The John Kane House
The year was 1752 and King George III was on the throne when John Kane left his native Ireland to make his fortune in the New World. Four years later, at the age of 22, Kane married Sybil Kent of Southeast, New York, and brought his bride to the home that still bears his name. Here they were to live for more than 20 years, and here 12 of their 13 children were born. Kane prospered as a merchant and livestock trader, and the house at that time reflected the needs of his expanding family and business. Kane's assets were listed as including “...a large and commodious dwelling house, containing ten rooms, a large Storehouse 65 feet distant from the dwelling house, with a stone building of one story between, which joined each” and there were “a barn, barracks, stables, corn&-house, shed, smoke-house, dairy, etc.”. The farm contained 351 acres, and had orchard of 500 bearing trees, and 950 rods (almost 3 miles) of stone walls.
Kane’s sojourn in Pawling was not altogether peaceful. In 1766 he joined his friend and neighbor, William Prendergast in an ill-fated movement which became known as the “Anti-rent Rebellion.” At that time vast tracts of land, originally obtained as grants from the King were still held by absentee landlords. Those landlords had started eviction action against some of the settlers who had lived on the land and worked it for years. Following a skirmish with the militia, Prendergast, the leader of the revolt was captured and barely escaped hanging. Kane, evidently, was spared any serious consequences.
Kane was not so fortunate some ten years later during the colonies' struggle for independence. His sympathies at first seem to have been with the colonies. Later, however, he changed sides and in 1777 he moved into the British lines with two of his sons. His wife and other children remained at home for three more years, and it was during this period that General George Washington became their “house guest”.
When Washington moved the Continental Army northward in the summer of 1778, following the British evacuation of Philadelphia and the battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, he chose to position his forces in the area extending from Danbury, Connecticut to Newburgh, New York. For his headquarters he selected the John Kane house in Pawling and here he stayed from September through November. The portion of the house used by Washington is the present kitchen wing which dates from about 1740.
In 1780, Sybil Kane abandoned her home and moved with her family to Nova Scotia whereupon the property was acquired by Gideon Slocum and remained in the Slocum-Watts family until the mid-1800’s. It was during that period, around 1820, that the main structures, except for the kitchen wing, were razed and the present Federal style building was constructed. After a succession of owners, the house was acquired in 1982 by the Historical Society of Quaker Hill and Pawling. The house now displays a wide selection of perod furnishings and interesting artifacts.
The John Kane House also offers a charming gift shop, and docents are there to guide you through this journey in time.
The John Kane House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.