Stone House Days
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In 1678, a small band of French-speaking Protestant Walloon refugees from the Rheinland Palatinate established a community upon a nearly 40,000-acre patent in Ulster County, New York, within the Hudson River Valley. As the village founders—the patentees—and their families established their village within a Dutch cultural region within an English colony, they and their descendants were required to adjust simultaneously to two foreign cultures. This particular multi-ethnic environment created a cultural frontier, where no one cultural group could establish cultural hegemony. As early as the late seventeenth century through the eighteenth century, the founders and their descendants willingly and proactively constructed a fluid and changing hybrid culture, using Walloon, Dutch and English cultures as source material. However, their Walloonness was lost relatively early, except in very limited ways, and they ultimately created a Dutch-Anglo culture. This cultural hybridity was seen through their language use, their construction of gender, and their architecture. The patentee descendant community members deemed this hybridity acceptable and even desirable because they felt culturally threatened by neither the local Dutch-American population nor the English colonial government. While English political and legal forms were unavoidable, the patentee community chose who filled local offices, could manipulate English legal forms for their own cultural purposes, and could maintain economic power through extensive land ownership. Thus, power was divided between the local non-English and the English colonial government. While the majority of the members of the patentee descendant community accepted cultural hybridity, there were anomalous individuals who resisted such hybridity and fluidity. There were also those who actively anglicized in order to cross the cultural frontier, motivated by a resilient English and Anglo-American anti-Dutch bias. These three approaches—acceptance of hybridity and fluidity, cultural resistance, and active assimilation—existed simultaneously in New Paltz with little apparent stress until the 1760s. In that decade, conflict developed in the Dutch Reformed congregations in New York over the Americanization of the New World congregations. That conflict—the Coetus-Conferentie dispute—affected the cultural processes in New Paltz, which caused those following all three of the cultural approaches to come into open conflict.