Spy’s Purloined Plaque Replaced, But Disappearance Still a Mystery

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The recently installed historic marker near Major Andre's grave in Tappan. Photo courtesy of the Tappantown Historical Society

TAPPAN — The mysterious disappearance of a plaque marking the site of a British spy’s hanging may never be solved, but at least a piece of history has been restored to its rightful place.

The historic marker not far from the spot where the infamous British spy Maj. John Andre swung on the gallows has been replaced, a year after the sign at the corner of Andre Hill and Old Tappan roads vanished.

The sign’s inscription states that the notorious enemy agent was hanged “450 feet south on Oct. 2, 1780. Buried near gallows. Exhumed and reinterred in England 1821.”

Andre — who plotted with Benedict Arnold to surrender West Point to the British — was apprehended in Tarrytown with the plans for the fort hidden in his boot, imprisoned in the Old 76 House, and hanged at age 31.

The original blue-and-yellow marker, first erected in 1932, vanished sometime in the spring of 2020.

Was the marker struck by a passing vehicle, or did thieves cut the heavy, cast-iron sign off its pole and spirit it away? 

“That’s still a mystery,” Carol LaValle, president of the Tappantown Historical Society, said recently. “If it were hit, why wasn’t it left in place? We never did figure it out. There’s no way to determine exactly what happened.”

Although the marker was first erected by the state, it’s up to local groups to maintain or replace it. So Tappantown reached out to the William G. Pomeroy Foundation for a grant to pay for the new sign, which was produced at Catskill Castings in upstate Bloomville.

The foundation awarded a $1,140 grant after verifying Tappantown’s documentation and determining that the marker “is historically significant to their larger community or beyond,” according to Susan Hughes, Pomeroy’s historian and archivist.

The pole and marker were installed this past summer by a crew from the Orangetown Highway Department, LaValle said. No ceremony marked the occasion.

“We were very grateful that the Pomeroy Foundation was willing to pay for it,” said Lavalle, who credited Tappantown board member John Morton with writing the grant application.

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