Stephen Crane's Roots in Port Jervis, New York

A Port Jervis native follows Stephen Crane's footsteps in this three-state border town.

Located in Orange County, on the borders of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the quaint town of Port Jervis, New York figured quite prominently in the works of the great American novelist, Stephen Crane.

He and his family moved to Port Jervis around the year 1878. At that time, Crane's father, the Reverend Jonathan Townley Crane, became the minister at the Drew Centennial Episcopal Methodist church, located on Sussex Street. The elder Crane remained the church's minister until his death in 1880.

During Crane's residence, Port Jervis was in the midst of its Gilded Age. The town was both a major stop along the route of the Delaware and Hudson Canal and the division center for the mighty Erie Railroad.

The town, and its occupants, served as models for several of Crane's works, such as The Black Riders, The Monster, The Lynx Hunting, The Third Violet, Whilomville Stories, and The Red Badge Of Courage.

It has been said that Crane used to sit at the base of the town's Soldiers And Sailors Monument, listening to the soldiers from the 124th NY Regiment, also known as the Orange Blossoms.

Crane was to later weave the stories of these war torn soldiers into the fabric of his classic, The Red Badge Of Courage. The novel's title was born from the history surrounding the infamous crimson diamond insignia of the Kearny Division.

Crane was a mere 23 years old when the novel was published.

As a matter of fact, many details of Crane's life in Port Jervis have served as fodder for his novels.

Port Jervis resident Levi Hume became the model for the main character in Crane's novel The Monster, a story about a black man who must face the ridicule of the townspeople.

In real life, Hume was a physically challenged man who was employed as an ash man. Hume's physical imperfections, coupled with the layers of black soot he wore as a result of his labors, caused the townspeople to be less than kind.

Furthermore, The Monster is said to have parallels to one of the town's most shameful historic events, the only public lynching in New York State. Interestingly enough, the lynching is said to have occurred in Orange Square--the very same square in which Crane use to sit with the Orange Blossoms.

Reminiscences of his earlier years are found in The Lynx Hunting, in which Crane retells the story of his attempt to shoot a cow with a toy gun after one of his father's sermons.

In addition, The Black Riders, Crane's collection of free verse, was entirely written in a southeastern New York setting, giving the reader glimpses of a small town life.

Long known as a region rich in history, the tri-state area can lay claim to connections to many other celebrities: western novelist, Zane Grey; the father of silent films, D.W. Griffith; and darlings of the early Hollywood era Charlie Chaplin and Molly Pickford.

Port Jervis, Orange County, New York can be reached by Interstate 84. The town is just off Exit 1 NY. Several plaques mark the sites pertinent to Crane's novels. Visitors can opt to either follow the heritage trail covering Stephen Crane and other points of interest alone or accompanied by a guide.

Additional sites to visit while in Port Jervis include; Gillinder's Glass Factory & Museum and Fort Decker.

Gillinder's offers a variety of informative factory tours, including special hands-on tours where visitors are allowed to try their luck at blowing glass. The famous arctic explorer (and one-time Port Jervis resident) Frederick A. Cook, spent a few years working in Gillinder's as a day laborer.

Cook, some may recall, went on to later lay claim to being the first one to discover the North Pole--something Admiral Perry would later dispute.

Fort Decker is a stone house built in the 1700's by some of the town's first settlers. Today it serves as a home to the Minisink Valley Historical Society and Museum.

The society frequently hosts informative lectures and special events on the grounds of the Fort. Some previous events included allowing visitors to participate in the colonial art of candle making.

The museum's curator, Peter Osbourne, is very knowledgable about the area's history, which makes him a wonderful tour guide.

Killeen M. Quick was born on March 20, 1968 in Port Jervis, NY, where she still resides. Mrs. Quick has published a series of work and has won some literary awards as well. Details are available upon request. As Director Of Sales & Marketing for the Comfort Inn & Ponderosa Steakhouse in Port Jervis, Killeen arranges packaged tours for tour operators, group leaders and travel agents. For more about Port Jervis and surrounding areas, please visit the Orange County Tourism website.

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