Welcome to the Sparkill History Project
The first settlers in the area were the Dutch, who sailed up the Hudson and into the first navigable inlet they could find after the formidable cliffs of the Palisades.
Erin L. Martin, executive director of the Historical Society of Rockland County, said the word “Sparkill” most likely derives from the Dutch word for inlet or estuary -- “kill” -- and the mast, or “spar,” of a sailing ship. “The creek is the first break in the Palisades,” she said. “That's why it's so important.” The Dutch first settled Rockland County in the early 18th century along Sparkill Creek.
The area was also home to an early, thriving settlement of freed blacks called “Skunk Hollow,” which began in the mid-1700's. According to Marjorie Bauer, editor of a quarterly history journal for the Rockland County Historical Society, New York State had a large black slave population living on family farms. A state law was passed in 1798 calling for the gradual freeing of slaves by 1828, and many of them settled at Skunk Hollow. A black entrepreneur, John Moore, built a thriving mill on the banks of the creek in what is now the hamlet of Sparkill in the early 18th century.
“During the Civil War, Skunk Hollow was seen as a haven for blacks,” said the Rev. Sanders of St. Charles A.M.E. Zion Church in Sparkill, where many members are descendants of early black settlers. According to Ms. Martin of the Historical Society, Sparkill also is one of three sites now being proposed by New York state as part of the Harriet Tubman Freedom Trail.
Ann Gray and her sister Frances Pellegrini remember the center of Sparkill as a bustling place during the years they grew up on Rockland Road. “There was a fine butcher and a grocery store,” said Ms. Gray. “We had a hardware store and a druggist. We took the train to the city all the time.”
By JULIA LAWLOR
Published: August 04, 2002 NY Times Borrowed without permission for website demo purposes only and only temporarily