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Dover Middle School
Address:  2368 Route 22, Dover Plains NY 12522. 

Hamlet's Name May be Linked to English Cliffs 

Although the Harlem Valley settlement of Dover Plains has been discovered only recently by scores of newcomers -- many of them commuters -- its history is among the oldest in Dutchess County, dating back more than 250 years. At that time, however, it wasn't officially known as Dover, but by the name of the town of which it was a part -- Pawling.

"Then in 1807, a group met in Wingdale and separated from Pawling the 26,000 acres that is the town of Dover," said historian Doris Dedrick.

The origin of the Dover name has been a matter of speculation for years.

"The problem is no one seems to know where it comes from exactly," said Town Historian Edward Hogan. "Some think it was from Dover, England. Others believe it had to do with the outcropping of limestone and marble deposits in the valley. Regardless of how it originated, though, it was used at a very early date."

As early as 1730, the name Dover appeared in legal documents describing the home of Richard Sackett.

And even before then, a legend was born that involved a natural rock foundation known as the Stone Church and the head of a defeated Native American nation who had fled Connecticut. 

"It is said that Sassacus (the leader of the Pequods) is supposed to have hidden there after he was chased out of Connecticut," Dedrick said.

Sassacus and his men supposedly hid in the cathedral-like ravines to avoid white settlers who wanted to push the Native Americans from the area.

Ketcham Name Lives On

The hamlet's most famous resident is generally thought to be a statesman John Henry Ketcham (1832-1906), the man for whom the town pool and local fire company are named.

"He served in both the Assembly and the Senate of the state Legislature and in 1864 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives," said Dedrick. "There he served for 34 years as the Congressman from the district -- from the time of Abraham Lincoln to the the time of Teddy Roosevelt."

Prior to his election to Congress, Ketcham successfully recruited the men who formed part of Dutchess County's contribution to the Union cause in the Civil War, New York's 150th Regiment.

Ketcham was regarded as one of the country's most popular men of the era and the confidence placed in him by his neighbors when Ketcham was still relatively young was a testament to his leadership talent," Hogan said.

"Farmers in the 19th Century were very conservative people," Hogan said. "They didn't give their trust to anybody that easily, and when Ketcham was 20 years old, they elected him supervisor of the town. For the people around here to give him that position at that age, he must have been quite a man."


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