Stop # 10: The Old Town

We’re gunna tan your hide…

In the mid-1800s, the Resherif Lumber Company made its base in modern-day “Al Nassau,” specifically in the Marshall Lesser Field. They constructed a small town consisting of five houses, a logging camp, and a mill.

The foundations of these buildings are still intact, but inaccessible. The basement of the general store, however, is still standing and often visited during summer camp as part of earning the Archeology Merit Badge to learn more about the site’s history.

When it came to tanning, special tools were needed to cut into the slippery cambium layer of the Hemlock tree. The curved blade would slide along the trunk, peeling a piece of bark approximately four feet long and from 12 to 16 inches wide. The bark was removed up to the first tree limb, with the rest of the tree often left in the forest to rot.

During the 19th century, the Catskill region produced more tanned leather than any other area in the United States. An accounting of New York State’s leather output in 1860 found that Sullivan County, where OSR is located, accounted for half the $7 million worth of tanned leather manufactured in the Catskill re-gion.

During the Civil War, the Union Army made most of its marches on Sullivan County tanned red leath-er, while droving most of their mules and horses with harnesses cut from locally tanned hides. Artillery horses, and other mounts were decked with saddles and harnesses also made from Sullivan County leather.

The “red” of the leather came from the amber hued bark, the key ingredient of tan-ning leather. This leather was extremely durable in the field—it practically never wore out--and was naturally water-resistant.

To give you an idea of just how big the tanning industry was, Sullivan County rec-ords from 1865 noted that 8.45 million pounds of sole leather were manufactured in the county that year. The leather was valued at $2.7 million. ($45.4 million in today’s dollars)

Our journey will now take us up to the Council House, but should you return to this area another day, you will see the road that runs along the brook that feeds the Lake. At one time, OSR had three open air religious chapels, with the Catholic Chapel a little further down this road on the left. The Protestant and Jewish Chapels were further down, on the lake.

DIRECTIONS: Stay on the Red Trail as it takes you through the old Al Nassau program area