The History of New York State
Book III, Chapter XII

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam




When, in 1682, Colonel Thomas Dongan was appointed Governor of the Province of New York, he was instructed to form a council of not more than ten of the "most eminent inhabitants" who were to assist him in the making of "fit" laws. One of the first acts authorized by this council was the erection of twelve "countyes," of which Dutchess was one (November 1, 1683). The boundaries of Dutchess, as then defined, included the present county of Putnam, set off in 1812, and the towns of Clermont and Germantown, now in Columbia County. Dutchess, with an area of 810 square miles, is situated on the Hudson about midway between Albany and New York City. Its terrain is hilly, but with much that is splendidly fitted for cultivation. A large number of streams drain the surface, and it was the latent water power of these streams that brought about its early settlement. The southern end of the county almost reached the Highlands of the Hudson, while on its eastern border are the Taconic (Taghkanic) Mountains. Slate is plentiful, and was once quarried in quantity. Marble and lime stone, several minerals of minor value, and a varied and fertile soil, make up the natural resources of the region. The Hudson was for a century the main means of transportation, and one of the early railroads had its tracks through the western part of the county. The agriculture of the district has always been diversified, following the natural changes in demand for its products. There has been much of the acreage of the section taken by men of wealth for the creation of large estates. Horticulture has been prominent along the river valley, apple and small fruits doing exceedingly well. the larger part of the county is interested in dairying, in which its proximity to great markets gives it a marked advantage. Manufactures play a large part in the prosperity of Dutchess, Poughkeepsie being the center, with the smaller towns along the river having many local specialties.

There had been a very early establishment of trading posts on the island of Manhattan, Fort Orange (Albany) and at Rondout Creek, Esopus (Kingston) which decided the location of the first settlements in the State. But when immigrants began coming in greater numbers, water powers such as those provided by the Fishkill, Wappingers, Fall Kill, Crumb's Elbow and other creeks in the area that is now Dutchess, together with the fine fertile valleys of these streams, led a number to start homes in this region. The Indian titles has, for the most part, been extinguished just before the erection of the county. Nicholas Emigh is credited with being the pioneer, the date of his settlement at the mouth of Fishkill Creek being in doubt, but was certainly there in 1685. To his wife was born the first white child of the county. The settlements at Poughkeepsie were nearly contemporaneous with those at Fishkill, probably by peter Lasinck, ancestor of a numerous family which spells its name in many forms, Lansing and Lawson being more usual. There were too few inhabitants of Dutchess at its erection for it to be represented separately in the General Assembly, so that it was provisionally attached to Ulster until 1713. This fact had made it difficult to trace the early settlers of Dutchess. There was no large development of this region until after 1720.

Along the Hudson, the first settlements were predominately Dutch, with a few Huguenots, fugitives from European persecution. The eastern part of the county was filled by people of New England, all that side of the State being claimed by the New England colonies. Quakers came in the southern part of Dutchess at an early date, while many of the Irish soldiers who had been stationed along various parts of the Harlem Valley homesteaded after the Revolution. It is said that in early times there were more creeds and denominations with churches in Dutchess than there were races, which is but another indication that Dutchess was one of the most cosmopolitan counties in the colonies.

In 1719 the county was divided into South, Middle and North wards; in 1737 into seven precincts. The general organization act of 1788 made the town as the civil division of the county, at which date Dutchess had nine towns. 


Since that period other division have been made until now the county has twenty-two towns, the list of which, with their populations at several decades, follows:

County of Dutchess










Beacon City




















East Fishkill










Hyde Park





La Grange




















Pine Plains





Pleasant Valley










Poughkeepsie city





Red Hook















Union Vale






















Amenia, formed March 7, 1788, lies on the east border north of the center. From the Taconic Mountains on the east, the surface extends in rolling highlands, with many fertile valleys, Dairying is the main industry. Iron mining was formerly carried on extensively, but at present all mines are closed. Richard Sakeet, who purchased large tracts of land from the Indians, settled in the region in 1711; but failing in his endeavor to have his title recognized by the crown, died in poverty in 1749. The villages of Amenia are: Amenia, the largest, Amenia Union, South Amenia, Smithfield and Leedsville.

Beekman, one of the southern tier towns, was formed March 7, 1788. A part of La Grange was taken off in 1821, and a part of Union Vale in 1827. It is a broken, hilly, upland section where dairying is the main occupation. Limestone, Slate and hematite iron are found in the hills. Beekmanville, one of the villages, developed around on of the iron mines. Other settlements are Poughquag, Green Have, and Clove Valley, when and by whom the section was pioneered is unknown because of the destruction of early documents.

Clinton, formed from Charlotte and Rhinebeck, march 13, 1786, lost territory in the making of Hyde Park and Pleasant Valley in 1821. It is an interior upland town whose principal industry is farming. A species of slate has been ground and used for the surfacing of buildings papers, Derrick Van Vliet, settled in the area about 1755. The hamlets are: Clinton Corners, Clinton Hollow, Schultzville, and Pleasant Plain.

