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.

This relationship was well known to the merchants that capitalized the Woodstock and Saugerties turnpike. They expected to play a similar role relative to the new industries arriving in Saugerties. With Henry Barclay’s investments there, attention was squarely placed on the Esopus falls on the Hudson River where the village was growing rapidly in population. Jeremiah Russell already controlled most of the commerce in this community and the banking relationship that he and his son William would build made them the wealthiest and most influential citizens of Saugerties over the entire nineteenth century.

On September 21st, 1825 Saugerties entered the Industrial Age. On that date Henry Barclay purchased all the land that included the south side of the Esopus Creek from where it flowed east to the Hudson River. In June of the following year he purchased from Robert L. Livingston all the lands of the creek’s north shore to the river. Written into the Livingston deed were the words “to be used for manufacturing purposes only and not for the purposes of building dwelling houses or to farm as part of the village that may be laid out or built on the lands north of said creek it being understood that said lands may be used for the establishment of every kind of Mills Manufacturing or workshops necessary or convenient for the said party of the second part and for no other purpose.”

Henry Barclay’s entrance into Saugerties brought with it business interests that spanned the Atlantic and involved manufacturing processes that would see their first application in America. He was capable of executing a vision that he shared with Robert L. Livingston but that Robert L. could not achieve himself. They were both part of an intellectual movement that saw industrialization as an opportunity to construct ideal communities of workers. Robert L. and the Chancellor became steeped in this idealism in France and in industrial Belgium and the spark of the idea that ignited Saugerties came with the visit of the marquis de Lafayette to Clermont in September of 1824. It was following the conversations over this dinner with Lafayette that Robert L. and Henry made their tour across the river and began the first discussions toward a plan for an Ideal Village there.

Henry Barclay was from a business and family with the connections needed for acquiring protected technologies restricted from being used outside of Great Britain. His business with his brother dealt with the owners of these properties and his father was the government official of Britain responsible for arranging their entry into this country. Before the summer of the next year he had made all the preparations necessary to industrialize Saugerties.

By 1826 Henry Barclay had confined the Esopus with a dam that directed its water power through a series of canals feeding multiple mill wheel sites for building factories. The first to be built was an iron works but when its developer and iron master drowned that site was sold to the owners of the West Point Foundary for John Simmons, an expert in the process of purifying iron, to begin first use of the “double puddling process” in America.

Barclay's first successful operation functionally employed machinery brought to America for the first time for making continuous roll paper by the Fourdranier process.

With the iron and paper mills in production an immediate demand for over 200 skilled workmen increased the population of the village with immigrants from England, Scotland and Ireland. They were attracted with the promise of life in Henry Barclay’s ideal community. Robert L. and Henry had a map created that diviided the land for the village between them and subdivided it into streets and lots. As the workmen arrived they were first housed in a connected row of stone tenements near the factories that looked very much like those they had come from, but they soon lease lots and build their own private houses. This difference from the British company housing is what they expected of America.

More than just the mill workers were required to make the specialized industrial products. Before the iron mill went into production Robert L. had his tenants in the Catskill Mountains begin the time consuming task of producing the vast amounts of charcoal needed for the iron purification process. Enormous amounts of chord wood needed for the furnaces was supplied in a continuous flow from the woodlots of Saugerties and Woodstock. Docks became congested with sloops continually unloading cargos of cotton lint and fibers from the mills of New England and the plantations of the South that was the raw material for making the paper. They competed with the barges carrying the ore arriving to be processed into iron material that would later be called steel. More orderly shipments left the factories from their special docks on a regular basis.

All of this traffic to and from the mountains and in and out of the Esopus’ narrow channel into the river soon left little room for ordinary business on the waterfront and the turnpike road between Saugerties and Shandaken through the Woodstock valley increased the traffic through the fledgling village many fold. By 1831 Henry Barclay had built a toll bridge to carry traffic from the mills and docks on the south shore to the business center of the growing village on the north and from there along the turnpike making his wharves the main supply point for the entire town and beyond.

All of the docks and the facilities to handle the workers were on the south side and this is where products arrived and left. Most of the mill workers were beginning to live on the north side. All the merchants lived on the old farms spreading north from their stores on Main Street. Within six short years the area that was envisioned as a village had grown from less than a dozen houses around Main Street to begin to fill the hundreds of lots that spread left and right off Partition Street down to the new bridge. The demands of a growing population and the needs of the factories had wildly succeeded in making Saugerties a major center of transportation and business.

For these first half dozen years Henry Barclay managed the growth of his Ideal Village nearly singlehandedly, arranging for municipal services out of mill profits and even donating land for and supporting the building of just about every denomination of church that his workers needed. He even conducted his own temperance meetings. The community of Saugerties was so organized, the businesses so cooperative and the society so civil that Robert L. had a large and comfortable house built there for his daughter and her husband, William Bayard Clarkson. A gated cobblestone carriage drive overlooking Barclay’s pond and bridge led to this house where enthusiasts for this model industrialization venture were entertained with this view of the future.

