Dover Stone Church Preserve

58 acres

Located on the east slope of West Mountain just west of the Village of Dover Plains.

The Stone Church Brook flows through a fissure in a rock forming many ledges and waterfalls.  At the entrance to the cave through which the Brook flows there is a arch creating the impression of the entrance to a cathedral. 

Emerging from the cave, the Brook heads down a ravine to a meadow. 


1600s  -- it is said that for a week Sassacus, the sachem of the Pequots, and his band hid in the stone church following the killing of many of his people on Long Island by the New Englanders.

1830s  --  thousands of New Yorkers and others came to this location to see the stone church.  They would stay at the local hotel, the Stone Church Hotel.  And many people got married at the stone church.

1847  --  Hudson River School of Painting artist Asher B. Durand did a drawing of the Dover Stone Church.  

Dutchess County Historian Benson Lossing wrote a book entitled Dover Stone Church.

Dutchess Land Conservancy will hold a conservation easement over the land.


open fields, forest


hiking, fishing, picnicking


there are existing trails

(Source: Dutchess Land Conservancy Newsletter, Fall 2003.  "DLC, Town of Dover and Friends group work to preserve Dover Stone Church."

Another memory from the son of Benson Lossing:

Dover Stone Church Brook
Dutchess County, NY

"About a hundred feet off the road to Dover Plains from Pine Plains was the home of Bat O'Hearn sitting in an apple orchard. Nearby was a willow tree. "Below the tree, at the foot of a steep bank ran the Dover Stone Church Brook, deriving its name from a grotto formed in the rocks by the washing of the brook for ages." 107

"About two miles below O'Hearns, this grotto gave the appearance of the Gothic entrance to a church when one approached from the lower side. Upon entering the ‘church,' one would find the interior, about twenty-four feet square, with a well-proportioned Gothic roof and a fissure in the ridge of the ceiling where the sky showed through. A splendid growth of ferns hung down from over the edge.

"In the far end of the grotto was a long rock standing on end. It had evidently dropped from a crevice in the ceiling and formed an almost perfect pulpit. Back of this ‘pulpit' was a waterfall, from which flowed a brook around the gravelly floor of the ‘church.'

"The approach to this place from the village was through two gates and down a grassy lane. The path forded a stream and led up to a small grassy plateau which was used as a picnic ground, for which it was an ideal place. The ground was gravelly and dry, though kept green by the shade of trees and by the cool mist occasionally coming down the canyon from the waterfall in the grotto.

"Above the picnic ground was the beginning of the canyon leading to the grotto. Along the canyon's south side was the path, made of black cinders, to the right of which were high rocks. In many places, these rocks overhung the path and rose to heights of forty feet. They were beautifully green with moss and ferns." 108

Lossing, Thomas Sweet. 1997. My Heart Goes Home: A Hudson Valley Memoir. Fleischmanns, New York: Purple Mountain Press.

History/Dover Plains

17th century -- this was western Schaghticoke territory
here rocky ridges were revered as holy places

Dover Stone Church
a natural cavern near Dover Plains; among the Pequods it was seen as a special place that served as a shelter for Chief Sassacus as he fled the King Philip' War (1676). The cavern is a place of light passages and water sounds. Here were ancient petroglyphs. There is a natural stone arch leading into the place.

"The Wells"
near the "Stone Church" is a series of pools formed by the flow of Seven Wells Brook. There is a painting by Arthur Powell, one of the Dover Four expatriates from New York City who set up studios here during the WPA era and stayed to record the rural beauty of Dover. 33

settled by Dutch and English from western Dutchess and Connecticut as well as Quaker families from Pawling

Dover Plains named after the white chalk cliffs of the English Channel at Dover. Named for the marble in the area. In the Harlem Valley a northerly wall of rock in glacial eras checked soil movement.

There was a mountain pass to the Hudson River that is now NYS 343 near Dover Plains.

1807 -- Dover Plains separates from Pawling

1848 -- painting by Asher Durand of the Hudson River School of landscape art entitled "Dover Plains, Dutchess County, NY"

1850s -- communities on the rail line become stations.

Civil War -- John Henry Ketcham (1832-1906) appointed by NY Governor Morgan to the War Committee; he was later commissioned to raise the 150th NY Infantry. The war left him with a severe hearing loss. 44

Irish and Italians come seeking employment.

