Category Archives: Historic Sites

Tasty Homemade Holiday Treats from Historic Family cookbooks

Holiday cooking is one tradition that most people partake in, even those who normally order take-out or nuke something frozen for dinner. Family recipes are unearthed from the back of the recipe box or perhaps your junk drawer. The house fills with the nostalgic smells of favorite treats. Recipes are often our most evident tie to our heritage and historians can glean a lot from one family recipe.

Lorenzo State Historic Site in Cazenovia has their own treasure trove of handwritten recipes from the families who have lived there. Spanning the early 1800s to the early 20th century, these cookbooks contain both handwritten recipes and clippings from newspapers. In addition to food, there are also entries for home remedies for health and cleaning.

Recently, these cookbooks were digitized so that the books themselves, which are quite fragile, no longer need to be handled and so can be protected from accidental damage. Researchers will be able access the books digitally, helping us better understand generations of the Lincklaens, Ledyards, and Fairchilds who lived at Lorenzo. Established in 1807, the Federal style home of John Lincklaen, Holland Land Company agent and founder of Cazenovia, Lorenzo was continually occupied by the family and its descendants until the property was conveyed to New York State in 1968.

One of the fragile cookbooks that was digitized so it now can now be handled as little as possible. The cookbooks at the Lorenzo State Historic Site have been one of the most requested items for research. (Photo Credit – NYS Parks)

What can historians learn from recipes over the years? The foods we eat can tell us about media, transportation, technology, and trade.

For example, vanilla was used sparingly prior to the mid-19th century. This fragrant spice is native to central and South America and vanilla orchids were brought to Europe and Africa through colonizers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, but without successful cultivation of the fruit.

That all changed in 1841, a young enslaved man named Edmond Albius, living on the island of Réunion, a French island off the east coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, developed a hand pollination technique for the orchid, which only blooms for 24 hours. With the agricultural production of vanilla beans now made possible, the vanilla industry was catapulted around the world, which made the spice much more affordable. Cookbooks started to fill with this popular flavor by the end of the 1800s. Since the plants are still hand pollinated today, vanilla is one of the most expensive spices, second only to saffron. Prior to vanilla being widely available, many foods were seasoned with rose water or orange flower water.

This hand-written custard recipe comes from one of the cookbooks and uses vanilla. It is likely that this recipe dates from the second half of the 19th century. It is from a cookbook estimated to have been kept between 1910 and 1917 by Helen L. Fairchild. (Photo Credit – Lorenzo State Historic Site)

Many earlier recipes used spices that are often associated with the holidays today such as nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cardamom, and candied citrus peel. These ingredients were imported to the United States and Europe at significant expense and added interest and flavor. Nutmeg was originally imported from Indonesia. The Dutch, in addition to colonizing New Netherland, which became New York when England took control, also colonized Indonesia, primarily for the profitable spice trade. Nutmeg continues to be an important ingredient in both sweet and savory holiday recipes. How spices are used also gives a hint to your family’s heritage.

Also found in the cookbook kept by Helen L. Fairchild, “Eliza’s Gingerbread” recipe looks quite familiar to modern bakers. The earliest know gingerbread recipes originated in ancient Greece. Other recipes date to 10th century China. Europeans were eating gingerbread by the late Middle Ages, and its appeal continues to this day. (Photo Credit – Lorenzo State Historic Site)

Not all the recipes in these books seem palatable to modern audiences. There are many ingredients that have gone out of fashion. Suet, the rendered fat of beef, is an ingredient in many puddings. Tongue, calves head, and terrapin (turtle) are also present in recipes. Folks were also willing to put just about anything into gelatin including little ham balls seasoned with cayenne pepper.

Whether these dishes were daily fare or for special occasions is hard to decipher from these cookbooks, although terrapin became quite popular by the end of the 19th century until overharvesting made the creatures quite rare and expensive.

It is interesting to note that a few recipes are repeated in more than one cookbook. Perhaps each generation of women passed down the recipes to the next. The recipes might have been recopied in a new book when the old one deteriorated.

