Historical Collections 
of New York - 
Greene County

Extracted from Historical collections of the State of New York: being a general collection of the most interesting facts, biographical sketches, varied descriptions etc. relating to the past and present: with geographical descriptions of the counties, cities, and principal villages throughout the state - John Warner Barber, author, published in 1851 by Clark, Austin & Co., New York


Retyped by Arlene Goodwin


Greene County, on the west side of the Hudson river, was taken from Ulster and Albany counties in 1800; greatest length 42 miles; greatest breadth on the Hudson 28 miles; centrally distant from New York 130, and from Albany 35 miles. The surface is everywhere hilly, and the larger portion mountainous. The Catskill mountains, after following the southern boundary of the county in an easterly direction to the southeast angle, turn north and northwest, and pass nearly through the centre of the county into Schoharie. The general elevation of this range is from 2,000 to 2,500 feet above the adjacent country; while many of the peaks are elevated from 3,000 to 3,800 feet above the level of the Hudson. Round Top has an elevation of 3,718 feet, High Peak 3,804, and Pine Orchard 3,000 feet. The whole southwestern part of the county is hilly and mountainous, yet it affords a fine soil for pastures, with some arable land. The northeastern and eastern parts of the county are less hilly, and have many valleys, rich and extensive. Much attention is paid to agriculture, and more leather is manufactured in this than in any other county in the state. The county was originally settled by the Dutch. A large proportion, however, of the present inhabitants are of New England descent, and are noted for morality and industry. The county is divided into 11 towns.

Athens, Coxsackie, Hunter, Prattsville,

Cairo, Durham, Lexington, Windham,

Catskill, Greenville New-Baltimore

The village of Catskill was incorporated in 1806, and is the seat of justice of the county. The village is principally built in the deep valley of the Catskill, between which and the Hudson is a bluff 150 feet in height. The annexed engraving is a NW view of the village, as seen from an elevation called Ashley Hill, at its northern extremity. The drawbridge over the Catskill is seen on the right, and will admit the passage of sloops some distance above it. The mouth of the creek makes a good harbor for sloops; and a long and broad dike, walled with stone, connects the shore with an island in the river, affording a place for buildings, and a commodious landing for steamboats. The principal street in the village is about half a mile in extent, having quite a business-like appearance. The steamboat landing is about one mile distant. There are in the village 1 Dutch Reformed, 1 Episcopal, 1 Presbyterian, 1 Baptist, and 1 Methodist church. There are 2 banks, 2 newspaper establishments, and about 300 dwellings. Distant 6 miles from Hudson, 111 miles form New York, and 33 from Albany.

"Although not in the town, yet as connected by name and many relations with Catskill, we may describe here the Pine Orchard and Mountain House, noted attractions to tourists. They are in Hunter, near its eastern boundary, 12 miles west from Catskill village. The road from the village to the foot of the mountains, 9 miles, has little of interest. The ascent of the mountains is by a good though circuitous road of 3 miles, but which, often running upon the brink of a deep ravine, or beneath frowning precipices, excites an unwelcome degree of terror. The hotel, erected by ‘The Kaatskill Mountain Association,’ at the cost of $22,000, is on a circular platform of rock, 140 feet by 24, 4 stories high, with piazzas in front, and a wing for lodging rooms, and is duly fitted and furnished for the accommodation of its numerous guest.

"The prospect from this rock is more extensive and diversified than, perhaps, from any other point in the United States. Petty inequalities disappear, and the whole surrounding country is spread out as a plain. The eye roves, in endless gratification, over farms, villages, towns, and cities, stretching between the Green Mountains of Vermont on the north and the Highlands. The Hudson river, with its green isles and thousand sheets of white canvass, becomes visible for 60 miles in a clear atmosphere. At times, a thick curtain of clouds of ever-changing form, veils the region of lower earth from sight; and in their respective seasons, storms of rain and snow spend their force in mid air, beneath the rays of a bright sun which gilds the mountain above them. The scene, when gradually unfolded with the day, is most enchanting.

"A few years since this delightful position was almost unknown and rarely visited; but the reports of the extent, beauty, and grandeur of its prospects, and the salubrity of its atmosphere, at length fixed public attention. The number of visitors at each successive season increased, until the temporary buildings at first erected gave place to the edifice we have described. The following heights on the mountain have been given by Capt. Partridge: Mountain house, 2,212 feet above the Hudson; 1,882 above Lawrence’s tavern; 1,547 feet above the turnpike gate, at the foot of the mountain, and 947 above Green’s bridge.

"Two miles from the hotel are the Kaaterskill Falls, upon a stream flowing from two lakes, each about a mile and a half in circumference, and about a half mile in the rear of the house. After a west course of a mile and a half, the waters fall perpendicularly 175 feet, and pausing, momentarily, upon the ledge of a rock, precipitate themselves 85 feet more, making the whole descent of the cataract 260 feet. Below this point, the current is lost in the dark ravine or clove through which its seeks the valley of the Catskill. The water-fall, with all its boldness, forms however, but one of the interesting features of this scene. From the edge of the first falls is beheld a dreary chasm, whose steep sides, covered with dark ivy and thick summer foliage, seem like a green bed prepared for the waters. Making a circuit from this spot, and descending about midway of the first fall, the spectator enters an immense natural amphitheatre behind the cascade, roofed by a magnificent ceiling of rock, having in front the falling torrent, and beyond it the wild mountain dell, over which the clear blue sky is visible. The falls on the west branch of Kaaterskill have a perpendicular descent of more than 120 feet, and the stream descends in rapids and cascades 400 feet in 100 rods. The Kaaterskill has a devious and very rapid course of about 8 miles, to the Catskill, near the village. The falls are best seen from below; and the view from the Pine Orchard is better between 3 o’clock, P. M. and at sunset, than in the middle of the day."
Athens village was incorporated in 1805. It lies on the west bank of the Hudson, opposite the city of Hudson; from New York 116, from Albany 29 miles. It is beautifully situated, extending along the shore about a mile and a half, and is viewed advantageously from the city of Hudson. [See view of Hudson]. The northern section of the village was laid out about 1790, by Edward Livingston, Brockholst Livingston, Elihu Chauncey Goodrich, and associates; the southern in 1801, by Isaac Northrop, Alexander Alexander, Patrick Hamilton, and others. The village now contains several churches, and about 150 dwellings. It is a place of much business, and its natural advantages are such, that in time it must be one of considerable importance. A ferry plies constantly between it and Hudson.


Home            Table of Contents            Greene County Home Page

Greene County History Home Page