Dover, on the southeast border, was formed from Pawling February 20, 1807. Marble, limestone and iron ore had all been found in the town in commercial quantities. The small streams supplied the pioneers with water power, but are not noted rather for the lovely cascades which are found on several. Who first built his home in the county is not known, but the almost obliterated inscriptions on the tombstones in the cemetery at Dover Plains probably tell of the pioneers of the township. One stone bears the name of Ousterhout, and the year of his demise as 1759. Of the several villages of this section are: Dover Plains, Dover Furnace, South Dover and Webatuck.

East Fishkill, formed from Fishkill November 29, 1849, is described and its history told in the account of Fishkill, of which it was a part. The two principal villages are Hopewell Junction and Stormville. The first started as a station on a railroad upon the latter's completion in 1869; Stormville takes its name from Derick Storm, who took up land here in 1739.

Fishkill, on the Hudson, forming the southwest corner of the county, was created a town March 7, 1788. A part of La Grange was taken off in 1821, and East Fishkill in 1849. A section of Philipstown was annexed in 1806. The original area of the town was comprised in the Rombout patent of 1683 and 1685. The town is almost mountainous in terrain, yet is one of the oldest and foremost from the standpoint of cultivation; the Verplanck farms, started in 1730, being noteworthy.

Settlement in the region is supposed to have begun in 1690. The potential water powers were early recognized, although the first mill was not erected in the town until 1709. Interesting historically is the fact that the first and second constitutional conventions held in the State were at this town in 1776 and 1777; additional sessions of the Legislature were held in Poughkeepsie in 1780, 1781, 1788, 1789, and 1795.

Fishkill-on-the-Hudson, or Fishkill Landing, connected by ferry with Newburgh, was incorporated in 1864. The growth of this village was due to the enterprises of John DeWintt, who was a large property owner and man of business, bother here and in Newburgh. The early name was derived from its importance to the township as its main steamboat landing. Even the entrance of a railroad has not entirely obliterated this mode of transportation. Matteawan, on Fishkill Creek a mile above this landing, was an important manufacturing settlement. Incorporated in 1886, it included within its limits the former hamlets of Brynesville, Wiccopee, and Tioranda. Philip Hone, a former mayor of New York City, started the first factory here in 1814. Fishkill-on-the-Hudson and Matteawan had so grown together that they incorporated under the name of Beacon City in 1910, and had a combined population of 10,996. Fishkill village is one of the oldest rural hamlets, as is Baxterville and Brinckerhoff. Wappinger Falls village is partly in Poughkeepsie, but the falls, seventy-five feet in height, are in Peekskill.

Hyde Park, formed from Clinton January 26, 1821, is on the Hudson. It is the seat of many handsome estates, and splendid farms and orchards. The earliest of the settlements was that made by Jacobus Stoughtenburgh, the owner of one of the "nine water holes," who came about 1720. The name of the town is that of the original patent of 1705. Hyde Park village and Staatsburgh are the two principal settlements of the district.

La Grange, formed from Beekman and Fishkill as Freedom, February 9, 1821, changed to the present name in 1828. A part of Union Vale was taken off in 1827. One of the southwest interior towns, its interests are mainly agricultural the Quakers were well represented among the first settlers. They organized the first religious society (Friends) before 1800, and the title, Freedom, by which the town was known for a number of years, was of Quaker origin. Of the hamlets of ancient birth are: La Grangeville, Freedom Plains, Titusville, and Arthursburgh.

Milan, formed from Northeast, March 16, 1818, is on the north border of the county. The rolling terrain is well taken up with farms. Settlement was first made in 1760 by the tenants of the original proprietors, and even a hundred years later a large share of the lands were still held by leasehold tenure. In 1760 Johannes Rowe, a German, purchased 911 acres from chancellor Livingston, the first sale made to an individual. Lafayetteville and Milan were the earliest of the villages settled.

Northeast, recognized as a town March 7, 1788, lost in the formation of Milan in 1818 and Pine Plains in 1823. It is the northeast corner town of the county; has a rocky terrain with certain fertile small valleys in which are the settlements. The pioneers of the area were mostly from Connecticut, coming here between 1725 and 1730. These located on the "Oblong," a tract not under patent, and in which title could be secured. Millerton incorporated in 1875, June 30. It has a population of less than 1,000, but has a local importance as the mercantile center of a wide spread farm region. Northeast Center, Spencer Corners, Coleman, and Oblong are small hamlets.

Pawling, the southeast corner town of Dutchess, was formed March 7, 1788. Dover was taken off in 1807. A fine broad valley, separating two long ridges, is the attraction of the section, for it is not only valuable from an agricultural standpoint, but has four bodies of water, all somewhat increased by dams, which has given it a fame as a summer camping region. Pawling is one of the best of the dairy towns in the county. Settlements were supposed to have been made by the Friends between 1720 and 1730, who, soon after their arrival, erected a stone meeting house that was used for a hospital during the Revolution. Pawling village, incorporated in 1893, with a present population of about 1,100, is the largest milk receiving point in the county. Campbellville, Quaker Hill, and Farmer's Hill are all agricultural hamlets.

