from the History of Ulster County by Alphonso T. Clearwater, ed., 1907:


SHANDAKEN is the northwest corner town of the County of Ulster and was formed from a part of the town of Woodstock, April 9th, 1804.

It is an Indian name signifying rapid waters, and was applied to the town, or to the territory out of which it was formed, on account of the numerous streams which flow down its steep gorges and mountain ravines. The name is appropriate and should not be changed for any other.

The settlements known as Woodstock, and Great and Little Shandaken, were, by act of the Legislature, passed April 11th, 1787, formed into a township under the name of Woodstock. The town as first formed embraced a large territory and took in the present towns of Woodstock, Shandaken, Denning, the most of Hardenburgh and a part of Olive.

At the Woodstock town meeting held the first Tuesday in April, 1796, it was unanimously voted that the town be divided, but no division was made till 1804, when the Act creating Shandaken was passed. The following year, on the first Tuesday in April, the first town meeting was held, and Benjamin Milk was chosen Supervisor, William B. Rogers, Town Clerk. Rogers had held the same office in the town of Woodstock since 1901. He was the father of the late Joseph H. Rogers who died in Shandaken some years ago at an advanced age. Supervisor Milk, at the time lie was chosen, resided at the place now called Slide Mountain, near the head of Big Indian Valley, on the farm lately occupied by James W. Dutcher. He afterwards moved to Dry Brook, in what is now the town of Hardenburgh, and settled on the farm now, or lately, owned by William Todd. Milk continued to represent the town as its Supervisor until 1810, when Aaron Adams was chosen and re-elected till 1816; when he was succeeded by Henry W. Rogers.

Supervisor Adams resided at Pine Hill. He settled there and made the first clearing, before the year 1800. About 1810, he built a hotel on the site now occupied by Billor's summer hotel, formerly known as "Glen Hall," and continued to reside there, keeping tavern, until about 1816, when he moved away and settled near Rochester, N. Y. Adams served one term in the Legislature while he lived at Pine Hill; he was a good fiddler and a man of energy. He was also the first postmaster of Pine Hill, but at that time there were only three post-offices in the town. Pine Hill, Aaron Adams postmaster, one at the O'Neil place now owned by Giles Whitney, between Shandaken and Phoenicia, Henry W. Rogers postmaster, and The Corners, Lazarus Sprague postmaster.

At the time Adams lived at Pine Hill there was little there except his tavern and a saw-mill set down in a small clearing. His tavern was a frame building, lathed and plastered, and was the first building of the kind built in the town. People came for miles around to see it; it was such a curiosity. All other houses in the town at that time were constructed of logs. The tavern at Pine Hill, after Adams left, was kept by John Higgins, father of the late Marical Higgins; then by Samuel Smith, then by Ezekial Griffin, father of the late Matthew Griffin; then by one Strattabus, a Frenchman, who rebuilt it. In after years it passed into the hands of the late Thomas and Floyd Smith, and finally to Mrs. Mabala Floyd, who in 1874 erected "Glen Hall," and the old Pine Tavern, to well and widely known for many years, passed away.

Henry W. Rogers was Supervisor from 1816 until 1825, having been elected nine times in succession, which gave him more years in office than any other Supervisor of the town. He also kept a tavern in connection with his post- office. But in those days a Shandaken tavern was a primitive affair, the same room frequently answering for a bar- room, dining-room and kitchen. He was succeeded in office by Herman Landon, who, was Supervisor until 1827. He was succeeded in turn by James O'Neil, father of the late Thomas H. O'Neil. Herman Landon was a son of John Landon who settled on Pine Hill, coming from Columbia County about 1805. He made the first clearing, where the "Grampian" now stands.

Pine Hill, and almost the entire town, at that time was a dense wilderness, with here and there a clearing. Bears, wolves, deer and other entire animals held almost universal sway.

Milo Barber, Sr., kept a small store near Phoenicia on the road to Chichester as early as 1826, and about the same time Lazarus Sprague started one at The Corner. Very little, however, was done in the mercantile line until the building of tanneries later on.

The following is a sample of pioneer life in Shandaken. Old Peter Crispell, came to the town as a pioneer settler from Marbletown before 1800. He settled at Shandaken Center, as the village of Shandaken was formerly called, on the property now owned by Bernard Garrety, where he built a stone house, which is still standing. The country was then a wilderness, and he depended on Marbletown for his supply of provisions. A horse owned by him, named "Figure" and a boy living in the family, made frequent visits to Marbletown and brought back such sup- plies as were most needed. On one occasion , in the spring of the year, after they had planted potatoes, they found that their stock of provisions was nearly exhausted. The boy was placed on Figure's back and started for Marbletown, which he reached in safety, but before he was ready to return, a heavy fall of rain so flooded the streams that they could not be. forded, hence the boy and Figure were detained in Marbletown until it was considered safe for them to return. In-the meantime, the Crispell family were compelled to dig up the potatoes they had planted and use them for food. This was in the "good old times," but, really, were there ever any "good old times?" We think not. "Good old times" may do for sentiment, but has no foundation in fact.

