Author Archives: A. J. Schenkman

A. J. Schenkman

About A. J. Schenkman

A.J. Schenkman teaches history in the Lower Hudson Valley and writes about the history of Ulster and Orange counties. He is the town of Gardiner Historian and Consulting Historian for Historic Huguenot Street. A.J. Has appeared on WAMC, and WDST. He is the author of several books. A.J. is a frequent contributor to Orange and Ulster Magazines.

New England’s Darkest Day


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When Abraham Hasbrouck (1707-1791) awoke on the morning of May 19, 1780, he looked at the sun, and probably saw a reddish glow around it.

He recorded in his diary that by eight in the morning, “the sun was darkened.” It became so dark that one thought it was night time. Hasbrouck continued in his diary entry that it was not a solar eclipse. Citizens like, Richard Miller Devens, to the Northeast in New England, not only saw the reddish glow around the sun, but remarked, ”a black scum floated on rivers.” General George Washington camped to the south in New Jersey also commented about the unusual nature of the morning. Abraham Hasbrouck, living in Kingston, New York in Ulster County, had no idea that he was witnessing what would become known as, “The Dark Day.” Continue reading

Ulster County Civil War Soldier Survives Andersonville Prison


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There is an interesting headstone in the Pine Bush Cemetery in Rochester, Ulster County, NY on Route 209. If you are not looking for it, you will definitely miss it. It is unassuming, and partially overshadowed by the gas station next door. A closer look  reveals a remarkable story and the Civil War solider who lived it.

His name was David L. Wells, the son of a carpenter named Charles Wells. He was 18 when he enlisted in Company C of the 120th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Ulster Regiment, as well as Washington’s Guard. It was under the command of  Colonel George H. Sharpe. Wells enlisted in Rochester in Ulster County April 12, 1862. Continue reading

Eli Hasbrouck of Hasbrouck House (Part II)


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In 1850, after the State of New York took possession of the Hasbrouck House for back taxes. Eli Hasbrouck appeared in various publications directly related to his cultivation of grapes. He grew what he called the Anna Grape in his garden. It was prized as a variety because it was free from rot. Eli was drawn to the grape because of it color. A.J. Downing thought highly of it. It was said about the grape, “the raisins had the sweet rich flavor and aroma of those from the Muscat of Alexandria.”

Eli married again in 1855; the same year his brother Jonathan died. He married Margaret Van Wyck, of Fishkill, on February 13. The same time period he re-married, Eli was listed in the census as being worth $18,000. His occupation recorded as “gentleman.” Eli was in fact a merchant and farmer. Where Eli lived during this time was listed in business directories as 167 Liberty Street in Newburgh. In addition to his large family, his sister Mary also lived with the family until her death in 1856. Continue reading

American Revolution Tory Partisan William Caldwell


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Butlers Rangers in the American RevolutionThe name William Caldwell first caught my attention while researching the August 12, 1781, raid in Wawarsing, in Ulster County, NY. His name was mentioned again in Governor George Clinton’s public papers. It was also in connection to the August raid which, it was believed, was lead by Caldwell (then a Captain).  During this raid he led other Tories and Native American allies.

William Caldwell was born around 1750 in Northern Ireland. Prior to the American Revolution, Caldwell came to England’s North American Colonies first settling in Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Newburgh’s Tower of Victory Needs Restoration


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Tower of Victory 1906-Library of CongressJonathan Hasbrouck III will forever be known as the Hasbrouck who lost the “Old-Headquarters” home (Washington’s Headquarters in 1782-1783) in Newburgh by foreclosure. The State of New York took control of the home and in 1850 made it the first publicly owned historic site in the nation.

Jonathan Hasbrouck III hoped to save it the home from foreclosure, and even proposed a monument on the grounds over four decades before the current Tower of Victory was erected. Today, that tower is in desperate need of restoration. Continue reading

Moses Terwilliger: Criminally Insane In Ulster Co


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Auburn-State-Prison-NYSAThe Terwilliger farm was located near Bruynswick in the town of Shawangunk in Ulster County. It was there that Sarah Terwilliger age 87, widow of J.L. Terwilliger, lived with her son Moses, age 57. According to neighbors, the two argued frequently, and her son made threats that he intended to kill his mother. One thing was for sure, Sarah was not going to see her 88th birthday. Continue reading

Historic Treasures: Ulster County’s Locust Lawn


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Locust-Lawn HABS/HAER Library of CongressGardiner, New York, located in south-central Ulster County has some real historical gems within its borders. One of those gems is Locust Lawn which is situated on what used to be known as the Newburgh-New Paltz Road (now Route 32).

This frequently overlooked Federal style mansion, constructed by Josiah Hasbrouck, is a must-see, not only the magnificent federal-style mansion, but also the property’s scenic beauty. There is also the Evert Terwilliger house, perched on the banks of the Plattekill Creek which cuts through the property. Built in the 1730s, it’s an example of an early stone house, and is also connected to the history of the mansion. Continue reading

Classroom Resources: Hudson River Valley Heritage


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Hudson River Valley HeritageAs the school year approaches, history teachers are looking for new classroom resources, especially primary sources for inquiry based lessons.

Many teachers want to make that local connection with their students who are sometimes unaware of the importance their area might have played in larger American History. There are a plethora of local sites and museums that are terrific jumping-off points for dynamic lessons, but I’d like to focus attention on a very useful site for educators, Hudson River Valley Heritage (HRVH). Continue reading