Celebrating Presidents Day
Do you know that the village of Wappingers Falls, the Town of Wappinger and the surrounding hamlets of New Hamburg, Chelsea, Swartwoutville and New Hackensack have connections to several Presidents and Presidential candidates?
In this special feature honoring Presidents Day, we share some of these connections with you, including highlights of the special relationship the Mesier Homestead’s first owners, the Brower family, had with General Washington and his Army during the Revolutionary War.
George Washington and
the Brower Family
Nicholas Brower Sr. established a shipyard at the foot of the Falls in the Village of Wappinger Falls. This yard was originally used to ship lumber and grain from his mills, down the Wappinger Creek, to the Hudson River and beyond. During the Revolutionary War, it also served the Continental Army. Barges were ordered from here to Kings Ferry for troop and supply transport.
Nicholas Sr. was a strong supporter of the Revolution. He furnished provisions for the army at West Point, such as meats, potatoes, and grains, all without compensation, and all sent from his shipyard. General Washington made visits to the shipyard to superintend the building of vessels and to ensure that work was properly progressing.
One noted meeting between Nicholas Brower Sr and George Washington occurred locally, most likely at the Homestead. In a deposition dated 1846 and attributed to Flora Armstrong, she recollects that Nicholas gave General Washington a sword, pistols and horse with saddle and bridle ; and also for a black servant named Harris. We can assume, given the roles the family played in the revolution, that this was just one of several meetings between the two.
Click here to read more about Flora Armstrong, Witness to Local History in our Winter 2021 Homestead Chronicle newsletter.
Nicholas’ two eldest sons served in Washington’s Army. Lieutenant Adolphus Brower was stationed at West Point. In 1777, Adolphus brought provisions down to West Point, and coming back, drowned in the Hudson River. As noted in a letter contained in our Castro Collection, writer James Weaks of Wappinger Creek notes ”General Washington was very much attached to him and sympathized with his father at his loss and that of the family. He was a lieutenant in the standing army and had been sent by the General to his father's for the supplies at the time of his death.”
Captain Nicholas Brower Jr., of the Hackensack Militia, was stationed in New Hackensack.
Washington in the hamlet of Swartwoutville
General General George Washington met with Brigadier General Jacobus Swartwout on numerous occasions to discuss activities at the Fishkill Supply Depot. These meetings occurred in Swartwout’s house and at Griffin’s Tavern. Both were located in the hamlet of Swartwoutville, which is the area of Route 82 and All Angels Hill Road.
In 1760, Jacobus Swartwout purchased 3,000 acres of land from Madam Brett; this land was part of the Rombout Patent. He built his first home after his wedding to Aaltje Brinkerhoff, of Fishkill. He built a second home further north on All Angels Hill Road in 1779. Swartwout’s house still stands as a private residence; its location is noted by a historical marker.
In 1775 at Captain Jacob Griffin’s Tavern at Swartwoutville (nicknamed “The Rendezvous”, and now a historic ruin) a series of meetings were held among notable community members to garner support and equip the army in the fight for independence from Britain. General George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette and other notables all visited the hamlet of Swartwoutville during the Revolution. A historic marker now marks the site of the former tavern, located adjacent to Royal Carting on Route 82.
More information about Swartwoutville can be read in our
Honorary WHS Lifetime Member Anthony Musso writes about Griffin’s Tavern in his Dateline column for the Poughkeepsie Journal. Click here to read his article.
Abraham Lincoln Funeral Train
In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train cortege made the long journey from Washington, DC to Springfield, IL. On the evening of Tuesday, April 26, 1865 the funeral cortege travelled along the Hudson River from New York City to Albany and passed through Chelsea (then called Carthage Landing) and New Hamburg. Large crowds of spectators gathered along the route as the train passed.
Several different locomotives were used along the 1,600+ mile route. For the New York City to Rensselear leg of the journey, the train was pulled by a locomotive named the Union (photo depicts a similar locomotive, The Old Nashville, which pulled the train from Columbus to Cleveland, OH).
Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Wappingers Post Office
Click here to hear more about FDR and the village of Wappingers Falls in this short video.
Hyde Park native Franklin D. Roosevelt was very familiar with Wappingers Falls, having been in our area many times to represent this district in the NY State Senate.
Click here to read FDR’s short extemporaneous speech during a brief stop in Wappingers Falls on November 7, 1932, just a day before he won the 1932 Presidential Election.
President Roosevelt’s New Deal WPA (Works Program Administration) initiative of 1935 was designed to get people back to work following the Great Depression. The WPA employed job-seekers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads.
