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


THIS triangular township is in the southeast corner of Orange County. It is bounded on the north by the towns of Monroe and Woodbury, on the east ands south by Rockland County and on the west by the town of Warwick. Its area as given in the latest supervisors' report is 27,839 acres, and the assessed valuation of real estate is placed at $2.510,500. The title to the soil is derived from the Chesecock patent.

The general topographical features are invested with peculiar charm. The towering mountain crags and scattered bits of valley, the wildwood and forests primeval, are dimpled with beautiful lakes and threaded with purling streams. The Ramapo, which is made up wholly by the surplus waters of these lakes, has its head in Round Island Pond and flows thence southerly, through the valley which bears its name, into Rockland County.

The name Tuxedo is, undoubtedly the corruption of one or more Indian words. In the language of the Algonquin, who occupied this region, it is found that to or tough mean "a place." A frequent habit of the Indians was to name a place after the chief whose tribe occupied it, and there was a sachem named P'tauk-seet, "the bear," who, in the seventeenth century, ruled over a tract of country including the present town of Tuxedo. Uniting his name with tough. the Algonquin for place, we should infer the original spelling to have been P'tauk-seet-tough, and its meaning "Place of Bears." The earliest mention of the name occurs in Sargeant's survey of 1754 where reference is made to Tuxedo Pond. In Chesecock's patent of 1769 it is written Potuckett. Erskine, in his survey of 1778-1779, writes it Tuxedo and Toxedo. In Eager's and Ruttenber's histories written respectively in 1847 and 1875 the name is corrupted to Duck Cedar. with the explanation that its margin is overgrown with cedars and that it is a favorite haunt of wild ducks.

The first description of this region is written by the Marquis de Chastellux, a French officer who came to America with Lafayette, and who, on December 19, 1780, following the Continental road through the gorge south of the lake, then called "The Clove," presently came in view of Tuxedo. He mentions that at Ringwood he stopped to ask his way, and that at Erskine's house they gave him full information about the roads and wood paths, and also "a glass of Madeira, in accordance with a custom of the country, which will not allow you to leave a house without taking something." Having been thus refreshed, he says: "I got on horseback and penetrated afresh into the woods, mounting and descending precipitous hills until I found myself at the edge of a lake so secluded that it is hardly visible from the surrounding thicket. Its banks are so steep that if a deer made a false step on the top he would infallibly roll into the lake. This lake, which is not marked upon the charts, and is called Duck Sider, is about three miles long and two miles wide (sic!), and is in the wildest and most deserted country I have yet passed through. My poetic imagination was enjoying the solitude, when, at a distance, 1 perceived in an open spot, a quadruped, which a nearer observation showed to be not the elk or caribou. for which I at first mistook him. but a horse grazing peaceably in a field belonging to a new settlement."


Following the grant of the Chesecock patent in 1702 there was no settlement in this territory for many years. The families who came were mostly of English ancestry and moved from Long Island and the Eastern States. The Smiths are supposed to have explored this region as early as 1727. The first settlement in the vicinity of Tuxedo Lake was made at the northern extremity of this body of water. Prior to 1765, a woodcutter named Hasenclever inclosed a ten acre tract lying equally on both sides of the outlet. On a survey made in 1778 is shown his enclosure and the dam built by him, and also the position of the house, situated fifty yards northeasterly from the dam, and built by a man named Howard, who was probably "the original settler." During the Revolution. when the iron works on the Ramapo were liable to interruption by the British, Hasenclever's dam was raised several feet. and the overflow turned southwest to supply the Ringwood furnaces in New Jersey. During this period. Tuxedo Lake was the resort of a band of cowboys who at times found shelter among some rocks which they named after their leader, "Claudius Smith's Cave." (See general history.)

Vicent Helms was chosen constable in 1775. Phineas and Brewster Helms are also mentioned in the records of the old town of Cornwall of which this locality was then a part. The hamlet Helmsburgh indicates the place where the families of that name lived before the Revolution. Moses Cunningham was a member of the first board of assessors of the town of Monroe erected in 1799. He lived at Greenwood Iron Works. Richard Wilkes, school commissioner in 1799, also lived here. Adam Belcher, school commissioner in 1800, lived at Southfields.

The survey and construction of the Continental road was performed by the military engineers of the Continental Army in 1778. It entered the park at the present south gate and followed the east lake shore at a somewhat lower level than the present road. From the Hoffman corner it continued up to the east slope of the Alexander place to the top of Tower Hill, where it crossed to the Coster place, thence to the Griswold place, which it crossed to the end of what is now the Wee Wash Lake and left the park near the present north gate where it joined the main turnpike road of the Ramapo Valley. There was also a wood road from the present east gate to the Continental road at the Hoffman corner.


