How's Your History? Church Marker Raises Issue of Historical Accuracy
[Currently The Patent Trader, based in Cross River, NY]

In the interests of historical accuracy, and with the best motives in the world, the Yorktown Herald hereby takes issue with the Division of Archives and History at Albany over what it believes is an error on a recently erected historical marker near the Presbyterian Church.

The Division of Archives and History, a part of the State Department of Education, causes to be erected a historical marker on the church property along U. S. highway 202 bearing the following inscription: "Yorktown Church Built by Presbyterians in 1738. Army Store House during Revolution. Burned by British 1779. Present Church Erected 1799."

The Herald supported by the church's original records and the Westchester County Historical Society, contends that the edifice, known locally as the Presbyterian Church, was not built in 1799, but 40 years later, in 1839, and was dedicated the following year. The State Education Department uses as its source Bolton's History of Westchester County, Vol. II, which states the building was erected in 1799 on the site of an older structure built in 1738 and destroyed by fire in 1799.

The Presbyterian marker, one of four spotted throughout the Town of Yorktown, was received several weeks ago by the Katonah office of the Department of Public Works, which is in charge of erecting them. The signs, manufactured in the State's Hamburg shops near Buffalo, are produced by the State Education Department.

In the issue of January 22, 1948, the Herald carried a feature story of the First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown, facts for which were obtained from the church's own records. The story indicated that the parsonage was used as a store house for guns by the Committee of Safety during the Revolution. In revenge, the parsonage and the church were burned in 1799 [sic] by the notorious British general, Tarleton, on one of the two important British raids in the area. (Black-hearted though he was, Tarleton was the best general the British ever had over here.)

In its Quarterly Bulletin for January 1929, the Westchester Historical Society stated, "The Presbyterian Church in Yorktown was built in 1840. It was the third Church built on the same spot." The article went on to say that a second church has been built in 1785, and was replaced by the present church in 1840.

Another historical marker pictured herewith appears on Route 132, or the Crompond Street side, of the church property. Its inscription reads: "Parsonage Site of Presbyterian Church Headquarters of Yorktown Committee who disarmed Loyalists in 1776. Burnt by British in 1779." Farther along U. S. 202, the State has erected a marker that bears the following inscription: "Crompond Road. Main Road from Yorktown to Peekskill in Colonial Days and During the Revolution."

A fourth historical marker, situated just west of Pines Bridge on Route 100 near the traffic circle, bears these words: "Pines Bridge. Old Croton River Crossing Important Bridge Head Guarded by American Troops during the Revolution."

Still another marker, designated for Yorktown, has not been erected because of uncertainty as to its correct location. It reads, "General Rochambeau Headquarters for Six Weeks in 1781-1782." The State supported by Bolton's History of Westchester County, the late Anson Lee of Yorktown Heights, and Dr. G. P. Wygant of Peekskill, contends the marker should be situated on Route 132, near the house just east of the junction of it and U. S. 202. Local recommendations have been given to erect the marker at Strong House on Route 118, and at the White House on West Somers Road, now owned by H. A. Thompson.

By checking with local residents confirming the information by an old insurance policy and by query to the State Department of Public Woks at Katonah, the Herald has determined that Route 35-The Katonah Road-which passes the Henrietta Strong property, was formerly designated Route 132. Inasmuch as the Strong house, located on the former Amawalk Nursery property, was under re-construction in 1940, at the time the State Department of Education received the request for these markers a, and is locally regarded as the Rochambeau Headquarters, the State Department of Public Works has about decided to erect the Rochambeau marker there.

As though there weren't confusion enough in "Paffaire markers" the Herald, in an effort to track down the person originally responsible for the historical signs, has come upon a baffling situation.

According to Dr. Albert B. Corey, State Historian, the original information on, and request for, the markers came from a Miss Catherine R. B. Mackie, 415 West 141st St. New York City. By post, wire and telephone, the Herald has, endeavored to contact the mysterious Miss Mackie-all to no avail. What connection she had with Yorktown, whether or not she ever resided here, the Herald has been unable to determine. Neither did a canvass of the older residents of the Town including D.A.R. members turn up any one who recalled ever hearing of her.

The Herald rests its case, but would like to suggest that the State Department of Education consider the Burma-Shave road sign technique of putting one line on a marker at, perhaps, fifty year intervals, so that motorists will have a fair chance of reading more than the first line of the signs.

Source: The Yorktown Herald, Vol. XXV No. 35, January 26, 1950

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