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175th Anniversary

A Town is Born

The Celebration

Celebration News Clips

Historical Quilt

The Meeting House

Preserving History

The Restoration


Celebration News Clips

What follows is a selection of newspaper articles that commemorated the Town’s anniversary celebration.

A special thanks to the Daily Freeman, The Woodstock Times and The Ulster County Townsman for granting their permission to present these articles on this web site.

175 years of history bring pride and joy to Olive residents. CD-ROM offers look at Town's Past.

Daily Freeman, Sunday March 28,1999 by Pat Rowe

West Shokan – The Town of Olive was chartered in 1823, made up of hardworking people who opted to carve their economic support and lives from what the Catskills provided them.

The first town meeting was held in May of the following year. This year on May 4, the town celebrates the 175th anniversary of that event.

Town officials will dress in period costume while conducting a modern-day Town Board meeting at the Olivebridge Fire hall , and they will unveil a town of Olive historical quilt which is still being made.

Residents also will be able to take some of Olive’s history home in the form of a computer CD-ROM that tells the towns story in word song and pictures.

Called “Country Tears, City Water,” copies of the CD will be available for $20 each, with the proceeds going to the restoration of the Olive & Hurley Old School Baptist Meeting House.

“I’m really excited about the CD and the planned event for May,” said Eric Winchell, one of the organizers of the meeting house restoration. “I think this CD is the first multimedia presentation for this are, and I’m excited about all the work and energy (Town Clerk) Sylvia Rozzelle and all the other people have volunteered to the project.”

The Olive & Hurley Old School Baptist Meeting House is on state Route 28, opposite Winchell’s Corners. The restoration effort began in earnest in 1998, and the fund-raising for a roof replacement has been ongoing for several months. The building has been designated a state historical site.

Rozzelle said the idea for the CD-ROM came about when Alan Maskell approached her about volunteering to create a World Wide Website for the town.

“We already have a Web page and I just sort of sat here in the office and threw out a thought about the May 4 event, the history of Olive and could something like that be put on a CD for computer. … I had no knowledge if it could,” Rozzelle said. “Alan just listened to me and then said it could. here we are, at this point with this wonderful project almost completed thanks to many volunteers.”

Rozzelle narrated and produced the CD-ROM with technical help from Maskell; Eliza Praetorius, owner of Earthworks in Kingston; and Heidi A. Lee of HAL designs of Shokan. All provided their services at no cost to the town, and financial contributions from Olive residents William Golden, Helen Jeffs, Chet Lyons Jr. and Nancy Silvestri as well as town Supervisor Berndt Leifeld.

The Opening of the CD-ROM is chilling. Strains from a fiddle played by West Shokan musician Dorraine Schofield provides the background as Rozzelle’s voice provides descriptions of the town before the construction of the Ashokan Reservoir from 1908-15, the dramatic feelings that came with the first shovel full of dirt that uprooted residents and the resiliency of the townspeople.

“It is with pride and respect we applaud these strong, resilient people whose suffering and country tears filled the Ashokan Reservoir,” Rozzelle says. “Their monumental sacrifices to provide New York with city water created the foundation for New York City to develop into one of the greatest cities in the world.”

Rozzelle said the CD-ROM was not created to criticize the New York City Board of Water Supply; in fact it is complimentary of the city, she said. It also provides a pictorial history of the town before the reservoir – it’s hamlets, bridges, tanneries, waterfalls, schools and churches. Rozzelle takes the viewer on a tour of the towns history, introducing people and places that no longer exist.

Tobe Carey of Glenford volunteered to help with the video segments, and West Shokan resident Amy Fradon sings songs that were written during the construction of the reservoir and printed at the time in a songbook by the Board of Water Supply.

“I am really loving this,” said Pretorius, the Earthworks owner. ” I worked on something similar several years ago-not a CD but historical documentation in another form in Saugerties. The finished product was “Toodlum Tales.” What I see with this project is the same collective energy. The old photos of the town of Olive are simply beautiful and the story is said, but beautiful. “Building CD’s is what I do for a profession and this has been simply a wonderful experience to help tell the story of this little town,” she said.

Freeman Photo by Bill Madden

Daily Freeman, Sunday April 25,1999 by Pat Rowe

Mornings have been busy lately at the Olivebridge Methodist Church, where several women are putting the finishing touches on the Town of Olive Historical Quilt. ‘It has to be completed by April 28,’ said Town Clerk Sylvia Rozzelle. ‘It will be moved from the church and there will be a private viewing for all who worked on the 32 squares and the quilt project.