1903 -- Civil War General and then congressman John H. Ketcham honored by the new fire company that took his name: the John H. Ketcham Fire Company. 45

1906 -- funeral held for John H. Ketcham at his family's handsome Victorian house on the corner of Route 22 and Mill Street (now there is a delicatessen here)

1908 -- Union Free School, Dover Plains, was the first in tow n to house 12 grades.

Ghee, Joyce C. And Joan Spence. 1998. Image of America: Harlem Valley Pathways: Through Pawling, Dover, Amenia, North East, and Pine Plains. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.

Torrey Botanical Society Trip Report

Beginning at Pawling the party motored towards the Seven Wells which are about two miles below Dover Plains on the east slope of Chestnut Ridge.

Before reaching this destination we stopped just outside Dover Furnace along Route 22 to inspect a field of Quaker Ladies nestled in a narrow valley. About two or three acres were completely white as though Spring's last snowfall still lay on the ground in thin drifts. The patches which varied from white to violet blue bore a delicious fragrance in the hot sun. Outcropping of the late Cambrian limestone along the valley bore many Columbines and edgings of Early Saxifrage. Way up on the hillside Dogwood bloomed at frequent intervals, and at another corner of the little valley a group of Apple trees was in full bloom.

A diminutive violet, probably Viola fimbriatula, bloomed profusely among the Quaker ladies and occasional patches of Antennaria dioica were already commencing to present ripe seed heads to the spring winds. The whole place seemed like a little Alpine meadow according to one of the guests.

One limestone outcropping was covered with walking fern. Here and there were tufts of Campanula rotundifolia which will later spread a tint of blue against the ledges of white. Some plants of Columbine had possession of one portion, however, and we all agreed that limestone is the best background for these graceful red and yellow flowers.

Driving on the party came to Seven Wells. We crossed west over the railroad and a quarter mile further on parked the car and began the steep ascent to the top of Chestnut Ridge.

Seven Wells gets its name from the huge potholes which have been eaten out by a glacial stream that followed one of the numerous faults in this region. The waters tumble from one pothole into another, some being connected by six foot wide and thirty foot deep flumes. Most of the potholes are at the head of the ridge. Lower down the waters rush noisily over a series of falls and delightful little pools to the Ten Mile River below. Hemlocks on both sides shaded and cooled the slopes of the stream and plenty of laurel clustered around the dark green conifers.

Our most notable find was three flowering plants of Dirca palustris, not a common plant in these parts. A few flowers of Trailing Arbutus appeared as holdovers in this cool ravine. Their odor was eagerly sniffed by the party. Clean fresh green mats of Canada Mayflower were beginning to flower. Pink Lady Slippers had large buds, still green however. Trout Lily and Crinklewort appeared all over. Mountain Maple was noticeable in spots. Plenty of red-berried elder was in full bloom. Its refreshing perfume was noticed by all the party. Really, this spot seemed like a bit of the Catskills or Adirondacks transplanted way south. It seemed very wild and far away from the populated valley beneath.

Just before we reached where the stream dipped over the head of Chestnut Ridge the largest potholes came to view, some being almost thirty feet across. These are some of the largest in the east comparing with those at Lost River, New Hampshire.

Following the stream back we saw Marsh Marigold, Fringed Polygala, Viburnum alnifolium in blossom. Also Panax trifolium, Comptonia asplenifolia, Viola blanda, pubescens, rotundifolia, cucullata, papillionacea, and conspersa. The flowers of the Early Meadow Rue, were delicately beautiful especially the hazy purplish tinted staminate ones. Anemonella thalictroides and Anemone quinquefolia were very much in evidence. Azalea nudiflora was just commencing to bloom. Clumps of Golden Ragwort were almost open and likewise Erigeron pulchellus. Several fine clumps of Wild Ginger were also noticed.

We saw only the Purple Trillium and looked in vain for Canadian Yew in the Seven Wells locality, nor did we come across Goldthread. Possibly these and other plants of northern and cool mountainous altitudes may yet be located here. Certainly this ravine proved more interesting than the short spectacular beauty of the Old Stone Church Ravine at Dover Plains. In fact the Seven Wells locality took all our time and so we left the latter spot out of the trip entirely.

George Dillman