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

Under the "Poe Arch" at West Point

Edgar Allan Poe at West Point

Under the Poe Arch at the West Point, a small gathering of poets and archivists celebrated the appointment of Robert Milby as Orange County's 2017-19 Poet Laureate on May 2. 
At the West Point Cadet Library, the group marveled at an impressive collection of Poe memorabilia, including an illustrated edition of his book "Poems," a receipt, signed by Poe, for the funds cadets donated to help publish the book, and Poe's letter of resignation from campus.
All in attendance contributed their knowledge in a lively discussion about Poe's time at West Point. Suzanne Christoff, who lead the Unique Resources Staff; Elaine McConnell, Rare Book curator; Alicia Mauldin, Archives curator; Susan Lintelmann, Manuscripts curator; and Casey Madrick, Archives Technician enlightened and enthralled the crowd with revelations about Poe's life, as gleaned from the documents on hand.
The records related to Poe's dismissal from the Academy show that he was an exemplary student until he became disillusioned and asked his step-father for the liberty to resign. At that time, cadets were required to have parental permission to quit. Without it, Poe began to cease his campus activities hopes of being forced out. He stopped visiting the library, no longer appeared at his classes, and as a last-ditch effort, he no longer attended required church services. 

The process of removal is documented in a large bound account book now at the cadet library. During the weeks in February and early March of 1831 while Poe was sanctioned for his inactivity, he was holed up in his room prolifically writing a chapbook of poetry. The primary sources at the cadet library also verify that with Colonel Thayer's permission, Poe collected $1 from each of his fellow cadets to publish his volume.
The staff at the library noted that though it seems generous of the cadets to have supported Poe's efforts to publish his poetry, they were doing so because they hoped that Poe would be compiling the funny verses that he was known to quip about the professors and officers on campus. "Poems," however, had a much more serious tone. 

We thank Jim Fox, West Point's Chief of Community Engagement for guiding our group around campus for the occasion. 
by Joan Porr

More than 200 years after Edgar Allan Poe's life there remains mystery about the man in his lifetime. It is known that Edgar himself embellished on his biography and intentionally blurred the lines of reality at times. Poe, the artist, who often dwelled in "a dream within a dream" and searching "over the mountains of the moon" for Eldorado the city of gold, probably understood that even history, is in the eye of the beholder. But a trail of evidence exists that his biographers have searched through,  letters, records from his adoptive family's successful merchant business, army records, school records, magazine publishings and of course his own stories an poems. 

While most people think of him as a writer of macabre tales in truth his talents and pursuits where much more varied than that. He was an accomplished poet, magazine editor, literary critic, cryptographer and twice a U.S. soldier. 

Poe had to quit the University for lack of funds and joined the Army while visiting Boston after using all the money he had to get his first chapbook of poems published there "Tamerlane and Other Poems, 1827".   He joined the Army under a fake name Edgar A. Perry and also misrepresented his age to be 21. He was only 18.  
Poe quickly excelled in the Army though. In 2 years he was promoted to the highest enlisted rank of sergeant major, which could normally take decades to do. He was stationed first at Fort Moultrie, SC where it's known that he wrote his first successful short story, "The Gold Bug", then at Fort Monroe, VA.  Within a year he was appointed an artillery artificer.  His job was to construct bombs.  It required intense knowledge of the usage of the correct quantities of chemicals and complicated mathematical trajectories in order to produce the correct effects without causing harm to oneself and others. He would have to have had his officers' complete confidence.  He also had clerk duties, keeping logs and payroll records such duties would only be given to few enlists who would have had the education and capability.
After two years Poe left the Army but after some unsuccessful attempts to live off his writings in Baltimore with his paternal relations he again wishes to join the Army. With letters of support from superiors and his grandfather's reputation he gains entrance to West Point in 1830 as a cadet, this time with his real name. Here he could continue his education that was abruptly cut short after the fallout with John Allan.  Some of his superiors at Forts Moultrie and Monroe were West Point graduates and likely encouraged Poe to go there where Colonel Sylvanus Thayer had a reputation for promoting academic reforms.
But Poe is only at West Point for 2 years where again he lacks funds for commissary necessities. His two roommates are court martialed and drummed out, one for drunkenness, the other for drunkenness and unruliness and their discharge records state those reasons.  Poe becomes perhaps disillusioned or at least restless to leave.  But while nearly 200 years later rumors still abound about a drinking problem, Poe's West Point records reveal that he is court martialed for lack of attendance at required drills and duties. The Army is precise and would have listed drunkenness if that were the case therefore it is presumed that he voluntarily desired to get out. 
Poe had been busy writing poetry, and quatrains that he shared with the other cadets.  The short versus skewered various staff and faculty and entertained the core.  Before leaving West Point Poe asked Colonel Thayer and received permission to take up a collection of a dollar per cadet in order to publish his 3rd book of poetry simply titled "Poems" by Edgar A. Poe, 1831.  He dedicated it to the cadets but it wasn't what they thought it would be, a collection of funny verses instead it was serious poetry. 

