Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men
J.B. Beers and Co.
by Henry Brace
AN OUTLINE OF THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE TOWN
A part of the following outline appeared a few years ago in The Catskill Examiner. Since its publication further investigation has enabled me to make a few corrections. But this work should have been undertaken seventy years ago, when Samuel Van Vechten, Abraham Salisbury, William Van Orden and John Dubois were alive. These men and others of like intelligence were a storehouse of reminiscence, and with their aid, the annalist could have drawn a lively picture of our Dutch forefathers, what manner of persons they were and how they dressed and worked and lived and died. Now, however, all that one, even with the utmost diligence of research and inquiry, can do is to sketch in meager and almost colorless outline the history of a secluded community.
Transcribed by Dianne Schnettler
THE LINDESAY PATENT
Elsewhere mentioned as the Lindsay Patent
The price paid in May, 1684, for what is now that portion of the village of Catskill which lies east of the Katskill and the Hans Vosen Kill, was, with a few other trifles, a gun, two shirts, a kettle, two kegs of beer, and, as usual, a little rum. The sellers were a band of Esopus Indians, through their headman Curpuwaen. The buyer was Gysbert uyt den Bogaert.
Bogaert had occupied a portion of this tract of land for about twenty years before his purchase. His house, built of logs and probably thatched with rushes, as the custom then was, stood about a hundred feet from the Katskill. Its site, is now within the lumber yard, south of Captain Spencer’s house. The barn of Bogaert was somewhat nearer the Katskill. Between these buildings were a rocky ledge and a rivulet, which were covered up thirty or thirty-five years ago, as the older residents of Catskill will remember, when the extension of the steamboat wharf was built. Near by, were Bogaert’s orchard and garden.
The name uyt den Bogaert was borne by Hollanders of note in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One of these men was Jean Uyten Bogaert, minister of the remonstrants. Another was receiver general of the Dutch Provinces, and is now remembered as the subject of a famous etching by Rembrandt known as “The Gold Weigher.” In this country the name is still preserved in the English form of Bogart and in the Latin form of Bogardus.
In the deed given by the Indians the land bought by Bogaert is bounded with precision. The place of beginning is Boompje’s Hook. The boundary lines then ran up the Hudson to a rivulet, opposite Vastrick’s Island, and called Stuck; from Stuck westerly to a point below Dirck Teunnisse’s Mill; where the first brook empties into the Hans Vosen Kill; from this point down the Hans Vosen Kill and the Katskill to the place of beginning.
The names of the places, and the places themselves which are given in this deed, perhaps need explanation.
Boompje means a small tree, and Boompje’s Hook is now known as The Point or as Catskill Landing. Before this hook was filled in, it was a little island covered by trees, and was above the water at high tide, only where Hallenbeck’s tavern was built.
Vastrick’s Island was named for Gerrit Vastrick, a merchant of New Netherland and a friend of Governor Peter Stuyvesant. This island was afterwards called Tien Pondts – Ten Pounds – Island, but after 1808, when Abijah Rogers bought it, it received its present name of Rogers’ Island.
Stuck should, perhaps, be spelled Stuk. This word, when it is applied to land, signifies a piece or portion. Het groote stuck – the great plot – is a name which occurs not unfrequently in old deeds. Stoc, in Anglo-Saxon, also means a place, and in England was applied to land which had been cleared of timber. The name, then referred probably to the land around the brook, although it is given to the brook itself.
Stuck takes its rise on the side of the hill near Thompson’s Grove, and falls into the Hudson above Dieper Hook and just south of the ice-house. In the olden time, this rivulet flowed in a pretty, babbling stream, all year round. But now it is dry, except when heavy rains have fallen, or when the winter snows are melting.
The mill spoken of in Curpuwaen’s deed was a grist and saw mill, and was built between the years 1681 and 1686, by Dirck Teunnisse Van Vechten, the ancestor of the Van Vechtens of Catskill. It stood about a hundred rods from the mouth of the Hans Vosen Kill, and was used until about the middle of the last century, when Teunis Van Vechten built a new mill upon the Katskill. It is of the first mill that Robert Livingston wrote in 1712, “a little mill at Catskill grinds so coarse it cannot be bolted.” No traces of the mill or of the adjoining dam now remain.
Hans Vosen Kill – that is, John Fox’s Brook – keeps alive the name of Hans Vos. The scanty history of this man is deeply buried in the musty and defaced records of Rensselaer’s Wyck in the State offices in Albany. He was a German and was a subject of the Margrave of Baden. At home, Vos was a poacher – though, if we can take his own word for it, he had some experience as a wood chopper, and a good knowledge of husbandry. In 1642 – being then twenty-five years old – he came to Renssalaer’s Wyck in the ship Houttyn. From that colony, he was sent by Van Schlectenhorst, it director, to the patroon’s lands at Catskill.
For a time Vos was in the service of the patroon, and was perhaps employed in “killing game to supply food.” He certainly aided Jan Van Bremen in building a house and a barn on the patroon’s bouwery, near the spot where the Van Vechten house now stands. Afterward Vos seems to have built for himself a log cabin, of which the site is now unknown, and to have had a servant, Michiel, and perhaps another, Jacob.
In April 1657, Vos was summoned to Fort Orange and was tried at “an extraordinary session” of the Colonial Court, for the crime of selling spirits to the Indians at Catskill. Under oath he denied the charge; denied, in answer to the questions put to him, that he had carried two or any ankers of anise-water from “the rifts at Catskill” to his house; denied that he had ever had any spirits in his house, except an anker and a half, a mere trifle, that is, of fifteen gallons, and flatly denied that he had ever said “in the presence of Long Gysbert” that he would tie a rope, with a stone fastened to it, about the neck of any man who should reveal his illegal sale of liquor, and throw him into the “Kill.” But Femmetje Albertsen testified that she had heard her brother-in-law, Johnny Anderson, the Irishman, say that the Indians had told him that they had paid Hans Vos for a bottle of brandy. This evidence convinced the court, Vos was found guilty, was fined five hundred guilders, (about two hundred dollars,) and was banished for three years from the jurisdiction of the court “as an example to others.” He must have paid his fine, for on the day on which he was found guilty he borrowed three hundred guilders from three men, one of whom was Pieter Bronck, of Coxsackie. One further reads of Vos that he broke jail, and that seven months later, on his own petition and on that of his wife, he was released from prison. The colonial ordinances were very severe with regard to the offense of selling spirits to the Indians. Yet the offense seems not to have involved, in the minds of the magistrates or of the inhabitants of Rensselaer’s Wyck, any great degree of moral turpitude. At any rate, in 1661, Vos was appointed court messenger and deputy sheriff. With this record, further mention of him ceases.
Returning now to Bogaert, he, four years after his purchase from the Indians, conveyed his land at Catskill to his son-in-law, Helmer Janse, who, in 1703, obtained a patent of confirmation for the tract. He lived in his father-in-law’s house until his death. But he left no heirs, and his estate escheated to the province.
In 1738, John Lindesay, a large land-holder at Cherry Valley, obtained a patent for this tract, and soon afterward sold it to five persons, of whom George Clarke, lieutenant governor of the province was one. They, in 1741, made partition of the western portion of their lands; the portion, that is, which now for the most part, lies between Main street and the Katskill. It was agreed in the deed of partition, that a road sixty-six feet wide, should be laid out through the land thus divided, from the Hans Vosen Kill to the mouth of the Katskill. This road, however, which is now known as Main street, was not actually laid out until about the year 1773, when the division of the eastern portion of the Lindesay patent took place.
This road follows Main street to the Long Dock. But, about 1800, when the Susquehanna Turnpike was laid out, the turnpike company made a new road, which began at the junction of Main and Greene streets, ran with a steep descent through what is now Frederick Cooke’s garden and thence along the eastern base of Diamond Hill and pretty near the Katskill. Traces of this road may still be seen near the railway cut.
It was a rude country road, full of muddy hollows, and crossed by deep gullies, and by brooks, which ran down the hillside into the Katskill. Jehiel Tuttle, who, in 1783, came with his father from Wallingford to make a home in the wilderness of the Batavia Kill, among the Windham mountains, once said that their wagons were mired on the road in the bed of the rivulet, which still makes it way through what is known as the Hollow.
On the western side of this road, between it and the Katskill, were the pastures, the cornfields and the apple orchards of Jane Dies and Egbert Bogardus. On the eastern side, on the slopes of the hill and its level top, the primeval forest had hardly felt the ax. The trees were not large, excepting a few white oaks and aged pines, which had found a more congenial soil near the water courses. On the rocky ledge, which overlooks the Hudson, foxes had their dens, and in the thickets ruffed grouse had their coverts. The top of the hill was reached by wood-roads which had been cut through the forest. Of these, one is now occupied by Thompson street and another by Greene street.
At the time of which we are writing, in 1783, at the close of the Revolution, there were five houses within the bounds of the Lindesay Patent.
One was the house of Peter, or perhaps, Solomon Schutt, which had been built at least as early as the year 1765, on the farm which is now owned by Mrs. Henry Hopkins, and which stood near a spring, on the west side of the Athens turnpike.
Another was the house of Egbert Bogardus, which is still standing on a by-street near the head of Main street.
Another was in the rear, or nearly in the rear, of the store of Wey & DuBois. It is not known who was its owner, or when it was built.
A fourth was the house of Madam Jane Dies, near the Katskill at the foot of Main street.
A fifth was the house of Johannes Van Gordon, Abraham Van Gordon’s father, who, in 1777, took a lease of the land at Femmen Hook, at the junction of the Katskill and the Hudson.
Of these houses, that of Madam Jane Dies deserves a particular description. This house, which was built by John Dies about the year 1763, is yet standing, as sound in essentials as on the day when it was finished. It is fifty-five feet in breadth and about forty-five feet in depth. The outer walls are of sand-stone, taken from the neighborhood, and the southeastern front is laid in courses, with corners of free-stone in rustic ashlar, brought from the quarries at Nyack. The roof has the double pitch, which was common to buildings of the last century, and of which the Hancock House, in Boston, was a noted specimen. The rafters and floor-beams are of white oak and yellow pine, and these, by reason of age, have become nearly as hard as Honduras mahogany.
The interior of this house has undergone a good deal of alteration. The chimney, which once stood in the middle of the eastern portion of the house, has been taken down and two other chimneys erected against the outer wall. The windows on this side have been blocked up, but the places where they once were, may be seen from the outside. The fire-place in the southwestern room of the first floor was once adorned with quaint Dutch tiles. It is not known by whom or at what time these were removed.
Old men still living in the town of Catskill remember this antique fire-place. The tiles, which were fastened by mortar to the jambs, were about four inches square, made of coarse white pottery and adorned with grotesque figures in blue. These figures represented Scripture scenes – Abraham offering up Isaac, Queen Esther before Ahasuerus, and Lazarus coming out of his tomb. In the last instance, the restored and overjoyed man is waving above his head a Dutch flag.
It was deemed a splendid house in its day, and was named by the people in the neighborhood Dies’s Folly. This name has point, and it is to be regretted that the house should now be known by the plebian title of The Stone Jug.
When it was built, this mansion stood in a field and pleasure ground of about five acres, which was bounded on the east by the highway now known as Main street, and on the south and west by the Katskill. For many years the beauty of the place suffered no loss. No building of any kind was in sight, nor any structure excepting a low wharf near the mouth of the Katskill, which had been built by one of the Duboises. The western hill across the creek, as it is called, now disfigured by wharves, and brick kilns, and unsightly cottages of workingmen, was covered by a forest of great oak trees, and from the front stoop of Dies’s Folly one could look down the lovely Katskill, between Hopenose and the wooded slope of the opposite bank, to the further shore of the Hudson and to Blue Hill in the distance bounding the southeastern horizon.
John Dies, the husband of Madam Jane Goelet Dies, was a merchant in the city of New York, -- so at least he is described in a deed, dated in November 1762. One story is that he was the captain of a barque, and was wont to make voyages to the West Indies, after rum, cocoanuts and oranges. Another story is that he was an officer – a major – in the British army. About the time of his marriage with Miss Jane Goelet, he deserted and fled with his wife from New York to Catskill, as to a remote and sure refuge. Yet he lived for some time in fear of arrest. When British troops where [sic] in the neighborhood, camping for the night on the old King’s road, at the Fuyk, or waiting in their transports becalmed at anchor the mouth of the Katskill, at such times, the tradition is, Dies used to secrete himself in the garret of his house, in a secret recess in the eastern chimney-stack. To this hiding place his trusty wife used to betake herself thrice a day, to bring him food and drink, always locking behind her the door on the stairway leading to the garret.
He was a drunkard and a spendthrift, and it is said of him that he was wont to amuse himself by skipping Mexican dollars across the Katskill.
A copy of the will of Dies’s father-in-law, bearing the date July 9th 1768, is in the writer’s possession. By this instrument the testator gave his estate to his executors in trust for the benefit of his daughter, Jane Dies, “designing by this devise” – so the will reads – “to prevent any Part of my estate from falling into the hands of my son-in-law, John Dies, of whose prudence I have no opinion, and intending the more effectually to provide for my said daughter and her children, by effectually guarding against the Interposition of the said John Dies of the Possession or management of any Portion of my estate in any manner whatsoever.” It is evident from this will, that John Dies was living in 1768. But when he died, or where he was buried, has never been learned.* (*Jane Dies was a widow at least as early as 1773.) Nor is anything more known of him, except that, in 1753, he was appointed deputy surveyor, by Cadwallader Colden, to survey a tract of land on the Schoharie Kill, from the Van Bergen Patent down to Brakabeen.
Jane Dies, the wife of John Dies, was a child of Jacob Goelet, a resident at one time of Albany, and afterward a merchant in New York. She was always addressed and is still mentioned as Madame Dies. Indeed she seems to have been held by her acquaintances in a certain sort of awe for her fine manners, for her rigid piety, and especially for her ability to read and write English with ease.
She died on the 5th day of March, 1799, and was buried on the west side of the Katskill, in the graveyard of Hubartus Dubois. All marks of the grave are now obliterated, and the tombstone which once marked the spot is lying upon the ground. It is a plain slab of brown freestone, and bears the following inscription:
“In Memory of
wife of JOHN DISE,
who departed this life
the 5th of March, 1799,
aged, 78 years.
See, here she
rests, free from all care,
The world no more to mind;
But mounts up to her Savior dear,
Her sure and faithful friend.”
The Catskill Packet of March 9th, 1799, contains the following notice: “Died, on Tuesday last, Mrs. Jane Dies, of this town, aged 78 years. Her virtue, piety, benevolence and charity have been equaled by very few.”
Two portraits of Madam Dies are in existence, one taken in childhood, the other – now cracked and discolored by age – in early womanhood. These pictures are worth preserving, as mementoes of a noble lady. But they are worthless as objects of art; and it must be confessed that if we were solely dependent on them for a knowledge of the kind of woman Madam Dies was, we would be forced to describe her as fond of fine clothes, and especially of lace, and as having no other characteristics, good, bad or indifferent.
Her tea service – perhaps rather the remains of it – was once shown to the writer by her grand-daughter, Mrs. Jennet Dubois. It was of china, and was covered with outlandish yet picturesque figures common to the ware of the Celestials. It was never used by Madam Dies, except on occasions of ceremony – at such times of special invitation, one may suppose, as when Mistress Van Vechten of the Mill, and Widow Elsie Van Bergen of the Vly, came down through the woods to spend a summer afternoon at Dies’s Folly, returning home before nightfall, through fear of Brandt and his band of maurauding Mohawks. Perhaps, too, this tea-set was bought out on that busy day, in October, 1777, when General Warner and his staff, and Ralph Cross, of Newburyport, Mass., colonel of the Essex regiment, were “genteelly entertained at Widow Dies’s house.”
The will of Madam Dies bears date the 24th day of August 1796. Her lands in Schoharie and at Catskill, and, indeed, all of her estate, she divided pretty equally among her children, Matthew, Jacob, John and Catherine, and among her grand-children, Isaac, John Dies, James and Jennet Dubois.
Matthew, Jacob and John Dies, as early as 1764, were living on the Schoharie Kill, and were among the first settlers of what is now the town of Gilboa. They built the first grist and saw-mills there.
Mrs. Jennet Dubois, some time ago, permitted the writer to copy a letter written by her grandmother, Madam Dies. This letter is as follows:
“Catts Kill Town, March 15th, 1796.
“I Received all you Sent, for wich Receive my harty Thanks. Your Brother tells me of your Suffering, for wich am Sorry. I have you and all your Sisters and Brothers with me in my Approches at the Throne of Grace, Morning and Evening, that the Almighty out of his Infinite Goodness and Merci will be Pleased to Restore you to your Health; if it is our Blessed Saviour’s will to take you to himself, to fit and Prepare you for your next Remove and Receive you into his Blessed Arms, Aman.
“You my dear Children that are in health, Seek the Lord while he may be found, then I shall have my wish in the Family that I am Connected with and in the bonds of Love and Friendship. I feal for Richard on the Water. I Pray that the Lord will Send his Gardian Angel to Protect him and Send him Safe to his Family again. Cate sent me Last fall 2 Viols 1 she Said was Lavandar. I did not smell the Lavander: the Other was for Weekness but did not Say how it was to be Taken. Deat Cate I send you Eggs as you Desired. I gave 3 shillings a dozen, you must Counte them and pay for the 2 Viols and let me know how I am to take this Midcine for Weekness.
“Hope this my Meet you in better Health and Our Blessed Jesus Grant you Some Longer time on Earth with the Under Aged Children. Inclosed you have 5 Doller wich, with the Eggs for wich I was Obliged to give 3 Shillings a dozen, Please to pay Post for the 2 Viols and send twelve shilling Kag Corn, Hams, Buiskets: Mark it J.D.: and the Remainder Send in Sugar Candy and Candied Oranges: my Cate joyns me in tender Regard to Self and all the Family, and after my best wishes for your better healt, believe me
Your sinciar frind
“I forgot 5 lb. of Pepper Mint Losingis, wich Please to Send and Less of the other. Please to Return the Baskit, you Can pack up my things in it
“(Directed) MISS CORNELIA BLAARE att. Doct. POST’S, New
“Favored by Captain VAN LOAN.”
