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Another Hurleyville History Hike

John Conway - Sullivan County Historian
Posted 4/16/21

The Native American Lenape tribe, which most archeologists believe first visited this area as far back as 11- or 12-thousand years ago, were great stewards of the environment who believed that every …

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Another Hurleyville History Hike

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The Native American Lenape tribe, which most archeologists believe first visited this area as far back as 11- or 12-thousand years ago, were great stewards of the environment who believed that every object in nature—animals, birds, trees, grasses, and stones—contained a spirit, or manetu, so everything was treated with a reverence.

Of all the manetuwak (the plural of manetu) in the Lenape culture, only one was significant enough to appear on the tribe's official seal, or to have an actual likeness at all, and that was Mesinghalikun, or Mesingw for short, the “Masked Being” whose responsibility it was to look after the animals of the forest, particularly the deer, and ensure their health and safety. It was Mesingw's duty to keep a balance in nature, allowing the people to feed themselves without depleting the population of game, helping hunters who were respectful and punishing those who were not.

Writing in his 2001 book, “The Lenape-Delaware Indian Heritage,” the late Dr. Herbert C. Kraft noted that “Mesingw may have been known and venerated for hundreds of years before the coming of European settlers.”

Dr. Kraft wrote that Mesingw was a unique spirit in the Lenape tradition in that it “was made visible in artistic form on masks, maskettes, and in other objects of ritual use” such as wood or stone carvings.

“The ancient wooden images have not survived, but numerous prehistoric effigy faces, presumably of the Mesingw, have been excavated and found on archaeological sites,” Dr. Kraft wrote.

What is believed to be one such stone face was discovered in Hurleyville in the fall of 2014 by local stone mason Alvin Lopez, who was sorting through old stones looking for some suitable for a wall he was building. The football-sized rock has since become known as “the Alvin Stone,” and its story is just one of many to be told during the fifth annual “Hurleyville History Hike” to be held on the Milk Train Trail at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 24.

The history hike is scheduled to help commemorate the nationwide “Celebrate Trails Day” as proclaimed by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. It will commence from the large parking lot just past the post office, a block west of Main Street in Hurleyville, and continue at a leisurely pace along the paved rail trail toward Ferndale. The hike is free and will last about an hour.

The hike is open to the public and there is no need to register or sign up, but strict COVID protocols will be adhered to. All participants must wear a mask, and social distancing will be observed. Organizers reserve the right to limit the number taking part. In the event of severe or inclement weather, the hike may be canceled, so visit the Sullivan Retrospect page on Facebook to make sure.

In addition to the Lenape and their culture and the story of the Alvin Stone, topics to be covered on this saunter on the Milk Train Trail will include the arrival of the railroad and its impact on the community, the farms and the resorts in the region; the tanning industry and its aftermath, and the activities of organized crime—particularly the group of hired killers who became popularly known as Murder, Inc.-- in the Catskills during the 1930s.

And incidentally, the Lenape, and in particular their reverence for nature, will also be the topic of a program to be presented by the Sullivan County Historian at the Hurleyville Performing Arts Centre cinema at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening, April 29.

Since seating in the cinema will be limited due to social distancing requirements, the program will also be available on ZOOM. There is a fee for the presentation, and those who are interested should contact the Hurleyville Performing Arts Centre for more information.

Visit the HPAC website at hurleyvilleartscentre.org, email info@hacny.org or call (845) 693-4119.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com. He will be leading the Hurleyville History Hike on Saturday, April 24 and presenting the program, “Great Stewards of the Environment” at the Hurleyville Performing Arts Centre cinema on Thursday evening, April 29.

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