Little Spain: Manhattan’s Little-Known Spanish Enclave   Leave a comment

There is a neighborhood in Manhattan that some of its old timers call “España Chica” – Little Spain. From the late 19th century to the present time it served as the social and cultural nerve center of Spanish immigrants who settled in New York City. Little Spain sits just above the West Village, mostly along West 14th Street but the casual non-Spanish pedestrian walking along it would hardly know that he is in a Spanish ethnic enclave. If this stroller were a vexillologist (or a fan of the Real Madrid Soccer team) she would no doubt know that the flag hanging in front of the non-descript brownstone building at 239 West 14th Street that houses the Spanish Benevolent Society was that of Spain. Spanish language signage on restaurants and other businesses along this New York City street are not that exceptional, given that the City is home to hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans and other Spanish–speakers from the Americas.

However, as far New Yorkers are concerned, European Spaniards are an unheard ethnic group in this town. In comparison to other white ethnics that immigrated here, they are less than a drop in the proverbial bucket; perhaps 30 thousand at most during the peak of late 19th and early 20th century immigration.

Nonetheless, Spain and its people who immigrated here have had an outsized but little appreciated impact on the U.S. To begin with, only a few sparse histories treat the Spanish exploration and settlement of the United States with the seriousness they deserve. In fact, the majority of U.S. history books are dismissive, uninformed, and even hostile about the Iberian presence in the U. S. Apparently, the fabled Spanish thirst for gold far exceeded that of the Anglo-Americans who poured into California, other Western states, and Alaska in search of this precious metal. The Spaniards are also seen as the worst when it comes to the treatment of the American Indians but, with the exception of historian Jill Lapore who documented the horrific near annihilation of those living in New England by the English, scant attention is given to that virtual holocaust. In most historical accounts, the Spanish are cast as being mostly unattached men who raped the Indian women while the English are depicted as devoutly religious men with wives and children at their sides. However, Spanish ship passenger records, as well marriage and baptismal records in Spanish territories in America, say otherwise.

Additionally, the histories of the American Revolution by and large, barely mention Spain’s contribution to the independence of the US but in many ways it was far greater than that of France and the other European nations combined, even though Spain never formally allied herself with the U.S. In those days the gold Spanish peso was the currency of America and considerable amounts of it and war materiel were funneled directly and indirectly to the American cause for independence. Spanish ports in Europe and in the Americas were made available to U.S. Naval ships and Spanish forces under General Bernardo Gálvez defeated the British in several battles along the Gulf Coast and Mississippi Valley and thereby closed off potential British attacks on the Americans from the Western and Southern frontiers. Finally, the 3-year-long Spanish siege of Gibraltar (24 June 1779 – 7 February 1783) though not successful, forced the British to divert troops and other resources there that would otherwise have gone to the war in the U.S. Spain was America’s faithful ally in all but name. It seems that few American historians in the past have availed themselves of the vast Spanish archives and rather have steeped themselves in those of England and France. Recently for instance, a review of names of prisoners held by the British on their infamous prison ships in New York Harbor has uncovered several dozen badly spelt Spanish ones. The Spanish call the English defamation of their country la leyenda negra (the black legend.) This calumny of the ancient hostility between the Spanish and the British was later adopted by the Anglo-Americans when relations between the US and Spain soured after the American Revolution.

These differing historical views aside, the Spanish contribution to New York City history is now being shown in a documentary called “Little Spain.” It is a homage to the Spanish immigration to the United States, showing an unheralded part of the fabulous history of New York City. Thanks to an archive of old pictures contributed by the Spanish Benevolent Society and individual contributors, the film accurately shows the people, institutions, and streets of the city’s initial and most compact and dynamic Hispanic community.”

Relatively speaking, many people know of the Spanish-speaking communities of Spanish Harlem, the South Bronx, the Lower East Side and Williamsburg in Brooklyn of the 1960s. Even more got their misimpressions of Spanish-speaking neighborhoods from the musical Westside Story and later from Capeman. However, few know that Little Spain, densely populated by Spaniards, Puerto Ricans, and other Hispanic immigrants, formed the nucleus of a culturally rich Spanish-speaking community. Here dance performances of Flamenco, Sevillana, Tango and the Jota (similar to classical ballet) as did Zarzuela, a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance.

