A Letter from the Town Historian, Sabina Toomey

Some time in 2013 I was appointed by the Forestburgh Town Board to become the Town Historian. I began by looking into the archives to determine just what it contained and decided to start with the Town Library. Please CLICK HERE to view a list of publications available in the Forestburgh Library located in the Town Hall. Next, I ventured into a small metal file cabinet. What I found was a small yellow envelope folded in half containing documents over 150 years old! On a shelf rolled, torn and unprotected were documents regarding WWI. All of these original documents have been placed into acid free holders and have been scanned for examination and saved for other generations to see how Forestburgh played its part at war!

As a member of the Retired Sullivan Volunteer Program, I volunteer at the Sullivan County Museum in Hurleyville. In 2015, I submitted Elsie Winterberger as History Preserver of the year. I felt she was due this title because of her efforts as author of “Forestburgh Lore”, a biweekly column which appeared in the Sullivan County Democrat documenting Forestburgh’s history as only she could, because she lived it! To view the tribute to Elsie Winterberger, click the following link: Tribute to Elsie Winterberger

To read more about Elsie, please click the link at the bottom of this page.

The next and most difficult task was working on the very detailed Civil War information. I found very interesting documents called the Soldier’s Power of Attorney, notarized doctor’s notes for military discharge or deferment from service. I am so thankful for all the help and support of our Town Government in keeping all of these special documents safe for future enjoyment. I hope you enjoy all of the information and feel proud our little town showed such pride and valor at a time of national turmoil.

-Sabina Toomey, Town Historian

Our Town

July 28, 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of World War 1. Ironically just uncovered in the archives is a document that tells how our town impacted that event. It is titled: “State of New York – the Adjutant General’s Office – Albany. Enrollment of Persons Liable to Service in the Militia under Chapter 41, Laws of 1989, and Acts Amendatory Thereof (Militia Law) by Order and Direction of the Governor.”

Listed in alphabetical order and in the most beautiful and clear penmanship are the names of all the men in our town liable for service. Eligible ages are between 18 and 45 are listed as well as occupations.

(click on any photo to enlarge)


Town of Forestburgh NYEach Man was requested to report any previous military or naval service, dates of enrollment, and the organization(s) in which he served. The information contained in this document is very useful in so many aspects, certainly to the town historian as it documents what was happening in our town at that time.

The railroad was still very active. Fred McMorris was a station master and an operator. Edward Decker was a railroad section man. Eugene Decker was a lineman. Albert and Edgar Ogdan were line walkers. Clarence Ogdan was a section hand.

Farming remains the major occupation. Two dairy farmers are documented as well as 39 other farmers. Gone are the stone quarries, the tanners, and the lumbermen! Tourism flourishes in the County and Forestburgh.

Merriwald Park is being care for by Floyd Avery. John Joseph Gibbons is listed as a hotel manager at Merriwald Park. At the time Oakland Valley had several hotels, all of which are torn down now. If you look closely crossing the bridge of Oakland Valley, we can see the foundation of what used to be a large hotel on the edge of the river. It was called the River Edge Hotel and it was boasted about for its large dance floor and its capacity for 60 guests. It was owned by Abe Wolowitz.

It was torn down not long ago by its current owners Vince and Suzanne Galligan. Listed were a few carpenters, laborers, a mail carrier, and a chauffeur-mechanic. The occupation of Henry Foster really has me puzzled. He reported that he worked at a silk mill. If anyone has insight to this one, please let me know !

As often happens in a world so frequently at war, several of the men served in another event, the Spanish-American War, as well.

Humphrey Leo Toomey, my relative, is listed but unfortunately the last page of the document is almost in tatters. An interview with family members Mrs. Joan Toomey Grund provided the following information.

H. Leo Toomey, Private US Army WW1

H. Leo ToomeyHumphrey Leo Toomey, known legally as H. Leo Toomey was known to family and friends as Leo. He left Monticello High School in his senior year to enlist in the US Army. He felt strongly that someone from his family should be actively involved in “the Great War” believed to be the war to end all wars. Leo’s example led another Monticello classmate, Tom Turner, to follow suit. Both Leo and tom graduated in absentia and remained lifelong friends. The picture of the graduating class of 1917 shows flag draped chairs honoring the two class members on active duty with the US Army.

Leo trained at Fort Slocum in New York, Camp Joseph E Johnston in Jacksonville, Florida and Newport News, Virginia. He then served in France with the Quartermaster Corp as a member of the 35th Rec Company, Clerical Companies 3 and 4 and Supply Company 312. The Toomey family received his had written post card upon his arrive in France with the short message “I’ve arrived”. Leo returned from France in 1919.

During his military service Leo maintained an ongoing correspondence with his siblings, especially his sister Mary Ellen Toomey and his mother, Mary Ann Molloy Toomey. Additionally he corresponded with Monsignor Vincent Arcese, pastor or St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Mother Polycarpa O.P. head sister at St. Josephs New York, as well as several leaders of the Monticello Knights of Columbus and friends from Monticello and Forestburgh.

Information about Leo’s military service is documented by correspondence located in the Musselman Library College Archives, Gettysburgh College, Pennsylvania. Additional information was provided by Joan Toomey Grund, Leo’s niece and godchild.

See below photos of historical significance.

To read the article written in the Sullivan County Historical Society Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner brochure published 10/18/2015 click the following link: Elsie Winterberger-History Preserver

Civil War

“Soldiers Power of Attorney”

It was election time 1864. The civil war was raging and the country needed to elect a new president.

An active legislature of the state of New York, “An act to enable the qualified electors of the state, absent therefrom in the military services of the United States, in the Army or in the Navy thereof to vote.” Passed April 21st, 1864.

This is the first time a military ballots came into effect. Fighting men took advantage if they wanted to confirm the belief that all men are created equal and slavery should be abolished. It was Abraham Lincoln running for second term. At this time in history the Democratic party was pro slavery.

11 of these documents and the envelopes they came in were found. There is no way of knowing if there were more. They came from the battlefields of Richmond Virginia, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Each man went to his commanding officer signed the form which allowed some family members and friends to cast his ballot here in Forestburgh. The men came from the 143rs Infantry 1st the New York State volunteer mounted rifles.


Click the tab “Soldier’s Power of Attorney” to view the documents

Remembering Forestburgh -Video Diaries

Town of Forestburgh Interview Series #1 Part 1, 2, 3 & 4

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

Town of Forestburgh Interview Series #2 Part 1 & 2

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Forestburgh Interview Series #3

Forestburgh Interview Series #4