This Week in Rockland: Newspaper Excerpts: Flashback Friday: Week of March 27

Michael Donaldson
Michael Donaldson

March 23, 1895 125 YEARS AGO
Rockland County Journal

MR. SUFFERN DEFENDS HIM – An Interesting Divorce Suit in New York City.  Mr. Charles C. Suffern, son of the late Judge Andrew E. Suffern, of Haverstraw, is attorney in a very interesting divorce suit in New York City. The defendant, who has retained Mr. Suffern, is William Sneckner, who is nearly eighty-two years old, and his wife, who sues for a limited divorce on the grounds of cruelty and abandonment, is twenty-five years younger. Mr. Sneckner says her husband once spat in her face, on another occasion threw a hand satchel at her and finally rubbed his fist under her nose, making her face sore. He frequently swore at her and finally deserted her. Mr. Sneckner denies all the allegations against him.

LADIES ON WHEELS  It is said that the number of ladies who will be seen on bicycles the coming Summer will be much larger than last year. So will the number of men. The sport promises to be exceedingly popular.

THE HESDRA ESTATE – The New York Property to Be Sold Next Tuesday  The New York property, consisting of four houses and lots, belonging to the Hesdra estate, will be sold on Tuesday next, March 26th. It is appraised at $70,000, which is enough to pay off all the legacies and leave several thousand dollars besides. In addition to the above, there is considerable property in Nyack, besides several lots in New Haven, Conn., all of which comprises the residuary estate to be divided among Mrs. Tordorf, her mother, and son and daughter. Each will have a handsome sum. For the above results much credit is due Mr. E. B. Sippell, committee for Mrs. Tordorf, Ex-Judge Weiant, of Haverstraw, and Attorney George A. Wyre, associated with him.

March 26, 1920 100 YEARS AGO
The Nyack Evening Journal

DISPUTED YORK’S CLAIM AS YANKEE’S BRAVEST SOLDIER – Sergt. Donaldson of Haverstraw Contends That His War Record Justifies Challenge to Tennessee Man for Biggest Honor of World War  Sergeant Alvin C. York, the Tennessee Mountain soldier, acclaimed the “bravest man in the war,” has a stalwart rival – Sergeant Michael Donaldson, of Haverstraw, a member of the “fighting Sixty-ninth.”
     Sergeant Donaldson, who was decorated with the Medal Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, Palma and D. S. C. was also recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor. He contends that his war record justifies his challenge to Sergeant York’s proud position.
     Enlisting in Company I, Sixty-ninth, Infantry, forty-second (Rainbow) Division, the day America declared war, Sergeant Donaldson served nine months in the front-line trenches fighting in five major engagements.
     During the Battle of the Ourcq he acted as personal liaison for Major James A. McKenna, a commander of the Shamrock Division, and was conspicuously constantly volunteering to bring in wounded under fire.
     The real feat, however, for which Donaldson says he received his several decorations was accomplished at Landers St. George, a town in the Argonne Forest, on October 14, 1918, during the fierce fighting which marked the last days of the war. His company was assigned to Hill 288, on the outskirts of the town and in the center of the German offensive.
     In the early morning the enemy started a terrific artillery bombardment, followed shortly by an infantry attack in mass formation and supported by machine guns.
     Caught in an enfilade fire, the company was almost entirely wiped out, and Private Donaldson as he was at the time, was the only man on the hill not wounded or dead.
     Crawling through a veritable “carpet of dead,” as he described it, Donaldson succeeded in carrying eleven of his wounded comrades to safety. Returning to the hill, he continued single-handed to hold the position for more than two hours until reinforced by Company K, under command of Lieutenant Geon. When asked how many Germans he killed during the attack, Donaldson hesitatingly replied, “About a hundred.” He was promoted to sergeant on the field.
     Since receiving his discharge last summer, Donaldson has returned to his home in Haverstraw.

11 DEER KILLED BY DOGS IN ROCKLAND COUNTY  Because of confusion caused by the wording of several statutes, members of the Sportsmen’s Fish and Game Protective Association, at a meeting held last night in the house of Highland Hose Company, were unable to agree as to how to combat the roaming dog which kills deer. It was reported by Game Protector Knapp, of Stony Point that so far eleven deer have been killed in the county by dogs.
     The association decided to hold its annual election on the evening of April 9.

March 28, 1970 50 YEARS AGO
The Journal News

COUNTY WOOS UNHAPPY BLUEBIRD  Every spring the swallows come back to Capistrano but the bluebirds, once a most welcome and certain sign of spring, have been giving Rockland the go-by for over a decade.
     This sweet songster — official songbird of New York State — is a victim of Rockland's urban sprawl. Bulldozers have ripped away open fields and tumbled the old orchards and wooded fence posts which provided the hollows bluebirds prefer for housing.
     Rockland Audubon Society counted 135 bluebirds in the 1949 Christmas count (some winter over), only 20 in 1958, and none since 1967.
     Spring storms, pesticides, and competition with starlings and sparrows for nesting sites have played a part in the bluebird shut-out, some experts say.
     But new housing can attract the harbinger of spring. In an effort to bring the bluebirds back, James Hesselgrave, industrial arts teacher at Haverstraw Middle School and a member of the Audubon Society, has set his class to building bluebird boxes.
     “If these substitute homes are strung about 100 yards apart in the open space remaining in Rockland, some happy couple or couples may decide to stop over the summer in Rockland.
     "But there's no guarantee, you'll get bluebirds," Hesselgrave emphasized. Sometimes tree swallows, wrens, or chickadees will use the boxes, "and that's a plus," he said.
     The boxes should provide a 5 ½ inch square floor; an entrance hole 1 ½ inches in diameter small enough to keep out starlings and set six inches or more above the floor to prevent cats from reaching inside.
     The top should be hinged for easy human fall house-cleaning, and drainage holes should be provided. Entrance perches should be eliminated to discourage English sparrows.
     The bluebird, not to be confused with the large, saucy and raucous blue jay — only bird of blue hue recognized by many newcomers to Rockland — is a gentle cousin of the robin, a bit smaller and plumper with sky blue back and a rosy breast.
     They mostly eat tree insects and are seldom seen on the ground, favorite feeding place of the worm eating robin.
     Next month the bluebirds will be flying over Rockland and Hesselgrave hopes the 50 boxes made in his class will be set up in open country in North Rockland, in time to attract migrators.
     “If we get even one pair, it will be worth the work and the boys will get an extra dividend of pleasure in keeping track of their boxes this spring and summer, Hesselgrave said.

This Week in Rockland (#FBF Flashback Friday) is prepared by Clare Sheridan on behalf of the Historical Society of Rockland County. To learn about the HSRC's mission, upcoming events or programs, visit or call (845) 634-9629.


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