From Kingston to Catskill along the Hudson River

Discover your
family's story.

Enter a grandparent's name to get started.

choose a state:
Start Now

Rhinecliff, with its historic Beekman stone house, is on the east bank of the river opposite Kingston. The old mansion, on the hillside, above the landing, was built before 1700 by William Beekman, first patroon of this section. It was used as a church and as a fort during the Indian struggles and still preserves the scar of a cannon ball from a British ship.

Ferncliff, a mile north of the Beekman House, is the home of John Jacob Astor, formerly the property of William Astor, and above this

Clifton Point, once known as the Garretson place, the noted Methodist preacher whose wife was sister of Chancellor Livingston, and above this Douglas Merritt’s home known as “Leacote.” Flatbush landing lies on the west bank opposite Ferncliff.

One might almost imagine from the names of places and individuals here grouped on both banks of the river, that this reach of the Hudson was a bit of old Scotland: Montgomery Place and Annandale with its Livingstons, Donaldsons and Kidds on the east side, and Glenerie, Glasgo and Lake Katrine on the west.

Barrytown is just above “Daisy Island,” on the east bank, 96 miles from New York. It is said when General Jackson was President, and this village wanted a postoffice, that he would not allow it under the name of Barrytown, from personal dislike to General Barry, and suggested another name; but the people were loyal to their old friend, and went without a postoffice until a new administration. The name of Barrytown, therefore, stands as a monument to pluck. The place was once known as Lower Red Hook Landing. Passing “Massena,” the Aspinwall property, we see—

Montgomery Place

Montgomery Place, residence of Carleton Hunt and sisters, about one-half mile north of Barrytown, formerly occupied by Mrs. Montgomery, wife of General Montgomery and sister of Chancellor Livingston. The following dramatic incident connected with Montgomery Place is recorded in Stone’s “History of New York City”: “In 1818 the legislature of New York—DeWitt Clinton, Governor—ordered the remains of General Montgomery to be removed from Canada to New York. This was in accordance with the wishes of the Continental Congress, which, in 1776, had voted the beautiful cenotaph to his memory that now stands in the wall of St. Paul’s Church, fronting Broadway. When the funeral cortege reached Whitehall, N. Y., the fleet stationed there received them with appropriate honors; and on the 4th of July they arrived in Albany. After lying in state in that city over Sunday, the remains were taken to New York, and on Wednesday deposited, with military honors, in their final resting place, at St. Paul’s. Governor Clinton had informed Mrs. Montgomery of the hour when the steamer ‘Richmond,’ conveying the body, would pass her home. At her own request, she stood alone on the portico. It was forty years since she had parted from her husband, to whom she had been wedded but two years when he fell on the heights of Quebec; yet she had remained faithful to the memory of her ‘soldier,’ as she always called him. The steamboat halted before the mansion; the band played the ‘Dead March,’ and a salute was fired; and the ashes of the venerated hero, and the departed husband, passed on. The attendants of the Spartan widow now appeared, but, overcome by the tender emotions of the moment, she had swooned and fallen to the floor.”

The Sawkill Creek flows through a beautiful ravine in Montgomery grounds and above this is the St. Stephen’s College and Preparatory School of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York. Beyond and above this are Mrs. E. Bartlett’s home and Deveaux Park, afterwards Almonte, the property of Col. Charles Livingston. We are now approaching Cruger’s Island, with its indented South Bay reaching up toward the bluff crowned by Montgomery Place. There is an old Indian tradition that no person ever died on this island, which a resident recently said still held true. It is remarkable, moreover, in possessing many antique carved stones from a city of Central America built into the walls of a temple modeled after the building from which the graven stones were brought. The “ruin” at the south end of the island is barely visible from the steamer, hidden as it is by foliage, but it is distinctly seen by New York Central travelers in the winter season. Colonel Cruger has spared no expense in the adornment of his grounds, and a beautiful drive is afforded the visitor. The island is connected by a roadway across a tongue of land which separates the North from the South Bay. Above this island east of the steamer’s channel across the railway of the New York Central, we see a historic bit of water known as—

The North Bay. It was here that Robert Fulton developed his steamboat invention, receiving pecuniary aid from Chancellor Livingston, and it is fitting to give at this place a concise account of

Steam Navigation

Steam Navigation, which after many attempts and failures on both sides of the Atlantic was at last crowned with success on the Hudson.

