Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Hundred-Year-Old Lawsuit

Publishing this article would have been more timely a decade ago, at the height of the battle against SLC's "Greenport Project," but I discovered it for myself only yesterday. I publish it now in the hope that readers will find it interesting as evidence of the long and ongoing struggle here in Hudson between industrial enterprises and environmental protection. The article appeared on the front page of the Hudson Evening Register for November 20, 1916.

Joint Action Started in Supreme Court.
CLAIM PUT AT $75,000
Suit is for Damages by Dust, Etc.--Injunction Sought.

The New York & New England Cement and Lime company is the defendant in joint actions, trial of which began to-day in Supreme court here. The aggregated amount of the claims is $75,000. That it will develop into one of the most important and interesting litigations tried in Hudson in years is the general belief of all conversant with it, and who give the assumption that the trial will last at least a week. Justice Chester shortly after noon to-day excused all jurors not engaged in the case, until Monday morning.

The actions are No. 6, Frank Shults executor of the will of Mary Shults, against the New York & New England Cement and Lime company, and No. 40, Frank Shults and Mabel J. Hoffman against the New York & New England Cement and Lime company. The latter is for injunction and damages; the former for damages to real and personal property. Both actions are being tried jointly.

Of such importance is the litigation that widely known geological experts, expert chemists, expert horticulturalists and agriculturalists, physicians, etc., are expected to testify. Many deeds will be offered in evidence, and miniature machines will probably be introduced during the trial.

In opening the case for the plaintiffs, John C. Dardess, of Chatham, attorney of record, who has associated with him Messrs. Crandell and Graf, of Hudson, said that the action is not only to obtain damages for personal and real estate injuries, but to restrain the cement company from further commission of a nuisance. 

The property of the plainiff consists of a homestead in Greenport, formerly know as the Peter Van Deusen homestead, which, in 1881 was conveyed to Fred Jones. Subsequently it came into the possession of the plaintiff's mother. In 1910 the manufacture of cement was commenced by the defendant on property adjoining the valuable homestead. Dust, dirt, etc., has and is daily showering the Shults property and now, and it will be as long as the "showering" continues, the property is practically valueless; it is unsanitary; it is almost impossible to live upon; outside the crops have been destroyed; persons living on the place suffer in their health, and henceforth a redress is sought, damage desired and the company restrained from continuing the alleged nuisance.

The Defendant's Position
Samuel B. Coffin, of Hudson, associated with J. Rider Cady, who is attorney of record, and Robert Thorne, of New York city, outlined defendant's contentions. He said the case was of great importance not only to the defendant but also to the community. The cement industry, he declared, is one of the most remarkable geological features in the United States. As were the Palisades uplifted by volcanic eruption centuries ago so was Becraft mountain, and cropping up was a substance especially suitable for good cement. It is the last outcropping of rock east of the Hudson river which can be used for cement manufacturing. Because of its locality, it will be beneficial for eastern New York and New England States.

The company could not locate wherever it desired; it had to go out where there was suitable rock. It had to invest great sums of money, and as a result the Greenport plant is considered the most massive in the world.

Mr. Coffin said that it cost the cement company $142,000 to install a dust collecting apparatus, which is one of the best apparatus made. That it also costs $30,000 annually to operate this dust collecting device. The plant has also installed various other apparatus in order to alleviate things complained of by plaintiff, among those the stopping of blasting at night and the installing of a street sprinkling system.

When the Register went to press Mr. Coffin was giving the jury an idea as to what the defense hopes to prove regarding a contradiction to the plaintiff's charges.


  1. What an interesting find! Thanks for transcribing it.

    Is the Van Deusen homestead - later the Fred Jones and then the Shults residence - the same stone house that still stands beneath the remains of the conveyor on Route 9?

    If so, then it was that conveyor that was "daily showering the Shults property."

    I love the antiquated geology that believed that the Palisades (ca. late Triassic) and Becraft Mountain (ca. late Silurian) were each "uplifted by volcanic eruption centuries ago." Neither were uplifted by volcanism, but by deposition above and by the lateral tectonic folding of the earth's accordion crust, an idea that pretty much only existed in one man's mind in 1916.

    Also, I doubt that there were any other limestone outcroppings east of the Hudson River to be mined out, so it's possible that the claim Becraft was "the last outcropping" was just rhetoric, a lawyer's trick.

    In any event, who doesn't love a court case where "miniature machines will probably be introduced"?

    1. No. The stone house belonged to Stephen Heermance:

      I didn't take the time to go to the History Room to try to find out where exactly the Peter Van Deusen homestead was before publishing this, but I will.

    2. Thanks for the clarification Gossips. I guess I just see red when I think of conveyor systems.