Saturday, August 18, 2007

Who is coming to the reunion?

Phyllis Ablondi Sans Soucie, Irene Ahlmeyer, Jim and Margie Amann, Leo and Elaine Biedermann,Suzanne Blaisdell Grant and her husband Ed, Georgia Botsacos Litwin and husband Louis, Bob and Marcy Brennan, George Brennan, Henry and Martha Carmichael, Rose Cesaro Mancuso and her husband Marty, Adelia Clardy Geiger, Ron and Rose Colombo, Marion Conley Sabins and her sister Jeanne, Ken Danielson and wife Karin, Loretta Debernardinis Tito,Mort Duggan, Robert Earle,Mark and Jinny Ewald, Scott Falt and his wife Marilyn, Gudron Friton Christman, Nancy Gordon Kinard, Peggy Garbade Schneider and husband Walt,Tim Grant, Patsy Grubbs Webber, George and Shelby Hadeler, Ed and Adelaide Hogan, Jim Hughes, Brenda Hunderfund Thomason, Bob Knight, George Kuhlow and guest, Ann Kuntz VanHouten, Patty Sue Lynch, Diane Meyers Meyer and husband Herb, Dennis and Joyce Murphy, Henry and Patricia O'Reilly, Delia Ortiz McDonald, Polly Lewis Osborne and husband Tom, Betty Neuser Amend and husband Fred (Friday night only),Kathy Lagstrom Slinn, Betty Offermann Tomforde, Maureen O'Leary Reynolds and her husband Ed, Ed Prigge, Helga Rothman Lloyd and husband Herb,Don Santan, Bob and Barbara Schweitzer, Harry and Anne Silverman, Carol Stadden Troxell and husband Bob, Lillian Storan O'Reilly and guest, Marion Summers Rood, Karen Titus, Judy Triller Semonick, Harry and Helen Tucker, Anita and Dan Saunders, Sue Wolf Scala, Helen Wilhelm Schroeder and husband Richard, Nancy Williams Caruso, Betty Uebelacker VanFossen and her husband, Dick and Cheryl VonSoosten.

1 comment:

Georgia Peach said...

his accomplishments:
Bob Brennan began studying genealogy in 1980 when he was teaching 7 th grade social studies in Pine Bush. Bob had assigned his students the task of researching their family history. He felt that he should research his own family to see what difficulties a person would confront as they researched. He became hooked and has been involved in genealogy ever since.
Bob's interest in the history of Orange County predates his interest in genealogy. In 1977 he was appointed by Governor Carey to the Board of Trustees of Washington Headquarters. He held that position for ten years.

Bob is presently serving as Historian for the Villages of Otisville and Goshen. He is the President of the Orange County Genealogical Society.

Bob is semi-retired working three days a week at the Voc-Tech Center in Goshen as a math teacher in the construction department helping to integrate mathematics into the curriculum.

Bob taught in the Pine Bush School District for 20 years and served sixteen years on the Wallkill Town Board.

He presently lives in Goshen with his wife, Marcy, who also teaches at the Voc-Tech center. They have four children and six grandchildren.

The following are articles written about Bob

in the Times Herald Record.

History hides behind spookiness
of Pine Hill Cemetery

Sunday night, the bright full moon made the tombstones shimmer like planets floating on blackish-gray space.

It's so beautiful, no wonder kids sometimes come to the small Pine Hill Cemetery to smooch, or to drink a beer around the crypt of Mary Penny, a woman they think is a witch because there's a five-sided star embossed in the concrete.

There is a kind of dare to walk in a cemetery at night, even if the moon is full and you're whistling "Amazing Grace."

Deep down, there's the big question: What happens after you die. The dead here know the answer, but they haven't come back to tell us – although they've left us some interesting stories.

Monday, in the light of the afternoon sun, the spookiness disappears, to be replaced by another fascination – history.

Bob Brennan says there are more than 900 cemeteries in Orange County.

Most of them are orphans, small, tucked away, almost forgotten, because they don't have someone like Brennan to bring them to life.

But that's exactly what he's done for Pine Hill Cemetery on VanBurenville Road in the Town of Wallkill, just outside Middletown. Before it was a road, on the 1850 map, there was a crossroads hamlet named VanBurenville, and the cemetery was located in another crossroads community named Rockville. Now cars speed by in a shortcut to get to Middletown's north end.

Brennan, the Otisville Village historian, spent several years researching and compiling "A History of Orange County Pine Hill Cemetery/Families," recently published by the Town of Wallkill.

He became interested in the cemetery when he was on the Wallkill Town Board from 1976-1989, and then was supervisor in 1990 and '91. One day he pulled off the road and started studying the graves, wondering "who these people were. I knew some of the names, because they were of old Middletown families."

As a trustee of the county's genealogical society, he's always been fascinated by the links and lineage to, and of, the past. With a laugh, he says, "obsessed, that's what my wife says."

