From a network of bootleggers operating secret distilleries during Prohibition to Urban Renewal erasing important landmarks in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun discussed the forgotten history of Newburgh during a recent talk at Mount Saint Mary College’s Desmond Campus for Adult Enrichment.
Most 845LIFE subjects are about living people. This one, however, is not.
Claudius Smith has been dead for almost 238 years, hanged in front of a crowd at the original Orange County Courthouse on Jan. 22, 1779.
Last week, the Orange County Historian’s Office unveiled a “Legend and Lore” marker in front of the 1841 courthouse – which replaced the original courthouse on the same site.
“There are lots of rumors and myths about Claudius Smith,” says Johanna Yaun, county historian.
“Which is why it’s a Legend and Lore marker and not a historical marker. Because everybody has a different story about him.”
County receives recognition for Historic Tavern Trail series, which featured local history discussions in historic restaurants
GOSHEN — Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus announced that the County’s Historian’s Office has been recognized by the American Association for State and Local History with an Award of Merit for last year’s Historic Tavern Trail series.
“I’m proud of the contributions that our historian, Johanna Yaun, has made to the economic vitality of Orange County,” Neuhaus said. “The Tavern Trail series promoted the county’s rich history and some of its diverse eateries. I commend Johanna on being recognized by her peers for this innovative initiative.”
A cross-promotion between the Orange County historian, tourism and economic development, the Tavern Trail events included a cocktail hour, a dinner featuring local food and friendly discussions of local history in a historic restaurant or tavern. The series was held last April through October at seven locations.
The American Association for State and Local History will present 48 national awards this year, honoring people, projects, exhibits and publications. Presentation of the awards will be made at a banquet during the group's annual meeting on Sept. 8 in Austin, Texas.
“The Tavern Trail received a wonderful response from our hosts and attendees,” Yaun said in the county's press release announcing the award. “It provided each establishment with exposure while highlighting Orange County’s rich history in a friendly setting. We are certainly proud of this recognition and enjoyed collaborating with Matt Kierstead and Milestone Heritage Consulting on the events.”
“In 1919, New York passed a law that every municipality must have a historian,” she says. “In 1933 it was amended to include counties as well, making us the only state in the nation to mandate it.”
“Originally it was for public education and record keeping, but the reality is that 100 years later, a lot of time is now spent using history to help tourism and supporting the local economies.”
“So my approach to history is a little different,” she says.
GOSHEN – Village of Florida resident Robert Milby has been named Orange County’s Poet Laureate for 2017-2019.
In that role, Milby’s duties will include creating pieces of literature in poetic forms to commemorate Orange County events, its people and places.
Milby, 47, is the author of five poetry books and has hosted events throughout the county since 1995. He began writing poetry in 1987 as a student at James I. O’Neill High School in Highland Falls.
He hosts poetry series at the Mudd Puddle Café in New Paltz, Florida Public Library and Noble Coffee Roasters in Campbell Hall.
“Orange County has a diverse population who all contribute to the fabric of our county,” said County Historian Johanna Yaun. “We believe Mr. Milby will represent our community well and give voice to it through his poetry.”
"Yaun noted: “In 1870, Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh was the setting for a visit by Frederick Douglass who came to commemorate the passage of the Civil Rights of 1870, which reinforced the right of African-American males to vote. As the County Historian, I am proud that Orange County has such a rich tradition of black history.”
Egbert Alsdorf served on the Newburgh school district’s Board of Education from 1862-65 and ran a successful shipping company. His family also founded the Alsdorf School of Music and Dance in the 1860s and it was in operation until the 1950s. Artist Horace Pippin, who lived in Goshen, had his artwork featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Pippin grew up
drawing pictures of scenes from Goshen’s Historic Track. He died in 1946 at age 58."
Weigant’s Tavern is one of those special buildings in Newburgh surrounded by history, mystery, and neglect. It might look like scrap wood to you, but this building is special with Weigant Family connections to the Revolutionary War. According to local historian Mary McTamaney, the original tavern was located at the north side of Broad Street just east of Liberty. The building was most likely moved during the 1930’s, and it is unlikely any of the original 18th-century building parts remain.
However, as Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun stated,”The structure was moved and repaired so we’ll never know how much of the configuration is original. But the care given to moving the structure in the 1930’s illustrates a chapter of Colonial Revivalism in the early 20th century. I think this story, especially in a city so rich with Revolutionary War connections, is important to remember. We weren’t only the place where Washington headquartered, we are also the place that pioneered the historic preservation of sites associated with the founding era. The tavern reminds us that if not for the local militias and committees of safety (the men who rose up from the community to take a stand against the monarchy), Washington’s army would not have come into existence. We can’t explain the success of the Army without telling the story of what happened in the colony’s taverns.”
New York’s Hudson Valley has become a hotspot for creatives looking to relocate in recent years, something that has affected different towns in different ways. Beacon is Bohemian and artsy; Hudson cosmopolitan and chic. One town, however, continues to belie description: Newburgh. For decades it’s been dealt a number of hardships, but there’s something undeniably intriguing, majestic, and lovable about the city that refuses to take a set shape or be pinned down.
Information on the NYS Historian's website provided by the Orange County Historian.
Yaun will discuss a popular topic in Orange County historical circles: "Why does the seal of Orange County feature an orange tree?"
She will also provide an update on the historian's renovated offices, collections at the 1841 Courthouse and SUNY Orange, and upcoming projects. A short question-and-answer session with Yaun will follow.