Forshee-Baird House-1777

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 in 1925)
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.

Still Worked in 1812
Where 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.

Mrs. 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.

The 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 house.
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. "