albany.
The first minister regularly called and, settled over them was the Rev. Cornelius Van Schie, who was sent by the
Classis of Amsterdam, in the year 173r, fifteen years after the churches were organized. The following persons
constituted the first consistory of the Dutch church at Poughkeepsie: Elders, Peter Palmatier, and Johannis Van
Kleeck; Deaccns, Lawrens Van Kleeck and Myndert Vanderhogart. Van Schie was succeeded by Rev. Benjamin Meinema,
whose call bears date 1745, and who remained pastor of the churches till the year 1758. The third pastor was the
Rev. Jacobus Van Nist. His ministry was short, for he died in early life. He was buried in the church yard at Fishkill,
where his tomb stone was accidentally discovered while some men were digging a grave.
The death of Van Nist occurred about the period of the unhappy strife between the Coetus and Conferentia parties.
In 1763 the Conferentia party of Poughkeepsie, Fishkill, Hopewell, and Rhinebeck, united in sending a calf to the
classis of Amsterdam, to be disposed of according to its wishes. That body appointed Rev. Isaac Rysdyck pastor
over the churches, who was regularly installed. On the 11th of Dec., 1769, the Coetus party presented a call to
Henricus Schoonmaker, a candidate for the ministry, which call was accepted. So vehement was the opposition of
the opposing faction to Mr. Schoonmaker, that at the time of his installation in Poughkeepsie, they forcibly closed
the doors against him, and the services took place under an old apple tree not far distant from the present site
of the First Dutch Church. Peace being again restored, Mr. Rysdyck relinquished his charge of the church in Poughkeepsie,
and confined himself mainly to the care of the churches of New Hackensack, Hopewell, and Fishkill, until his death,
which occurred November 2nd, 1790. He died very suddenly, from paralysis. The congregation had assembled that morning
for services, when a messenger arrived and informed them that Rysdyck was dead. He was found alone in his room,
with his campleted manuscript sermon before him. His remains were placed beneath the floor in front of the pulpit
(an ancient Dutch custom) in the old church at New Hackensack. When the old edifice was taken down in 1834, they
were removed to the burying ground.
In the year 1800, a few Baptists began to meet for social worship in this place. They had but little preaching.
Mr. Palmer was one of their first preachers. A council met at George Parker's, June 10th, 1807, and organized a
church of 16 members. Francis Wayland, Sen., was their first pastor, who remained with them four years, during
which time they built a house of worship. Rev. John Lawson, a missionary, when on his way to India, preached for
them some time. He was succeeded by Lewis Leonard, of Massachusetts. In 1815 a Convention met with them at their
request, and organized the Hudson River Association.
Aaron Parker succeeded Leonard as pastor, remaining one year. Their next pastor was Rufus Babcock, Jr., who was
ordained with them. He continued there three years and was much esteemed. He was succeeded by R. W. Cushman, and
Hutchinson. In 1826, Rev. A. Perkins returned, and was their pastor four years. In 1839, the church again obtained
the services of Rufus Babcock, D. D., who served them as pastor three years more with abundant success, when he
resigned to engage in the important duties of Corresponding Secretary of the American and Foreign Bible Society.
Their house of worship, which had just then been erected, cost $20,000, one half of which was given by Mathew Vassar,
a member of the congregation. Thomas S. Ranney and wife, Missionaries to Birmah, were for several years members
of this church.
An aged resident mentions an old Methodist Meeting House - probably the first of that denomination in Poughkeepsie
- which at one time stood in the vicinity of the burying ground between Main Street dock and the Lower Landing
It was a plain edifice, and unpainted; it had no steeple, and was never finished on the inside.
The cemetery north of Poughkeepsie, on the Hyde Park road, was the ground used by the Reformed Dutch Church and
society for burial purposes, after the old grounds on Market street were given up. Here may be seen the monuments
of some of the oldest residents. Near the southern borders of the city, below Montgomery street, is the old Episcopal
burying ground. Elegant residences are springing up around it; and the hurry and bustle of the busy throng contrast
strangely with the solemn stillness of the sacred enclosure. Here, too are monuments marking the resting place
of the ancient buried dead, shaded by venerable trees, and hidden by dense underbrush.
