The History of New York State
Book III, Chapter IV

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam




"Second only to New York and Albany in antiquity, Ulster county, from the earliest period, was the theatre of important and romantic events." The value of its location was known to red man and white and fought for. Within its bounds was the first constitution of the Empire State framed, the first constitutional Governor inaugurated, and the first grand jury empaneled by the first Chief Justice. Or from the standpoint of today, this county is the entry-way to one of the popular summer districts of the East, lying as it does, between, and in, the region of the Catskills and the Shawangunks, and on the Hudson. Then there is the Ashokan Reservoir, one of the greatest efforts ever made to supply a city with water. In the heart of Ulster, a lake has been impounded, whose surface is more than the whole of Manhattan Island below 110th Street, and whose waters supply more than half that used by the Metropolis. The reservoir was put into use in 1917, at a cost, for all parts of the system, of more then $150,000,000.

The settlement of the county is a marvel of Dutch perseverance, for they established a trading post at Rondout, in 1614, with a few families nearby, only to be broken up by the Indians. In 1630-40 the attempt was made again, only to be destroyed by the Indians, in 1655, but by 1660 settlers had again located in the region. When the treaty, made with the tribes in the latter year, was immediately broken the whites combined forces and almost utterly destroyed the Ulster Indians. It was during this war that the beauties of the Wallkill valley were discovered, which led to its colonization by French Huguenots, about 1663. From this period, until the Revolution, the valleys of the streams of Ulster, principally the Rondout, Esopus and the Wallkill, became more and more populated. But the Revolution wiped out the frontier settlements, and the "River" towns were captured by the English, in 1777, and mostly pillaged and burned.

The county is one of the original divisions of the State, erected November 1, 1683. Of its great territory it has given in the formation of Delaware in 1797, part of Greene in 1800, Sullivan in 1809, and a piece to Orange in the same year. It still has an area of 1,204 square miles, or 760,560 acres. It is mainly mountainous, or upland, has few minerals of commercial value except cement rock and bloodstone, in both of which material it once did a very large business. At one time the county was the leader in the quality and quantity of its cement. The most of the land is under farm fence, but to a great extent is left in pasture or hay fields. Dairying has always been an important part of the agriculture. It is a natural fruit country, and there are parts of the county where fruit growing is brought to perfection.

Kingston is the shiretown, where the original court buildings were erected in 1684. Proving inadequate by 1732, a new set were built, which were burned by the English in 1777. The Delaware and Hudson Canal, finished in 1828, was the most important internal improvement of its day, for it gave an outlet for the coal of the Honesdale, Pennsylvania, section, and intercommunication with many part of the county. 


The various towns into which Ulster County is divided, with the population in recent years, follow:

Ulster County




Denning town




Esopus town, including Rifton village




Gardiner town




Hardenbergh town




Hurley town




Kingston City




Kingston town




Lloyd town




Marbletown town




Marlborough town, including Marlborough village




New Paltz town, including New Paltz village




Olive town




Plattekill town




Rochester town




Rosendale town, including Rosendale village




Saugerties town, including Saugerties village




Shandaken town, including Pine Hill village




Shawangunk town




Ulster town




Warwarsing town, including Ellenville village




Woodstock town









Kingston, the first settled spot in Ulster, is the leading place in history and growth. It was a trading and military post in 1614, making it one of the oldest settlements in the United States. Some of its earliest history has been mentioned, enough to show why it is sometimes called the "Cradle of New York State." The old Senate House, built in 1676, where the first legislature of New York held its first sessions, is still extant, a sacred relic of the historic past.

Kingston was incorporated as a village April 6, 1805. It soon became an important business place, not only because it early realized the value of roads, which were promptly built, but even more because, Rondout, the lower district of the village, became the largest of the river boat headquarters on the Hudson. The first steamboat entered the creek in 1826, and when the Delaware and Hudson Canal was opened three years later, it brought a new era in river traffic. Steam tow-boats were added to the fright and passenger vessels. As the years passed, the time for the 100-mile trip down the Hudson to New York City was reduced from an uncertain twelve hours to a few minutes over four hours, the time made by the noted "Mary Powell." The railroad period did not begin until several years after the end of the Civil War.