Up to 1864 the territory now embraced in the town of Tuxedo belonged to the town of Monroe. In the fall of 1863, a petition was sent to the board of supervisors requesting that the town be divided into three towns. The request was granted and the new towns were named respectively Monroe, Southfield and Highland. Monroe held its town meeting March 22, 1864, electing Chauncey B. Knight, supervisor. Southfield did likewise, electing Josiah Patterson, supervisor, while Highland chose its old favorite Morgan Smith. This piece of political surgery did not prove satisfactory, and in 1865 the Legislature overruled the action of the board of supervisors and restored to its citizens the old town of Monroe.

Again in December of 1889 the board of supervisors were prevailed upon to effect a triple division of the town. The reason advanced for this redivision was that the town was too large and its interests too diverse for harmonious government. It was resolved that the division should be made on the old lines, but that the names Tuxedo and Woodbury should be substituted for Southfield and Highland. This was duly passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. The lines were run so as to give Monroe 12,101 acres, Tuxedo 27,839 acres and Woodbury 23,839 acres. However, the boundary line between Monroe and Tuxedo had not been clearly determined or marked by monuments. When the Heine Club desire] to build a road from Mombassa to Southfield, it became a practical question how much of this road must he paid for by each town. Hence the question as to the dividing line. The men who were with the 1863 surveyor said: "It crossed Mombasha Pond, but they did not know where. A survey was then made by F. j. Knight. who established a true line, demonstrating that the line of 1863 had been a trial or random line. This decision placed Mombasha in the territory of Monroe.

In January 1890. J. Spencer Ford represented the town of Tuxedo in the board of supervisors; in 1894, Paul Tuckerman was elected supervisor; Mahlon J. Brooks filled the office in 1896 and 1897, and Charles S. Patterson, the present incumbent, has served continuously since 1898. Daniel F. Clark, the veteran bookkeeper, has held the office of town clerk since 1890. Gillmore O. Bush, the present postmaster and captain of the park police, held the office of town collector in 1890 and from 1894 to 1899. The assessors for 1907 are M. J. Brooks Joseph W. Conklin and Benjamin Moffatt. The highway commissioners are George Griswold, Benjamin 'Moffatt and William Finer. District schools are located at Arden, Southfields. Eagle Valley, Scott Mines, and in Tuxedo Village are the primary and union free schools. Of the latter institutions, Mr. James Cronon has been the efficient clerk of the board since 1891. A private preparatory school is conducted within the limits of the park.

Episcopal churches are located at Arden and Tuxedo, Methodist Episcopal churches at Southfields, Tuxedo and Scott Mines. The Roman Catholic church is in Tuxedo village.

The main line of the Erie Railroad parallels the Ramapo river through the entire length of the town, and was opened in September. 1841. In this valley are the hamlets that took part in the iron industry of a century ago. Augusta was the seat of the "Augusta Works" founded at the close of the Revolution, 1783-1784, by Solomon Townsend of New York, to make bar iron and anchors. It was an important enterprise but not permanently successful. In later years the works came into the ownership of P. Lorillard, who allowed them to remain idle. Thirteen thousand acres of land were attached to the works. Southfield was the name of the locality of the "Southfield" and "Monroe" works. These enterprises, were established about 1805 to make pig iron. The early proprietors were William and Peter Townsend. Stirling Furnace, of which the Southfield plant became an important branch, was in operation a century and a half ago. (See Warwick). The sterling Iron & Railway Company filed their annual report with the county clerk January 17, 1865. They purchased mines, 'manufactories and other property in southern Orange. Greenwood Iron Works was established in 1811 by the Messrs. Cunningham to make pig iron. Mr. P. P. Parrott became the subsequent owner. The Parrott Iron Company was formed by a certificate verified June 23, 1880. It engaged in mining and selling of iron ore and the manufacture of pig iron and steel. The capital stock was stated as $500,000. The trustees named were Peter P., Edward M., and R. D. A. Parrott. The locality is now known as Arden, and is the headquarters of the Arden Dairy Farms, of which Mr. William A. McClellan is manager. A short distance northeast, bordering Echo Lake, is the home of Mr. E. H. Harriman, who owns vast tracts of land throughout this region. Helmsburgh is a rural mountain locality west of Southfields. Eagle Valley is a station on the Erie Railroad, in the extreme southern angle of the town, near the New Jersey line.


The tract of land containing this park consists of 7,000 acres, and came into the possession of the Lorillard family in 1812. Shafts were sunk in various places in an attempt to find iron ore, but the property was otherwise undeveloped until the advent of the Erie Railroad in 1841. The locomotives burned wood in those days, and an arrangement was made to supply the railroad with fuel. The hills and valleys were covered with large forest trees, all of which were sacrificed, excepting a few along the Continental road. The station here was for years known as the "Wood Pile."

