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

Happy Birthday 
Orange County!!

Incorporated on November 1, 1683 as one of twelve counties in the Province of New York. These territories were run by Royal Governors under the direction of the British monarchy. During the Revolutionary War, Orange County became part of "New York State" when the first state constitution was approved in Kingston on April 20, 1777. Then in  1798 the county's borders were changed to the present form, carving away what is now Rockland County and adding the Town and City of Newburgh.

Orange County was named for the Prince of Orange who subsequently became King William III of England. He and his wife Queen Mary II ruled England as co-monarchs. 

Today marks 333 years since Orange County was established. 
Things that go bump in the night 
at our local historic sites

By M.J. Hanley-Goff

This time of year when the days get shorter, the weather turns windier and darker, the events calendar at our historic sites get busy with Halloween-themed activities. The  McGarrah's Innhas a long and illustrious history, with a variety of owners, with a variety of businesses, from a stagecoach inn, psychiatric hospital, restaurant, and now a meeting hall and community center.  And it's supposed "underground tunnels," provide enough fodder for folklore.  Was it for bootlegging?  A stop on the "underground railroad" during the Civil War?  Who knows. 

Linda Zimmermann is standing beside her power point presentation at Monroe's McGarrah's Inn relating tales of her ghost adventures in and around the County. The writer of many haunted Hudson Valley books and lectures, as well as a scientific "ghost" hunter, Linda has many stories to tell, and on this windy, rainy night, at least 40 Monroe Library patrons came to hear her experiences about the things that go bump in the night.

One of McGarrah's board members, Bob, was in the audience and mentioned a few experiences he's had in the place when he felt that he wasn't alone. There are stories of a "man with a wide brim hat" seen wandering, black masses forming from nowhere and moving up the stairs, and faces appearing in the bathroom mirror.  Because of its reputation, ghost hunters from throughout the Hudson Valley have lined up to spend the night at the Inn. But, the question arises, do these Halloween events help or hurt a site's historic "reputation?"

While over in New  Windsor, Knox's Headquarters had their own unique and original offering for some thrills and chills. The site's volunteers put on a macabre "theatrical presentation" of a gothic short story involving family curses, murder and general mayhem. Presented every half hour on another cold and stormy night, the live action story took visitors (my group had about 25) from various candlelit rooms as the drama unfolded. We saw a family grieve their beloved, albeit murdered son, a heated dispute in the parlor, and a climactic confrontation -- complete with a musket shot -- in the graveyard (where else?).

Despite their short season (sometimes only one night, sometimes just a weekend), these events are well thought out, some with only a skeleton crew of volunteers. Knox Headquarters spokesperson, Chad Johnson, who also played a Colonel in the show, explains: 
"The event has been in the development stages for several years.  It evolved out of a desire to create a program about what would scare people in the 18th century.  So there was a fairly long brainstorming process of how to bring all these elements together into a single program that had a single narrative. The concept of the staff writing a fictional gothic novel was ultimately the idea of James Finelli, one of our staff at the time, who returned on Saturday to play the cursed George Milton.  The actual development of the script took less time than coming up with the context of the program.  James Finelli and I over the course of a day or two wrote the script with input from the rest of the staff at the two sites.  Each aspect of the program from this fear of curses, the physical appearance of the two ghosts, the masquerade, and the watch has a basis in the 18th century." 
"Each cast member spent a couple hours working on their lines alone or in small groups.  We did a couple practice runs as a group. Two of our participants, Amelia (Clarissa) and Tyler (Edward) come from a acting background so they are familiar with putting on performances. The rest of our staff and volunteers have participated in various first person programs that we have done over the years. Those events are unscripted so working off a script was a new experience for many of us."

Do these events hurt or harm the dignity of the historic site? We asked Chad.  

"Dark tourism," he says, "Whether focused on ghost programs or various other aspects of the genre, is very popular at this time.  I think the attention it has focused on historic sites is positive.  I know for us that the challenge was developing a program that works with the educational mission of the site." 

So, that gives us an interesting question to ask:

To our history fans out there, do you think that ghost tours, Halloween events, and the like hurt a historic site's "dignity," or help it attract a new audience? We'd like to know!

Share your story with us, with pictures if possible, at Send by November 7th and we may put your comments in our newsletter.

