Orange County Historical Society

Corridor Through the Mountains

Smith's Clove: Wartime Line of Communication and Passageway for the Continental Army, 1776-1783

Richard J. Koke

[Editor's Note: Richard J. Koke authored a series of five articles that appeared in Volumes 19 -23 of the OCHS Journal between 1990 and 1994. These articles will be presented in multiple sections over the next few years.]

Part I:
The Country and Precinct
Chapter 5:
The Clove Taverns II: Galloway's, June's, Smith's, Earl's

Galloway's:

Nothing is known of Galloway's Tavern at Southfields, six and one-half miles north of Slots, save that it was "an old log house" according to one of Washington's aides when it served as Continental headquarters for three days in July 1777. According to the Commander-in-Chief's expense account, "Galloway" was paid 4 5s. on July 23 for use of his house. Erskine places the tavern on the west side of the Clove Road just south of a little rivulet that still descends the mountain on its way to the Ramapo opposite the Southfields Post Office on Route 17 near the Red Apple Rest restaurant.

The identity of the proprietor is not known. The Galloways were numerous in the region, and the names of Alexander, James and George appear as signers of the General Association in 1775; and in September of that year Alexander and George Galloway were commissioned lieutenants in Colonel Woodhull's Cornwall regiment - George in Captain Slot's Southwest Company, and Alexander in Captain Smith's Woodbury Clove Company. Edward F. Pierson, author of The Ramapo Pass, states that "Galloway," the tavern-keeper, also married a daughter of Isaac Van Deusen, father-in-law of Samuel Sidman and Stephen Slot.

June's:

David June's tavern on the west side of the Clove Road at Harriman enjoyed a unique importance during the Revolution not shared by other hostelries in its location at the western end of the only direct road that crossed the mountains and connected the mid-Clove with Haverstraw and southern Orange. Judging by testimony delivered at the Cheesecock-Wawayanda proceedings in 1785, the tavern seemingly antedated the war by many years and was a restful haven for tired and thirsty travelers and soldiers who had to endure the mountain crossing. David June was also a signer of the General Association in 1775, but nothing is known of his well-frequented tavern aside from repeated mention of it in military dispatches.

The existence of an abandoned stretch of the old highway in its original state in the woodland near Peckham's (formerly Taylor's) Pond adjacent to and northwest of the Harriman Interchange on the Thruway prompted a search in 1988 by Dr. Michelle P. Figliomeni, President of the Orange County Historical Society, Mr. George C. Paffenbarger, Manager of Arden Farms, and the present writer to ascertain whether any vestige of the tavern remained that possibly survived the construction of the Thruway in 1949-54. The resultant search, aided by careful study of the Erskine charts and 19th-and-20th-century maps of the Harriman farm, revealed the foundations of two 19th-century buildings - one, occupied in the 1850s by J. Coffee, but the tavern location itself is a lost site a few hundred feet farther east within the cloverleaf approach road leading into the north bound lane of the Thruway complex near the tollbooths.

Smith's:

Smiths Tavern, athwart the present dividing line between the villages of Central Valley and Highland Mills, and evidently one of the better public houses within the corridor, was maintained by Francis Smith (1733-1785), a Long Islander who migrated to Smith's Clove with his older brother Austin who lived at Harriman where the Nepera Chemical Company is now located. The identity of the innkeeper, hitherto unknown because of the numerous Smiths in the Clove with intertwined family relationships (everybody, though, knows Claudius), has been revealed through the fortuitous discovery of an entry in Washingtons military expense account, which details payment on June 19, 1779, of 15 . to Francis Smith for nineteen dinners supplied to the commander-in-chief during his fourteen-day occupancy of the building as Continental headquarters.

Francis Smith was also a signer of the General Association in 1775 and, attesting to his prominence, succeeded his brother Austin in September as captain of the Woodbury Clove Company in Colonel Woodhull's Cornwall regiment. As such, the building not only was a stopping place for travelers, but was also a center of busy military activity while Smith was in command. In June 1779 it served as Washington's headquarters, during which many of his letters and his general orders carried the heading "Smith's Tavern."

By the end of 1780 Captain Smith had curtailed his activity as a taverner and no longer actively sought public patronage. The Marquis de Chastellux stopped at the house in December in search of accommodation while on his way to New Windsor, and commented that "I arrived at the house of Mr. Smith, who formerly kept an inn, though at present he lodges only his friends," and as the Frenchman did "not have the honor to be of that number" he had to seek lodging elsewhere.

The tavern stood on the east side of Clove Road (Route 32) a few feet north of its former junction with an 18th-century road that led westward into what is now county road 105 (formerly 208) to Chester and Blooming Grove. The eastern end of this lateral road is now closed and no longer exists as a public thoroughfare - though used in the early 20th-century, and is now a private driveway which passes downhill through the Niemand property to join Route 32.

The tavern site is about three hundred feet north of the Town of Woodbury Police Department in Central Valley and abreast the Niemand house on the hilltop to the west. A cursory archaeological dig on the site in the early 1980s by John H. Mead, former Director of the Bear Mountain Trailside Museum, turned up colonial clay pipe fragments which attested to its one-time early occupancy.

Earl's:

Earl's Tavern, half-a-mile north of Smith's, stood on the west side of the Clove Road (Route 32) in Highland Mills, directly opposite the Revolutionary War road (now Park Avenue) that led eastward through the mountains to the Forest of Dean and West Point. The proprietor was undoubtedly the elder John Earl, a prominent local landowner who was appointed a fence viewer for Woodbury Clove in 1765. In 1779 the Orange County outlaw Claudius Smith was indicted for a burglary "at the house of John Earle," for which, among other crimes, he was executed at Goshen. In 1780, the Marquis de Chastellux, erroneously identifying it as "Herns," called it "a rather poor inn."

The Frenchman of 1780, paraphrasing, to a degree, the New Englander of 1779, found the Clove "extremely wild" and observed that the region was "scarcely known before the war." It was not to continue thus for long. In mid-April of 1775 a column of British regulars left the Boston environs and marched under cover of night towards the Massachusetts village of Concord to seize American stores. At daybreak the next morning war began on Lexington green.

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