Ellenville, NY Area Fire, May 1870
Many time in the past hundred years fires have broken out in the mountains, and have caused much damage; but never until a few days ago, when the last fire occurred, has there been anything to equal the extent of the fire or the mischief it has caused.
THE DISCOVERY OF THE FIRE.
On the last night of last month it was discovered in the valley that the woods on both sides of Honk Falls were on fire. This is a splendid cataract, three-quarters of a mile from Napanoch, on the creek of the same name. The water comes down a descent of about 75 feet, and on a clear day, with the sun shining upon the pure white volume as it rolls over the precipice, throwing up its clouds of milky spray, the scene is really beautiful.
The scenery about the falls is grand. Craggy rooks extent to a great height above, and along the bed of the stream heavy boulders in all imaginable shapes lie scattered. These have been worn by the water into such forms as are known only in dreams. When the fire had gained headway, the spectacle was one that can never be erased from the memory of those who witnessed it. The
FLAMES LEAPED WILDLY FROM CRAG TO CRAG,
seizing upon every tuft of grass within reach to feed their insatiable appetite, and filling the air with the light of day. The water, never ceasing in its downward flow, reflected the glare of the flames, and from a distance the whole scene was like that presented at a grand exhibition of fireworks. The fire crept slowly up the cliff, and [ineligible] grasping some light undergrowth shot up to hug a hemlock or an oak in its cruel embrace, and in a second would send out its hundred tongues to lick the quivering branches and blast the fresh leaves just putting on their coloring of green.
About the falls are numerous caves and caverns opening upon the valley. By the
BRIGHT LIGHT OF THE FIRE
now playing around the gorge, through which the waters come down in their never ending roll, the entrance to these subterranean crypts were plainly visible. Each and its tradition, and many a rapt gazer, as he watched the unwanted gambolin of the portals of these wild dens illuminated, recalled with a shudder the stories which his grandma had told him in years gone by, and would not have wondered perhaps if ghost or goblin had [ineligible] and they emerged to bear witness to the truth of ancient legends, and to acknowledge in person the power of the spirit of wrath.
All that day the fire played about the falls. The wind was then in the north---a [ineligible] whimsical wind, that neither know whence it came not cared whither it went. On Saturday it increased in strength and drove the fire to Red Hill, Mutton Ridge, South Mountain and the Cape. The latter peak is near Ellenville, a little to the west. During the day the flames were not visible from the town, but the smoke rose in dense clouds and floated down the valley for miles, almost hiding the sun from view. At night with
A DOZEN PEAKS ALL ABLAZE AT ONCE,
the scene was magnificent in the extreme. All night long the flames ran along the mountain sides, enveloping the young trees in a winding sheet of lurid death, licking up the dry grass and leaves, cracking the undergrowth to cinders, and roaring among the foliage of the full-grown pine and hemlock and oak with a sound like that of the angry ocean breaking into storm. Over broad fields where in the morning the new grass waved and smiled in its silvery green made up of spring and dew, the ruthless fire swept, leaving behind in it tracks the very
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