Community Updates
After a decade long effort to raise funds for the restoration of the Tower of Victory at Washington's Headquarters Newburgh, work began this week. By next summer, the staircase, deck and roof will be restored and open to the public to enjoy the view down the Hudson River. Congratulations to everyone who worked to raise the money and awareness to see this project through! 
November is New York State History Month

Historians, museums, historic sites, archives, and libraries across the state are invited to present events, tours, lectures, discussions, publications, and exhibitions that highlight the importance of New York State history and the role the history community (and the public) play in preserving it.

More information about NYS History Month
#OTD in History
In case you missed it, this was going around on social media over the past couple weeks:

October 18, 1867: Alaska joins the United States! Secretary of State William H. Seward closes the sale with the Russians for $7 million. Although Seward was mocked by some pundits, many recognized that his shrewd deal greatly expanded the territory of the USA, adding millions of acres rich in natural resources and pure beauty. Walter Stahr discusses Seward's many accomplishments and contributions in his definitive bio

William H. Seward was born in Florida, NY and practiced law in Goshen. His childhood home survives and there's a Friends group there who are raising funds to have it restored and opened to the public. 

Upcoming Events
Dry Stone Wall Workshop

Friday thru Sunday, Nov 4-6 at 8 AM

Learn the art and craft of dry stone walling from some of the top instructors in North America this fall!

The Trail Conference is holding a special dry stone walling workshop in partnership with The Stone Trust that will take place at our historic headquarters Nov. 4-6. 

This workshop aims to complete a permanent, freestanding wall in front of our offices at the restored Darlington Schoolhouse in Mahwah, N.J. The wall will be built using standard structural practices; the style of work will match the historic dry stone walls and fences of the area.  

Homeowners, contractors, and dry stone wall enthusiasts of all skill levels are invited to sign up. Friday's workshop is optional to learn about worksite prep and management. Over the course of the weekend, participants will learn: 

How to set up a site for efficient dry stone walling
How to build and set up batter frames and string lines
How to prepare a sturdy foundation for dry stone walls
How to efficiently sort and lay out stone to speed up the building process
Knowledge of the correct basic structural rules to follow when building
Understand the terminology of dry stone walling
Ability to identify and manage stones for maximum value
Ability to identify properly built walls
Know safe construction practices

Our dry stone wall workshops are a collaboration between the Trail Conference and The Stone Trust from Dummerston, Vt. The Stone Trust advocates for the preservation of existing dry stone walls and promotes using the correct structural standards for the construction and restoration of dry stone walls. The instruction for these workshops will be led by three of the top Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA-GB) Certified Dry Stone Walling Instructors in North America who will be using the creation of a dry stone wall in front of the Schoolhouse as an unparalleled teaching tool in the New York City metro area. 

Construction of a freestanding, dry stone wall is an essential requirement in the Trail Conference's restoration and renovation of the historic Darlington Schoolhouse. The wall will run over 160 feet along Ramapo Valley Road and be 3-feet tall. It will be built using a variety of local fieldstone and quarried stone. Neighboring Ramapo College of New Jersey has donated fieldstone, while quarried stone has been donated by Legacy Stoneworks, Inc. / The Hillburn Granite Company, Inc. Over 100 tons of stone will be used to complete the wall. 

Licensed landscape architects can receive 7.5 LA CES credit hours for attending the site prep workshop on Friday, and 15 credit hours for the workshop held Saturday and Sunday. Take both for 22.5 credit hours-almost two years' worth in three days!  

Please note that this is a specially contracted workshop, therefore neither Trail Conference, nor Stone Trust membership discounts will be given.  

Registration is open at

"Your Excellency's Dog kennel at Mount Vernon is as good a Quarter as that I am now in" at Edmonston House

Saturday, Nov 5 at 8 PM

Meet Saratoga victor and New Windsor Cantonment commander Major General Horatio Gates who was not very happy to be assigned this house for the winter of 1782-83. Call (845) 561-1765 x22

Edmonston House
1042 Route 94
New Windsor, NY 12553

Thanksgiving Tasting at Museum Village

Saturday & Sunday, Nov 5 & 6 from Noon to 4 PM

Museum Village will be having its annual traditional 19th Century Thanksgiving Tasting on Saturday and Sunday, 12-4 both days. We'll do a combination of recipes from the 17th century (first thanksgiving), but primarily of recipes from the Civil War (when Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday). Visitors will be able to sample small amounts of many dishes, which will vary throughout the day as they're cooked. Come taste General Grant's cucumber salad, Gingerbread, Hard tack, Soups, Pies and other Thanksgiving delicacies! Facebook Invite

Adults $12.00; Seniors (65+) $10.00; Children 4-12 $8.00 

Museum Village
1010 State Route 17M, Monroe, New York 10950

Landscape Conservation in the Hudson River Valley

Monday, Nov 7 from 8 AM to 6 PM

Celebrate 100 years with National Park Service and join the FDR Presidential Library and Museum for a day-long conference on conserving our parks and the Hudson River Valley for the next 100 years. 

