History of Hamptonburgh, NY
From: The History of Orange County, New York
Edited by: Russel Headley
Published by: Van Deusen and Elms
Middletown, New York, 1908


O N March 5, 1703, in the reign of Queen Anne, the Wawayanda patent was signed. The grantors were twelve Indians named Rapingonick, Wawastawa, Moghopuck, Comelawaw, Manawitt, Ariwimack, Ruinbout, Clauss, Chonckhass, Chingapaw, Oshaquemonus and Quiliapaw, and among the twelve patentees was Christafer Denn. He was a Frenchman and a carpenter, then living on the eastern shore of Staten Island with his wife, Elizabeth, and a young girl sixteen years of age, Sarah Wells, who had been taken by them as an infant and brought up as their own, although she did not receive their name, nor at their deaths did they mention her in their wills, probably because she had received one hundred acres after her marriage.

Christofer Denn, as his name is spelled by Mr. Eager in his history, or "Denne," as spelled by Mr. Ruttenber, the latter says, was a resident of New York in 1701, and one of the signers of the "Protestant Petition" to William III, in that year. In 1702 his name appears appended to the congratulatory address to Lord Cornbury as one "of the chief est inhabitants of the City and County on New York." And in 1705 he was one of the signers of a petition by the merchants of that city. He was still a resident of New York in 1722-1723, and it was in that city his wife Elizabeth died. It should be noticed that it is said Denn was a resident of the county of New York, even when not living in the city.


Around Sarah "Wells much of the history of Hamptonburgh is woven. She was born in New Jersey, opposite Staten Island, April 6, 1694, and died April 21, 1796, aged 102 years, leaving 355 living descendants. Her husband was William Bull, an Englishman from Wolverhampton. The family left there for Dublin in February. 1689. At Wolverhampton the church register shows the records of the family back to 900 A. D. The late claim is that William Bull, son of John Bull, and grandson of Josias Bull, of Kingshurst Hall, who emigrated in 1715, settling at Hamptonburgh, Orange County, New York, is identical with the husband of Sarah Wells. But whether Kingshurst Hall is in Wolverhampton we cannot say at this moment. However, the coat of arms belonging to the Bulls of Kingshurst Hall has been engraved and virtually accepted by Mr. Ebenezer Bull, of Hamptonburgh, as that of his ancestors.

Christofer Denn's share of 2,000 acres in the Wawayanda patent having been set apart, he visited the location and made friends with the Indians living there. The claim was surveyed by Peter Berian and lay touching the northeasterly bounds of the town lots of the village of Goshen. Its bounds run thus: "Beginning at a stake and stones about east of and ten chains from the dwelling house of General Abraham Vail in East Division; thence northwesterly along the northeasterly bounds of the Goshen town lots, and until it meets with a line supposed to divide the old counties of Ulster and Orange; thence east along the same to a stake and stones known to be standing near the top of the highland, or mountain above Charles Heard's in Hamptonburgh; thence on a course about thirty six degrees west to the place of beginning.

Some difficulty arose later in running the survey of other lines which interfered with Denn's claim.

To settle it a grant was made after his death in the name of his wife, Elizabeth "Dense," of 1,140 acres, December 12, 1734. Although the patent had been signed there was a condition that unless a settlement was made on the Wawavanda patent by the end of May, 1712, the title was to lapse. Add to this that six hundred acres were to be given to the first settler and we may find a sufficient motive for Christofer Denn to become the needed pioneer.

His affairs were embarrassed at the time, and this change from the city to the wilderness probably offered a much needed retreat for a time at least. He took with him on his return to the city after his inspection of the land, three young Indians, sons of those whom he had visited and of the tribe which had parted with their land to the patentees. They had befriended the surveyors while running out the patent and had kindly volunteered their services to help him remove from the city to the patent. All accounts say that three young Indians went with him to tile city and helped to direct the party.

It was Sarah Wells, this slender, dark eyed little girl of sixteen, whom Denn chose to go forth alone with the men to conquer the wilderness. When he told her, she was sick with terror at the thought that in the latter part of her journey her only companions would be the carpenters and half naked savages, who might attack her at any moment.