THE VAN VECHTEN PATENT
In the early days of the Dutch supremacy, a tribe of Indians lived on the plains which lies along the Katskill, just below its junction with the Kaaterskill. These Indians were of Algonkin lineage. But whether their totem, or national symbol, was the Wolf of the Delawares or the Wolf of the Mohicans is a question which cannot now be answered.
The maize-fields and the tobacco-fields of this tribe were on the plains; on its eastern edge their wigwams stood, out of the reach of the highest floods of the Katskill. “Their burying ground” – thus, in 1787, testified old Jan Van Schaak, whose memory went back nearly to the beginning of the century – “their burying ground was northeast of Van Vechten’s house, almost opposite Van Vechten’s barn.” The place, about two hundred paces northeast of this house, and on the second bank of the Katskill, was once pointed out to the writer by Jon Van Vechten. A clump of red cedars, of great size and very old, once covered this burial-place. These trees, about the year 1836, were cut down and their trunks were made into ties for the Catskill and Canajoharie Railway.
The southwestern corner of Jefferson Flats overlooks an ancient grave yard, and was called by the Dutch, Casteel’s Hoogte, or Castle Height. This name calls to mind a fort which the Indians of the plain below built as a refuge. It was a rude stockade, made of logs fixed perpendicularly into the ground. As there is no spring of water on this portion of the Jefferson plain, the enclosure of the fort probably extended down the southern slope of the hill, so as to include the copious fountain of pure water, that, to this day, bubbles out of the ground at the edge of the Snake road. The Catskill Path was a foot-path that led from this fort to the plains of Coxsackie. It formed the eastern boundary of the lands described in the patents which cover the eastern portion of the town of Athens, so that its exact course has been preserved. The path crossed the Jefferson Flats in a northeasterly direction, and kept under the hill of Helderberg limestone which rises out of the Katskill at Austin’s paper-mill. Upon this trail was afterward laid out the road, which begins at the western turnpike near the house of Robert Austin, and which leads to the old farm-house that once belonged to Henry Oothoudt. General William Salisbury said that seventy-five years ago, he had himself traced this Catskill Path, then well defined, under the Kalkberg, from the Susquehanna Turnpike to the Athens and Leeds road.
At Mawignack, as the Indians called it, or “the place where two rivers meet,” that is to say, on the narrow strip of alluvial loam which lay between the Katskill and the Kaaterskill, at their junction, was another Indian village. Our grandfathers have talked with old men, with Helmer Jansen Turner and with Gysbert Oosterhoudt, who, in their boyhood, saw “Indian houses on the west side of the Katskill,” and an “Indian foart that stood on the Berg five or six hundred yards to the northward of whare the kills meet.” The Berg is the sandy hill which lies on the north side of the Kaaterskill, and on its eastern slope, John Perse, in his boyhood, used to find many arrow-heads.
The fertility of this plain and of the other plains on the Katskill, soon attracted the Dutch colonists of New Netherland: In 1643, thirty-three years after the discovery of the Hudson, Adriaen van der Donck, schout-fiscaal of Rensselaer Wyck, came down the Hudson with some colonists, to examine lands on the Katskill. But his master, the patroon, wanted these lands – had, indeed, given orders for their purchase, and Van der Donck was forced to abandon his design of planting a colony at Hopenose and Mawignack. Three years later, in 1646, Cornelius Antonissen van Slyck, of Breuckelen, obtained a grant of “the lands of the Katskill.” But, for some reason no longer known, he never took possession of the estate, and suffered the grant to lapse.
In 1649, however, the colonization of the Katskill began. In April of that year, Brandt van Slectenhorst, the commissary or chief executive officer of the patroon, bought from Pewasck, a squaw and the chief of Catskill, and from Supahoof, her son, for the price of seventeen and a half ells of duffels – a coarse woolen cloth like baize – a beaver jacket and a knife, “the kill with the falls,” or the Katskill as far as the rapids which lie below the paper-mill of the Austins, just opposite the plain of Ochquichtok.
Pewasck lived in the Indian village on the Van Vechten Flats, and it was the home and the lands of herself and her people, which she sold to the said Van Slectenhorst. But her deed of conveyance also included two “flat parcels of land along the north side of the kill and two flats on the south side.” These parcels can still be identified. On the right or south bank of the Katskill, one “flat” lies between the Mountain Turnpike and the house of Captain Richard Martin; the other is north and west of the Devil’s Aspect. On the left or north bank of the Katskill, one “flat parcel” is bounded by Main, Greene and Bridge streets: the other lies east of the Van Vechten house, and between the Snake road and the creek.
But this purchase by Van Slectenhorst had been made without the consent of the West India Company. Stuyvesant, the director general of New Netherland, immediately, therefore, entered his protest against the transaction, and forbade – although to no purpose – any settlements on the Katskill. He even arrested Van Slectenhorst, and kept him for four months in New Amsterdam, as a prisoner at large, for his zeal in prosecuting the design of the patroon to add the region of the Katskill to his enormous possessions.
In 1652, the conveyance by Pewasck and Supahoof to Van Slectenhorst was declared void. But the few men who bought or leased lands on the Katskill from the patroon were allowed to remain on their lands, free from any feudal burdens and from the patronage of the colony.
These men, the colonists of the Katskill, were probably Hans Vos, Claes Uylen Spiegel, and Jan Jansen van Bremen. Hans Vos has already been spoken of. Uylen Spiegel lived on the south side of the Katskill, on the southeastern slope of the Hopenose. Van Bremen took possession of the lands which Pewasck and her tribe had occupied.
His lease of these lands is dated January 14th 1650. It conveyed to him for a term of six years, at a yearly rent of sundry skipples of wheat, “the land where the squaw” – Pewasck – “who is chief of the Katskill, lives.” The lessee agreed to build a house, barn and barrack on the farm, that is, agreed to furnish stone, timber, and reeds for thatch, for those structures, to dig the cellar of the house, to feed the carpenters, the masons, the thatchers and the other laborers, while the work was going on. The patroon engaged to pay the wages of the workmen, and to furnish boards, nails, and stone for the chimney, and the hinges, straps and other ironwork, for the house. Hans Vos, it was provided, should help Van Bremen for fourteen days. This was the first house built on the north side of the Katskill.
A room with a fire-place was to be reserved for the use of the director of Rensselaer’s Wyck and his family, or for whomsoever should “fill his honor’s place.”
Van Bremen also agreed, on every Lord’s day or holiday to read to his Christian neighbors the Holy Gospel, and, according to the custom of the Reformed Church, to sing one or more psalms before and after prayers. He especially covenanted, under penalty of forfeiture of his lease, to live in peace “with the Indians and his Christian neighbors.”
In 1653, after the title of the patroon to the lands on the Katskill had been declared void, Van Bremen obtained a patent for his farm, that is to say, for the alluvial plain on the Katskill, just below its junction with the Kaaterskill. Six years later, he added to his estate, by buying twelve acres of arable land from Jan Andriessen, the Irishman. This parcel lies on the Katskill, east of the Van Vechten house, and was once known as the Streeke, that is, “the Strip.” About the year 1667, Van Bremen sold both tracts to Eldert Gerbertsen Cruyf, and, with the record of this sale, further mention of the man ceases.
Cruyf was a person of note in his day. He kept possession of his purchase from Van Bremen until the year 1675, when he transferred it to Stephanus Van Cortlandt, one of the directors of Rensselaer’s Wyck. Van Cortlandt, on the 20th day of October 1681, sold the land to Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten. The price he paid was 400 guilders in beaver skins, and 256 guilders in the patroon’s money, namely, “in wheat, at 10 guilders the mudde;” that is to say, what he really paid was between 250 and 300 dollars.
The father of Dirk Teunisse was Teunis Dirkse, who was an inhabitant of Vechte, in the diocese of Utrecht, and who, in 1638, in the ship “The Arms of Norway,” came to New Netherland with his wife, and his son Dirk Teunisse, and his two servants. He seems to have become a tenant of the patroon, and lived in the town which is now called Greenbush. In 1663 he is mentioned in the Dutch records as an “old inhabitant” of the colony. He died in 1700, leaving three sons, Dirk Teunisse, Cornelis and Gerrit, and one daughter, Pieterje.
The father never took the name of Van Vechten. In his life-time, the designation was probably unnecessary. But the son is always described as Van Vechten.
Five years after Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten had made his purchase, his title was confirmed by the colonial government. The patent to him is dated the twenty-first day of March, 1686. It grants the Van Bremen estate, or the Flats; another “piece of land lying before his door,” or the Streeke; a hundred acres of adjoining woodland, and the mill and mill-dam on the Hans Vosen Kill.
On this estate Van Vechten, coming down from Albany, or from its neighborhood, with his wife and children, lived during the remainder of his life. The farm produced nearly everything the family needed for use; wool, tobacco, maize, and perhaps a little flax. But the chief harvest was wheat, which the fertile low lands bore abundantly. A portion of the crop was, of course, consumed at home. The remainder was carried from the farm, at high tide, in boats of light draft, to the small sloops which plied between Albany and New York, and which, while waiting for their load, lay at anchor in the deeper water of the Katskill. But VanVechten himself had no need of working with his own hands; his business was chiefly the oversight of his farm and his little mill. Besides this duty of superintendence, Van Vechten, after 1689, and until the year of his death, was a justice of the peace for the county of Albany. But his labors as a magistrate could not usually have been arduous. The arraignment of a drunken Indian for theft, and the occasional trial of an action at law between his neighbors, -- if the amount in dispute was not greater than forty shillings, -- were the sum of his official duties at home. He was paid by fees, and these, if an obscure statement in the records at the county at Albany is rightly interpreted, in a year of unwonted press of business, ran up to the sum of fifteen beavers, or about $60 in silver. But the office was an honor, as it was only conferred on men of established position in the county.
Three times a year Van Vechten went to Albany to attend the Quarter Sessions. This court had all the authority which the Quarter Sessions of the English counties exercised during the last half of the seventeenth century. It was a court of criminal jurisdiction, and while it had the power to try crimes of every grade, it, in fact, took cognizance only of lesser offences, petty thefts, assaults and batteries, the sale of spirits to the Indians, and violations of the law relating to bastards.
In the autumn of 1689, there were rumors abroad of an invasion by the French, by the way of Lake Champlain. Preparations were immediately made at Albany for their coming. Stockades were built at Saratoga, at Half-Moon, at Paeps Knee, and at the Groote Stick. Powder and arms were brought from Fort William, in New York. Men – among whom were Francis, the son of Silvester Salisbury, and John and Teunis, the sons or nephews of Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten – were enrolled, at the daily pay of twelve pence, with their provisions, “to serve their Majesties and the Country upon the Frontiers.” Letters were written to the chiefs of the Five Nations to keep them in their allegiance. Their sachems and chief warriors were invited to Albany, with a promise, if they came, “their feet should be well greased.” In all this unwonted bustle, Van Vechten took a share. One reads of him in the old records, that he was in Albany in consultation with Peter Schuyler, the mayor, and in convention with the members of the Quarter Sessions and the officers of the fort. He was sent to Esopus to get men ready for a march to the frontiers. He entertained, at his house in Catskill, the messengers who were sent to Connecticut for assistance.
Van Vechten died on the twenty-fifth day of November 1702. His wife, Jannetje Vrelant, and his sons, Michiel, Johannes, Teunis, Samuel and Abraham survived him. Samuel bought the interest of his brothers in their father’s land on the Katskill, and lived thereon during the remainder of his life.
The portrait of Samuel Van Vechten is in the possession of his great-great-nephew. The name of the painter has been forgotten, and no signature can be seen on the canvas by which the name might be traced. As Van Vechten was born in 1673, and as the picture represents him as between thirty and forty years old, it must have been painted about the year 1710. It is between a three-quarter and full-length portrait, and is in a state of excellent preservation. Van Vechten is painted in the fashionable dress of the day, in a flowing brown wig, in a brown coat with large cuffs, and with a Steinkirk of lace or of lawn about his neck. He seems to have been a man of fine presence. His eyes are full of intelligence and a pleasing smile is about his mouth.
His Dutch Bible is also in the possession of the same descendant. It is a noble folio, bound in hog-skin now black with age, and secured by heavy clasps of brass. The book was printed at Dordrecht or Amsterdam, in 1702, in black letter and in clear type, and with ink which has not faded by the lapse of one hundred and seventy-five years.
Samuel Van Vechten died a bachelor in 1741, at the age of sixty-eight years. His patrimony he devised to his nephew, Teunis, the son of his brother, Teunis, for life, with remainder to their right heir “of him, the said Teunis, lawfully begotten of his own body,” and thence to descend from heir to heir, lawfully begotten of the preceding heir, “successively to the end of the world.” In 1748, Teunis, the nephew, received a commission as a first lieutenant of a company “of militia foot, whereof Kasparis Bronk is Captain in the first battalion of the regiment of the county of Albany, whereof William Johnson is Colonel.” But it is no longer remembered whether he served under this commission on the frontier. He seems to have been a thrifty man, for he added to his ancestral estate by the purchase of lots five and fourteen in the second sub- division of the Lindesay Patent, of land in the Catskill Patent surrounding Green’s Lake, of land in the Loonenburg Patent, of land in the Sticktekook Patent, in Coxsackie, and of land in the Vrooman Patent, on the Mohawk, known by the name of Jersey Field. He moreover added largely to the value of his farm by building, about the year 1770, a grist and saw-mill and a mill-dam on the Katskill, at a cost of a thousand pounds. This mill stood on the bank of the creek, at the place where the northern end of the mill-dam now is, while the mill-dam, a structure of timber, was built about a hundred feet further up the stream. Teunis Van Vechten died on the third day of April 1785, at the age of seventy-eight years.
The sons of Teunis Van Vechten were taught to read and write in a little school-house which stood on the south side of the Snake road. Its exact location is not easy to describe. The rude cabin was built on a grassy knoll among old trees, a few rods east of the rivulet of sparkling water which springs out of the hollow, made by the great shower of 1819.
From this school, the boys were sent to the academy, at Kingston. Abraham afterward took up his residence in Albany and became one of the foremost lawyers of his day. Samuel spent his life on the ancestral estate, with the exception of the time he passed in the northern army of the United States. In 1776, he received his commission as captain in the regiment of infantry of which Anthony Van Bergen was colonel, and almost immediately went into active service. On the 19th of May, he left Albany on horseback, and on the 22nd joined the army, under Schuyler, at Skenesborough. In these labors of that busy year, the order book of Captain Van Vechten shows that he bore a full share. He was officer of the day, in due routine, at Ticonderoga, at Skenesborough, and at Fort Edward. He faithfully drilled his little company of recruits, among whom were Solomon Schutt of Catskill and Isaac Overbagh of the Kykuit. Twice he was bearer of dispatches to Albany. He enforced order and discipline among the carpenters and boatmen, who had assembled from the Hudson and Connecticut to build bateaux for the defense of Lake Champlain. In his turn, he superintended the repairs of Ticonderoga and Fort George.
The smaller dwelling, which either Van Bremen or Dirk Teunisse had built, and which had its chief door and approach on the east, was torn down in 1750. On or near the same site, the present stone house was in that year erected. It was a story and a half high, and had a steep roof, which extended on the north over a long stoop or piazza. In 1806, another story was added; and at this time was put in the gable of red brick, which makes a pleasant resting-place for the eye, when one is looking from the top of Jefferson Hill down upon the lovely valley of the Katskill.
A hundred years ago a noble forest covered the double semicircle of the hillside between the Van Vechten house and Tantagoes house, at the rifts by the iron bridge. The remnant of this wood, between the rivulet which crosses the Snake road and the spring which breaks out of the hill a short distance beyond, was standing until about the year 1836. It was a grove of large and ancient sycamores, chestnuts and oaks. The ground beneath was free from underbrush, and it was the wont of many passers by to leave the unfenced road and to linger in that grateful shade. Upon Jefferson Flats, three or four hundred yards in a northeasterly direction from the Van Vechten house, was the Renbaan. The word means race-ground, just as Kaats-baan means ball-ground. The place was a cleared area of ten or fifteen acres, and was once in the possession of Teunis Van Vechten, who gave it up to the Salisburys and the Van Bergens, as not worth fencing. The tradition is that it was the place where the yeomen of a hundred years ago – the Bronks and Brandows of Loonenburg, and the Persens of the Inbogt – used to race their horses. Gysbert Oosterhoudt was often the judge or referee; Jan de Bakker, a drunken Indian, with negro blood in his veins, was the favorite jockey.
THE CORLAERS KILL PATENT
The little brook which crosses the Athens Turnpike, about a mile above the village of Catskill, is the Corlaers Kill. It probably took its name from Arendt Van Curler, or Corlaer, as the name is usually spelled, who was an Indian agent of note, and who, while living at Albany, was on terms of intimacy with Van Vechten, Salisbury, Bronk, and other early landholders of Catskill. The brook, in turn, gave its name to the patent.
The eastern boundary of the land included within this patent is the Hudson. The southern boundary is the northern line of the estate which belonged to Gysbert uyt den Bogaert, or a line drawn from Stuck, the rivulet above Dieper Hook, to the Hans Vosen Kill, a little above the second bridge, on the new road, and thence to the Catskill Path, or the Indian Path, on the western side of Jefferson Flats. The western boundary is the path. The northern boundary is the southern line of the Loonenburg Patent* (*Note. – This line is fully described in history of Athens.), and touched the Hudson at a point north of Brandow’s Bay, which was called by the Indians, Machawamick, by the Dutch, Vlugt Hoek, and by the English, Flying Corner.
In 1662 the Catskill Indians sold this tract to Marte Gerritse Van Bergen, who, five years afterward, received a patent for the land from Governor Nicholls. In 1684 Van Bergen obtained a deed of quit-claim from Manneetee, “commonly called Schermerhoorn by the Dutch,” and from Unkeek, “commonly called Jan de Bakker.” These Indians seem to have had a claim to the land, which had not been satisfied by the purchase of 1662. On the 23rd of May 1687, a patent of confirmation was granted to Van Bergen and Jan Bronk.
