Nestled among the steep rocky hills of the Catskill Mountain range, Delhi, New York sits at the base of a deep valley along the West Branch of the Delaware River.
Situated near the center of Delaware County, the Town of Delhi was formed in 1798 out of land ceded from the towns of Middletown, Kortright, and Walton. Prior to the American Revolution, the Mohawk Indians were the main inhabitants of the region. The Mohawk, who called themselves the Kanienkehaka, were one of the original member tribes of the Iroquois Confederation, or Haudenosaunee.
The first European settlers arrived in the area around the 1740s, and after the Revolution a new wave of Scotch-Irish and German immigrants pushed into the region.
Life for Early European Settlers
The rugged terrain of the Catskills made trade and travel difficult for early settlers. According to Tim Duerden in “A Brief History of Delaware County,” because of their isolation, “settlers relied on a far-reaching subsistence economy in which most important commodities were produced locally, either within the household, or at the hands of local artisans and craftspeople.“
While the rocky soil of the hills was not ideal, setters adapted and took advantage of the area’s other resources. The old growth forests that proliferated across the Catskills were ideal for logging, and by the early 19th century, numerous sawmills were in operation across the county.
However, diary farming was the backbone of the area’s economy, and when railroad service finally arrived in the late 1800s, daily “milk trains” shipped milk, butter, and other products to urban centers downstate.
The Town of Today
The Town of Delhi still contains numerous reminders of its historic past. A few miles upstream from its original location, Fitches Covered Bridge still spans the West Branch of the Delaware River. Built in 1870, the bridge was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1999 and continues to serve the transportation needs of the community.
The Frisbee House, circa 1880s and today.
A short drive up the road from Fitches Covered Bridge is the Frisbee House. Built in 1797 by Gideon Frisbee, one of area’s important early settlers, today the building operates as part of the Delaware County Historical Association (DCHS). The grounds of the DCHS also include a number of other historic buildings, such as a gun-shop, a one-room schoolhouse, and a blacksmith shop.
Harvest, a new documentary from WSKG History, explores the history of various communities and towns like Delhi through the story agriculture in our region. Tune in for the film’s premiere on November 19th at 8PM on WSKG TV.
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