THIRTY YEARS NOT A SLAVE
Title: THIRTY YEARS NOT A SLAVE
Location: Yorktown Hart Library, 1130 Main St. Shrub Oak
Description: By Howard Husock, Contributing Editor, City Journal, Manhattan Institute. This is the story of William Voris in Rye. In the early 19th century, The Hudson like the Ohio River divided slavery from freedom. New York had banned slavery but New Jersey at the time did not. It appears that William Voris had fled Bergen County and relocated in Westchester. Mr. Voris of Rye became among the nation’s wealthiest African-American business owners at that time. This is a story of what could happen when blacks had the chance to be free and to benefit from economic opportunity. Mr. Voris is buried in the Rye African American Cemetery.
Start Time: 21:30
THE STORY OF THE NIMHAMS
Chief Nimham was a key player in the 1700s. He contested the Phillipse's deed to the Phillipsburg Manor, led a group with Roger's Rangers during the French and Indian War and traveled to England to argue against some of the land grants. His son was a captain of a company with the Continental Army.
On August 31, 1778, the Nimhams and fifty of their fellow Wappingers were surrounded then killed by Loyalist, British Dragoons and Hessian Soldiers under the command of Lt. Colonel Simcoe, the villain of TV's "Turn" series, in the Battle of Kingsbridge Cortlandt Ridge in what is now Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
"The Story of the Nimhams" will be presented by Alfred (Stone-Heart) and Edward (Wolf) Conley. The brothers are descendants of Chief Daniel Nimham and are members of the Schanghticoke First Nation. November is Native American month.
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The Chain That Saved the Colonies
Title: The Chain That Saved Colonies
Description: To stop the British invasion of the New England colonies during the American Revolution, Peter Townsend manufactured a Great Chain for the Continental Army at Sterling Forest. It was placed across the Hudson River at West Point. Join Doc Bayne for an eye-opening lecture & PowerPoint presentation on this historic event.
The William Hazard Field Family (second part)
We continue our history of the Field family of Mohegan Lake….
William Bradhurst Osgood Field
William Bradhurst Osgood Field portrait from the President’s Gallery at the Grolier’s Club
Photograph courtesy of The Grolier Club of New York
William and Augusta had a daughter Mary Pearsall Field in 1868. Their son William Bradhurst Osgood Field (WBOF) was born in Switzerland in 1870 and died in Mohegan Lake in 1949 on the large estate he had assembled over the course of his lifetime. Field owned some 50 acres on the corner of Strawberry Road and Lexington Avenue, with his holdings on Lexington reaching down almost to Route 6. Adjacent to his property, his sister Mary owned 19 acres with 1,100 feet fronting Main Street in Mohegan.
Field was a renowned collector of books, coins, crucifixes, art and Indian artifacts. His collection was “said to be unrivaled in the richness of its English and American nineteenth-century caricature and illustrated books. His coin collection, an important one specializing in Massachusetts issues of the seventeenth century, is at the museum of the Numismatic Society of America…he had 3,500 original watercolors of Edward Lear, the English traveler and humorist.” NYPL Collection
Mary Pearsall Field and William Bradford Osgood Field Growing up in Mohegan Lake
William Bradhurst Osgood Field / Believed to be Mary Pearsall Field
WBOF spent his summers swimming in Mohegan Lake and exploring the forests and streams with his sister Mary. He recalled it as a place full of fun and family, some who came up from the city for overnight stays, and others visiting from nearby, like his Uncle Gus and his relatives in Peekskill.
His sister Mary and he warmly remembered a house filled with music, their father William playing the piano and singing “the old tunes of the Civil War period Nellie Bly, Old Dan Tucker, Old Folks at Home….”
When they ran out of room in their house, the overnight guests stayed at various boarding houses and hotels in the area (including the Jones Hotel across the lake, Fry’s Hotel in Jefferson Valley, and the St Nicholas at Mohegan). Chief among these was next door at a building, razed in 2016, known as “The Barracks” and, more formally London’s Studio Apartments.
Recent photo of the London’s Studio Apartments / The Barracks, prior to demolition.
WBOF found the Barracks was a loud place, the husband and wife’s quarrels easily heard throughout the neighborhood, the husband Emerick shouting out commands from his perch on the porch to his wife who would be toiling in the garden. WBOF recalls:
Next door was quite a large house owned by Emmrick [sic] Crawford who ran a boarding house where the family who was not staying with us boarded. Rachel, his wife, was a remarkably fine woman of her kind. They had three children. As time went on the boarding house ran down.
I bought the house to get away from the noise. And gave it to my mother. During the time it was a boarding house it was very celebrated for its excellent food [Mrs. Crawford was the cook.] NYPL
Mohegan Lake 1893 Julius Bien & Co – After William’s death and just prior to WBOF purchasing the property
The building was sold by Emerick and Rachel Crawford to Field in 1902 and his estate sold in 1950 to Emma London (hence London Apartments). As the name might imply, it was also most likely used as an ad hoc dormitory for the Mohegan Lake School, situated across Main Street.
