A Bit About Plattekill & Its History
Plattekill became a Town on March 21st, 1800, by an act of the New York State Legislature. Plattekill was the ninth town to be formed in Ulster County. It was named for the Platte kill stream located in the southern portion of the town.
The history of Plattekill is predated by relatively vague accounts of Native American activity associated with the Delaware or Leni-Lenape, more recently referred to as the Esopus Indians, who were known to be active along the Wallkill River Valley. European settlement of the area began in the late 1600s and early 1700s through land patents from the English Governor of New York.
With an act of the New York State Legislature, Plattekill was divided from the Town of Marlborough to the east, and became the ninth town in Ulster County on March 21, 1800. At the time of its incorporation as a Town, an estimated 1600 people lived here and were focused on the area’s farming heritage.
By 1860 Plattekill was described as having a soil of “a fine quality of sandy and gravelly loam…. on which were several hamlets including) Plattekill near the South (s.) line contains a church and 25 dwellings; Clintondale in the North (n.) part, on the line of Lloyd, a church and 20 dwellings; Flint (New Hurley) in the s.w. corner, on the line of Shawangunk, a church and 15 dwellings, and Modena near the n.w. corner, 16 dwellings.”
Subsequent growth in Plattekill was spurred by its railroad era, beginning in 1887 with the incorporation and opening of the Hudson Connecting Railroad. That line served to link the new Hudson River railroad bridge at Poughkeepsie with the main rail line through Orange County south at Campbell Hall. With depots in Modena and outside Clintondale, these two hamlets experienced noticeable development in the early twentieth century. Since the 1950s, Plattekill has seen spurts of residential and agricultural development throughout the Town, linked to the region’s economy and improved accessibility to the larger Hudson Valley and New York metropolitan regions via the nearby New York State Thruway and Interstate 84.
Named after the Platte Kill stream in the southwestern portion of the Town, Plattekill has an agricultural heritage worth noting. By the mid-1800s, the Town had become the center of a larger region’s prominent fruit growing. Initially Friends and Neighbors, A Pictorial History of the Town of Plattekill and Southwest Lloyd. Compiled by Shirley V. Anson, 1989, Centennial Committee Clintondale Friends of Meeting.
Historical and Statistical Gazetteer of New York State. Syracuse: RP Smith Publisher, 1860, p. 665. Town of Plattekill Master Plan Final Draft – May 2003 Page 5 dominated by grape growing - including such varieties as Isabella and Catawba and later Concord, Niagara, and Delaware – grapes along with raspberries and currants, were particularly important into the 1900s. In The Village of Clintondale from its beginning …
The decline of grape growing is related to the loss of readily available fertilizing horse manure from New York City in the mid-twentieth century, as the car overtook horse and wagon as the primary means of transportation. With improved railroad access to markets, dairying also grew as an occupation, with creameries near many of the region’s rail stations, including Elting’s Corner. However, it has been apple growing that has dominated the past century, with orchards steadily growing in size to compete.
Indeed, much of the Town’s twentieth-century history is punctuated by dramatic weather changes such as early freezes, hail storms, or hurricanes affecting fruit crops, a key to the local economy. Cold storage of fruit started later in the nineteenth century and became a critical element of fruit production and marketing which survives today. Originally reliant on local ice harvesting, larger refrigerated buildings were soon built. Farms learned the value of shared storage. Early cooperative efforts, such as the Clintondale Fruit Growers Co-op, Inc., broadened from storage and helped local growers to better compete in buying, storage, and marketing into the 1940s. Today, Plattekill’s landscape and economy are still dominated by orchards, irrigation ponds, and storage buildings of the fruit business. The following contrasting photographs show how many aspects of this historic landscape survive today.
1600s to 1700s
March 21, 1800
European settlement of the area began in the late 1600s and early 1700s through land patents from the English Governor of New York.
With an act of the New York State Legislature, Plattekill was divided from the Town of Marlborough to the east, and became the ninth town in Ulster County on March 21, 1800.
By the mid-1800s, the Town had become the center of a larger region’s prominent fruit growing.