Town History
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    A Brief History of Community Development in the Town of Hurley by David Baker,Town of Hurley Historian

    Old Hurley

    In 1662 five leading citizens of Albany petitioned Governor General Peter Stuyvesant to create a new village, or Dorp, on the banks of the Esopus Creek about three miles from the limits of the village of Kingston. They reasoned that this new village would become a grain production center in association with the village of Kingston.

    Governor General Stuyvesant agreed to the proposition.

    Stone House

    The early settlement was called a plantation, New Dorp. The village was surveyed and divided into house lots for tenant farmers.

    As news of the new village spread, additional lots were surveyed and the village grew.

    The population was diverse in nationality -- North Netherlanders, French, German, Norwegian, and Belgian. A virtual multiplicity of tongues. Uniting this diverse population were the laws of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

    Laws with Dutch Roots Foster Growth

    Netherlands' laws were more tolerant than those of neighboring European countries. They allowed far greater personal and religious freedom, yet included a strict code of both civil and commercial law.

    The unifying factor in this multinational community was the language of Amsterdam. Low German served as the basis for all trade and legal action.

    Although agriculture formed the economic base of the village, commercial services developed quickly. Blacksmiths, leather workers, millers, brewers, distillers, masons and carpenters, to name a few, created a self sufficient village.

    English Law was imposed in 1664. Civil law, under the English, was not the law of England, but rather a very strict the law of the New York colonial government, mandated with the blessing of the English Parliament. It was far less tolerant than the former Amsterdam law. However, the few years of North Netherlands law, especially covering commercial activity, prevailed.

    Under English control the village of Hurley was transformed from a small agricultural community to a Township in 1708.

    Hurley covered a vast area between the Towns of Kingston, Marbletown and an Indian holding that was to become the Town of New Paltz. This additional territory was already occupied by North Netherlands and German settlers, and soon by French and English newcomers, as well. The British introduced African slaves as a source of cheap labor.

    The original Town of Hurley produced bread grains quite successfully until 1825. At that time the grain market collapsed due to the influx of cheap grain from the Mid-West transported east via the new Erie Canal.

    The Esopus valley fell into a depression that sparked an exodus of commercial service organizations. The depression continued until the arrival of IBM in the 1950s.

    West Hurley

    In the early 1780s the State of New York broke up large private land holdings into new counties and towns. Patentee Woods, owned by descendants of early Hurley land owners, was one of these private land holdings.

    The acreage was granted to the Town of Hurley and divided into lots. The most valuable land for farming, located along what is now route 375, was quickly sold and settled. The purchasers were mostly English, with a sprinkling of local old Dutch Hurley families.

    Since they were nearer to the growing village of Woodstock than Hurley, the new settlers conducted their personal business in Woodstock. They brought only their legal issues to the Town of Hurley.

    In 1830, after the discovery of high quality shale in the Town of Saugerties, the West Hurley area developed a thriving quarrying business. The major quarries were English-owned and manned by Irish immigrants who labored hard.

    Workers and farmers settled communities called Ashton, Jewelville and Beaverkill. They drained a swampy area in the Beaverkill Creak valley for additional farm land. Jewelville evolved as the social center.

    Local businesses sprang up to accommodate the growing population. Each of these hamlets provided all the commercial services residents needed. An influx of tourists spurred the hamlet of Jewellville's growth eastward along the plank road.

    The area was soon renamed West Hurley.

    As business grew the commercial center shifted from Woodstock to West Hurley. The permanent Town Clerk's office established on the Main Street sealed the shift.

    The railroad brought new opportunity to West Hurley in 1875. It provided the means for farmers and quarry operators to send their products directly to new markets, without the Kingston middlemen.

    A unique, steam-driven stone milling machine, built in the West Hurley rail yards, eliminated the need to transport stone to the Rondout Strand area stone finishers. Service businesses bloomed -- hotels for the tourist and laborers, doctors, clothing and notion stores, an ice business, taverns, and the newest convenience-- a Post Office.

    The railroad made the valley of the Beaverkill the largest and most affluent area of the Town. People could take the train just about any place they wished or could afford.

    The telegraph controlled the movement of the trains and connected everyday people to the rest of the world; the magic of the Sears Catalog made it possible to purchase goods from distant places; life was good.

    Then disaster struck many families. In 1905, New York State granted the New York City Water Board the right to build a vast reservoir in the Beaverkill area.

    When reservoir construction began, people collected the few dollars the low assessments of their properties brought and fled. Most settled elsewhere. Those families who stayed tucked into the hills and valleys surrounding the Ashokan Reservoir.

    Things would never to be the same.

    The new West Hurley had no economic base or community center; people once again turned to Woodstock to conduct commercial business. The community's economic and social back was broken.

    The Town was divided in two by the reservoir. Hurley government was housed in two buildings, one in new West Hurley, and the other in Old Hurley. The tradition of holding meetings in each area on alternating months continues to the present day.


    The Present Town of Hurley

    The Town has evolved from an economically productive and industrious one to a bedroom community. People live here and commute to work in industries in neighboring towns.

    The crossroads of Routes 209, 28, and the NY Thruway provide easy commuting.

    Land, more reasonably priced than further south, a growing economic base in the county, and a convenient location has once again brought population growth the town.