In the film, Spanish American director and journalist Artur Balder traces the journey of those who left Spain, the Caribbean, and Spanish America in search of a better life in the United States and its most important entrance port, New York City, forming the community of Little Spain. The focal point of the documentary is 14th Street in Manhattan, the former heart of one the city’s first Hispanic communities. Almost everyone has heard about Little Italy, Yorktown’s German and East European communities, Polish Greenpoint and, of course, Chinatown but Little Spain’s story remains unknown to most people.

Balder said he “learned a lot by sifting through the Spanish Benevolent Society’s fascinating archives and realized that what he found “was the bones of an enormous dinosaur,” and he subsequently “scraped around it” to gather more details. The fruit of that effort is a 60 minute feature-length documentary that looks back at the founding of La Nacional  in 1868 and the immigration of Spanish, Cuban, and Puerto Rican cigar makers to New York during the Ten Year’s War in Cuba. An uptick in migration from the Iberian nation, Cuba, and Puerto Rico also occurred following the Spanish-American War of 1898. Bernardo Vega, a Puerto Rican cigar maker who came to New York in 1917 relates in his diary that from the late 19th century through the end of WWI, there were thousands of cigar making shops in New York City and over 500 of these were owned by Spaniards and other Hispanics. Other sources like labor leader Samuel Gompers say that New York City, not Tampa, Florida was ‘the cigar capital of the United States. Most of these went under when machine-made cigarettes supplanted hand-rolled cigars. Another wavelet of immigration followed in the wake of Spain’s 1936-1939 Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. Finally, there was a sharp decline in the 1970s and 1980s when Spain prospered under democracy. Younger Spaniards stayed home and older Spanish immigrants living in the US fulfilled their dream to return to their homeland. During its heyday many famous expatriate artists, writers and intellectuals, such as Picasso, Dalí, Buñuel, and Federico García Lorca could be found taking meals at the society’s tables.

Well into the 1960s, Castilian accented Spanish was spoken on W. 14th Street and the annual Dia de La Raza parade on Fifth Avenue that celebrated the melding of Hispanic and Amerindian cultures held sway. Little Spain one Hispanic establishment after another and not only very famous restaurants like El Coruña, La Bilbaina, and Cafe Madrid, but also Spanish bookstores and shops selling Spanish-style textiles, like the famous stores Iberia and Casa Moneo. From 1929 to 1988, Casa Moneo was a leader in Spanish and Latin American gastronomy in New York City. Located at 210 West 14th Street Casa Moneo was opened by Spaniard from the Basque region, Carmen Barañano, widow of Jesús Moneo, as a “tienda de ultramarinos” (the overseas store) where home-sick Spaniards bought packaged foods imported from Spain. Along with food they also sold cookware, dresses, shoes and perfumes. Some movie houses in Chelsea featured “all Spanish programs”, displaying films with Spanish, Mexican, and other Latin American actors. One of the film’s highlights is footage of what for years was the most popular celebration in the community, the Santiago Apostol (St. James Day) festival but it died out in the early 1990s due to the steady exodus of the Hispanic community from that part of the city. Today Little Spain is littler than before but it is still the beating heart of Spanish New York. A recent influx of Spaniards fleeing the disastrous economy in their homeland has reinvigorated the Spanish Benevolent Society with over 300 members in the in the last few years.

Another center of Spanish immigrant life in New York City has not fared well. This place was known as “Spanish Camp” It was a summer bungalow colony in Staten Island founded by the Spanish Naturopath Society in 1929 as a seaside summer retreat for Spanish speaking families from various New York City barrios. Camp life included tan canvas tents on raised wooden platforms with open-air kitchens under canopies in the back; common showers, latrines, and water pumps; plentiful clamming and fishing, seasonal performances by celebrated Flamenco dancers and musicians in the Salon—a lantern-strung hall with barn-like doors in the center of the Camp. In the late 1930s and early 1940s the tents were transformed to became small summer bungalows; later, many were winterized. It had its own streets and services, quite independent of the rest of Staten Island and New York City. Additionally it had small pond and associated wetlands as well as a small beach that aced New York Harbor, with an adjacent picnic area and athletic field.Faced with a dwindling membership and debts the Board of Directors sold the camp’s 18 acres to a developer in 2000.for $1.7 million He demolished its buildings but to date (2014) has not been able build a planned luxury condo there.