During the week ending Nov. 4, 1806, at a Court held in the village of Poughkeepsie, Judge Daniel D. Tompkins presiding,
Jesse Wood was tried and convicted for the murder of his son, Joseph Wood, and sentenced to be executed on the
5th of the following December. The circumstances attending the murder were these: Joseph and his brother were engaged
in a quarrel. The dispute rose to such a pitch that Joseph shot his brother, fatally wounding him. The father hearing
the report of the gun, hastened to the scene and found one of them upon the ground bleeding, and Joseph standing
over him with a gun. The father snatched the weapon away, and each tried to assist the wounded brother. In this
position they were discovered by other parties, and the brother soon expired. At the trial Joseph accused his father
of having committed the deed, and the father as strenuously accused the son. The wounded brother was unable to
tell which was the guilty one; and as the father had the gun in his hand when first seen, the preponderance of
evidence was against him, and he was executed. Joseph some years after, when on his death bed, confessed that he
himself was the murderer, and that his father was innocent of the crime for which he was hung. A man named Shaffer
was tried about the same time, having murdered his sister by splitting her skull open with an ax. The evidence
being conclusive, he too was sentenced to suffer the extreme penalty of the law.
Executions in those days took place in public, and were made the occasions of a general gathering of the people
for miles around. The gallows on which Shaffer and Wood were hung was erected on the grounds a short distance below
the southern terminus of South Hamilton street, between the residence of Hon. J. O. Whitehouse and Springside.
Thousands upon thousands were present, covering all the surrounding elevations.
The morning of the execution opened bright and clear. Joseph Thorn, Sheriff of DUCHESS County, had previously issued
an order to Capt. Slee, directing him to parade his company of artillery, for the purpose of escorting the condemned
the place of execution. At about 10 o'clock, the Sheriff entered the cell of the prisoners, which was on the lower
floor of the old court house, where he found them in charge of their spiritual advisers, and apparently resigned
to their fate. After securing their limbs to prevent their escape, the Sheriff led them forth into the corridor,
where they were permitted to take final leave of their friends. Then, accompanied by the ministers, they were taken
outside, placed in a close carriage, and driven to the scaffold.
The prisoners approached the fatal instrument with a firm step, and retained their nerve to the last. Everything
being in readiness, the condemned were at once placed upon the gallows, which was of the old drop style. Jesse
Wood, to the last, persisted in declaring his innocence; and the spectators were greatly shocked at this apparent
hardened iniquity in giving utterance to what they supposed a falsehood at the very threshold of eternity. The
death warrant was read to the condemned, followed by prayer by the clergymen. After being permitted to shake hands
with those who accompanied them, the black cap was drawn, and they were launched into another world. We believe
these to have been the last public executions in DUCHESS County.
"Sitting with a file of the Political Barometer before us, bearing date 1809, published in Poughkeepsie every
Wednesday morning, by Joseph Nelson, five doors south of the Court House, we are for the time being carried back
to days of cauld lang syne' in our local history. It is a long look back; end time has wrought many changes during
the period that has elapsed since these sheets were issued fresh from the press. No one can deny that the newspaper
reflects the spirit and progress of the age to an extent more marked than any other one thing. An antique and strangely
arranged sheet it is; decidedly out of proportion as to length and breadth, and the old fashioned "s"
(f) playing a prominent part. The reading matter is of the most solid and uninteresting character; while the local
news is confined almost exclusively to the advertisements, and there must we look for items of interest."
We give below a few of the more striking.
Cunningham & Smith, two doors west of Post Office, offer bargains in dry goods of all descriptions, also rums,
brandies,' gins, salt, hardware, crockery, hollow ware, &c.
Benj. Herrick adds to these commodities, log wood, leather, drugs, wagons, &c.
Samuel Mulford and Nicholas Power, Jun., announce their co-partnership for carrying on the dry goods business in
the yellow store opposite Paul Schenck's, Main Street.
Samuel Slee gives notice that he has purchased the stock in trade of Seelhorst & Co., in the Hardware Ironmonger
ands bar iron business.
John Ryan carried on a grocery business under the hotel.
Baltus Van Kleeck & Co., offer for sale dyers and fullers articles, drugs, medicines, &c. They, [as all
other merchants did at that time,] offer to take country produce in payment.
John L. Holthuysen carried on the lime and lumber business at the Lower Landing.
David Phillips has for sale one lot on the corner of Washington and Mill Street, five lots on Main, and two houses
and lots on the corner of Academy and Main.
Cantillons & Collins offer for sale the noted estate called Cantillons Landing, on the east bank of the Hudson,
County of Duchess, seven miles north of Poughkeepsie.