Eve’s pudding recipe is for a traditional pudding much like those still eaten during holidays in the United Kingdom. Puddings were a common desert, especially before the widespread availability of leavening agents like baking soda and baking powder. This pudding contains apples and raisins, but other examples could have included other dried or candied fruits, breadcrumbs instead of flour, nutmeg, and, of course, some brandy for a holiday glow. (Photo Credit – Lorenzo State Historic Site)

Lorenzo State Historic Site can now keep these recipes safe and accessible for many generations to come. And that is something you can do at home, too.

Which recipes will you be serving at your holiday table? What do those recipes say about your family’s heritage or status?

Recipes are considered primary source documents if your grandmother or great-grandmother was the first to write it down. How will you preserve this tradition? Share a recipe with your family and friends. Tell the stories that surround your memory of that food. This is intangible history, but just as important as your recipes. Stay safe and well fed this holiday season.

This satirical print made by George Cruikshank in 1835 is titled At Home in the Nursery, or The Masters and Misses Twoshoes Christmas Party. A popular English illustrator in the mid-19th century, Cruikshank portrayed the chaos of the nursery at Christmas that is well understood by any parent of small children. Of course, a tray of tasty treats is being brought into for their enjoyment. (Photo Credit – Rijksmuseum)

Cover Shot: The first commercial Christmas card, printed in 1843 in England and sent from John Callcott Horsely to Henry Cole, shows folks dining as a symbol of the holidays. In the same way so much of our celebrations revolve around food, with recipes often a cherished tradition passed to each generation. (Photo Credit – Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Post by Amanda Massie, Curator at Bureau of Historic Sites, Division for Historic Preservation at NYS Parks.


Want to have some fun at home with historic recipes from Lorenzo State Historic Site? Here are some to try… And Happy Holidays to you and yours from New York State Parks!

Growing Freedom in Adirondack Wilderness

While the John Brown Farm State Historic Site is the former Adirondack home of a famed abolitionist, the farm also is part of a larger story about an ambitious, well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful  effort in those rugged mountains before the Civil War to help free African Americans gain prosperity and political rights.

Located just outside of Lake Placid, the 270-acre farm occupied by Brown’s  family reflects his common belief with prominent New York State abolitionist and social reformer, Gerrit Smith, as well as many others in that movement, that owning and farming land would aid people of African descent move from enslavement to freedom.

A photograph of John Brown taken in 1859.


Throughout most of human history, the ownership of property in the form of land has been greatly esteemed. During medieval times, property set apart the landed gentry from the serfs, while in colonial-era New York it meant the wielding of political power by the “Lords of the Manor” over their rent-paying tenants.

Political power after the American Revolution was narrowly held, compared to today, as property ownership was directly linked to whether a man of any color could participate in civil engagement. In the 1906 book, A Political History of the State of New York, De Alva S. Alexander noted that “The right of suffrage was so restricted that as late as 1790 only 1,303 of the 13,330 male residents of New York City possessed sufficient property to entitle them to vote for governor.”

In 1790, legal slavery still existed in the new state of New York. There also were quite a number of free men of African descent but like men of other races, they had to own property to be able to cast a ballot.

In New York, men regardless of race had to hold a minimum of $100 worth of property before they could participate in elections.  In 1821 New York state ratified its second constitution, which required Black men to have at least $250 worth of property (about $5,700 in today’s dollars) while eliminating any such property requirement for whites. This change almost completely disenfranchised the Black community.

Such discrimination was opposed by Smith, a wealthy, land-rich abolitionist and social reformer in Madison County who also owned 120,000 acres of land in the Adirondacks across Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties. In 1846, Smith offered a free piece of that land to any Black man willing to stake a claim.

Gerrit Smith (Photo Credit – Library of Congress)


Broken into 40 to 50-acre parcels, deeds for Smith’s land were granted to individuals and families, with the idea that with improvements land values would increase beyond the $250 requirement, giving not only industry and wealth to the family, but also the right to vote to the male head of household.

