It was the first business of the new Town of Saugerties to re-survey the Woodstock road from the river to “where the aforesaid road intersects the Ulster and Delaware first branch turnpike-road”. That concern would define the growth of Saugerties’ political boundaries, its influence as a major industrial and mercantile center and its identity as a separate community from Kingston.
The Woodstock valley presented the most direct route between the turnpike over Pine Hill and the Hudson River through the broad Zena flats and traditional pathways to Dutch Settlement. The original 1811 border between Saugerties and Kingston was the northern Second Class division line of the Commons extended to the division line between the lots sixteen and seventeen of the Southwest Class. This left the Glasco Turnpike in Kingston but the port of Glasco in Saugerties.
The Glasco branch of the Ulster and Delaware Turnpike Company was owned by Kingston and New York City investors. Its wharves were in direct competition with those of the north. The hamlet of Glasco’s main street to the river wharves is named Delaware Street in recognition of this relationship to the company. The sign on a wharf at the end of Delaware Street for a glass company in Woodstock is the origin of the name of the hamlet and turnpike.
Just as the political map of 18th century Saugerties was guided by the actions of the Corporation of Kingston, the physical map of 19th century Saugerties would be profoundly influenced by the actions of four individuals: Asa Bigelow; Jeremiah Russell; Robert L. Livingston; Henry Barclay.
Asa Bigelow arrived in Saugerties in 1807 and initially tried to do business on the river at Glasco but finding this too restrictive leased the store of Edward Livingston in the village area of Saugerties and ran his shipping business from the dock below the falls. The next year he purchased the deWolven patent lands and in 1812 incorporated the Village of Bristol on the northern end of this tract on the Hudson shore and moved all of his business there. He began construction of a road to the Kaaterskill clove from Bristol in 1814 after purchasing the land bordering to the north. He was the second supervisor of the new Town of Saugerties and its first Postmaster.
Jeremiah Russell was born at West Camp and was running a business in Trumpbours Corners by 1804. In 1814 he moved his operations to the store vacated by Asa Bigelow in the village of Saugerties.
Robert L. Livingston was the son-in-law of Robert R. Livingston and his secretary during the Louisiana Purchase. When Robert R. died in 1813 he became heir and owner of all the Livingston lands in the village area of Saugerties. His wife, Margaret, also inherited all the Hardenburg patent lands in the vacinity of Woodstock.
Henry Barclay, in 1825 at the age of 47 sold his half of a mercantile financing business in New York City and bought all the land at the falls of the Esopus to build a dam for industrial development of water power there where he had planned this as the base for making a “model” industrial community at Saugerties.
Within the first quarter century of Saugerties existence as a Town, and through the direct enterprise of these four individuals, all of the major physical features of the town took form. Turnpikes were run to the mountains. Dams and mills were built. Quarries were cut into the hillsides. Stone wharfs stretched into the Hudson. A lighthouse was built and the streets of a village were laid out and populated with houses and commercial buildings.
What bound its enterprise and industry together was transportation. Over the decades between the revolution and when Saugerties became a town Robert R. Livingston, the Chancellor, had been acquiring frontage along the Hudson River's extensive Esopus and Hudson shorelines. By 1800 all of the wharfs were Livingston businesses. Their main function was to tranship the continuous flow of products that came down the roads of Saugerties from the Livingston lands of the Hardenburg patent.
The Chancellor had placed all future hopes for profiting from Livingston land holdings on transportation and centered these hopes on Saugerties. Following the success of his Steamboat enterprise with Robert Fulton and the freighting monopoly this created, Robert R. Livingston applied his influence with the legislature to separate his center of operations in Saugerties from the politics of the Corporation of Kingston and the Town of Kingston. A Town of Saugerties between his Town of Woodstock tenancies and his Saugerties wharfs would put the Livingston family in control over all production of the Catskill Mountains that reached market by way of the Hudson. By 1813 when he died Robert R. Livingston had successfully created a steam transportation industry and secured the political positions necessary to retain all the profit benefits he envisioned that this industry would bring.
Robert R. Livingston, the Chancellor, was an extraordinary mind with an astute understanding of the political, scientific and industrial concepts of his time. He wrote extensively on these and communicated with those at the forefront of the same ideas. Had he lived to continue what he started with his innovative steamboat enterprises and related businesses the “landlord” image the Livingston family is most recognized for would have been changed and the early course of the state of New York would also have been changed. As it turned out Saugerties would struggle from his loss for nearly three decades trying to put into action the vision his presence had made the town's founding purpose.
Robert L. Livingston who has assumed responsibility for his father-in-law’s vision by 1814, had been the Chancellor’s personal secretary and fully involved in all of his political plans and business relations. “Robert L.” continued in these footsteps to develop what the Chancellor had planned for his properties throughout the Town of Saugerties, particularly the franchising of the road to Woodstock as the Woodstock and Saugerties Turnpike.
By the mid 1820’s the 20 year steamboat monopoly had come to an end and the Chancellor’s vision of the supremacy of the Saugerties ports had been overshadowed by the Erie Canal's recentering shipping to the north at Albany. The only thing left of the Chancellor’s broad vision for his holdings in Saugerties was water power and Industry.
The Chancellor’s initial involvement had served to attract speculative businesses along Saugerties’ inland roads and the leader of these, Jeremiah Russell’s mercantile business in the village area, was positioned to organize them into one common goal; to become subscribers partnering with Jeremiah Russell to financially back Robert L. Livingston's state charter for improving his Woodstock road into the Woodstock and Saugerties Turnpike. This major road would be the main land support for the mills and the population Henry Barclay was, after 1825, bringing into the growing village area.
Earlier, in 1812 Asa Bigalow had begun to improve a road from his deep water wharves at Bristol and was granted for this a turnpike charter. This was the Bristol Turnpike. It was the second chartered turnpike in Saugerties but the first in Saugerties as a town. The principal commercial function of both the Glasco and the Bristol turnpikes after 1817 was hide transport for the large commercial tanneries in the Catskill Mountains. They had previously connected the many smaller tanneries to market but after an act of the legislature permitted large corporations to develop tanneries in Greene County they experienced greatly expanded traffic.
The tanbark tree and water resources of the Catskill Mountains made tanning a major industry there. The ports of Saugerties were the closest these mountain industries came to the Hudson River. The relationship of its ports and turnpikes to tanning became a major source of wealth for Bristol and Glasco as their merchants received shipments of raw hides from as far away as South America at their wharves and transported these along their related turnpikes into the mountains. They then received the finished hides back for shipping and quickly became brokers between the tanners and makers of leather goods. With their profits they positioned themselves to be the bankers for the industry, advancing funds back to support the operations of the tanners and the needs of the communities that grew up around them.