Warwick Historical Papers

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					                                                Warwick Historical Papers
                                                    Research on the History of the Town of Warwick
                                                                                  Volume 3, No. 1/ May 2005
                                                                                        Edited by S. Gardner
                                Historical Society of the Town of Warwick ~ P.O. Box 353 ~ Warwick NY 10990

With this issue we are reviving the tradition of        twenty-eight neat cottages set in individually-
publishing research about our history that we           landscaped trellised flower and vegetable gardens.
began in 1914. Submissions are welcome!—Ed.             The corporation, known as Sterling Forest Farms,
                                                        then set aside land for a club house and a man-
Greenwood Forest Farms: An                              made recreational lake. Community roads were
                                                        owned and maintained by the residents, wells were
African-American Hamlet                                 private, and until the 1940s the colony generated its
Rediscovered                                            own electricity.
by Dr. Richard Hull                                              Greenwood Forest Farms was widely
                                                        known      by New York’s Black elite. Properties
What makes Warwick so fascinating is its                were owned by such luminaries as the famous
tapestry of hamlets, each with its own identity         lyricist and music publishing magnate, Cecil
and history. There are dozens of them scattered         McPherson (“Cecil Mack”), and his wife Dr.
throughout the town but Greenwood Forest                Gertrude Curtis who was New York’s first African-
Farms, tucked away in a delightfully sylvan             American woman dentist. There was also Robert J.
setting of 143 acres off Route 17A and just a few       Elzy, an early civil rights leader and head of
miles east of Greenwood Lake, is special. It was        Brooklyn’s Urban League. A neighbor, Hon. Myles
New York State’s first African-American resort          A. Paige, was a prominent Family Court Judge and
community.                                              was one of the first Black graduates of Columbia
                                   Founded         in   Law         School.
                                   1919 by a group      Then there was J.
                                   of     prominent     Rosamond
                                   African Amer-        Johnson, a com-
                                   ican      families   poser and con-
                                   from New York        ductor, who per-
                                   City, this com-      formed on Broad-
                                   munity became        way in ‘Cabin in
                                   a weekend and        the Sky’ and
                                   summer retreat       ‘Porgy and Bess’
  E.H. Wilson, one of the original
  incorporators, with community    for the Black        and who in 1912
  leader Rose Lawrence, c. 1970’s. intelligentsia of    had        become
                                   Harlem, Brook-       Director of Lon-
lyn and beyond. It was spearheaded by nine              don’s Grand Op-
members of the Carlton Avenue Y.M.C.A. in               era House. The
Brooklyn who had organized a club to study              world-famous
foreign trade opportunities in South America.           writer Langston
Then came the War and they decided to use their         Hughes was only
accumulated savings to establish an incorporated        one of many
vacation community instead. Picturesque                 literary    figures
serpentine roads were set out and          land was     who frequented Langston Hughes in 1953, at Gladys
subdivided and sold to friends and professional         the bucolic col-           Taylor’s home, Nelson Rd.
colleagues.                                             ony. It also be-
         The ‘colony’ as it came to be called was       came a haven for such civil rights giants as James
an immediate success and by 1938 it boasted of          Farmer and Harold W. Cruse.
        At the secluded and exclusive Greenwood        know now from his
Forest Farms residents and guests could enjoy          memoirs that like
live music, dance, poetry readings, swimming,          many of our early
boating, tennis, billiards, and even horseback         citizens, he was
riding. Relations with such white farmer               born     in     Mas-
neighbors as the Everett Cox family were               sachusetts. (in New
extremely cordial and endure to this day.              Marlborough, Feb.
        The community began to decline in the          17,    1788)      and
1960s as the older generation passed away and          migrated here as a
their children moved on or vacationed farther          young man seeking
afield. Also, with the passage of the Civil Rights     employment. Ad-
Act of 1964 and the gradual elimination of racial      justing to life in
discrimination     in    housing    and     public     Warwick         town
accommodations African Americans became                could be fraught
more geographically mobile. Nevertheless,              with     difficulties,
Greenwood Forest Farms endures though in a             however, and not
much-diminished state. Some descendants of the         knowing        much      Nathaniel Jones, painted in
original pioneers now live there year-round and        about area nearly           1827 by Frederick R.
