Claudius Smith: fact and fiction

CLAUDIUS SMITH: Fact and Fiction
An overview by: Lil Heselton

Claudius Smith appears to generate many stories - which are no more far fetched now than they were when he was still alive. Almost every Orange County family seems to have a story. The most outrageous stories I have found are of the ghosts of Claudius Smith. Apparently there is a ghost that guards his cave. Strange lights have been sighted at night coming from inside and around the cave. Apparently many natives of the region will not enter his cave to this day because of fearful sightings. There is another ghost that late at night makes strange knockings and noises from inside the walls of the Goshen Courthouse. Some say it is Claudius because they cemented his head into the cornerstone. These stories come from many different sources, one of which is the Ghosts of Ohio internet site created by Jim Willis. As well as another source, the Budke file, quoted later in this paper.

It is very difficult to actually document anything on Claudius. It is not surprising that he left no will – he hadn't planned on being hung and, further, his stories seem to create a man with an ego that wouldn't allow for mere mortality. A will would not have been valid even if there had been one as all "enemies" of the state had their lands confiscated. The only reference I have found of Claudius Smith's property is in a booklet called Old Orange Houses. On page 17 it states: "one Phineas Rumsey signed the Pledge of Association at Goshen…who also is said to have put the Tory spoiler Claudius Smith and his wife from the house (Rumsey's Silver Spring Farm) although both the wife and mother of Claudius were of the Rumsey family". It is very likely that Claudius never had property of his own as his father outlived him. While Claudius farmed he probably worked with his father.

There do not appear to be either birth or marriage records. His first wife's name is unproven but one of his later wives is generally believed to be Abigail Rumsey: (Jean Rumsey, Descendants of Simon Rumsey, and the Bull Genealogy quoted below). Abigail was almost the age of some of Claudius' children and Jean Rumsey documents a story that Claudius kidnapped Abigail, married her in Oxford Co., and shortly after their return, Abigail went back to her family. Several other genealogies including Predmore's Smith of Smith's Clove and the Meta Smith Bush Smith and Allied Families and therefore the Hurd, Smith Family History 1648-1779 suggest perhaps Claudius' wife was Jerusha Rumsey, Abigail's oldest sister. There is some speculation from unknown members of the Hulse family quoted by Jean Rumsey, and her source Myrtle Edwards, that Claudius' first wife was Harriet Hulse. All sources seem to indicate Claudius was a man of several wives both of the official and common-law variety. His death is documented - most hangings are. The rest is only as good as the storyteller's bias. Here are some of the tidbits I have received from many able genealogists, particularly Jeannie Killickbrick, who sent me excerpts from various sources, Kurt Yatto who generously researched files in Orange and Rockland counties for me, and Tony Hurd who sent me a copy of his family genealogy. Some facts are actually documented. Some of the writings are almost contemporary – although even that does not exclude the power of notoriety and the desire for a good story.

SOURCE: Jean Rumsey, F.A.S.G., Descendants of Simon Rumsey of Southold Long Island, 1961 rev 1990

Claudius: b 1735 Brookhaven, L.I. d. 22 Jan 1779 – hanged in Goshen, Orange Co. NY

m1: Harriet Hulse – pr Hulse fam only. No proof; said to be mother of Samuel Smith who m. Mary Mapes Braffit.

m.2: prob. Abigail Rumsey- 1762 Oxford, Orange Co. NY – "as per a Matthews notebook in Goshen Library" JME(Myrtle Edwards) dau of Simon and Phoebe Rose Rumsey & sister of Jerusha Above (listed as m. David Smith). She left Claudius & ret'd to her family in Goshen

m.3 Tuthill of Oxford, Orange County (per Tuthill fam info; but she and Claudius were never married.- JME)

VES (Victor E Shelford) wrote in 1950: "David (b. 1707, d. 1787, wife unknown) moved from Brookhaven LI in 1747 and acquired land which includes the present village of Monroe…Claudius was a black sheep; he joined the forces of the British…Claudius married Jerusha Rumsey…After the execution of her husband Jerusha lived with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Youngs…"

It has long been thought that Jerusha Rumsey was the wife of the notorious Tory, Claudius Smith but Mrs. Myrtle Edwards has concluded that she was his step-mother and sister –in-law instead…There is apparently some evidence (which I (Jean Rumsey) have not seen), that Claudius Smith had Rumsey brother-in-law, (see below) which had led to the belief that his wife was Jerusha Rumsey, and that she had been omitted from her father's will because of his notorious reputation. But she became his stepmother instead, by marrying his father David, while Claudius probably married Abigail Rumsey, one of her young sisters.

It was reported that Claudius Smith kicked off his boots before he was hung, because "My mother said that I would die like a Troopers horse, with my shoes on. I want to make her out the liar that she is." He was apparently referring to his stepmother Jerusha. (JME)

JME, who has Smith ancestry, has worked on this problem for many years, so I am inclined to accept her version, though I do not have access to such proof as she has found. In 1986 she sent me a photo of "Tool house on Rumsey Farm in East Division in which Claudius Smith locked the Rumsey family when he took off with their daughter & went to Oxford where he married her in 1762. Located in back of the house. Myrtle Edwards"

SOURCE: Legal Executions in New York State, 1639-1963 by Daniel Allen Hearne

Claudius Smith was the leader of a group of Tories who terrorized Orange and Sullivan counties. Committing acts of murder, banditry, burglary, horse stealing and the murder of an American Army major, Nathaniel Strong. Smith was convicted of high treason. Thomas Delamar was convicted of burglary, James Gordon was convicted of Rustling horses. All three were hung at Goshen on Jan 22, 1779.

SOURCE: "History of Orange County, New York" Ruttenber EM and Clark, LH. (Philadelphia: Everets and Peck, 1881) reprinted 1980

Claudius came to Knight's Mill's in the present town of Monroe with his father "where he grew up, married and had sons...It may safely be stated that the family of Smiths were early settlers in and gave their name to Smith's Clove. (Smith's Clove was a valley of the Ramapo. It is an area of ponds, streams and mountain gorges. p. 801 " Here were the hiding places of Claudius Smith and his associates") Claudius is described as "a man of large stature and powerful nerve, of keen penetration; one upon whom nature had bestowed abilities worthy to be exerted in a better cause. He conducted his expeditions with such cautiousness as scarcely to be suspected until in the very execution of them; and if a sudden descent was made upon him, by some bold stroke or wily maneuver he would successfully evade is pursuers and make his escape." That he had the credit of doing much that he did not do is no doubt true; murder was not one of his offences though murder was committed; he was a "cow-boy", a stealer of horses and cattle, perhaps of silverware and money, if he could find it and as a thief he was tried and executed at Goshen on the 22nd of January, 1779. His indictment being "for burglary at the house of John Earle; for robbery at the house of Ebenezer Woodhull; for robbery of the dwelling and still-house of William Bell." Whatever other sins he may have committed were not charged against him. He had good qualities. It is said that " the poor man found in him a friend ready to share both his meal and his purse, and it is believed that much of what he extracted from the wealthy he bestowed upon the indigent." ...He was hospitable ... He hated meanness..."

At what time he began serving the British is not known. "In July 1777, as a prisoner in Kingston Jail, in company with one John Brown, "charged with stealing oxen belonging to the contingent." from Kingston he was transferred to Goshen, from whence it is said he escaped. In anything like a tangible record, he is next met on his capture at Long Island, in the fall of 1778, and the official narrative ends with his execution. The immediate act which led to his arrest was the murder of Maj. Nathaniel Strong, of Blooming Grove. Immediately...Governor Clinton (Oct 31, 1778) offered a reward for the apprehension of Claudius and his sons Richard and James...He was recognized [on Long Island] and... seized in his bed, and conveyed to Connecticut, where he was placed under guard. By direction of Governor Clinton...Smith was taken through Connecticut to Fishkill Landing...and under guard of Capt. Woodhull's troop of light-horse, taken to Goshen, where he was ironed and placed in jail. His trial was held at the Oyer and Terminer, Jan 13,1779 and his execution followed on the 23rd of the same month...His son James is believed to have been executed at Goshen soon after his father [probably in early summer] ...his son William was shot in the mountains [near Smith's Clove] before his father was executed...Richard, the youngest son of Claudius, with several members of the band, escaped to Nova Scotia after peace was declared..."

(The "History" goes on to detail some colorful accounts of the deeds of Claudius' sons- Richard in particular- in their vow to avenge his death as reported by local papers and from the confession of one of the gang- not exactly unbiased or dependable sources. LH]...There is a note reportedly pinned to the jacket of one of the men Richard's group attacked and killed quoted in "The Fishkill Packet" , Apr 23 1779. "A Warning to the Rebels, - You are hereby warned at your peril to desist from hanging any more friends to government as you did Claudius Smith. You are warned likewise to use James Smith...well, and ease their irons, for we are determined to hang six for one...the blood of Claudius Smith shall be repaid. There are particular companies of us who belong to Col. Butler's army... that are resolved to be avenged on you for your cruelty and murder..."

SOURCE: W. Eager, Esq. "An Outline History of Orange County NY" (Newburgh: Callahan, 1846-47)

I have quoted from this source elsewhere so will merely add the following from the trial transcript Eager provided:

... " The people of the state of New York vs. Claudius Smith : on indictment and verdict against the prisoner for a burglary at the house of John Earle; on indictment and verdict against the prisoner for a robbery in the dwelling house of Ebenezer Woodhull; ...robbery of the dwelling house of William Bell during the day and a Robbery from the still-house of William Bell in the presence of some of William Bell's family;...