John Fitch first entertained his idea of a steamboat in 1785, and sent to the general assembly of the State of Pennsylvania a model in 1786. New Jersey and Delaware in 1787, gave him exclusive right to navigate their waters for fourteen years, which, however, was never undertaken. His steamboat “Perseverance,” on the Delaware in 1787, was eighteen feet in length and six feet beam. The name, however, was a misnomer, as it was abandoned. These facts appear by papers on file in the State Library at Albany. After his experiment on the Delaware, he traveled through France and England, but not meeting with the encouragement that he expected, became poor and returned home, working his passage as a common sailor. In 1797 he constructed a little boat which was propelled by steam in the old Collect Pond, New York, below Canal Street, between Broadway and the East River.

According to records in the State Library, the steam was sufficiently high to propel the boat once, twice, or thrice around the pond. “When more water being introduced into the boiler or pot and steam was generated, she was again ready to start on another expedition.” The boat was a yawl about eighteen feet in length and six feet beam. She was started at the buoy with a small oar when the propeller was used. The boiler was a ten or twelve gallon iron pot. This boat with a portion of the machinery was abandoned by Fitch, and left to decay on the muddy shore. Shortly after this he died in Kentucky in 1798. Had he lived, or, had the fortune like Fulton, to find such a patron as Livingston, his success might have been assured. His visit to Europe may have inspired Symington’s experiment on Dalswinton Loch in 1788, which made five miles an hour, and another steamboat on the Forth of Clyde which made seven miles an hour in 1789, and the “Charlotte Dundas” in 1802, which drew a load of seventy tons over three miles against a strong gale. Something, however, was wanting and the idea of successful navigation was abandoned in Britain till after the invention of Robert Fulton which made steam navigation an assured fact.

“How necessary it is to succeed,” said Kosciusko, at the grave of Washington, and this is also as true in the story of invention as in the struggle for freedom: “That they never fail who die in a great cause though years elapse, and others share as dark a doom. They but augment the deep and sweeping thoughts which overpower all others and conduct the world at last to fortune.”

It was the writer’s privilege in 1891, to deliver the unveiling address of a monument to Symington at his birthplace, Lead Hills, Scotland. In the tribute then paid to the genius of the great Scotchman who had done so much for invention in many directions, he said the difference between Symington and Fulton was this: “Each worked diligently at the same idea, but it was the good fortune of Fulton, so far as the steamboat was considered, to make his ‘invention’ ‘go.'”

To quote from a British writer, the “Comet” of Henry Bell on the Clyde in 1812, was the first example of a steamboat brought into serviceable use within European waters, and the writer incidentally added that steam navigation in Britain took practical form almost on the spot where James Watt, the illustrious improver of the steam engine was born. The word “improver” is well put. It has much to do with the story of many inventions. The labor of Fitch was far-reaching in many directions, and it detracts nothing from Fulton’s fame that the experiments of Fitch and Symington preceded his final triumph.

Rumsey’s claim to the idea of application of steam in 1785 does not seem to hold good. General Washington, to whom he referred as to a conversation in 1785, replied to a correspondent that the idea of Rumsey, as he remembered and understood it, was simply the propelling of a boat by a machine, the power of which was to be merely manual labor.

Robert Fulton

Robert Fulton was born in 1765, and at the time of Symington’s experiment in Scotland, was twenty-three years of age. He was then an artist student of Benjamin West, in London, but, after several years of study, felt that he was better adapted for engineering, and soon thereafter wrote a work on canal navigation. In 1797 he went to Paris. He resided there seven years and built a small steamboat on the Seine, which worked well, but made very slow progress.

It is remarkable that the two most practical achievements of our century have been consummated by artists, the telegraph by Morse after a score of “invented” failures, and the successful application of steam to navigation by Fulton.

Soon after his return to New York he brought his idea to successful completion. His reputation was now assured, and his invention of “torpedoes” gave him additional fame. Congress not only purchased these instruments of warfare, but also set apart $320,000 for a steam frigate to be constructed under his supervision.

Through Livingston’s influence the legislature passed an act granting to Fulton the exclusive privilege of navigating the waters of the State by means of steam power. The only conditions imposed were that he should, within a year, construct a boat of not less than “twenty tons burthen,” which should navigate the Hudson at a speed not less than four miles an hour, and that one such boat should not fail of running regularly between New York and Albany for the space of one year.

