Long before the Ontario and Western Railway touted the healing environment that was Sullivan County beginning in the 1880s, the Erie Railroad had been established along the county’s western edge. By 1850, the Erie had been completed through the county, and it was largely through its promotional efforts that the upper Delaware Valley began to receive notice as “a sportsmen’s paradise.”
By the 1870s, hundreds of people were traveling each weekend to dozens of resorts in the approximately 60-mile-long valley from the Delaware Water Gap to Narrowsburg. These people were drawn here by the river, lakes, and streams. They came to fish and to boat and to hunt.
By July of 1879, the New York Times was reporting that while that portion of the river valley from the Water Gap to Milford had been popular with tourists for some time, it was only within the last few years that the area north and west of there had been noticed. Just a year later, the Times was reporting on the “neglected summer resorts” in places such as Barryville and Eldred. Because people were not being given access to the best fishing areas, the Times claimed, “it looks very much as if the Delaware Valley as a place of summer resort was destined to soon be forgotten.”
By 1882, the Times had reversed itself, reporting that the upper Delaware was again busy, especially resorts at Barryville and Lackawaxen. In July, 1884, the Times was touting the number of new resorts being built along the Erie, and the following year ran a special report on the resorts around Eldred, which had “four lakes within easy reach and many trout streams.”
In April of 1889, the Erie Railroad’s booklet, “Picturesque Erie: Summer Homes” shed additional light on the growing number of resorts all along the rail line from Pond Eddy to Long Eddy. The annual publication not only described each of the communities in glowing terms, but provided a rudimentary listing of the places offering accommodations nearby.
The Pond Eddy communities on both sides of the river are described as “in the midst of picturesque mountain scenery,” and “a comfortable and healthful place to spend the summer.”
The Shohola, Pa. Station is described as the place “from which a picturesque portion of Sullivan County, in the vicinity of Eldred – among the Sullivan highlands and lakes – is reached by an enjoyable ride of five miles. One of the finest game and fishing regions in Sullivan County.”
There are fifteen separate Sullivan County houses listed under this stop on the railroad, including George Layman’s Spring House in Barryville, which boasted ten double and fifteen single rooms, Dr. Leon DeVenoge’s in Venoge, which comprised 60 double rooms, Myers, Mills & Company in Eldred, with 36 rooms and J.P. Gallagher’s Twin Lake Farm in Eldred, which listed two single and eleven double rooms and organized “excursions to all parts of Sullivan County.”
The booklet boasts of great black bass fishing at Narrowsburg, which is listed as having a population of 600.
“Here within a few years has grown up a charming summer stopping place,” the booklet reports. “There are ten mountain lakes within eight miles, and numerous trout streams in the vicinity. No mosquitoes or malaria; cool nights, deer hunting on surrounding ridges. Partridge shooting good; splendid drivers, livery station.”
Among the Narrowsburg area resorts listed are Lemkau’s Hotel, Gebhard’s Hotel, and ten other establishments.
Cochecton, with a population of 800, is described as being well-known as the closest rail stop to White Lake, “and very many tourists still prefer this route, the drive from Cochecton to White Lake being but fourteen miles, over a good road, and one rich in fine scenery.”
Nine boarding houses are listed under the Cochecton station, including a few in Fosterdale and Pike Pond (present day Kenoza Lake). J.B. Grining’s Pine Grove, with a post office address of Cochecton Center, was the largest, with four double and twelve single rooms.
Callicoon, “in the midst of surroundings of a wild and rugged character,” was listed as having a population of 1200. The abundance of trout in the Callicoon Creek is cited, as are the popular lakes in the nearby town of Bethel. There are about forty hotels listed in the booklet under the Callicoon station, including the Western, the Callicoon, a number in Jeffersonville and some in Hortonville, North Branch, and Pike Pond.
Hankins is described as “a quiet hamlet,” and has but one resort, Philemon Minckler’s Spring House in Fremont Center, listed under its heading.
Long Eddy is “a quiet, healthful village” with a population of 500. There were eleven resorts listed as being served by this station, including the Globe Hotel, the Mountain House and the Riverside House.
Of course, by 1889, the upper Delaware Valley was far less developed as a tourist destination than most other parts of Sullivan County, but there was a significant tourism business there each summer, and much of it was fueled by the promotional efforts of the Erie Railroad.
Photo: Passengers gather at the Erie Railroad station in Callicoon, Sullivan County.