News & Upcoming Events in
Orange County History & Heritage
17 May 2021
Historic Marker Unveiled at Washingtonville Cemetery

By MJ Hanley-Goff

On a blustery Saturday among the quiet greenery of Washingtonville’s historic cemetery, two of Orange County’s infamous Revolutionary War personalities were remembered. One for a murderous deed, and the other for his service for his country. Meet Claudius Smith and Major Nathaniel Strong.

A group of about 40 or gathered to view the unveiling of a special historic marker standing tall at the intersection of North Street and the entrance to the cemetery which commemorates the “many Veterans & Major Nathaniel Strong, murdered by Loyalists 1778.” Guests learned about the Major’s death by Smith and his men, known as the Cowboys in a reading by the Major’s “paternal 2nd cousin, 8 times removed,” Jill Moore. Smith, says Moore, was a devoted Loyalist and came upon the Strong’s home in the middle of the night, firing shots through the door, hitting the Major. As he lay dying, he identified Smith as the killer. Smith was soon captured, and with a trial held in Goshen, was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang.

Moore, also the chapter registrar for the Quassaick Chapter of the DAR, helped to spearhead the process of applying for the marker. “When I moved to Orange County from Ohio, my [family] tree happened to explode about that time at the Woodhull line, and in researching Colonel Jesse Woodhull, I found Major Nathaniel Strong's story. When I began volunteering on the Washingtonville Cemetery Committee, I brought up perhaps getting a historic NYS sign.” That was in June 2020, and just three months later, Moore along with Washingtonville’s Historian Linda Standish who worked with Moore on the project, were informed the marker had been approved.

The ceremony was held on May 1, coinciding with Washingtonville Cemetery’s founding by the First Presbyterian Church one hundred and sixty years ago. Standish opened the ceremonies with a welcoming message and handed the podium to members of the cemetery staff, the DAR and SAR representatives; among the crowd was Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, Blooming Grove Supervisor Robert Jeroloman, and Mayor Joseph Bucco. After the Pledge of Allegiance, remarks by Elder Hanora Sullivan on the church’s history, and a congratulations from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, the purple curtain was removed by Moore and Standish; representatives of a 124th New York State Volunteer Company, a Civil War Soldier re-enactor unit provided a military salute. After the unveiling, the group moved to the center of the cemetery for a prayer service at Major Strong’s burial place as a wreath and DAR marker was placed beside the headstone.

Applying for the historic marker is no easy task, says Moore. “We did have to provide primary documentation about the cemetery to show our founding date of 1854,” she explains. “We were lucky to have deeds and an original, dated 1855 map drawn by the Honorable Robert Denniston with the original plots laid out. We also provided a front-page story from The Whig Press by one of the church elders who discussed the cemetery and church right after it opened. He also mentioned some of the earliest burials which we were able to document with Find a Grave to corroborate the early dates. I think the ‘key’ was our three deeds…they'd be hard to dispute. For Major Nathaniel Strong's part, we used NSDAR records, Fold3 records, and relied heavily on the papers of General George Clinton where the coroner had taken testimony from the Major’s wife.” 

The interest sparked by the marker has also been a boost for the local cemetery which Moore says, “was in dire straits financially.” She says, “It was felt there was no community interest in it or its history. We set out to change that about a year ago. We launched a website with a blog and a Facebook page where we share stories of the people buried there. The interest has been phenomenal,” and adds, “we're very energized to see more people now caring about the cemetery and taking an active interest in saving and preserving it.

The Office of the Orange County Historian has been hosting gravestone cleaning training programs for the past five years and invite residents who have a local cemetery in need of help to contact Nicole Nazzaro at nnazzaro@0rangecountygov.com . Please note that cemetery headstones require a special cleaning process, and everyday cleaning products and techniques should not be used. 
 
MJ Hanley-Goff, freelance writer, enjoys writing about Hudson Valley history. mjgoff758@gmail.com. 
Gravestone Cleaning Workshops
Marianne Greenfield, proprietor of Gravestone Cleaning Service will instruct up to 16 participants on the proper techniques of caring for gravestones. She will begin with a quick talk about the only recommended method of cleaning and then the hands-on portion of the workshop will begin. Expect to get a bit dirty - the results will be worth it!
 
Each participant is asked to bring the following:
1. New, clean plastic pail.
2. New nylon or plastic bristle scrub brush (be sure it fits in your hand in the pail). Both pail and brush can be from the dollar store.
3. One pair of new, unused wooden chopsticks.
4. A gallon jug of water (used to clean the gravestones as there is limited water access at this cemetery).
5. Own drinking water, insect repellent, bag lunch or snack, if needed.
 
