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About the Area

Geographic Area

To welcome you to the lake is to also congratulate you on finding the house! The house is not on the beaten path, on a mountain top in the north Harpersfield with no neighbors in sight. After a short time at the house, you will become familiar with the surrounding country roads. The home is nestled in the northern Catskill Mountain chain at the northern tip of Delaware County. The view out of the great room toward the lake is roughly to the north, northeast and the sun rises from over the garage and sets behind a log cabin that is on the lake to the left corner of the deck as you face the lake. The distant hills to the north are actually Cherry Valley in Otsego County which begins the leather stocking region of New York state. Just to the east is Schoharie County and the three counties come to a point in a town called Jefferson, not far away to the east.

The Catskill Mountains are actually a general plateau of mountains where over time, the mountains have significantly been eroded away. What remains are the rounded mountains we know today as the Catskill Mountains. It is therefore difficult to tell that the home is actually on a mountaintop with an elevation of 2020 feet above sea level. This will become obvious when you compare the weather at the house with the weather of the towns below. The property tends to have rapid changes in temperature, and is usually five degrees cooler than the town of Stamford or Oneonta. This also makes for very intense storms and spectacular cloud formations throughout the day.  

Titus Lake is approximately a 100-acre freshwater, spring-fed lake that was formed when glaciers melted after the last ice age. The lake’s water level changes based on rainfall during any given year. The mood of the lake, shown in its reflections and waves, extends up the lawn and into the house which creates a tone. This changes frequently, and in the early morning will most resemble a still slate of glass.

Brief History

You are in the Town of Harpersfield, which was organized in 1787 and named after Colonel John Harper who fought in the Revolutionary War. The beginning of the town goes back to about 1766 when the Harpers and the Onoughquage Indians met and agreed on the sale of certain lands, of which Harpersfield was a part. In 1771 Colonel John Harper and David Henfry surveyed the town, which was approximately 100,000 acres. 

Life in the late eighteenth century was that of a true pioneer. There were no main roads, just Native American paths. The early homes were all log homes. The Census of 1810 shows a healthy population of about 300 people, who were mostly grain farmers. By the early 1880s, Harpersfield contained five grist mills, two foundries, five saw mills, and four cooperages, but was by-passed by the Ulster & Delaware Railroad Line.

Today the town is still mostly farms with almost no commercial stores or businesses. Many of the homes in Harpersfield are vacation homes, but the year-round population is approximately 1,600. Many of the names of the streets are for early settlers who lived there. The Titus family, for example, lived around the lake prior to the turn of the century, and the lake was thus named for them. 

There is an old story of a family named Wilcox who bought 100 acres in Harpersfield in 1783 and their journey to get here. It’s reproduced here for your enjoyment. The story was written in 1840 as is reproduced below. See “Wilcox Farm of 1783”.

The Town Today

Today Harpersfield is largely as it was in the early nineteen hundreds. It is mostly a farming community with few outside businesses. The Wissahickon Spring Water company has a well and bottling facility in Harpersfield, just off Route 23. In addition to farm stands for fruits and vegetables, eggs, garlic, and milk, there are some local businesses that sell their products year round. They include:

1677 County Road 29
Harpersfield, NY 13786
(607) 278-6622

310 Shaver Road
Harpersfield, NY 13786
(607) 652-6792

185 Fuller Road
Jefferson, NY 12093-4106
(607) 652-7980

Local Historical Story about Harpersfield from 1783

Wilcox Farm of 1783 

The following is the story of the 1783 purchase of the Wilcox Farm in Harpersfield, New York and the journey taken by Samuel Wilcox and his bride in 1784 from Dutchess County, New York to claim his newly purchased farm. This account was written by his son Alonzo Wilcox in 1840. 

"Samuel Wilcox with his wife Sally moved into Harpersfield in the early spring of 1784. He was married to Sally Hunt on March 24th, 1784 in Dover. That town was their birthplace. 

In the winter of 1783 and 1784, he traveled with the view of buying land for a home on which to live with the wife which was to be the following March. He had been at Saratoga Springs looking for land for farm purposes. He had money with him enough to buy quite a farm. As the land around Saratoga was mostly covered with dwarf pitch pine, he decided that it was not such land as in his judgment would make a good farm. 

He met Col. John Harper in Albany and in conversation with the Colonel, learned the object he had in view and at once proposed that he should accompany Colonel Harper to Harpersfield, as there was a farm there of two hundred acres made before the Revolutionary War. 

This was a great inducement, as the land was heavily timbered, and to begin on a farm of six or eight acres cleared, was truly a rarity. There was also a log house, left standing thru the Revolution, quite another additional inducement to a young farmer soon to take a bride. A bargain was consumated and he moved that spring. 

Coming from a substantial old home in Dutchess County to a wilderness home needed a stout heart with strong, stalwart nerves and an iron determination to brave any hardship to build a comfortable home for life. He first bought two hundred acres, but afterward sold one hundred for the reason that he did not expect to be able to clear so large a farm and woodland was of no account, as raising grain was the only kind of farming then known. 