Francis L. Eerier conducted a French Academy at the house of Ephraim T. Paine, Esq., Main Street. Mrs. Paine had
a school in the same building. It would appear that the streets were not numbered at the time, as none are given.
The following, copied from the ancient records in Poughkeepsie, show the form of a legal instrument in olden times:
Duchess Count ss.
Thomas Sanders, Justice of the Peace for said County assigned.
To all Constables and other officers as well within said county as elsewhere within the Collony of New York, to
whom the execution nereof doth or may concern, Greeting.
WHEREAS, I have Received Information and charge against one James Jones, lately come from Lebanon, in ye County
of Windham, in ye Collony of Connecticut, and Liveing in Dutchess County, at the house of one Ellexander Griggs,
Calls himself a Weaver, a Lusty Well Sott Likely man full faced Brown Complexioned and wares a Black Wigg Irishman;
by birth by the brogue on his Speach, who is Charged before me to be a Dangerous person and is suspected to have
Stolen a silver spoon or the bigest part of a Silver Spoon; as by a warrant Produced; and the complaint of William
Derddy of Lebanon in county afores sometime in the month of this present November.
Notwithstanding Seavverall Endeavours for apprehensions
of him he hath not as yett been apprehended but hath withdrawn himself and fled - Lately from Lebanon in ye County
of Windham In ye Colloney of Connecticut and is Come to our County of Dutchess These are therefore in his majesties
name to command you and every of You to make diligent search within your seaverall Precincts and Districts for
said James Jones, and to make hue and Cry after him from Town to Town, and from County to County, and that as well
by horsemen as by footmen, according to Law, and if you shall find the said James Jones that then you do carry
him before some one of his Majesties Justices of the Peace Within the county or place whare he shall be taken to
be Dealtt withal according to Law. Hereof fail not at your perils. Given under my hand In Dutchess County this
Seventeenth Day of November, In the fourth year of our Reaign, and In the year of our Lord God Everlasting An°
The mark of X Thomas Sanders
To Franc Cool High Constapel, Justice of the Peace.
In Duchess County pursue after the person in this Hue and Cry.
The following is an account of LaFayette's visit:- General the Marquis-de Lafayette, after an absence of thirty
nine years, revisited our country on the invitations of Congress, as the nation's guest, in 1824. He reached New
York on the 15th of August, in the packet. ship Cadmus, Capt. Allyn, with his son and secretary. The Government
had tendered him a United States frigate, but always simple and unostentatious, he preferred to come as an ordinary
passenger in a packet ship.
There were no wires fifty years ago over which intelligence conld pass with lightning speed; but the visit of
LaFayette was expected, and the pulses and hearts of the people were quickened and warmed simultaneously, through
some mysterious medium, throughout the whole Union. Citizens rushed from neighboring cities and villages to welcome
the French nobleman, who, before he was twenty one years old, had devoted himself and his fortune to the American
colonies in their unequal conflict with the mother country for independence; and who, after fighting gallantly
by the side of Washington through the Revolutionary War, returned to France with the only reward he desired or
valued the gratitude of a free people.
General LaFayette was now sixty seven years of age, with some physical infirmites, but intellectually strong, and
in manners and feeling cheerful, elastic and accomplished.
The General embarked at 1 o'clock, a. m. At half past two his approach was announced by a discharge of cannons
from the bluff just below the landing at Poughkeepsie. Large piles of seasoned wood, saturated with tar and turpentine,
were kindled upon that bluff, fed by hundreds of boys who had been intrusted with that duty, and which were kept
blazing high, filling the atmosphere with lurid flame and smoke until daylight. Soon after sunrise, a large concourse
of the citizens of Poughkeepsie, with a military escort, arrived at the wharf.
The boat having arrived, Gen. LaFayette, accompanied by Col. Huger of South Carolina, (distinguished for his attempt
to rescue the General from the prison of Olmutz) Gens. Van Courtland, Fish and Lewis, were conducted to a barouche
drawn by four white horses. Gen. Brush, assisted by Col. Cunningham, then formed the procession which moved at
the word of command up Main Street into Academy, and down Cannon into Market Street, in front of the Forbus Hotel,
where they were formed into a hollow square, and the General was received by the Trustees of the village.
He was next conducted to the upper piazza of the Forbad House, when an address of welcome was tendered by Col.
