Letter: Washington in Beacon

I was excited to read about the new facility being created at the former paper-clip factory on Dennings Point (Welcome Center Planned for Dennings Point, May 29). I actually worked at the factory for a few weeks in the summer when I was in high school. But the idea that George Washington made near-daily visits to the point while stationed in Newburgh, and that Alexander Hamilton began drafts of the Federalist Papers while staying at the point in 1781, is not supported by any primary-source evidence.

Hamilton did stay close by, at Depeyster Point (between Fishkill Creek and the Hudson River), especially at the Depeyster House. But the idea that Washington visited Dennings Point has never been proven.

I have convinced the Beacon historian, the Dutchess County historian, the Alexander Hamilton Society and fifth-generation Hamilton descendent Doug Hamilton of the shaky nature of these claims and also compiled a list of all primary source documents in my book, The Most Important House in the American Revolution That Nobody Knew About.

We do know from a primary-source document that Washington visited Beacon, which was then known as Fishkill Landing. The new French delegate to the colonies wrote in his journal in 1781 that he met Washington at Fishkill Landing and the two of them went over the river to West Point for a meeting. This journal was only recently translated to English and posted online.

Chris Cring, Poughkeepsie

One thought on “Letter: Washington in Beacon

  1. To clarify, Dennings Point is the peninsula of land sticking out into the Hudson. Depeysters Point is the 300 acres of land between Fishkill Creek and the Hudson that was sold to Depeyster by Madam Brett. A mill at Fishkill Creek and the house on the hill built by Depeyster was on this land in 1781 when Hamilton moved there at a time when it was known as Depeysters Point. It’s about a half mile from Dennings Point.

    My involvement started when I went on a tour of Dennings Point with Jim Herrings and an archeologist from Vassar. We went to the site of the old mansion that was on the peninsula 100 years later. They said that old bricks under the foundation were Dutch and were remnants of the house that Hamilton Stayed and received a letter from Depeysters Point.

    I was skeptical so I went to the Vanwycick historical site and was given permission to review old maps and documents. Hamilton spent time in those actual rooms. One of the maps was an old map commissioned by George Washington of the Hudson River, which at the time included houses, docks, peninsulas, ferry crossings, terrain, etc. On the map, it’s very clear it was the Depeyster house across from Washington’s Headquarters and there were no buildings on the nearby peninsula.

    At the time, before the brick works, it was a big hill with swamp land at the beginning of peninsula. This started my quest to find more than 25 documents backing this up.

    Washington traveled with life guards — as many as 200 — because he feared his capture would end the war. So he rarely traveled alone. It could be true that he visited the area but so far no documents prove this.

    What’s more important about Hamilton was that, while he was at the Depeyster house, he wrote a 31-page letter to Robert Morris, the head of finance. Morris wrote back and called Hamilton a genius. If you read the letter it lays out capitalism as we know it.

    When Washington was elected president, he asked Morris to be the first secretary of the Treasury and Morris (because of this letter) said no, you want Hamilton. That’s why he is still in the $10 bill. If you notice the address of the letter, it is addressed to Depeyster. Also, it is in Elizabeth’s writing, Alexander’s and an unknown writer. That is still a mystery. It’s is hard to believe that Hamilton was only 23 years old.