The carpenters sent to build the log house, of whom there were two, knew nothing of the country, and had treachery been intended the whites must have been defenseless.

Denn, being in straitened circumstances at the time, the other patentees came to his assistance and supplied the sloop and crew and cows and horses to assist in the settlement which, according to Eager, was to hold the Wawayanda Patent.

The present family believe him to have been correct in regard to their history, for he was a descendant on his mother's side. He gives a full and romantic account of this journey, from which we can only give extracts.

He says: "As this portion of our narrative was derived from Sarah in after life, we purpose to place an inventory of the various articles of outfit before the reader, that he may judge of its nature, extent and value, which are as follows: Two pack horses with bells on, two milk cows with bells, two dogs, two Irish Brahmans, one spade, two pails, two beds and bedding, one small and one large kettle, wood trenches and bowls, candlesticks and candles, a pair of trammels, a frying pan, small tin plates for saucers, coffee pot with coffee, teapot, chocolate, tin canister with tea, silver teaspoons and sugar tongs, small china teacups and saucers, bundle of cloths, saddlebags, pillow saddles, knives and forks, some potatoes, wallets, medical cordials in vials, refined sugar in small pieces, brown sugar in rolls, flour, biscuit, ham in small sacks, some trinkets, ribbons and small knives for the Indians."

There may have been other articles not enumerated. As Denn bade Sarah goodbye in a subdued. voice and tones of affectionate regard, he said: "Sarah, you have been kind and dutiful to us thus far, and your present conduct confirms us in your kindness. The duty you have to perform is new and may be fatiguing, but must if possible be accomplished now or the season may be lost. The workmen will take care of you while on the boat and afterwards, while the Indians, of whose friendship I have no doubt, will guide you through the woods to the place selected for our dwelling. This work is very important and what you do for Madam Denn and me is also done for the benefit of the company." He ended thug: "God save and bless you, Sarah."

The Indians faithfully performed their part and the one who was given especial charge over Sarah's horse (after the party landed on the banks of the Hudson near Cornwall), although half naked, as were the other two, watched carefully her comfort. Their eyes were piercing, their voices harsh and grating, yet Sarah's attendant showed a deference and gentle anxiety to please that many white men of today might envy.

Sarah mounted on the second horse, sat upon beds and bedding with many small articles around her and managed her horse with great difficulty. The Indian marched close by her side, helped her on and off her horse, and pointed out many things in the woods calculated to interest her attention and draw her out in conversation. Not infrequently he plucked an early flower as it sprang up by the wayside, and calling her attention to it, tasted its leaves and then presented it for acceptance.

They arrived on the hank of the stream, now the Otterkill, opposite the spot which Christofer Denn had selected as the place of his residence. Thus the journey in full twenty miles of pathless forest, with occasional thick underwood, was performed in a single day.

They built a fire beneath a tree whose branches guarded them from dampness. They put boughs of trees upon forked sticks driven into the ground and laid the beds there to escape the snakes, and the carpenters lay down and slept well till morning, but Sarah dreamed and slept fitfully, while the Indians threw themselves on the ground with their feet to the fire and slept all night. Whenever Sarah roused herself to look about, "her Indian" made signs to her that all was well and he was guarding her. The next day the carpenters built a wigwam of split logs resting on end against a frame of poles 16 by 18 feet with a ditch about it to carry off rain. It had a slanting roof with a hole three feet square in the peak for the escape of smoke, the fireplace being below it.

The goods were first unpacked and plates set on the table for supper the second evening of their arrival, when one of the Indians saw two people at a distance, and going to reconnoiter, found Madam Denn and her husband. They had been so overcome by the parting from Sarah and the enormity of their conduct in sending her on such a perilous adventure, that they had followed her on horseback up through New Jersey as fast as they could, and arrived in time for the first meal in the new wigwam. On seeing them at the door she fainted at their feet.

It is only just to say that the friendship thus begun between Sarah and the Indians continued to the end.

When the Indians were most hostile to others in the neighborhood the family could always give a safe refuge to the many who sought a shelter under their roof when night came.


In 1716 William Bull entered on the scene. Born in Wolverhampton. England, February, 1689, his youth was, however, passed in Dublin, where his father moved when he was small.

He was apprenticed to learn the trade of a mason and stone cutter. When his apprenticeship ended he and a young friend took the contract to build a large arch for a bridge being constructed near Dublin. Tradition says: One Saturday night the work was nearly done and the arch finished but for the keystone. He begged the men to remain and put it in place, so completing the work, but they refused. On going down to see it on the next morning he found it fallen and his fortunes with it. It had carried with it his all and imprisonment for debt, as far as he knew it might be for life, stared him in the face.

There was a ship lying at the dock which he knew was sailing that day for New York. He searched his pockets and discovered five guineas with which and a few books he boarded the vessel. The captain on being asked if that much money would take him to America, answered it would. On reaching New York the captain told him the money had brought him, but had not paid his full passage and he must be sold for the balance. Buil was highly indignant and refused to leave the ship. He replied that he would return to Ireland and face his debts. Daniel Cromline, who also had a share in the Wawayanda patent, heard that an Irish ship was in dock, and hoping to procure some workmen had it proclaimed on board the ship. Bull felt that Providence and strangers would help him, and on telling his story to Mr. Cromline the money was advanced and they traveled together as far as Greycourt. Here he did the mason work on the old stone Greycourt house in 1716.

This was long a public inn on the way from the Hudson to New Jersey, and was a famous resort for the people around.

William Bull lived in the Cromline family, whose patent was not far from that part of the Wawayanda patent on which Mr. Dean had settled. They were in fact neighboring families, and so William Bull met Sarah Wells. They loved each other and were married in 1718.

The ceremony took place in the new double log house of Christofer Denn, and as Bull was an Episcopalian and desired to be married by the rites of his church they did not know how to proceed. There was no church nor a clergyman who could proclaim the banns three weeks, but courts of justice had been established and a magistrate was in the neighborhood.

They decided that circumstances alter cases and summoned their guests. All being assembled the magistrate carrying the prayer book proceeded first to the front door and proclaimed the banns to the trees of the forest, then through the hall to the back door where he proclaimed it to the cattle and the outbuildings. He made proclamation then once more from the front door to the wilderness at large and then performed the marriage ceremony. The wedding dress was of homespun linen delicately embroidered by the bride, and is now in the possession of one of her descendants, who has exhibited it at the family picnic held each year on the last Wednesday in August in the grove at Campbell Hall.

Later Sarah Wells Bull asked for and received the promised reward of 100 acres from Christofer Denn for having gone alone at his bidding to settle his claim and save his title.

William Bull and Richard Gerard received a grant joining Denn's of 2,600 acres, August 10, 1723.

On the 100 acres given to Sarah, Bull built a barn of hand sawed planks. These were of ash, rived, and the shingles of split pine and put on each with two pegs. This barn is still in use and never has been painted. Afterwards he built the stone house in 1727 on his own land near by, and it is still occupied by the family and probably will stand for generations to come. It is built on a rock, with a spring in the cellar, and before the house was quite finished in September, 1727, an earthquake which was felt for 1,500 miles, cracked the east side of the house and the crack can still be seen. The lightning struck it in 1767-8, but only slight damage was done to its thick stone walls. The house has two stories of eleven feet each; with basement and a good sized garret. It is a truly fine house for those times. Mr. Bull called his place Hamptonburgh, from Wolverhampton where he was born. There were eight children born to him.


Hamptonburgh township as it now stands was set apart in 183o from the towns bounding it. It is in the form of an irregular hexagon, its northern extremity a point and Montgomery bounding it on the northeast rind northwest, with the Wallkill River running between Wallkill township on the west and Montgomery on the northwest, while Goshen is on the southwest, Blooming Grove the southeast and New Windsor on the east.

The Otterkill circles through the town adding picturesqueness to the fields it waters, while high ridges and fertile valleys vary the scene. The Goshen and Montgomery State road runs northeast through the western part of the town and the Little Britain State road joins it at Clark's Crossing. Mr. Clark's farm, once the Denniston Bull farm, is now in the hands of the New York and New Jersey Railroad, and the road is being constructed. It is claimed that this will put Campbell Hall within one hour of New York City, instead of the three days' journey by sloop and horseback which Sarah Wells had to undergo.

