Before settlers found their way to these parts, Indians migrated up and down the river valley feeding off the river and land. Living a rhythmic coexistence with nature. As the Dutch, Irish, Germans and other nationalities made their way out of the city to find work and an environment similar to their homeland they looked to the land to earn a living. Cutting timber from the vast forest lands and trapping game for their furs for trade were the first of many occupations that grew out of the development of the region. The cut timber was formed into large rafts and floated down the Delaware to markets near Philadelphia. Narrowsburg, as was Port Jervis a convenient stop-over for the raftsmen and soon boasted several large hotels to accommodate them.
As the lands became cleared and improved agriculture began to arise. Dairy and egg farms were created up and down the Delaware River Highlands.
As the need for fuel in the cities grew the demand for coal from Pennsylvania increased. The D&H Canal was developed to transport the coal from Honesdale, PA using the Lackawaxen River, down the Delaware River canal system as in continued on to metropolitan areas. Since the timber industry was still using the River to float lumber downstream. A conflict arose where rivers intersected causing a bottleneck effect. From such event Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct and four additional water aqueducts were built to transport the canal boats.
Development and settlement continued with the building of the Erie Railroad in the late 1830s to mid 1840s. This construction coincided with the Potato Famine and political unrest in the German States, both of which provided a large workforce of many immigrants who were looking to settle and start a new life. Regular rail service was established in 1848, and the river became less important as a mode of transportation and to commerce. The more affluent people from New York and Philadelphia began to by up land and build summer estates, creating a need for supporting services. Later, the area began to be discovered by different economic levels as the train became more frequent between the metropolitan New York area and resorts and boarding houses flourished.
Ground transportation to the area began to boost in 1939 when State Rout 3A was completed from Port Jervis to Hancock. Renumbered as State Route 97, this now designated Scenic Byway serves as a major North-South thoroughfare from business and recreation alike.
Seasonal sportsmen still flock to the area for fishing and hunting. The Delaware River is still used for rafting, although now for fun and frolic. The railroad, now over 150 years in operation, still runs daily over the original track bed laid in place by our immigrant forebears, and modest businesses meet the needs of the towns.
Parts of this content was provided by the Town of Lumberland.
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