CLAUDIUS SMITH'S DEN
Harriman State Park, Orange County, N.Y.


Directions:

I-87 over the TZ bridge to exit 15A (Route 17 north).  Make a left turn onto Route 17 N. Travel up to Seven Lakes Drive and turn right.  There is a left turn before the Reeves Brook information center, but I will have to ask my Harriman-lover friend, Phil Duckett, exactly where it is.  The left turn is followed I believe by a right turn that takes you to a parking circle. You can park anywhere around the circle.  


Geology:

Claudius Smith's Cave formed as slabs weathered out of the cliff.  The Cave's size is made possible by wide joint spacing.  It was formed as blocks of rock were pried out of the cliff by thaw-freeze; thus the cave may date back to the late Pleistocene, when that-freeze was at a maximum.  (Wyckoff 1971:35)

Fragments of rock weathered off larger masses move downslope by gravity.  Large blocks on gentle slopes, as on Pine Hill, may take thousands of years to move just a few feet.  (Wyckoff 1971:33)

A large group of roches moutonnees (rawsh moo-taw-nay) (a.k.a. sheepbacks or rock knobs) can be seen on the west side of Pine Hill from Route 17 just south of Tuxedo.  (Wyckoff 1971:64)


History:

The Minsi Indians used this cave on their hunting expeditions.  Pottery shards and arrowheads have been found nearby.

This is the former hideout of the notorious horse thief and murderer of the Revolutionary War era.  He and his British sympathizers (among them his three sons) operated from 1774 to 1779. Smith and his gang would hide behind the Man of War rock (then near what is now St. Mary's Cemetery in Tuxedo Park) and rushed onto Orange Turnpike (or Clove Road) near Augusta Falls to attack.  They terrorized the area of the Ramapo Pass, at first stealing horses and cattle and selling them to British troops.  They graduated to raiding homes and farms.  They even burned some of the homes and murdered the occupants.  They used the cave's upper chamber as their hideout and the lower chamber for their horse stable.   (Walter Houck, ed., 1983)

Smith was from the town of Monroe, Orange County, N.Y. He was jailed at Kingston for stealing oxen. He was transferred to the jail at Goshen from whence he escaped. His mother told him that he would amount to no good if he continued on this path, emphasizing the point with the observation that her errant son would wind up dying with his boots on. He started a life as a career criminal, being helped by his sons. Smith was pro-Tory and proved a real thorn in the side of the Americans. Smith even threatened prominent Americans, among them Major Strong. On the night of October 31, 1778, Smith and his gang forcibly broke into the house of Major Strong. The major boarded himself up in his bedroom. The bandits called out to the Major that if he gave up his arms (a pistol and a gun) he would be spared. As the major approached the door to comply, the bandits shot through the door killing the major. (Smith 1966:77-78)

The murder of Major Strong caused New York Governor Clinton to offer a $500 reward for the capture of Smith.  Smith fled to Long Island and British protection.  On the Island someone recognized Smith, a posse was formed, they captured Smith, and he was hanged at Goshen, New York, January 22, 1779. At Smith's hanging, Abimal Young approached him and asked where Smith had hidden the papers that Smith had forcibly taken from Young during a robbery. Smith replied "Mr. Young, this is no place to talk about papers; meet me in the next world and I will tell you all about them." Before being hanged, Claudius removed his shoes. Asked why, he mentioned his mother and added that he "wanted to make her out a liar." He was buried in a shallow grave near the scaffold in Church Park in Goshen. His skull was held as a trophy at a meat market of Col. Little until the Goshen Court House near completion, then the skull was put in with the mortar in the wall above the entrance. Many curious villagers carried away other portions of the skeleton as souvenirs. His son James was also hung at Goshen. Eldest son William was shot while he was in the mountains, the body being devoured by wild animals and the bones left to bleach in the sun for years afterwards. (Smith 1965:79-82; Sharts 1960:12-13)

This was only one of their hideouts.  They also used Horse Stable Rock, about a half mile from Route 202 near Wesley Chapel.    (Walter Houck, ed., 1983)

Claudius Smith's den. You can climb up the right side of the mountain and climb through a narrow space and then look down at the base of the mountain by the robber's cave.


Claudius Smith

He was born in Brookhaven, Long Island. Early on it was said he was involved in criminal activity. Early on his family moved to the New York-New Jersey borderland area. Reportedly, his father was a bad man who tolerated, if not encourage, the crimes of Claudius and who later, affected with a loss of sight, used his cane to beat his wife causing the neighbors to intervene.

Near Suffern you can see Horse Stable Rock. It was named such because it was a hiding place for Smith. It was a favorite lookout, not only for Claudius Smith and his gang but also for the Indians. 119

1778 October 6 -- Major Nathaniel Strong was shot and killed. Major Strong was barricaded behind a door and was armed. The criminals demanded that he put away his firearms and that he would have quarter. But as he put his gun in the corner and approached the closed door, through a broken panel one of the criminals fired at the Major and he expired without a word. 121

Governor Clinton on October 31 issued a proclamation offering a reward of $1,200 dollars for Smith's apprehension. $600 reward was offered for each of his sons, Richard and James Smith.

