Venerable Veneer: The Bronze Door Knob and Escutcheon on the Deyo House

The front entrance of the Deyo-Brodhead house.

The Deyo-Brodhead house.                                           -Picture Credit: Elise Bruce                                  


Picture Credit: Elise Bruce


On February 27, 1895, Abraham and Gertrude Deyo-Brodhead opened the doors of their newly renovated home, “fitted up in the most elegant manner,” to “a large company who had come to pay their respects” (“At Home”). With their rococo design and burnished gold finish, the bronze door knob and escutcheon which grace the front door of the Deyo House are the first of many elegant fittings meant to impress visitors. Yet, their highly ornamental nature hints at the economic and cultural impact of the Industrial Revolution on the New Paltz community as well as one family’s fall from fortune.

Physical Description

Both the knob and the escutcheon have an elaborate floral pattern cast on the surface, giving the set an eye-catchingly elegant (or ostentatious, depending on one’s tastes) air. The escutcheon is especially attention-grabbing. Measuring sixteen by three inches, it is a roughly rectangular shape. However, the top and bottom have been molded into the form of acanthus leaves, creating an asymmetry that draws the eyes away from the relatively simple wood door to the more impressive hardware. Although the bronze has become dull and tinged with verdigris, one can imagine that its original burnished gold color would have made the set even more beautiful to those coming to greet the Deyo-Brodheads as they settled back in, particularly when it was lit by the house’s recently installed electrical lighting, a feature that would have been something of a luxury at the time.

The acanthus leaves  at the top and bottom of the escutcheon are beautifully molded, giving the otherwise rectangular shape a fluid appearance.

The acanthus leaves at the top and bottom of the escutcheon are beautifully molded, giving the otherwise rectangular shape a fluid appearance.       Picture Credit: Elise Bruce


Picture credit: Reading Hardware Catalogue

Picture credit: Reading Hardware Company

Reading Hardware

Picture Credit: Reading Hardware Company

The set was manufactured in the late 1800s by the Reading Hardware Company, located in Reading, Pennsylvania. According to Morton L. Montgomery’s history on the area, the company, founded in 1852, specialized in “furnishing all the necessary hardware in the construction of large hotels and office buildings” in large cities such as New York and Chicago and was particularly well known for its “unique and artistic designs in fine bronze” (Montgomery 189). The design found on the Deyo house knob and escutcheon, a rococo style called Belfort, was available for purchase through the company’s widely circulated Illustrated Catalogue of Fine Locks and Builders’ Hardware. It is likely that the Deyo-Brodhead’s selected the door knob and escutcheon from this catalogue as they planned their renovations. The set has remained on the front door ever since although the house has changed hands three times. The last owner, Harold L. Wood, sold the house to the present owner, the Huguenot Historical Society, in 1972.

Historical Narrative

The knob and escutcheon embody a much larger struggle in terms of the culture and economy in New Paltz at the turn of the century, a struggle that comes to a head in the 1895 renovation of the Deyo house. Built by Pierre Deyo around 1692, the original Deyo house was modest stone structure not unlike the neighboring Bevier-Elting house. While later descendants added a wing to accommodate the growing family, the exterior of the house otherwise remained relatively the same. This changed when the Deyo-Brodheads inherited the house in 1893. Although indubitably proud of their Huguenot heritage (both could trace their lineage back to Christian Deyo, patriarch of the Deyo family and one of the twelve signers of the original patent), Abraham and Gertrude nonetheless desired a much more ornate space than the stone house built by their ancestors. As Jaquetta Haley notes in her summary of Deyo House history, the couple was highly involved in New Paltz social life, at one point even hosting a masked ball for a group of notable local figures (8). Their decision to modify and expand the house seems motivated partially by their desire “to entertain on a grander scale” (8).

Yet, Haley implies that the couple’s social ambitions may have been curbed had it not been for a modest inheritance bequeathed by a wealthy relative. Although they owned a significant amount of land in New Paltz area, the Deyo-Broadheads were not a particularly wealthy family. Instead, their social prominence was tied to the family’s deep roots in the area as well as the Deyos’ long standing participation in community leadership, starting with Christian Deyo and extending on through Abraham’s great grandfather (a judge) and grandfather (a local sheriff). However, in 1890, the death of one of Abraham’s paternal great uncles left the newly wed Abraham and Gertrude with $150,000 (Haley 7). While it was not a huge sum, this inheritance allowed the couple to pursue their interests on a much larger scale than they had previously. For Abraham, this meant investing in the construction of a small horse racing track, the Brodhead Driving Park. Built on some of Brodhead’s holdings on the other side of the Wallkill, the track helped to supplement the couple’s income as well as bolster their reputation in the community. Although it is less clear what Gertrude’s interest were, Haley indicates that she enjoyed her role as a “social doyenne of New Paltz” (17). It seems plausible, then, that in her drive to throw larger and more tasteful events, Gertrude would be the one to prompt the renovation of the old stone house into the elegantly fitted space that so impressed the reporter of the New Paltz Independent on that February night in 1895.

Regardless of who proposed the renovations, the Deyo-Brodheads began making plans to modify the house almost immediately upon taking ownership, transforming it from a simple stone house to a Queen Anne Style manor. It is in, in the words of Kenneth Hasbrouck, “an example of how a residence must submit to remodeling as the occupants acquire wealth” (Hasbrouck). Hasbrouck’s comment hints at the discomfort with which New Paltz residents met the Deyo-Brodhead’s plans to renovate. An article in the New Paltz Independent dated July 13, 1894 laments, “The changes in the building will make it scarcly [sic] recognizable” (NPI).  Indeed, the stone first floor is the only vestige of the original structure still visible. The same article argues that “at least of them [the old stone houses on Huguenot Street] should be set apart and strictly guarded from the march of modern improvement in order that future generations may know in what manner of houses their ancestors lived” (NPI).

The fear of “modern improvement” obscuring the historical character of New Paltz indicates the community’s fierce loyalty to their heritage, but it also suggests the conflict between traditional local values and the cosmopolitan trend towards the ornate, even theatrical, sensibilities amongst the area’s wealthy citizens. Almost every feature of the Deyo-Brodhead’s home is meant to inspire reverence and respect not only for the Deyo-Brodhead’s heritage but also the family’s more recent wealth and achievements. Positioned prominently on the front door, the bronze door knob and escutcheon affirm this prestige, reminding all visitors that this house belonged to influential individuals. Yet, the grandeur rests on a certain superficiality made possible in part by the relatively new ability to mass produce luxury items using machine labor. The result was seemingly elegant items that were relatively affordable, especially when bought in bulk. The advertisement in the Reading Hardware Company’s catalog notes that the Belfort knob and escutcheon could be purchased for around $3.90 (roughly $100 today) (RHC). While that might seem expensive for a door knob, it pales in comparison to the cost of purchasing a similar piece from a blacksmith.

However, what they might have saved by buying machine fabricated hardware, the Deyo-Brodheads spent or invested elsewhere, requiring them to eventually take out two mortgages on the property. A confluence of financial problems, starting with the collapse of the race track as a source of income, would at last cause the couple to lose the house and their ancestral land holdings. Unlike most of their property, which was auctioned off to recoup the family’s losses, the grand door knob and escutcheon would remain with the estate, a silent testimony to their hopes and dreams as well as an embodiment of the changing times.



