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Baron von Steuben Memorial Site, Remsen, NY

This is another post in a continuing series about our trips to the Adirondacks.

In autumn of 2007, we drove up to the foothills of the Adirondacks, north of Utica. We wanted to visit and pay respects to Baron Frederich Wilhelm Augustus Steuben, aka Baron von Steuben, buried on Starr Hill Road in Remsen, NY. He is known as the “drillmaster of the American Revolution,” but affectionately known as “von Schtooby” to my history-buff kids. My daughter says (in a very good German accent) that any American desiring to learn the techniques of the bayonet must have asked himself “vhat vould Schtooby do.” Ha!

Steuben Memorial Site

I thought the site would be just the huge burial marker that I have seen in brochures. I grossly underestimated the size, quality, and beauty of this historic site. Our jaws dropped open when we pulled up to the gate.

Road to Sacred Grove

Mohawk Valley

I cannot express with words the eye-popping grandeur of this site, and the spectacular view of the Mohawk Valley below. My lame photos only serve to dim the incredible landscape. Wow. That’s all I can say. What turned out to be a 10-minute visit rapidly became an hour of woodland exploration and historical reflection.

I’ll drop a few photos to aid in my inadequate descriptions. How I longed for a fancy camera to fully portray its beauty!

The site is very well kept. Although it was officially closed, trails were open and brochures were available from a waterproof box. We turned to walk down a heavily wooded trail to Steuben’s burial site. Walking into these woods is like walking into another world. Strange birds chittered to us from the treetops. Deep hoofprints of virile bucks heavily imprinted the soil. Crunchy layers of pine needles and the remnants of a gravel path urged our feet to go deeper into the forest. It was… primeval. Numerous historical markers were the only evident signs that someone had been here before us.

Sacred Grove

G-A Marker

Burial Marker

We paid our respects to the man so responsible for the success of our independent nation.

Honoring Steuben

Steuben had requested in his will that he be buried in an unmarked grave. However, ten years after his death, a road was proposed to cut through his burial place (progress, you know). The body was interred and placed in its present-day site: a five-acre, heavily wooded area. The marker is enormous (as you can see) but very plain. A crown is carved on one side, and Steuben’s name on the other. A few stone plaques gave more details.

Steuben Stone

My daughter has written a brief history of this patriot:

Baron von Steuben (“Baron” was not his first name; Frederick was his first name, and he had several “middle names”) was a hardcore veteran from Prussia (now a part of Germany) when he came to America to aid the Continental Army in its fight for independence. He became known as the “Drillmaster of the American Revolution,” because during the harsh winter of 1777 in Valley Forge, Baron von Steuben taught the Americans how to perform bayonet drills. His services were invaluable, for until the Americans learned how to use this dreadful weapon, the British troops and Hessian mercenaries almost always won the day on the battlefield, for they knew how to use the bayonet. But when the American troops became more skillful with it, they could be more of a match against the British.

Baron von Steuben was well-liked by General Washington and his officers; however, communication with the Americans was at first difficult. Steuben did not speak English, and it became necessary for him to be accompanied by an interpreter when drilling the Continentals. There, too, was another problem– none of Washington’s officers spoke German! Thankfully, the language that Steuben and a few officers understood was French. So when Steuben drilled the Continentals, he spoke in French while his interpreters (Gen. Nathaniel Greene and Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton) would translate itinto English for the soldiers. These two American officers, particularly Hamilton, were responsible for teaching Steuben the English language.

Not surprisingly, a close friendship developed between Hamilton and Steuben. After the war’s end, Steuben, who suffered great financial difficulties, found sanctuary in Hamilton’s home. Hamilton did everything in his ability to aid Steuben, who is reported to have once told some impatient creditors, “My Hamilton is my banker.” Hamilton was also responsible for helping Steuben secure land in Upstate New York that Congress had promised Steuben for his services. Hamilton helped Steuben secure the deed, and that piece of land became the place where Steuben spent his final days. He passed away in 1794.

In his will, Steuben requested that he be buried in an unmarked grave. But his services to his adopted country were far too significant to allow his fellow Americans to forget him. The Welsh-Americans who settled near his land, and the citizens of New York, erected monuments and memorials to him. A large monument was built over his remains.

