The History of Greene County, New York

Nestled at the northern end of the Catskill Mountains and bordered on the east by the scenic Hudson River, it is a great place to work, live, play, relax and shop.

In short, like Rip Van Winkle did, you could come and sleep in Greene County for 20 years, but you would miss the exquisite beauty, peaceful environment, and quality of life that Greene County has to offer.

Greene County offers an unusual blend of an extraordinary rural setting, a complete range of goods and services, excellent educational programs, delightful recreational opportunities and an outstanding business community. In addition, there is an abundance of winter and summer sports activities available. In Greene County you will discover some of New York State’s most famous and unique four-season vacationlands, and spectacular views. Our Catskill Mountain scenery has inspired many world-renowned artists and authors.

Greene County is only a short drive to New York State’s Capital District and, with the New York State Thruway running through the eastern edge of the county, it is easily accessible to other areas of interest. It is just two hours north of New York City or Hartford, Connecticut. Boston is three hours away and Montreal, Canada is four hours away. Greene County is also close to other Interstate highways. I-88 is accessible west of the county, I-84 is accessible south of the county via the Thruway, and the Massachusetts Turnpike is accessible just north of the county via the Thruway. Also Greene County is accessible by nearby major air, rail and bus lines.

The first settlement in Greene County was found along the Hudson River : a Native American flint mining site south of present-day Coxsackie. Later the Catskill Indians, a subtribe of the Algonquin Nation, built numerous villages in the Catskill vicinity to take advantage of the natural harbor, flint mine deposits to the north and abundance of fish and game in the surrounding area.

In 1609, Henry Hudson first anchored the Half Moon off the shore of what is at present Catskill Village. He was met by these Native Americans which were described as “a very loving people”. Forty-one years later a permanent dwelling was established at the mouth of Catskill Creek marking the beginning of European settlement in the area.

The Dutch were the first European settlers, arriving in the early part of the 17 th century. Many were fur traders. Subsequent development took place along the Hudson River where the Dutch built several farmsteads. The land proved to be excellent for farming. Today these early Dutch homes are historic and scenic attractions. The Bronck House is an excellent example and serves as the home of the Greene County Historical Society.

Greene County was formed by an act of the New York State Legislature on March 25, 1800. It included the townships of Catskill, Coxsackie, Freehold and Durham, with a population of about 13,000. By 1852, the present pattern of towns and villages had emerged, following a series of subdivisions and merges. Today, Greene County consists of 14 towns and 5 villages.

The river towns and villages flourished as boat building, brick making and milling centers, as well as serving as supply points for inland settlers. In the mountains, several communities developed as tanning sites, utilizing the now depleted stock of hemlock forest.

By the mid-nineteenth century Greene County was becoming a fashionable resort area catering to the upper class and was marked by competition between the Catskill Mountain House and Hotel Kaaterskill for the tourist trade. Although these resorts and the Otis Elevated Railway leading to them are no longer in operation, remnants of this era can be viewed in the Town of Hunter.

A booming tourist and sportmen’s trade in the mountains, farming in the north and east and industry and water sports along the Hudson River has culminated today into a thriving county of over 48,000 people, endowed with a rich historical heritage. For more information on activities and events in Greene County, go to http://www.greatnortherncatskills.com/.