Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site

Centennial History of Delaware County, New York : 1797-1897
edited by David Murray, LL.D.

Transcribed by Tamara Sanford


IF we mark out on the map of the Colony of New York, before its settlement by the whites, the little space included in the present county of Delaware, it would be found to be a very rough, though a very picturesque spot. It is covered completely by woods, mostly of maple and beech interspersed with birch, cherry and bass wood. But at frequent intervals there were fine groves of pine and spruce, and mountains clothed to the very tops with the rich green of the hemlock. The soil in general was stony and incorrigible, and responded unwillingly to the tillage of the husbandman. But along the rivers and brooks there were here and there sweet bits of intervals which softened the roughness of the surface. Everywhere from the hillsides burst out little springs which each in turn contributed to streams that flowed into the picturesque rivers.

The Susquehanna river roughly speaking flows along the northwestern border of the county; the East branch of the Delaware intersects the southern townships, and the West branch the central townships. The county is thus divided into three sections each with a high, irregular watershed drained by numberless tributary streams.

I have before me the now geological map of the State of New York, which Professor James Hall* the State geologist has issued.

(* Professor Hall is by many years the senior of any officer or employee of the State. He received his first appointment in the geological survey from Governor Marcy in 1837, and he has been continously since then in the service of the State).

At my request he has furnished me with a special colored map of Delaware county. More than three-fourths of the county, including all the southern portion belongs to the Catskill formation. A little corner on the north side including portions of the townships of Davenport and Harpersfield belongs to the Ithaca formation. South of this, extending along the Susquehanna and including parts of Sidney, Franklin, Meredith, all of Kortright, and parts of Harpersfield, Stamford and Roxbury, and following the West branch down below Hamden, and the East branch below Halcottville, lies a very irregular space belonging to the Oneonta formation. Finally there is another verv irregular tract forming the division between the Catskill and Oneonta formations, and belonging to the Chemung formation. No coal deposits occur in any of these formations, and no minerals of any kind have ever been discovered within the limits of the county.

Occasionally boulders have been encountered, especially in the northern part of the county, which indicate that in the glacial period much of this region was covered with ice. Moving with resistless impulse it carried with it from distant points the rocks which it had picked up on its way. In the township of Franklin is an immense boulder which frozen its composition and character could not possibly have been derived from any neighboring rocks. This boulder was brought to my attention by Professor J. C. Smock now superintendent of the Geological Survey of New Jersey. He visited it when he was studying the evidences of the glacial period in New York and New Jersey, and expresses his belief that it was brought thither by the ice from some point in Canada.

The rocks in Delaware county are not in general suitable for building purposes. The only valuable quarries are the flagging stones which have been found in several localities. In the neighborhood of the village of Delhi these quarries have been worked to great advantage, so that few places have better flagged sidewalks than this charming country village. When building stones are required in the structures which are to be erected, they must be brought from a distance; or they may be picked up in small quantities from the boulders which have been dropped here and there as described above.

The mountains of Delaware county form a connecting link between the Blue Ridge on the south and the Catskill and Helderberg mountains on the north. The highest peak in the county is Mt. Pisgah situated in the township of Andes, said to be about 3,400 feet above tide. In the southern part of the county the mountains are high and the valleys narrow and declivitous. With the exception of the bottom lands along the rivers, there was little land capable of growing successful crops of grain. The best crop and this has given to the county its distinguishing specialty was the grass which furnished pasture to the cows in summer, and hay for them in winter. The springs and brooks which provided abundance of water, and the trees which provided refreshing shade, were helps in the same direction.

For a long time the abundance of pine in parts of the county gave employment to many lumbermen, who cut and hauled and rafted* to market the product of the forests. In like manner the hills covered with hemlock furnished bark for tanning leather But a century of such destructive industries has virtually exhausted these sources of primitive wealth. Few rafts are now run either on the West or East branches. And scarcely a tannery can, be encountered in any part of the county.

(*See below Section).

Index to Centennial History of Delaware County

Welcome Page of the Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site
a service of the Delaware County Historical Association located at 46549 State Highway 10, Delhi, NY 13753

Online since 1996 - created and managed by Joyce Riedinger