In Robert E Dickson’s City Regional and Regionalism. A Geographic Contribution to Human Ecology (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1947), ‘region’ as a human geography term is defined as
“an area which is homogenous in respect of some particular set of associated conditions, whether of the land or of the people, such as industry, farming, the distribution of population, commerce, or the general sphere of influence of a city” (p. 1).
Regionalization is the process by which a given area is separated from its neighboring areas due to some unique features resulting in a particular characteristic lacked by neighboring regions. Regionalism is a sense of distinction that is felt and expressed by inhabitants of an area. Since there is this very strong human-related perspective for a region, these expressions about the given area usually have to somehow be involved with the human relationships that exist between a given area and its residents.
For this reason, the definition of a distinct region has both a personal and a social value. By being part of a particular region, people attach more value to the history and make-up of their region, and in turn add to its richness, culture, and integrity as they feel the region is meant to be. In the most modern sense of the terms region and regionalism, each of these two features need not be the only human-defined features that are used to define a given region, but also common sense things like assigned boundaries, local name and sociocultural values assigned to specific landforms ot natural event characteristic of a region. In some cases, these events and features enable one region of a particular type to overlap with other regional concepts. Overall, the best outcomes for this human behavior is the development of a variety of multicultural, multifaceted regions, which due to their diversity continue to remain intact as distinct areas separated from each other due to the local natural and sociological history.
There are two way to interpret the geographic definitions for ‘region’ and ‘regionalism’ as they pertain to Dutch County and Hudson Valley tradition. When we review the Hudson Valley as a region based primarily upon scientific concepts, such as the definitions of the watersheds of the valley and the landmasses served by its tributaries, we miss the meaning of the “Valley” concept in the region’s name ‘Hudson Valley.’ When we review the region and regionalism as it pertains to Dutchess County as a completely politically-defined concept, we miss the true history of the total Dutchess County setting as an area with ever-changing political boundaries.
Over the years, the study of regions and regionalism has had its good and its bad. With the Hudson Valley area, one of the first criticisms of the valley as a region perhaps pertains to the mishandling of natural resources. During the colonial years much of the evergreen forests overlooking the river were lost due to settlement behaviors and practices, along with the establishment of the following significant natural resources businesses and industries:
- making ample use of debarked logs to produce ships
- harvesting pine pitch to form rosin products
- harvesting tannin-rich tree barks and leaves for the leather and medical industries
- the production of hemp fields and attempts to produce flax fields
- mining specific minerals to extrude iron, lead, calcium and saltpeter from
- quarrying specific rock types to be used in making roadways, canals, mortar and bricks
- netting the migrating shad, trout and salmon populations
- producing hefty amounts of livestock and agricultural products in order to feed a rapidly growing city
- the promotion of heavy sheep raising industries for the purposes of producing wool fabrics
- channeling the flow of mountain waters in order to satisfy both human and industrial needs throughout the lower urban settings.
This engineering, natural science based interpretation of the valley as a region focuses on its economic values. First the value of the resources to the mother country control the local businesses and colonial economy. Followed by a period when State and City government officials make these economic features the most important part of the valley’s history, thereby making it the most important region within the State. This interpretation of the Valley as a region is naturally and topographically defined, but its oucome is something that is politically and economically developed and managed. On and off throughout the Hudson Valley region’s history, other attempts have been made to revive its Dutch heritage based on more humanistic lines of reasoning. These other attempts take place in the form of historical events designed to replay a part of the local past to us, or in the form of some ongoing naturalistic issue involving the Valley, focusing on the local ecology and/or environment. This review is an attempt to apply the region and regionalism concepts to Hudson valley culture and lifestyle.
I am beginning with this simple review of the Dutch region, as I have learned it to be since my childhood. This includes my years of local involvement in the county as well as my nearly 30 years of experience studying the history of medicine in the Hudson Valley, particularly in and around Dutchess County. Over the years I have found that the same concepts that help to define Dutch culture in contemporary programs about Dutch heritage programs can also be applied to the medical history of the Valley as well. Even more important to note is the fact that this exploration of medical history covers a time when medicine was more humanistic and naturalistic and less scientific in its approach to studying and treating people. Practitioners of medicine during this time were trained in everything but medicine as we think of it today. They were more read and experienced in natural history, astronomy, physics, chemistry, mineralogy, mechanical and electric engineering, botany, math, classical history, foreign languages, music, and even the need to possess very useful physical skills such as dancing and horseback riding. Throughout the Hudson Valley region, the amounts of time, thought, theorizing and practicing that which went into Hudson Valley medicine was equivalent to the amount of microbiology, molecular chemistry, human genetics, pharmacology, and computer science that go into medicine today.
