News and Event Updates from the Office of the Orange County Historian

Celebrate "Mastodon Day"  in Orange County

The Mastodon from Sugar Loaf, nicknamed Sugar, was discovered in 1972 by a black dirt farmer during the spring planting of lettuce and celery. The Mastodon was excavated by the Orange County Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association and donated to SUNY Orange where it has been on display in the Biotech building on the Middletown campus since 1976. 
Weaving through four centuries of religious, political, and scientific debate, the tale of the Mastodon in New York State is a rich and important chapter of our history. It can viewed through an environmental science lens as a window to the Pleistocene era; taught as a case study in t he history of archaeological practice; or evaluated as an agent i n the fracturing of natural philosophy in dozens of scientific disciplines.

With this in mind, one might wonder how something that sparked such serious inquiry at one time has been relegated to a few roadside historic markers and dusty museum exhibits today. In O range County, however, we are lucky to have the tale of the Mastodon firmly incorporated in the fabric of our local identity.
I've hesitated to discuss this fascinating topic since it is expansive enough to warrant more than one article, but several recent developments have prompted me to begin sharing it now.
The Mastodon remains a popular subject in our local schools. Ms. Gil son's fourth grade class wrote letters to County officials asking us to celebrate "Mastod on Day" at Willow Avenue School in Cornwall on Thursday, October 13. At the event,  County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Town Supervisor Richard Randazzo spoke to the children about why preserving the legacy of the Mastodon is an important to Orange County's citizens and I contributed details about Charles Willson Peale's famous 1801 archaeolo gic al expedition. At the end of our presentation one student asked us why the Mastodon is not on our County seal!

But it's not just students who can enjoy a Mastodon history lesson: On Friday, October 28, the series finale of the Tavern Trail will take place at Ward's Bridge Inn in Montgomery, where we will present a program regarding the Mastodons excavated by Charles Willson Peale and illuminate the implications that these discoveries had for the scientific community throughout the western world. The Tavern Trail series provides patrons with a chance to learn about local history in a relaxing and social atmosphere. Stop by for a networking opportunity or just to have a good time.

Finally, students, faculty, staff and visitors to SUNY Orange in Newburgh have been enjoying an exhibit featuring a plaster cast of the Warren Mastodon skull and tusk since September. We hope that this new display, located on the second floor of the campus, will bring more awareness to the significance of the Mastodon and compliment the sister exhibit of "Sugar" the Mastodon at the Middletown campus. Every few days I replenish the flyers at the new exhibit and I can't help but notice that students' genuine enthusiasm and curiosity regarding the relic.

Where can you visit Mastodons from Orange County?

The skeleton of the "Warren" Mastodon is at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City & the plaster cast at SUNY Orange Newburgh 

The original Warren Mastodon skeleton is currently on dis play at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. It was discovered in 1845 in C o ldenham, Town of Montgomery and it has been known to be the most complete skeleton of the American Mastodon species ever recovered worldwide. The skeleton has all of its bones - with the exception of a few toes - and it has both massive tusks intact.
The Warren Mastodon was discovered on the farm of Nathaniel Brewster on Rt. 17K while workers were digging in a bog for peat fuel. They pealed back the soil at the bottom of the bog to cut into 2 feet of peat, then a 1-foot layer of red moss. Beneath the moss they found shell marl and mud where the Mastodon was still articulated upright, with its head tilted towards the sky. It had drowned gasping for air more 11,000 years ago.

The bones were purcha sed from the Brewster family for $10,000. The buyer, Dr. John Collins Warren, a renowned surgeon and Harvard professor, brought the skeleton to Boston where he displayed it until 1925. Dr. Warren wrote, "Language is insufficient to give an idea of the grandeur of this skeleton as a whole. Standing as it does in the midst of those of various large animals - the horse, the cow, others, and towering above them, its massive limbs make them sink into insignificance."

In 2011, the cast of the Warren Mastodon was donated to Orange County for public display by local citizen donors. But it's not just this plaster cast that is available for the public to view. Here in Orange County, there are two exhibits with full skeletons. 

The skeletons of the Harriman and Sugar Loaf Mastodons are on display in Orange County, "Harry" is at Museum Village in Monroe & "Sugar" is at SUNY Orange Middletown campus.

One well-known Mastodon is named "Harry" and was discovered in 1952 on Rt. 17M in Harriman. At the time, Roscoe Smith had recently opened his historical collections to the public at Museum Village in Monroe, so he organized an effort to exhume the bones for display. Smith enlisted the help of Dr. Edwin Harris Colbert, curator of the American Museum of Natural History's Paleontology department, and together they excavated the site.

There's also the famous "Sugar" Mastodon which originated in Sugar Loaf, between Chester and Warwick. It was discovered in 1972 by a black dirt farmer during the spring planting of lettuce and celery. The Mastodon was excavated by the Orange County Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association and donated to SUNY Orange where it has been on display in the Biotech building on the Middletown campus since 1976.
Natural History museums throughout the world have collected specimens.

