Thursday, June 18, 2015

Restoring the Dead - the Wallkill Valley Times June 10, 2015

While a casino resort is no longer moving in next door, descendants of the Colden family fear that an historic cemetery is still in danger.

The Colden Family Cemetery—now owned by the town of Montgomery—is inaccessible to the public and according to the family, has not been maintained for some time. Although veterans dating back as far as the Revolutionary War are buried in the small cemetery, no wreaths are placed and no memorial services are held there.

Robin Assenza, a descendant of Cadwallader Colden, told the Montgomery Town Board last week that these and other issues are “a little disturbing to the descendants.”

Assenza pointed out that in every deed from 1837 to 1997, the cemetery is described as half an acre in size. However, in 1974 it was inexplicably reduced to just 0.12 acres in county records, or about a quarter of its former size.

“As direct descendants of Cadwallader Colden, Sr. and Cadwallader Colden, Jr., we are concerned with the reduction in size of the cemetery’s boundaries, which was made in 1974 without any apparent attempt to contact the family,” said Assenza and another descendant in a letter previously provided to the board.

Town Councilman Mark Hoyt explained that the reduction was done by the county when it was going through a mapping process and it was likely reduced after no one came forward to claim it.
The new boundary follows the existing stone wall around the cemetery, which leaves it with no buffer. Concern was also expressed that some of the earliest burials’ which date back as far as 1729, may not be located within the wall, but on the remaining half-acre which has been taken away.
The cemetery is listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places and dozens of Colden family members are buried in the cemetery.

Among those buried in the cemetery is John Fell, a judge and member of the Continental Congress who signed the Constitution. During the Revolutionary War he was imprisoned in the infamous Provost Jail in New York City by the British. Also buried in the Colden cemetery is Alexander Colden Rhind, who served with the U.S. Navy in the Mexican War and Civil War and retired in 1883 as a rear admiral. He is the namesake of a World War II-era U.S. Navy destroyer, the U.S.S. Rhind.
Town Historian Suzanne Isaksen called the cemetery “one of the most important historical sites” of the town and even the county because of the notable people and historical figures who are buried there.

Assenza and Isaksen expressed concern about the lack of maintenance and pictures were presented to the board showing recent conditions and the deterioration of the centuries-old stone markers.
“The more time you waste not doing anything, the more problems we’ll have with the stones,” said Assenza.

Currently the cemetery is landlocked and inaccessible at its reduced size. While descendants of the Colden family are granted the right to access over private property, maintenance and public access are another story.

Isaksen also questioned what happened to the trust (established in a 1911 will) which was taken over by the town in 1988. The trust provided for the maintenance of the cemetery and contained more than $2,300. She reminded the board that the supervisor at the time had signed an agreement to accept and maintain the trust and cemetery. The board admitted that the town has not been maintaining the cemetery.

“Since the town did take responsibility for it, what are we going to do about it now?” asked Isaksen.
Assenza said the descendants of the Colden family are looking to restore the cemetery to its correct size, restore and preserve the stones and establish better access for visiting and maintenance. At the moment, they are just asking the town for a plan of action.

“We have some homework to do,” said Supervisor Mike Hayes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

No to Casino in Orange County

The good news is that there will not be a casino built in Orange County:

The bad news is that officials from Newburgh have not given up and are still pursuing this foolhardiness. So stay tuned and hope that good sense will prevail.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What Would Colden Say? "NO!"

What would Cadwallader Colden say to the Hudson Valley Casino & Resort's proposal to build an 890,000 sq. ft. monstrosity on Route 17K right in the middle of the land patent that he purchased in 1719? A resounding "No!"

It's a beautiful proposal filled with wonderful images of all things pretty in the Hudson Valley. It talks of jobs created, of revenue generated, partnerships with education, and building on the Hudson Valley's key assets. What it does not tell you is that building the casino will destroy almost 300 years of colonial history.

For the Hudson Valley Casino & Resort's proposal:

Colden would say "NO!" because here is where he built his farm -- hacking out a homestead from the wilderness; and to transport building materials, he created what could possibly be the first canal ever dug out in North America and that canal is still on the land, waiting to be rediscovered.

On this land, his daughter, Jane Colden, Colonial America's first female botanist, roamed, cataloguing in the Linnaeus system, the plants of this new world.