Marte Gerritse left a large estate in land, lots in Albany, a farm just below Albany, and an undivided moiety in the Catskill Patent, in the Coxsackie Patent, and in the Corlaers Kill Patent. This estate, on the death of their father, became vested in his sons, Gerrit, Marten and Petrus.
Jan Bronck, during his life, sold his interest in the Corlaers Kill Patent to the Van Bergens. Petrus Van Bergen, however, in 1725 conveyed his share to his two brothers, who seem to have kept possession of the larger portion of the tract until they died. In 1758, Gerrit devised “all my right” – thus his will reads – “in the Corlaers Kill Patent to my granddaughter, Annake Bronk, daughter of Casparus Bronk, deceased.” In 1765, Marten devised his estate in the patent to his grandson Martin, and to his sons-in-law Henry Oothoudt and Johannes Schuneman, and to their wives Neeltje and Anna Maria.
There were five, or at the most, six houses, about the year 1783, within the boundaries of the Corlaers Kill Patent and within the town:
The house of Ephraim Concklin, which stood upon the bank of the Hudson near the house in which Isaac Penfield and his son Lewis afterward lived.
Of Peter Schmidt, which was probably in the hamlet now called Hamburg.
Of Peter Souser. His was the house belonging to the Van Vechten grist-mill, on the Hans Vosen Kill. Souser was living on this spot, as early as 1765.
Of Peter Mey, a short distance north of Henry Oothoudt’s house, under the Kalkberg or Limestone Hill. Walter W. Palmatier now lives at the same place.
Of Henry Oothoudt, built of wood about 1775, and still standing. It is the first farm-house on the right-hand side of the lane which leaves the turnpike-road in Jefferson nearly opposite the dwelling of Robert Austin. Henry Oothoudt was born on the 6th of January 1739. His father was Volkert Oohoudt, who, about the year 1741, was one of the owners of 13,000 acres of land within the present boundaries of Otsego county. It is not known when his son Henry came to Catskill to reside, but it was either after his marriage, in 1760, with Neeltje, a shrewish daughter of Martin Van Bergen, or after the death of Van Bergen, in 1770. Henry Oothoudt was a man of some note among his fellows. He had been well educated; his natural parts were good; and for ten years or more he was a judge and surrogate in the county. He was a member of the convention at which the first constitution of New York was framed, and, as an anti-federalist, voted against its adoption; was one of the commissioners of forfeited estates; was a member of the council of appointments; and from 1781 to 1784 was a Senator of Albany county. He died on the 14th day of July 1801, and was buried in the Jefferson grave-yard, where his tombstone may still be seen. He was the owner of large tracts of land in the northern and central part of Oneida county, which, after his death, were sold for a small sum, as not worth holding. He had one daughter, Catherine, who in 1779, married John Demarest. Their only son was Henry Oothoudt Demarest, who is still remembered by the older residents of Catskill.
About the year 1803, a stone house stood near a spring in a field a short distance above the bridge across the Corlaers Kill, and west of the school-house on the road to Athens. This house was then occupied by Jacob Newkirk and John Persen, and probably was standing in the year 1783. This may be the house in which Jacob Goetchius lived, after his marriage in 1780 with Catherine, a daughter of Rev. Johannes Schuneman.
THE CATSKILL PATENT
Beyond Leeds, on the right bank of the Katskill, lies an alluvial plain of irregular shape, about two miles long with an average breadth of a quarter of a mile. It is raised a few feet above the level of the water, by which, however, it is covered and also fertilized in times of flood. Low hills encompass the noble tract, and beyond these hills are the Potick Mountains and the precipitous range of Hamilton shales, which the Dutch called the Hooge-berg. There is no lovelier landscape in the town than the view of this plain and the surrounding regions from the road which passes along the side of Potick to the Indian Ridge.
This noble plain was divided into five parts, which bore the harsh names of Wachachkeek, Wichquanachtekak, Pachquiack, Assiskowachkeek, and Potick. These divisions, even so late as 1762, were separated from each other by gullies, water courses or clumps of trees.
The first name, as Gysbert Oosterhoudt testified in 1786, means house-land, or, more accurately, the place of wigwams. This flat lay between Marten Van Bergen’s and Johannes Schuneman’s, and now lies on the south side of the road between Leeds and Catskill. The second flat is on the north side of this road, between it the Kolk, a small pond in the field on the south-western side of the Windham Turnpike. The third flat or Pachquiack – that is to say, “clear land or open country,” – extended from the Kolk to the island. The fourth is on the east side of the ancient house of the Van Dusens; the fifth is on both sides of the Katskill, and was included in the farm of William Salisbury. The name of the fifth flat is Potick – that is to say, a waterfall – and the flat was probably thus called from the rapids in the Katskill, which are hard by. In later days, after the Salisburys and the Van Bergens had begun to occupy the plain, it was called, as an entirety, by the Indians, by the name of Quajack, or the Christians’ Corn Land.
In the records of New Netherland, and in the early records of New York, the native owners of this plain and of the region round about, from the mountains to the Hudson and from the Kaaterskill to Coxsackie, and perhaps to Coeymans, are always called Catskill Indians. They were probably of Mohican blood, for they seem to have spoken the language of the Indians who were gathered about Albany, and whose council fire was at Schodac. Wassenaar, moreover, declares that in 1609 the Mohicans were in possession of the west bank of the Hudson from the Mohawk to the Esopus. But, during the last half of the seventeenth century, the Indians of Old Catskill became a mixed race of Mohicans, Delawares, Penacooks, from the Connecticut, and Nanticokes, from the eastern shore of Maryland. Between the years 1663 and 1678 the chief men of the tribe were Manneentee, Tamonquas, Mamartekeek and Sichano. The sachems were two in number. One was Keesie Way or Aapje (Little Ape), who claimed the ownership of Caniskek, as the plain now occupied by the farms of Griffin, Rushmore, Clow and others was called. The other was Mahak-Niminaw, who ruled over the Indians of old Catskill. He chiefly spent his time in hunting, and was very fond of the rum of the Dutch, but hated their religion.
In 1786, Philip Bronk testified that he had heard his father say, that “there used to be sixty fighting Indians, besides women and children, at Old Catskill.” This estimate would make the number of native inhabitants of the plain about three hundred.
These Indians, by the slow process of burning down the trees, had cleared a large portion of the flat, and upon it, in the fertile and mellow soil, they grew ample crops of maize, beans and pumpkins. Their wigwams stood on the bank on the southern and southwestern rim of the plain, from the site of the stone-house which Garret Van Bergen built and which Henry Vedder now dwells in. There was also an Indian village, and perhaps also an Indian kasteel or fort at Potick, near the house once occupied by William Salsbury. The burying places of these savages were near the side of Old Catskill church, a few rods north of the spot where the tile-roofed house of Martin Van Bergen once stood, near William Van Bergen’s, now Henry Vedder’s barn, and at Potick, and at Tagpohkigt, or Tabigicht, as the Sandy Plain was once called.
From these hamlets, there led a foot-path to Coxsackie, near or upon which the road leading from Leeds past Greene’s Lake was afterward made. Another foot-path followed the Katskill to its source in the Vly, and thence continued down one of the branches of the Schoharie Kill and the Schoharie Kill itself to the Mohawk.
This tribe, like their Mohican kindred, buried their dead in a sitting posture, with the knees drawn up to the body. In each grave were put the occupant’s bows and arrows, his beads, and the trophies of his prowess. This mode of interment was practised so long as the Indians of Old Catskill kept possession of their domain. But, during the last years of their occupancy, their mode of life became greatly changed. Log cabins, at least in part, took the place of wigwams. Bows were laid aside for muskets, and arrows for lead bullets. The men and women no longer clothed themselves in the skins of wild beasts, but wore shirts, stockings, woolen blankets, breeches of fustian, and gowns of duffels. The coarse meal of maize was boiled in iron kettles instead of being made into a cake and baked in the hot ashes. The trees were felled by axes and not by fire. The ground was no longer tilled by the women with a sharp stone, but with a hoe. The canoes, when they were not made of elm or birch bark, were hollowed out of a single log by an adze, and not by burning and scraping the charred surface with a large flint. All these implements were, of course, obtained from the Dutch, who gave them in barter for the skins of the beavers and of the otters which the Indians trapped or shot on the branches of the Katskill and the Kaaterskill.
The Dutch traders, always eager to buy furs, had often visited the Indians of Old Catskill, slept in their foul and smoky wigwams, ate their coarse food, and engaged with them in many a secret debauch. But the first man who made his home among these idle and drunken savages was Jan Bronck.
In January 1675, Jan Bronck bought from Manneentee, “commonly called Schermerhoorn, by the Dutch,” and from Siachemoes, the son of Keesie Wey, “a piece of land lying in Katskill, on the north side of the Kill, named Pakoecq by the Indians, situate under the hill which stands to” – or faces – “the west, with free range for cattle.” This tract lies above and below the stone bridge at Leeds, on the north and east of the Katskill. The boundaries of the purchase included nearly all the land in the village of Leeds, which now lies between the turnpike-road and the Katskill.
In 1705 this tract was confirmed to Jan Bronck by a patent from the colonial government. Soon after his purchase from the Indians, Bronck builton his estate a log-house, in which he lived until he died. Tradition and recitals in ancient deeds have kept alive the remembrance of the site. The rude dwelling stood on the eastern bank of the Katskill: the precise spot is just behind the brick house in Leeds, in which John Van Vechten lived for many years.
The sale to Jan Bronck by the Indians of Old Catskill, was soon followed by the alienation of the rest of their domain. In June 1678, an agreement to sell was made between them and Marte Gerritse Van Bergen and Silvester Salisbury, the commander at Fort Albany. On the 8th of July, the bargain was consummated, with unusual formality, at the Stadt Huis at Albany, before Robert Livingston, secretary of the district, in the presence of the magistrates of the jurisdiction, and of a motley group of Catskill and Mohican Indians. Maetsapeek, commonly called Mahak-Niminaw, and his six head men, as the representatives of the whole tribe, executed with rude and hieroglyphic signatures, a deed of the five plains and of the wood-land for four miles round, the land of Jan Bronck excepted. The price paid by Van Bergen and Salisbury for this noble estate was 300 guilders in wampum, or about $100 in coin, several hundred ells of the coarse woolen cloth known as duffels, ten blankets, ten fusees, ten axes and ten pairs of stockings.
These shiftless and drunken Indians no longer had a dwelling place. Whither they went or what was their fate, is no longer known. They are never spoken of again in any deed or in any other record of the province. There is an indistinct tradition, however, that, in the days of our grandfathers, a little band of Indians used to come every summer from their home beyond the Mohawk, and encamp for a few weeks in a chestnut grove on William Salisbury’s farm at Potick. They asserted that their forefathers once owned the lowland near by on the Katskill.
The purchasers of the tracts which, in 1680 and in 1688, were included within the boundary of the Catskill Patent, it will be remembered, were Marte Gerritse Van Bergen and Silvester Salisbury.
Salisbury was born in England or in Wales about the year 1629. Of his boyhood and of his early manhood nothing is now known. That he was a kinsman of the ancient family of Saliburys in Denbighshire, in Wales, is proven by his coat of arms. That he was well brought up and carefully taught is shown by his letters; but the precise relationship he bore to the knights of Llewenny, and the nature of his training, will probably never be discovered, until the records of his house in northern Wales – if they still exist – shall have been carefully examined.
It is worthy of note, however, that, besides Silvester, other cadets of this ancient house emigrated to America during the seventeenth century. John Salisbury came about 1635. Thomas about 1645, another Thomas about 1665 and went to Pennsylvania, Henry about 1680.
In 1664, Salisbury, being an ensign in the British army, took part in the conquest of New Netherland. In July, 1670, he was sent, either as lieutenant or as captain, to take command of Fort Albany, and was almost immediately appointed schout fiscal of Rensselaer’s Wyck. The next year he aided in negotiating a peace between the Mohawks and the Indians of New England. Soon afterward he was made one of the justices of the peace of Albany.
In 1673 he was forced to surrender his post to the Dutch, who sent him as a prisoner to Spain, at that time the constrained and unnatural ally of the United Provinces. During the next year, after the close of the war, he was released, returned to New York, and was put in command of his old post. In 1675, probably in September, he was sent to England, as bearer of dispatches, and was graciously received by the Duke of York, to whom Salisbury had been commended by Sir Edmund Andros. The next spring he was ordered back, taking with him letters from the duke to the governor of the province. In one of these letters the duke wrote: “I send you this by the hand of Captain Salisbury; of him I have a good character, and therefore I would have you remember him upon any fit occasion for his advantage in my service.”
In 1677, he and Marte Gerritse Van Bergen became the purchasers of a lordly estate at Catskill. But, before a patent was obtained for the purchase, Salisbury died. The exact time of his death is unknown, but it was between August 26th 1679, the day on which his will is dated, and March 24th 1680, the day on which his widow was confirmed as executrix of his estate.
His widow was Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Cornelisse Beeck, a master-carpenter from Rotterdam. He was married at least as early as 1669. By her he had three children; Francis, born in 1670, Silvester, born in 1674, and Mary, born in 1679. Soon after her husband’s death, Elizabeth Salisbury married Cornelius Van Dyck, a physician of Albany. He died in 1687, and four years after, his widow married George Bradshaw, a captain in the British army.
Silvester Salsibury brought with him from the mother country a copy of the ensigns armorial of his ancestors, which is now in the possession of his descendants, in Catskill. This coat of arms is carved in oak or in other hard wood, and except that the demi-lion in the crest does not hold a crescent or in its paws, is identical with the coat of arms of he family of the Welsh Salisburys. Two rapiers also, which belonged to Silvester Salisbury, are in the possession of the same descendants. They were once mounted in silver of dainty workmanship, but the ornaments have disappeared. On the blade of one sword is stamped the date 1616, on the blade of the other is stamped the date 1544, and in a hollow near the hilt the word Sachgum.
But the heir-loom which, perhaps, is most prized by the descendants of Silvester Salisbury is a portrait of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, which is supposed to have been painted by Holbein. The picture is in excellent preservation, and the colors are still bright. The lady is represented as a rather pretty, insignificant, and voluptuous woman of about twenty-five years. Her hair is brown and is dressed in short curls upon her forehead; her large eyes are hazel; her lips are closed and pouting. Her right arm rests on a pedestal, and her right hand lies upon her bosom, as if to hide the mole, which is said to have been one of the defects of her person. Anne Boleyn is described in the old chronicles as having a kind of supernumerary finger on her hand, and in this picture a stump of a finger, between the first and second fingers of the left hand, is shown.
It is doubtful whether this picture is by Holbein. In the first place, excellent critics, and one of his last biographers affirm that he never painted a portrait of Anne Boleyn. In the second place, the picture is scarcely worthy of this great artist.
A number of Salisbury’s letters are in the possession of his family. They are in his hand-writing, and are written legibly and folded and indorsed neatly. One of them may interest our readers. It is addressed to Governor Andros, and is indorsed “A Copy of ye Letter conserning the thunder and Litening being ye 17th of June 1678.
“Kynf Gr –
“Since ye daiting of my last upon ye 16th of this Instant, about a houer efter the Church was out in the Efternoon and had been at a Burial; so going hoom with Capt. [Pieter] Schuyler, Mr. [Dirck] Wessels and Mr. Griffith, thar arising from the North West a Great Tournade and was Just got into the house as it began. So having nather Man nor Maid in the house, they being abrod and my Wyff big with child, which was so unwildly, I was forced myself with my son Francis to goe into the Sellar, for to draw a bottle of wine and some Beare, ye Chyld standing by me and stooping down to Draw some wyne, it please god for to strick ye end of ye new house in severall places with a mighte Clap of Thunder & Lighting, in so much yt it beat a great piece of the Chimney down and a window frame in pieces and went from ye Top of ye house to the bottome, through three stories high, and Came into the Sellar, where myself and the Chyld was stricken down. But I have receaved Littell harme (blessed be god). But my Chyld was struck down and did not speak a pretty whyle, and myself in a maze and soe dark in the Sellar, and such a mighty stink of sulphur, yt I was almost out of breath and coulde not doe anything to help myself or my chylde, Hee crying out, so getting to him, I found yt ye lighning had brok the seam of his doublet Just under his right arm and soe fell upon him and burnt his Side quyt downe to his Leggs, and had shriveled the skine off in some places, and the lightening struck on the outside of his Left foot and burnt a great peice of ye uper Leather of his shoe away, and thanks be to god that he walks and I hoop he will doe verie well. But to tell you off myself, I am not able, only yt ye great Toe of my Left foot is hurt, and my shoe not brunt, being a littell scorched with ye Lightning. It had damnified ye house to the value of Thre or four beaver or thereabouts, & I doe give god Thanks that it hath not falen out no worse. To tell you all ye accidents in this Lightning, it is impossible, so god of his mercy keep us all from such suden accidents, for it was very Terrible. I pray you present myn and my wiffe’s humble service to my Lady and communicat to hir and Capt. Brokholls and Lett them know yt I wold have written to him, but had not so much tym, the sloop Just agoing and Lykwyse my service to Mr. Delavall & Dayer with all friends. So taking Leave I remain y’or very loving friend and serv’t.
“Fort Albany, ye 17th June, 1678.”
In March 1680, nearly two years after the Indians of Old Catskill had sold their domain, letters patent therefor were obtained from Governor Andros by Marte Gerritse Van Bergen and by Elizabeth, the widow of Silvester Salisbury, in trust for her children. The royal grant was of the five great plains with the woodland around them, “containing, by estimation, in circumference four English miles, or one Dutch mile.” This description, it will be perceived, is ambiguous, and leaves the question undetermined whether the estate granted was to be bounded by a circle of four miles in circumference, which would have enclosed but little more than the five great plains, or to be bounded by lines which would be distant four English miles from these plains. Van Bergen, who seems to have been manager of the estate, perceived the ambiguity with his natural quickness, and availed himself of it with his natural shrewdness. He petitioned the colonial government – Elizabeth Salisbury, who was the wife of Cornelius Van Dyck, joining in the petition – for an ampler and more certain grant and confirmation. The prayer of the petitioners was granted, and on the 28th of July 1688 a new patent was issued.