[MJH1]I think you should explain what this is.


Posted December 19, 2014 by ossininghistoryjournal in Uncategorized

The McCord Farmhouse in Ossining, NY   Leave a comment

ImageThe McCord Farmhouse is architecturally significant as an intact example of an early 19th century vernacular farmhouse with Federal style influences and as one of the oldest houses in Ossining. It is historically significant as the farmhouse for the McCord Farm, one of the largest farms in the area from the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s and the homestead for the McCord family.

It is located at 98 Narragansett Avenue and built circa 1803, is a Federal style house originally built by Irish immigrant James McCord (1752-1833) and his son David (1781-1836) as the farmhouse for the McCord family farm. The farm was originally over two hundred acres in size and stretched from what is now Route 9A on the northern side down to where the Sing Sing Kill crosses Pine Avenue on the southern side and included the area that today contains Veterans Park within its boundaries. The Ryder family farm (see entry) was located immediately to the east. The farm was in operation from 1750-1937 and was locally known for its extensive apple orchards. A small accessory building was once located near the house and contained a cider press and storage barrels. When it was originally built, the house was considerably smaller than it is today.

A series of additions over the years expanded its size significantly, and the house always contained multiple generations of the family under its roof. Shortly after the house’s completion, two sugar maple trees known as “marriage trees” were placed on each side of the main entrance, a New England tradition. One of these trees still survives today. The farm was still in operation during the first decades of the 20th century when development pressures in the northeastern section of the Village led to the sale and subdivisions of parcels of land within the farm for homebuilding purposes. The house remained in the hands of the family until 1937. At Dale Cemetery (see entry) six generations of the McCord family are buried in a family plot, including both James and David McCord.”
Documented Sources of Information:
1. Norman MacDonald, “Chronicle of a Westchester Farm: The McCord Farm at Ossining, NY, 1750-1937”, Ossining Historical Society, (Ossining, NY: 2008), 33-36.
2. Village of Ossining Significant Sites and Structures Guide See More


Posted June 25, 2014 by ossininghistoryjournal in Uncategorized

The Sing Sing Warden’s House   Leave a comment

Warden's houseThis is the Sing Sing Warden’s House. It was built circa 1930 as the residence of Warden Lewis E. Lawes and his family on land adjacent to the prison. Here he is shown leaving the house on his last day on the job. He arguably was  the prison’s most famous chieftain who championed prison reform in the US. By the time he retired in 1941. Lawes, was well-known throughout the US and abroad having been on the cover of Time magazine, published six books, launched his own magazine, helped write a Broadway play, narrated two weekly true-crime radio shows, and worked on six movies. Apparently he persuaded the New York State legislature that he needed a bigger home to lodge his family and the many elected officials, dignitaries and celebrities who came to visit the prison. It replaced an earlier and much smaller Dutch-Colonial Revival farm house that originally housed the warden and his family. It was recently sold at auction by the State. The newer brick Federal Revival Style home is located just off Spring Street on approximately 10 acres of land sitting atop a cliff overlooking the prison and the Hudson River beyond. This NYS-owned land was transferred to the Village of the late 1970s and in early 1980, the Village in turn sold it to a private corporation that built a condo around it called “Hudson Point

Posted June 25, 2014 by ossininghistoryjournal in Uncategorized

The Little Slave Girl in Ossining and the Grandfather who Freed Her.   Leave a comment

The 2013) film, “Twelve Years A Slave” won an “Oscar” as “best film” of the year was based on a book by Solomon Northrup a free black man and musician from Saratoga, NY who was kidnapped and sold into slavery while on a trip to Washington DC. The book was originally published in 1855 to great success but it became forgotten over the years. However it was not the only book about slavery  written from the point of view of a former slave.

