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Beacon City

Beacon City Hall is located at 1 Municipal Center, Beacon NY 12508; phone: 845-838-5000.

Beginnings [1]

Beacon marks the spot where Fishkill Creek flows into the Hudson River. Mills and factories lined the creek and river shores. The streets of frame cottages sheltered by elms and maples wound up and down and along the steep slopes of the two valleys. The better homes lay along the slope of the Hudson; those of the middle class covered slopes above the Fishkill; and the poorer homes alternated with the mills along the creek edge, or hugged the terraces which rose to the rugged side of Mount Beacon on the south. In the 1930s, much of the corporate boundaries of the city were distinctly rural.

Beacon was the first city in New York to be governed by a Board of Commissioners, and one of the first in the United States.

The site of Beacon was included within the territory covered by the Rombout Patent; the land was purchased from the Indians in 1683. It is said that in the bargaining the Indians agreed to transfer to Rombout all "the land that he could see," but did not specify that the view was to be confined to the valley where he stood. Rombout led them to the summit of South Beacon mountain, and extending his arm toward the northward and eastward, laid claim to the vast expanse of rolling hills and forests that lay beneath their gaze. The Indians had made their bargain and they held to it. The patent was based upon the wide boundaries of this purchase.

The earliest recorded mention of this locality by a European was that made by the mate of the Half Moon, which on the trip down the river was compelled by the whims of the weather to lie for a day in the present city of Beacon. The log of the voyage mentions the mountains and refers to the site of Beacon as an admirable townsite.

For nearly three-quarters of a century after the visit of the Half Moon there were no permanent white settlers in Dutchess County. The first was Nicholas Emigh, who settled at the mouth of Fishkill Creek, within the present city limits, in 1682. Emigh, a Hollander and a soldier under Prince Rupert in the warfare against Cromwell, came to America with Robert Livingston about 1672. He was married on shipboard, and, with his wife, settled in this nearly unbroken wilderness. Their daughter was the first white child born within the precincts of Dutchess County. The next permanent settler was Peche Dewall, a squatter, who located at Fishkill Landing in the spring of 1688. His wife helped him to clear the forest and till his land. In the fall he had a tolerable crop; and in the winter he built a hand-sled and went to New York, bought a half-bushel of salt and a side of sole leather, and drew it home over a road then but an Indian trail.

  1. Workers of the Dutchess County Unit, Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, Dutchess County, American Guide Series, William Penn Association, 1937, Philadelphia.
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