By this patent the estate received great increase. Its outer bounds were fixed at four English miles northward, eastward, southward and westward from the five plains, and the noble domain thus established was granted and confirmed to Van Bergen in fee simple, and to Elizabeth Salisbury for life, with the remainder in fee to Francis, Silvester and Mary, the children of Silvester Salisbury.
The estate of the Salisburys and Van Bergens, after long and severe litigation, was decided by the Court of Errors to be bounded by circular or curved lines, nearly as these were established by Beatty, deputy surveyor of the province in 1719, and as they were established by the commissioners who divided the estate in 1767. Beatty’s map is probably lost; the commissioners’ map is on file in the office of the secretary of State, at Albany. The northern curve of the patent extended beyond what is now the village of Cairo; the eastern went to the Hudson; the southern took in a large portion of the Inbogt; the western was at the eastern border of the Kisaktom Flats. In fact, however, the owners of the estate never claimed the land south of the Katskill and the Kaaterskill, nor that portion of what is now the town of Athens which lies east of the Indian Footpath.
Until about the year 1800, what is now the village of Catskill was called Het Strand by the Dutch – that is to say, The Landing. Catskill, or afterwards Old Catskill, was the name of the region around Leeds, and included the alluvial plains beyond the creek, and the houses of the Salisburys and the Van Bergens and their neighbors. The Dutch church was also there; and the church, the fertility of the land and the wealth of its occupants made Old Catskill the center of all the county round about, as it was the center of the patent.
The settlement of the domain was slow. Within the patent and the township, however, there were in 1783 about twenty houses. The first building at Old Catskill, and the first within the patent, was erected by Marte Gerritse Van Bergen, about the year 1680. It was a barn of considerable size, being more than fifty feet square, and stood near the spot where Henry Vedder’s barn now stands. It may have been on the very spot, for it appears to be a well founded tradition that portions of the oaken frame of the first barn are also portions of the second. The records make no mention of a house in the neighborhood at this time, but the probability is that one was built at the same time with the barn.
Marte Gerritse Van Bergen, the patentee, never lived at Old Catskill. His elder sons, Gerrit and Martin, were brought up on their father’s estate near Fort Albany, and made their home here only after they had become men. In 1721 they, their brother Petrus, and Francis Salisbury and his son Sylvester, divided a portion of the patent among themselves. The Van Bergens took the northern part of the plain, called Potick, at the base of Potick Mountain; the southern half of the other plain, which lies beyond the stone bridge at Leeds; and a strip of land on the west bank of the Katskill and the Kaaterskill, and between these rivers and the High Hill, as far south as Quat-a-wich-na-ack, a fall n the Kaaterskill, near the bridge on the road to High Falls. The Salisburys took the southern portion of Potick and the northern portion of the plain beyond the stone bridge, as far as the Valje-kilje.* (*This word means “Little Fall Brook,” and the streamlet empties into the Katskill near Wolcott’s Mills. The line of division of the Potick lands can still be traced. See History of Athens.)
In January 1726, nearly five years after this deed of partition was executed, Petrus Van Bergen conveyed to his two brothers all his interest in the Catskill Patent, in exchange for their interest in the Coxsackie Patent. On the latter patent he lived the remainder of his life, and it is from him that the Van Bergens of Coxsackie have descended.
The deed of the Van Bergens and Salisburys of 1721 makes mention of the “dwelling-house of Gerrit Van Bergen.” But the house which is now known as having once been his, was not built until 1729, as the following inscription, rudely cut in a stone which is built into the eastern wall, bears witness:
M. G. V. B.
This house is now occupied by Henry Vedder, but has undergone a good deal of alteration. It was built of brick – not other ancient house in the town is built of that material – was one story high, and its roof of steep pitch was covered with large concave tiles of red earthenware. These were taken off about 1836. It is said that the bricks and roof tiles of this house were imported from Holland, but as similar building material was made in Albany, as early as 1657, the tradition is at least doubtful.
Gerrit Van Bergen, yeoman, as he is described in deeds of indenture and in his will, died at the close of the year 1758, leaving two sons and three daughters. The homestead was devised to Marten Gerritsen, who, being an unthrifty man, fell into debt, and was obliged, in 1771, to sell the estate to John Leendertse Bronck, of Coxsackie. He, three years afterward, conveyed it to Aaront Vedder of Schoharie. An important portion of the Van Bergen domain thus passed permanently out of the possession of the family.
At this place, Aaront Vedder lived during the Revolution, and until his death, about the year 1800. His lands were divided in 1803 between his sons John and Hermon. John was the father of Henry Vedder, who now lives in the house of Gerrit Van Bergen. Hermon was the father of Alexander Vedder.
Many will remember the quaint house which stood on the left side of the road between Leeds and Kaaterskill, three quarters of a mile from the stone bridge at the former place. It was torn down in 1862, and on its site was built a brick house of two stories.
This ancient house was built in 1729, as the iron figures fastened to the outer wall over the eastern door, bore witness. It was one story high, of gray stone, and had a roof of red tile, which, until they were removed, were as sound and as bright in color as on the day when they were taken from the kiln. The internal arrangement of the house did not differ from the other houses of its kind. But over the chimney-shelf, in the northeastern room, was an oak or pine board about two feet broad, upon which a rude and unknown painter, a hundred and twenty-five years ago, had painted a picture of the house, with its barns and smithy on one side and the Dutch church on the other.
Marten Van Bergen, the second son of Marte Gerritse, the patentee, was the builder of this house. He died about the year 1770, leaving one son surviving him, a grandson and three daughters. The grandson became the owner, by devise, of the homestead, but did not long remain the owner.
The formal division of the alluvial land at Old Catskill was not made between the Salisburys and the Van Bergens until the year 1721, but as early as 1682, a partition had been agreed upon. Francis Salisbury, as has already been stated, took the northern portion of the low-lands, which included the plain that now lies on the Katskill between the highway from Leeds to Kaaterskill and Wolcott’s Mills. It was a noble domain. The terrace bordering the plain was covered with trees, but the fertile plain itself had, for the most part, been cleared by the Indians, a few oaks and chestnuts, however, remained upon the flats. Of these trees, a few remained fifty years ago. Forty years ago old men told of the huge trunk of one of the oaks, and of the strange shadow which its gnarled boughs threw, in winter, upon the snow.
Gerrit Teunisse Van Vechten, the brother of Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten, of Catskill, was the first white occupant of these lands. But his possession, which was that of a mortgagee from the Indians, was not of long continuance. In 1682, “the half of the meadow-land at Catskill, consisting of the half of two flats, the first where Gerrit Teunisse now lives, and the second called Potick,” were let for ten years by the trustee of the Salisbury estate to Andries and Hendrick Witbeck. The lease, in the original Dutch, can yet be read in the third volume of deeds in the office of the county clerk of Albany. The lessees agreed, in lieu of rent, to put a substantial fence around certain portions of the land, that is to say, around those portions which now constitute the flats in the possession of the Van Duzens and the Eltings. They also engaged to build, within the fenced enclosure, a barn twenty-two feet and a half in length, and as “broad as the barn which Marte Gerritse has built there,” to erect a dwelling-house twenty-two feet and a half square, with a roof of shingles and “a cellar of stone as large as the house,” and to plant an orchard of two hundred fruit trees, to be furnished by the lessor.
Assuming that the provisions of this lease were carried out, it may be that the barn which the Witbecks built, between the first day of May 1682, and the first day of May 1692, is the barn which now stands in the rear of the house built by Francis Salisbury and now occupied by the Van Duzens. The frame of this building is perfectly sound, and its great age is proven by the mode of its structure and the size of its timbers. The principal beams are of white oak – many of them eighteen inches square – and are stayed by braces, which are nearly as large. The floor is also of oak, in planks about four inches thick and dovetailed together in a most solid manner. Even if this barn was not built by the Witbecks, it is at least 170 years old, and bids fair to last another hundred.
An old pear tree, which stands in front of the Van Duzen house, may also be one of the mementos of the Witbecks’ possession, and be one of the two hundred fruit trees which Van Dyck sent down from Albany, and which his tenants planted. Its few branches bear a few twigs and a scanty leafage, but it is guarded with care and feeling akin to reverence. Fifty years ago – so Mr. Claude Van Duzen affirms – Wessel Salisbury, (who was then a man of 90 years of age), declared that in his boyhood the tree was full grown.
Francis, the oldest son of Silvester Salisbury, became of age about the year 1691, but probably did not enter into possession of his father’s estate until after the beginning of the eighteenth century. Meanwhile he lived at Albany and at Kingston. In 1689, he is described as “one of the principal men of ye Towne.” In the autumn of that year, he enrolled himself, as did Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten, as a private soldier for the defense of the frontier against a threatened invasion of the French.
In 1703, he removed to Catskill, and was appointed supervisor of the district between the Inbogt and the northern bounds of Coxsackie. Two years afterward Salisbury built the mansion in which the Van Duzens now live. It was once the largest and most costly house between Newburgh and Albany. It stands on the northeastern side of the Windham Turnpike, on the terrace of the alluvial plain beyond Leeds. It is two stories high and about fifty feet wide and about thirty-five feet deep. Its massive walls are of stone, quarried out from the ledges of sandstone in the neighborhood, and these are pierced above and below with several loop-holes – mementos now of days long gone by, when the yeomen of the valley of the Hudson lived in terror of the Iroquois. Under the eaves, along the southeastern front, are the initials of the builder and the date of the building, in letters and figures of wrought iron – F.S. 126.96.36.199.
The house within has undergone but little alteration. Beams of yellow pine, eighteen inches square – the supports of the upper floor – project into the rooms of the ground story. The windows are made up of small panes, many of which are discolored by age. The fire-places are huge though not disused. Their sides were once covered by square tiles of Delft pottery, on which were painted in blue, the scenes of Judas’s self-murder, and of Pilate’s ablutions of his hands. In a corner of one room stands an ancient cupboard, and to the front door is fastened a large and quaint lock of wrought iron, as old probably as the house itself.
Here Francis Salisbury lived until his death, about the year 1755. By his will, he devised the homestead to his oldest son, Abraham, his estate at Fox Hall near Kingston, to his son Lawrence, and the farm of Potick, with the house which stands near the toll gate, to his son William.
In 1783, the Salisbury estates of Old Catskill were divided into three chief portions. The farm and farmhouse in which Abraham A. Salisbury afterwards lived, and now belonging to the Eltings, was in the possession of Francis Salisbury. His brother Abraham was occupying the homestead and the land adjoining, now owned by the Van Duzens. William Salisbury, the uncle of Francis and Abraham, and the grandfather of William Salisbury, late of Catskill, owned the plain of Potick and the house near the toll-gate. This dwelling was built in 1730, by the first Francis, for his oldest son, Abraham. It is of stone, and was originally a story and a half high. In 1823, Abraham Salisbury added a half story and an attic. The house as undergone many other alterations, which have marred it picturequeness [sic] but added greatly to its comfort.
The view from the edge of the terrace, on the north side of the house, is of great beauty. On one hand is the lovely plain of Potick, bounded on the east by the wooded slope of Potick Mountain. The Katskill runs through the middle of the landscape, from the distant back-ground to the fore-ground – here a swift flowing river, broken by broad ripples. From its bank the ground rises in terraces of meadows, which, forty years ago, were covered by a forest of huge trees. The western horizon is formed by Black Head and the graceful peaks of the Windham mountains.
In 1776, Barent Staats Salisbury, then being 33 years old, was made a first lieutenant in the first regiment of the New York Line, and remained in the service during the war of the Revolution. He was at Saratoga, at Monmouth, and at Yorktown, and bore himself well in these battles.
After the war Salisbury built for himself a wooden house, upon the limestone hill which crosses the Susquehanna Turnpike just beyond the Austins’. Here he lived until his death. He was buried at the edge of the hill near the road leading to the paper-mill. In that place his remains lay until about the year 1860, when they were removed by his grandson to the graveyard in Jefferson. On the stone, which stands at the head of the new grave, is the following inscription:
“BARENT S. SALISBURY, a prominent American officer during the Revolution, died April 11th 1797, aged 54 years.”
The Schunemans were Germans, and were among the Palatines whom Queen Anne, between the years 1708 and 1711, sent to New York. The Lower Palatinate had been ravaged by the French, and many of its inhabitants had been reduced to poverty. In their sore distress they petitioned the queen to transport them to America. Several hundred were accordingly brought over in government vessels. It was the first German immigration of importance to New York.
Among those refugees were the Fieros, Webers, Plancks, Dietrichs, Newkirks, Schmidts, Oosterhouts and Sachses, whose sons afterwards became thrifty and industrious yeomen in the town of Catskill. Among them, too, was Herman Schuneman, a man of mark among his brethren, and the father of Johannes.
Who were the teachers of the son, under what influence this Lutheran by birth became a Calvinist in early manhood, what circumstances brought him to Old Catskill – these things are no longer known. We only know that through the influence of the Rev. Mr. Frelinghuysen he was led to study divinity. Nor have we any account of his student-life in Amsterdam. The tradition only remains that, during his sojourn in that city, he was so disfigured by an attack of smallpox, that, upon his return home, not even his sweet-heart, Anna Maria Van Bergen, recognized him. It is also said that sometimes, upon festal occasions, after the child had been christened, or after the young couple had been married, when the long clay pipes were lighted and the Canary wine was passed around, the domine would speak of the glass of Hollands, which the good wife of the foremost divine in the Classis of Amsterdam used to give him, after his return from Sunday morning service.
His books were few. One of them was a commentary upon the Epistle of Paul to the Romans. The doctrine is first explained and defended with vigorous logic. Then follow practical observations in the fashion of the bulky volumes, familiar to many of us in our boyhood, which contained the tiresome and commonplace reflections of the devout Dr. Thomas Scott.
Besides this quarto in yellow parchment, Domine Schuneman owned a Vade Mecum, or art of Medicine, a square, thick volume, printed in the sixteenth century, and illustrated by rude wood cuts of monsters born of women, of diseased organs of the body, and of barbarous surgical instruments. The treatment, especially in cases of fever, was the heroic practice of purging and blood-letting.
Marten Van Bergen, the owner of the house with a roof of red tiles, which once stood by the road-side on the highway between Leeds and Kaaterskill, had three daughters. To these maidens, renowned for their beauty, and known to have a rich father, suitors from all the country round were not wanting. The sisters seem to have chosen wisely. Catharina, the eldest, became the wife of her cousin William Van Bergen, and Neeltje, of Henry Oothoudt. Anna Maria, the youngest, married Domine Schuneman, after his return from Holland, he being forty-two years old and she twenty-six.
During the year of his marriage, and in anticipation of that event, the house which to this day is known as the parsonage was built for him by Marten Van Bergen, with the aid of the church. It stands on the southeastern edge of the terrace which bounds the first of the five great plains at Leeds, and is approached through an orchard of venerable apple trees, old enough, apparently, to have been planted by Domine Schuneman himself. The house is of gray sandstone, quarried from a ledge near by, and on its western front and its southern gable have been rudely cut many initials and figures. The date of the erection of the building, 1754, is over the front door, and near by are the letters M.V.B. The roof has a double pitch, so that the upper chambers, in the highest part, are six or eight feet high. A hall on the first floor, running through from east to west, gives access to two rooms on one side, and to a larger room on the other. The studeer-kamer, or what the New England ministers of the last century called their study, of Domine Schuneman was in the southeastern room. Here he kept his scanty library; here he wrote his sermons, and received his neighbors, when they came to him for a little friendly gossip or for advice. The parsonage is now falling into ruin. The foundation of one corner has given away, the wall under a window has tumbled down, and great cracks show in the southern gable.
The landscape from the edge of the terrace, near this house, is more beautiful, perhaps, than any other in this beautiful region. Below is the fertile meadow, which the Van Bergens called the Klaver-Wey. At the right, as the fitting edge and boundary of the plain, a bend of the Katskill brings the water into view. Beyond, and at the west, is the Hooge-Berg, pleasant to look upon, when, late in a summer day, its wooded sides lie in deep shadow. Still further beyond, at the northwest, Black Head and the Windham mountains bound the horizon.
The ministry of this revered man was a faithful service of forty years. It was his habit to preach on one Sunday at Old Catskill and on the next at Coxsackie, travelling in the summer on horseback, and in winter in a sleigh through the lonely and unbroken forest which lay between these hamlets. The texts of three of his sermons have been preserved, and from them it may be inferred that his preaching was of a practical rather than of a doctrinal character. His voice was deep and strong, his gestures were many and earnest, his enthusiasm was great, so that he seldom failed to impress his hearers. As for the sermons themselves, his grand-daughter being asked if any had been preserved, answered that, in her girlhood, before she was old enough to know their value, they were used by the negro servants in the kitchen of her father’s tavern in lighting fires and in cleaning the smoked outsides of iron pots and frying pans.
During the Revolution, Domine Schuneman was an earnest patriot. All his zeal and superabounding energy flamed out in behalf of his country. He preached constantly the high duty of strenuous defense, exhorted his neighbors and parishioners in behalf of the good cause, became a member of the local committee of safety, made his house a shelter for the few soldiers who passed by on their way northward to Skeenesborough and Saratoga, and a hospital when they came back sick with fever. His enthusiasm aroused the wrath of the tories of the neighborhood, who would gladly have set the Iroquois upon him. But he went about armed by day, and slept – his men servants also – with his gun by his side, and his precaution and his well known courage saved him from the fate of the Abeels.
It is said that fifty years ago Apollos Cooke was the possessor of the diary of Domine Schuneman. It was a rather large book, and contained a record in Dutch of his husbandry, journeys, expenses, with pious reflections upon his daily reading of the Scriptures. One entry Judson Wilcox was able to remember; it ran somewhat in this manner:
“Sold my mare. In the afternoon, attended the funeral of Johannes Dietrich at the Katerskill. All flesh is grass – Isaiah 40:6.”
Marten Van Bergen died in the winter of 1769 and 1770. His will gave a fair proportion of his lands to his sons-n-law Schuneman and Oothoudt, and to their wives, Anna Maria and Neeltje. They thus became the owners:
Of the larger portion of the Corlaers Kill Patent, or of the land which now lies between the rivulet called Stuck, above the Dieper Hook, and the mouth of the Corlaers Kill, and between the old Catskill Path and the southwestern corner of the Loonenburg Patent.