Throughout the 19th century, farming as a way to both sustain a family and grow financial wealth was pushed as the preferred way for free people of African descent to become valuable members of society.

Since enslaved people of African descent had worked on farms, it was a collective belief by Smith and other abolitionists that farming, husbandry, and related industries were natural bridges to civil advancement. However, he and many others pushing this idea didn’t consider that working a mono-crop plantation in the mild climate of the South was very different from clearing timbered forests in northern New York.

Nor did they think about those who had spent their entire lives in urban environments. Many viewed Smith’s generosity as truly expansive, but few, including Smith himself, took a close look at the land he’d shared or considered the substantial costs involved in getting a productive farm up and running.  The maps with their neatly drawn sections looked good on paper but the actual parcels were often filled with thin soil, rocky terrain and ancient trees in a land with poor roads, brutal winters and a shortened growing season.

Unaware of such hurdles, thousands of people from across the mid-Atlantic states applied for the free land. Men from New York City, and many Hudson River and Central New York counties, were among those who traveled north.  About 3,000 people accepted land, with initial settlers facing numerous challenges with varying degrees of success. Gerrit’s scheme and arrival of early homesteaders, especially those struggling with limited farming knowledge, caught the attention of the abolitionist John Brown, who lived in Springfield, Massachusetts at the time.

Brown had grown up on a farm and wanted to be of service in Smith’s project, by being a living example of how things were to be done and available to provide direct assistance if needed. Brown wrote to Smith, saying he’d like to support the new farmers by renting acres for himself and his growing family. Smith took Brown up on his offer, and it wasn’t long before the Brown family found themselves with their own bit of Smith’s mountain paradise near what is now Lake Placid.

The close proximity of some of the plots lent to the natural development of colonies or small villages which gave both support and protection to those living there. North Elba saw a long standing African American community as a result.

Other grantees arrived from outside of New York. Articles appeared in Black newspapers bringing people from Philadelphia and other southern cities, many taking up the plough for the first time in their lives. Sometimes plots were granted, but those seeking a new way of life never appeared. None of Smith’s acreage in Hamilton county was ever given out.

This area near Lake Placid also was home to another small colony called Timbuctoo, named for the ancient center of learning in the African nation of Mali, and was mentioned by Brown in several of his surviving letters. The presence of it in his writings gives focus to an exhibit on the historic site, sponsored by the friends group John Brown Lives! titled ‘Dreaming of Timbuctoo.’ (Click on the slideshow below) On-going archeological research keeps the memory of this colony alive, even as it and other sites of these intrepid homesteaders have long ago faded from the area.

Despite the hardships, a few grantees of Smith land prevailed to become established and active residents of the Adirondacks. Lyman Erastus Epps arrived in 1849, with his wife and two of his eight children. Epps left a rich legacy of his life in the area. Not only did he farm, but he also taught music to local residents in North Elba, was a charter member of its first church, was one of the founders and an early trustee of the Lake Placid Public Library. He also became a well-known guide in the High Peaks region of the central Adirondacks. 

Brown himself was ever on the move and spent little time at the farm, although his wife and younger children were there. He and his older sons spent time in Kansas and other locations as part of their abolitionist activities, which eventually culminated in his failed raid with three of his sons on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va. in 1859.

In addition to being the benefactor of the Adirondack project, Smith was very involved with the Underground Railroad – a network of abolitionists who helped guide escaped enslaved people to freedom – and his estate in the Madison County hamlet of Peterboro was an official stop that abolitionist Harriet Tubman and others used regularly. The remains of his estate are part of New York’s Underground Railroad Heritage Trail and a National Historic Landmark.

Putting historical figures like Brown, Smith and Epps into the full communities in which they lived allows us to see a vast tapestry. No one lives alone in a silo, they are part of a multicultural, multi-linguist world much like what we live in today. Enrich the story, look beyond the obvious tale, and see what was really going on. You’ll discover one of our most treasured secrets, what a wonderful place we live in!  