In 1849, Rondout feeling its growth was too great to be only a part of another named village, incorporated. But in May, 1872, Kingston and Rondout united and received a charter as the city of Kingston, with the hamlet Wilbur also included. The cement industry was the business of the city from the formation of the fort company in 1851 until well into the present century. The quarrying and working of blue stone, and the making of brick, were two allied sources of income. Not until the industries began to wane was there a branching out into factories of many sorts. There are now more than 125 concerns manufacturing some article of export, and the products are of such a varied nature that no single one dominates the situation. The population of Kingston in 1920 was 26,688.

Denning, formed from Shandaken march 6, 1849, lies in the northwest part of Ulster, near a spur of the Catskill Mountains. Within the town is the watershed of the streams entering the Hudson and the Delaware. The surface was once covered with a dense growth of hemlock, which provided for years the industries of the town, saw mills and tanneries. Only a small part of the region is under cultivation, and that part lies in the narrow valleys. Denning and Dewittsville are the hamlets of the section.

Esopus, formed from Kingston April 5, 1811, is one of the central river towns. It was one of the cement districts, is a good agricultural section, noted for its fruits. Settlements here was coincident with the settlement of Kingston. Among its many pleasant villages are: Port Ewen, near the mouth of the Rondout, founded by the Pennsylvania Coal Company in 1851 as a coal depot; South Rondout, and Sleightsburg; Rifton, on the Wallkill, formerly known as Arnolds, after the man who erected the first large cotton mill; Ellsmore Corners, and Amesville, how Ulster Park. The latter is the center of the fruit district of the town. Nearly all of the small fruits are grown, and apples, particularly the Newton pippin, reach perfection. Rosemont, the former home of Alton B. Parker, lies near Ulster Park.

Gardiner, formed from Rochester, New Paltz and Shawangunk April 2, 1853, is located near the center of the county. While an upland region, the soil is adapted to the growth of vegetables and berries. One of the first settlements was made by French Huguenots, and the contact with the earlier Dutch brought about many intermarriages of the two races. The main hamlets are: Gardiner, Tuthill, Libertyville, Galesville and Forest Glen.

Hardenburg, formed from Denning and Shandaken, April 5, 1859, is one of the ruggedest of the Ulster towns. It is also one of the summer sections, which the modern modes of transportation is opening to the visitor. Probably there were few, if any, settlers in this region before Samuel Merwin located near the site of the hamlet Dry Brook, in 1802. Belleayre, Hardenburgh, Seager and Turnwood are other small hamlets.

Hurley was granted by patent October 19, 1708. It has given territory to help form New Paltz in 1809, Esopus in 1818, Olive in 1823, Rosendale in 1844 and Woodstock in 1853. It is moderately hilly, with extensive fertile flats along the Esopus Creek. These farm lands drew the first of the settlers from Kingston. There was quite a colony by 1662, called Niew Dorp, depending on a peace treaty with the Indians, made but a short time previously, to protect them. But on June 7, 1663, the place was attacked by the aborigines, who destroyed the buildings and killed or made captive all the inhabitants. It was not until about 1870 that there was another attempt made to found a village, and by 170 there was only a population of 174. When Kingston was burned, in 1777, the State records were removed to this same village, and it was, for a short time, practically the capital of the State. This historic hamlet is now known as Hurley.

Kingston, the town, was incorporated by patent, May 19, 1667, and recognized as a town May 1, 1702. Among the towns taken from this district are: Esopus and Saugerties, in 1811, Kingston City in 1827, Woodstock in 1879, leaving the town little more then a name. Its history can be found under the story of Kingston, the city.