Colonial medicine and early American medicine are the two hardest periods to study with regard to American medical history. This difficulty stems from the lack of numerous professional journals, the scarcity of these journals along with medical books in modern day settings, and the more different these methods of reasoning were from contemporary forsm of reasoning linked to medical knowledge. One of the greatest hurdles a historian has to make is the exclusion of many of the modern concepts in science that exist from learning about and basing your reasoning on and about what was then known. This is rarely the case in medical history writings. The most common approach to dealing with this issue in medical history is to write about a small part of the history, such as its sociological aspect or specific palce in the overall history of today’s science.
I like to look at past physicians in a more biographical sense, understanding their heritage and philosophy as well as the types of practice they engaged in as an important doctor for their time. This approach eliminates the contemporary and even judgmental reviews of past physicians that seem to often be published. There is a certain amount of ethnocentricity attached to historians who discuss medicine as if it was either true medicine or quackery. There were of course quacks in medicine in Hudson Valley history–there always has been someone out there with little to no knowledge trying to promote something that end up being blatantly problematic, dangerous or even deadly. But this alone does not constitute calling a particular practice for the time as being wrong in some way and worthy of being called quackery. We never called Hudson Valley bloodletters quacks, why call the Hudson Valley Water-curers quacks? “Quack” is a political terms that is applied based upon legal clauses and professional guidelines, even if both are based on wrongful synopses and hypotheses. The truth is, nearly all physicians in the past were just a good as their counterparts identified and favored by past physicians and medical history writers, mostly the more aristocratic members of their matching places in urban society. ‘Right or wrong’ has nothing to do with this, in particular within the Valley.
In my eyes, so long as s/he is not a true fraud or liar, s/he is practicing the best medicine for the time, given the educational opportunities and demographic and living conditions for the time. As a region, the Hudson Valley bore physicians of all sorts and kinds. There were the church-bound healers and the atheists, and everything in between, the natural philosophers and the natural theologians, the theoreticians and the experientialists, the scientists and the humanists. The first thing to do when trying to understand how and why these different medical practices and philosophies came about, we first have to learn about why and where Hudson valley diversity came from.
Recognizing our Dutch Heritage
For some reason, the Dutch heritage of New York was often excluded from teachings of American history, in particular in and around nearly all of the states except New York. This was made clear to me a few years ago when, while discussing cultural foodways in the United States and trying to define “regions” that exist in the United States with specific cultural underpinning to their food-related practices (i.e. the Tex-Mex fashion of the middle South or the very natural, healthy California diets), when I mentioned the Dutch traditions of the Hudson Valley I got a lot of stares, including one even from my professor, who had to think for a moment before telling me she had spent a few months in the middle valley area and understood some of what I may be talking about. As a result, I decided to develop a small foodways class devoted to Hudson Valley Dutch culture.
The goal of my project was to define the Dutch food types that are unique to the valley and are typically promoted by restaurants as a means for demonstrating this Dutch heritage. This meant that I had to take a close look at current and past restaurant menus, review locally published recipe and Dutch-Indian cook books for the time, and take a look at the local restaurant names that had cultural links to them. All of this was done to determine how frequently the Dutch style could be found in how cuisines and restaurants prepared and marketed their foods. The most helpful sources for this work included Peter Rose’s writings, Alice Morse Earle’s writings, a number of local historical society writings collected or copied over the years, and a review of past government documents related to agriculture and livestock cultural traditions, and hunting and fishing activities (esp. herring, shad, trout and salmon industries). One of the best databases I found for current marketing of Dutch tradition was the Harris Business database, where a simple review of something as simple as restaurant and diner names enables you to map out where the Dutch names and foodways were promoted, implying as well a distribution and spread pattern for Dutch food-related cultural practices and the distinct Dutch menu.
