Ellenville, NY Area Fire, May 1870


Glorious forests of strong young trees crowned with fresh foliage which reflected the sunlight with a brighter glow as the days rolled on toward summer became in an hour bare and blackened skeletons; and sturdy forest veterans, that has stood the storms for many, many winters, now bent their aged heads, and when the hot-breathed waves rolled round them and swept leaf and twig and branch away, they became dark and gloomy ghosts of trees, like those old storied oaks that died accursed when men leaped from their boughs to death.

Sunday opened bright and beautiful upon the valley. The sun shone gaily upon broad fields rich and proud in their garniture of waving grain and grass, and fruitful orchards and freshening shade.


Just as the church bells began to ring, their morning call to worshippers, the fire, which had been slumbering for a time in the mountains, broke out afresh. The wind rose too, and sent great volumes of black smoke down upon the valley towns, and occasionally burning a tuft of light grass or moss was shot through the air to fall where in a moment it would start another blaze.

Suddenly the flames were seen on the mountains east of Ellenville, and from the cupola of Terwilliger's Hotel at this time no fewer that twenty-five different fires were counted. Oak Ridge was now burning, and Painter's Hill sent up a cloud of smoke from its further side. Sondburg was ablaze, and the people of the valley began to


All day long the devouring elements hurried to ruin whatever it could reach. Long lines of dry fence vanished before it. Hundreds of cords of valuable wood were swept into smoke and piles of tanner's bark that a hundred men had been months in cutting were burned into cinders in an hour.

The excitement in the valley was now intense. At various points, Wawarsing, Napanoch, Kerhockson, and Topatooke, companies of men were organized to go out and attempt to check the spread of the flames. The President of the Trustees of Ellenville issued a proclamation calling upon the able-bodied men to volunteer for the same purpose, and before the day was done there were perhaps 500 men and boys hard at work on both sides of the valley striving to prevent the fire from reaching the settlements.

When night came the scene on all sides was one of indescribable grandeur. Nearly every peak in Shawangunk Range was ablaze, and so bright was the light that the long streets of Ellenville were illuminated as if by a hundred calcium lights.


which is one of the natural curiosities of this region, in an opening in the mountain just outside of Ellenville, and in plain view from the town. It is filled with ice the whole year round and is a favorite place of resort in the summer.

The side of the mountain is which this wonderful cave lies, is one unbroken mass of rocks, between the narrow crevices of which springs up a growth of wild grass. In the spring and summer the green grass is a beautiful contrast to the sombre lead color of the massive rocks which form the mountain side, and on Sunday evening, when the fire ran down the mountain and followed the winding of the crevices, flashing to the right and the left in quick and brilliant turns, covering the mountain side with a curious network of flame, the sight was a most remarkable one.

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