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Claverack History


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Claverack's Founding & Development

Claverack, like other local farm communities, was connected to a Hudson River landing by a primitive wagon road. Eventually, this roadway extended to eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut establishing an east-west route of travel on land and continues to be important to this day. In 1783 a significant turning point occurred in the economic history of the area when a group of New Bedford and Nantucket merchants purchased Claverack Landing.

These men laid out a city, which was to become the City of Hudson, and actively promoted its development. Following their own particular interests, whaling became the principal industry, but trading in lumber and farm products was also a major part of the economy. As a result, the City of Hudson was established as a port of entry to the United States in 1790. During the War of 1812, the shipping and fishing industries were temporarily checked and manufacturing began to take their place. In later years, the construction of the Erie Canal extended the reach of the shipping industry.

Land travel became a possibility during the 1700's with the establishment of the Kings Highway on both sides of the river. In the 1800's these routes became a part of a turnpike system and eventually, in the 1900's, a part of the state highway system. Nevertheless, the river transportation continued to be the most important through the 1700's and most of the 1800's.

A second significant turning point occurred with the construction of the New York Central Railroad in the middle of the 1800's. First, Irish and Italian immigrants came to work on the railroad and Polish immigrants came to work on the farms. Second, with this addition to the work force and the negro population already living in the area, Hudson became a coal transfer station where coal barged from Pennsylvania was transferred to railroad cars for inland distribution. Other industries that sprang-up included the mining of clay and cement, the cutting of ice, and knitting and textile mills.

Throughout these periods of change, the Claverack-Philmont Community remained essentially rural with an agricultural economy, except in the Mellenville-Phllmont area where several mills were established. The availability of process water was a significant factor in attracting them. Some of these mills were active until relatively recently. As time went on, the railroad took over the shipping from the riverboats and eventually the highways took over from the rail- roads. Today, river traffic is virtually non-existent with the exception of some bulk cargoes, and railroad service has been curtailed. Passenger service to Albany has been eliminated and the Boston and Albany track running through the Hamlet of Claverack to the east has been taken up. The Harlem Division of the New York Central Railroad no longer runs through Philmont and the track has also been taken up. During the 1900's the highway system grew dramatically. This continued to improve in quality and the extent of its reach. The Catskill Bridge across the Hudson River, the New York State Thruway and the Taconic Parkway have been among the most important features of this growth.

Today the Town of Claverack is still relatively undeveloped. It retains many architectural reminders of the various periods of its history. The most interesting concentration of such buildings is naturally in the Hamlet of Claverack. In terms of economic activity, the principal one within the unincorporated area of the town is still agriculture. In the Mellenville-Philmont area the mills are no longer a factor. However, most of the resident labor force is employed outside the community. Many of the jobs are in the Hudson-Greenport Community, although there is also commuting to other major employment centers, such as Albany, Poughkeepsie and even New York City. However, the Claverack-Philmont Community is generally beyond the regular commuting range of the major employment centers.

It is worthy of note too that the Town of Claverack originally was approximately 60,000 acres in area and was the Lower Manor region of Rensellear. Claverack became a township on March 7th, 1788 with an area of 60,000 acres by virtue of an act of the New York State Legislature. It was reduced to its' present area of 30,224 acres of rolling farmlands by the foundation of the Town of Ghent.

Among the early settlers in the township were the Palatines, who had moved inland from the Livingston Manor and their names can still be found among the Township's current residents -the Esselstyns, the Philips, the Millers, and the Ten Broecks to name a few.

In 1875 the Town's population was 3,817. Today's population is 6401, including 1600 residents in the Village of Philmont, which is located within the Town of Claverack. The principal streams are the Claverack and the Agawamuck Creeks and their tributaries, which once provided water power for the many mills that dotted the stream banks. Today these mills are gone, but some of the buildings still adorn the banks of the streams. The streams still provide excellent fishing.