Of the land which now lies between the Hans Vosen Kill and Sandy point, including the testator’s right to the “Reef or Fall over the Katskill by the place called Tantagoeses” (Aunt Hoos’s) “House.”
Of a lot in the Lindesay Patent, through which William street was afterwards laid out.
Of the waterfall, which was then called the Leghten, and is now known as the Lower Fall of Leeds. Van Bergen was the owner of five slaves. Of these he bequeathed the “boy called Tom” to his daughter Anna Maria. Domine Schuneman thus became, as the times went, a rich man.
In 1792 the lands which now form the greater portion of the village of Jefferson were divided between him and Henry Oothoudt. At this time, or perhaps a few years earlier, Domine Schuneman built the house which stands on the south side of the road between Jefferson and the Athens Turnpike, near the eastern edge of the Flat, and moving thither from the passonage [sic], died there in 1794.
One man, John Van Vechten, a year or two ago was living among us, who remembered the funeral. The ceremony was in accordance with the custom which the Dutch, a hundred and seventy years before, had brought with them from the mother country. A man especially deputed for the purpose met each male comer at the door and offered him a glass of rum from a flask. A woman in like manner was waited upon each female comer. The relatives of the deceased sat together around the corpse; the friends and acquaintances took their seats in another part of the room or in an adjoining chamber. When the services were over – these were in Dutch – they who chose went up to the coffin to take a last look at the deceased. The coffin was then closed, put upon a bier and taken from the house to the grave, the relatives following, and after them all comers. When the coffin had been laid in the ground, the procession returned to the house in inverse order, the relatives and the empty bier and its bearers coming last. One room in the house was assigned to the bearers; another to the people assembled. In each room a table had been spread with bottles of rum, a jar of tobacco and long clay pipes. All the men drank and smoked, talking in the meanwhile of the character and virtues of the deceased, of their horses, of the crops, and of the weather. One or two of the lower sort got tipsy and amused themselves by singing funeral hymn tunes out of doors.
Domine Schuneman was buried in what now forms the burying-ground of Jefferson. It was then a newly cleared field. At the head of his grave was erected a tombstone of red sandstone, which is still standing. It bears the following inscription: “In memory of Rev. Johannis Schuneman, who departed this life May 16th 1794, aged 81 years, 8 months and 23 days.”
In 1732, twelve yeomen, or at the most fourteen, with their families and dependents, were the only inhabitants of the region now embraced within the town of Catskill. Their first care had been to clear a few acres of land and to build houses for themselves and barns for their cattle. These needful tasks accomplished, their second care was to found a church. Their children had been baptized and their dead had been buried by the nearest clergymen, by Kocherthal, of West Camp, and by Dellius and Van Driessen, of Albany. On Sunday, also, two or three times in the year, the people had gathered together, at house of Gerrit Van Bergen, or in the roomy log-cabin of Benjamin Dubois, on the right bank of the Katskill, and had listened to reading of the Bible and of portions of the liturgy prescribed by the synod of Dort. But it now seemed to them that the time had come for a dedicated place of worship and for and established pastor.
The inhabitants of Coxsackie were of like mind and joined their neighbors of Catskill in inviting George Michael Weiss to become their minister. The call bears date the 8th of February 1732. The united congregations agreed to pay him a yearly salary of 50 [pounds] or $250, to provide for him a house, garden and fire-wood, and to give him a horse, saddle and bridle. He agreed to preach twice on every Sunday in Dutch, thirty times a year in Catskill, and twenty-two times a year in Coxsackie, to administer the sacraments, and to instruct the children in the Heidelberg catechism. A portion of his parishoners being Germans, among whom were Overbagh, Dietrich and Brandow, of the Inbogt, Domine Weiss engaged to give their children religious instruction in their mother-tongue.
The names of the land-owners of Catskill, who signed the call are preserved in the records of the Reformed church at Leeds. The list may serve to keep alive the memory of these pious men among us:
Dirck Van Vechten, Benjamin Dubois, Gysberdt Oosterhoudt, John Bronck, Francis Salisbury, Gerrit Van Bergen, Martin Van Bergen, Friedrich Dietrich, Johan Pieter Overpach.
Three inhabitants of the Inbogt, William Van Orden, Nicholas Brandow and John William Brandow, for some unknown reason, are not in the list. They were men of good repute in the little community, and were among the first to bring their children to be baptised. It may be, that when the call was signed, they were attendants at the German church at West Camp, or of the Dutch church at Kaatsbaan.
The call was immediately accepted by Domine Weiss. Seventeen days after it had been given, on the 25th of February 1732, the church at Old Catskill was organized by the installation of its pastor, by the election of a consistory, and by the dedication of the church edifice. Peter Van Driessen, of Albany, preached in the morning from that glowing verse in the 27th Psalm, in which David sings of his desire to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. The new pastor preached in the afternoon, but from what text will never be known. When he had made the entry in the church book of services of dedication, he seems to have accidentally dropped a blot of ink upon the record of the chapter and verse, and to have smeared it with his finger. He thus obliterated the figures forever.
The church edifice was built upon a knoll about 100 yards north of the house of Martin Van Bergen, near an ancient burying ground of the Catskill Indians. It was repaired and enlarged in 1798, and it is of the new building only that any remembrance has been preserved. This was a wooden structure, about fifty feet square with a pyramidal roof, except that the apex of the pyramid was cut off. On the flat surface thus created, was placed a belfry, in which hung a small bell. The door was on the east side of the church and opened into an auditory of about twenty feet in height. Two aisles led to the pulpit, which was opposite the door. Slips, as they are called in the United States, were placed between the two aisles and between each aisle and the northern and southern wall. On either side of the pulpit were seats, which were reserved, in part, at least, for the elders and deacons.
This quaint structure stood until 1817 when it was torn down. A portion of its sound massive timbers were used in building a grist-mill at the upper water-fall in Leeds. The bell was accidentally destroyed. It was taken down to be hardened by being heated and then being plunged in cold water, as blacksmiths are wont to do with a piece of iron. It being laid upon the ground and covered with a pile of stout oak wood, Martin G. Schuneman fired the stack and then went over to the parsonage to smoke and talk with Caspar Van Hoesen. When he returned, he found the bell was melted. The early history of the church at Old Catskill and the life of its first pastor has been written by Dr. John B. Thompson.
Domine Weiss’s pastorate lasted until 1836, when he went back to Philadelphia. He was a native of one of the Palatinates, was trained as a minister in the great theological school of the University of Heidelberg, and was duly ordained in 1727. He was then sent to Philadelphia to preach to the Germans who had migrated to America, removed thence to Huntersfield, on the Schoharie, and from Huntersfield came to Catskill. The traditions of the Reformed Dutch church of New York and the testimonials he received from Heidelberg and his German parishioners, establish his orthodoxy and zeal. He was a man, it is said, of considerable learning, and it is especially remarked of him that he could speak Latin with great fluency – more correctly, it is to be hoped, than he could write Dutch.
From 1736 until August 1753, the church at Old Catskill remained without a pastor. The elections of officers were, however, duly held, and the elders, with occasional help from the ministers of Albany, Kaatsbaan, and perhaps Kingston, conducted the usual Sunday services, but with many interruptions. Then followed the long and faithful pastorate of Domine Johannes Schuneman.
In 1732, there were about twenty-five communicants. In 1783, there were about one hundred and twenty-five. It was an orderly and God-fearing congregation. On Sunday morning, in the little church upon the knoll, they met together – the Salisburys and the Van Bergens, from the neighborhood, the Van Vechtens, the Van Ordens and Dumonts, from the Inbogt, the Abeels from the Bak-Oven, Overbaghs, from Kykuit, and the Duboises, from the Hopenose and the banks of the Catskill. Some came on horseback, over the roads which had been cut through the forest; others in rude wagons, and, during the Revolution, all bore arms. The men wore cues and three-cornered hats of brown beaver; their knee-breeches and long waistcoats were of home-spun; their stockings knit by their thrifty wives, in the light of the open fire during December evenings, were of coarse blue yarn; their low shoes were of russet leather, and bore buckles of brass or polished steel. The women were clothed in gowns of linsey-woolsey, short-waisted, and reaching only to the ankle, as the fashion then was, and dyed black with logwood or brown with butternut. A few of the more fortunate maidens, Katharina Oothoudt, perhaps, and Elizabeth Van Vechten and Neeltje Van Bergen, wore strings of gold beads about their necks.
The services were conducted in the method recommended by the synod of Dort in 1618, a method which obtains substantially in the church to this day. It is not known whether, out of the cities, the voorlezer or clerk read the commandments or a chapter from the Bible, and announced the psalm and led in singing it, or whether Domine Schuneman placed an hour-glass on the pulpit near him, to warn him, if he should preach beyond the prescribed hour.
Hymns were not used, except on rare occasions, when the exulting prophecies of Zacharias and Mary were sung in rude rhymes to a simple and not very unpleasant melody. But the Psalms of David were employed in all the Reformed Dutch churches. The metrical version which was at that time used by Domine Schuneman, was translated into Dutch from the celebrated version in French of Clement Marot. The poetry is not worse than Sternholdt’s and Hopkins’s. Each psalm is set to an air simply, as part-singing was not thought devotional.
The morning service was over at one o’clock, Then came an intermission of an hour. It was spent by the congregation in eating the dinner which each family had brought, in smoking under the savins, and in talking over the news and gossip of the day. While the war of the Revolution lasted, one can readily believe what William Planck once said, that little else was discussed except the progress of our arms, the surrender of New York, the advance of Sir Henry Clinton to Kingston, the incursions of Brandt into the upper valley of the Hudson, and the surrender of Cornwallis.
The afternoon service was short, in order that the people might reach home before it grew dark. The old men, with their wives, feared to linger by the way; the young men were bolder, and stopped to pay visits of friendship or of courtship.
The road from Leeds to Kaaterskill is an ancient one. It was probably cut through the forest before the end of the seventeenth century, but is first mentioned (“the path,” and also “the highway,” it is called,) in a deed which was executed in 1738. At its northern extremity, it crossed the Katskill at a ford near the site of the stone bridge; at its southern extremity, it crossed the Kaaterskill at a ford just below the falls.
Upon this road, or near it, at the close of the Revolutionary war, had been built the following houses, in addition to the dwellings of the Van Bergens, the parsonage, the church and the school-house: --
1. The house of Jurry or Michael Planck. In July 1761, Jurry Planck bought 90 acres of land, near the Kelder Kilje, from Martin G. Van Bergen, and soon afterward built a small house of stone upon the farm. This dwelling is still standing in a little valley west of the road to Kaaterskill.
In 1858 William Planck, the son of Michael and the grandson of Jurry was ninety-five years old, in good health, but with a memory greatly impaired with regard to those things in which, in his boyhood, he had had no part. He said that in two days after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, the news reached Katskill. “That was the time,” he said with enthusiasm, “when ninety thousand British surrendered to two thousand Americans, with a loss on our side of only five men.” But he spoke coherently and without exaggeration of the trials and privations of his father and of himself in his younger days, how poor they were, how hard they worked in clearing, fencing and till their land, and worse than all, in what fear of the Indians and the tories they lived. Their house was secluded, and seemed to invite attack, and, upon a rumor or suspicion of danger, they often sent the women and children to Gerrit Van Bergen’s for safety, while they themselves, guns in hand, spent the night in the forest, hard by their dwelling, awaiting an attack. ‘Cobus Rowe and Hans Burger, he said, were the chief tories of the neighborhood. One lived on the Kaaterskill, the other in the Inbogt.
One other family, William Planck said, lived also in the valley – the family of Peter Scram. They seem to have been tenants of Martin Van Bergen.
2. The house of Gerrit Van Bergen. This was a stone building, one story high, and stood on the east side of the highway to Kaaterskill, a hundred rods north of the road which led down to the Van Vechten ford. It was torn down about twenty years ago and a wooden house was built upon its site. During the Revolutionary war it served, like Christian Overbagh’s house in the Inbogt, as a place of refuge to the few families in the neighborhood, when an alarm of outlying Indians was given. In the garret were loopholes for musketry.
3. The house of Gysbert Oosterhoudt. He was a notable man in his generation; both in his own estimation and in the estimation of others. He was probably of German origin, for the name of Oosterhoudt occurs frequently in the annals of the Palatines, who, in 1712, were settled in East Camp. The traditions of his family, however, declare that their grandfather came from Amsterdam. He was born about 1720, was brought up “within a mile of the Van Vechten farm,” and in that neighborhood had his home for the greater part of his life. At least as early as 1765, he owned and was living in a small house, which in an old will, is described as standing “where the wolf-pits used to be,” and, in the letters of his grandson, as having stood, “at the bend of the road” to Kaaterskill; “between Mr. Planck’s and the late residence of Reuben Palmer.”
Gysbert Oosterhoudt was a large man, of great strength and endurance until he became old, fearless, resolute, quick at perceiving, and equally quick at resenting an insult, voluble and noisy. In his younger days, a few Indians – Rube, Wancham, Jan de Bakker, were the names of some of them – lived on the west bank of the Katskill at its junction with the Kaaterskill, and upon the alluvial plains beyond Old Catskill, near the mouth of the Potick. Their squaws cultivated small patches of corn and beans; they themselves spent their time in hunting, in lounging about the kitchens of the Salisburys, the Van Bergens and the Van Vechtens, and in drinking cider, when they could not get Barbadoes rum. To these Indians, Oosterhoudt was a terror, especially when he was in his cups. He hated a redskin, and upon the slightest provocation delighted to fight with him.
Oosterhoudt served as a soldier through the whole of the old French and Revolutionary war. Some of his adventures are narrated by Mr. Rockwell in his “Sketches of Catskill.”
4. On the east side of the falls, at Kaaterskill, and just below them, there stood in 1783 a grist and saw-mill, which, fifty years before, the Salisburys and Van Bergens had built for their own use and that of their neighbors. It was not a large mill. A single saw was enough to supply the neighborhood with boards and joists; as beams and rafters were either hewn out or sawed out by hand in a pit. A pair of stones sufficed to grind the maize and the wheat which was raised on the low-lands at Old Catskill and along the Kaaterskill, from the house of Benjamin Dubois to the farthest bounds of the Bak-Oven. The miller at one time was Helme Jansen Turner, an honest man but stupid, who was more than once complained of, for putting David Abeel’s Indian meal into Aaront Vedder’s sacks, and at the same time putting Vedder’s wheat flour into Abeel’s bags.
About half a mile above the bridge over the Kaaterskill, at Webber’s, is the house which, at least as early as 1768, was the dwelling of David Abeel. The house is, with a wing or addition on the east end, about forty feet long and eighteen feet deep, with outer walls of limestone and sandstone, quarried probably from the opposite bank of the Kaaterskill; beneath is a cellar-kitchen, where Lon and the other slaves of David Abeel used to spend their days. A hall divides the interior from north to south. In this hall are enclosed stairs leading to the garret, a large closet and the front and back doors. On either side are two rooms with their five places and pantries.
David Abeel was probably born in Albany, but at least as early as 1754 was the husband of Neeltje, a daughter of Gerrit Van Bergen, and was living at Catskill. In 1771 he obtained a patent for one thousand acres of land, “on the west side of and adjoining the Brook called the Caterskill, at a place called the Bak-Oven.” This estate was within the bounds of the Catskill Patent, and was once owned by Abeel’s father-in-law. The Van Bergens, however, seem to have consented to the issuing of the patent.
During the war of the Revolution there were living at the Bak-Oven, David Abeel, Neeltje, his wife, and their four children, Anthony, Gerrit, Catherine and Anna. The men of this household were zealous whigs, and between them and the few tories in the neighborhood a bitter feud existed. One of these tories, Jacobus Rowe, was especially malignant. He harbored the Indians when they came into the valley of the Katskill; he was one of their guides when they burnt Stroop’s, near the Round-Top; it was he who planned the attack upon the Abeels.
The Van Vechten house was, however, first attempted. The only man who happened to be home was Jacob, the brother of Samuel Van Vechten, and he, on the approach of the marauders, had hidden himself in the garret, behind the huge chimney. His old mother was asked by a tory “and where is Jacob?” She was quick-witted enough to answer that he had gone above. The marauders supposed that she meant to say that Jacob had gone to Albany. Her word was taken, and the left the house without searching it and without doing any mischief.
At this time, too, late one evening, a tory whose name is now forgotten, was about to cross the Katskill near the place where the old village bridge now stands. Discovering that a band of Indians, eight or ten in number, were lurking among the trees and in the thicket which covered the eastern bank of the creek, he drew near and asked them what they were doing. They answered that they were going to seize and carry off Cornelius Dubois, who lived opposite in the stone house, which now forms a portion of the dwelling of Mrs. Hopkins. A party had assembled there, and the Indians were waiting until the lights should be put out and the house should become quiet. The story is that they were especially disturbed by the women of the Dubois family, who, lights in hand, were continually going out of the south door and around into the cellar, of which the entrance was in the western side of the house. The tory dissuaded them, alleging the well known bravery of Colonel Dubois, and that he and his men were well armed. The appeal was successful, and the Indians refrained from an attack. After peace had been declared, the tory told the story to Dubois, who, so far from thanking his preserver, called him a traitor to his country, who deserved to be hung.
It was during a Sunday evening in the year 1780 that the Indians, with Jacobus Rowe and perhaps another tory, entered the house of David Abeel. The inmates had just returned from a prayer-meeting, somewhere in the neighborhood, and were at supper. They were taken by surprise. They had no time even to take down their guns, which lay upon wooden brackets fastened to the walls and to the great beams of the ceiling. These weapons, however, would have been of no service. The slaves of Abeel had been notified of the coming attack, and during the absence of the family in the afternoon had removed the priming of the guns and had stuffed ashes into their pans.
The house was first plundered. The chests and tables were split into pieces with tomahawks, the beds were ripped open and the feathers were scattered; nearly everything that was portable and of value enough, was carried away. In later days, Catherine, the daughter of David Abeel, and at that time a girl of fifteen, used to tell with great glee how, in the confusion attendant upon the entry of the marauding party, she crept under the supper table, and taking the silver buckles from the knee-bands and the shoes of her father and brother, hid them in her bosom.