SOURCE: Russell Headley " History of Orange County New York" -LDS film #0934846 p. 87-88

" The jails at Goshen and Kingston were filled with prisoners, but the local Tories continued to be troublesome...The residents of this portion of the country and on down the Ramapo Valley were mostly Tories...Claudius Smith and his sons, who had their headquarters in the Clove, were the boldest and most successful of its Tories. Smith was a large powerful and shrewd man and while he committed many crimes and did many hazardous things, yet for a long time managed to escape capture. In October 1778, Governor Clinton, enraged at Smith's depredations, offered a reward for his arrest and that of his two sons, Richard and James. Alarmed by this Smith fled to Long Island, and was recognized there, and seized in the night in bed.(Other sources say he was at Smithtown, LI) He was tried for one of his crimes in Goshen in January 1779, and executed on the 22nd of the same month. ... Retribution followed soon on all of Smith's band. His son William was shot in the mountains and his son James was probably executed in Goshen soon after his father...Claudius Smith commenced his depredations in the interest of the British in 1776 and first appeared in public records charged with stealing in 1777. He was confined in Kingston Jail, and transferred to Goshen jail, from which he escaped. He was said to be friend to the poor giving liberally to them of what he stole from the rich" p. 233" Claudius Smith, a notorious outlaw, and his gang of ruffians, who were known as cowboys...Smith was taken captive at Smithtown, L.I. by Major Brush. He was given into the custody of Isaac Nichol, sheriff of Orange county, and on Jan 22, 1779, was publicly executed at the west corner of church park in Goshen..."

SOURCE

"The History of the Descendants of Elder John Strong, of Northampton, Mass.",

by Benjamin W. Dwight, Vol. I, Albany NY: Joel Munsell, 1871, p. 650:

Re: Major Nathaniel Strong (son of Selah Strong, Jr. & Hannah Woodhull, m. Amy

Brewster): "He had only the commission of a militia officer, but was exceedingly active against the Tories in the Highlands, and especially in intercepting parties on their way from Albany to New York; his regiment being under the command of Col. Jesse Woodhull. Claudius Smith, with a band of marauders from New York, waylaid him in the mountains and fired at him without harm; but on Nov. 6, 1778, they went to his house and fired at him in his bedroom, through the window, which, though without any shutter, was curtained, and fired without effect. The major's pistols, although loaded, were useless at the moment, from the fact that their priming was covered with paper. Promising that his life should be spared if no opposition was made to their ingress, they broke into his house and through the locked door of his private room, and shot him dead upon the spot. The assassins fled to New York, but hearing ere long that they were staying at a certain house on Long Island, a party of the major's friends crossed the Sound at once, captured the villains and brought them to Orange county for trial, where at a Court of Oyer and Terminer, Smith was tried and convicted, and soon afterwards executed. The principal witness was a sister of Mrs. Matthews, who saw them do the deed. A son of Claudius Smith was executed with him for the same offense, and either then or soon afterwards, another son."

SOURCE: "William Bull and Sarah Wells Family of Orange County, New York", Emma McWhorter, Dolly Booth, Philip Seaman, T. Emmett Henderson, Publisher. Pages 189-190

speak of Phineas Rumsey who was "Capt. of the Blooming Grove company of militia at the outbreak of the Revolution." Also, "His most notorious Tory relation was his sister Abigail's [Rumsey] husband, Claudius Smith, leader of a guerrilla band of Tories and disaffectants based in the Highlands, commonly called the "cowboys", who terrorized the Whig population of Orange Co. for several years. No doubt supported by the British to sap colonial strength and morale, the force degenerated into a band of outlaws out for personal gain and settling of personal animosities. Smith was finally captured and hung at Goshen, 22 Jan 1779."

SOURCE: Page 5, March-April 1976 Vol. VI No. 5 "The Correspondent" -- Claudius Smith "Bad Boy" of the Revolution:

The names of CLAUDIUS SMITH's sons who were also involved in these crimes with him were WILLIAM, who was shot; JAMES who was hung; and RICHARD who escaped to Nova Scotia."

SOURCE: page 405, People and Events of the American Revolution

Smith, Claudius. d. 1770. Loyalist partisan fighter

Known as the "Tory Cowboy of the Ramapos"; roamed the mountains of Rockland County, Ny, in search of booty for the British; may have been part of James DeLancey's New York, Volunteers.

SOURCE: "Local writer delves into "caves for kids'",The Times Herald Record, Saturday, July 10, 1993, page 4S by Lee Gitter, Record Correspondent.

Under "Caves to visit" Claudius Smith cave: The strenuous hike to this Tuxedo cave begins on a turnoff road that crossed the railroad tracks near the Tuxedo train station and that goes under the NYS Thruway. It's uphill all the way to this Harriman State Park location…

Note: also included a photo of the "horse stables" the cave where Claudius supposedly hid his stolen horses and cattle.

SOURCE: Smith Family History 1648-1779 - author unknown. Received from Terry Hurd (edited) (now believed to be a condensation, although much is quoted verbatim from the Cornelia W and Meta Smith Bush's Smith and Allied Families.- I have added the occasional quote to this account)

...Claudius had married Jerusha Rumsey (This comes from the Hurd biography – the Bush one acknowledges " he had married a Rumsey-which one has never been truly ascertained. It has been said her name was Jerusha, but there is no documentary evidence") of Goshen, a descendant of Simon Rumsey formerly of Southhold, L. I. In the "Public Papers of Governor George Clinton #993" are references to Rumneys (also spelled Rumnes) brothers by law to Claudius Smith, David's son... Claudius, was an ardent Tory as were 3 of his 4 sons, Richard, William, James, Claudius' son Samuel was a Whig, thus differing from his Tory father and 3 brothers... Samuel signed the articles of Association in Cornwall in 1775 and appeared as a militia-man in the 4th regiment of Orange County Militia under Col. John Hawthorne. (These facts are quoted in Eager's history where the lists are all printed) He is listed for land bounty rights as a member of the 3rd regiment of Orange County Militia...

Joshua Hett Smith of Haverstraw about whom opinions seem to be equally divided as to whether he was the accomplice or the dupe of Arnold in the Arnold-Andre affair, in his book, "An Authentic Narrative of the Causes Which Led to the Death of Maj. Andre" published in London in 1808 writes concerning Orange County. "This was the unhappy state of a district more than 55 miles in extent in one of the oldest and best settled counties in the government where literally brother was against brother and father against son, frequently imbruing their hands in each others blood. All friendly intercourse was at an end, for each was jealous of the other and no one slept safely in his bed. Many families hid themselves at night in barns, wheat ricks, corn cribs and stacks of hay and on each returning day blessed their good fortune that their home had escaped the flames." He says further, "This district (Smith Clove) was celebrated for the attachment of its inhabitants in general to the British interests, who had frequently encouraged and protected parties from New York in their mountainous recesses". On the next page he tells us, "the importance of the passes of the highlands was and probably may be again, the subject of military contemplation. I must be allowed to add that almost all the communications between Canada and New York passed through this place; there being a regular connection of the Kings's friends where they could take their stages during the whole war in the greatest safety"....

"The Public Papers of George Clinton," first Governor of the State of New York published in Albany about 1904 offer authentic information regarding the times. Governor Clinton in writing to General Heath says in speaking of communications between Canada and New York (#3959 Vol. VII) "I am not acquainted with the Enemys present channel of Communications but I am led to believe it will be either through the eastern parts of this county & into Westchester and Smith's Clove & so to Elizabeth Town or Paulus Hook on the west side of the River, on either route there are so many disposed to give their Assistance that it is impossible to fix upon Particular Persons."...

This then is the background pictured for us of which David's son Claudius was a part. He had a bold, adventurous spirit and the quality of leadership…It originally was started as a Tory band from a patriotic motive…Claudius' gang first drove off cattle and horses to supply the British, then (at least some of them) fell to stealing for its own sake…

Eager's History of Orange County treats the Smith's harshly, but he did not have access to papers then buried in files at Albany, hence he did not have all the facts to draw upon. It is assumed that Claudius' "band" or "gang" were exclusively deserters or ruffians. Instead, {they were} Tory sympathizers who believed just as firmly in the rule of the King as the Whigs did in the cause of independence, were glad to be a part of the band and to help the Tory cause. People of prominence suffered and lost their liberty and estates for their adherence to the cause of the King...At the close of the war the estate of Fletcher Matthews (a Lawyer whose brother in law was Col. Jesse Woodhull, spent much of the revolution in Jail) was confiscated and so he lost his all for the cause he believed to be right...Another man implicated with Claudius, was Austin Smith. Austin was respected, in 1765 he was overseer of the Road for Woodbury, and later was captain of the Woodbury Clove military Service. When the war broke out his sympathies were Tory so he was succeeded in office by his brother Capt. Francis Smith. Again is a case of a family divided for Capt. Francis Smith's Company became a part of Jesse Woodhull's Regiment...Austin's estate was confiscated… he went to Nova Scotia to start again and there he died…Here with these two men is direct evidence that Claudius had associated with him some men of prominence and good character... Eager's history names the most notorious of Claudius Smith's gang Matthew Dolson, John Ryan and Thomas Delamar (who was not even a part of the group)...

Claudius was captured near his old home, Smithtown by Maj. Jesse Brush who had received word that Claudius was living at the home of a friend there. Bursting into his room one evening with several men, he captured Claudius… He was brought through Connecticut to Fishkill Landing… and finally to the jail at Goshen where he was tried January 13, 1779 and executed Jan. 22 next.

The British evidently did not consider Claudius a common robber. Maj. Jesse Brush had received a reward of 480 pounds for the capture of Claudius. (electronic source: Ancestry, New York Military in the Revolution : notation: 20th Novr. to cash paid Majot Jesse Brush for apprehending & securing the Body of Claudius Smith agreable to my Proclamation founded on the concurrent Resolutions of the Senate and Assembly as pr. Rect. 480:0:0 pounds) Some time later Maj. Brush was captured by the British. It was the custom of the time to exchange prisoners but the British refused to exchange Maj. Brush. His name was struck off the list of prisoners of war and he was instead listed and treated as a common criminal...

