Headless Horseman Blog

About historic Sleepy Hollow and its environs…

Tag: legend of sleepy hollow

Washington Irving’s “The Angler”… Curtain-Raiser to the “Legend”

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

2019 is the bicentennial year!

Title Page - Serial No. 1 of The Sketch Book

Title Page – Serial No. 1 of The Sketch Book

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was completed by Washington Irving 200 years ago, in 1819.  The work in which it appears, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. was published in installments during 1819 and 1820.  Soon collected editions of the The Sketch Book appeared in Britain and the United States.  The next-to-last offering in what we know as Washington Irving’s, The Sketch Book, is entitled “The Angler.”  It is the “sketch” which precedes “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”  But, to be “precise and authentic,” there is a short, final, three-page epilogue entitled, “L’Envoy,” which follows “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and ends The Sketch Book.

“The Angler” did not always precede “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” only from 1848 onward when Irving issued the “Author’s Revised Edition” of The Sketch Book.  Though written in England, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was first published in the United States.  It appeared on March 15, 1820, in serial issue  “No. VI.”  The first appearance of “The Angler” came later in that year, in serial issue  “No. VII.” and it was the closing “sketch” of the first edition.  But, posterity knows it now as the “the curtain-raiser” to “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” due to the fact that, in 1848, Washington Irving considered “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” to be the most compelling “finale” to The Sketch Book.

Brook Trout— Currier and Ives

Brook Trout— Currier and Ives

In “The Angler,” Irving neglects to mention his own very earliest experiences on a trout stream in Sleepy Hollow, although some of that first experience certainly seeped into the pages of both “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and “The Angler.”  These angling forays began in the summer of 1798, when Washington was the youngest and frailest child of the Irving family of New York City.  Waves of yellow fever that summer visited the port city of New York, a regrettable side effect of its trade with the Southern States.  Irving’s family worried that one such wave of the fever might carry the fifteen-year-old boy away. 

James Kirke Paulding

James Kirke Paulding

Washington Irving’s family sent him for the summer to the Hudson River community of Tarrytown, New York.  There, a few years before, his oldest brother William had married Julia Paulding, at the Paulding home on the Tarrytown waterfront.  Julia was the daughter of a formerly prosperous merchant, William Paulding, and she was the sister of James Kirke Paulding, who would, in time, become one of Irving’s literary collaborators.  (Note, the many Paulding children were also the cousins of local, Revolutionary War hero, John Paulding.)  The marriage significantly linked the Irving and Paulding families.

Pocantico freshet and bridge

Pocantico freshet and bridge

Steiner trout fishing

Steiner trout fishing

That summer of 1798, James K. Paulding served as Irving’s guide through the forests and along the streams of the Pocantico River Valley, in nearby Sleepy Hollow.  Paulding was an experienced woodsman who had in part sustained his family (when still a child) through his hunting and fishing acumen.  That was during the post-Revolutionary War years, while Paulding’s father languished in the county jail, for debt.  Irving later remembered that it was during his 1798 visit that, “I first tried my unpracticed hand at fishing.”  Irving recalled, “A thousand crystal springs… sent down from the hill-sides their whimpering rills, as if to pay tribute to the Pocantico…. I delighted to follow it into the brown recesses of the woods; to throw by my fishing gear aside and sit upon rocks beneath towering oaks and clambering grapevines…. My boyish fancy clothed all nature around me with ideal charms, and peopled it with the fairy beings I had read of in poetry and fable.” 

A few years following the great success of The Sketch Book, James K. Paulding chimed in with a friendly critique of Washington Irving’s angling ability: “He was the worst fisherman we ever knew…”

W.I. about ten years before The Sketch Book

W.I. about ten years before The Sketch Book

Irving’s purpose in “The Angler” may have something to do with tact and international diplomacy.  His earlier Sketch Book numbers had already charmed both sides of the Atlantic.  In many of the sketches, Irving sought to maintain a charming and disarming American perspective on aspects of life in Britain.  Of course, he accomplishes this while demonstrating uncommon literary sophistication.  He is entertaining,  poking fun at Americans and Britons alike, but he never “cuts” too deeply.  Where he jokes, it is generally good-natured fare.  An Anglophile and devotee of English Letters, Irving arrived in Britain only a few years after America’s conflict with Great Britain in the War of 1812, making his enthusiastic reception by British readers and British literary critics all the more startling.  He seemed to show through his writings that he had come to Britain with an open heart, and, surely, much of his literary art and style resonated well with this audience, as it “looked back” to antecedents of British literature’s Classical Age and incorporated contemporary traits of English Romanticism.

