America 250 in Dutchess

There is no better way to understand the present and gain insights into the future than the study of history, especially when it comes to the study of the founding of our country and the establish of our basic rights and responsibilities.

The Dutchess County Historical Society and the Dutchess County Office of the Historian are leading a five-year county-wide effort to better understand the early history of the United States and the principles of its democratic government in recognition of the 2026 celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States on July 4th, 1776.

The kickoff event to what will be an ongoing five year set of activities focuses on Poughkeepsie which played an essential role in the Revolutionary War as the capital of New York State after the burning of Kingston in October of 1777, and then as host to the New York US Constitutional Convention held at the Courthouse in 1788 under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton.

For the launch event, the Poughkeepsie office of the Historian, The Poughkeepsie Public Library District, and The American Friends of Lafayette announce a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the local visit of Revolutionary War Major General Lafayette to Poughkeepsie and the Hudson Valley in September of 1824.

Dutchess County Tourism and Dutchess County Educators are turning to this group to help inform their outreach to tourists and to students in public and private schools.  County Historian Will Tatum explained, “we are working within a framework organized around old precinct models in existence at the time to thoroughly research as a complete and inclusive history as can be found, focusing on identifying original source material and documents.”

Dutchess County Historical Society Executive Director said, “We are fortunate to have many historical records of the early period of the United States, but we know that further research will reveal new insights that are relevant to our participatory democracy.”

City of Poughkeepsie Historian Tom Lawrence said, “We are pleased to introduce Poughkeepsie’s prominent role in the early days of the Republic by examining the rapidly diversifying United States when the former Rev. War major general vested as the country approached its 50th anniversary.”

The team points out that 1824 was the year of a hotly contested US Presidential election that was sent to the US House of Representatives for a decision because no candidate received enough electoral college votes.

New York State did not abolish slavery until 1827, and women, working class Protestants and others were working toward the better fulfillment that all Americans are created equal.

“There is no better way to be prepared today for the issues that face Americans than to better understand those very same dynamics from two centuries ago,” Jeffway says. “We are grateful to the Poughkeepsie sponsors who are allowing us to launch our larger effort in Poughkeepsie.”

On Monday, September 16, there will be a re-enactment of the reception of Lafayette at the Poughkeepsie Hotel that will take place as a lunch at the historic Locust Grove estate, followed by a talk and introduction of a county-wide self-guided tour of the locations and persons Lafayette interacted with during his visit.

One of the areas of study will look at the distinct impact of the location of Dutchess County on the Hudson River and its role between north and south, and New England and the expanding US west.