Hidden Landmarks: Newtown Battlefield State Park

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Newtown Battlefield State Park, formerly known as Newtown Battlefield Reservation, was the site of the Battle of Newtown fought in August 1779, during the American Revolutionary War.

It was the only major battle of the Sullivan Expedition, an armed offensive led by General John Sullivan that was ordered by the Continental Congress to end the threat of the Iroquois who had sided with the British in the American Revolutionary War.

In the battle, the Loyalists and the Iroquois were defeated decisively. The site is today managed as a 372-acre state park.

Because the present-day battlefield is quite heavily wooded and obscured to the casual passerby on the highway below, a narrow column of white granite known as the Newton Battlefield Monument sits atop the hill where this historic battle once took place in Elmira, in Chemung County. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

This was not the first monument to stand here.

The original monument was erected in 1879 – dedicated 100 years after the battle of Newtown.

In August 1898, the Newtown Battlefield committee rode on horseback to the top of the hill to look at the monument’s condition, and to plan on how to fix it. The Elmira Telegram said, “Their report has not yet been made public, but it is known that the monument, which was originally constructed of the cheapest kind of materials, is in a most dilapidated condition.”

The original monument collapsed in a windstorm on Aug. 29, 1911.

The Civilian Conservation Corps lodges on the grounds are arguably the crown jewel when visiting the park.

The Civilian conservation corps are pretty much responsible for building a large portion of the infrastructure at many of the state and national parks that we use to this day.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a voluntary public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men. The CCC was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal that provided manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments.

The CCC was designed to provide jobs for young men and to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression in the United States.

This program employed up to 300,00 men at any one time all over the country, but of course, this CCC camp, right outside Elmira New York, had something unique taking place.

Company 1251, comprised of 180 men was stationed here in August of 1935 and was one of only two all African American companies in the CCC program.

NAACP, AND FDR running for reelection in 1936, three white officers were replaced with African Americans in 1937.

The only other company that was completely African American was at Gettysburg.

In addition to planting trees, building roads, managing drainage, the CCC also built the cabins, the washrooms, created picnic pavilions and built the lodge, which is easily a hidden landmark in Elmira.

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