On December 6, 1785, the Commissioners of Forfeitures for the Southern District of New York awarded Catherine Yorkse (Yerks), widow of William Yerks, the 300-acre farm that her husband and her husbands family had been farming for many decades as tenant farmers of Philipsburg Manor. Philipsburg Manor was a large swath of central Westchester land owned by Frederick Philipse I. A historical site representing the Manor still exists in Sleepy Hollow today. The land was awarded for her husband’s support of Patriot forces battling the British in the area.
The farmland was described in the legal documents as North by Abraham Brown, John Dean. East by the highway. South by highway and John Yorkse and the upper Mill River Road. Southwest by John Requa. West by William Furshee (Forshay), as now possessed by the said Catherine Yourkse.
A hand drawn Forfeiture map clearly shows the boundaries of the farm as shown here:
From this map and with the aid of a Google map tool that calculates acreage, we are able to see the farm come to life in this 1925 aerial photograph of the area. The farmland of the area is clearly visible.
John Dean Rock – A New York State Historic Marker Site
The north-western corner of the farm is home to “John Dean Rock”, a New York State Historical Marker site. “John Dean Rock” is named after a patriot who would hide behind the extremely large rock as he conducted hit-and-run missions against British troops that marched up what was known as the Upper Mill Road (Saw Mill River Road). The rock was recorded in a black and white photograph that dates back to 1890. Note the fence rail along the river.
Brown’s Pond and Mills
Brown’s Mills at Eastview, home to a grist mill, sawmill, cider mill, and ice-house was the largest and the last water power mill along the entire course of the Saw Mill River. At the time of its destruction by fire in 1920, all were in active operation.
Jeff Canning and Wally Buxton’s History of the Tarrytowns, tells us the story of Raven Rock and provides us some hints as to why it earned a role in Washington Irving’s tales.
“Raven Rock is part of Buttermilk Hill in the northern reaches of the Rockefeller estate near the old Hawthorne Traffic Circle. Legend tells us that three ghosts, not just Irving’s lady in white, roam the area.
The lady in white was a girl who got lost in a snowstorm and sought shelter from the fierce wind in a ravine by the rock. The snow drifted in and she perished during the night. It is believed that the spirit of the lady meets the wanderer with cries that resemble the howling of the wind, and gestures that remind one of drifting snow, warning all to stay away from the fatal spot.
A more ancient legend tells of an Indian maiden who was driven to her death at Raven Rock by a jealous lover. Her spirit is believed to roam the area, lamenting her fate.
The third spirit is that of a colonial girl who fled from the attentions of an amorous Tory raider during the Revolution and leaped from the rock to her death“.
It’s a little tricky finding the raven. But if you look hard enough, you will eventually see it.