Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Oblong Rock


Congressman Lewis Beach in his definitive book, Cornwall, 1873, on page115, describes this “freak  of nature” as the poised rock.  Described as  a parallelogram having two sides, the upper and lower, ten feet in length, and the ends about four feet.  It measures 18 feet in circumference, and being formed of granite, will weigh about 15 tons. The flat stone  it once rested on measured eighteen inches in length by fifteen inches wide. These measurements are consistent today.  Howell calls this rock both poised and oblong, V2pg17, the former showing that he may have read Beach.  In any case the rock is at the Southeastern end of Bog Meadow pond adjacent to the road.  The Gov’ment bulldozers may have knocked this rock from it’s perch as they were working on the road, or it simply fell  a victim of natural erosion, thousands of years after it was deposited by an ancient glacier.  An interesting challenge to any engineering student, would be to measure the specimen and see if Beach was correct on the tonnage, verify this is indeed the poised or oblong rock , and finally, put it back on it’s pedestal where it  once sat !

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Boulder on Bear Mountain

This upended  boulder was found  by following the  Eclipse  at Bear Mountain Chapter (V1pg 51) and using the clues within the chapter and a lot of instinct.   On the following pages you can see the marks on the boulder where it had once been seated.   The  rock faced where this rock is perched  has a distinctive course of  feldspar running through the granite  just to the left of the left leg, that is there today and seals the deal.  The rock in the photo   from THH  seems larger than it really is as but it says in the caption that the two supporting cobblestones are only two inches square.  On subsequent trip to the spot, the area was undulated with bear scat fitting for the namesake of this mountain.  In fact, one of the co-authors brought back a sample on the sole of his shoe for the lab., and yes, bears do ….in the  woods!


Friday, November 5, 2010

William Thompson Howell and the Spy Rock House

To follow go to V2pg139  The Hudson Highlands'  Reissue available at 845-674 3185

William Thompson Howell and the Spy Rock House

   It is believed that Howell wrote the SUN newspaper article  during his ten day first visit to the “camp”.  The native friend in the Sun article who “follered” the path of the projectile is unmistakably Phil Hager, who lived in the shadow of Storm King  Mountain.  Howell’s relationship with Dr. Edwin L. Partridge of New York and Cornwall-on Hudson was faceted.  Howell provided Dr. P. with photographs for his magazines and newspaper articles perhaps for a fee, while accompanying him as a companion and guide in the woodlands.  They both shared a vision for the protection of the Highlands.  The Partridge Spy Rock House is listed as a ruin on the West Hudson trail map on the orange blazed Butter Hill trail which begins in the Storm King Park parking area.  In the rear of the ruin, a walled road can be found that gave access to the house by horseback or carriage. This road would  continue to the Partridge estate house which stood off Mountain Road, Cornwall N.Y., on the  present day Storm King School property.  The house was demolished in 1986. When you stand in the ruin, it’s hard to imagine Howell getting a rubdown here after taking a bath, or projectiles screaming overhead on their way to their target, Cro’nest Mountain. Pages 9-10 are text from the book “The Hudson Highlands” which was taken from Howell’s diaries. The authors visited the site on a rainy weekend August 22, 2009.  One hundred years to the day of the second visit to find out who kicked the cat in the kidneys!

New York, Sunday, August 22, 1909—copyright 1908 by the Sun Printing and Publishing  Association.

While all the country has been following the big war game in New England, only a few persons have been aware of another smaller war game which has been going on not very far from New York, up the Hudson at West Point. It was bought forcibly to the attention of a New York man who was spending a few days alone at a camp built at a western ridge of hills which bound Storm King Clove—the only mountain top camp in all the Highlands, eleven hundred feet above the Hudson. As he lay back in  a chair for an after-breakfast smoke there came an explosion which shook the house,  while the reverberations were caught up and thrown back and forth among the  mountains for many seconds, until l they finally died away in the distance like the rumble o f thunder. He rushed out to the rocks which fall away into the clove and overlook many miles of country, reaching there just as another explosion shook the ground, and this time there followed immediately another sound, the unmistakable sound of a shell tearing through the air.
Then he knew that things were happening at West Point. Now and then the impact of a shell against rocks could be heard, although two  peaks of a mountain intervened between the listener and the place where the shots hit the granite. For nearly two hours the firing continued, the roar of the canon being followed sometimes, and almost instantly, by the distant crash of fractured rock, and again by the long drawn out wail of the air torn by a rushing shell.
 Later in the day the New York man went down to the Mountain to see a native friend who knows the woods better than anybody else around there.  What’s going on at West Point.  He asked.  “Well, i guess if you’d see’d the big shell which ploughed up the West P’int  Mountain Road up above Silver Spring the other day,” he was told, you’d know them fellers down at the P’int are there shootin’ up Cro’ Nest. The other day I was comin’ along the wood road that turns off the mountain, just above the reservoir, where i see that somethin’ had come diggin’ along across the ground through the woods, tearin’ everything in it’s path. I follered it down as far as the black walnut trees and there I see’d  where it had hit one of the trees and killed it. It kept on from there, and bimbey I come to where it landed, right in the middle of the mountain road. It was a single shell, ‘most a foot long an’ it had been full of little round balls that scattered when it bust. I picked some of ‘em up around’ there.” 
“Why ,it isn’t safe to drive over the mountain, then?”  Exclaimed the New Yorker. “Oh, you couldn’t drive over,” was the reply. “The was a couple of soldiers __________________ the wood road, and over the other side of the mountain there was a couple more to warn people comin’ that way.
“They_________________past ten in the mornin’ till noon, and there they begin agin about two in the afternoon.  They’v been at it all through July and part of June, an’ there at it y’it.” “The other day I was up at the Summit an’ I went out on the rocks, as I always do, to git a view.

