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

Why is Orange County's Memorial Park 
Named for a Loyalist?

There's no doubt that Thomas Bull was a Loyalist.
In June of 1778, in the midst of the Revolutionary War and under the threat of exile from his home, he refused to take an oath of allegiance to New York State.
There's also evidence that Thomas Bull and his neighbor, Fletcher Matthews, had close ties to Fletcher's brother, David Matthews, New York City's Loyalist mayor who was actively plotting to destabilize the Patriot Army's operations. Local historical advocate James Flannery cites a letter that " George Washington wrote to George Clinton in 1781 advising Clinton that there was a plot afoot to kidnap him by a group led by Richard Smith, son of Claudius, and that Fletcher Mathews' property - a few miles from the Clinton farmstead - was one place where the would-be kidnappers may be hiding." Plot or no plot, it's clear that Thomas Bull and his friends were feared by the Patriot Army for their insurgent knowledge of lands throughout Orange County and for their fervent opposition to the Patriot cause.
So when descendants of Thomas Bull donated 189 acres of land to Orange County in 1965 to establish a public park in his name, it seems that his Loyalist ties were not widely discussed. Thomas Bull the Loyalist was remembered instead as "one of the earliest settlers in the County" and progenitor of generations of respected and influential citizens. The Bull land was combined with that of four neighboring dairy farms to create a 719-acre recreation center where residents can ice skate, ski, play tennis, boat, fish, and ride horses. Notably, the County hosts patriotic events each year in the park, such as a salute to veterans and a 4th of July fireworks in celebration of America's Declaration of Independence.
Some local residents, upon becoming aware of Thomas Bull's wartime alliances, feel uncomfortable with that fact that he is honored so prominently in Orange County. Many others find delight in the poetic justice that is served every time the 4th of July is celebrated on Bull's land. The truth is that Bull's Loyalist sympathies were never concealed and not enough effort has been put towards illuminating the history and engaging park visitors to contemplate the precarious place that Thomas Bull holds in our nation's founding.
The story peels back the layers of much larger debates. Does the legacy of loyalism during the Revolutionary War have no place in how we remember our local past? And more broadly, should commemoration of local figures be restricted to those who can be classified as heroes? The historiographical answer to both of these questions is no.
It's certain that no study of Orange County's incredibly rich Revolutionary War history would be complete without taking into account the disharmony that existed within the local community even while most of the territory was occupied by Patriot forces. The region saw constant movement of troops, large encampments, and the presence of important figures including George Washington. But it was also known for large population of Loyalists, historian Kieran O'Keefe writes: "In Orange County, Claudius Smith's Gang of Loyalists used guerrilla tactics, ambushing Patriots, and stealing supplies."
At the time, the village of Newburgh was the seat of an Anglican congregation, and with the church influence came a higher population of Loyalists than neighboring communities. It is estimated that the Loyalist population in Newburgh was 23 to 25 percent at the onset of the war. According to O'Keefe's research, "More residents of Newburgh refused to sign the [Patriot's Pledge] than the rest of Ulster County combined."
It's also significant that right up the road, the small hamlet of Coldenham is named for the Colden Family, Revolutionary War residents who were prominent Loyalists. Cadwallader Colden had served as a Royal Governor of the Province of New York and his children refused to pledge allegiance with the Patriots along with Thomas Bull in 1778. Yet locally, we tend to remember the family's contributions to our shared heritage, such as Alexander Colden's early ferry service across the Hudson River from Newburgh to Fishkill and Jane Colden's influence on the field of botany.
Throughout the war, these families fled to British-controlled Manhattan. When the Patriots reclaimed New York in 1783, many fled again to Canada. The church and other institutions in the Town of Maugerville in New Brunswick were founded by prominent Orange and Ulster County Loyalists who never came back. But some families did return to their homes in the region and became influential to shaping the new United States of America. 
Many members of the Bull Family are still living in the Hudson Valley today. Nearly 233 years after peace was declared, I hope that we can not only use Thomas Bull's legacy as a reason to learn more about the circumstances that divided the community, but also to admire that when the war was over, there was a chance for his family to contribute to the new nation.