“At Home.” New Paltz Independent. 1 Mar. 1895. Print.

Blumin, Leonard. Victorian Decorative Art: A Photographic Study of Ornamental Design an Antique Door Knobs. California: Victorian Design Press, 1983. Print.

Davey, Weston. Personal Interview. 9 Apr. 2015.

Haley, Jaquetta. “Furnishing Plan: Deyo House.” New York: Huguenot Historical Society, 2001. Print.

Hasbrouck, Kenneth E. Old Stone Houses: Huguenot Street, New Paltz, N.Y. New Paltz: n.a., n.d. Print.

Montgomery, Morton L. Historical and Biography Annals of Berk County, Pennsylvania. Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1909. Print.

New Paltz Independent. 13 Jul. 1894. Print.

Reading Hardware Company. Illustrate Catalogue of Fine Locks and Builders’ Hardware. New York: 1899, Print.

The Spinning Jenny

Caption: This spinning jenny is a typical specimen of the kind often found in homes during colonial and post-colonial times. 837.1It was given to the Memorial House (the Jean Hasbrouck house) by its owner, William Henry Dill Blake, whose family owned the spinning jenny before him and whose wife and daughter (both named Matilda Booth Blake) likely used it regularly as a household chore. Built in the late 18th century, this spinning jenny is a reminder of the role of women in the establishment of one of New Paltz’s successful families.

A photograph of the Jean Hasbrouck House where the jenny is located.

A photograph of the Jean Hasbrouck House where the jenny is located.

Physical Description: This spinning jenny is comprised of a wooden frame and a large, slightly corroded iron wheel with four spokes placed at even intervals. On the right-hand side of the wheel is a grooved iron cylinder (also sporting slight corrosion with age), likely used for winding the finished thread. On the front left pole of of the frame are scratched the initials “HB;” additionally, the spinning jenny is marked with the number 213, likely a production or maker’s mark. According to the file in Historic Huguenot Street records, there are likely some pieces  missing.

Diagram of a Hargreave spinning jenny

Diagram of a Hargreave spinning jenny (since the image above is the only one available of the Blakes’ jenny.

Provenance: The first clue to determining the origin of the spinning jenny is the inscription “HB” on the frame. As this spinning jenny was built in the late eighteenth century, while the invention was still fairly new (American Fabrics Magazine 220), and also considering that William H.D. Blake was born much later, in 1843 (according to the Blake family papers on file at Huguenot Street), it is logical to assume that the spinning jenny was probably first owned by Blake’s grandfather or great-grandfather.  Also according to Huguenot Street records, the spinning jenny was owned by the family until Blake’s donation of the piece in 1910; it most likely came into his possession as a family object that was passed down to him. The maker’s mark, “213,” yields no significant results, though a search of the history of the spinning jenny reveals that several were manufactured underground (that is, without the inventor’s permission) because the design was so brilliantly simple and that there was dispute during the time of the spinning jenny’s true inventor and origin (Baines, Arkwright); Blake’s spinning jenny therefore could have been manufactured by any number of individuals.

Narrative: The Blake family moved to New Paltz in 1881, when they purchased the DuBois farm; shortly thereafter, William and Matilda, the two youngest Blake children, were born. During this time, spinning, weaving, knitting, and almost all other forms of textile production were considered “women’s work,” as such activities allowed them to work primarily in their homes (thus fulfilling the typical duties of wife and mother) while still providing the family with additional income from selling the resulting product. Family workshops were the norm, to such an end that almost every household contained at least one “knitting frame” (loom) and one spinning wheel (AFM 217). According to Historic Huguenot Street records, the Blake spinning jenny replaced an older spinning wheel previously owned by the family; one can easily imagine the mother Matilda spinning yarn at home on a typical day to the sounds of her children’s laughter and the pitter-patter of little feet. Later, as the daughter Matilda grew bigger, her mother would have taught her how to spin the yarn herself, to the end of her being expected to produce her own quantity of yarn as an adult. Unlike her brothers, Matilda spent her entire life on her family’s farm on Libertyville Road in New Paltz. It is likely that she continued to make use of the spinning jenny through her school years up until her enrollment in the New Paltz Normal School. Beyond that, the latest mention of the spinning jenny in historical records is a newspaper clipping, dated May 6, 1910, that announces William H.D. Blake’s donation of the piece to the Memorial House. While a seemingly random choice, the spinning jenny is actually a quite significant piece, as it symbolizes an industry and a community of workers that played a very large role in shaping the economy of New Paltz, as well as a symbol of the financial success of one of New Paltz’s most successful farming families.

Works Cited:

American Fabrics Magazine. Encyclopedia of Textiles. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1960. Print.

Baines, Edward (1835). History of the cotton manufacture in Great Britain;. London: H. Fisher, R. Fisher, and P. Jackson.

Roth, Eric. Ed. “William H. D. Blake Family Papers (1794-1982).” Historic Huguenot Street Archives. Historic Huguenot Street, 10 July 2002. Web. 12 May 2015. <;.

Infinite thanks to Ashley Trainor and Carrie Allmendinger from Historic Huguenot Street for sharing their records, knowledge, and expertise with me for this project.

Colonial Revivalism in the Deyo House: The Purpose of a Print


This late 19th century print depicts a romanticized scene of the Huguenots as they fled religious persecution in France. It is one of three such images in Abraham Brodhead’s office that act as a visual reminder of his cultural participation in the Colonial Revival movement that once swept through the Hudson Valley. (Personal Photo)

“Escape of a Huguenot Family after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew”

London published June 1st 1880 by Henry Graves & C° the proprietors publishers to HM the Queen and TRH the Prince & Princess of Wales, 6. Pall Mall – copyright registered. Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1880 at the Library of Congress in Washington.

Engraved by J. Scott

Printed by Holdgate Brs.


“Escape of a Huguenot Family after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew” (Courtesy of

Caption: This late 19th century print depicts a romanticized scene of the Huguenots as they fled religious persecution in France. It is one of three such images in Abraham Brodhead’s office that act as a visual reminder of his cultural participation in the Colonial Revival movement that once swept through the Hudson Valley.

Physical Description: Hanging on the north wall of Abraham Brodhead’s small second story office is a 25.5 in. x 34 in. print, set within glass and against a 3 in. linen mat. The frame is ornately carved wood, about 2 in. thick and decorated with gold colored paint. The prints’ somewhat ostentatious frame very much reflects the propagandistic nature of the scene, and both serve to catch the visitors attention almost immediately. The composition pictures a young peasant woman standing at the back of a raft, steering it through tall reeds while the elderly woman sitting next to her looks worried as she consoles the disheveled elderly man leaning on her shoulder. Behind the couple are two bearded gentlemen, one who leans down to aid them, and another who stands proudly turned towards the front of the raft while a woman wraps her hand around his neck and gazes desperately at his profile. Just in front of them are two men wearing armor, one faces frontally while the other looks back towards the party sympathetically. Lastly, two young peasant boys crowd the front of the boat, one attending to his weapon, and the other standing with his head up, looking eagerly towards whatever might lie ahead.


