A Brief History of Chatham NY | East Chatham
East Chatham is a small village within the Town of Chatham in-between the Berkshire Foothills and Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York. Today it's a perfect upstate getaway, a small town filled with mom & pop storefronts, good food, and beautiful surrounding areas to explore. The land’s abundant natural resources drew early settlers in, incorporating its foundation to the early railroading industry, eventually leading to one of the most influential travel routes to this day. Below is brief history of how Chatham and its divisions came to be, laying out all the gems this town has had to offer since its early development.
The true beginnings of the land that would become known as Chatham New York begins with the Native Tribes that inhabited the lands, The Machicans, a tribe of the Lenni-Lenapes (original people). The Machicans kindly welcomed and guided early english settlers by sharing the ways of survival on the land. They even set the original trails laying the grounds for “The New England Path”, what would later become the Boston and Albany Railroad. Colonization drove out all the native communities of the upstate area, and it’s our responsibility to pay respects Chatham’s true origins and give credit to the original peoples of the land. Read more about the Native Americans of Columbia County here.
The rolling hills and flowing water of the Stein Kill Creek drew in settlers in the early 1700s. With plans of harnessing the power the rocky banks to control the water supply for mill sites, settlers relocated. The early villagers were a mix of various emigrants from Connecticut, Germany, and Holland. These settlers set the future success of the small village by introducing their knowledge of architectural growth and industry to the rural area. On April 18, 1804, the Chatham Turnpike Road was established, soon to be followed by the Canaan to Chatham Road in 1808. These steps laid the foundation for sustainability and functionality within the early village.
The first business owner was William Thomas, an early settler who owned a large portion of the land that was to become the downtown area. Thomas opened a Tavern on the spot that is now the 1811 Inn on Central Square called Groat’s Corners (or Groat’s Tavern) after Captain Thomas Groat. The first Post Office was opened within the Tavern, as it was a central source for the developing community. While the original building has since disappeared to time, there is now a historical land marker designating its significance to the town’s foundation. More stores opened on the block, in addition to Thomas’ Inn & Store.
The name coined for the town was Chatham Four Corners, given to the community by the surrounding areas. The town grew in popularity as a railroading hub, being allocated as the last stop for the Northern Terminus of New York Central’s Harlem Division in 1852.
On March 8, 1869, the established village was incorporated, holding a vote in court with the proposed name of Chatham. What we now call Old Chatham, was originally the development of the first official site called Chatham Village. The first election for Chatham Village was held April 1869, electing the first governors officers, a village president, a town clerk, town trustees, a Police Justice, a Health Officer, along with a few other important town titles. Further development of the town included a village hall, housing fire house equipment & a firemen’s hall, a court room, and a hall for village meetings. The most monumental addition was a three story structure containing “a good clock and bell”, established by the village fathers and what is now known as the most notable landmark, the “Town Clock”.
Eventually, the entire township of Chatham was split into a few smaller regions called hamlets, allocating different postal codes and zones to each. The eastern portion was named East Chatham, connecting to the Town of Canaan. The earliest settlement sites were given the name Old Chatham, with the northern area with the bridge crossing over into Kinderhook Creek being titled Maiden Bridge. The areas West of Maiden Bridge in the Northwest corner of town became Northern Chatham. The central part of town was titled the Chatham Center, and the ares below Chatham Center and East Chatham became the Village of Chatham.
Union Station & The Berkshire Spur:
The Town of Chatham is notable for the Berkshire Spur, otherwise known as the point where Interstate 90 merges with the Taconic State Parkway. This travel hotspot allowed an easy flow for many travelers to come through from all over the New England & Boston Areas (and continues to do so today). For a long time the village relied on the Union Train Station, which opened in 1887. This service provided the people of Chatham an accessible way of transportation to get to New York City and beyond. Until it closed in 1972, the railroad was a fully operational passenger station. The rail continued as a freight station, closing for good in 1976. Today there’s a track that parallels the old rail, only operating as a CSX Freight line.
This quaint small town continues to thrive today as a part of Colombia County, filled with vibrant community and a bustling downtown area. The town is heavily involved in the arts, both community performance and world-class entertainment. The Main Street storefronts include clothing boutiques, unique gift stores, a local bookstore, highly rated restaurants, a brewery, and more. Around the corner is a locally owned co-op, where you can get farm grown vegetables, allergy friendly foods, and home-baked goods. Shortly outside of the historic downtown area modern conveniences like a small CVS, local gas station, grocery store, and auto shop. Chatham is split in the middle of the Berkshires and the Catskills, making it a prime location to easily venture from upstate New York into Massachusetts, within a matter of minutes!
Stay in East Chatham:
Silver Maple Farm is located in East Chatham, a short drive away from Downtown Chatham. Our french-farmhouse inspired B&B welcomes you in the open countryside of upstate New York. As of 2022, this spacious post and beam inn has undergone full renovation: from an updated design to plush bedding and a gourmet breakfast, it will definitely make your stay a memorable one. The innkeepers Sean & Chloe live on site and love sharing stories and giving recommendations about the local area. Indulge in a delightful breakfast, play board games and chat in the common areas. Relax and curl up with a book from our curated library for a cozy evening fireside.
We hope you enjoyed this brief history of Chatham. Thanks for reading, we hope to see you soon.
The Team at Silver Maple Farm