The Hanging Tree

Joe Deutsch sent us the first two pictures of “The Hanging Tree” .
He also sent us these informative pieces about it’s history

On June 1, 2006 a terrific bolt of lightning struck the historic Old Oak located on the grounds of the Peekskill High School.

This tree was a witness to the history of the Hudson Valley, perhaps extending back to the explorations of Henry Hudson. Its most significant role was to serve as a "Hanging Tree" on January 7, 1777.

On that date Daniel Strang was apprehended when he was found observing the American troops, under the command of General Putnam, camped on the site. Notes and sketches were found on his person and there were reports of his attempt to recruit supporters for the British cause. A court martial was held beneath the tree. He admitted his involvement and was found guilty of spying for the British. The sentence of death by hanging was immediately carried out and the 1,000 or more troops encamped on the site were marched around the tree to witness the penalty for spying and collaborating with the enemy. Mr. Strang was then buried in a shallow grave at the foot of the tree as was the custom at that time.

In 1833 the property was purchased for the construction of the Peekskill Academy, later to become the Peekskill Military Academy. During construction of a new brick dormitory in the 1860s, a skeleton was discovered, presumed to be that of Daniel Strang. The remains were re-buried at an undisclosed site far removed from the school campus.

The Peekskill Military Academy was custodian of the Old Oak for 135 years. The tree served as a model to inspire the young cadets to be strong, upstanding and faithful. Following the closing of the school in 1968, drastic alterations were made to the site in preparation for the construction of the new Peekskill High School. Eight to twelve feet of soil was removed from around the tree base to provide access and parking for the new building. The root system of the old tree was severely damaged and over the succeeding years the health of the tree was in constant decline.

The Peekskill Military Academy Alumni Association was in the early stages of a fund raising campaign to pay for remedial treatment and lightning protection for the Old Oak two weeks before the tragic event of June 1st.

We have lost a national treasure and messages are coming in from around the nation expressing the feelings of history minded individuals who share our remorse.

The Hanging Tree The Hanging Tree 02

Taken on July 1, 2006 by Joe Deutsch.

The old Oak tree was reputed to be over 300 and possibly even over 400 years old.
Despite efforts by tree experts it was determined that
the familiar PMA grounds landmark was
damaged beyond repair.

The legendary and historic hanging tree derives is name from a
Revolutionary War event wherein a American Tory spy named
Daniel Strang
was hanged from one of its branches.
Strang was captured while making notes of American troop movements
and with little ado, he was hanged then and there.

According to notes from the Peekskill Museum, Generals Pomeroy and McDougall,
astride their horses, viewed the hanging, along with 1,000 American soldiers.

A plaque commemorating the hanging is visible
but partly covered by the trees expanding bark.
It read:

 “This tablet has been placed here by the Cornelia Beekman Chapter,
Junior Sons and Daughters of the Revolution, June 6, 1912
in honor of this tree upon which was hanged Jan 27, 1776
an American who was employed
as a spy by the British”

The School District and other local groups are
exploring ways to preserve the plaque and the site. 


The Hanging Tree 03

A sorry ending for the historical Hanging Tree. 
Thanks to Joe Deutsch and Sal Carano for the pictures

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