Like cutting into an orange, with tendrils connecting each piece, he's uncovered insights into long-dead local history in old records and newspapers. Read today, in 2000, they seem almost as remote as messages from Mars because the life of our forefathers is so different than this wired-up generation.

A story he particularly likes is about a man named Samuel Mapes. In the days before the Revolution, Mapes "bought a square mile of land for six pence an acre and a peppercorn."

Brennan said during the active part of his life, Mapes killed 99 deer. "And he wanted to kill one more to make it an even hundred. When he was in his '80s, he had a stroke, which left him partially helpless."

One day, Mapes told his wife "there is a deer coming out to drink at the spring, and if you'll help me out to the stone wall, I think I can shoot him." Brennan says she did, "and the old man's hands shook with excitement. He rubbed his eyes because they were blurred. They didn't have glasses in those days, but he managed at last to get his aim straight at the deer, pulled the trigger and fired. The deer went down, and the old man was so overcome with excitement, he fell over, and his wife had to get help to take him back to the house."

Brennan says the killing of his 100 th deer gave him more pleasure and satisfaction than all the rest he had killed.

"He never tired of telling the story of how he killed his hundredth deer, and he used to wind up the tale by saying 'Oh, I kin fetch 'em yet.'"

In researching the life of William Uptegrove and reading his papers, Brennan got insights in schooling here in the late 1850s. What a far cry from today.

"During the spring and summer, our teacher was always a woman, and she 'boarded around.' That is, she stayed a week with each family…in winter, the schoolhouse was heated by a wood-burning stove. It was a square horizontal iron box taking sticks of firewood about 30 inches long. On each side of the stove was a long bench, one side for girls, the other for boys. Upon opening of the morning session, those whose feet were cold asked permission to sit by the stove."

And that, after walking through "deep snows" nearly two miles each way to school.

When he was 88, Jonathan Wilkison, a veteran of the War of 1812, wrote about medicine. In a letter quoted by Brennan, he says: "People did not seem to be sick as much as now. Mothers could cure their children with herbs from the garden, or something from the forest near the door."

One of the most provocative incidents took place in the Old School Baptist Church that used to be next to the cemetery. A rock marks the spot today.

The time was early autumn, 1866, a year after the Civil War. Eighteen members of the church were kicked out of the fellowship "because they had been in favor of abolishing slavery. And this was AFTER the war ended," Brennan says. He quotes from a newspaper article that states church leaders "took the ground that Slavery was and is a Divine institution."

Today, the question is moot. The dead lie together.

from the Times Herald-Record

March 25, 2000

written by Chris Farlekas

Author traces black history in Orange

A standing-room-only audience of blacks and whites listened at the 1841 Historic Courthouse in Goshen on Saturday as Otisville historian Robert W. Brennan traced the history of local black families based on his new book "Genealogical History of Black Families of Orange County."

As the teacher and former Wallkill Town Board supervisor unearthed nuggets of history, he encouraged more research by students into the lineage of black families –" a rich field for study," he said.

He warned that students had to be prepared to encounter "the denigration of blacks in the past." He gave as an example the headline, "Frank Green is A Bad Coon," in a 1908 issue of the Goshen Independent Republican.

"Slavery was abolished in New York State on the Fourth of July, 1827. Some people don't think we had slaves here in Orange County. They think it was something that only happened down south. But in the 1800 Orange County census, 1,800 slaves are listed. Most Orange County families owned a slave."

Even after the slaves were freed in Orange, racial prejudice continued to be the norm. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, more than 100 black men from Orange County tried to enlist, but were denied entrance to the Orange Blossoms, the county, army unit. The men were forced to go far afield, joining two other New York State regiments, as well as the 14th Rhode Island.

Eleven black soldiers from Orange County died fighting rebels in battles in New Orleans and Beauford, S. C. Brennan recommended people see the Oscar-winning movie "Glory," depicting a battle in which Orange County black soldiers fought, and two died.

Until recently, blacks and whites were not buried in the same sections of most Orange County cemeteries. He gave the example of Slate Hill Cemetery in Goshen. "Even today, when you go there, you'll see the section where blacks were buried is not tended like the other sections. Tall grass obscures some of the graves."

In his 225-page book, Brennan quotes from newspaper articles that display a thinly veiled racism, or, at best, paternalism.

Talking about John Rose, a smallpox patient, who had been quarantined in Goshen, the March 6, 1906 issue of the Goshen Independent Republican wrote, "Rose is walking about town today dressed in a brand new suit at the expense of the village treasury, and looking in as prime condition as a corn-fed hog after the fall husking."

From obituaries in the Goshen paper: "John Green, a respected colored man" and "Mrs. John Green, a respectable colored woman."

Brennan talked about Samuel Free of Otisville, who died at age 107 a decade ago. "He was always the first man in line to pay his taxes." Born the son of a slave, Sam Free was loved in the community, Brennan said.

