Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Boscobel Story, 2: Dyckman Descendants and the Miraculous Salvation of Boscobel


The States Morris Dyckman line did not end with his death. His wife and two sons survived him. One, the illegitimate son by Eleanor Brewer, took his name and lived at least until the age of 81. The other, Peter Corne Dyckman, his son by wife Betsey Kennedy, died at 27.

When Eleanor Brewer bore States Morris Dyckman's son out of wedlock, single parenthood was almost impossible for a woman. It is therefore not surprising that her name disappears from the public record, and we lose track of her. The boy became a part of his father’s household and worked on the farm at King's Ferry. He is mentioned frequently in correspondence between his stepmother, Betsey, and his father in England between 1800 and 1803.

At the age of 25, shortly after his father returned from England, Eleanor Brewer’s son, States Brewer, now States Morris Dyckman Jr., left Boscobel and married 18-year-old Rebecca Vermilye on April 26, 1804, in New York City. Between 1805 and 1807 he operated a grocery in the city at 70 Partition Street (the former name of Fulton Street between Broadway and the Hudson River).

States Morris Dyckman Jr. and Rebecca had two sons. States Morris Dyckman Jr. changed his residence and returned to Cortlandt. The 1810 Census shows him living there as the head of a family of four--two males under 10 (his sons); one female, 16-26 (his wife); one male, 26-45 (himself). He also changed his occupation. In an indenture signed on June 1, 1810, and now in the New-York Historical Society, he identifies himself as an innkeeper.

Sometime later he moved back to the city again. Directories from 1827 to 1843-44 list a States M. Dyckman as a teacher. Between 1829 and 1836, he lived successively at various addresses on the Lower East Side: 114 Willett Street, 184 North Street (the former name of East Houston Street between the Bowery and the East River before 1833) and 156 Norfolk Street.

The Census for 1860 lists him as being 80 years of age and his wife, Rebecca as being 72. (She had subtracted two years from her age.) Rebecca Vermilye Dyckman died in New York City on June 17, 1862, aged 74 years 2 months; no date of death has been found for her husband. In 1860, they were living with their son. also named States, and his wife, Julianna, at 648 East Fourth Street in New York City. Both were listed in the 1860 Census as being 53 years old.

New York City directories for the 20 years between 1834-35 and 1854-55 list this son States, the first States Morris Dyckman's grandson, as a carter. [Directories appeared each year in May.] The following year his occupation changed to "policeman." This continued until 1861-62. Valentine's Manual for that year shows him as a patrolman in the Third District Police Court. No information is known about the second son

Peter Corne Dyckman
Peter Corne Dyckman, son of Elizabeth Kennedy and States Morris Dyckman, was born in January of 1797. He could not have known his father well, for States left for London in 1800 and lived only two and a half years after returning from London in 1804.

States doted on little Peter Corne and the child lacked nothing as he grew up. Several years after the War of 1812 ended, he joined the N.Y. militia, and was appointed an ensign in 1818 and a lieutenant in 1820. On May 1, 1819, he married Susan Matilda Whetten. He was 22 and she was 18, and the newlyweds moved into Boscobel.

According to the 1820 U.S. Census, the occupants of Boscobel were widowed Elizabeth, Peter and his bride, plus a staff of “five free colored persons”—a rather large number for such a small family group. Peter and Susan had one daughter, born at Boscobel on September 10, 1822, and given the cumbersome name of Elizabeth Letitia Corne Dyckman. She preferred to call herself Eliza.

A year later, Peter Corne Dyckman's mother, Elizabeth (Betsey) Kennedy Dyckman, “departed this life, June 20, 1823, aged forty-seven” at Boscobel. Friends remembered her as “cheerful, benevolent, and hospitable. Her bounty was without ostentation, her hospitality flowing from native kindness of heart.” With "a sense of increasing loss," they erected a headstone as a monument to her. The epitaph reads, "Left a widow in the prime of life, she so continued until her death, her affections centering on the memory of her departed HUSBAND."

If States Morris Dyckman's troubled life had been short, Peter Corne Dyckman's was even shorter. Always sickly, on April 18, 1824, at the age of only 27, he died at Boscobel, survived by his wife and 19-month-old daughter. Under his will, Boscobel and the farm and everything in them went to his widow.

