By Jennifer L Warren
NEUBURG – Colette Fulton’s passion for history runs deep and its impact has been felt and inspired by countless people.
Her roots can be traced back to her childhood growing up in New Windsor, where she was mesmerized by the beauty of the awe-inspiring Temple Hill Monument. It’s evident in her eyes when she talks about the importance of our youth knowing and even memorizing the Constitution, and it resonates when you hear how she and former Cornwall City historian Janet Dempsey have spent an inordinate amount of time indexing the first 100 years (from 1873 to 1973) of Cornwall Local Publications, making it conveniently accessible in its own dedicated card catalogue.
For all these reasons and so many more, former Cornwall-on-Hudson Village historian Fulton, who has authored the Arcadia book Images of America Cornwall-on-Hudson for 37 years and co-authored Images from the Past 1788-1920, chose Town of Cornwall, received the 2023 Martha Washington Woman of History Award from Washington’s Headquarter State Historic Site. The award, honoring General George Washington’s wife, Martha, is part of an annual tradition that pays tribute to a local historical figure who shares attributes similar to the first First Lady.
“This year’s honoree, Colette Fulton, is a wonderful example of someone who has a genuine love of history and is willing to share it with others,” said Elyse Goldberg, Historic Site Manager, as she welcomed guests to Sunday’s ceremony inside welcomed historic headquarters, in a room with large portraits of George and Martha. “That’s what this award is really about, someone who had qualities like Martha’s.”
Deliberately held during March, Woman’s History Month, the Washington Headquarters ceremony on Liberty Street, City of Newburgh, also serves as a tribute to women’s intelligence, determination, grace and contribution. True to that motto, Tiffanie Sutton, who is not only a full-time elementary school teacher but also a part-time history interpreter at Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Site and the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site, opened the ceremony with a detailed presentation about a woman, Lucy Knox (1756 -1824), which she frequently portrays. Providing fascinating, researched tidbits on Knox’s pioneering qualities. Sutton detailed her refusal to bow to her family’s disapproval of marrying her husband Henry, the unwavering support she gave him throughout his military career (including as a general in the Continental Army), and her incredible ability to live a life of hardship to survive.
“I chose the word dissolution for my talk about Lucy today,” Sutton said. “She stood strong and resolute in a life of controversy and was resolute throughout.”
After Sutton’s informative, powerful segment, Goldberg returned to the front podium and presented Fulton with the circular engraved plaque officially honoring her as the 2023 Martha Washington Woman of History honoree. Sutton, who now joins a long list of distinguished women to hold the award, was nominated by Mary McTamaney, a former recipient of the honor; former Mayor of Cornwall-on-Hudson Brendan Coyne; and dedicated member of the Cornwall Historical Society, as well as key contributor to Friends of the Cornwall Library, Jane Harkinson, who spoke of her tireless efforts directed towards indexing and compiling photographs of Cornwall for the two books she is involved in writing
“The photos tell a true story about Cornwall,” Harkinson said of her good friend Sutton’s diligent work. “She never tires of history and has a lifelong passion for it.”
This love affair with history surfaced quickly when Sutton took to the podium to make a few comments. Her opening remarks immediately alluded to her falling in love with a local historical statue, Temple Hill Monument, a place she frequented and admired with her siblings and which remains a central part of her life. From then on, over time, the attraction to everything from the past increased.
“It’s all such a joy to me,” said a visibly moved Sutton, who also founded the Cornwall Historical Society in 1999 and continues to archive at the Cornwall Public Library and is involved in a number of community organizations including the Orange County Historical Society and performs reenactments in the New Windsor Cantonment and the Last Encampment. “We now have a responsibility to make sure our children are told the story properly, and we uphold our principles.” She added, “This award means so much to me because we continue to recognize our local history where so much is ours.” History was made of how the Society of Cincinnati and where Washington developed the Military Badge of Honor, which became the Purple Heart; These are the things that we must work hard to preserve.”