The mention of Sleepy Hollow conjures up creepy images of the Headless Horseman riding at midnight after poor, silly Ichabod Crane. But there’s a sunnier side of Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown, NY!
In American Lit in college we studied, among others, Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859), who was an American author, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. You probably know him for his short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which recounts the misadventures of Ichabod Crane, who tangled with the infamous Headless Horseman. Irving is indelibly linked to Sleepy Hollow.
But he got there entirely by chance. In 1798 there was an outbreak of yellow fever in Manhattan, which prompted his family to send him, then a child, to a healthier location upriver. Thus it was that Irving was dispatched to stay with family friend James Kirke Paulding in Tarrytown, NY. He stayed at a farm cottage. It was in Tarrytown that Irving became familiar with the nearby town of Sleepy Hollow, with its quaint Dutch customs and local ghost stories.
He died there, in his beloved home. On the night of November 28, 1859, at 9 pm, Irving died of a heart attack in his bedroom at the age of 76. He was buried under a simple headstone at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, overlooking the Old Dutch Church Burial Ground, which is where the headless Hessian soldier is purportedly buried.
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