H. A. Livingston, to which LaFayette feelingly replied. He was then shown to the centre hall, where the ladies,
eager to offer their tribute of respect, were presented; after which he returned to the lower piazza, and was introduced
to the officers present. He then walked along the line of troops, bowing to them as he passed, and receiving their
respects. Among them was an old soldier bearing the marks of poverty and hardship, but whom the General recognized,
and cordially shook by the hand.
At the conclusion of these ceremonies the General was escorted to the Poughkeepsie Hotel, where an excellent breakfast
was provided. LaFayette sat at the head of the table, and Major Swartwout, a soldier of the Revolution, 95 years
of age, was placed at the opposite end, the seats on either side age, being occupied by the most prominent persons
of the village. Over the folding doors were the words "Welcome LaFayette," made up wholly of the pink
blossoms of the china-aster.
Breakfast over, the General was escorted to the landing, and amid the firing of cannons, the waving of handkerchiefs,
and the cheers from thousands, the steamer proceeded up the river to the then beautiful residence of Governor Morgan
Lewis, where the party landed, proceeded to his fine old mansion, and partook of a sumptuous collation. About two
o'clock the steamer glided through the placid waters until between four and five o'clock, when she reached Clermont,
the manor house of Chancellor Livingston, of revolutionary memory. On landing the General was received by a large
body of Free Masons, and was escorted by a military.company from Hudson to the beautiful lawn in front of the manor
house, where the General was warmly welcomed by the Master of the Lodge in an appropriate speech. The afternoon
was uncommonly beautiful. The scene and its associations were exceedingly impressive. Dinner was served in a green
house or orangery, which formed a sort of balcony to the Southern exposure of the manor house. When the cloth was
removed and the evening came on, variegated lamps suspended from the orange trees were lighted, producing a beautiful
and wonderfully brilliant effect. Distinguished men from Esopus, Saugerties, Upper and Lower Red Hook, Catskill,
Hudson, &c., had been invited. Among these were Robert and James Tillotsen, Walter Patterson, Peter R., Edward
P. and "Oakhill John" Livingston, Jacob Haight, Thomas B. Cook, James Powers; John Suydam, Judge Willam
W. Van Ness, Elisha Williams, Jack Rutson Van Rensselaer, Ambrose L. Jordan and Justis Mc Kinstry. But the grand
event of the occasion was the ball, which was opened by General LaFayette, leading the graceful, blind widow of
Gen. Montgomery, - who fell in the assault at Quebec, 1775 - amidst the wildest enthusiasm of all present. While
the festivities were progressing within, the assembled tenantry who were to the "manor born," were feasted
upon the lawn, where there were music and dancing. The party broke up and returned to the boat about 3 A. M. The
steamcr hauled out into the river, but did not get under way till sunrise.
On the afternoon of the 12th of August, 1840, a terrific thunder storm arose. During its progress the air was filled
with sulphur, and "so incessant was the lightning that Main and Market Streets seemed to be one vivid sheet
of fire." Major Hatch then kept the Forbus House. He was sitting with his back aganst the bell knob, in company
with Gilbert V. Wilkinson and Charles Potter. The lightning entered a room on the second floor, and followed the
bell wire down to the knob and on the side of the front door, striking the Major in the back, killing him instantly,
and rendering his companions insensible. A ball of fire entered a room on the first floor of a house on Cannon
Street, where it separated, one portion passing out of the front door, and the other going through the kitchen,
striking senseless a girl who was at work there. Several other buildings about the town were damaged; the bells
all rang the fire alarm, and general consternation prevailed among the people.
In the Autumn of 1844, the State Fair was held in Poughkeepsie, on the grounds in the eastern part of the then
The hill back of the city is crowned with a model of the Temple of Minerva. From this point the city appears like
a town in the midst of a forest; and a view of a fine farming country of a radius of thirty miles, spreads out
before the eye of the beholder. The city is profusely shaded with multitudes of maple, elm, and acacia trees. The
building here mentioned was formerly the Poughkeepsie Collegiate School. This institution was organized in 1836,
under the charge of Charles Bartlett and others. The school has been discontinued, and it is now used as a hotel.
The following is copied from Barber's Historical Collections, descriptive of this once flourishing institution
"Its situation is truly a noble one; standing on an eminence commanding an extensive view of almost every
variety of feature necessary to the perfection of a beautiful landscape From the colonnade, which entirely surrounds
it, the eye of the spectator can compass a circuit of nearly sixty miles; on the south, at a distance of twenty
miles, the Highlands terminate the view, within which an apparent plain stretches to their base, covered with highly
cultivated farms, neat mansions and thriving villages. Similar scenery meets the eye on the east, but more undulating.