Then, on May 4, the quilt will be presented to the public. The town will celebrate its 175th year that day with a community celebration at the Olivebridge, Fire Hall, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Rozzelle, town Supervisor Berndt Leifeld, the deputy town clerk and council members will be dressed in period costumes for a Town Board meeting, and people who worked on the quilt will be wearing special identification ribbon. The quilt will be displayed as a symbol of community pride. The Town also will sell copies, of a CD-ROM on the history of Olive, called ‘Country Tears, City. Water,” for $20 apiece. The proceeds will benefit the renovation of the Old School Baptist Church. There are a limited number of CD- ROMs available, and Rozzelle is taking orders in her office at (914) 657-2320. ‘The CD is awesome and could not have been accomplished without the efforts of several people with a lot of technical knowledge, Rozzelle said. ‘They have volunteered because they love what we are doing to preserve the history of this town. The quilt project is equally as awesome and is a real community effort.’ Rozzelle said “when ideas about what to do for anniversary tribute were in their infancy, she thought about a quilt because her parents had done something similar in their home state of Kentucky.

During a social event, she mentioned the thought to Shirley Sampson and Bette Cady, two local quilters who assured Rozzelle the project could be accomplished. Sampson, described as one of the fastest quilters in town, said she is ‘not fancy, but fast.” ‘This is a very special quilt,’ she said. ‘It is part of our history. I’ve been quilting for 50 years. My grandmother, Bessie Davis, probably taught me originally, and I’ve been quilting with the women of this church for many years. I’ve been member of this church for between 50 and 60 years. It is so relaxing and so quiet to quilt.’ The history of other quilts made at the church at least since 1967 – is recorded in a quilt diary kept by the quilters. It includes information about fabric, colors, price, for whom the quilt was being made and who worked on it. Sampson is working on the final quilt process but also designed and quilted a square in honor of the Olivebridge Methodist Church. She said Bishop Falls, the subject of another square, is part of her heritage and she attended the Tongore School, which is featured on yet another square. Cady shared her memories in two squares – one of the George Van Kleeck Blacksmith shop and one of the Traver Hollow Bridge. Margaret Wendt, at 87 the project’s oldest quitter, said she quilted a square of the Shokan Reformed Church, where she has been a member for 75 years. Born in Broadhead Bridge before the completion of the Ashokan Reservoir, Wendt said she is glad the historical quilt is being made. Page Chase, the 14-year-old niece of Councilwoman Helen Chase, designed a quilt square of the house in which she and father Sherret Chase live. Helen Chase provided the sewing, but Page plans to go to the church and try her hand at quilting. ‘This house (the Peter Winchell home) is part of the history of this mountain,’ Page said. ‘It is about 200 years old, and although it is being renovated, the original lines are still obvious.’ Nancy Silvestri, owner of Creative Spirit, an Olivebridge craft store, has been so intrigued with a stone house (also a Winchell house) down the road from her shop that she sketched it, and created a square for the community quilt. In Samsonville, Racine Shurter recreated the family grist mill in fabric. “This idea was taken from a 1920 photograph,” Shurter said. “Much of the mill as is seen in the square was taken during a flood in 1928. The grist mill was the lower mill, and the upper mill was a heading and shingle mill. ‘Samsonville had electric well before much of the other areas,’ Shurter added. ‘There was a turbine between the upper and lower mills which provided the energy for the electric. ‘This quilt is a wonderful community project,’ she said. ‘There just isn’t enough of that anymore.’ One recent morning, 86- year-old Teresa Posclueny of Boiceville stopped in to take a quick peek at the project. After listening to Sampson say she hoped the quilt could be displayed at the county and state fairs and other places of interest, Posclueny strongly interjected her opinion. ‘It needs to be at the Smithsonian, it needs to be photographed for The New York Times,’ she said. ‘This is a part of local history that doesn’t exist anymore. This is life, the way it should be, not like ‘ the stuff that is happening today.

Freeman Photo by Bill Madden.

The ‘Ulster County Townsman’ Thursday April 29, 1999 by Marian Umhey

175TH ANNIVERSARY! Congratulations to the Town of Olive which will soon celebrate its 175th Anniversary! The festivities will take place on Tuesday, May 4th, with a community fete at the Olivebridge Fire Hall, starting at 7:30pm. Town Supervisor Berndt (Bert) Leifeld, Town Clerk Sylvia Rozzelle, the deputy town clerk and the four councilmen will be dressed in period costumes for a Town Board meeting.

