16 June 2009

Places You've Never Heard Of: Fishkill

Carol A. Spradling

As an historical fiction author, doing research is as important as finding readers. And hopefully, if done well, one will follow the other. My favorite haunt is the 1700s. Sadly, this is not a time period where minute details are in abundance. Yes. It is easy to trip over bulky facts which we learned in school, but to find detailed information, that's when a researcher hears the Hallelujah Chorus.

Naturally, as society progresses, information is lost. Tales being retold from one generation to the next, monuments, signifying places of importance, and a desire to honor past events help us remember what led to the life we live today. The battle to retain these memories must sometimes be fought with as much fervor as the initial conflict.

During the Revolutionary War, Fishkill, NY, a seventy-acre small town, served as a supply depot, barracks, prison, hospital, and cemetery for the Continental Army. George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, among others, used Fishkill as a troop gathering point.
Although listed on the National Register of Historic Places, historic preservationist and local developers recently squared off. Each troop gathered their information and prepared for victory. You see, although Fishkill was vitally important throughout the war, it was not as celebrated as Valley Forge. There were no archaic buildings marking the field, and although there was the mention of a cemetery, where were the graves? As far as developers were concerned, these seventy-acres were nothing more than a vacant field.

Ground-penetrating radar sided with history, and old bones rattled, revealing hundreds of Revolutionary War soldiers' graves. This archeological find provided physical proof of Fishkill's historic importance and ended the shopping mall project.

I can almost hear the whoops and cheers of all who benefited from this unknown community’s service. Cue the Hallelujah Chorus, this author has found a treasure trove of historic details that have been omitted from our history books.