Cover Shot- John Brown Farm State Historic Site, NYS Parks Timbuctoo photographs courtesy of John Brown Lives!, exhibit curator Amy Godine and exhibition designer Karen Davidson Seward.

Post by Lavada Nahon, Interpreter of African American History, New York State Parks

Resources


Sally E. Svenson, Blacks in the Adirondacks, 2017

Leslie M. Harris, In the Shadow of Slavery, African Americans in New York City 1626-1863, 2003

Tom Calarco, The Underground Railroad in Upstate New York, 2014

Explore New York State Parks On The Go

Now, information and tips on your New York State Parks and Historic Sites are as close as your mobile device.

Help plan your visits this summer using the free, new New York State parks Explorer App, developed by staff at State Parks and the Office of Information Technology Services.

Information is tabbed by favorites by both visitors and staff, golf courses, state historic sites with a military heritage, some lesser-know parks that some treasurer as “hidden gems, and parks that feature historic lighthouses.

The app can help guide visitors to top destinations and new must-see locations with rotating curated content. It offers quick access to park information, including directions, hours, amenities, fees and rates, trail maps, helpful know-before-you-go details, and the ability to receive important updates and alerts.

Visitors can also link directly to online camping reservations and easily access select State Parks’ social media channels to share their experiences.

The appl can be dowloaded by visiting for Android devices by visiting Google Play Store, NY State Parks Explorer App and for iOS devices by visiting Apple Store, NY State Parks Explorer App.

“This season more than ever, people are looking to spend time in the outdoors whether taking nature breaks, day trips or overnight getaways,” said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid, “and this new Parks Explorer App is a helpful tool for families on the go to plan the perfect adventure with ease.  To stay in the know and make the most of your park visit, I encourage New Yorkers to download the app today.”

New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, “With an unparalleled collection of parks, historic sites and recreation trails across the state, exploring New York’s State Parks system is a perfect complement to any Empire State vacation. The new State Parks Explorer App will offer information and suggestions that help keep New York a top travel destination for residents and visitors alike.”

Interim New York State Chief Information Officer Jeremy Goldberg, “The Office of Information Technology Services is proud to partner with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to share technology that makes it easier for residents to visit parks across New York State. The Parks Explorer App allows residents to plan new outdoor adventures prior to visiting parks and demonstrates how NYS is harnessing the power of technology to bring New Yorkers closer to nature.”

A Declaration That Lost a Fortune

With picnics, barbecues and fireworks, many New Yorkers will celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend, marking the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Of the 56 men who signed that document in Philadelphia announcing American liberty to the world, four were from New York _ Lewis Morris, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis and William Floyd.

Perhaps not so well known is that several months later, more than 500 other New Yorkers embraced another public declaration – this one pledging loyalty to British King George III against a “most unnatural, unprovoked Rebellion that ever disgraced the annuls of time.”

New York’s so-called “Declaration of Dependence” reflected a split at the start of the Revolutionary War between Patriots and Loyalists (also called Tories) among the state’s 200,000 residents. That divide ultimately claimed the fortunes and property of dozens of Loyalists, including the prominent and wealthy owner of Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site, in Yonkers, Westchester County.

Born in 1720 in New York City, Frederick Philipse III enjoyed influence and power as one of the largest landowners in the Hudson Valley and possibly the richest man in New York. He was the fabulously wealthy great-grandson of a Dutch carpenter named Frederick Flypsen who arrived in New Holland in 1653 at age 27 and created a fortune based on land, shipping, fur and slave trading.

Flypsen, who Anglicized his name to Philipse after the British took over New York, became a major landholder along the east side of the Hudson River, eventually controlling more than 50,000 acres in what is now Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties.

Frederick Philipse III when he was one of the richest men in New York State.

