Delaware and Ulster Railroad Summer Ride (slideshow)


Train coming ‘round the bend.




Ulster and Delaware Railroad History

The Ulster & Delaware Railroad crossed the Catskills from Kingston Point on the Hudson, to Oneonta in the Susquehanna Valley. Chartered in 1866 as the Rondout & Oswego, and reorganized in 1872 as the New York, Kingston & Syracuse, it became the Ulster & Delaware in 1875, and was completed to Oneonta in 1900.  

Loading Mail on the U&DRR

elaware County Historical Association


The Susquehanna Turnpike

Mountains, streams and thick forests made the interior of New York State difficult to reach. In 1753 Catskill explorer and pioneer, Gideon Hawley described the landscape as “obstructed by fallen trees, old logs, miry places, pointed rock and entangling roots.”
Gideon Hawley as quoted by Seymour Dunbar in A History of Travel in America

As European settlers pushed farther westward in search of more land, they made their way down the Susquehanna River, following trails made by Native Americans and marks on trees made by the few settlers that had gone before them.

After the Revolutionary war, there was an increase in westward migration, creating a need for new and better roads as the existing trails were not wide enough to accommodate wagons. In response, NYS attempted to improve existing roads using money raised from lotteries. In August 1790, hired by the State, Surveyor C. Gelston set out to map and evaluate the condition of a route from Wattles Ferry on the Susquehanna River to Catskill on the Hudson River by way of Windham.

The lotteries failed to raise sufficient funds and the State turned to chartering turnpikes, roads owned and maintained by private companies, instead.  


Industry in Delaware County

While Delaware County was primarily known as an agricultural region during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many hundreds of industrial concerns were also located within its boundaries. That early manufacturing was located in a rural area should be of no surprise, for those industries located in the county were largely based on the available natural resources and dependent on the motive power provided by water.

Growing Hops in Delaware County


Highlighted below are some of the main industrial operations that were located within Delaware County.

Lumbering was one of the largest early industries of Delaware County. For the region’s earliest white settlers the land needed to be cleared before farming could begin. It was soon discovered that the lumber had a great market in river cities such as Philadelphia and that rafting was the best way to get the lumber there.

“The timber, which was looked upon as a hindrance to agricultural progress, was thus removed, becoming a source of profit and making way for the work of underbrushing, grubbing and cultivation, which could not have been prosecuted until its removal.”
From The History of Delaware County, 1797 – 1880 by Munsells 


2010 Ice Harvest Festival at Hanford Mills

February 2010 gave us 14-16 inches of ice on the mill pond. Check out this slideshow filled with photos of all the fun the day had in store!


Blacksmithing, Then and Now

It is believed that blacksmithing began sometime between 6,000 and 3,300 years ago, and that the first people to forge iron into useful implements may have been Egyptians. It was not long before such a valuable craft would spread to Greece, Eastern Europe, and later to Western Europe and Great Britain. The first Europeans to explore and later settle the New World brought the craft of blacksmithing with them to America’s shores.

Hanford Mills Museum

Although blacksmithing has been practiced for a very long time, there was a period during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution when it was no longer necessary to have people do the work that could be accomplished by machines. Sadly, the art and craft of blacksmithing seemed destined for extinction. In the last several decades, however, blacksmithing has re-emerged as a means to produce works of art and beautifully handcrafted ironware.


The Incomparable Black Cherry

Black cherry (Prunus serotina), also known as wild black cherry, rum cherry and mountain black cherry, is found throughout most of the eastern United States. Most at home in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and in New York State, it can be found growing on a wide variety of sites: all those except for ones that display extreme wet or dry conditions. Common in the Catskills, black cherry can be seen growing at altitudes up to 3,200 feet and scattered throughout the valleys. Like other species, black cherry tells us something about the history of that forest. Being shade intolerant, it prefers to grow in open sunlight, and its presence tells us of a past disturbance that opened up or cleared the forest of the over-story allowing more sunlight to hit the forest floor. Because disturbances might include windstorm, logging or fire, this cherry is often found growing in areas that were once open pasture, or high up on ridges that are exposed to high winds.


Eastern Redcedar: A Pioneer Species

One can tell a lot about the past history of an area by the trees that are both alive and dead. One location where I hunt each fall is near a large river. Here, the soils are deep, rich and loamy. Large trees consisting of black walnut, shagbark hickory, red oak, white ash, sugar and red maple, and American elm dominate the overstory. But this was not always the case, and on the forest floor are clues as to what this area was like not too long ago. Beneath the large trees an old stone wall runs through the middle of the forest and the bark of dead cedar trees can be seen lying on the ground next to it. The presence of the two reveals much about the area’s history: the stone wall indicates an agricultural past, while the cedar indicates its abandonment.


Hanford Mills Museum Milk Box Manufacturing

Video tour of Hanford Mills Museum milk box manufacturing in the hamlet of East Meredith, NY.


Delhi Coverlets

An exhibit in 2007 at the Delaware County Historical Association (DCHA), entitled “Classic Catskill Coverlets,” explored the history of coverlets in Delaware County with an emphasis on Jacquard-style “Delhi Coverlets.” In total, the museum has over twenty coverlets in its collections, including nine Delhi Coverlets.

In the early 1800s many professional weavers, guild-trained from Europe, migrated to the USA and set up shop. One of those immigrants included the weaver John Holmes, who emigrated from Paisley, Scotland, settling in Delhi, NY. Holmes produced the earliest known Delhi Coverlet in 1833. In addition to Holmes, two other weavers made Delhi Coverlets from the 1830s to the 1860s – Asahel Amora Phelps and his son John Benjamin Phelps II.

John Holmes came to New York City at the age of 60 in 1817 with his wife Ann, sons Walter and John Jr.. A letter dated Oct. 10, 1817 from a Daniel Peterson to Ebenezer Foote of Delhi tells how Holmes found his way to Delaware County:

“…the Bearer, Mr. John Holmes is just a few days arrived from Scotland and is wanting land. I have directed him up to you knowing you could furnish or sell what he wants, he has two sons strong young men with him, and I hope you will both agree. P.S. I understand the Bearer has a little money I saw about 400 dollars”