Supporting Our Local Community
Tucked away in the southwestern corner of Ulster County, New York between the Shawangunk Ridge and Catskill Mountains lies the Village of Ellenville within the Town of Wawarsing. Hamlets within Wawarsing include Napanoch, Spring Glen, Wawarsing, Cragsmoor, Greenfield Park and parts of the town of Kerhonkson.
In a valley defined by the awesome Shawangunk Ridge to the east and the Catskill Mountains to the northwest, the Town of Wawarsing is a great place to visit, live or do business. The Ellenville-Wawarsing Chamber of Commerce promotes economic development, tourism, community betterment, legislative action, and programs to make the Town of Wawarsing a better place in which to live and prosper.
Our primary service area is the Town of Wawarsing. Membership by those outside the primary area are welcomed. If you would like to become an EWCOC member, we are accepting applications now.
Earliest settlers of the area now known as the Town of Wawarsing were, of course, the Indians. In this region of the Hudson Valley, they were the Esopus, a clan of the Lenni-Lenape. The 1663 daily journal of Martin Cregier, a captain in the Dutch army, records a foray to the Indian fort at Wawarsing in an attempt to rescue settlers from Hurley who had been captured about a month earlier. This was probably the white man's first visit to the Town of Wawarsing.
The land had passed from Indian possession by the early 1700s, either by purchase or by appropriation. Geographic names reflect Indian and Dutch roots. Wawarsing from "Wawarsinck", means "where the streams wind."
The area's greatest legendary hero emerged from the French and Indian War period. Trapper Sam Gonsalus was setting his traps on the top of the mountain (Cragsmoor) when a small band of Indians came upon him. He ran from them until he reached the end of solid ground. at which point he leaped from a high cliff. The Indians assumed that the fall must have killed him, but the branches of a fir tree had caught and sheltered Sam. He lived to walk away. The cliff from which he jumped has been called Sam's Point ever since. The view from Sam's Point on a clear day is a beautiful reminder of his legend.
The Town of Wawarsing was established in 1806, out of the Town of Rochester. Johannis Hoornbeek, Jr., a farmer in Wawarsing, was chosen the first supervisor.
Although the Village of Ellenville has used the founding date of 1806, it is more probable that the first cabin was built by John DeWitt, blacksmith, before 1798, when he sold most of the land encompassed by today's village to Alpheus Fairchild. The area was called Fairchild City, or just "The City".
Charles Hartshorn opened a store in The City in 1823 and urged the community to apply for a post office. Community leaders could not settle on a name until Ellen Snyder, the sister-in-law of Nathan Hoornbeek whose tavern was the local gathering place, offered her first name. Her charms swayed the men, and The City became Ellenville.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Town of Wawarsing was a commercial center. The water of the Rondout Creek powered mills and factories in Napanoch. The Delaware and Hudson Canal, built for the purpose of carrying coal from Pennsylvania to the Hudson River, opened the valley to trade: Ellenville Glass, the Ellenville Pottery and other factories.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the economy changed. Railroads brought tourists to appreciate the Town of Wawarsing's natural beauty, wonderful air and pure water.
The D&H Canal ceased operation at the end of the 19th century, but one of its final services to this area was to carry some of the material for the construction of a reformatory in Napanoch. Now known as the Eastern New York State Correctional Facility as it approaches it centenary, ENYCF and sister facilities have expanded to make the New York State Department of Correctional Services the largest public employer in the area.
Terwilliger House, at the corner of Canal and Childs Street in Ellenville, is the local history center of the Ellenville Public Library and Museum. Permanent and changing exhibits preserve and illustrate the history of the township.
The inevitability of change is a lesson the residents of the Town of Wawarsing are still learning. In the words of historian Katharine T. Terwilliger, "One era grows from another, and only a very thin line--the present-- separates the past from the future."
Marion M. Dumond, Historian
Town of Wawarsing.