The Clermont

“The Clermont,” named after the ancestral home of the Livingstons, was built for “Livingston and Fulton,” by Charles Brownne in New York. The machinery came from the works of Watt and Bolton, England. She left the wharf of Corlear’s Hook and the newspapers published with pride that she made in speed from four to five miles an hour. She was 100 feet in length and boasted of “three elegant cabins, one for the ladies and two for the gentlemen, with kitchen, library, and every convenience.” She averaged 100 passengers up or down the river. Every passenger paid $7, for which he had dinner, tea and bed, breakfast and dinner, with the liberty to carry 200 pounds of baggage.

An original letter from Robert Fulton to the minister of Bavaria at the court of France, written in 1809, upon the question of putting steamboats on the Danube, is of interest at the present day: “The distance from New York to Albany is 160 miles; the tide rises as far as Albany; its velocity is on an average 1 ½ miles an hour.

We thus have the tide half the time in favor of the boat and half the time against her. The boat is 100 feet long, 16 feet wide and 7 feet deep; the steam engine is of the power of 20 horses; she runs 4 ½ miles an hour in still water. Consequently when the tide is 1 ½ miles an hour in her favor she runs 5 ¾ miles an hour. When the tide is against her she runs 2 ¾ miles an hour. Thus in theory her average velocity is 4 ¼ miles an hour, but in practice we take advantage of the currents. When they are against us we keep near shore in the eddies, where the current is weak or the eddy in our favor; when the tide is in our favor we take the centre of the stream and draw every advantage from it. In this way our average speed is 5 miles an hour, and we run to Albany, 160 miles, in about 32 hours.” Previous to the invention of the steamboat there were two modes of conveyance. One was by the common sloops; they charged 42 francs, and were on the average four days in making the passage—they have sometimes been as long as eight days. The dread of such tedious voyages prevented great numbers of persons from going in sloops. The second mode of conveyance was the mail, or stage. They charged $8, or 44 francs, and the expenses on the road were about $5, or 30 francs, so that expenses amounted to $13. The time required was 48 hours. The steamboat has rendered the communication between New York and Albany so cheap and certain that the number of passengers are rapidly increasing. Persons who live 150 miles beyond Albany know the hour she will leave that city, and making their calculations to arrive at York, stay two days to transact business, return with the boat, and are with their families in one week. The facility has rendered the boat a great favorite with the public.

A telegram from Exeter, N. H., in 1886, recorded the death of Dr. William Perry, the oldest person in Exeter and the oldest graduate of Harvard College, at the age of ninety-eight years. He was the sole survivor of the passengers on Fulton’s first steamboat on its first trip down the Hudson, and the connecting link of three generations of progress. He was born in 1788, was a member of 1811 in Harvard, and grandfather of Sarah Orne Jewett, the authoress.

The writer remembers his grandfather telling him of going to Hudson as a boy to see the “steamboat” make its first trip, and how it had been talked of for a long time as “Fulton’s Folly.” One thing is sure it was a small cradle wherein to rock the “baby-giant” of a great century. How Fulton would wonder if he could visit to-day the great steamships born of his invention—successors of the “Clermont” of “Twenty tons burthen.” How he would marvel, standing on the deck of the “Hendrick Hudson,” to see the water fall away from the prow cut by a rainbow scimitar of spray! at the great engines of polished steel, working almost noiselessly, and wonder at the way the pilot lands at the docks, even as a driver brings his buggy to a horse-block; for in his day, and long afterwards, passengers were “slued” ashore in little boats, as it was not regarded feasible to land a steamboat against a wharf. It would surely be an “experience” for us to see the passengers at West Point, Newburgh, or Poughkeepsie “slued ashore” to-day in little rowboats.

Tivoli

Tivoli, above North Bay took its name from a pre-revolutionary “Chateau,” home of the late Colonel DePeyster. The “Callender Place” to the southeast, was formerly the property of Johnston Livingston. Two miles from the river is the home of Mr. J. N. Lewis, a morning view from whose veranda is still remembered, and it is to him that the writer is indebted for a pleasant trip to the ruins on Cruger’s Island. The residence of the late J. Watts DePeyster stands on a commanding bluff north of the railway station and it was beside his open fireside many years ago that he told the writer how his house was saved from Vaughan’s cannon. “Rose Hill,” was mistaken for “Clermont,” but a well-stocked cellar mollified the British captain.