The northwest corner of Abraham Brodhead’s office. Half of the print is visible on the right side of the picture. It is the first decoration that a visitor encounters upon entering the room, and is situated directly opposite the door. (Personal photo)

Provenance: The printed inscription that lies just below the image is a key factor in discovering the origin of the print. James Scott (ca. 1809-1889), whose name is found on the lower right hand corner, was one of the finest English engravers of the mid to late 19th century. Not much is known about his art education, but he became equally talented in the genres of portraiture, history paintings, and sporting subjects. Scott earned notoriety when his portrait of the Duke of Wellington was published in 1837, and over the next fifty years he engraved a large number of designs after the works of contemporary painters. Henry Graves & Co. was a publishing house in Pall Mall, London that was active between 1844 and 1899, and it ended up publishing over one hundred of Scott’s prints within that time period. The National Portrait Gallery in London now houses over two hundred prints published by Henry Graves & Co., twenty-two of which are attributed to the artist James Scott. The inscription informs us that this print was published on June 1st, 1880, and dedicates the work to Her Majesty the Queen of England, and Their Royal Highnesses the Prince & Princess of Wales. This formality may seem odd in modern practice, but it was customary to honor the head of state in all matters of fine and high art especially for those who distributed prints & literature. Although it is not known how this particular print came to be in the Deyo-Brodhead family collection, we are able to infer that it was some point after 1880 when, as the inscription tells us, it travelled to Washington and passed through the Library of Congress.


The northeast corner of Abraham’s second floor office. (Personal photo)

Narrative: You may wonder how this unique foreign print became a part of the modern day Historic Huguenot Street collection. It’s a dramatic image of a purely fictional event; the raft that all ten Huguenots seem to be floating on could have never held the weight, and the socioeconomic diversity of their fleeing party (as is evident in the clothes they’re wearing) appears democratic, but highly improbable. It is true that over 5,000 French citizens were killed during St. Bartholomew’s massacre on August 23, 1572 in Paris alone, and thousands more fled the country permanently, but this particular rendering of the escape is inaccurate. What, then, is the point? Why would a respectable descendent such as Abraham Brodhead want a romanticized print that remembers this traumatic moment in French Huguenot history hanging in his primary office? Understanding the owners’ personal history and examining the broader cultural context of the Hudson Valley during the late 19th century yields quite a fruitful explanation.


A detail of the printed inscription. Only the title is visible without a magnifying glass. (Personal photo)

In 1894, Abraham and Gertrude Brodhead received notice that they had inherited what they believed to be a large sum of money from a “rich banker uncle”. Pierre Deyo was one of the original Patentees of New Paltz and had built his stone house along the main thoroughfare of the settlement in 1720. Slowly over the years, Deyo’s grandchildren added other stone additions to the rustic house, but none as dramatic as what Abraham and Gertrude decided to build nearly two centuries later.

At the ages of 37 and 32, Abraham and Gertrude regarded their inheritance as an opportunity to join a new, upper-echelon of society. The period of Colonial Revivalism that emerged in 1876 was a national expression of Early North American culture; although its underlying goal was to create a particular historical consciousness pertaining primarily to the original East coast colonies, the movement manifested itself as a style of architecture, decorative art, and landscape design. In keeping with the trend, the couple took out several bank loans (all of which they believed they would be able to pay off after the family money came through) and began reconstructing their small ancestral stone house into a three-storied mini-mansion. The stone foundation was retained as an important reminder of the family history, and once construction was complete, the original one room stone house became the couples’ main entertaining space. Abraham and Gertrude were able to welcome their guests into their lavish, contemporary home and point to the exposed wooden beams of their sitting room as a visual reminder of their ancestors’ hard work (and more importantly, of the Brodhead’s inherent privilege to that status).

abrham brodhead

Studio portrait of Abraham Deyo Brodhead (b. 1863-1926). Photo ca. 1880-90 (Courtesy of Hudson River Valley Heritage)

getrude broadhead

Studio portrait of Gertrude Deyo (b. 1868-1926), daughter of Matthew Deyo & Julia Etta Dubois Deyo. She married Abraham Deyo Brodhead in 1890. Photo ca. 1890 (Courtesy of HRVH)

At this point in history the Brodheads were “competing”, for lack of a better term, to be part of this new realm of American society, and were hoping to achieve the same level of opulence and grandeur that they saw in families like the Roosevelts & the Rockefellers. The Hudson Valley had turned into a hot spot for Colonial Revivalism and in an effort to stand out, the Brodheads chose to advertise their heritage.


A modern view of the Deyo House. Evidence of the original stone structure built by Pierre Deyo in the 18th century can be seen on the exterior of the first floor. (Courtesy of Tania Barricklo/Daily Freeman)

Besides their newly impressive home and manicured gardens, what better way to display that particular connection than through decoration? This is where the interior of the Deyo-Brodhead house becomes important to the underlying Colonial Revivalism theme; family heirlooms and antique furniture inhabit every room, and dozens of prints & portraits dot the walls. In 1894, the Brodhead’s family home had become a stage, and these objects, their props. The image that James Scott created in 1880 is obviously sympathetic to the Huguenots, but more importantly, it portrays them as a resilient and brave people. The proud man comforting the emotionally distraught woman on his chest as he looks towards the future is an overt symbol of the Huguenots’ heroism. They were persecuted as French Protestants and run out of their own country, but instead of dying out and accepting defeat, the Huguenots became pioneers of a new land. When Pierre Deyo and the eleven other founders of New Paltz came to settle the area, they faced deadly inclement weather, starvation, and hostility from the Esopus Indians who were ready to fight for their land. These are the types of stories that would have been told as esteemed friends and colleagues visited with Abraham in his office, and these are the pieces of history that served to glorify the Brodhead name.

gertrude 2

Studio Portrait of Gertrude Deyo in Hat. Photo ca. late 1890’s. (Courtesy of HRVH)

It seems somewhat strange that the true value of this print is indeed the lie that its able to tell. Its ornate frame indicates that the print was most definitely displayed and appreciated as a piece of fine art, but its true function was that of an ancestral advertisement. Although a modern perspective could perceive the Brodhead’s as power-hungry, it is crucial to remember that they were one family among a large scope of the American population who participated in this cultural obsession. In many ways, the Deyo House and the 19th century art and artifacts that are now kept protected inside are able to add to the rich history of the original settlers. By examining the Brodhead’s and the way in which they attempted to re-establish a family legacy, we are able to better understand the complexity of this noteworthy print, and the role it had in reviving an idealized memory of the Huguenot settlers.


“August 24: This Day in History, St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.” History. A&E Networks Digital, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <;.

“Henry Graves & Co. (active 1844-1899), Publishers.” The National Portrait Gallery. NPG, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <–co?search=sas&sText=Henry+Graves+%26+Co&OConly=true&gt;.

“James Scott (ca. 1809-1889), Engraver.” The National Portrait Gallery. NPG, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <;.

