American History/Prehistory Essays and Maps

This is a collection of historical maps and American History essays that relate to Orange County and the Village and Town of Montgomery, NY but would be of interest to all who cherish American History and Prehistory.  Some are ‘works in progress’.  Enjoy!!!!

You may download an Adobe PDF copy of these documents for your own personal reading pleasure. Please email me at the ID noted below with comments and questions.  Note that by right clicking the links you will have the option to save the documents to disk.  Left clicking should open the documents as Adobe PDF files in your browser.  Note that when using the free Adobe PDF reader, you can zoom in/out and pan to navigate the content of the maps. 

If you would like to leave a comment, please sign my guestbook at the end of this web page. I would appreciate that.   Thanks,  Joseph Devine.

The following maps are the first comprehensive maps of mastodon exhumations sites in New York that have been prepared since the early Twentieth Century. 

For a map of New York State Mastodons recorded over the past 200+ years – click here

Map of Orange County, NY Mastodons recorded over the past 200+ years – click here


Questions and comments about the maps are welcome at the email ID identified below.



Orange County, NY Mastodons



This essay provides an interesting look at the mastodons that have been discovered in Orange County during the past 200+ years. 


More mastodons have been found in Orange County than anywhere else in America.  These Ice Age mammals contributed significantly to the advancement of science and many of them also played a role in American History as this essay indicates.


You may read/download a copy of the Orange County mastodon essay by clicking here.



Charles Willson Peale’s 1801 Mastodon
This is the story of the Peale Mastodon.  These skeletal remains were found in the Town of Montgomery in the Year 1801 by the famous portrait artist of the Founding Fathers, Charles Willson Peale.

This was the first prehistoric animal exhumed in America.  The painting to the left by famed artist Shawn Dell Joyce (link below) illustrates the 1801 mastodon exhumation with the Founding Fathers pictured at the top.  The similar 9x12 foot mastodon mural by Shawn is on display at Town Hall in Montgomery, NY.

There are two versions of the story available on this website. The first is the essay introduction to the cultural and historical importance of the 1801 exhumation.  This document provides the background specifics of the actual exhumation event, statements of significance and location of the remaining skeletons today. 

The second version of the 1801 mastodon story is intended for 4th and 5th Grade students. This version tells the story through the eyes of a young local resident, Samuel Eager, who witnessed the mastodon exhumation on a daily basis in 1801.  Samuel Eager eventually became Orange County’s first Historian.

To read the interesting essay of the 1801 Peale Mastodon exhumation, and the role that the hamlet of Wallkill’s Dr. James G. Graham played in this story.  click here

Download the 4th/5th Grade version of the 1801 mastodon story by clicking here.
Note: This book was adopted by the Valley Central School District as part of the school local history curriculum for the 4th Grade.

Peale Museum of Discovery – Coming to Montgomery, New York

The Peale Museum will be built on the site where the world’s first prehistoric animal was unearthed, across the road from Valley Central High School.  This will be a truly wonderful place for all age groups.  To see an online version of the great Peale Museum presentation, by museum developer Evan Galbraith, just click the link below.  Please wait until the pages completely load. 


Peale Museum of Discovery, Montgomery, NY

More mastodon bones and skeletons have been found in Orange County, NY than anywhere else in America.  In Orange County, the Town of Montgomery ranks as having the most bones and skeletons found.  To see a map of the Town of Montgomery mastodon locations, simply click here  

To download an interesting document that provides lots of mastodon facts, primarily for kids, click here  Note:  This document will be updated to add a significant amount of recent scientific information about mastodonts by mid 2011.


Prehistory of the Park at Benedict Farm

 This document identifies the results of two extensive archaeological surveys conducted at the Park at Benedict Farm, which is situated along the Wallkill River in the Town of Montgomery.  The surveys revealed that Native Americans visited the park area, sparse at times, for at least eight thousand years before the present time.  In later years, their presence at the park likely increased as farming became popular and the nomadic lifestyle vanished. 

This essay document shares the results of the two park archaeological surveys and uses many archaeological references to identify the specific prehistoric cultures that visited the park area and the general timeframes of their visits. The essay will also identify what life was probably like in the Town of Montgomery for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.  Nutrition, tools and tool byproduct (flakes), typology of stone projectile points, herbs, prehistoric technology like the atlatl (pronounced ottlottle) fishing strategy like local fishing weirs, family pets, family structure and work requirements are discussed.  It is only with the incredible efforts by archaeologists that we can share this truly great story.  This essay was written using the Guidelines for Documenting Prehistoric Habitation in Your Community published by the New York State Museum.

To download the Benedict Farm Park Prehistory essay document, click here. 

Coming Soon: An elementary school version of this story is planned for mid 2011.


 The Story of John Van Arsdale

John Van Arsdale was a Town of Montgomery resident during the American Revolution.  He resided on the family farm in the Neelytown section of the township.  John served with General Montgomery in Canada, suffered bitter cold and hardship during that campaign.  He fought and was wounded at the battle of Fort Montgomery, was taken captive and was imprisoned in the infamous prison ships in New York Harbor.  He was later released by the British due to his injuries.  He then served in the local militia along the Shawangunk Ridge protecting settlers there from Indian attacks by Chief Joseph Brandt.  John Van Arsdale made his way to NYC on the day that the British were to depart America forever. 

