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

Orange County mobilizes, 100 years ago
Artist Horace Pippin grew up in Goshen, NY where he taught himself to draw by sketching the horses at the Harness Racing Track. His war journal shows depictions of the "Harlem Hell-Fighters" while serving with under French command in France.

One Hundred Years Ago this week: the Harlem Hell-fighters were sent to Camp Wadsworth for combat training

When a declaration of war was made by Congress on April 4, 1917, the Newburgh Daily News published an article asking for the reformation of the famed "Orange Blossoms" volunteer regiment to lead the way to the enemy lines. New York State Governor Charles Whitman was contacted and he gave his approval of the plan saying it was "a fine and patriotic idea." Enrollment papers were placed at the offices of the Middletown Times Press, Goshen Democrat and Port Jervis Union within two day 23 men signed up. By April 20th Captain George E. Whitmore of Sloatsburg reported that over 150 men were organized to "emulate" the proud reputation of the old Orange Blossoms adding "we are going to the front and want to get there as quickly as possible." The group sent a letter to Theodore Roosevelt requesting that if he were approved to lead a regiment in France, that they would like to be his men.

However in early May, the War Department decided to organize National Guard and regular Army units rather than allow for local volunteer units. National Guard recruiters arrived to place many of those men into the 1st Regiment (soon to be the 107th) and the Navy set up an office in Newburgh as well. The recruiters were located at "the store of John Schoonmaker and Son, and at the same time Major Hamilton Fish, Jr., came here seeking recruits" for the 15th New York Regiment (soon to be the 369th), the first African-American regiment raised to serve in the Great War.
Captain Hamilton Fish with members of Company K, 369th Infantry in 1917

I n late July, the men of the 15th Regiment were called to service at Camp Whitman in Poughkeepsie where they learned basic military practices such as marching in formation. They were soon split into three battalions and sent to guard the rail lines throughout New York State.

Then, one hundred years ago this week, the soldiers of the 15th Regiment were transported to join the white soldiers from the 107th Regiment who had arrived at Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, SC for combat training a few weeks earlier (the subject of last month's e-newsletter). There the black soldiers faced racism from local shop owners and townspeople. One serious incident occurred when Sergeant Noble Sissle, an accomplished musician with the regiment band, was physically assaulted as he tried to purchase a newspaper in a segregated hotel. A group of white soldiers from New York came to his aid and "threatened to tear up the hotel lobby" but they were stopped by another black soldier and musician, Lieutenant James Reese Europe, who urged them to deescalate the situation. After only two weeks of combat training, markedly less than any of the white units, the 15th Regiment was sent back to New York to await transport to the front.

On December 27, 1917, the men of the 15th regiment arrived in France, the first black unit to reach Europe. They were assigned to the 16th French division and although they continued to wear their American uniforms, they were given French helmets, rifles and gas masks. Facing the language barrier, lack of extensive training at Camp Wadsworth, and the challenge of adjusting to French Lebel rifles, the men soon-to-be-known-as the "Harlem Hell-fighters" marched to the Argonne Forest.

We'll continue to follow our local soldiers as we commemorate the centennial of American deployment to Europe during the Great War.
Link to the Moffitt Library of Washingtonville's blog page to read about Blooming Grove's African-American heritage as associated with the 369th Regiment.
An image of a Warwick home from the Smithsonian Collection featured in a recent article
Parlor scene of G. Burk, Warwick, New York (3D stereoscopic photos of house interiors in New York in the 1800's)
When the Idea of Home Was Key to American Identity

From log cabins to Gilded Age mansions, how you lived determined where you belonged

Like viewers using an old-fashioned stereoscope, historians look at the past from two slightly different angles-then and now. The past is its own country, different from today. But we can only see that past world from our own present. And, as in a stereoscope, the two views merge.

I have been living in America's second Gilded Age-our current era that began in the 1980s and took off in the 1990s-while writing about the first, which began in the 1870s and continued into the early 20th century. The two periods sometimes seem like doppelgängers: worsening inequality, deep cultural divisions, heavy immigration, fractious politics, attempts to restrict suffrage and civil liberties, rapid technological change, and the reaping of private profit from public governance.

In each, people debate what it means to be an American. In the first Gilded Age, the debate centered on a concept so encompassing that its very ubiquity can cause us to miss what is hiding in plain sight. That concept was the home, the core social concept of the age. If we grasp what 19th-century Americans meant by home, then we can understand what they meant by manhood, womanhood, and citizenship.

I am not sure if we have, for better or worse, a similar center to our debates today. Our meanings of central terms will not, and should not, replicate those of the 19th century. But if our meanings do not center on an equivalent of the home, then they will be unanchored in a common social reality. Instead of coherent arguments, we will have a cacophony.

