Saturday, January 19, 2013

Trip to West Point in Search of Lt Col Stephen Moore’s Homesite

Since I am relatively new to David’s blogspot, Stephen Moore of Mt Tirzah Family, I will introduce myself. My name is Sandra Moore Shoffner and I am a 4th great-granddaughter of Stephen Moore. I am a recently retired medical/pharmaceutical editor. I grew up in Burlington and currently live in Mebane, both towns being in Alamance County, NC. Mt Tirzah in Person County is about a 45-minute drive from my home in Mebane. My 2nd great-grandmother, Sarah Harriet Moore (widow of Richard Henry Moore [son of Portius]) remarried and left Person County for Alamance County sometime after 1850 with her son, my great-grandfather, Henry Fletcher Moore. I am including the following three family photos for your information, top to bottom: Dr Henry Fletcher Moore (great-grandfather), Richard Alexander Moore (grandfather), and Richard Fletcher Moore (father):
My husband, Harry Shoffner, and I took a trip to the Hudson Highlands in New York State and to the United States Military Academy at West Point (October 2012) to see for ourselves the location of the original site of Stephen Moore’s Red House. In preparation for our trip, I researched everything I could find online concerning the Moore family at West Point and the history of West Point, plus all the family history researched and recorded by cousins Terri O’Neill, Steve Moore, and David Jeffreys. I also discovered several websites with additional information that proved invaluable, including TheMoores of West Point  and  Historic Structure’s Report, Fortress West Point 1777-1783 

I had corresponded with a retired Lt Col at West Point who agreed to meet us there, escort us onto the grounds, and help us find the homesite. But, as a backup, we signed up for an afternoon West Point tour through the West Point Visitors Center before we left North Carolina, just in case. We knew beforehand that the tour would not make a stop at the Target Hill Athletic Fields, the place our research had directed us to go to start our search. The tour did include a stop at the West Point Cemetery, which was on the hill directly above the athletic fields so we thought we could perhaps get a glimpse of the general area where the Red House had stood. We never caught up with the retired Lt Col I had corresponded with, despite several attempts, so we were basically on our own.

Since we had time to kill our first morning there, before our 2:00 scheduled tour, we decided to take a chance and drive to the guard station at the entrance to the West Point grounds. We had been told by the staff at The Thayer Hotel (where we were staying), at the Visitors Center, and on the West Point website that we would not be allowed to go onto the grounds unescorted. We decided it could not hurt to plead our case to the security guard on duty. We explained that we had driven all the way to New York from North Carolina to try and locate the original site of my 4th great-grandfather, Col Stephen Moore’s, Red House somewhere on the Target Hill Athletic Fields (pictured below).

We showed the guard a photo of the bronze plaque honoring Lt Col Stephen Moore that I had found on a website. I explained that we wanted very badly to locate the plaque for ourselves and photograph it, and also to walk around and try to locate a stream that was on the property. So, after a thorough search of our vehicle and on approval of our identification, we were told that we could go ahead and drive onto the property to conduct our search. We could not believe our good fortune!

We drove around and explored the academy grounds using a map I had downloaded from the USMA website. We had to drive carefully to avoid hitting any of the hundreds of cadets running, walking, and marching everywhere. The first thing we did after locating the athletic fields down by the Hudson River on River Road, was to roam the fields, searching for the stream that was documented to have flowed beside the Red House and emptied into the Hudson. We found the stream flowing out of the mountainside, just to the left of the field house, and running underneath the rugby field (see photo below).

We also took a photo from behind the stream looking out across the field and over to the fence where we eventually found the plaque. We are assuming (according to all the information I had gathered from my research and my correspondence with Terri)  that the house was located somewhere between the stream and the plaque location, which we later discovered was near our truck parked out on River Road (see black circle on photo below.)

After looking for the plaque and coming up empty-handed, we enlisted the help of two guys who were jogging past. We showed them the photo we had of the plaque and asked if they had ever seen it as they were jogging past the field. They volunteered to help us search and yelled that they had found it, buried under a bed of twigs. The twigs were arranged as if someone were planning to light a fire there (maybe a “hint” left by our elusive Lt Col). We found that strange, but brushed the twigs off and took a photograph of the plaque.

Harry took a photo of me standing with the plaque to show the relative position of the plaque to the fence, road, railroad track, and the river. The Hudson is just beyond the railroad track behind me, but is hidden in this view.

I was informed that members of the Moore family were there for a Moore family reunion in 1991, at which time they dedicated the site, planted a tree, and ordered the plaque. It seems that the original homesite is now the location of the new Anderson Rugby Complex and Field House that opened in 2007.

Our next stop was a drive back up River Road to an area overlooking the docks on the river to try for another view of the original site of the Red House in relation to the Hudson River. The view from there was absolutely breathtaking! I have placed a white circle on the photo below to show the approximate location of the homesite on the rugby field, just left of the field house.

Lastly, I took the photo below from Trophy Point to show the relative distance from the homesite on the left bank of the Hudson River directly across to Constitution Island on the right bank, an island which is part of the grounds of the United States Army Garrison, West Point. It was known as Martler’s Rock in colonial times and renamed Constitution Island in 1775.

The Hudson Highlands are gorgeous in October and I encourage other Stephen Moore descendants to make the trip--you won’t be disappointed!