Monday, June 29, 2015

The Newburgh Turnpike

At the end of the American Revolution, land in western New York suddenly became more accessible.  The Indians had been driven out, treaties signed, and threats diminished.  Continental officers (and enlisted men with long service) were awarded lands in the New York military tracts.  Other lands were available from the government at low prices.  Sometimes all that was required was a promise to "improve" the land within a certain time frame.  According the account of Chattie Fuller, the Campbells and Fullers (who settled on Bentley Creek in 1805) obtained their lands "by right of possession."[i]

Signage on Pennsylvania State Road 2034 in Herrick.  Note spelling.

The  main east/west thoroughfare for migration to the newly opened lands was known by many names.  For those pioneers who had already made it to western New York, it was called the Newburgh turnpike, as Newburgh was where the road led.  [Even though maps as far back as 1778 use the current "Newburgh" spelling, the Pennsylvanians still spell it "Newburg Turnpike."]

NY Route 114 at Cochecton.  The "end" of the Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike.

A zoomable map with annotations is at the link below.  If possible, open it in another window to help you follow the text.

Roads and places mentioned in this blog.  Open in another window.  The yellow marker on the far right is Newburgh on the Hudson River.  The turnpike started at that location and ended at the red marker at Cochecton on the Delaware River.  The road that continued west of the Delaware was often also called the Newburgh Turnpike, but it was chartered as the Great Bend Turnpike.  It ended at the green marker, the Great Bend in the Susquehanna River.  The Fullers and the Campbells were living close to "Peenpack" which is shown by the light green marker (D).  Their destination of Bentley Creek is the dark blue marker on the left side.

For those about to make the trek to the west it might have been called the "Great Bend Turnpike" or the road to Cochecton (pronounced "cuh-SHEK-ton," which was Lenape for "foaming water" or translated by others to mean "low land").  General James Clinton had proposed a similar road in 1805 to the military tracts (never built) which he called the "National Appian Way."[ii] This route took on that nickname.

Signage on Great Bend Turnpike near Pleasant Mount.  The turnpike changed names along the route depending on the "most common destination" of people of the area.

Technically the route was a series of many different roads.  The most easterly was the road that started at Newburgh on the Hudson River and terminated at Cochecton on the Delaware River.  Its official name was the Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike and was built and operated by a private enterprise, the Newburgh and Cochecton Turnpike company.   Cochecton was chosen as the terminus as it was the site of a ford of the Delaware River to Damascus Manor on the Pennsylvania side.[iii]  But it was also chosen, according to Ruttenber, because the principal stockholders had land in that area on which they had speculated.[iv]

Delaware River from Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike in Cochecton.

The road from Damascus, Pennsylvania to the Great Bend in the Susquehanna River was called the Great Bend Turnpike.  The enterprise that would build and operate this road was called the Company of the Coshecton [another common Pennsylvania spelling] & Great Bend Turnpike Road.[v] 

One share of Coshecton & Great Bend Turnpike Stock.

At Great Bend the road connected with other well-used trails/roads that Indians had used for centuries and on which Sullivan's army had left its marks with over-packed supply wagons and artillery.  The Old Lakawana Trail led from New Milford to the Great Bend.  From there the well-traveled paths on either side of the Susquehanna River led to Newtown (now Elmira) and Tioga Point.[vi]

Signage from Pennsylvania TR 945 in Gibson Township.

Two ferries operated across the Susquehanna at Great Bend until the first bridge was built in 1814.[vii]  I suspect the Campbells made use of the ferries at that location and traveled on the north side of the Susquehanna which flows westward almost along the NY/PA border.  They would have passed through the ancient Indian town of Owego, a small pioneer and merchant village in 1805. 

About 50 miles from Great Bend the Susquehanna River is joined by the Tioga River flowing from the west (now called the Chemung River) and the combined rivers turn south.  At some point the Campbells and Fullers needed to cross the Tioga River (Chemung River).  The river is only fordable at a few spots.[viii]  One spot was a mile further upstream from where Bentley Creek entered.  If they arrived in the Fall when the water was low, they may have selected this option.  Another option would have been to hire a ferry which operated at the town of Chemung about five miles downstream of the junction with Bentley Creek.

In 1805, the road up Bentley Creek was probably no more than a trail.  If the Campbells and Fullers had followed the common practice of pioneers preparing for a move, then they had likely built this trail in a prior year.  It was common for men to leave their families for the summer to clear land and plant at a new location.  Often they would build the start of a new home, then return home for the harvest and spend the winter with their family.  Sometimes this routine would be repeated for multiple years until the new land could support the move.  This might be the case if their specialty was orchards that took many years to develop. 

At the crest of a hill, before reaching Pleasant Mount, PA,, the travelers could look back and see the Catskills of New York for the last time.

The distance between Peenpack and Bentley Creek is about 170 miles.  On horseback this could be done in 4 or 5 days.  Walking with light provisions would take 8-10 days.  With families, heavy supplies, and the droving of cattle/hogs/sheep, this distance could take 20-40 days to accomplish.

We have no record of the route taken by the Campbells and Fullers.  We don't know how long it took them or what time of year they traveled.  There is no indication of them arriving as one large group or making the migration in several groups over a few years.  What we do know is that the route of the Newburgh Turnpike led a continuous stream of settlers to the western frontiers from 1800 until the age of the railroad.