The women of the household were not molested. David and Anthony Abeel were made prisoners. The former was then somewhat past the prime of life, and would have been released had he not recognized his neighbor, Rowe, who was disguised as an Indian. He incautiously asked, “Is that you?” The tory answered, “Since you know me, you must go too.”
Lon, a large and powerful slave of David Abeel, aide the Indians in binding their prisoners. The negro heaped upon his master all manner of abuse, complaining chiefly that he had not been allowed enough to eat, and, at last, snatched his master’s hat from his head, giving him his own in exchange, and saying in Dutch: “I am master now, wear that.”
Garret Abeel, Anthony’s younger brother, had been spending the day at the parsonage at Old Catskill with John, a son of Domine Schuneman. As he drew near the house, upon the way home, he heard an unusual noise near it or in it. His suspicions were aroused and he turned aside to get the aid of one Milliken, who lived on the east side of the Kaaterskill, nearly opposite the Abeels. The two men then hid themselves in a thicket, near the path which led to the house, and waited. The Indians soon came by with their prisoners and their booty, their leader carrying a lantern to guide them on their way. As they passed, Gerrit raised his gun and was about to fire, but Milliken stopped him, saying: “Don’t shoot, you may hit your own father.” He was trembling with fear, and was influenced by a regard for his own safety rather than for the safety of David Abeel.
The prisoners were four in number, David and Anthony Abeel, Jannetje Van Valkenberg, their servant and companion, and Lon, one of their slaves. They were led over the Catskill Mountains, and spent the first night, and perhaps the second, after their capture in a small log fort which stood upon the southwestern slope of Round Top, midway between it and High Peak. The ruins of this fort were visible as late as 1848, when they were visited by a party of gentlemen from Catskill.
An old Revolutionary pensioner named French was one of a party of men who, a day or two after the capture of the Abeels, started in pursuit. They reached this fort just after the Indians had left it, and found the ashes of their fires still warm. But, although the pursuers descended the Schoharie Kill for many miles, they failed to overtake the retreating party. Another party of men, among whom was Joel Dubois, went also after the marauders. But they got no further than to the house of Frederick Sax, who owned an apple orchard, and had in his cellar an abundance of cider. There they spent the day in drinking and in discussing in what direction the Indians had gone. Two opinions were strenuously maintained. Some were certain that the pursuit should be through Palenville Clove; others were equally certain that the pursuit should be through Winter Clove, and thence over the Catskill to the East Kill. Night came on, the question was undecided, and all agreed that they had better return home.
For at least a hundred years, a foot-path had existed down the Schoharie Kill from its source to the head of the Plattekill Clove. It was one of the trails which the Iroquois had been wont to take upon their frequent forays into the valley of the Hudson. During the war of the Revolution it was often trodden by Brandt, the Mohawk chieftain, and it was by him, it is said, that the fort upon the Round Top was built. Along this foot-path, and from this stronghold, the Indians led their captives. At first, David Abeel, by reason of his age, lagged behind, but hearing it said that he must be killed, because he was delaying the party, he succeeded, by straining every muscle, in keeping up with his comrades. Soon afterward, he spoke in Indian to the leader of the band, who quickly asked, in a tone of surprise, where he had learned the language. “I was for a long time,” he answered, “a trader upon the Mohawk.” Henceforth he was treated with as much kindness as was consistent with his being a prisoner.
The destination of the band was Canada, but the route which was taken is no longer known. It is probable, however, that the party went by the way which the captors of Frederick Schermerhorn of the Round Top and the captors of Jeremiah Snyder of the Plattekill pursued. That way led down the Schoharie Kill, through Bushnell’s Clove or over the mountains near Prattsville, and down the Delaware to the junction of its east and west branches. The mountain was then crossed to the Susquehanna; the Susquehanna was then descended to the Chemung; the Chemung was ascended and the Genesee reached by a laborious climb over intervening hills. The route then lay down the Genesee, and thence to Fort Niagara.
Whatever course the party pursued, it was through a vast and unbroken wilderness. In its depths the Indians and their prisoners nearly died from hunger. They first ate the dogs, two or three in number, which had had with them, and then, until they reached the British outposts, lived upon such roots and herbs as they were able to find. It shows the kindness with which David Abeel was treated, after he had made it known who he was, that while the famine was severest, the leader of the party, finding a goose’s egg, cooked it and gave the half of it to his prisoner. At the end of the journey, probably at Fort Niagara, Anthony Abeel was made to run the gauntlet, David Abeel being excused on account of his age and as a further proof of friendship on the part of the Indians. Before stripping for the race, Anthony was told that the younger Indians would probably throw themselves in his way, to hinder him in his course, and that if any one of them did, to knock him down. He then took off his coat and shoes and began to run. What he had been warned against happened. A young Indian put himself in Anthony’s way and tried to stop him, but Anthony gave him a blow under the ear which knocked him down. Instantly, at his mishap, the Indian spectators filled the air with shouts of derisive laughter, and leaped and yelled with delight, so that, in the confusion and uproar, Anthony reached the goal without receiving a blow.
In May 1781, the Abeels were put into the Prevot at Montreal. This prison was a large prison of stone, and was filled with thieves and murderers, with deserters, and with captive Americans. The latter spent the day in a large room, about twenty feet square, in the second story of the building, and slept at night in a corridor, so narrow that when the men were lying on the floor, with their heads against the parallel walls, there was barely room enough between the two rows for the guard to pass, on the usual inspection at nine o’clock.
The keeper of the prison was named Jones. He had married in Albany, and he seems to have kindly treated the prisoners who had come from the Hudson. Their food was coarse and scanty, and consisted of salted beef and salted pork, with an allowance of peas and oat meal for porridge, and of three pints of spruce beer daily. These rations were drawn on Monday for the week, and were usually exhausted by Friday, so that Saturday and Sunday were spent in fasting. The cooking was done by the prisoners themselves, at the wood fire on the hearth of the guard-room, on the ground floor of the Prevot. The guard was composed of Hessians, a boorish company, who often drove the Americans from the fire.
The prison was full of vermin, and it was a daily occupation of the Abeels and their companions, the Snyders of the Plattekill, to spend an hour after dinner in ridding themselves of these pests. Their amusement was card-playing. Anthony Abeel, however, occupied himself, during his stay in Canada, in making oars, brooms and baskets, and was able, by the sale of these implements, to supply himself with tobacco, rum and a few other luxuries.
In June, the Abeels, with the Snyders and other Americans, were paroled and were billeted upon the inhabitants of the Isle of Jesus, in the St. Lawrence, above Montreal. In August, David Abeel, on account of his age, was released and sent home under guard.
In May of the following year, that is in May 1782, Anthony Abeel and Jeremiah and Elias Snyder, with James Butler, of Philadelphia, and Jonathan Millet, of Stonington, agreed among themselves to violate their parole and to endeavor to escape. Deer skins were bought and made into moccasins, and the elder Snyder, upon a visit to Montreal, procured three pocket compasses, in a shop which was tended by an unsuspicious boy. The plotters luckily were well clothed. The Quakers of England had sent to Montreal a rill of woolen cloth, of a kind then known as London Brown, for the use of the American prisoners. One of the number cut the material and the ingenious Jeremiah Snyder made it into ill-fitting garments.
Early in the evening of the 10th of September, the Snyders took secretly three loaves of bread and a quantity of salt pork from the cellar of the house at which they were billeted, and hid them in a hovel behind the barn. At vespers father and son went to their room, as if to go to bed, but, jumping out of the window with their packs, and taking their scanty store of food from the hovel, they joined their companions, Millet, Butler and Anthony Abeel. The night was dark, it was raining, and the fugitives groped their way to the lower end of the island, seized a boat and began the descent of the St. Lawrence.
The route which they took was down that river to the Richelieu, and thence eastward to Lake Memphremagog and the head waters of the Connecticut. It was a toilsome journey, through swamps, through thickets of spruce and tamarack, among great forests of pines, and along the rocky beds of swift-running rivers. The little band spent one cold day, in wet clothes, in the long grass which grew on the banks of the St. Lawrence, and heard the Canadian boatmen talking in French and singing rude songs, as they passed in their bateaux. Another day was passed in an old hedge near a hamlet on the Richelieu. Two days and two nights were consumed in crossing a great morass, which was covered by a tangled growth of alder and tamarack, and the water of which was unfit to drink. In another swamp, in the dead of the night, Anthony Abeel was awakened by what he thought was the yell of Indians. He and his companions quickly covered their fire, and hid themselves in the thicket. But the cry was the hooting only of an owl.
After reaching Lake Memphremagog, they begun to suffer from hunger. For four days they lived upon spignet root* (*Probably aralia racemosa, a favorite food of the Northern Indians, who taught its use to the whites. The flavor of this root is said to be like the flavor of a parsnip. – Amer. Journal Science, Nov. 1877.) One day they stayed their appetite upon the flesh remaining upon the thigh bone of a moose, which they found in the ashes of a hunter’s fire. At another time they made a hearty meal upon some steaks which they cut out of the hind quarters of a stray cow.
Near the Connecticut River, between the upper and the lower Coos, they came to a log cabin, in which, upon a shelf, they found a loaf of bread. They eagerly ate a portion of it, nor was the owner displeased when he soon afterward came in from the fields. That evening they slept in the house of a farmer named Williams, who kindly gave them his own supper of hasty pudding and moose pie.
On Sunday, the 29th day of September, the fugitives reached the headquarters of General Bailey, upon the lower Coos. They were received with kindness; their clothes and their shoes were repaired; and six meals of light food, it is said, were daily furnished to them. A horse was given to Jeremiah Snyder, who left his companions and rode homeward through Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, crossing the Hudson at Poughkeepsie. Anthony Abeel walked by the way of Pittsfield and Kinderhook. So eager were the people whom he met, to hear the story of his captivity and escape, that, on some days, he journeyed only three or four miles.
It is not known when or how Jannetje Van Valkenberg returned to Old Catskill. From 1806 until her death she was a servant of the Van Vechtens. In her old age she delighted to talk about her journey to Canada, of her sufferings from hunger, from her wounded feet and from her fear of being killed, and of the relief she got by being now and then allowed to ride upon a pony of her captors. It was her habit, too, to use the Indians as a bugbear to keep the children quiet in their beds, or to bring them into the house, when she was sent out after them.
David Abeel died at the Bak-Oven, in February 1813, in the eighty-seventh year of his age. He was buried upon a ridge between his house and the highway. The place is marked by a group of eight ancient cedars, of which all but one are dead or dying. About thirty years ago, grave stones of white marble were brought out from Catskill to be placed at the head of the grave of David Abeel and other members of his family. But no one could tell which his grave was. The stones were put upon their edges against one of the cedars, and there they remain. Their weight has cut into the tree to the depth of three or four inches.
Gerrit Abeel, about 1785, moved to Catskill Landing, and built for himself the stone house, which is now occupied by Captain Spencer. He was for many years a judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the county of Greene. Though he was not a lawyer by profession, his good sense and impartiality enabled him to perform the duties of his office to the entire satisfaction of the community. He died on the 23rd day of October 1829, at the age of 72 years.
It would seem from a careful study of the distances and of the land-marks in Juet’s journal, that, during the evening of the 15th of September 1609, Hudson anchored the Half-Moon near the mouth of the Catskill. “At night,” are the simple words of the chronicle, “wee came to other mountaines which lie from the Rivere side. There wee found very loving people and very old men, where wee were well used. Our boat went to fish and caught great store of very good fish. The sixteenth faire and very hot weather. In the morning, our Boat went again to fishing, but could catch but few by reason their Canoes had been there all night. This morning the people came aboord and brought us eares of Indian Corne and Pompions and Tobacco, which wee bought for trifles. We rode still all day and filled fresh water.”
These friendly Indians probably belonged to the hamlet, which once stood at the foot of the southeastern slope of the Hopenose, between the house and the barn or a little beyond the barn of John Dubois. Forty years ago, this site of this little village could be easily traced, as, to this day, it perhaps can be. In the garden near the house, the soil was black to the depth of a foot or more, the result evidently of the fires of the Indian households, and the plough and spade seldom failed to bring to the surface charred bones, pipes, axes, and arrow-heads. Beyond the barn and at the head of the first bend of the Uylenkill, or John Dubois’s Creek, is the Roefenje,* (*That is the Little Cabin.) a rocky mound, which was once covered with savins of great size and of great age. This mound seems to have been used as a manufactory of implements. The ground, within the remembrance of men now living, was strewn with arrow-heads and with chips of flakes of flint. On the opposite side of the Katskill, at Femmen Hoek, was perhaps one of the grave-yards of these Indians. When the Long Dock was being built, excavations at its northwestern extremity in the bank uncovered many skeletons, with the weapons of chase and of warfare which had been buried with the bodies.
In the boyhood of Mr. James Goelet Dubois, about 1828, there was an Indian grave-yard on the Hopenose, on the eastern edge of the hill, in a clump of red cedars and hickories, adjoining the fence of division between Frederick Cooke’s land and Mr. Fyle’s. In later days, the slaves of Isaac Dubois were also buried in this spot.
The site of the hamlet was well chosen. It was sheltered from the northerly gales by the hill and the forests, and, to this day, there is no spot in the town to which the spring comes earlier than to this. The soil was fertile and was easily worked by the squaws, with their rude implements of stone. The river near by abounded in fish, as Hudson declares, and the forests in game.
The inhabitants, says Juet, were a loving people. They, and their kinsman upon the Katskill, seem to have maintained this character until their dispersion. They remained neutral in the wars between their neighbors of the Esopus and the Dutch, and were always staunch friends of the English. It may be that the virtue of peace ran into the vice of cowardice. This people paid tribute to the Iroquois, and one reads in an old record of the seventeenth century, that, upon an expedition to Lake Champlain, when it arrived in sight of the enemy, the “three Catskill Indians ran away.”
Thirty years after the discovery of the Hudson, that is to say, towards the end of April, in the year 1640, David Pietersen de Vries of Hoorn, found the Indians planting maize upon the banks of the Katskill.** (**De Vries, Historical Notes [N.Y. Historical Colls. N.S. Vo. 3, 580). “The 24th arrived at evening, as it blew hard, before the Katskill. Found the river up to this point stony and mountainous, unfit for habitations. But there was some low-land there, and the Indians sowed maize along the Katskill.”) The record is important only because it is the first know occurrence of the word Katskill. De Vries writes it, as if it were already in common use, but who conferred the name, what seller of duffels or what rude trader in beaver-skins, no one knows.
Neither can any one certainly tell why this name was bestowed. Three guesses, however, have been made in the matter:
1. In 1795, the Duke de la Rochefoucault was the guest of Jacob Bogardus, in the stone house which now forms a portion of the dwelling of Mr. Caleb Hopkins. – “Katskill,” he says in his book of travels in the United States, “so denominated by the Dutch, who made the first settlement upon the spot, was, by the Indians, called Katsketed, which, in their language, signified a fortified place.” “No foundation for that name,” he continues, “can be discovered in the appearance of the country, and it is moreover well known that the Indians, especially at that time, erected no fortifications. The great quantity of human bones, hatchets, tomahawks and arrows found buried in the earth around Catskill, proves at least that this place formerly was the principal seat of some considerable tribe.” Mr. J.T.Trumbull, of Hartford, Conn., an accomplished scholar of the Algonkin tongue, affirms that he knows “of no Algonkin name like Katsketed, meaning fortress or anything else.”
2. The Katskill may have been thus named in honor of Jacob Kats, a Dutch statesman and poet during the first half of the seventeenth century.
3. There are hamlets in Holland, known as Kats, Katwyk, Kaltenduk and Kaltenburg. The name Kats-kill may have been chosen in memory of some one of these places. It may be here mentioned that Katskill is the true spelling; Catskill being a corruption and Kaatskil an affectation.
The first white man who settled upon the west bank of the Katskill was Claes Uylen spiegel. He was, perhaps, one of the colonists whom the patroon sent down from Rensselaer’s Wyck to till the fertile low-lands which Pewasck, “a squaw and chief of Catskill,” had sold him. Uylen-spiegel’s farm was non the side of the Indian village, the south-eastern slope of the Hopenose. How long he remained there is unknown, but it was long enough to affix his name to several localities. In ancient deeds and wills, the stream which we now call John Dubois’s Creek is described as Uylen-spiegel’s-Kil; the Vly as Uylen-Vly, and the projection of this swamp into the Hudson as Uylen-Hoek.
But, the claim of the patroon to the lands upon the Katskill was annulled by the colonial government. In 1653 a patent for a tract of land on the south side of the Katskill was granted to Pieter Teunisse Van Bronswyk. This tract contained “about forty-four acres or twenty-two morgens,” and is the plain which lies nearly opposite the Van Vechten house, below the site of the railway bridge. Van Bronswyck died soon after obtaining his patent; his widow quickly married Andreas de Yersman, who, “by virtue of which intermarryage,” says an old record, “and according to then custom and practice of the country,” became the owner of Van Bronswyk’s estate.
Andrea de Yersman, being interpreted, means Anderson, but the Dutch records at Albany call him Jan Andriessen van Dublin, Janje, or Johnny the Irishman, and Andreas de Yersman. He was at Beverwyk as early as 1645, and in 1649 was the lessee of a bouwery near Albany. In January, 1657, he was dwelling at Catskill, and had farmed the tapster’s excise upon beer and spirits to be sold n that neighborhood, for 150 guilders or $60 a year.
In 1660, Anderson sold his land on the south side of the Catskill to Eldert Gerbertsen Cruyf and Harmen Gansevoort, removing perhaps to Coxsackie, where he had bought 140 acres of land from Pieter Bronck. In March, 1664, he hired a bouwery on the river, now known as Stockport Creek, from Abraham Staats. In the autumn, the Indians burnt Anderson’s house and killed him. The brief record of the attack is preserved in the records of the province at Albany. Cornelis Jacobsen appeared in court and declared that about sunset of the evening of the 10th of November, 1664, he was at Claverack, and saw the body of Jan Andriesson lying half burnt in the cellar among the ruins of his house. Stephens, a lad of about the age of sixteen years, also deposed that he recognized the body “by a rag of the breeches still fastened to the corpse.” But he saw nothing of Anderson’s wife or of the negro. Such is the meager history of the first Irishman who ever came to Catskill.
