Friday, April 4, 2008
While the meaning of the name ("cat creek" in Dutch) and the namer (early Dutch explorers) are settled matters, exactly how and why the area is named is a mystery. Mountain Lions or "Catamounts" were known to have been in the area when the Dutch arrived in the 1600s.
The most common, and easiest, is that bobcats were seen near Catskill creek and the present-day village of Catskill, and the name followed from there. However there is no record of bobcats ever having been seen in significant numbers on the banks of the Hudson, and the name Catskill does not appear on paper until 1655, more than four decades later.
Other theories include:
* A corruption of kasteel, the Dutch sailors' term for the Indian stockades they saw on the riverbank. According to one Belgian authority, kat occurs in many place names throughout Flanders and has nothing to do with cats and everything to do with fortifications.
* It was to honor Dutch poet Jacob Cats, who was also known for his real estate prowess, profiting from speculation in lands reclaimed from the sea.
* A ship named The Cat had gone up the Hudson shortly before the name was first used. In nautical slang of the era, cat could also mean a piece of equipment, or a particular type of small vessel.
* It has also been suggested that it refers to lacrosse, which Dutch visitors had seen the Iroquois natives play. Kat can also refer to a tennis racket, which a lacrosse stick resembles, and the first place the Dutch saw this, further down the river in the present-day Town of Saugerties, they gave the name Kaatsbaan, for "tennis court," which is still on maps today.
The confusion over the exact origins of the name led over the years to variant spellings such as Kaatskill and Kaaterskill, both of which are also still used, the former in the regional magazine Kaatskill Life, the latter as the name of a town, creek, clove, mountain and waterfall.
Posted by matt at 4:09 PM