Village of Florida's Robert Milby named Orange County's 2017-19 Poet Laureate

Milby is the author of five poetry books and has hosted events throughout the County since 1995

Goshen, N.Y. - Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun recently announced at the West Point Cadet Library that Village of Florida resident Robert Milby has been named Orange County's Poet Laureate for 2017-19. 

As Poet Laureate, Milby's duties will include creating pieces of literature in poetic forms to commemorate Orange County events, its people and places.

Milby, 47, is the author of five poetry books and has hosted events throughout the County since 1995. He began writing poetry in 1987 as a student at James I. O'Neill High School in Highland Falls. Milby hosts poetry series at the Mudd Puddle CafĂ© in New Paltz, Florida Public Library and Noble Coffee Roasters in Campbell Hall. His website is 

"I'm extremely honored to earn this recognition," Milby said. "I will use this position to bring poetry to a variety of audiences in Orange County."


Orange County Poet Laureate reads a poem under the Poe Arch
at the West Point Cadet Library.

Community Updates
Would you like to donate historic bricks?
Alex Prizgintas brought his Erie line lantern collection to the  Key, Lock and Lantern convention this last weekend in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He writes" "Special thanks to Dave and  Mary Lewis for partnering with me to create a fantastic display on the Erie railroad. It was a great time to see many friends and a marvelous opportunity to view rare and unique railroad memorabilia!"
The Orange County historians in attendance at APHNYS Region 3 annual meeting. From l to r, Kathleen Christensen (Cornwall-on-Hudson), Johanna Yaun (Orange County), Sue Gardner (Warwick), Clifton Patrick (Chester), Mary Ann Odell (Cornwall), Mary Ellen Matise (Walden)
Writings of Washington: Letter to Major General Henry Knox Wednesday May 14, 1783:
"If there are any Non Commissioned Officers or Soldiers who mutinous dispositions appear to arise from their anxiety to be discharged the Army, you have my full permission to give them Furloughs for any length of time they wish; we are better without them than with them."
With the rapid approach of the end of the war and the announcement of the preliminary proclamation of peace there was an increase in discipline problems within the army. Many of the men who had enlisted for the duration of the war saw their continued enlistment as a infringement on their freedoms. At New Windsor Cantonment, a group of soldiers hung an effigy of Major Trescott.
PODCAST: Joseph Brant's 1780 Mohawk Valley Raid

This week on The Historians Podcast, archaeologist and historian Wayne Lenig discusses Mohawk chief Joseph Brant's 1780 raids in the Mohawk Valley. Lenig will be one of the speakers at next month's American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley Conference at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.  Listen to the podcast here.    

Upcoming Events, Training & Conferences
Gillinder Glass Factory Tours

All season

Gillinder Glass is celebrating 156 years in business in 2017! Visit us and see why Gillinder Glass, the winner of the 2016 New York State Small Business Exporter of the Year award, was named one of the top 10 places to visit in the Hudson Valley! Our knowledgeable tour guides will share our story with you as you observe the timeless process of glass making.