Fishing Creel

Fishing Creel

Washington Irving was on a tour of Wales from July 31, 1815 to August 14, 1815.  He toured with a traveling companion (James Renwick), kept a journal, and recorded having enjoyed a number of local trout and grayling dinners.  The journal sheds almost no light on the subjects covered in “The Angler.”  Irving appears to have had little interaction with Welsh country folk on that trip, although he recorded his impressions of the countryside and some figures in Welsh history.  After completing the tour, he arrived in Liverpool where he was beset with family business problems.  Those troubling issues would continue to unsettle him until the bankruptcy of his brothers’ export partnership in 1818.  Irving was associated with the business as a kind of junior partner, but his personal finances were apparently bound up in it.  A year after the Wales excursion he would travel to Derbyshire with his brother Peter (August of 1816).  They were following the “tracks” of early, British, angling authority, Izaak Walton.  Irving would take yet another excursion through the Welsh countryside with his brother Peter and William C. Preston, in late June, 1817.

Sir Henry Wotton

Sir Henry Wotton

“The Angler” begins with a motto in verse.  The poem runs eight lines and is credited to Sir Henry Wotton.  This man was an early-seventeenth-century English diplomat who, late in his life, enjoyed fishing on a particular section of the River Thames with famed, seventeenth-century, English, angling authority, Izaak Walton.

“The Angler” is a relatively short piece, consisting of twenty-one paragraphs.  It suggests to us how varied a work The Sketch Book actually is.  If we believe that the “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is representative of The Sketch Book as a whole, we mistake its nature.  Nor is the “The Angler” typical of the collection,  although the two pieces do have aspects in common. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and “The Angler” share a humorous tongue-in-cheek tone.  The two also exhibit rustic backdrops and occasional moments of sentimentality.  Astoundingly, both sketches include a charactacter or person who was maimed by a cannonball!  But, “The Angler,” unlike “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is a work of nonfiction.  One could called it an essay or a short memoir.  Let’s examine it more closely.

Izaak Walton

Izaak Walton

The “sketch” begins (paragraph one) as the narrator observes how the legacy of seventeenth-century author/angler, Izaac Walton, and his book, The Compleat Angler (1653) are popular among young gentlemen in America.  The book has seduced many American young men into, what Irving describes as, “angling mania.”  It is much the same kind of allure created by the book, Robinson Crusoe, and the manner in which that story inspired boys to run off to sea.   “The “Angler’s” narrator, and a group of his friends, were inspired by reading Walton’s The Compleat Angler one winter, and by early summer they were ready to venture together on a quixotic adventure along one of America’s country streams.

The Compleat Angler

The Compleat Angler

We then meet (paragraph two) the novice fisherman.  In this case, one whose attention to the requisite dress and accoutrements of the sport greatly outweigh his skill, causing him to appear absurd.  He is a common character type in  English literature with precursors reaching back to the cross-gartered Malvolio of Shakespeare’s, Twelfth Night.  In twentieth century American Western cinema, the “dude” or “tenderfoot” is the newly-tailored and ludicrously-bedecked cowboy who arrives at the ranch, never having “thrown” a rope in his life.

Cascade Pool at high water

Cascade Pool at high water

Washington Irving contrasts (paragraph three) the typical English trout stream  with one in his native United States.  In this case, the American stream is a rough, steep brook set in the terrain of the Hudson River Highlands.  The narrator then contrasts his impressions of that stream with a typically placid English trout stream.  He later returns to the American stream, which presents itself as an angry torrent.  He describes how it runs its course and becomes agreeably peaceful as it descends to more level terrain.  The paragraph ends with, perhaps, a bit of gratuitous misogyny.  The narrator likens the stream to a housewife who is petulant and difficult at home, but who walks out in public with the phony air of sweet good-nature. 

Gentlemen fishing

Gentlemen fishing

There follows (paragraph four) a short reflection about “home.”  It is an earnest and tender revery, invoking the memory of a cherished rural scene in the narrator’s country.   He places before us a scene of peace and calm along a rustic brook, with a final exclamatory note to convey the strength of his affection for it.

"Brook Trout Fishing"— Currier and Ives

“Brook Trout Fishing”— Currier and Ives

The next angler “type” is introduced (paragraph five), “the bungler.”  Here we have a self-effacing portrait of the narrator as an angler.  He believes he lacked the required “patience and adroitness” for angling, and he finally abandoned the pursuit in favor of meditating and dreaming under the trees, coming to the realization that it was the idea of angling that had bewitched him and not the actual practice.  The narrator watches his companions continue their hunt as they remain comfortable in their delusions.   The creatures of the forest are alarmed at this unsettling intrusion on their domain.   

