Town of Woodstock -- Woodstock
was incorporated as a township on April 11, 1787. This date is referred to in several
histories as "nineteen days before George Washington was inaugurated as the first
President of the United States" a curious error. The township took in all of the
present Shandaken, also parts of Hunter and Olive and some of Delaware County.
Woodstock and Shandaken had existed as named and settled localities for some years. In
1762, Thomas and Henry Chadwick leased a farm from the Livingstons at Little Shandaken (Lake
Hill). A young man who married, in 1780, is described as having been born in
Woodstock, in the First Dutch Church records of Kingston. Chancellor Robert R. Livingston,
in his letter of March 1,1778, to the Kingston trustees, offering free lands to distressed
inhabitants of Kingston, mentioned Woodstock and Shandaken as places where settlements had
already been made. When the Revolution broke out, Woodstock,
though the home of ardent patriots, also became a refuge for Loyalists. John Burch, a
Loyalist who afterwards went to Ontario, testified that he left "Tin tools and
Japanning Tools, a mahogany bedstead, and 2 or 3 barrels full of things at the Mill House,
Woodstock" during the Revolution, which were confiscated by the "rebels."
This is the first mention of what was probably the gristmill on the Saw Kill by the
present country club. Two suspected Tories were fleeing down the Woodstock Road from
Kingston on April 9, 1777, according to the "Calendar of Revolutionary Papers."
Frederick Rowe, a Tory from Saugerties, was living at the present Sickler place on Lake
Hill and aiding young Tories there during the latter part of the conflict.
A guard was kept at Little Shandaken, now Lake Hill, by order of Governor George Clinton,
1778-81. In October, 1778, this consisted of forty-one privates, besides sergeants and
corporals, and was under command of Captain Jeremiah Snyder, of Saugerties. There was
probably a log fort near Woodstock village, and further protection was given by the large
fort at Great Shandaken (see Shandaken). In spite of these, however, the settlers lived in
a constant state of alarm, and in June, 1780, two prominent patriots of Woodstock, Peter
Short, Sr., and his son-in-law, Peter Miller, were captured on the Woodstock-Saugerties
road as they were returning from the Katsbaan Church with their wives and families, by a
band of Tories and Indians. They were taken to Fort Niagara and
Montreal, finally escaping and reaching home after much hardship. Peter Short's
descendants are still numerous in the town.
Soon after the close of the conflict, settlers flocked to town from the Livingston neighborhood across the Hudson, from Kingston and
Saugerties, with a few from New England. The site now occupied by Woodstock village was
offered for sale much earlier than other lands and soon divided among such enterprising
families as the Eltinges, Newkirks, DeForests, Snyders, Elwyns, Hogans, Dymonds, etc.
Captain Elias Hasbrouck, a Revolutionary veteran of the Continental Army, was the first
town supervisor. He bought land from the Livingstons on Hutchins Hill (near Lake Hill) and
was probably allowed to buy outright because he had served in the Quebec campaign under
General Richard Montgomery, who had married a Livingston heiress. Frederick Rowe, the
Tory, also bought land at Lake Hill from the Livingstons on June 1, 1787, formerly leased
to Thomas and Henry Chadwick on January 1, 1762. An interesting legend is still current
among old residents as to this sale.
The Livingstons at first wished
to give him only the usual threelife lease, but Rowe, eager to own the land outright,
wrote in the lease, first his own name; second, the name of his Negro slave, and
"after leaving a blank space for Livingston's signature, added the name of the Devil,
who, he declared, would never die. Livingston, the aristocrat, refused to sandwich his
name between the Negro's and the Devil, and was obliged to give Rowe a clear title to the
It was on this three-life system that most of the settlers in the township got their
lands, which went back to the proprietors when the third person named in the lease
expired. Besides the rent provisions, there were burdensome clauses in regard to sale or
sub-letting of the leases. As the generations succeeded one another, and the results of
backbreaking toil disappeared into the landlords' pockets, dissatisfaction grew,
culminating in the Down Rent War of 1845-47, for an account of which agrarian
disturbance the reader is referred to De Lisser's "Picturesque
At the first town meeting held in Woodstock in June, 1787, the list of town officers
included many names still prominent in the township, as Hasbrouck, Rowe, Short, Mowers,
Snyder, Riselar (Riseley), Krom, Newkirk, and Longyear. Town records from this date to
1804, quoted in Sylvester's history of 1880, are unfortunately lost, but the records from
the partition of the township in 1804 to date are preserved in the town clerk's office,
and well repay study.
In the first week of June, 1937, Woodstock celebrated its sesquicentennial with a pageant,
an exhibition of local craft, and other events in various parts of the township. This was
a great success and firmly established the town's standing as an historic community with
an interesting background as well as a vital present.
To read about Woodstock Handmade Houses or see another page
of Woodstock history