Hear “America’s Stories” at Mount Gulian Day in Fishkill

Mount Gulian served as Continental Army headquarters of patriot general Fredrich von Steuben from 1782 to ’83. After the American victory at Yorktown, General von Steuben and other American officers created the Society of the Cincinnati at the site, America’s first veterans’ fraternal organization. (photo by Rolf Müller)

Mount Gulian served as Continental Army headquarters of patriot general Fredrich von Steuben from 1782 to ’83. After the American victory at Yorktown, General von Steuben and other American officers created the Society of the Cincinnati at the site, America’s first veterans’ fraternal organization. (photo by Rolf Müller)

The Mount Gulian Historic Site, centered around a reconstructed 18th-century Dutch manor house on the Hudson River in the Town of Fishkill, will host “Mount Gulian Day: America’s Stories” on Sunday, October 30 from 12 noon to 5 p.m. The family-friendly event will celebrate the people who lived and worked at the homestead over the centuries. Mount Gulian’s history spans from the 17th through the 20th centuries, including Native Americans, early Dutch settlers, a Revolutionary War general, a fugitive slave, the women of Mount Gulian and a Civil War hero. A microcosm of American history, Mount Gulian’s stories are a reflection of America’s stories.

Featured throughout the day will be storytelling, conversations with historians, a living history performance and Native American music. Seldom-seen artifacts will be on view, with a house tour rounding out the day.

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The Wappinger people were the site’s first inhabitants: part of a loose confederation of tribes that ranged from the eastern banks of the Hudson River south into Westchester and eastward into north-central Connecticut and south to Long Island Sound. They spoke an Algonkian language, culturally related to that of the Lenape. (“Wappinger” means “easterner” in most Algonkian languages.)

Gradually pushed off their land by Dutch settlers beginning in 1609, the Wappingers signed an “Indian Deed of Sale” on August 8, 1683 selling 85,000 acres of land to Francis Rombout, Stephanus Van Cortlandt and Gulian Verplanck. The Wappingers received the equivalent of about $1,200 in goods for their land, probably not understanding that their claim to live there was forever gone.

The grandson of the original Gulian Verplanck, who bore the same name, built a Colonial-style fieldstone house on the land around 1730, naming it Mount Gulian. First used as a summer retreat for the family and a working plantation, the home was later turned over to the Continental Army during the War for Independence because of its strategic location on the Hudson near the Fishkill Barracks and across from Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh.

Mount Gulian served as Continental Army headquarters of patriot general Fredrich von Steuben from 1782 to ’83. After the American victory at Yorktown, General von Steuben and other American officers created the Society of the Cincinnati at the site, America’s first veterans’ fraternal organization.

Daniel Crommelin Verplanck, a member of Congress, moved from Manhattan to occupy the home at Mount Gulian permanently in 1804, the site’s first year-round inhabitant. The house underwent extensive expansion, with the addition of a large frame house attached to the original homestead. An ornamental English garden was laid out to supplement the six-acre “kitchen garden” and the crop fields. Additional structures were also built on the property, including barns, smokehouses, storage buildings and brickmaking facilities.

Daniel’s son Gulian C. Verplanck, also a member of Congress, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of New York. Other Verplancks were judges, businessmen and wealthy farmers.

With slavery abolished in New York in 1827, the conservative Verplancks gradually sided with the Abolitionists, hiring escaped slave James Brown, who eventually worked for the family for 40 years. Brown’s diaries, written at Mount Gulian, provide a detailed record of daily life in the area. During the Civil War, Robert Newlin Verplanck volunteered in the Union Army’s US Colored Troops, training and fighting alongside black troops until the victory at Appomattox. His battlefield letters to his mother and sister have been preserved at Mount Gulian.

The Victorian Era brought associations with the local Livingstons, Roosevelts and Vanderbilts. Notable family members included Verplanck Colvin, a topographical engineer who surveyed the Adirondacks; Virginia E. Verplanck, a celebrated gardener and hostess; and John Bayard Verplanck, an early seaplane flyer, racing pilot, World War I-era veteran and banker.

Mount Gulian was occupied by the Verplancks until 1931, when the house was destroyed by fire. Many of the furnishings and valuables were saved before the home was fully engulfed. In honor of the American Bicentennial of 1976, Mount Gulian was restored with the assistance of Verplanck descendants, local-history-lovers and members of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Mount Gulian Day: America’s Stories will begin at 12:15 p.m. with storyteller Lorraine Hartin Gelardi discussing the Verplanck family, followed by a presentation by speaker Paul Lockhart, “General Von Steuben and the Making of the American Army.” After a brief intermission, Harv Hilowitz will speak on “Robert Newlin Verplanck and the US Colored Troops,” with “The Lenape People and Native American Music” by Evan Pritchard following. The final presentation of the day will be a living history performance highlighting Mary Anna Verplanck, “An Uncommon Woman.” A house tour will be held at 4:15 p.m.

Preregistration is strongly recommended by calling (845) 831-8172 or e-mailing info@mountgulian.org. Admission is paid on the day of the event. The cost is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for ages 12 to 18, $4 for ages 6 through 11 and free for kids under age 6 and Mount Gulian members. Light refreshments will be provided.

 

Mount Gulian Day: America’s Stories, on Sunday, October 30, 12 noon-5 p.m., $12/$10$8/$4, Mount Gulian Historic Site, 145 Sterling Street, Beacon; (845) 831-8172, info@mountgulian.org, www.mountgulian.org.

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