About 1860 Tuxedo Lake was stocked with black bass, and from that time the fishing was carefully preserved for the Lorillard family and their friends. Up to 1885 no better bass fishing could be found anywhere than that afforded by this beautiful lake. This suggested to Mr. P. Lorillard (deceased, 1901), the idea of establishing here a shooting and fishing club. He bought out the other members of the family, and acquired a clear title to the whole tract. Five thousand acres were enclosed in a wire fence eight feet high. Deer were bought and turned loose. English pheasant eggs were procured in large quantities and several pheasant hatcheries were located. A fine trout hatchery was also built.

Having made a start on the preserve, Mr. Lorillard proceeded to organize the club. He gave a dinner to his sporting friends at the Union Club, New York, and his idea met with an enthusiastic reception. Twenty gentlemen were appointed a board of governors. Invitations to join the club were sent out, and temporary headquarters secured in New York.

The foundations of the clubhouse were laid, and about 1,800 men were employed in roadmaking. Before the new work was begun There was but the Continental road through the park. The first park road constructed was the Station road. The construction of the road around the lake was then undertaken. As the work progressed Mr. Lorillard decided, instead of a mere game preserve, to lay out a residential park. This plan involved enormous expense. Many roads were required to develop the building sites. A complete sewer and water system was constructed. A village for shops and employees and a large livery stable were built. An office in the village for the transaction of the park business was opened. At the same time Mr. Lorillard formed a stock company called the Tuxedo Park Association, to which he turned over all the lands and other assets of the park. The officers chosen were: Mr. P. Lorillard, president; P. Lorillard, Jr., vice president; George D. Findley, treasurer, and William Kent, secretary. This company leased the clubhouse and grounds to the members for twenty one years, and guaranteed the new club against loss for the first ten years of its existence and subsequently during the term of the lease. Fourteen houses were built and advertised for sale or rent. Twelve were located on Tower Hill and two across the dam at the foot of the lake.

The first sale of park property to a resident was made in February, 1886, when Dr. Morris H. Henry. Mr. Lorrilard's personal physician, purchased Lot No. 101 on the map of Tuxedo Park. This was followed in March, the same year, by the purchase of Lot No. 120 by Allen T. Rice, the editor of the North American Review, and the same year Lot No. 121 was sold to William Waldorf Astor, Lot No. 123 to Pierre Lorillard and Lot. No. 103 to Travis C. Van Buren, all of which persons are now deceased, the land having in every instance passed into other hands.

That same year, Francis D. Carley, James L. Breese, Josephine Lee Price, James Brown Potter, Margaret S. E. Cameron and Mary L. Barbey also purchased land in the order named. Of these Mrs. Price, Mrs. Barbey and Mr. Potter still hold interests in the real estate.

The first person actually to take up his residence at Tuxedo with his family was Mr. Grenville Kane, who leased the cottage he subsequently purchased and is now the oldest resident of the park proper, Mrs. Price and William Kent, in the order named, being the next arrivals.

Thus the park as a place of residence became an accomplished fact, through the indomitable pluck and energy of Mr. Lorillard. Each year has shown a steady and substantial gain in residents. The present officers of the association are: P. Lorillard, president: George Griswold, vice president; George D. Findley, treasurer, and William Kent, secretary.

As an organization the Tuxedo Club is very strong. The club book of 1908 shows a membership of 374, of which seventy seven were resident members. Among them are found the family names of those not only prominent in business and financial circles, but also who have been identified with the society of the State since the earliest periods. The club is self supporting, has renewed its lease with the Tuxedo Park Association for a term of years, and bides fair to become a great center of social life.


So comprehensive was the scope of the original plan of development, that a whole village was created at the time of the founding, near the entrance gate, containing stores, cottages, and subsequently a town hall. schoolhouses, churches, library, and a $30,000 hospital now in course of construction.

The Tuxedo Stores Company was organized March. 1894. Each resident of the park was invited to subscribe to the stock, and the company began business April 1, 1894.

The Tuxedo electric light plant was organized in 1899, and is owned and controlled by the residents of Tuxedo.

St. Mary's-in-Tuxedo. - In 1887 Mr. Henry T. Barbed obtained from the association a grant of land, on which he erected the first church building at Tuxedo, since which time it has been greatly enlarged by additions from time to time including a large parish house until it had grown into the present beautiful church edifice. It was consecrated October 14, 1888, and the Rev. Mr. Colston placed in charge. The present rector is the Rev. William Fitz Simon.

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. - The cornerstone of this church was laid June, 1895. The edifice cost 7,000. Rev. James Quinn was the first pastor. In July, 1899, the church and rectory were completely destroyed by fire. A year later it was rebuilt, and on September 23, 1900, was solemnly dedicated by the Most Rev. Archbishop Corrigan.

The Tuxedo police force was organized May 1, 1886. John Pederson was captain until 1891, when he was succeeded by Gillmore O. Bush. The residential part of the park is patrolled regularly day and night.

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