The Newburgh & Cochecton Turnpike company received its charter from the state on April 7, 1800.[ix]  In reality much of this road was already there at a much earlier date.  The company was now chartered to improve what was only a trail in places and authorized to collect tolls.  The same can be said for the Cochecton & Great Bend Turnpike Company which received its charter on March 29, 1804.[x]  Although the road was not "completed" until six years after the Fullers and Campbells had made their journey, the road was laid out and was frequently traveled.  It had not been improved to its specification of  "twenty foot width."  Could this mean that the Campbells and Fullers escaped paying the tolls on the unfinished sections?

The settlement at Peenpack, where most of the Campbells were living in 1804, was not on the turnpike.  They lived two miles from the Old Mine Road, a road believed to have been built by the Dutch in the mid 1600s.  The current Route 209 traces this route towards Kingston, NY.  The intersection with the Newburgh-Cochecton turnpike was ten miles NE along this "Old Mine Road."  This is the route I think most likely for the start of the Campbell-Fuller trek.  However, there was another "Cochecton" road in Peenpack.

Peter Gumaer writes in his History of Deerpark that a road to Cochecton was built in 1803 from the grist mill of Captain William Rose.[xi]  Captain Rose married Mary, the daughter of Egbert DeWitt, and inherited the DeWitt grist mill that was near the aquaduct of the D&H canal over the Neversink River.[xii]  This location is in the current hamlet of Cuddebackville on the Old Mine Road (209). The road referred to, however did not really go to Cochecton.  Its route is explained by Norma Schadt in the September 2008 issue of the Deerpark Diary.

She refers to a newspaper article from 1933 that states that the "Old Cochecton Road ... ran from Roses Point to Cahoonzie, then to Mongaup and then to Ten Mile River ...  What they called the Cochecton road turned off and went up to Cochecton."[xiii]  "Roses Point" is the home of Captain Rose and his grist mill spoken of by Gumaer.  The road ran west up Prospect Hill then continued to Peenpack Trail road, then joined existing trails when it reached the Delaware River at the confluence of the Mongaup River.  (see purple line in map.)  This point was still thirty miles downriver from Cochecton.  The Cochecton "road" continued up the river about 18 miles to the entrance of "Ten Mile River" into the Delaware.  Its location is about ten miles downriver from Cochecton.

I have often wondered if the Campbells were employed in road building.  In 1773, Joel's father's farm straddled the road to Wilemanton (Route 208).  As such he was required to maintain the road and the small bridge that ran over a minor stream. In 1790, Joel's location in the census is almost right on the Newburgh Turnpike in the town of Montgomery.  In 1800, Jonathan's farm is where the Lumberland Turnpike was planned and close to the 1803 "Cochecton Road" from the Rose grist mill.  Their proximity to these roads makes one think they could have worked on them.


Addition roads of interest...

In 1807, the Milford and Owego Turnpike was incorporated.[xiv]  This route started at Milford on the Delaware River which was about 15 miles SW down the Old Mine Road from the Campbell farm in Peenpack.  The old road took a direct route to Owego, passing much north of Wilkes-Barre and the Wyoming valley route into western New York.  Perhaps this would have been an option for the Campbells if they had left a few years later.

Another road ran past the "Campbell Flats" in Peenpack.  It would be known as the Mount Hope and Lumberland turnpike in 1812.[xv]  It went from the current Otisville to Forestburgh.  It does not appear to have continued to Cochecton, but eventually went to a new crossing of the Delaware at Narrowsburgh.  This turnpike passed through Campbell Flats on what is now Oakland Valley Road.  Gumaer refers to the bridge where this turnpike crossed the Neversink as being close to where Captain Abraham Westfall built a sawmill in the 1700s "on a brook at that time termed Bush-kill."[xvi]  This is known to be on Oakland Valley Road.

[i] Charity "Chattie" Fuller (1850-abt1920) was a granddaughter of the Fuller patriarch who settled on Bentley Creek, Abiel Fuller.  She wrote a record of Fullers and Campbells in her family.  This is from page 2 of her account in the possession of Sandra Ball.
[ii] Ruttenber, E.M., Clark, L.H., History of Orange County, Everts & Peck, Philadelphia, 1881, p. 112.
[iii] A Brief History of Damascus Township,, accessed 2015-06-27
[iv] Ruttenber, E.M., Clark, L.H., History of Orange County, Everts & Peck, Philadelphia, 1881, p. 111.
[v] From Image of Stock sold for the financing of the Great Bend Turnpike
[vi] Bruce, Robert, Ancient Trails Which are Now Modern Roads, American Motorist, March 1917, p. 17., accessed 2015-06-27.
[vii] Egle, William Henry, History of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Civil, Political and Military ..., E. M. Gardner, Pennsylvania, 1883, p. 1089.
[viii] Friends of the Chemung River Watershed, "The Historical Story of the Chemung River",, accessed 2015-06-27.
[ix] Palmer, Richard F., Turnpike Corporations in New York State,, accessed 2015-06-27
[x] Mathews, Alfred, History of Wayne, Pike, and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania, R.T. Peck & Company,  - Monroe County (Pa.), 1886, p222, available at
[xi] Gumaer, Peter, A History of Deerpark, Minisink Valley Historical Society, Port Jervis, 1890, p. 136.
[xii] Gumaer, Peter, A History of Deerpark, Minisink Valley Historical Society, Port Jervis, 1890, p. 65.
[xiii] Schadt, Norman, Deerpark Diary, September 2008,, accessed 2015-06-27.
[xiv] Gordon, Thomas, A Gazetteer of the State of Pennsylvania, p.476,, accessed 2015-06-28
[xv] Schadt, Norman, Deerpark Diary, March 2008,, accessed 2015-06-27.
[xvi] Gumaer, Peter, A History of Deerpark, Minisink Valley Historical Society, Port Jervis, 1890, p. 169.