Glass working demonstrations & guided factory tours Monday-Friday:  10:15, 12:30, 1:30 feature gathering, pouring and pressing glass of actual production. Since our tour times coordinate with our workers' schedules and store staffing, please arrive a few minutes early so we may begin our tours on time in order to give you the best experience possible. We recommend that you call for tour availability. 

Our Special Glass Blowing Demonstrations & guided factory tours which occur several times a year feature guest glass artists who will amaze you with their unique, distinctive, glass blowing talents.

2017 dates for Special Glass Blowing Demonstrations & Factory Tours:  Oct. 14, Nov. 4, Nov. 24, Dec.9. Call for tour times or visit our Calendar of Events.
Factory Tour rates (for Monday-Friday tours as well as Special Glass Blowing Demos): $5.00 for adults, $4.00 for seniors & children. We recommend that you call for tour availability. Tour times may change during very busy days or because of changes in the factory work schedule; we are a working factory, and schedules can and do change. 
The gift store is open 7 days a week; Monday-Friday 9:30-5:30, Saturday 11:00-4:00, Sunday 12:00-4:00. Link to Website.

39 Erie St.
Port Jervis, NY 12771
Exhibit: Suffragettes- the women who fought for the right to vote

Every Saturday until October

Exhibit will be open to the public every Sat May through Oct.


Opening weekend at Hill-Hold

May 19 -21 10AM-4PM

Hill-Hold is open for the season! Visit Hill-Hold Museum for a wonderful trip back in time. There are always interesting and fun events and things to do for the entire family.

211 NY-416, Campbell Hall, NY 10916
Brick House Living History

Saturday, May 20th at 7 AM - 4 PM

Co-sponsored by the 15th NY Calvary.

Theme is Late War Camp Life. Come see a Company of NYS Soldiers guarding a rail road line in Northern Virginia. You never can tell when Rebel Bushwhackers will come out of the woods and ambush you.

This is a one day event, reenactors are welcome to camp over Friday & Saturday nights.

Admission is free. 

OrangeCounty FarmersMuseum
850 Rte 17K, Montgomery, New York 12549
Shipwreck Symposium

Saturday, May 20th at 9 AM - 5 PM

The Hudson River Maritime Museum's first Shipwreck Symposium will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2017 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the Riverport Wooden Boat School. 

Conference fee is $45 for HRMM members and $50 for non-members and includes a boxed lunch. For more information, see conference schedule below. 

Conferece begins at the Riverport Wooden Boat School of the Hudson River Maritime Museum, located at 86 Rondout Landing, Kingston, NY. 

9:00 AM - Conference registration with coffee and light refreshments
9:30 AM - Keynote Speaker Arthur B. Cohn, Research Fellow, William Clements Library, University of Michigan; Co-Founder & Director Emeritus, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
10:35 AM - White pape r presentation by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff Ellie Burhans
11:40 AM - A Tale of Three Gunboats: Lake Champlain's Revolutionary War Heritage book signing with Art Cohn, mingling
12:00 PM - Lunch!
1:00 PM - "Challenges facing SUNY Maritime College students researching some of the Hudson Valley's lost historic artifacts," Dr. David Allen, State University of New York Maritime College
1:50 PM - "Climate change: a threat to underwater cultural heritage," Dr. Elena Perez-Alvaro, Licit Cultural Heritage Ltd (Cambridge, UK)
2:45 PM - John Winbush, Coastal Resources Specialist for NYS Department of State
3:20 PM - Trooper Kevin Gardner, NYS Police Dive Team
4:00 PM - Conference closes
4:15 PM - Sleightsburgh Spit Walking Tour, including discussion of the Sleightsburgh barge graveyard and the installation of breakwaters at the mouth of Rondout Creek. Separate registration fee. Register now >>>
4:15 PM - Admission to the Hudson River Maritime Museum included in conference fee. Museum open until 5:00 PM.

50 Rondout Landing, Kingston, NY 12401
Book Sale & Signing

Saturday, May 20th at 11 AM - 2 PM

Back by Popular Demand! Get a copy hot off the press of the newly released, updated edition of Doodletown! Meet the one and only Perk Stalter, author and former resident of Doodletown. Hear stories about the last of the "mountain" towns in Harriman State Park and have your book signed by Perk.

