Born Jan. 20, 1890, Calhoun was one of 18 children and, arguably, the most colorful. He served in World War I for one month, constructed the walls of the first town reservoir on top of Illinois Mountain and once ran from Highland to the Ashokan Dam in eight hours. He bought of a patch of property by the old railroad bridge on New Paltz Road for $600 in 1926 and built a home out of recycled tin. He combed the land for ginseng, colt foot, horehound and snakeroot, which he sold to an exporter in New York City for a modest income. He trapped foxes, raccoons, rabbits and muskrats, helped build the Grape Juice Factory of Highland and could find water with a divining rod.
“He supposedly was married, but he cut his wife’s name out of the marriage certificate,” said Russell.
Calhoun died April 4, 1976, from complications that arose after he was struck by a motorist while pedaling his bicycle on Kisor Road. Before he died, he etched his own tombstone on a rock which simply read “Levi.” In 2006, Alfonso and Highland resident Sue Frampton raised money for a formal marker at his Highland Cemetery grave, and the American Legion performed a military burial service.
On Jan. 20, Alfonso and Russell threw a small birthday party in Calhoun’s honor.
“We decided on Levi [for the display] because it’s his birthday today and he’s really a legend here. It’s good for people to know that we had someone of his character living here in Highland. You don’t want the legends to disappear, and hopefully people will realize that we do have a rich history,” said Alfonso.
Alfonso hopes to use the display case for a series of rotating exhibits featuring famous Highlanders and significant events in town history.
She also invites the public to stop by the town historian’s office to try to identify some of the large number of undocumented artifacts and photos in the collection.
The Town Historian’s office hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays, or by appointment. For more information or to make an appointment, call 691-7502.
Read more: New Paltz Times - King of the Highland frontier Levi Calhoun exhibit at Lloyd Town Hall