Read more in Smithsonian Magazine
Follow @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Community Updates
County Executive Steve Neuhaus and County Historian Johanna Yaun answered questions from students in Mrs. Gilson's 4th grade class at Willow Avenue School in Cornwall. This tradition began three years ago when the students wrote to the County Government to ask if they could host this annual event dedicated to learning about Mastodons and other Pleistocene remains that have been found in Orange County since the 18th century.
At the annual Orange County Veterans Day ceremony at the Orange County Veterans Cemetery on September 29th, descendants of the men died overseas during World War I brought along tributes to the soldiers. Here a display for Horace Murtha from Middletown who was killed in action at the Hindenburg Line and is buried at the American cemetery in Bony, France.
Battle reenactment between from the Patriot perspective at the annual "Twin Forts Day" held at Fort Montgomery State Historic Site.
Pictured here with  Jeannine Miller,  President Rotary Club of Greater Newburgh, 
County Historian Johanna Yaun was the guest speaker at the Powelton Club on October 10th. 
Volunteer Ken Columbia at the Friends of Hathorn House event hosted by the new owners of th historic home in Warwick.
Volunteer MaryAnn Knight offered tours of the Hathorn House during the encampment event in Warwick.
Upcoming Events, Training & Conferences
No Scare Halloween Weekend at Museum Village

October 14 & 15, 11AM to 4PM

Once again, Museum Village is making it a No Scare Halloween Weekend to ensure everyone has a chance to enjoy! Enjoy Halloween Fun on the green at Museum Village! The museum offers a very safe environment where children can enjoy games, crafts, a magic show, scavenger hunt, costume parade, goodies at the snack bar and explore our buildings!

Adults: $12.00
Seniors (65+): $10.00
Children (4 - 12): $8.00
Children (under 4): Free

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

Cemetery care workshop at Gumaer Cemetery in Deerpark

October 14, 11AM to 1PM

This is the last in the 2017 series of cemetery workshops. The event will be "hands on" with cleaning and repairs done by all participants. 

The workshops 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 New York State Association of Cemeteries, New York Historical Societies, as well as area libraries, and rotary clubs.

Greenfield lives in the Village of Walton, in Delaware County, and serves as the Delhi Town Historian.

"Orange County has a wealth of historic cemeteries, and some of them are in desperate need of proper maintenance," Yaun said. "Because the tombstones and markers are made from a variety of materials and have become fragile due to weather extremes, they require unique cleaning materials and repair methods. Marianne has done this work for years, and her guidance will ensure that the cemetery stones will receive proper care."

The training opportunity is sponsored by the Office of the Orange County Historian and therefore free for participants. Contact Judy Testa for information about the location

Archaeological Discoveries in the Lower Hudson Valley Symposium

Saturday, October 21 at 9 AM - 5 PM

Scheduled Presentations:
*The Prehistory Of The Lower Hudson Valley
*The Dutchess Quarry Caves Site Near Florida, NY
*Archaeological Explorations In The Shawangunks
*Native Peoples In The Lower Hudson Valley At The Time Of European Contact And Their Fate
*Revolutionary War Archaeology In Fishkill, NY
*The Revolutionary War Chain Across The Hudson Which Saved The Colonies
(For speakers' schedule, please see: )

Plus registration for October 22 Guided Tours of the Dutchess Quarry Caves Site 
(Weather permitting).

SUNY Orange
Rowley Bldg, Rm 010 
115 South St, 
Middletown, NY 10940
World War I Teacher Workshop A Spirit of Sacrifice: New York State in the First World War

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Free for teachers

Join us on Thursday, November 9 for a one-day World War I teacher workshop. 

This free workshop is offered by the staff of the New York State Museum, State Library, State Archives, and Public Broadcasting Office at the Cultural Education Center in Albany, NY. The workshop is designed to aid educators in teaching the history of World War I.

With hands-on learning, presentations, guided tours, and break out discussions, participants will learn about the history of the war through the current A Spirit of Sacrifice: New York State in the First World War exhibition at the State Museum and learn how to apply that knowledge in the classroom. Participants will also develop an understanding of the educational resources available at the Cultural Education Center (CEC), including the State Museum, State Library, State Archives, and Public Broadcasting Office. Participants will expand on the information and tools given to them throughout the workshop during brainstorming and development sessions, where they can gain CEC staff insight as well as fellow educators opinions. 

*Note: The New York State Museum is an approved provider of Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE). If you are employed in a New York State school, your employing district approves all professional development activities to accrue towards your continuing professional development requirement. 

Eligibility: Teachers of Social Studies 

Applications are due November 3, 2017. The number of participants is limited to 30.
Teacher CTLE Credit: 7.5 CTLE hours

Cost: Free; participants are responsible for providing their own lunch

History in the News

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