The History of New York State
Book X, Chapter II

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER II.

DELAWARE COUNTY. #1

Delaware is one of the completely inland counties, no large body of water or navigable stream touching it in any part. The surface is broken, hilly, even mountainous, being a sort of link connecting the Catskills with the Blue Ridge. There are three natural ways into the section: By the way of the Shendaken Mountains from Kingston to Middletown; by the west branch of the Delaware from Catskill, and up the valley of the Delaware. This all meant inaccessibility, and the new settler would, in the first place, seek other sections, or if he determined to locate in this region, had for his hard labor, the widening of the narrow foot trails of the Indian so that they might be usable by his horses and cattle.

One would expect the district to be neglected as the home of pioneers, and yet the county was settled before the Revolution. In 1762 a small group of Dutch adventurers came from Hurley and, in the valley of the east branch, not only found the ruins of an Indian village, but signs of previous white settlements. These men went back for their families, secured warranty deeds for ht eland, bearing the date of 1763, and made their homes along the river. They were driven away by Indians during the Revolution, but returned after the conflict was over. In the early 1770's quite a number entered the district and started to cultivate the not easily handled soil.

They were, in many cases, not so wise as their Dutch predecessors in securing deeds to their land. Much of the land in Delaware County had been grated in various tracts to a number of favored persons. The year 1770 seems to have been the great year for this in the county, there being sixteen patents of this date. The owners of these tracts induced whom they could to settle on their properties, and were not over scrupulous in making clear either the truth concerning the region or what the settler did and did not receive from the Patentee. More often then otherwise the farmer was given a lease on the land he desired, with the first five years free from rent, and another five years at half rent, and thereafter full rent to be paid at the agreed amount.

It was quite a jump from 1770 to 1844, covering quite a period of years, but it was at this latter time that the difficulties growing out of the leasing evil came to a head. Movements had been undertaken to lift the burden the leases imposed on the farmer. Some of these took the form of resistance by men disguised as Indians against the serving of papers for the collection of rent, or the dispossession of persons who refused, or could not pay the rental. The legislature took a hand by passing a law making it unlawful for any person to appear in disguise, and several were captured and punished under this law. The climax of the anti-rent riots came when, at a sheriff's sale of a farm in Andes town on August 7, 1845, Under-sheriff Osman Steele was shot down in the performance of his duty and died a few hours later. The Governor declared the county in a state of insurrection, a battalion of 300, half mounted, were sent to aid in the establishment of martial law, and continued there for several months. The riots and their consequences taught both sides of the controversy moderation , and the farmer and landlord got together, and first bought at fair prices or left the farm.

The character of the settlers of Delaware County must not be judged from the anti-rent riots of later years for these disturbances were characteristics of the time rather than of the people. The Dutch, than whom there were none more industrious and conservative, came first, but never settled in any numbers, for the district was opened to late to have the advantage of the Hollanders movement. New England supplied the most of the pioneer, it being a source of that great stream which swept through New York State and on farther west until they were the dominant people of many regions of the State and the middle west. They were not dismayed by Delaware's hills, having learned that a rugged country was not as inhospitable as at first it might appear. The very large town of Franklin, originally consisting of 30,000 acres, was settled largely by New Englanders, of which Sluman Wattles was the first (1785). Another notable group came from Connecticut in 1789, twenty families of them, and founded the town of Fairfield. The Scotch came later, a number following the Dutch in the settlement of Andes, Delhi and the head waters of the Little Delaware. This latter section is even today spoken of as the "Scotch Mountains." The Scotch proved to very canny, thrifty, successful farmers.

The lumber industry soon had the attention of the people of the county, after they had supplied their needs by the clearing of bits of land and cropping them. There were great forest of pine, hemlock and much hardwood, with ample water to raft cut logs to market or sawmill. Lumber is still one of the exports of Delaware, although it is shipped out by rail rather than by rafts. With the opening of the railroads through the region, the hemlock become valuable for tanning, and tanneries multiplied until the supply of bark was exhausted. Gradually general farming, with an emphasis place don dairying, has come to be the main occupation of the people. Fruits do well inmost sections, but horticulture has never taken the place it might in the practices of the farmers. Because of its semi-mountainous character, nearness to large cities, and modern accessibility the county has come to be a great summer resort.

