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 V:
Finally, A Dreary Blockhouse
Chapter 11:
Perils of A Post Rider

Samuel Loudon at Fishkill, who employed Montanye, informed Washington on April 12 that since “Mr. Montanye, the Philadelphia Post Rider," was captured, he was having difficulty finding a replacement and could find nobody “fit for the Trust” who was willing to ride the Clove road, which Montanye did “with great reluctance.” He managed to find one man willing to carry the mail but only if it was sent by the safe route of King's Ferry and the road below the mountains which was more public and one that the post rider rarely had to travel alone.

“If your Excellency,” he respectfully continued, “will either order your letters to be sent over here on Wednesdays or by your command on me to send for them, it shall be complied with, but the Clove road I cannot get a good man to undertake to travil [sic]," and neither road would facilitate an earlier arrival of the post either at Morristown or Fishkill. “Montanye is a trusty Post,” he vouched, "he has a small family here who are now left with me to provide for in his absence; his speedy exchange is very necessary.”

Loudon's remonstrance brought a quick change of the postal route away from the Clove, as was evident by a note added to Loudon's letter by Washington's aide Tench Tilghman that “the post [is] directed to go by Warwick &c,” and in June the commander-in-chief himself wrote that “the post [rider] now passes at King's Ferry and avoids the mountains which I hope will in some degree remove the danger to which he was formerly exposed."

Sometime within the three months following his capture, Montanye and another captive rider were allowed parole from New York to arrange their exchange, and Montanye put in a claim for pay and losses, but it was disallowed. Loudon, continuing solicitous, wrote to the governor on July 31 and begged him to use his influence to secure the exchange of the riders and payment for Montanye's losses, pointing out that he had a family to support and had lost his horse, saddle and bridle, and both he and the other man were put to “very considerable expense” in subsisting themselves in the Provost in New York. These matters should not be left unnoticed and unpaid, he said. “It sours their spirits and renders them rather indifferent to our cause,” and one of the riders had informed him that if he had to return to the enemy he would not come back again; and the other said he would never again engage in public employ “when such flagrant injustice is done him after all that he has suffered.”

Clinton offered sympathy, but refused to give preference for their exchange as there were many others in enemy hands who were also deserving of relief. Montanye was eventually released and returned to his familiar work of riding the roads, for on May 14. 1783, Clinton sent a letter from Poughkeepsie “by Mr. Montanye the Post."

He returned to New York at the end of the war and resumed his blacksmithing, but within short time took the calling of a Baptist clergyman and in 1791 became pastor of the Oliver Street Baptist Church while still working his smithy at 8 Prince Street. In 1794, in his late forties, he moved with his family to New Vernon in western Orange County in what is now Mount Hope township near the Sullivan border and succeeded to the pastorate of the Old School Baptist Church, where he served beloved and revered, for thirty-three years until his death on December 25, 1825.

During his later years in rural Orange, Montanye had ample occasion to travel the country roads and reminisce on his wartime activity, and with a clouding memory and numerous retellings to those who listened – including Jeremiah Pierson – the events of March and August 1781 merged and took on the shaded dimensions of the myth-making story of the patriot post rider who was sacrificed to the enemy to gain the victory at Yorktown. According to Mrs. Smith's account, it was a tale related with great spirit by many of the older inhabitants of Smith’s Clove in the mid-nineteenth century.

The Montanye family, with its removal from the city, sank roots in Orange. One of Benjamin's sons - Thomas - served as pastor of the Baptist church at Warwick from 1798 to 1801; another was a farmer all of his life, and a grandson, Isaac V. Montanye, became editor and proprietor of the venerated and long-lived Independent Republican at Goshen.

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