Ramapo Mountain area ethnicity resembles Oniontown, NY
By J Odell December 26, 2002 at 07:44:04
Related to the isolated mountain way of life still apparent in parts of Ramapo, there is a group of people inhabiting the ridges of the Town of Dover in eastern Dutchess County, NY, in an area referred to as "Oniontown". It seems from my limited local study of the area that it is a much smaller group than the Jackson Whites, and Im not sure if there are any ethnic similarities between the two. Locals describe the area often as "off limits" and not someplace you want to end up .. as the "Oniontowners" seem to be feared for their lack of tolerance for outsiders. I was warned on my initial forays down Oniontown Rd. (the only official road that accesses the area, many dirt roads and paths are evident in all directions on West Mountain where this "clan" resides)...not to let my car break down out there.
There is very little study or available info on this small, northern appalachia outpost. From my interviews with locals on the history of this area, Ive listened to different ideas and stories about Oniontown. Some say they are sqautters on old farm land. The rich dirt that exists on these ridges south of Dover,NY was apparently used to grow onions, hence the name. One local explained that when the farms were shutdown and the land divied up that these poor inhabitants just continued to live there and isolated themselves to a great extent on West Mountain. Aswith some of the other isolated cultures of Appalachia there are rumors of inbreeding within the family lines of Oniontown , resulting in the simlilarly unique features that many of those with Oniontown bloodlines possess.
Unforunately, there is little anthropological research available on Oniontown. Many bits and pieces ive picked up are exxagerations and legends based on the fear of an isolated peoples. Oniontown itself is officially recognized,on the map,and the isolated clan living there is certainly not the only people in Oniontown. Most parts of West Mountain are developed and seems to have benefited from the recent real estate boom. Since this "clan" is much smaller, it seems its ability to remain completely isolted is no longer palpable. Apparently its not the same type of isolation exibited in other parts of nothern appalachia , as the children of this area attend local schools and are more a part of the local community. Its my understanding that in the past the isolation was much more established, andaccording to local legend ... much more dangerous to
journey into Oniontown as an outsider.
Any information on this subject would be much appreciated, as my research is obviously limited to present day journeys to Oniontown and local word-of-mouth