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Town of Crawford - A Brief History
The Town of Crawford was incorporated in 1823. However, its development had its beginnings well before that year. It has made significant progress since its early days. What started as an inland, wooded and rocky area grew slowly at first. Many old maps have various names for the area we know today as Crawford. Crawford was originally part of the Town of Montgomery, as the Montgomery town records from approximately 1768 through 1777 show.

The first settlers of the area were of German, Dutch, Scottish and Irish decent. These early settlers migrated north from the Wallkill River area. The descendants of Hugenot and Dutch ancestry migrated south from Ulster County, near the New Paltz and Shawangunk areas to what is now Crawford. These early immigrants were the second generation of these nationsí settlers. The main reason for the migration was for farming areas for the families to cultivate and make a living from. Many of the old families still have descendants in Crawford. The names of Bruyn, Bull, Crawford, Youngblood, Sinsbaugh, and others are still families that live in the Crawford town limits. Many of these families also came to the Crawford area from Newburgh, Montgomery, New Windsor, or Shawangunk areas.

Early settlements have recorded documentation in the Town of Montgomery records. Many of the early names for the area included Dwaars Kill, Shawangunk Kill, Snyderís Mill, Big and Little Pokanisink, Snyderís Meeting House and Robert Milliganís Saw Mill. Johannes Snyder was one of the earliest settlers in the town, which later became known as Crawford. He began a small settlement of both sides of the Dwaar Kill near the present hamlet of Searsville at about 1740. He operated a mill at this location in 1768, and had a major role in establishing a meetinghouse in the same hamlet. Robert Milliken operated a saw mill on the opposite side of the town on the Shawangunk Kill at around the same period. Below Millikinís saw mill, there was a flour mill operated by Pat Boyce, as did Abraham Bruyn in the same location. In addition to these mills along the Shawangunk Kill, there also existed a combined saw, grist, and carding mill run by the Slotts family.

The Big and Little Pakanasink Creeks powered several mills, as did the Dickersons, which were located in the Grahams Church settlement between the towns of Crawford and Montgomery. Records show that these mills provided services to the local farm families and the necessary products needed by those farmers to run their farms and provide for their livelihood.

The growth of Crawford was a thoughtful and deliberate plan. It did not follow the happenstance method of settlement that many early areas experienced. The mills provided the rural industry needed for towns to develop within the Crawford boundaries. The present hamlet of Searsville was built up and centered around the mill in that hamlet. This early industry allowed Searsville to become a busy crossroads during the early 1800ís through the 1840ís. During this period, Searsville supported two inns, a post office, store, Grange Hall, a blacksmith shop, and a grist mill. It became the dominant community in the area, with a second mill, a saw mill, adding to the hamletís growth potential. Physicians located their homes in Searsville, and a school was also established for the residents. Searsville became the center for the Town of Crawford government in 1824. The downfall of Searsville was brought about by the re-routing of the new railroad line. In bypassing this hamlet, the local industries lost visibility and connections to larger towns and cities, thus falling into rapid decline.

The railroad played a major part in the rise and fall of many hamlets in the Crawford area. It also played an important part in the growth of some areas, which prior to the rail connection, was not prosperous, or as prosperous as some of their earlier counterparts.

In regards to the community of Hopewell, it had its beginnings through millwork as well. Millikenís Mill was the starting place for this area of Crawford. In 1779, the residents of the area expressed the desire for a local church. Hopewell Church was established by these residents and the areaís name evolved from this association. Hopewell provided the surrounding farmers with all the needed services, plus a place of worship.

The settlement of Bullville dates back to the same approximate time as Hopewell (1789). It did not have mills, since there existed no nearby waterpower sources. However, Bullville contained stores, a post office, a smith shop, inn and a distillery. The area of Bullville was originally names Cadiz until the 1820ís, when the present name was adopted. Many of the structures that exist in Bullville today are the original structures from the 1820 time period. The post office and a small group of shops along Route 17K are still visible and provide contemporary services to the community.

The community of Pine Bush has had many name changes and references over the past two hundred years. The various names this particular hamlet has been known as are Shawangunk, Crawford, Bloomfield, Crawford again, to its present name of Pine Bush. Pine Bush had the largest concentration of mills, which provided it with the opportunity to become the largest center in the area.

The town of Crawford, by 1813, claimed numerous and good roads and farms. The farms within Crawford grew wheat, rye, beef, pork, hemp, butter and cheese. Crawford farmers provided all of these products to the adjacent towns. By 1813 Crawford was referred to as ďThe Butter Capital of the World!Ē In 1819, Alexander Thompsonís farm was judged as the best improved farm consisting of less than one hundred acres in the county by the Orange County Society for the Promotion of Agriculture and Domestic Manufacture. Other farmers in the Crawford area were also successful in winning prizes at county competitions.

By 1845 there existed four major population areas within the present day Crawford boundaries. Pine Bush was referred to as Crawford, had two stores and approximately ten dwellings. Searsburg, which is today the hamlet of Searsville, had a grist mill, saw mill, store, tavern, schoolhouse and ten residential homes. Bullville was comprised of a tavern, store, distillery, smith shop, and about six homes. Hopewell consisted of a tavern, store, a few mechanics shops, and at least a dozen families. The township had a population of approximately two thousand seventy two persons, over two hundred farms, six merchants, over fifty mechanics of various trades, two clergymen and two doctors. Added to this census were eleven mills (two grist mills, eight saw mills and a fulling mill), a tannery, two distilleries and a half dozen inns and retail stores.

Our community of Crawford may seem laid back and rural by todayís busy technological standards, but it has been a community, that has throughout its history, made a major contribution to the development of Orange County. It is today, one of the most sought after areas within the Southern Tier of New York State for development, industry and home building.

I teach in the city of Middletown, and I am the first to admit that I enjoy going to work and stating that itís going to rain because the cows are down, or that the winter is over because the skunks have come out of hibernation! How many city dwellers can say that.

Taken from The Town of Crawford Historical Society

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