The town we know today as the Town of Gallatin has a long history that goes back to the early Dutch and British settlers. Gallatin was formed when Ancram named after the family home of Robert Livingston was divided into two parts. The eastern area was named Gallatin after Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin (born deGallatin January 29, 1761-August 12, 1849), who was a Genevan-American politician, diplomat, ethnologist and linguist. He is know for the being the founder of New York University and for serving in the Democratic-Republican Party at various federal elective and appointed positions across four decades. He represented Pennsylvania in the Senate and the House of Representatives before becoming the longest-tenured United State Secretary of the Treasury and serving a s high-ranking diplomat.
Located two hours north of New York City and one hour south of Albany, the Town of Gallatin has a population of 1,600 people. A rural community with historic homes, undulating farms and woodland, Gallatin comprises several settlements. Taghkanic State Park is situated within the Town’s borders. The highest point in the Town is Mattashuck Hill, also known as Signal Rock (elevation 1104 feet) south of Lake Taghkanic, which was used by native Mahicans for fires and smoke signals that could be seen for many miles.
The actual date of the first European settlement in what is now Gallatin is thought to have been in the early 1700’s. The standard history of Columbia County (1878) names Hans Dings, a Palantine German, as the first settler. Tradition has it that Hans Dings was following the course of Roeliff Jansen Kill when he came across a native American in a lovely glade who invited Dings to settle there. The area of this settlement is now called Silvernails. The Dings family cemetery, located off Silvernails Road, is the oldest cemetery in Gallatin, dating from before 1748. At one time there was a railroad station, a post office and a grist mill at Silvernails. The railroad station sign was salvaged and hangs on a barn near the Roe-Jan Farm on Silvernails Road. The only church now standing in the town is the Gallatin Reformed Church, on County Route 7. It was established in 1748 as the Dutch Reformed Protestant Church, with a simple Dutch-style wooden building. In 1823 the old church building was condemned and a new one constructed just north of it. In 1872 an addition was added to house the pipe organ, and there were further renovations in 1874.
Among the other early settlements comprising the Town of Gallatin is Snyderville. This hamlet through the years has borne the names of various families who lived there not only Snyder, but also Mink (Mink Hollow) and Weaver (Weaver Hollow). Also called West Gallatin at one time, it is located in the northwest corner of the town, on Doove (also spelled Dove) Creek, at the junction of County Route Eight, Snyderville Road and Taghkanic Road. Snyderville contained a store, hotel, gristmill, plaster mill, cider distillery, blacksmith shop and half a dozen houses. The schoolhouse nearby (on County Route Eight) was in use from 1861 until 1950. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. In the same area, about half a mile east of Snyderville, off of County Route 8, is Karwacki Road (named for the farm family there). South of here was once located an unusual settlement known as Stovepipe Alley, named after the stove pipe chimneys that protruded from the unique sod houses of the two dozen or so families that lived there. They are thought to have been descendants of Native Americans and the Palatine Germans. They made their living by making and selling baskets, similar to the now highly-collectable “Taghkanic baskets.” The settlement has long since vanished, but the name Stovepipe Alley still appears on maps.
Farther to the east along County Route 8, past the Taghkanic Parkway, is Pond Lily Pond. At one time, ice blocks were cut there and stored in the still-standing ice house. In the northeast corner of the town is Suydam, on Route 82, near the junction of County Routes 8 and 11. This was once a thriving hamlet, located on the Salisbury Turnpike, the principal route from Connecticut, through Ancram, to the Hudson River. The Stagecoach Inn in Suydam, dating from 1798, was a popular resting stop for drovers bringing livestock to the river for shipment to market. The name comes from a Dr. Jacob Suydam, who had his office there from 1798 until 1822. Around 1800, Dr. Suydam donated land for a schoolhouse, which burned down in 1918 but was replaced by another building which was used as a school until 1955, the last one-room schoolhouse in Gallatin.
Because of its location on Roeliff Jansen Kill, Gallatinville was the largest settlement in the early town, with a railroad station, a hotel, stores, a grist mill, a plaster mill, two blacksmith shops, a post office and about a dozen houses by the 19th century. The log schoolhouse that existed there is said to have been the first school in the area. The one-room schoolhouse that replaced this building is now the Town Hall. The flour and gristmill built by Robert Livingston in 1742 was later improved upon and became key component of an important industry in the area. During the Revolutionary War the mill produced flour to feed Washington’s troops. Later, in 1830, when Gallatin became a town, it was in Gallatinville that the first Town Meeting was held, with 55 positions created to tend to Town needs.
An important part of Gallatin’s early economic history is now only a name. About a mile and a half southwest of Gallatinville (on the old Nobletown Turnpike and what is now County Route 7) was located Spaulding Furnace. This plow furnace and foundry was established by Moses Spaulding around 1840, on what came to be called Spaulding Creek. The furnace produced around 125 plows a year. The business passed through several owners, but was finally abandoned in 1910. A historic marker is on the site.
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