Pine Plains, formed from Northeast, march 26, 1823, lies on the north border. Its name indicates its early appearance. The district was a part of the "Little Nine Partners Patent," which, because of the manner in which it was held and the fact that no survey was attempted until about 1744, prevented the securing of title to farms and greatly delayed colonization. A Moravian Mission to the Indians, established in 1740, was probably the first permanent settlement. Pine Plains village was the first hamlet founded, and remains the principal rural center of the town. originally all the houses were on one side of a long street, because that relic of English life, "lease holds," rendered the opposite side not available for lots. Mount Ross, Pulvers Corners, and Hammertown are hamlets.

Pleasant Valley, formed from Clinton January 26, 1821, is an interior dairy town. the village of the same title, with a population of 400, is the commercial center. Salt Point and Washington Hollow are hamlets. Sometimes between 1737 and 1762, the first pioneers came into the region, and as early as 1747 had a substantial church building.

Poughkeepsie was organized as a town March 7, 1788. The city of Poughkeepsie was taken off in 1854. Wappinger's and Fallkill creeks both gave power that later brought about the founding of the largest settlement of the county. Just who were the first settlers of the town is not known, but the first deed was issued June 15, 1680, to a Van Viele. Although overshadowed in a measure by the proximity of a city, certain settlements have achieved prominence, such as New Hamburgh, once one of the heaviest fruit and berry shipping points along the river, and Rochdale, which was one of the early industrial hamlets.

Poughkeepsie City was taken from the town of the same name and incorporated as a village March 27, 1799. The larger part of the city is built back from the river on the hill and bluff overlooking the Hudson. It was appointed the county seat May 27, 1717. The greatest historical event in the career of the city was the ratification of the Constitution of the new United States, June 26, 1788. At its incorporation a village Poughkeepsie had a population of less than 1,500. On march 28, 1854, a city charter was secured when the residents numbered only 3,110. In spite of the advantage of water powers and river transportation, the place cannot be said to have shown any rapid development until just before the opening of the present century. The noteworthy Poughkeepsie bridge over the Hudson, completed in the last days of 1888, helped in the industrial growth of the city. The selection of this district by Vassar College in 1861, and other educational institutions, later aided greatly in the growth of the population. One of the suburbs, now known as Arlington, amounted to little before the expansion of Vassar gave it impetus. The present large city was credited by the census of 1920 with a population of 35.000.

Redhook, formed from Rhinebeck, June 2, 1812, lies on the Hudson in the northwest corner of the county. The interior of the town has many fine farms, while horticulture is one of the specialties of the inhabitants. Along the Hudson are a number of country estates, beautiful , and in some cases, of historical interest. The Dutch were the first settlers, between 1713 and 1727, locating their homes along the shores. The villages of Redhook and Tivoli-Madalin are the chief present centers of population and business. Annandale, originally only the name of an estate, has become the designation by which the site of Saint Stephen's College is known.

Rhinebeck, formed March 7, 1788, lost area in the making of Redhook in 1812. Some time about 1700 the first settlement was made in the town, the family of William Beekman, the proprietor, being the pioneers. The homestead that he built stood for nearly two centuries on its lofty site. The principal village, Rhinebeck, incorporated April 23, 1834, is of very ancient origin, while deriving its name from its location on a railroad, was even more to the fore as the terminus of a ferry to Rondout, established in 1752.

Stanford, formed from Washington March 12, 1793, is an interior town settled around 1750. Dairying is the main occupation of the present day. among the several rural hamlets are: Bangall, Stanfordville, Stissing, McIntyre, Hull's Mills, Bare Market.

Union Vale, formed from Beekman and Freedom, march 1, 1827, is one of the rugged interior towns, in which agriculture has been brought to a high place. Henricus Beekman gave to his son, Henry, in 1716, 1,000 acres of land in the township, and settlement is supposed to have begun immediately after. Verbank, Factory Woods, and Oswego are the hamlets of this area.

Wappinger, originally a part of Fishkill, was formed May 20, 1875. The smaller of the towns in area, 16,025 acres; in population and industrial activity it is one of the most important. Wappingers Falls, the principal village at the head of navigation on the creek, included the hamlet of Channingville upon its incorporation, September 22, 1871. It is thought that the first settlement of the town and village was in 1659. The "Falls," first used to town grist and sawmills, were later (1823) utilized by cotton and print factories, and from this time dated the development of the industrial village. Population, 1920, 3,235.

Washington, formed March 7, 1788, lost to erect Stanford, in 1793. It is one of the largest milk shipping towns in Dutchess. The principal villages are Hartsville, at the highest fall of Mill Brook; Mabbetsville, a farm settlement; Little Rest, which derived its name when farm produce was hauled to market over a road leading through the place, and there were no accommodations for the teamsters; Lithgow, Scotch, Washington Hollow, South Millbrook (Four Corners) and Mechanic.



The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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