by Shannon Butler

We have been preparing for our upcoming walking tour on Academy Street and have found some fascinating stories about the people who once inhabited these homes. Today we will share with you a story of an old book dealer who lived at #148 and who had experienced some amazing times and spent time with some of this country’s most famous citizens. Though it could be said that the more one reads about Mr. Hudson Taylor, and his various adventures both on land and on the river, the more it seems that he should be considered one of the country’s most famous citizens as well (certainly one of Poughkeepsie’s).

Hudson Taylor was born in New York City in 1820, the youngest of Robert Taylor’s six children, a doctor from England (all of Hudson’s siblings had been born in England). The family had moved to Poughkeepsie after Robert’s brother John had established himself as a lawyer here. The family also lived in Tivoli for a time, before heading out west to Illinois, where Robert sadly passed away. Young Taylor made his way back to Poughkeepsie with his mother and some of his siblings, but by the age of 14 he decided to head to Washington D.C. in the hopes of working with his older brother Franck. He worked as a clerk in his brother’s book store and would eventually take over the business.

Being the owner of a prominent bookstore in Washington D.C. during the years leading up to and during the American Civil War would have brought some of the greatest minds of the day into his company. Some of the regulars at his book store, who he also considered his dear friends, were men like Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. Both men had served as lawyers, senators, and Secretary of State. He had also managed to befriend the Secretary of War under the Lincoln Administration, Edwin M. Stanton. Taylor claimed that it was he who had convinced Secretary Stanton to keep the military bands marching with the army. Stanton had thought about removing musical units, as he argued they were considered too costly. Taylor came forward to proclaim,

“Mr. Stanton, I have read somewhere that music has been used in all ages not only as a stimulus to the passion of combat, but also as a sedative to the sense of danger and while embattled hosts are marching with measured tread to the field of death, music is the magic that lures them to their doom.”

In the middle of the war, Taylor decided to come back to Poughkeepsie, as he had time and time again. He had clearly ventured up here back in 1861 when he became one of the charter members of the Poughkeepsie Ice Yacht club. He purchased the home that had once belonged to William Barnes on Academy Street, and moved in with his wife Christine and their children, Emily, Bessie, Hudson, and Gertrude. Even though he had retired from business (and was quite wealthy from his book shop days), he continued to stay busy by serving as the Director of the Poughkeepsie Trust Company and serving on the Poughkeepsie Railroad bridge committee. He also had his own personal steam yacht which he named “The Bessie” after his daughter. A commuter ferry steam boat would eventually be named after him, “The Hudson Taylor” sailed from Newburgh to Poughkeepsie regularly.

Sadly, their youngest daughter Gertrude died in 1875, at only 13 (her headstone at Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery has a weeping angel carved in stone leaning over it). Ten years later, his wife Christine died. In 1900, a lump was discovered in his daughter Bessie’s throat and she laid in the house while doctors fought over what it was (it was cancer), and she too died. Taylor died in the house in 1906 from a rather sudden illness. His son Hudson Jr. died in 1927. There then remained only the last child, Emily, who would continue to live here, essentially alone, until her death in 1951. She was very vocal about the city adding two sewer and water pipes to her property in 1927, and she said to the papers “the whole town is running amuck!” From the 1960s on, 148 Academy Street has been split into apartments.

Check out this fabulous photo of the steamboat that was named after our Poughkeepsie resident, Hudson Taylor. From the collections of the Marlboro Free Library.

Poughkeepsie Eagle News, 15 May 1872, 1 Jun 1873, 17 Nov 1906, 27 May 1927, 10 Jan 1921, 19 Aug 1927

01 – – Photo of Mr. Hudson Taylor from the Local History Collections- I8T
02 – Article from the Poughkeepsie Journal about Taylor’s yacht “Bessie,” 1 Jun 1873