Governor Clinton writes to Gen. Heath Sept. 22, 1781 and discusses offering a man named Yeomans to the British in exchange for Jesse Brush. General Heath never replied.

It is very evident the British would not have bothered to revenge someone they considered just "a noted robber." It would have to be someone they looked upon with admiration and respect...

Judge Bodle, said that during the trial of Claudius, he conducted himself with firmness and when asked if he had anything to say in his defense, he replied. "No, if God Almighty can't change your hearts, I can not."

Eager gives a word picture of the execution: " Claudius was dressed in a suit of rich broadcloth, with silver buttons and with his large form and manly air presented really a noble appearance. While walking to the place of execution he was observed to gaze intently toward the hills east of the town, to see, as was thought if his comrades were not coming to his rescue, for he had harbored throughout that he should be preserved by some such interposition. None appeared, however, and he ascended the gallows with a firm step. Casting his eyes about he bowed to several whom he knew in the crowd---On the gallows he kicked off his shoes with the observation that his mother had often told him that he would die like a trooper's horse with his shoes on, but that he would give her the lie. When the cart was drawn from under, he swung to and fro perfectly straight, determined as was supposed, to evince no feeling; when senseless he twitched a little. Thus died a man whose abilities if rightly directed would have raised him to eminence and greatness. Notwithstanding his life of infamy. Claudius had some generous qualities; and it is said that the poor man found in him a friend ready to share both his mean and his purse, and it is believed that much of what he abstracted from the wealthy, he bestowed upon the indigent."

Such is Eager's (Lil's note: a man not inclined to give much credit to Tory folk) summing up of Claudius. It makes one realize that his ill fame rests principally upon the fact that he was a Tory and because loyalty to the King was the losing side of the war...

A book was published (by P. Demarest Johnson) in 1890 in Middletown, N.Y. and entitled, "Claudius Cowboy of the Ramapo Valley" It is written (as though it were a real biography but is) in fictional from. It gives Jacobus and Marie as parents of Claudius and his brother as Cobus and sister as Sally. Those statements are so obviously fiction that the tales in the book are credited as fiction only. One tale (in the Eager History) says that Claudius was encouraged to steal as a youth by his father, and another that David became blind in his old age and would lay around him with a stick striking everyone within reach. In view of the fact that for more than 10 years preceding the Revolution, David Smith held the office of Justice of the Peace, one realizes that the tales are untrue. A dishonest cruel man would not have been continuously reelected to an office that was an especially important one in those days. In Pamphlet No. 11 of the Newburgh Historical Society, a writer says in speaking of David; "he was a much better man than some of the critics of his son Claudius would have him appear...

SOURCE: South of the Mountains, Vol. 35, Issue 4 October 1991, p.3 "Claudius Smith, Loyalist" by Elizabeth S. Smith

This is in my opinion the best article written on Claudius. The author had acquired bookcases full of information on Claudius and David.(according to George E Smith, who visited her home and corresponded with her during her lifetime) This particular article is a copy of a presentation delivered to the Orange County Genealogical Society in 1987, and originally printed in the OCHS Journal, Nov 1, 1988.

…Was he a Loyalist, devoted to his king, doing all he could to aid the British to subdue the Rebellion, or was he using the war for personal gain? That truth about Claudius is buried in the past…Many of the stories written about Claudius have been based on the account in Samuel Eager's, An Outline History of Orange County published 1846-47, 68 years after the death of Claudius. Other have used the fiction story Claudius, the Cowboy of the Ramapo Valley by P Demarest Johnston as if it were a biography of Claudius. Still others have used a combination of the two… Eager did not have the benefit of the Public Papers of George Clinton published 1899-1914…Claudius Smith was the son of David Smith, who came to Orange County in 1747 with Henry Brewster. David purchased Lot #43, containing 276 acres and on Nov 10, 1761, purchased adjoining Lot #34, containing 150 acres, both in the Cheesecock Patent…David Smith died in 1787. His sons had received an education as evidenced by a note written and signed by Claudius Smith (the original is in the Goshen Library)(Lil Heselton's note- I have a photocopy of this note) and by the inventories of the estates of David and Julius Smith made by Hophni Smith (the originals are in Goshen Surrogate office). …Contrary to legend Claudius was not seven feet tall. On Apr 14, 1762, Claudius enlisted in Captain James Clinton's Ulster County Militia at the age of 26. (James was brother to Governor Clinton, which possibly indicates that the Governor knew Claudius before the Revolution, LH)…Some accounts say his bones were excavated from the Goshen Presbyterian Churchyard and were recognized because of their great size. Claudius Smith was not the tallest man on the muster roll. Possibly the bones…were not those of Claudius. Also in 1762 Claudius married Abigail Rumsey, daughter of Simon Rumsey 11 and Phoebe Rose. (This is referenced to a letter of Fletcher Matthews dated December 1762, Scrapbook No 4, Goshen Library and Historical Society, Goshen.) Abigail was a younger sister of Jerusha Rumsey, who is supposed to have married David, father of Claudius. Abigail was not the mother of the four sons of Claudius: Samuel, William, James and Richard. …Claudius Smith and John Brown…were in Kingston jail, charged with stealing oxen belonging to the "continent" when on July 18, 1777, Sheriff Dumont was ordered to remove them to the jail in Orange County from whence they presumably escaped. …According to an indictment against Claudius Smith, during the daytime on Aug 4, 1778, he, James Smith, and Richard Smith forcibly entered the house of William Bell… According to this indictment, William Bell …(and family) were in "bodily fear and danger of their lives"; however there is no indication that they actually suffered any bodily harm. A second indictment states that Claudius Smith, William Smith, Richard Smith and James Smith burglarized the house of John Earle in the Precinct of Cornwall only four days later on August 8 at about one o'clock at night of twenty copper pense, one silver stock clasp, one man's saddle, one bridle, fifteen yards of mixed colored homespun cloth, one man's brown colored broadcloth coat, one black velvet vest, one velvet breeches, divers bils of credit, one piece of Spanish coined silver of the Kingdom of Portugal and six silver spoons. This indictment alleged that force and arms were used during the robbery, but there was no indication of bodily harm being inflicted nor was there any indication of fear of bodily harm. For pursuing Claudius Smith and a party of Tories and robbers expected to come through the mountains from Smith's Clove on Aug 12, 1778, payment was made to Garret Ackerson… On Oct 7, 1778, Henry Brewster and six other men of Blooming Grove, wrote to Governor George Clinton about the robbery of Ebenezer Woodhull and the murder of Nathanial Strong, asking that someone be put in charge of the militia to pursue and protect the inhabitants from Claudius Smith and his gang, other than Colonel Woodhull, who it was believed, screened the villains from justice. Let me digress here. Ebenezer Woodhull was Captain Woodhull, and his family was the one robbed. Colonel Woodhull was Ebenezer's brother Jesse and the one accused of not pursuing Claudius and his gang. Some writers have confused the two and have Claudius robbing Jesse on the night Major Nathaniel Strong was murdered Major Strong was the nephew of Ebenezer and Jesse Woodhull and the son of sister Hannah Woodhull. Another sister Sarah, was married to Fletcher Matthews, who was an ardent Loyalist, as were his father Vincent and his brother David. Another brother James, signed the Articles of Association. Fletcher Matthews was a Loyalist prisoner of Sheriff Isaac Nichol, who was married to another sister Deborah Woodhull. Major Strongs sister Hannah was married to James Matthews, The Matthews, the Woodhulls, the Strongs and Isaac Nichols were connected by ties of blood and/or marriage.

At the time of the inventory of the estate of David Smith, father of Claudius, one of the assets was a note of Fletcher and James Matthews, which, to me, indicates a close relationship of the Smiths to the Matthews family and probably one not based upon the fact that they were Loyalists. Three other parties owing money to David Smith, Thomas and Henry Mapes, patriots, and Isaac Rumsey, were connected to David by marriage. Perhaps Gussie Woodhull was right when she suspected the Woodhulls were related to Claudius Smith. It is probable that Claudius was acquainted with the Woodhulls, the Strongs, possibly with Isaac Nichol (who did not himself want to hang Claudius and the other prisoners January 22, 1779), possibly with Governor Clinton and certainly with James the brother of the Governor… October 8, 1778 Governor Clinton replied to the letter of Henry Brewster et al "Received..accont of the Murder of Major Strong & the robberies committed by Claudius Smith & his confederates…I have..issued orders…Also on the same date Col. Wm. Holly sent to the Governor his report as coroner. The deposition of Mrs. Woodhull stated that on the 6th "Claudius Smith and a party of armed Men came to hur house about Twelve Oclock, and did Rob hur and wished Hur Husband was at home for he would have him Ded or Alive". This is not anything like the detailed story of the robbery of the Woodhull home written by Belle Howell Gardner, published in the Orange County Press, May 8, 1903. The deposition of Mrs Strong followed Mrs Woodhulls, telling of the broken door, broken window, request that her husband lay down his arms and that he was shot by the party and heard her husband say that it was Claudius Smith. Thirteen men viewed the body, and part of the coroner's report…:"That on the Night of the Sixth of this insta. between one and two oclock as it is made appear to us by the Evidence of the wife of the Deceased, A cumpany of armed men one of them supposed to be Claudeus Smith, broak into the house, fiered hir husband and Killed him; that so and Not other ways the said Nathaniel Strong is came by death".

