Hyde Hall

Mary Gale Carter Clarke – Founding Member of the General James Clinton Chapter of the DAR

In 1778 destructive raids by American Loyalists and Iroquois Indians created such fear along the Pennsylvania and New York frontiers that the settlers began retreating to safer areas further east.  Among the most infamous raids was the one on nearby Cherry Valley in November where many women and children were massacred, the town burned and 80 captives taken to Canada.  The raid effectively ended all settlement in the area.  General George Washington determined to break the Iroquois Confederacy, which he considered the source of the raids, and committed 4,000 troops from the Continental Army to eliminate the Indian settlements and force them to surrender or drive them further west.

Gen Clinton Monument Rt 20 & Contintenal Rd 3-sm
Gen Clinton Monument Rt 20 & Contintental Rd.; Photo by John Bower, © 2015 Hyde Hall.

Washington appointed General John Sullivan to lead the expedition with Brigadier General James Clinton second in command.  In 1779 Sullivan moved up the Susquehanna River from central Pennsylvania, while Clinton gathered 1,500 men on the Mohawk River in New York.  Setting out from Canajoharie, Clinton moved south to Otsego Lake, the headwaters of the Susquehanna, to follow the river and link up with Sullivan near the New York-Pennsylvania border.  It took Clinton’s men two weeks to cut a primitive road through the forests from the Mohawk Valley to a location on the Otsego Lake just below the current site of Hyde Hall.  The approximate route of Clinton’s road is now known as the Continental Road, named after the Continental Army.

It was a challenging feat to portage 250 bateaux and supplies through the wilderness to the lake.  The troops then floated south to where the village of Cooperstown now stands and built a dam across the head of the Susquehanna River.  Waiting over a month, Clinton broke the dam in early August, clearing away most of the debris on the river and his troops traveled 160 miles down the river to meet with Sullivan.  The combined forces moved westward into the heart of Iroquois country.  The campaign fought a series of skirmishes, but burned all the towns and crops in their path.  With neither food nor shelter, the Indians fled to Niagara and Canada and Sullivan successfully carried out Washington’s goal.

The Sullivan Clinton Campaign was the major effort of the Continental Army in 1779 and the only major action in the Revolutionary War in the area of Springfield.  Mary Gale Carter Clarke and her mother-in-law, Anna Maria Gregory Clarke, were charter members of the General James Clinton Chapter of the DAR and Mary Gale was the first regent.  With evidence of an important historical campaign literally at their feet at Hyde Hall, they were leaders in having the event commemorated.  The monument erected to the memory of James Clinton was dedicated on June 30, 1906.  It stands at the intersection of Continental Road and Rt. 20 set behind a handsome cast-iron fence.

Gen Clinton Monument Rt 20 & Contintenal Rd 1-sm
General James Clinton DAR Monument
Location: Junction Continental Road and Rt. 20 Junction, Springfield, NY.
Inscription: This Monument is Erected to the Memory Of Gen’l James Clinton Born 1736 Died 1812 & marks a point on the line of march of his troops from Mohawk River to Otsego Lake in June 1779
Photo by John Bower, © 2015 Hyde Hall.

The Clarkes of Hyde Hall: A Short History

george-b1676George Clarke (b.1676)
A lawyer by training, Clarke was appointed Secretary of the Province of New York in 1703 and married Anne Hyde, daughter of Colonial Governor Edward Hyde of North Carolina, in 1714. From that point forward, the Hyde name figured prominently in the Clarke lineage. The Hydes were distantly related to Queen Anne and other members of the English royal family, and had owned manorial land in Cheshire and Lancaster since the 13th century. During his tenure as a colonial official, Clarke amassed numerous tracts of land totaling about 120,000 acres through the patent system. In 1736 he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of the Province of New York. Clarke returned to England in 1745, but these properties were held by the Clarke family in absentia for over 60 years.

george-b1768George Clarke (b.1768)
A great-grandson of Lieutenant Governor George Clarke, he left England and moved to Albany, New York, in 1806 to administer his family’s American property. In 1817 he purchased 340 acres in Springfield, New York, and began the construction of Hyde Hall. Philip Hooker, the noted Albany architect, drew plans based on Clarke’s conceptual vision. The mansion and its English-style Picturesque park setting were mostly completed by the time of Clarke’s death in 1835.




George Clarke, Jr. (b.1822)
When he inherited his father’s estate, George, Jr. was one of the wealthiest young men in New York, if not America, and one of the country’s largest landowners. Like his father, he experimented in advanced agriculture at Hyde Hall with extensive fruit orchards and later switched to hops as various diseases damaged fruit production in New York state. He experienced financial problems caused by the depression in the 1870s, the fluctuating price of hops, competition from Wisconsin hops growers and the unpredictability of the crop due to weather. He is distinguished as an entrepreneur in 19th-century agricultural methods.


george-b1858George Hyde Clarke (b.1858)
After graduating from Columbia University in 1880, he moved into Hyde Hall to maintain the house and manage the local farms. He married Mary Gale Carter in 1885. During the bankruptcy proceedings of George Clarke, Jr. in 1887, Mary Gale Clarke purchased Hyde Hall and several farms totaling about 2000 acres, to continue the country life of the two previous generations with support through farm rentals and producing food for consumption at Hyde Hall. Mary Gale was a great friend of Juliet Gordon Low and it was the country life that Low experienced at Hyde Hall that helped inspire her to found the Girl Scouts of America in 1912.



