If you travel along Route 17A
you will recognize this home at the bottom of the Hickory
Hill Park entrance. I always knew there must be a lot of
history to this home but never quite knew where to find
it. From the paper written by Henry Pelton(Warwick Historic
Papers) a mention was made of it being there in the year
1805. Recently, Mr. Terry Hann in his research of New Milford
came across the article below written by Jeanne Judson.
Sue Gardner informed me about it and the Warwick Valley
Dispatch gave me permission use it. I have added some notes
in the parentheses.
"The John Baird house which
is built facing the state road between Warwick and Bellvale,
was built in 1777, as is proved by the date found on one
of the beams when the house was enlarged some years ago.
From the outside the house no longer has a ancient appearance,
thought none of the old structure was destroyed. A new wing
was built on, making the house almost a duplicate as the
original and later the verandah running around two sides
was built, giving it an even more modern appearance. In
a small room upstairs, now used as a store room, an irregularity
in the floor marks the spot where the new rooms were joined
on the old. All of the West side of the house is the old
building, built one hundred and forty nine years ago(at
present in 2004 it is 227 years old)
The house was probably built
by one of the Forshee brothers(possibly Cornelis and
Barnard. In as much as the house, in common with most
of the Revolutionary houses,
was not sold on a separate deed, belonging as it did to
a large tract of land. One cannot be positive who the builder
was. However, in 1805 two brothers Forshee lived there and
in the spring of 1806 it was owned by Crynus Bertholf and
his wife, Willity. On January 24, 1816, the house and farm
passed from Crynus Berholf to Joseph and Benjamin Sayer.
This deed is still in possession of Mr. and Mrs. John Baird.
The house has been occupied by the same family ever since.(written
Mrs. Baird(nee May Sayer) being a great granddaughter of
Benjamin Joseph Sayer.
For one hundred years this house was
the site of the famous still.
Worked in 1812
the still was first started in this country is not certainly
known, but the kettles and worm were brought here from England
at a very early date and the still was being operated on
the Forshee farm as early as 1812 when Benjamin Sayer already
had an interest in it. In 1837 it
was moved to what is now(1925)
the Baird farm where it was operated by the two Sayer brothers
until the death of Joseph, when Benjamin ran it alone until
his death, leaving it to his sons, John L. and William Ellison
Sayer. John L. Sayer bought his brother's interest in it
and at his death left it to his sons, Benjamin B. and George
Washington Sayer. Mrs. Baird is the daughter of the late
George Washington Sayer, who was at one time supervisor
of Warwick. He died while his children were still minors
and Benjamin B. Sayer continued to run the business for
himself and his brother's widow and children, retiring in
1913. From then on to the passage of the prohibition amendment
Mr. and Mrs. Baird continued to operate the still.
Baird is the fourth generation of the family to occupy the
old house. Mr. Baird is a direct descendant of that Francis
Baird who ran the Baird Tavern in Warwick built in 1766
and famous today not only because of its age but because
George Washington twice stopped there.
old part of the Baird house begins with a wide central hall,
opening into huge double parlors, with unfortunately, only
one of the big brick fireplaces remaining. This however,
is a splendid example of the Colonial hearth, a brick fireplace
both wide and deep surmounted by an uncarved but delicately
molded mantle, with a paneled, built in cupboard at one
side. The wide board floors of the big parlors are just
beginning to creak under the strain of the footsteps of
a century and a half and it may be necessary to replace
them within the near future. The original windows are still
to be seen in the upper part of the older portion of the
Has Massive Staircase
The staircase rising from the wide hall is
a massive affair of black walnut, its heavy newel post and
substantial bannister suggesting that it might have replaced
an older stair when the house was enlarged in 1879. At this
time, black walnut was more in use than in earlier days
when cherry was a more popular wood for stairs."
The verandah which gives the house its modern appearance
from the outside was not built until 1909. The house sits
up from the road on the crest of a small hill so that it
can be seen for long distances. "