Over the past year, many plans have changed due to the pandemic, but we are extremely grateful to still be able to offer our gravestone cleaning workshops. When you arrive, please keep in mind to maintain a proper social distance from other participants, avoid sharing tools, and wear a mask when in close proximity to others.
 
Contact Nicole at NNazzaro@orangecountygov.com if you have any questions and/or to reserve one of the 16 sponsored spaces.
2021 Cemetery Locations
May 22nd: 11AM to 1PM at Mt. Hope Plains Cemetery located at approximately 23 Mt. Hope Ave, Otisville, NY 10963 (near the intersection with Finchville Turnpike).
 
June 19th: TBA
 
August 14th: 11AM to 1PM at St. Andrew’s Cemetery located at 2-4 Plains Rd, Walden, NY 12586.
 
September 18th: 11AM to 1PM at the Vails Gate United Methodist Church Cemetery located at 854 Blooming Grove Turnpike, New Windsor, NY 12553.
Orange County Historic Collections Committee Meeting
A regular meeting of the Orange County Historic Collections Committee will take place on Thursday, May 27th at 11:00AM. The meeting will be held remotely via Zoom. Please email us if you'd like to have the meeting link sent to you. Contact Nicole Nazzaro nnazzaro@orangecountygov.com
Add Your Local Events to the NYS Path Through History
Calendar!
2021 Path Through History Weekends Dates:  
Spring - June 19-20, 2021   •   Fall - October 9-11, 2021

The 2021 weekend program will allow for sites to host in-person live events, online virtual events, or a combination of both formats. 

  • All events must meet the I LOVE NY event listing guidelines, and include at least one high-quality photo and a 250-1500 character description to be considered for approval.      
                
  • In-person live events will be evaluated based on the current New York State COVID-19 event and gatherings guidance at the time of submission. Events submitted more than three months in advance of the event start date will be held for approval until the three-month mark.       
        
  • A virtual event may include access to digital archives, a live stream event, a virtual tour, a video demonstration, or a short lecture or educational event. These events can be scheduled for a specific time or date, or continuously live for the public to access at their convenience. Virtual event offerings will be approved for weekend dates only.  
                                                
  • Spring weekend registration deadline: June 16, 2021   

Host sites can participate in one or both of the weekends; there is no obligation to participate in both. If your organization is holding an event during these time frames that connects with New York State history, we encourage you to participate so we can include it in our promotional efforts. 

Historic Marker Grants Through the William G. Pomeroy Foundation
The 2021 deadline to apply to the William G. Pomeroy Foundation for funding to erect local historic markers in Regions 1-3 (Orange County is in Region #3) is fast approaching.

4/26/21 – Application becomes available online
6/7/21 – Deadline to submit Letter of Intent (LOI) to verify primary sources. Submit your proposed marker inscription and list the primary source documentation you have assembled to verify the historic accuracy of your text.
7/09/21 – Application deadline
9/27/21 – Applicant receives email notification regarding application status

MISSING HISTORIC MARKER
Historic Marker Missing from in front of Old Goshen Hospital. Have you seen it?
The historic marker from the Old Goshen Hospital on Greenwich Avenue is missing. The marker is a state historic marker that was installed on the site in 1976. If anyone knows where the sign is, it would be greatly appreciated if it was returned. If anyone has seen the sign, please contact me by leaving a message at Village Hall (845-294-6750) or sending me a message via Facebook (www.facebook.com/ed.connor.3720)

Sincerely,

Ed Connor, Village of Goshen Historian
New Historical Fiction Based on Orange County History
Red Badge to Gettysburg: A Sequel to
The Red Badge of Courage

by Charles J. LaRocca

DOCUMENTING COVID-19
Documenting the Covid-19 Pandemic in Orange County

It has been one year since the pandemic began to alter our lives in so many ways. At this time of anniversary and reflection, please consider submitting a record of your thoughts and experiences so that it can be part of the permanent archive. Future researchers will thank you!

***Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, public access to the 1841 Courthouse in Goshen is by appointment only.***
Email if you have an inquiry!
All visitors to the building must wear a mask. Contact Nicole nnazzaro@orangecountygov.com or Johanna jyaun@orangecountygov.com we may be able to help you by email, phone or Zoom Video Conference.
Office of the Orange County Historian 101 Main Street Goshen NY 10924 845-360-6978