What did I see o’er  East’ard across the ravine but a lot of white things. What looked like tents. I hiked over there an’ found they was a lot of strips of canvas about fifteen or twenty feet long, maybe, an’ say four or five feet high. They was rigged to frames with a lot of weights an’ pulleys so’s they could be raised an’ lowered. They must have stretched for several hunderd feet, “They wasn’t nobody aroun’.  An’ I moused aroun’ for a spell, till finally I come on a kind of dugout. Right by the targets, which is what they were. There wasn’t anybody in the dugout an’ I looked in. What did I see in there but a whole telegraph outfit, all shinin’ brass. I traced the wires from it a ways down the mountain.  They tell me a soldier sits in the dugout  and telegraphs down to the p’int where the  shots hits an’ how to aim the guns for the next shot.
“The cadets in play’ war, an’  they hike all over the hills with their guns. The shots you heard probably come from somewhere in back of Fort Put, where hey’d dragged their cannon. They take ‘em wherever the horses’ll go, an’ shoot from different p’ints of the mountains, but always in the the direction of Cro’ Nest.”
Perhaps this woodsman’s account conveys as true an impression as can be given  of one of the things that Uncle Sam’s soldiers in training are doing—the kind of thing which the public that goes to the dress parades and watches the drills and sham battles of examination week knows little of. This to the month too when the whole corps goes off every year on an expedition little different from that which has been employing the minds of the regulars an State militiamen in the war between the Red army and the Blue. 
With field guns and mess wagons, tents and blankets, in marching and fighting costumes, they make their way across the open country and through the defiles of the Highlands, pitching camp each night, and every man of hem doing the hard work that would be required in actual campaign operations. Not only that, but each days has it’s particular problem of war to be worked out, the corps being divided into opposing forces, who contend and maneuver against each other the entire time they are in the field. The nights are also full of occupation—villages are surprised and stormed or the opposing camp invested, to the surprise of it’s sleeping occupants.
One day the writer was coming down a mountainside along an old wood road which led through a clove particularly wild and lonely, when he was startled by the sight of a score of khaki  clad soldiers swarming over the rooks. They rushed past him with a yell, paying no more attention to him than if he had been a rook, and disappeared up the mountainside.
Though covered with dirt and with faces streaked with perspiration he recognized them as the same immaculate young men who a few hours later would double quick across the Plain in skin tight gray coats and spotless white trousers. Just now they were busy with the serous side of their profession of learning how to wage war– the side the public does not see so much of.
The solitary climber came on ___ the mountain and swung into the Long Pond road just in time to be greeted by a cloud of dust as a train of cavalrymen galloped past, followed by a half a dozen rumbling field guns and ammunition wagons. Across the valley, coming around the end off Listening Hill, he caught sight of more artillery being dragged at a gallop over a road which he knew was far from smooth.
Around the turn of the road he walked into a group of cadets stretched out on the leaves resting and awaiting a command to move against the coming enemy. Several soldiers, held concealed behind trees, were sweeping the country with filed glasses, and had just discovered as the writer came up a party of the enemy’s spies on a rook high up the mountainside  making similar observations.
The plain of action for this particular campaign, which lasted several days and was entirely distinct from the cross country  hike, embraced a field of operations covering many miles of wild mountain country back off West Pojnt, in the very region where the Continental Army deployed during the Revolutionary das. It is interesting to know that some of the former cadets who in  past years were put through the mill of the strenuous sham battles among the Highland passes have been landing their troops in the larger war game in New England. 

 “I follered it down as far as the black walnut trees and there I     see’d  where it hit one and killed it”-  The Sun 1909.  Phil Hager

Spy Rock house 1907
Spy Rock 2010

Dr. Partridge