It grew like one of the old English family houses, with the increase of the family, until, in strange but picturesque outline—the prevailing style being Italian, somewhat in the shape of a cross—it is now 114 feet long by 87 feet deep. The tower in the rear, devoted to library purposes, rises to the height of about sixty feet. This library, first and last, has contained between twenty and thirty thousand volumes. Such indefinite language is used, because the owner donated over half this number to the New York Historical Society, the New York Society Library, and a number of other similar organizations in different parts of the United States. As a working library, replete with dictionaries and cyclopædias, in many tongues and on almost every subject, it is a marvel. It is likewise very valuable for its collections on military and several other special topics. From it was selected and given to the New York Historical Society, one of the finest possible collections on the History of Holland, from the earliest period down to the present time. “Rose Hill” was left in his will to the Leake and Watts Orphan Home.

A ferry from Tivoli to Saugerties affords communication between the two villages. Glasco Landing, on the west bank, lies between the residences of Henry Corse, on the south, and Mrs. Vanderpool (sister of the late President Martin Van Buren), on the north.

In locating the residences along the river and dealing so often in the words “north” and “south,” we are reminded of a good story of Martin Van Buren. It is said that it was as difficult to get a direct answer from him as from Bismarck or Gladstone. Two friends were going up with him one day on a river boat and one made a wager with the other that a direct answer could not be secured on any question from the astute statesman. They approached the ex-president and one of them said, “Mr. Van Buren, my friend and I have had a little discussion; will you tell us, does or does not the sun rise in the east?” The ex-president calmly drew up a chair, and said, “You must remember that the east and west are merely relative terms.” “That settles it,” said the questioner, “I’ll pay the bet.”

Saugerties

Saugerties, 101 miles from New York. From its location (being the nearest of the river towns to the Catskills), it naturally hoped to secure a large share of tourist travel, but Kingston and Catskill presented easier and better facilities of access and materially shortened the hours of arrival at the summit. Plaaterkill Clove, wilder and grander than Kaaterskill Clove, about nine miles west of the village, has Plaaterkill Mountain, Indian Head, Twin Mountains and Sugar Loaf on the south, and High Peak and Round Top on the north. Its eighteen waterfalls not only give great variety to a pedestrian trip, but also ample field for the artist’s brush. The Esopus, meeting the Hudson at Saugerties, supplies unfailing waterpower for its manufacturing industries, prominent among which are the Sheffield Paper Company, the Barkley Fibre Company (wood pulp), the Martin Company (card board) and a white lead factory. There are also large shipments of blue stone, evidences of which are seen in many places near at hand along the western bank. Many attractive strolls near Saugerties invite the visitor, notably the walk to Barkley Heights south of the Esopus. An extensive view is obtained from the West Shore Railroad station west of the village and the drive thereto. North of Saugerties will be seen the docks and hamlets of Malden, Evesport and West Camp, also the residences of J. G. Myers to the northwest of the Rock islet, and of H. T. Coswell, near which the steamer passes to the west of Livingston Flats. The west shore at West Camp was settled by exiles from the Palatinate, about 1710, and one of the old churches still stands a short distance inland. We are now in the midst of

Livingston Country

The Livingston Country, whose names and memories dot the landscape and adorn the history of the Hudson Valley. Dutchess and Columbia Counties meet on the east bank opposite that part of Saugerties where Sawyer’s Creek flows into the Hudson. “Idele” was originally called the Chancellor Place. “Clermont” is about half a mile to the north, the home of Clermont Livingston, an early manor house built by Robert R. Livingston, who, next to Hamilton, was the greatest New York statesman during our revolutionary period. The manor church, not seen from the river, is at the old village of Clermont, about five miles due west from the mansion. The Livingstons are of Scotch ancestry and have an illustrious lineage. Mary Livingston, one of the “four Marys” who attended Mary Queen of Scots during her childhood and education in France, was of the same family. Robert Livingston, born in 1654, came to the Hudson Valley with his father, and in 1686 purchased from the Indians a tract of country reaching east twenty-two miles to the boundary of Massachusetts with a river frontage of twelve miles. This purchase was created, “the Lordship and Manor of Livingston,” by Governor Thomas Dongan. In 1692 Robert built the manor house, but did not reside in it for twenty years. He was a friend of Captain Kidd and a powerful promoter of his enterprises. The manor consisted of 260,000 acres. The estate of 13,000 acres, given to his second son Robert, was called Clermont. Philip, his first son, inherited 247,000 acres, by old-time primogeniture succession. From each of these two families sprang a line of vigorous and resolute men. Robert R. Livingston, our revolutionary hero, descended from the smaller estate, owned “Clermont” at the time it was burned by the British. It was soon rebuilt and Lafayette was a guest at the mansion during his visit to the United States in 1824.

