APPLE WOOD WINERY
WARWICK, NEW YORK
A Brief History
By Professor Richard W. Hull
Welcome to Applewood Winery and Orchards, in the heart of the historic Hudson Valley! You have discovered the oldest working farm in Orange County and one of the oldest west of the Hudson River. For more than 10,000 years, Minisink Indians hunted just where you are standing today. Then, in 1700, Samuel G. Staats, acquired about 5000 acres of wilderness from his friend, Governor Bcllomont, of the colonial Province of New York. The Staats family had migrated from the Netherlands to New Amsterdam in 1664. Staats himself was a prominent surgeon, fur trader, and land speculator. He had amassed a small fortune trading in beaver skins around Albany. Now his eyes turned to an area rich in game, called “Wawayanda” by the Indians, which lay closer to markets in New York City and in Europe. Dr Staats sought the land not to farm but to exploit for fur pelts and possibly for iron ore and timber.
To strengthen his new claim, Staats built a simple but solid stone house and inscribed his initials and date “SGS 1700” on a stone just to the right of the front door. You can still see it today! The dwelling was situated over a powerful spring to ensure an internal supply of water in case of an Indian attack The huge slabs of shale for the two-foot thick walls were dragged in from nearby outcroppings while the finely-crafted wooden beams and floor boards were probably brought by Hudson river sloops from New York.
The stone inscription was a smart move, because political upheavals in Albany in 1702 led to a change of government. Staats lost his seat on the colonial Council as well as his land title. To raise funds for the regime, the new Governor in 1703 sold a much larger tract to a syndicate of 12 speculators and called it the “Wawayanda Patent”. Staats cried foul and sued. After long and bitter litigation, the court in 1713 awarded the surgeon a 13th share of the land patent, which included the stone house and much of what is today the town of Warwick, from the densely-wooded Bearfort mountain range westward to the Drowned Lands surrounding Pine Island which teemed with aquatic life. The coveted Wawayanda Patent was vaguely-defined and not accurately surveyed until 1765. Later, its ownership would be argued by none other than Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, who as mediators represented opposing parties.
By then, much of the land had been cleared of beaver and other fur-bearing animals and farmers from northern New Jersey, Long Island, and western Connecticut streamed into the valleys in search of land to cultivate. Dr. Staats did not live to see this transformation. He died in 1715, never having actually resided on the land. His six daughters inherited his share of the Patent and proceeded to sell it off in multiple parcels. White settlers regarded the land as ‘vacant’ because by the mid-1700s, most of the Indian population had either been decimated by smallpox and measles epidemics or had fled westward, away from the encroaching farmers and their propensity for enclosing their lands with stone rows.
Over time, the entire Wawayanda Patent was subdivided and sold off to land hungry white settlers. In about 1734, some 800 acres, including the land upon which our Applewood Winery is situated, was purchased by Jacobus Demarest, who trekked up from Bergen County in northern New Jersey. His direct descendants still live a mile down the road. The Demarest's cleared the rocky, heavily-wooded land for dairy farming and built their own house and barns.
In about 1863, the Demarest's sold some of their land to Joseph Roy, a local speculator. It included about 116 acres and the decaying old stone house. Shortly after the Civil War, the farmhouse was expanded and Victorianized with a gabled wood frame second story, a rear wing, and a wraparound porch. In 1899, the farm passed to James B. Lawrence whose heirs sold it to John E. Predmore in 1921. He kept a number of dairy cows and pigs and called his farm the “Cream Pot”. By this time, the old pre-colonial public road which connected Four Corners Road to Kings Highway was abandoned and became a private cul de sac which terminated at the farmhouse.
On June 27, 1949, the farm was purchased from Earl Predmore by Dr. and Mrs. Donald B Hull of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Donald Hull was a prominent physician who traced his Quaker family roots deep into the Hudson Valley past. The farm was acquired so that their eldest son, David, could fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a fruit grower. David went on to study Pomology at Cornell University and in 1955 he returned to the farm to launch his business. In the meantime, David and the entire Hull family and their friends had been planting apple and peach trees in former cow pastures. And, for awhile, they also raised Hereford cattle and hosted groups of landscape painters. Dr. Hull in his spare time dug ponds with his bulldozer and maintained a large organic garden. The landlocked orchard was expanded in the mid-1950s with the acquisition of an adjacent 20-acre tract along Four Corners Road.
Mr. Hull, affectionately called ‘Apple Dave’ by his wide circle of friends, began to raise his own family of three children on the farm with his wife, Elaine. By the late 1950s the farm had been transformed into a full apple operation and was given the name ,“Applewood Orchards”. Initially, the fruit was picked and sorted on the farm and sold off a truck tailgate or in markets here and in New York City. Market prices were volatile and Dave was at the mercy of middlemen. Then, a devastating cold storage fire in 1975 destroyed his fall harvest and sparked the idea of a pick-your-own method of harvesting and marketing. Overnight, Dave became an early pioneer in this innovative form of agricultural enterprise.
The pick-your-own business flourished from the start as people each autumn flooded to the historic farmstead from throughout the Metropolitan Region. In the late l98Os, a pavilion was constructed to house apple-related merchandise and for use in the spring and summer for private parties, including weddings and anniversaries.
Opening of the winery
In Autumn 1993, David’s youngest son, Jonathan, assisted by his wife, Michele. opened the winery in a building along the farm lane. Since then this enterprising winemaker has pioneered the planting of Vinifera grape varieties in this section of the Hudson Valley, as well as producing apple wine, and hard cider. The wine is fermented, bottled, and sold at the Winery and is valued for its rich bouquet, full body, and fragrant aroma. Jonathan Hull is following a long Hudson Valley tradition of wine making that dates extends to the Revolutionary War.
So this is the remarkable saga of Applewood Winery & Orchards. The land has been a labor of love for many generations of people extending over more than a millennium. Remarkably, the vistas from the vineyards today have changed little from the time before George Washington was born and our Republic was founded. We now look forward to the future and to the opening of the fourth century of continuous farm operation. We view our future with optimism and enthusiasm, as well as with reverence for this historic earth and for the wonderful enjoyment and awesome bounty it has extended to so many for so long. It gives all of us at Applewood Winery great pleasure to share with you our harvest of wine.