13th day of January 1772, Wolfert Ecker, great-grandson of Jan
Ecker, one of the early Dutch settlers in New Netherlands, purchased
the Mill House in a foreclosure sale conducted by the sheriff, from
Jacobus Van Blarckem, of the Province of New York. Ecker was the
high bidder for the property for the sum of 835 pounds and 19 shillings
to include the quit rents, judgments and mortgages to His Majesty.
At that time the town of Newburgh and the house, was in the county
of Ulster. Wolfert was the grandson and namesake of the Wolfert
Ecker immortalized by Washington Irving in his short story "Wolferts
Roost". When Gomez built the original one story house, he dug
deep into a hill on the north side for his rear wall. We know that
Wolfert Ecker began improvements and additions to the Mill House,
now the Gomez Mill House, about 1772 Ecker added the second floor
and had an entrance to the house second story from on top of the
the hillside was removed in two excavations, one ca. 1882 and the
other in 1932, thereby eliminating this second floor entrance. Eckers
slaves used homemade moulds and fetched the clay from the banks
of the Hudson to make the bricks in the meadow across Mill House
Road to add the second story. Eckers brick alterations to
Gomezs one story stone building completely changed the appearance
of the building. Ecker developed the house in a vernacular five
bay version of the popular Georgian style employing local building
traditions. The upper story centerpiece for the symmetrical house
was a Palladian window. The second story brickwork, laid in Fleming
and in some places, Liverpool bond, is particularly distinctive.
On the east side, in bricks glazed black by the hot fires in the
kiln, is a design of a diamond surrounding a heart reflecting Dutch
construction influence in the valley. Families following Eckers
residency continued using this theme and Dard Hunter added
a wrought iron heart to the front door and also made handmade paper
using a heart watermark. (In welcoming todays many visitors,
the docents point out Eckers design and say, If you have
a warm heart, you too are welcome here at Mill House.)
Ecker was a regionally prominent Revolutionary patriot and the
Mill House at Eckers farm was a local center for Whig activity
during that time. Ecker was an important figure in the Committee
of Safety in Newburgh, one of the early Town Supervisors and was
known as a zealous Whig and a first-rate Tory hunter.
He was commissioned a first Lieutenant on December 1, 1775 in the
New Marlborough Company, Southern Regiment of Minute Men.
the Sabbath, area farmers and residents would gather at this house
and Wolfert would open the meetings with a reading from his old
Dutch family Bible, after which they discussed War news and planned
anti-Tory activities. Today, in a prominent position in the dinning
room, is Wolferts wooden Bible box, a gift from his descendants.
must suffice here to say that after the war, Wolfert Ecker prospered,
with several grist mills on the former Jews Creek, now called Eckers
Creek, a ferry on the Hudson, a packet line to New York, and extensive
commercial activities in the mid-Hudson region. Wolferts son,
Colonel William Ecker, went in for sports, good living, and politics.
The order of preference is suggested by the fact that although he
did spend some time in the legislature at Albany where he
died on the Assembly Rooms floor - his sportsman and gambling
habits apparently got the better of him, for the Mill House and
property was sold as it was acquired, at a foreclosure sale to the
next family, the Armstrongs of Danskammer.