By Mary McTamaney Imagine walking to the foot of Broadway in the decade before the Civil War. Newburgh was still a village. The harbor was full of sloops and schooners. The clop of horse hooves was heard moving in every direction. Wagons hauled every kind of material along the wide dirt road: bales of hay, … Continue reading When Newburgh Produced Pianos
Here, in the middle of that new water highway was Newburgh just waking up from its sleepy little status as a regional market town after the Revolutionary War. In the fall of 1824, our community’s memories of the Revolution were refreshed by the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington’s trusted advisor and friend. Lafayette returned here to the place where he witnessed the great revolution come to an end and where a lasting peace was declared by Washington from the lawn of the Hasbrouck farm. Lafeyette was curious as to how the young republic had fared. The 10,000 visitors who descended on little Newburgh (a village of fewer than 6,000 in 1824) for Lafayette’s reception caused its civic leaders to see the crucial historical, political and geographical connection this village had to American history and to begin to capitalize on it. Thus when the cannon volleys rang out over the Hudson in October 1825 to signal the new connections the Erie Canal made possible, a few creative Newburghers were planning amid their rejoicing for a greater downtown Newburgh.
It began with the Cochecton Turnpike (today’s Route 17K) that opened western markets for the little port of Newburgh. Cochecton is a town in Sullivan County along the Delaware River. It was the seasonal “hunting home” of the Munsee Indians who populated our side of the Hudson Valley before white settlers came. At Cochecton, a Munsee word (K’schiechton) meaning “a place where land is washed by water” was a spot where the Delaware River washed its shoreline into a little valley with good river landings and abundant natural resources. Having a road to connect The Hudson to the Delaware meant having a way to trade with the western territories at the turn of the 19th century. Before Newburgh was settled in 1709, farming towns had developed inland and along the Wallkill River that runs from New Jersey north through Orange and Ulster Counties.
This is the high time of year for seeing cruise boats o the Hudson. All sizes and types of boats are taking people out for sightseeing, for dinner or for a longer trip up the valley and back again. Newburghers enjoy counting the many new boats they see passing our shores (and hoping more of them will stop at our shore in years to come). Watching a couple of attractive-looking long-distance river cruisers go by this week prompted me to look back at some of the chronicles written about river trips of long ago. From the days of sail and booking a berth on a packet sloop through the days of the grand “floating palaces” – the steamboats – the Hudson River has been our road through eastern New York and the water road into the interior United States for many decades.
Fall foliage is just passing its splendid peak of perfect colors. Anyone I walk or ride with can’t help pointing to an especially vibrant shade of red or orange as leaves flutter to the ground. It is a time when, despite the need to conserve fuel and avoid gas expenses, people can’t help one or two rides into the countryside. When relatives from abroad visited recently and wanted to take a short trip to test out their rental car, they went west along the two-lane highways that pass hills and farms and reveal the beauty of Orange County. They came back amazed at the extent of our natural resources.