On the west and north, the Hudson rolls in its pride and beauty, dotted with the sails of inland commerce and numerous
steamboats, all laden with products of industry and busy men. In the dim distance, the azure summits of the Catskills,
reared to the clouds, stretch away to the north, a distance of forty miles, where the far famed 'Mountain House'
is distinctly seen, like a pearl in its mountain crest, at an elevation of three thousand feet above the river.
At our feet, like a beautiful panorama, lies the city of Poughkeepsie, with its churches, its literary institutions,
and various improvements in view, indicating the existence of a liberal spirit of well directed enterprise."
Two miles below Poughkeepsie is Locust Grove. This was the seat of the late Prof. S. F. B. Morse, a name known
throughout every civilized nation of the globe as the inventor of the magnetic telegraph. Locust Grove was his
summer residence, where he enjoyed telegraphic communication with every part of the United States and the British
Provinces. This mansion is embosomed among the trees, on an eminence overlooking the river, and is one of the most
charming retreats along the Hudson. Nearly opposite, on the west bank, we see Blue Point. It is said that under
the shadow of these hills was the favorite anchorage of "The Storm Ship." The legend connected with this
is one of the oldest, and therefore the most reliable. The story, which has been rendered immortal by the pen of
the gifted Irving, is somewhat as follows: Years ago, when New York was a village - a mere cluster of houses on
the point now known as the Battery; when the Bowery was the farm of Peter Stuyvesant, and the neighborhood of the
old Dutch Church on Nassau Street was considered the country, say one hundred and fifty years ago - the whole.
town was one evening put into great commotion by the fact that a ship was coming up the bay. The arrival of a ship,
was, in those days, a matter of great importance, and everybody flocked to the landing place. The vessel approached
the Battery within hailing distance, and then sailing both against wind and tide, turned aside and passed up the
Hudson. Week after week elapsed, but she never returned; and whenever a storm came down the Tappan Zee, it is said
she could be seen careering over the waste; and in the midst of the turmoil you could hear the Captain giving orders
in good Low Dutch. But when the weather was pleasant, her favorite anchorage was among the shadows of the picturesque
hills a few miles above the Highlands. It was thought by some to be Hendrick Hudson, and his crew of the "Half
Moon," who had once run aground in the upper part of the river; and people living in. this vicinity still
insist that under the calm harvest moon they can see her under the bluff of Blue Point, all in deep shadow, save
her topsails glittering in the moonlight.
The following is from the Political Barometer, 1809; "The, sloop Edward, John Foster, Jun., sails from the
Landing of Geo. B. Everson & Co., for the accommodation of ladies ands gentlemen traveling on business or pleasure,
leaving Poughkeepsie on Tuesdays at 5 o'clock, p. m., and New York on. Fridays. Her berths are furnished with packing
bottoms, new beds and beldings. Passengers will be let ashore if requested, at any place between Poughkeepsie and
An aged citizen says: "I well remember the time when the old steamboats used to ply between New York and Albany
and that when they hove in sight of the point coming down, boy, with an immense tin horn, would go up in the town
and blow on the horn, to give notice that the boat was in sight. Those intending to take passage would come down
to the river, without much necessity of hurrying either, as the old crafts proceeded very slowly; and there was
plenty of time for the passengers to dress and walk down to the river before the boat reached the dock. In those
primitive days the passengers were taken to the steamboat in a yawl, as the former did not make landings at the
Whale dock is located a short distance north of Main Street landing. It is so named because the whale ships, that
were sent out from Poughkeepsie many years ago, were moored at this point. This business was conducted largely
under the patronage of Nathaniel P. Talmadge. Many a DUCHESS County youth signed the shipping papers, and cured
his love for the sea by a long whaling voyage. The first ship sent out came back at the end of three years with
a large stock of oil and whalebone, but the subsequent voyages were failures, and the business was finally given
A fearful accident occurred at the drawbridge spanning the creek at New Hamburgh, on the 6th of February, 1871,
occasioned by the colliding of a special oil train going south, and the Pacifie express train going north. The
axle of one of the oil cars broke just before reaching the drawbridge, which threw the car from the track, and
caused it to project sufficiently to be struck by the locomotive of the express train. The latter, locomotive and
all, was instantly thrown from the track into the water on the east side of the bridge. Several of the oil cars
were crushed, and the wreck of both trains set on fire by the flames communicated to the oil by the furnace of
the locomotive. Three sleeping cars were attached to the express train. In the first of these, the passengers were
so injured and stunned by the collision, that they were unable to leave the car before it was enveloped in flames,
and all perished. The passengers in the other cars were comparatively uninjured, and escaped before the flames
reached them. Almost immediately the bridge was likewise all ablaze, and in a short time it fell with a crash,
carrying with it the burning cars, and burying in the ice and water the half consumed bodies of the occupants of
the first sleeping car. Between thirty and forty persons were believed to have perished.
