All TOLHPS meetings are cancelled until it is safer to have in person meetings. Until that time, please enjoy the article below
Below is an article printed 19 years ago in About Town. I hope you take it down to the riverfront to read and contemplate the changes the last two decades have seen and perhaps marvel a bit about the changes there over the last 400 years. Vivian
New Paltz Landing, Highland, NY (About Town, Fall 2001)
In May of this year (2001), the Economic Development Committee of the Town of Lloyd unveiled the conceptual drawings for the redevelopment of a portion of the town's Hudson River frontage. The drawings were the culmination of community meetings seeking public input of ideas for making the riverfront accessible and interesting. Currently, much of the area under discussion is a “farm” of oil storage tanks surrounded by a retaining wall to catch spills should one of the tanks lose its contents-all in all, not a pretty sight, and certainly an impediment to public access of the river.
The plan proposes the purchase of the tank farm, and development of park and pedestrian areas, retail shops, a small boat launch, fishing jetty, and parking. The area’s current commercial use, though not a visual delight, does have deep historic roots.
In another May, this of 1677, a well-documented deed using the Hudson River as the eastern boundary, transferred the lands which included the riverfront parcel in question from the indigenous native owners to the New Paltz Huguenot settlers. An Indian trail from the Wallkill River in what is now the Village of New Paltz to the Hudson riverfront in Highland became the basis for the New Paltz Road. Straightened and upgraded it became the present Route 299.
To ensure the fee ownership of the large tract, then Governor Andross issued a patent and erected the tract into a Township with the same description as appeared in the May 1677 deed. That made the Town of New Paltz, including Highland’s riverfront, a century older than the present government of New York State.
The ownership of the Paltz Patent describing the Town of New Paltz was held in common by a dozen patentee families, the Duzine, but soon individual ownerships developed. The Huguenots referred to the magnificent Hudson as the “Rhine of America.” The river was a prime mode of transportation as roads were few and poor.
The riverfront in Highland became known as New Paltz Landing and was humming with activity as early as any place in the east end of the Paltz Township. Many homes were built along the river and the 1835 census listed about 200 people living at the landing. In the 1880’s the construction of the West Shore Railroad with its 100′ foot right of way took many of these houses.
In October of 1777, a British Navy ship fired upon the New Paltz Landing. Two cannonballs were recovered in the area now occupied by the oil tanks mentioned earlier. The cannonballs, fired by British Naval Officer Vaughn, are in the Town of Lloyd Historical collection. The late historian Warren Sherwood’s poem, The Mountain, describes the inhabitants of the Landing hiding at the Rock House, a natural cavern formed by rocks that fell from the cliffs on Illinois Mountain: …And old Henry Perkins Along in his eighties Still clearly remembered The time that his mother Took all of her children Her Bible and silver And walked through the Gap With the Perkinsville women To hide in the Rock House Until Vaughn had retreated…
There was so much economic activity at the landing that by 1793, a descendent from the New Paltz hamlet, Noah Elting, was running a ferry across the Hudson to Poughkeepsie. Near the current water plant in Lloyd is a New York State Department of Education historic marker describing his work. Elting’s business interests were so extensive that people began calling the area Noah Elting’s Landing.
Noah’s boat, large and raft-like, had a sail and large sweeps for sculling. It was so large, it could carry wagons. The horses were often unhitched to swim along in the wake of the ferry. Originally, slaves were used to power the craft across the river. Their burial ground, known as the Elting Burial Ground, is marked and visible on a plateau above the lower end of Maple Avenue, not far from the riverfront. By 1819 horses powered the ferry, and by 1830 steam was doing the job. Robert Fulton’s first steamboat, the Clairmont (aka North River) had sailed by the Landing in 1809.
Other names applied to New Paltz Landing by the local population included Valentine Baker’s Landing (he owned the hotel which is on the west side of the railroad tracks now, having been moved farther from the river to make room for the railroad. Another area hotel of Baker’s was reputed to have sheltered General George Washington.
Esquire Yelverton’s Landing and Ferry, another brief alias of the landing, came from the man who built there what is now the oldest frame house in Ulster County (1754). Near the Yelverton house is a lilac bush that legend declares came from China or Japan in the sea trade of those early times. Locally, the word “lilacs” was applied to the biggest shad near the end of each season because they would appear in the river at the time the bush was blooming. A female shad with roe could weigh 12-13 pounds and if you liked shad, a “lilac” was a wonderful thing to add to the bouquet of your banquet.
During the French and India War of the 1750s there was a depression and the Paltz owners had more than enough land on which to pay taxes, so they yielded to individual demands to sell cottage lots and small farms. Travelers along the road from Newburgh to Kingston could see the potential of this riverfront as area farms developed surplus goods to sell. Sympathy was with the willing settlers who tried to establish claims against possibly boundary disputes. Some of this was the background to the eventual division of the Town of New Paltz into the Town of New Paltz and the Town of Lloyd in 1845.
From Warren Sherwood’s History of the Town of Lloyd, Volume II, written in the late 1930s,
The commercial center of Highland was for years at the waterfront. Fortunately, in 1890 a former resident of Highland put down his reminiscences of the shipping industry, his narrative being an invaluable record of the transport business. “For many years….wood was the principal commodity shipped from the landing at Highland. The racks covered nearly every available part of the docks and even the adjacent roadways were narrowed down to mere passages, so prominent was this industry.
“As the land became cleared, grain and other products found their way to market, a large portion of which was shipped by Poughkeepsie barges, mainly from the upper landing from which point a barge was running and continued for years after until the propellers took their places.
“Captain Abram Elting, in the Early century, was a master of a sailing craft, his cargoes being mostly in the line of wood. As the years advance, and especially in the fall of the year, he would take other products, such as pork, poultry, etc. to the city and dispose of them eventually creating a business that warranted an extension.
With the 1824 opening of the Erie Canal to the Mohawk River and west, even more traffic plied the Hudson and of course, stopped at New Paltz Landing to on- and off-load goods and produce. According to Beatrice Wadlin’s book, New Paltz Landings, the population of the Landing was heavily “newcomers.” The self-sufficiency of the prosperous riverfront people also contributed to their desire to divide the area off from the Town of New Paltz. Many believed that the poor roads made police protection and enforcement of the law impossible. There were 90 districts for road maintenance and one Town Board could not cope with it all. So, in 1845, the New York Legislature acted to divide the town into two towns—Lloyd and New Paltz.
Historic information: Times and Tales of Town of Lloyd and New Paltz Landing by Beatrice Wadlin, and Warren Sherwood’s History of The Town of Lloyd, Vol II and Poems of the Platt Binnewater.
Town of Lloyd Historical Preservation Society sponsors free monthly public programs from September to June, usually on the first Monday of the month, as well as group trips to historical landmarks, sites and museums.