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Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site

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INTRODUCTION TO SOME PHOTOS OF THE ARENA, SHAVERTOWN, AND UNION GROVE AREA

by Ann Laing, September 19, 2005 - (index to photos below)

    When people ask where I was born, I reply, "At home in Shavertown, NY", and then I have to add that they won't find that small village on a NYS map.  It and three other Delaware River Valley villages are now covered with 150,000,000,000 gallons of water in a man-made, 18 mile long, lake known as the Downsville-Pepacton Reservoir.  "How was that ever allowed to happen", they ask, and I answer that there are still many descendants of those lost villages' residents that ask the same question.

     Headline stories from the 1950s recount a people's anguish over the loss of their land and history.  "What Happens When a Valley Dies", Bob Fichenberg writes in The Sunday Press, Binghamton, NY, November 2, 1952.  He recounts the timetable for the destruction of Pepacton, Shavertown, Arena, and Union Grove to make way for a huge reservoir to supply fresh water to NYC.  For $96,000,000, exclusive of the cost of purchasing the land, the City destroyed churches, schools, businesses; disrupted burial sites and scattered human remains that had rested peacefully in the valley since the late 1700s.  980 residents were displaced from homes and farms that had been in the family for hundreds of years.  Trees, gardens, crops, natural flora and fauna were uprooted and burned to make a smooth bottom for the reservoir.

     Union Grove, once known as Gregory Flats after the landowner John Gregory, was settled around 1800.  Supposedly named for a large grove of maples which grew in the area where the Barkaboom Creek flowed into the river, Union Grove was once described as "post station with a store".  Rafting and mills were its prime businesses and the village grew as workers needed a place to stay.  In 1951, plans for its demise were posted on trees and buildings.

     Around 1952, the 250 to 300 residents of Arena saw similar signs noting the time table for the destruction of their small village and knew that soon they would be in court to try to get a reasonable price for their property.  For those whose families had lived lifetimes in the Arena area, the most heart rendering decision was, where do we go from here? 

     Jon Peterson wrote a three part series for the Walton Reporter in 1950, detailing the histories of the targeted villages and the reactions of the residents.  The headline for Friday, July 28, 1950, "City's Thirst Spells Doom for Busy Shavertown", proclaims the death of that village settled around 1781 by John and Jacob Shaver and Philip Barnhart (who married their sister, Sarah).  These hardy folk were described as industrious "Dutchmen", later to be more correctly known as descendants of the Palatine Germans.  These former residents of the Rhine River Valley in Germany came to the colonies in the 1740s to harvest pine tar for her majesty's ships, but soon became disillusioned with the lack of pay and land that they were promised.  They left Rhinebeck, NY in the Hudson Valley to seek out their own land in Schoharie County and in Delaware County on the Delaware River flats.  Generations of Shavers (originally Schaeffer, then Schafer, then either Shafer or Shaver) had made Shavertown their home, all soon to be displaced once more.

    In the 1952, Binghamton Sunday Press newspaper article, Darrell Atkin (whose grandmother was Ella Shaver) is quoted, "  NYC people started talking dams and reservoirs 25 to 30 years ago....factories started leaving town.  Even the bootleggers got out before the repeal.  Now everything's gone."  "Nothing but dust."

    Memorabilia from these doomed villages is as scattered as its former families.  Some is said to have been sent to The Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, NY; some undoubtedly discarded during the razing of the villages, and some can still be found among the possessions of those former residents who have passed on.  Cherished photos and carefully folded newspaper articles are too few reminders of the lives spent in these lost villages.  In an effort to preserve the stories of these villages and their residents, I have submitted a few photos of the area and invite others to do likewise.


