In Beautiful Western Sullivan County N.Y.
Here is some information about the early years of the Town of Callicoon from the late 1830’s to about 1890. We welcome information that you would like to contribute to this history page. Please email your contribution to:
The area now called the Town of Callicoon was one of the last territories in Sullivan county to become populated. There were no roads to give access; it was only when the NY and Erie Railroad was built in the 1850’s, that settlers began to come in greater numbers. During this period, there was a large migration of settlers from Germany.
Originally, the area which is now the Town of Callicoon was part of the Town of Mamakating. In 1798 it became part of the Town of Lumberland. In 1807 it became part of the Town of Liberty. It was not until January 26, 1842, that the Town of “Collikoon” was established by the New York Assembly.
The Town of Callicoon is in the west part of the County, north of center. The eastern part of the town is bordered by the East Branch of the Callicoon Creek and the North Branch of the Callicoon Creek, which flows in a southerly direction down the center. These streams would periodically overflow, taking with them houses, businesses, and even some of the residents.
Callicoon got its name from the Dutch word Kollikoonkill, which means “cackling hen”. Dutchmen from the Hudson Valley hunted the wild turkeys that came in multitudes to eat the nuts scattered about by the beech trees that grew abundantly in the area.
By the 1870’s there were 2,764 inhabitants in the town, about one-half of whom were German in origin. The town had 14 school districts and 16 teachers. The number of children of school age was 1,117 and the number who attended school was 836. At that time, in the 1870’s, the main sources of income in the Town were lumbering, farming, and tanning, which got raw material from the bark of the hemlock tree. The tanning industry later declined because of the waning supply of these trees.
There were also several gristmills. There was very little wheat grown and it was primarily buckwheat and rye flours that were milled from grain grown on the neighboring farms. Rye flour was the main bread flour. Rye was grown for straw to sell to the paper mill in Hortonville. The grain was a by-product, which was washed and converted into flour and feed for animals.
The Town of Callicoon is comprised of the hamlets of Youngsville, Callicoon Center, and North Branch, the community of Shandalee and the Village of Jeffersonville.
One of the first roads to be settled in the Town of Callicoon was the North Road, in Youngsville. Most of these first settlers who built their homes on the North Road came from Liberty and were “Yankees” from New England or Dutchmen from the Hudson Valley. Some years later, when the large German migration occurred, many of these English-speaking early settlers moved back to Liberty.
The first settler in Youngsville was Samuel M. Young, hence the name. He came from Liberty in 1834, erecting a log house and then a sawmill the following year. He also had the first store there. That year, John Spencer settled there and built the first blacksmith shop. Edward Killian, who had settled during the German migration, made maple syrup of very high quality, which he later shipped to R.W. Sears of Sears and Roebuck in Chicago.
By 1831, there were seven families living in North Branch. The first settlers included Stephen Euker, who had moved from Newburgh in 1842, Nicholas Zieres, Lockhart Stewart from Massachusetts, John Becker, Joseph Anderson and Joseph Smith. Subsequently there was a large influx of German immigrants. The area around North Branch is situated on the North Branch of the Callicoon Creek, hence its name. It was officially named in 1851, when the first Post Office was established. By 1870, North Branch had 3 stores, two saw mills, a hotel, barbershop, bowling alley, cabinet shop, shoe shop, and gristmill.
By 1890, apples were a booming business. The quality of the fruit was excellent and there were many different varieties. Many of the early settlers had brought apples with them when they came. One of these businesses, owned by J.M. Schmidt and Sons, sold apples to every state in the union, except Florida, Oregon and Washington. Apples from North Branch were even shipped overseas to be used in the manufacture of French Brandy. The apple industry declined because their cultivation was very labor-intensive and without pesticides, the trees were devastated by a variety of pests.
Callicoon Center was first known as Thumansville, named for the owner of its main hotel, the Tumble Inn. In 1849 Valentine Hessinger came to the United States, later opening a thriving grocery business.
By the 1870’s, Callicoon Center had three stores, one hotel, one wagon shop, two blacksmith shops, a shoe shop, a cabinet shop, a tin shop, a grist mill, two saw mills and a tannery. In 1875 the Gilbert Band was formed and performed until 1905 for everyone’s entertainment.
The earliest recorded settlers of Jeffersonville in the 1830’s were Jacob and Cornelius Knockerbocker Schermerhorn, but Thomas S. Ward built the first frame house in 1839. The Village of Jeffersonville got its name from a hotel in the settlement called Jefferson House. The hotel had been built by Charles Langhorn, a great admirer of the Declaration of Independence and its signatory, Thomas Jefferson.
Before it was called Jeffersonville, the settlement was known as “Winkelreid”, named for the Swiss settlers society. A preponderance of the early settlers were Swiss in origin and official records and documents were written in German. The local newspaper was the Volksplat, also in the German language. It was established in 1870, but published only 13 issues.
The E. A. Clark & Co. Tannery was the second in output in the county, at its height in 1865. It produced 600,051 pounds of sole leather a year. Other local industries included a brewery, soda water factory and gristmill. In 1900, the mill served as storage for Italian cheese made at a local creamery. Years later, when the mill was entirely closed, the millstones were bought by Irving Berlin who used them as card tabletops on the lawn of his country estate in Lew Beach.
More recent events of note:
In 1918, a fire gutted much of Main Street in Jeffersonville, including the Beck Hotel, Beck’s Pharmacy, Beck’s Department Store, a machine shop with six cars, and a café. The fire had started in the pantry/kitchen of the Eagle Hotel. A fire truck was dispatched from Liberty, since the village did not have a truck of its own.
In 1972, a major robbery occurred in the First National Bank of Jeffersonville. Harry Yates, wearing a mask, held up the teller at gunpoint and made off with $3,580. But his getaway was foiled, by alert law enforcement. He was apprehended on his getaway bus as he tried to escape to Elmira from Roscoe. Law enforcement recovered his weapon, a loaded automatic pistol and the money minus the $6 he had paid for bus fare.
Janet Brahm Town of Callicoon the Early Years
1993-94 Jeffersonville Journal
Essay of Kathleen Ann Welton, “History of Sullivan County”, April 30, 2001
“Synopsis of the History of Jeffersonville On its 75th Anniversary”
compiled by Barry and Jane Bodenstein
Gazetteer and Business Directory of Sullivan County for 1872-73. By Hamilton Child, printed at the Journal Office, 23 &24 East Washington St., in Syracuse,
New York, 1872.
A History of Sullivan County, James Eldridge Quinlan
Published by G.M Beebe and W.T. Morgans, Liberty, N.Y. 1873
Archives of the Town of Callicoon, Town of Callicoon Town Hall, Jeffersonville, New York
“Bygone Days of North Branch” in Jeffersonville Journal, 2008-2009, by Cindy Monahan-Herbert