The narrator remembers (paragraph six) that, after a day of these inept efforts, the squad of over-equipped gentlemen had little to show for their exertions.  Then appeared a young country boy to illustrate the contrast of the proficient “urchin,” who, equipped with the crudest equipment, puts the older,  empty-handed  amateurs to shame.

The narrator (should we say Irving?) remembers (paragraph seven),  there was a special camaraderie in the group as the friends sat about in the woods having lunch. This beautiful scene was completed by readings aloud of passages from Walton.  He remembers the warm feelings they shared as the group rested by the stream. We learn that the narrator’s memory was triggered by his more recent experience on the River Alun in Wales. 

Welsh country village

Welsh country village

The storyteller relates (paragraph eight) his experience on that Welsh stream.  [The River Alun empties into the River Dee about twenty miles south of Liverpool in England.]  He encounters a weathered old man with a wooden leg coaching his “two rustic disciples” in the art of angling.  One of these followers could be typed “the poacher” from his slightly cagey manner.   The other is labeled “a tall, awkward country lad.”  Our narrator refers to an old treatise on fishing which bespeaks the pure and unoffending nature of the average fisherman and touts the spiritual and moral benefits of the sport.  The old man’s clothes are covered with many neat patches, and his face looks weathered though easygoing.  The narrator claims that, since reading Izaak Walton, he has a “kind feeling” for those who fish.  [In a footnote at the end of this paragraph, the narrator remarks on how Walton turns the accustomed image of the idle and perhaps uncouth fisherman on its head, gracing the angler with an image of industry and spiritual devotion.] 

The storyteller believes (paragraph nine) he can read into the character of the old man an attractive, “cheerful contentedness.”  This energetic and skilled  instructor declaims to his listeners how best to hold the rod and the proper use of the other equipment.  The beauty of the Welsh countryside is noted.

The narrator then (paragraph ten) joins the old angler for the better part of a day, encouraging him to speak broadly on angling. For “who does not like now and then to play the sage?”  The angler is spurred on to provide details about his life in general.

Sleepy Hollow historian and recreation supervisor at a trout stocking event

Sleepy Hollow historian and Sleepy Hollow recreation supervisor at a trout stocking event

The old angler tells the narrator (paragraph eleven) that he spent many of his youthful years in America, where he was ruined by an unscrupulous business partner.  He tells the story of how he lost his leg—carried away by a cannonball when he served in the British Navy.  [Note that, in the story which follows “The Angler,” there is a character—the Headless Horseman—who has also lost a body part through the agency of a cannonball!]  Due to this wound, the old man enjoys the benefit of a pension amounting to nearly forty pounds-per-year, which funds his (to his mind) comfortable retirement.  In the words of the narrator, “This was the only stroke of real good-fortune he had ever experienced…”  It enabled him to retire to his native village and live the life of an avid fisherman of modest means.

The old man, too, has an appreciation (paragraph twelve) of Walton’s famous book on the subject of angling.  His manner is generally outgoing and positive by nature.  He does not appear to carry any ill will toward the United States for his business misfortune in America.  One of the old man’s “students”—the tall awkward one—was the son of a stout widow who kept the village inn.  No doubt the old man hopes that this will secure a favored place for him at the inn’s fireside and an occasional free drink in years to come.

Stream and mill dam, Sleepy Hollow

Stream and mill dam, Sleepy Hollow

Anglers, while exacting cruel torments (paragraph thirteen) on the live bait they use, tend to be, by nature, gentle and serene.  The English are adept and systematic at “softening” nature.  Walton refers to the beneficial religious ministrations  which are received by the dedicated angler as he walks in a “meadow along some gliding stream.”  To him, it is a God-affirming experience.

[We are here offered fourteen lines (paragraph fourteen) of poetry credited to “J. Davors.”  In The Sketch Book, Irving supplies a footnote to that effect.  These lines are extracted from Walton’s Compleat Angler, where they are attributed to “J. Davors, Esq.”  The lines can be more accurately attributed to British author John Dennys and his 1613 book, The Secrets of Angling.  “Let me live harmlessly [[…etc.]]”  The source of the poem is said to have been misattributed for 198 years.]

