The script for Wendigo was generic and short. The idea was to find
a location that would speak to the themes and expand the scope and
depth of the story. Such a place was to be found just 100 miles north
of New York City in Ulster County, Here is a history that reads like
the dam, 1906
8000 years before
the birth of Christ, the Esopus Indians inhabited the region now known as the
Catskill Mountains in Upstate NY. There they hunted and trapped for
centuries along the waters they called the Ashokan, or "Place of
Everything was to change in the 1600s when Dutch settlers made their
way up the Hudson River and began trading with the Native Americans.
Conflicts erupted between the settlers and the Esopus tribes which escalated
into the Indian Wars of the 1660s. The Indians burned the Capitol City
of Kingston twice, and it was twice rebuilt: the victories of the Indians
were short-lived as increasing numbers of settlers moved into the area.
By 1779, the Indigenous people had been driven from the area altogether,
leaving behind only their legends and the names theyd given the
land: Shandaken, Peekamoose, Tongore, Ashoken
For the next 100
new settlers developed the rich, rocky soil into farmland and timberland
and with the introduction of a railroad and highway system, were able
to grow their economy by distributing goods to far-reaching markets.
Cut from the belly of the Catskill Mountains, the areas "blustone"
quarries became the source for New York Citys sidewalks. And seasonal
tourists from the city swelled to capacity the Catskill boarding houses
during the summer months. But New York City was to impact the area far
more permanently in the turn of the next century.
In 1907, it was decreed that a reservoir to provide the city with drinking
water was to flood 8 Upstate towns, and all the inhabitants were to
The decision uprooted
2000 people and claimed
sawmills, blacksmith shops, stores.
were moved, comprised of 2800 exhumed bodies.
"Even the Dead will not be permitted
to rest" local pamphlet published 1909.
A feet of
engineering, the Ashokan Reservoir is considered "the last of the
12 miles long,
40 miles of
132,000,000,0000 gallons of water.
90190 feet deep
Seven years to construct
1907-1914. A workforce that swelled from 3,000 to 4,000 workers, primarily
Italian imigrants, but also Austrians, Russians, Irish, a Greek...138
American Blacks lived in segregated quarters.
There was a toll of 288 workers dead, 8,839 injured; 2 murders and seven
They say years later when the water was low, you could see a church
steeple jutting from the surface of the reservoir, evoking an underwater
ghostown; old stores and farm houses silent beneath the surface. But
in truth, all the buildings had been removed, and the earth scoured.
The project ruined
the lives of many local families; some prosperred. It brought scores
of imigrant workers from all over the world, and established new generations
of people to inhabit the land.
Century later, 2001, while the reservoir stands steadfast and the relocated
towns have regained identity, New York City urbanites are moving up
for the unspoiled country and changing the face of the population again.
History is a chronicle
of the usurption of the land, whether by violence or coersion.