Originally buried in the Dyckman-Nagle Burial Ground in upper Manhattan, the graves of States Morris Dyckman, his wife, infant daughter and son were moved to the Cedar Hill Cemetery of the Cortlandtown Dutch Reformed Church along the old Albany Post Road (Route 9A) in Montrose, N.Y. Cemetery records are unclear about dates.

In 1926 and 1927, the remaining burials in the long-neglected graveyarlocated in Inwood between 212th and 213th streets and Ninth and Tenth avenues were disinterred to make way for subway yards and repair shops for the new city-owned subway system. The remains of 417 persons were reinterred at Woodlawn Cemetery, 67 of which were identified by name.

Peter Corne Dyckman’s widow later married Edward B. Rathbone and gave birth to four children before his death in an explosion in 1831 of the steamboat General Jackson running between Peekskill and New York City. Married a third time in 1833, the groom was Henry I. Cruger. The Crugers were an old and wealthy mercantile family whose neighboring estates gave their name to a station on the Hudson River Railroad.

The Crugers
Her daughter Eliza married 25-year-old John Peach Cruger in the center hall at Boscobel on Christmas Day in 1837. At age 25, he was the younger brother of her stepfather; she was 15. Title to Boscobel was transferred to her in 1838. In the 31 years between 1838 and 1869, she gave birth there to fifteen children, eight boys and seven girls.

During the Civil War, their son Peter Corne Cruger served in Co. A, 6th Regiment, Heavy Artillery, N.Y. Volunteers. He was mortally wounded at Cedar Creek, Virginia, on October 19, 1864, a bloody battle that broke the back of Southern resistance in the Shenandoah Valley. Peter Corne Cruger died eight days later at Winchester, Virginia, not yet 21 years old.

Of the other 14 children, six died in infancy and one died before his eighth birthday, a mortality rate not unusual in the first half of the 19th century. Only two of the surviving seven married and had children, so members of this branch of the family are not numerous. Three of the grown children who never married were still living with their parents in 1880.

Having effectively gone through his wife’s inheritance, John Peach Cruger tried to generate income from the Boscobel property by leasing land along the Hudson below the house to brickmakers. A typical agreement dated December 12, 1848, between William H. Carrigan and John P. Cruger and wife provided for the use of sheds, machines, dwelling house and barn, and the privilege of taking sand, clay and fresh water for making bricks, and allowed pasturage for horses, cows and oxen.

By 1857, the Crugers had mortgaged Boscobel to George and William Douglas, sons of Margaret Douglas, Betsey Dyckman's wealthy aunt. In 1868, a 378-page book of poems by Eliza Cruger and titled Regina and Other Poems was published in New York by G.W. Carleton and in London by S. Low. A foreclosure sale on May 14, 1880, transferred title to Boscobel to William P. Douglas, son of George Douglas. Before John Peach Cruger died on August 29, 1888, title to Boscobel passed to his creditors and then to land speculators. Five years later, Douglas sold Boscobel to Herbert C. Plass and wife, of New York City.

John Peach Cruger's obituary in The New York Times for August 31, 1888, noted that he had died "at the old manor house, Boscobel." For ten years before his death he was an invalid. The new owners had obviously allowed the Crugers to remain in the house. Col. Cruger, as his obituary referred to him, was the son of John C. Cruger and the great-grandson of John Cruger, 38th mayor of New York City from 1739 to 1744. His title of colonel derived from his service with the old 139th Regiment of the State militia. A lover of yachting and a member of the New York Yacht Club, he was the owner of the sloop-yacht Eliza, named for his wife.

Survivors included his wife and six children: four sons and two daughters. His funeral service was held at the Episcopal Church of the Divine Love in Montrose. This was not his wife's church; Eliza Cruger had been admitted to the Cortlandtown Reformed Dutch Church in 1843 "on confession of faith."

Eliza Cruger survived him by thirteen years and lived into the 20th century, dying on December 12, 1901, at the age of 79. All but the last few years of her life were spent at Boscobel, the house in which she had been born. The Crugers' two unmarried daughters were forced to sell off their family possessions to survive. Eliza Cruger died in 1923, and Martha Cruger died in 1942--both were "without issue," as genealogits say.

Abandoned and for years a near ruin, Boscobel and the land around it was sold in 1923 to Westchester County for development as Crugers Park. In 1941, the Westchester County Park Commission threatened to demolish the building, but an organization quickly formed to provide money for maintenance and insurance. After the U.S. government bought the property in 1945 for a hospital for wounded veterans, the organization disbanded, having been assured the mansion would be preserved following construction of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Veterans Hospital, a complex of 37 buildings on the 383-acre site.