The narrator (paragraph fifteen) seeks the old man out in his country village, arriving at the one-room cottage a few evenings later.  The modest home is described in detail.  This section of the sketch seems intended to show the wholesome, simple lifestyle of a humble Briton.

We meet the man’s cat (paragraph sixteen) and his parrot.  The reader hears of the orderly interior of the cottage, and the ingenuity with which the modest home is arraigned.  The old man is regularly mopping and sweeping it to keep it tidy.

The narrator describes (paragraph seventeen) the simple pleasures the man enjoys.  The old angler speaks of his fishing activities that day—the big trout he caught.  He tells of sending the fish to the woman who keeps the inn—presumably to enhance whatever good will he enjoys there.

Pocantico River, a pool

Pocantico River, a pool

The narrator praises the man (paragraph eighteen), approves his peaceful contentment, and admires the happiness he carries within him. He hails the old angler’s  good nature.

We learn that the old man (paragraph nineteen) is a “universal favorite in the village and the oracle of the tap-room…”. To that is added, “his life was quiet and inoffensive…”

Fishing signage

Fishing signage

The angler is a regular (paragraph twenty) attendee at church services (sleeping during sermons), and he desires to be buried in the churchyard where the remains of his parents lie.  He can see that very gravesite as he looks out the window from his seat in church.

The narrator speaks (paragraph twenty-one) of ending his story, fearing he has wearied his readers.  He loves the idea of fishing, but the practice of it will always elude him.  He closes with a tongue-in-cheek blessing on the reader, adapted from Izaak Walton, who hopes that the reader will trust in God, “and be quiet [peaceful], and go a-angling.” 

Young Alex Steiner of the Sleepy Hollow "Rock Rollers"

Young Alex Steiner of the Sleepy Hollow “Rock Rollers”

In “The Angler,” Irving is certainly entertaining, and his style is as proficient and cultivated as any author writing in English at the time.  But he is not brilliant.  The piece is illustrative of where Irving’s whimsy might carry him.  Still, the sketch sets the scene for the final story of The Sketch Book.   We will find the voice and tone of “The Angler” employed in one of the truly brilliant works of American Literature, the virtuoso performance of Irving in ”The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” 

 

 

[Copyright © 2019 Henry John Steiner]

Andre’s Tree – The Vanished Landmark

Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

I wrote the following piece many years ago, prodded by the knowledge that Andre’s Tree was a real, historic  – though now extinct – landmark.  My researches in local history taught me that many well-intentioned writers of the 19th and 20th centuries had, through ignorance and misinterpretation, consigned this important landmark to mythological status…

Major John Andre

Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown once had an impressive, living landmark which stood near what is today the border of the two villages.  André’s Tree was an ancient, enormous tulip or white-wood tree which towered over the Post Road until 1801.  According to Washington Irving’s friend, James K. Paulding, it stood “About half a quarter of a mile south of Clark’s Kill bridge, on the high-road….”  In other words, it stood roughly where Broadway passes Warner Library today.

Where Andre's Tree once stood—near the parking lot entry to Warner Library, Tarrytown

Where Andre’s Tree once stood—near the parking lot entry to Warner Library, Tarrytown

The American Citizen newspaper of August 25, 1801, reported that the tree was destroyed by lightning on Saturday, July 21, 1801.  It measured 29 feet around at the base, 111 feet in height, 106 feet in diameter at the crown.  Some local folk preserved pieces of the tree as keepsakes.  The newspaper also recorded that the lightening strike was said to have occurred on the day that news of Benedict Arnold’s death in England arrived at Tarrytown.

A cluster of tulip trees in the Sleepy Hollow section of Patriots' Park, about 300 yards from where Andre's Tree once stood

A cluster of tulip trees in the Sleepy Hollow section of Patriots’ Park, about 300 yards from where Andre’s Tree once stood

As the name suggests, the tree is associated with the momentous capture of the British spy, Major John André, and, indeed, there is a tradition that André was either stopped or searched directly under the tree.  However, the actual capture site lay at the intersection of André Brook and the Albany Post Road, approximately two hundred yards to the north. 

Patriots' Park tulip tree leaves

Patriots’ Park tulip tree leaves

On another score, General Jacob Odell recalled that the tree served as an enlistment station for patriots of the vicinity during the spring of 1776.  He and three cousins from the Irvington area, rode or walked up the Post Road to enlist with the local militia in the June of 1776.

The tree is associated with several spurious traditions too, among them:

  • That Major André was hanged at the tree
  • That the tree was destroyed upon receipt of the news of André’s death in Tappan
  • That the tree stood along André Brook.