Above West Camp landing on the west side, is the boundary line between Ulster and Greene Counties; Ulster having kept us company all the way from Hampton Point opposite New Hamburgh. Throughout this long stretch of the river one industry must not be overlooked, well described by John Burroughs:

The Shad Industry

—”When the chill of the ice is out of the river and the snow and frost out of the air, the fishermen along the shore are on the lookout for the first arrival of shad. A few days of warm south wind the latter part of April will soon blow them up; it is true also, that a cold north wind will as quickly blow them back. Preparations have been making for them all winter. In many a farm-house or other humble dwelling along the river, the ancient occupation of knitting of fish-nets has been plied through the long winter evenings, perhaps every grown member of the household, the mother and her daughters as well as the father and his sons, lending a hand. The ordinary gill or drift-net used for shad fishing in the Hudson is from a half to three-quarters of a mile long, and thirty feet wide, containing about fifty or sixty pounds of fine linen twine, and it is a labor of many months to knit one. Formerly the fish were taken mainly by immense seines, hauled by a large number of men; but now all the deeper part of the river is fished with the long, delicate gill-nets that drift to and fro with the tide, and are managed by two men in a boat. The net is of fine linen thread, and is practically invisible to the shad in the obscure river current: it hangs suspended perpendicularly in the water, kept in position by buoys at the top and by weights at the bottom; the buoys are attached by cords twelve or fifteen feet long, which allow the net to sink out of the reach of the keels of passing vessels. The net is thrown out on the ebb tide, stretching nearly across the river, and drifts down and then back on the flood, the fish being snared behind the gills in their efforts to pass through the meshes. I envy fishermen their intimate acquaintance with the river. They know it by night as well as by day, and learn all its moods and phases. The net is a delicate instrument that reveals all the hidden currents and by-ways, as well as all the sunken snags and wrecks at the bottom. By day the fisherman notes the shape and position of his net by means of the line or buoys; by night he marks the far end of it with a lantern fastened upon a board or block. The night tides he finds differ from the day—the flood at night being much stronger than at other times, as if some pressure had been removed with the sun, and the freed currents found less hindrance. The fishermen have terms and phrases of their own. The wooden tray upon which the net is coiled, and which sits in the stern of the boat, is called a ‘cuddy.’ The net is divided into ‘shots.’ If a passing sloop or schooner catches it with her centre-board or her anchor, it gives way where two or three shoots meet, and thus the whole net is not torn. The top cord or line of the net is called a ‘cimline.’ One fisherman ‘plugs’ another when he puts out from the shore and casts in ahead of him, instead of going to the general starting place, and taking his turn. This always makes bad blood. The luck of the born fisherman is about as conspicuous with the gill-net as with the rod and line, some boats being noted for their great catches the season through. No doubt the secret is mainly through application to the business in hand, but that is about all that distinguishes the successful angler. The shad campaign is one that requires pluck and endurance; no regular sleep, no regular meals; wet and cold, heat and wind and tempest, and no great gains at last. But the sturgeon fishers, who come later and are seen the whole summer through, have an indolent, lazy time of it. They fish around the ‘slack-water,’ catching the last of the ebb and the first of the flow, and hence drift but little either way. To a casual observer they appear as if anchored and asleep. But they wake up when they have a ‘strike,’ which may be every day, or not once a week. The fishermen keep their eye on the line of buoys, and when two or more of them are hauled under, he knows his game has run foul of the net, and he hastens to the point. The sturgeon is a pig, without the pig’s obstinacy. He spends much of the time rooting and feeding in the mud at the bottom, and encounters the net, coarse and strong, when he goes abroad. He strikes, and is presently hopelessly entangled, when he comes to the top and is pulled into the boat, like a great sleepy sucker. For so dull and lubbery a fish, the sturgeon is capable of some very lively antics; as, for instance, his habit of leaping full length into the air and coming down with a great splash. He has thus been known to leap unwittingly into a passing boat, to his own great surprise, and to the alarm and consternation of the inmates.”

