Mount Nimham Fire Tower

Mount Nimham is a sprawling promenade located in the middle of the Town of Kent. It forms the southwestern wall of the valley known as Whang Hollow. It is the highest point in the Town of Kent and is well known for its steep slopes and high ridge lines. The mountain boasts extremely steep slopes, rocky outcrops, deep gorges and high ridges. It is dotted with glacial erratics and boulder fields.

Climbing to the top of the firetower at Mount Nimham’s summit will reward you with magnificent vistas of the surrounding countryside. To the east lies Whang Hollow, including Pine Pond, Townsend Ridge, Barrett Hill, Beaver Hill, and Hemlock Ledge; to the north, Stockholm Hill and the Little and Big Buck Mountains; to the west, Clear Pool and the Boyd Reservoir and Dam; and to the south, Coles Mills and the West Branch Reservoir.

The hike from the DEC parking area on Gipsy Trail through the woods to the upper parking area is a moderate hike that takes about an hour. The trail we have mapped is only one of many trails through the woods in this area. Most of them end in the upper parking area and begin at various points along Gipsy Trail. They intersect with one another quite a bit. This makes it relatively easy to navigate going up – just keep climbing and you’ll almost certainly get to the upper parking area. But it also means navigating can be confusing going down. Eventually, though, you’ll end up somewhere along Gipsy Trail. If you’re worried about getting lost coming down, you can use the paved road, Mt. Nimham Ct., all the way to Gipsy Trail.

The hike from the upper parking area to the tower at the top of the mountain is much less strenuous and takes about twenty or twenty-five minutes.

View Mount Nimham Fire Tower Hike in a larger map

The mountain and the area around it was home to the Nochpeem tribe and its predecessors for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the European explorers, fur traders, and settlers. The Nochpeem were part of the Wappinger Confederacy, which covered the eastern side of the Hudson River within the lower Hudson River Valley.

The mountain is named after Chief Daniel Nimham, the greatest Wappinger Sachem and a true American hero. A patriot, Chief Nimham fought and gave his life for American independence, despite having lost his ancestral homeland to the Philipse family and the very settlers he was fighting for. It is reported that Chief Nimham came to this mountain on every birthday he celebrated, climbing to the top to proclaim all that could be seen as the ancestral homeland of the Wappinger. He always sought peaceful means of settling his disagreements with the elitist landowners, appealing to the Colonial and English Courts, who failed to acknowledge the natives’ land-owning rights, instead recognizing fraudulent deeds presented by the Philipse family. Following Nimham’s death on August 31, 1778 at the Battle of Kingsbridge, the remaining Wappinger were gradually forced out of this area forever. They eventually assimilated into other tribes.

Other patriots who share in the history of Mount Nimham, starting at the southernmost end of the mountain, include: Captain Solomon Hopkins and his son, Jeremiah; Captain Elisha Cole Jr. and his sons, Elisha III, Ebenezer, Joseph and Daniel, and the son of Elisha III, Reuben; heading northward up Coles Mills Road, Jacob VanScoy, Lt. Thomas Russell and his brothers, John, James, and Robert; heading still further north, James Smalley and his sons James Jr., Isaiah and Zachariah; then Lt. Col. Elijah Townsend and his brother, General James Townsend; and finally at the northernmost end of the mountain, Samuel Hawkins.

Following the American victory at Saratoga in 1777, and the passage of the Act of Attainder by the New York Colonial Legislature, Lot No. 5 of the Upper Highlands Patent of the Philipse Patent, including the Mount Nimham area, was seized from the Mary Philipse Morris family and sold off to the tenant farmers living on the mountain. Over the ensuing 150 years, the mountain and surrounding area was dominated by the farms of the Smalley, Townsend, Russell, Brown, Wixon, Hawkins, Light, Hopkins, Ferris, Cole, Tompkins, and Dean families. During this time, it became known as “Smalley Hill,” in recognition of the majority ownership of the mountain, and in remembrance of the four members of the Smalley family who served as patriots during the Revolution.

The original old growth forest was cleared to create planting and grazing fields, with the wood used to build shelters, fuel fireplaces, and provide a source of revenue for the farmers. In addition, mining operations were conducted to remove serpentine and mineral deposits, particularly arsenic. The mountain was eventually renamed for Chief Daniel Nimham, in recognition of his supreme sacrifice for our independence. When farming declined in the early 1900s, New York State purchased the old farmland and eventually designated the majority of the mountain as a Multiple Use Area. A road to the top of the mountain was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940. That same year, the CCC built the steel fire tower at the top, which was recently restored by the Kent Conservation Advisory Committee. The mountain has returned to a “new growth” forest, enjoyed by both local residents and visitors from far and wide.

Adapted from Mount Nimham: The Ridge of Patriots by Thomas F. Maxson. The members of the Kent CAC wish to thank Tom Maxson for permission to adapt this material for use here. It is historical information that makes this hike so much more interesting than a simple wander through the beautiful Kent countryside.