A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

Bill Birns presents a weekly essay on history, geography, day-trips, arts and culture in the Catskill Mountain region.

A Catskill Catalog: November 9, 2011

James Oliver keeps coming to mind. He’s the guy who came down from the state Normal School, up in Albany, to teach in Roxbury’s West Settlement School, back in the late 1840s. Albany had a reputation as the best teacher-training school in the state. I don’t know if the farmer who hired him, president of the valley school board that year, was tipped-off that he was hiring a very talented young man.


A Catskill Catalog: November 2, 2011

In August of 1940, Dave Todd made a visit to the end-of-the Redkill Valley farm of his friend, Carson Kelly. Dave, like Carson, was a farmer, his place was over in the Denver Valley, up where Roxbury Run is now.

Dave was a fiddler and square dance caller, as was Carson Kelly, and he had come on fiddling business, but the guy he really wanted to see was Carson’s 15-year-old son, Hilton. Young Hilton was earning quite a schoolboy reputation as a fiddler and square dance caller.


A Catskill Catalog: October 26, 2011

The town supervisor is the top office-holder in any, and all, of New York State’s 932 towns. The supervisor holds a similar position to that of mayor in any the state’s 62 cities and 555 villages. Each is an elected chief executive officer, head honcho of a municipal government.

With so many seemingly overlapping layers of government, it can be, sometimes, confusing to sort out who’s who and what’s what. Town, village, hamlet, huh?

Around here, we’ve got a number of towns, a couple of villages, and a whole bunch of hamlets.


A Catskill Catalog: October 12, 2011

William Streeter came to America in 1790. There are still, today, Streeters in Sussex, England, the family-home the 20-year-old left behind.

The Streeters were Baptists, non-conformists in a place, late 18th-century England, where everyone was required to utilize the established church, the church sponsored by the government. Want to get married? To be recognized as legal, all marriages had to be performed in an Anglican church by an Anglican priest.


A Catskill Catalog: October 5, 2011

Prozac for the flood-dampened soul. Apple pressing time!

New York State produces nearly 30 million bushels of apples a year, and that number only includes commercial production. Back-yard orchards and abandoned farmsteads provide bushels beyond the official count.

On October’s first Saturday, a friend brought 24 bushels of apples to the Hubbell Farm in Kelly Corners where, for custom jobs, Bob Hubbell still fires up the old gas engine that powers the three-story apple press that’s been operating there since 1866.