Locally, the Wappingers Falls Post Office (now the village Police Station) was a WPA project of exceptional significance. FDR took a personal interest in its design and construction, requesting that it be modeled after the 1741-43 portion of the Mesier Homestead. He chose fieldstone and brick as the building materials, and styled it as an 18th century stone dwelling, similar to other Dutch Colonial houses in the county.
Four other post offices were built in Dutchess County as part of WPA, and in each, Roosevelt mandated that the lobby murals reflect the history of the community in which the building is located.
Inside the Wappingers Falls Post Office building are two murals, both located near the ceiling on opposite sides of the room. Painted by Henry Billings, they depict the village’s well-known waterfall.
The two views, one from 1780 and the other from 1880, face each other from opposite ends of the main room. The 1780 interpretation, shown at the left, was inspired by the diary of the Marquis de Chastellux, who is shown in conversation with Peter Mesier. The bridge over the falls was called Brower’s Bridge, which was washed away by a flood.
The 1880 scene was taken from an old painting of the falls when they were a major industrial water power source. A photo of that scene is not available at this time.
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FDR and the Post Office
Anthony Musso was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and relocated to New York's Hudson Valley region in the mid-1980s. His interest in history was enhanced by the region's numerous historic sites, one being the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. As a longtime philatelic enthusiast, he shares FDR's philosophy regarding the educational value of stamp collecting. As such, he has given various presentations to school groups and civic organizations on the topic for the past twenty years. A professional writer/editor and media relations manager, this is his first published book.
New Hacksensack Field, more commonly referred to as New Hackensack Airport, Dutchess County Airport, or most recently Hudson Valley Regional Airport, is no stranger to Presidential visits.
On June 14, 1942, Winston Churchill landed at New Hackensack and was met by FDR, who had driven down from his home in Hyde Park in his little hand-controlled Ford to greet him.
On August 14, 1960, Presidential Candidate John F. Kennedy landed there, greeted by a throng of 5,000 people. He then visited with 200 people at the Dutchess County Police Officers Association clambake, which was being held at The Woronock House before heading up to Hyde Park to meet with Eleanor Roosevelt.
Funeral services held in Hyde Park for Eleanor Roosevelt upon her passing in 1962 drew several past Presidents and dignitaries, whose planes landed at the airport.
President Clinton landed there in 2000, one of several visits to the mid-Hudson Valley.
Currently, a Gulfstream G3, formerly designated as an Air Force One plane which transported President George H.W. Bush (#41) during 1990-1991, is housed at the airport as part of Dutchess Community College’s aviation mechanics program.
Hear more about the airport and JFK's campaign stop in this short video.
New Hackensack Airport - Site of Presidential Visits
Vice President George Clinton
George Clinton was born in Little Britain, Ulster County in 1739. He was elected Governor of New York State in 1777 and served until 1795. In the 1804 Presidential election, he lost to Thomas Jefferson and became the 4th Vice President of the United States. In the election of 1808, Mr. Clinton ran for president again and lost, becoming Vice President for James Madison. He has the distinction of being only one of two Vice Presidents (the other, John Calhoun) to ever serve two different Presidents.
Vice President Clinton built a mansion on Sheafe Road and moved into his home in 1804, living there until his death in 1812. The home was demolished in a fire in the 1870’s. Remaining today are stones pillars marking the former entrance. A Town park is on the grounds as well as a roadside Historical Marker.
Remains of the Gates on Sheafe Road to the George Clinton Estate
Estate Housed the Powerful
Author Anthony P. Musso tells the story behind the estate on Sheafe Road that once was home to powerful families.
Presidential Candidate Henry Clay Campaigns in Wappingers Falls
In 1839, while campaigning for the 1840 Presidential Election, Presidential Candidate Henry Clay gave a speech in the Village of Wappingers, on top of the horse trough which was located at the corner of Mill Street and East Main Street.
Henry Clay is generally regarded as one of the most important and influential political figures of his era.
More about Henry Clay:
Kentucky US Representative & US Senator
7th Speaker of the House
9th US Secretary of State
Helped found both Republican & Whig political parties
Was the 1832 Republican Presidential nominee, but lost to Andrew Jackson.
He sought the Presidency again in 1840, but was defeated at the Whig convention by William Harrison, who went on to win the Presidency.
Clay tried again and won the 1844 Whig nomination, but was defeated by James Polk.
Hear more about Henry Clay and his visit to the village of Wappingers Falls in this short video.