TOWN OF NEWBURGH RETROSPECTIVE
By Les Cornell
The Town of Newburgh is one of the oldest Towns in New York State.
In 1763, by a law passed by the General Assembly of New York State, the Precinct of Newburgh was established. In March of 1788, the Precinct of Newburgh was organized as the Town of Newburgh. The Village of Newburgh was incorporated out of the Town in May of 1800, becoming the City of Newburgh in 1865. The remaining 45 square miles of the precinct comprises the Town of Newburgh of today.
In early days of the Town, small settlements grew up around the many mills that utilized the water power from the Quasaaick Creek, the Tent Stone Meadow Creek the Gidneytown Creek and the Orange Lake outlet. There were woolen mills and grist mills among others, as well as a black powder manufacturing complex. The many grist mills sprang up to serve the farmers who brought their grain to be processed. The Gomez Mill House, located on Mill House Road off of 9W near the Ulster County border, is the only remaining paper mill in the Town with its mill still intact. All that remains of the Gidneytown Grist Mill (which was located on Gidney Avenue, just south of North Plank Road) is its chimney. The rest of the mill was destroyed by fire in the 1800s.
In 1787, at Orange Lake, just north of South Plank Road, Thomas Machin converted a grist mill into a coinage mint. Coins of various countries were stamped out, probably without the permission of those countries. The United States had no official currency of its own at that time. Machin would produce whatever coins for which he could find a market.
Today, Algonquin Park is located at the site of a black powder manufacturing complex that operated throughout the 19th century. The powder produced was mainly for hunting and sporting purposes, although some powder of “good quality” was provided to the military during the Civil War. When the mill was closed in the early 1900s, the land was purchased by a developer and divided into building lots. Subsequently, the part of the property that comprised the main part of the powder manufacturing complex was purchased by Colonel Frederic Delano and given to the City of Newburgh for a park. Many of the old stone buildings were incorporated into the plans for the park and rustic, natural beauty of the site was retained. It is the only remaining nineteenth century gun powder manufacturing site in New York State and, along with several surrounding properties, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is part of the Town of Newburgh’s Historic District. Algonquin Powder Mill Park is located at Powder Mill and South Plank Roads and is open to the public.
Along the banks of the Hudson River at Roseton (where the massive generating plants sit today), the Rose and Jova brickyards used the large clay deposits to turn out thousands of bricks daily. During the 19th and 20th centuries, brick was the building material of choice in the urban communities of the Hudson Valley as well as in New York City. The Roseton brickyards provided a large share.
As shown on many old survey maps, the Town of Newburgh was home to many farms. Much of the produce grown on the farms fed the population of the City of Newburgh as well as other nearby commercial and industrial settlements. Farm products that weren’t consumed locally would be shipped to areas such as New York City, usually by river sloops.
The North and South Plank Roads were the main routes to the west. They were paved with wooden planks. They were privately owned and maintained. Tolls were collected from those who use them.
Among the localities in the Town, Balmville was located to the northeast of the City of Newburgh and was named for a large cottonwood tree that dates back to the 1600s. Many of the prominent business people from the region built majestic homes there overlooking the Hudson River. Middlehope, located along 9W to the north of Balmville, was originally named Middletown due to being halfway between the City of Newburgh and the Town of Marlborough. The name was changed to Middlehope to avoid confusion with the City of Middletown. Fostertown was located to the west of 9W.
Early maps show that Post Offices were located at Savilton, Gardnertown, Coldenham, and many of the other hamlets in the Town of Newburgh. The last local hamlet to be serviced by its own post office was Roseton. The Roseton Post Office closed in the mid-1970's.
As late as 1940s, the Town of Newburgh was served by a Town Clerk and a part-time constable. We have grown to a population of over 27,000 with 165 miles of roads, a municipal water supply and are gradually providing sanitary sewer service to all areas of the Town.
Within the last twenty five years, the town began a transformation from a sparsely settled farming community into more of a “bedroom” community.
Many of the Town’s new residents work in the more metropolitan areas but chose to move to this area and to raise their families here because of its affordability and its rural setting. To accommodate this population growth, the old farms and open lands are giving way to housing subdivisions, shopping centers and automobile dealerships.
With the increase development of Stewart Airport, several industrial parks have been created and are being periodically expanded. The easy access to Interstate Highways 87 and 84 ensures that this expansion will continue for some time, providing many employment opportunities to area residents.
The Town’s rapid development and increasing population have created problems with traffic and the need for additional public utilities and services which will need to be addressed.
Now that the Town has entered the New Millennium there is every reason to believe this pattern of growth will continue. Along with the opportunities that will be created, there will be many problems that only careful, long-term planning can resolve.