It is easy for us Americans, especially in this present age, to forget those who forged the freedom which we enjoy, but freedom is itself a monument to those heroes. It ever reminds us of the debt of gratitude we owe to them.

“The world will little note what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Abraham Lincoln.

After leaving the burial site, we walked back to the open square and found means of entry to another area of the forest. It was like walking into another world.

Up Pines

Wood Between the Worlds

Like I said, I wish I had a better camera to detail the glorious beauty of this land. It is stunning. Slivers of sunlight barely punctured the gnarly network of bottlenecked pine trees. Our presence startled a pair of eagles who had been nesting high in the trees. At first, we didn’t know what the earth-shattering rustling was. We looked up to see a couple of tremendously large birds stretch out their wings and flap through the dense pine boughs. The sound was terrifying and the birds were so large I feared they would swoop down upon my youngest (but not likely). I’d estimate the wingspan of the eagle I saw was about 6 or 7 feet.

Walking through the forest was a bit laborious for me (unprepared for hiking as I was), but nothing deterred the children from dispersing and disappearing behind enormous clumps of pines. I think they could have explored all day and into the night. I finally had to gather them up and pull them out of this place, as it was getting late.

Yet there were even more places to explore after this! Quickly, we picked apples from an apple tree (so tart but delicious), discovered a tiny toad and chased him down for a while, and attempted to begin another trail down a beckoning road.

Road Past the Cabin

Climbing Tree

I begrudgingly called to the kids to forsake this plan, and led them to Steuben’s cabin for a peek on our way out of the park.

The Cabin

The cabin is a replica (a very good replica) of the little house Steuben built for himself. It was locked up (the memorial site is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day) but we could peer inside the glass windows. The interior looked incomplete. We saw a stone hearth and a lovely plank floor, but plywood and wood scraps were on the floor. A barrel filled with toy wooden muskets stood by a wall. The interior looked under construction still.

We longingly looked back into the woods, but we had to leave. The sun was going to set soon, and I had dinner to make.

Looking Back

What a lovely property for a great man. Rest in peace, Baron von Steuben.

On our way home, we stopped for a brief second to snap a photo of another historical marker. This one was dedicated to the Welsh immigrants who cleared the land and settled this area in 1795.

Welsh Cemetery

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About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

Comments (12)

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  1. [...] autumn of 2007, after a trip to the Baron von Steuben Memorial Site in Remsen, we took a late-afternoon drive through the Adirondacks. I scooted up Route 28 to White [...]

  2. [...] the history of Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton College, it’s founder, Samuel Kirkland, and Baron von Steuben. We have visited the campus several times and enjoyed its extensive library (see here and here). My [...]

  3. Greg Hudson says:

    This is just lovely. I am an American Revolutionary War reenactor. If it’s okay with you and your daughter I would love to quote her. This is the part we lilke:

    It is easy for us Americans, especially in this present age, to forget those who forged the freedom which we enjoy, but freedom is itself a monument to those heroes. It ever reminds us of the debt of gratitude we owe to them.

    Thanks,
    Greg Hudson
    Capt’n Kellar’s Comp’y
    Illinois Regim’t
    Virginia State Line

  4. TODD says:

    IS ANY OF THESE PLACEES HAUNTED LET ME KNOW I WOULD LONE TO CHECK IT OUT SOME TIME EMAIL ME OR OUR GROUP AT OCPSGHUNTERS@AOL.COM OR TRASHER650@YAHOO.COM

  5. Jim says:

    This is so beautifully done. My compliments to the daughter who wrote the history of Baron Syuben. Extremely well written. I used to live and grew up within 20- 30 miles of this this area, (in Rome NY). The last 22 years I have been in Florida. I used to ride through these woods and all through this area. It was never as developed as it is in the photos on this website when I was there. I am glad to see that the state has made a lot more of the memorial from what I remember. There was just one of those marker signs when I lived in the area and it was pretty difficult to find if you didn’t know your way around those woods. There are some other places of interest in this same area like an old cemetary with dates from the 1700′s and 1800′s, I think located on Star Hill. It is on the side of a logging/ fire road. Many or most of the headstones had fallen over the last time I was there, probably in the neighborhood of 30 years ago now.
    Another great place to visit, (if It’s still there and open to the public,) is the fire watcher’s tower located on Gomer Hill. On a clear day from this tower you can see over several counties and if you look in the right direction, almost see to the Canadian border. Excellent view early in the fall when the leaves xhange.