The result of this research was a presentation on Peter Rose’s work, of course, followed with a review of Dutch foodstuffs, recipes and ingredients. I made sure to mention the history of Dutch fishing and hunting traditions in the region, including mention of the Sturgeon, Shad and Blue Crab recipes that quite often end up on high end restaurant menus. In reference to the regional influences of local farming and native New York food-related practices, I made sure to mention the types of different Dutch side dishes and deserts at times included with the Dutch entree, such as sorrel-based salads, pumpkins and olycooks. When it came to exploring this tradition at the entire valley level, stretching from New York northward through the Platte County near the northern border of Canada, I came upon even more interesting cultural food promotional practices, some Dutch, many not, and presented this in association with all my other Hudson Valley Dutch cultural teachings.
In the months that followed this presentation in 1998, I continued reviewing the effects of Dutch culture on Hudson valley history and how it is/was taught in schools, especially elementary and middle schools. This resulted in some discouraging findings. I found some of the best examples of educational materials used to teach Dutch heritage could be found in much older school books, especially those published before 1850. To me this seemed to suggest that spending too much time on the Dutch tradition of New York was very much taboo for the time outside of the Hudson valley area (I was then residing in the Pacific Northwest). Not much of this was included in many contemporary elementary and middle schools with local ‘well-rounded’ education programs.
When I moved back to the valley a few years later, I spoke with my coworkers on and off about the Valley’s history, asking in particular if they felt the Hudson valley could be defined as its own social and cultural region. It seemed to me that often there were people who were very familiar with the Dutch aspects of Dutchess County history, and a few who had little to no idea of what it was that I was talking about. In the expected fashion, I spoke about this topic on and off with the locals that I met, and even got heavily into local history topics every now and then with some of those more involved or educated in this matter. Whenever I came upon the owner of an important building or landform in local history, I made it a special point to converse with them about the local land use and building and architectural history. I was pleased by the fact that most locals understanding the county history knew something about their heritage and the past ownership of their property, their lake, their old farmhouse, the history of the old horse-drawn harvesting contraption on their land, the stone used for milling grain in 1825, or the history of the old stone walls and centuries-old fence posts located at the edge of their land. But still, for the most part it was the old timers who I fell really knew any of what I considered to be the significant details of their land. One time, while speaking with my father’s high school date and mainstay more than 50 years ago, someone he almost married, the history of the old cowbarn still standing in her woods became clear. Until then, I knew the cowbarn and knew that its automated, centralized Delaval milking apparatus had to be quite unique; in fact I even knew this about the barn better than its owners. The same was true for another girlfriend my father had, who lived a few miles away from the highschool the attended together. Her husband, knew my grandfather, who he could recall served as foot police or constable in the nearby village when he attended that school.
This second family of the girl that dated my father I also knew a little about because they owned a very-large Dutch barnstyle chicken coop with gambrel roofs resting on a hill, along a road leading from Hughsonville to where the Wappingers Creek ended just before reaching the Hudson. I could hear them clucking away each time I passed by this coop on the bus taking me to school (yes, the same school my father, his sister and his girlfriends went to). The owner of this land told me one of these coops was ahead of its times due to the ventilation and high number of cages, She says her family used to lay the eggs needed by a number of lower county’s stores within a few miles radius.
I mention these because I found that each of these memories of the valley has attached to it some historical insight needed for my review of the impacts of the valley on the region, in some way that few others have tried to conceive and put into writing. I had known for nearly all of my years of this research that Dutchess County was very much the main source for much of New York City’s milk, eggs and meats during the earliest post-colonial years in Hudson valley history. It wasn’t until I review some writings on the same published in New York medical journals that the meaning of this was made clear to me. Foodways and diet were always an important way taught to prevent an attack of a serious disease. At the time this was happening, the epidemic causing so much concern and need for farmed foods was yellow fever.