On October 31,1778, a proclamation was issued offering a reward for the cappture of Claudius Smith and two of his sons…Austin Smith and Claudius were captured separately on Long Island in November 1778…On Nov 15, 1778 Governor Clinton wrote to Isaac Nicoll telling him how to guard the prisoners describing the precautions he was taking to guard Austin Smith, Claudius Smith and several capital offenders in jail at Poughkeepsie. In the accounts that I have read only two mention that Claudius was held in the Poughkeepsie jail after his capture…All the other accounts have him taken from Long Island to Connecticut , to Fishkill Landing and from there to the Goshen jail. On Nov 20, 1778 Major Brush was paid 480 pounds for apprehending and securing Claudius Smith…Samuel Eager's An Outline History of Orange County contains the sentence for Claudius Smith but makes no mention of the trials held on Jan 2, 1779 at the Court of Oyer and Terminer and general gaol delivery in Goshen. The transcripts of two trials are in the records of the New York County Clerks Archives, the one for the robbery of William Bell and the other of john Earle; but there is no account of a trial for the robbery of Ebenezer Woodhull. In each case Claudius was brought before the same 18 men…In each case he pleaded not guilty. As a result he was given trials by jury…John McKesson prosecuted the case for the State of New York. The presiding judges were the Honorable Robert Yates and the Honorable John Sloss Hobart, justices of the Supreme Court for the State of New York, and Elihu Marvin, judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Orange County. A verdict of guilty on the felony charged was rendered in each case. On Jan 13, 1779 Claudius Smith was brought before the above named justices and judge. He was asked if he had anything to say why judgement should not be brought against him. Claudius had nothing to say. The court sentenced Claudius to "be taken to the Gaol of the people of this State at Goshen in the County of Orange from whence he came and from thence to the place of Execution on Friday the Twenty second day of January Instant and there be hanged by the Neck until he is dead." Five others were sentenced to be hanged the same day…Isaac Nichol asked for clemency for Amy Augor, Matthew Dolson, and John Ryan: "As to Claudius Smith and Jeames Gordon I shal Take pleashure in seeing them Executed….if you should thinck proper to pardon any of the above, that a Condition in the said pardon mought be, that he should Execute the Rest, as it will be Disagreeable to me to do it." The two hanged with Claudius were James Gordon and Thomas Delamer… Freeland in his Chronicles of Monroe states that a sermon was preached at the scaffold by the Rev. Ezra Fisk of the Goshen Presbyterian church. But the Rev Fisk was born on Jan 10, 1785, almost six years after Claudius was hanged and did not come to Goshen til 1813…

SOURCE: Third annual Report of the STATE HISTORIAN of the State of New York 1897 p. 712 - A muster Roll of the men raised and pass'd muster in the County of Ulster for Captain Clinton's Company 20 June 1762

Claudius Smith April 14 age 26, born L. I., trade laborer, 5'9", Pale complexion, brown eyes, brown hair.

According to this muster roll of provincial troops from Orange County, ca. 1760, Claudius Smith was 5'9"- maybe a little above average for the time, but hardly the "giant stature" of legend. The Captain was James Clinton, brother of the Governor.

SOURCE: David Stevens dcs@juno.com

There are several stories about Jonathan [Stevens]. One told by Donald Barrell states that one afternoon one of Jonathan's boys was herding cows from the mountain pasture when he was confronted by the infamous Tory Claudius Smith, who said "Sonny, whose boy are you?" The boy responded " I'm Jonathan Stevens' boy." To this Smith said "Well, tell your father, Claudius Smith needs these cows." With that, he stole the Stevens cows.

SOURCE: TALES AND TOWNS OF NORTHERN NEW JERSEY, Chapter VI "The Scourge of the Ramapos" (This source is particularly interesting for the outline of resources given)

"he (Jim Ransom) had spread before me an array of books either about Claudius Smith exclusively or in which Claudius was given more than scant recognition. : ."Claudius, a Story founded on Facts in Southern New York" by P. Demarest Johnston; "Cowboy of the Ramapos" by Marjorie Sherman Greene; "Near on Natures Heart" by Rev. E. P. Roe; "Claudius the Cowboy of the Ramapo Valley" subtitled "A Story of Revolutionary times in Southern New York" by P. Demarest Johnston; "Chronicles of Monroe in Olden Times" by Rev. Daniel Niles Freeland and "Outline History of Orange County" by Samuel W. Eager, Esq.…

"Who was Claudius and what did he do...Claudius Smith of the Clove, made off with more than his share of cattle and that his romping through the Ramapos, from one secret hideaway to another and usually just a few steps ahead of his would be captors, served to build a nickname...Eager in his history is inclined to conclude that the father of Claudius was both privy to his sons thievery and also a fellow conspirator. The first recorded act of lawbreaking seems to have been the theft of a pair of wedges which had their owners name stamped on them. "In order to disguise them and escape detection" runs the record "his father assisted him to grind out the letters"...Active and influential Whigs were the special objects of the hatred of Claudius and for some particular cause, not now known, he threatened the lives of Nathanial Strong, Col. Jesse Woodhull, Samuel Strong, and Cole Curtis...there was no more than circumstantial evidence that Claudius and his gang were collectively involved (in the murder of Nathanial Strong) ...it capped the climax of a long and fearsome record. A contemporary writer said, "This new outrage filled the inhabitants with resentment and reached the ears of the executive". Governor Clinton, on October 31, 1778 (see below) pursuant to a motion of the assembly, issued a proclamation offering a reward of $1200.00 for the apprehension of Claudius Smith, and $600.00 for each of his sons, Richard and James Smith..."

SOURCE: North Jersey Highlander. Vol. IV, No 3, Issue 12, Fall 1968. "The Career of Claudius Smith" Claire K Tholl p 3-7

...He was hanged from a Balm of Gilead Tree standing in what was known as "the Jail Yard" and then buried in the SW corner of what is now the Presbyterian Church Park. This tree which was 13 feet in circumference, remained until 1921 when it was cut down after being struck by lightening... Prior to the completion of the present courthouse in 1842, the Presbyterian church made some alterations in the grade level of the church grounds and "reputedly disclosed the burial place of Claudius Smith". Since his stature was well known, there was little hesitancy in identifying the bones, and tradition says that Smith's skull was claimed as a trophy and stored in the meat market of Col. Little until the new courthouse neared completion. It was then filled with mortar and masoned up in the wall above the main entrance. Another story is that Claudius' wrist bone was made into a knife handle by Goshen's leading blacksmith, Orin Ensign and was in the Ensign families possession many years later... (this is referenced to Land O Goshen then and Now)

SOURCE: The Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York 1777-1795, 1801-1804, 10 vols. ( New York and Albany: State of New York, 1899-1914.

p145 – document # 1834MAJOR NATHANIEL STRONG MURDERED. A Serious Charge Against Colonel Woodhull – Verdict of the Coroner's Inquest – Blooming Grove 7th 8b:1778

Sir, we lament having it in our power to furnish you with a fresh instance of the villainy of Claudius Smith and his Comrades.

Last night, at midnight, Claudius with six others came to Capt. Woodhulls, Stole several valuable articles – the Capt. was gone to Clark's Town; some of the villains swore they would soon have him dead or alive – immediately after they went to Major Strong's, broke in his door, and windows- he coming in the room was shot down and immediately expired – two shot entered his face, one in his neck and one in the breast – three men fired at him it is said.

Such conduct is truly alarming. All our Militia are below the mountains, which these beings undoubtedly knew, for we have reason to believe that the whole of David Smith's tribe are concerned in assisting them. In short we have not thought ourselves secure for a long time. We live so scattered that they can come in the dead of night to any one family and do what they please.

You, sir, may with propriety, say that we have men enough when the Militia are at home to take, kill or drive them away- 'tis true, but what can we do when those to whom we have given power screens the villains from justice. "'Tis not our wish to injure Characters, but when it becomes necessary for the good of the Community to describe the conduct which opens a door to such actions as above we think it our duty to deliver ourselves with freedom.

Coll'n Woodhull as a Senator should endeavour to have removed every evil the People justly complain of- he is Coll.' of our Regt., frequent applications have been made to him; those villains still range at large. We are informed and believe it true, That he has endeavoured to screen from justice a part of Claudius his Gang. We shall not add further than to beg your Excellency to use your endeavour, in such way as you think best, to have removed this Smith Gang without leaving the Executive part to Coll'n Woodhull. We are with respect Your Excellency's Most Obed't Serv'ts,

Henry Brewster, Israel Seely, Ebenezer S. Burling, John Brewster, Joshua Hobart, Jos: Sackett, jun, William Bradley.

p147 – Poukeepsie 8th October 1778

Gentlemen, I have received your Letter of the &th Instant containing the Melancholy Account of the Murder of Major Strong & the Roberies committed by Claudius Smith & his Confederates in your Neighbourhood which gave me real concern. I have by the Bearer issued such Orders as if vigorously executed trust will put a stop to these Outrages in Future. I am Your Most Obed't Serv't.

p147- document # 1836- PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE CORONER – Goshen October ye 8th 1778

Honoured Sir, Inclosed I send you a copy of an Inquisition taken yesterday upon view of the Body of the worthy Nethaniel Strong. I send it to you to Confirm the mischiefs Practised by the Notorious Claudius Smith and his party hopeing sum Measures may be taken to stop his Coreer.

Excuse hast as the opertunity wates. I am with Regard you Excellency moste obedient Humble Servany. Wm. Holly, Coroner.

Blooming Grove Oct'r 7th 1778. Orange County

Mrs. Woodhull being Duly Sworn Saith that on the Night of the Sixt of this Instant, Claudius Smith and a party of armed Men Cane to hur House about Twelve Oclock, and Did Rob hur and wished hur Husband was at Home for he would have him Ded or a Live.

Sworn to me Wm. Holly Coroner

Mrs. Strong Sat that about one Oclock She heerd Sum men Knocking at the Dore and Braken in the windows, on which hur Husband got Up and askt who was there; they answered a Friend; on which they ordered him to Lay Down his arms and open the Dore and they would not Hurt him; he answered he would if he Could, but that they had so broake it he Did not know if he Could; They Told him to lay Down his Gun; he Said he had; on which he Stept Forred and was shot by the party that had attackted the House and further she Heared hur Husband Say it was Claudious Smith.

Sworn before Wm. Holly Coroner

These Depositions wer only taken hear so fur as tay Respected Claudeus Smith and his party

Orange county New Cornwall Precent, State of New York

Inquisition Indented taken at the house of Major Nathahiel Strong the seventh Day of October in the year of our Lord Christ one thousand seven hundred and seventy Eight, and in the third year of our Independency upon View of the Body of said Nathaniel Strong, then and there lying Dead by the oath of Daniel Colman, Benjamin Gale, John Wood, Coe Gale, Ebenezer Burling, Patrick McLaughlin, William William's, Elija Heddy, William Bradly, Sail Colman, Jonathan Deboys, William Tuthill & Samuel Bartly, good and Lawful Men of Said county…do say upon their oath, that on the Night of the Sixth of this insta. between one and two o'clock as it is made appear to us by the Evidence of the wife of the Deceased, A cumpany of armed men one of them supposed to e Cladeus Smith, broak into the house, fiered hir husband and Killed him; that so and Not any other ways the said Nathaniel Strong is came by his death; to this Inquisition as well as the Coroner, as the Jurors Do set their hands and seals…

p278. #1913-Goshen November 14 1778 –

Sherriff Nicoll of Orange County fails to Obtain a Small Militia Guard for the Goshen Gaol

…it is the Opinion of the Court, that a Sublaltern's Guard aught to be kept, untill Such time as the Court of Oyer and Terminer Sets, and I Should be glad if a Militia Guard is Continued that it might be Ordered out of Coll. Hathorns Redgment…

The Governor's Answer…

…We have Claudius Smith, Austin Smith and several other Capital Offenders in Prison here. They are well secured with Irons and added to this the principal People of the Place to the Number of 30 have voluntarily divided themselves into parties of 6 each night. They sit in the Court Room and visit the Prisoners every Hour and mean to continue this Duty…Let me therefore recommend similar Measures to be pursued by the Inhabitants of Goshen who I trust have at least equal Zeal for the Public Security. It will keep your Prisoners safe and ease the ordinary militia of a Share of Duty that does not properly belong to them…

NOTE: This document seems to indicate that Claudius was held in Poughkeepsie Jail before he was sent to Goshen. This "official Document" seems to disprove the popular traditional story of Claudius being brought from Long Island through Connecticut to Goshen.

Governor Clinton includes this request in a letter ostensibly about the British foraging the crops – It is an appeal for clemency for Brush but there is no reply. History tells us it was ignored. The fact that the British refused to let go the captor of Claudius seems to indicate that even if Claudius wasn't respected – and I have found no reason to suggest that – it is obvious that his services were valued by the British.

p 348 -# 4016 – Poughkeepsie, Sepr, 22d,1781 – Governor Clinton to General Heath

…Yeomans the person you sent up stands committed to the Gaol of this place by the civil Authority. I have not yet had an oportunity of making the necessary enqiiuiry into his Character & Conduct to enable me to determine whether he is a proper object for exchange – Tho' if he is & a partial one should take place, I had it in contemplation to offer him for a Mr. brush an Inhabitant of this State, who is prisoner with the Enemy & has been cinfined in Dungeon with the most rigorous Treatment for near Two years & this I am the more inclined to do as I have reason to believe this severe treatment is in consequence of his strenuous Exertions in our Cause & particularily his being the principal in apprehending Claudius Smith the noted Robber…

SOURCE: The Accounts of Governor Clinton

20th Novr. to Cash Paid Major Jesse Brush for apprehending and securing the body of Claudius Smith agreable to my proclamation founded on the concurrent Resolutions of the Senate and assembly as pr Rect pound 480:0:0

When one reads the following, it becomes necessary to believe that our Claudius was really not a nice man. It appears that he was involved in horse stealing and was a sort of early day Houdini in his ability to escape the irons intended to hold him. It is important to notice that this article is dated 1773, well before the 1775 "Articles of Association" – that doesn't preclude that Claudius was acting as a Loyalist, but it does suggest that he certainly had the propensity for acting beyond the law. It perhaps underscores Clinton's reasoning that had Claudius shackled to the floor of his cell with irons.

SOURCE: Documents relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey, Wm. Nelson ed. V.28, Paterson, NJ, Call printing & Publishing Co, 1916, p 564-5

New-Ark July 5, 1773

Last week was apprehended and committed to jaol in this town, the notorious Claudius Smith, who justly deserves to be rank'd among the first of his profession in this country. He has long practiced, with impunity, the crime of horse stealing; and although he has been frequently apprehended, and the fact fully proved on him, yet he has always found out some method (after being committed) to elude the vigilance of the gaoler, end to escape. He appears as different characters and passes by as many different names. Since his commitment here, by a dexterity peculiar to himself he has taken off his irons four times, which were put on by a smith, who took every precaution to prevent him pulling them off: This is mentioned that, in future when he shall be apprehended, no dependence may be placed on irons that are put on him. He had in his custody a brown mare, mark'd with the letter A on the left shoulder; which he says he stole at Bound Brook; a quantity of homespun linen, two pewter dishes, and some other trifles; they are now in the custody of the gaoler. Whoever owns them may have them, on proving this property and paying the charges - The New-York Gazette, No 1125, July 19, 1773

SOURCE: Historical Society of Rockland County copy of a paper entitled "Cowboy of Ramapos Hanged" by Charles H Harrison

Goshen NY Jan 22, 1779

  • Claudius Smith, whose Tory raiders terrified inhabitants of the Ramapo Mountains, was hanged here today to the cheers and applause of hundreds of spectators.
As the noose was placed around his neck, Smith kicked off his boots in defiance of his mother's prophecy. He sneered at his executioner:" Mother often said I would die like a trooper's horse, with my shoes on, but I will make her a liar!" The trap was then sprung.
    An hour before the execution I talked with the 49 year old Smith in his jail cell. His guards had freed him from chains just a few moments before. Since his incarceration earlier this month, Smith had been manacled to the floor of his cell. Thirty men guarded him in five shifts of six men.
    When I entered the cell, I saw Smith's broadcloth coat, with silver buttons, hanging on a hook, waiting for the moment he would make the short walk to the gallows. Also on the hook was the wide red sash which had been Smith's trademark from Monroe to Suffern.
    Smith was a big man, with a high forehead and a square jaw. His black eyes now lacked some of the fierceness of the past three years. He wore his hair in a queue. He moistened his thin lips and looked at me as though he thought I was his executioner. "Is it time?" he asked.
    I told him why I had come and then I questioned him on the events which would lead in a short time to the hangman's noose. Smith said he had been born in the mountains near Monroe and always had been a wild boy.
    "But I was loyal to my King when the war broke out." Smith said, "and I decided my friends and I could best serve the King by bringing his troops food and by making it rough on those families who side with the darned rebels'.
    I told Smith I was aware of the record his raiders made in the hills of Orange County and Bergen County, NJ. I had read the record of the court trial January 13, which listed the testimony of persons robbed and harassed by Smith and his men.
    "I didn't kill anybody though," Smith shouted. One woman claimed Smith had come to her home to rob and in the process had shot and killed her husband.
    What about his nickname of "Cowboy of the Ramapos", I inquired. Smith said he supposed the title was created to fit his crime of stealing cows from farms to drive to the British outposts at Suffern. " Cows. food, money – it made little difference what we took," he added.
    "You know I was proud that my sons William, James, and Richard put in with me," Smith said. William is now dead. Richard has escaped to Nova Scotia, and the Americans are hunting for James.
    "They'll never find some of the things we took." Smith said confidently. "Those mountains are full of caves. They were our hiding places!"
    There was a commotion outside of the cell, and I knew it was time for me to leave and time for Claudius Smith to take his fine coat and sash off the hook.
    Smith went to the gallows with four of his band: Matthew Doles, John Ryan, Thomas Delamar, and James Gordon. The Rev. Ezra Fisk, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, gave a very solemn address before the execution. His sermon was based on the Book of Numbers,XXXII:23.
    The text of the verse is as follows: "But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out."
    I was standing near the gallows and heard Smith whisper to Doles, "Well Matt, I guess we've been found."
    Even this article that purports to be written at the execution seems to have a lot of facts wrong- we know for sure Matt Doles was not hung with Claudius - That doesn't preclude his being there but I doubt if the aside was ever uttered except by the author. Further we know that Fisk was not present (he had to wait five years to be born). My best guess would be that the author or his family created this manuscript from information in Eager and Freeman's books.

