The center of a Palatine community had begun to form around a large flat rock surface called the Kaatsbaan that made a clearing on a rise over which the Kings Highway passed. This site gave a comforting view of the land around and became the place where the farmers met to discuss business, to meet new neighbors and to worship.
"Kaatsbaan" is literally translated "tennis court" but more correctly means "hand ball court". There were other locations with a similar name in other Dutch settlements and could have been flat, hard spots chosen specifically because the amusement potential that they offered made a good excuse for a meeting place. These may have existed for centuries before as the Indians are represented as playing ball on them when the first Dutch arrive.
The lands surrounding the Kaatsbaan and further west had never been planted by the Indians and had never been cleared. The Palatine German farmers had a different preference in farmland to the Dutch. Both the Dutch and the Indians farmed low, almost marshy meadowland at the banks of small rivers, or kills. The Germans, whether from generations of being invaded or because their planting techniques required a different soil type, found the high knolls more to their liking. These lands were not lands of low bushes and in most cases required considerable clearing. When the Palatines moved west to clear farmsteads it was into a dense oak and pine forest.
The large-scale agriculture focus in the more settled areas of Kingston, Hurley and Marbletown was only evident in Saugerties around Dutch Settlement and into the Great Meadow and the Churchland. Only after the disbanding of the Palatine population of West Camp did farming activity in the northern frontier of Saugerties begin to be considered by the Dutch of Kingston.
The Palatine homesteaders were hard workers and soon their cleared lands around Kaatsbaan and the potential of using their excess energy as labor attracted the Dutch into areas that had been Indian plantations. In 1719 Evert Wynkoop, the son of Cornelius Wynkoop, one of the original Nieue Dorp settlers of 1662, purchased the majority of the Meals and Hayes patent at the Beaver Kill and built a stone house, the Wynkoop House, on the Kings Highway. In the next five years he added a considerable number of adjacent tracts purchased from the Corporation of Kingston to this.
Closer to the river the early stone houses still found in the village of Saugerties today were on lands originally Indian plantations. On Main Street Hisakia Du Bois built the Kiersted House and Egbert Schoonmaker built the Schoonmaker House (1727). John Persen built the earlier Mynderse House on the River.
These first non-Palatine settlers in Saugerties also show a distinct interest in waterpower; power for sawmills in particular. The obvious reason for this is the availability of timber from the lands that the new settlers were clearing and the general demand for a lumber product that could be easily shipped out by river.
John Wood, Saugerties' first settler, is shown to be ambitiously expanding his mill locations up to the Sawyerkill in 1717 and it is presumed that John Persen, who owned the other half of the Esopus outlet Meals and Hayes patent after 1712, installed a sawmill below the first fall on the Esopus sometime shortly after his purchase. There are indications that many more leased mill sites lined the banks of the Esopus at its first and second falls at this time.
At about this same time deeds from John Wood's sons to John Legg and Abraham Du Bois mention the "Negro Mill" as a landmark indicating that workers other than the Palatines were being used by the Dutch and Huguenot mill owners.
Later, before 1740, the old Bolting Act forbidding the milling of flour outside of New York City became unenforceable and Saugerties became a center for flour mills. Not only the Esopus, but its Sawkill and Plattekill tributaries and also the Kaaterskill high up on the northwest plateau, attracted investors and a new breed of non-farming settlers. Over the next decade this attracted the attention of both the landed Dutch of Kingston and the owners of the Hardenbergh patent.
In a short 20 years following the Palatines’ arrival a richly diverse community begins to be evident. By 1732 the Dutch are sufficiently settled to make a petition to the Corporation of Kingston for a deeding of the Kaatsbaan to the Dutch Reformed Church for a stone church to be built on this site.
Dutch and Palatine farmers from as far away as Kiskatom, Catskill and the Woodstock Valley had been making the journey every Sunday to Kaatsbaan to meet there. The church that they built on their meeting site in 1732 was to become a landmark on every map of Colonial America. Saugerties, itself, and the Esopus harbor would not warrant mention on a map for many more years to come. The only way to know where Saugerties was on any map made before 1800 was to look for "Kaatsbaan Kirk”, the only significant place name between Groote Esopus (Kingston) and Catskill.
