Ellenville, NY Area Fire, May 1870
The Mountains of Fire.
WIDESPREAD DESTRUCTION IN THE SHAWANGUNK RANGE----SWEEPING DOWN THE FORESTS----MOWING THE FIELDS, AND THREATENING THE HAMLETS----FIGHTING THE DESTROYER----FLIGHT OF THE RATTLESNAKES----SPLENDID SPECTACLE AT NIGHT.
A representative of the Sun having visited the scene of the recent conflagration in the mountains which gird the beautiful valley reaching from the Hudson to the Delaware, returned last night and gave the following description:
The first evidence of a fire were seen on approaching Wawarsing, a little village on the stage road from Rondout and Kingston to Ellenville. The mountains in the rear of the town had been thoroughly swept by the flames.
At this point I encountered a hale old gentleman who told me that never since he was a boy had such a fire occurred in the valley or in the mountains bordering it.
"How long ago, sir, since the last great fire?"
"Well, my son, there was somewhat of fire in the Shawangum mountains about ten years ago, as near as I can remember. It broke out on Sunday night in March or April or May, I don't recollect which. It was some time atwixt garden sass and hay time, anyhow, and it played the devil among the young timber."
THE CHARRED SIDES OF THE MOUNTAIN.
On the road to Ellenville, a few miles further on, I had better opportunity for witnessing the effects of the fire. The mountain sides were black, as if a demon had hurled upon them the pitchy darkness of his vials of wrath. What were once bright-green forests of thrifty young maple, hemlock, birch, beech, and oak, were now great wastes of scarred and naked poles.
On both sides of the lovely valley were ample proofs that a cruel foe had been working mischief. Here, where the wild Indian in bygone days had made the woods resound with his yells, where, even within the memory of old men, he had shot and burned and scalped the fathers of the present generation, there had been an enemy far more merciless, one against whom all men's courage and fortitude were unavailing. Luckily, there were wide clearings between the dry undergrowth on the mountains and the happy farm houses in the valley. Otherwise, the destruction of property would have been far greater than it was.
a pretty little town lying at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains, I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Taylor, of the Ellenville Journal, from whom I gained much information concerning the topography of the country and the terrible fire which came so near to laying it in ruins.
The Shawangunk, or as the people call them, the "Shawngum" Mountains, are famous in history. They were the home of the red man, and in the dark days of the Revolution were made the scene of many a wild and harrowing tragedy. Here the great Indian leader "Shanks Ben" made himself known and feared, and here, many a time and oft, the peaceful quiet of the valley hamlets was broken by the dreadful was whoop, and the happiness of home turned at a minute's warning into the horror of unequal strife and most barbarous death. Time and time again were massacres of the inhabitants, from the Hudson to the Delaware, committed: and for long years the "Shawngum" valley was the theater of untold woe.
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