My name is Matt Moskowitz, and I am an art history major at SUNY New Paltz. This semester, I have returned for another internship at Historic Huguenot Street, and have wasted no time diving back into my blacksmith research. My goal is to discover the location of blacksmith shops in New Paltz and the surrounding area in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
During this research, I have spent many hours sifting through census records and genealogies, often encountering nothing but dead ends. At times, it can be discouraging but when I do come across something interesting and useful, I feel a rush of excitement and energy. It’s akin to unearthing a little treasure especially since finding an old blacksmith shop is something of a rarity.
Last week, I had my biggest find yet. Often one can find something very useful by accident or stumbling upon it. This happened when I came across the will of Jacob Hasbrouck dated 1761. At first, it appeared that the will included nothing pertaining to my research. I was about to move on to another document but then I came to the end of the will and the following witnesses were listed: “Witness: Daniel Bevier, Daniel Hasbrouck, Johannes Matyes Lou, blacksmith”.
I now had my lead. I knew the blacksmith’s last name was “Lou” and that he was living in or near New Paltz in 1761. I also know that the “Low” or “Lowe” family is a local family and thought that they might be one and the same. As such, I looked in the 1909 book, History of New Paltz and Its Old Families by Ralph LeFevre, which contains a very short section on the Low family. In the book, I learned that Johannes M. Low was born in 1706 to Matthew Cornelius and Jannetje Van Heyning. It looked as if I had found my man. The book also stated that Johannes married Rebecca Freer in 1735 so I looked in the Freer genealogy book, hoping to find where Johannes and Rebecca lived. The entry on Rebecca stated that she was the daughter of Hugo Freer, and after Hugo’s death, she and her husband built the house that is currently known as the Freer-Low house, located right here on Huguenot Street. I now have evidence indicating that a blacksmith lived on Huguenot Street in the mid-eighteenth century.
When researching a specific topic, it is doubtful that something will turn up, whether it is a diary, will, census or some other document that answers all the questions. It is up to the historian to piece together clues in order to create a larger picture. My work is far from over as there are still more blacksmiths waiting to be discovered. So stay tuned.