Franklin Roosevelt during his second term started the Works Progress Administration The WPA employed millions of unskilled workers to carry out  projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing, and housing. Almost every community in the United States had a park, bridge or school constructed by the agency, which especially benefited rural and Western areas.  At its peak in 1938 it provided paid jobs for three million unemployed men and some women, as well as youth in a separate division, Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. Pay varied by region, the lowest pay was $19 a week and the highest was $94.

Under the writer’s program, a division of WPA  John Steinbeck wrote “The Grapes of Wrath.”  All of this is related to the below description of a tour of Clove Valley in 1938 or thereabouts. It was written by a WPA paid author, name long since forgotten I’ll publish it for your reading and may later comment on what the same tour would look like today:

VERBANK, 5.3 m. (560 alt., 147 pop.), was settled by the Dutch in
the latter part of the 17th century. The settlement is said to have derived
its name from the verdant hillsides. The surrounding hills are well wooded
with ash and hemlock. For years the village was the center of a tanning
and charcoal industry. Hemlock trees were felled and stripped of their
bark for the tanyard, while in the pits the logs were burned into charcoal.
These pits still remain with traces of charcoal.

Directly north of the pits is an area thickly strewn with chips of flinj-
stone, from which arrowheads were made by the Indians. A great number


of arrowheads have been found here. The site is locally known as the
“Indian Workshop.”

A mill pond in the eastern end of the village affords good trout fishing
in season.

At 5.5 m. (R) is the junction with a gravel road. (M. E. Church at
corners). The route turns R. and leads through CLOVE VALLEY, a
picturesque farming country.

At 10.1 m. is the junction with an improved macadam road. The route
turns R. on this road.

Clove Valley, extending N. and S., derives its name from the cleft or clove
in the mountains at its northern end. It is a pastoral valley, long and narrow,
hemmed in on both sides by low-lying ridges.

At 10.8 m. is the driveway entrance (L) to the FLORAL GARDENS
and 1,100-acre estate of the Hon. John E. Mack (visitors welcome on week
days during June). These gardens, occupying the western slope of Chest
nut Ridge (L), rise on a series of long terraces from the base to the summit,
and contain 1,500 varieties of flowers, shrubs, and trees, including many rare
and unusual specimens introduced from Europe and the Orient and from
the Southern States. During June 400,000 peonies of rare colorings and
varieties are in bloom. Here, too, are 32,000 rhododendrons in three varie
ties. Long rows of decorative shrubs and junipers, including the lacy Irish
juniper, first acclimated by Mr. Mack, set off the flower gardens. In un
cultured areas, mountain laurel, trailing arbutus, and a great variety of native
wild flowers bloom in profusion. Upon the summit of the ridge a reforested
tract of 300,000 white and red pine trees provide cover for wild deer, and
wheat and other forage is grown for them. Since hunting upon the estate
is prohibited, deer are numerous. Pheasants are raised on the property and
released each year.

A winding road extends to the crest of the ridge. From this vantage point,
the whole valley may be seen, 6 m. long and 1 m. wide, pocketed cozily be
tween the flanking ridges, which rise to an altitude of 1,000 ft. A panoramic
view extending to a distance of 50 miles, spreads away to the NW. with
the rugged peaks of the Catskills standing in silhouette against the sky. To
the SW. Mt. Beacon and Storm King stand like grim sentinels, guarding
the Hudson Highlands, through which the river flows oceanward.

JOHN E. MACK, lawyer and jurist, was born at Arlington, Dutchess
County, June 10, 1874. He has attained state-wide prominence as a mem
ber of the bar and has served on the New York Supreme Court bench. He
placed Franklin D. Roosevelt in nomination for President before the Demo
cratic National conventions in 1932 and 1936.

Mack homestead, was built in 1832, but alterations with the passing years
have changed it greatly. It is included in the land of and is maintained by
the Mack estate.

At 10.9 m. is the EMIGH HOUSE (R) in a field 200 ft. back from


the road, and reached by a little-used driveway (open to visitors). Nicholas
Emigh, credited with having been the first white settler in Dutchess County
(see Beacon), is also credited with having been the first settler in Clove
Valley. The date of his coming is not known, but it is known that he first
built and occupied a log cabin and in the year 1740 built this commodious
house. The date 1740 appears on the south chimney. It is a story-and-a-half
stone structure, well preserved and outwardly little changed, though there
is a clapboard addition on its south end. The doors and much of the interior
trim and hardware are, however, of later date. Lath and plaster walls cover
the massive 9 x 12 inch beams, which in Emigh’s day were exposed. The
fireplaces have been closed with brick and mortar. The floors, trod by early
pioneers and primitive Indians, are the original 18-inch oak planks hewn
and trimmed from primeval trees and fastened to the beams with hand-
wrought nails. Emigh built this house with enduring Dutch thoroughness.

The foundation of the windowless slave quarters, an 8 x 10 ft. building,
can still be traced 8 ft. from the main house and opposite the east door. The
Coe family, whose descendants now occupy the white frame farm house (R)
next beyond the Emigh house and own the farm upon which it stands, was
associated with Emigh in building the house and in clearing and developing
the land.

Some 600 ft. W. of the old Emigh house, is CLOVE SPRING, discharg
ing several hundred gallons of water a minute. The spring was a factor in
influencing the early settlement of Clove Valley.

At 12 m. is the junction with a macadam road.

Right on macadam road is the entrance of the CLOVE VALLEY
ROD AND GUN CLUB, .25 m. (private). It is located on the W. side
of the valley and controls an area of 5,000 acres of woodland and
meadow. In its aviaries 5,000 ducks and 7,000 pheasants are annually
reared and liberated. A pond upon this property is restocked each year
with 9,000 trout. The club membership is limited to 55.


Right on dirt road, the second house, .6 m. (R), is the home of the late
JEAN WEBSTER, author of DADDY LONG LEGS, and the
PATTY BOOKS. She was born in Binghamton, N. Y. in 1876, graduated
from Vassar College in 1901, and died in 1916, shortly after her marriage.
The house, locally known as the Skidmore homestead, is an outstanding
example of early igth century Colonial. It is painted white, and is sur
rounded by spacious lawns and formal flower gardens. A red brick wall
separates the lawns and gardens from the highway.

At 14.9 m. is the furnace (R) of the abandoned Sterling Mines, its high
stack a monument to past prosperity. In 1831 Elisha Sterling built a char
coal furnace here for the smelting of hematite ore, which he mined in the
nearby hills. The furnace prospered for several years, but was finally


abandoned and only its ruins remain. In 1873, the Clove Valley Iron Com
pany was organized and an anthracite furnace was built. Barges brought
black ore from Port Henry on Lake Champlain, through the Champlain
Canal, and down the Hudson River. This was transported in ox-drawn
wagons to the Clove Valley furnace, and when mixed with the local ore
produced an excellent grade of steel. In 1877 the Clove Valley Branch R.
R. was extended four miles from Sylvan Lake to the mines. In 1883 the
furnace closed, and one year later the railroad was abandoned. Thus ended
the last attempt at industrial development in Clove Valley.


2 thoughts on “WPA and Clove Valley in the 1930s

  1. I couldn’t figure out where the old iron ore forge was. Is there anything left of it? Also, what happened to Judge Mack’s magnificent gardens? All those peonies!


  2. Hi Peter – enjoyed your stories and history – that Mary must be a devil of a girl – the reason I did the calling is because I move in a higher realm peopled with gentleman bee keepers so I was the one to “reach out”… Chris Spitzmiller’s bee keeper said you have to chop into the tree to get them out – but if you want them I’m sure “Pam” (let’s call her that) will be glad to see you in the spring…
    Also want to go see John Mack’s garden xxoo


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