The name, “Major André’s tree,” appears in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1819).  Washington Irving described the tree from first-hand observations made roughly twenty years earlier.  It is not clear when the tree was first given the name, André’s Tree, but the name appears to have originated after the destruction of the tree itself.  A remarkable feature of the tree is that it stood, literally, in the middle of the road.  That is, the road split to either side of the tree, a unique circumstance even in that day.

A tulip tree in Patriots' Park, Sleepy Hollow

A tulip tree in Patriots’ Park, Sleepy Hollow

The extensive description of the tree in the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” may be well worth revisiting.  “Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate André was taken.”  Irving goes on, “The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights and doleful lamentations told concerning it.”  The narrator of the story refers to it as a”fearful tree.”

Christopher Coles mislabeled Andre's Tree an oak in his 1789 survey.

Christopher Coles mislabeled Andre’s Tree an oak in his 1789 survey.

When he was writing the story in 1819, Irving may have been unaware that the tree had been destroyed by lightning nearly twenty years earlier.  If he was accurately describing the tree from his own youthful observations, André’s Tree had been the target of earlier lightning strikes:  “As he approached a little nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the midst of the tree—he paused and ceased whistling, but on looking more narrowly, he perceived that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning, and the white wood laid bare.”

It appears that the tree continued to serve as a convenient reference point even after it was gone.  In 1845 a local Revolutionary War veteran, Samuel Lyon, recalled that he was in a detachment chasing enemy loyalist troops on September 4, 1781, when he observed the enemy troopers, “near André’s great white wood tree.”  Lyon had seen them from the hill above the Old Dutch Church, but the enemy slipped away before he and his comrades could attack them.

The twentieth century nearly banished André’s Tree to the realm of myth.  It was, however, a real, living and unique landmark coloring the life and traditions of this community in its earliest days, and even a monument of purely Native American times.  A great part of what the tree really was, lives on.  It’s image is stamped in the pages of one of America’s great works of fiction.

Copyright  2012, 2019 Henry John Steiner

 

Andre Brook, Andre’s Tree, Benedict Arnold, HeadlessHorseman, James K. Paulding, John Paulding, legend of sleepy hollow, Major John Andre, sleepy hollow, Tarrytown, washington irving

An Interesting Map

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

The writer, Henry John Steiner, at the NYPL many years later

The writer, Henry John Steiner, at the NYPL many years later

Many years ago, during the 1980s, I would occasionally take my lunch hour at the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library. What attracted me to the “Main Branch” was its impressive map division, located in the bowels of the enormous library, which one could access on the 42nd Street side.  As conscious as I was of its riches, I was acutely aware that I really did not know how to properly access its resources.  I would “fish” through the catalogue searching for intriguing maps relating to the history of Sleepy Hollow or Tarrytown, but, all in all, my process was pretty much hit-or-miss.

My allotted lunchtime would often be gone before I could hit on something especially interesting.  Walking up the service counter, I would submit my request and wait with my fingers crossed, counting the minutes until my order materialized—or until I got word that it could not be found.  The sands of time drifted away, and, if I was lucky, I would be called to pick up my selection.  A quirk of the process was that a successful search for a promising map was not necessarily repeatable.  A cartographic gem plucked from the labyrinth of the map department might simply be misplaced in the collection once I returned it.  Depending on who behind the counter put it away and who was called upon to produce it once more—I might not see it again.  “Sorry, it seems to be temporarily missing.”  I acquired a touch of gambler’s exhilaration when I could actually access the same item twice.

Read More

The Last Days of Washington Irving

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

 

A Genius for Writing

Washington Irving

Washington Irving

 

I tend to see Washington Irving as a master of Literature’s Classical Age as well as its Romantic Age. His style might be called a hybrid of those two epochs. It is difficult to say exactly how Irving emerged in Federal America with such a strong and polished voice on only a basic education. He seemed to have been born fully-formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus, a product of the American consciousness, but with unmistakable British overtones. These he took no pains to conceal. I think Irving can hardly be censured for turning to British models when we consider the spare American literary legacy that was his—the moralizing of Cotton Mather and Benjamin Franklin. Washington Irving’s youthful, satirical writings in Salmagundi and Knickerbocker’s History of New York displayed a brilliant and confident style indebted to Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, and perhaps Pope and Johnson. Those who do not think of Irving as also a Romantic need only turn to his writings on the Hudson River and spirit of Christmas. His achievement was greatly admired by the writers of his time, both home and abroad.

