HHLT launched the Relearning Highlands History series last fall as part of our commitment to share and amplify stories of and from People of Color who have shaped the landscape and history of the Hudson Highlands. We now want to take the series one step further and bring these important stories “to life”—so we have begun to lay the groundwork for a digital heritage trail that will highlight sites relevant to the history of Black and Native Americans in the Hudson Highlands. The heritage trail, along with this series, are two ways we are delivering on our promise to promote more projects that are relevant to people of all backgrounds, especially those who have been historically excluded.
This new digital heritage trail will take visitors on an educational journey that winds temporally through pre-colonial history to the present, and geographically from Peekskill to Beacon. When completed, this heritage trail east of the Hudson River will complement the existing African American Heritage Trail of Westchester County to the south, and the Dutchess County Equality Trail to the north. (The latter trail is currently under development through a partnership between the Mid-Hudson Antislavery Project and Dutchess County Historical Society.) Like these other regional heritage trails to the north and south, the Hudson Highlands trail will provide opportunities for historical and environmental education, as well as inspiration for conservation action.
As we begin to identify and prioritize “stops” along the trail, we plan to research historic sites in and near Putnam County, initially focusing on properties along the Hudson River from Peekskill to Beacon. We will work closely with researchers, historians, local museums/archives and Communities of Color to identify key historical figures, locations, land issues, and stories to share through the trail. We will also draw from the stories told through this Relearning Highlands History series. Some initial sites we plan to research further for the trail include:
Frederick Philipse Estate and Beverley Robinson House: The homes of Frederick Philipse, and
Col. Beverley Robinson and Susanna Philipse, were located along current Route 9D in Garrison. The Philipses were major enslavers and slave traders in colonial New York.
Villages of the Nochpeem: One of the chieftaincies of the Wappinger Tribe, the homes of these Native American people were located north of Anthony’s Nose in Garrison.
Nimham Mountain: A 1,054-acre Multiple Use Area is located in Kent and named after Chief Daniel Nimham, who challenged to the Philipse Patent, covering what is now Putnam County.
Larksburg/Lawson Cemetery: Black journalist, political activist and community leader Sumner Lark created Larksburg, an African American community and cemetery, on 200 acres in Putnam Valley in the 1920s. When Mr. Lark died in 1931, control passed to Bishop Robert Lawson, a Harlem religious leader who spoke at the first March on Washington along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At least 300 people were buried at this cemetery, including Mr. Lark and Bishop Lawson.
Snowdale Farm: This Patterson resort, run by the Moran family, was part of a flourishing recreational tourism industry for African Americans in the 1920-30s.
Tone’s Pond: Tonetta Lake in Southeast was home to this fisherman’s resort, run by Tone Seeley, an enslaved man manumitted (or released from slavery) after his service in the American Revolutionary War.
Researchers and Historians, Help us Tell These Stories!
We will soon hire a qualified consultant to fully research these important stories about people and the land, and use those research findings to create content for the heritage trail. Please contact Ashley Rauch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in learning more about this opportunity. Please note that HHLT is committed to the values of equity, including diversity and inclusion, and we seek researchers and historians who have experience conducting research through that lens.
Once established, the digital heritage trail will make important stories and historic sites accessible forever, providing educational content on the African American and Native American history of the area for generations to come. Our hope is that our trail will inspire visitors not only from local communities, but also from across the country and around the world, to learn, or relearn, Hudson Highlands history.
We are grateful to the Open Space Institute’s Malcolm Gordon Charitable Fund and the Cornell Douglas Foundation for their generosity in supporting both the Relearning Highlands History and Heritage Trail projects.