Special Thanks to the Hobart Historical Societyfor this detailed article on the Hobart Settlement. (Reprinted in its entirety)
(Historians of this area and Scrapbook makers of Hobart and vicinity will be indebted to Mrs. Harsha for this contribution to Delaware County history so painstakingly assembled and prepared by the author who recently presented it before the Woman’s Civic Club of Hobart. —Ed.)
It has been suggested that our younger people will be interested to know the history of Hobart Village. In this sketch it was necessary to work from the reminiscences and memory of our older citizens. It is very incomplete and it is hoped more material and information will be forthcoming.
There was a small Settlement at the site of Hobart Village before the War of the Revolution. Then, “for the duration” (1775-1783) the settlers had either to return to their former homes or enter the bloody conflict, for or against the British Government. When the war ended, settlers came again, attracted by the falls which would furnish water power for industrial ventures. Until 1828 the place was called “Waterville”—also “Tinker-town” locally, because of the little “tinker shops.”
But there was another, larger place in New York State called Waterville, and another name had to be chosen by order of the post office authorities. “Hobart” was then so named in honor and in appreciation of Protestant Episcopal Bishop Hobart, who had given valuable and sympathetic service to the community.
There is in existence a church map of Hobart made about this period, showing the church property as the hub of a wheel of streets, most of which never came into existence. On this map, Mt. Bob is named Pine Hill, and Maple Street is Pine Street.
The water power was harnessed by five dams. The present two, with one near the
creamery, one near the Hector E. Cowan property, and one on Township Brook opposite “Montgomery Homestead” (The Foote Apartments). The site of the one at the present Hector Cowan place was called “Champ’s Eddy”, so called from Lawyer Champlin who lived there. Near here was banks of yellow clay which inspired the building of a brick kiln where the bricks in the old Clarke house next Mr. Cowan were made. At this time this industry was not thought a success, but the brick walls have proved fire-resistant. Mr. William E. King has reported finding such old bricks while spading his garden.
At the site of the upper dam, there was a saw mill and a woolen and carding mill (power for both from this dam). Mr. George Foote, the owner, seems to have been somewhat of a monopolist, as records show he had a cabinet shop also, and a distillery, and the first ‘tavern on the site of today’s “Town Tavern.” Part of that building is the original, and the present owner, Mr. Special, has some pictures. Lawyer Champlin of Champ’s Eddy’ held court in a wing, now the barber shop.
At the lower dam, the first grist mill was built and now remains. It I was built in 1793 by Cyrus Beers, ‘but Mr. Foote owned it later and I Mr. Beers kept the first store, on Main Street:
About February 1860, this mill was bought by John Robinson, and operated by him until his death. It was then run by his son, John T. Robinson, until 1927. At that time, it was torn down and a new mill and garage was built.
Near the Township dam there was a “trip hammer” shop where a John Foote, our first village ‘blacksmith, made scythes and where the first cut nails in the United States were made.
Later there is record and picture of “Maple Bank”, the residence of a Mrs. A. A. Foote. Our hospital occupies that site and continues the historic name.
The Beer’s store later came under the management of Captain John W. Griffin. born in 1823 and Supervisor in 1877-8. His home is now the residence of Mrs. Ethel Canfield and the exterior of the house appears unchanged from pictures of Capt. Griffin’s time.
Many earner residents had farms. A. J. Lawrence’s residence was the farm house of the Hoose farm, and before that an inn. There was a covered bridge across the river and the farm barn stood where L. R. White’s store now is. The Hoose’s built a new home now owned by Fred Harris. The farm now owned by Frank Lamport Sr., is the old Taylor farm. John Taylor, who sold to Lamport, was a member of the 3rd generation of his family in ownership.
In 1884 occurred the most destructive fire the village has ever known. The five business places on the west side of Main Street below the hotel and what was then known as the Horace Hanford’s store were entirely consumed, and many others seriously threatened.
The loss was estimated at about $30,000. The Hanford store became the property of one Dan Stewart. After the fire it was bought by Judge Wagner, a county judge, and later became a blacksmith’s shop. This building stood until they early 1920s. It collapsed one Halloween night. It was thought the “witches” did it.