The eminences about New Hamburgh are covered with Arbor Vita Loudon, the English naturalist, says the finest specimens
in the world of this species of tree are to be found here. The most beautiful are from six to ten feet in hight.
They are of all sizes and forms; from the tall tree that shows its first stem several feet from the ground, to
the perfect: cone that seems to rest on the earth.
Many of the readers of this volume will doubtless remember that old river institution, the "horse ferry boat."
The annexed is a representation of one of the last in use on the Hudson. In 1860 there were only two of the kind
- one at Milton Ferry, shown in the cut, and the other at Coxsackie. Steam has superseded the horse as a motive
power, and the horse ferry boat exists only in the memories of the past.
To the eastward of the city of Poughkeepsie are the sites of two race courses, now obliterated. One of these tracks
was in existence but a few years ago; the other dates back to earlier times, when running matches were more in
vogue than at present. Then the people came from all parts of the country, remaining three or four days. It is
said it was not unusual for a large amount of money to change hands during. the races.
Vassar College, established for the higher education of young women, enjoys the distinguishing feature of being
the first of the kind ever founded. Its history is thus briefly given by the historian, Lossing: Its Board of Directors
was organized in February, 1861, and it was opened in September, 1865, with 350 students. It possesses an Art Gallery,
Cabinet and Museum, not inferior to those of any college in our country, and has a Library of almost 10,000 volumes.
Its founder, Matthew Vassar, lived here from his early boyhood until his death. He began his business life in Poughkeepsie
66 years ago,  as a brewer of ale, a barrel at a time, which he carried around the streets with his own hands,
and sold to customers. When by honesty, industry and thrift he had accumulated a large fortune in his declining
years, he was induced by his niece, Miss Lydia Booth, who was at the head of a seminary for young women in Poughkeepsie,
to contemplate the founding of an institution for the higher education of women. This germ expanded and yielded
noble fruit. He gave a large portion of his fortune (he was a childless man) to the founding of this college, and
lived to see it start upon a career of great prosperity and usefulness. Matthew Vassar, by an expenditure of $800,000,
gave to Poughkeepsie the immortal honor of having within its borders, the first college proper ever established
for the education of young women.
The same writer says of Eastman's Business College: - The Eastman National Business College at Poughkeepsie, New
York, is not only the pioneer among these Institutions, in teaching actual business, but is a model Dr. Eastman
first opened a commercial school at Oswego, New York, in 1855. Previous to that time only penmanship, arithmetic
and the theory of bookkeeping were taught in commercial schools. He introduced with theory, actual business operations,
teaching the students practical knowledge in buying and selling according to the fundamental principles of trade.
In the College at Poughkeepsie, which was founded in 1858, the student not only learns the theory of business of
every kind, but is actually engaged in the practical operations of a merchant, a banker, a trader, an accountant,
and a bookkeeper, using real merchandise, and specie, bank notes and fractional currency, in as legitimate a way
as if he were a member of a mercantile or business house. Each day's business is based upon quotations in the New
York market, whether it be stocks, merchandise or produce. Dr. Eastman opened his College in Poughkeepsie, in a
small room with only three students. They numbered sixteen the second week, and at the end of three years they
had expanded to 500; and in 1863, to 1,200. The next year the College register, at one time, showed a regular dilly
attendance of over 1,700 students. The rules and regulations of the Eastman Business College are calculated to
insure order, and a high moral tone. The students are generally earnest young men seeking practical business knowledge.
Its graduates, now numbering about 23,000, fill many places of trust in our land, and many others have become leaders
in commercial circles.
