Secrets of Kelly Hollow revealed

Renowned forest historian Dr. Michael Kudish will lead a hike on State trails at Kelly Hollow in the Millbrook valley Saturday, May 15 to reconstruct his search for a massive though short-lived sawmill and railroad.

“Secrets of Kelly Hollow,” sponsored by the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown, will feature a 3.5 to 4-mile hike to the site of the industrial operation, as well as to the remnants of five 19th century homesteads.

HSM president Diane Galusha will be along to share the tragic and unusual stories of the families, several of them immigrants, who occupied those hardscrabble farms. They were the Gavetts, Wards, Newtons, Andrews and of course the Kellys whose abandoned farm became the base of operations for the lumber and sawmill enterprise.

To make this event covid-safe, attendance will be limited. To secure your spot on this unique tour, send $10 per person to HSM, PO Box 734, Margaretville, NY 12455. FMI: history@catskill.net; 845-586-4973. Rain date is Sunday, May 16.

James Owen purchased the timber on the abandoned Kelly farm in 1907. In 1908, he constructed a forest railroad to bring the logs nearly a mile over rough terrain to be sawn into lumber and hauled to Arena, perhaps to be shipped to market on the new Delaware & Eastern Railroad. Dr. Kudish made 12 visits to the Hollow to locate the route of the timber train, which “sped around curves and over trestles” according to the Catskill Mountain News Oct. 23, 1908.

The News predicted it would be ‘a perfect success,’ but the timber was depleted by 1909 and the mill and railroad were dismantled. In the intervening 110 years, the forest has all but consumed every trace of human use and occupation at Kelly Hollow.