Catskill Turnpike

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United States Gotoarrow.png Migration Gotoarrow.png Trails and Roads Gotoarrow.png New York Gotoarrow.png Catskill Turnpike

Catskill Turnpike.pngThe Catskill Turnpike, also known as the Susquehanna Turnpike, and sometimes identified with the Forbidden Path[1] started on the Hudson River at Catskill in Greene County, skirted the north side of the Catskill Mountains and worked its way westward through upstate New York to Unadilla (formerly Wattle's Ferry) on the Susquehanna River in 1804. From there New York State extended it to Ithaca in 1806, and Bath about 1808. Later extensions not normally called the Catskill Turnpike took travelers into Erie County, New York, or followed part of the old Indian Forbidden Path and beyond to Erie, Pennsylvania. Each end of the Catskill Turnpike connected to other important migration pathways. The length of the Catskill Turnpike from Catskill to Bath was about 207 miles (333 km).[2] For the route from Bath to Buffalo add 102 miles (165 km). From Bath to Erie, Pennsylvania is an additional 169 miles (272 km).

Background History

The Catskill Turnpike was an important early route for New England emigrants headed to western New York and beyond. By 1800 stagecoach lines from Hartford, Connecticut (on the Greenwood Road) and Springfield, Massachusetts (on the Catskill Road, later Ancram Turnpike[3]) were bringing travelers to the Hudson River Valley. From 1804 to 1824 about 300,000 mostly New Englanders settled in the counties along the Catskill Turnpike and its extensions.[4]

In 1800 the New York legislature commissioned turnpikes (toll roads), inspectors, mail, and stagecoach service from the Hudson River to the Susquehanna River. Tolls were to be collected at gates every ten miles. Once stagecoach service began, inns were soon established every few miles to provide the beverages, food, and lodging needed for people and animals.[4]

One of the roads from the Hudson to the Susquehanna was called the Ulster and Delaware Turnpike (or Jericho, or Esopus Turnpike) and went from Rhinebeck-Kingston to Bainbridge (formerly Jericho). Another called the Susquehanna Turnpike went from Catskill to Unadilla, a few miles from Bainbridge. Stock companies were formed to raise the money, build, and maintain the roads. In 1804 the legislature authorized an extension called the Catskill Turnpike (or Bath Turnpike[5]) from the end of the Ulster and Delaware Turnpike at Baibridge west to Bath. The Catskill Turnpike name eventually also became associated with the route from Bainbridge-Unadilla to Catskill.[4] In 1804 twice a week mail service was started between Catskill, New York, and Athens, Pennsylvania, the eastern end of the Forbidden Path, the probable explanation for the Catskill Turnpike being associated with the Forbidden Path.[3]

Stagecoaches usually took four days and nights to drive from Ithaca to Catskill. This service continued year around even in the snow. Some years the traffic was so heavy two passenger coaches were hitched together followed by a baggage wagon. Before the railroads, cattle drovers also used the turnpike to take their herds to market usually in Dutchess County.[4]

Soon after it was built the turnpike began to turn a profit. It was most prosperous from 1820 to 1830. Competition from railroads and the Erie Canal was responsible for a decline in turnpike traffic and revenues after 1830. The western parts of the road were abandoned by the stock company, and the number of toll gates in Greene County was gradually reduced from ten in 1830, to five in 1842, and three in 1884.[6] Stagecoach service was discontinued in 1850 when the Erie Railroad built through to Owego.[7]


The counties along the Catskill Turnpike route (east to west) were as follows:[1]

The Catskill Turnpike was later extended westward. Counties along the northwest fork of the extension (east to west) were:[8]

Connecting trails. The Catskill Turnpike linked to other trails at each end.[9]

The migration pathways connected at the east end of the Catskill Turnpike in Catskill, New York included:

The migration pathway connected at the end of the northwest extension in Buffalo included:

West Fork. The migration pathways connected at the east end of the Catskill Turnpike (west fork) in Utica included:
The migration pathways connected at the west end of the Catskill Turnpike (west fork) in Fort Niagara included:

Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the Catskill Turnpike from Albany to Fort Oswego are:

  • New York State Route 5 from Albany to Deerfield (near Utica)
  • New York State 49 from Deerfield (near Utica) to Rome
  • where it becomes New York State 69 from Rome to Mexico
  • turn west onto New York State 104 from Mexico to Oswego

The modern roads that roughly match the west fork of the Catskill Turnpike to Fort Niagara are:

  • New York State Route 5 from Albany to two miles east of Sherrill, Oneida County
  • two miles east of Sherrill turn northeast on New York State Route 31 from near Sherrill to the outskirts of Lockport, Niagara County
  • at the outskirts of Lockport, turn northeast on Cold Springs Road which becomes Old Niagara Road which becomes Stone Road
  • which merges into westbound New York State Route 93 from Lockport to Fort Niagara

Settlers and Records

Early settlers in central New York most likely traveled there via Albany. Albany was a hub of pathways from New York City, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Quebec. Probably the largest group to settle were New Englanders, many from Vermont. But people from almost every part of the eastern seaboard and Europe also were common in the area.

Many of the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania Loyalists who fled to Ontario during or shortly after the American Revolution followed the Catskill Turnpike. For a list of over 300 Loyalist families is the Niagara area of Ontario see:

  • Norman K. Crowder, "1784-1785 Niagara Return" Early Ontario Settlers: A Source Book (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ., 1993), 132-42. WorldCat entry. FHL Book 971.3 H29c.

No complete list of settlers in New York who used the Catskill Turnpike is known to exist. Nevertheless, local and county histories along that trail may reveal pioneer settlers who arrived 1722 to 1850, and therefore who were the most likely candidates to have traveled the Great Genesee Road or Seneca Turnpike.

For partial lists of early settlers who may have used the Catskill Turnpike, see histories like:

Oswego County

Oneida County

  • Samuel W. Durant, History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (Microreproduction of original published: Philadelphia : Everts & Fariss, 1878). WorldCat entry. FHL Film 823718.

Niagara County

  • Samuel T. Wiley and W. Scott Garner, Biographical and portrait cyclopedia of Niagara County, New York (Microreproduction of original published: Philadelphia : Gresham Pub. Co., 1892). WorldCat entry. FHL Film 317821 Item 4.

External Links

The Great Genesee Road partially overlaps the Catskill Turnpike.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 849. WorldCat entry; FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  2. Route length in miles and kilometers calculated in
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Map and Timeline: 1800 to 2020 (and Beyond)" in Susquehanna at (accessed 28 December 2011).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Lyman H. Gallagher, "The Catskill Turnpike in Stage Coach and Tavern Days," Crooked Lake Review (Fall 2005) at (accessed 28 December 2011).
  5. Almyra E. Morgan, The Catskill Turnpike: a Wilderness Path (Ithaca, NY : DeWitt Historical Society offckLRof Tompkins County, 1971), 5. Tompkins County Public Library digital pdf copy; At various libraries (WorldCat).
  6. J. G. Beers, "The Susquehanna Turnpike" (1884) appearing in Susquehanna at (accessed 28 December 2011).
  7. Morgan, 14.
  8. "Great Genesee Road" in Handybook, 849.
  9. Handybook, 847-54.