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The history of Springtown Road

The documents that Dr June Finer left for us included a typed manuscript titled "A Brief History of Springtown." I am posting key facts from this document here and have made the complete document available on Google Docs for anyone who is interested.

History states that the Dutch established a trading-post at Rondout in 1614. Tradition, however, has it that the first settlers of Ulster County landed at Saugerties, and followed up the Esopus Kill twelve miles, through unbroken forests, and settled finally at Kingston, being attracted by the rich alluvial meadows. This settlement was twice broken up, and as late as 1655 is said to have been wholly abandoned through fear of the Indians. Before 1660 it was reoccupied and put in some posture of defense. The region was called by the Indians Atkankarten, but was commonly known to the settlers as Esopus. The little settlement that was made on the present site of Kingston was known as Wiltwyck.

"After speaking of the Indian massacre at Kingston Edmund Eltinge, Esq., the author of the paper referred to, says-- "Catherine Blanshan, wife of Louis DuBois and three other females, were captured and carried away by a detachment of these cruel warriors far into the wilderness, as a great prize where they would be least likely to be pursued traversing on their way the fine hunting-ground up the Wallkill, where, in those primitive days, the bear, deer, and other favorite game abounded ...

...A party was sent out, consisting of the husbands of the captured females and others, on the route designated. They first bent their way to the Rondout, and then up the rugged steeps of the Wallkill .... The interval lands in the Wallkill Valley received their passing notice and attention, but the object of their search absorbed their minds and energies. ... A short distance farther they came in sight of the captured females following the Indians to their campinggrounds... As the whites approached the Indians disappeared .... they fled to the hunting-grounds of their companions, now upon the mountains, leaving their captives behind ... On their return home the glad welcome came forth from every cottage ... As soon as the excitement of this rescue had passed away, the minds of these brave men again reverted to the discovered land of promise in the beautiful valley of the Wallkill, and particularly to the rich flats of New Paltz.'

"Within three years after the rescue---May 1666---the purchase from the Indians of a large tract of land was affected by Louis DuBois and his associates. Mr. Eltinge makes it 144 square miles. or 92,160 acres. Rev. Dr. Stitt says: 'It was an alluvial valley, beginning in Rosendale, bounded on the west by the Shawangunk Mountains, and running as far south as a point called Gertrude's Nose (which overlooks the town of Shawangunk) and stretching from these two points in parallel lines to the Hudson River.' The whole tract is estimated to contain 36,000 acres ... The tract included part of the present townships of New Paltz. Rosendale, and Esopus, and the wole of Lloyd.' The price paid was 40 kettles, 40 axes. 40 adzes. 40 shirts, 400 strings of white beads (wampum). 300 strings of black beads. 50 pairs of stockings, 100 bars of lead. 1 keg of powder, 100 knives, 4 quarter-casks of wine. 40 jars. 60 splitting or clearing knives, 60 blankets. 100 needles, 100 awls, and 1 clean pipe. It was necessary that this transaction should be confirmed by the colonial government, and accordingly a patent-deed was procured from Governor Andross, Sept. 29, 1677, conveying to 'Louis DuBois and partners' the territory described, for the annual rent of 'five bushels of good wheat.' a mere expression ofacknowledgment to the lord paramount."(l)

The following article was written on March 28. 1890:

"75 years ago [1815] Springtown was about as much of a village as New Paltz, each numbering about 20 houses. In those days the main thoroughfare from north to south ran through Springtown and gave it great advantage over New Paltz. The stage line, which before the day of railroads, was a very important interest, ran on the west side of the Wallkill and stopped at Springtown. Here lived Judge Jonathan DuBois, who was county judge in 1821 and probably the most prominent man in the town at that time ... ln those days many droves of cattle and sheep and some horses would come from the north and the region about Lake Champlain and would pass through Springtown on their way to the New York or Philadelphia market."(2)

Ronald Crovisier writes as follows:

"Springtown is of particular interest. It was one of the first areas of New Paltz to be heavily settled outside the village; and during its hey-day in the early 1800's Springtown was thought of as a major population area in Ulster County. Even in the latter part of the19th century, maps give it equal prominence with New Paltz. "Springtown was also one of the longest lasting of these hamlets, keeping a certain independence from New Paltz village until the 1930's...[Springtown] had a pair of advantages that New Paltz proper did not. The first was purely agricultural. The west bank of the Wallkill river, unlike the East bank, was a low-lying stretch of land that flooded each year. Centuries of river deposited sediment that left the area rich and fertile, and the floods had buried the rocky ground (a major problem to Colonial farmers) under a thick layer of topsoil. Indeed, it was the agricultural possibilities of the Wallkill Valley that first attracted the Huguenots."

"While the Huguenots may have lived on the [east] side of the river, much of the farming took place on the west. It was not long before many second generation settlers began building their homes on the land they tilled and setting the foundation for the beginning of Springtown.

" ... Tax rcords from 1728 show that Christian Deyo was living at Springtown during these early days.

"... Springtown did not exist as a community at this time. The fields and farmlands had been fenced in 1683 and a primitive path---the antecedent of the present day Springtown Road---had been built, but for the hamlet to become established one more natural advantage came into play. In the early 1700's, the only land route to Kingston was a trail known as the King's Highway. As New Paltz grew in size and the necessity of easy transportation became apparent, the Village elders made plans to exploit this route. The only problem was that the King's Highway was on the west bank of the river.

