HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF CALLICOON
By: Martha A. Scheidell
The Town of Callicoon was, until 1798 part of the Town of Mamakating on the Sullivan-Orange county boundary. From 1798 to 1807 it was part of the Town of Lumberland and from 1807 to 1842 was part of the Town of Liberty. By an act of the State Legislature, the Town of Callicoon was formed in 1842.
Once established, Callicoon was one of the last sections of the county to be settled. There were but two or three families living in Callicoon by 1830.
Apparently Callicoon was not settled earlier because most of its lands were owned by non-residents, none of whom were willing to construct roads. According to one old account, there was but a solid wall of forest trees and laurel and rhododendron shrubs from what is now White Sulphur Springs to the Delaware River.
Callicoon continued in relative isolation until it was relatively certain the railroad would be built through in the mid-1800s.
John DeWitt, born in Dutches County and later a long time merchant of Newburgh, caused the first road to be made in the township and oversaw the clearing of much land. In 1807, DeWitt, along with others, agreed to build a road from Newburgh to Cochecton, portions of which today are called Rt. 17K in Orange County Rt. 17B in Sullivan County.
The first permanent white settlers to come to the Town of Callicoon – on May 19, 1814- were members of the William Wood family. They came from High Falls in Ulster County and were of English and Scottish decent. Legend says they had to hew their way through the forest for 10 miles in Callicoon before a homestead site could be found. There was hardly a path to follow since the former DeWitt road practically was obliterated.
When they did build, it is believed they located the house on high land running from the present Lagemann Farm to the former Leo Hemmer and John Royce farms. Eventually, as others moved into the area, a church was built near the present curve in the road beyond John Bargfrede’s farm going toward Youngsville. Close to the church a schoolhouse was constructed and probably was located on the ridge behind the present school structure.
The first child born in the town was John, son of the Edward Woods who arrived in the fall of 1814.
In 1833 George DeWitt, a great-grandson of John DeWitt, built a house and became a resident, not far from where the first log cabin was built in 1813. Another early settler was Jacob Quick, who chose a site on a small stream which empties onto the East Branch of the Delaware River at Jeffersonville. Quick cleared many fields and built a saw mill and sold grain, hay and lumber.
Jacob and Cornelius Knickerbocker Schermerhorn came to Jeffersonville in 1838 from Schoharie County. Thomas S. Ward chose Jeffersonville for his home in 1839 and he and the Schermerhorns were for many years, the only residents. Ward was the first to build a wood farm house in the locality.
Three years after the Schermerhorns, Frederick Scheidell located in what was to become a village. He established a grist mill. Abraham Schneider arrived in 1842 and constructed a saw mill. Victor Hofer and others settled in the neighborhood and in a few years Jeffersonville was a thriving community, although the stumps of trees had yet to be removed from the streets.
Charles P. Laugborn built the first hotel in the village when it was little better than a rude clearing in the woods. He greatly admired Thomas Jefferson and called his hotel the Jefferson House. The name of the village was taken from this.
Youngsville was settled by Samuel M. Young. He built a large log house and established the first saw mill and store. John B. Spencer settled early in Youngsville and was its first postmaster when a post office was set up in 1851.
In that same year, Daniel Drumick Quick built a hotel and F. Beiling established a grist mill. The mill proved to be a money-maker as before then settlers had to cart their grain as far away as Liberty of Pike Pond (now Kenoza Lake) to have it ground.
In the hamlet of North Branch, a saw mill was established by 1843 and was owned by a man named Merret. Clement’s and Stewarts’s Store was operating in 1845 as well as a blacksmith shop owned by a man named Van DeVoort. The first school was taught by Mary Hunt in a house owned by Henry Cannon.
A Saw mill was built in Callicoon Center in 1848 by a settler named Williams. It was followed by a store that Robert M. Grant set up in 1849
Valentine Hessinger came to the United States in 1849 with his family and established a grocery store in Callicoon Center. It developed into a thriving business. In 1852 a hotel was built by Alois Thuman and Adam Sanders erected a grist mill in 1854.
One of the interesting features of the history of the Town of Callicoon is the account of the German settlements in it and adjoining township. These settlements are generally believed to have begun about 1840. In 1847 it was established that about 250 German families lived in Chochecton, Callicoon and Fremont towns. In 1855, a state census showed 2,649 people of German lineage living in those three towns.
In addition to the Germans, Callicoon attracted many Swiss and the name Swill hill is a clue to where many of them settled.
The Town of Callicoon has retained its rural character to the present day and is somewhat apart from the mainstream of developing Sullivan County.