Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts, By Bill Birns

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

Parts 2, 3 and 4 of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts

(Imaginative Historical Projection)

By Bill Birns

Part 2: Historic Proclamation of 1913

Mr. Julius Fleischmann and Mr. Max Fleischmann,

heirs to Senator Fleischmann, have offered

their good wishes and

the six and a half acre parcel

known as the Fleischmann Mountain Athletic Grounds

to the people of the Village of Griffin Corners,

to be used by the people in perpetuity,

insofar as no admission can be charged

for any event within the park and

that the park be called Fleischmann Park, and

a sum of fifty thousand dollars be on deposit

in the village bank for the endowment of the park.

Mr. Fleischmann and Mr. Fleischmann sincerely acknowledge

the intention of the village to change its name to Fleischmanns.


Part 3: The Hardenbergh Patent

These mountains have always been bought and sold

since native hands put marks on tricks presented them,

and Kings gave others’ land as gifts: a brother’s realm

passed to a daughter, Queen Anne, who gave the mountains away.


Two million acres! The Hardenbergh Patent –

two million acres of land shrewdly sought

through who-you-know negotiations and palms,

perhaps, sliding a guilder or two in the right hands.

The good settlers of Hurley Flats had asked

the royal governor (who loved cross-dressing)

for woodlots and pasturage, up-country,

in the wild lands, beyond the west slope.

Didn’t get it. Rich folks did.

April twenty, seventeen oh eight

(it ought to be here said) the grant was made.


Hardenbergh, Lewis, Rokeby, Nottingham,

Faconnier and Lurting and lurking partners, too

hidden in the deal, insiders, self-seekers

were granted the land settlers had sought –

middlemen! Those pioneers you grew up admiring

lost the land to speculators,

investors seeking a new world of wealth

and power and family. They won.


Here, on the Patent, farmers paid rent

first “one York shilling per acre”

then “five bushels sweet

merchantable winter wheat

for one hundred acres of land”

(I am quoting here from an old history).


Land undivided, leased, never sold,

estates developed, death defied

through primogeniture, first born son

gets all: an American aristocracy!

Family pride, Anglicanism and conservative

principles, intermarriage to keep out

new strivers, so our new York shire

became image of the old.

Land undivided, leased, not sold,

If farms were leaseholds, were farmers serfs?


Always rich man’s land. Mountains

of ambition and a smart Scot

named Livingston come to this country,

bought and sold, made himself

valuable to the right people, married up,

and got himself a patent from the King.


His manor on the east side of the river,

a couple thousand acres along the shore

and three hundred or so more far inland,

shrewd son of a gun he was, Robert

stole himself all the land-between to make

his manor – hundreds of square miles

from river’s edge to New England’s fuzzy border:

he made himself a lord in our new world,


made himself progenitor of a line of patent lands

called Livingston Tract, Morgan Lewis Tract,

Gulian Verplanck Tract, Montgomery Tract,

Armstrong Tract: each named

for the colonial aristocrat deeded to

a Livingston and the land.


Part 4: A Double History

Fleischmanns came into being twice:

first as Griffin’s Corners in

the middle 1800s, then

as Fleischmanns in the 1880s when

Mr. Charles Fleischmann decided that if Jews were going to

face insult and refusal at goy hotels, then

he’d found his own resort where that sort of thing

just wouldn’t, in fact, couldn’t, happen.

He took the train in from the Midwest,

stopped in Griffin Corners, saw

the rich old goys had a park

on the hill

at the east

end of the village, and

bought sixty acres from a local farmer,

sixty acres that included the hill

on the west end of the village.


Those goys were the aristocratic, river valley

Armstrong family. The original Armstrong,

the General had built their mountain retreat

back in the 1840s, a big house facing west

where the moneyed Episcopalian Armstrong

brood could enjoy cool mountain air in August

and September before returning to

their river valley estate

to spend a couple of months before

returning to their Fifth Avenue houses

for the season. General Armstrong,

had sent his agent,

a river valley hustler, country lawyer

land agent named Matthew Griffin

to scout out his 8000 acre property

up here in the mountains. So,

Griffin Corners, when the agent

established a Post Office in what should have been

called Armstrong Manor, if truth be told.


Shame the old general died

a couple months after

the completion of his house.

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