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Letters, November 2010 

Who Put the Doubt in the Rondout?

To the Editor:

A few corrections for last month’s article on Kingston:
Kingston’s founding document was the Indian deed of 1652, and it was settled by 1653, so you’re a year or two early with your date of 1651.

The settlement, first known as Esopus, was not named “after one of the local Indian tribes.” As a matter of fact, it was the other way around. The Indians were the Waronawanka or Waranawankougs, who were called “Esopus Indians” by the Dutch because early interaction with them took place around the Dutch settlement of Esopus. Although the name is of Indian origin, it originally referred to a place nearby on the east side of the Hudson. The name was borrowed by early traders and cartographers and used for designating the mouth of the Rondout Creek, whence it became the name for the settlement and, by extension, the Indian tribe.

While we’re at it, the village of Rondout was undoubtedly named (in 1849) after the creek, not “for its nearby Dutch fort or ‘redoubt.’” It was the creek that was named for the redoubt, built in 1662. By 1849, that redoubt was long gone and largely forgotten.

I sometimes think it’s a shame so much emphasis is placed on Kingston’s brief role as New York’s temporary, wartime capital in 1777. The more fascinating period was when it was a fortified and very isolated Dutch colonial settlement. How many of your readers know that Kingston was attacked and burned by the Indians 114 years before being torched by the British?—and that most of the 34 women and children taken captive spent three months living peacefully as wards of the Indians, far in the interior wilderness, even helping with chores and exchanging language skills? These include many whose descendents are well represented in Ulster County today.

—Marc B. Fried, author of The Early History of Kingston and Ulster County, NY (Ulster County Historical Society, 1975), Gardiner

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