Many incidents occurred worthy of remembrance. It was known that some one of the family living in the old log house, was killed by the Indians during the war, which would have affected some young married girls with feeble nerves. But young Mrs. Wilcox was not intending to desert on that account; it was with her, death or victory. 

At this time, there were no roads between Schoharie and Harpersfield, only Indian trails and marked trees thru the woods. In moving that spring many things were encountered by the young emigrants that would frighten many in this day of good roads and easy conveyances. 

They moved by way of Albany. From Albany to Schoharie there was a somewhat indifferent road. They moved with an ox team and one horse leading. After leaving Schoharie, their way was impeded often by large trees laying across the Indian trail. Hence, with ax in hand, a road was cut around and thru the underbrush, by which the oxcart was enabled to pass around, some time quite a distance before getting back on the track. This, now in our days of railroads, would be called switching off. Many such switchings were encountered on their way before reach-ing their goal. 

In their determination, they never faltered. Mrs. Wilcox rode on horse-back, well loaded down with choice articles with which to enjoy in their anticipated home. Being elevated on horse back, her head would often necessarily come in contact with the hanging boughs of the forest trees. Hence, as she often related to her children and grandchildren, who standing aghast with eyes and ears open, that she hung her bonnet on the horn of the saddle, and with a handkerchief tied on her head, proceeded to follow the young man she had chosen for her husband, with his ox team and cart carrying all of their valuables with which to decorate the old log house. 

Well, as all things come to an end, even good things, so did this journey. But unlike the children of Israel who journeyed forty years in the wilderness with only a reminent entering the Promised Land, these travelers finally found their desired heaven. What a beginning was this to be contemplated, for a young man and woman in the days of luxurious homes and plenty. Who can imagine the strange emotions that passed thru their minds as they drove up to such a dwelling and unloaded their valuables. 

The old house, altho the best one in town, had suffered by neglect, being tenantless during the war, and the back, which at an early day in its history, proved a good roof now needed repairs 

New bark was substituted for the old, and over the bed, it was laid with such skill that it was proof against the rain and in heavy showers, the family had to take seats on the bed as the only place to keep dry. 

During the first summer, the road was cut thru on the line of the lots. 
The next spring, the young couple built what was known as a mud wall house, made of strips of wood with clay between the sides, with a huge stone chimney in its majesty at the end of the house as a sort of Sentinel. 

The ox team was of much profit. Poor men, taking up farms, were often without any team and were glad to exchange with Mr. Wilcox and chop and fall trees to get him with the oxen to log off their land. The great trouble there was to get rid of the wood. The burning of fallows was the only remedy. Mrs. Wilcox often related to her children of helping to burn brush evenings, seeing to pick up the brush by the gleaming blaze. Such are some of the hardships of the pioneers who first settled in Harpersfield. 

It was with hard toil to clear the land and raise grain but then to go twenty five miles to the mill was no small matter, Schoharie at first and then Breakabean. This was performed on horse back. Large bags across the saddle and, quite common the wife for several years did the going to the mill as her time was worth less at home. 

A cow, even more than now, was almost a creature of worship, and espec-ially for a young family living in the woods. The cow bell, strapped around the neck, was the fence, the only enclosure for the field in which to pasture. There was trouble sometimes. Altho a large bell, the cow wandered out of hearing and I have heard that women looking for the cow were oftened frightened by hearing a wolf's howl. The cow could stray for days at a time. 

For many years the mail was brought thru from Albany! on horseback. The youngest member of the family distinctly remembers when James Bostwick, for many years the first judge of Delaware County, carried the mail between Albany and Delhi, passing thru Harpersviile. He distributed the Albany papers along the route. The postman's coming was looked for with much interest for several years and occasionally Indians were the subject of alarm to the housewives when their husbands were in the field. Hence, inquiries were always in order on that subject when travelers either way were passing thru. 

After many years, the family and their circumstances were somewhat easy. Samuel Wilcox, the first to lead the way in settling Harpersfield, was Town Clerk, Supervisor for many years and Justice of Peace. He was followed by many others, all substantial men. Young men at that time were willing to work and few lived by their wits. 

And so our Yankee forefathers, choosing to be independent rather than remaining under check and restraint of their paterfamilies, looked to Harpersfield and Stamford as the haven and realization of their fond hopes. 

As well might you dam the cataract of Niagara with a cobweb, as to stifle, quell and subdue the spirit of go-aheadeness of the descendants of our Pilgrim fathers. They possessed a self-determination, a will power, implanted by the God of nature and the implied hardships, undauntedly they scoffed at fear, even of the Indians, and looking thru the mists of the years, they saw in the smiling future a hope that was beckoning them on to happy, substantial homes. Ought we not then, as their descendents, hold in sacred veneration the memories of our dead fathers for their untiring industry, perseverance, fidelity and moral rectitude." 

Signed A. B. Wilcox.

For questions, please call Helen at (914) 772-9973
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