Frederick Philipse III took over his share of family holdings at age 30 in 1752, devoting himself to administering the estate, called Philipsborough, and collecting rents from his many tenant farmers. His residence at the opulent manor hall, which had been started by his grandfather, continued by his father, Frederick II, and erected in stages between 1682 and 1758, was a showcase of English gentility but had brutal underpinnings.

Up to 30 enslaved people and two dozen white indentured servants worked the manor under Frederick III, according to a report from Columbia University based on Philipse family records donated to the university. Frederick III was a founding governor of King’s College in 1754, which later become Columbia University.

It was also during this period that Philipse appropriated a large amount land in what is now Dutchess County from the Wappinger Native American tribe under dubious circumstances, sparking tribal leaders to launch an unsuccessful appeals in the 1760s to Colonial leaders, and later to British authorities.

On the eve of the Revolutionary War, Philipsborough extended for about 24 miles along the east bank of the Hudson, from the Croton River in Westchester County to northern Bronx County. Due to his wealth and prominence, Philipse held a post in the Colonial state Assembly, but his role there were largely ceremonial and uniformly supportive of the royal government that was guarantor of his privileges.

Map of Philipsburg at the time of Frederick Philipse III. (Credit- Wikipedia Creative Commons)

As revolutionary sentiment in the Colonies began to take shape in early 1775, Philipse blocked an effort to send New York delegates to a Continental Congress in Philadelphia, siding with the British Crown. He then had a pro-monarchy notice posted in a New York City Loyalist newspaper, drawing the ire and hostility of Patriot factions in New York and elsewhere. That led to Philipse being put to the top of a Patriot list of Westchester County Loyalists.

With combat later breaking out in Massachusetts and New York, some Loyalists began fleeing to England as others were arrested by Patriot leaders, but nothing happened to Philipse initially. But after he assembled his tenants in early 1776 to urge them to support the British against the uprising, a subpoena was issued that summer for his arrest, which was later ordered by George Washington in August 1776 after the Declaration of Independence was issued. Philipse was held in New Rochelle before being transferred to New Haven, Connecticut. Officials there agreed to let him return to his manor in December under a signed parole agreeing not to undermine the Revolution.

The Declaration of Dependence was issued on November 28, 1776 with Frederick Philipse III among the Loyalist signers who vowed to support the “supremacy of Great Britain over the Colonies.” Philipse’s signature is prominent on the first page of the declaration, which now is at the New York Historical Society in New York City.

The declaration stated that some Loyalists had been “driven from their Habitations, and others sent Prisoners into some of the neighboring Colonies.” The appeal concluded by stating that the Philipse and the other signers _ a mix of civil and military officers, clergy, landowners and wealthy merchants _ were opposed to the Revolution “in every stage of its rise and progress, at the risk of our Lives and Fortunes.”

Many New Yorkers felt as Philipse did. About half of the state’s 200,000 residents held Loyalist sentiments, giving New York the highest percentage of Loyalists among the 13 colonies.

While back at the manor on parole in March 1777, Philipse attempted to pass a message to British forces after he witnessed nearby Patriot troop movements. When the message was intercepted, he panicked and fled with his family downriver to the safety of British-occupied New York City. The lord of Philipsburg was never to see his luxurious estate and home again.

As the tide of war began to turn, New York lawmakers decided to permanently break the power of the pro-British elite by stripping Philipse and 58 other Tories of their property and condemning them to banishment and death under the Confiscation Act of Oct. 22, 1779.

So, for the first time in a century, the Philipse family had no standing in Westchester County. Frederick III remained in New York City until the end of the war in 1783, when British troops evacuated. His estate and most of his wealth gone, and facing penalty of death, he sailed with other Loyalists to Great Britain, a place he had never been. Philipse was a broken man when he died there just two years later at age 65.

His lands and property were auctioned off by New York State in 1784-85 into more than 300 separate parcels, bringing in more than $28 million by today’s standards, making it the largest confiscated estate sold in New York. The money raised was used to pay off war debts.

In 1868, after passing through the hands of many owners, the former manor house became Yonkers Village Hall and, in 1872, the first City Hall. By the 20th century, city growth threatened the manor’s future until it was acquired by New York State in 1908 with the generous help of the Cochran family of Yonkers.

