A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

Bill Birns presents a weekly essay on history, geography, day-trips, arts and culture in the Catskill Mountain region.

A Catskill Catalog: September 28, 2011

The discovery of the Gilboa fossils happened quietly. An interested and curious amateur found evidence of the oldest forest on earth. His name was Samuel Lockwood.

Today’s hamlet of Gilboa is a watery reflection of its former self. The original village, a thriving mill town, was drowned by the construction of the Gilboa Dam, creating New York City’s second Catskill Mountain reservoir. Digging for the dam began in 1917. The old village became history in 1926.


A Catskill Catalog: September 21, 2011

At the end of August 1945, Governor Dewey went to the Walton Fair.

World War II had just, that month, come to an end. Atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had just, that month, ushered in the Atomic Age. It was a time of big things, and the governor came to Delaware County.


A Catskill Catalog: September 14, 2011

The Catskills, geologically, are an upland plateau, cut up, by erosion, into peaks and valleys. A plateau rises steeply on one side, maintains high elevation, and slopes gradually into the lands that surround it.

That’s our mountains, which rise dramatically from the Hudson River Valley, reach full height in western Greene and Ulster counties, and slope elegantly downhill from the heights of the Delaware River feeder streams in the west.


A Catskill Catalog: September 7, 2011

A woman, absent-mindedly, locks her keys in her still-running car in front of the Fleischmanns Supermarket. Her son is at home mucking out the basement, and she can’t remember where she put the spare keys. She had to leave the house so suddenly, so abruptly, the previous Sunday, Aug. 28, Irene’s Day, that everything’s a bit of a fog since.

A fire policeman, guarding Margaretville’s broken Bridge Street, allows that he hasn’t been able to sleep, visions of rampaging water tearing at his heart.


A Catskill Catalog: August 31, 2011

Devastating. That’s the only word I can think to write, the Monday after Irene’s Day. Devastating.
Leah Stern died in the storm. She was vacationing in Fleischmanns with her husband, Meyer, just as she had done every summer for years. But Leah was 83, weakened by age and infirmity, and when the Valkyrian Motel was evacuated Sunday morning, somehow, she didn’t get out. Soon, getting out became impossible.