Staatsburgh State Historic Site, the Gilded Age retreat of Ruth and Ogden Mills in Dutchess County, New York, will host a book talk and several themed tours this fall – A Life in Service, Gilded Age Scandals, and Slavery, Segregation & Staatsburgh – along with Susan Stessin-Cohn, author of In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley, 1735–1831.
Overlooking the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains, Staatsburgh is a fine example of a great estate built by America’s financial and industrial leaders during the Gilded Age (1876 – 1917).
Darius Ogden Mills, father of Ogden Mills, established the family fortune by investing in banks, railroads and mines. Ogden Mills, like his father, was a noted financier and philanthropist. In 1882 he married Ruth Livingston, whose family had been prominent landowners in the Hudson Valley since the 17th century. In 1890, Ruth Livingston Mills inherited her childhood home and property which had once belonged to her great-grandfather, Morgan Lewis, the third governor of New York State.
A Life in Service will be held September 30th at 2 pm. Visitors can see the mansion through the servants’ eyes, as they rose before dawn and toiled until after midnight. This 90-minute tour, led by a costumed guide, will include visiting the unrestored servants’ hall of Staatsburgh – featuring the servant’s dining room, footmen’s bedrooms, and the impressive kitchen.
Gilded Age Scandals! will be held October 8, 20, 27 & 28 at 2 pm. Visitors can learn about the scandalous behavior and intrigues of the rich and famous at the turn-of-the-century while on this 90-minute tour of Staatsburgh with a costumed guide.
Slavery, Segregation & Staatsburgh will be held October 9 at 11 am. In 1810, there were nine Black people enslaved on the Staatsburgh estate. In 1910, there was no recorded Black employees working inside Staatsburgh. What happened? Staatsburgh staff will lead a conversation exploring the transition from a Black presence at Staatsburgh during the early 19th Century to the absence of Black people at the estate during the Gilded Age. In parallel, attendees will explore the development of a free Black community living in the surrounding hamlet. Staff will show historic photographs and documents related to this history, including a letter from Staatsburgh’s archives detailing the sale of Peter Williams into slavery.
Susan Stessin-Cohn, author of In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley, 1735–1831 will present a book talk on November 2 at 6 pm. Hosted in the unrestored Servant’s Quarters of Staatsburgh, author and historian Susan Stessin-Cohn will discuss her research into newspaper notices posted by Hudson Valley enslavers promising rewards for runaway enslaved persons throughout the early 19th century. The stories these newspaper notices tell, together with the stories of hundreds of other enslaved persons who ran for their freedom earlier in the 18th century, shed light on the life of enslaved persons held in the Hudson Valley.
Staatsburgh State Historic Site photo by Andrew Halpern provided.