Mastodons from Orange County can be seen in other places as well. The famous "Peale" Mastodon, excavated by Charles Willson Peale in 1801, is now in Damstadt, Germany after many years with P.T. Barnum. The "Marsh Skeleton," discovered in Otisville, is currently at the Peabody Museum in Yale University due to the speedy actions of Professor Othniel Marsh to retrieve it before Professor Waterhouse Hawkins of Princeton could arrive. And at the New York State Museum in Albany, there's a display of the Temple Hill or "McMillin" Mastodon as it is sometimes known, bearing the name of the donor who paid for the excavation. A partial find known as the "Balmville Skull" has ended up at the Bear Mountain Zoo and countless bones have been discovered and sold as souvenirs to private collectors throughout the world.

Now that we've covered the "what" and "where" of the New York Mastodons, I hope to follow-up in future newsletters with more of my research regarding the philosophical debates and patriotic urgency that surrounded each of these discoveries in their time.


Johanna Yaun
Orange County Historian
Community Updates
On Saturday October 8th, local officials joined together with the New York State Society Colonial Dames to unveil a new historic marker at the Edmonton House in New Windsor. The property was used to house Officers the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. In 1782-3, the surrounding area was populated by over 7,000 troops while General Washington waited for word from Europe determining the declaration of peace. County officials who participated include County Legislator Chris Eachus on the far left and County Historian Johanna Yaun on the far right.
Thrall Public Library in Middletown (pictured above) and the County Historian's Office co-hosted a talk by Erin Tobin, Director of Preservation, at the Preservation League of New York State on Thursday, October 6th. To a packed room, Erin delivered an overview regarding "Preservation 101: Eligibility & Historic Tax Credits" and took questions from the many home and business owners who were present. We hope to have her back again next year to continue this discussion. 
The Orange County Historian represented the Mid-Hudson Valley with  Bradford Kendall  &  William P. Tatum III  at the Preserving and Promoting the History of New York State Conference. They're pictured here with State Historian Devin Lander, New York State Archivist Thomas Ruller and Author Bruce Dearstyne. Not pictured from our region were the Putnam County Historian Sarah Johnson and the Hyde Park Historian Barbara Hobens.  
Local Opinion
What do you see as an underutilized historical resources in Orange County?

"In a County full of major historic attractions -- West Point, Goshen Racetrack, National Purple Heart Museum, Washington's Headquarters -- there are also many out of the way, small, local historic attractions that deserve our attention.  One such place is in my constituency of the Village of Walden, where you will find the Jacob T. Walden Stone House.  Built in the 1730s, it is the oldest home in Walden and also one of the oldest houses remaining in Orange County.  Jacob Treadwell Walden, a successful shipping merchant, resided there with his family beginning in the 1820s.  Today, the home houses the Walden Historical Society, and is open to the public as a museum on a limited basis."

Mike Anagnostakis
Orange County Legislator

Upcoming Events
Native Americans of the Hudson Highlands: the Legacy of the Algonquin People of Our Region

Tuesday, October 18 at 7:30 PM

Hosted by the Cornwall Nature Museum

Award winning historian and Native American author Evan Pritchard will share his research on the Algonquin history of the Hudson Highlands, from the Muhool (ferry boat) crossing at Newburgh, to Cornwall Bay where Henry Hudson anchored, to Kowawese (Plum Point) to Pasquaskeck (Storm King) to Iona Island's ceremonial circle, to Popolopen Creek, to Bear Mountain, and more. Using maps and photos, Mr. Pritchard will outline Algonquin trails, villages, and waterways, and discuss the origins of place names such as Kowawese, Popolopen, Matteawan, Quassaic, Woodcock (Wenigticonk), and Schunnemunk Mountains. Book signing to follow.
Non-members $7
Museum members: $5
Refreshments available.
Prepaid registration is not required.
Come early for better seating.

The Cornwall Presbyterian Fellowship Hall
222 Hudson Street
Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY 
The Battle of Minisink Revisited: Conflicting Perceptions and Fresh Interpretations of its Cause, the Conflict and its Catastrophic Consequences

Wednesday, October 19th at 7 PM

The Neversink Valley Museum of History and Innovation is excited to have the distinguished Dr. Richard W. Hull, Professor of History Emeritus, New York University and Warwick resident to give a History Talk on "The Battle of Minisink Revisited: Conflicting Perceptions and Fresh Interpretations of its Cause, the Conflict, and Its Catastrophic Consequences."