On this land, his son, Cadwallader Colden, Jr., built the first stone mansion in the Hudson Valley.

From this land, Colden corresponded with the great minds of Europe and Colonial America, including Benjamin Franklin, with whom he enjoyed 30 years of friendship. They discussed electricity, astronomy, gravity, light, sound and medicine and replicated each other's experiments. They talked about a cure for breast cancer and the creation of a philosophical society.

On this land, Colden wrote The History of the Five Indian Nations -- the first book written in English of the tribes of New York Province. Thomas Jefferson studied this book while he was contemplating the set up of the new republic, and it is on the catalogue of  his library.

There are many firsts on this land that the Hudson Valley Casino & Resort wants to bulldoze into oblivion. What it doesn't seem to understand is that in the destruction of the Colden land is the destruction of part of our very history.

When sometime down the road the casino closes as many across the country are closing, Hudson Valley Gaming LLC, will move on to something else and people will find jobs in different industries, but the Colden land will still be destroyed and all that history will still be gone forever.

While the Hudson Valley Casino & Resort talks about everything good about its proposal, it says not a thing about a 2012 study of casino crime by the University of Maryland researchers which shows the 10 % increase in substance abuse, suicide, violent crime, theft and bankruptcy that occur when a new casino comes to town. Or about the 100% increase in crime in a 30 mile radius of Atlantic City casinos. It also doesn't mention that most of the jobs generated are low paying jobs and do not go to the locals.

If you'd like to help stop this madness, urge the NY Gaming Commission to say "NO!" --

The Commission is accepting written comments both at the September 23 event and up to seven days following the event.
"Statements received beyond seven days will not be included in the formal record. All submissions should clearly identify the submitter’s name, and affiliation, if any.”
Written statements should be sent to the commissioners via Gail Thorpe at List the names of the commissioners at the top of the body of the message, and she’ll get it to them.

The members of The New York Gaming Commission Board:
Mark Gearan, Chair
John A. Crotty
Peter J. Moschetti, Jr.
John J. Poklemba
Barry Sample
Todd R. Snyder.

Please feel free to write to the Town of Montgomery Planning Board. Suzanne Hadden at Ask her to forward your letter to Fred Reichle, Chairman and the Town of Montgomery Planning Board. They will be accepting correspondence on this matter until October.

I believe that we have a right to the history that this land represents. I believe that the Colden Family Cemetery will eventually be destroyed beyond salvation by the construction, traffic, noise and vandalism that will result from being surrounded on three sides by the casino. This cemetery which is on the National Register of Historic Places and has survived for almost 300 years, will die if this casino lives.

This family which contributed so greatly to the medical, health, sciences, philosophy, business, botany, cultural and political life of this country, deserves to have its ancestral land protected from destruction. If the casino wins, we all lose forever.

We have to say "NO!" ... help spread the word.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Colden Preservation & Historical Society Meeting

There will be a meeting of the CP&HS on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2 pm, at the John A. Crabtree House,15 Factory St (a few houses behind Wallkill River School, on the right side), Montgomery, NY 12549.

Agenda items include review of provisional status documents and meeting dates for 2013.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Coldenham Preservation & Historical Society meeting

The Coldengham Preservation & Historical Society will meet this Sunday, June 26, 2011, at 2:00 pm, at the Wallkill River School, 232 Ward Street (Route 17K) in the Village of Montgomery. The results of last month's meeting of the Board will be discussed and a number of small administrative items need to be reviewed. A plan of action for the coming months will also be discussed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coldenham Preservation & Historical Society Meeting, Sept. 26, 2010

The Society will be meeting at 3:00 - 5:00 pm at the Wallkill River School, 232 Ward Street, in the Village of Montgomery.

This is an important meeting, so please make time to attend! Attendees will receive copies of the draft bylaws, constitution, and petition for provisional charter for the new society. Final vote will take place at the October meeting.

At this meeting former Town of Montgomery Historian Robert Williams will talk about the early efforts to preserve the Colden Mansion Ruins site and the development of the heritage park concept. Current town historian, Suzanne Isaksen will bring pictures of the interior of the mansion.

Light refreshments will be served.

For information, please contact Suzanne Isaksen at 845-641-0463, or