At Campbell Hall Junction four railroads center, the Ontario and Western, the Central New England, the Wallkill Valley Division of the N. Y. C. & H. R. and the Erie, while the Lehigh and New England runs through the eastern part of the town from north to south, with stations at Hamptonburgh, Girard and Burnside, thus making this small town of more than proportionate interest in the county.

There are six rural schools and one church now in the town. This is the Presbyterian church at Campbell Hall, where also are the stores of Alexander Brothers and C. B. Howell, a meat market, a creamery and a blacksmith's shop, and the surrounding houses with neat lawns make an attractive hamlet.

The two room schoolhouse stands in a grove of oaks on a hill overlooking the Otterkill where the old church stood before it was moved to Hamptonburgh proper. Now that building stands empty and only the graveyard tells the old story. The name Campbell Hall came from a Colonel Campbell who lived there. His house was back of what is now the Bertholf house. "Col. Campbell was a Scotchman, the father of Mrs. Margaret Eustace, who was the mother of Gen. Eustace of the Revolutionarv army of France, both of whom, we believe, died in the vicinity of Newburgh thirty or thirty five years since." (Eager in 1846-7.) In speaking of Mrs. Eustace he notes her dignity of manner when she resided at Campbell Hall; also of her husband, Doctor Eustace, who was from the South. He says there was a secret not fully understood which embittered the last years of her life and her father's.

Campbell Hall owes much to Mrs. Matilda Booth Gouge. Her husband, Mr. George Gouge, conducted a large creamery business there for years, and on his death he left his widow more than comfortably provided for. There were no children and Mrs. Gouge did many kind things for her neighbors before her death. She gave the ground on which the church was built and a large house for a parsonage close to the church. She also educated a colored man for the ministry. On her death she willed her large residence with its furniture for a more comfortable home for the pastor and her farm of 100 acres to the church with $5,000 in bonds. Most of the buildings in the village are built on land purchased from her. Her birthplace was near and is now owned by Mr. C. B. Howell.

Burnside has a sawmill, a store and a Borden's creamery. Post offices are in each place and the R. F. D. comes out from Montgomery. This closes the helpful public activities of the town, but fine hotels, with bars, make an addition not to be omitted. It is impossible to follow closely all the different family fortunes of those who make the records of today; our allotted space is too small.

There are two of the original grants on which the descendants of the patentees are still living. These are the Richard Gerard and William Bull grants.

The one of 2,600 acres was dated August to, 1723, on which, by a mistake of calculation, the carpenters erected the first wigwam in 1712, followed by the William Bull stone house.

The second grant lay partly in Wallkill, partly in Hamptonburgh, divided unevenly by the Wallkill River. William Bull, Esq., the great great grandson of the first one of the name here, lives upon the western portion, and the stone house known as Hill-Hold on the eastern part, belongs to the descendants of the third son of William Bull, Thomas Bull, Robert McLeod Jackson and Margaret Eleanor Jackson and their mother, Margaret Crawford Jackson, wife of Robert McDowell Jackson, son of William Wickham Jackson.

The stones in the house were cut in the fields by the builder, Thomas Bull, as he had time for the work between planting and reaping. It was years before he was ready to build. Paneling was brought from England for the east and west sides of the two large first floor rooms. Also solid mahogany balls for the newels and mahogany balusters. The walls are two feet thick, with open fireplaces throughout the house and massive chimney stacks on the east and west. This house also stands on a rock, is in good repair and has a beautiful situation on a hill.

Thirty years ago Mr. Charles Backman bought the road house by Stony Ford bridge, known as the Sutton House, with race track, and began to improve Orange County's fine trotting stock. Little by little he bought the adoining farm land until he owned 64o acres and remade the mile of road from Stony Ford to La Grange into as fine a highway as are the best State roads today

His house was visited by many noted people, among them General Grant when President, and General Benjamin F. Tracy, now ex Secretary of the Navy. Mr. J. Howard Force now owns the place. General Tracy owned for a few years a farm in Goosetown or LaGrange, which he named Marshland and greatly improved. This also was a stock farm for fine horses: it is now in other hands. Mr. Backman bought part of the Valentine Hill farm originally belonging to Andrew Wilson, who was a private in Colonel James McClaughrey's regiment of Little Britain. In October, 1777, he was one of the hundred men sent out from Fort Montgomery to intercept the British. who were 5,000 strong and commanded by Sir Henry Clinton in person.

