Washington & Lafayette in Dutchess County

A version of the following article authored by Bill Jeffway was published in the Northern/Southern Dutchess News/Beacon Free Press on June 26, 2019 as part of DCHS’s Decoding Dutchess Past series.

Washington and Lafayette.These names have such iconic status that we might forget that these “mere mortals” put one foot in front of the other in the daily pursuit of ordinary life and work. In the spirit of understanding them in this way, let’s retrace some of their lesser-known footsteps in Dutchess County.

“The Immortal Washington”

In 1824, Col. Henry A. Livingston described “the immortal Washington” as a frequent visitor to Poughkeepsie as the guest of “the venerable [Gov.] George Clinton.”

A more singular visit of General Washington involved a visit to the Poughkeepsie Lodge of the Masonic Order, Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, on December 27, 1793. Washington as an active Mason. Poughkeepsie had been important during the Revolutionary War for many reasons, among them it was the location of ship building for war ships, and the state capitol. And Washington had many friends and veterans of the war in the Masonic Order.

The item from  DCHS Collections shown is a 19th century commemorative of that visit. Solomon’s Lodge No. 1 was on the east side of Market Street, across from Hendrickson’s Inn. The Lodge Master was Andrew Billings,  another well-known veteran of the Revolutionary War in Dutchess County, and a renowned silversmith and metallurgist who had Washington as a customer.

Lafayette and son George Washington Lafayettte

Toward the beginning of his yearlong tour of the United States, 1824 to 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette and his son, Georges Washington Lafayette, enjoyed a big public reception in Poughkeepsie, on Thursday, September 16, 1824, two days behind schedule. They also made several private visits in Dutchess County including the home of Governor Lewis at Staatsburg and Janet Montgomery in Red Hook.

The 1834 map below is annotated to show the route of his brief, early morning visit to Poughkeepsie that involved a major reception at the river, procession up Main St., to Academy, Cannon and Market Streets. With a stop at Forbus House and breakfast at the Poughkeepsie Hotel.

Thursday, September 16, 7 am, alights at Poughkeepsie.
Thursday, September 16, late morning, former Governor Lewis Morgan, Staatsburg.
Sunday, September 19, morning until 2 pm, Mrs. Montgomery, Montgomery Place, Red Hook.
Sunday, September 19, arrives 7 pm, Fishkill, Mrs. DeWitt, granddaughter of John Adams.

Dinner New York City, September 14 launched Hudson River Valley Tour

The invitation to the event set to launch his Hudson River Valley tour, from DCHS Collections shown below,  was an invitation to a member of the Van Kleek family in Poughkeepsie. Castle Garden is now known as Fort Clinton, at the southern tip of Manhattan. After being postponed twice, the evening party at Castle Garden took place on September 14th. At 2 AM, Lafayette got aboard the Kent and sailed up the Hudson River to Albany.

Stop #1 Forbus House

Stop #2 Poughkeepsie Hotel

The Forbus House was a more elaborate Inn than its predecessor, Hendrickson’s Inn, which was a way-station for politicians and lawyers seeking a half-way spot between Albany and New York City for a drink or a night’s stay. Stephen Hendrickson converted his house into an Inn (see depiction). While simple, its visitors were top rate: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, to name a few. Forbus House was followed by Nelson House which was a frequent platform for FDR.

The Poughkeepsie Hotel, where a grand breakfast was held, was a more elaborate “Hotel.” It was located at the head of Market Street when that street terminated at Main Street. Its location would be the exact location of the extension of Market Street north, through to the Post Office of today.

Map of Lafayette’s visit