Germantown

Germantown Station is now seen on the east bank, and between this and Germantown Dock, three miles to the north, is obtained the best view of the “Man in the Mountain,” readily traced by the following outline: The peak to the south is the knee, the next to the north is the breast, and two or three above this the chin, the nose and the forehead. How often from the slope of Hillsdale, forty miles away on the western trend of the Berkshires, when a boy, playing by the fountain-heads of the Kinderhook and the Roeliffe Jansen’s Creek, have I looked out upon this mountain range aglow in the sunset, and at even-tide heard my grandfather tell of his far-off journeys to Towanda, Pennsylvania, when he drove through the great Cloves of the Catskills, where twice he met “a bear” which retreated at the sound of his old flint-lock, and then when I went to sleep at night how I pulled the coverlet closer about my head, all on account of those two bears that had been dead for more than forty years.

The Man in the Mountain

The Catskills were called by the Indians On-ti-o-ras, or mountains of the sky, as they sometimes seem like clouds along the horizon. This range of mountains was supposed by the Indians to have been originally a monster who devoured all the children of the red men, until the great spirit touched him when he was going down to the salt lake to bathe, and here he remains. “Two little lakes upon the summit were regarded the eyes of the monster, and these are open all the summer; but in the winter they are covered with a thick crust or heavy film; but whether sleeping or waking tears always trickle down his cheeks. In these mountains, according to Indian belief, was kept the great treasury of storm and sunshine, presided over by an old squaw spirit who dwelt on the highest peak of the mountains. She kept day and night shut up in her wigwam, letting out only one at a time. She manufactured new moons every month, cutting up the old ones into stars,” and, like the old Æolus of mythology, shut the winds up in the caverns of the hills:

Where Manitou once lived and reigned,
Great Spirit of a race gone by,
And Ontiora lies enchained
With face uplifted to the sky.

New York Water Supply

The Catskill Mountains are now something more than a realm of romance and poetry or a mountain range of beauty along our western horizon, for, from this time forth the old squaw spirit will be kept busy with her “Treasury of Tear Clouds,” as the water supply of New York is to come from these mountain sources.

The Catskill Water Supply

The cost of this great undertaking is estimated at $162,000,000. Four creeks: The Esopus, Rondout, Schoharie and Catskill will constitute the main source of supply. The total area of the entire watershed is over nine hundred square miles, and the supply will exceed 800,000,000 gallons daily. The work projected will bring to the city 500,000,000 gallons per day.

The Ashoken Reservoir, 12 miles long and two miles wide, will hold 120,000,000,000 gallons. The Catskill Aqueduct supply from Ashoken Reservoir will deliver the water without pumping to Hill View Reservoir in Yonkers high enough for gravity distribution. It will take from ten to fifteen years to complete the work, which is begun none too early, as the population of Greater New York will be over 5,000,000 in 1915, and its water consumption 1,000,000,000 gallons. In 1930 the population will be 7,000,000 and will call for a consumption of 100,000,000,000 gallons daily. We are indeed “ancients of the earth and in the morning of our times.” From the far limits of the gathering grounds some of the water will flow 130 miles to reach the city hall, and 20 miles further to the southern extremity of Staten Island.

Between Old Cro’ Nest and Cold Spring the water will be syphoned under the Hudson through a concrete tube six hundred feet below the surface of the river.

The Croton Water Works, at a cost of about $14,000,000, completed in 1842, were regarded the greatest undertaking since the Roman Aqueduct. Many improvements to meet increased demand have been made since that time. Fifty years from now it is quite possible that the Catskill System will seem like the Croton of to-day, as a small matter, and our next step will be “An Adirondack System,” making the successive steps of our water supply the Croton, the Catskills and the Adirondacks.

It is fortunate that our city destined to be the world’s emporium, has everything at hand needed for comfort and safety.

John Bigelow, the literary and political link of the century, born at Malden-on-the-Hudson, in 1817, was present at the inauguration of the work at Cold Spring, June, 1907. It was the writer’s privilege to meet him often on the Hudson River steamers in the decade of 1870, and to receive from him many graphic descriptions of the early life and customs of the Hudson. What memories must have thronged upon him as he contrasted the life of three generations!

The Clover Reach

We are now in what is known as The Clover Reach of the Hudson which extends to the Backerack near Athens. One mile above Germantown Dock stood Nine Mile Tree, a landmark among old river pilots so named on account of its marking a point nine miles from Hudson. Above this the Roeliffe Jansen’s Kill flows into the river, known by the Indians as Saupenak, rising in Hillsdale within a few feet of Greenriver Creek, immortal in Bryant’s verse. The Greenriver flows east into the Housatonic, the Jansen south into Dutchess County, whence it takes a northerly course until it joins the Hudson. The Burden iron furnaces above the mouth of the stream form an ugly feature in the landscape. This is the southern boundary of the Herman Livingston estate, whose house is one mile and a half further up the river, near Livingston Dock, beneath Oak Hill. Greenville station is now seen on the east bank, directly opposite Catskill Landing, which the steamer is now approaching.

