George Washington Comes to Pawling

One First Day morning, in the mellow October days of that year, the worshipping stillness of the Friends’ Meeting was broken by the tramp of horses and the jangling of spurs, as a band of soldiers rode up, dismounted and entered the building. They remained quiet and reverent, till the handshaking of the elders closed the meeting, then the commanding officer rose, and in the name of the Continental Congress took possession of the building for a hospital for the troops and as such it was used all that winter.

Margaret B. Monahan

During the Revolutionary War, George Washington decided he needed a location from which he could easily move his troops to New England or to the Hudson Valley as needed. Accordingly, he he chose Pawling, and during the fall of 1778 the Colonial Army was camped out in Pawling— Washington in town at John Kane’s house, and his troops up on Quaker Hill, in a location that they christened Purgatory Hill. Among other buildings the Army acquired for its uses was the Oblong Meeting House, which they used as a hospital.

The Quakers, being pacifists (many were additionally sympathetic to the British cause), kept themselves separate from the occupying army. But while most of the Quakers ignored the Colonial Army as best they could, one Mrs. Tabor, known to be a skilled cheesemaker, stated that she’d offer a cheese to the first general officer to visit the neighborhood. According to the story handed down in Quaker Hill, a representative of George Washington soon arrived at her door, requesting the promised cheese, which Mrs. Tabor graciously offered to the general.

As Reverend Warren Wilson would later write, “Both the soldier and the Quaker laid their bones in the dust of the Hill. Both had faith in liberty and equality. The history of Quaker Hill in the eighteenth century is the story of these two schools of idealists, who ignored each other, but were moved by the same passion, obeyed the same spirit.”