INDEX to PHOTOS
The 23 photos below are of old Shavertown, Union Grove, and Arena, from postcards and old black and white photos. If anyone can identify any of the folks in the photos, please contact Joyce Riedinger so she can add names into this index. --Ann Laing, September 19, 2005

Pic0001.jpg - Perch Lake, Catskill Mts., Arena, NY - from postcard mailed June 1908, from Emma Cookingham, Arena, NY, to Mrs. A.M. Franks, Union Grove, NY

Note received Dec 2016 from Alice Clarke Benson: "I am related to her husband, Karner Cookingham, a Civil War veteran and Arena farmer, and am doing genealogical research on him. --Sincerely, Alice Clarke Benson 914-466-2108"

Pic0002.jpg - Church St. from Main St., Arena, NY, from postcard dated Aug 1924

Pic0003.jpg - Andrew 'Angel' VanDusen Home above Shavertown, NY

Pic0004.jpg - Cox's Mill, Shavertown, NY, postcard

Pic0005.jpg - Seat of Learning, Shavertown, NY, postcard mailed 1913

Pic0006.jpg - 'Stone Gang', 1927; J. Ray Bramley standing, second from right; WORKING on a road somewhere around Shavertown , NY

Pic0007.jpg - J. Ray Bramley's Texaco gas station, in background home of Dora and James Bramley, his parents, Shavertown, NY

Pic0008.jpg - Veteran's Honor Roll, Shavertown, NY: ANDRE, Domingos; ARMSTRONG, James; ATKIN, Ordway E.; BARNES, Howard; BRAMLEY, James R.; BUTLER, Alvern; CONKLIN, John; DORSETT, Thomas; ESTUS, Jay; FINKLE, Isaac W.; FLETCHER, George; FLETCHER, Mary E.; FRANCISCO, Harry; DAVIS, Bernard; ELWOOD, Donald; GOODCHILD, David E.; GOODCHILD, John E.; LODOVICE, Guido; MAULIK, Floyd; PLATANIA, George; PLATANIA, Salvator; REYNOLDS, Floyd L.; SPRAGUE, Louis C.; SPRAGUE, Raymond; TERRY, Lloyd; TIDD, Louie; VANSTEENBURG, Edwin; VANSTEENBURG, H. Bruce; TITCH, Paul. Monument located somewhere in the Village of Shavertown, NY.

Pic0009.jpg - Main Street, Union Grove, NY, postcard mailed Dec 1918.

Pic0010.jpg - Union Grove, NY, postcard, no dates

Pic0011.jpg - Union Grove Methodist Church, postcard, no dates

Pic0012.jpg - Union Grove Mills, 1883. Photo, no date

Pic0013.jpg - Union Grove House, ? boarding house? On postcard back written, VanKuren House

Pic0014.jpg - Postcard, no date, written on back, Jack Keator Boarding House, Union Grove, NY

Pic0015.jpg - Postcard, Tompkins Store, Union Grove, NY, no dates

Pic0016.jpg - School at Union Grove, NY, Sept. 1917; postcard, written on back, Sam Gray, Teacher; Elsie and Ethel Brower are the twin girls with plaid coats and large white bows in their hair; their brother, Anthony E. Brower is the boy standing under the window with the suit and knickers on.

Pic0017.jpg - Photo, Union Grove Sunday School; second girl on right, front row-Florence Sheldon, no date, no one else identified. This would be in front of the Methodist Church

Pic0018.jpg - Photo on a postcard, written on back - 'Taken by Mr. Vanvalkenburg, Andes, NY on May 28, 1910'; only identified one is Florence Sheldon, first girl, with large hat, on the right standing by building

Pic0019.jpg - Photo, Union Grove, Town of Andes; second and third girls, standing, Ethel and Elsie Brower; no dates

Pic0020.jpg - Photo, Union Grove Sunday School, no date; Ethel Brower first girl on left, sitting on stone wall of steps

Pic0021.jpg - Photo, written on back, Union Grove School, June 1, 1908; Florence Sheldon, second row, second on left.

Pic0022.jpg - Copy of old photo, identified as teacher, standing, Florence J. Norris Seath, Florence Sheldon Shaver, second from left, back row; taken Sept. 1911

Pic0023.jpg - Photo, identified as Arena Bridge, Anthony Brower driving wagon, no date




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