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Settlement began as early as 1752, in the southern section at The Corner, or Mt. Pleasant, then called Great Shandaken, where one or two German families from Europe made their homes. What brought them there is a mystery on which we can only speculate.
According to well-authenticated tradition, Jacob Langyear (Longyear) and his wife, Maria Kockin, were living at Shandaken when their daughter Barbara was a young child. Her baptism is recorded on October 22, 1752, at the Kingston Dutch Church, to which families came from far and near. In the records of the same church, Maria Dorothea Graft, a young girl born in Germany, and residing in "Sindekan" (Shandaken) was married to a Shokan man, Jan Crispel, on December 29, 1753.
In the spring of 1777, during the Revolution, men from Shandaken and Shokan were induced by Tory recruiting officers to desert their homes and join a party headed for New York City to enlist in the King's army. Attractive promises were made to them that they would receive one hundred acres for each man and fifty acres for each child in his family. Among those joining were men of the Misner, Furler, Bush, Longyear and Markle families. The whole party was captured near New Paltz and taken to Fort Montgomery for trial. Most of them were condemned to be hanged, but all except two, Jacobus Rose and Jacob Middagh, were pardoned on account of youth or other extenuating circumstances. The Shandaken men promptly joined the patriot forces and left records of brave service.
The following spring, after the sudden appearance of about a hundred Indians and Tories near Shandaken, Governor George Clinton on May 12, 1779, ordered a blockhouse built there, which is described as a "picket fort built around the dwelling of one Longyear." It was finished by May 29. On August 11, 1779, Colonel Albert Pawling, with six hundred troops, who had camped the night before in front of the fort, marched up the valley to join the expedition of General Sullivan against the Six Nations, but owing to heavy rains, did not make the rendezvous and returned to Ulster County. The presence of this fort, which was heavily manned, updoubtedly was of great service in protecting the frontier of northwestern Ulster. Today nothing remains but the site, near the cemetery on the State Road from Kingston to Mt. Pleasant, about a mile from the village, and traditions in the Longyear family and in the Winne family, who intermarried with the Longyears and lived there in later years. Not even a marker denotes the spot.
At the present Phoenicia the first clearing was made by Andries Longyear where the Roman Catholic Church now stands. He built his house and kept an inn there from 1804 to 1815. The place was then a dense forest of white pine on the flats with hemlocks on the mountains, and had not changed much when the tanners came there in the 1840s.
Aaron Adams kept the old Pine Tavern at Pine Hill from 1810 to 1815, the first house in the town to substitute lath and plaster for logs. He served in the State Legislature, and is also remembered for his good fiddling and being one of the early town supervisors.
Shandaken has the highest peak in the Catskills, Slide Mountain, climbed either from Woodland Valley via Cornell and Wittenberg, or from Winnisook Lodge, a private camp maintained by the Winnisook Club, founded in 1887 by Judge Alton B. Parker, the Hon. Thomas E. Benedict and other well-known men.
At Woodland Valley, Camp Woodland, a summer school for children, gives folk festivals in August based on local history dramatized by the children from original sources, with local musicians, ballad singers and square dancers participating. Collections of old implements and handcraft are also shown. They are open to the general public.
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Copyright © 1995 by Richard Frisbie -- All rights reserved.