This is the story of a free black man and his fight to free his six-year old grand-daughter who was found to be in bondage in 1857 in of all places, the Village Sing Sing, NY just 30 miles north of New York City. It  begins in early 1800 when an African boy from Sierra Leone, originally named “Tallen” and then, John Bull and subsequently, Dimmock Charleton was  taken away from Africa aboard a Spanish slave ship. However, a British ship, HMS Peacock intercepted the slaver and the young African  became a cabin boy on the British ship and was given the name, “John Bull.” Technically speaking, he was not a slave but an impressed sailor. At that time, impressment of sailors for British ships was quite common but the difference between an impressed sailor and a slave was quite slim.  It so happened that on February 24, 1813–during this war an American schooner, Hornet, sank the Peacock. Survivors were brought to the United States. John Bull, for whatever reason, was taken to Savannah, Georgia by an American Naval Officer, Lt. William Henry Harrison (not the Harrison who was later President). There he was given over to Judge Thomas Charlton, who agreed to take charge of the boy until Harrison could find out from his superiors what should be done with him. Later, when Harrison wrote to Charlton, telling him to send the boy to him but Judge Charlton falsely reported that the boy had died of a fever. However the judge (from whom received his name and surname) had actually sold him. This was the first in a sequence of transactions over a number of years, by which Dimmock Charlton was sold and bought by various people. All counted from his capture in 1800, to his self-purchased emancipation in 1857, he served as a slave for forty-five years.

Somewhere along this dark path Dimmock Charlton married, had children and subsequently grandchildren and one of these was a child named Ellen who was owned by a family named Kerr. It seems that in April of 1857 Miss Louisa Kerr brought Ellen with her from Savannah to Ossining. Possibly Miss Kerr was not aware that slavery in New York was abolished 30 years before in 1827 or she knew but ignored the New York manumission law which stated that it was illegal to bring slaves into the state and that any such slave was to be immediately released from bondage.

Apparently, Dimmock Charlton who had bought his own freedom some years earlier from his master, Benjamin Garman, knew about his granddaughter Ellen’s presence in Ossining and went to the Westchester County Court, then located in Katonah, NY, with a lawyer team comprised of John Jay and Charles E. Whitehead to seek her immediate release from the custody of Louisa Kerr under a Writ of Habeus Corpus. The judge, William A. Robertson, then ordered a local Constable, Zeno Hoyt, residing in Bedford to find Ellen and bring her and Miss Kerr into court to testify. Mr. Hoyt found them living in Ossining in the home David A. Griffin a local farmer.

At trial, Miss Kerr’s testified that Ellen was “one of a large family of slaves belonging to my brother and sister; I cannot say in whom in particular the title to her is vested.” She further said that “Ellen,” said Louisa, “was valued at $400; her light complexion increased her value; slaves of that complexion usually make clever servants.” And it was reported in the New York Tribune “seemed at times greatly affected” over Ellen. She had become “attached to her” and wanted to keep her, and had already started to educate her. She didn’t want her to be returned to slavery, but at the same time, did not want the family to “lose her whole value; my brother having thrown off $50, and being in embarrassed circumstances, could not afford to throw off any more.” She hoped to raise the $350 her brother wanted for Ellen’s liberation.
In another part of her testimony, Louisa Kerr said that she knew about Ellen’s grandfather: “I long since heard of his having been on board the Peacock when taken by the Hornet, and I believe that part of his story is true.”

In doing so, she provided confirmation of the story, “Enslavement of a British Subject: Forty-Five Years in Bondage,” printed in the August 10, 1857 issue of the New York Times. In addition to the Times article, his story it was also told in an 1859 booklet entitled “Narrative of Dimmock Charlton, A British Subject” and it included the name of one of the men whom he said had once owned him named Kerr (given in the Times as Carr).

In any event, after hearing all the testimony, Judge Robertson declared Ellen to be free, instead of about turning her over to her grandfather, gave temporary custody to Constable Hoyt. Dimmock Carlton did eventually get custody, however. In the following years, he took her to Canada, and they also resided in Boston and Philadelphia. He also went to England, where he was able to find a former sailor, Thomas Trethowan, aged 61, a native of Kenwen, near Truro, in the county of Cornwall who remembered him from his service on the Peacock, and provide additional confirmation of Dimmock’s presence aboard the British ship and his subsequent capture.

Source: Narrative of Dimmock Charlton, a British Subject, Taken from the Brig “Peacock” by the U.S. Sloop “Hornet,” Enslaved while a Prisoner of War, and Retained Forty-Five Years in Bondage. Philadelphia: The Editors, 1859.






