The Last of the Handmade Dams - Purple Mountain Press


by Bob Steuding

From Chapter 6--"Clearing and Exhumation":

"Some of the most unusual, even bizzare, work done at Ashokan entailed the preparation of the land itself for its inundation. This massive job required the disinterring of thousands of bodies buried in local cemeteries and the clearing and grubbing of the vast acreage within the `take line.' Even `the dead will not . . . be permitted to rest,' stated an illustrated pamphlet published in 1909. Then, it added, all buildings, trees, and other vegetable matter will be either removed and burned, or hauled away. Thus, when man has finished this work, the bed of the Ashokan Reservoir will be `more barren of vegetation than the arid Sahara.' In this regard, the disinterment of bodies began during the early stages of construction and proceeded from 1909 through 1911. The clearing and grubbing followed in March of 1912, commencing once the construction of the dam was nearing completion. Both basins of the reservoir were not fully cleared until October of 1914, after a conduit through the dam had been plugged and the water rising."

First published in 1985, this book has gone through two editions and six printings. It is a perennial regional favorite that tells the social history of the construction of the first and the largest of New York City's Catskill Mountain reservoirs, the Ashokan, and of its impact on the more than 2,000 inhabitants it displaced.

Bob Steuding teaches humanities at Ulster County Community College as a State University of New York Faculty Exchange Scholar and serves as the poet laureate of Ulster County. Two of his other books have been published by Purple Mountain Press: A Catskill Mountain Journal, 1990 and Rondout: A Hudson River Port, 1995.

127 pages, illustrated, 5.5 x 8.5, index, 8.5 x 16 fold-out map
Third printing of the revised edition, 1995
$12.50 paperback--A Purple Mountain Press original

Copyright 1997 Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.