However, in this same year, 1831, a pivotal event was beginning to shake the focus of this Model Village. A Connecticut stone mason and sculptor by the name of Silas Brainard, employed to structure the supports of the Barclay bridge, discovered a material for this purpose on the route of the Woodstock and Saugerties Turnpike at the farm of William VanValkenberg at what is now Veteran. The quarrying he started there for this project developed into an industry that was to dwarf the manufacturing that Henry Barclay had based his plans upon. Within a decade Bluestone quarrying would grab the attention of all of Saugerties, particularly Jeremiah Russell and Asa Bigelow.

A new value was being placed on the old Kingston Commons lots that could never have been imagined by the Dutch herders and planters that reluctantly took ownership of them just twenty years before. And an influx of workers not skilled in the new sciences of industrial manufacturing but in the age-old art of hard rock quarrying would place its own demands on the new Town and Village, its ideals, the society it had begun to personify and the already threatened culture of those that had called Saugerties home for generations.

Michael Sullivan Smith

Overview: Owning the Soil of Saugerties

When Henry Barclay made his initial land purchase it was from Tjerck Schoonmaker and he was buying an active farm. All of the flats and bluffs that stretched five miles south and five miles north and two miles west out from his mills on the Hudson were farmlands. These and the productive farms of the interior and into Woodstock were the reason he could imagine a self sufficient model village to support industrialization.

Right through the beginning of the 20th century, even as the population that worked the mills spread over them, these lands continued to feed that village and even after remained hayed or used for grazing well past mid century. The continuity of ownership of these farmlands right back to colonial times remained stable right up to the suburbanization and malls of the latter part of the century.

Many names like Snyder, Trumpbour, Wyncoop, Post, Brink, Wolven, Miller, Myer, Mynderse, Marterstock, Oosterhout, Overbaugh, Freleigh, Hummell, Diedrich, as well as Schoonmaker continued to own and work the farms of Saugerties for generations and in some cases remain to the present day. Even after a farming family had ceased to work its acreage and divided it up it would continue to be worked by another one of the ancient families to continue a tradition of maintaining the land as open. The large estate farms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; that of G. W. Washburn, J. O. Winston, Martin Cantine and J. G. Myer; were re-consolidations of two century old Wolven and Wynkoop family farms that had been broken up but had been maintained as open fields by their neighbors. Trumpbours and Snyders continued to maintain Winston Farm fields straight through the latter decades of the 20th century.

Ownership of land in Saugerties has always been a relative concept. Lands tended to blend one into another. By law rights of trespass were included in deeds from the Corporation of Kingston and up to the latter decades of the 19th century all publically traveled roads through privately owned lands had their maintainence the responsibility of the property owner.

Seasonal demands of farming and the fact that most of this early community was related by marriage made the working of the land of Saugerties for over two centuries a communal activity. Wyncoop-Myer-Schoonmaker and Trumpbour-Cockburn-Fiero family co-ops were unofficial but recognizable to each other in their techniques of keeping their land. Deeds of parcels often bounced back and forth between these family groupings based on financial necessities or gifting between generations.

A tradition of sharing out land, or land leases, that dated back to the Corporation of Kingston, was a recognized method of admitting new farming members into the community, particularly as the demands of working the large farms stressed the capacity of the older families. But the ownership generally remained intact, continuing the concept of accessibility to lands a constant between generations well into the mid-20th century. It was not until the financing demands of subdivisions and a trend toward non-farm residential use of multi-acre lots that the rights of trespass that had been assumed by generations of these early farmers ceased to be accepted as a right of the community by law.

Contributing to the fluidity of the concept of ownership was bluestone quarrying. All of the quarries fell within the Kingston Commons lots that had been transferred mainly to the large land-holding families in the early decades of the 1800’s. These lots at the time were considered useful only for grazing and as woodlots and they remained unrestricted and commonly accessible. Miles of herding paths and wagon roads randomly crossed them. When quarrying began these accessways suddenly had a commercial function and became heavily traveled but still remained for decades unrestricted and commonly maintained crossing private property. The earliest deeds to quarry land, then being made to the newest members of the community, carried reminders of these expectations by including reference to rights to follow seams of a quarry across an adjacent border in a like manor to the sharing of an unfenced pasture or a stream for watering cattle. This concept of owning what you worked was in the blood and unquestioningly recognized as a right by those transferring this ownership after generations of their living in the Kingston Commons. In effect these rights even harkened back in a way to the mores of the original inhabitants, the native Indians, who had no concept of land ownership.

Virtually every deed recorded prior to the most recent time references lines bordering or crossing the many extinct roads that once were daily traveled between the hamlets and the farms, quarries or other workplaces of Saugerties. Remnants of these roads when found on a wooded lot along overgrown stone walls, are a reminder of the time when a population could sustain itself and when generation after generation harmoniously passed from one part of the land to the other freely.

