The Wappingers Indians were a loose confederation of tribes living along the eastern banks of the Hudson River who spoke an eastern-Algonkian Native American language. Culturally they were closely related to the Lenape People (Delaware Indian). "Wappinger" means "easterner" in most Algonkian languages. Madam Brett, the area's first settler, befriended the indians, namely Abraham and his son Daniel Ninaham, who fought for the British in the French and Indian Wars and later gave their lives in the American Revolution fighting for the Americans.

In 1609 Captain Henry Hudson set sail on his ship, the Half Moon sponsored by the Dutch East India Company to find a western route to the East Indies.  The Wappingers Indians welcomed the crew with gifts of maize, pumpkins and tobacco.


In 1683 Francis Rombout, Gulian Verplanck and Stephanus van Cortlandt, friends and business associates from New Amsterdam (now New York City), traveled north by ship to settle and acquire land.

In 1709 Roger and Catheryna Rombout Brett built what is known today as the Madam Brett Homestead (operating today as a museum).  Their first enterprise was building and running a successful mill.  After Roger Brett died five years later, Madam Brett continued to build the town of Fishkill Landing.  She attracted new citizens to populate the town by selling parcels of her land - settler to begin this practice.

1872—The Howland Library first opened to the members by subscription only. It became a free library opened to the public in 1878.


1881—Production began on Denning's Point Brick Works and was one of the largest and best run brickyard on the Hudson, producing 400,000 bricks a day.


1886—Beacon engine Co., formed in the Village of Matteawan.


1892—Citizens Street Railway starts: first trolley system between New York and Albany.


1892—Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane opens here.


1900—Daughters of the American Revolution erect Monument on Mount Beacon, commemorating Signal Fires there during the Revolution.


1902—Mount Beacon Incline Railway opens on Memorial Day.


1902, 1910 —D.W. Griffith filmed two movies on the top of Mt. Beacon, Red Man's View, The Fugitive, The Song of the Wildwood Flute.


1913—May 15th: Matteawan and Fishkill Landing merge to become city of Beacon, as well as Beacon's First Police Department.


1915—New Beacon High School opens, the first community building for the new city of Beacon.


1922—Beacon police officer Charles Lucy killed in the line of duty.


1928—The largest building boom in the City of Beacon's history: two banks, South Ave. School., Nabisco Factory and more.


1930—Trolley service ends in Beacon and is replaced by bus service.


1945—Beacon native James V. Forrestal becomes Secretary of the Navy; later our nation’s first Secretary of Defense.


1955—Beacon firefighter J. Robert Cramer dies in the line of duty fighting Main Street fire.


1963—In June, Beacon celebrates its Jubilee: 50 years a city.


1963—Newburgh-Beacon Bridge opens; Ferry service ends here after 220 years.


1965—Urban Renewal begins and changes the identity of Beacon’s west end.


1967—The Beacon Ski Area opens.


1976—First Spirit of Beacon Day.


1986—Tallix Foundry opens and Beacon’s Renaissance begins (Tallix created the Korean War Memorial currently on display in Washington D.C.).


1994—Movie “Nobody’s Fool” filmed in Beacon.


2003—Dia: Beacon art museum opens.



In 1777,  the signal station on Mount Beacon was only one of a series of alarm posts that stretched in an arch from western Connecticut through New York and New Jersey.  Mount Gulian (right)  is a reconstructed 18th century Dutch manor house. The original house served as the headquarters of Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben during the American Revolutionary War and was the place where the Society of the Cincinnati was founded.  George Washington also visited the Madam Brett home, and routed his troops over Mt. Beacon to his encampment at Fishkill, NY.

1812—The War of 1812 transformed what had been Madam Brett's sleepy agrarian colony along the banks of the Fishkill, jumpstarting it into the Industrial Revolution.


1814—The Matteawan Company, Beacon’s first factory, started at One East Main Street site.


1815—John Peter DeWindt builds Long Wharf (or Long Dock) at Fishkill Landings waterfront.



1821—William Denning's II purchased the point and developed a large farm and mansion.


1832-1860s—John Rothery's File Works--first file factory in Americarica, Swift's machine Shop--first lawn mowers made in America (The Roundhouse). The New York Rubber Co.--made the first rubber toys in America, previously The Tioranda Cotton Mill , were some of the factories booming just before the Civil War.


1850—Hudson River Railroad reaches Fishkill Landing.



1861—Colonel Joseph Holwand, union army officer, builder of the Howland Library and Tioranda estate, later the sanitarium for the wealthy as The Craig House.  Factories continued to grow during the war, and The Glenham Woolen mills turned out vast quantities of blue woolen cloth which was made into Civil War uniforms.


1864—The Matteawan Manufacturing Company: our first hat manufacturer, originally started in the 1820s and was a machine shop building locomotives.


1868—Dutchess & Columbia Railroad starts service in Matteawan Village.


Post-Civil War (1865-1875)—The villages of Fishkill Landing and Matteawan had the greatest spurt of growth during this ten-year period.  Main street was developed, all the churches were built, The Howland Library was constructed.

1743—The Newburgh-Beacon Ferry is said to be one of the oldest ferries in the United States. It has an operating record of over 200 years, having a franchise dated 1743.  The Ferry played an important role in the  Revolution for George Washington and his men to cross the river and continued to modern times and continues to provide commuter services for the citizens of Beacon and Newburgh.

This timeline simply "scratches the surface" of our history.  We encourage all our visitors here to join the Beacon Historical Society and attend our monthly meetings (4th Tuesday night of each month) to share in our slideshow presentations of various topics of this amazing city's history that spans over 300 years!

Over 300 Years of History Over 300 Years of History

Daniel Ninham

Beacon Historical Society Preserving Our Historic Treasures


Official Home of the Beacon Historical Society


P. O. Box 89

17 South Ave.

Beacon, NY 12508



Thurs.10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Sat.      1:00 pm -   3:00 pm

(845) 831-0514

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