Read More

“Seven Dollars in My Pocket”

JameskPaulding

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

Some time between 1796 and 1797, eighteen-year-old James Kirke Paulding boarded a market sloop at Tarrytown with seven dollars in his pocket. He was headed for Manhattan to seek his fortune. Paulding was a homegrown Tarrytowner, and he knew the people and the landscape by heart. His family lived by Tarrytown Bay. The Pauldings were forced to flee from Tarrytown during the Revolutionary War years and settle into self-imposed exile in northern Westchester. James K. Paulding was born at Great Nine Partners near Peekskill, in 1778.

Read More

A Book About the Real Sleepy Hollow

coverIn the years following the reclaiming of the name of Sleepy Hollow in 1996, I received many inquiries for information about the real, historic village of Sleepy Hollow.  As the village historian, I found it difficult to reply to them all.  Many of the questions I received had to do with how the historic village relates to the famous story.  It was then that I began to write the material included in The Historically Annotated Legend of Sleepy Hollow, though it was actually many years before the book was published.  It is now available…

Read More

The Old Dam—Sleepy Hollow, Part III Favorite Places

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

So, after describing a couple of places in Irvington and Tarrytown, it’s time for me to turn to Sleepy Hollow…

IMG_6036

I would have a personal connection with this place if only because it offered me a convenient escape to tranquility and solitude. Today at the old dam, you will no longer hear the crank and sputter of the vanished millwheel; the Lister brothers ran a “bone and button” mill here in the nineteenth century. Nor will one hear the huff and chug of the Pocantico Tool & Die Works, the second mill that occupied this site, in the late 1800s. Nor will you hear the shouts and splashes of the Webber Park neighbors who plunged into the now vanished millpond on a hot summer day. It is a place that has been returned to nature, dedicated to the sound, sight, taste, and feel of a historic trout stream and its legendary valley.

Read More

The Headless Horseman’s Headlessness

Image

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

Something Headless This Way Comes…

“There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling.  It was soon fearfully accounted for.”  Years ago a friend suggested that the headlessness of the Headless Horseman would be intriguing to contemplate.  It’s true that the horseman represents or symbolizes something more than your average bogeyman.  Why is a headless ghost on horseback more terrifying than, say, just a ghost on horseback?  What does a character without a head symbolize?

Read More

Andre’s Tree – The Vanished Landmark

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

I wrote the following piece many years ago, prodded by the knowledge that Andre’s Tree was a real, historic  – though now extinct – landmark.  My researches in local history taught me that many well-intentioned writers of the 19th and 20th centuries had, through ignorance and misinterpretation, consigned this important landmark to mythological status…

Major John Andre

The Vanished Landmark

by Henry Steiner

Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown once had an impressive, living landmark which stood near what is today the border of the two villages.  André’s Tree was an ancient, enormous tulip or white-wood tree which towered over the Post Road until 1801.  According to Washington Irving’s friend, James K. Paulding, it stood “About half a quarter of a mile south of Clark’s Kill bridge, on the high-road….”  In other words, it stood roughly where Broadway passes Warner Library today.

Read More

“I believe it was the very peculiarity of the name…”

The Mill Dam at Philipsburg, Sleepy Hollow

“I believe it was the very peculiarity of the name, and the idea of something mystic and dreamy connected with it, that first led me, in my boyish ramblings, into Sleepy Hollow.  The character of the valley seemed to answer to the name; the slumber of past ages apparently reigned over it; it had not awakened to the stir of improvement, which had put all the rest of the world in a bustle.  Here reigned good old long-forgotten fashions; the men were in homespun garbs, evidently the product of their own farms, and the manufacture of their own wives; the women were in primitive short gowns and petticoats, with the venerable sun-bonnets of Holland origin.  The lower part of the valley was cut up into small farms, each consisting of a little meadow and corn-field; an orchard of sprawling, gnarled apple trees, and a garden, where the rose, the marigold, and the hollyhock were permitted to skirt the domains of the capacious cabbage, the aspiring pea, and the portly pumpkin.  Each had its prolific little mansion, teeming with children; with an old hat nailed against the wall for the house-keeping wren; a motherly hen, under a coop on the grass-plot, clucking to keep around her a brood of vagrant chickens; a cool stone well, with the moss-covered bucket suspended to the long balancing pole, according to the antediluvian idea of hydraulics; and its spinning-wheel humming within doors, the patriarchal music of home manufacture….”

–Washington Irving

 

dutch, ghost, headless horseman, history, legend of sleepy hollow, philipsburg, sleepy hollow, Tarrytown, Washington Irving

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén