June 29, 2012

John Jay, spymaster?

One of the most fascinating things about Westchester County is its role in the American Revolution. Every July 4 we are reminded of the contributions of local soldiers and other citizens from Bedford and Pound Ridge who risked their lives for their belief in freedom.

A new book, “Hidden History of the Lower Hudson Valley,” by Carney Rhinevault and Tatiana Rhinevault, sheds light on the activity of area residents during the Revolutionary War, including that of John Jay and his circle.

John Jay was one of the committee of 50 patriots in New York in 1774, and from that time on, he was “an active and zealous friend to the cause of freedom in America,” according to the Rhinevaults. He was a member of the Continental Congress and Provincial Congress of New York, and one of the most active men in the Committee of Safety, formed to keep a watchful eye on the royal government. The authors describe the committee as the “forerunner of the United State Central Intelligence Agency,” and its unofficial director was John Jay.

One of the more intriguing tales is how spies operated throughout the Hudson Valley. The contributions of these brave patriots were vital to the success of the Revolution, and a catalyst for a change in public opinion. The spies’ efforts to infiltrate enemy lines and secure critical military information were vital to the patriots’ cause. Included in the group were men such as Enoch Crosby, Martin Cornwill, Nicholas Brewer, John Haines, Benjamin Pitcher, William Denney, Henry Wooden, Joseph Bennett, Elijah Frost and Samuel Hopkins, plus the most well-known, Nathan Hale, who was “caught and hanged in a most gruesome manner by the British,” the authors write.

The words of Nathan Hale, only 21 at the time of his death, resonate to this day: when the British provost-general William Cunningham asked him to make his final words, Hale said, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

It was Nathan Hale’s death that led George Washington to call for a professional spy system. John Jay moved from guiding intelligence to a career as a statesman and diplomat.

Along with providing direction to soldiers and rebels throughout the war years, Jay proved to be an able and eloquent diplomat. In 1779 he went on a mission to Spain and was one of the parties in the concluding arrangements for peace between the United States and Great Britain. He returned to America in 1784, when he was elected secretary for foreign affairs. He was nominated by Washington for chief justice of the United States until 1794, when he was appointed minister to Great Britain. He returned in 1795 and found himself elected governor of New York State. After serving as governor until 1801, he retired from public life to his Bedford estate, now known as the John Jay Homestead State Historic Site.

It is exciting for us as residents of the Bedford/Pound Ridge community to share this historic resource. Spend this Fourth of July at the Homestead courtesy of the Friends of the John Jay Homestead and the Rotary Club of Bedford-Armonk with a celebration of America’s founding with a reading of the Declaration of Independence, live music, food, crafts and games. Readings of the Declaration of Independence will take place at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

In addition to reading the 1,337-word document stating that the 13 colonies considered themselves separate and free from Great Britain, “George Washington” will also be on-hand for discussions and photo opportunities throughout the five-hour event. Ask him about the great fight for our freedom, so much of it in our own backyard.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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