Catskill

Catskill, 111 miles from New York, was founded in 1678 by the purchase of several square miles from the Indians. The landing is immediately above the mouth of the Catskill or Kaaterskill Creek. It is said that the creek and mountains derive their name as follows: It is known that each tribe had a totemic emblem, or rude banner; the Mahicans had the wolf as their emblem, and some say that the word Mahican means an enchanted wolf. (The Lenni Lenapes, or Delawares, had the turkey as their totem.) Catskill was the southern boundary of the Mahicans on the west bank, and here they set up their emblem. It is said from this fact the stream took the name of Kaaters-kill. The large cat or wolf, similar in appearance, forms the mark of King Aepgin on his deed to Van Rensselaer. Perhaps, however, the mountains at one time abounded in these animals, and the name may be only a coincidence. The old village, with its main street, lies along the valley of the Catskill Creek, not quite a mile from the Catskill Landing, and preserves some of the features of the days when Knickerbocker was accustomed to pay it an annual visit. The location seems to have been chosen as a place of security—out of sight to one voyaging up the river. The northern slope now reveals fine residences, all of which command extensive views. Just out of the village proper, on a beautiful outlook, stands the charming Prospect Park Hotel. The drives and pedestrian routes in the vicinity of Catskill are well condensed by Walton Van Loan, a resident of the village, whose guide to the Catskills is the best on this region and will be of great service to all who would like to understand thoroughly the mountain district.

The Northern Catskills.—The northern and southern divisions have been indicated not so much as mountain divisions, but in order to better emphasize the two routes, which converge from Kingston and Catskill toward each other, drawn by two principal points of attraction, the Catskill Mountain House and the Hotel Kaaterskill.

The Catskill Mountain House has been widely known for almost a century. The original proprietor had the choice of location in 1823, when the entire range was a vast mountain wilderness, and he made excellent selection for its site. It seems as if the rocky balcony was especially reared two thousand feet above the valley for a grand outlook and restful resort. “What can you see,” exclaimed Natty Bumppo, one of Cooper’s favorite characters. “Why, all the world;” and this is the feeling to-day of everyone looking down from this point upon the Hudson Valley.

The Mountain House Park has a valley frontage of over three miles in extent, and consists of 2,780 acres of magnificent forest and farming lands, traversed in all directions by many miles of carriage roads and paths, leading to various noted places of interest. The Crest, Newman’s Ledge, Bear’s Den, Prospect Rock on North Mountain, and Eagle Rock and Palenville Overlook on South Mountain, from which the grandest views of the region are obtained, are contained in the property. It also includes within its boundaries North and South Lakes, both plentifully stocked with various kind of fish and well supplied with boats and canoes. The atmosphere is delightful, invigorating and pure; the great elevation and surrounding forest render it free from malaria. The temperature is fifteen to twenty degrees lower than at Catskill Village, New York City or Philadelphia.

The Otis Elevating Railway

The Otis Elevating Railway, made possible by the enterprise of the late Commodore Van Santvoord, extends from Otis Junction on the Catskill Mountain Railway to Otis Summit, a noble altitude of the Catskill Range. The incline railway, 7,000 feet in length, ascends 1,600 feet and attains an elevation of 2,200 feet above the Hudson River. “In length, elevation, overcome and carrying capacity it exceeds any other incline railway in the world. It is operated by powerful stationary engines and huge steel wire cables, and the method employed is similar to that used by the Otis Elevator Company for elevators in buildings. Every safeguard has been provided, so that an accident of any kind is practically impossible. Should the machinery break, the cables snap or track spread, an ingenious automatic device would stop the cars at once. A passenger car and baggage car are attached to each end of double cables which pass around immense drums located at the top of the incline. While one train rises the other descends, passing each other midway. By this arrangement trains carrying from seventy-five to one hundred passengers can be run in each direction every fifteen minutes when necessary, the time required for a trip being only ten minutes. This is a vast improvement over the old way of making the ascent of the mountains by stage, as it reduces the time fully one and a half hours, besides adding greatly to the pleasure of the trip. The ride up the mountains on the incline railway is a novel and delightful experience, and is alone worth a visit to the Catskills. As the train ascends, the magnificent panorama of the valley of the Hudson, extending for miles and miles, is gradually unfolded; while the river itself, like a ribbon of silver glistening in the sun, and the Berkshire Hills in the distance seem to rise to the view of the passenger. At the summit of the incline passengers for the Laurel House, Haines Corners, Ontiora, Sunset, Twilight, Santa Cruz, Elka Park, and Tannersville, take the trains of the Kaaterskill Railroad, which connect with the Otis Elevating Railway.”

Two miles from the summit landing are the Kaaterskill Falls. The upper fall 175 feet, lower fall 85 feet. The amphitheatre behind the cascade is the scene of one of Bryant’s finest poems:

“From greens and shades where the Kaaterskill leaps
From cliffs where the wood flowers cling;”
and we recall the lines which express so beautifully the well-nigh fatal dream
“Of that dreaming one
By the base of that icy steep,
When over his stiffening limbs begun
The deadly slumber of frost to creep.”

About half-way up the old mountain carriage road, is the place said to be the dreamland of Rip Van Winkle—the greatest character of American mythology, more real than the heroes of Homer or the massive gods of Olympus. The railway, however, has rather dispensed with Rip Van Winkle’s resting-place. The old stage drivers had so long pointed out the identical spot where he slept that they had come to believe in it, but his spirit still haunts the entire locality, and we can get along without his “open air bed chamber.” It will not be necessary to quote from a recent guide-book that “no intelligent person probably believes that such a character ever really existed or had such an experience.” The explanation is almost as humorous as the legend.

The Hotel Kaaterskill, whose name and fame went over a continent even before it was fairly completed, is located on the summit of the Kaaterskill Mountain, three miles by carriage or one by path from the Catskill Mountain House. It is the largest mountain hotel at this time in the world, accommodating 1,200 guests, and the Catskills have reason to feel proud of this distinction. They have for many years had the best-known legend—the wonderful and immortal Rip Van Winkle. They have always enjoyed the finest valley views of any mountain outlook, and they have a right to the best hotels.

It may seem antiquated and old-fashioned in the midst of elevated railroads to speak of mountain driveways, but that to Palenville, as we last saw it, was a beautiful piece of engineering—as smooth as a floor and securely built. It looks as if it were intended to last for a century, the stone work is so thoroughly finished. The views from this road are superior to anything we have seen in the Catskills, and the great sweep of the mountain clove recalls a Sierra Nevada trip on the way to the Yosemite.

The writer will never forget another Catskill drive fully twenty years ago. Starting one morning with a pair of mustang ponies from Phœnicia, we called at the Kaaterskill, the Catskill Mountain House, and the Laurel House, took supper at Catskill Village, and reached New York that evening at eleven o’clock. It is unnecessary to say that we were on business—our book was on the press—and we went as if one of the printers’ best-known companions was on our trail.

Irving’s description of his first voyage up the river brings us more delicately and gracefully down from these mountains to the Hudson—the level highway to the sea. “Of all the scenery of the Hudson, the Kaatskill Mountains had the most witching effect on my boyish imagination. Never shall I forget the effect upon me of my first view of them, predominating over a wide extent of country—part wild, woody and rugged; part softened away into all the graces of cultivation. As we slowly floated along, I lay on the deck and watched them through a long summer’s day, undergoing a thousand mutations under the magical effects of atmosphere; sometimes seeming to approach; at other times to recede; now almost melting into hazy distance, now burnished by the setting sun, until in the evening they printed themselves against the glowing sky in the deep purple of an Italian landscape.”

 

The Hudson



MLA Source Citation:

Bruce, Wallace. The Hudson; Three Centuries of History, Romance and Invention. New York: Bryant Union Company. 1907. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 25 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/new-york/kingston-catskill-along-hudson-river.htm - Last updated on Jan 13th, 2014


Categories:
Topics:
Locations: , , , ,
Surnames: , ,

Contribute to the Conversation!

Our "rules" are simple. Keep the conversation on subject and mind your manners! If this is your first time posting, we do moderate comments before we let them appear... so give us a while to get to them. Once we get to know you here, we'll remove that requirement.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Page Contents

Newsletter Signup

We currently provide two newsletters. Why not take both for a run?

Genealogy Update: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new, or significantly updated, collection or database on our website.

Circle of Nations: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new (or significantly updated) Native American collection or database on our website.

Once you've clicked on the Subscribe button above you'll receive an email from us requesting confirmation. You must confirm the email before you will be able to receive any newsletter.