Journey’s End Road

Journey’s End Road, Croton-on-Hudson, NY

You know it, you love it, it’s Journey’s End Road! For you Taconic runners, it’s that road you pass that intersects with Blinn Road, near John Hand Park. For everyone else, unless you live on or near it, it’s a road you’ve probably driven by but never really noticed.

A few years ago, I went to a talk given by a local historian about Journey’s End Road, during which he kept mentioning the influence of the war on the area. It took me awhile to realize that he was talking about the Revolutionary War, not some pesky modern conflict.    He also told us that some of the houses still standing today (well, at least parts of them,) date as far back as Colonial times.  In fact, if my reading of Lincoln Diamant’s “Teatown Lake Reservation” is accurate, some or all of this area was part of Stephan’s Van Cortlandt’s original Dutch patent.

So yeah, this area has been settled by Europeans at least since the 1700s, and probably even longer.

Imagine that!

Now, according to an unpublished history by Patrick Persons, a descendent of original settlers, Journey’s End Road and its environs were quite bustling in the 1800s:

“This region south of the reservoir, east of the Croton River and north of New Castle was a bustling community of dairy farms and orchards and families interconnected for generations through marriage, church and proximity.  This particular intersection of roads (or highways, as the old records refer to them) was in many ways a hub of the neighborhood.  Here were the local schoolhouse and the Methodist Church, the Justice of the Peace who attended to the residents’ legal matters and also the location where each year folks came to pay their taxes.“

By the 20th century, many of the farms had been broken up and sold to wealthy actors, writers and industrialists who turned them into elegant country estates. While time has taken the luster of celebrity from most of these names, they were the Lin-Manuel Mirandas, the James Pattersons and the Steve Jobs’ of their time  — you know, the ones you read about in the New York Times today.  (Oh, wait, actually, I think James Patterson lives in Briarcliff.  Anyway . . .)

Some of the early 20th century notables (and subjects of future blog posts) who lived on and around Journey’s End were:

Holbrook Blinn, namer of Blinn Road and a famous actor/producer

Margaret Illington and Major Edward Bowes

Irvin S. Cobb, writer

George Doran, book publisher

Arthur S. Vernay – a very well-respected antiques dealer who specialized in items from England.  You know that house across the street from Teatown?  It’s called “The Croft” and was built by Vernay in 1913.

Dan Hanna, son of Ohio Senator Mark Hanna, and a wealthy real estate/newpaper magnate in his own right (he bought “The Croft” from Arthur Vernay.)

Michael Todd Jr. (son of Michael Todd, one of Liz Taylor’s husbands)

And Barnard College maintained a camp for its students on Journey’s End Road from 1938 to 1998. (DEFINITELY a blog post on this coming soon.  I graduated from Barnard in 1987 and don’t ever remember hearing about this camp.)

But more about Journey’s End Road itself:

You know those two houses you run by at the intersection of Journey’s End and Blinn Road?  The one on the north side is the site of the old schoolhouse, and the one on the south was the Yorktown Methodist Church.  Or maybe it’s the other way around — I’ve seen several maps that contradict each other on this point.  But know that you’re running by buildings that have had many lives.

The church, a simple wooden building, was built in the 1880s, and converted into a single family home by Ruth and Holbrook Blinn in about 1920.

The school was built in about the 1820s, and was active on the site through the 1880s. It was torn down in about 1928 by Ruth Blinn, who built the current house on the schoolhouse foundation after her husband passed away.

Now, indulge me while I take you down a little rabbit hole about the history of the schoolhouse — the above-referenced Patrick Persons did his research so deeply and scrupulously that I’m just going to share some more of what he wrote, verbatim:

“The 1859 Report of the Trustees of School District No. 10 in the Town of Yorktown reveals that there were sixty-four children between the ages of four and twenty-one living in the district.  Of these, thirty-five attended the school, though sporadically; only twelve of them attended for more than four months. Aaron L. Young was their teacher from November 1, 1858 to February 28, 1859 and Mary D. Hunter taught from May 1, 1859 to August 1, 1859. Together, they earned $131. Their school was a frame structure and they had a library with two hundred and sixty volumes.

A former student who attended “the old District School at the foot of what was then called Squeelberry Hill – now called Journeys End” shared his memories of the teaching methods of the 1870s.  He relates that in 1871 they had a male teacher who used the McGuffey Readers, Ray’s Practical Arithmetic and Brown’s English Grammar.  For grammar, the students were called to stand in rows and, one at a time, conjugate a given verb in the tense he requested.  This teacher stayed only a year and the following fall was replaced by a young female teacher with a much different teaching style.  She wrote a poem on the classroom blackboard for the students to memorize.  An excerpt follows below:

“I kiss, thou kissest” – don’t start, dear
Indicative plural, “we kiss.”
Clearly to fixe these examples,
Once more o’er the tense let us go:
“I kiss” – dear me, how imprudent!
I kiss, and you answer with, “Oh?”
Now, just at the moment of action,
Present gives way to the past;
You kissed and the verb is imperfect,
So short does your kissing act last.
“If I kiss” is present subjunctive –
I doubt if a kiss is my due –
“May I kiss?” I ask, in potential,
You answer imperative, “Do?”
Pluperfect “had” has no interest
Future with “shall” is for fools;
Perfect “I have” is prosate
I kiss, thou kissest, we kiss, dear,
Now, as we sit, seems so true
That I really think that the “present”
Is the best tense at present – don’t you?

The student claims that grammar improved that year due to the teacher’s clever method. This teacher was also unique in that she would walk home with her students to meet their parents and get to know the students’ ambitions. Another poem she shared with the class that sparked many conversations about their futures was:

I’d like to be a could-be
If I could not be an are.
For a could-be is a may-be
With a chance of touching par.
I’d rather be a has-been
Than a might-have-been by far.
For a might-have-been has never been,
But a has-been was an are.

Okay, if you made it this far, bravo! I think I’ve indulged myself at your expense long enough.  But those are some teaching methods, eh?

Isn’t it amazing the history you can discover if you dig just a little?

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