His actions on Evacuation Day brought cheers to the tens of thousands of Americans present including General George Washington and Governor Clinton.  His ingenuity and heroism on that occasion should always be remembered.  This is his story.

You may download the John Van Arsdale essay document by clicking here.

Coming Soon: A pictorial elementary school version essay about John Van Arsdale on Evacuation Day is in progress.



Robert F. Starbuck, a true American hero.

Robert F. Starbuck was a Montgomery high school student, who graduated in 1960.  Bob enlisted in the Marine Corps and he became a drill instructor (DI) at the Marine Training Facility at Parris Island, SC.  Bob worked to mold the minds and bodies of Marine recruits into real soldiers.  He taught physical skills, ethics, tactics, sanitation, responsibility, loyalty and devotion to duty that the recruits needed to excel in the United States Marine Corps. 

Like Jimmy Stewart in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Bob touched the lives of many people in a very positive way.  In 1967, Bob Starbuck lost his life while acting to save one of the night recon Marines that he commanded in Vietnam while under a heavy assault by enemy forces .  This essay captures some aspects of Bob’s high school life and also his military career.  The essay contains several tributes to Bob Starbuck from his fellow Marines, many writing several decades after Bob’s death.  This essay illustrates how much this young man meant to his fellow soldiers and how well he served the country that he loved.

New: To download the Bob Starbuck memorial essay, please click here


The inspiring story of Colonel Thomas Bradley
Thomas Bradley was a young lad who worked in the knife trade in his hometown of Walden, NY at his father’s factory.  With many other local residents, he joined the famous Orange Blossoms unit when the Civil War broke out.  He was wounded several times and he served with distinction having been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Upon his return to Walden, he rose to become the President of the knife factory guiding it through rough financial times.  His benevolence to his beloved Walden is legendary.  This is an inspiring story.  This story was written by Adam Bosch for the Spring 2006 Wallkill Valley Almanac published by the Wallkill Valley Times.  It has been reproduced here with permission.  Historian Marcus Millspaugh and Joseph Devine contributed to this story.

To download this inspiring story, click here

New:  A pictorial historical essay about Thomas Bradley’s heroism at Chancellorsville during the Civil War, which earned him our nation’s highest military award, is available by clicking here. 


Historical Town of Montgomery Maps

Map of the Town of Montgomery in 1875 – click here

Map of the Village of Walden in 1878 – click here

Map of the Village of Montgomery in 1859 – click here

Map of the Montgomery Township in 1798 – click here


The Amazing Family and Descendants of Alice and Cadwallader Colden in Early America

This is an essay that provides an overview of the eighteenth century family of Alice and Cadwallader Colden. The essay illustrates how these fine colonial Americans approached the task of teaching their children and grandchildren in the remote environs of Orange County. The essay is actual a collection of short stories about the Coldens, their children, grandchildren and, in some cases great-grandchildren.  These folks contributed significantly to American and European life and the stories are wonderful.  Enjoy!!

You may download this essay by  clicking here.


Cadwallader Colden and Benjamin Franklin

These two Eighteenth Century gentlemen communicated for many decades on topics relating to government, the natural world, medicine and science.  The accomplishments of Benjamin Franklin are legendary while the scientific contributions of Cadwallader Colden are much less known.   Colden also wrote the first Colonial American history book, which gave rise to notions of unity and democracy that, guided the thought process of Franklin toward forming America as we know it today.  This essay is a very brief overview of the Colden family and the roles that family members played in government, medicine and science and their relationship with Benjamin Franklin as his electrical theories were taking shape.

You may download this essay by  clicking here.


Cadwallader Colden and His Canals

Eighteenth Century Town of Montgomery resident Cadwallader Colden is pictured at the top of the 1825 picture to the left, which was used to recognize folks who contributed to the concept and building of the Erie Canal.  Cadwallader’s grandson, Cadwallader David Colden, former State Senator and Mayor of New York City, was prominent among the assembled throng of people who celebrated the Erie Canal opening.  He was able to extend a well-deserved recognition to his grandfather for his report, 100 years earlier, regarding a canal to be built almost exactly where the Erie Canal was eventually built.

This is a short essay, which chronicles Cadwallader Colden’s (Sr.) efforts at canal building, which began with America’s first true canal, which he built on his property in the Town of Montgomery and ended with the actual building of the Erie Canal, which he championed for many years.

You may download the Colden Canal essay by clicking here. 

Note: Cadwallader David Colden (grandson of Cadwallader Sr.) was also a friend, financier and biographer of Robert Fulton, of steamboat fame. Fulton also dedicated considerable time toward canal construction in the Northeast.

Colden and Franklin – Native American Notions of Democracy

Cadwallader Colden’s 1727/1747 History of the Five Nations was an impressive historical account of the Iroquois Nation’s history and governmental structure.  It was widely read in America and also in Europe where there was intense interest in learning about the American colonies, especially Native Americans.