Modern Shandaken, according to the census taken in 1905, has a population Of 3,045, of which 2 ,988 are citizens and 57 aliens. It has a voting population Of 925, and is divided into three election districts. Its town meetings for the election of town officers are held biennially in connection with the general elections. That portion of the town which has been brought under cultivation is mostly a long, winding, narrow valley, extending from the town of Olive to the Delaware County line on the top of Pine Hill, a distance of nineteen miles, with here and there a smaller valley branching from the main valley, studded on either side by grand and lofty mountains. The soil, especially in the valleys, is mostly a sandy loam, which, if well fertilized, brings a quick and generous crop. Both soil and climate are well adapted to fruit. All kinds do well, except peaches and grapes, although fine peaches have been grown. Apples do well.

The Esopus is the largest stream of water. It rises on the western slope of Slide Mountain, flows down Big Indian Valley, is joined by Birch Creek, near the village of Big Indian, and from thence moves down Shandaken valley to the town of Olive. It is subject to great rise and fall, sometimes swelling to the dimensions of a flood, carrying away bridges and doing material damage. In times of extreme drouth it recedes to the proportions of a modest brook.

Its next tributary, after leaving Big Indian, is the Bushnellville Creek, which meets it at Shandaken, three miles further down the stream. This creek takes its rise in a genuine canyon called Deep Notch, about two miles from West Kill, Greene County. Traveling about one mild farther down the Esopus we come to the Peck Bushkill, which empties into the Esopus from the north, and the Fox Hollow stream, which reaches it from the south. Its next tributary, called the Bradstreet Hollow stream, meets the Esopus from the north near Elm Shade two miles below Shandaken. About two miles further down the Woodland valley stream empties into the Esopus from the southwest. One mile below at Phoenicia the Barber Bushkill mingles its waters with the Esopus. The next and last tributary is the Little Shandaken Creek, which flows down the valley from West Woodstock, better known as Little Shandaken. All these streams are subject to sudden rise and fall. Melting snows and prolonged rains swell them far beyond their normal size, and protracted drouths reduce them to mere brooks; they are all well stocked with Brook, California and German Brown Trout.

There is a legend connected with Big Indian which is well worth relating. Tradition has it that in the time of the Revolution, there lived in Big Indian valley an Indian of enormous stature and strength who was an implacable enemy of the whites. He would suddenly emerge from his retreat and, after depredations, as suddenly retreat to his hiding place. The whites resolved that he must die, and when he was discovered prowling about near where Birch Creek empties into the Esopus, he was killed. They held him up against the body of a large pine tree, and, in a. rude way, cut his profile upon it, which lasted until the tree was cut down, long after the Revolution, and worked up into shingles by a local Methodist preacher. Ever since, the valley has been called Big Indian. Ile railroad station and village post-office bear the same name. The Ulster Delaware Railroad traverses the whole length of the town.

Before the woodman's axe began its destructive work there were thousands of acres of bark-lands in Shandaken, which attracted the attention of men who wished to embark in the tanning business. Large tracts of hemlock forest were bought up and tanneries were built. The first tannery built in the town was erected on Birch Creek, at Pine Hill, in 1831, by Augustus A. Guigou, a Frenchman, who came to this country in 1827, from Marseilles, France. He served nine years as a private and officer in the army of the first Napoleon, and had been a tanner and manufacturer his native country. He was succeeded in business by his son, the late Theodore Guigou, in 1846, and died about the year 1851. His was the Empire tannery, which was destroyed by fire in 1858, and never rebuilt.

Following Birch Creek two miles from Pine Hill, we come to Smithville. Here Smith and Ferman built a tannery in 1844.

Passing down Birch Creek, about half a mile further, we come to the Esopus. Here, not far from the junction of the two streams, Robert Humphrey built a tannery in 1835, which he operated till about 1845, when it passed to George W. Tuttle, and afterward to S. R. and T. C. Wey, who operated it till the supply of bark gave out.

The next tannery, down the Esopus, was built at Shandaken by Bushnell and Dewey, and was one of the first to be erected. They were succeeded by Isham & Co., who after-ward took in Eliakim. Sherrill as a partner. Sherrill came to the tannery from Greene County, where he had failed in business as a tanner and hired out as a teamster. He was a man of great shrewdness and perseverance, and after awhile Isham & Co. took him as a partner and finally sold out to him and Simeon Gallop; later on he bought out Gallop and became the sole owner. In 1856 he sold to Hiram Whitney and moved to Geneva, N. Y. When the Civil War broke out he raised a regiment, which he commanded, and was killed in the battle of Gettysburg. The next tannery, down the Esopus, was built near Phoenicia, six miles below Shandaken, by Moore and Ellis about 1836, and was known as the Phoenix tannery. Other parties afterward operated it. The late James A. Simpson operated it for forty years and was the last proprietor. Simpson was a man of much originality. The late Col. H. D. H. Snyder built a tannery in Woodland valley, two miles from Phoenicia, in 1851, and operated it till the bark was exhausted. The next was at The Comer, owned and operated for many years by the late H. A. Ladew. A tannery was built at Bushnellville at an early period by Capt. Aaron Bushnell, and conducted by him for many years. Not one of these old tanneries is now standing. They were for many years the scene of much life and activity, but belong to the past. Their very existence is fast fading from memory. To keep these tanneries going, took a vast quantity of bark. No use was made of the trees after the bark was stripped, except to a limited extent. Millions of these choice trees were left to rot on the ground where they fell, or to be consumed by forest fires.

Slide Mountain, so called on account of a landslide which carried away a portion of it on the south side many years ago, is within the town and is the highest peak of the Catskills. It affords a view from its summit that must be seen to be appreciated. Its altitude is 4,220 feet, and it is reached by way of Big Indian valley. The Wittenburgh comes next, and is one of the grandest mountains of the Catskill range; it is reached by way of Woodland valley. Other mountains are Mt. Sheridan, Balsam Mountain, and Mt. Garfield. Monka Hill, modest and unassuming, is., worthy of mention on its own merits. It is easy of ascent and is reached by a path leading from the Grand Hotel to its summit. The view is farreaching and magnificent. There is a stretch of shelving rocks on the west, standing upon which one looks down hundreds of feet into the valley below upon the tops of giant trees that add sublimity to the view.

There are fifteen neat and substantial church edifices in the town, of which the Methodist Episcopal denomination has five. The Roman Catholics have three, one at Phoenicia, one at Elm Shade, and another at Pine Hill. The Episcopalians have three; the Dutch Reformed have one. at The Corner, built in 1836, which gives it rank as the oldest church in the town. The Wesleyan Methodists have one at Chichester. The Baptists have one at Phoenicia, and the Free Methodists have one at Elm Shade.

The industries of the town are farming, lumbering, quarrying bluestone for flagging and building purposes, and entertaining city people through the summer, if that can be called an industry. There is one chair factory in the town, located at Shandaken. At Chichester, two miles from Phoenicia, there is a furniture manufactory, owned and operated by Wm. O. Schwarzwalder. Both of these factories are large. The Ulster and Delaware Bluestone Co., incorporated in 1894, is located at Allaben and has branch mills at West Hurley. This company deals in all kinds of bluestone and is under the management of Edmund Riseley. The Pine Hill Crystal Spring Water Company, incorporated in 1901, is located at Pine Hill, employs about twenty hands, and ships to New York from six to nine carloads of this water per week. E. C. Clifford is the general manager. Besides there are excelsior and heading mills in the town which do considerable business.

The residence of the late Davis Winne, is located along the State road about six miles below Phoenicia. Here it was that a fort was erected in May, 1779, by order of Governor George Clinton, as a protection against the incursion of the Tories and Indians. It was built of logs, and Major Adrian Wynkoop had charge of its construction. It was large enough for two hundred troops and stood a short. distance beyond the barn of Mr. Winne towards the residence of H. B. Hudler. John Winne, grandfather of Davis Winne, came from Holland, and lived in the old fort while he was building his house.

There is an incident bearing upon this old fort which I will relate. Old Peter Crispell, to whom reference has been made, has a brother Abram who was a sergeant in the War of the Revolution, and stationed at the Shandaken fort. On an occasion before the close of the war Sergeant Crispell, with a party of men, started from the fort on an expedition to hunt Indians. They went westward as far as the Cockburn place near Margaretville, when they fell in with a party of Tories and Indians led by one Shaver. Each party supposing the other to be the stronger, fell back. But Crispell and, Shaver knew each other, and both at the same time sprang behind trees to cover themselves. There they stood for some time, neither being willing to retreat or expose himself lest the other might get a shot at him. After waiting awhile, Shaver saw a small portion of Crispell's body exposed from behind the tree and fired at it and ran. Crispell was not hit and, springing from behind the tree that had covered him, fired at Shaver as he ran. The ball took effect and Shaver fell severely wounded, and was taken prisoner by the Crispell party. It being near night they took him to the house of one Van Wagenor on the Dimmick place at Arkville. He was placed on some deer skins for a bed, and the next day they carried him a prisoner to the fort in Shandaken. The wound was probed, the ball extracted, and Shaver recovered. Crispell kept Shaver's gun and gave it to Benjamin Crispell, and it remained in the Crispell family for many years. After the war Crispell and Shaver became good friends.