Under state law, every county and municipality in New York is required to have an appointed historian to document, preserve, interpret, and share the history of their communities. We are proud to have over 350 years of history to share.

The Town of Kingston’s history is a long a complicated one.  You may have encountered people who are not even aware that there is a Town of Kingston.  The City of Kingston and the Town of Kingston are two separate entities.  However, in its earliest beginnings the Town of Kingston was once one of the largest towns in the state.  So begins the story of what happened to the Town of Kingston that led it to becoming one of the smallest towns in New York State.


Heather Heddleson
Town Historian

845-336-8853 ext.120


By Appointment


Bluestone Industry


Highway Dept.

Sawkill Fire Co.

Schools in Town

Siemsen Tribute

St. Ann's Church

Sweet Meadows

Tales of the Town


During the 1600’s Holland discovered the Hudson and claimed land on both sides of the river.  They established trading posts to trade goods with the Native Americans.  In 1614 a trading post was built at the mouth of the Rondout Creek.

In 1652 a group of settlers were given permission to buy land from the Native Americans on the lands of the Esopus – also known as Sepe or Sopus.  The settlers came to live on the rich farm lands along the banks of the Esopus near the present City of Kingston.  In 1661 the land became known as Wiltwyck and a charter bestowed on the settlement.  In 1664 the Dutch surrendered to the British and the name was changed to Kingston.  In 1673 Kingston was retaken by the Dutch and the name was changed to Swannenburg.  Finally, in 1674 the land was retaken by the British once again and the name permanently changed to Kingston.

Founding of the Town of Kingston

In 1688 a land grant was given to the people in common, then residing about Kingston, a piece of land “extending from the Hudson River near Little Esopus Creek, to and along the bounds of Hurley to the mountains, thence along the mountains to the County of Albany, now Greene County, along the county line of the Hudson and south along the Hudson to the place of the beginning”.  This was the year the Town of Kingston was founded.  Twelve trustees were elected and given the power to sell land or plots to the Freeholders or Commoners.

The Establishment of the Town of Kingston

The Town of Kingston was largely a farming community that engaged in some commercial trade along the Hudson River.  One of the first purchases in the present Town of Kingston was made on January 1, 1695.  William Legg bought 100 acres of land lying on both sides of the Sawkill Creek from the trustees for 50 “schipples” (an old Dutch term meaning a unit of dry measure equal to ¾ of a bushel) of wheat.  The deed permitted the building of a sawmill and required the payment of “a half bushel of good winter wheat yearly to ye trustees and their successors forever”.  This mill was located near the Powder Mill Bridge.  The house and mill were destroyed by fire in the 1880’s.  The Legg family lived there for 88 years.  Their mill was reported to have ground wheat for the Continental Army.

This picture shows Leggs Mill as it appeared in 1750.  The painting by John Indorf was taken from a sketch under the direction of Frank Joy.  As a boy, Frank caught fish here.  The mill house was remembered by both Mr. Joy and Mr. Harry Hulsair.

Kingston became the first capital of New York in 1777.  In October of that same year Kingston was burned by the British.  In 1788 the State legislature passed a law establishing more than 100 towns and villages.  Earlier, the legislature decided towns, not counties would be polling places.  The Town of Kingston was one of those towns established that March 7, 1788.


In 1804 a series of annexations began from the Town of Kingston.

1804 - “Uptown” Kingston was incorporated.  This was the first land lost by the Town.

1811 – Part of the Town of Saugerties was formed from the Town of Kingston.

1811 – The Town of Esopus was formed by taking part of the Town of Kingston.

1818 – Part of the area taken by Esopus was given back to the Town.

1849 – The Village of Rondout was formed.

1872 – The Villages of Rondout, the Kingston communities of Ponckokie and Twaalfskill became part of the City of Kingston.

1879 – The Town of Ulster was formed from the Town of Kingston by the County Board of Supervisors.

1883 – Zena was added to Woodstock.  This was the final land lost to the town.

Times Change

As the past merges with the present changes must be made.  The quarries of a by-gone era are silent.  The once thriving population of Irish immigrants are no more, though some of their descendants visit periodically to reminisce.  There are a few quarry houses remaining in the Stony Hollow area.  The one room schoolhouse is no more, however, the old school bell and pictures of the many children who once roamed the hills of Sawkill and Stony Hollow remain.  St. Ann’s Church is still a historic reminder of the resilience of an impoverished people.  Businesses such as taverns, boarding houses, general stores, and small farms that once flourished are gone and others have taken its place.

The Town of Kingston has survived these changes, however, and looks to a bright future.  The Sawkill Fire Company provides help in fires, floods and other emergencies.  It sponsors pancake breakfasts and Santa’s ride through town.  The fire auxiliary hosts the children’s Easter Egg Hunt and Halloween Party.  It supports the work of the fire company and promotes entertainment and social activities for its members and the community.  The annual Christmas Tree Lighting and summer recreation program sponsored by the town board provide social gatherings throughout the year.  The historian’s office provides information about the town’s history, hosts presentations and the annual Memorial Day Ceremony.  The Sawkill Seniors provide guest speakers, luncheons, trips and information about various activities for seniors throughout the county.  St. Ann’s Church, founded in 1869 by Irish quarrymen, continues to be cared for by the “Friends of St. Ann’s”.  Its volunteers clean and maintain the church, its grounds and cemetery.  The Boy Scouts meet every Tuesday in the firehouse.  They are an asset to our community and provide help through their Eagle Scout projects.  Our highway department maintains roads and is there in wintry storms to keep our streets cleared.  The Town of Kingston, though small in size, still retains its rural character.