This is an article on Bellvale. It was part of a series of articles on the villages and hamlets in Warwick Township published in 1950. This is a transcription of that article that appeared in the December 13, 1950 edition of the Warwick Valley Dispatch. The photos are of poor quality because they come from photocopies from microfilm. I post them because they were part of the original article. All is used with permission of owner.
WARWICK TOWNSHIP COMMUNITIES IN 1950
By rights, Edgar Houston should be writing this story. For no one can extol the virtues of Bellvale liked the belove Ringmaster of the Bellvalle Circus (Photo 13). Most everybody who heard the Ringmaster goes away convinced that no place but Bellvale (Photo 1) has such fertile farms and green fields, such pictureque surrounding mountains , such breathtaking views, such handsome men and beautiful women. We can't describe it as the Ringmaster can blut we'll attempt to portray in pictures and words a bit of its natural beauty, traditions and charm.
Motorists who traverse the state highway between Warwick and Greenwood Lake, on which Bellvale is located, often pause by the dam of the former sawmill pond (Photo 2) delighted with the glimpse of the verdant woods and the splashing waters of Long House Creek (named for a long, narrow log structure which stood near the site of the Bellvale church and in which a tribe of Indians lived.) In the early days of the communtity, the dam supplied power for some of the many mills that flourished here. Many of us remember the pond as a weedy but wonderful place to swim - you could always hike here for a dip if you couldn't get to Greenwood Lake. Now dredged, cleaned and beautified, it graces one of the scenic entrances to Cascade Park, popular mountain development in which many city residents have erected cabins, and year-round homes.
Center of the communtiy is the post office and well stocked general store (Photos 3 and 4) operated by Arthlur Quackenbush for the past 40 years. Here residents pause to read letters and local papers or try their skill on the store's famed checkerboard. Here is another of the few remaining country general stores . Here one can do his shopping chat with his neighbors about all the local doings and expound his theories for solving the world's ills. In a rural peaceful community, it's hard to believe that the world has ills, that there are wars going on. Perhaps the world knows more of serenity of life without hurry, of the communal fellowship of a friendly country store.
There's a real "little red school house" in Bellvale (Photo 5). All Bellvale students now attend school at Warwick but the quaint red brick building was in use from 1879 until this year. We've often been told that George F. Ketchum, founder of the Dispatch, fell in love in that little red school - the shiny red apple he had brought for the teacher going to Squire Wilson's fair young daughter, Evelyn, instead. Schoolday romances, pranks or a beloved teacher are often recalled by Bellval residents - old and young. Modern schools offer better equipment and wider fields of training to our youngsters, but none leave more cherished memories than "the little red school."
The present Methodist Church building (Photo 6) is relatively new one, built to replace the original structure which burned January 17, 1940. But it has all the historic dignity of the original building and its simple services today recall those of the old circuit riders who rode between Bellvale, Sugar Loaf and Chester, the same circuit that exits today with one pastor, the Reverend Kenneth Sprague, administering to each. The church story goes back almost a century to 1852 when trustees met and started a subscription to build a church. On February 11, 1853, it was resolved to build the church on the lot given by Samuel Wilson. The cornerstone was given by David Stevens and laid by Rev. J.B. Wakely of New York City. Mrs. Elizabeth Wilson, wife of David Wilson, gave the bell and the altar rail was a gift from Henry Wisner, having been made from apple tree wood grown and fashioned on the Wisner farm. The parsonage was built in 1870.
A State Education Department marker (Photo 7), secured through the efforts of the Historical Society of the Town of Warwick, will help to acquaint young members of the community with the history of Bellvale. This one, near the lower village bridge, reads:
Closed About 1750 by
Crown Order Forbidding
Manufacturing of Iron
Implements in Colonies
From No.2, Part 1 of the Warwick Historical Society Papers we learn of the dedication of this marker May 26, 1933, and of an address made by Chairman Octavious Applegate in which he told how Laurance Scauley in 1745 built a tilt-hammer forge for working on pig iron, the only mill of its kind in the state. The making of iron implements was forbidden by the Crown, one of the many restrictions that led to the Declaration of Independence, but Scrauley took the chances of his seclusion in this valley to go beyond the two inch limitation in iron sheets and his forge was closed in 1750. Chairman Applegate noted that, according to Headly, tweny-five years previous, the ruins of the hearth, the raceway and pit for the wheel and the mudsill of the dam was still visible.
The Thomas Powell home (Photo 8) is typical of two things - the many fine old home of Bellvale and the interesting indurtries that once hummed busily in the valley. In this building Philip T. Smith carried on his organ reed manufacturing business. It is said that some of the reeds, designed by Mr. Smith, were used in the organs of the Fifth Avenue Cathedral, St. Paul's M.E. Church and the Brooklyn Tabernacle. In addition, there are visible and historical records of other enterprises including the saw, flour and woolen mills of Daniel Burt, built around 1760; Bellvale's first store establshed by Stephen A. Burt in 1815; a harness cutlery manufacturing business conducted by Abijah Peck on the Floyd Quakenbush place about 1800 and supplying American armies in the War of 1812 and the Hiram Flagler chair factory which existed in 1840. Some of the chairs are at present in the Fred Houson home. One of these chair manufacturing businesses was on Mount Peter and was operated by John DeG(?). These chairs were made of maple from the Wildcat Swamps and when finished were taken to New York City for sale. Furniture was made on the Wisner place by John G. Schroder. Some of this furniture is in the Wisner home at present.
