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Cladius Smith
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Birth: unknown
Death: Jan. 22, 1779

Claudius Smith

Smith led a band of British Loyalists who conducted guerrila war on Revolutionaries and their sympathizers in northern NJ and southern NYS. A cave reputed to have been used by him and his gang is a hiking trail attraction in Harriman State Park.

Smith and a gang member "Brown," arrested for stealing oxen from the Revolutionary Army, were jailed in Goshen on July 18, 1777 by Orange County Sheriff Dumont. But later the gang seized the sheriff and broke Smith and Brown out of jail.

The Tory gang's exploits terrorized Ramapo Valley residents who supported the Revolution. Smith raiders waylaid Gen. Washington's couriers and plundered Patriot farms. On Oct. 6, 1778, during an attack on one such farmhouse, its owner, Revolutionary Major Nathaniel Strong was killed. That Oct. 31, Gov. Clinton issued proclamation offering a large reward for the capture of Smith.

Claudius fled to Long Island but was caught and eventually transported back to Orange County where Sheriff Isaac Nicoll took custody. Smith was placed in heavy irons. Several extra guards were assigned just to keep watch on him and to prevent his escaping again from the Goshen jail. Claudius was tried and convicted on Jan. 13, 1779. He was publicly executed Jan. 22 in Goshen.

During the period of his incarceration at that place, both before his trial and while he was awaiting execution, Claudius Smith lived in hopes his men would undertake his rescue. Even when he was being led to the scaffold he was observed to cast furtive glances over his shoulder towards Slate hill, where about a mile away was a cave which was said to be a rendezvous of the robber gang. But he was so strongly guarded that no attempt at rescue was made, and would doubtless have failed if undertaken. One of the guards was stationed at all times at the "grief-hole" opening into his cell, with a loaded musket, with orders to shoot him dead if any attempt was made on the jail by his friends outside.

The fated hour arrived, and Claudius was led out of his gloomy prison and permitted to take his last look upon earth. He walked up the steps of the scaffold with a firm tread. He had dressed himself with scrupulous neatness, in black broadcloth with silver buttons, and white stockings. This was in the days of public executions; and he looked from the scaffold into the faces of thousands who had gathered there to see him die. He smiled grimly as he spoke to several men in the crowd below whom he knew.

Before the final adjustment of the noose Claudius stooped to remove his shoes. When asked why he did so he repeated the words of his mother that he would die with his shoes on, and added that he "wanted to make her out a liar." He was interred near the scaffold. Years afterwards a gentleman by the name of Wood, as he stood conversing with an acquaintance on the village green at Goshen, happening to press upon the greensward with his cane at a certain spot, found it would easily pierce the soil as though there was some sort of hollow underneath. A slight examination of the place showed it to be a shallow grave, and that the bones of a human skeleton lay entombed there. Further inquiry proved the remains to be those of the noted bandit chief, Claudius Smith.

Scores of people were attracted to the place, and some of the more curious carried away portions of the skeleton as souvenirs. Orrin Ensign, the village blacksmith, made some of the bones into knife-handles; doubtless some of them are still doing duty in that capacity. It is even believed by many of the people of Goshen that the skull of Claudius Smith is embedded in the masonry over the front door of the present court-house in that place.

Some of Smith's associates were even greater criminals than himself. His son James was hung at Goshen soon after his own execution; his eldest son, William, was subsequently shot in the mountains, and the body never was buried but became the food of wolves and crows, where the bones lay bleaching for years afterward.

Body lost or destroyed
Specifically: He was interred near the scaffold.
Maintained by: James Ahaesy
Originally Created by: Bev
Record added: Sep 23, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 76973041

- Jacquie Lempka
 Added: Nov. 14, 2014

- Alli Traywick
 Added: Aug. 19, 2013

- Barbara Hammons Davis, Dalt
 Added: Jan. 19, 2012

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