In his book, he quotes from an interview Sam Free gave on his 100 th birthday:

"When he was asked what it was like living a life spanning the horse-and-buggy days to men walking on the moon, Mr. Free answered, 'I think some folks have missed the boat about getting to the moon. People don't yet know how to walk on the earth, without having wars and rumors of wars. I think we should clear up the mess down here before we start another one up high. Let's' think about the chillun before we visit the man in the moon."

from the Times Herald-Record

February 9, 2001

written by Chris Farlekas.

New book details Orange County's black families

Goshen – The office of the Orange Count Genealogical Society is filled with floor-to ceiling bookcases and walls of neatly labeled filing cabinets, each one detailing the family trees of hundreds of local residents.

But don't bother looking at the office for a ton of information on black families in town, because the information just isn't there.

Or at least that was generally the case until Bob Brennan started digging. Brennan, Otisville historian and President of the Society, has just completed his second volume of "Genealogical History of Black Families of Orange County."

The book contains about 150 pages of obituaries of black resident of Orange County from the 1800s to the present. Every person has a story.

Like 10-year-old Richard Reevs, who was run over by a car in Goshen during a snowstorm in 1929.

Or Jordon Bowman, an ex-slave who died at age 88 in 1924. Bowman of Middletown was the leader of 130 slaves on his master's plantation and is said to have been so highly valued that an offer to buy him for $25,000 was refused.

"When you read these obituaries, they will eventually talk to you," said Brennan, a teacher at BOCES and a former Town of Wallkill supervisor.

Like Willie "The Lion" Smith, a flamboyant jazz pianist born in Goshen who converted from Baptist to Judaism at 13. Smith died at age 79 in 1973 in New York City. His last concert was at New York's Village Gate.

Or James Nicholas Van, a romancer from Mount Hope who claimed to have been married 14 times in his "118 years" in Orange County. He was described as a "decently conducted Negro," who had a "marvelous imagination and gift for exercising it."

"Van was just a character full of tall tales," said Brennan. "He was so well-known that it was commonplace to hear 'Don't James Van me,' from someone who thought they were being told an exaggerated story."

The book doesn't limit itself to tales of good guys. There are also pieces on the more infamous members of local history, like Snowball Hicks, "a notorious, lawless and generally undesirable person."

Hicks had been arrested for horse theft days after getting run out of Middletown for selling cocaine, according to the 1915 obituary. Soon after, Hicks contracted smallpox. That didn't kill him, however. He was shot to death by a deputy while trying to kill his nurse.

"We've had black families in this county for 200 years," said Brennan. "They are embedded in our fabric and they just haven't been given any credit."

from the Times Herald-Record


by Jessica Gardner

Segregated cemeteries
Blacks usually buried in the back, genealogist says

Washingtonville – Bob Brennan knows the drill by now. When looking for the grave markers of black Orange County residents, Brennan drives to the back of cemeteries and usually finds the headstones of blacks segregated in one section of the graveyard.

"I'm just telling you what I found," said Brennan, president of the Orange County Genealogical Society, who has written two books on black genealogy in the county.

"You go into cemetery after cemetery and you see the same thing. You have to draw some conclusion," said Brennan, a former Wallkill supervisor, who now lives in Goshen and turns 62 this week. "When I go into cemeteries, blacks are buried in the back and to the right."

Last week, Brennan strolled in the Washingtonville Presbyterian Cemetery and found Depews, Diamonds, O'Dells, Dolsons, Ramseys and Sewells – all black families – buried in the same section of the graveyard.

Brennan, who collected 600 obituaries of black Orange County residents covering a 100-year period, noted, "Mrs. Depew was the first black woman to have a bicycle in Washingtonville in 1898."

Brennan said he has found segregated cemeteries in Chester, Florida, Goshen, Monroe and Warwick.

There also have been slave cemeteries found in the Montgomery and New Paltz areas.

Brutus Hodge, a black Newburgh funeral director, theorized the placement of blacks in one cemetery section was due to the face they were poor, not black. Hodge said grave location was about class, not race.

"There's not enough to say they purposely segregated the cemeteries," said Hodge, the mid-Hudson's senior black funeral director. "I don't think there was deliberate discrimination."

Cemetery directors interviewed for this story said the segregated cemeteries were before the 1960s civil rights movement and integration.

For example, Ambrose Lewis, supervisor of the Wallkill Cemetery in the Town of Wallkill, said people can pick a spot in his graveyard these days regardless of their race or religion.

"I would hope it's not going on anymore," Brennan said. "It goes to show the North was not as pure as everyone thinks."

from the Times Herald-Record

January 2002

by Alan Snel


Vital Records of the Town of Wallkill-Volumes 1 and 2.

Marriage Notices from the Independent Republican 1865-1883.

Genealogical History of Black Families in Orange County Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

1865 Census of the Town of Monroe with area obituaries.

1865 Census of the Town of Blooming Grove

· Born in Ireland (obituaries of over 500 people that were born in Ireland but died in Orange County)

· 1865 Census of Monroe

· Marriage 1866-1885