Catch the Grahamsville Community Spirit by Lawrence C. Swayne, MD, photography by the author …man made the city, and after he became sufficiently civilized, not afraid of solitude, and knew on what terms to live with nature, God promoted him to life in the country… John Burroughs In the predawn hours of the industrialized, urbanized twentieth century, John Burroughs and others passionately extolled the virtues of rural life, including practicing a sustainable agricultural lifestyle, living in harmony with nature, and caring for one’s neighbors. A century later, these values continue to thrive in the hamlets and villages of the Catskills, none more so than Grahamsville, the souther nmost settlement in the Catskill Park. “Grahamsville is a close, stable, middle class community of doers, committed to long-term civic involvement,” according to Cathy Bender, President of the Neversink Fair Association and new Chairperson of this year’s Grahamsville Giant Pumpkin Party. Incredibly, the small hamlet (population 1,719 in 2014) hosts two of the largest festivals within the Catskills, includin g the Giant Pumpkin Party and Little World’s Fair, both of which attract thousands of attendees each year. opposite page: The 2015 first prize winner in the adult category, weighing 1,136 lbs. and grown by Andy Box. <>
Catch the Grahamsville Community Spirit by Lawrence C. Swayne, MD, photography by the author     man made the city, and af...
left: Joann Gallagher, Director of the Daniel Pierce Library from 19942016. bottom: The new state-of-the-art library, which includes Time and The Valley Museum, a children’s literary center, computer learning stations, community meeting rooms, audiobooks, DVDs, CD-ROMs and more. The library offers free high-speed internet access as well. <> The earliest pioneers, Tobias Hornbeck and Jacob Klyne, settled about 2 miles below present day Grahamsville in 1743; however, subsequent Indian raids cleared the area. After an Indian and Tory raid on the Rochester frontier settlement of Pine Bush, Officer John Graham led twenty men in pursuit but was ambushed by Indians (accounts vary as to whether 3 or 20 were killed). A stone monument on Route 55 com-
left  Joann Gallagher, Director of the Daniel Pierce Library from 19942016. bottom  The new state-of-the-art library, whic...
memorates the Battle of Chestnut Woods (September 5, 1778) and Grahamsville is named in his honor. With the cessation of hostilities, settlers began trickling into the Neversink Valley in 1788, drawn by game animals, agriculture and the historian’s three T’s – timber, tanning, and later tourists. The six properties comprising the 20-acre Grahamsville Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, highlight different industries, architectural styles, and time periods from the hamlet’s history. Located along Route 55 (once an old stage road to Warwarsing completed in 1813), the Marenius Dayton House (a large two-story, Greek Revival building) was originally an official stagecoach stop and inn. A wealthy tanner, Judge Stoddard Hammond, built the 1857 House, a Gothic Revival cottage and the Greek Revival Tannery Store (currently a private residence). The Italian-villa style Southwick House, dating from 1882 was a popular summer resort destination when the era of tourism emerged in Sullivan County. By 1882 Grahamsville had flourished sufficiently to erect the Grahamsville Reformed Church (adding the Memorial Hall in 1935), adjoined by the picturesque 19 th century Grahamsville Rural Cemetery. During the 20 th century, the Rondout Reservoir was created in 1945 near the eastern border of Grahamsville and the Tri-Valley Central School was constructed in 1952 with additions in 1958, 1965, and 1971. The community center and meeting place, however, is the modern Daniel Pierce Library. Pierce, a native son, prospered in real estate and finance in Illinois, before returning to donate $300 for books, establishing the first free public library in Sullivan County. Today Fun & Games <>
memorates the Battle of Chestnut Woods  September 5, 1778  and Grahamsville is named in his honor. With the cessation of h...
the original (1902) charming building is beautifully preserved as part of a new 23,500 square-foot addition completed in 2011 under the direction of Philip Coombe, Jr., former Commissioner of Corrections for the State of New York, and Joann Gallagher, Director of the Daniel Pierce Library from 1994-2016. The new state-of-the-art facility, built with public donations, grants and volunteer efforts from the architect, local ironworkers, and carpenters (and without imposing additional taxes), boasts a geothermal heating and cooling system and houses the Time and Valley Museum, the Children’s Literacy Center, a reading room, computer learning stations, community meeting rooms, and space for 41,000 books, audiobooks, periodicals, videos, DVDs and CD-ROMS. The library offers free high-speed internet access, computer instruction, reading programs, writing workshops, as well as cooking and art and craft classes. It also sponsors concerts and the annual Giant Pumpkin Party, with proceeds supporting the building fund, children’s programs, automation equipment and future book purchases. This year, the 31st Annual Giant Pumpkin Party will be held (rain or shine) on October 1st from 9-5 at the Grahamsville Fairgrounds on Route 55 (admission is free). Joann Gallagher, chairperson for the past 26 years, indicated the event requires six months of planning and roughly 500 volunteers, including the Lions, CYO, Frost Valley YMCA, firemen, school teachers and students, church groups, businesses, scout groups, Friends of the Library, and library staff. “This is a magical outing for all ages that has become a real family tradition.” The day begins with the children’s costume parade, with clowns, floats and bands marching the quarter mile stretch from the library to the Fairgrounds, where the festivities begin in earnest, including this year’s scheduled performances by: the Tri-Valley School Band, Hudson Crossing (bluegrass), Those Guys (mountain music) and Jack Luster and Doctor Professor Balloon-a-Kiss (magic tricks and balloon creations). Hundreds of pumpkins are for sale to decorate along with face painting and bead and sand art. Children can test their skills at bean bag, ping pong, ball and ring tosses, “fishing,” basketball shooting, baseball pitching or miniature golf on the storythemed nine-hole Book Nook course. There is a hay bale maze for toddlers and an obstacle course for older children, as well as a petting zoo, pony and hay rides, and even small pedal tractors. Dominating the center of the Fairgrounds are large inflatable bounce houses, including: Buzz Lightyear, a large slide, funhouse, haunted house, and of course a giant pumpkin. <>
the original  1902  charming building is beautifully preserved as part of a new 23,500 square-foot addition completed in 2...
Grahamsville’s “other” festival, the Little World’s Fair, is held in the summer and has an even more illustrious history, as the longest running independent fair in New York State. First held by the Grahamsville Farmer’s Club in 1878, the event has been held every year since, except in 1928, when the Chestnut Creek washed out the access bridge, flooding the site. This year, the 137 th annual fair, sponsored by the Neversink Agricultural Society in cooperation with the 4-H Program of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County Agriculture Education and the National FFA Organization and State of NY Department of Agriculture and Markets, was held in August at the Fairgrounds. This good old-fashioned country fair features agricultural shows, with livestock, small animals and 4-H exhibits, craft vendors, community organization booths, live entertainment, contests, games, rides, lots to eat and plenty of fun. As the summer winds down each year, be sure to mark your calendars to attend Grahamsville’s fabulous festivals or simply plan a quiet visit to view the spectacular fall foliage and catch a glimpse of the Grahamsville community spirit. Crafts The author thanks Joann Gallagher for research assistance and/or manuscript review. <>
Grahamsville   s    other    festival, the Little World   s Fair, is held in the summer and has an even more illustrious h...