In 1662, Jan Wybesse Van Harlingen, farm-servant, bought of Christoffel Davidts, sixteen morgens (about 32 acres) of land at Catskill, adjoining the bouwery of Cruyf. Whether Wybesse occupied the land or built upon it, is no longer known.
In 1660, a single house stood on the right or south bank of the Katskill, about thirty paces from the water and near the spot at which the second bridge of the Canajoharie Railway was afterward built. Except, possibly, the rude cabin of Claes Teunisse, nicknamed Uylen-spiegel, which stood on the southeastern slope of the Hopenose, this house was the first dwelling built by a white man in the southern portion of the township. The owner was Eldert Gerbertsen Cruyf, but the house itself was probably built in 1651, by Van Bronswyk, and had probably been occupied by Jan Andriessen, the Irishman. It was a structure of timber and roughly hewn planks, was one story high, was thatched with straw or with rushes, and had foundations and a great chimney of stone. At the west, -- the exact location is near the Katskill, just along the embankment of the railway, -- was an orchard of young apple trees. At the east were maize or wheat fields, the produce of which the Indians in the neighborhood sometimes aided Cruyf in harvesting. In 1815 a few of the apple trees were standing, and one of them has been described as having a trunk as large around as a hogshead. At this time, also, the foundations of the house were visible.
Cruyf is spoken of in ancient deeds as a sawyer. His saw-mill was at Bethlehem, on the Normankill, near Albany. He also owned a brewery and a distillery. His beer, known as “strong Albany ale,” and his whiskey were sold by the tapsters from the Esopus of Schenectady. At one time a part of his possessions consisted of a bull, and fourteen cows, heifers and oxen, and he thus became known, like the patriarch Job, as “a man of great substance.” In 1663, when the Esopus war broke out, he rendered the civil authorities good service by keeping the Catskill Indians quiet and by various messages of timely information. In later days, he was always spoken of at Catskill as Eldert de Gooijer, that is, Eldert the thrower. The tradition still exists among us that he could cast a stone from the southern edge of the plain, afterward known as Jefferson Flats, over the Van Vechten house into the Katskill, a distance, about a thousand yards.
About the year 1671, Cruyf fell into debt. He conveyed his interest in the farm on the south bank of the Katskill, to his associate, Gansevoort, who, in turn, after building a barn in April 1678, sold the land to John Conel, and the growing wheat upon the land to Helme Janse. Two years afterward, on the 27th day of July 1680, Conel conveyed the premises to Willaim Loveridge, hatter, of Beverwyk.
It appears from a recital in an ancient record, that, for some time before his purchase, Loveridge had taken possession of a tract of arable land on the Katskill, had built upon it, and had begun to clear it. This tract, which he called De Kampe, that is, the field, lies between the main street through West Catskill and the ridge of clay and rock near the house of Richard Martin. But the possession of this farm, and the farm between the Devil’s Aspect and the hill at the mill-dam of the Van Vechtens, did not satisfy his desire of ownership. On the 19th day of July 1682, he made an addition to his estate of more than 6,000 acres. The deed of purchase is in Dutch, and is recorded in the third volume of deed in the office of the clerk of the county of Albany.
The sellers are described as Esopus Indians, and were, men and women, eight in number. Mahak-Niminaw, sachem of Catskill, was not present when the deed was signed, but it was stipulated that, when he should come home, he should receive two pieces of duffels and six cans of rum. The price paid was chiefly in clothing, guns and tools, the whole not worth more than a hundred dollars. The following description of the land, translated into English, is from the record:
“A certain parcel of woodland lying at Katskill, extending from the mouth of the kill, where his, Loveridge’s house and barn stand, southwards alng the North alias Hudson’s river to the middle of the great bend where the trees are marked W.L., and runs from the river up westwards to where it comes to a fall on the Katerskil named Quatawichnach, and so along the east side of the Katerskil to where the same empties into the Katskil, and so along the Katskil to the house and barn of William Loveridge aforesaid, and so to the great river, excepting the arable land which said Loveridge bought of Jan Conel, whereof a patent has been already granted.”
A few words of explanation and comment may not be superfluous:
The house of William Loveridge was the second, or perhaps the third house built in the southern portion of the town of Catskill. It stood a few feet north of, and in a line with the cottage which Benjamin Dubois built about the year 1740, and in which Benjamin P. Dubois now lives. Its foundations, about fifty years ago, were discovered by a chance digging.
In the Dutch of the original deed, the great bend is written d’ groote Imbocht. It is, however, supposed that the proper spelling of the word is Inbogt. The place designated, as is well known, is the broad shallow bay, which opens out of the Hudson below Green Point, the residence of one of the sons of the late Henry Van Orden.
The word Katerskil appears in this deed for the first time in any record. While kat is in Dutch the generic name for cat, kater is the specific name for he-cat.
The spot where the trees were “marked WL,” was called by the Indians, Pes-qua-nach-qua, by the Dutch, Maquaa’s Hoek, and by the English, Stony Point, and also De Witt’s Point.
The water-fall, Quat-a-wich-nach, lies below the bridge which crosses the Kaaterskill on the road to High Falls, at the place where, according to an old record, “the water runs into a hole in a dry season.” The Indian names of places in the township are in a very corrupt condition; this name should probably be Ketitchuanock, that is to say, the “place of the greatest water flow.”
The older Loveridge died, perhaps at Perth Amboy in New Jersey, between the 19th day of July, 1682, and the 6th day of January 1684. In February 1686, a patent for the tract of land above described, was granted to his son William, who lived n his estate in Catskill unitl he died. His will bears date February 1702, by which the testator devises his lands to his wife for life, with remainder to his five children, William, Waldron, Hannah, who became the wife of Gysbert Lane, Margaret, who became the wife of Alexander McDowell, and Temperance, who became the wife of William Van Orden.
Benjamin P. Dubois once said, that while digging on the lawn a few feet south of his house, he dug up two skeletons, or the fragments of two skeletons. These may have been the remains of the Loveridges, or of members of their family. It was evident, from the mode of burial, that the bones were not the bones of Indians.
In October, 1718, the land within the Loveridge Patent was surveyed and was divided, by lot, into five portions. The first portion fell to Alexander McDowell, the husband of Margaret Loveridge, the second to Hannah, the wife of Gysbert Lane, the third and fifth to Michiel the brother of Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten, as a purchaser from William and Waldron Loveridge, and the fourth to Temperance,, who became the wife of William Van Orden.
The colonists and first inhabitants of Catskill seem to have been little better than boors. The younger Loveridge was imprisoned in Fort Orange, for setting up a scandalous tree before a neighbor’s door, a heinous offence apparently, but of unknown nature. Cruyf was twice criminally prosecuted, once for calling old Kettlehuyn a thief, and again for aspersing the good name of Ulderick Kluyn’s wife. Andriessen was accused of selling spirits to the Indians; Hans Vos, for a like offence, was put into prison; Jan Van Bremen, though employed to read a homily, on the Lord’s day, to his neighbors, was complained of for swearing; Jacob Loockerman was fined 300 guilders for splitting open, with a heavy knife, the face of one Hoogenboom, from the forehead to the upper lip. The successors of these men, the Salisburys, the Van Vechtens, the Duboises and the Van Ordens, were of a different and higher character.
Before passing to an account of the inhabitants within the bounds of the Loveridge Patent, a list of the Dutch names of places therein, may be of interest. The two Indian names have already been mentioned.
Hopenose. This word may mean Hop’s Nose, but its derivation is unknown. The various traditions respecting it are all alike untrustworthy. It may be of Indian origin, as the termination, ose, occurs in Nippenose, a valley in Lycoming county, in Pennsylvania, and in Kokeose, on the Delaware River. The name is first used in the form, Hop’s Nose, in a deed dated November 3rd, 1720, from Alexander McDowall, of Perth Amboy, to Salomon Dubois. The place designated, is the rocky point nearly opposite the foot of Greene street, in the village of Catskill.
Uylen Spiegel’s Kill, that is Owl’s Looking Glass Creek, named for Claes Teunisse, called Uylen-spiegel, and now known as John Dubois’s Creek. Among the German tales of the sixteenth century is the popular story of the pranks, drolleries and misfortunes, of a mechanic, Till Eulenspiegel, and it may be that Teunisse received his nick-name from a fancied resemblance in his character to the character of the hero of the novel. The name first occurs in the will of Benjamin Dubois, dated May 20th 1762.
Roefenje. This word means a little cabin. The place designated is the rounded knoll south of the barn once owned by John Dubois, and at the head of the first reach in John Dubois’s Creek. Forty years ago it was covered with savins, or red cedars, of great size and of great age. Anson Dubois, late minister of the Reformed church at Flatlands, has said that, in his boyhood, great numbers of stone arrow heads were found on this hillock, and the ground was strewn with chips or flakes of flint and hornstone, as if the place had been an Indian manufactory of arrow heads. Before the war of 1812, strolling parties of Indians, from the western portions of the State, were wont to encamp on the Roefenje, and earned a scanty living and their large and daily allowance of hard cider by making baskets for the farmers in the neighborhood. The story goes, that these Indians heard of the declaration of war before their white neighbors, and suddenly broke up their camp and disappeared over the Catskill Mountains.
Plattekill. The meaning is flat or level creek, plat being a different word from plaat, which signifies first a platter and then a sand bank or a shallow place in the water. On the coast of Holland, at this day, many such banks and shoals are called Plaat. This creek is now called Ram’s Horn Creek.
Jurry’s Klip. This is, George’s Cliff. The rocky point on the Hudson east of the house of Henry Wynkoop.
Eike-hockje, or the Little Oak Hook, near Jurry’s Klip.
Maquaa’s Hoek, or Mohawk’s Hook, now called De Witt’s Point. It is the southeastern corner of the Loveridge Patent.
Fuyk, or a hoop-net which is made smaller at one end than the other. It is the name of a farm, which has the shape of this kind of net, and which lies among the hills of the Kalberg, west of the junction of the road to Saugerties with the Little Delaware Turnpike.
Streeke, pronounced Strakie, and means a streak, and also a region or a place. Thus, one finds in old deeds, written in Dutch, the phrase “een streeke lands,” that is, a parcel of lands. The name was given 160 years ago, to an oval and grassy hollow on the Kalberg, north of the road which now leads westward from the school-house in the Inbogt. In the spring and autumn, the Streeke is a lake of clear water, and forty years ago was surrounded by a belt of huge oaks, pines, elms and ash-trees.
Kykuit, pronounced Kakeout, and means lookout. The name was given, about 1720, to the ledges of sandstone which lie west of the house of Lewis Overbagh, and occurs frequently in ancient deeds. It is the name of a hill near Otsquage, of another hill in the town of Kingston, and of another hill near Tarrytown. In Cape Colony also, in Southern Africa, an eminence bears the name of “Uitkyk, or Lookout.”
Haverplaat, or oat-field. A field south of James P. Overbagh’s house, upon the ancient road which once led to the farm of Ignatius Van Orden. The name is said to have its origin in a field of wild oats which once grew on the spot.
Westberg or West Hill. The cliffs and ledges of limestone which stand east of the house of Frederick Fiero. The name first occurs in a deed, dated June 12th 1762, from Jacobus Hegeman to Philip Spaan and Johannes Burger.
The Duboises of Catskill are the descendants of Louis Dubois, a Walloon and a Huguenot. He was born in the province of Artois, in Wicres, a hamlet about twenty miles southwest of the ancient city of Lille, and the farm which was his birthplace is still pointed out by the inhabitants or the neighborhood. The region has undergone but little change for 250 years. It is an uninteresting country, yet, in spring, when the meadows are green and the apple trees are in blossom, is not without beauty. A frugal and industrious yeomanry till the fertile soil. Cheese is made in large quantities; orchards are numerous, and the arable land is devoted to crops of rye and flax. There is no lack of water in the sluggish streams, and the ochre tinted sails and red towers of the wind-mills are never out of the traveller’s sight.
Louis was the son of Christian Dubois, and was born on the 27th day of October, 1626. Of his early life little is known. That he went to school is proven by his handwriting, of which specimens are preserved in the records of the church at New Paltz; that he was reared a Protestant and a Calvinist is evident from his life in this country. Urged, perhaps, by the desire to better his fortunes, or more probably by the hope of enjoying greater freedom of religious thought and action, he removed, while still young, to Mannheim, in the Palatinate. On the 10th day of October 1655, he was married to Catharine Blanjean or Blanshan, the daughter of a burgher of that venerable city. Two children, Abraham and Isaac, were there born to him. In 1660, Dubois, his wife and two sons, came to New Netherland. He first settled on the Esopus near or in what is now known as the village of Hurley, and became a shop-keeper, trading thriftily in cloths from Antwerp, in earthenware from Delft, in Barbadoes sugar and rum, and in beaver and other skins, with his neighbors and the Indians of the upper waters of the Esopus. In the Indian war of 1663 his wife and three of his children were taken prisoners by the savages. Fourteen years later, he, with eleven other men, Huguenots and Frenchmen like himself, obtained from Governor Andros a patent for a large tract of land, which now lies in the valley of the Walkill, in the town of New Paltz. Removing thither, Dubois began the life and underwent the privations of a pioneer. But his first care was to found a church. Its early records were kept in French and are still in existence, and one can spell out from their yellow and mutilated pages the piety and childlike faith of Louis Dubois.
He remained in New Paltz until 1689, when he removed to Kingston, where he died about 1695. Of his ten children, seven sons and three daughters, we have only to do with Salomon.
Salomon Dubois was born in 1669. His wife was Tryntje Gerritsen, and by her he had four sons and four daughters. He had a talent for acquisition, and upon his death in 1759, at the age of ninety, he was the owner of large tracts of land in Catskill, in the county of Ulster, and in the fertile valley of Perkiomen in Pennsylvania.
The tract in Catskill was Lot No. 1* (*Salomon devised this lot to his son Benjamin.) in the first division of the Loveridge Patent, which contained 900 acres, and lay upon the north side of a line drawn nearly west from the upper extremity of the Hopenose to the Kaaterskill. It was bought in November 1720, by Salomon Dubois from Alexander McDowell and Margaret Loveridge, his wife. This purchase was followed, in January 1729, by the purchase, by Salomon’s son Benjamin, from Gysbert Lane and Hannah Loveridge, his wife, of Lot No. 2 in the first division of the Loveridge Patent, which contained 1515 acres, and which lay between the southern boundary of Lot No. 1 and a line drawn nearly west from near the head of Ram’s Horn Creek or the Plattekill, to the Kaaterskill. But out of this tract were excepted about 500 acres, which had been previously sold, in various parcels, to Jourya, John Pieter and Pieter Overbagh, to Nicolass and Johan Wilhelm Brandow, and to Frederick Dietrich.
Salomon Dubois never lived at Catskill. But his second son, Benjamin, at least as early as 1728, took possession of Lot No. 1. He at first occupied the house of the Loveridges. About 1740 he built the stone house which until a year or two ago was the residence of his great-great-grandson, Benjamin P. Dubois.
Benjamin Dubois, the son of Salomon, was born at New Paltz, in 1697. AT the age of 24 he married Catharine Suylandt, of Hurley, and in 1767 died at Catskill. He was short and slender, as his grandson, John Dubois, of the Point, remembered, and fifty years ago described him; active, resolute and pious. He was one of the founders and first elders of the “United Congregations of Catskill and Coxsackie”; he aided also in the building of the church at Kaatsbaan, and to this day his initials maybe be seen rudely cut in a stone in the walls of that ancient edifice. The tradition is that his funeral was an occasion of great ceremony, common perhaps in the manors and in the two cities of the province, but infrequent among simple yeoman. The body of the dead man lay in state for several days; the house was open to all comers, and, after the burial, a feast was given, with rude but generous profusion. Benjamin Dubois, old people were wont to say, was buried like a gentleman. Five children survived him, Huybartus, Cornelius, Isaac, Sara, the widow of Christiaan Overbagh, and Trintje, the wife of John Van Orden. Salomon, the oldest son of Benjamin, was dead, but he left a son Benjamin.
In 1783, the three sons and the grandson of Benjamin Dubois were living upon their patrimony. Their fragmentary history is recorded in the books of the churches of New Paltz, Kingston, Kaatsbaan and Old Catskill, and is preserved in the traditions of the family. The meager recital may not be uninteresting.
1. Isaac Dubois was born on the 6th of July 1731. May 28th 1752, he “a young man, living at Albany,” according to the quaint record, was married “with Lena Sammons, a maiden, living at Schwaegonk.” He died on the 8th of October 1795, leaving four children, Lena, who became the wife of Abram Fonda, Achie or Eghje, who became the wife of Jacobus Bogardus, John and Joel. His body was interred in the graveyard of the family at the Point, where his tombstone stands to this day.
He spent his boyhood and his early manhood in the house of his father, going to school in winter in the little school-house of hewn logs on the Snake road, drawing seines for shad and herring on the Plaatje or at Boompje’s Hoek, plowing the flats above the Devil’s Aspect, making hay in the meadow which afterward became the garden and the pastures of Caleb Benton, and cutting wood in the forests upon the hills near by. It was not an idle life. But can anyone now-a-days comprehend its isolation? To Isaac Dubois and his brothers, the world was scarcely larger than the neighborhood. They without books and newspapers, never wrote and never received a letter, saw few strangers, and seldom went abroad. When they made a journey, the farthest bounds of their travels was Kingston or Albany. It is doubtful whether they ever heard of the campaigns of Frederick the Great, or of the conquest of India by the English. With regard to affairs in the American colonies, the story of the defeat of Braddock, of the massacre at Fort William Henry, of the storming of Quebec, came to the ears of these young men without accurate detail, and only after a long delay.
Between the year 1760 and the year 1762, Isaac Dubois took possession of the farm at the Point, and in 1767, under the will of his father, became the owner of that portion of the estate, including the farm, which lay south of a line drawn from the Hopenose in a southwesterly direction to the lands of the Overbaghs. The house* (*It stood a few feet behind the site of the present house and was torn down in 1820.) in which he lived was of stone and one story high, and had been built about 1750 for his brother Huybartus. For him, too, an apple orchard had been planted. The trees in the fertile soil attained to great size.