The region which is now Delaware was in the early day a part of Ulster and Otsego counties, with the capital at Kingston. Naturally as the section became more densely populated there was great objects raised to the length of the journey required for the transaction of all county business, and the question of a new county was agitated. Objections were raised, but on March 10, 1797, Delaware county was erected, with the present boundaries, except parts taken, one in 1822 and added to Otsego, and one added to Delaware in 1817. The present area is 1,580 square miles, one of the largest in the State.

Delhi was made the county seat, and the first court held in the home of Gideon Frisbee in October of the same year. A court house was begun the next year and promptly completed at the great expense of $2,000. In 1820 this house was burned, and another building erected to take its place. But it was rather a shoddy affair, and led one of the other towns to start a movement for the naming of a new shiretown. This so aroused Delhi that it pledged $10,000 toward the erection of a new set of buildings to which some $30,000 was added by the county, and the present structure, somewhat in the style of the capital at Albany was completed in 1871.

TOWNS.

There were only seven towns in the original civil division of Delaware, from which twelve have been separated from the others and added to the list. Alphabetically the first is:

Andes, formed from Middletown, April 13, 1819, lying the southeast border of the county. Permanent settlements began in 1784 with the arrival of several families in the eastern section, the western side not having any settlers until 1794. It was at Andes that the anti-rent riots reached their fatal climax in the shooting of Deputy Steele. The town is in one of the most broken section of the mountains, with dairying as its main industry. The village of Andes is the mercantile center of the surrounding farms. It was almost destroyed by fire in 1878, but was rebuilt in a more substantial form. Shavertown and Tremper's Kil are pleasant hamlets.

Bovina, formed from parts of Delhi, Stamford and Middletown, February 25, 18209, is a highland interior town, with summits reaching 200 to 2,500 feet above sea level. The area is 42 square miles, the second smallest in the county. It is a grazing area, with small sections of its soil fitted for the production of vegetables. Elisha B. Maynard, a young man of English descent, settled in the region in 1791, being neighborless until three years later, when quite an umber of families from Scotland settled in the valleys. The principal hamlets are: Bovina, the trading center, Brushland and Mountain Brook.

Colchester, taken from Middletown and erected April 10, 1792, is situated in the southeast border of the county, on a mountainous area broken and divided by the upper or east branch of the Delaware. There is still some commercial timber in the town which is being utilized, but dairying is the main occupation. At one time the district was famous for its butter, but there is less of this commodity made in recent years. In 1766 Timothy Gregory, then a young man of twenty-three, came from Westchester County, and located on the east side of the river. Others joined him, but they were all compelled to leave the region in the Revolutionary times because of the Indians, but the most of them returned after the hostilities were over. The main villages are: Downsville, on the Delaware; Pepacton and Colchester; Arena and Almedia.

Davenport, formed from Kortright and Maryland., march 31, 1817, is a long, narrow town on the two sides of the Charlotte Valley. Scenically it is beautiful, several lakes contributing to the ensemble. The charlotte river supplies some water power, but like much of this, it is not largely utilized. The soil is generally good. The principal hamlets of the section are Davenport, the largest; Fergusonville, West Davenport and Davenport Center. Daniel Farnsworth is credit with being the first to locate in this district, but there is evidence that Daniel Omstead preceded him.

Delhi, the eighth town formed in county, March 23, 1798, from Middletown and Walton and Kortright, occupies a central position in the country. It is located on either side of the west branch of the Delaware in one of the wider fertile valleys. Many herds of choice cows have grazed its hillsides, and butter, in the days when each farm wife prided herself on the quality of her product, was one of the specialties of this district. Butter from Delhi exhibited in England won a first premium. Abel and John Kidder are reputed to have been the first settlers of this district. If so, they soon had neighbors, for the first child born in Delhi was Huldah Frisbee, June 14, 17897. The principal village is Delhi, the county seat. It was incorporated March 16, 1821, the second village of the county to be chartered. The surrounding dairy farms supply its main industry, the handling and condensing of milk. Two large companies are engaged in this, and there are a number of smaller concerns doing business.

Franklin, formed from Harpersfield, April 10, 1792, one of the lower areas of the county, contains more arable land proportionately to its size than most of the towns. It is naturally a progressive farming section. Sluman Wattles, previously mentioned, was the first settler, 1785. He surveyed the town and secured one of the four parts into which it was divided. The village of Franklin is the main village, with Treadwell almost as populous and as well located.

