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Students respond to the original “Wappinger Warriors” and the “Mob Men of Dutchess County”

On October 6th 2016, the Hudson River Valley Institute hosted the 5th annual Handel-Krom lecture at Marist College. This year the speaker was local historian to Vassar College Dr. James Merrell. This blog presents the reactions of two students of New York State history who attended.


Historic marker in Kent, NY. Image courtesy of Highlands Historic Preservation

 Anisha Agarwal:

James Merrell, History professor at Vassar College, presented a lecture at Marist College for the Fifth annual Handel-Krom Lecture in Hudson River History last Thursday, October 6, 2016. His lecture was based on his studies of local Native Americans in the early colonial era. His lecture included just the right amount of humor to bring these historic facts out of the books and into our minds. His enthusiasm on the matter of relationships between Native Americans and the colonials sparked an interest in even students who do not major in History. I have an increased awareness of the realities Native Americans faced with the establishment of New York State. In my opinion, a history textbook cannot give you the same experience that a lecture can. Being able to hear, see, and imagine life of the colonials and Natives gave me a higher understanding of what really went on during the 1700’s in the Hudson Valley. I applaud Merrill’s use of descriptive sensory terms in that his lecture accurately portrayed the realities that a textbook will fail to mention. I look forward to attending another lecture by Merrell. I believe that in order to understand the present day world around us, we must look to history to help explain the reasoning of why things are the way they are.

 Diana Perez-Amigon:

On October 6, Marist College hosted Dr. James Merrell for the Fifth Annual Handel-Krom Lecture in Hudson River History. Professor’s James Merrell lecture was called “Mob Men” & Wappinger Warriors: Revisiting the Battle for Dutchess County, 1766.” One of his upcoming books will focus on the tensions between Native Americans and the settlers in the Mid-Hudson Valley in the late colonial era. In this post, I will be discussing two factors that stood out from Dr. James’ lecture.

In the Fall of 1763, there was a petition going around to tenants on large local farms that  addressed the fact that they were farming on lands they didn’t own, but have worked on  over many years, even generations. This seems to have led some to feel a sense of ownership on those lands.  As such, an angry mob gathered to get control or possession of the land. As these men started to form as a group, there were certain men that wanted to take control of these group of men. As a matter of fact, this group of men came to be named as the “Mob Men”. One striking example was when in November of 1763, James Covey Jr was one who was taken out of his house by his own father for supporting the Mob Men movement.

The other point of note from Merrell’s lecture that caught my attention was his discussion on the local native peoples and how they fit into this movement. In 1765, a delegation of local Indians, and a tenant farmer, tried to convince the government in New York City that there was no one person who paid for their land. However things didn’t work out so well for them. They were told that if they were to continue to pursue this theory, that they were going to get thrown into jail. Despite the potential consequences of continuation, the farmer would not halt his course of action. However this did not end well for him. He was later on thrown into jail for stirring trouble among the natives.

Dr. James Merrell’s lecture was very interesting and thought provoking. Especially so because he engaged the audience with funny jokes or connect the past to something that is related or similar to today.  I was particularly interested in his discussion on how the Dutchess County became to exist. The way his lecture was delivered made it more engaging and had the audience very attentive.

Dr. Merrell’s presence at Marist College was an honor and it was a pleasure to hear his lecture.

Visit the Hudson River Valley Institute website and blog for more upcoming events. They are always free and open to the public.

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