THE TOWN OF NEVERSINK
By: Carol Smyth, Town of Neversink Historian
In 1905, the Board of Water Supply was created. This was the beginning of plans to obtain 500,000,000 gallons per day of water from the Esopus, Rondout, Catskill and Schoharie streams and watersheds. This was the beginning of the end of 5 communities in or near the Town of Neversink. They were Bittersweet, Neversink, Eureka, Montela and Lackawack.
We closed out the century in Neversink with two reservoirs feeding New York City water; a school district that allows our young people to be taught nearby; a country fair that has been in existence for over 100 years; a delightful playground built by volunteers; a covered bridge built by volunteers; a library that has grown by leaps and bounds and a community newspaper that began in 1947 and is still being published today.
When we began this century – there were those five communities where the two reservoirs are and Grahamsville was located in the middle. School age students went the mile or two to their nearest one or two room school. There were 20 of these small schools in the Tri-Valley School District. Those people going on to high school had to be bussed to either Ellenville or Liberty or perhaps they had to go in and board. Our communities were quiet rural communities – the great boom of the 1800’s and the tanneries was over. The communities located along the river beds tended to be more active. In the Rondout Valley where the Lackawack Reservoir is, there was a spectacular hotel (for its day) and businesses clustered along the stream. Visitors and local people enjoyed the fishing. The hotel was called either Lackawack Hotel or Shield’s Hotel and Tammany Hall politicians and their families were an important part of the clientele.
In the valley along the Neversink River, Edward R. Hewitt owned over 5,000 acres. He was an avid fly fisherman. Hewett and other fly fishermen and fly tiers honored the Neversink and made it famous. There is a story about movies being made along the valley of the Neversink. Neversink had a casino, a brass band and many other attributes of a rural community that attracted guests who came to stay at nearby boarding houses.
In 1900, for the most part, roads were all dirty and dusty. A caption for a photo in “Time and the Valley” reads “Roads were scraped every spring and ditches were opened. Thank-you-ma’ams took care of drainage on hill roads and made a stopping place for a tired team with a load.”
Radio was the way folks learned about the world. TV’s and satellite dishes were the stuff that make-believe was made of. Movies in Liberty or Ellenville were a treat for the kids who lived out in the country.
Town of Neversink families have their memories. For many families, that’s all they have, because the waters of the two reservoirs took their homesteads, their businesses, their farms, their cemeteries; their cherished swimming holes. Like all pioneers, folks picked up and moved on. Carl Carlsen remembers as a young boy walking his father’s cattle from the “valley” to their new home on South Hill. Stories like this are part of every relocated family’s memories.
New York City got its water and the residents of Neversink and Bittersweet; the residents of Lackawack, Montela and Eureka all relocated their lives. Out of the ashes of those valleys came new homes, new beginnings. The community of Neversink relocated itself. The other four did not. Those folks who stayed in the area brought their pride and work ethic with them. They joined with the families who lived in areas not touched by the reservoirs. That’s how the Tri-Valley School began. That’s how fire companies were started, first aid squads began. That’s why the Tri-Valley area is known for its volunteer accomplishments.
Drive over and visit us someday if you haven’t been here. Our roots are strong and it shows.