History in Andes, NY

Photo: “Down-Rent War, Around 1845” by Mary Earley The History of Andes, NY

In Andes (both town and hamlet) we treasure our local history and, at the same time, remain proudly connected to the wider world, having a long history of both affecting and being dramatically affected by the rest of the state and New York City. Though we are tucked away in the remote foothills of the western Catskill Mountains, there’s nothing frozen in amber about us.

Founded in 1819, the hamlet of Andes was a thriving self-sufficient village, in its early days, with 9 saw and grist mills, artisans and professionals of every stripe, and hotels that were stops on a major stagecoach route.

A culminating event in the tenant rebellion in upstate New York, known as the Anti-rent War, occurred in Andes in 1845, leading to the termination of an archaic form of land tenure akin to feudal serfdom. It happened on Dingle Hill when undersheriff Osman Steele, at a forced cattle sale, was shot on his horse by a masked “Calico Indian” (one of the tenant farmer protesters, claiming to have been shot at first). Hundreds subsequently were sentenced to death by hanging, though their sentences were later commuted by the next governor.

In the 19th century logging, tanning, sheep and dairy farming flourished, with rafting of spar timber for sailing ships down the East Branch of the Delaware going as far as the Port of Philadelphia.

By edict of eminent domain in the 1950’s, the way was cleared for the damming of the East Branch of the Delaware River, the razing of the towns of Shavertown, Union Grove, Arena and Pepacton, and flooding of the valley to create a reservoir, in order to provide water for New York City (leaving only the village of nearby Andes as a viable community).

To learn more visit the exhibits at the restored Hunting Tavern Museum and delve into the local history collection at the updated, cozy Andes Public Library. Or, best yet, hear it all directly from an Andes resident whose family farm may now be under Pepacton waters, whose attic may still harbor a tin horn or leather mask from a Calico Indian forbear, and who can tell you all about the Red Heifer on the D & N Railroad.

Dairy farming predominated in Andes through the 20th century into the 1970s. Though the number of dairy farms in Andes has now shrunk to only a few, you can still see Holstein cows grazing on our picturesque hills, surrounded by rolling corn and hay fields, with horses, beef cattle, goats, sheep, alpacas and llamas (we are named Andes after all) making an increased appearance.

The sustainable local agriculture movement featuring organic vegetables, meadow raised meats and farmers’ markets, is drawing enthusiastic young people to this new incarnation of agriculture. ‘Small is beautiful’ could be the motto for so much of Andes: no industrial farms, no chain stores, no clogged roads: in many ways, life as it used to be.

Our newly restored train depot will soon highlight its own history and that of the Anti Rent WarLearn more about the railroad that ran through Andes.