Restoring Tomkins Cove

Restoring Tomkins Cove

Upon retirement I decided to study what could be done to restore my hamlet, Tomkins Cove, to financial stability. Just about everyone now knows the storyline; a bunch of businessmen bought, sold, bankrupted and tore down the power plant that represented a major tax payer to the school district and the Tomkins Cove Public Library among others. I started this dissertation on the assumption that we were all caught off guard by the collateral damage of electric utility deregulation. It is now time to pick up the pieces and/or reboot. It takes a wholesome reevaluation of what brought us here and a willingness to try some new approaches to restore order in Tomkins Cove.

New approaches have been used before in the Cove. Lest anyone forget, the first Special Operations mission of the United States (aka Continental) Army consisting of units from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina mid-July 1779 occurred there. Back then all Covites or even passersby were given two choices: join the battle to take Stony Point from the English or be hostage for a few days.

To paraphrase Will Rodgers, at first all I knew about Daniel Tomkins was what I read on a table placard at the Boulderburg Manor in the late 1970’s. He was a naval war hero from 1812. That was the war where Washington was burned and the U. S. Navy had like 12 frigates to fight the entire British navy of some 500 ships. John Paul Jones was made famous and the National Anthem was composed. I had assumed that Dan used his mariner knowledge to settle in Tomkins Cove when actually he came upriver out of New Jersey circa 1838 looking for quarrying opportunities. I was in the restaurant as a Cadet Engineer having lunch with one of a seemingly endless line of sales engineers, some required by PSC bidding regulations, to solve the problems at Lovett Plant for Orange and Rockland Utilities.

Anyway, the wide and deep river cove with its 200-foot cliff of limestone that stretched a half mile was too much to resist for the Tomkinses. Daniel had a brother named Calvin. Dan bought 20 acres for a pricey $100 each. The following spring Tomkins arrived with 16 men, one woman, a horse and a cow to stay. They pushed away the remnants of an early attempt (circa 1789) by John Crom who specialized in lime production from a small kiln he had erected on the site. By 1865, the year Stony Point with Tomkins Cove succeeded from Haverstraw, the quarry was extracting a million bushels of stone per year. There were kilns to produce lime used to manufacture fertilizer and plaster. Much of the crushed stone went to New York City for road paving purposes. The material was distributed via the quarry’s rail yard or the shipyard. Lime laden ships traveled as far away as North Carolina.

Historian Benson Lossing visited Tomkins Cove in the early 1860s and reported he saw about 100 men continuously employed on the brow of a wooded cliff loosening huge masses and dropping them below. Meanwhile others were blasting and still others were wheeling lime out of kiln vents to heaps laid out in front where it was slaked prior to loading on ships.

Dan and Cal were industrious. With dirt found in the way of the precious rock they figured out how to make bricks. When the dirt ran out they took the rock whilst the brick makers moved on to Haverstraw. They continuously improved their quarry; eventually reaching state-of-the-art status. They proved a steady supply of rock to support investments in new equipment. To attract labor they built houses. To educate the worker’s children they built a school to the same standards of Dan’s house (AKA Boulderburg Manor). To some this manner of labor/management worked out things may seem like an indentured servant arrangement. To others it was a 19th century labor arrangement with peculiar job benefits. History tells us that Cal was in charge of the troops. In modern times Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream employed a similar attitude towards labor.

The Tomkins Cove story must be paused to meet deadline. This blog will continue to chronicle Tomkins Cove’s efforts to foster sustainable growth of our Nation. To reiterate, Tomkins Cove was part of the British Empire, the Continental States of America, the United States of America, New York State, Orange County, Rockland County, Town of Haverstraw and Town of Stony Point. In all this time no one has proposed to shut it down by turning it back to our wildlife, until now. Dan and Calvin supported Tomkins Cove via the dirt and rock. It may be inconvenient that some groups consider atmospheric carbon withdraw is a problem now on the table and needs to be pursued.