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
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
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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