At 98, historian Carleton Mabee readies new book on Shawangunk land preservation controversies

Author Carleton Mabee in front of the Gardiner home he has lived in since 1965.

Author Carleton Mabee in front of the Gardiner home he has lived in since 1965.

There are not many people who can say that they authored a book — even fewer who can say that they’ve authored many. That puts the retired professor, longtime Gardiner town historian and award-winning author Carleton Mabee in an entirely different category: He’s about to publish his tenth book — Protecting Open Space in the Shawangunk Mountain Region of New York State — at age 98!

Mabee and his wife Norma purchased a big old circa-1790s farmhouse in Gardiner in 1965 and haven’t left since. Prior to their purchase of the home, when Mabee moved to the area to take a position as a professor of history at SUNY New Paltz, the home had only been occupied by members of the Deyo family since it was constructed in the 18th century.


While Mabee has lived in the old farmhouse in Gardiner for almost 50 years, he began his life on the other side of the globe — born along with his brother and sister in China, where their parents were both missionary teachers at a college in Shanghai. “I didn’t come to the US until I was 9 years old,” he recalled. And his first visit back to China and Shanghai, to the college campus where he spent his first years, came in 1981, when he went with a delegation of teachers, mostly Asian Studies professors, on a trip. “It was a wonderful trip, and so great to see where I had lived as a child, to meet people I had known as a young boy.”

From there, he and his siblings moved around as their parents pursued their education and teaching jobs. Mabee followed in his parents’ footsteps by attending Bates College in Maine, where they were professors, and then went on to Columbia University in New York City, where he received his Ph.D. in history with an emphasis on American social history.