Ellenville, NY Area Fire, May 1870

It is singular that during the day the flames were confined to the high ground, and that as soon as night came they began to wind their way down toward the lower level.


The highest peak in the Shawangunk range in Sam's Point, about 1,300 feet above the sea level. It is so named from the fact that about a century ago a man named Sam Manse, while pursed by a party of Indians, made a leap from this point, catching in the top of a tree beneath him, and thus saving his life. Sam's Peak began to blaze late on Sunday evening, and as it was covered with a heavy growth of young timber and grass, the light east by the conflagration was very bright, and was seen for many miles.


On both sides of the valley the fire continued to burn until last Saturday, when grateful visitation, however, there had been much mischief done. H. H. Gale, Charles Reed, James Budd, E. D. Terwilliger, Henry Clark, R. T. Carpenter, and others of Ellenville, lost heavily in young timber, cordwood, bark, and railroad ties. Mr. Gale lost 45 acres of young timber, besides about $4,000 worth of wood and bark. The damages through the valley as estimated by careful judges can not fall far short of $600,000.

The fire was not troublesome to the people alone. From the caves and gorges and ravines in the mountains hundreds of


hurried down to escape the flames. Rabbits and squirrels in droves scampered through the orchards in the valley and took refuge near the abodes of men. The old brown bear, well-known to the forefathers of the present generation, and believed to be the last of his race in the Shawaugunk mountains, left his lair near Moritanza Lake, on the summit of the mountain, and on Sunday night trotted around by Ellenville and Napanock to a place of safety in the hills where the fire had not been.

On Sunday afternoon the town of Ellenville was in great danger. The fire had come down to within a few hundred yards of the outskirts, and was rapidly advancing. Mr. Gale and a party of twenty laborers went out to beat the fire back, but in a few minutes found themselves entirely surrounded, and were obliged to flee for the town.

A woman living on Mutton Ridge had a very narrow escape. On discovering that the woods in the rear of her house were on fire she started to run to Ellenville, but found to her surprise and dismay that the hills on the other side were in flames, and that there was little prospect that the town would escape. In making her way from her place she was obliged to pass through fire two or three times, but fortunately was not burned.

A teamster, while driving over Paltz's Peak on Sunday afternoon before the fire on the east side became general, fell asleep in his wagon, and when he awoke found himself surrounded by fire. He plied the whip vigorously, and made his way down the mountain at a much faster gait than he was ever know to travel before.

One modern [illegible], whom I met at Tewilliger's Hotel, told me in all seriousness that he had seen a million blacksnakes crossing the valley between Napanoch and Ellenville on Sunday night and that with them were rattlesnakes, squirrels, rabbits, and foxes, all moving toward the cooler pastures and hiding places of the west. On being asked whether he had met the bear, he replied that he "nought o' saw him, but he was watchin' the turkies[sic] and snakes and things, and didn't pay no attention." He added that the bear is now no less than 200 years old.

Titusville Morning Herald, Titusville, PA 16 May 1870