Washington’s Headquarters:
The Death of Jonathan Hasbrouck


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George Washington-Library of CongressThere are many stories circulating about Newburgh’s Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck (better known today as Washington’s Headquarters). Some are believed true, such as Tryntje Hasbrouck sitting in “sullen silence” when told that her home was chosen as Washington’s Headquarters, and some are simply made-up. One such story involves Washington’s stay at the house from 1782-1783.

General Washington loved horses. In fact he loved to go for rides on his favorite mount whenever possible. The story told to me, after a lecture, involved General Washington, Col. Hasbrouck and Hasbrouck’s sons. They would sometimes go horseback riding together. A favorite stop was the vast Hasbrouck family orchards. Washington, the story goes, loved peaches. Hasbrouck, his sons, and Washington spent hours picking peaches. When enough peaches were picked the Hasbroucks and Washington delighted in feasting on them. This story is obviously false for one simple reason; Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck had died in 1780.

There are no known portraits of Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck. What we know about Hasbrouck’s physical characteristics and death come by way of his brother Abraham who lived in nearby Kingston. For most of his life Abraham kept a diary of important events. Some of these events were related to the weather, family history, and deaths. It would seem from reading the diary (of which there are many copies) that Abraham was present at the deaths of all his brothers and sisters. One of those was his youngest brother Jonathan.

Washingtons-Headquarters-Newburgh-lithograph-by-Currier-Ives-1837-Public-DomainIn the summer of 1780, Jonathan was 58 years old. He lived in the present day City of Newburgh with his wife Tryntje, as well as his surviving children; Isaac, Mary, Jonathan, Jr., Cornelius, and Rachel. His field stone home is still standing on 84 Liberty Street in Newburgh. He was a successful merchant, slave owner, a former militia colonel, as well as an extensive property owner, including mills on Quassaick Creek. These mills were used by the American army, from whom he made a small fortune when Newburgh become a supply depot during the American Revolution.

His brother recorded that Jonathan was six-foot-four and “well shapen and proportioned of body, good features, full visage or face but brown of complexion, dark blue eyes, black hair, with a small curl.” Abraham said his brother was strong, and tended, when he was younger, to be “corpulent and fat,” but because of “many sicknesses or disorders” over the last 30 years of his life he was much thinner. Jonathan suffered an illness in 1777 which Abraham described as “great issue flowing from his breast.” Some have speculated that he developed pneumonia after exposure to the elements at Fort Montgomery the year before. It is evident from Jonathan’s correspondence with George Clinton, however, in the early summer of 1777, that he was already in poor health. “I should see you myself,” he wrote Clinton, “but as my state of health is at present I am entirely unable.” He eventually recovered until the summer of 1780.

When Jonathan actually became ill in 1780 is open to conjecture because in various transcriptions of his brother’s diary the time period varies. The original diary is considered lost, however, the version in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s (NYG&B) collections states that the illness lasted three weeks starting on a Sabbath. This would have placed the beginning of Jonathan’s illness on either July 9 or 16. The onset of the illness was a sudden stoppage of water (urine). He was in dreadful pain and Doctors Osburn (Osborne) and Bard were summoned to the Hasbrouck’s home, then considerably out of town. The passage describing the procedure to gain some relief for Jonathan is omitted from the NYG&B transcription, but is included in Kenneth E. Hasbrouck’s which he copied from Joseph E. Hasbrouck.

The doctors inserted a “catheter and repeated it several times or frequently during his illness.” By July 29th however, the catheter was ineffective and his urine “would not run from him.” Abraham reported that, “his urine or water was so thick of gravel and matter or corruption that it could not be drawn from him by said instrument.” He was diagnosed with “the gravel and an ulcer in the neck of his bladder.” Although Jonathan suffered terribly his brother recorded that he “retained his sense or judgment until his last dying hour,” which came at 12:30 am on July 31, 1780.

Isaac and Hannah Hasbrouck Graves in Old Town Cemetery-AuthorAfter a short service Jonathan was buried on Tuesday “upon the burying place on his own land, lying alongside two of his sons” (Abraham and Joseph, who both died in 1772). This burying ground was located between his house and the Hudson River. During the early 19th century the Hasbrouck Burying Ground was moved. According to, the late City of Newburgh Historian A. Elwood Corning, the Hasbrouck burying ground was torn up during construction on Colden Street. Efforts were made to remove as many remains as possible, however the remains of Jonathan and his wife Tryntje were never located. During road work, a skeleton was found and was thought by some to be the remains of Jonathan Hasbrouck.

An article written in the Sunday Telegraph in 1899, reported that George W. Shaw remembered, as a boy, men working in the area of the Old Hasbrouck property where it was known the family burying ground had been located. The workmen found a full skeleton, again believed to be the skeleton of Col. Hasbrouck, because the other family remains had already been found in the same area and removed to the Old Town Cemetery.

Charles H. Hasbrouck, a great-grandson of Colonel Hasbrouck’s stated, in the same paper, that neither Jonathan nor the remains of his wife were ever found, creating doubt in his mind as to what name should be attached to the remains. These remains, which were never identified, were for some reason buried in St. George’s Cemetery. According to Walter Case Anthony, the remains of Isaac Hasbrouck and his wife were the only remains to be positively identified. These remains were moved to the Old Town Cemetery.

Photos, from above: George Washington (Library of Congress); Washington’s Headquarters, Newburgh (lithograph by Currier and Ives, 1837); and Isaac and Hannah Hasbrouck’s graves in Old Town Cemetery.

One thought on “Washington’s Headquarters:
The Death of Jonathan Hasbrouck

  1. steven paul mark

    Great article. It’s too bad that the Hasbrouck House and Museum is located in such a blighted area of the city but once there it’s readily apparent the visit was worthwhile and a destination for any Revolutionary War buff and anyone else interested in NYS history. It’s also too bad that forensic science was not a developed science when the unknown remains were found. Certainly the gender of the remains as well as evidence of disease may have pointed to Jonathan.

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