excerpted from "Ye Old Log School House Tymes and Pioneer Sketches" 
by Jno. S. Minard, published in Cuba, NY 1905  -- Note - spelling is
Jonathan Thatcher. A CHARACTER
The pioneers of Western New York were not all saints by any means. Far from it. It may be also, that they averaged no better than the present population, if indeed as well. It must be confessed there were many extraordinary characters among the settlers. Some had made records as Indian fighters, some had been captives by the Indians and had been assimilated, as it were, into their tribes, and given names like Horatio Jones and Jasper Parrish. Some perhaps had been tories and took part with Indians and British in the Revolution, and it is barely possible that the grand old woods furnished asylum for an occasional horse thief who was wanted in staid old Connecticut or Vermont, or villains of deeper dye who had fled from justice and sought refuge in this new country. Another class who, if not very many, were numerous enough to supply every settlement with more than was wanted, were a lot of ne'er-do-wells who were not noted for piety, cleanliness nor industry, nor had been famous for bloody encounters with the Indians. Some of this class were trappers and made a precarious livelihood by trading skins for powder and clothing, and some were farmers in a small way. All of them however were rovers and idlers. Of this class was Jonathan Thatcher, as curious an old fellow as ever roamed through the woods. At various times he lived in Hume, Caneadea and Belfast, Allegany County, N. Y., but his fame covered all the upper Genesee country and spread considerably east and west: and from 1835 to 1865 he was more generally known all over the territory indicated, than any other man. He was the country's most extraordinary character. It was his habit to roam about constantly. Indeed, such was his reputation in this respect, that a man once offered to make a wager that he could start four men at the same time, from the corners at Fillmore, each taking a different road, and that each of them before going two miles, would meet Jonathan Thatcher, and that as many as two of them would meet Betsey his wife, trudging along behind, and no one dared to take the bet! Jonathan had no remarkable talents. He certainly was not thrifty. And he was not over particular about his dress. No one ever presumed to call Jonathan a dude, and the one thing he hated above everything else, was soap. When soap was mentioned it would nearly throw him into convulsions. He didn't like it hard or soft, hot or cold, white or brown, plain or colored. He said it didn't agree with him, but he couldn't prove it, for no one knew of his ever trying it. No one who ever saw this wild man of the woods was able to forget him; and those to whom Jonathan did not appear in their dreams were counted lucky. Thatcher is supposed to be one of the twenty historic families which, tradition says, an enterprising land speculator introduced as settlers in a certain township on the Holland Purchase, as a condition of a bargain with Joseph Ellicott, the land agent at Batavia, where by he was to have a large tract of land at greatly reduced prices. The settlers moved in, the colony was established, and Ellicott sent a man to investigate. This man reported that he found a colony of twenty adult settlers, heads of families, but "if hell were raked with a fine toothed comb, another such lot could not be found". Jonathan had two brothers, Mike and Jim, but neither achieved the peculiar fame that he enjoyed. As to the ancestry of the family, nothing trustworthy was ever learned. Mike however one day, inadvertently let in a little light on this interesting branch of the subject, but only in a negative way. A neighbor, who was something of a wag, one day said: "Mike there's a bad story started about you. It will hurt you if you can't stop it, for people are beginning to believe it". "What is it?" inquired Mike. "Why" said the neighbor, "they are saying that there is human blood in your veins". "It's a lie, an infernal lie" said Mike, "and I can prove it. I can lick the man that said it, too. There a'int a d--d drop of human blood in me, and never was". Jonathan was a patriot. He said he was at Lundy's Lane and fought and bled, and came near dying for his country. When living near Belfast, Jonathan had a canoe, and one winter it was frozen in the ice. A great thaw came on. The ice breaking, Thatcher sought to secure his boat, when the swelling current moved the large cake of ice, in which the canoe was frozen, away from its moorings, and he was soon out on the swiftly running flood at the mercy of the elements. There was a dam a few miles below. Jonathan knew It, and was fully aware of the gravity of the situation. As he neared it, it is said he fervently prayed to God for deliverance and promised never to do another wicked thing. The dam was reached, the shock encountered in making the passage parted the canoe from the ice, Thatcher clinging to it with all the tenacity of a cat. By the help of some people who saw him he was rescued from a watery grave. It was afterward told by some of his rescuers, that as soon as Jonathan was thoroughly assured of the fact that he was on terra firma, and safe, he exclaimed that "it was the d--dest flood he ever got into". A whole volume might be written of anecdotes and adventures, reminiscent of Jonathan Thatcher, but for the purpose of this sketch the foregoing must suffice. As the years passed Jonathan and his wife grew old and became debilitated and, having no visible means of support, they were, against Jonathan's strong protests, taken "over the hill to the poorhouse". Their stay there was short. Subjected to a bath, housed in warm rooms, clad with clean rainment and supplied with wholesome, nourishing food, the change was so abrupt and decided, the shock so great, their systems, which had survived so many years of the old regime, gave way. Succumbing to the new, and what the world calls better conditions, their natures withstood, for a few days only, the effects of the shock, and they passed away. No imposing shaft marks the resting place, nor gilded mausoleum received the remains of Jonathan Thatcher, yet his name will be handed down to, and his memory kept green by, generations yet unborn, who will gaze with a sort of listless admiration on the proud columns which bear the names of those of whom they have never heard, and are hardly curious enough to inquire. Note-This chapter appeared some years since in the Rochester Post Express, and is the joint production of Mr. W. H. Samson, the managing editor of that paper, and the author: the first part of it being by Mr. Samson.

Thanks to Richard Frisbie of Hope Farms Press for permission to use this selection.

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