Revised: April 06, 2005.

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A Brief History of Hurley

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Prepared in 2005 by David Baker Town of Hurley Historian

Esopus Indians, the northern group of the Delaware Indians, were the first inhabitants of the hamlet of Hurley. The first European settlement was in June of 1662 when five business men in Albany, NY petitioned Governor General Peter Stuyvesant, head of the Dutch New Netherland Colony, to establish a second village to the south west of Kingston, allowing more of the Esopus Valley to be cultivated. It was given a temporary Dutch name, Nieu Dorp, (new village) until a better name could be chosen.

Discontented with their general treatment by the Dutch authorities, the Delaware Indians attacked the villages of Hurley and Kingston in June 1663; called the Second Esopus War. The village of eight houses was destroyed and several women and children were taken as captives. It was a year before all the captives were returned to their families.

In September of 1664 the entire New Netherland Colony, extending from Albany, NY to Dover, Delaware, was surrendered by Governor General Stuyvesant to an English Fleet under the command of Colonel Richard Nicolls. He renamed the colony New York, after the Duke of York. Although Col. Nicolls was a reasonably benevolent ruler, he did place the former Dutch colony under military control. In 1668, the second Governor, Richard Lovelace took over the management of the New York Colony and placed more control in the civilian government, which was appointed by him from a group of names submitted from the local populace. One of his acts was to rename some of the Dutch settlements with English names, done in 1669. Thus Nieu Dorp became Horley, (pronounce Hurley) after the Lovelace ancestral home in Horley, England. The new hamlet was also given specific boundaries, making it a township. He also relocated, the same year, the troublesome English garrison into its own township, Marbletown, greatly easing tensions in the area.

The earliest houses, before and just after the Second Esopus War, were one-story wooden cottages. Unfortunately, none have survived from that period. In 1708, under the rule of Queen Ann, the roads of the colony of New York were straightened, and the present road system in the hamlet was established. Main Street was resurveyed and stone houses were constructed next to the road, replacing the old wooden ones. In 1966 Main Street was declared a National Landmark, its eight stone houses being the oldest, best preserved examples of local architecture for that period.

Shortly after its formation, the hamlet was a self- sustaining community. Wheat, rye and barley were grown on the river valley using an old, German method of growing two crops a year. Each homestead had its barn, kitchen garden and orchard, growing apples and pears, for family use. Cattle were grazed on the upland pastures, and one enterprising individual, Roelof Swartwout, raised hops in such quantity that his market extended from Albany to New York City. By 1680 the commercial part of the hamlet contained a grain mill, brewery, distillery, blacksmith, and a resident carpenter. By 1720 the tradesmen had increased with a shoemaker, commercial weaver, tannery and a quarry for building stone. The public burial ground, back of Main Street, was established prior to 1708 and has been in use since.

The first school building was established in 1786; prior to that school was held in various private homes. This building remained in use until 1836 when a new, larger stone school was built. The new building had a second floor added to it, in wood, and continued in use until the present Hurley School was started in 1939.

Ulster County has had a militia force since 1669 and it participated in local Indian defenses, the French and Indian War as well as the Revolution. Hurley supplied its share of Privates and Officers to defend the colony. Col. Rutson, Col. Wynkoop, Col. Dewitt and Major Wynkoop to name a few. During the months of November and December of 1777, when the British advanced up the Hudson River, Hurley served as a military outpost and the temporary Capital of the State of New York. In October 1783, General Washington visited the hamlet, on one of his tours, to thank the inhabitants for their support during the War.

Just after the Revolution the Western area of the Town, called the Hurley Patentee Woods, was subdivided and settlement rapidly occurred, generated in a large part by the discovery of easily worked sand stone called "Blue Stone". This industry continued until the late 1890s. In the Southern part of Town, now the Town of Rosendale, new settlements appeared with the building of the Delaware and Hudson Canal and the development of the cement industry. During that same period the old section of town, depending on it production of grains, fell into a depression as the price of grain sharply declined with the building of the Erie Canal. The local agricultural products quickly changed to raising sheep and cattle, with the emphasis on milk and milk products. Cottage cheese was produced in such quantity that it was rumored that there were cheese mines in the hills

In keeping with its volunteer militia past, over 175 men from the Town volunteered for duty during the Civil War, participating in all parts of the conflict. One resident, Charles Dumond, survived the horrors of Andersonville, while August Kauss is the only known resident to receive the Purple Heart.

The Town, was visited by such notables as Governor Clinton, General Washington, Washington Irving, Senator Van Buren and Winslow Homer, who used the area as a background for some of his paintings.

In 1906 the valley of the Beaverkill, in the Patentee Woods area of the Town, was purchased by the New York City Water Department and the Ashokan Reservoir was created. Eight hamlets, four of them in Hurley, were razed in its creation . William Saxe, a local land­owner, purchased two large parcels of land for the resettlement of the refugees. The first settlement became the core of the present hamlet of West Hurley, and the second was along the Esopus Creek and is now called Riverside. Glenford was relocated by T. Sherman Lennox when he opened a general store at the foot of Lennox Lane and the old Boulevard (old Rte 28) in 1913.

Today the Town of Hurley is a rural/suburban community, principally noted for its quiet neighborhoods, large sweet corn farms and the Historic District with its ties to a very vibrant past. Twenty- six stone houses, from one-room cottages to two story buildings, dot the landscape of the Town. The majority of the stone houses are privately owned, but some are opened to the public once each year on Stone House Day.

Distributed by the Hurley Heritage Society
PO Box 1661, Hurley, NY 12443. (845) 338-1661 www.hurleyheritagesociety.org

 

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