Deposit, the newest of the towns in point of organization, was formed from Tompkins, in 1880. It is one of the smallest with an area of 27,622 acres, but also one of the richest. The boundaries of the town include Pennsylvania and Broome County, being the most western town in Delaware. Peter Hynback was the pioneer of Deposit, locating before 1785 and eventually purchasing quite a tract of land from the Indians. The village of Deposit was the first to be incorporated in the county. Lumbering was the main industry and still is of importance, but there are a dozen factories turning our a variety of products.

Hamden was apart of Ulster County from 1683 until the formation of Delaware in 1797, and was taken from the towns Walton and Delhi, April 4, 1825. With an area of 53 square miles of rather mountainous surface, it is not strange that there is still much of the land which has never been cultivated. It is divided into two fairly equal parts by the west branch of the Delaware, and it is the territory along the stream which is now the farmed. The first known settler was David Harrower who came from New England in the summer of 1779 and located on the river flat. Lumber, grain, wool and dairy products have in turn been the exports of the town. The centralmost village, with the same name as the town, is more of a business center than its population figures would indicate. Two miles above Hamden is Delancey which has one of the finest natural sites for a village in the county. Mundale and North Hamden are two of the interesting hamlets.

Hancock, organized from Colchester, march 28, 1806, lies along the Delaware river, in the southwest corner of the county. Its high hills, many streams, and lovely ponds have made it as desirable to the people of the modern days as it was to the pioneers. in the early days of the Revolution the first of a number of hard souls who found and settled the region was Josiah Parks, a former officer in the British navy. It was not long before there were neighbors and the lumber industry became of great importance, to which tanning was added later. Both of these passed, and the quarrying of bluestone for a time ranked high. Agriculture has never, until recent years, been of great importance in the town. Minor manufactures have come to the fore at various times and Hancock not only is the leading town in industries but in population, 4,122 in 1920. Hancock and East Branch are the principal villages and the leaders in business and factories.

Harpersfield, although formed march 7, 1788, had it real beginning when the Harpers and the Onoughquage Indians met in 1766 (?) and agreed on the sale of certain lands, of which Harpersfield was a part. In 1771 Colonel John Harper and David Henfry surveyed the town, which was settled a few years later. Harpersfield is in the northeast corner of the county on the high plateau which extends to the Catskills. There is much arable land, and it was the recognition of the qualities of the surface and soil which led the Harpers to secure tracts in the region, and led to the early and continuous cultivation of the soil. Much of the land is now used for grazing or the production of hay, although fruits and vegetables are by no means unimportant crops. Harpersfield, North Harpersfield, Halcottville , Kelly's Corners, Arkville, and New Kingston are some of the thriving hamlets of the section.

Masonville, formed from Sidney, April 4, 1811, was settled as early as 1795, on what was known as Cockburn's Gore by folk from New England. In 1797 a State road from Cherry Valley to Jericho was opened through the town, and many of those whose names are now associated with the section came within the next few years. The region is not well adapted to agriculture, although the opening of a railroad, giving the district the advantage of ready access to market encouraged the growth of this industry. Dairying is the specialty. The village of Masonville is the main business center.

Meredith, formed from Franklin and Kortright, march 14, 1800, has a greatly broken surface, ranging from the heights which are the water shed of the Delaware, tot he low lands of the same stream. The greater part of the town is under farm fence, but agriculture cane be said to be only fairly successful. Joseph Bramhall and his family were the pioneers of this section, coming in 1787 and apparently had no neighbors until 1793. The main hamlets are: Meridale and Ouleont.

Middletown, erected from parts of Rochester and Woodstock march 3, 1789, is in the southeastern corner of the county. It is a hilly agricultural county with some attention given to fruit growing. Originally of a large proportions, it has been reduced to an area of 58,000 acres by the formation of the towns of Colchester, 1792; Delhi, 1798; Andes, 1819, and part of Bovine, 1820. Settled by the Dutch in 1762, they were, however, forced to leave their homes during the Revolution. After the war they returned together with many others from the eastern States and the district was soon relatively well populated. A great number of small hamlets have come into being, many of them now rather sparsely peopled. Margaretville, the largest of the villages, was founded by Ignos Dumond in 1784. The village was incorporated in 1845. Never an industrial place, its importance had been rather from its business and social strength, than from manufacturing. In more recent years it has become a popular summer resort. Fleischmans also comes under head of resorts, named after the family which first built here their summer home and who have done much to make of it a beautiful place. Among the hamlets may be listed Arkville, New Kingston, Dunraven, Arena, Halcottville and Kelly's Corners. Some of these spread over into other towns.

Roxbury, formed from Stamford, /march 23m 1799, is in the extreme east part of the county. In 1788, on the site of the present village of Roxbury, Israel Inman set up his home. The next year a party of pioneer came from Fairfield, Connecticut, and joined him. John More, a Scotsman, located on the site of Moresville, in 1786. The incorporated village, Roxbury, is beautifully located and developed. It is the metropolis of the section and one of the much liked summer resorts. Grand Gorge is a substantial place, and Batavia and Moresville pleasant hamlets.

Sidney, originally a part of Franklin, was erected April 7, 1801. It is situated on the Susquehanna River in the northwest corner of the county. Most of the surface is hilly, but in the lowlands along the streams are many fertile sections and the town is well advanced agriculturally. In 1772 Rev. William Johnson explored this region and chose the present site of the village of Sidney as his home.

Stamford, formed April 10, 1792, was first settled in 1773 by a Dr. Stewart and Alexander More who came from Scotland. Two years later they were joined by some of their countrymen, and later came many from Stamford, Connecticut, by whom the name of the town was given. The Indians and the Tories drove these early settlers away during the Revolution, but the greater part returned after the fray. When first formed the town had an area of 81,000 acres, but was reduced to less then half this by the erection of Roxbury in 1799, and the taking of parts to form Bovina . Dairying has for more than a century been the important industry of the area. Stamford and Hobart villages, the latter incorporated in 1888, are the two largest settlements and business centers of the district. Stamford is sometimes called the "Saratoga of the Catskills." It was incorporated in 1870.

Tompkins, formed from Franklin February 28, 1806, as Pinefield, changed its name to the present form in 1808. The Delaware river flows through a part of the town, which is of a somewhat rugged character. Farming has never reached to any great heights, the land being devoted to grazing rather than to cultivated crops. The first settler was "Squire" Whittaker, of Wyoming in 1787; John Hudson came in 1789; and Philip Pine and Conrad Edict in 1791. Deposit was the main village of the town and section until its separation in 1880. The remaining hamlets are of small size, but are largely increased in the summer by the influx of visitors and vacationers.

Walton, formed from Franklin March 17, 1797, is an interior town on both sides of the Delaware River. the section is more successful in the pursuance of farming then many of the hill areas, dairying being the main occupation. Dr. Platt Townsend, in 1784, purchased a tract of 5,000 acres in the town and the next year, located on the site of the present large village of Walton. The name of the town, however, is derived from that of William Walton who received a grant of land of 20,000 acres in 1770. Walton village, on the banks of the Delaware, has been the industrial center of the county since the day of the charcoal burner and the maker of potash. In 1913 there were seventeen factories of various kinds in the village and among their products were: Condensed milk, piano backs, knit goods, brake shoes and other machinery and castings as well as several kinds of wooden articles.

 

Delaware County

1890

1892

1900

1905

1910

1915

1920

Andes

2,264

2,183

1,927

1,860

2,007

2,084

1,922

Bovina

1,007

927

932

916

912

867

858

Colchester

2,973

2,692

3,156

3,070

3,193

3,250

2,849

Davenport

1,789

1,824

1,620

1,560

1,427

1,39

1,313

Delhi

2,908

2,793

3,243

2,908

2,815

2,852

2,721

Deposit

1,664

1,683

1,747

1,895

1,641

1,645

1,415

Franklin

2,897

2,638

2,529

2,444

2,403

2,222

2,132

Hamden

1,507

1,455

1,378

1,386

1,373

1,387

1,248

Hancock

4,745

4,593

5,308

5,701

5,191

4,908

4,122

Harpersfield

1,386

1,336

1,221

1,244

1,244

1,223

1,184

Kortright

1,588

1,535

1,485

1,527

1,481

1,608

1,559

Masonville

1,397

1,464

1,245

1,120

1,053

988

878

Meredith

1,555

,1529

1,508

1,469

1,393

1,472

1,304

Middletown

3,313

3,503

3,619

3,819

3,802

4,026

3,522

Roxbury

2,272

2,248

2,134

2,206

2,164

2,318

2,258

Sidney

3,122

3,320

4,023

4,319

4,148

4,215

4,133

Tompkins

2,626

2,727

2,482

2,277

2,127

1,919

1,737

Walton

4,543

4,811

4,869

4,996

5,088

5,275

5,425

Inmates  Institutions

---

25

---

13

---

---

---

Totals

45,496

45,488

46,413

46,788

45,575

45,095

42,774

 

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie Axtman

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