There was endless space to explore in the neighborhood:
A footpath led to “Over Yonder” that was after the name of a small house built by my sister where she could go …..Then on through a rustic gate, through a swamp and so on to Strawberry Hill Road, down to the mysterious place known as Peter Gales, a curious old hermit who lived in a house…..over Oregon.
In the same unpublished 1945 memoir, held by the New York Public Library, Field recalls his neighbors:
General Daniel E Sickles who lost a leg at Gettysburg and shot a man in Washington. [A Civil War general, a post-war diplomat (including Minister to Spain under President Ulysses S Grant) and, the acquitted assassin of the son of the author of “The Star Spangled Banner”, Philip Barton Key II.]
Dr Bailey, USA [United States Army] who told me stories about the Indians and fighting on the Plains. He brought me an arrow from one of the chiefs, called Crazy Horse. His brother afterwards became the clergyman at St Mary’s Church.
To be continued…..
Note: We are indebted for help on this article to the staff at the Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations., for use of the William B. Osgood Field papers. as well as Patrick Raferty of the Westchester County Archives. Materials in this article may only be used with the permission of the supplying institutions.No Comments on The William Hazard Field Family (second part)
The William Hazard Field family of Mohegan Lake
The following is via the Research and Preservation sub committee of Yorktown Historical Society.
This week we begin a new series exploring the world and properties of the Field family of Mohegan Lake. You may be more familiar with their relations – the Field family of Hunterbrook’s Fieldhome and Peekskill’s Field Library. The Fields eventually owned almost all the land between Strawberry Road and Route 6, including Westfield Farm.
The Field family was established in Yorktown by the 1740s in the Hunterbrook area, the main Field family farm is the site of the Fieldhome today. It was to there that William Hazard Field (1833-1888) was brought at the age of one in from New York City, to live with his Aunt Jerusha after the death of both his parents. William settled in Mohegan in the 1850s. He married Augusta Currie Bradhurst (1846-1919) Both are pictured below. He built his home on the corner of Route 6 and Lakeland Street, back in the day when Mohegan Lake was well kown as a summer resort area.
(New York Public Library)
There were quite a few illustrious relations that preceeded the generation of our study but perhaps the most famous would be Samuel Osgood.
Samuel Osgood (1748-1789) was a member of the Continental Congress, first Commissioner US Treasury and Postmaster General under George Washington. He fought in the battles of Lexington and Concord and was a delegate to the Continental Congress. They are also related to Cyrus Field who was responsible for laying the first trans-Atlantic cable.
(Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
The Fields main residence was Manhattan, they treated Mohegan as a summer residence which was becoming more common. Lake Mohegan in the 1870s was still very much inhabited year round by farmers and dairymen, with the summer boarders only just coming into vogue. William Hazard Field’s source of income is unclear, however the Field family had a successful pharmacy, commercial drug business and real estate businesses in Manhattan. A newspaper obituary states that he went to West Point but did not graduate, “[He] lived 4 or 5 years in Europe traveling and collecting books. He was never actively engaged in business, his life spent in study and travel.
(New York Public Library)
To be continued…..
Yorktown Memories - Christopher R. Tompkins (Part 2)
The Country Garage (1952) was about a small gas station and repair shop owned and operated by to brothers – uncles to a boy named Seth (named for one of the Beims’ sons, whose names appeared in several books, as well as their daughter, Alice) who helped them out pumping gas. The garage, located just off the “parkway,” provided assistance to people who had accidents or were caught in the snow or just needed gas and an oil change. While not specifically stated, the description was eerily close to Tompkins Garage on Route 129, which opened in 1932 and was operated by Henry and Douglas Tompkins, often with their nephew John R. Tompkins, my father, helping out and who eventually owned the garage.
In researching Mildred E. Strang, I also came upon a reference to the Yorktown Community Nursery School and its founding within the milieu of the “Strang changeover years in Yorktown, or that era just after World War II.” (Anniversary Booklet on Mildred E. Strang, 1968) “Mrs. Jerrold Beim (Lorraine) was re-elected as co-chair of Yorktown Community Nursery School at its organizational meeting held in the Town Hall.” As an author in her own right and a progressive person, as indicated in her writing and dedication to early childhood education, Lorraine Beim had an impact on children’s literature and on the Town of Yorktown as it went through its own transformation from a small farming community to a bedroom community for New York City in the post-war era. The family, Jerrold and Lorraine, Alice, and the twin boys, Seth and Andy, resided on Van Cortlandt Drive (Circle).
