IN THE BEGINNING
Croton Heights was inhabited by "Indians, deer and wild
turkeys." (According to Scharf: History of Westchester)
June 7, 1697: Sylvanus van Cortlandt received a grant of land in
the New World from William III of England. It extended from
Croton Point on the Hudson River to the present Connecticut
border, and northward ten miles. It included the present
townships of Cortlandt, Yorktown, Somers, Poundridge and North
and South Salem.
In 1734, upon his death, the land was divided among his heirs.
His daughter Elizabeth received "Lot 4 of the Middle Ward"
(covering Yorktown and Somers). She was married to Cortlandt
About 1744 J. Danfurt from Holland bought land and built the
western part of the present Wilson house on Croton Heights Road.
It was inherited by Richardson Davenport, who added the part
east of the present hall, and ran it as the Davenport Inn during
the Revolutionary War. It was said to have been a good one.
In May 1781 the Inn became the scene of a skirmish between
American and British troops. At this time the British had
invaded as far north as White Plains, and the American forces
had retreated to northern Westchester, under General Washington.
American soldiers had been stationed in the Inn to protect the
Oblenus Ford over the Croton River, and they were betrayed to
the British by a disgruntled Tory. About sunrise one day a
British force under Col. Delancey crossed the ford and marched
up the valley along Turkey Mountain (no road there then) and up
the hill to the Inn.
During the subsequent engagement Major Flagg was killed, and
Colonel Christopher Green, badly wounded, was carried out on a
horse, on a lane leading to the old Pines Bridge, thrown off
into the "whortleberry bushes," and left to die. Both officers
were given a military funeral and buried, it is said, in a
common grave, in the churchyard of the Presbyterian Church. A
large stone monument marking the spot is easily visible to
passers-by to this day.
In his report to Congress May 17,
1781 General Washington ends: "The loss of these two officers is
to be regretted, especially the former (Colonel Greene) who has,
upon several occasions, distinguished himself."
The account of a witness continued: "Between ten and twenty
fell, in and around the house, and were afterward interred in
one common pit or grave, in the northwest corner of the lot,
under an ash tree."
Later Jacob Carpenter married Davenport’s daughter and they
lived in the Davenport house. Their daughter married Daniel K.
Griffen, who built the farmhouse across the road, now the Croton
Legend has it that he built the wings on either
side for his sons as they grew up and married. He was owner and
resident of the property in 1881, when the Bolton History of
Westchester was published.
An old calf-bound ledger, found in the attic of the Wilson house
bears the inscription "Daniel K. Griffen & Sons, 1877," on the
flyleaf. The latest entry in the same handwriting is September
19, 1892. The book then became the daybook of George C. Griffen.
Entries run from September 1894 to November 31, 1902. Its pages,
many of which are nearly illegible from flowers having been
pressed therein, cast interesting sidelights on the local
industry, and the prices and wages of the time.
What transpired between 1902 and 1924, when Mr. Wilson bought
the 150-acre property (and named it Croton Heights) is left
mostly to conjecture. At one time the Bowery Mission used the
present Inn to house some of their old men. There were numbers
on the walls in the attic to mark the beds. At one time there
was a sawmill at the top of the ravine on the Bacon property,
and the present Colonel Greene and Cliff roads lead to the site
of the mill.
When Mr. Wilson bought the place,
there were several buildings on it; besides the Wilson house and
the present Inn there was an old barn and shed. They were
re-built later as garages that burned in 1960. The old forge,
now the Hobbs house: The old carriage house is said to have been
lived in originally by the Danfurts and may be the oldest
building of them all the is date uncertain. It is now the
In 1925 Mr. Wilson and Warren C. Rowell bought an additional 100
acres to the East. The original deed states that the land was
bought from Cortlandt Skinner and his wife Elizabeth by Zadoc
Birdsall. The deed of sale is dated June 13, 1769. Richardson
Davenport is one of the witnesses. The deed mentions a house and
two barns. It is thought that the house mentioned is the present
main road nearest the Inn in Revolutionary times was Pines
Bridge Road (now Hanover Road) which ran from Crompond Road down
to the Old Pines Bridge (east of the present structure). A rough
lane led to it from the Inn. Just when the present Croton
Heights Road (Cross Road in 1924) was built is not clear, but at
one time it extended to the west up the hill through the Locke
property (where there was once another Griffen farm) and down to
the lake. There is still an exit to the present Route 129.