Cornwallville, New York is a hamlet founded around 1788 within the town of Durham in the Catskills region of the state. There’s no grocery store, no stop light, no cafe, and no church (the one it did have was dismantled and re-mantled as part of the Cooperstown Farmers Museum to provide their visitors with some old New York-Greek Revival-church charm, leaving Cornwallville godless, apparently).
But C’ville does have a post office, several historic houses, many with beautiful barns and ponds and whatnot, and more important, it has Aubyn and me, as well as our pooch Hugo, living in one of those old houses (if you count 162 years old as old in these old parts). Also, C’ville doesn’t want for breathtaking mountain beauty, and miles and miles and miles of astonishing, unspoiled woodland (it also has its share of trailers and other less-than picturesque architectural gems, to be sure).
There’s a rumor being spread on Wikipedia that an estimated 408 inhabitants reside in our hamlet, but I can testify that I’ve never seen more than 30 or so of us Corwallvillians at any one time.
Cornwallville Day (August 24 this year) may prove to be the ideal occasion to see how many denizens come out to celebrate their town. I suspect many of the people who will take in the scheduled presentations and walk up and down the main drag perusing the tables of local art, crafts, odds and ends, baked goods, lemonade, and other goodies on offer, will be actual residents. Others will drive in from far and wide (well, from Oak Hill and Durham proper, at least, and maybe even some Hudsonians will grace our little town, looking to soak up some genuine country charm to replace the “curated” wares of their own aggressively-precious main street, if only for an afternoon.)
In her book, In the Shadow of the Catskills: An Illustrated History of Cornwallville, New York, Karen Rothmyer Rivers tells how our hamlet was founded by Daniel Cornwall, who settled here after serving in the Revolutionary War. Mr. Cornwall was buried in the town cemetery. Karen’s book, which features a photo of his headstone, can be purchased on Amazon, or in person at I.U. Tripp Antiques, Collectibles, and Rare Provisions in Oak Hill (run by our good pals Mary Lou Nahas and her multi-talented son, Chris), as well as at Lawyers General Store in East Durham, and the Milk Run, a convenience store and filling station about a five minute drive, between our house and Oak Hill.
In 2004 Aubyn and a friend purchased a farmhouse that was built in 1851 at the junction of Cornwallville Road and Strong Road for The Reverend John Battersby. Reverend Battersby – who ministered in that very same (now relocated) Methodist-Episcopal Greek-Revival church mentioned earlier, made sure to leave his mark on the place – a fanciful ‘B’ is embossed on the doorknob of our front entrance. (The Reverend is also buried in the C’ville cemetery.)
At 162, our house has acquired a lot of what I call energies (you would too after standing for more than 16 decades!) – but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I’ll tell y’all a tale or two about some of those in a future post.
I landed in Aubyn’s life in 2009, right about the time his friend was ready to give up on the place, so I bought in, and it all worked out.
Oozing with Creatives
Some of the good friends we’ve made in Cornwallville and its environs include talented entrepreneurs, artists, and craftspeople:
- Accomplished photographer Beth Schneck, who lives with her artisan carpenter husband Scott Yoder in the nearby town of Freehold;
- Joe McCoy, who hand-makes an impressive variety of all-natural soaps in his Durham-based company Susquehanna Soaps;
- Cornwallville native and chef, Rob Handel, who plies his tasty trade at Heather Ridge Farm in Preston Hollow;
- Photography producer Craig Paull and his partner, filmmaker, activist, and professor Tom Kalin;
- Our pals Dorothée Walliser and Diane Omrod, who own and operate the fabulous DeWitt Hotel in Oak Hill;
- Esther Cohen, writer and poet, and her husband Peter Odabashian, a documentary filmmaker, who have a big old house in the center of C’ville; and
- The über-talented botanical, garden, and textile designers (among other things) Todd Carr and Carter Harrington, proprietors of Hort and Pott, also in Oak Hill.
This list of area creatives isn’t by any means exhaustive. I have a feeling many, many more of the rumored 408 Conrwallvillians (and who-knows-how-many others who live all around this fascinating part of New York State) have entrepreneurial inclinations, artistic talents, and ethereal inspirations that ooze out of their souls, but I’ve promised to keep these posts short-ish. Which can only mean that I’ll have to revisit this topic one day soon.
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