It’s All Relative

Where in the Hudson Valley…?

At first glance, you might think that this stone memorial is an old fountain, or perhaps a large and elaborate flower box. In fact, it is a horse trough, used to water thirsty steeds after they ferried their owners to the adjacent train station (which still stands today). Not much is known about Gurdon Saltonstall Osborn, the nine-month-old immortalized by this monument, other than the fact that he is buried in nearby St. Philip’s Churchyard.

Of young Gurdon’s family, however, we know plenty. His grandfather, William H. Osborn, was a 19th-century railroad tycoon. In 1881, William used a portion of his earnings to build a grand “summer home” on a steep hill 600 feet above the Hudson River. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house — complete with a turret and a distinctive red-slate roof — is easily visible from both sides of the river.

Gurdon’s dad, Henry Fairfield Osborn, inherited the fancy digs (which, by the way, are in the same small town as the memorial trough) upon father William’s death in 1894. A well-known paleontologist, Henry was president of the American Museum of Natural History for 25 years, from 1908 to 1933. He was also an avid fossil hunter, and the first scientist to describe and name several dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus rex. Gurdon’s mom, Lucretia Perry Osborn, authored the 1927 book Washington Speaks for Himself, a collection of General George’s journals, diaries, letters, and official papers. And Henry Fairfield Jr., Gurdon’s older brother, took after both parents: A highly regarded conservationist, he headed up the New York Zoological Society and penned Our Plundered Planet, a 1948 treatise which argued against society’s rampant consumption of natural resources.

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But back to the horse trough memorial: Do you know where in the Valley it is located? Bonus question: Can you identify the Osborn family’s fancy summer home on the hill? If so, E-mail us at The first person to correctly answer both questions wins a prize. Good luck!

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