Johanna Yaun
Orange County Historian
Community Updates
Learn about Historic Tax Credit opportunities

Erin Tobin of the Preservation League of New York State will present a workshop at Thrall Library in Middletown on October 6, 2016 from 6-7:30 PM. 

  Preservation League
Reenactors and the public enjoyed a sunny boat ride across the Hudson River from South Dock in West Point on Saturday, August 27th. On Constitution Island, volunteers offered historical demonstrations, music, explained the island's use as a strategic base during the Revolutionary War and offered a tour of the Warner house. 
Volunteers at the Fullerton Cultural Center in Newburgh offered tours of the Fullerton Mansion as part of Newburgh's Last Saturdays event series. The carriage house in the back of the property has been repurposed as a free book exchange.

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History Jobs
Newburgh Vintage Emporium is looking for a Part-time Sales Associate

PT/2-3 days a week, Sundays a must. Perfect for a student, stay-at-home parent, creative types or history buffs. Must be reliable and able to lift 20lbs, personable and can stay on feet for a few hours. Contact Troy Ford (845) 562-5200. Website or Facebook Page for more information. 
Upcoming Events
Fiesta Latina at Museum Village

Join us for Fiesta Latina, a Hudson Valley Latino Festival celebrating Family, Faith & Country! 

We'll have Latin music, speakers, games, face painting, food vendors, refreshments and more! FREE parking! The event will kick off with a 5K Milagros for Colon Cancer Run/Walk. Registration is at 8:30am and race start time is at 9:00am at Museum Village.

Register for the race online at:



Museum Village
1010 State Route 17M
Monroe, NY 10950
Annual Conference of the Association of Public Historians of New York State

The 2016 Annual Conference will be held Thursday, September 15 to Saturday, September 17, 2016 in Syracuse at the Holiday Inn Syracuse/Liverpool. The conference will run concurrently with the  NYS Family History Conference. APHNYS registrants may attend any of the NYSFHC conference lectures at no additional cost, but will not receive the NYSFHC syllabus.
The NYSFHC syllabus will be available for purchase at the NYSFHC booth in the exhibitor hall.

Here is the APHNYS 2016 Conference Registration  Form and  Schedule of Events.
Questions? Email  [email protected].
2016 American Association for State and Local History Online Conference


Can't make it to Detroit but still want to participate in the AASLH Annual Meeting? Join us at the Online Conference (September 15-16) and attend six hot topic sessions, plus hear from featured speakers.

Learn more & register:  

Individual registration is only $60 for AASLH members! ($110 for Non-members). 

Each session is broadcast live from the Annual Meeting. All presentations have been reworked for a live audience. See slides, ask questions, and interact online with presenters and the virtual audience in these live broadcasts. After the Conference, participants will have exclusive access to slides, notes, and recordings of all  six sessions for six months.

Now, with a special multi-login rate (only $120 for AASLH Members), all your institution's staff can login from their own computers. 

This year's Online Conference sessions are: 

-Small Museums, Big Impact! Change Agents
-From Farm to Fork: Narratives That Connect 
-Breaking the Mold: Reimagining Traditional Museum Programs, and Collections
-Intentional Inclusion: Developing a D&J Strategy for Your Organization
-Deconstructing "Safe Space"
-Strangelove: How to Stop Worrying and Start Fundraising

For more details on sessions, times, and pricing, visit the AASLH website:

Wine Making & Tasting at Brick House Museum in Montgomery

Sunday, September 18th 4PM to 6PM

Friends of Hill-Hold and Brick House Museums will host a "Wine Making and Tasting" event at Brick House Museum.

Jerry Pantano of "Pantano's Wine Grapes & Home Brewers" in New Paltz make a presentation on the wine making process and discuss all the necessary equipment and supplies. Guests will have the opportunity to taste wines from award-winning local wineries and products from home vintners, while enjoying an assortment of hors d'oeuvres under a tent at the 1768 Brick House historic homestead. Other highlights of the evening will include a raffle for a "Basket of Cheer" and a painting supplied by the Wallkill River School, which will have artists on site doing plein-air painting. Bottles of wine will be given away as door prizes and guests will get to take home their commemorative wine tasting glass. 

Admission for the event is $35 per person. Advanced registration and payment are required. To reserve a seat, please call 615-3828 by September 15. All proceeds from this event benefit the museums.
History in the News
Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun