HSNBH Summer Reading List

Online now is The Newburgh Centennial: The Peace Celebration of October 18, 1883.  This is a detailed account of the amazing events that drew 100,000 people to Newburgh, the place where Washington had declared the end of the Revolutionary War.
The most complete history of Newburgh’s first 150 years was written by Edward M. Ruttenber in 1859.  History of the Town of Newburgh is available to browse online through GoogleBooks.
Rest your eyes from the printed page and just relish the aerial photographs of the Hudson River shoreline in a small book from The Center For Land Use Interpretation written by Matthew Coolidge.  Up River: Man-Made Sites on the Hudson From the Battery to Troy (NY: Blast Books) shows scores of places where the river has been altered by man and his industries – many are sites that cannot be seen from the water.
Len Tantillo is an Albany artist who did extraordinary historical research to create replica scenes of local places as they would have looked generations ago.  Visions of New York State (Shawangunk Press, 1996) will carry you back to almost hear the dockworkers loading sloops and shopkeepers selling their wares.
For the youngsters in your family (or maybe just for you) there is much to learn in Hudson Talbot’s picture book, River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River (NY: GP Putnam’s Sons, 2009). He explains geography, transportation and ecology while presenting the historical timeline of the valley.
Incidents in the Life of  Slave Girl ()NY: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005) by Harriet Jacobs. Harriet Jacobs was born a slave and, after incredible and dangerous ordeals, escaped north. She made a new life in Cornwall, NY and there she wrote her story. 
For a broad and inspiring look at our home territory, Frances Dunwell’s The Hudson: America’s River (Columbia Univ. Press, 2008) is full of gorgeous photos, interesting maps and beautiful prose to explore the beauty and value of the place we call home.
If it seems trying to scrounge up a dinner menu while staying at home, journey back a half century or so with local authors Robi Josephson and Bob Larsen who spent years investigating the lost hamlets of the mountains that once existed in Minnewaska State Park and within the Mohonk Preserve.  Through interviews and archival research, the authors reveal what life was like for families living off the rocky land on what were once called “scratch farms.”  Their book is An Unforgiving Land: Hardscrabble Life in the Trapps. (Black Dome Press, 2013)
So many bricks surround us in an old city like Newburgh that we forget where they came from.  George V. Hutton wrote that history in The Great Hudson River Brick Industry: Commemorating Three and a Half Centuries of Brickmaking (Fleishmann’s NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2003)
Another choice for children could be Polar: The Titanic Bear by Daisy Spedden. She is a descendant of a Titanic survivor from Tuxedo Park and had her family’s photo albums that she used beside watercolor drawings to illustrate the story of the great ship and its final voyage through the eyes of a little boy who was onboard with his new white teddy bear in a sailor suit.
For a picture of a carefree life on the Hudson River shore, read Early In The Morning by Marion Edey (Harper & Brothers, 1954).  Mrs. Edey grew up in the Armstrong family when they owned Danskammer, the peninsula now filled by big the utility plant. In her 1890’s youth, the land was full of orchards, and gardens and wide vistas out to the passing steamboats.  She describes family friends who made frequent visits, men like authors Mark Twain, William Dean Howells and stained glass artist, John LaFarge.
Older children may enjoy the true stories plus illustrations, timelines and deciphered code in Thomas B. Allen’s book, G.W, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2004)  Espionage as well as battle maneuvers won the fight for independence.
The historical society hosted a walk around Kowawese, the Plum Point park area in New Windsor, a couple of years ago. Our guide was native Algonquin and college professor Evan Pritchard who has written several books on the people who preceded us in this valley.  No Word For Time: The Way of the Algonquin People  (Tulsa, OK: Council Oak Books, 1997) discusses history, tradition and mythology of the Lenape who stood on Newburgh’s shore centuries ago.
And for a look at the Newburgh people think they knew from the mid-20th century, another older YA book, Louie Levy’s Greatest Catch (tbmbooks.com:2009) is the semi-autobiographical novel by our very interesting former city council member, Genie Abrams.
A very popular, interesting and well-illustrated history of Newburgh was written by John Nutt in 1891. Newburgh: Her Institutions, Industries, and Leading Citizens was considered valuable enough that it was digitized and is shared online at archive.org.
Connecticut author, Kris A. Hansen is the great-great niece of a steamboat captain. She started to research the true story of the event that marked her family forever in history: the wreck of the steamboat Henry Clay.  80 passengers died in that steamboat fire on July 28, 1852 just an hour after it departed from the Newburgh pier. Andrew Jackson Downing and his mother-in-law were two of them.  Mrs. Hansen thoroughly researched not only accounts of the disaster but all the court records of the subsequent lawsuits to draw a clear picture of a famous tragedy and the story of the heyday and the resulting competition of the Hudson River steamboat lines.
Death Passage on the Hudson (Fleishmann’s, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2004)
Reminiscences in the Life of a Nurse in the Field, Hospital and Camp During The Civil War (Newburgh, NY: Daily News, 1904) by Annie Priscilla Zerbe Erving. Annie Erving was a well-respected old lady in Newburgh in the 1930’s but no one knew her heroic past until the local newspaper began to publish her remembrances of her late teens as a battlefield nurse in the Civil War.  Annie’s stories are compiled and available reprinted online by Ohio State University.
Orange County author Patricia Edwards Clyne put together a book that is just right for restless days when a little story would be the perfect tonic.  Hudson Valley Faces and Places (Overlook Press, 2005) tells about lesser-known incidents in county history like Edgar Allen Poe’s time as a cadet at West Point or the story of Louis Gomez making his way from religious oppression in 17th century Spain through the Caribbean to the Hudson Valley. 
If you are looking out to the yard and dreaming about planting a garden, dig into Gardening By Myself (NY: Applewood Books, 1872- available in reprint), the month by month illustrated diary of Anna B. Warner that she compiled in the decades she lived out on Constitution Island in the Hudson River.
A nice romantic history that gives a window into the valley’s historic brick industry is Haverstraw by Margaret Williams (Avocet Press, 2004). Her novel tells of a young farm woman from the New Windsor area who meets an Irish immigrant at a church dance. He works in the huge brickyards at Haverstraw and her imagined escape from an oppressive father and the drudgery of caring for family turns to a new kind of fear as the big brickyards exploit both the yard workers and the adjoining village.
Stephen Casscles’ family has tended grape vines for generations in the Hudson Valley.  In 2015, he compiled a beautiful illustrated history of Hudson Valley vineyards entitled Grapes of the Hudson Valley (Coxsackie, NY: Flint Mine Press, 2015). Not only does it describe the amazing variety of grape species developed here, but it reveals a history of small farming around, and even in, the City of Newburgh in the 19th century.