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The Minisink Battleground 

John Conway
Posted 1/7/22

It was January of 1952, and members of the newly seated Sullivan County Board of Supervisors had an unusual item to consider.

An informal proposal had been floated by the Minisink Valley …

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The Minisink Battleground 


It was January of 1952, and members of the newly seated Sullivan County Board of Supervisors had an unusual item to consider.

An informal proposal had been floated by the Minisink Valley Historical Society, which decades before had purchased the Minisink battlefield in Sullivan County, to turn the sacred ground over to the county in return for a promise of perpetual care and improvement. Although the proposal had been discussed from time to time before, it seemed to suddenly be picking up steam.

The Board of Supervisors that would be taking up the matter in 1952 was identical to the Board that had closed out business the year before, as the 1951 election had been unusual in that every supervisor was returned to office. And on January 4, 1952, Fremont supervisor John Kenney, a Democrat, was voted in for his third term as chairman.

Impetus for the County to take over the battlefield—where more than 40 militia men were killed in a Revolutionary War skirmish with Tories and Native Americans on July 22, 1779-- initially came from the Minisink Valley Historical Society, which in 1910 had purchased 4-1/2 acres from Rialto Construction Company and then added an additional 1-1/2 acres from a private owner the following year. With the purchases, the Society accomplished its purpose of saving the battlefield from encroachment from the quarrying operation nearby, but found that upkeep on such a remote property was difficult for its volunteers.

The MVHS offer to Sullivan County was soon supported by local chapters of the American Legion, the Sullivan County Historical Society, and other civic organizations, who began forwarding to the Board of Supervisors their own resolutions urging the county to act.

The Liberty Register newspaper added its voice in support of the measure in an editorial in its February 28, 1952 edition.

“Sullivan County is not over-rich in authentic historical mementoes, and since the Minisink Battlefield marks the site of the only important engagement of the Revolutionary War on our soil, it ought to be saved for a future which will venerate these shrines in proportion to their antiquity,” the paper’s editor, George Yeager, wrote. “The cost of clearing and cleaning up the field will not amount to much money, especially by today’s standards. Annual maintenance thereafter should be nominal.”

The editorial noted that the battlefield was not likely to attract many visitors on its own, but “in connection with other scenic offerings of the county, it will help to make Sullivan an attractive place for a holiday’s visit.”

The wheels of government typically move very slowly, and it wasn’t until April 15, 1955 that the courts finally approved a transfer of the property from the non-profit Minisink Valley Historical Society to Sullivan County “without consideration, as a gift.” County taxpayers quickly funded the purchase of an additional 12 acres.

By 1968, the nearly 20-acre battlefield was attracting roughly 1,000 tourists a year according to Sullivan County Parks & Recreation Administrator Joe Purcell, who asked Supervisors that summer for $10,000 for improvements he said could increase the number of visitors to more than 20,000 per year.

“We are faced with an immediate decision,” Purcell told Supervisors. “We can turn this site into a tourist attraction of some value, or let it be obscured and become a forgotten piece of local history.”

In November of that year, the Board approved spending $10,000 for “the development of roads, a parking area, and sanitary facilities” at the site.

Even though for decades a commemoration was held at the battlefield on or around July 22 every year, drawing about 100 people annually, the site was still being described simply as “a picnic ground” well into the 1970s.

These days, there is much more to what is now called the Minisink Battleground Park, which presently encompasses 57 acres and is maintained by the County’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Beautification. Well-maintained trails, interpretive signage, and a small visitors center with information about the battle combine to enhance the experience of those who come—year around—to soak up the history of the place.

Beginning this year, the non-profit history education group, The Delaware Company, will be providing programming at the Park, including a number of “History Hikes” that will begin this winter— weather permitting.

Watch this column for details of specific events as the schedule is firmed up.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian, and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.


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