“Massacre of St. Bartholomew in France.” The Bethea Story: First Generation of Bethea Family in North America . N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2015. <;.

Mitchell, Paula A., and Tania Barricklo. “Fleeing French Founders and 300 Years of Huguenot Street History.” The Daily Freeman. San Jose Mercury News, 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 8 May 2015. <;.

“The Katherine Deyo Cookingham Downer Collection.” Hudson River Valley Heritage. N.p., 19 Mar. 2007. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <;.

Trainor, Ashley. “Professor Mulready’s Class.” Message to the author. 2 Apr. 2015. E-mail.

Weikel, Thomas. “Professor Mulready’s Class.” Message to the author. 3 Apr. 2015. E-mail.

The Tiger Maple Grandfather Clock


A grandfather clock that served to keep time but also served as a decorative piece of furniture, this 19th century clock belonged to Dewitt Chauncey LeFevre’s aunt and was passed down to him. This elegant clock not only functioned as a timekeeper and a living room furnishing; it’s uniquely patterned wood symbolizes the wealth of the LeFevre family.

Caption: A grandfather clock that served to keep time but also served as a decorative piece of furniture, this 19th century clock once belonged to Dewitt Chauncey LeFevre’s aunt and was passed down to him upon her death. This elegant clock not only functioned as a timekeeper and a living room furnishing; it’s uniquely patterned wood symbolizes the wealth of the LeFevre family.


Physical Description: The grandfather clock is about eight feet tall and it’s casing is composed of Tiger Maple wood. Tiger Maple wood is commonly referred to by many different names such as flamed maple, curly maple, ripple maple, fiddleback or tiger stripe. These names are derived from how the wood looks: the growth of the wood fibers is distorted in an undulating chatoyant (cat-eye) pattern, producing wavy lines known as “flames”. This type of wood is known for it’s beauty and is often used in making instruments. This clock’s wood is very noticeably striped and stained a golden hue. The face of the clock is white with a red, yellow, and green flower design and black numbers. According to Huguenot Street’s file, it once could have been a “Wag on Wall” clock – meaning before it was a grandfather clock, it did not have a base and the face of the clock probably hung on a wall on it’s own at one point. It is also said to have been reconverted from an electric clock, and while it looks like it is in good condition it has been repaired several times.



Provenance: The Tiger Maple Grandfather clock is currently in possession of Historic Huguenot Street. It was gift to the foundation by DeWitt C. LeFevre, and in the archives it says that this clock was once his aunts. DeWitt LeFevre was the first president of the organization. I believe that the aunt it belonged to originally was Minnie Mariah LeFevre Jameison.


Narrative: On April 28, 1677, twelve Huguenots were granted a license that allowed them to purchase land along the Wallkill River for a settlement. The original Patentees of New Paltz were: Louis Bevier, Pierre Deyo, Christian Deyo, Antoine Crispell, Louis DuBois, Abraham DuBois, Isaac Dubois, Hugo Freer, Abraham Hasbrouck, Jean Hasbrouck, Andries LeFevre, and Simon LeFevre. Simon LeFevre was born in France around the year of 1640.

“Simon and Andries LeFevre, brothers and very much alike, were most likely the scholars of the group. From the records we would assume them to be quiet, somewhat withdrawn, giving the group of Patentees a touch of refinement, which love of books and study can bring. They were not fond of labor like some of the group, but did their share because it was the honorable thing to do. Both brothers died before old age came, so that we must draw most of our records from the children of Simon. Andries never married. By nature easy-going, they believed in peace and harmony. There has always been a tendency toward frugality. By tradition, the ancestors of the LeFevre family were scholars and most closely allied with royalty by blood and position.”


A descendant of Simon himself, DeWitt C. LeFevre also held a position of power and scholar as the first president of The LeFevre Family Association. One could say that he is almost a grandfather of the society, and the clock symbolises his family’s wealth and longevity. Bestowed as a gift by DeWitt, the clock resides in the LeFevre house on Historic Huguenot Street.


The LeFevre House

My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,

So it stood ninety years on the floor;IMG_3964

It was taller by half than the old man himself,

Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.


In watching its pendulum swing to and fro

Many hours he spent when a boy

And through childhood and manhood, the clock seemed to know

And to share both his grief and his joy.

“My Grandfather’s Clock”, a song written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work, from which the term Grandfather clock came into existence.


Gannon, Peter Steven. Huguenot Refugees in the Settling of Colonial America. New York, N.Y. (122 E. 58th St., New York 10022): Huguenot Society of America, 1985. Print.

“History of Grandfather Clocks.” Klockit. Klockit, Inc., 2010. Web. 09 May 2015.

LeFevre Wright, Diane. “DeWitt LeFevre – The First President of the LeFevre Family, 1967 – 1973.” LeFevre Family News [New Paltz] 2002, Summer 2002 ed.: n. pag. Print.

(post in progress)

Breaking Traditions to Preserve an Heirloom: The Napkin Ring

This 19th century napkin ring depicts an intricate engraving of cupid riding on a dragonfly.

This 19th century napkin ring depicts an intricate engraving of cupid riding on a dragonfly. Photo Credit: Historic Huguenot Street


A dining accessory that also functioned as a place card, this 19th century napkin ring belonged to the family of Gertrude M Deyo. This uniquely square napkin ring embellished with the owner’s initials marks cornerstones of a woman’s life, from childhood to marriage, and serves as a reminder of the traditional passing of possession of family objects, as well as the need to break tradition to preserve its heritage (Historic Huguenot Street).


Despite the name, napkin “ring,” this item is one and a quarter inch square napkin holder made of silver (Historic Huguenot Street). It has scalloped edges, two curves to a side, along both the top and the bottom edges. Given the approximate date of creation for the item in the late-19th century, it has suffered minimal damage, leaving the only traces of wear and tear small areas of old sticky tape (Historic Huguenot Street).  The main aesthetic feature of the napkin ring is the unique pairing of Cupid and a dragonfly. Cupid is riding atop the intricately engraved wings of the dragonfly (Historic Huguenot Street). However, the cursive engraving of “GMD” is the eye to the history of tradition and financial status in New Paltz.

“GMD” stands for Gertrude M Deyo, who would later marry Abraham D Brodhead. Photo Credits: Historic Huguenot Street


The initials engraved on the item distinguish it has property of Gertrude M Deyo, born 1868, and this particular pure silver napkin ring was donated with three other napkin rings, one belonging to each of her parents, and one belonging to Gertrude’s younger sister (Historic Huguenot Street, The Deyo Family). Gertrude’s napkin ring most likely stayed with her for a large part of her life, entering into her role as a wife to Abraham D Brodhead, and finally rested in the hands of Gertrude’s niece, Mrs. Henry E Downer (Historic Huguenot Street). The exact date of transfer out of Gertrude’s possession is unknown, and depending on the date, the ring could have passed first into the hands of her sister, Elvira, and then to Gertrude’s niece.