SOURCE: Historical Society of Rockland County file entitled: Budke, George Henry, Historical miscellanies. Number 329. From the New York Post, August 19th, 1893. written by Mr. T. N. Glover. Clipping obtained from his widow. (Note: I have quoted only those parts pertaining to the Smiths) Claudius' Den

    A Bit of Orange County, Revolutionary History. Sloatsburg NY, August 10.
    I have been wandering among the mountains of Orange and Rockland County for the past month and have found them intensely interesting. They are the Highlands of the Hudson range and are known by local names. Here they are the Ramapo Mountains, and I am writing from the Ramapo Clove or "The Clove" as it is known, not quite forty miles from the city by the Erie Railroad. This Clove or pass extends from Turner's Station to Suffern, a distance of sixteen miles, and is in parts wild and picturesque in the extreme…This regions abounds in history and legend…But I came here not so much to study the region…as to find the den of an old robber chief who infested Orange County during Revolutionary days… I found an old native of the mountains who knew them thoroughly…we were bound for the hills east of Tuxedo…Finally we stopped under a ledge and went forward on foot. I could see Tuxedo only a short distance away…In a few minutes we stood on a broad platform sheltered by an overhanging rock. It was large enough to cover a number of cattle and horses and was so difficult of access that a few men could keep at bay half a regiment. It was an admirable fortress.
Claudius Smith den