Today, Philipse Manor Hall serves as a museum of history, art and architecture, as well as host to community organizations, meetings, educational programs and special events. Highlights of the Hall include its 18th century, high style Georgian architecture, a 1750s papier mache Rococo ceiling, and an impressive collection of presidential portraits, including the six Presidents from New York State.

Currently, all tours and programs at Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site are postponed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back at the website for updates.


Cover Shot- Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site. All photos by NYS Parks unless otherwise credited.

Post by Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer for NYS Parks


Resources

An American Loyalist: The Ordeal of Frederick Philipse III, by Stefan Bielinksi, Division of Historical Services, New York State Museum, State Education Department, 1976

On Slavers and Settlers: A History of the Philipse Family, 1662-1785, By Meghan Brophy, Columbia University News

Dispossessing Loyalists and Redistributing Property in Revolutionary New York, by Mark Boonshoft, New York Public Library, Sept. 19, 2016.

The Loyalist Declaration of Dependence, 1776, by Sandra McNamara, Journal of the American Revolution, Dec. 20, 2018

Declaration of Dependence, New York Historical Society


DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE

November 28, 1776


To The Right Honorable Richard Viscount Howe, of the Kingdom of Ireland, and His Excellency The Honorable William Howe, Esquire, General of His Majesty’s Forces in America, the King’s Commissioners for restoring Peace in His Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in North America &c. &c. &c.

May it please your Excellencies.

Impressed with the most grateful sense of the Royal Clemency, manifested I your Proclamation of the 14th. Of July last, whereby His Majesty hath been graciously pleased to declare, “That he is desirous to deliver His American subjects from the calamities of War, and other oppressions, which they now undergo:” and equally affected with sentiments of gratitude for the generous and humane attention to the happiness of these Colonies, which distinguishes your Excellencies subsequent Declaration, evincing your disposition “to confer with His Majesty’s well affected subjects, upon the means of restoring the public Tranquility, and establishing a permanent union with every Colony as a part of the British Empire.”

We whose names are hereunto subscribed, Inhabitants of the City and County of New-York, beg leave to inform your Excellencies: that altho most of us have subscribed a general Representation with many other of the Inhabitants; yet we wish that our conduct, in maintaining inviolate our loyalty to our Sovereign, against the strong tide of oppression and tyranny, which has almost overwhelmed this Land, may be marked by some line of distinction, which cannot well be drawn from the mode of Representation that has been adopted for the Inhabitants in general.

Influenced by this Principle, and from a regard to our peculiar Situation, we have humbly presumed to trouble your Excellencies with the second application; in which, we flatter ourselves, none participate but those who have ever, with unshaken fidelity, borne true Allegiance to His Majesty, and the most warm and affectionate attachment to his Person and Government.  That, notwithstanding the tumult of the times, and the extreme difficulties and losses to which many of us have been exposed, we have always expressed, and do now give this Testimony of our Zeal to preserve and support the Constitutional Supremacy of Great Britain over the Colonies; and do most ardently wish for a speedy restoration of that union between them, which, while it subsisted, proved the unfailing source of their mutual happiness and prosperity.

We cannot help lamenting that the number of Subscribers to this Address is necessarily lessened, by the unhappy circumstance that many of our Fellow-Citizens, who have firmly adhered their loyalty, have been driven from their Habitations, and others sent Prisoners into some of the neighbouring Colonies: and tho’ it would have afforded us the highest satisfaction, could they have been present upon this occasion: yet we conceive it to be the duty we owe to ourselves and our prosperity, whilst this testimony of our Allegiance can be supported by known and recent facts, to declare to your Excellencies; that so far from having given the last countenance or encouragement, to the most unnatural, unprovoked Rebellion, that ever disgraced the annuls of Time; we have on the contrary, steadily and uniformly opposed it, in every stage of its rise and progress, at the risque of our Lives and Fortunes.