In August of 1853, the Young Men's Christian Association of the City of Poughkeepsie was founded, at a meeting
held in the First Methodist Church. That meeting was addressed by Rev. Dr. Howard Crosby, the pioneer in the organization
of similar institutions in this country. The Association was organized by the appointment of John H. Mathews as
President, J. I. Platt as Secretary, and W. B. Frissell, as Treasurer. A reading room was furnished, the nucleus
of a library was formed; stated prayer meetings were established, and Committees were appointed to do active christian
work. By persevering effort and the generosity of the citizens of Poughkeepsie, and other liberal minded people,
the spacious building occupied by the association was purchased, and the usefulness of the institution greatly
Space would fail were we to mention, at length, the "Home for the Friendless," "Old Ladies' Home,"
"St. Barnabas Hospital," "House of Industry," and other kindred institutions, with which are
closely associated the prosperity and happiness of the people.
The Poughkeepsie Female Academy was founded in 1836, being incorporated under the Regents of New York. The Principal,
Rev. D. G. Wright, A. M., a gentleman of superior talents, and of ripe scholarship, has held his present position
during the past seventeen years.
The Duchess County Academy building was erected in 1836, at a cost of $14,000. This institution was first organized
in Fishkill, and afterwards removed to Cannon Street, Poughkeepsie. In the year above mentioned it was again removed
to its present location, on Hamilton Street, where it is now used as The Old Ladies' Home.
The Hudson River State Hospital is one of the finest public institutions in the country, standing on the Highlands,
two miles north of the city of Poughkeepsie, commanding a fine view of the Hudson River for miles. The hospital
was established by act of the State Legislature passed in 1866, and was erected under the supervision of Dr. J.
W. Cleaveland, the present able and skillful Superintendent. It has accommodations for 600 patients, 300 of each
sex; and when the additions now being erected under the direction of Mr. Post are completed, it will have a capacity
for about 1,000 patients.
The manufacture of mowing and reaping machines is among the most important of American industries. Of these implements,
none has gained a more deserved popularity than the Buckeye Mower and Reaper - which may be termed a DUCHESS County
institution - manufactured by Adriance, Platt & Co. These machines were first brought out in 1857, when twenty
five were made. The manufacture and sale has risen to 30,000 in a single year. The manufactory stands on a bold
bluff of the Hudson, and comprises a handsome group of structures.
But a description of Poughkeepsie would be incomplete without a mention of Eastman's Park; which, though purchased
and maintained by the private purse of Hon. H. G. Eastman, is as free to the public as though owned by the city
itself. The grounds are the admiration of all who see them. The wall surrounding them is of superior workmanship,
of cut marble and blue stone. The entrances are of solid white marble piers. It has been appropriately styled the
"Central Park" of the city of Poughkeepsie; and here the Fourth of July celebrations, Summer evening
concerts and other public entertainments are held without any charge for the grounds. Inside of the enclosure are
fountains and ponds, a music park, ball ground, skating park, deer park, and an extensive flower garden. The Soldiers'
Fountain, at the junction of South Avenue and Montgomery Street, and opposite the Park, is among the largest and
most artistic fountains in the country. It is a massive iron structure, some forty feet in height, and of very
graceful proportions. Eight cannon project from the large basin, from the mouth of which are thrown jets of water
made to resemble the smoke and blaze of a discharged field piece. There are some forty water jets in all in connection
with the fountain, and the effect is very fine. Professor Eastman was the originator of this public work; and after
a failure to raise the means to construct it by general subscriptions and entertainments, he completed it at his
The Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery comprises about 54 acres, situated between the old post road and the river, about
one mile below the city. This is as picturesque and lovely a spot as could be selected for the resting place of
a city's dead. Although but recently laid out, it already contains many fine monuments.
The Collingwood Opera House is one of the finest music halls in the country. It is excellently fitted and appointed,
and has a seating capacity for over 2,000 persons. The new Public Library building is a large and elegant structure.
The library itself comprises many choice volumes and periodicals, which add greatly to the interests of the city.
The Poughkeepsie Bridge, work on which has been commenced, and which is destined to be another distinguishing feature
of the city, will, when completed, constitute one of the grandest structures in the country. Its dimensions are
given as follows: The main river bridge will be composed of five spans, of 525 feet each. These are to have each
two trusses, 25 feet from centre to centre, constructed of iron and steel. The base of the rails, which will be
of steel, will be 193 feet above high tide, and the top of the piers 135 feet. The total length of the bridge and
its approaches will be 4,500 feet. Art excellent view of the contemplated structure is elsewhere given in this
[Return to History
of.Poughkeepsie, NY part 1]