                                                                                Spencer. Private Collection.
continue to interact with each other. It remains a     resulted in his
proud hamlet of Warwick and one with a                 demise:
distinguished past. Our historical society is now
partnering with them to erect a roadside historic                  “In the month of May in this year (1808,
marker so that Greenwood Forest Farms will not             when he was 20) my old school fellow and
be forgotten.                                              friend, Eleazar Bullard, and myself agreed to
References: Amsterdam News                                 visit Orange Co., NY and engage as school
                                                           teachers, and we accordingly left on horseback
                                                           with our limited wardrobe and plainer horse
Memoirs of Nathaniel Jones,                                equipage to try the fortunes of pedagogues. I
                                                           engaged a school in the Florida Village district
Teacher, Merchant & Statesman                              two days after reaching that place—he took the
1788-1866                                                  school at the Village of Amity. My predecessor
by Sue Gardner                                             as teacher was John Smith of, or near Florida,
                                                           either a native of that vicinity or of Long
       There are few local documents that                  Island—though a majority of school teachers in
mention the name of Nathaniel Jones; he is                 this part of New York were from Ireland. I
mostly found as a brief mention in histories of            found my scholars had not been accustomed to
Bellvale. It is astonishing that our memory of             any correct discipline and in consequence was
him is nearly a clean slate, as he was one of just a       obliged to observe much leniency until they
few of our citizens who rose to sit in Congress.           were gradually drilled into order and salutary
                                                           restraint….Situate as is this neighborhood in the
Recently, a copy of the transcript of his memoirs,         selvage of the ‘Drowned lands’, then being
written in 1856, was unearthed in the family               drained and reclaimed, its festering miasma
belongings of Burton Kendall and Sally Towse of            acted fearfully on the health of the surrounding
Saratoga, California. Mr. Kendall is direct                inhabitants, annually prostrating scores of them
descendant of Nathaniel and his wife Mary Burt.            with ague and intermittent fevers. Not being
We are most grateful to Mr. Kendall and Ms.                acclimated, I soon fell prey to that malady and
Towse for sharing his legacy with us!                      for several weeks was obliged to abandon my
       According to the Biographical Directory             school. My sufferings I thought were extreme,
of the Congress (http://bioguide/,            and from accidental removal of the bandage
Nathaniel was born here in Warwick—but we
   after the use (or abuse) of the lancet in my         the people of Florida and particularly Dr. S.S.
   arm by Dr. Seward, I was nearly relieved             Seward that he was a first rate teacher.”
   from them by death…Being a part of the time          (transcript p. 24).
   unconscious of what was passing and
   apparently neglected by the nurse, the flood              Small wonder that after a lapse of care that
   had flowed to that extent as to pass through      nearly killed him, his employers felt obliged to give
   the feather and straw beds forming a puddle       him a glowing recommendation! Jones stayed as
   on the floor. Persons were called in to see me    teacher in Warwick Village until 1814. His tenure
   die, but one gentleman more considerate than      was not without challenges; even at this early date
   the others had me placed in a sheet, four         there was controversy over the teaching of religious
   persons at its corners bore me into the open      values in a public school:
   air & by some other quickning (sic)
   applications, brought me back to a moving                    “About his time Rev. John I. Christie
   body. This excessive depletion left me weak          settled as Pastor, in the Village, of the Dutch
   indeed, nor did I regain the natural color in        Reformed Church and being zealous in good
   my face for about two years….old Phineas             works, professed much anxiety to have me
   Tompkins watched over me with parental               teach my school the Westminister or
   care…. after finishing my six months term,           Heidelburg Catechism. My first objection was
   my system yet weak and my mind set against           the same as I had made on a previous occasion
   a climate I then detested as breathing in its        in Florida, and that was, I was not a teacher of
   atmosphere nought but poisonous gasses; I            theology, nor was its teaching contemplated by
   left in the month of November for my native          me or my employers when I was contracted to
   and salubrious hills, determined never gain to       teach….the places for teaching Christ’s
   set myself down in Florida.” (p.19-20)               precepts were at the fireside and church by
                                                        parents and pastors….and lastly my patrons
        What an unappealing portrait! Jones had         were of different religious persuasions,
apparently arrived at one of the worst possible         consisting of Reformed Dutch, Baptists,
times in the history of the Black Dirt region and       Methodists and at least one Friend or
Florida, when population pressures and lack of          Quaker…” (p. 25)
available land were forcing the populace to drain
the swamps to gain more arable fields--thus          While teaching at
creating temporarily an even worse situation of      Warwick, Nathaniel
mosquito infestation and resulting sickness, from    had become ac-
the stagnant pools. After this inauspicious          quainted with James
introduction to the area, it would not be            Burt     and     his
surprising if Nathaniel had shaken off the dust of   family— especially
Warwick and never returned.                          his daughter Mary.