The church at Kaatsbaan was a symbol of the solidarity of the Saugerties community. This early community could feel politically secure in its devout adherence to the Dutch Reformed Church and its relationship to the local control of the Trustees of the Kingston Commons. With this assurance, by the mid-18th century it had settled into a pattern of settlement highlighted by cultivated farmland and sturdy stone homes connected by well traveled herding paths, wagon roads and highways.
Between the time of the founding of the Kaatsbaan Church in 1732 and the beginning of the French and Indian War there was economic upheaval in New York. Pennsylvania became the main grain-producing center of the colonies and Philadelphia outgrew New York City as a population and shipping center. A corresponding decrease in the demand for the grain of New York brought about a failure of many of the Dutch planters of Kingston and millers of New York City. Both the planters and millers relied heavily on slave workers for production and the drop in demand made support of this idle workforce a considerable drain on the wealth of both communities. At the same time support of the local militias that were the frontier defense against the French, a unique responsibility of New York, stressed the treasuries of the counties and the manors. The owners of the manors and large patent lands settled by leaseholds needed to support their share of the militia out of their rents. The rent was paid in wheat.
The settlement of the Palatines on subsistence farmsteads in the Saugerties region and their willingness to provide frontier defenses at their homes and man the militias out of a sense of self interest provided a great advantage to the Corporation of Kingston at this time. This, and their basic ingenuity, skill and irascible independence provided the cushion that was disparately needed to keep Kingston a thriving community.
The Palatine immigrants had an angry and defensive character mainly directed against their archenemy, the French. Earlier; in 1710, before ever reaching America, they had organized to march on Canada and planned their settlement as close to that border as possible. It was only the catastrophic destruction of the British fleet in a storm in the St. Lawrence that year that spoiled this chance for vengeance. Later, at West Camp, their latent hostility teemed as they voiced their dissatisfaction with conditions under what they considered unjust bondage and servitude; so much so that the complete venture that they were central to was dissolved. Once settled in the Saugerties Region they ever looked to the looming wall of the Catskills as a potential threat to their homes and families. Just over the peaks they anticipated raids from the French and their Indian allies and could never lower their guard for fear of the attack.
The Saugerties region is divided down the middle with the eastern farmland deeded out early and more settled. The western half was recognized as wilder and kept as common lands by Kingston. The needs of the colonial militia for protection against French Canada encouraged the Corporation of Kingston to deed homesteads to the Palatines in the northwest frontier of Saugerties.
The Palatines of Saugerties were a perfect guardian for this northern frontier of the Kingston Commons with its dark passageways into the wild mountainous interior. They were in constant contact with their sister settlements across these mountains in the Schoharie Valley and into Pennsylvania and knew all the Indian paths in between.
As these settlers cleared their land, planted their fields and built their fortress homes along the highways, pathways and trails their sturdy stone walls, as ready for defense as the character of their builders, protected these vital thoroughfares. Though no battle took place at Saugerties, if one had, this region, made critical to the defense against any advancing army because of its constricted landscape between the mountains and the river, would have been well prepared to protect the valuable, low heartland of Kingston and the heart of the Colony, the Hudson River. If one were to describe the Saugerties region before and during the French and Indian War, the only word that would fit would be "defensible".
Kingston’s Palatine homesteads attracted a competitiveness for land from the second generation of Livingstons who owned the Hardenbergh patent to the west. In 1728 Robert (of Clarmont), the second son of Robert R. Livingston (the Founder), inherited a comparatively small portion of the original manor that was the land on the east side of the Hudson River directly opposite Saugerties. Nearly 6,000 acres had been separated from it for the Palatine settlement at East Camp (Germantown). The remainder he called Clermont. In an effort to expand his land holdings he took possession by various means of the Hardenbergh patent which comprised close to 2.5 million acres over nearly the whole of the Catskill mountain range. The closest settlement on this land was Woodstock, accessed by the ancient Indian path that ran right through the middle of Saugerties.