New York’s Forgotten Patriotic Vow

It was 245 years ago this month that, shortly after the start of the Revolutionary War, that a bold declaration of American liberty rang out.

No, it was not the Declaration of Independence, which came from Philadelphia in in July 1776 and became a widely celebrated national holiday. This earlier, largely-forgotten declaration came from northern New York along the shores of Lake Champlain.

On June 15, 1775, not far from what is now Crown Point State Historic Site, 31 men from the Northeast signed a so-called “Declaration of Principles,” vowing they would “never become slaves,” calling for a “union” of the states, and giving their allegiance to the newly formed Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

Among those who publicly embraced armed resistance to the British Crown in the name of a new government was the document’s author, a man who went from one of the Revolution’s earliest battlefield heroes to its most despised traitor five years later.

That man was Benedict Arnold (1740-1801), and the path to his infamous treason in New York stretches from that now largely forgotten declaration, issued from the state’s northern frontier in what is now Essex County, to an infamous meeting with a spy along the shores the Hudson River— now within Rockland Lake State Park—where he agreed to betray the Revolution and deliver the river’s critical West Point fortress to the British.

In the five years between those two events, Arnold distinguished himself by buying the Revolution a critical year at the naval Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain in 1776. The following year, he contributed to the relief of Fort Stanwix after the Battle of Oriskany in the Mohawk Valley and was instrumental in the decisive American victory at Saratoga.

His earlier role in capturing Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775 to the south of Crown Point had provided Patriot forces with desperately needed heavy cannon that later helped drive British troops out of Boston. That victory set the stage a month later for Arnold, as commander at Ticonderoga, to issue written principles from Crown Point to rally support for the Patriot cause. 

At the time, Arnold and the other men who signed the declaration did so at great personal risk, as it targeted them personally as potential traitors to Great Britain when the punishment for treason was death.

Flush from success at Ticonderoga, here is what Arnold wrote and he and other prominent early supporters, who came from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and what later become Vermont, signed.

Benedict Arnold’s Declaration of Principles

Crown Point, 15th June, 1775

Persuaded, that the Salvation of the Rights and Liberties of America, depends, Under GOD, on the firm Union of its Inhabitants, in a Vigorous Prosecution of the Measures necessary for its Safety And Convinced of the Necessity of preventing the Anarchy and Confusion which attend a Dissolution of the Powers of Government, WE, the Freeman, Freeholders, and Inhabitants of the Province of New York, being greatly alarmed at the avowed Design of the Ministry to raise a Revenue in America; and, Shocked by the bloody Scene now Acting in the Massachusetts Bay, DO, in the most Solemn Manner Resolve never to become Slaves; and do Associate under all the Ties of Religion, Honour, and Love to our Country, to Adopt and endeavour to Carry into Execution whatever Measures may be Recommended by the Continental Congress; or Resolved Upon by our Provincial Convintion for the purpose of preserving our Constitution and opposing the Execution of the Several Arbitrary and oppressive Acts of the British Parliament; Untill a Reconciliation Between Great Britain and America, on Constitutional Principles Which we most Ardently Desire Can be obtained And that we will in all Things follow the Advice of our General Committee Respecting the purposes aforesaid, The Preservation of Peace and Good Order, and the Safety of Individuals, and private party.


Click on this slideshow of images from the Crown Point State Historic Site, near where the Declaration of Principles was issued 245 years ago shortly after the start of the Revolutionary War.

Arnold’s words may have been largely forgotten, but his ultimate fate remains relatively well known. As the war went on, he felt slighted and upset from being passed over for promotion, with other officers getting credit for his accomplishments. Arnold could be brusque and headstrong, which alienated some. He borrowed heavily to support a lavish lifestyle.

And while military governor of Philadelphia, Arnold married a woman named Peggy Shippen, who came from a prominent city family loyal to British King George III. His new wife introduced him to one of her former suitors _ the British spy Major John Andre.

Arnold had been given command of West Point by George Washington, on the advice of his trusted advisors, Albany resident and General Philip Schuyler and Robert Livington of the Hudson Valley . (The residences of both men are now state Historic Sites.)

Once his plot with Andre to surrender West Point was found out, Arnold fled to the safety of British lines, where he was made an officer and fought against his former comrades. After the war, he lived in Canada and England, before dying in London in 1801 at age 60.

Benedict Arnold, from a 1776 mezzotint by artist Thomas Brown, and now in the Anne S.K. Brown Collection at Brown University.

A historical marker at the site in Rockland Lake State Park where Benedict Arnold met with Major John Andre to plot the surrender of the American fort at West Point. (Photo Credit- Wikipedia Commons)

Use this map to locate Crown Point and the other historic places in New York State described in this story.


Signatories of the Crown Point declaration had a variety of fates. One of its most prominent signers, William Gilliland, was an Irish immigrant and New York City merchant who was the first European to settle the lands west of Lake Champlain. He was founder of the town of Willsboro, and at one point, controlled about 50,000 acres in the region between Crown Point and Plattsburgh, leasing some of it out to tenant farmers and developing gristmills and sawmills.

In spite of Gilliland’s wealth and influence, as well as his signing of the Crown Point declaration and his financing of Patriot militia, he was mistrusted because of “unfounded allegations relative to his loyalties,” likely due to disagreements  and entanglements involving Arnold and Ethan Allen, commander of the Green Mountain Boys, a militia from Vermont, as recounted in documentary sources.

With both sides suspecting that he was secretly supporting the other, Gilliland was confined to Albany during part of the war. The aftermath destroyed Gilliland’s vast fortunes, stripped him of his lands and left him destitute by the time he died in Willsboro in 1796 at age 62. He is buried in the town that still bears his name.


But most other signers of the Crown Point declaration fared better. Among them was Dirck Swart, a Dutchess County native and a member of the Albany Committee of Correspondence from Saratoga, according to information collected by the Fort Ticonderoga Museum

These committees were shadow governments organized by Patriot leaders on the eve of the Revolution. They shared plans for strategy and by the early 1770s they wielded considerable political power.

Swart owned a tavern in Stillwater, Saratoga county, and his home still stands in the village. The residence was built in 1757 and remains among the oldest extant dwellings in Saratoga County. It was from Swart’s home that Arnold began his 1777 march to relieve Patriot forces at Fort Stanwix.

After the war, he was the town’s first postmaster, served as the Saratoga County Clerk, and was elected to the state Assembly.  In 1788, he was a delegate to the state convention to accept the new U.S. Constitution.

At age 70 in 1804, Swart died a venerable and respected citizen, having prospered in the new country that he had helped launch by signing that bold statement from Crown Point.


Cover Photo: Crown Point State Historic Site (Photo Credit- NYS Parks) All photos NYS Parks unless otherwise noted.

By Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer for New York State Parks


Signers of the Crown Point Declaration of Principles by State

New York

  1. Benedict Arnold
  2. John Corbin
  3. Zadok Everest
  4. Joseph Franklin
  5. William Gilliland
  6. Charles Graham Jr.
  7. Ebenezer Hyde
  8. Benjamin Kellogg
  9. Robert Lewis
  10. Moses Martin
  11. Ebenezer Marvin
  12. Martin Marvin
  13. Daniel McIntosh
  14. Elisha Painter
  15. George Palmer
  16. William Satterlee
  17. Thomas Sparham
  18. Dirck Swart
  19. Thomas Weywood
  20. Hugh Whyte

Massachusetts

  1. Jonathan Brown
  2. Ezra Buell
  3. James Noble

Connecticut

  1. John Watson Jr.
  2. Samuel Keep

Vermont (this state was created a year after the Crown Point Declaration)

  1. John Grant
  2. Issac Hitchcock
  3. Robert Lewis
  4. David Vallance
  5. Samuel Wright

State Unclear

  1. Francis Moor
  2. James Wills

Source: Fort Ticonderoga Musuem