Posted May 7, 2014 by ossininghistoryjournal in Uncategorized

Fox Connor: The Man Who Made Eisenhower   Leave a comment

This is a link to the original post on the New York History Blog.Org

Fox Connor on HorseA little-known forest retreat called Brandreth Park has several unimpressive dwellings and sparse communication with the outside world. Yet back in the dark days of World War II generals Eisenhower, Marshal, Patton and others in the American military headquarters of England and Europe felt it necessary to keep their lines of communication open and flowing with one of its residents, Major General Fox Conner, U.S Army, Retired.

It’s safe to say that most Americans have never heard of Brandreth Park or of this soldier who never served in WWII but who nonetheless contributed to the victory over Germany. Those who do remember Conner, consider him “the man who made Eisenhower”.

Brandreth Park was established in 1851 by Benjamin Brandreth an English immigrant and self-proclaimed “doctor” who concocted a recipe of vegetable laxative pill that supposedly cured every malady known to mankind. Brandreth was, if anything, an advertising genius and he made a fortune selling his “Brandreth Universal Pills” with advertising schemes that we now call celebrity or customer testimonials and product placement. There is, for instance, mention of his pills in Herman Mellville’s Moby Dick and an ad for Brandreth’s Pills, called “Sixty Voices from Army of Potomac” stated that the pills “protect from the arrows of disease, usually as fatal to Soldiers as the bullets of the foe.” His factory, based in Ossining, NY, made millions of these pills and he made a fortune.

Some of the money went to purchase a huge tract of land in Township 39 in Hamilton County, consisting of 26,000 acres for which he paid 15 cents an acre. There are several lakes and large ponds on the property and the largest is the 890-acre Lake Brandreth around which some of the current day houses and cabins are still clustered, owned by nearly 100 of his descendants. One of the original owners was Benjamin Brandreth’s son Franklin who passed down some of this land to his daughter Virginia when she married a young Army lieutenant and West Point graduate named Fox Conner.

Conner was born in 1874 in the backwoods town of Slate Springs, Mississippi and but for the fact that his maternal uncle, Fuller Fox, worked on the political campaigns of a US Senator with the improbable name of Hernando de Soto Money, Conner would have most likely settled and died there. Fortuitously, Conner’s uncle prevailed on the Senator to choose his nephew for a vacancy at the Military Academy at West Point and the young Mississippian was appointed to the entering class of 1894. Connor was a graduate of the class of 1898 and sent to Cuba, in 1899 as part of the American occupation force following Spain’s defeat.

Lieutenant Conner was assigned to administrative duties with General Fitzhugh Lee’s headquarters in Havana. There he chanced to meet Virginia Brandreth. By all accounts she was vivacious and strong-willed and she persuaded her father to let her travel to the site of the island’s capital city to visit her maternal uncle, Captain Herbert Slocum who was there on occupation duty with his wife. Thus chaperoned, a long start and stop courtship ensued and subsequently Fox and Virginia were married at her father’s house, “Cliff Cottage,” overlooking the Hudson River in Ossining, NY.

Conner’s military career spanned some forty-four years and slowly but steadily he rose from second lieutenant to major general. After Cuba his next overseas assignment was in France in 1911 as a liaison with the French Army’s 22nd Field Artillery based in Versailles. There in the company of Virginia and their three children he spent a year getting acquainted with all things French and as it happened, he was on staff duty in Washington, DC when the United States entered World War I in April 1917.

At this time, he was called upon to escort a delegation of French officers who had come to the War Department to work out some of the military details of the alliance that had recently been negotiated between the US and France. Shortly after, General John (Black Jack) Pershing recruited Conner to be on the staff he was putting together for development of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) then anticipated to number 500,000 men. In November of 1917, as operations chief for Pershing and with the rank of Colonel, Conner oversaw the creation of America’s First World War Army and its deployment in the decisive battles of that war.

Lieutenant Colonel George C. Marshall led operations of the First Infantry Division and would later become Conner’s assistant at AEF Headquarters. The following year, when the First U.S. Army began its major offensive in September 1918, Pershing, with the divisions Conner had designed, attacked at the St. Mihiel salient, which Conner had identified as the Germans’ weak point.

Later, in October 1918 as a Brigadier General, Conner accompanied Pershing to Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch’s headquarters to discuss their recommendations to their respective governments concerning Germany’s request for an armistice. Pershing and Conner believed that agreeing to an armistice under the favorable military situation of the allies and accepting the principle of a negotiated peace rather than a dictated peace, the allies would lose the chance actually to secure world peace on terms that would insure its permanence. It was their view that, “complete victory can only be obtained by continuing the war until we force unconditional surrender from Germany.” However, they did not win that battle of words. Conner quickly became convinced that the “politicians” had thrown away the victory and that someday the whole job would have to be done again. Indeed, most historians today believe that it was the humiliating and harsh terms of the 1918 Treaty of Versailles that contributed to the start of World War II.

John Pershing, Fox Connor, George Marshall(1)After World War I, Conner, Marshall, and Pershing came home aboard the Leviathan for a triumphal parade on Broadway in New York City. Later, the three headed off for a ten-day respite of hunting and fishing in the Adirondacks at Brandreth Park. Following this illustrious gathering in the fall of 1919 Conner went off to visit his friend George Patton at Camp Meade in Maryland. There, Patton made a point of introducing Conner to Dwight Eisenhower, whom Conner quickly realized was destined for greater things.

That meeting would blossom into a life-long personal and professional relationship and in 1922, when Conner went to command the 20th Infantry Brigade in defense of the Panama Canal Zone, he managed to get Eisenhower appointed as his executive officer. There, Conner mentored his junior officer on leadership, military history and the lessons of the Great War and most importantly in how to lead a coalition army in war. Under Conner Eisenhower undertook the serious study of military history for the first time, grappling with problems faced by the great commanders of the past.

Looking back on his Panama sojourn with Conner, Eisenhower considered it, “one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.” Later Connor also wrangled an Eisenhower’s appointment the Army Staff College then located on the banks of the Potomac River on Greenleaf’s Point (now Buzzard Point) in downtown Washington, DC. Perhaps Conner lasting contribution to history was convincing Eisenhower to stay in the Army after the latter’s bad experience as an aide to imperious Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. They did not get along and their descriptions of each other were not complimentary. MacArthur would later refer to Eisenhower as his “clerk” and when Eisenhower was asked if he knew MacArthur he reportedly said. “I ought to. I studied dramatics under him for seven years!”

After Panama, Fox Conner served two years in Washington, D.C., as army assistant chief of staff for supply and then as deputy chief of staff, the second highest position in the Army. In the 1930s, Conner ran the Civilian Conservation Corps camps throughout New England until his retirement in 1938.

In the fall of 1941, after his retirement from the Army, Conner was hunting at Brandreth Lake when he was invited to Pine Camp (now Fort Drum) near Watertown to observe some armored maneuvers. At the conclusion the officer in charge asked for his critique of the exercise to which Conner replied, “Too much blitz, too little krieg.” It has become the standard for things that are showy but have little substance. While this remark did not endear him to some in the military, there were many others who greatly respected his counsel and advice.

Fox ConnorChief among these officers were his closest protégés, Eisenhower, Marshal and Patton to whom its said he never offered unsolicited advice, but simply responded to their letters. According to Brandreth family lore this correspondence was delivered back and forth by armed military couriers who would arrive at the Brandreth Train station and drive seven miles along the former rail bed of the Mac-a-Mac Logging Company to Conner’s place and then wait for the response. After the war, Conner burned these letters, although many from Eisenhower to Connor have survived and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt Conner’s advisory role in World War II.

In a July 4, 1942 letter Eisenhower says “More and more my thoughts turn back to you and to the days when I was able to serve under your leadership and wise counsel. I cannot tell you how much I would appreciate at this moment an opportunity for an hour’s discussion with you about the problems that constantly beset me.” This letter then goes on to discuss the Chiefs of Services in various operations. Ike was addressing important matters that had to be solved. Conner responds from Brandreth on July 20th by saying, “Organization is largely a matter of the problems to be solved. I think the A.E.F. [American Expeditionary Force in WWI] organization was well suited to the problems we faced” and then goes on to say, “yours are somewhat different and so you will doubtless need to change things.” However, the most important piece of advice of this letter comes later when Conner tells Ike “ the first thing to do is to determine the immediate task.” According to Conner “the thing to do first of all is to relieve the pressure on [the] Russians. When that is done, the fate of the paperhanger is sealed.”

Later on August 31, 1942, Ike wrote another letter to Conner. In it he agreed with Conner’s earlier contention that the greatest problem confronting the Allies was to keep Russia in the war, which would weaken Hitler on the Western Front. Many of America’s top military officers like Marshall and Secretary of War Simpson had long pushed for a cross channel operation against France, rather than the British focus of landings in North Africa. However, it’s safe to say that Conner’s advice to divert Germany’s forces from the eastern front helped keep the Russians in the war and forced Hitler to fight on two fronts, a major factor in his defeat.

While most of the correspondence between Conner and his protégés has largely disappeared, it is the judgment of military historians that Fox Conner was arguably the most influential officer in the United States Army between World War I and World War II. In any event, there can be no doubt that Brandreth Park’s isolation provided Conner with atmosphere conducive for formulating advice about the conduct of the war. Eisenhower’s career was propelled steadily upward through a combination of factors: his intense ambition, his considerable abilities, and the friendship of a very special mentor, General Fox Conner.

After a long illness he died in Washington DC on October 13, 1951 and although some accounts say he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, he also has a grave marker at Brandreth family plot at Dale Cemetery in Ossining, NY next to his wife Virginia.

What is less-known, is that his cremated remains were scattered over Lake Brandreth, a place that he loved and in many ways reminded him of the piney woods of Calhoun County Mississippi where he was born and raised.

Photos: Above and below, Fox Conner; and middle, John Pershing, Fox Connor, and George Marshall.

This article was first published at the Adirondack Almanack.


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Posted May 7, 2014 by ossininghistoryjournal in Uncategorized

The Sing Sing Silver Mine   Leave a comment

The Sing Sing Silver Mine
The Sing Sing Silver Mine, also known as Silver Mine Farm, was discovered in approximately 1759 and was located just outside what would later become the north wall of Sing Sing Prison. This mine was worked by an England-based company for a period of seventeen years. The company consisted of approximately 25 miners; 16 were skilled miners who were brought to Sing Sing from the UK to work the mine. The company sunk a mineshaft of approximately 120 feet in length at the site and commenced mining soon after obtaining a lease for the site. A British Royal Army officer named Colonel James commanded the miners for a number of years leading up to the Revolutionary War. During these years, a smelting furnace was located near the outlet of Sing Sing Kill in order to produce silver ingots for shipping to the UK. The pre-war years saw the mine reach its peak level of extraction, and the war’s onset in 1776 led to the mine’s abandonment for the remainder of the 18th century.
After lying fallow through the turn of the 19th century and early 1800s, the site was taken over in 1824 by the Sing Sing Mining Company, a group made up of Sing Sing-based entrepreneurs led by civil engineer George Cartwright, and mining resumed for several years. After disappointing results, the mining operation gradually tapered off. Benjamin Brandreth, founder of the Brandreth Pill Factory, acquired a lease to the site for a time during the late 1850s and made an unsuccessful attempt to restart operations at the mine. The Barlow family, owners of the Barlow Block and of the William E. Barlow House acquired the old mine site and were the last owner of the property until the New York and Hudson River Railroad built a spur into the Sing Sing Prison yard that eliminated access to the original mineshaft.
In the 1850s, additional silver deposits were discovered about a thousand yards north of the original site. A lease to the property was acquired by Benjamin Brandreth, who reformed the Sing Sing Mining Company with partners General Aaron Ward and John T. Hoffman. The Company sank a shaft roughly 50 feet down in this new site and began mining here in 1857. The mine yielded modest profits for Brandreth and was eventually flooded and shut down. Today, the original silver mine shaft is now beneath the site of the Ossining Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is run by Westchester County.
Documented Sources of Information:
1. French, Alvah. “History of Westchester County”. (Lewis Historical Publishing Company: 1925) 778-779.
2. Bolton, Robert Jr. “A History of the County of Westchester from It’s First Settlement to the Present Time”, (Alexander S. Gould: 1848), xiv, 492, 504, 509.
3. “Sing Sing and Middletown Silver Mines”. New York Times, April 10, 1856.


Posted May 7, 2014 by ossininghistoryjournal in Uncategorized