This book brought Franklin and Colden together and it formed the basis for their long term communication regarding the Iroquois’ notions of democracy, freedom and union which was the basis for Franklin's efforts to implement a similar government here before and during America's War of Independence. The Iroquois ‘Forgotten Founders’ deserve recognition for their cultural contributions to America, which extended well back in time to what we now refer as prehistory.

You may download an interesting essay about the Five Nations of the Iroquois in the words of Cadwallader Colden and Benjamin Franklin by clicking here.

The following documents are ‘works in progress’ and will be available in the near future.

Colden and Franklin - Science, Medicine and Electricity

Benjamin Franklin became famous worldwide through his successful experiments and written articles in science and medicine.  His 1752 lightning experiment yielded his invention of the lightning rod, which saved many thousands of lives all over the world.  Franklin’s popularity in Europe paved the way for France to join in America’s War of Independence and helped Franklin negotiate the treaty of peace with Great Britain. 

Cadwallader Colden, 18 years senior to Franklin, was a local medical doctor who collaborated with Franklin on many scientific efforts from their beginning in refuting the more radical notions of Sir Isaac Newton to medical theories like sanitation and inoculation and eventually into physics and the “electric fluid” for which Franklin became Internationally respected.  Almost unknown to the historical world are the contributions to these efforts that were made by Cadwallader Colden in this regard.  This is the amazing story of Cadwallader Colden’s scientific and technical contributions and his influence on Benjamin Franklin’s work. Colden deserves this recognition in American history. Extensive research of published works and the Colden and Franklin letterbooks is currently in progress.

Cadwallader Colden Sr’s son, David Colden, also exchanged communication with Benjamin Franklin on scientific matters and he also conducted several serious experiments on the new science of electricity over a period of decades.  David’s stout defense of Franklin’s electrical theories reached a peak in 1752 when he defended Franklin from scientific attack at the French Royal Society by French clergyman Abbe Nollet.  David Colden used the drawing shown to the left to illustrate how he discharged these Leyden jars, essentially capacitors, proving how the outside of the jars were electrically negative while the inside of the jars were electrically positive.  This test helped to substantiate the nature of electrical polarity.  These tests were conducted in the Town of Montgomery at a time when much of this township was wilderness and schools simply did not exist here.

Coming late-2011: A detailed essay that explains the development of electricity in the Eighteenth Century and the positive scientific contributions made by Cadwallader Colden Sr. and his son, David.


Jane Colden Summary

This short summary will identify the books, articles  and essays that were either written about Jane Colden or which provided meaningful references to her work.  The reader should be able to use this summary to find good reading material on Jane and her great accomplishments.

The most notable of these documents is the 2007 article, entitled “What Jane Knew” by Sara Stidstone Gronim, Journal of Women’s History, Vol. 19, No. 3, 33-59.

Another scholarly book about Jane has been written by Paula Ivaska Robbins, author of “The Travels of Peter Kalm”.  This fine book can be purchased at a very reasonable price from this siteà

Jane (1724-1760) was the daughter of the famous Cadwallader Colden.  She was schooled at the family home in Coldenham, Town of Montgomery, at a time when women in America were quite unlikely to receive a formal education.  Her father noticed that Jane had an inclination toward the science of botany and he helped her by translating the Linnaean system of plant classification from Latin to English.

Jane developed a system of documenting local flora and making impressions of leaves on paper as the actual example of her work to the left illustrates.  She was enthused by visits to Coldenham from such Internationally known botanists as John and William Bartram of Philadelphia, Dr. Alexander Garden of Charleston, S.C. and Peter Kalm of Sweden.  Various letters attest to the exchange of seeds between Jane and these gentlemen.  Jane made a point of talking with local residents and Native Americans to understand how the various flora was used and what qualities it may have possessed.  It was in 1754, at age 30, that Jane likely became America’s first lady scientist when Dr. Garden wrote that she had mastered the Linnaean system of plant classification even if American historians took over a century longer to reach the same conclusion.  Her story provides encouragement for young folks to overcome odds in their own pursuits. 

NEW - You may download an elementary school version of the Jane Colden story by  clicking here.


Interesting aspects of early American life.

Do you know what a ‘fence viewer’ did and how he/she served the community?  

Boundary disputes were regularly settled by the work of a fence viewer who would use the location of stone walls to mark boundaries.

Coming Soon:  An essay document that identifies interesting aspects of early American life.


Joseph Devine, Montgomery, NY – jdevine001 at

Note: The “at” symbol was omitted above intentionally to discourage spammers and their web spiders.

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Associated links:


Colden Presentation and Historical Society

Blog Website for the Colden Family

Brian Altonen’s web site about public health and medicine. Lots of Colden info here -

Lori Van Houten’s web site about Jane Colden

Wallkill River School and Art Gallery

Sustainable Art and Articles

Peale’s Mastodon on display in Germany

American Museum of Natural History, NYC

Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale

Museum of the Earth

Paleontological Research Institute

New York State Museum

Scotchtown Mastodon story

Senckenberg Naturmuseum, Frankfurt




Copyright November 2009/2010 by Joseph E. Devine