Knox's Headquarters: State Historic Site

Vails Gate, Orange County, New York


From Thruway (US l8o7) Exit 17 or I-84 Exit 7S, take NYS Route 300 south 2.5 miles to Vails Gate.  Turn left onto NYS Route 94.  Proceed to the next light and turn right onto Forge Hill Road. 

From South, NYS Route 9W, take Cornwall Exit.  Turn left onto County Route 107 and right on NYS Route 32 north to Vails Gate.  Turn right on NYS Route 94, proceed to the next light, and turn right onto Forge Hill Road. 


1741  --  the Ellison gristmill, powered by Silver Stream, built. 

1754  --  Georgian-style home built by stonemason William Bull.  John and Catharine Ellison lived here.  The Ellisons were prosperous merchants and millers. 

1775-1782  --  the Ellison family gristmill supplied much needed flour to the American troops.

General Henry Know, Chief of Artillery, occupied the Ellison house on four occasions.

1779 (June and July)  --  Knox and Nathanael Greene, Quartermaster General, both lived in the Ellison house.

1779  (fall) --  Knox occupied the house for ten weeks. 

1780-81 (winter)  ---  Knox and his vivacious wife Lucy (and their two small children) occupied the house.  He established a nearby artillery park to train his soldiers.

1782 (summer)  --  the Knox family returned for its final stay. 

After this, General Knox left to assume command of West Point.

1782 (early fall)  -- Dr. John Cochran, Director General of the Medical Department, stayed with the Ellisons.  Major General Horatio Gates contended with Cochran for the right to occupy the house.  Washington sided with Gates.  

1783  --  Gates occupied the house.  One of his staff officers, Major John Armstrong, sent two anonymous letters to the officers at the New Windsor Cantonment asking them to meet secretly and discuss complaints against Congress. 

1848  --  Benson Lossing drew a view of Knox's Headquarters.

not until 1888  -- the Ellison family sold the house. 

1918  --  the Knox Headquarters Association raised funds to purchase the property and preserve it as an historic site. 

1922  --  the Knox Headquarters Association deeded the property to the State of New York.

Jane Colden Native Plant Sanctuary

Jane Colden was both the daughter of the last Royal Lt. Governor of New York and also a botanist, Cadwallader Colden, and sister-in-law of the Ellison family.  Jane became the first woman botanist of North America. 

The Garden Clubs of Orange and Dutchess Counties dedicated a wildflower sanctuary at Knox's Headquarters in her memory and maintain it for the public's employment.


Upper Trail:  approximately 1.2 miles roundtrip, recommended for hiking and cross-county skiing, level of difficulty (easy). 

Lower Trail:  approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip, recommended for hiking only, level of difficulty (moderate).

5/02/05.  Ceferino Santana, dog Sonar and I walked the Upper Trail first.  We were up on a cliff looking down into a ravine with Silver Stream literally falling through it, often making a lot of news.  The stream flows into Moodna Creek.  The trail is shaped like a sperm with a long tail.  The head is the loop trail near the end of the property. 

Our next move to walk the Lower Trail.  We walked past the Jane Colden Plant Sanctuary and then down and over the Stone Bridge over Silver Stream.  On the other side of the Silver Stream Bridge we turned left and head down along Silver Stream to its junction with Moodna Creek.  Then we walked right along Moodna Creek.  When we finally came to the stone wall, we had to turn around and go back the way we came in. 

This is a very good place, period.  Dr. Patrick L. Cooney. 

Dr. Patrick L. Cooney

* = blooming on date of field trip, 5/02/2005

Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
Amelanchier arborea (shadbush) *
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Carya tomentosa (mockernut hickory)
Cercis canadensis (red bud) planted  *
Crataegus sp. (hawthorn)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Ostrya virginiana (American hop hornbeam)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) *
Forsythia sp. (golden bells) *
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
Rhododendron maximum (rosebay rhododendron)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Sambucus canadensis (common elderberry) *
Staphylea trifolia (bladdernut) *
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)
Vinca minor (periwinkle) *

Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis sp. (grape)

Actaea sp. (baneberry)
Aegopodium podagraria (goutweed)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) *
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit)
Asarum canadense (wild ginger)
Aster spp. (aster)
Cardamine concatenata (cut-leaved toothwort) *
Caulophyllum thalictroides (blue cohosh)
Claytonia virginica (spring beauty) *
Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches)
Epifagus virginiana (beech drops)
Erythronium americanum (trout lily)
Galium aparine (cleavers)
Geum canadense (white avens)
Glechoma hederacea (gill-over-the-ground) *
Impatiens sp. (jewelweed)
Leonurus cardiaca (motherwort)
Mitella diphylla (miterwort)
Narcissus sp. (daffodil) *
Podophyllum peltatum (may apple)
Polygonatum biflorum (smooth true Solomon's seal)
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed)
Prenanthes altissima (tall white lettuce)
Ranunculus abortivus (kidney-leaved crowfoot) *
Ranunculus ficaria (lesser celandine)  *
Ranunculus recurvatus (hooked crowfoot)
Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)
Smilacina racemosa (false Solomon's seal)
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) *
Thalictrum dioicum (early meadowrue) *
Trillium erectum (red trillium ) *
Veronica officinalis (common speedwell)
Viola pubescens (yellow forest violet) *
Viola sororia (common blue violet) *

Carex sp. (sedge)

Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)