George Hyde Clarke, Jr. (b.1889)
Because of his father’s premature death in 1914, he gave up his plans for a career in railroads to assist his mother in running Hyde Hall and the adjoining farms, which were operated on a share basis. Under his care, the agricultural development and country life continued for his family. Clarke married his first wife, Emily Borie Ryerson, who was a Titanic survivor, in 1914. They had seven children. His second wife was Dorothy Sinclair Rennard Benjamin, whom he married in 1933. Clarke continued the family tradition of respecting and preserving Hyde Hall and its contents as the house began to receive significant national recognition. Edward Root published a monograph on Philip Hooker in 1929. Hyde Hall was featured in Great Georgian Houses of America in 1933 and again in Richard Pratt’s A Treasury of Early American Homes in 1949.


Thomas Hyde Clarke (b.1936)
On inheriting the estate in 1955, he worked to carry out his father’s wishes to keep Hyde Hall in the Clarke family. Despite his efforts, in 1963 the mansion and 600 surrounding acres passed to New York State as the result of an eminent domain proceeding to create Glimmerglass State Park.

F.D.R. at the Hall

This Hyde Hall “mystery” involves one of the Hall’s most distinguished visitors: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

We now have ample documentation from both Clarke family oral tradition and a local newspaper article, that then-Governor Franklin Roosevelt along with his wife Eleanor, two state police officers, and an entourage of reporters and staff paid a visit to Hyde Hall in August 1930.

FDR was enroute to Cooperstown to deliver a speech – he was running for his second two-year term as governor, and only two years away from winning the White House. Interestingly, when I contacted the FDR Library at Hyde Park, they had no record of this event.

FDRAbove: FDR in the fall of 1930 – leaning on his car and using a cane. Normally when walking, due to his bout with polio, he would be aided by one or more state police officers; that summer he traveled to Hyde Hall with both a captain and a sergeant.

The real mystery: In the Cooperstown newspaper report, the future president made a comment about coming here 25 years earlier (or thereabouts?). What would have occasioned his visit circa 1905?

Three theories:

• Might he (and Eleanor?) have been guests at the 1907 wedding of Anne Hyde Clarke and Arthur Choate? Contemporary newspaper accounts of the Choate wedding do not list him among the more prominent guests, but in 1907, the 25-year old FDR was hardly prominent. Choate-Roosevelt connections: The Delano’s (and Roosevelts) and Choates were connected, all part of New York’s relatively insular upper crust.

A few years earlier, Arthur Choate’s uncle, Joseph Choate Sr., Teddy Roosevelt’s ambassador to Great Britain, had been approached by Sara Delano Roosevelt, Franklin’s mother, to see if he would take young Franklin back to London as a secretary at the embassy. Her thinly-disguised aim was to put an ocean between her son and his then-fiancé, Eleanor (there would remain a life-long antagonism between Sara and Eleanor). Fortunately, the ambassador firmly said NO, as Franklin, fresh out of Harvard, had no experience or qualifications for the post.

As president, FDR would appoint Arthur’s cousin Joseph Choate, Jr. to the key post of chairing the post-prohibition Federal Alcohol Control Administration. Joseph Jr.’s wife was photographed as a wedding guest of Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Ethel in 1913 (below). Eleanor Roosevelt and Anne H.C. Choate both served together for many years on the Girl Scouts National Council.

• Or might he (and Eleanor) have attended Anne’s debutante party in 1905?
• Or stopped by in 1908 when he was in the area with “Cousin Teddy.” That summer, then -President Theodore Roosevelt (Eleanor’s uncle) dedicated the new town library in nearby Jordanville, N.Y. His sister Corinne Roosevelt Robinson had a summer home there and provided a major endowment for the library. Recently the Jordanville library staff kindly copied for me their guestbook for that dedication day, showing signatures of both Roosevelts and other luminaries.

TRAbove: President Theodore Roosevelt at the Jordanville Library dedication, 1908

The Choate’s and Clarkes associated with leaders of both parties (Democrats FDR, Averill Harriman – a distant Clarke cousin through Mary Gale’s family – and Hyde himself ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature as a Democrat; and Republicans Teddy Roosevelt, Nelson and Laurence Rockefeller). Party lines and ideology in their time were not as clearly drawn as today, and perhaps a few degrees more civil, at least publicly and among the leadership.

The family tradition of Teddy Roosevelt visiting Hyde Hall will be considered in an upcoming “mystery” column. From his youth (seeking remedial help for chronic asthma in Richfield Springs and visiting his sister), Teddy was in the area often, and he spoke in Cooperstown on various occasions. But we lack that photo or letter to give us substantiation. More later!

Back to FDR – if you have a clue, suggestion or documentation – please let us know!

-Randy Lamb

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