Dr. Hull is the author of nine books including 'People of the Valleys: A History of Warwick 1700-2005', also he serves as the Municipal Historian, Town of Warwick. The Professor attended Rutgers University and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. He is currently the host of 'History Alive!' a weekly talk show on WTBQ (AM & FM)
Dr. Hull's talk will critically examine the tragic 1779 Battle of Minisink.  Taking the conflicting perspectives of its combatants: a local American revolutionary militia, a unit of Empire Loyalists, and a band of Native American fighters, Professor Hull will weigh the accounts of its participants focusing of its key actors:  Mohawk Colonel Joseph Brant and Warwick revolutionary Colonel John Hathorn. He will then set their views in a broad context of historically-recurring issues of rebellion, land possession, race and ethnicity, and cultural diversity, over the generations there has been much myth, legend and raw emotion surrounding this pivotal Revolutionary War conflict. Dr. Hull will argue for a more balanced interpretation. The talk promises to be thought provoking, eye-opening, and innovative in its approach.
Cost: $5 for Members and $7 for Non-Members
Light refreshments will be served. For more information please visit the Museum website or call 845-754-8870. Facebook Invite

D&H Canal Park Visitor's Center, 58 Hoag Road (Just off Rout 209) Cuddebackville, NY 12729.
The Cleaning, Repair and Maintenance of our Historic Cemeteries

Thursday, October 20th from 1 PM to 3 PM

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun are pleased to announce that a workshop on the care and maintenance of historic cemeteries has been scheduled for Thursday, October 20 from 1 until 3pm at the Orange County EMS Center, 22 Wells Farm Road, Goshen.  

The workshop will be moderated by cemetery preservation expert Marianne McCaffrey Greenfield. A 20 year member and past board officer of the Association for Gravestone Studies, Greenfield presents cemetery preservation programs for groups across the Hudson Valley such as the NYS Association of Cemeteries, NY Historical Societies, the DAR as well as area libraries, and rotary clubs. Topics covered include the proper cleaning and repair of tombstones and markers, resetting stones, transcribing the carvings, and maintaining cemetery grounds. Facebook Invite

Orange County EMS Center
22 Wells Farm Road
Goshen, NY 10924

Friday, October 21st from 6:30 to 10 PM

Opening Night of our new Haunt, now with a Haunted Hayride!! Also open on Sat October 22, Friday October 28, and Saturday October 29. Tickets purchased online are valid for any one night we are open. Facebook Invite

Orange County Farmers Museum
850 Rte 17K, Montgomery
New York 12549

Monday, October 24th at 10 AM

Cost: $85 members/$160 nonmembers
Course runs: October 24- Nov 18
For more information, contact 

Learn more & register on website or by 
Facebook Invite

The newly revised Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices.

The course consists of five lessons:

-Archives and Archivists
-Acquiring Your Collections
-Processing Collections
-Housing Your Collections
-Access and Outreach

The course is web-based and takes 15-20 hours to complete. There are no required times to be online. You may finish the course anytime during the four-week course period.

Who Should Take This Course?

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with archival materials.

West Point's Landscape, 1802-1820

Tuesday, October 25 at 7:30 PM

Hosted by the Cornwall Nature Museum

What did the Military Academy look like when it opened officially in 1802? Dr. Jon Malinowski, Professor of Geography in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at West Point, uses rarely seen graphics and newly created recreations of buildings to explore a West Point now physically lost. The focus will be on buildings present in 1802, the construction of the first large stone buildings in 1815, and the arrival of the first houses that remain today.

Non-members $7
Museum members: $5
Refreshments available.
Prepaid registration is not required.
Come early for better seating.

The Cornwall Presbyterian Fellowship Hall
222 Hudson Street
Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY 
The Historic Tavern Trail at Ward's Bridge Inn

Friday, October 28th from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM

Join us at the historic Ward's Bridge Inn in Montgomery for the last event in the Historic Tavern Trail series. Enjoy our signature cocktail, the "Apple Jack Downing," made from local ingredients and listen to a short talk about the famous Mastodon that was excavated by Charles Willson Peale nearby in 1801. Dinner after the program is optional but reservations are needed. 

135 Ward Street
Montgomery, NY 12549
No Scare Halloween at Museum Village

Saturday & Sunday, October 29 & 30 from 11 AM to 4 PM

Once again, Museum Village is making it a No Scare Halloween Weekend to ensure everyone has a chance to enjoy! On Saturday, October 29 and Sunday, October 30 from 11:00AM - 4:00PM enjoy Halloween Fun on the green at Museum Village. The museum offers a very safe environment where the children can enjoy the festivities. There will be games, crafts, scavenger hunt, magic show, hay maze and a hay ride! We'll also have a grill tent with hot dogs & hamburgers, as well as our snack bar with goodies! Gift shop will also be open. We hope to see you here!  Adults: $12.00  Seniors (65+): $10.00  Children (4 - 12): $8.00 Children (under 4): Free Facebook Invite
Local History/Sites in the News

Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun