A Short History of Saugerties
Settled in its early days by the Dutch, the Town of Saugerties sits nestled between the base of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River. It was purchased from the Esopus Sachem Tribe in 1677 by Governor Edmund Andros for a piece of cloth, a shirt, a loaf of bread and maize. The earliest settler in Saugerties, known as “the little sawyer,” was Barent Cornelis Volge; from early documents, it is known that he had secured a title from the Esopus Sachem to these lands before 1663. It was from him that the name of the town originated, showing the community’s early Dutch influence. Saugerties has the unique distinction of being the only community in the nation with this name. Saugerties experienced minimal growth after the mid-1600’s until two major events occurred. One was the coming in 1710 of the Palatines, a group of refugees who had fled the Rhine Valley in Germany to settle in West Camp, a hamlet of this community.
The second important event was the arrival of industrialist Henry Barclay in 1825. He immediately secured title to land on both sides of the Esopus Creek where he built his dam and used the water flow to generate power needed to run his mills and build an industrial community. Saugerties grew from 40 families in 1825 to over 4,000 people in the Village alone. Irish, Italians, Germans and scores of others arrived to work in these mills. It was discovered also that the quarries here held some of the most beautiful bluestone in the world, bringing even more workers. New York City, Philadelphia, Boston and Cuba are lined with sidewalks of Saugerties bluestone. With the arrival of all these immigrants, businesses sprang up to provide all that was needed to sustain a community. Establishments such as Smith Hardware, Montano’s Shoes and the Exchange Hotel still exist today. The Village of Saugerties where these businesses are located has the distinction of being the first business district in the United States to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The people of Saugerties have always had tremendous pride in who they are, and so they should. It is evident in the preservation of places such as the 1727 Kiersted House, the Saugerties Lighthouse, Cantine Memorial Field, Seamon Park,Opus 40, the newly expanded Saugerties Library, and monuments to our Veterans. Today, the Town of Saugerties, which just celebrated its 200th anniversary of incorporation, is still growing and thriving. Industry still has a home here but the community has evolved into so much more. The community has become an important tourist location energized by the artists, environmentalists, historians, antiquarians, restauranteurs and sports enthusists who reside here today.