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Page 8 and 9 of the ORANGE COUNTY POST issued Thursday, September 14, 1978


Orange County Historical Society

Tour of Historic Sites

Donald F. Clark, President of the Orange County Historical Society, has announced completion of plans for a free self-guided tour of historic sites in Little Britain and vicinity, including sites preserved by agreement between the Orange County Historical Society and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The tour has been scheduled for Saturday afternoon, September 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. Three of the sites will be open for visiting: Telford Tavern, the Denniston-Bacher House, and the Hawkins-Rowe House, all of historic or architectural interest.

Following this historic site tour, sponsored by the Orange County Historical Society, there will be an open house at the Edmonston House (preserved by the National Temple Hill Association) on Blooming Grove Turnpike, Route 94, at Vails Gate.

Miss Margaret V.S. Wallace, Little Britain Historian and Trustee of the Orange County Historical Society, has provided the background material for the following narrative tour-guide:

Follow Little Britain Road (Route 207) west out of Newburgh past the entrance of Stewart Airport to the Little Britain Grange and to Drury Lane, which goes off to the right. Note that Drury Lane was once known as part of the New Paltz Road. When the Parshalls settled on it, it took the name of Parshall Lane, and when a Parshall married a Drury (and the Parshall name became less prominent and the Drury clan increased) the road took its present name of Drury Lane.

A short distance (0.3 miles) west of Drury Lane on the north side of Little Britain Road is the Elmwood School. There was an earlier school in what is now the south half of the cemetery beside the Little Britain Presbyterian Church, the building being near where the east gate is now. This district was No. 6, the Meeting House District, and the school, built about 1836, was south of the meetinghouse. In 1867 it was considered to be in condition too bad to repair. Finally, after several meetings and much discussion, the school committee bought an acre of land on the south side of Little Britain Road near the end of Drury Lane, and gathered stones for the foundation and bricks for the walls. But some others preferred a site on the north side of the road. They moved fast, bought an acre of land from Hamilton Denniston, and one night worked long and hard, transferring all the building materials across the road where the school stands now. The total cost of materials, labor and furniture was $2,703.40.

The school was named Elmwood Institute and was dedicated on August 28, 1869. In 1892 it won a prize of $100 for having the best-kept grounds in the state. When the building was no longer used as a school, the land had to revert to a Denniston heir; Alfred Denniston acquired it, changed it to a dwelling and rented it.

Not far (0.6 mile) along Little Britain Road, just east of where Bull Road enters on the left, is the Mulliner Burying Ground. Peter Mulliner bought 200 acres of land in 1729. He probably came from Little Britain, or Bretagne Street, in London, from which his farm was named and eventually, the area. About a hundred years ago, the whole western half of the town of New Windsor was known as Little Britain.

In due course, Peter Mulliner set aside a half-acre for a Church of England church and a half-acre for a cemetery. The church was never built, for most of the settlers were Presbyterians and built a Presbyterian Church. Though good friends for six days of the week, it was said that on Sunday the Presbyterians and the Mulliners did not speak.

Continuing west on Route 207 (0.6 mile) one finds Telford Tavern. In the particular list of New Windsor dwellings (1798), William Telford’s house, then 29 years old, is described as on the Minisink Road, frame, one storey. Its windows are listed in detail: three were 4.0 feet by 2.0 feet; two were 2.6 by 1.6; one was 2.6 by 2.6; and one was 1.6 by 1.6. (At that time taxes were levied according to the number and size of the windows.) There was also a frame barn, 33 feet by 20, and a stone smoke house, 12 by 12. Only the basement of the house is original; the basement was a very important part of the living section of an old house. The door to this basement looks like the one at the Joseph Belknap house. North of the tavern is a large underground room, maybe a root cellar, maybe a storage place for tavern supplies, perhaps a hiding place.

In 1724 James Gembell and John Humphrey bought 300 acres of the patent that had been granted to Patrick Hume. This land was later sold to Samuel Falls and William Telford, and her Telford kept tavern before, during and after the Revolution. During the Revolution he had the rank of major in the Ulster County Militia.

After the battle of Saratoga, Hessian prisoners were brought through Little Britain; they were conducted by Morgan’s riflemen and by Nicholson’s cadets, who were boy soldiers and among whom were Alexander Clinton, son of James and Robert R. Burnet, aged fifteen. The whole group stopped overnight at Telford Tavern, across the road from the Burnet home. While the riflemen rested, the boy soldiers and a home guard of even younger boys guarded the prisoners. A Hessian woman died that night and was hastily buried under an apple tree in the tavern yard. In the morning the prisoners were hurried along with no time allowed for them to stand and mourn. The apple tree is gone, of course, so no one knows the site of her grave.