Here is a dispatch from Governor Clinton, dated October 7, 1777, the day after the fort was taken: "We received intelligence that the enemy were advancing on the west side of the mountain with design to attack us in the rear. Upon this ordered out Colonels Bawer and McClaughrey with upwards of 100 men towards Doodletown with a brass field piece, with a detachment of sixty men on every advantageous post on the road to the furnace. They were not long out before they were attacked by the enemy with theirs whole force; our people behaved with spirit and must have made great slaughter of the enemy."

Andrew Wilson was here taken prisoner and when an English soldier ordered him to take off his silver shoe buckles he refused and was knocked down by the butt of a musket and his buckles taken. He lay on the sugar hulk for two years and believed he was treated with greater indignity than others because of his refusal.

After his release he lived on the farm mentioned on the east bank of the Wallkill. His son James died first, he himself in 1804. He left two sons and a daughter. John lived and died in Goshen. His son, Andrew, raised two companies in 1812, the first he turned over to his intimate friend, Burnett of Little Britain, that they might not be separated; the second gave him a commission as lieutenant in the regular army. Afterwards he became captain and was in charge at Governor's Island. He married a daughter of William Bull, of Wallkill, Milinda Ann, and made a home in Goshen. He was sent to the Legislature from there in 1819. He was prominent in the temperance movement, also the Bible society and the church life of Hamptonburgh.

The first pastor settled at Hamptonburgh was the Rev. James R. Johnson, formerly of Goshen. The tide of prosperity in the town was expected to set to the east, about the new church, but the hopes were not fulfilled, and little by little Campbell Hall became the established center. The Rev. Slater C. Hepburn was called after Mr. Johnson and was installed July 2, 1850, and died in Campbell Hall after serving his people forty five years.

Able B. Watkins was an early settler near the Denns and had a family of ten children.

In 1749 Silas Pierson came from Long Island and took possession of what long was known as the "old shingle house on the Pierson farm, a mile northeast of Hamptonburgh church. This house was burned this spring of 1907, April t3th. The eastern half was built of squared logs up to the eaves.

On the 8th day of July, 1760, James DeLaney, Esq., his Majesty's lieutenant governor and commander in chief in and over the province of New York and the territories depending thereon, signed a commission appointing Silas Pierson to be captain of the company of militia foot lately commanded by John Bull. Esq. This was near the close of the French and Indian War, when England had determined to destroy the power of France in America. The militia was liable to be called out at any time to defend the settlements against the attacks of the Indians and to avenge their wrongs.

In 1775 Silas Pierson was captain in Jesse Woodhull's regiment; later he was captain of a light horse company in the Revolution. Silas Pierson and Silas Pierson, Jr., were among the many signers of the pledge in the Cornwall precincts, in which they declared that they would never become slaves and would aid the Continental Congress in opposing the arbitrary acts of the British Parliament. Joshua Pierson, grandfather of George Pierson, Sr., was a private in Col. Jesse Woodhull's regiment in 1777 at the age of sixteen, and went with the regiment under the command of Major Zachariah Du Bois to assist in the defence of Fort Montgomery.

The family of Mr. William Henry Pierson still resides on the old farm. His wife was Miss Elizabeth Bull of the "stone house." His daughter Lucile married Harry Bull, of Wallkill, who, like his father, is justice of the peace. It thus appears that in a large degree the history of Hamptonburgh township is the history of the Bulls, for marriage has linked the family with so many other well known names.

We would like to give a list of the men who have served as supervisors and also as elders of the church. Indeed our story could well lengthen itself into a small volume were all to be told which is of interest in our little town. We have tried to keep a class of facts which hold more than a passing and local interest.

We have drawn for our material upon such published records as have been within our reach, and have consulted with persons who have knowledge of such points as may have been in dispute.

Let us hope we have wronged no one in anything said or left unsaid, and have disseminated no more false facts than are unavoidable with the most conscientious historians.

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