Cheescocks predates Monroe, Tuxedo and Woodbury

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:43

    Historian, Town of Monroe This column will be a regular feature in The Photo News, with articles presented on a regular basis by the historians and historical societies of the three towns and villages that make up for the most part the old town of Monroe. I always believed that it's important to reflect on our past, without it, we do not have a meaningful future. I have lived in Monroe all my life. My grandfather came here in 1900 from Callicoon, NY, and so I have seen many changes over the years. Are they all for the better? Of course not, but we also have changes that brought many improvements. We can find controversy in the past, but one thing we must learn is to live together, without that we will never be a community. It is only fitting that I cover the division of the old Town of Monroe in this first column to give you a sense of the history and the formation of the three towns from the division of Monroe. With this history I will trace back some of the events that brought about a split between the populations to form these new towns, along with the name changes that took place starting in 1799. The Precinct of Cornwall was formed in 1764 from the Precinct of Goshen, thus the county would then consist of two precincts. Cornwall would then consist of the present day towns of Monroe, Woodbury, Highland, Blooming Grove, Hamptonburg and Chester. On March 23, 1799, at the twenty-second session of the New York State Legislature adopted Chapter 39, which divided the Town of Cornwall, part of which would become the Town of Cheescocks and the Town of Blooming Grove. The Act further stated the first meeting of the new Town of Cheescocks would be held the first Monday of April in the home of John Waggon (Weygant). That was not much time between the establishment of the town and the first meeting. The Town of Monroe still retains the original minutes from the first meeting in April 1799 up to the present in the town hall. Three years later on April 12, 1802 the New York State Legislature changed the names of Cheescocks to Southfield. No indication is given for the name change, but that name for the town would only last until April 5, 1808. On that date a bill from the state legislature changed the names of 32 towns and 17 counties, including changing the Town of Southfield to Monroe.Why the name change? Monroe attorney James Sweeny in his essay "Who is the Town of Monroe Named After?" believed that the Southfield name was dropped as not to confuse our town with the Town of Southfields in Richmond County (Staten Island). The hamlet and post office of Southfield still exist in the former Town of Monroe, but they are now in the Town of Tuxedo. We do know that the "u" would remain a part of our name until after the election of James Monroe, the name appears to have been popularized in the president's honor. Though the earliest explanation of the "u" to "o" change is written in Spafford's 1824 Gazetteer of New York which states "It has become fashionable of late, (and the fashion will probably last during the Presidency of James Monroe,) to write the name of this Town with an ‘o' instead of a ‘u', though if I mistake not, the laws write it ‘as I write it.'" Would the state legislature name a town for James Monroe in a state that was at odds with the future president and his polices. A state that strongly supported George Clinton, the Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson. Clinton was a former governor and a hero of the American Revolution and a native of Orange County. Since Monroe would be part of the group that would help out maneuver Clinton's quest for the nomination of the Presidency of the United States it would be highly unlikely that the state legislature would ever name a town in President Monroe's honor. New York was Clinton's state and was very much loved in the state and in his home county. The next division of the Town of Monroe would take place in 1864, and this appears to have done for political purpose only, dividing up the town so there would be two additional supervisors on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. The names of these new towns would be Monroe, Highland and Southfield. This division would last until 1865 when the town was reunited. It appears that this division was not popular with the residents of Monroe, an article dated March 24, 1864 from the Independent Republican, Goshen, N.Y. stated, "the old Monroe Republicans refused to acknowledge the division of the town and voted where they pleased. By this means they secured the three supervisors for the town and voted republican." The outcome did not change control of the Board of Supervisors, 11 Democrats and 9 Republicans. We now come to the final division of the Town of Monroe, which also comes from much dissent within the town at that time. In the proceedings of the County of Orange for 1889, Charles Ketcham, supervisor of the Town of Cornwall stated, "That the house of Monroe is divided and that its days are numbered has been clearly shown to us. It has been fully demonstrated that the period of spirit of its oneness and unit is completely past. Of all the internal strife is most destructive. It appears to me that disruption of Monroe, is inevitable and must come." As a further note to this division, according a letter dated December 7, 1889 and written by C. Fred Lamont who was supervisor of the old Town of Monroe, and would become supervisor of the town after its division. It appears that some people in the hamlets of Monroe and Turners (Harriman) and vicinity, were circulating a petition to break away and form a fourth town with the 1889 division. Mr. Lamont stated "If, after exerting myself to the utmost to bring about a division of the town that would be just and fair to all, my efforts should fail it will be because of the petition which you have signed, and the responsibility must rest with those who, distorting the facts and misrepresenting my position, secured your signature." And as history tells us, Mr. Lamont's position won out in the division of the town. With the division of Monroe, the largest town in Orange County would become the smallest. The law passed by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Orange on December 19, 1889, took effect on March 1, 1890. The new towns formed would be Monroe, Tuxedo and Woodbury. Also a portion of the old town would go to the Town of Highlands. History belongs to all of us, and without your help, much of the past will be lost. Each one of our towns has a historic society and/or historian that strive to save the past for future generations to enjoy. We must take inventory of the things that represent our history and if you or your family wants to donate them to your respective historical societies, please do before they are lost forever. I can think of numerous times that after a family member has departed, the old photos, documents and other artifacts are thrown out and lost to the ages. In future columns you will learn the history and events that took place in these three towns both in words and pictures. If you have any ideas or wish to share them with us you can contact me at 783-3406 or contact your respective town or village historian. We hope you enjoy this column as we bring you the history of our past. I would like to thank Town of Monroe Supervisor Sandy Leonard for proposing this column and all her encouragement for its publication in The Photo News. And thanks to Stan Martin of The Photo News for providing us with the space for this column.