Fort Montgomery State Historic Site
690 Route 9W, Fort Montgomery, New York 10922

Self guided tour and live music on Bannerman Island

Sunday, May 21, 11 AM - 1:30 PM

Board the Estuary Steward to Bannerman Island where you can enjoy a self-guided tour and a live music concert or special performance. This tiny jewel in the setting of the Hudson Highlands exhibits rich history and beautiful scenery and provides a wonderfully enriching day for the whole family. Self-guided tour with live music will be held 3rd Sun of each month May-Oct. 2.5 hours.


Presentation: How George Washington started the First World War

Sunday, May 21st 3PM

Local historian Frank Salvati will give a lecture titled "How George Washington Started the First World War" at 3 p.m. May 21 at the Town of Deerpark Museum, 1863 Huguenot Schoolhouse, 25 Grange Road, Huguenot.

History books note World War I (1914-18) as the First World War. However, the Seven Years War (1754-1763) included wartime conflicts in North America, Europe, Africa, the East and West Indies, and India. There were also major battles on the high seas. This was truly the first worldwide war.

Salvati's program brings to life the story about how George Washington was dispatched, along with his interpreter, Jacob Van Braam, to deliver a letter to the French ordering them to leave the Ohio Valley Country in 1753. A major misunderstanding led to additional conflicts until the war erupted in earnest in Europe as well on May 15, 1756.

The program is free and refreshments will be served. For more information, call 856-2702 or check out the museum website,

1863 Huguenot Schoolhouse
25 Grange Road, Huguenot.

Webinar: Planning for Marketing at Museums & Historic Sites

Tuesday, May 23 at  3PM

Marketing is crucial for small museums and historic sites, but where do you begin? In this webinar, AASLH's Hannah Hethmon will teach you, step by step, how to create a marketing plan tailored to your organization's unique needs. A good marketing plan can help you more effectively allocated time and money, get approval for a marketing budget, keep you focused on high-priority goals, and ensure that your marketing objectives and methods are supporting your institutional mission.

Working through a series of prompts and questions, you will get a chance to see other organizations' answers and get real-time pointers. At the end of the webinar, you will have the outline and notes you need to write your own marketing  plan.

Zerbini Family Circus

May 26-29

The Zerbini Family Circus will be here again! Come see jugglers, high flyers, high wire acts, camels, clowns & more! This is a fun event for the whole family! Purchased tickets are good for any show!

Show dates:
May 26 at 7:00pm
May 27 at 2:00pm & 5:00pm
May 28 at 1:00pm & 4:30pm
May 29 at 5:00pm


PLEASE NOTE: Museum Village will be CLOSED while the Zerbini Family Circus is here.

Four Cemetery Workshops have been scheduled
May 27 - Circleville Presbyterian Cemetery
July 16 - Temple Beth Jacob Cemetery
August 12 - Washingtonville Cemetery
October 14 - Gumaer Cemetery
(*raindates are as follows: July 8, July 23, August 13, and October 15.  In the same order as above.)
Event includes short lecture on the practice of cleaning and repairing stones, and then a hands-on cleaning workshop.  Attendees are asked to come prepared to get down and dirty and educate others on proper cleaning methods. 
Consideration will be given to those who are caretakers of cemeteries in Orange County.

Moderated by cemetery preservation expert, Marianne Greenfield.
Contact the Historian office at 845-360-6978 or email
Engaging Latinos with the History of the USA: The Big Picture

Workshop for staff of historical sites and museums.  Topics include:
Understanding the cultural differences of how history is perceived in the USA versus Latin America, connecting the narrative, and keeping Latinos engaged.

Moderated by Sergio Villavicencio, expert on presenting historical lectures to the Latino community.

Saturday, June 24, 10 to 11:30 am
Orange County EMS Center
22 Wells Farm Road, Goshen

Reservations suggested.  Call 845-360-6978, or email
Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun