Historical Society

PO Box 22
Amenia, NY 12501

Genealogy Information: Besty Strauss  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

General Information: Maureen Moore  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

About the Society

The Amenia Historical Society was established in 1969. Its mission has been to preserve Amenia’s history by maintaining an archive of family and topical files containing documents, photos and memorabilia. The Society also strives to promote Amenia’s long and rich history through programs, community events, and publications.

The AHS genealogy committee is busy answering requests for information regarding former Amenia residents. Although much data is available online, our family files often provide helpful information in answering questions from researchers. Betsy Strauss, our genealogy chairperson, may be contacted by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In the past few years, several genealogy requests have led to the discovery of interesting stories, for example, an Irish immigrant lad who became a legendary hero in Amenia; a missing Amenia gravestone of 1787 found near Albany; a Civil War soldier’s journal; and most recently, a visitor from Nagaland, India, who came to say thank you for the missionary couple who went to India in 1868 and brought about a transformation among her people. Some of these fascinating stories have provided excellent material for AHS programs and community events.

The Amenia Historical Society needs more members, who are interested in local history and who enjoy getting involved with programs and ongoing projects. One may email Maureen Moore at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  for more information.

BOOKS

Early History of Amenia, by Newton Reed, was originally published in 1875. In its 4th printing in 1975, a collection of essays, “Impressions by Dewey Barry” was added. Our new 5th edition includes, for the first time, photos and maps. It may be purchased through the historical society.

In Early History of Amenia, our celebrated 19th century historian, Newton Reed, captured soon-to-be-lost information about those persons who settled in Amenia prior to 1800. He described the growth of each hamlet, its church and its industry. He documented the part Amenia played in the Revolutionary War and in the founding of this country.

A century later, Amenia was blessed to have a local historian, Dewey Barry, who submitted his well-researched essays to the Harlem Valley Times for publication. Curious stories, often unearthed in old newspapers, led Barry to do a thorough investigation of the details and to produce entertaining, yet authentic, versions of the tales. These stories were added to Newton Reed’s book in its 4th edition.

Another book of historical value and available through AHS is The Amenia Cookbook. It is a delightful read, not only filled with favorite recipes, but also with historical tidbits and candid photographs of Amenia’s families and friends. This is no ordinary town cookbook. It is a cookbook, plus history, and makes a great gift for anyone.

To order either of these books, contact Maureen Moore at

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Barney Gilroy

 

By P.B.Caulkins, March 1934

HARLEM VALLEY TIMES

Edited by Dewey Barry, March 1974

Amended by Elizabeth C. Strauss, March 2012

Bernard J. Gilroy, Amenia's last surviving Civil War veteran, died February 28, 1934, at 91 years of age. “Barney” was an outgoing and indomitable old gentleman and a popular figure in the community during the years of his retirement. His life-long Amenia friend, Platt B. Caulkins, recorded the details of Barneyʼs life in a newspaper article in March of 1934, from which we learn of the adventures of our hometown hero.

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Barneyʼs parents, Daniel and Mary Gilroy, along with four children, emigrated from Ireland in December of 1846. Barney was 3 or 4 years old at the time. The family lived first in Pawling, NY, before moving to Amenia around 1855. Their home in Amenia was a short distance up the track from the depot. Therefore, Barney came to know a great deal about the daily railroad operations.

The upper switch for the railroad track was located near the Gilroy house. Barney knew the schedule and observed, one morning, that most of the freight train going north had coupled behind it several carloads of rock plaster consigned to a local miller. He knew that after the cars were "kicked" off to the sidetrack, the train would continue on to Sharon Station where it was to take siding, or park and wait, to allow a fast passenger train from Millerton to pass. The first scheduled stop for the passenger train was Dover Plains, and it would be coming through Amenia at a high rate of speed.

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When Barney came out of his house, he saw that the switch had been left open. He knew that was wrong and so he closed it. As the passenger train raced through Sharon Station, the crewmember of the freight train suddenly remembered that he had failed to close the switch, and he waited in anguish to hear the news of a disastrous wreck. But after a sufficient time had elapsed and no such news was received, he began to breathe easier.

When the freight train reached Amenia that night on its return trip, Barney was there to confront the conductor. "Someone forgot to close the switch this morning," he said. When the conductor learned that Barney was the one who had closed the switch, he gave him a generous reward and they became fast friends.

Barney's confidence in himself was strengthened further by his learning to use the telegraph. An improved telegraph instrument had been devised and one was being installed in the Amenia office. A few boys were standing around watching the installation, and the agent, Mr. Vincent, knowing that Barney had been practicing on an old instrument at home, asked him if he thought he could work this one. After a little instruction, Barney was successful in operating it. That was when he decided he wanted to follow a railroad career. Barney was given the job of telegraph operator at just 16 years of age.

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Two years later, in 1861, when the Civil War broke out and the call for volunteers came, Barney went to Sharon, CT, and enlisted in the Fifth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. He mustered in as a corporal, and his contingent was placed under the banner of the Army of the Potomac, which took part in many of the major engagements of the War.

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In the following year he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. It was at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Va., he lost the tip of one finger, was captured along with others of his regiment. After being held in Libby Prison for three months, there was an exchange of prisoners between the North and South, and he was allowed to return to his regiment.

Together, with other comrades from Amenia, including James Newman, William H. Bartlett and George T. Willson, he fought in the decisive and bloody Battle of Gettysburg. He was afterward promoted to the rank of lieutenant and saw his last action in the Battle of Lookout Mountain. There he received a bullet wound in the leg. After being hospitalized for a time, he was given his honorable discharge and was permitted to return home. For the next year, he required the use of crutches to get around and was then rehired by the railroad company, again as the local telegraph operator.

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During the War, Barney had acquired a taste for liquor, when the "Commissary" provided to the battle-weary combatants who were permitted to have a ration of whiskey at such times. For a few years thereafter, his periodic bouts with alcohol resulted in his being laid off from work several times. On such occasions, he would enlist the aid of some of his influential friends, who would intercede for his reinstatement, following his promise to do better. It was not that he ever got out of bounds to the neglect of his duties, or that he engaged in any questionable conduct. But his superiors became concerned about his repeated lapses and began to lose faith in his ability to lick the habit. Finally, he was fired.

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His last employment with the company was as a caboose brakeman on a freight train. One night the train became stalled in deep snow about a half mile from the Martindale station. It was around midnight and the conductor thought he had no other alternative than to wait with his crew until the station would be opened in the morning, when the situation could then be reported. Barney proposed to the conductor that he be allowed to walk to the station, where he would try to gain entrance by forcing a window and report by wire to the White Plains dispatcher. The conductor gave his permission and Barney plodded the half-mile through the deep snow. Within the next hour the dispatcher had received the report and help was on its way, hours sooner than it otherwise would have been.

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It was only a few months later that Barney was again found to be imbibing too freely, and the company decided that it could do without his further services. Barney had at last come to the end of the line as an employee of the New York and Harlem Railroad. For the next six years he lived at home, working only occasionally and continuing his drinking habit, until the time of his mother's death in 1874. She had said that as long as she lived, Barney would always have a home. Her death had a sobering effect on Barney, and his pride would not allow him to continue to be a burden on his sisters, who had never lost their faith in him.

Pledging that he had taken his last drink -- a pledge that he faithfully kept -- and with only a little money in his pocket, he boarded a train that took him to New York. There he found employment in a restaurant, where he worked for several months. Then, he saw an advertisement for trainmen with the Third Avenue Elevated Company. He applied for the job and was hired.

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One day a car truck on one of his trains ran off the track and traffic was blocked. No one seemed to be doing anything about it, so Barney decided to take some action of his own. He persuaded the other trainmen to help and was issuing orders in his characteristically vigorous manner, when a railroad official appeared on the scene. Seeing that some progress was being made, he inquired who the man was that was in charge of the work. Upon learning that it was one of the trainmen, he approached Barney and asked him who had given him authority to issue orders. Barney's reply was, "No one did, but if you want to keep the wheels moving, someone has to give the orders."

The result was that Barney was given the opportunity to qualify as a train dispatcher at the City Hall terminal and he was soon appointed to the position. During the next 20 years, in the course of which he moved up to become chief dispatcher of the line, he was always on the move and kept the trains moving, too.

In the morning and evening rush hours, trains were then running on a two-minute schedule. Barney's ability to take on greater responsibilities had long been recognized by the company, and when the position of train master became open, he was appointed to fill the vacancy as chief dispatcher with his headquarters at 125th Street and Third Avenue. In his new position of authority, he continued to evidence his flair for decisive action, whenever the situation called for it.

As one who had risen through the ranks and remembered his own earlier failings, Barney was always considerate of the problems of the workers, whom he treated with understanding and fairness. In turn, he came to earn their respect and support. Barney's fortunes, which had been on the rise, ever since he first became employed by the company and, which in the normal course of events, could be expected to continue, until the time of his retirement (he was then nearly 70 years old), suddenly took an unexpected and ironic twist. The trainmen went on strike and Barney was caught in the middle.

Although he was in sympathy with the cause of the men, he did not allow his feelings for them to conflict with his duties as an official of the company to which he owed his allegiance. Then an incident occurred, when Barney, in the course of his duties, was sighted by a group of strikers who shouted, "Hurray for Gilroy!"

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The gesture of good will was mistaken by the company as evidence of his divided loyalties, and he was called on the carpet. Barney felt that his long term of faithful service needed no defense, and rather than continue in the service without benefit of the complete confidence of his employers, he decided to resign and close out his railroad career. His wife had died a few years earlier (1908), and so he returned to Amenia to make his home with his sister, Margaret.

One day in 1917, Barney was in McKelvey's Market when a salesman came in and said he had enlisted in the Army; and since he would no longer need his car, he offered to sell it for $300. Barney made a lower offer and after some dickering, a bargain was struck. Barney took out his wallet, peeled off the necessary bills and took ownership of the Ford runabout. Charlie Newman was there at the time and offered to drive Barney home. It was the only driving lesson he ever needed.

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Almost every morning thereafter, weather permitting, until within a few years of his death, he drove to the village, accompanied by his faithful dog, to pick up the mail, do the shopping and complete his usual rounds. His last stop was at the office of the railroad station where, between visits with the office staff, he kept an ear tuned to the clicking of the telegraph instruments.

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Several of the images used to illustrate this story were taken from the internet and are not authentic to Amenia or to the persons mentioned in this story.

Diary of an Enlisted Man

The Story of

 

LT.LAWRENCE VAN ALSTYNE

 

An Officer of

the 128th NY Vol. Regiment &

the 90th U.S. Colored Infantry

 

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Highlights from
"Diary of an Enlisted Man”
As told by Elizabeth C. Strauss, August 25, 2013
 
DIARY OF AN ENLISTED MAN
Lawrence Van Alstyne’s Civil War Record
 
Introduction -- Good afternoon. Today I would like to share a few stories from Diary of an Enlisted Man, Lawrence Van Alstyne’s personal record as a Civil War soldier. Van Alstyne wrote faithfully every day of his experiences and sent them home to his parents in small bundles. He did not publish the diary until 1910. I intend to highlight LVA’s time in the 128th NY Vol. Reg. and then his time in the 90th US Colored Infantry.
 
From Hudson to Baltimore
 
In August of 1862, Lawrence Van Alstyne was 23 years old. After hearing Pres. Lincoln’s call for 300,000 more troops to help save the Union, he felt he could no longer justify staying home, even to care for his aging parents. He enlisted in Millerton and reported to the training camp in Hudson, NY on August 19. He was joining the newly formed 128th NY Volunteer Regiment.
 
Lawrence’s home was near “The City,” a hamlet on the northwest side of the Town of Amenia, known today as Smithfield. This hamlet straddled the borders of North East and of Stanford. Most of the residents of the area attended the church at The City and utilized the mill and the general store that was there, too.

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Lawrence was the youngest of seven children. His brother John was 11 years older than he, his brother William was 18 years older. All three brothers were iron moulders. Iron moulding was a skill necessary in the iron industry of the time. Two of Lawrence’s sisters were married and living in Sharon, Ct. Sarah was married to Herman Rowley, and Betsy was married to John C. Loucks. When Lawrence went off to war, many of his friends and acquaintances chose to do the same. At the camp in Hudson, he counted at least 25 men who were friends from home. They all signed on with Company B, hoping that Ed Bostwick, the storekeeper’s son from The City, would be appointed their Captain, which he was. Col. David Cowles, originally from Canaan, Ct., was the commander of the regiment.

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The men and boys of Co. B were in Hudson just long enough to receive their uniforms, and then they were granted a 5-day furlough. All the sad farewells would have to be said once again, but they were delighted to see their loved ones one more time. Van Alstyne wrote that,once home, Obadiah Pitcher offered to chauffeur Lawrence around the countryside in order to visit old friends and neighbors, the McElwees and the Bryans, Hugh Miller and Jason Hull. He visited the Haights in Mabbettsville, because their son was already in the service. He called on his brother John, who was working in Amenia Union. Brother John told him he was a fool for enlisting.
 
The next day Lawrence took his girlfriend, Mary Eggleston,for a long drive,by horse and buggy, of course. In the evening,he attended a patriotic rally in Millerton and received a $100 bounty from the Town.
 
Soon, the furlough was over and he was back in Hudson.
 
On Sept.5,1862, the 128th NY received a glorious send-off from the thousands of people gathered in Hudson tobless their departure.Onboard the steamship Oregon,993 new soldiers setout for parts unknown. Lawrence wrote that seeing the beauty of the Hudson River was a first for him. This small town boy was going to see a whole new world, a world without much beauty and without peace.
 

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Within a few days, the 128th was setting up tents at Camp Millington, near Baltimore. Lawrence described their accommodations in great detail, -- the flimsy two-man tent that got drenched with rain, the men covered in red mud when they got up, the bugs that crawled over them and the hungry mosquitoes that devoured them, the hot sun and the woolen uniforms, buttoned up to the chin, the sweat, the drills, the chills, the meals and the cooks, who didn’t ever wash their hands. And, this was as good as it was going to get in the army.
 
When the men finally received new and improved 4-man tents, Lawrence’s tent-mates were Walter Loucks, age 35, a good friend from home, actually, his brother-in-law’s brother, and George and Jim Story, two friends from Pine Plains. They were packed in like sardines, but they could close the sides of the tent to keep out the rain and the mosquitoes, -- to a certain extent.
 
The word around camp was that a Dutchess County regiment had been formed and was soon to join them in Baltimore. By mid-October, the 150th NY Vol. Regiment did indeed arrive! Everyone in Company B was thrilled. And, guess who was in the 150th? Lawrence’s brother John! (Now, who’s a fool?) There were many other friends in the 150th who Lawrence knew even better than his own brother. George Willson, from his neighborhood in North East, for one. Of course, everybody wanted a pass to visit friends in the 150th, and vice versa, for them to visit the guys in the 128th.
 
Sickness
 
By November 1, Lawrence’s sore throat was making him feel rundown and weak. Dr. Andrus finally sent him to the hospital, along with the other sick men of the 128th. Brother John came to visit him. An early snowfall that day, unusual for the area, seemed ominous. Within a week, four men had died in the hospital. And, the other men of 128th were heading for Louisiana, -- without Lawrence.
 
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On Nov. 14, when Lawrence heard that Dr. Andrus was going to leave and catch up with the regiment, he decided that he was sick of being sick. He determined to sneak away, without the doctor’s permission, which he did. Hustling 2 miles in 20 minutes, weighed down with gear and weak from illness, he arrived at the ship just as the gangplank was being raised. Dr. Andrus took good care of him, but scolded him, too.
 
Later, on board the ship Argo, with the regiment, Lawrence got sicker rather than better. They were at sea, in unhealthy conditions for almost 7 weeks. Measles, scurvy, typhoid fever, jaundice, and lice plagued the men. William Haight died and was buried at sea. So many men were sick that they had to be left at Quarantine Station in Louisiana. It was there that Company B lost Harrison Leroy and John Van Hovenburg, both from The City (i.e., Smithfield). They were buried on New Year’s Day 1863.
 
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The regiment moved on to Camp Chalmette, La., where 28 men were still very ill. The men set up camp on the very ground where the Battle of New Orleans had taken place in 1814. The soldiers had to sleep on the damp ground, getting wet and chilled from the winter rains.
 
Lawrence’s tent-mate, Walter Loucks, was suffering from rheumatism. (This may have actually been rheumatoid arthritis.) He was in pain all the time, with the cold, damp weather making his pain excruciating. He had to be hospitalized for a long time.
 
Lawrence’s cough got worse. He would have coughing spasms, if he were to lie down, so he slept very little and stayed upright most of the time. After the move from Camp Chalmette to Camp Parapet in February, Dr. Andrus put Lawrence in the hospital.
 
A Wedding
 
On Feb. 16, something very special happened. Capt. Bostwick was married to Miss Kate Douglass of Amenia Union. She had arrived the day before. This brought great excitement to Company B, (Bostwick’s Tigers, as they called themselves) if not to the whole regiment. It’s too bad that Lawrence was sick in bed at the time.
 
As I was looking for more information about this event, I found a HVT article, written for the Bostwick’s 50th anniversary in 1913. That article included a newspaper article from the New Orleans Daily Era. (What a find!) I quote:
 
“A beautiful and interesting ceremony took place last evening, Feb. 16, 1863, at the residence of Gen. and Mrs. S. B. Holabird, the occasion being the marriage of Capt. Charles Edward Bostwick of the 128th Regiment New York Vol., and Miss Katherine Douglass, both of Amenia, N.Y."
 
"A select company of officers and their wives were present, including Major-General Banks, Col. Clark, Gen. Holabird, Gen. Beckwith, Lt.-Col. Strother, Capt. McClure, Capt. Hooker, Mr. Tucker, private secretary to the commanding general, besides Lt. Col. Smith, Major Forest, Capt. Parker, and Lt. Dutcher of the regiment to which the groom belongs.” (the article continues)
 
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“The bride was dressed with exquisite taste and was attended by Mrs. Holabird as matron of honor. The marriage ceremony was performed by Rev. Dr. Bacon, rector of Christ Church, the happy couple standing under the bright folds of the flag, whose honor the gallant bridegroom is fighting to protect. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the company partook of a delicious repast.”
 
How did all this come about? you may ask. How could this young woman travel, apparently unaccompanied, from Amenia, during the War, to New Orleans and get married in the home of a general, just six months after her truelove was assigned to Company B of the 128th?
 
Well, I did a bit of digging and learned that the two women, Kate Douglas and Mary (Grant) Holabird had lived next door to each other in Amenia Union. Mary Grant was about 10 years older than Kate. She attended Amenia Seminary, as did her future husband, Samuel Holabird. They were married in the South Amenia Church July 2, 1849, the day after he graduated from West Point. She was 19, he was 22. Because he was going with the army to Texas for frontier duty, Mary remained at home with her parents in Amenia Union.
(FYI: Kate Douglass and Ed Bostwick attended Amenia Seminary, as well.)
 
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Gen. Holabird was born in Canaan, Ct. He became Chief Quarter Master of the Dept. of the Gulf, and is credited for having saved many lives because of the improvements he made in the soldiers’ uniforms and in their living conditions in the South. The Holabirds, at some point, bought land in Amenia Union, on the Sharon side of the line, a farm of about 250 acres.
 
But, I am getting away from our story. -- Poor Lawrence was in the hospital at Camp Parapet, so sick that the doctor wrote to his father informing him that Lawrence might die before the letter arrived in Amenia. More of the men had died of illness, Henry Coon, Bill Crowther, and Lewis Holmes. Capt. Bostwick visited Lawrence in the hospital a few days after the wedding in February.
 
But, it was not until mid-April that Lawrence was out of the hospital and allowed to report for duty. Mercifully, he was appointed Commissary Sergeant. This job was less physically demanding, and it afforded him a higher rank and slightly more pay.
 
Port Hudson, LA
 
On May 21, 1863, Lawrence wrote that Capt. Bostwick had left the men of Company B high and dry, with not so much as a good-bye. The rumor was that he had been promoted to the rank of major in a Negro regiment. The 128th NY was soon to be on its way to Port Hudson, where a great conflict would ensue.
 
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When the battle was underway, Col. David Cowles, Commander of the Regiment, was one of the first to be killed. As he sat propped up and dying, he requested that they tell his mother that he died facing the enemy. Riley Burdick of Co.B also died in battle.
 
Many of the men of the 128th were wounded. Generals Sherman and Dow were also wounded. The siege of Port Hudson continued until the surrender of Vicksburg on July 7. Confederate troops at Port Hudson surrendered the following day.
 
Meanwhile, the horrific battles at Gettysburg had taken their toll of dead and wounded. It wasn’t until July 22, however, that Lawrence heard about his big brother John having been killed at Gettysburg. Lawrence felt his own parents’ pain and grief over losing a son.
 
Little John Wing was hit at the same time. They are buried next to each other. Lawrence also heard that his friend and neighbor, George Willson had been seriously wounded. He had been shot in the head and left for dead, but later found to be alive.
 
The heat of the summer continued to be oppressive, Lawrence recorded.
 
The 90th U.S. Colored Infantry
 
On August 15, 1863, Lawrence wrote: (quote) “Major Bostwick has been promoted to Colonel Bostwick of the 90th U.S. Colored Infantry, Corps d’Afrique. …He is allowed to choose his staff from the 128th.” (end quote)
 
And that is what he did. Col. Bostwick judiciously chose 2 or 3 men from each company. From Co. B he chose Sgt. Van Alstyne, Sgt. “Sol” Drake, and Sgt. George Gorton. By Sept. 1, they were all on their way to New Orleans as 1st Lieutenants.
 
The task of the 90th USCI was to recruit ex-slaves, freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. This was a dangerous assignment. It was a crime against the Confederacy, punishable by immediate execution if caught, whites and blacks alike.
 
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Many black men had already joined the Union forces. Those who were recruited by the 90th were enthusiastic about the cause of freedom, eager to become what they called “Linkum Sogers.” Of course, they needed rigorous training, which Lawrence was to supply. He was expected to shape up these awkward recruits into a tight marching machine.
 
Some of the colored volunteers arrived with their families, who were seeking refuge. Some of the men were too old or too lame to be considered for service. Some just came to hang around the camp. Lawrence and the other officers had to be tough and send away everyone, except those who passed muster, to other places of refuge.
 
In examining the men, the officers saw some who were scarred entirely down the back from the neck down. They heard horrific stories of abuse, beatings and hangings.
 
Of those men who were too old or lame, some had winsome qualities and were taken on by the officers as a valet or servant. Lawrence hired a man named Tony, and George Gorton took Henry into his employ. Once trained, the “Linkum Sogers” of the 90th Regiment were turned over to the 4th Louisiana Engineers.
 
Character Sketches
 
In November of ’63, two months after their transfer to the 90th, Lawrence decided to record in his diary his assessment of the officers of the new regiment. I will share his insights about only the three men who transferred from Company B. He wrote:
 
Col. Edward Bostwick -- 5’ 10” tall, light complexion, gray eyes, brown hair and beard. He is particular about his appearance and about the appearance of his men. He seldom drinks, never in excess, and is a good soldier. He was promoted from Capt. of Co. B, 128th, to Major of 1st Louisiana Engineers in May ’63. He served at Port Hudson with this regiment. In August ’63 he was promoted to Colonel of the 90th to raise a regiment of freed slaves in the Dept. of the Gulf.
 
1st Lt. George H. Gorton – enlisted with the 128th as a wagoner or teamster, as he had been when working for the Bostwicks in Amenia. He was promoted to Commissary Sergeant in the 3rd Louisiana Engineers, and then came to the 90th. (Van Alstyne also wrote) Gorton is strange. He is well liked, but not respected. He is better at handling horses than men. He has no real enemies, but no real friends either.
 
1st Lt. George Solomon Drake – “Sol” also had worked for the Bostwicks in Amenia. He was appointed Commissary Sgt. In the 128th. He has always been in close touch with Col. Bostwick. “He and I (Lawrence wrote) have long been good friends. I could not find anything wrong with him if I tried. (In my estimation) he is a good writer and promises to be a good businessman.”
 
Henry Holmes & Going Home
 
In December of ’63, Lawrence had great hopes for a furlough, but to no avail. On Dec. 26th, however, he received a letter from his father requesting that he come home to help him find another place to live. Lawrence went to Col. Bostwick with the request and applied for leave. He was so hopeful that leave would be granted that he went to bed each night with his bags packed and ready to go.
 
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Days went by, and weeks, until finally he was so desperate he went to a fortuneteller to find out if he would or would not be going home. She told him nothing relevant, and he regretted having spent money foolishly. But almost the next day, on Jan. 12, 1864, he received word that he had been granted leave to visit his family. He was asked to take with him Henry Holmes, Gorton’s servant who would help Mrs. Gorton in North East Center. “Glory! Hallelujah!” Lawrence shouted, “I’m going home!”
 
Travel then, as now, can be fraught with unforeseen events. All went well, -- despite Henry’s seasickness -- until they arrived in NYC and were on the way to the 26th St. station to get the train bound for Millerton. A man persistently tried to shanghai Henry, but they said NO and drove him away. Lawrence sent Henry to the Dutchess County House across the street for some food, while he bought the train tickets. When time came to board the train, Henry was nowhere to be found. What to do? Lawrence decided to go on to Millerton, leaving Henry’s ticket with the policeman on duty, asking him to watch for Henry and to put him on the next day’s train.
 
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Lawrence arrived in Millerton at 8:20 PM. It was Jan. 22, cold and dark. He had no means of transportation to his parents’ home. So, he spent the night at Sweet’s Hotel. The next day, he waited for the train. But Henry did not arrive. Fortunately, he was able to get a ride home with Joe Hull. On the way, they stopped at Mrs. Gorton’s in North East Center and explained the situation about Henry. It wasn’t long after and he was home in The City.
 
His reunion with his folks was emotional, I’m sure. They had experienced so much concern and sadness in the past year. Larry, as they called him, had been sick to the point of death, but it was his brother John who had been killed. Larry commented in his diary that he found his bedroom just as he had left it.
 
With Storekeeper Bostwick’s kind assistance, Larry was able to find a new home for his parents, just north of the Smithfield Church, across the road from Sol Drake’s parents. His time at home went by quickly, -- without word from Henry. Then, just as he was getting ready to return to Louisiana, Henry was found.
 
This is what happened to poor Henry the day he disappeared in NYC. The man who had tried to hire him followed him into the restaurant. The man lied to Henry and told him that Lt. Larry had left a trunk on board ship and wanted him to get it. Henry went off on a “wild goose chase” and only got back to the station after the train had left for Millerton. The dutiful policeman gave him his ticket and told him where he could spend the night.
 
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The next day Henry boarded the train to Millerton, but he fell asleep and woke up in Albany. Some kind people there, upon hearing the names Van Alstyne, Palon, and Bostwick, sent him to Hudson and put a notice in the newspaper. Col. Bostwick’s mother happened to read the notice and contacted Larry. Larry’s brother-in-law, John Loucks went to Johnstown and located Henry. But Henry was skeptical about going anywhere with any stranger. However, when John started talking about how disappointed Lt. Larry was going to be, he agreed to go with him. Lt. Larry was indeed glad to see Henry safely in Millerton before he headed south again.
 
The rest of Henry’s story is this: After the war, after Lawrence had married Mary Eggleston and they had settled in Sharon, Henry Holmes moved to Sharon, too. He became a much-loved member of the community. He attended the Methodist Church and supported himself by working hard and saving his money.
 
When he died in 1887, the churches of Sharon took part in his funeral, eulogizing him for his encouraging words and hard work over the years. His grave in Hillside Cemetery is marked with a large rough-cut boulder, which bears this epitaph:
 
Henry Holmes
Died May 19, 1887
Free at last
 
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Conclusion of the 90th USCI
 
Lawrence Van Alstyne returned to the 90th USCI in early March 1864. The Red River Campaign was about to get underway. While traveling up the river, they still looked for recruits to add to the regiment. The men of the 90th were ordered to guard and assist the engineers who were building and moving the pontoon bridges along the way. They had many harrowing experiences, foraging for food, dodging the sniper’s bullets, and witnessing the burning of Alexandria and its tormented refugees fleeing the city.
 
On July 11, 1864, the men received an order, Order No. 88, to muster out of the 90th USCI. They mustered out on August 24 in New Orleans, a full year before their original 3-year commitment with the 128th would expire. None of the officers complained about leaving the front early. They were happy to return home. What became of the Negro soldiers is another story.
 
Lawrence Van Alstyne concluded his diary by saying this, and I quote,
“In due time, we reached our homes, and the eventful life of the soldier was exchanged for the less eventful life of the private citizen.”
 
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Van Alstyne’s life after the war may have been less eventful, but it was not less productive. He managed the Malleable Iron Company of Sharon Valley for many years. He also invested countless hours in researching and compiling local history data, in order to publish at least four more books:
 
Burying Grounds of Sharon, Conn., Amenia and North East, New York
Born, Married and Died in Sharon, Conn.
Merchants of Sharon
Manufacturers of Sharon
 
A Presentation by Elizabeth C. Strauss
North East Historical Society, August 25, 2013
 
 

Several of the images used to illustrate this story were taken from the internet and are not authentic to Amenia or to the persons mentioned in this story.

AHS New Location

The Amenia Historical Society

has been enjoying its new location in the Amenia Town Hall since August 2014.

The historical society’s spacious room on the second floor is near the elevator,

which makes for easy access from the front entrance of the building.

Visitors are welcome on Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:00 – 4:00 PM, or by appointment.

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The Town Hall, located at 4988 Route 22, was formerly the Amenia High School.

It is situated on the historic site of the Amenia Seminary,

 a coed boarding school of renown, founded by the Methodists in 1835.

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The Amenia Seminary

THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME OF AMENIA

The name AMENIA means “a pleasant place.” This name was coined by Dr. Thomas Young in 1762, when the Amenia Precinct was formed. Certainly, the picturesque views from DeLaVergne Hill and from Depot Hill Road confirm the appropriateness of the name, as do the pastoral scenes throughout the town.

Dr. Thomas Young arrived in Amenia around 1755 and married Mary Winegar, daughter of Capt. Garrett Winegar, of Amenia and Sharon, near Amenia Union. Dr. Young was not only a physician. He was a poet, known for his epic poem, “The Conquest of Quebec,” a writer of political pamphlets, and a Latin scholar, who also gave the State of Vermont its name. Young was an ardent patriot and a friend of the irreverent patriot, Ethan Allen of Salisbury, Connecticut. 

Young is said to have been so impassioned for the cause of independence that he participated in the Boston Tea Party. But because he was not in “Indian” costume for the raid and was identified by the British, he had to flee for his life to Rhode Island. He later joined Dr. Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia at the military hospital there, treating wounded and sick soldiers. In 1777, he succumbed to a disease called “putrid fever,” which took his life within hours.

The Town of Amenia is proud to have had Dr. Thomas Young as one of its own citizens. Likewise, his daughter, Susanna Knies, is worthy of praise. Mrs. Knies lived at Amenia Union, aka Hitchcock’s Corners, and conducted a private school for girls. She died in 1801 and was buried in the Amenia Union Cemetery among other Winegar descendants buried there.

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Then and Now

 

 Bakers1Bakers2

In 1940, Baker’s Drugstore occupied the southwest corner of the Rt. 22-Main St intersection. No trace of that complex of buildings exists today. The buildings on the east side of 22 have been altered but remain largely intact.

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In the late 1930”s, a Veteran’s Memorial was in the middle of Rt. 343. It featured the Guernsey Fountain, memorial plaques, and a WW I German artillery piece. The square became a traffic hazard and was removed in the late ‘40s.

EastMain1EastMain2

A view of East Main Street around 1915.  The fountain, originally a horse watering trough, sits forlornly in the middle of the still unpaved street.Today, except for the fountain’s location in front of the bank, doesn’t look too different.

Fountain1Fountain2

Around 1925, the fountain had moved to the new park where it would remain for many years.  The park was removed in the late 40’s and the fountain was buried and largely forgotten!  In the late ‘80s, a group of local citizens restored it in a new memorial square in front of the bank.

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Looking across Rt. 22 west up Rt. 343 sometime in the late 30’s to early 40”s. Most of the buildings have vanished and have been replaced by the ubiquitous gas station/ convenience store along with numerous signs and overhead wires.

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Northwest corner of Main and 22, Memorial Day, 1906. Pratt House in background and the fountain at the right.

 

The Pratt House became the renowned De La Vergne Farms Hotel and Inn. It burned to the ground in the early 7 0’s in a spectacular blaze.

Pratt

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Four Brothers Restaurant occupies the same spot today.    The“wandering fountain” is just  out of view on the right. The small white building on the left can just be seen in the photo above.

The Amenia Seminary opened in 1835 and served teducate both young men and women from far and wide.  It closed in 1888 after the formation of public school districts in the area.

seminary

 

 

In the late 20s, Amenia High School was built  on the same spot as theAmeniSeminary.  It became Amenia Elementary School in the mid 50s when Webutuck Central School opened.

highschool

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The Town of Amenia purchased the schoolbuilding for one dollar in 2008 for use as a townhall.

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Amenia Depot around 1920. The area along Mechanic St.was a center of commercial activity starting with the arrival of the railroad in the1850s,lasting for over a century.

depot2

 

 

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The Amenia Inn was built on this site directly across from the Amenia Depot at the foot of Depot Hill in 1853.  It had several owners over more than 100 years who expanded and upgraded the building many times.  This photo was taken in the early 1930's.

 

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As the importance of the railroad dimished, the Amenia House did also.  In the 1960's it became a bar and private residence and in the late 80's it was burned down.  The site today is owned by the Town of Amenia and is a parking lot for the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.

 

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Depot Hill looking south towards the railroad station. This was an impoartant commercial area dominated by Wilson and Eaton, a farm supply and lumber company founded in the 1880's by a Civil War yet.  Photo was taken in the early part of the last century.

 

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Wilson and Eaton was still part of the scene looking south on Mechanic St. towards Depot Hill in this photo taken in the late 50's or early 60's.

 

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 Mechanic St. today.  The only trace of Wilson and Eaton is the renovated office building of Ducillo Contruction on the right edge of the photo.

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Looking north on Mechanic St. from Railroad Ave. The Amenia Depot is on the right just in front of Wilson and Eaton's. It appears as if there were three sets of tracks at the time of the photo around 1925.

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Same view in 2015. A few buildings on the west side of the street are still standing and are in use. Many old train depots in the area have survived, but not in Amenia.

Historical Society Projects

  • Archives Partnership - The joining together of three of Amenia’s local history organizations (Amenia Historical Society, Indian Rock Schoolhouse Association and the Archives Committee of Immaculate Conception Church) has resulted in the receipt of a grant from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, Northeast Dutchess Fund.   The grant provides funds for a museum quality software program and dedicated computer to digitize photos and documents from all three collections, insuring their safety and accessibility. 
     
  • Baseball - Studies of this baseball town’s stars, managers, fields and fans
  • 300th Anniversary (2004)

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