Horseradish was once raised for commerical purposes by William Clark. He grew it on what is now the Fred Houston farm and ground and bottled it at his home, now the Purcell place. Daniel Sayre built a mill to grind "Land Planter" from Planter rock brought from France. This product was to have been used on the ground now, but proved to be unsucessful. The mill was later used as a grist mill.
Hoop poles were made in three different places - by Cooper DeGraw near the millpond, on the place now owned by Miss Edna Sayer (this was run by Stephen A. Weymer and his son), and at the Harry Quackenbush place. The identity of the latter manufacturer is unknown.
There was at one time a still in Bellvale. The business was legal at that time (about 1850) and the still was used commercially. The pond used to provide the water power is still on the Dr Houston farm. The still made peach brandy, since peaches were as numerous as apples are now. It closed because growers could get better prices for their fruit elsewhere.
A sleigh manufacturing plant was run by Nathaniel Wright in the early part of the nineteenth century, the sleighs taken to New York as soon as the first heavy snowfall came . There was also a blacksmith shop, two carpet weaving businesses, charcoal manufactoring, and several lime kilns.
Two of the communtity's stalwart older residents are pictured in Photos 9 and 10 - Miss Emma Wisner, Bellvale's oldest inhabitant and member of one of the original families of the area and Dan Horton who lives next to the store and is known affectionately as "The Pioneer.'' It is a familiar sight to see him sawing firewood about his place. Having helped make their community's history, Bellvale elders are proud of its traditions and love dearly the land on which they have abided so long as no other spot on earth. Thus is the life of a communtiy stabilized and enriched. To them also, one is indebted for much knowledge of interesting things of which no record or landmarks exist.
In a pupil's history essay we find much information of this sort, as well as the one of the curious legends of which every neighborhood boasts. For example, "There is a legend told of an Indian chief from the Long House who upon his death, was buried sitting upright on a horse. He was buried in the Indian burying ground which is on the Wisner farm. Miss Emma Wisner tells us how she and her brother, as small children, dug faithfully but were never rewarded by finding the Indian chief" and "To the right rear of the pond up on the bank there is an old graveyard which belonged to the Nobel family. Miss Emma Wisner says can remember a woman being buried in that graveyard when she was a child" and "The Wisners have in their possession a bill of sale for two slaves sold to their family in the year 1819."
Bellvale is one of the few small communities to have its own newspaper. John Croker (Photo 11) owns one of the few complete volumes of "The Rising Star," published monthly during the year 1889 by John B. Bradner, editor, at a subscription price of 25 cents per year. Among other things, it brought readers social notes, family histories, Lehigh & Hudson timetables including Stone Bridge stops, wedding and obituary notes and poetic tributes to the beauty of the community and to Bellvale boys who were wounded and killed at the battle of Chancellorville.
The Benjamin Sayer homestead at "Sayrevill" (Photo 12) is close to the site where a small block house or fort cabin used to stand. Writing for Historical Papers, the late Mr. Sayer said, "Just when the log house known as the fort cabin was built is unknown, but it was some time between 1712, when the first settlement was made in the Warwick valley, and 1760...Daniel Sayer occupied the fort cabin for many years but in 1783 built the stone house just west of it. The cabin remained standing for a number of years thereafter and the well was only partially filled up when I was a boy. The fort cabin was built with a projecting upper story with loop or post holes through the floor through which the defender could shoot down of the besiegers who might gain the protection of its walls and thus prevent their burning the cabin which stood in the southeast corner of my yard - near the stream, about two hundred feet east of the stone dwelling house and fifty feet north of the highway. There were also two smaller log cabins on the opposite side of the road. The fort cabin was to furnish refuge for all three families in case of attack."
And now we come to the Ringmaster again and the famed Bellvale Amateur Circus presented each year by the Bellvale Epworth League for the amusement of Bellvale residents and its neighbors. In early summer, Bellvale folks put their heads together to think up clever new antics and from then on rehearsal schedules are posted at the Quackenbush store. In August the big event takes place. Lately the show has been held on Arthur Quackenbush's hilltop lot where the audince can view the scenic beauties that Ringmaster Houston so eloquently describes. As familiar as his top hat, cane and boots and his growing praises of Bellvale are the Ringmaster's warning to stay seated during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner lest a sudden shift of weight bring the bleacher fans to grief. Tom Powell's spirited peddling of ice cream and pop is another unforgettable part of the scene. All in all, its a delightful event in which just about everybody in the community has some part.
Community pride and enthusiam is as strong in Bellvale today as it was in the days of "The Rising Star." Somebody once came up with a slogan that residents still love to repeat with a twinkle in their eye, "It's Bellvale Ag'in the World.."
Many of the transcriptions found here are now in published form. They have been published by the Orange County Genealogical Society (in Goshen, New York). Volume 3 includes my Volume 3 and Volume 5. Volume 4 includes my four parts of New Milford history. There is a planned Volume 5, which will include my Volumes 6, 7, and 8, Part 1, which is about 250 transcriptions. They can be purchase through the Genealogical Society. Just Google them and print out the order form. Or they can be purchased from the Warwick Historical Society. They are also on sale at the gift shop at Baird's Tavern. I would like to thank the Genealogical Society and Dan Burrows for their efforts. Started a new blog for images of Warwick. Go to: www.imagesofwarwicknewyork.blogspot.com.