Sleepy Hollow Folklore
By: Rodger Allen Jones
I have been called upon to portray the character Walter at the Cider Barn Tavern in this falls series of ‘The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow’ event held at Perry Farm. By no means will my character light up the stage. In fact my role is small (there are no small roles really) in contrast to the others, but you will be glad you came and ‘drank’ at my table I can assure you of that.
Two years ago I was asked to write a blog for this series due to a unique perspective I had. I remember relating how this storied event was personal in nature so-to-speak. So I was asked to review that for this year. Here is my story and I’m sticking to it.
If you are older than two years you have read, heard, or saw movies as it relates to this well-known story written by Washington Irving, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. We know that the story is centered on a family with the last name of Van Tassel; more specifically Katrina Van Tassel. Of course it was also known that the author Washington Irving himself grew up in the area and the hearing of the legend! It has become the fall version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ for many.
My personal story, as it relates to this, is that several years ago our family had a distant relative who initiated an ancestry search project. For instance, I learned that on my mother’s side we had ‘The Younger Gang’ (brothers), more known by their association with the outlaw Jessie James. Because of embarrassment for the family they changed their last name to ‘Troupe’. On my father’s side, his aunt, my great aunt, was Julia Ward Howe, better known as the abolitionist woman who wrote the words to the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’. I am also a direct descendent of the John Paul Jones, “I’ve just begun to fight!” being his famous words. None of this has anything to do with what I am about to share…sorry just got carried away.
In the research it was discovered that Harvey Jones of Wales and his wife Susanne (Goslee) Jones came to America. They came on the next ship that followed the Mayflower. They settled initially in New York in a town near White Plains, New York…Tarrytown NY. It was this area that Sleepy Hollow existed.
In the late seventeen hundreds to the early eighteen hundreds the Van Tassel family owned what would be later known as Sunnyside Mansion…the only home that Washington Irving would eventually own. Everyone knows from the story that it is the Van Tassel names that are the main characters of his book. So imagine my astonishment when I found out that Harvey Jones’ son; Samuel Jones would eventually marry Mary Ann Belinda Van Tassel.
From what has been explored in the ancestry search we found that Samuel and Mary owned the very mansion that Washington Irving would later own for himself. What we may have discovered, too, is that Washington Irving actually had rented a room in the mansion with my Great, Great, grandfather/grandmother Samuel and Mary. It was commonly known that Washington Irving always stayed with other people since he was always on the go. The connection between my ancestral family and Washington Irving even extended to them naming their first son after two authors, one being Washington himself, the name was Addison Irving Jones. Thus this story has brought new fascination to me every time it is told.
This community is so fortunate to relive this amazing portrayed series with gifted actors from Acting Out Theatre Company as the well-known characters. I challenge you not to get caught up in the enchantment and long historical run of this story presented at Perry Farm, a most perfect location. Oh, and not to leave anything out. The people of Sleepy Hollow actually believed the Headless Horseman was much, much more than a myth. Fact? Well, I will have to leave that to your imagination. I hear Sharon usually has such great connections, but maybe, just maybe, the Headless Horseman is the only character that just happens to show up each year uninvited. Just don’t lose your head trying to figure it out!