The path of possession of this simplistic dining accessory is remarkably influenced by the culture of the era in which it was created, as well as by the elasticity of the society in which it served its primary function. The ring’s engraving of Gertrude’s initials prior to her marriage designate the ring as a part of childhood. At the time of Gertrude’s marriage in 1890, the dining accessory that she had carried on with her into her marry life, most likely as a part of her dowry to her husband, Abraham Deyo Brodhead (The Deyo Family). Although by this point in time the traditional use of the dowry was being phased out of European culture, it was still a part of American culture. The dowry’s function as a way to initiate the furnishings of the newly wedded couple’s home engaged the passing on of household furnishings, and it is in this way that the napkin ring, possibly along with the napkin rings of its set, most likely came to rest at the Abraham D Brodhead estate (“Dowry”).

The New Paltz Independence reported in July of 1894 that the Brodhead estate would be renovated, expanding the house and implementing the most up to date amenities. The renovations would preserve the character of the existing home in remembrance of the family’s sole ownership of the property (New Paltz Independence). Over the next few years, the estate was under renovations, but by March of 1895, the Brodheads were hosting parties and gatherings in their completed home, which was furnished in the most elegant of fashions (Waite). By the turn of the century, the home exuberated the wealth and status that Abraham tried to keep as his persona.

The dining room was the showcase of the family heirlooms, and undoubtedly where the napkin rings would have resided. As recorded by the Deyo House Furnishing Plan, the dining room was encapsulated in mahogany Empire side boards, with a mahogany drop leaf table in the center, both of which dated to the 19th century. The side boards and dining table shaped the style of furnishings in the Brodhead house, as did the late-19th century dining set (Haley). The napkin rings would complete the ode to the family heirlooms of the Deyo-Brodheads and would serve as an elegant match to the style of the dining room furnishings.

Just a few years after the home was completed, the illustrious 19th century dining set would soon be out of fashion, and a proper 20th century style called for the elegance of simplicity (Haley). The walls would be left plain, and any silver or glass objects would be used minimally and in rotation (Haley). The tiny napkin rings would, at best, be displayed occasionally as the Brodheads kept with the trends of the time and continued to improve their home.

The home, however, was sold at auction in 1915 due to the alleged bankruptcy of Abraham D Brodhead (New Paltz Independence). For the first time since the home was built, it passed out of the hands of the family that built it and the Brodheads lost their family home. In 1926, Abraham passed away; at that time, an inventory for sales was completed of the dining room’s furnishings (Haley). The napkin rings, absent, must have already passed from Gertrude to either her sister or the last known owner of the rings, Gertrude’s niece. The napkin rings could have passed back into the hands of Gertrude’s family at the time of bankruptcy, preserving the family ownership of the napkin rings and avoid being sold to an outside citizen as was the case of her husband’s family home. The idea of preserving the family’s possessions is keen, even a tiny dining accessory could be the tie between family members and remain as one of the persevering items of the family lineage.


The Deyo (Deyoe) Family. Ed. Carol Van Wagner et al. New Paltz: Deyo Family Association & Huguenot Historical Society. 2003. Print.

“Dowry.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 24 April 2015.

Haley Jacquetta. “Furnishing Plan – Deyo House.” New Paltz: Huguenot Historical Society. 2001. Print.

Historic Huguenot Street. “Ring, Napkin.” New Paltz: Historic Huguenot Street, 2015. Information Pamphlet.

New Paltz Independence. 13 July 1894 New Paltz : Print.

New Paltz Independence. 6 August 1915 New Paltz : Print.

Waite, John C Associates. “Deyo House Historic Structure Report.” New York: Historical Collection Elting Library. Print.

Family & Faith in a Chaotic and Changing World: The 1650 Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, dated 1650. Belonging to one of the original patentees of New Paltz, the leather bound French bible includes a listed genealogy of the Hasbrouck family and the entire Bible.

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, dated 1650. Belonging to one of the original patentees of New Paltz, the leather bound French bible includes a listed genealogy of the Hasbrouck family and conveys the importance of religion to the French Huguenots who fled France from religious persecution. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

Physical Description of the Object 

Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, 1650. Detail showing copper ornament and leather bound cover. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

The Hasbrouck Family is synonymous with Historic Huguenot Street and with the French Huguenots.  An object of great interest to the foundations of Historic Huguenot Street and one if its founding families is the Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible form 1650. This leather bound bible is extremely large and ornate. With over 500 pages, the bible remains almost in entire original form. With some restoration work done, the bible has a new bounding done by the historical society that reads “ Jean Hasbrouck French Bible.”

The cover and back of the 1650 Bible show wear and tear, revealing a strong wooden interior bound over the leather. Also, the front and back reveal copper straps that would have held the locks for the book. The first 11 pages of the Jean Hasbrouck bible are missing, including the important copyright page.


Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, 1650.

Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, 1650. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

Interior of the Hasbrouck Bible, including a handwritten genealogy. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible holds a rich and telling history of both the Hasbrouck Family and the greater religious identity of the French Huguenots who settled in New Paltz, NY.  According to the Hasbrouck Family Website, the family name Hasbrouck is derived from a location, near the Ville d’Hazebrouck in Flanders (near Calais), France.The bible belonged to Jean Hasbrouck, one of the original patentees of New Paltz.  His exact birth date is unknown, but family histories put it at around the 1630s-1640s, outside Calais in France. Records show that Jean Hasbrouck died in 1714.  The history of the Hasbrouck Family comes to life when the bible is opened. Alongside the front cover and the back cover, lay hand written scripts detailing genealogy of the family. Unfortunately, many of these entries have given into deterioration and time, but many can be read. The eligible entries reveal to be the names of the children of Jean Hasbrouck and Anna Deyo. Their children were: Maria, Anne, Hester, Abraham, Isaac, Elizabeth and Jacob.  Jean married Anna Deyo in in 1676 in Manheim, Germany.  Jean Hasbrouck, left France and ended up in Mannheim, Germany alongside many other refugees. The bible stayed in the Hasbrouck family for years but the exact donor is unknown to Historic Hugeunot street, lost in time.


Inside front cover of the Jean Hasbrouck Bible.

Inside front cover of the Jean Hasbrouck Bible. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible is essential to the history of New Paltz. First of all, the bible reveals the incredible and rich religious history and ties that New Paltz was founded on. The bible, surviving and in the hands of Historic Hugenot Street today, shines immense light and importance of religious ties to the identity of the French Huguenots.

According to a family history compiled by descendant Kenneth Hasbrouck, the protestant church in Marck France burned around 1640 and the protestant population was forced to flee. Many French Huguenots at this time, fled to Mannheim, Germany for protection and with this haste transition could not bring many belongings with them. Even though it is not certain for sure, we can be fairly certain that Jean’s bible was made in France and that he brought it with him to Manheim, Germany.  Of the many objects to save and which to leave, the sheer fact that Jean saved this bible through such a tumultuous and changing time is very important.

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Jean Hasbrouck Letter of Recommendation, 1672 (Photo: © Historic Huguenot Street, Hudson River Valley Heritage)

Jean Hasbrouck, a founding patentee of New Paltz, received a ‘letter of recommendation’ from the French Church in Germany, confirming his and his wife’s good standing in the church, in preparation for his voyage to New York. The so called ‘letter of recommendation’ is striking. Written in 1672, this letter confirmed the relgious identity of Jean Hasbrouck and his wife. The fact that such a letter even existed gives us tremendous insight into not only the chaotic world that Jean Hasbrouck and his family lived in, but the importance of their religion to their life and identity.