The beautiful and intricate ‘Town of Olive Historical Quilt,’ on which a number of local women have worked diligently for several months, will be on display at the celebration, and those who worked on the quilt will be wearing special identification ribbons. The quilt was the inspiration of retired local Postmaster Virginia (Shirley) Sampsen and Bette Cady. Mrs. Sampsen’s late grandmother, Bessie Davis, taught her to quilt as a young girl. Shirley designed and quilted a square in honor of the Olivebridge Methodist Church. She said that Bishop Falls, the subject of another square, is part of her heritage and that she had attended the Tongore School, which is featured in yet another square.

Mrs. Cady shares her memories in two squares – one of the George Van Kleeck Blacksmith shop and one of the Traver Hollow Bridge. Eighty-seven-year-old Margaret Wendt, the project’s oldest quilter, divulged that she had designed and executed a square depicting the Shokan Reformed church, where she has been a member for seventy- five years. Born in the community of Broadhead Bridge, which disappeared during the construction of the Ashokan Reservoir, Mrs. Wendt stated she is glad the historical quilt is being made.

Fourteen-year-old Page Chase, daughter of Olive Councilman Helen Chase, designed a quilt square of the house in which she and her father, Sherret Chase, reside.

Nancy Silvestri of Olivebridge and Racine Shurter of Samsonville also created squares. Nancy’s was of another Winchell stone house and Racine’s was of the family grist mill.

Theresa Poseluzny of Boiceville was very enthusiastic about the project and even recommended that it be placed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

The ‘The Woodstock Times’ May 6, 1999 by Jay Braman Jr.

175 Years Young Olive marks it’s founding… As the mastermind and creative force behind this week’s packed-to-the-rafters 175th anniversary of Olive, Town Clerk Sylvia Rozzelle -spent much of Tuesday evening thanking and congratulating the dozens of volunteers who helped on all the projects developed to honor the Town.

The Woodstock Times

Among the projects were the town’s historical quilt, a wall-sized work that depicts 32 scenes from around the community, and the CD-ROM of town history, a multi-media journey from the days before the Ashokan Reservoir was built to present-day satellite images of the town. And then there was Tuesday’s. commemorative Town Board session at the Olivebridge fire hall, which featured a fully costumed town board arriving on horseback, live music, food and historical displays surrounding the room.

“It was an incredible community project and I thank you all,” said Rozzelle. But many people in the room knew that without the efforts of the popular Rozzelle the event probably wouldn’t have happened.

With hundreds in attendance, Rozzelle’s friend Kate McLaughlin described Rozzelle as a positive role model, saying she knew Rozzelle “was my kind of people” when she saw her at a local softball game rooting for her team while shaking a cowbell. McLaughlin thanked Rozzelle for her hard work and dedication saying, “I can’t think of anybody who has spent more time loving a Town.”

Congressman Maurice Hinchey sent his district representative Kevin O’Connell to the meeting to hand Town Supervisor Bert Leifeld an American flag that flew over the Capitol, and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill sent congratulations as did state Senator John Bonacic, whose aide, Susan Cummings, read a Senate resolution honoring Olive.

Ulster County Legislature, Chairman Daniel Alfonso said that people like Rozzelle and,Town Board members Leifeld, Bruce LaMonda, James Ulrich, Helen Chase and John Hansen deserve more recognition for what they do. “The greatest gift of life is serving other people; that’s why they do it. They want to help their community,” said Alfonso.

As a gesture of goodwill, New York City representative William Stasiuk, who heads the city’s local watershed protection efforts, offered the town several framed photographs taken around Olive before the reservoir was built almost a century ago. ‘About halfway through the history of the town the city came and created great disruption on your town,” he told the audience. Stasiuk said the photo’s were a small token of appreciation from Joel Meile, the commissioner of the city Department of Environmental Protection. Stasiuk also said that even though the relationship between the town and the city is at times “strained,” the two municipalities have at least learned over the years how to work, together in a mutually respectful way.

The morning following the meeting and celebration’Rozzelle was back in her office with her dog, CJ, a black lab she saved from being killed last year. As CJ munched on dog biscuits in his bed under her desk, three people were in her office, each wanting different things, the town assessor was on hold and Rozzelle was finishing up some business with “the meals on wheels guy.” Unfazed, Rozzelle was able to run to her car for the information she needed to identify for a reporter the name of a man in a photograph donated to the town the night before by local history buff Eric Winchell. The man turned out to be Lemuel Boice, Supervisor in 1858, who was shown just after winning the election by one vote. Winchell drew laughs at the ceremony when he read aloud Boice’s favorite saying: “You do what I say; if it’s wrong it will be right anyway.”

Rozzelle, who has been town clerk for the past 15 years, laughs and says she wants to blow up the sIogan up to poster size and hang it on her wall. Then it’s back to business. ++ Jay Braman Jr.