The population Henry Barclay’s industrial village created in Saugerties supported those who worked the land and that traditional ownership relationship of these agrarian families was largely responsible for the continuing success of the village's mercantile economy. However, by the second generation of these village dwellers many were beginning to move out to start small farmsteads or practice other occupations near the hamlets and alongside the turnpikes. It is with their purchase of land that a new approach to ownership takes hold. The new owners were largely unaware of the assumptions that went with ownership in the countryside and when their residences began to be used as part of a boarding house economy even more of those unaware of the traditions joined them. At first access to the winding cow paths and wood roads was a major attraction for summer visitors, but eventually the privacy expectations of the boarding houses took on more the tone of a exclusive right to prevent passage through private property and with this the “no tresspassing” sign prevalent today first appeared. What had begun as a symbiotic relationship thus became the attitude taken toward every visitor by every person that fancies themselves a native, even though they no longer know why they have it.

Overview: Location of the First Bluestone Quarry

The 1880 History of Ulster County states that Silas Brainard established the first commercial bluestone quarrying operation in 1831 on the VanValkenberg farm in Saugerties. Deed records show that in 1834 Silas Brainard purchased a 34 acre section of this farm north of the Saugerties and Woodstock Turnpike for $1,955. The deed references the road and a “stone dwelling house”. The 61 acre section of the VanValkenberg farm south of the turnpike was purchased the previous year by Nelson Brainard, a nephew of Silas, for $1,300.50 and this is the land that was likely already being quarried at the time.

The deed for the southern section of the farm references the east sections of lots 33 and 41 in the 4th class of the Kingston Commons as well as points on the turnpike. Each deed has measured bounds and these, together with the Kingston Commons and turnpike references, precisely locate not only the earliest quarry site but also the original 1828 roadbed of the turnpike and the stone house that still stands, already in place in its original pre-1834 form as the “stone dwelling house” corner marker of the northern section VanValkenberg farm deed.

The VanValkenberg farm occupied the most westerly recess of a small clove that cut through the Hoogebergs at what is now Veteran. An early footpath and later wagon road rose up to the second plateau through this farm after passing the more level land of the farms of Schoonmakers, DuBoises and Snyders east of it. Deeds reference a sawmill of Marius Snyder on an upper branch of the Beaverkill bordering the northwest corner of the VanValkenberg farm near the wagon road.

Natural forces over many centuries had bared an ancient strata of extremely dense sandstone at the west wall of this clove. A succession of ledges at its exposure allowed a pathway to ramp in a zigzag fashion up from a 220 foot level in the clove to the 300 foot plateau above. A ravine following the northeasterly line of ledges carried the course of the Beaverkill over this rock until it turned abruptly eastward to be mainly absorbed into the level base of the clove made up of a broad fan of gravel washed down from under the last great glacier.

In 1831, before quarrying began, the road leading up the clove would have turned sharply south at a ridge where the “stone dwelling house” of the VanValkenberg deed stands today. A high ledge diverting the flow of the Beaverkill east into the clove would have partially hidden the stream from the road at this house. All of this and all of the landscape surrounding are gone now, quarried down to the level of the clove floor during the earliest decades of the Bluestone industry.

Silas Brainard was a stone cutter and mason already familiar with the stone trade from his native Connecticut. He saw the commercial potential of this Bluestone for sidewalk slabs and capstones. It is likely that he discovered the stone already in use here as retaining walls for the inclines of the wagon road as it was made turnpike-width up over the ledges. Evidence of a construction date of the “stone dwelling house” earlier than the beginning of commercial quarrying means that he was likely impressed with the use of bluestone in this structure also. The value of bluestone was probably well known to William VanValkenberg since the price paid for the farm was high by the standards of the time and also by the fact that he immediately reinvested in land that would become Quarryville where he took as an apprentice John Maxwell who would become in the next quarter century the greatest of the Bluestone merchants.

The Brainards were still listed as owners of quarries and finishers of market stone products fifty years later. Their finishing processes employ planing machinery patented by their principal engineer and they are shown shipping some of the largest dimensional stone (Rock) from their Saugerties docks well into the latter half of the century.

In 1847 a deed was filed dated May 1, 1846 for the sale of the original Silas Brainard land to Jeremiah Russell that referenced the “stone dwelling house”. At this time the quarrying had removed so much of the ledge that the turnpike was being redirected through the lowered land west of the house. This once rough terrain now had begun to be divided into building lots paralleling the new roadbed and a hamlet of quarrying and road-based dwellings and businesses was taking form. This same year Jeremiah Russell donated a lot of land for the building of a Catholic chapel for the Irish quarrymen on the opposite side of the hill to the south, at the time reached only by going around or over the hill to Fishcreek where they lived.

As demand for the Bluestone expanded in the late 1840’s the quarrying extended its reach beyond the naturally exposed stone of Silas Brainard’s first quarry to follow this seam under the heights to the south. A hundred feet of hillside over the distance of nearly a mile was lowered there over the next twenty years. At the time of his death in 1867 all of this hill was being quarried by individuals, mostly Irish, owning their lands under mortgages to Jeremiah Russell. The deep groove they left in the hill through which Fishcreek Road now runs was known as Russell’s Clove. The church constructed on the site of the Catholic chapel was known for a century as the Clove Church.

The Great Knot, April 27, 2011

Michael Sullivan Smith, 2015
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8 startups
Two Decades of Turnpikes, River Wharves, Water Power, Industrialization and Commercial Center Building