In Memory of Florence P. Tate, Town Historian
The Town of Warwick was formed by act of the State Legislature on March 7, 1788. The inhabitants of the Town met on the first Tuesday in April 1789, to elect the first Supervisor, Town Clerk, Constables and Overseers of the Poor. It was resolved at that first meeting that the sum of 100 pounds should be raised for the benefit of the poor and 20 pounds for contingent expenses.
From the first, for purposes of administration, the Town was divided into three districts: western, middle and eastern. For each district, an assessor, a commissioner of roads, a collector and two fence-viewers were chosen. At least as late as 1856, when a "military roll" was taken, the three districts of the town continued to be important.
Roads, bridges, fences and stray animals were concerns of the early town officials. Roadmasters were chosen, 38 in all, to see that each citizen in their neighborhoods did his share toward keeping the roads in front of his property in decent condition. Several poundmasters were responsible for rounding up strays and caring for them until they were reclaimed by their owners.
The Town of Warwick retained its original boundaries until 1845, when the northeast corner was cut off to become a portion of the newly-formed Town of Chester. It is still one of the largest towns in area in New York State.
The name "Warwick" was first applied before 1719 to a farm of thousands of acres covering much of this area; and the designation become so well-known that it was natural to give it to the town when it was created and also to the village which grew up around the crossroads near the center of the town.
Several other hamlets were in existence before the town was formed. Early settlers made good use of the Longhouse Creek, building dams and mills and an iron forge and thus giving Bellvale its start. The Doublekill was another fine stream for water-power and mills, and there New Milford grew. The community of Florida was also established by the middle of the 1700’s.
During the 1800’s, Amity, Edenville and Pine Island became centers of population in the midst of the surrounding dairy, fruit and vegetable farms. Iron mining, charcoal burning and lumbering were occupations of settlers in the mountains from Sterling to Cascade; quarrying provided work near Mount Adam and Mount Eve. Greenwood Lake became well-known to hunters and fishermen and evolved into a popular resort and recreation area.
There are now three incorporated villages – Warwick (1867), Greenwood Lake (1924) and Florida (1946) – within the boundaries of the Town of Warwick.
From earliest colonial times, a well-traveled route passed through Warwick. The King’s Highway came up the valley from Pennsylvania and New Jersey and led northeastward to the settlements along the Hudson River and thence to New England. When the Warwick Valley Railroad in 1860, and the Lehigh and Hudson River Railway later, followed the same general route, the location of the offices in the village of Warwick encouraged the growth of that community as a business center. Wisner and Lake were established as station stops on the railroad; and the whole town benefited from the freight and passenger service provided by it.
In a short sketch such as this, it is impossible to record all important events or to name all groups and individuals who have moved into or through the town, giving service as officials, working to build up its economy, enriching its cultural and social life; but the results can be seen in all aspects of life in the Town of Warwick.