Lloyd was formed from New Paltz,

April 15, 1845. It is wonderfully well located on the Hudson, with many fine country seats along the banks, and has a back section much sought by the nature lovers of the cities. It must have been one of the earliest to be settled, but when, and by whom, there is no record. Highland is the principal village; Highland Landing the main shipping point for the large quantities of fruit and vegetables sent to New York; Riverside and Lloyd are small hamlets.

Marbletown, in the central part of the county, derived its title from a patent of Queen Anne, dated June 25, 1703; its formation as a town was on March 7,. 1844. A part of Olive was taken off in 1823, and a part of Rosendale in 1844. The town was settled in 1669,. According to the report of the "Commissioner who named it." The population, at the date of the receiving of its patent, was 277. The village of Marbletown had its turn as the capital of the State before Hurley, for at the burning of Kingston, in 1777, the Council for Safety fled to Marbletown and continued their sessions, then removed to Hurley. One of the finest bits of scenic beauty to be found in this wild, rough town is lake Mohonk, famous the world over.

Marlboro, formed as a precinct from Newburgh Precinct March 12, 1772, was set up as a town on March 7, 1788. Plattekill was taken off in 1800. It is the southeast corner town on the Hudson. The water powers of the town were early utilized for the grinding of their grains, but the later developments of the land were along the lines of fruit growing, especially berries, in the shipping of which, together with grapes, the town is probably the foremost along the river. The first settler of this town was Dennis Relje, or the "Old Man" as he came to be known. He came previous to 1697 as the paid colonist of Capt. John Evans, of the English Navy, who, in order to hold an immense tract granted him in 1694, had to have proved settlers on it with in three years after the giving of the patent. The principal village in the town are: Marlboro and Milton.

New Paltz was granted by patent by governor Andros September 29, 1677. Its bounds were enlarged by 1775, and a part of Hurley annexed February 2, 1809. A part of Esopus was taken off in 1842, a part of Rosendale in 1844, Lloyd in 1845, and a part of Gardiner in 1853. The land of the town was purchased from the Indians on April 28, 1677, and settlement was probably begun shortly after. Either just before, or shortly after the granting of the patent, French Huguenots located in sufficient numbers to forma sizable hamlet. This hamlet, New Paltz, is now a village of more than 1,000, which doubles the number of is residents in the summer, when the summer visitors arrive. The surrounding country is very beautiful, having some of the choicest of the farms in the county. Besides New Paltz, the more important of the other settlements are; Ohioville, Put Corners, Springtown and Butterville.

Olive, formed from Shandaken, Marbletown and Hurley April 15, 1823, is an interior town, west from Kingston. The Esopus Creek enter the town and has many small tributary streams. Must of the land was too rough for cultivation, lumbering and tanning being former main industries. The first settlements were made in the valley of the creek, probably some years previous to the date usually given, 1740. One of the strange twists in the course of the history of ht town as given by the State when it granted New York City the right to buy the valley, build a dam, and create a lake for its water supply that would cover some of its villages, and the most of the territory. The Ashokan Reservoir is well known since its coming into use in 1917, but what is not so well known is that underneath the twelve-mile lake that has been created lie several hamlets, the most notable of which was called Shokan.

Plattekill, formed from Marlboro, March 21, 1800, lies on the south border of the county, where its productive rolling soil furnished the principal industry of the residents. Grape growing is one of the specialties of the agriculture. The first settlements are supposed to have been made in the early 1700's/ Villages: Clintondale, a rural center founded about 1750; Plattekill, the center of a very fertile region; Modena, one of the wealthiest of the early hamlets; Ardonia and Unionville are small hamlets.

Rochester, incorporated by patent June 25, 1703, was organized as a town March 7, 1788. From it has been taken a part of Middletown, Delaware County; Neversink (Sullivan County), 1798; Wawarsing, in 1806; and a part of Gardiner, in 1853. It is one of the hilly interior towns, with more arable land than is usually found in this part of the county, well drained by streams and the canal. Millstones were once quarried in quantity. Dairying is now the main industry., There were undoubtedly settlers here before the granting of a patent in 1703, for early documents (1688) mention a saw mill and a "corn mill" as already built, and a church was in existence in 1700. Lake Minnewaska and Mohonk Lakes touch the town and there are a great many summer people all through the district. Of the other hamlets mention may be made of Alligerville, Port Jackson, Accord and Kyserike.

Rosendale, formed from Marbletown, New Paltz and Hurley April 26, 1844, is located in the rolling region of the central county. Its name stood at the head of the cement trade for a century. The village, Rosendale, is the headquarters of manufacturing and business. Lawrenceville, High Falls, Bruceville, Green Locks and Whiteport are the names of some of the hamlets of the section, the most of them being canal ports. The first settlement of the district was made by the Dutch about 1700.

Saugerties, formed from Kingston April 5, 1811, lies on the Judson in the northeast corner. The hills hat skirt the river are full of limestone and further back a fine quality of bluestone is quarried. Grants were sold to land in the town as early as May, 1687, but when the section was first colonized is unknown. In 1710-11 groups of the Palatine refugees located here, and a Lutheran church was organized in 1711.

Saugerties is the main village and shipping point of the district. Incorporated April 26, 1831, as Ulster, it changed to the present title on April 10, 1855. Paper and paper articles form the base of the present industries of the village. Other settlements of this region are: Malden and Glasco, located on the Hudson, north and south of Saugerties; West Camp, probably the first settled; Quarryville, Unionville, Glen Eyrie and Ashbury are a few of the many hamlets.

Shandaken, formed from Woodstock April 9, 1804, lost in the organization of Olive in 1823, Denning in 1849, and a part of Hardenburgh in 1859. It is in the northwest corner of the county among the Catskill Mountains, and is one of the summer sections of the county. Phoenicia is one of the best known resorts, although the village of Shandaken is higher, with a more varied scenery. There are several hamlets which cater to tourists. The valley lands are now used fro vegetable farms and grazing, while a deal of fruit is also grown. It seems likely that there were no settlers in these hills until after the Revolution.

Shawangunk, formed as a precinct December 17, 1743, and as a town March 7, 1788, is a central town of many streams and hills. Sometime between 1670 and 1680, James Bruyn and his family located in the region, and are considered to be the pioneers. New Fort is one of the localities fought over in the Indian War of 1663. The main villages are: Shawangunk; Ulster; Dwaar Kill, Wallkill, and New Hurley.

Wawarsing, formed from Rochester March 14, 1806, is the southwest corner town of Ulster. It is mountainous, but with an unique beauty of its own. Some of the most picturesque lakes of the region are located on this broken plateau. There are falls on the streams of sixty feet. In 1663, a Dutch captain and his force of little more than 200 entered Wawarsing and were probably the first whites to put foot in this section of the county. Cornelius Van Nooy was the pioneer, coming in 1685, and erecting the first mill shortly after. Ellenville, incorporated in September, 1838, is the principal village, with a population, in 1920, of 3,116. While manufacturing was formerly the main industry, this has in a measure been replaced by the necessity of looking after the large number of summer visitors who flock to this region. Napanock, a former tannery hamlet, Greenfield, Wawarsing and a half dozen other places are all pleasant settlements, attracting many from the cities.

Ulster, formed in March, 1880, in protest to what was considered political misrule by the authorities of Kingston, is located just north of the latter city on the Hudson. The section is a place of lovely country homes, even the farms, of which there are many, partake of the appearance of parks. The lowlands along the river have for years been the seat of brickyards. Located so close to Kingston, this district has no history, hamlets or business life separate from the shiretown.

Woodstock, formed April 11, 1787, lost of its territory to set up part of Middletown in 1789, Windham in 1798, Shandaken in 1804, parts of Olive in 1853. Most of the region is too hilly for agriculture to thrive, although fruits do well. The first settlement was shortly prior tot he Revolution, the pioneer being Philip Bonesteel, who located near Woodstock village in 1770. The latter-mentioned place was, from the start, the principal settlement in this part of the county, and is wonderfully located at the base of the Well-known Overlook Mountain.



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

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