The best way to explain what my work is about is to explain it as a study of Dutch and other cultural traditions within the valley, and how these related to a part of life very poorly covered with regard to valley history–the religious, philosophical, naturalistic and scientific practice of medicine and health in the valley throughout its history prior to the Civil War. Since discovering the works of Helen Wilkinson Reynolds back in summer of 1982, in between the times I was preparing to apply for medical school at the Adriance Library, I was amazed that I happened upon the rediscovery of the physician Dr. Cornelius Osborn (1722-1782). Very quickly Dr. Osborn’s mannerisms, lifestyle and methods of practicing medicine seemed to make sense to me. As I read the manuscript he produced, I knew the plants that he used since many of them were still growing in my back yard. I lived just a mile or two from his homestead.
Completing this study of Dr. Osborn took me from 1981 (I discovered the reference to his work the year before and took some time finding its location) to 1992, after which I submitted my biographical review on Dr. Osborn and his recipe book, adding significantly to what had already been published about his work by Mrs. Reynolds. Unfortunately, or fortunately, that was not the end of my work on Dr. Osborn and the history of medicine in Dutchess County. I very quickly found another doctor’s recipe book to review and trace. This time he was from Illinois. However, his first wife was from New York, and her husband a devoted Thomsonian healer, practicing medicine that I knew was popular to New York on over to Vermont and New Hampshire. What really struck a chord with me was when on of this Illinois physician’s recipes resembled some of the teachings related to Osborn’s thinking. It ended up that he was citing a recipe produced by Wooster Beach, a practitioner in New York City who in the 1820s formed his own, new form of medicine called Reformed Medicine.
This time it took me only two years to complete my review of the philosophy and history of the Illinois physician’s work. Now I felt it was time to close the links between Dr. Osborn and the Illinois-Oregon Trail physician. To do this, I went to the local bookstore and within just a few weeks, managed to purchase dozens of books delving into medical topics related to the Hudson Valley and New York City. Then it dawned on me taht these books all looked the same in terms of binding and size, for the most part, and were published by Fowler in New York City. I then made the connection to my own homestead between North and South Fowlerhouse Road, and had the realization that something unique about this county was responsible for all fo these medical teachings and practices, beginning with Dr. Osborn’s childhood years in this same region, if not earlier. After a few more years of teaching these findings at the local university where I was employed, I was able to ground my findings to a fairly reasonable theory as to why the Valley is the place where new forms of medicine erupt, not New York City.
Dutch tradition is why the valley has its strange histories and quirks when it comes to reading about and understanding the history of American medicine. This happened due to the local histories and even pre-migration histories of the various families that settled within the valley. Returning to graduate school to explore cultural and physical geography a little bit more, I was finally able to put all of these findings into a much better perspective. At times, the maps say it all to me, and due to that course in Dutch foodways I did my presentation for on the Valley’s Dutch heritage, the rest of the pre-1850 history of Dutchess County, Hudson valley and New York medicine, its physicians and its philosophers, are now much clearer to me. For this reason, I find it helpful to be able to define where the Dutch tradition actually lies in New York? how much of it is solely Hudson valley in nature? how much of it has a much broader influence? In a geographical sense, this is really a cultural regionalism study, and so this is my Dutch regionalism study of the Hudson valley in relation to lifestyles, culture, medicine, and the Dutch reasons for the advancements made in medicine from Colonial times to the mid-19th century.
Defining a Region
In an economical sense, the New Netherlands of the mid-Atlantic region of North America consisted of both the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, and stretching only as far north as where the Mohawk River flows into the Hudson River, from where it then headed westward along the eastern half of the Mohawk River. To close these two valleys bordering the New Netherlands, we have to head back in a south to southsoutheastern direction towards Manhattan, laying Dutch claims to most of the Catskills and Shawangunks along the way, until Manhattan Island is once again reached, and from there head further east claiming about one-third of the length of Long Island as part of this land.
To properly refer to New Netherlands, however, we have to keep in mind that part of New Netherlands was down to the south, referred to as “New Holland”, on at least one Ancient map. These areas had an important impact before on Dutch occupation for several decades to come. In 1637, New Sweden made its claim of the Dutch possession in Delaware Bay, establishing several forts there by 1650. Likewise, the Dutch had its occupation of lands in two parts of South America to maintain during this time, the only part of the New World that the Dutch retained possession of legally and politically by the end of the century.
Since the Hudson Valley retained a large amount of its Dutch heritage and history within its governmental, legal, professional, social and domestic settings, we have a tendency to think of New York as the only part of the New Netherlands that most of us are referring to when we research and discuss this important part of American history. Whether or not the impacts of Dutch Culture in the Hudson Valley also took place in these other regions is perhaps assuming too much for this type of study. The most important point to keep in mind is that Dutch tradition and culture play an important role on how we interpret and relate the happenings of the New World to the Hudson Valley. Any culturally-based decisions made about the Valley by its settlers impact similar decisions we have make about it today. How and why this part of the North America Colonies became settled by certain writers, scholars and politicians, what types of cultures and what forms of lifestyle were practiced in this region, altogether define the root of the presentday local valley cultures, and how certain parts of this culture will most likely remain for generations to come.
Reviewing the impacts of these concepts on modern teachings of Hudson Valley and New Netherlands history, by the ways in which various educational groups and companies define these different regions on their maps. One of the major problems with using maps to teach local history is that there is no single period that you can rely upon to effectively teach people about this aspect of valley and state history, when it comes to the bare facts such as numbers of settlers of a particular ethnic groups numbers of families, occupations, etc. Multiple maps have to be used, and multiple culturally-related concepts put into perspective with such programs. Fortunately there are some educational resources that approach this teaching material adequately to bring about these local temporal and spatial differences when it comes to teaching New Netherlands/New York history. For this review however, a single map sill be used to define where the Dutch culture is most likely partially or deeply rooted. This regions is defined through simple topographic features, features of the land surface that define whether or not any significant interactions between prople and places of the same culture can continue to regularly and frequently take place.
The Hudson Valley Dutch Region
In a recent review of educational maps used to depict New Netherlands and the valley, it was found that the New Netherlands could extend as far north as Canada, as far south as Baltimore and Maryland, and as Far West as the western edge of New York. In a more realistic sense, the heart of Dutch culture during the Colonial years went only as far north as perhaps a few towns just north of the Mohawk River, as far east as the western edge of the Oblong patent and the mountain range used to define the Connecticut border, as far south as about the upper third of New Jersey, an area with fairly simple access to New Amsterdam, and as far west as one third to one half of the way into the Catskills mountains, with the exception of a few of the gorges formed by its major river beds that provided easy to use transportation routes.
When we allow other features to be included in this prediction of the most settled portions of New Netherlands prior to 1700, but especially before 1760, we can see some importance in the impacts of much of Dutch culture on Long Island taking hold in the colony/state, we well as some of the impacts of small communities Dutch formed deep in the mountain ranges. As one indicator of these we could take into account Washington Irving’s tales of Dutch culture in the Kaatskills for example, enabling the boundaries he formed for Dutch Culture based on United Netherlands topography alone (maritime, lowland, pastoral settings, and a few High-Dutch settings at the edges of mountain ranges, typical of Holland, Belgium and perhaps Luxemborg). Using these two features–access and Dutch cultural history–the following rough boundary can be drawn for Dutch settlements and their immediately local zones of influence (no GIS was used for this deduction):
Comparing this to some of the colonial Dutch maps on the New Netherlands, in particular with Adrian Van Der Donck’s rendering of Dutch Settlements, ca. 1650-1670 due to the demographic features included in this drawing, we find the following similarities the satellite image topography and Van Der Donck’s map:
The following is the actual region close-up for better rendering of the settlement patterns.
Important features to note on the above map include the apparent junction or confluency of the “Groote Esopus” and Delaware Rivers. This feature is noted with other colonial New World maps depicting other regions as well. This is perhaps supported by some imaginative notion there can be water eminated from an unspecific location on this map (a water body in the mountains perhaps) that is capable of flowing in either direction. Although such is sometimes the case, it is not the case in this region. One should also note that there are several communities along the Delaware River (abandoned fairly early by Stuyvesant and the Dutch settlers and taken possession of as part of New Sweden) that are topographically and culturally not part of the Hudson Valley. However, they still play important roles in Hudson Valley Dutch culture. According to Kalm’s writings and other reviews produced about Scandinavian settlers in this region, Scandinavian culture had a considerable impact on this region, in competition with and sequential to the earliest Dutch cultural influences.
The 1800 topographic map of “The Province of New York”, as it was then defined, or the New Netherlands portion of New York can be related to a satellite image of the New York State region. The following represents the region depicted on this 1800 map.
Applying the above boundary defined using the satellite image to the 1800 topographic map resulted in the following. Note there was fortunately a fairly decent match in projections and primary land surface features due to the similarity of the two mapping projections used for each:
We can further review the accuracy of this map by following two its major features–the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. Since the topographic map does have some barely defineable political boundaries, these can also be used to produce an overlay. Some key words were then rewritten onto the map to clarify its dividing lines. This resulted in the the following:
The above new renderings of details can now be simply be placed on the satellite image for review.
In New Netherlands/New York, the major lands settled by Dutch immigrants were found in five counties as they were defined in 1800: Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster and Albany. The earliest reviews of historical literature for this research focus just on the reports related to these five regions and the New York/Kings County urban setting. As time passed, the souther portion of Dutchess County was split off to form Putnam county, and part of its northern sector cut off and merged with a part of Albany County to form Columbia County.
To put all of this into perspective with modern political boundaries, the first map-image representation can be compared with another satellite image with county lines defined. For this second Landsat image of the region, note there is only an approximate fit for the major boundaries, a feature more likely related to the projection-based resampling of the second image in order to fit the county line spatial data. Note, the northern and eastern boundaries of Dutchess County are fairly correct and intact. County borders on the west side of the river were changed significantly over time.
Since the point of this demonstration is more to define the old counties in reference to the newer counties, in order to better define Dutch Regionalism in southern New York, it serves its purpose. In some of the first information evaluated for the value as part of a later study of the Valley and its history, the earliest journals published from 1797 to 1810 roughly related to just these five major upstate counties and the city-border counties of New York. An 1810 census map and review of county border delineation history is needed to further spatial quantify the applications of this medical geography review of Hudson valley medical topography information.
Nearly all of my research on the Valley focuses upon the medical history of this region, a topic not at all covered as a valley-related issue. There are no doubt some studies of Hudson Valley medicine performed fairly extensively over the past sesquicentennium. None of these studies however did much to differentiate the diversity of Dutch influences that are demonstrated with regard to Hudson Valley and Dutchess County Medical history. Since this part of the state represents in borderland and hinterlands environments during the earliest period of United States history, the rapid expansion of populations following the Revolutionary War, and the related diffusion of multicultural information into the Valley by way of major transportation, commercial and mail/newspaper distribution routes, we expect the lower parts of the valley to demonstrate the most of Dutch tradition and, the closer one gets to the urban cetner of this region–New York, the most status quo in terms of medical practices. There is an important distance that news has to travel in order for political support to become more prevailing along the alternative routes. The Dutchess County region is close enough to New York to benefit from its infoirmation dissemination and to send these influences back into the interior of its urban center. Populations within this county region are far enough from the most important political leaders to make their claims and still develop a significant amount of popular support.
The importance of defining Dutch regionalism is to demonstrate the points, places and areas where important changes in the masses can occur. This Dutch region is depicted by the large Hudson River-Mohawk River region boundary shape, but is defined best based on depictions of where the major cities, towns and hamlets exist within this reason where information dissemination can continue to diffuse further and further into borderland and hinterland social environments. We are fortunate in being able to review the cultural differences of medicine in the Dutchess County area due to its proximity to the city and the official Medical School and medical journal publisher for this part of the United States. The importance of Poughkeepsie in this part of valley history is demonstrated by the changes that will happen in medicine in just another twenty years. By 1835, Poughkeepsie also became a major communications publisher and developed its own medical journal and professional printing press. Similar events happened to the north in urban centers such as Hudson, Troy and Albany, facilitating the passage and further diffusion of these new ideas in other directions and to other cities. By the end of the 1830s, this multicultural, multidimensional nature of medicine would be disseminated further west into other hinterland regions. It is for this reason that other parts of New York became their own producers of alternative or “irregular” medical literature, practice types and in the years ahead, educational programs and actual medical schools. For the most part this process is due to the function of Poughkeepsie in the dissemination of information and philosophies within a rapidly growing stte. In turn, these benefits are due to the Dutch heritage of the Valley itself, and its original policy of “tolerance.”