A grand opening for the Town of Wallkill Citizens Memorial Park was held on Sept. 21. The park honors citizens’ achievements, significant events and notable areas in the Town of Wallkill.
The grand opening featured a ribbon cutting ceremony. Addresses were provided by Town Supervisor Edward A. Diana, Tom Nosworthy, second assistant historian of the Town of Wallkill and Harold Card who helped to create and design the park. Approximately 100 people attended the event and honorees were recognized during the ceremony. The idea for the project came from the town, its historical society and Harold Card. The town provided the majority of the funds for the memorial and the historical society contributed some money as well.
“I thought it was a good idea to honor some of the outstanding people of [the town of] Wallkill who have gone beyond their profession,” Card said.
Accomplishments are honored on plastic panels mounted on stone slabs. One slab honors Peregrine White who was the first child to be born on the Mayflower in 1620. His descendants lived in the Town of Wallkill for many generations. In addition, this slab also honors George F. Reeve. He designed an invention to churn butter. A trained dog ran on a treadmill, providing the power for churning butter. The monument also notes that two mastodons were found in the Town of Wallkill.
Another slab honors Stacey Beakes Jr. Born in the Town of Wallkill; Beakes later convinced the government that Middletown should have its own post office. He went on to become the first President of the Village of Middletown. Truman J. Moon is also honored on this slab. In 1926, he wrote “Biology for Beginners”, a school textbook that was used around the country for decades.
Silas Horton Stringham is also honored at the park. Born in the Town of Wallkill, he later commanded the first naval expedition of the Civil War. He went to Washington D.C. in 1861 to serve as a consultant to President James Buchanan. George Godfrey is also honored on the slab. He fought in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg during the Civil War. After being captured, he was sent to Libby Prison in North Carolina where he died of a fever in 1864. His body is buried at Pine Hill Cemetery next to the park.
In addition, the historic Horton House is honored at the memorial. The house was once home to James Horton, who founded Horton Ice Cream Company, once the largest ice cream maker in the world. The Card’s bought the property in 1961 and Harold resides in it today.
The current Town Supervisor is also memorialized at the park. Over the years, Diana has filled many roles in Orange County’s government. In 1979 he was a Town of Wallkill Councilman and served as Deputy Supervisor from 1979-1985. He was elected County Legislator and Majority Leader serving from 1986-1993 and 1997-2001. Later he was elected as Orange County Executive in 2001 and served from 2002-2013. Last year, he became Town of Wallkill Supervisor.
In addition to the stone slabs, the park also features a labyrinth for meditation and an inuksuk, a symbol of safety, hope and friendship usually built for use by people of the Arctic region of North America.
In the future, the Town of Wallkill, its historical society and Card hope to add to the park. They aim to do more research about the history of the Town of Wallkill in order to find more people, monuments and events to memorialize. Also, they plan to include more slabs as time progresses. Those involved in the project took great pride in creating the park.
“We have created a place to honor our citizens,” Card said. “We have created something unique because I don’t know of any other towns that have something like this.”