    "You laugh at me" said my old guide, "for believing the story of the Witches Spring (earlier recounted in this piece). Let me tell you that there are lots of people in these mountains that you cannot get to come here. This is Claudius's Den that you have come to see".
    "well", said I, "it is worth the trouble, but why be afraid?"
    "Ghosts", he answered. "I know a man who came here when a boy and looked in and he declares that he saw people dressed like Indians with no flesh on their bones – only skeletons dressed up- prodding with sticks to find buried treasure. He was so frightened that he fled and has never been here since."
    I asked if anyone had searched for treasure.
    "Oh, yes," he responded, "a great many people. Down in the valley – there- at the beginning of this century, were found some old muskets and other things buried. Some of the descendants of Claudius and of Rawson his chief man hunted them up; but it is not generally believed he concealed much He preferred to steal horses and cattle that he could run into the British lines and get cash for."
    And now who was this Claudius whose exploits are so historic? He was Claudius Smith, called by some "the Bandit of the Highlands". During part of the Revolutionary war he was the terror of Orange County. For a long time a price was on his head. (Not accurate, strictly speaking- it was a very few days between the bounty put on him by Gov. Clinton and his capture by Jesse Brush) He was the leader of a gang of desperados, and a dashing, brilliant leader, too, worthy of a better cause. (I'd guess the author had been reading Eager's History) His father moved to McKnight's Mills in Smith's Clove, which extends eastward from Turners , when he was a boy. As Claudius grew up, he became a farmer and cattle trader – this is tradition- and continued to live at McKnight's Mills. When the war broke out, the whole Neighbourhood became Tory. So much so that Gen. Wayne said when he was marching on Stony Point that he trusted not a single native of the region. Claudius being a man of abilities far above the average, soon attracted the attention of the British officers whom he came to serve. He furnished them all the information possible and all the supplies. His method was to start a small drove of cattle and horses, buy a few and steal the most, and keep them in some secluded spot till a good chance presented itself to get them within the British lines. His success attracted him to other wild spirits, till at last he had a regularly trained band, and no one in the region felt safe for no one knew where the robbers might be. A missing cow or horse, a man murdered by the roadside, a blazing house told that Claudius or some of his gang had been there. One man had a fine horse which Claudius had boasted that he would steal, so it was kept in his cellar. But one evening, just as the family were at supper a triumphant yell was heard, and Claudius dashed down the road with the horse. He had lain secreted in the Neighbourhood for a week to get it (not difficult for it was Claudius' own Neighbourhood) He threatened the life of one Col. Woodhull, and the Col. did not dare sleep at home for months. He stole the Governments provisions, and is said to have been in Goshen jail some time for it, but this is doubtfull.
    At length, Maj. Strong was murdered in 1778, and the deed was traced directly to Claudius and his gang. Gov. Clinton offered a reward of $1200 for his apprehension and $600 for his sons Richard and James. A party was immediately organized to hunt for him. He was traced to a house on Long Island, and by a strategy worthy of himself was taken while asleep in bed. Then he was brought across Connecticut and lodged in Goshen jail, where he was chained to the floor and closely watched less an attempt be made to rescue him. In case of attack on the jail by his gang and a show of success in rescuing him, the orders were to shoot him. He was tried and sentenced to be hanged. The execution took place on Jan 22, 1779, and that was a day of rejoicing throughout the lower part of the county. With him were hanged one or two of his associated and his two sons. (Not at all correct – he died with four others most of whom can be proven not to be associates even- his sons died separately.) People came from near and far to witness the sight…(the author goes on to record the events as outlined in Eager and the following tale about Abner Youngs) …One story about Claudius is worthy of preservation. At the fall of Fort Montgomery one Col. McClaughey was taken prisoner. He wrote home to his wife for some money and she tried to borrow it. Among others she applied to one Abner Youngs who was reputedly very wealthy and as close as wealthy. He refused her appeal and she finally sold her silver shoe buckles to get it. Claudius heard of this and one night called on Mr. Youngs and told him he wanted some money, expressing his opinion of a man who would refuse Mrs. McClaugheys request, even though her husband was a rebel. Youngs refused, whereupon the gang tied him to the well-sweep and soused him into the water. Three times they made the demand and three times did they duck the old man. Finding this of no avail they ransacked the house, carrying away among other things valuable papers. As Claudius was approaching the gallows, Mr. Youngs stepped out from the throng and asked what he did with his papers, saying that they would do him no good now, he might tell where they were. Claudius looked at him and replied, ""Mr. Youngs, this is too solemn an occasion to talk about such things; but if you will follow me to the next world, I will tell you about them."...
    SOURCE: Chronicles of Monroe in the Olden Times , Rev. Daniel Niles Freeland (New York: DeVinne Press, 1898) Chapter IX, "The Story of Claudius Smith" page 56-61
    (Remember: the Rev. Ezra Fisk was born six years after Claudius was hanged. LH)
    Now while these events were occurring in the Highlands, against the dark background was projected another figure that did not lend one relieving tint or line. We refer to Claudius Smith, the notorious cowboy. That title was applied to marauders who robbed farmers and others of their stock and valuables, and drove the former to the British headquarters, at this time in New York. They worked in gangs and robbed the loyal Americans far and near. The valley of the Ramapo was their favorite stalking ground, because of its lonely solitudes and caves. Now Claudius was the Robin Hood of this gang. He was of English parentage, coming into Monroe from Southold, LI, with his father. It is supposed that he was related to Joshua Hett Smith, of whom we have been writing. His father, David Smith, lived off the village road, on what has been known as the John Goff place. His wife is said to have been Jerusha Rumsey; and whatever may have been her political sympathies, she shows her disapproval of her son's career in his quotation of her words on the gallows, when he kicked off his shoes: "Claudius, you will die someday like the troopers horse." His father was buried in the old part of the cemetery on the lane, and on the old red tombstone are inscribed these lines:
    Here lies the body of David Smith
    Esq'r whose alms he
    has Dispersed abroad his
    works and faith is still before his God his name
    Shall Long on earth remain
    while envies Sinners freat in vain
    My advice is to both Old and Young
    to make their calling and Election
    sure and to work out their own
    Salvation with fear and trembling
    the Deceased composed this
    work some time before his Death
    Born in April 15 in the Year of
    1701 Died in the Year 1787.
    The above is a facsimile of this quaint epitaph, for the elucidation of which we are indebted to a friend who to the zeal for the "ancient past" in Monroe he add the patience of Old Mortality. He says the capital letters and the spelling are exactly the same as on the tombstone. It is interesting as a sample of the learning of the day and the orthodoxy of the old man. The allusion to his "alms Dispersed abroad" savors of the trumpet of the Pharisee. But we forbear, lest we should be classed with "envies Sinners" who "freat in vain".
    As the son of such a father, better things might have been expected of Claudius. But his environment was one of lawlessness. Then he embraced the Tory principle of resistance of the will of the people as expressed in the Declaration of Independence; adhering like may others to the cause of the so-called "good King George". Whist the patriots were fighting for liberty with Briton and his Indian allies, Claudius and his gang were raiding their farms and homes in the Clove. He was a man of stalwart frame, and proud of his stature and strength. On some public occasion, said the late J. Harvey Bull, he boastfully said, " Here I stand like a pillar of Old St Paul's Church, and I defy any man to move me." Whereupon Ben Havens replied, "I will remove the pillar with my sledge-hammer fist," suiting the action to the word. Claudius lived in a cabin made of plank set perpendicular and hidden in the brush that skirted the roads that crossed opposite to Cunningham's mill and what afterward's was the late John Knight's garden. Part of the foundation was plowed up by the latter, and bits of crockery were found. It was a suitable den for the laying of his plots and making his forays upon the Neighbourhood and hiding his plunder. Other lawless characters joined his gang and with them those who claimed to be loyalists sympathized and lent their aid. He had three sons who inherited his cruelty and became his confederates in crime. These rough outlaws would rob their neighbors of their cattle and drive them down the Ramapo valley to Suffern, where they would dispose of them to the British army whose outposts were established there. Hence they were called cowboys. But they were not content to rob from the fields, but broke into dwellings at night or while the men were absent on military duty, terrified the women, and stole food or money if they could find it. Some of his apologists have asserted he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. But it is characteristic of that class of villains that they try thus to atone for their Heaven-daring crimes. Even Captain Kidd was "the gentlest man that ever cut a throat or scuttled a ship"
    The rough nature of the country favored these marauders. The mountains and especially the Ramapo were full of caves and dens where they could conceal both themselves and their plunder. There was such a cave near Man of War Rock; another near Indian Kill…another hiding place was somewhere between Monroe and Blooming Grove. The flues of the old Elmer Earl House were another place of concealment…Claudius displayed great cunning and adroitness in his depredations…but such a career could not continue long. His very success in crime encouraged him to greater deeds of cruelty. While making a raid in Blooming Grove with his band, he entered the house of Major Nathaniel Strong; and when that brave soldier resisted that ruffian, Claudius deliberately shot him. This was the culmination of his career. The crime enraged the community, and led Governor Clinton to put a price on his head. He now became an outlaw, and was hunted down like a wolf. His brothers and companions were included in the same ban. He was hunted out of the county fleeing to Long Island, hiding away where he thought himself unknown. But the feet of an avenging Nemesis were soon on his track. Major Brush, of Orange county, hearing of his hiding place, raised a band and found him at Oyster Bay, where he arrested him, took him over to Connecticut, from whence, by a requisition from Governor Clinton, he was brought and delivered to the sheriff of Orange County, at Goshen, who ordered him chained to the floor for safe keeping. He was afterwards tried at the courthouse at Goshen Jan 13, 1779, and executed on the 22d with five of his companions. It is worthy of mention that a sermon was preached at the scaffold by the pastor of the Presbyterian church, The Rev, Ezra Fisk, DD in the presence of 50,000 spectators. His text was Numbers xxxii, 23: "Be sure your sin will find you out.
    The sermon was very solemn and from the unusual circumstances was calculated to make an indelible impression. He was buried in the grounds of the Presbyterian Church, in the southwest corner, that being regarded as a sort of public property. Within the memory of some living, a citizen of Goshen who was lame and walked with a crutch broke through his crutch or cane penetrating the neglected grave. This led to the taking up of the bones, which were stowed in a shop nearby. My informant relates that a citizen applied to a well-known blacksmith to make him a carving –knife. The knife was made but he had no buckhorn for a handle. A happy though struck him. He went to the spot where the bones of the famous marauder lay neglected, and took a thigh-bone and worked out a handle for the carving knife. A startling instance of poetic irony! Vigorous means were taken to exterminate the gang after Claudius' death. One of his followers was shot on Schunemunk; one left his bones whitening over on East Mountain, above the Ramapo. His son Richard fled to Nova Scotia.
    Efforts were made by the credulous to find the treasure of the robber; but like that of Captain Kidd it never materialized. Indeed the people had little but Continental money, and but little of that…
    SOURCE: Journal News, Rockland County, 8 Sept 1962, page 1, pictures page 20. by Bob Nicols The Legend of Claudius Smith, Tory Guerilla Roamed Ramapos
    Of all the Revolutionary War characters who played important roles in Rockland County area history, perhaps the most romantic, and yet the least known, was Claudius Smith- the "Cowboy of the Ramapos".
    As with the Arnold-Andre plot to turn West Point over to the enemy, the story of Claudius Smith is not a tale of Patriotic heroism, but of a Tory, devoted to the crown, who caused American forces years of trouble with his guerilla band.
    Smith's mission during the war was the theft of cattle and horses from Orange and Ulster County farms which he in turn drove through British lines where they were sold. During that era there was no Rockland County, the area which is now known as such being called "Orange County, South of the Mountains".
    During the course of his depredation upon local farmers, money and goods were stolen and murders committed. However, during a war such as the Revolution with its strong civil war undertones, many acts of violence are committed, by various criminals living or passing through the region and their acts were blamed on the most outstanding individual who could be used as a scapegoat. Such was the case with Claudius Smith.
    One of Four Sons
    Claudius Smith, one of four sons of David Smith, was born in 1736 on Long Island. He is believed to have been a descendant of Major Richard "Bull" Smith, the founder of Smithtown. David Smith with his family came to Orange County in 1747 where he bought Lot 43 of the original patentees, most of what is now Monroe- then called Smith's Cove. It was here that Claudius grew to manhood. Smith married and had four sons: Samuel, James, William and Richard.
    When hostilities broke out between the colonies and England, David refused to sign the patriot's Articles of Association for the Committee of Public Safety and Observation and according to Elizabeth Shares in her book "Land O' Goshen" –"was a Tory but so inoffensive and highly respected that after early arrest and brief detention, he was permitted to return to his home in Smith's Clove…though in 1780 he was fined 25 pounds "for his son going to and joining the enemy"
    Siding with his in the English cause were two of his sons, Julius and Claudius. Another son David Jr., has a revolutionary record of having served in the 3rd and 4th Orange County Militia. The other son Hophni is believed to have been a neutral.
    Of Claudius' four sons, Three (James, William and Richard) were Tories and actively served with their father in the mountains. The fourth son, Samuel, on the other hand fought in the Revolution on the side of the Americans, and most of Claudius Smiths' ancestors living in Orange County seem from him.
    Effective Band
    That Claudius Smith commanded an effective guerilla band there is no doubt. His operation was extensive covering the northern Rockland areas between Haverstraw and Suffern, south into the northern regions of New Jersey and northward through the present Orange County to Ulster County.
    His mode of operation was to strike a farm at dusk and run off the farmer's livestock while the members of his gang held the farmer at gunpoint. He would then drive the stock into the foothills of the Ramapos until enough stock was gathered to warrant a drive to New York where he would be paid by the British. One of his hiding places is believed to have been at Horse Stable Rock about a half a mile from Rt. 202 near the Wesley Chapel…
    Conflicting beliefs
    The two common beliefs pertaining to Claudius Smith are that he was a devoted Tory who did his utmost for the cause of the Crown and that he was nothing but a bandit heading up a band of cutthroats who used the Revolution as a "cause" to gain wealth much in the same manner as Quantrill after the Civil War.
    Smith was a stealer of horses, cattle silverware and money. It was on three indictments of robbery and burglary – an not for murder – that he was tried and executed at Goshen. Robbery for the aid of the enemy during the Revolution was termed treasonable and for this he was hanged.
    In contemporary letters of the time the guerillas were called "a band in Butler's army". There are some very interesting letters to be found about the times in the "Private Papers of Governor George Clinton", nine or ten volumes published by the state.
    In 1779 things began to get hot for Smith and his cohorts. Local civilians and militia units stationed in the area banded together, went into the Ramapos and slowly tracked down the guerillas. In one of the fights, Claudius' son William was shot. Smith left the mountains and travelled to Brookhaven L.I. where he hid out at the house of a friend who had Tory leanings.
    Captured
    Word was received of his whereabouts by a local major in the militia. Jesse Brush, who with a group of enlisted men, went to Brookhaven and captured Smith on Jan 13, 1779.He was taken to Goshen, the county seat of Orange County, was tried and executed on Jan 22, 1779.
    His son James was hanged at Goshen shortly after his father. A notice of the reward paid to his captor was uncovered recently in Goshen.
    Richard his other son, escaped and went to Canada where all traces of his were lost.
    Although the principle characters were dead the band continued operations until 1782 when it was broken up on the acceptance of the preliminary articles of peace.
    After Claudius Smith's death, the band became criminal in nature, robbing local inhabitants and because Smith was once associated with it, crimes committed after his death were attributed to his name.
    Since the days of the Revolution, many legends have been created about Claudius Smith and have been handed down as the truth. One pertains to the kidnapping of a girl, another to hanging a patriot upside down in his chimney, and another to his remains being uncovered, his skull being mounted over the courthouse door in Goshen and a thighbone fashioned into the handle of a knife.
    Although the tales certainly heightened the legend of Claudius Smith they must not be believed as "true" until contemporary facts are discovered backing them up.
    SOURCE: South of the Mountains Vol. 9 No 1, January March 1965; The Ballad of Claudius Smith by H. Pierson Mapes
    …The legend of his escapades has been handed down from generation to generation and not until after the turn of the Twentieth Century did the people of lower New York State cease scaring unmanageable children with "Claudius Smith will get you if you don't watch out!"…
    (The author of this ballad has used a lot of "poetic" license but it is the basic story. I have never seen the Onderdunk reference before – but I have heard tales were told, albeit not true, of his kidnapping a girl. This may be that story. LH)
    THE BALLAD
    Claudius Smith was a wayward lad
    From early youth his ways were bad
    And he came to an end that was very sad
    They caught him in the valley
    And they hung him on the hill
    And his skull may be seen
    in the courthouse still
    In the eighteenth century year seventy four
    Men were meeting at door to door
    There was talk of tax on tea
    They were protesting it should be free
    Patriots rose in seventy-five
    Public spirit sprang alive
    Seeds of liberty were sown deep
    Blood flowed freely, death did reap
    British Army marching in from the ocean
    Headed up toward the land of Goshen
    Then high stepping troops it was told to me
    Were hired to fight, from across the sea
    Hessian soldiers, evil and smelly
    Would only fight on a full belly
    They needed horses, beef and pork
    To sustain their march up from New York
    They were willing to pay with gold
    And this is what tempted our outlaw bold
    Co Claudius became a bandit chief
    From farmer boy to desperate thief
    Their many acts of depredation
    Were a curse to the struggling nation
    It is told in all the stories
    How he banded together a gang of Tories
    The outlaw leader and his band
    Were often called the scourge of the land
    Hard riding men, fast with a gun
    Working at night and afraid of the sun
    They used to meet in his father's tavern
    And hid by day in the mountain cavern
    From Siddman's Bridge to Tappan Zee
    They robbed and stole to get their fee
    Driving away with farmer's cattle
    Wanton killing if forced to battle
    Martinis Onderdunk was wealthy and proud
    And he had no use for the Tory crowd
    He had a son, a daughter too
    Who all the village boys did woo
    The leader of the traitor band
    Also sought her lovely hand
    But the marauding free booter
    Was a very unwelcome suitor
    Katherine Onderdunk turned him down
    For his allegiance to the crown
    He was determined to have this maid
    "Forget he Claudius" his followers said
    He had no ears, she'd hurt his pride
    By force he'd have her for his bride
    The bandits surrounded her house that night
    Katherine woke with an awful fright
    She looked at Claudius with eyes of hate
    Knowing too well what was her fate
    He bound and gagged her, the heartless knave
    And took her off to his mountain cave
    He further raised the farmer's ire
    By setting their home and barns on fire
    At night the citizens a watch did keep
    For fear of being murdered in their sleep
    Terror reigned and nerves were taut
    Then Governor Clinton's aid was sought
    He promised them muskets, flints and powder
    As the many protests grew steadily louder
    The wrathful farmers came en masse
    From Hudson Valley to Ramapo Pass
    A meeting was called in old South Field
    The doom of Claudius Smith was sealed
    They planned a search throughout the land
    To destroy the leader and his band
    They chased him from secluded nooks
    And trailed him down the mountain brooks
    And then the countryside did rally
    For Claudius was captured in the valley
    He was taken to the county seat
    Stoutly tethered, hands and feet
    They chained him to the jailhouse floor
    And double barred the oaken door
    Villagers gathered from many a mile
    And gave him a fair and honest trial
    The jury came in and here's what they said
    "He shall hang by the neck until he is dead"
    "For your evil deeds you must pay"
    Then the judge decreed he would hang that day
    So Claudius went up to the Gallows Hill
    Just beyond the village mill
    The angry mob howled and jeered
    With rope in hand the hangman leered
    Amid the roar of angry hoots
    Claudius calmly removed his boots
    The assembled crowd just looked with a stare
    For there he stood, his feet were bare
    Someone muttered. "I wonder Why?"
    Claudius spoke in a loud reply
    "My mother said with boots on I'd die,
    I want to prove that she did lie"
    And he deprived his mother of her prophecy
    He raised his foot so all could see
    Then with a sickening cry, they pulled him high
    And he swayed in the wind that came with a sigh
    So ends our tale of the wayward lad
    Whose finish you see, was very sad
    They caught him in the valley
    And they hung him on the hill
    And his skull may be seen in the courthouse still

SOURCE: Hudson Valley Tales and Trails, Patricia Edwards Cline, Overlook Press:Woodstock NY, 1990 , Chapter 25, "Ramapo Cowboy" p 175-181(a fairly well written piece. The author has tried to present "the other side" of Claudius and has managed to create a fairly decent fellow who is still a thorough rogue- at the very least.)