    • Hi, Jim! Thanks for visiting! That’s pretty neat that you grew up around here. Yes, I’ll bet much has changed. Visiting Rome is one of our favorite things to do. I hope you can find some other neat places here to read about. Thanks for visiting.

  6. Dru Keck says:

    I live on Evans Road, less than a Mile away from the monument, and you are correct, it is a great site, the woods here are amazing, and that was only a little section!
    You should try to come back up when everything is open!
    If you want more landscape pictures right next to this site, keep going up StarrHill until you get to the 4way stop, take a right, and stay on that, and there is a “Look Out” on the left hand side. Sunrise and Sunsets are amazing there!
    Happy travels!

  7. Martin P. says:

    I grew up in Remsen and visited this park so many times and I agree with you about the visual splendor that is often overlooked when you routinely see it. Winter and fall hold even more beautiful sights up on Starr Hill.

    Did you know that General Steuben was gay? I mention that because I am, too, and if I had known that little fact growing up and living in that area for 25 years, I would’ve had at least one better moment in my life. So I mention it that someone else might have a better moment, too.

    Even if you were not aware of this fact, what everyone has said above still holds true and thanks for writing about your visit.

  8. Eric Johnson says:

    I drive past the memorial about 6 times a week on my way to and from work in the Adirondacks, so I enjoyed reading your family’s account of your visit. I’ve biked up to the memorial, and it’s truly beautiful. I often wonder, as my mind wanders on my commute, what things were like up there on Star Hill back in the good Baron’s day. I look forward to doing some bicycling up there again this summer from my home in the Mohawk Valley.

    One thing that’s always intrigued me: There used to be a small bar along Route 12 near the road leading to the memorial called “The Blue Baron.” I always assumed it was a reference to Von Stueben, but can’t find find anything on that on the web. Anybody know what that was all about? Also, I didn’t realize that he was gay, although I guess that’s a reasonably well documented suspicion. Hey, I’m not, but I think bringing more great American historical figures out of the closet would be a good thing. There is also some speculation that he was forced to leave Europe because of pedophilia. That’s not such a good thing.

    History is almost always more complex than our history texbooks reveal. Now, thanks to Texas, even more so.

  9. I found your msg to be very informative, I live about 6 miles from the site (air miles) and we go up to the area mentioned often, you have done a super job of telling his story, he was a great man and I am glad to see that someone understands the true meaning of a PATRIOT.
    Thank You,
    Paul.

  10. Peter G says:

    My family lived across the street from this park in the big white house on the corner of starr hill and sixty roads. Though we had 6 acres of lawn ourselves I considered “The Park” my own adventureland .. You are right sir, the place in its expansive ocean of green lawn, the “hardwood” and pine forests represented mystical other worldliness qualities about it.. Imagine what it must have felt like to a young boy … I must have traversed along that crunchy stone path and climbed within the fenced perimeter of the monument hundreds of times.. along between the pine-needle ladden paths between the well-aligned pine trees.. If one continued North a few hundred more yards you would discover a small bubbling creek dividing the pine grove.. I often sat there in absolute solace apart from my dog (redbone hound mix).. in all seasons (including winter on snowshoes which brings an entirely different enlightment to the woods which cannot be fully explained here..) I also on many occasions found old indian trinquets in those woods as my dog scrambled ahead of me as he picked up a scent of some small varmit.. unfortunately many times it was a porcupine.. (ouch!) You brought me back to my youth sir.. I thank you … As I sit here at my work desk 500 miles and 30 years away from that place and time I will forever treasure the memories made there..

  11. Peter G says:

    My Dog’s name by the way.. “Baron” .. no joke. I wish I could take credit for naming him but I can’t.. That goes to a very clever older sister.