After the war, William Telford was a useful citizen, at various times assessor, poor master, road commissioner and clerk of town meetings. And he was tavern keeper. In 1804 his neighbor, Robert R. Burnet, was justice of the peace and fined William Telford $2.50 and court costs of $.37 for selling one gill of rum on Sunday. Whether or not for this reason, William Telford died that same year; he is buried in Little Britain cemetery, in the same grave with his son who died from a fall from his horse while in the service of his country.

West from Telford Tavern (0.8 mile) also on the north side of the road, is the Clinton House. General James Clinton, elder brother of Governor George Clinton and father of DeWitt Clinton, built his new house here in 1798. Throughout his boyhood and during much of his married life, he had lived in the old homestead he inherited, which had been built by Charles Clinton. Now his first wife had died and his children were grown. After giving the homestead to his sons and buying an adjoining piece of land, he married a new wife, the Widow Gray, and adopted her children; he raised another family and built this new house.

The builder of the house was Edward Miller. In the middle of the east side of the foundation is the inscription "Liberty 1798."

In the particular list of dwellings in New Windsor in 1798, this house is entered as the property of James Clinton, on land adjoining that of Robert Boyd and William Watson on the Minisink Road; a frame house, new and good, 32 feet by 30, two storeys, with two windows 5.3 feet by 2.9, and nine windows 4.6 by 2.3 feet.

James Clinton died in 1812. After a short time his widow moved to Newburgh and the farm was rented. In 1828 their son, James G. Clinton, rented the 300-acre farm to the famous weaver James Alexander. In 1838 Clinton sold it to John V. Weeks, who through his agent Matthew

Crist, sold it to Franklin Mulliner. Four generations of Mulliners lived here. It was probably a Mulliner who added the gable in the center front of the roof. The Mulliners owned the place so long that the neighbors forgot that it ever belonged to anyone else. But today we remember with admiration and gratitude General James Clinton and his service to his country.

Still farther west (0.6 mile) on Route 207, again on the north side, is the Denniston-Bacher house. George Denniston, one of the six sons of Alexander Denniston, a settler in this area in 1731, was an early owner of this property. He did not live here, but this was one of his investment properties. In the particular list of New Windsor dwellings (1798), this place is entered as owned by George Denniston, and occupied by Henry Mandeville. Near the property of General Clinton, it was frame, one storey, 24 by 31 feet, and had four windows 4.6 by 2.7 feet and one window 1.6 by 3.4. There was a frame kitchen 12 feet by 12 feet in poor condition and an old frame barn 38 by 24 feet. The farm had 158 acres, and land and buildings were valued a $750.

In 1802 George Denniston sold it to Stephen Ingersol, who in turn sold it to Henry Miller in whose family it stayed for three more generations. The last of the Miller heirs rented the farm to Walter Denniston and then sold it to him in 1910. Walter Denniston was a direct descendant of George Denniston, owner in 1798. Agnes Denniston Bacher, the present occupant and daughter of Walter Denniston, was born her and has lived here all her life.

The small ell at the west end of the house was the original whole house; it has a beautiful large fireplace and Dutch oven. The house was enlarged during the Miller ownership.

In George Denniston’s time there was another house on the property, on the corner of what is now Giles Road and Drake Lane. (Mrs. Bacher remembers it when it was very old.) When George Denniston sold the place to Stephen Ingersol, he reserved that house and the acre on which it stood. The acre came back into the farm through James Denniston, son of George. Possibly George Denniston had a sentimental reason for keeping the house on the side road when he sold the farm.

Continue west (0.6 mile) on Route 207 to Forrester Road and turn right. Near the corner of Route 207 and Forrester Road was the historic Rock Tavern for which the area was named. The site is under the new layout of 207. At the end of Forrester Road proceed straight ahead on Route 208 (0.3 mile) and you will see the large Hawkins-Rowe house.

Jonathan Hawkins married Dorothea Mills, daughter of Jacob Mills of Little Britain, later of Scotchtown. Hawkins bought a farm on the east side of what is now Maybrook, which he ran most successfully. He had 11 children and was able to leave each daughter a large sum of money and each son a farm.

In 1839 he bought a farm for $10,000 from William Thayer; it was partly in the Town of Montgomery and partly in Hamptonburgh. In his will, proved in 1858, he left his farm to his son Jacob Mills Hawkins. It is probable that the son lived in this house before he inherited it. The small back part was once the whole house and is thought to be very early. It had a stairway from the basement to the second floor which was removed a few years ago. The larger new part of the house shows some signs of having been built before the Hawkins ownership, perhaps as early as the late 1820’s.

The farm was owned by the heirs of Jacob Mills Hawkins until 1935, when the ten living heirs agreed to sell. George C. Rowe and Matthew R. Rowe bought it at that time; they still own the farm but sold the house in 1962. In 1966 John and Ann Vogeney bought the house from George R. Pendell, the last of several owners. It had been misused as a storage place for potatoes, and the Vogeneys put much time, money, love and work into making it a beautiful home again.

 

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July 15, 2007