"In 1783 the Duzine ordered a road built. Striking northward from Huguenot street, the road followed the Wallkill up to the Bontekow area. On the Eastern bank of the river it terminated, and a scow crossed the river at that point. On the west bank, the road continued west until it met with the highway. This river crossing caused much of the impetus necessary to turn a small group of farmhouses into a thriving community. Stables, taverns, and roadhouses were established along with the road. The founding of Springtown probably dates from this time.

"The name Springtown (or Spring Town on some early maps) is uncertain. It seems safe to assume that the name derives from the high water table in the area but who named it, and when, is a question that cannot be answered. In the early days of New Paltz, Springtown may have been called Klien Bontekow. Klein is Dutch for 'little'; and Bontekow, a common name given by the Huguenots for the premier farm land along the Wallkill's bends, is corrupt French for 'Neck of good land.' In any case, whether it was Springtown or little neck of good land, the area had by1800, sprang forth as a major rival of New Paltz.

"In the period from 1875 to 1935, Springtown was best known for its hotels and boarding houses. Tourists would flock to establishments like J.C. Schaffer's Hotel for the summer .... The hotels and boarding houses gave Springtown a resort atmosphere during the summer; the hamlet being a sort of plebian Mohonk catering to the less affluent who wished to enjoy the Shawangunks and those who found Smilye's [sic] hotel too conservative."(3)

Springtown was a thriving agricultural region. Peter Harp describes it as follows:

"Springtown was endowed with wonderful bottom land where the soil was flat, fertile, black and mellow, without stones. Copious crops of hay, grain, potatoes, and onions were the result of the bounty of the land and the husbandry of the natives. There was a post office, store, religious chapel with the school house located on the boundary line, with the Town of Rosendale, this being a joint common school district."(5)

"Mr. James E. Deyo, of Springtown, raised this season [1882] 800 bushels of potatoes and about 300 bushels of onions. He planted his potatoes early, and from 23 bushels planting of the Early Rose variety gathered 500 bushels of saleable potatoes."(9)

In 1909 Jesse Deyo of Springtown had a crop of 2,500 bushels of potatoes.(10) Five years later we read, "Oscar Deyo has a crop of about 4,000 bushels of potatoes, which we believe is as large a crop as has ever been raised by anyone in this vicinity.

"[1893] The most prosperous farmers in this vicinity are those along the Springtown road who raise onions and potatoes and take summer boarders."(13) "[1928] Jesse Deyo is overjoyed over the testing of his cows which passed. Mr. Deyo spends a great deal of his time seeing that they are looked after, well fed and groomed. He has a fine sanitary stable and everything in ship shape order and his milk house---so cool and clean. He has a herd that anyone would be proud of. He deserves great credit and is a criterion to go by as a farmer."(14) "[1939] Springtown Cows Will Represent Eastern New York at World's Fair [front page].

With respect to natural resources, Kenneth Hasbrouck writes:

"Several sulphur springs have been found at the base of the mountains [Shawangunk]. One is located near Springtown and another at Rosendale ... One of these [sulphur] springs is in the slate rock on the former Jesse Deyo farm now owned by Mr. Eller."(18) Wildlife has always been abundant: "[1882] Muskrats are so numerous that they destroy nets in the Wallkill set for Catching fish."(19) In addition to herds of deer, the black bear would now and then be found in the woods of Springtown: "[1961]

300 lb. Black Bear Shot Near Springtown [with photograph] ... This huge bear was shot at about 7:15 A.M. by Mr. Anthony Visconte of Brooklyn, N.Y .... "(20)

Springtown had a hotel in 1864: "James J. Dubois proprietor of the Springtown Hotel was in town on Tuesday."(33) The natural beauty and charm of Springtown drew large numbers of boarders to the boarding houses that were to be found over a century ago:

"[1890] Next to these long established houses on the Shawanangunks the farm houses, near the Wallkill [Springtown] are the most popular resorts.

"[1929] It has been said by several of the new comers---what a beautiful spot Springtown is---The beautiful Wallkill River to row on, on a moonlight night when the echo of a song comes from the picturesque mountains. Back of Springtown in the little settlement of Butterville are a few Swiss families. In the evening by the moonlight after the day's work is done you can hear their sweet Tyrolean voices accompanied by the zither ringing through the mountains ... "(43) Not willing to take no for an answer, some boarders were willing to settle for whatever accommodations they could get: "The boarding houses here were filled to capacity over the Labor Day holidays. Many had to content themselves by sleeping in the barns ... The Hudson farm house, which can accommodate sixty was filled over Labor Day ...

It was not all work for the people of Springtown. They had their recreations too: In 1820 " ... we find no less than six houses of entertainment or taverns between New Paltz and Rosendale by the Springtown road .... most of the Farm-Boarding houses had property on the Wallkill River. There were gravel beaches and people swam in the river. There were also paddle boats for use on the river."

The Ulster County fair was held at Springtown about 1820.

January 19th 1867 horse races on the frozen WallKill River.

Around 1912, with the advent of the Automobile, races would take place on the river among owners of autos.


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