HVVA NEWSLETTER, September 2002 (Click on graphics/photos for larger view)
HVVA Newsletters


Saturday, August 24, 2002

Five people met at Millbrook Village in Warren County, New Jersey to tour the reconstructed village and active living history site there. We were the guests of Bob and Shirley Demarest and were joined by Ken Santi of the National Parks Service.

The Upper Delaware Valley, what is loosely called "the Minisink," remains today a mountainous and forested area with scattered settlement. It was an important highway and home for Native Americans for thousands of years and was first settled by white families who moved west from the Esopus and Rondout Valleys beginning in the late 1600s.

Of interest to this typical late Dutch barn and stone house in Ulster County, New York, is the Thorn family that built them and farmed the land here. They were English Quakers in a Dutch Reformed county that practiced slavery and was frequently at war.

In the 1896, Commemorative Biographical Record of Ulster County Solomon P Thorn is described as a "recognized leader in political circles, and a leading fruit farmer of Plattekill township." He was born in Clintondale in 1845 (*).

"For many generations the Thorn family has been connected with the history of Ulster County. The great grandfather, Elnathan Thorn, was a native of the county and here spent his entire life as a farmer, The grandfather, Nathan Thorn, was born in Clintondale October 17, 1784, carried on farming and also engaged in preaching, being an active member of the Orthodox Friends Society. He married Charity Cornell, a lady of English descent, and they became parents of nine children.. ..All of their sons were farming people."

Solomon P Thorn's father, John, was born in Clintondale in 1808, spent his youth in the community and married a Plattakill farmer's daughter, Hannah Lewis. In 1833 John started manufacturing India-rubber overshoes that were shipped to various parts of the country, He prospered and acquired land and family.

Thorn/Marshall 5-Bay Barn Addition (Uls-Pla-3)
circa 1870-1890
Clintondale, Ulster County, NY

The frame of the addition is very specialized and shows awareness of non-traditional trusses that may have been learned from books, Truncated king post trusses .Section (A.) and Bents 1. and 6. show the light vertical exterior studs that are nailed to the timer frame. The carpenters take advantage of the angled braces to nail their studs. The center window frame in Bent 1. is supported only by the horizontal weather-board siding, a common later practice. The truss was later removed from Bent 2. to make the loft more usable.

Solomon's sister, Hulda, married H. W. Sutton a carriage manufacturer and undertaker of Clintondale but in 1869 Solomon P. Thorn married Katherine M. Hasbrouck, born in Clintondale, her parents were both natives of Loyd township and both members of the prominent French Huguenot family Hasbrouck. Despite their religious backgrounds, the issues of slavery and war must have seemed resolved in 1869.

"The Mineral spring discovered a few months ago on the place of S. P. Thorn, of Clintondale, is attracting wide-spread attention. It has been found to be particularly beneficial for kidney troubles and useful for other complications and is prescribed by physicians in the neighborhood. Mt. Thorn has bottled a quantity of the water and finds a ready sale at 25 cents a bottle. The spring has been named "Elixer" and Mr. Thorn has changed the name of his boarding house to "Elixer Springs House."

The New Paltz Independent-July 30, 1897.

(*) historical information courtesy of Muriel Obermyer, Town of Plattekill Historian.

See also HVVA Newsletters: August 2000, Vol. 2 for truncated king post trusses on dutch barn and Sept 2000 Vol 2 for description of the Thorn Dutch barn.

The National Park Service inherited what the Army Corps of Engineers had not yet demolished. It was overwhelmed by the number of abandoned homes and farms that it became responsible for maintaining. One of the solutions was to move some historic buildings to Millbrook to create an open air museum village that would interpret mid 19th century life in the Pahaquarry (*) area of which the small cross-roads village of Millbrook had become the hub in the 19th century. It reached it peak just after the Civil War with 17 major buildings and 75 inhabitants and began its decline in the late 19th century unable to compete with the railroad towns and the new industrial economy.

A 1,666-acre tract in Pahaquarry was purchased by the Van Campen family in 1732 and they built a mill there sometime before 1750 They were among the 17th century "Esopus Dutch" who first settled in the Minisink and they became a prominent family leaving a number of houses.

The Van Campen house that was moved two miles to the Village is a two-story frame Federal house of about 1800 and 1810. The smaller wing built first. Its interior doors, mantles, hardware and paneling are the signs of a well-to-do family who could afford cast iron butt hinges and Imported English handles and locks The ceilings were plastered hiding the beam structure but in the loft we found that the roof had German trusses supporting a purlin that supported common rafters. Known as a Leigender Stuhl (**) it is a rafter truss that is very German and makes a good comparison with the Dutch truss whose legs rest on the anchorbeam. I would guess that there are less than six surviving New World Dutch examples all built close to 1700 so why this 19th century Germanic dinosaur in Dutch territory. A rafter system that obviously didn't work in this case as some of the legs have separated 2 inches from the rafter and the purlin is sagging. Ignoring the damage it may have suffered in moving it 5-miles John Stevens suggested that the building's failure was the result of its Federal style that lowered the pitch of the roof for the temple-look and the Leigenderstuhl was designed for a steep pitch.

From its beginnings in 1973 the museum village has been a cooperative effort of the Parks Service and the Millbrook Village Society, a group of local volunteers with interest in the historic crafts and local history. Today the village has 23 restored buildings including a two-story grist mill with an overshot wheel that is under construction. There are about 20 active members who demonstrate weaving, rural crafts and cooking This includes a cooper, a blacksmith, a splint basket maker, a wheelwright and woodworkers who make chairs and carve and turn wood. During the summer the village is open Saturday and Sunday. Fridays are work days.

The trip from Kingston, New York, to Millbrook Village in Warren County. New Jersey, follows about 100 miles of what is known as the "Old Mine Road," much of which is today Route 209. The legend of the Pahaquarry copper mine and the building of the road In the 17th century by Dutch miners was perpetuated and elaborated on by many authors over the years including the most popular book, The Old Mine Road, by C.G. Hine, published in 1909. In researching the subject for his Masters Degree in 1969, Don McTernan found the tale was confused and incorrect. The subject has been treated in detail by the late archaeologist and historian Herbert Kraft in his recent book The Dutch, the Indians, and the Quest for Copper; Pahaquarrv and the Old Mine Road. Don suggested we look at the rafters in the Van Campen house. He recalled the house being moved.

Despite its faulted legend the Old Mine Road and the area of the upper Delaware Valley has a long history and lore and many interesting early buildings have survived there that demonstrate their New World Dutch and Pennsylvania German roots. Alvin and I drove Route 209 from Kingston to Port Jervis where we crossed the River into Pennsylvania and drove south to Digman's Ferry (***) where we crossed the River again into New Jersey. We should have taken-the first unmarked dirt road to the left (Old Mine Road) but continued on getting lost for an hour in a landscape less decimated than the park along the River where forest replaces the memory of scattered fields and buildings. It was a joy to leave the dark haunted woods and find the living Village of Millbrook just as it was to find it 150 years ago, busy, relaxed and friendly.

(*) a corruption of an Indian name Pohaqualin meaning "the end of two mountains with a stream in between".
(**) See Timber Framing: Journal of the Timber Framers Guild, #48, June 1998, page 4 and #52, June 1999, page 9.
(***) This is the last privately owned toll bridge you will ever cross. It is of a light steel construction that remind us how little we really need to get to the other side. The Toll house is from a post card and the tender collects 75-cents both ways.

From the Editor

The joint HVVA and DBPS tour of Bethpage Village on Long Island that was planned for Saturday, September 28 did not get enough interested people from the Albany and Kingston areas to pay for a 30 person bus and it was cancelled. I tried to find a 20-passenger bus to leave from the Kingston area but there was none available. I unfortunately changed the tour date to the following Saturday, October 5th hoping to find a small bus but could find nothing available for that date either.

Before leaving for Canada John Stevens set up a Long Island tour of early houses and barns that will meet at l0AM in Huntington October 5 at l0AM and will also visit early sites in Roslyn and Port Washington. It will be a coordinated car pool that will leave Kingston at 7:00AM from the parking lot at the traffic circle behind the Red Caboose. Maps will be provided. Other meeting places to car-pool may open so stay in touch by phone or mail if you are interested in going.

A 43-page collection of articles, field notes and drawings of the sites to be visited will be made available for a $7 contribution. Of special interest to me will be the surviving manger in the circa 1800 Rogers Barn at the Huntington Historical Society. This trip has involved the work of several people but with all good intentions it is not what was envisioned, looking out the window of a bus and following the crowd. The First Tour has been so well and knowingly planned by John Stevens that we may have to have a real bus tour of the same, or better, next year if all goes well.
Peter Sinclair

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