A Bit of History
Yorktown Station -- About halfway between the northern and southern boundaries of the town is located the village known as Yorktown Station. It has grown up almost entirely since the building of the New York City and Northern Railroad was begun. The first store was opened by Aaron M. Clark in 1877 about twenty rods south of the present station house in a building erected by Colonel Nicholas Paine as few years before, and at first used as a blacksmith and wheelwright shop. Mr. Clark became the first postmaster , his commission bearing the date of October 11, 1881. The name of the post office is Underhill. At present the village contains five stores, about a dozen dwelling houses, a school house, one hotel, a station-house, two blacksmith and wheelwright shops, the meeting-house of the Orthodox Friends, and a Methodist Episcopal Church.
On the western side of the village is the fine residence of Edward B. Underhill, son of Abraham I. Underhill of Oyster Bay, Long Island. It was at the house of Isaac Underhill, as elsewhere narrated, that Major Andre breakfasted on September 23, 1780.
There are few names more prominent in the history of Long Island and New England than that of Captain John Underhill, the redoubtable champion who fought alike on the side of the Puritans and the Dutch, and whose famous battle with the Long Island Indians freed that portion of the province of New York from all further danger from savage [sic] foes.
He was born in England in 1600 and was the descendant of noble ancestry. He came to America in 1638 and soon attained a prominence in the new colonies, which continued up to his death on July 21, 1`672. The story of his life and adventures has been so often told that it would be superfluous to repeat it here. It is sufficient to state that he has left a line of very numerous and distinguished descendants.
John Underhill, eldest son of the captain, was the ancestor of the family of that name of Long Island, while the families in Westchester County are descended from the second son, Nathaniel, whose son Abraham was the father of Isaac Underhill, who was born in 1726 and died in 1814. He married Sarah Field, and they were the parents of several children. Robert was the eldest son and the ancestor of the Underhills of Teller's (or Croton) Point.
Abraham I. Underhill, the second son, was born June 27, 1763. He married Rebecca Field, who was descended from a family well known in the county, and a lady of many excellencies and virtues. Her portraits show that she possessed no small share of personal beauty. Their only child was Edward B. Underhill. Abraham I. Underhill was for many years a one of the lessees of mill privileges leased from the Van Cortlandts near the mouth of the Croton River, and here Mr. Underhill erected extensive mills and supplied a large quantities of flour to the New York market. After the expiration of the lease, Mr. Underhill removed to his farm in Yorktown, where he passed the remainder of his days and died May 6, 1841. The settlement of disputes which arose after the termination of the lease of the millseat gave rise to a very protracted lawsuit, which is quire an important part of the history of that part of the county. A full account may be found in Chancery reports.
Edward B. Underhill was born in the house occupied by his father when he was proprietor of the mills on Croton River. Edward's early education, so far as schools were concerned, was exceedingly limited, but he was a constant reader of useful books. And his retentive memory enabled him to acquire an extensive amount of general information.
His father was largely interested in the purchase of lands in what was in the early part of the century called the "western country,' now the central portion of the State of New York, and he also had large tracts of land in the State of Pennsylvania, which were afterwards of great value. The extensive farm in Yorktown, which came in the possession of Mr. Underhill on the death of his parents, was for a great part in all the wildness of nature. He began a system of improvement which was continued to the present time, and the removal of rocks, deepening of soil, draining of swamps and wet land, and the erection of costly and elegant buildings have entirely changed the whole appearance of the estate. His father was one of the early importers of marino sheep and the first man to introduce the iron plow into Westchester County, and his son has followed in the same line of forethought and intelligent action.
Although for a large portion of his life he has suffered much from ill health and has been for the last ten years deprived of sight, yet he has never failed to manage with success the details of a very extensive business. During his whole life he has been identified with local improvements, and it is but just to say that he has done more to establish good schools in his neighborhood, where they did not exist before. He has also done much to improve the old roads and to open new ones in the vicinity. The cause of temperance has always found in him an active supporter both by example and precept, but he is a believer in the power of moral suasion rather than in prohibitory laws.
Mr. Underhill's ancestors were members of the Society of Friends, as ere many other early families of Westchester County. For many years the study of medicine has interested him, and he has acquired an extensive knowledge of that profession and of some others branches of science. A few years ago he received from Amherst College an honorary degree of aster of Arts.
His present residence was completed in 1881. A part was built in 1828. It is situated a short distance from the New York City and Northern Railroad, on the old road to Croton. The farm which surrounds it is well known as one of the best cultivated in the town, if not in the county, and is well stocked with horses and cattle of the finest grades.
The ancient homestead of the family, and the place where his grandfather, Isaac Underhill, resided during the Revolution, is still standing on the west side of the road from Crompond to Pines' Bridge, and one mile south of Yorktown Station. It has an historic interest as the place where Major John Andre and Joshua Hett Smith stopped from breakfast on the morning of the 23rd of September, 1780. It was here that they separated, Smith to return to his home in Haverstraw, by way of King's Ferry, and Andre to continue his journey to Pine's Bridge and thence to the old Albany Post Road, where he was captured. When they met again, it was under very different circumstances.
Isaac Underhill came here to reside shortly before the Revolution, and at his death it passed to his son Abraham, who sold it to Richard M. Underhill, and it is now owned by Charles W. Underhill, Jr. A part of it as it now stands is a well-preserved specimen of the houses of the olden time and is highly prized by the family as a relic of Revolutionary days.
Source: Unknown author
Return to the North County News Online Archives