Presented by  Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area , Hudson River Valley Greenway, the  Regional Plan Association , and  The Benjamin Center . Facebook Invite.

Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center
4079 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, New York 12538

Interpreting Native American History and Culture at Museums and Historic Sites

Monday, Nov 7 from at 3 PM

Cost: $40 Members/ $65 Nonmembers
Learn more & Register:

Many museums and historic sites pride themselves on telling inclusive stories about the histories of the people in the communities they serve. Institutions often collaborate with groups within those communities to create better exhibitions and programming. 

But, when there is a long history of exclusion and disenfranchisement within the museum framework, as is the case for the numerous Native nations and First Nations tribes of North America , how can cultural institutions make efforts to have better relationships with these historically under-served communities? In today's world, how can we provide space for and elevation to the voices of those who have been historically silenced?

The Interpreting Native American History and Culture at Museums and Historic Sites webinar will provide strategies for engaging with Native Americans beyond the legal framework of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), in order to work collaboratively, share authority, and incorporate multiple ways of knowing about the past into all interpretation about Native people, objects, histories, and cultures. Raney Bench will provide insight and methods on how best to purposefully work to incorporate the history, culture, and perspectives of indigenous peoples into your institutions' interpretative programming.

About the Speaker

Raney Bench is the Executive Director of the Seal Cove Automotive Museum in Seal Cove, Maine. Raney Bench has a Bachelors of Art in Native American Studies and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies. She has worked with Native communities and small museums throughout the United States for almost 20 years. Raney is the author of Interpreting Native American History and Culture at Museums and Historic Sites, published by AASLH in 2014.

Veterans Day at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor

Wreath laying in honor of Veteran's Day to remember all those who served in the Armed Forces.  At 2:30, there will be a tribute to veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and 9/11.  Seating limited, reservations recommended. In the case of rain, event will be held indoors.
374 Temple Hill Road
New Windsor, NY 12553 - 845-561-1765
53rd Annual Convention & Dinner Ontario & Western Railway Historical Society, Inc.

Saturday, November 12 

Download Complete Convention Flyer Including Registration Form, Raffle Prizes and Raffle Sheet on the Main Page of the Ontario Express Newsletter Site at  You DO NOT have to be a Member to access this form it is on the Home page.

Convention Theme - Along the Rivers; The O&W From Livingston Manor to Cadosia.
Featured Presenters Doug Barberio, Jeff Otto & Allan Seebach

Car Tour from Cornwall to Meadowbrook with Ray Kelly Starts from the Meadowbrook Lodge @ 9:45 am Sharp

Starting Time: Convention - 11:30 am
Admission - $48.00 (With Dinner) $28.00 (Without Dinner)
Modeling Clinic at 11:30 By Mal Houck
Short Program on Livingston Manor By Joe Myers
Roscoe Museum Presentation By Charlie Irace
O&W Collectibles, Models, Dioramas, Photo Displays

The Meadowbrook Lodge 
1290 Route 94 
New Windsor, New York 12553
Hudson Valley Ruins Lecture & Book Signing

Sunday, Nov 12 at 1 PM

Join photographers Thomas Rinaldi and Robert Yasinsac as they present photographs from the Hudson Valley Ruins exhibition, together with historic images, to tell the story of the region through its ruins. The authors will be offering a glimpse of their work as homage to the many deserted buildings along the river as well as a plea for their preservation.

Their book, Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmark of an American Landscape, will be available for sale in the Museum shop. Facebook Invite 

New York State Museum
3140 Cultural Education Center
Albany, New York 12230
Guest Bartending at the Newburgh Brewing Company

Sunday, Nov 13 from 2 PM to 5 PM

Come enjoy tavern games, and special guest bartenders while supporting Museum Village.
88 Colden Street
Newburgh, NY 12550
Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun