Other Pieces of Hudson Valley History

Having grown up on the Fowler Estate, I have come to appreciate some of the old architecture and land use history much of the Dutchess County has.  This history is something that is being lost at a very rapid pace.  It seems this region has two reasons for this. 

First, the turnover of people and families has grown exponentially since I was a kid.  Whereas a lot of us at school had parents and grandparents who knew a lot about our local history and the role of our families in this,  the environment at school and on the television has made it such that practically everyone in my classes during high school was dying to find a way to go away to college or some big university.  The usual goal with my generation was to not return to this very rural home-setting, but rather to find work in a big town or city. 

Still there were some important exceptions to this behavior of my generation.  Not all of the locals in my age group wanted to go to college and/or find work in a larger city like setting.  Aside from classmates who stayed for whatever reason other than desire, there were a number of people who wanted to rough out the changes taking place locally in farming and agriculture in the Hudson Valley, attend college to become more literate and scientifically trained in the skills of animal husbandry and crops technology.   This new science of farming made the 1960s were essentially the last decade in which local history of farming and livestock pretty much resembled what it was decades, or even a century before . 

A half century ago, I can state with certainty the fact that the old barns were still standing, and the old silos were still in use for storage, or in some cases for producing this form of sludge that stunk up the area for a 50 yards or so.   There were also still very large facilities out there devoted to crops and livestock  that I would pass by on regular occasions.  Take for examples the chicken from located along my bus route to Middle School and Junior Hish School.  I saw and heard this place everyday that it was passed by my bus heading to school.  This large barn was on the hill heading down to the Hudson River, just uphill from the docks in New Hamburg on Channingville Road.   Passing by it every day, I could hear the characteristic sound of 1000 or more chickens wanting to be fed, not at all a sound as ordinary as that of the moos of a few cows or baas of a few sheep.  These incessant clucks had their way of getting to you each and every day you passed by them.  And once the chicken coop was closed down, we all knew it.  I recently even had the chance to talk to the daughter of the farmer who owned that piece of land, who was just a few years older than me.   Little did she know, I spent many a day in the woods about a quarter of mile from the coop, looking for what I came to realize were her family’s relics and garbage of all things.

Fortunately, when I was young the behaviors attached to trespassing were not as strict as they became by the 1980s.  It was during the 1970s that the seriousness of posted signs resulted in frequent calls to the local police station.  By the end of the 1970s, it was difficult but not impossible to make your way through rugged woodlands by following a stone wall, keeping your head above the thorns and your ankles and arms away from the poison ivy vines that often covered the forest floor.  Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s I continued to use this method of surveying large areas in the woods, hoping to find the next bottle dump or farming contraption left to rust, and by then surrounded by young oak and juniper trees in an overgrown field.

Now that I am older, and can still remember where some of the more unusual places in the area existed, I have made numerous attempts to see some of these important local historical landmarks again.  But some of the more impressive, immemorable examples of these have long been demolished or removed.   Others still remain but are now very old buildings the local knowledge of which has since become nearly forgotten.  To most people residing in this region now, these older buildings are more an eyesore than a piece of personal family heritage.  For those who have not had the fortune of growing up with these historical landforms or property markers, these pieces of local history have little or no meaning.  To myself, the placement of a new sign indicating a place is to be sold, implies the possibility of destruction for these historical buildings, their various property line markers and other forms of bric-a-brac symbolizing their heritage. 

The advantage to age is that as one gets older, if one retains an interest in this piece of local history and managed to adapt some of his/her skills to solving these riddles that others left behind by moving out of the region, one can often come up with a story that had more meaning and local importance than the way it was told when you were a kid. 

 That is what these section are for that I am producing.  Usually I come upon these sites and their findings due to other projects I am currently engaged in.   I came upon the history of amny of the antique farm settings that I could recall from childhood due to the surveillance of west nile I engaged in for several years.  Other places I came upon by happenstance, either by getting lost along the unstraight, winding country roadways this regions likes to give birth to, and other times due to trying to travel a road I never took before during my childhood, just to see what was there.

These are historical sites I have visited and at times returned to photograph in detail.  When possible some of the history of the site is provided.   The history of many of these sites related to local industries, which prior to the 1970s were still heavily engaged in farming, livestock and other natural resource conservation related practices and activities.  IBM and numerous other industries devoted to manufacturing and technology changed all of this by the late 1970s.   The farmers still active in this region are at times newer examples of very old families engaged in these professions as far back as their elders can remember.  But most of the new farming, agriculture and livestock generations are devoted to the modern day commercial needs and interests, such as raising organic crops, working with locally raised non-engineered vegetables and fruits, breeding the next award winning cow, sheep or poult, or initiating a new market related to race horse training, uncruel “sustainable” forms of fox hunting, or raising ostrich, emu, llama and even camels.

The other major industries I hope to cover with these reviews are several natural resource industries related to local plant use and local mined products use.   Examples of these include the specifics related to one of the first deforestation activities in this country’s history–the felling of the evergreens throughout Columbia County by early settlers and immigrants.  The earliest industries devoted to the use of tannins for treating leather were also established in parts of this region.  And finally, there are a number of mining and other earth-related industries that seem to play a strong role in the growth of most of the small towns that were formed by 1850, a number of which have been depopulated and ever since forgotten except by local historical societies.