Tappan Memorial Park and '76 House
Tappan, Rockland County, New York


Directions:

US 287 west to US 87; exit 13S for Palisades Interstate Parkway south; drive 5.0 miles and get off at exit 5; merge into traffic heading south on Route 303; drive 1.2 miles and turn right onto Washington Avenue (where the DeWint House directional sign is located). Pass by Livingston Avenue where DeWint House is located and turn right onto Main Street and park.  The Tappan Memorial Park is just behind the library on Main Street.  The '76 house is on the left hand side of the road.  The Dutch Reformed Church is further down the road about 75 yards and on the right by the village green.   


History:

The '76 House in Tappan served prominently in the Major John Andre imprisonment and hanging.

No one knows who built the '76 House. Yoast Mabie kept a public house for Casparus Mabie.

At the tavern known as the '76 House the Orangetown Resolutions were passed. And it is where Orangetowners signed the General Association aligning themselves against Great Britain.

Benedict Arnold began to correspond secretly with General Clinton about his plan to let West Point fall into British hands. Andre was adjutant general to General Sir Henry Clinton, Commander- in-Chief of the British forces in North America.

1780  (September 16)  Clinton sent Major Andre up the Hudson in the British Sloop-of-War, Vulture to meet with Benedict Arnold. Andre sped upstream by sailboat to the Vulture to the area off Croton Point.  Joshua Hett Smith, Arnold's deputy, was to meet him but did not show up.

1780 (September 20)  --  Andre was rowed ashore at the long cove just south of Haverstraw, where the two men conferred until sunrise. Their plans for the handing over of West Point still not complete, Andre, Arnold, and Smith got on three horses; near Haverstraw they were stopped by a sentry who waved them on when he recognized Arnold. They ascended a steep hillside to Smith's house, the two-story residence known as Belmont commanded a broad view of the Hudson at Haverstraw Bay. The home of Joshua Hett Smith stood on what is now known as Treason Hill. There it was agreed that Arnold should have one of the links removed from the great iron chain which stretched across the Hudson from West Point to King's Ferry to prevent the passage of British ships up the river. Arnold planned to replace the iron link with rope, on the pretext that the chain needed mending. Andre spent the night at the house of Joshua Hett Smith some miles within the American lines.

Colonel Livingston, the commandant at Fort Lafayette, just south of Verplanck's Point, brought a small ceremonial cannon to Teller's Point (Croton Point) and was firing round after round at the Vulture. The ship returned fire. The ship then retired down stream.

In the morning Smith and Andre found the Vulture gone and Smith said it was too dangerous and so persuaded Andre to cross the Hudson at Stony Point and proceed to the British lines by land. Andre hid his papers, showing the fortifications of West Point and the placement of soldiers, between his "stockings and feet".  Andre and Smith went to King's Ferry where they crossed to Fort Lafayette, up to Peekskill, and on to Crompond, south of which Smith left Andre; then to Pine's Bridge and on to Tarrytown.

1780 (September 23)  --  near Tarrytown, three militia-men, also known as "cowboys" in the neutral ground between the Americans outside of New York City and the British in the City, Williams, Vanwart, and Paulding, were seated in some shrubbery beside the road, playing cards.

Suddenly they heard the clattering of a horse's hoofs over the wooden planks of a bridge over a nearby creek. They approached the road, where they saw a gentleman riding towards them, seated on a large brown horse, which was afterward observed to be marked near the shoulder with the initials U. S. A. The rider was a light, trim-built man, about five feet seven inches in height, with a bold military countenance and dark eyes, and was dressed in a round hat, blue surtout crimson coat, with pantaloons and vest of nankeen. As he neared them the three cocked their muskets and aimed at the rider, who immediately checked his horse, and the following conversation ensued: Andre said, " Gentlemen, I hope you are of our party."  Paulding said, "What party!"  Andre answered, "The lower party." Paulding responded, " We are."

Andre then quickly added, "I am a British officer: I have been up the country on particular business, and would not wish to be detained a single moment." He thereon pulled out a gold watch as evidence that he was a gentleman.

Paulding remarked, "We are Americans."  And suddenly Andre switched tracks, "God bless my soul! A man must do any thing to get along. I am a continental officer, going down to Dobb's Ferry to get information from below."   He then drew out his pass from Benedict Arnold, in which he was designated by the name of Anderson.

