The Old Stone House in Hasbrouck,
where Anthony Hasbrouck met his
untimely end in December of 1840.

RETROSPECT
by John Conway
March 28, 2014


THE OLD STONE HOUSE OF HASBROUCK


Just like every other form of economic development, historic preservation is hard work.  And it typically requires an ongoing effort.

Because it can be exciting to actually save a building from destruction, it is often far easier to rally support for the initial stages of a project than for the ongoing effort to keep it going.  Such is currently the case with one of Sullivan County’s most historically important buildings, the Old Stone House in Hasbrouck.

The Old Stone House was once the home of Anthony Hasbrouck, who was one of the county’s most prominent men during his lifetime.   In fact, it was the home in which Hasbrouck met his untimely death in December of 1840 at the hands of the unstable Cornelius Hardenbergh.  

Hasbrouck was wealthy and powerful. He had been a member of the state Assembly for some years and had run for Congress in 1838, losing to the Fallsburg tanner, Rufus Palen.   He lived in the comfortable stone house in the community later named in his honor, and was generally regarded as a warm and generous man.

He was usually a good businessman, but he got more than he bargained for when he got involved with Hardenbergh, the great great grandson of Johannes Hardenbergh, the original patentee of the Hardenbergh Patent, which had made him one of the largest landowners in all of North America.  Cornelius Hardenbergh and Anthony Hasbrouck were related by marriage.

The trouble began shortly after Cornelius Hardenbergh’s mother-in-law died, leaving a number or heirs to share in her modest estate, including Cornelius.  Hasbrouck made deals with the other heirs to purchase some of the property, and he tried to consummate a similar deal with Cornelius. But Cornelius would not sell.

Cornelius wrote later in his “Life and Confession” that his mother-in-law had appeared to him in a dream and advised him that Hasbrouck was attempting to swindle him, and implored him not to trust the man. Legal wrangling followed over the next several months, along with threats by Cornelius of physical violence if Hasbrouck did not give him what he felt he had coming.

"Hasbrouock ought to be shot. He deserves to die," he told one neighbor.
 
Finally, in December of 1840, Cornelius Hardenbergh purchased from various merchants in Liberty a pistol, some powder, and a quantity of lead, as well as a Bowie knife. He went to visit Hasbrouck at his home, taking with him not only those weapons, but a rifle, too. He confronted Hasbrouck in front of his family, the two men struggled, and Hasbrouck was shot in the abdomen. Dying slowly from the wound, he was able to continue the struggle, only to have Hardenbergh hack and stab at him, and attempt to cut his throat, before fleeing.
 
During a subsequent inquest by coroner Giles Benedict, it was revealed that Hasbrouck had been terribly cut and mangled. "There were some wounds on the head, the chin was cut, there was a cut from the right angle of the mouth around on the neck, which had severed the external carotid artery and jugular vein, there was a stab on each side, and in each arm, the posterior of the left thigh was cut nearly across, the pistol ball had torn open the abdomen near the navel, and lacerated the intestines, and there were other injuries. Several of these wounds were each sufficient to cause death."
 
After a sensational trial before Judge Charles Ruggles, during which attorneys Herman M. Romeyn and John Van Buren attempted to prove insanity, Hardenbergh was found guilty of premeditated murder. An appeal to a higher court was unsuccessful, and Hardenbergh was sentenced to "be hung by the neck until he was dead." The sentence was carried out in the court house square, and in July of 1842, Hardenbergh became the first man hanged in Sullivan County.

Following his brutal murder, Anthony Hasbrouck was buried in the Fallsburg Neversink Cemetery, and it is unclear what became of his home following his wife’s death in 1863.  Records indicate that it had become a boarding house by 1890, and continued more or less in a similar vein until 1976. 

The not-for-profit group, the Concerned Citizens of Hasbrouck bought the house and some surrounding acreage at that time and through their efforts the Old Stone House, with its two-foot-thick yellow and gray fieldstone walls, found a new life as a community center, a home for the arts, and a historic landmark for residents and visitors alike.  

For years, the Old Stone House has offered the use of its space to other non-profits and is often the host of programs of various kinds.  There are typically art shows on a regular basis that exhibit the work of member artists. All shows and receptions are free. The house is made available for meetings, classes, and other events for a nominal donation.  An important part of the community will be lost if the building is closed.

John Steinbeck famously wrote, “How will we know it is us without our past?”  It is imperative that this magnificent remnant of our past, of our history, not be allowed to deteriorate.  

Donations are the sole support of the Old Stone House, and they have not been keeping up with the demands of maintaining a historic building.  Please visit the website,theoldstonehouseofhasbrouck.org and make a tax deductible donation today. It is a quick and easy process, and you can even pay with Paypal.


John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. Visit his website at sullivanretrospect.com and e-mail him at jconway52@hotmail.com. 


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