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The Most Important House in the American Revolution that Nobody Knew About, by Beacon Historical Society member, Christopher Cring, gives the full story of the Hamilton’s residency.
Alexander Hamilton features, among others, in the Beacon Historical Society Ghost Tour in October. An online search for Beacon Historical Society and The Ghost in the Mist Walking Tour should generate the details.
Photos of the DePeyster house by Dutchess County Historical Society’s Margaret DeM. Brown can be found in two books, Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley Before 1776 and Dutchess County Doorways.
The Philip & Rebecca Hamilton lot is at the southwest point of Section V, Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, 342 South Avenue. Grounds open every day from 8 am to 4:30 pm.
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Dutchess County as Home for the Hamiltons, across two centuries
This is the first of three articles on the topic of Alexander Hamilton and Dutchess County and focuses on two instances where a Hamilton called Dutchess County home, once in the 18th century, once in the 19th century. Subsequent articles will look at the role that Dutchess County individuals played in the fatal duel between Hamilton and Burr. And the role of “daughter of Dutchess County,” Maria Lewis Reynolds, who became Hamilton’s mistress.
The Hudson River was critical in the Revolutionary War. The British tried to approach from the south, from occupied New York City. And from the north, from British Canada. Dutchess County would inevitably become a strategic point.
With so much at stake, a stunning argument took place in February of 1781. With the war far from over. General Washington encountered his aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton, at his headquarters in New Windsor, adjacent to Newburgh. Washington told Hamilton he needed to speak to him right away. Hamilton replied, “One minute, sir,” as he brought an urgent letter to someone else in the house. The one minute turned into ten. He ran into the Marquis de Lafayette and they got talking and lost track of time. You know how that can happen!
Washington was fuming, saying, “Col. Hamilton , you have kept me waiting at the head of the stairs these ten minutes. I must tell you, sir, you treat me with disrespect!" And maybe out of resentment of not getting the kind of military appointment he had wanted, far from apologizing, Hamilton announced "I am not conscious of it, sir, but since you have thought it necessary to tell me, so we part."
And so it was. Hamilton had to start a search for a house, ending up at the Abraham DePeyster House in what is today Beacon with his wife Elizabeth. Far from Washington. But not at all far from Washington. Razed in 1954, fortunately the house was photographed by Dutchess County Historical Society’s Margaret DeM. Brown in the 1930s. Exterior and interior.
Here Hamilton began work on the Federalist Papers and continued to pepper Washington with letters from “DePeyster’s Point” for the coveted military commission he would finally receive in July of that year. This resulted in the couple’s departure from the house. Despite this significant rupture, Washington obviously continued to value Hamilton, appointing him the first US Secretary of the Treasury in his cabinet, and giving him a large military leadership role in 1798.
The next time a Hamilton family member would reside in Dutchess County was the time of the Civil War. Alexander and Elizabeth’s youngest child, Philip, a successful attorney in New York City, moved to Poughkeepsie in the early 1860s.
Philip was actually named after their first child. The first Philip was named after his maternal grandfather, Philip Schuyler. He was killed at age 19 in a duel defending his father’s honor in November 1801, at the same location that his father would die just under three years later. At the time of the first Philp’s death, the Hamiltons were expecting what would be their eighth and final child. When born in 1802, the boy was named Philip in memory of his deceased brother.
This second Philip and his wife, Rebecca, lived the later decades of their life and died in their “country house” in Poughkeepsie, at 53 Washington Street, at the northeast corner of Washington and Mansion Streets. Philip died in 1884. Rebecca died in 1893.
They had two sons. The older son, Louis McLane Hamilton, was a cavalry officer in the Civil War and Indian Wars. He was killed in Oklahoma in 1868, age 24, while serving under General George Custer in an attack on Native Americans. He is buried under a monument of a broken column in the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. The younger son, Allan McLane Hamilton, was a highly regarded psychiatrist, founder of New York Psychiatrical Society, and professor at Cornell. He specialized in understanding suicide and the impact of accidents and trauma on mental health. He wrote a biography of his father. The second Philip and his wife, their two sons, are all buried in Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery on a small, shaded hill.
In these two instances, a Hamilton called Dutchess County their home. One stay was brief, out of accommodation. One stay was long, out of choice.
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The Abraham DePeyster House in Beacon was occupied by Alexander & Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton in the spring and summer of 1781. 1930s photo by Margaret DeM. Brown courtesy of Dutchess County Historical Society.
The Hamilton Family plot at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery is the resting place of Alexander & Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton’s youngest child, Philip, Philip’s wife, and their two sons. Photo by Bill Jeffway, 2019.