[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.]
1779: A Crucial Year
Chapter 10: The Continental Road
One of the interesting offshoots of Stirling's long presence that summer was his involvement in the construction of the well-known “Continental Road” in Tuxedo Park, which has fascinated generations as the “Corduroy Road”. The inception of this mountain thoroughfare is traceable to a letter written by Stirling from Ramapo on August 10 to quartermaster-general Greene concerning supply routes and transport of provision between northern New Jersey and New Windsor, with his recommendation that forage magazines should be laid up at Slot’s and Ringwood and, in addition, speaking of Ringwood, “a very good road might be made from thence along the East side of the Tucksuto Pond (now Tuxedo Lake) that will come out in the Clove Road Just below Galloway's; this would undoubtedly be a more secure route in case the mouth of the Clove is unguarded and at all times would be Shortest and best,” and “If Mr. Ersink (Erskine) Should be ordered to lay out the road I will furnish parties Sufficient to execute the Work.”
Six days later, on the sixteenth, Washington sent Erskine - he was always called “Mr. Erskine” – a communication from West Point: “Lord Stirling Writes me that a very good road might be opened from Ringwood into the clove, about a mile below Galloway's, along the east side of Tuckets pond. This will be a shorter route from Morris Town to New Windsor. You will therefore be placed to mark out the road, and make the proper communications to Lord Stirling that it may be carried into execution.” On the same day, the commander-in-chief informed Stirling that Erskine would receive orders to mark the road, and on August 21 informed him that Erskine had left Morristown “for the purpose of laying out the road.” Erskine's surveying work and the felling of trees and construction by fatigue details from Stirling's division went on with sufficient rapidity during the next weeks, during which, on September 7, Woodford reported that a captain's detachment was being continued on station “upon the New Road.”
The four-and-one-half-mile “new road” branched from the Sloatsburg-Ringwood road in what is now Eagle Valley and ran northerly through the Tuxedo Park Golf Course and connected with the Clove Road (now Route 17) at the south side of Warwick Brook below Warwick Road and Route 17A. The route through the golf course follows the old course; elsewhere it has been effaced, save one section within the residential area of Tuxedo Park that is still called Continental Road – a name by which it was already known in 1858. The draining of Wee Wah Lake in 1954 and again in 1990, where the road had been submerged in the 1880s, exposed a section of Erskine's original roadway where it formerly skirted a marsh and revealed split hardwood corduroy logs lain crosswise to firm the roadbed. Because of this, it is popularly called the “Corduroy Road."