There is a bit of Revolutionary War history residing in Walker Valley NY that is new to our area. I recently received a Facebook message from Walker Valley Firefighter, Chris Bailey, who said to me - “Are you looking for a 4th of July story?” Me: “Sure what do you have Chris?” Chris: “A horse trough that George Washington’s horse drank out of.” Me: “Is that trough located in our area?” Chris: “Yes, in my front lawn.” Me: “Call me 744-5648.”
This trough, made from hand chipped granite and weighing about 2,000 lbs., started out in Washingtonville, NY. Washingtonville was previously known as Matthews Field (abt. 1721-1731), then Little York (abt. 1809) and as stated on the Village of Washingtonville website: “Samuel Moffat built a trading post on the village square in 1811 at the junction of the New Windsor and Blooming Grove Turnpike with Goshen Road. The hamlet began to prosper with a tannery, grist and plaster mills. A hotel was needed and Samuel Moffat built his Washington Tavern in 1818. That same year Samuel and John Lacques bestowed the village with a new name, Washingtonville, in honor of the late General and First President of the United States who, we are told, came through and watered his horse at the trough which had been located under the big (Elm) tree in the center of the village.”
Chris, who grew up in Washingtonville, continues the story with saying that over the years the mayor, at the time, wanted to get rid of the trough. One story says the tree was lost to Dutch Elm Tree disease and the main road was re-aligned in 1935 and that might be when the trough needed a new home, but Chris thinks it was more like in the 1950s when, the then mayor wanted it gone and so its travels began. It made the rounds with neighbors until 1980, when it ended up with his grandparents. In 2013, grandma gave it to Chris when she moved to the state of Florida. The trough found a home with Chris, living in Bloomingburg, at the time and then made its way to its present location when Chris moved into Walker Valley a couple of years ago to be closer to the firehouse.
More history of the Washingtonville area can be found in a publication called “Around the Watering Trough” A history of Washingtonville by Edward J. McLaughlin (1994), available for viewing at the Washingtonville Village Hall, 9 Fairlawn Dr. or through the Washingtonville Public Library.
One other thing that did stand out to me while doing this story; there is another connection between Washingtonville and the Town of Shawangunk, hamlet of Wallkill. “Washingtonville, incorporated in 1895, became an important dairying center with two creameries, Borden’s and the Farmers Cooperative market. Borden’s Creamery maintained a bottling plant and its refrigerator cars loaded with milk were shipped to Greycourt (Harriman) on either the Erie freight or passenger runs.” The railroad came to Washingtonville in 1850. Chris remembers that Borden’s owned the farm land between Washingtonville and Maybrook but never made the connection. If you did not know, Wallkill became the home to the Borden Home Farm, Elsie the Cow and the main condensed milk processing factory that was located between Wallkill and Walden on what is now Route 208. The 1500+ acre farm homestead began in 1881 by John G. Borden in the basin area now known as the Hamlet of Wallkill, Town of Shawangunk. He inherited the business from his father in 1874 and after many years of searching, he realized his dream of developing a farm that would look like a park, feel like a homestead, be self-sustaining and located near water and a railroad.
His father, Gail Borden, an entrepreneur and inventor, started the condensed milk business back in the 1850s when he received the patent for a process that took regular milk and condensed it so it would not spoil. The demand for this product was huge and creameries & condenserys were established all over the Hudson Valley, CT & PA to meet the demand. They were all located with farms for the milk, a source of water for ice and the railroad for distribution. One of the early creameries was established in Brewster, NY and Washingtonville became home to one of many others throughout the area.
The Washingtonville bottling factory went out in the 1960s and what is left of the building is now being used for the school bus garage. The main Borden Home Farm and processing factory in Wallkill is past history with the factory nothing more than a shell of its former robust activity and the main farm home owned by a local family with most of the vast farmland sold off over the years. And the famous watering trough? As you can see by my picture, it is happily sitting in Walker Valley NY in Chris’s front yard adorned with beautiful flowers.