When the British captured Fort Montgomery in October 1777, a Colonel McClaughry was taken prisoner and was held in New York City. He wrote to his wife to send him some money but to get money she had to ask one miserly person named Abimal Youngs for a load of hard money. He declined. Smith heard of this and determined that he would punish Youngs.

He and his gang took Youngs from his house and hung him from the well pole and then let it go which had the effect of swinging him up. But Youngs would not tell no matter what they did to him. So they contented themselves with taking some of his deeds, bonds, and other papers.

Smith was chased by a band heady on a man named Titus. Things were getting too hot for Smith and so he moved across to Long. While trying to lay low, he was spotted by a Major Brush after a boat trip across the Sound from Connecticut. He alerted Titus and two others and they worked out a plan to capture the outlaw Smith.

Claudius was in bed in a boarding house and was arrested by candlelight. Claudius was taken to Goshen, New York and confined to the Goshen jail, manacled, and chained to a ring in the floor. He was guarded night and day for there was considerable apprehension that an attempt would be made to bust Smith out of jail.

January 2, 1779 was the date of his execution. Crowds flock to see the end of the bad man. On the hanging platform Abimal Youngs came up to him and asked him about where his papers were that Claudius had stolen earlier.

Smith replied "Mr. Youngs, this is no time to talk about papers. Meet me in the next world and I will tell you all about them.".

A funny thing then happened. Smith kicked off his shoes. This strange action was related to his trying to deny the truth of his mother's early warning to Claudius concerning his criminal behavior that "you will die like a trooper's horse, with your shoes on." By kicking off his shoes, Claudius tried to negate his mother's admonition.

Beck, Henry Charlton. 1964. Tales and Towns of Northern New Jersey. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.


PLANT LIST:
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney


Trees:
Acer pensylvanicum (goosefoot maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Betula alleghaniensis (yellow birch)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Carya glabra (pignut hickory)
Carya tomentosa (mockernut hickory)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Ostrya virginiana (hop hornbeam)
Pinus rigida (pitch pine)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Populus alba (white poplar)
Populus grandidentata (big tooth aspen)
Pyrus sp. (crab apple)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Rhus glabra (winged sumac)

Shrubs:
Aronia sp. (chokeberry)
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Chimaphila maculosa (spotted wintergreen)
Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepper bush)
Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern)
Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen)
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Quercus ilicifolia (bear oak)
Ribes sp. (gooseberry)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Spiraea tomentosa (steeplebush)
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Vaccinium sp. (low bush blueberry)

Vines:
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Polygonum scandens (false climbing hempweed)
 

Herbs:
Achillea millefolium (yarrow) 09/08/96
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) 09/08/96
Anaphalis margaritacea (pearly everlasting) 09/08/96
Apocynum sp. (dogbane)
Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster) 09/08/96
Aster linariifolius (stiff aster) 09/08/96
Aster spp. (small white asters) 09/08/96
Aureolaria sp. (false foxglove) 09/08/96
Boehmeria cylindrica (false nettle)
Chelone glabra (white turtlehead) 09/08/96
Conyza canadensis (horseweed)
Desmodium rotundifolium (round leaved tick trefoil)
Desmodium paniculatum (tick trefoil)
Desmodium sp. (a trailing tick trefoil) 09/08/96
Epifagus virginiana (beech drops) 09/08/96
Erechtites hieraciifolia (pilewort) 09/08/96
Eupatorium rugosum (white snake root) 09/08/96
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod) 09/08/96
Galium sp. (bedstraw)
Gnaphalium obtusifolium (sweet everlasting) 09/08/96
Hieracium spp. (hawkweed) 09/08/96
Hypericum gentianoides (orangegrass) 09/08/96
Iris versicolor (blue flag)
Lespedeza spp. (bush clover)
Linaria vulgaris (butter and eggs) 09/08/96
Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco)
Lycopus sp. (bugleweed) 09/08/96
Lysimachia quadrifolia (whorled loosestrife)
Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)
Polygonatum biflorum (true Solomon's seal)
Polygonum arifolium (arrow-leaved tearthumb) 09/08/96
Polygonum sp. (white knotweed) 09/08/96
Solidago bicolor (silverrod) 09/08/96
Solidago caesia (blue-stemmed goldenrod) 09/08/96
Solidago erecta (slender goldenrod)
Solidago odora (sweet goldenrod) 09/08/96
Solidago spectabilis (showy goldenrod) 09/08/96
Spiranthes cernua (nodding ladies' tresses) 09/08/96
Uvularia perfoliata (perfoliate leaved bellwort)
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein)

Rushes and Sedges:
Bulbostylis capillaris (sedge)
Carex laxiflora (sack sedge)
Carex stricta (tussock sack sedge)
Juncus tenuis (path rush)

Grasses:
Brachyelytrum erectum (long awned reed grass)
Elymus hystrix (bottle-brush grass)
Festuca rubra (red fescue grass)
Glyceria sp. (mannagrass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deer tongue grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)
Poa canadensis (Canadian bluegrass)
Sorghastrum nutans (Indian grass)
Tridens flavus (purple top grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort)
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

Others:
rock tripe lichen