2016-05-04 / In This Place


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by Trish Adams

This week we continue to take a glance at the building of the Pepacton Reservoir, this time in the post-war period and into the early 1950s, the period when property was finally taken, homes dismantled, and the valley ultimately flooded. The Commissioners of Appraisal mentioned below were the powers that would determine how much the City would pay those whose properties were seized. It was a very lengthy process, often concluded years after folks had lost the property in question.

July 18, 1947

New York files take-over maps for reservoir

Herman E. Gottfried, counsel in charge of the Water Supply Division of the Corporation Counsel’s office, announced on behalf of Charles E. Murphy, corporation counsel of the city of New York, that the maps covering Sections 14 and 15 in the Dela- ware water project were filed yesterday morning at 11:30 in the county clerk’s office at Delhi. These sections embrace approximately 120 properties condemning about 4500 acres. The taking includes dwellings, farms and similar structures. The assessed valuation for these properties in Section 14 is approximately $85,000, while the assessed valuation in Section 15 is approximately $90,000.

It was also announced that applications will soon be made for the appointment of Commissioners of Appraisal in connection with the condemnation of these properties. In a recent conversation with Herman Gottfried of Kingston, chief attorney for the East Branch and other takeover sections, Mr. Gottfried told a News man that New York appreciates the position of the folks whose land is to be taken. He said, “You may tell your people that New York will be lenient, and good to them, we will pay even more than fair prices for the land. We will be glad to answer questions and give any information at our command. Tell them to write or phone me at the Board of Water Supply offices.”

Two sections are on the map filed at Delhi yesterday include the property from Downsville to three-quarters of a mile north of the Pepacton bridge. The first take- over begins at the Charlotte B. Reynolds farm opposite the Downsville cemetery and ends at the Effie Brace property upstream from the Pepacton bridge.

October 30, 1953

New Year’s Bells will ring doom of Shavertown and Union Grove

The days of Shavertown, Union Grove and Arena have been numbered for the last several years. The number has become alarmingly small with the announcement that bids have been received for clearing and grubbing of the valley up to lower Arena. Shavertown and Union Grove are in the area to be clear- ed out next.

Shortly after the end of this year, those communities will be wiped out, their buildings demolished and the sites blended into the waste, once a fruitful valley.

The following message was sent to all occupants of houses in the two communities and surrounding farms by the Board of Water Supply office in Downs- ville last week: “Due to the clearing contract, it is absolutely necessary for all houses to be vacated on or before December 31, 1953. Kindly send to this office your request for cancellation of your lease.”

The properties have been owned by New York since condemnation maps were filed a few years ago. Residents have occupied them since at the city’s grace. The notifications started reaching valley inhabitants last week Wednesday. By Saturday all had been delivered.

Although most residents had expected that the “axe would fall” by the end of the year, there are many who have made no plans to relocate. Several residents had counted on staying until spring. These will be hardpressed to find new homes in the 63 days remaining.

Arena will not be included in the new grubbing and clearing contract, which does not come above the iron bridge there. However, many Arena residents have been requested to evacuate their dwellings, so that living may be available for reservoir and road workers occupying houses in the area to be closed. Arena properties are also owned by the city.

Arena Folks Must Move

Displaced persons from Arena are even harder pressed than people in Union Grove and Shavertown. The limit for moving from Arena is 30 days. Margaretville, Downsville, Andes and other nearby communities, not in the path of the reservoir will likely see a heavy influx of new residents within the next two months. Some desirable vacant properties are available.

Low bidder on the clearing and grubbing from a mile below Shavertown to Arena was the Shanahan contracting company of Ellenville. The contract is expected to be awarded to this firm. The contract price has not been announced.

Filing of condemnation maps for section 20, from the upper edge of Arena to the vicinity of Fair street in Margaretville, has been expected momentarily for several weeks. This will be the final taking in the Pepacton project.

Borings for Sewage Plant

Engineers were making test borings on the Orvil Rosa flat over the weekend, presumably for the sewage disposal plant. The plant will process sewage from Margaretville and Arkville when these communities are sewered by the city.

What About Mail Service?

With Shavertown and Union Grove wiped out there will be a considerable change in the mail Many patrons of the two post offices will remain. There is an RFD route out of Shavertown, serving Dingle hill, Perch lake section and part of the Tremperskill valley. There is a star route out of Union Grove serving the Barkaboom valley and other areas in that section. Is there a possibility the Shavertown post office might be moved to the new settlement in the vicinity of the Pleasant Valley church? Where will patrons of Shavertown and Union Grove, who remain on their farms in the area, receive their mail? Will new RFD routes be instituted? The matter is one of utmost importance to patrons of the two post offices which must quit with the New Year.

May 7, 1954

Union Grove Building Ready for the Axe

Union Grove is fast going into the hands of the conquerors. First the school house second the stores; third the churches; fourth our homes and last our post office.

Now only a few houses are left standing. The axe is raised and ready to fall on them in the next few weeks. Rubble and waste take over a once beautiful, peaceful community.

This Union Grove correspondent has been requested to continue sending in whatever items can be collected from this vicinity. So, until our final moveout will try to do our best.

October 7, 1955

70-Year-Old Building Served Valley For Three Decades

Unseen by anyone, the long silent Union Grove mills collapsed with a roar into the waters of the Barkaboom stream which had eaten away at its foundation for 70 years or more. Several Barkaboom residents heard the roar, but mistook the noise for a truck speeding along the unpaved valley road.

Alfred Hamisch discovered the fallen structure as he drove his cattle to the barn the afternoon of Sept 24. Material from the mill is being salvaged by the owner, Astley Gustafson. The mill had been operated by his father, Gus Gustafson, who purchased it from the owner, Nate K. Jenkins. For a brief time Mr. Jenkins operated it in partnership with his nephew, ex-mayor Emery Jenkins of Margaretville.

The mill was constructed by Joe Jaquish in the 1880’s on the site of an old sawmill. An 18-foot waterhead provided the power which drove the big undershot wheel.

Mr. Jenkins conducted a thriving business. Before the days of the Delaware and Eastern railroad, teams of horses drew wagonloads of grain from the railroad at Arkville to the mill site. Extensive acreage in the East Branch valley was given over to the growing of buckwheat, most of which went into this mill to be ground into flour. Large quantities of corn meal were also turned out in the former days. The business died about 40 years ago.

Emery Jenkins recalls that in the days before creameries were built in this area, families used to churn buttermilk, which combined with the buckwheat flour, provided the makings for many a hearty breakfast of pancakes. Farmers with grain to be ground. soon learned where the best flour was made. As modern devices came, the old mills closed one by one. The Union Grove mill was the last to go. Its reputation for excellent flour production extended over a wide area. The miller did not receive cash for his work. He took “toll’ which was a percentage of the flour produced. The mill is gone, joining the ghosts of other Union Grove buildings, which have disappeared in two years. There are gallons of Watershed history at nyshistoricnewspapers.org/middletown. The definitive work on the history of the NYC water system is Liquid Assets, by Diane Galusha. Check it out!

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