How did the Catskills get their name?
There is no definitive source for the name. It is widely assumed it was
the name given by Henry Hudson to the creek (kill is Dutch for creek,
so never say Catskill creek, you're saying Cats creek creek!) where he
landed to trade with the Indians. Traditionally, it's thought that Hudson
either named it for the bobcats and lynx common in the area; or for Jacob
Cats, the poet laureate of Holland at the time. This second theory was
popular in the later 19th century, when the Catskills were prominent in
American art and literature. The problem is the Dutch didn't name places
for people, but then again, Hudson wasn't Dutch, he was an Englishman
working for the Dutch.
Alf Evers in his book "The
Catskills: From Wilderness To Woodstock" gives a number of other
In present day Saugerties, the Indians played lacrosse on a field the
Dutch called Kaatsbaan, Kaats being Dutch for tennis or other games played
with a racket and ball.
Or it may have been named for a Mohican chief named Cat.
Or it may have been named by seamen for the shape of the point at the
mouth of the Catskill that resembles a small ship called a "cat".
Evers also points out that Kat appears in many placenames in Holland,
usually referring to a fortification. And an Indian fort was on the banks
of the Catskill when white men first arrived.
The real origin of the name will probably never be known. Despite
many attempts over the years to rename it (the Lothians, the Shandaken
Mountains, the Kaatsbergs, etc.) the name Catskills has stuck.
More to come...