On a frigid January day in 1779, a tall, handsome man was unshackled from a dungeon in thqOrange County Jail in Goshen, and escorted outside to a waiting gallows tree…Claudius Smith was dead. Yet there is no way to kill a legend, and Claudius Smith had become a legend long before his life ended that winter day in Goshen's public square. The legend has grown even more colorful and controversial as the intervening years help smother the flames of old hatreds, and historians take a cooler look at what was, in fact, America's first civil war… For Claudius Smith, then in his fortieth year, King George was still the legal ruler of the British colonies in America. Therefore, though his son Samuel sided with the Patriots, Claudius fought for the Loyalist cause… [he] used the tactics best suited for the mountainous terrain in which he lived; quick guerrilla-type raids on outlying Patriot farms and the solitary supply wagons of Washington's army. It was a career that lasted less than three years but would result in a mystery that the passage of more than two centuries has not seen solved.

Part of the mystery is the location of the loot…equally intriguing is the mystery of the man…for there are those who insist Claudius Smith was loyal to no one but hinself; that supplying the British with cattle and horses stolen from the Patriots was done only to enrich his own purse and not because of any fealty to George 111. Others believe that he was a true partisan of the Crown, possibly even holding some secret commission in the British Army…There are even those who maintain he was a latter-day Robin Hood…there is evidence to support - if not prove - each of the three claims…

That trail begins and ends in Monroe, where Claudius' father David settled prior to the Revolution. Not much is known about those early years, except that when he married and began raising his own family, Claudius lived just north of where his father's house still stands, on the southeast corner od Route 17M and Stage Road…he was apprehended once in July 1777 for "stealing oxen belonging to the Continent," but he promptly broke out of jail and returned to the rugged Ramapo Mountains…using carefully selected caves as hideouts…

The largest and best known of his hideouts is in Harriman State Park, along the Tuxedo-Mount Ivy Trail atop Huckleberry Hill…a natural tunnel through the rock leads up from the main chamber of the cave to the top of the hill, offering a protected escape route. In addition a sentry stationed above would have ample time to warn of an impending attack, since there is unobscured view for miles around.

A few hundred feet downhill to the east, there is another cave called Horse Stable Rock Shelter, since it was used to harbour the gang'' four-footed loot, while a third rock refuge is on Horsestable Mountain just opposite Wesley Chapel -–reachable by hiking north-west on the Sherwood Trail from Route 202…the enigmatic cowboy who could be as compassionate to his enemies as he was to his friends. As an illustration, the story is told of a meeting one morning in October 1777 between Claudius Smith and a man he knew called William Bodle. The later was returning home after his regiment had been defeated by the British at Fort Montgomery, so he understanably feared for his life when Claudius accosted him on the lonely road…Claudius sympathetically offered Bodle rest and breakfast at his nearby house- an invitation the startled Bodle accepted, although he then fled as soon as the Ramapo Cowboy was out of sight.

Defenceless women were not fair game to Claudius either…one night a year later when he and his gang broke down the door of the Woodhull house, in Oxford…Mrs Woodhull could easily have been forced to reveal the hiding place of the silver. Yet Claudius refrained from doing so, even after a thorough search of the house proved unsuccessful. And without harming Mrs Woodhull or her child, he and his gang rode off, taking only a horse…

This is not to say Claudius could not be cruel…especially when he felt he was avenging some wrong. The best example of this is his midnight raid on the home of Abimal Youngs in Oxford Depot. Prior to this in October 1777, when the British overran Fort Montgomery, a Colonel Claughry was captured and incarcerated in one of the infamous British prisons…Only those prisoners with money to buy food and other necessities stood a chance of leaving those pestholes alive-a fact that soon was made apparent to Colonel McClaughry's wife. Since Abimal Youngs was perhaps the only man in the farming community who had enough hard cash on hand to meet her needs, Mrs McClaughry applied to him for a loan…Abimal Youngs would not lend her a penny and she was forced to sell everything she owned…Claudius…was enraged. It mattered not to him that he and the McClaughry's were on opposite sides…Young's heartless refusal was inexcusable…Claudius and his gang came calling on Abimal Youngs, demanding that he turn over all his money to them…Youngs stalwartly refused to reveal his secret, even when Claudius threatened to hang him…Claudius had Youngs brought outside where he was strung up on the well pole. But Claudius' cruelty did not extend to premeditated murder…the miserly man remained adimant and rather than kill him, Claudius released him, contenting himself with all of Youngs valuable papers, including mortgages and bonds. A little more than a year later, when Claudius stood waiting for his own hanging, Abimal Youngs called to him..to tell him where the papers were…The Ramapo Cowboy boldly replied, "Mr Youngs, this is no time to talk about papers. Meet me in the next world, and I will tell you all about them."" Since the souls of executed criminals were believed to lodge in Hell, Abimal Youngs was effectively silenced…

the aleged murder of Major Nathaniel Strong…did prompt New york Governor, George Clinton to offer a reward of $1200.00…by eiighteenth century standards, $1200 constituted a small fortune, so it is not surprising that Claudius fled to British held New York City rather than risk betrayal…the British did little to make him welcome, and claudius soon decided to head for Long Island, where he had been born. At that time the British also controlled Long Island though it was easy enough for Patriots to row across the Sound from connecticut…Major John Brush..spotted Claudius in Smithtown…brush enlisted the aid of several men, and they set…bent on capturing Claudius Smith…It was late at night…a few minutes of conversation with the landlady, perhaps the tinkle of a few coins in her palm and the four bounty hunters broke into the room where Claudius was sleeping…Once across Long Island Sound, the party continued west to Southern Connecticut and thence to Fishkill landing on the Hudson (this we know to be incorrect. LH)

It is believed that whatever was left of Claudius Smith's skeleton after the collectors got finished with it was secretly buried in am unmarked grave in the western section of the Monroe Cemetery, on route 17. It is ther that one can find the red sandstone marker (with self composed epitaph) of Claudius' father David, with his brother Hophni buried alongside. Between the two tombstones there is a spot of bare ground large enough to bury a few bones but unmarked by any tablet. And so it is that the last resting place of the Ramapo Cowboy remains something of a myster, as has the man.

SOURCE: Hudson Valley Tales and Trails, Patricia Edwards Cline, Overlook Press:Woodstock NY, 1990 , Chapter 34, "Spirits of '76" p 247-254 p247 A few miles to the East, on the road leading to Blooming Grove's Bull Mine, an old farmhouse has been the scene of spectral visitations by the "Ramapo Cowboy" Claudius Smith, who was befriended by British sympathizers in the area. It is thought that Claudius must have been given overnight accomodations in an upstairs bedroom of the once isolated farmhouse, for that is where the manifestations occurred.

p253 So too can the Ramapo Mountains, which lie to the east of the Shawangunks. At least they supposedly still hide the treasure of the notorious "Ramapo Cowboy" Claudius Smith, whose daring raids during the Revolutionary War terrorized the people living in Orange and Rockland counties. That ther was ever such a treasure has been disputed by some historians, but judging from what happened in the years following the death of Claudius Smith, it seems likely that he did secrete at least some of his loot in the Ramapos. For it is known that when his gang was finally broken up, some of its members (including one or more of his sons) escaped to Canada.Around 1820, two sons of these fugitives showed up in Orange County carrying maps or written instructions as to where the loot was buried. Their search uncovered a hoard of muskets … A generation later, some other Canadians arrived in Monroe, intent on recovering a valuable silver stand supposedly hidden in a mountain spring, as well as other items such as pewter plates…Their search was unsuccessful.

SOURCE: Legends of the Shawangunk and its environs , by Philip H Smith; Centennial Edition: Purple Mountain Press Ltd. Fleischman, NY. "Claudius Smith; or the Orange County Tories", p. 60-65 (I am including this article in my summary but it is quite simply a fairly lengthy compilation of the Eager History story. The author aspires to being rather scholarly –" Claudius early manifested a thieving propensity"…but never manages to provide any real insight –or new material, even his conclusions belong to Eager.)

    Some interesting statements by the author:

p60 "We leave for others to draw the line between the bandit chief, whom all abhor, and the lordly conqueror, whom all affect to honor"

p62 "To the credit of Claudius be it said, a part of the booty [from Abimal Youngs] went to minister to the comfort of Mrs McClaughry's imprisoned husband."

p64 ' Scores of people were attracted to the place, and some of the more curious carried away portions of the skeleton as souvenirs. Orrin ennsign, the village blacksmith, made some bones into knife handles; doubtless some of them are still doing duty in that capacity. It is even believed by many of the people of Goshen that the skull of Claudius Smith is embedded in the masonry over the front door of the present courthouse in that place."



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For a list of sources for this overview:  Claudius Smith Sources
Compiled by: Lil Heselton