Because no use could be found for the building, however, the General Services Administration declared Boscobel to be unneeded and slated it for removal. Early in 1955, the government sold the mansion to a demolition contractor for thirty-five dollars.

Although many of the architectural details had already been sold and brought to Long Island to be incorporated in a house being built there, a group headed by the Putnam County Historical Society sprang into action and raised $10,000 to purchase what remained of the house and dismantle it. Exact copies were made of the removed architectural elements and exchanged for the original pieces on Long Island.

To provide a new home for the building, 45 acres of land were purchased in Garrison, New York, 15 miles north of the original location. Ground was broken in 1957 for the reconstruction of Boscobel on the new site. Fortunately, the measurements of the house had been recorded by the Historic American Buildings survey in 1932. These drawings greatly aided the reconstruction under architect Harvey Stevenson, whose name is closely associated with the “Stone Houses” along old Post Road North in Croton.

The lovingly rebuilt house was formally opened on May 21, 1961, with an address by Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, who properly called it "one of the most beautiful homes ever built in America."

Time and acid rain have made States Morris Dyckman’s tombstone in the Cedar Hill Cemetery virtually illegible. Yet there can be no more fitting monument to the dynamic man who spent much of his adult life in agonizing pain battling a crippling and eventually fatal disease than this glorious building he never lived to see.

Editor’s Note: Boscobel is open to visitors every day except Tuesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

DIRECTIONS TO BOSCOBEL (MAP COORDINATES: Latitude: 41.41386 / Longitude: 73.938211 )

Reach Boscobel, located eight miles north of the Bear Mt. Bridge on Route 9D

BY CAR: From Westchester: Taconic State Parkway north to the Cold Spring, Route 301 west exit. Take Route 301 into the Village of Cold Spring. Turn left at the traffic light at the intersection with 9D, and follow 9D south for one mile. Boscobel is clearly marked on the right.
From Manhattan and New Jersey: Upper level George Washington Bridge to Palisades Parkway north to Bear Mt. Bridge to Route 9D. From Long Island: Throggs Neck or Whitestone Bridge to I-287 to Taconic State Parkway north. Taconic to the Cold Spring, Route 301 west exit. Take Route 301 into the village of Cold Spring. Turn left at the traffic light at the intersection with Route 9D and follow south for one mile. Boscobel is clearly marked on the right. Boscobel is an approximate 1 hour 20 min. drive from NYC.

From the North: NY Thruway to I-84 east; cross the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to Route 9D south, exit 11, and drive eleven miles south to Boscobel. OR Taconic State Parkway south to the Cold Spring, Route 301 west exit. Take Route 301 into the village of Cold Spring. Turn left at the traffic light at the intersection with Route 9D and follow south for one mile. Boscobel is clearly marked on the right.

From points West: I-84 east across the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to Route 9D south, exit 11. Drive eleven mile s south to Boscobel.From Manhattan: Take the Major Deegan to the NYS Thruway, take the Thruway to Route 9A, and follow 9A to Route 9 (they merge just south of Croton). Take Route 9 north to Route 403, Garrison (turn left at the traffic light). Take Route 403 to the traffic light at the intersection with Route 9D. Turn right and take 9D for approximately three miles. Boscobel is on your left.

From Queens: Take Route 678 across the Whitestone Bridge to Route 95 Cross Bronx West to the Major Deegan going north, which becomes the NYS Thruway. Follow the Thruway to Route 9A, then continue as directed above.

BY TRAIN: Boscobel can be reached via train using Metro-North's Hudson Division from Grand Central Station to Cold Spring. For schedules and fares, contact Metro North. Upon arrival in Cold Spring, one can either walk about 1.5 miles to Boscobel, or take a taxi from the train station. Call 845-265-TAXI (8294) in advance to arrange for a car to meet you and bring you to Boscobel.

BY TROLLEY: Trolley service connects Boscobel with the train stations in both Cold Spring and Garrison. Memorial Day through December the trolley runs Fridays through Sundays, originating near the Cold Spring Metro-North station. Stops include shops on Cold Spring’s Main Street and other cultural attractions. The service costs just fifty cents (.25 for seniors) and is being provided by Putnam County. For more information, call 845-878-RIDE.

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