A Milestone in Geology – Jan. 11, 2024

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A milestone in Geology

The Catskill Geologists

The Mountain Eagle; Mar 26, 2019

Robert and Johanna Titus


It probably won’t surprise you to hear that we spend a lot of time on the highways of the Catskills. After all, we have to get out there if we want to find things to write about. We are most fond of the region’s oldest roads. These were the old turnpikes. They were the earliest “superhighways” of the Catskills. There are two of them that still exist as modern public highways, and we find ourselves driving along them all the time. The most important one was the Susquehanna Turnpike which stretched out from Catskill all the way to Unadilla. We think that it connected with boats there. It’s often called the Catskill Turnpike; especially when you are going east. The other one was the Schoharie Turnpike which connected the port of Athens with the town of Schoharie. It likely continued off to the north. People traveled on both of these, but their main functions were the transport of goods. Farm produce would be brought east to the ports at Catskill and Athens. In return consumer goods would be transported west to the people who lived on the farms and villages out there.

Originally these were not public roads; they had been privately constructed and maintained. Tolls were, of course, charged. They were charged by the mile, so to help determine what was owed it was only natural to put up milestones along the way. And that is what gets us to the real topic of today’s column.

We are quite enthused about milestones. They are, after all, made out of . . . stone. And, as it happens, our home lies upon the Schoharie Turnpike. That helps us in our enthusiasm. Only something less than half of the old milestones can still be found, but there are still a number of them to be seen. When we spot one, we take note of our odometer and watch as another mile is ticked off. Sometimes that brings us to another milestone and sometimes not. We hope that you start to look for and take note of them. They are, after all, real history.

Recently, we noticed one on the old Schoharie Turnpike. It was on today’s Arnold Ave.  Head west from Greenville on Rte. 81. Turn right (north) onto Arnold and drive about a third of a mile and there it is, on the right. It’s almost hidden in the brush, but it is there. We got out and took a look. It was just what we expected, a fine piece of Catskill Bluestone. See our photo. Bluestone is good sturdy stuff; it has hardly weathered at all since it was installed. It’s a sandstone that formed on the floor of an ancient river. The carving on it was still clear; this one said “Catskill 24 miles.” It should have said something about Athens and that puzzled us. But it was about two centuries too late to ask anyone about that.

Are you interested? We recommend a book written by our old friend Dorothy Kubik and published by Purple Mountain Press. It’s called “The Story of the Susquehanna Turnpike” and it will fill you in on this important history of our region.

Contact the authors at randjtitus@prodigy.net. Join their facebook page “The Catskill Geologist.”

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