Andy and Alice Beim at home on Van Cortlandt Drive (Circle) Courtesy of Andy and Sharon Beim
Andy, Seth, Alice, and Lorraine Beim in Yorktown Heights Courtesy of Andy and Sharon Beim
The Beims moved from Yorktown to Arizona where, during a summer trip to Mexico to celebrate the publication of one of their books in June of 1951, they had a car accident in which Lorraine Beim and their daughter, Alice, were killed. The untimely death of Lorraine Beim ended what was a fruitful career as a co-author with her husband, and as a prolific author in her own right. After recovering from their injuries, Jerrold Beim and his twin sons, Seth and Andy, returned east where they lived in Westport, Connecticut. On March 3, 1957, The Bridgeport Sunday Post stated “Death is no stranger to 11-year-old Andy Beim, who was orphaned when his father and twin brother were killed in an auto crash here (Half Mile Common, Westport) today.” Only six years later, Jerrold Beim and his son Seth slid off the road just a quarter mile from their home and died in another car accident. The story was a tragic one – one that ended lives, broke up a family, and left a young child without any parents or siblings. The story made me search some more until I came upon a site with a blog about the Beims. I learned that Andy Beim was living not very far from Yorktown.
Andy and Sharon Beim today, with permission
As any historian knows, we must track down all leads and make personal contacts wherever possible for primary source interviews. After reaching out on the blog, I was contacted by Sharon Beim, wife of Andy Beim. With great kindness, the Beims joined my wife and me for dinner where we had a wonderful time learning about the Beim family, their dedication to education and writing, and to their renewed interest in Jerrold and Lorraine as renowned children’s authors who, in spite of their untimely and tragic deaths, impacted the literary world and the lives of children in innumerable ways through their extensive, inclusive, and incisive writing. Our plan is to return to Yorktown with the Beims, to reintroduce Andy to the town he once called home and a place that is enshrined in Children’s literature as a result of the work of his parents Jerrold and Lorraine. To think, all this started with a simple trip to the John C. Hart Memorial Library over 40 years ago and was spurred on by my life-long interest in the Old Put and Yorktown history.
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Yorktown Memories - Christopher R. Tompkins (Part 1)
As a child of Yorktown there is so much about the town that I know and love. Stories abound about our town and when researching my primary passions, the Croton Dam and the Croton River Valley, I often stumble upon other interesting historical data. Mildred E. Strang is of particular interest and was even the subject of another blog. In researching Miss Strang, I stumbled upon some information that drew me into a tangential search that led to some interesting, if nearly forgotten, Yorktown history.
When I was quite young and the John C. Hart Memorial Library was nothing more than a trailer parked next door to the Town Hall and across from “Kear’s” (The Meadows Farm), my mother would take me there to browse while we both enjoyed the air conditioning on a hot summer day. On those shelves I found a treasure trove of books that likely guided me to teach history. I also found books that were connected directly to Yorktown, which as a young boy fascinated me.
My favorite book combined my obsession with trains in general and the abandoned Putnam Division in particular. The Country Train (1950), by Jerrold Beim (born Gerald), was a regular on my list of books to borrow. As I read that book with my mother, we turned the page with anticipation to see Train 831 stopped at the Yorktown Heights station. WOW! A book about my own town, about “my own train,” and even showing Croton Heights (my neighborhood) and the Hanover Street camelback bridge from which my father and his friends had thrown small pebbles into the smokestack of the steam engines as they moved through town on their way to Brewster or to the Bronx.
Ten years ago, my son Christopher was born and, of course, we both enjoy trains, visiting the Yorktown Heights station, and learning about the history of my hometown at the museum. The power of the Internet being what it is, I hunted down this book – The Country Train (1950). It was exactly as I remembered – and now I had the author’s name again – Jerrold Beim. Searching various websites, I slowly purchased most of the books that were written by him out of curiosity about the Yorktown connection. As I read the books, connections to Yorktown and, even, my family, became apparent. The Country Fireman (1948) featured a small firehouse clearly modeled after the one that once stood behind the current firehouse in Yorktown Heights (and was torn down in recent decades) with mentions of Underhill Road.
From: The Country Fireman, William Morrow & Co., 1948 (by Jerrold Beim and illustrated by Leonard Shortall)
The Swimming Hole (1950)(my mother’s favorite, as I recalled after reading it again) was about Junior Lake and included, as my mother felt sure, one of her friends from Yorktown Central School. With Two is a Team (1945), by Lorraine and Jerrold Beim, these books were groundbreaking in that they broke racial barriers and addressed racism directly, according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. In fact, Two is a Team is generally considered the first children’s book in America to portray a friendship between an African American and a white child where both are on equal footing. This book was also the first children’s book illustrated by an African American, Ernest Chrichlow, who is best known for his work on Dorothy Sterling’s Mary Jane (1959).
Two is a Team, Harcourt, Brace & Co., New York, 1945
To be continued…..
7 Comments on Yorktown Memories – Christopher R. Tompkins (Part 1)
Welcome to the Yorktown Historical Society Blog
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