Every Day Above Ground (mallorys_camera) wrote,
Every Day Above Ground

Sojourner Truth, Oliver Hazard Payne, the Real Housewives, and Slow Fall


So, for the last few days, all I’ve done (mostly) is catch up with the Real Housewives and practice my dictator skills.



I am the boss of me!!!!!

And that’s all I wanted to do.

I seem to have recalibrated. At least to the point where I’m ready to switch Real Housewife franchises from New York City and Beverly Hills to Potomac (wherever the fuck that is) and to imprison, rather than summarily execute, all Tropicans who disagree with my dictates.

Spiritual evolution!

It’s a wonderful thing.


I also chauffeured L to a medical appointment in deepest, darkest Montclair, New Jersey; toiled one last day for the National Counting Project; and espied a beautiful fox sunning himself in my backyard—unfortunately, in one of those rare moments when I was not compulsively clutching my phone, so no pix.

Driving to Montclair, New Jersey, involved a longish stretch on the Palisades Interstate Parkway and a shorter hop on the Garden State Parkway—not my favorite type of driving by a long shot. But I must say, I acquitted myself admirably. The Prius really is fun to drive!

The National Counting Project sent me to Port Ewan, which is this adorable little village perched on bluffs overlooking the Hudson. It looks like an old town, but, in fact, was a company town, constructed by the Pennsylvania Coal Company in 1853 for use as a railroad depot. A mere 10 years later, The Pennsylvania Coal Company transferred its operations to Newburgh, 30 miles farther south along the river. But the street grids had already been lain, the Methodist and Dutch Reformed churches erected, so the now purposeless village survived.


Half a century before the Pennsylvania Coal Company repurposed all that farmland, Sojourner Truth was born in what became Port Ewan.

Known as Isabella or Belle, she grew up speaking Dutch. (The old Dutch farming families were the fiercest advocates of slavery and one reason why Dutchess and Ulster Counties were two of the only four New York counties that voted against manumission.)

In the space of 30 years, Belle was sold to four different men who beat her, raped her, etc. The last of those men, John Dumont, impregnated her several times.

In 1826, she escaped to New Palz where members of the abolitionist Van Wagenen family took her in, “buying” her services from Dumont for $20. (The Van Wagenen house is one of the original Dutch stone houses in New Paltz’s Huguenot Street Historic District.)

Dumont was furious and in retaliation, sold one of Belle’s children to slave owners in Alabama. With the Van Wagenens’ backing, Belle sued Dumont for the child’s return, and in 1828, became the first Black woman to win a court case against a white man.

To celebrate Sojourner Truth’s—snort—idyllic girlhood, the good citizens of Port Ewan have erected this statue:



If you ever find yourself in that area, the statue is at the intersection of 9W and Salem Street.


Later, I had a bunch of addresses in an incredibly strange-looking apartment complex just off 9W:

black creek

There’s a story here, thought I to myself, so when I got home I researched it.

Evidently I was wrong when I surmised that the filthy rich of the Gilded Age only built mansions on the east banks of the Hudson.

The filthy rich built mansions on the west banks of the Hudson, too. Only those mansions either got torn down or were bequeathed to various religious organizations, hence the extraordinarily high concentration of monasteries and such on the Hudson’s west bank.

These apartments are on a site once owned by Oliver Hazard Payne, the founder of U.S. Steel, an early investor in Standard Oil and the uncle of William Payne Whitney, to whom he left $63 million—an incalculable amount of wealth in the late 19th century.

(I remember Oliver Hazard Payne as a minor character in Gore Vidal’s awful novel Empire. Vidal seemed to think Oliver Hazard Payne was in love with William Payne Whitney’s father, which might explain the bequest, I suppose.)

The mansion itself was left to the Marist Brothers. I think it’s still there—you can see a pretty massive building across the river from the Vanderbilt grounds in the winter when the trees lose their leaves.

Anyway, these buildings were originally erected to house the Payne estate's workers.

At the beginning of WWII, they were purchased by the New York State Department of Welfare, which turned them into dormitories at a home for delinquent boys.


Also, fall is farther along on this side of the river:




Although there are still vast tracts of forest that seem almost untouched:


It's been a slow autumn this year. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.
Tags: #also, #half, #i, #later, covid-19, history, hudson river valley, weather
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