The suspicions of the "cowboys" were aroused and they ordered him to dismount. Andre told them that they would bring themselves into trouble. "We care not for that," was the reply. Williams searched his clothes. He found $80 dollars in continental money. At length he ordered him to take off his boots. At this Andre changed color.

Williams drew off the left boot first, and Paulding seizing it, exclaimed, "My God, here it is!" In it were found three half sheets of written paper, enveloped in a blank half sheet marked, "Contents, West Point." Paulding again exclaimed, " My God, he's a spy!" On pulling off the other boot, a similar package was found.

Andre then attempted to purchase his release, gradually augmenting his offers to his horse equipage, ten thousand guineas, and as many dry goods as they wished, to no avail. The cowboys took Andre to the nearest commanding officer.

They took Andre to North Castle
then to Pine's Bridge
to Crompond
to Cortlandville
to the Robinson House
to West Point, Fort Putnam
then to Stony Point
then downstream to King's Ferry
west of Haverstraw
thru New City and on to Tappan.

The column reached Tappan at sundown, drawing up in front of the old Dutch church. Onlookers jammed the town green and could be seen at every window and doorway in the tidy row of houses bordering the main streets. Taunts and threats greeted the prisoners.

Andre was imprisoned at the '76 House (then called Mabie's Inn). Nearly every general officer of the left wing of the American Army was a visitor to the tavern at this time.  Andre was given sleeping quarters and a separate living room in the Tavern, a stoutly built stone edifice. That night, rude homemade coffins were paraded through town to remind both Smith and Andre of what lay in store. 

Washington made his headquarters at the DeWint house, a short distance from Tappan's main street.  Tappan swarmed with troops. Some five hundred were stationed outside the Mabie Tavern.

The trials of Major Andre and Joshua Hett Smith were held in the Dutch Church.  During the Revolution the church was used as a military hospital and a prison.  The church was an old one.  There is a plaque that gives the dates 1694 to 1969.  The Reverend Guilliam Bertholf was the founder and first minister of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Tappan. He organized churches at Hackensack and Passaic (1694-1724) and at Sleepy Hollow, Port Richmond, Oakland, Belleville, Pompton Plains and Summerville. 

After a trial in the Dutch Church in Tappan, a court of inquiry reported that Andre ought "to be considered a spy from the enemy and that, agreeable to the law and usage of nations, it is their opinion he ought to suffer death."

1780 (October 1)  --  the death sentence was read to Andre.

1780 (October 2)  --  At noon Andre was marched passed the old Dutch Church.  He toiled up a long hill toward the gallows. As he stood beneath the gibbet he said: "All I request gentlemen is that while I acknowledge the propriety of my sentence, you will bear me witness that I die like a brave man."

Andre lay in his hilltop grave for more than forty years

1821 --  the Duke of York and the British consul paused here when removing the body of Andre to Westminster Abbey to lie among kings and poets.. At this time the tavern was kept by a man named DuPuy.

1857 --  the house was dilapidated.

1897 --  the house was restored.


Source:

Source: Hatch, Robert McConnell. 1986. Major John Andre: A Gallant in Spy's Clothing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.


Trails:

12/09/2004.  Brother-in-law Ceferino Santana and I visited the DeWint House.  We walked out the DeWint backyard (where the original road was -- there was no Livingston Avenue back then) and crossed the street into the charming, but small Tappan Memorial Park behind the town library.  We crossed the bridge over the Sparkill Creek and went past the libary to come out onto Main Street with the '76 House across the street to the right.  After taking a close look at the '76 House we walked down Main Street, to cross over Washington Street where we found the old Dutch Reformed Church (the third structure on this site).  After reading the historical plaques we crossed the street onto the public green.

On the green are three memorials to those who fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  There is also an historical marker saying that this was the sight of the first Courth9use.  It was a log structure with whipping posts and stocks, and was erected on this Tappan green c. 1691.  It served all of Orange County (including what later became Rockland County).  In 1739 a more permanent court house and "gaol" was built.  In 1774 the courthouse was destroyed by fire. 

We worked our way up to the cemetery on Gallows Hill where Andre was hanged.

It was wonderful seeing the buildings that I had read so much about in the history books.  The historical area is very small and easily covered.  I enjoyed myself immensely.  Dr. Patrick L. Cooney. 


Trees:
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum)
Pinus sp. (pine)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Taxus sp. (yew)
Thuja occidentalis (arbor-vitae)

Herbs:
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)