Saturday, July 21 at 10 a.m.
Big Indian Wilderness; Seager, NY
Naturalist, and Catskill area native, Aaron Bennett, will lead a hike to and along the watershed divide in the Catskill Forest Preserve. We will ascend Haynes Mountain and Eagle Mountain and hike 3 miles of the ridge that separates the Hudson and Delaware watersheds. The 1.7-mile ascent will follow one of the pristine headwater streams that helps to quench NYC’s daily thirst.
We will descend along the Shandaken Brook, observing how it ‘grows’ from where groundwater becomes surface water, collecting with other groundwater seeps and first order streams, ultimately flowing into the Pepacton Reservoir, NYC’s largest. We will end at Seager, NY in Dry Brook valley and view historic covered bridges and working farms in the heart of the Catskill Park.
The hike will last 6 hours, covering about 7.5 miles, and is considered difficult, with steep terrain. Hiking boots are required; bring lunch, 2 liters of water and bathing suit.
from the History of Ulster County by Alphonso T. Clearwater, ed., 1907
On the Esopus and streams drying up;
“The Esopus is the largest stream of water. It rises on the western slope of Slide Mountain, flows down Big Indian Valley, is joined by Birch Creek, near the village of Big Indian, and from thence moves down Shandaken valley to the town of Olive. It is subject to great rise and fall, sometimes swelling to the dimensions of a flood, carrying away bridges and doing material damage. In times of extreme drouth it recedes to the proportions of a modest brook.“
“Before the woodman’s axe began its destructive work there were thousands of acres of bark-lands in Shandaken, which attracted the attention of men who wished to embark in the tanning business. Large tracts of hemlock forest were bought up and tanneries were built. The first tannery built in the town was erected on Birch Creek, at Pine Hill, in 1831, by Augustus A. Guigou, a Frenchman, who came to this country in 1827, from Marseilles, France. He served nine years as a private and officer in the army of the first Napoleon, and had been a tanner and manufacturer his native country. He was succeeded in business by his son, the late Theodore Guigou, in 1846, and died about the year 1851. His was the Empire tannery, which was destroyed by fire in 1858, and never rebuilt.
Following Birch Creek two miles from Pine Hill, we come to Smithville. Here Smith and Ferman built a tannery in 1844.
Passing down Birch Creek, about half a mile further, we come to the Esopus. Here, not far from the junction of the two streams, Robert Humphrey built a tannery in 1835, which he operated till about 1845, when it passed to George W. Tuttle, and afterward to S. R. and T. C. Wey, who operated it till the supply of bark gave out.
The next tannery, down the Esopus, was built at Shandaken by Bushnell and Dewey, and was one of the first to be erected. They were succeeded by Isham & Co., who after-ward took in Eliakim. Sherrill as a partner. Sherrill came to the tannery from Greene County, where he had failed in business as a tanner and hired out as a teamster. He was a man of great shrewdness and perseverance, and after awhile Isham & Co. took him as a partner and finally sold out to him and Simeon Gallop; later on he bought out Gallop and became the sole owner. In 1856 he sold to Hiram Whitney and moved to Geneva, N. Y. When the Civil War broke out he raised a regiment, which he commanded, and was killed in the battle of Gettysburg. The next tannery, down the Esopus, was built near Phoenicia, six miles below Shandaken, by Moore and Ellis about 1836, and was known as the Phoenix tannery. Other parties afterward operated it. The late James A. Simpson operated it for forty years and was the last proprietor. Simpson was a man of much originality. The late Col. H. D. H. Snyder built a tannery in Woodland valley, two miles from Phoenicia, in 1851, and operated it till the bark was exhausted. The next was at The Comer, owned and operated for many years by the late H. A. Ladew. A tannery was built at Bushnellville at an early period by Capt. Aaron Bushnell, and conducted by him for many years. Not one of these old tanneries is now standing. They were for many years the scene of much life and activity, but belong to the past. Their very existence is fast fading from memory. To keep these tanneries going, took a vast quantity of bark. No use was made of the trees after the bark was stripped, except to a limited extent. Millions of these choice trees were left to rot on the ground where they fell, or to be consumed by forest fires.“
On industry and bottling water
“The industries of the town are farming, lumbering, quarrying bluestone for flagging and building purposes, and entertaining city people through the summer, if that can be called an industry. There is one chair factory in the town, located at Shandaken. At Chichester, two miles from Phoenicia, there is a furniture manufactory, owned and operated by Wm. O. Schwarzwalder. Both of these factories are large. The Ulster and Delaware Bluestone Co., incorporated in 1894, is located at Allaben and has branch mills at West Hurley. This company deals in all kinds of bluestone and is under the management of Edmund Riseley. The Pine Hill Crystal Spring Water Company, incorporated in 1901, is located at Pine Hill, employs about twenty hands, and ships to New York from six to nine carloads of this water per week. E. C. Clifford is the general manager. Besides there are excelsior and heading mills in the town which do considerable business.”