The 1672 letter of recommendation shines a great light on the story of Jean’s bible. First off, it’s of importance because the weight and influence of such a letter of recommendation speaks to the importance of religion in the colonies. Further, the letter of recommendation speaks to the identity Jean and Anna Hasbrouck: that of French Protestant. The letter reads, “Jean Hasebruck and his wife are members of the Church Christ, and have lived among us during the time that they spent here, honorably & in a Christian way, attending the holy services, and taking Holy Sacrament of the Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ without scandal known to us. Thus we recommend them as such to our brothers in the Church where God will send them. Written at Mannheim in the Lower Palatinate this 17 March 1672 The leaders of the French Church in the said place & in the name of all…..” The letter of Recommendation from the French church in Germany cemented Jean Hasbrouck’s place in the colonies. The corelation between the family bible and the letter of recommendation goes hand in hand: the certificate allowed Jean and his family to join the church in the colonies by establishing their faith. The bible, materializes this faith.

The identity of French Protestant was central to the identity of Jean Hasbrouck, manifested in the family bible. On May 16th, 1672 Jean Hasbrouck and his wife Anna left Mannheim and sailed to Wiltwyck, New York in the Spring of 1673. In 1675, Abraham Hasbrouck sailed from Mannheim to Boston and ended up in New York to join his brother Jean and their small group of French Protestants. Jean and Abraham ended up becoming founding patentees of New Paltz, NY where they eventually settled.From a journey from Calais, France to Mannheim, Germany on a boat to New York Jean held onto his family bible. Jean and Anna ended up having seven children that they raised in New Paltz, NY. The names of the children are written in beautiful handwriting on the insides of the bible: Maria, Anne, Hester, Abraham, Isaac, Elizabeth and Jacob. In 1701, Jean Hasbrouck received permission from the Colony of England to “buy, sell, and trade lands, tenements, and hereditaments in this Kingdom…” The 1701 edict reveals the merchant nature of Jean Hasbrouck and how involved his family was. Jean, as a founding patentee of New Paltz, was extremely involved in the community. Along with his brother Abraham Hasbrouck and Louis Bevier, he served as the founding commissioners of the early courts of New Paltz. Serving in the court as a commissioner, Jean Hasbrouck held a very high status in the town.

Jean Hasbrouck will of 1712.

Jean Hasbrouck will of 1712. (© Historic Huguenot Street, Hudson River Valley Heritage)

In 1712, Jean Hasbrouck died. His last will and testament survives and has been translated by Historic Huguenot Street. The will, written in Dutch, reveals how Jean and his family were fluent in both French and Dutch. New York, after being a Dutch colony, certainly held onto its Dutch roots. The will conveys extremely devout and emotional language, conveying the importance of faith to Jean Hasbrouck. Jean writes, “…so I commend my Soul To God almighty my Creator and To jesus Christ my redeemer and To the Holy Ghost my sanctifier And my body to the Earth whence the same came from to be buried in A Christian fashion And rest there until my Soul and Body will be united upon the day of resurrection And receive the Eternal Bliss of salvation which God of his grace through the One merit of our savior has promised and prepared To all who have sincere and complete faith In him….” Jean Hasbrouck’s will of 1712 conveys how important and essential faith and religion were to his life. His bible reveals just that.

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible of 1650 conveys the centrality of faith to the life of the French Huguenots. In settling, and fostering, a community fleeing of religious persecution, Jean and his family were guided through faith.

Special thanks to Carrie Allmendinger of Historic Huguenot Street.

Works Cited

Fosdick, Lucian J. The French Blood in America. London: Flemming H. Revell, 1906. Print.

Hasbrouck, Jean. “Jean Hasbrouck Will 1712.” 1712.  Handwritten text. Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz. Hudson River Valley Heritage.

Hasbrouck, Jean. “Jean Hasbrouck Letter of Recommendation 1672.” 1672. Handwritten text: Manheim, Germany. Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz. Hudson River Valley Heritage.

Hasbrouck, Jon. “Hasbrouck, Our Family Name.” Hasbrouck Family. Web.

Hasbrouck, Kenneth E. The Hasbrouck Family in America with European Background. Vol 1. New Paltz: Hasbrouck Family Association, 1961.  Print

Lawrence, Thomas. “Notary- Certificate to Jean Hasbrouck.” 1701, London. The Hasbrouck Family in America with European Background. Vol 1.

Roth, Eric. “New Paltz Town Records (1677-1932).” Historic Huguenot Street. Web

Hand Forged to Machine Cast: Metal Work on Huguenot Street


This iron object may be a simple screwdriver or part of an old shutter fastener. Although its age and exact purpose are unknown, it is clearly the work of skilled blacksmith who poured time and sweat into its crafting. In contrast, the bronze door knob and escutcheon on the Deyo House, made in the late 1800s, were likely machine cast and mass-produced. Together, these objects chart the economic and cultural impact of the Industrial Revolution on the New Paltz community.

Roughly three and a quarter inches long and three inches at its widest point, the iron object resembles a rusty capital “T.” A close inspection of the wide bar indicates that the object was formed by hammering a single piece of iron into shape, making one end of the bar a little thicker than the other. It also reveals a small maker’s mark on one side, a little cross engraved into a circle, so small it is almost lost in the rust. Extending perpendicularly from the wide bar is a long shaft that spirals into a long flat point similar to the tip of a flat head screwdriver. The similarity has raised the possibility that the object is an unusual but well-crafted screwdriver. However, the spiral of the shaft and the delicate taper of the wide bar also resemble the decorative elements found on wrought iron shutter fasteners. Attempts to establish a more concrete identity for the object have been foiled by its sheer uniqueness.

Just above the half inch mark on the rule lies the faint imprint of a maker's mark.

Just above the half inch mark on the ruler lies the faint imprint of a maker’s mark.

If the iron object is too unique to be defined, then the bronze door knob and escutcheon (the decorative plate around the keyhole) are perhaps too common although they might not appear so at first. Both the knob and the escutcheon have an elaborate floral pattern cast on the surface, giving the set an elegant, eye-catching air. The escutcheon is especially attention-grabbing. Measuring sixteen by three inches, it is a roughly rectangular shape. However, the top and bottom have been molded into the form of acanthus leaves, creating an asymmetry that draws the eyes away from the relatively simple wood door to the more impressive hardware. Although the bronze has become dull and tinged with verdigris, one can imagine that its original burnished gold color would have made the set even more beautiful. While there is no visible indication of who made the set, Weston Davey, Historic Preservationist for the Historical Huguenot Street, suggests that it was probably machine cast (Davey).

The acanthus leaves  at the top and bottom of the escutcheon are beautifully molded, giving the otherwise rectangular shape a fluid appearance.

The acanthus leaves at the top and bottom of the escutcheon are beautifully molded, giving the otherwise rectangular shape a fluid appearance.

Found during a recent archeological excavation near the Deyo house, the iron object’s ownership remains as much a mystery as the date of its making and its true function. However, Joseph Diamond, a professor at SUNY New Paltz and the head of the excavation, notes that if it is indeed a screwdriver, it is possible that it came from a kit used to maintain muskets (Diamond). If this is true, then the object would likely be carried around with its owner in times of conflict or on hunting trips in order to make potentially life-saving adjustments. Yet, it is just as possible that the object was once attached to one of the several structures that used to exist on the lawns between the Deyo house and the Bevier-Elting house, making it a far more stationary, and perhaps less dramatic object. Regardless of whether it was a tool kept close at hand or a piece of house hardware, it seems likely that the object served some functional purpose in the daily life of an early New Paltz resident. Perhaps even more importantly, the maker’s mark on the side indicates that it was the work of a craftsman who took pride in his work and wanted it to be recognized.

In contrast, the door knob and escutcheon, were likely purchased from a catalogue by Abraham and Gertrude Deyo-Brodhead when they chose to renovate the Deyo house in 1895. They have remained there ever since although the house has changed hands three times. The last owner, Harold L. Wood, sold the house to the present owner, the Huguenot Historical Society, in 1972.

The tension implied between the handcrafted, locally made iron tool and machine produced, nationally distributed door knob comes to a head in the 1895 renovation of the Deyo house.  Built by Pierre Deyo around 1692, the original Deyo house was modest stone structure not unlike the neighboring Bevier-Elting house. While later descendants added a wing to accommodate the growing family, the exterior of the house otherwise remained relatively the same. This changed when the Deyo-Brodheads inherited the house in 1893. Abraham and Gertrude were proud of their Huguenot heritage (both could trace their family line back to Christian Deyo, patriarch of the Deyo family and a signer of the original patent), but they nonetheless desired a grander space than the stone house built by their ancestors. In her summary of the Deyo house history, Jaquetta Haley suggests that their ambition was curbed only by a lack of funds. Most of the couple’s income was drawn from relatives or revenue from the horse racing track that Abraham had built across the Wallkill. However, in 1890, Abraham’s paternal great uncle died, leaving the family a substantial amount of money. Almost immediately after taking ownership of the house, the Deyo-Brodheads began making plans to renovate, transforming it from a simple stone house to a Queen Anne Style manor.

Almost every feature of the house is meant to impress even, as we have seen, the door knob on the front door. Yet, the grandeur rests on a certain superficiality made possible in part by the relatively new ability to mass produce luxury items using machine labor. The result was seemingly elegant items that could be afforded by the rich and the aspiring rich alike. The bronze door knob and escutcheon are an excellent example. The beautiful acanthus design gives the impression of being well-crafted. However, a quick scan of the door knob and lock section of the Montgomery Ward and Co.’s Catalogue and Buyer’s Guide for Spring of 1895 (around the time the renovations began) reveals several similar knob and escutcheon sets all selling for around a dollar (approximately twenty-five dollars today). This reproducibility signals a changing dynamic for the residents of New Paltz. Not only were craftsmen such as the blacksmith who made the iron object rendered obsolete, hastening a shift in the local economy, but the culture had also shifted from the practical aesthetic of the early settlers to an aesthetic of ornate imitation.


Davey, Weston. Personal Interview. 9 Apr. 2015.

Diamond, Joseph. Personal Interview. 13 Apr. 2015.

Haley, Jaquetta. “Furnishing Plan: Deyo House.” New York: Huguenot Historical Society, 2001. Print.

The Fabric of History

Although the contents of this simple table are unassuming and seemingly unimportant, the table actually displays a piece of technology that would become an important token household item during the establishment of the colonies.  This tabletop hand loom consists of a sturdy, hollow wooden base about one to two feet in length. Inside of the base is  a thin board with slots cut out of it at perfectly even intervals to create little bars; on these bars is cast a newly-begun fabric tape. On both sides of the board are rotating wooden dowels, one of which holds the thread being fed into the piece, and the other of which is empty but may very well have been designed to have the finished tape wound around it.


3/4 view. A finished tape is faintly visible, draped across the cushion on the trunk in the background.

A very small hand loom, likely used by a young girl to weave long fabric tapes. These tapes were in high demand in colonial households for their usefulness in binding things together, as well as adjusting the fit of clothes as a money saver.

A back view of the loom. The weaving would actually be done on the end where the thread was being fed into the work, and the finished tape would gather at the back. 

During the mid sixteenth century, the textile industry thrived in Europe as well as in the colonies. The demand for trained textile workers was so great that, despite its being a predominantly Catholic nation, King Edward VI actively encouraged foreign Protestants to come and find work in England in 1549; the result was an influx of Protestant immigrants primarily from  France and Germany (AFM 214). In 1598, with the passing of the Edict of Nantes, Protestants were officially recognized and given a much wider range of religious and personal freedom; this cessation of the religious wars in France caused the textile industry there to grow significantly and, by 1646, French Protestant textile workers were known for their fine woolen fabrics (216). In 1685, when the Edict of Nantes was revoked and persecution of the Huguenot people resumed, the majority of them fled France in a panic, many relocating to England and other parts of Europe, and others settling in the New World.

The tabletop hand loom pictured here would have been used by a young girl. In the colonies, like in Europe, the majority of work to be done consisted of manual labor, a task considered unsuitable for women of the era. However, the need for more income was apparent to the Huguenot settlers, and as a result, women took up spinning and weaving (also referred to as knitting)–the typical “women’s work”–as a source of income. Family workshops became the norm throughout all of the colonies, to such an end that almost every household contained at least one “knitting frame” (loom) and one spinning wheel (217). The youngest girls would first learn the basics of weaving on miniature looms like this one, making long woven tapes that could then be used for a variety of household purposes, such as tailoring clothes or binding together items. As they grew bigger and their skills matured, young women would learn to weave cloth, some of which was used in the home and most of which was sold for profit both domestically and overseas. WP_20150401_11_13_00_Pro

An example of the weaving process on a large adult-sized loom

An example of the weaving process on a large adult-sized loom

The Mysterious Ticking Noise

I spotted the clock on our class visit to Huguenot Street. Sitting on the mantle next to Abraham Lincoln, the beautiful timepiece with it’s elegant rose design captured my attention. It’s shape reminds me of a jukebox.


This clock, according to Historic Huguenot’s archive, is described as having a “rectangular shaped base with molding, case with straight sides and arch at top, round clock face, white with black Roman numerals, hinged door closes over face, two round carved forms above hinged angular door with glass painting of a rose, door opens to clock works (all enclosed) two carved applied spindles gold leafed on either side of clock front, small pin for setting time.” It is from the late 19th century and is made out of wood, metal, and glass. The clock face is a little dirty and gilt and paint are coming off, but otherwise it is in pretty good condition.

1163 (

The above images are not my own, because when I went back to look at this object, the door to the Deyo house could not be opened and Ashley Trainer, who had been helping me, said the only way we would be able to get it would be to break in unless someone came to fix the lock. The clock is a mystery to me, and hopefully when I receive word that I can get back into the Deyo house, I will be able to discover more information behind it.

Historic Huguenot Street: Dutch Oven

The Dutch oven currently residing in the Abraham Hasbrouck house, gives a delicious start to interpreting the past on Historic Huguenot Street.

The Dutch Oven currently residing in the Abraham Hasbrouck house, is just one of the many cooking tools that were used by the female slaves. We can use this object as a clue to help figure out the untold stories of the slavery on Historic Huguenot Street. 

Physical Description:

The Dutch Oven in the Abraham Hasbrouck house is 12 inches in height and 20 inches in diameter. There are two pieces; the lid and the base. The lid has one main handle in the middle on the top and the base has two handles across from each other on the sides. The base also has three legs on the bottom which allows for heat to be placed underneath. The handles and the legs are made of wrought iron. The shape of the Dutch Oven is circular and the base and lid follow this shape in unique ways. The lid slightly raised in the middle and dips down closer to the edge; however, the lid is mostly a flanged for heating purposes. The base caves in a tiny bit towards the center. The copper on this structure has been oxidized and the surface feels gritty to the touch.


The female slaves in the Hasbrouck households would have frequently used a Dutch Oven for its wide spectrum of capability. This particular example of a Dutch Oven is borrowed from Locust Grove. Locust Grove is a historic estate, museum, and nature preserve. The Mansion on Locust Grove was built in the mid-nineteenth century. It was built for the artist and inventor, Samuel Morse. This property was then handed down to the Young family and from there has been “protected in perpetuity” since 1953 ( When the Young family first moved in, the house was prodominately redecorated. If the Dutch Oven currently residing in the Abraham Hasbrouck house was originally from the Morse family or brought in with the Young family, it cannot be older than roughly 150 years.

The Dutch Oven can be used in both an outside fireplace and inside fireplace. The aged and weathered texture shows how used this particular piece has been. The idea of the Dutch Oven exists in many cultures all over the world.  The original prototype is not clear; however, the impact of the Dutch Oven is very relevant. There are different names for this one idea, but labeling this oven “Dutch” circulates in literature during the 18th century (Evans). The first Dutch Oven to be brought or made in America is yet unknown. One hypothesis suggests that an Englishman named Abraham Darby went to Holland and observed the techniques for making these ovens, then spread this information (Evans). Whether the oven is Dutch or from another culture — this invention is able to travel well and is used for incredibly interchangeable ways of cooking food.


In the Hasbrouck households of Abraham and Jean, the most used rooms were the slave quarters. The slave quarters in each house were comprised of one cellar room. This one room would transform from a bedroom at night to a kitchen during the day. The female slaves were the ones who ran the kitchen. Their tasks were centered around the fireplace because the fire was the source of life for the food they produced for the Hasbrouck households. The slave quarters in the Abraham Hasbrouck house had low-ceilings and little ventilation. The smoke and soot from the fire defined the quality of air the women were breathing all day as they worked. The fireplace in the Abraham Hasbrouck house has a huge hearth which made space to orchestrate many forms of cooking at once.

There are no records of what a day was like for female slaves because there are scarcely any documents giving any sort of context about their lives. The only documented clues we have to their lives are in wills and runaway notices. The wills connected to the two Hasbrouck brothers give the possible opportunity to find any mention of the female slaves they owned. Mary Hasbrouck, wife to Abraham, left in her will to her son Daniel two slaves; “I give and bequeath to my son Daniel… gold, silver and negro and negress” among many other things she names ( Jean Hasbrouck left his daughter Elizabeth the slave named Molly; “I give to my daughter Elizabeth… my negro woman named Molly” ( Molly enters the story around the early 18th century. Her name represents countless other slaves who have never been written down. All of the tools used for cooking hold some aspect of an untold story of the female slaves who have handled these objects. As the Dutch Oven helps us dissect just one part of a greater whole — Molly helps us by standing for the female slaves. She represents the endless possibilities of stories we will never know.

The Dutch Oven has a perfectly fitting name in French — “faitout” — which translates “to do everything” (Chappell). During the time this type of oven was used by Molly and the other female slaves of the Hasbrouck households, it certainly did live up to its French name. This invention has an incredible spectrum of versatility. Depending on where the heat is placed, this structure can perform multiple different tasks. The oven then receives heat from a ratio of hot coals.  Molly could use the Dutch oven for roasting, baking, making a stew, frying, etc.. If she wanted to roast meat, she would have to fuel the oven with heat from both the top and the bottom. She would place coals underneath the base and on top of the lid in a one-to-one ratio because roasting requires relatively equally dispersed heat. If Molly was baking bread, she would have to place more coals on top because most of the heat should come from the top while baking. If Molly was making a stew for the day or simmering some soup, mostly all of the heat would come from the bottom and so she would place the hot coals underneath the base.

In order for each meal to be cooked well, Molly would have had to develop a sense of balance for how many coals go on top or bottom and how the ratio affects the meal. Molly also had to be aware of avoiding hot spots. About every ten minutes or so she would have had to stop what she was doing and rotate the pot and lid in opposite directions (Evans 78). This would prevent the food from heating up in just one spot.

Dutch Oven

The oven currently in the Abraham Hasbrouck house is made from copper. Other Dutch Ovens were made from cast iron. Both materials are metals and therefore the heat conducts throughout the structure making both just as precarious for burns. The hot coals combined with the steadily heated oven, procures a chance for danger. The only descriptions we have of the slaves in New Paltz are from runaway slaves notices. Some descriptions include pockmarks and hunched backs because the living conditions were awful. The ceilings were low and they were expected to travel all day throughout these rooms (Weikel). For a small room with a huge fireplace filled with many different sources of burning metal, hot coals, flames, and boiling water… it is difficult to imagine that nothing happened.

How do we know what the day of a female slave was like? How really do we know what they did? The jambless fireplace of the Abraham Hasbrouck house gives us clues and the exact implications of using the Dutch oven gives us even more context. Even still, the amount of attention that went into one appliance is only a small fraction of the work completed in the kitchen on any given day. Besides the actual task of cooking, there is preparation and clean-up. The Dutch oven needs consistent attention after careful consideration of where to place a certain amount of heat for each specific dish. This gives a glimpse of how much interaction all of the materials on the fireplace might have had. There are so many other cooking tools and this one example of a Dutch oven is just part of a bigger whole.


Chappell, Mary Margaret. “The everything pot: there’s not much a Dutch oven can’t do.” Vegetarian Times 2014: 38. Academic OneFile. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

EVANS, MATT, and JOHN EVANS. “The Dutch Oven.” Countryside & Small Stock Journal 94.3 (2010): 78. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

“Hasbrouck Douments.” Hasbrouck Documents., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

Kelly, Shirley. “History of the Dutch oven.” Countryside & Small Stock Journal 2013: 56. General OneFile. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

“Mary (Deyo) Hasbrouck Will of 1729 :: Historic Huguenot Street.” Mary (Deyo) Hasbrouck Will of 1729 :: Historic Huguenot Street. Trans. David Wilkin. Hudson River Valley Heritage, 10 Nov. 2010. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

“The Mansion | Locust Grove.” Locust Grove The Mansion Comments. Locust Grove Historic Estate, 2011. Web. 13 May 2015.

Weikel, Thomas. Personal Interview. 8 April 2015.