Much local data begins “about when the railroad came through.” That was in 1884 and then Railroad Avenue was opened. The building on the corner of Railroad and Main, now owned by A. L. O’Connor, is historic. It was the marble shop of Peter Herron who dealt in both American and foreign marble and in 1880 was the only marble shop in the Town of Stamford. Mr. Herron had moved it from the corner of Maple Avenue and Pearl Street. It had been the “Old Red School House.” There was an old root fence from the corner up to the present Vermilya place — a “recreational area” for the neighborhood children. Later this same school house-marble shop became Claude Kniskern’s Ice Cream parlor, and later a feed store and a gasoline station.
Nellie Squires’ home was her grandfather’s, Alfred Mull. He had a store there. A foundry (Robinson’s) was on the site of Frank McMullen’s garage, and a tannery at Mrs. H. J. Kniskern’s, formerly the Dr. Reynold’s place.
The tenant house above the three terraces on West Main Street, lately owned by Fred Lyon, had belonged to the Kniskern family. Before it was built, a colonial stone house stood down near the street. Mr. John F. Kniskern was a carpenter, builder and cabinet maker, and not only built the present house but also helped construct the present Methodist Church.
The Edmund Davis home was the Daniel Burroughs’ place. Mr. Burroughs was a cousin of the naturalist, John Burroughs of Roxbury. The O’Connor property is on the site of the Horace Hanford home. The old house is now across the street next Flower’s store. Mr. Hanford’s daughter, Martha, became the wife of John A. Cowan and is our Martha Cowan of beloved memory. She told how Mt. Bob “roared” when a winter thaw was due. It is reported that it still “roars” at times.
Records of our three churches and our schools touch the history of some older homes. Van Buren’s hardware store on , Railroad Avenue, known for many years as ‘Grant’s Hall”, was the old Methodist Church. When the present M. E. Church was built and the old one being moved, at the railroad track permission to cross was denied. The story goes that Mr. Grant went to Kingston for the night and that some time during the night the building got aerials the tracks. No questions asked! The house recently purchased by the George Stevens’ was the old Methodist parsonage, and moved to its present site from the place now filled by the modern parsonage.
The main part of the little house on Maple Avenue, owned by Mrs. C. B. Hoagland and occupied by Miss Helen McDivitt, was an office belonging to Capt. Griffin (Canfield House). The kitchen part was the old village Fire Engine House which stood on the river side of River Street between the corner and the school property when John E. Bush later built a cooper shop on the same foundation.
There appears to have been a “housing shortage” even then. The present tenant house of Robert Cowan’s, called Green House, was moved from Montgomery Homestead, and Mrs. Henry Cowan’s home on Maple was formerly at the foot of Church Hill and called the “old Boothe place”. The corner of Maple Avenue and Pearl Street was called “Cowan’s Corners.” The house now occupied in 1946 by Henry Stuit was also on Cowan land.
The home of Mrs. Maud Andrews Harsha was built in 1860 by a Presbyterian clergyman. It was many y ears the home of John E. Bush, whose wife, Mary Andrews of South Kortright, survived him and continued in residence until her death at 92 years.
Ralph Clark’s home was the old Presbyterian Manse, and Marshall Cowan’s garage was the old Presbyterian Church. Archie Grant’s place belonged to Stewart Lyon’s father.
First lawyers were J. B. Spencer and Andrew Beers, the almanac maker, known far and wide.
First physician was Joshua H. Brett. He was the first Delaware County judge. He lived in part of the Green House, opposite the Methodist Church on Pearl Street. A Dr. Hanford lived at the Sturgess place, now the home of Mr. and Mrs. George T. Rich. His son, Frederick Hanford, was a teacher and principal of “Hobart Academy.” The building, erected in 1845, was on Church Hill between what is now the school property and Mr. Chappell’s. Jay Gould attended there. The building was later moved to upper Maple Avenue and is the M. K. Mayes’ home.
A Dr. Marshall owned the chap-Pell place about 1870. He sold to Dr. J. S. McNaught, who improved the property by putting in the foundation wall and building the bank wall. At one time, there was a store in the lower part of this house. Dr. McNaught was supervisor and member of assembly and the first village president when the village was incorporated in 1888. He sold his place to Dr. W. S. Dart, who succeeded to his practice. The Chappell’s bought from Dr. Dart when he left Hobart. The list of doctors includes a Dr. Howard and a Dr. Gregory. The latter was also a tailor. He lived at or near W. H. J. Robinson’s home on West Main Street.
The first postmaster was William Trotter. Leroy Hager was a later one. Mr. Hager had kept a grocery in the basement of the Chappell place before Dr. McNaught’s ownership. (The yellow house next to the “Flats”—now being demolished—was the Trotter barn).
The first creamery was the old building along the railroad. There was rivalry between Hobart and Stamford for the water tower and the double track. Hobart has them.
In the early days, Hobart was the business center for Kortright, Harpersfield, Roxbury, Bovina and Stamford and so was an overnight stop for commercial travelers, etc.
The taverns, or hotels, as you like, needed shelters for the travelers’ horses, so there were large barns. several still standing. The one next to the post office was for “Town Tavern.” The Van Buren feed store (formerly Frisbee’s) was the barn for the “Upper Hotel”, now our Community Hall. The one between Mr. Fred Lyon’s home and Mrs. Rankin’s was called the Hanford barn and probably belonged to the Horace Hanford place. Mrs. Rankin’s house–is but one-half of a house. The other half was moved to near the railroad station, but is no longer standing. These half-houses were moved to make room for J. B. Rich’s new house when that was built.
Mr. Higley, a brother-in-law of Mr. J. B. Rich, had a jewelry store where John, Dales’ restaurant is, and Mr. Rich’s father, Robert L. Rich Sr., kept a dry goods store and post office for many years at the Grand Union corner. They lived in the Stuit house on Maple. Afterward John Robinson occupied it for 13 years.
George Flower’s house was the John Olmstead home. One Halloween some boys took the curb from a well near the sidewalk, and in having it replaced, Mr. Olmstead took cold, developed pneumonia and died. The Flower store was originally a barn on the Olmstead property.
We have mentioned “Hobart Academy” built in 1845. Before that “Waterville Academy” was built in 1805 on land which is now part of Locust Hill Cemetery.
It became very efficient under the management of a Mr. Kingsley. Its second story was used as a Masonic Hall. St. Andrew’s Lodge, constituted in 1796, may have met there. The building burned in 1816.
“Part Seminary”, recorded as in the little house on Maple next the M. E. parsonage. Records may duplicate, but it appears that Masons used the attic there after Waterville Academy burned, as there is curved, arched ceilings like a church with Masonic emblems. Much later (1880) Miss H. E. Rollins kept a private school, the “Young Ladies Seminary”, at her home on Pearl Street—the present Peschkar house, which is reportedly the oldest house in Hobart.
John K. Odell, whose wife was Isabelle Grant, youngest daughter of Captain Donald Grant, had a residence in Hobart village which burned in 1847, after several changes in residence, some twenty years later he settled on his father’s farm where he kept a large Holstein dairy, the first in Delaware County.
During a considerable period of time, including the eighties and early nineties, Hobart had fairs with horse racing, agricultural exhibits, etc. The grounds for the first fair association were on land back of E. W. Storie’s house to Town Brook, and back of the railroad track. Later fairs were held on land in the present John Foote farms. The Woman’s Building of the Fair Association is now a barn at Austin Foote’s place. He, Foote, still has a lane leading to that part of his farm on other side of the river between Cimelli & Lam-port farms.
Many things have not been mentioned, many questions might be answered, but not by the writer. Who was responsible for planting the trees that beautify our village streets? What about the other old places, on River Street and elsewhere? What about the start of the water company; the telephone company; the electric lights, and the paved roads, not to mention many other things about our town which we take for granted?
Citizens of Hobart have never publicized their country village, because it was desired to keep it a community of homes and tradition. al standards of living. The years past have marked sins and tragedy as well as virtues and blessings. In that, we are a bit of the big world.
“We look ahead, neither to New Years nor happier ones, but rather to a continuation, our part of eternity.”
Corrections and Additions
West Main Street did not originally extend up the hill, but ran between the Bank building and the Tyler store and came out near the barn now owned by Harvey McKillip. The house now occupied by William Collins was down on the bank and was a woolen storehouse. Then it was moved to its present site and another story added.