Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site

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Delaware County, NY

from Historical and Statistical Gazetteer
of New York State

by J. H. French, LL.D. - 1860

electronic text by Joyce Riedinger, September 16, 1996

This county was formed from Ulster and Otsego, March 10, 1797. It lies upon the headwaters of Delaware River, from which it derives its name. It contains an area of 1,580 sq. mi., and is centrally distant 70 mi. from Albany. Its surface is a hilly and mountainous upland, divided into 3 general ridges by the valleys of the 2 principal branches of Delaware River. This upland region is a connecting link between the Blue Ridge upon the S. and the Catskill and Helderbergh Mts. on the N. In the S. part of the co. these ridges form a mountainous region, with lofty, rocky peaks and precipitous declivities broken by wild and narrow ravines. In the N. the highlands are less wild and precipitous, and the whole region assumes the character of a rugged, hilly upland. the main or W. branch of the Delaware River takes its rise in Utsyanthia Lake, a small sheet of water upon the N.E. line of the co. It flows 60 mi. in a S.W. direction to the W. border of the co., thence turns abruptly to the S. and forms the S.E. boundary of Tompkins and Hancock. In its course in the co. it descends about 1000 feet. Pepachton River, the E. branch of the Delaware, rises in Roxbury and flows 60 mi. S.W., uniting with the Delaware at Hancock. The Susquehanna forms a portion of the N. boundary of the co. Charlotte River and Ouleout Creek are tributaries of the Susquehanna. The other streams are creeks and brooks, principally tributaries to the 2 branches of the Delaware. The valleys of these streams are usually narrow, and bordered by steep hills which often rise into mountains. The rocks of the co. mostly belong to the old red sandstones of the Catskill division.

The mineral wealth of the co. is limited to stone useful for building and flagging, of which large quantities of a fine quality are found. Vague traditions of silver and lead mines have here, as in other counties, haunted the brains of dreaming adventurers. A brine spring is reported 4 mi. N.W. of Delhi Village and 1384 feet above tide, another 3 1/2 mi. from Colchester, and several chalybeate springs in various parts of the co.; but none of them are important. The soil is generally of a dark reddish color, composed of the disintegrated sandstone and shale. In the valleys are occasionally narrow strips of fertile alluvium. Dairying is at present the leading occupation of the people. The numerous fresh springs of water issuing from its hillsides, the fresh herbage, and bracing mountain air, seem peculiarly adapted to this business. Lumber was formerly rafted in large quantities to Philadelphia; but, although still extensively exported by R.R., the quantity is dimishing. Since the completion of the R.R., tanneries have sprung up in favored localities, and will continue until the supply of bark is exhausted. The other manufactures are chiefly limited to the local wants of the inhabitants. The immense amount of water power in the co. will greatly facilitate the establishment of manufactories whenever the exigencies of the co. may demand them.

The co. seat is located at Delhi. The present courthouse was erected in 1820. The co. clerk's office and jail are in separate buildings, adjacent to the courthouse. The poorhouse is an old, two story wood building, situated upon a farm of 175 acres about 2 mi. S. of Delhi Village. The average number of inmates is 65, supported at a cost of $1.00 per week each. The farm yields an income of $250. The N.Y. & Erie R.R. extends along the Delaware, and the Albany & Susquehanna R.R. through the N.W. corner. Soon after the completion of the N.Y. & E.R.R., in 1849, plank roads were built, extending from several of the stations into the interior of the co. The co., has 7 weekly newspapers.

The Hardenburgh Patent, embracing 10 mi. square, lying S. of the E. branch of the Delaware, was granted April 10, 1708, to Johannes Hardenburgh, of Kingston, Ulster co., and associates, who had previously purchased the lands of the Indians. A tract of 250,000 acres, between the W. branch of the Delaware and a line a mi. E. from the Susquehanna, was bought from the Indians at "Johnson Hall," Montgomery co., June 14, 1768, by John Harper, Sen, and Gen. Wm., Joseph, and Alex. Harper and others. On the S.E. side it extended from Utsyanthia Lake down the Delaware to the mouth of a small stream called Camskutty. Within this tract 5 towns, with full privileges of townships, were created by patent in 1770; but in none of them was an organization ever effected under this authority.

Under their grant of 10 mi. square the proprietors of the Hardenburgh Patent claimed all the land between the branches of the Delaware, and leased it to actual settlers. In 1844, the settlers, who had previously paid annual rents, refused longer to submit to what they believed to be a wrong and fraud, and they called for legislative and judicial aid. In the mean time, the lessors prosecuted for rent. In 1845, associations were formed to prevent the collection of rent; and when the sheriff attempted to make a levy, or to sell property for rent, men disguised as Indians appeared to prevent the sale, determined thus to stay proceedings until the question of title should be legally settled. An act was passed, Jan. 25, 1845, forbidding persons from appearing disguised and armed, under a penalty of imprisonment in the co. jail for a term not exceeding 6 months. Persons thus armed and disguised might be prosecuted under the fictitious names they assumed, if their real names could not be discovered; and such persons assembling in public houses or other places to the number of three or more might, upon conviction, be imprisoned 1 year in the co. jail. if convicted upon an indictment for a conspiracy or riot or other misdemeanor, in which offense they were armed with deadly weapons, they were further liable to a fine not exceeding $250, with or without a year's imprisonment. In a few cases these laws were disregarded; several arrests were made, and the co. was declared in a state of rebellion. Aug 7, 1845, Sheriff Moore, accompanied by P.P. Wright, went to the town of Andes to sell the property of Moses Earl upon execution for rent. There he found 176 men armed and disguised, who told him to do his duty, and they would protect him: "but," said they, "let bidders beware." The sheriff and Indians drove the cattle near the road, the Indians forming a semicircle about the property. At this crisis Dept. Sheriffs Osman N. Steele and R. Edgarton (whom Sheriff Moore had requested not to come to the sale) appeared on horseback, jumped their horses over the fence, were joined by Wright, and rode into the midst of the Indians, flourishing their revolvers and firing several shots. The Indians gave ground; but the chief ordered them to shoot the horses. Several shots were made, killing the horses of Steele and Edgarton, and mortally wounding Steele, who survived but a few hours. The Governor immediately issued a proclamation declaring the co. to be in a state of insurrection, and placing it under martial law. A battalion of 300 militia, one-half of whom were mounted, were called out and placed at the disposal of the local officers. They continued in service several months. The mounted men were actively employed the first 2 or 3 months in small detachments, aiding the civil authorities in making arrests, and in patrolling day and night such districts as the exigency of the service required. The residue was employed in guarding the jail, and as foot patrols in the vicinity of Delhi on the occasion. On two occasions detachments of troops attended the sheriff to State prison with prisoners.

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Online since 1996 - created and managed by Joyce Riedinger