        He did come back, however, a year later      He was set to win
in 1810:                                             her hand, and she
                                                     was willing, but the
           “…I returned once more to Orange          match had an uphill
   County…and whilst stopping a day or two           battle:
   with a friend near (Florida), I received from
   the Trustees of the Warwick Village School           “I allude to my
                                                                              Mary Burt Jones, painted
   district an invitation to teach at their             marriage with the     in 1829 by Elias V. Coe.
   school…during the discussion (meeting with           eldest and fav-          Private collection.
   the trustees at Geraghty’s hotel, which later        orite daughter of
   became the Wawayanda House), the Hon.                the Honorable James Burt of Warwick, whose
   James Burt …said that he had been told by            reputation, political, social and religious,

   standing and influence, were equal to any          home at last and after nearly dying again of an
   resident in the county. It would reasonably be     illness returned home.
   supposed that he would, consequently, have                  With a clearer sense of purpose now, he
   corresponding pretentions regarding the            bought a house and store in the Village of Warwick
   marriage alliances of his children, and            formerly owned by Benjamin Barney and became a
   therefore, feel and manifest a repugnance to       merchant; he began to turn toward political life and
   the uniting of his very favorite daughter to       was elected Warwick Town Clerk in 1821, and
   one, who was comparatively a stranger and          thereafter gradually pursued a career in
   whose family connexions were to him entirely       government. He was one of the local civic leaders
   uknown…I had made up my conclusion that            who purchased the infamous “Dolson’s mill pond”
   no human agency should be permitted to             --the culprit which made the lower village an
   defeat the consummation of a contract, the         unhealthy place to live and work-- with the
   sanctity of which, its obligations, and            resulting clause in the land deed that there would
   concerns, belonged only to the parties             never again be a dam erected there.
   themselves….the ready consent of the Mother                 He purchased a farm near Newburgh in
   was given and after a homily of a half hour or     1840 and moved his family there, after residing in
   more (with a few interruptions from the            Warwick for thirty years. Many descriptions of
   suitor) from the father, he concluded with         political life in the early 19th century are also
   remarking ‘that painful and trying as was the      recounted in the memoirs. His accomplishments
   circumstance to his feelings, he had made up       include being elected a member of the State
   his mind to resign his daughter to a destiny       assembly in 1827 and 1828; engaging in banking in
   which Providence seemed to have                    1834; elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-fifth
   permitted’… On Tuesday, the 14th day of            and Twenty-sixth U.S. Congresses (March 4, 1837-
   May (1811) the Nuptials were celebrated            March 3, 1841). He became surveyor general of
   under the paternal roof.” (p. 27)                  New York from February 1842 to November 1844,
                                                      State canal commissioner from 1844-1847,
     Nathaniel volunteered in the local militia       superintendent of schools and clerk of the Board of
during the War of 1812. In 1813 he, his wife and      Education of Newburgh in 1851, and a member of
child established their home in the “Smith            the State senate in 1852 and 1853. He died in
House” in the north part of the village, and          Newburgh, NY. on July 20, 1866.
Nathaniel desired to improve his income. His                   The transcription of his memoirs is 132
father in law discouraged migrating west, and         pages in length, and contains many interesting
helped him with land to build a wool carding and      anecdotes about Warwick. A copy will be in the
fulling mill at Bellvale in 1814-1815, later to be    local history collection and one for check-out will
expanded by Joseph Brooks. A series of bad            be available at Wisner Library soon, for those who
luck, bad tenants, and trouble with in-laws led to    would like further details on trouble with in-laws,
him to take the dramatic step of a journey out        desperate land deals, and the ups and downs of
west without his family starting in June of 1820,     commerce and politics nearly a century ago.
at the age of 32. He went by covered wagon to
Pittsburgh, and with a few others bought a flat       References: Information from Burton Kendall and Sally
boat and proceeded down the Ohio River to             Towse; Obituary of Nathaniel Jones (New York Times, July
                                                      31, 1866).
Cincinatti. They did not even take the precaution
of purchasing maps, and none had any experience
on the river.       He did indeed have many             Haven’t read the original ‘Warwick Historical
adventures, including some hair-raising threats to     Papers’? A reprinted two volume set is available
life and limb. He gives vivid descriptions of daily     from the Society for $25.00, postage included.
life in what was then the West (Illinois,                Copies are also available from Albert Wisner
Missouri). “…During the three weeks I remained                   Public Library for checkout.
in the place, four murders occurred…”! He heads


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