Olden Time - Chapter Twenty-Three
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin. From the book entitled, "Ye Olden Time, as compiled from the Coxsackie News of 1889" written by Robert Henry Van Bergen, together with notations by Rev. Delber W. Clark, and edited by Francis A. Hallenbeck, 1935
The Bronk House
Situated pictorially with the rocky cliffs, in its back-ground, near which in days gone by, the sturdy Indian runner traveled the famous Indian footpath, stands one of Greene County’s historic monuments. Preserved with practically the same furnishings as were used in the days of the Indians, it adds an unestimable reality to the fast disappearing elements which throughout the past two or three centuries have made Coxsackie and all of Greene County, (the famous Rip Van Winkle Territory) internationally known.
Much can be said of the history of this place or that, but the fact remains with such tangible evidence as the Bronk House, that the Coxsackie Territory in days past, really possessed the air of historical antiquity with which present day writers credit it.
Today the well known Bronk House, since the construction of the new 9-W Highway from Coxsackie to Catskill, has been brought more and more to the attention of the public for the new highway touches the entrance to the historic mansion. Well kept, it is now in the possession of the Greene County Historical Society, being presented to the society by Leonard B. Lampman, whose ancestors have for nine generations owned and lived in its comfortable interior.
Situated slightly to the North of the house and nearer to the new highway stands the unique 13 sided barn which was built in 1800. This structure is probably the only one of its kind in this part of the state. Mr. Van Bergen in his "Ye Olden Time" makes mention of the building of the barn and also of the difficulty as a problem of carpentry, involved in the construction of suitable rafters for the structure.
Within the few pages of this book it is impossible to emphasize fully the importance historically of this Greene County monument or to show its relation to other monuments of the present day which were named in memory of the famous members of the Bronk family. We will attempt, however, to explain the history of this noted name and to give a few evidences in the present day of its outstanding importance.
In the year 1639, Jonas Bronk, the first of the Bronk family came to this country. He is known in historical circles today as the first white settler north of the Harlem River. Today we find a part of New York City known as Bronx Borrough, the Bronx River and the popular Bronx River Parkway all named after this famous adventurer. He had one son, Peter, who got a grant of land from the Dutch government and the Indians on January 13th, 1662, at Coxsackie and in the next year 1663, built the old stone house on the Bronk farm. Later on in 1738 the Brick House was built and then 1792, and addition was put on the Stone House. Adelaide Ely Bronk, mother of Leonard B. Lampman, the present donor, was born in that house and she was the eighth generation to have lived in the old house and the 9th generation from Jonas Bronck of Bronx Borrough. Leonard B. Lampman of Coxsackie and New York City is the tenth generation but he never resided in the old house. The property was handed down by will to Mr. Lampman during all these years which is in itself a very peculiar thing. There is very little doubt but that all the Bronks in Greene County came originally from this family.
The Bronk house today has much of the appearance of one complete home but as was stated before it was built in three sections. The grey stone house of 1663 was added to as time passed and in the beginning had a roof of red tile. Its small paned windows and steep roof are the same today and it still stands straight and strong with the dignity of well preserved old age; its loop holes and trap door leading to the cellar, with its ponderous lock, are the last word in preparedness against the Indians whose footpath was less than a quarter of a mile to the West.
The house of 1738 is of brick and so close to the one of stone as to be practically under the same roof; both have large rooms, broad fireplaces, heavy beams and wide floor boards cut from the trees which 270 years ago were growing upon the land. Behind these two houses is a tiny house of brick built for the second wife of one of the Bronks who did not get on well with her step-daughters. This problem was solved by the father who built the separate dwelling, small but complete and the step-mother was to entertain her guests in the larger house.
The building of the "Kings Road" past the door of the stone house must have been a great event and a great improvement over the rough wagon track which was in use previously. This road aided greatly in opening up the country on the west side of the Hudson from New York to Albany.
Travel had increased greatly on the "Kings Road", about a generation after the building of the second house and the ox team, the saddle horse and the first clumsy wagons together with the Revolution were already written in history.
It was in the early eighteen hundreds that a barouche was added to the riding equipment. This was a luxurious vehicle for the period, two seated, with silken fringed lining, its double steps folded up or let down at the convenience of the passengers. The top adequately sheltered one from the rain or wind, while capricious leather containers held gun and baggage, and ping horses and tasseled harness, it was built for utility, its wheels heavy and strong to withstand the jolting of muddy and dusty roads of that period.
During and previous to the Revolution messengers galloped swiftly along the "Kings road", north to Albany or South to Kingston, sometimes stopping at the Bronks to rest weary horses or exchange them for fresh ones. Tories traveled it after night fall to join their allies, the Indians, or confer secretly with their own kind, a few of whom lived in the town. From time to time troops passed that way to join the army, and often there were stragglers from the front who because of wounds or illness were on furlough; and these stopping for rest or refreshment were never denied and usually helped on their way to their families by the loan of a horse. The Bronks were always known to be strong patriots.
A visit to the Bronk House, Greene County’s most historical monument, is but to give the present day imagination time to relax from the stress of a swift moving age and a chance to re-enact the scenes of by-gone days revolving about the material wealth of historical lore which the house and its possessions, both interior and exterior, reveal to the interested visitor, unchanged by the hand of time.
Is there one who standing facing the unique old mansion could not by stretching the imagination, close his eyes and see the old landmark as it stood proudly a century and a half ago, the "Kings Road" passing the front door, the thirteen sided barn to the right and other than that wilderness in every direction. Can you imagine the barouche of Judge Leonard Bronk pulled by two prancing horses whose well shod hoofs, beat a distinct staccato in the evening air, drawn up to the front door, the judge and his beautiful wife, Tryntje, alight and depart within, while the shining coach in one last dash of speed whiskes out of sight toward the stables; or perhaps on a sultry evening while the thunder roars through the hills toward the West, a lone, weary messenger who is traveling on horseback, calls to the negro coachman who stands near the door of the stables, and asks for shelter for the approaching storm. He is received with courtesy and hospitality.
The Bronk House preserved in its entirety, the possession of the Greene County Historical Society is one of the societies most cherished possessions, and it was through the extreme kindness of the donor, Mr. Leonard B. Lampman, that the society received the home which will soon be open to all interested in local historical reference.
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