Isaac Dubois, after the death of his father, led a life of ease. Two or three slaves, with the occasional and moderate help of their master and his sons, did the needful work of the farm, sowed and harvested the wheat, planted and gathered the maize, made the hay, tended the small patches of flax and tobacco, sheared the sheep, killed the hogs, cut and rode in the wood. The truth is, this man, among his other virtues, had the characteristic virtue of the Dutch yeomen of the valley of the Hudson – he was contented with such things as he had. His estate produced, or gave him the means of buying whatever his modest wants required, and a life of toil would have given him only greater wealth, for which he did not crave.
During the Revolutionary war, it was agreed by the family, that, of the two sons of Isaac Dubois, John should remain at home in charge of the farm and Joel should join the militia. Joel accordingly, although not more than fifteen years old, enlisted as a soldier or enrolled himself as a minute man. He served in his Uncle Cornelius’ regiment, saw a good deal of arduous service on the Mohawk and lay a whole summer in garrison at Johnson Hall.
2. Cornelius Dubois was born at New Paltz on the 14th of September 1727, and was baptized by Domine Petrus Vas on the 12th of November following, was married to Catharine Vanderpoel, of Kinderhook, on the 21st of September 1751, and died at Catskill on the 5th of June 1803. He was probably buried in the grave-yard of the family, in the meadow west of his house.
While he was yet an infant he came to Catskill with his father, and passed his youth and the first years of his manhood in the usual occupations of a husbandman. He may also have learned a trade. At any rate, in later days he was a cooper, and had his shop near the spot where the south gateway of the house now is. But it is doubtful whether he ever worked hard at making barrels or in making anything else.
The portion of the estate which was devised to him in 1767 he took possession of as early as 1760. It was a noble inheritance, of at least 600 acres. Its eastern bounds were upon the Katskill from the Hopenose to a black oak which stood at the water’s edge in the northeast corner of the land which Caleb Benton once owned, and which the family of Caleb Hopkins now occupies. The western bounds of the estate extended from this tree for a distance of nearly a mile and three-quarters, to the farm of the widow Sara, the great-great-grandmother of James P. Overbagh.
At either side of the front door of the house in which Cornelius Dubois lived for many years, inscriptions, rudely cut in the stones of the outer wall, may still be read. On the left hand are the letters and figures L.D.B., B.D.B., C.D.B., 1762, C.D. BS; on the right hand are the letters J.R.Y., CC. ER. and perhaps C.A.M. The date is the date of the erection of the house, and some of the initials are undoubtedly the initials of Cornelius Dubois and of his sons Lawrence and Benjamin. It was the custom of the Dutch yeomen of the valley of the Hudson thus to record the date of their buildings and the name of the builders, a custom which was derived from their forefathers and which obtains in Holland to this day. Such inscriptions probably signify permanence of occupation. The inhabitants of New England of the last century never thought of their houses as the abiding place of themselves, their children and their children’s dwellings.
The cottage of Cornelius Dubois stands to this day with slight external alteration. It is a structure of sandstone, one story high, with small windows and a steep roof. A porch, which the Dutch called a stoep, extends along the southern front. The site of the house is still pleasing, but a hundred years ago it was delightful. From the sunny porch Dubois looked down, if he cared to look, upon the Katskill, a clear river of twice its present volume, and across upon its left bank, covered with huge pines and ancient elms. A meadow lay in front, and beyond the meadow were the forests and a rocky, precipitous hill. The only house in sight was the mansion of Madam Jane Dies.
Within, the cottage was a pattern of the houses of the Dutch husbandmen of the better class. The main room was kitchen, bed-room and sitting-room, in one. Access to it from without was through a stout door, or rather through two stout half-doors one above the other, hung upon heavy hinges and fastened by latches and bolts of iron. A large fire-place, without jambs, was in the western wall. Huge beams of oak or of yellow pine supported the floor of the granary overhead.* (*A kitchen and a buttery built of wood but under one roof attached to the northwest corner of this house, seem to be nearly as old as the house itself. The incongruous but needful addition of brick upon the east side was built by Caleb Benton sixty-five or seventy years ago.)
One wishes that the walls of this venerable house could tell us of all that has taken place within and about them. They gave shelter, during the Revolution, to the inhabitants of the Schoharie and the Delaware, who were driven from their homes by the incursions of the Indians. John T. More, of Moresville, remembered, to the day of his death, his flight with his father’s family to Catskill landing, and the profuse hospitality with which he and they were entertained by Cornelius Dubois. After the surrender of Cornwallis, a supper, in celebration of the event, was given in the chief room. By the great fire-place in winter, and upon the stoop in summer, Cornelius Dubois would sit at ease, with a clay pipe in his mouth, and talk to his guests, or a chance passer by, of his campaigns against the Indians in the Valley of the Mohawk. In 1795, when Jacobus Bogardus was the owner of the house, the Duke de la Rochefoucault visited it, occupying the room in the southeast corner for several nights.
The story of the supper comes down to us from Annaatje, who was the daughter of Cornelius and who became the wife of her cousin Joel Dubois. The feast was held late in the autumn of 1781, after the turkeys and chickens had been fattened, and the hams had been cured, and the cider had become mellow. The house was filled, the sitting room with the whigs of the neighborhood, the Duboises, the Salisburys, the Van Ordens, the Van Vechtens, Gysbert Oosterhoudt and Domine Johannes Schuneman; the kitchen in the basement with the uninvited but not forbidden slaves of the yeomen overhead. There was loud and hearty talking in Dutch; there was dancing to the music of the fiddles of the negroes; there was a long table covered with food; there was an abundance of flip and toddy in bockjes or wooden bowls. A prominent figure in the crowd was the figure of a repentant tory, who went about with a bowl of milk-punch, asking each guest to drink with him to the final success of the American arms. When the vessel was nearly empty, he was full of the generous liquor, and put the bowl upon his head. With the small remainder of the punch streaming down his long white hair upon his shoulders, he kept on with his noisy and strained rejoicings over the surrender at Yorktown. The party broke up after midnight, and it is said that a venerable elder of the united churches of Catskill and Coxsackie went to his home, for the only time in his life, in a state of unnatural exhilaration.
During the Revolution seventeen regiments were organized in the province and State of New York. The commissions of the officers of the eleventh regiment bear the date of the twentieth of October 1775. The colonel was Anthony Van Bergen of Coxsackie, the lieutenant-colonel was Cornelius Dubois, and one of the captains was Samuel Van Vechten. Dubois served within the State during the greater part of the war. But it is not determined whether it was he, who, in October, 1780, so bravely commanded the extreme right of Van Rensselaer’s little army at Klock’s Field on the Mohawk, or whether it was he who, in May 1871, built the block-house near the house of Jacob Shaler on the Cobleskill which was called Fort Dubois.
The last days of Cornelius Dubois were days of poverty. He was always careless in money affairs, and, while he had means or credit, lent both freely. It is still remembered that needy borrowers would shout their requests to him across the Katskill, and would receive their answer back in like manner. He also paid large sums in taking up the forged notes and orders of his oldest son Benjamin. About 1789 he sold his house and lands to Jacobus Bogardus, and although Dubois lived nearly fifteen years longer, further mention of him ceases.
3. Huybartus Dubois was baptized by Domine Petrus Vas, at Kingston, on the 10th day of October 1725, was married about the year 1748 to Cornelia, who was probably the daughter of Caspar Janse Hallenbeck, of the Vlagte of Loonenburg, and died in the winter of 1808 and 1809. He was buried by the side of his wife in the graveyard of the family in the meadow west of his house.
Huybartus, with his brother Cornelius, was brought to Catskill while he was still a child, and was brought up a farmer. He probably built the stone cottage at the Point, near Uylenkill, which was afterwards occupied by Isaac Dubois. At any rate, Huybartus, after her marriage and until about the year 1760, lived in that house, and in it his children were all born.
In 1767 he became, by devise from his father Benjamin, the owner of a large estate. The boundaries of this estate are not clearly defined in the will by which it is created. The southwest corner was the “northwest corner of Paulus Smith’s” farm. The northwest corner was upon the Kaaterskill, about a hundred rods above the house which was afterwards built for Catharine, the daughter of Huybartus Dubois, and the mother of John and Lena Hermance. From this corner the estate was bounded by the Kaaterskill and the Katskill, and extended to the lands of Cornelius Dubois at a black oak tree which stood, as has already been said, upon the water’s edge near the garden or orchard of Caleb Benton. Besides this farm, Huybartus Dubois owned, in common with his brothers and nephew, the woodland upon and beyond the Kalberg. The house in which Huybartus lived for nearly fifty years, and in which he died, was built about 1740. It is still standing, and until his death was occupied by his great-grandson, Benjamin P. Dubois. The barn, which is behind this cottage, is at least 125 years old, and it may be much older, for the tradition is that it, or a portion of it, was used by William Loveridge.
Huybartus Dubois, says the Rev. Dr. Dubois, in his Genealogical Chart, “was always spoken of with respect by our grandparents.” On the other hand he has been described as litigious, bad-tempered and intemperate man. That he was stern and unforgiving is apparent from his treatment of his daughter Lena. She had married against his wish and had been discarded by him. At one time he lay very sick, and she, bringing her first-born babe in her arms, came to his bedside to ask for forgiveness. The old man spoke not and turned his face to the wall.
The act which incorporated the village of Catskill was passed on the 14th of March 1806. By this act the western boundary of the village was established by a line which began “at the northwest corner of the lands of Huybartus Dubois,” and which ran from this corner “along the west bounds of his land to the farm of Frederick Smith.” Mr. John Van Vechten, in his map of the village, which hangs in the office of the county clerk, leaves this western boundary undesignated, nor is it determined where it was. This line could not have begun at the northwest corner of the lands of Huybartus Dubois, as he received these lands from his father, because this corner was upon the Kaaterskill, above the house of Lena Hermance. But the will of Huybartus may, perhaps, afford a solution of the difficulty. By this instrument, which was executed on the 18th of March 1806, he devised to his daughter Catharine, or Trintje, the farm upon which he was then living, and which is described as “beginning at the white pine tree standing on the south side of Catskill, upon a course south forty-four degrees and thirty minutes east from the northeast corner of Samuel Van Vechten’s grist-mill,” and as running thence, by various courses, in a southwesterly direction a distance of fifty-five chains and nineteen links, to the land of Cornelius Dubois. We can perhaps safely infer that the northwest corner of the village of Catskill is the place where this tree once stood, and that the western boundary of the village is upon the line which formed the eastern boundary of the lands of Trintje Dubois Hermance.
4. Salomon Dubois was baptized by Domine Petrus Vas, at Kingston, on the 23rd of February 1724, was married to Margaret Sammons on the 27th day of September 1749, and died before July 1760. He was buried, it is said, upon the hill behind his house. But the position of the grave has long since been lost.
This house is still standing upon the right or south bank of the Kaaterskill, about a quarter of a mile above the great falls of that creek. Since it was built, it seems to have received additions at each end. Over a central doorway, which is now blocked up, are rudely cut the date of erection -- 1751, May 3 – and the initials of the builders, Benjamin, Salomon and Cornelius Dubois. The house was probably built by Benjamin, as the dwelling-place of his son Salomon, after the marriage of the latter to Margaret Sammons. It is a rude structure, but its age and associations make it somewhat venerable. The road in front lies upon the trail by which the Indians of the villages upon the Katskill made their way up the Kaaterskill to the headwaters of the Schoharie Kill.
Salomon Dubois was a blacksmith as well as a farmer. Thirty years ago, the site of his smithy, a few feet west of his house, was marked with blackened earth and cinders. A wafel-ijzer, or waffle iron, made by him and bearing the date of 1754, is in the possession of his descendants of the Eckler family. But a blacksmith of the last century had an occupation of greater variety than a blacksmith of the present day. Such an one not only forged horse-shoes, but a hundred other implements, for the yeomen of the neighborhood, ploughs, spades, buckles, hinges, locks and bolts, and for the housewives, tongs and shovels, pot-hooks, fire-dogs and a few cooking utensils. When other work was wanting, he and his apprentices slowly hammered out the clumsy wrought-iron nails which may still be found in old dwellings.
The southern boundary of Lot No. 2 of the Loveridge Patent began at the Hudson, 138 6-10 feet below the mouth of the Grootekil or the Plattekill, as Ram’s Horn Creek was once called, and extended upon a course north seventy-two degrees west to the Kaaterskill. In 1749, as an old deed declares, this boundary was a “line of marked trees now run by Jan Eltinge.” The trees, excepting one, are now all gone, but the line can still be traced by fences and stone walls of division. It lies between the lands of Burget and Overbagh, crosses the road to Saugerties a few feet south of the stone cottage in which a negro woman, Sarah Persen, once lived, crosses the King’s road a short distance north of the Mountain Turnpike, and touches the Kaaterskill at a huge black oak. This venerable tree stands on the very edge of the bank, and probably was a young and vigorous sapling when Eltinge surveyed the line; at any rate, it is mentioned in a deed executed in1772. Five feet from the ground, the trunk has a girth of twelve feet and six inches. The lower branches are still full of vigor, but a portion of the top is gone.
The land upon the north side of this line, between the Kalberg and the Hudson, was bought by five Germans of the lower Palatinate, in the autumn of 1728. Johan Wilhelm Brandow became the owner of 100 acres, which were afterwards occupied by Paulus Schmidt, and still later by Paulus Trumphour; Jourya Overbagh became the owner of 100 acres, which are now in the possession of James P. Overbagh; Johan Pieter Overbagh became the owner of 140 acres at the Kykuit; Nicholas Brandow became the owner of 61 acres, which consisted of a strip of land nine chains wide, and extended westerly from the Hudson; Frederick Dederick became the owner of 52 acres adjoining Brandow on the north. These estates were surveyed by Martin Hoffman, deputy surveyor of the province. It will be observed that these Palantines chose the uplands; if they had been Dutchmen, they would have settled upon the flats or alluvial plains on the banks of the Katskill and the Kaaterskill.
Jourya Overbagh died on the 11th day of August, 1739. He devised his lands to his nephew Christiaan, to whom and to whose descendants they have ever since belonged. Christiaan was the son of John Pieter Overbagh, of the Kykuit. On the 4th day of April, 1743, he married Sara, a daughter of Benjamin Dubois. He built a cottage upon his farm, and brought up a family of three sons and three daughters.
The farm of 100 acres, which belonged to Christiaan Overbagh, was in the form of a square. Nearly in the center of the square he built, about the year 1745, a stone cottage twenty feet long and as many deep. Its one chimney was on the outside, an unusual fashion of that time and region. The chimney was taken down when the house was enlarged, but the place where the chimney stood can still be traced upon the outer wall. About 1859, the house was again enlarged, and is now the “Inboght House” of James P. Overbagh. During the Revolution the cottage was a place of muster for the minute men of the district, and a refuge for their families when it was rumored that the Mohawks were about. At this time Peter, the son of Christiaan, was the occupant of the farm. Isaac, another son, was a sergeant in Colonel Wynkoop’s regiment of militia, and was for a while stationed at Skenesborough. In Captain Samuel Van Vechten’s order-books this entry is found: “Oct. 14, 1776 – Sergt. Isaac Overbagh deserted.” He was a zealous hunter, and spent many a winter’s day in the huge forests of the upper Kiskatom in the pursuit of deer and foxes.
John Pieter Overbagh was buried in a meadow on the east side of the Kykuit. Upon the narrow slab of gray flag which marks his grave is this inscription:
1734. Septem. 14 J.P.O.B.
It is the oldest tombstone in the town of Catskill.
The first house built upon the estate was a log cabin, which stood near the junction of the two roads which pass on either side of the Kykuit. It was afterwards occupied by a Scotchman named Grant, whose sister married a Dubois.
The second cottage, which John Pieter Overbagh or his son built, was constructed in this wise: The frame of heavy timber was first raised, the sides of the upright posts had been grooved, and into the grooves were inserted the beveled ends of roughly hewn planks. The planks formed the walls of the house, which were then thickly daubed, both inside and out, with a mixture of stiff clay and chopped straw. The plastering was durable and made the dwelling both dry and warm.
This cottage stood until the year 1801, when the stone house which Lewis Overbagh now occupies was built near it.
Upon the death of their father, in 1734, Johan Jurry and Johannes divided between them his farm of 140 acres, the former taking the eastern half and the latter taking the western half. The line of division runs over the Kykuit in a southwesterly direction. In May, 1753 they added to their estate by the purchase from Paulus Smith of the strip of land nine chains wide, and extending to the Hudson, which once belonged to Nicholas Brandow. They probably also bought the land which Frederick Dietrich had owned.
Johann Jurry Overbagh died about the year 1759, leaving three sons and one daughter. Their names were Peter, John, Jeremy and Katharina.
During the last century the sons of many prudent yeomen, lest their lands should not produce enough for the support of themselves and their large families, were made to learn a trade. Peter and John Overbagh accordingly became cordwainers and Jeremy a tailor. It is not known whether these young men, after they became journeymen, pursued their occupations. If they did it was in the intervals of farm labor, by going about from house to house among their neighbors, and by working in summer upon the covered stoop and in winter near the great fire-place in the kitchen. Their wages were small; they got their board and from four to six York shillings a day.
The materials for the shoes and the garments were supplied to the handicraftsmen. The leather came from the hides of the calves and oxen, which had lain in the tan-pits of the farm or of the neighborhood for at least a year. As for the cloth, every yeoman kept a few sheep and grew a little flax. The wool and the hetcheled fibres of the plant were spun by the women and by them woven into linsey-woolsey, dyed with butternut, and into coarse but durable linen cloth.
After the death of Johan Jurry Overbagh his widow carried on the business of the farm and brought up his infant children. In 1783, John jr., the second son, was in possession of the estate, and in this possession he remained until his death in 1815. His wife, Annaatje Conyn, was a German by birth or immediate descent, and was reared by Frederick Schmidt in the house which, in our time, belonged to Paulus Trumpbour. She is buried in the grave-yard of the Overbaghs, and the inscription upon her tombstone is:
Hannah, wife of John Overbagh, died Nov. 23, 1845, aged 81 years 7 months and 13 days.
In October 1777, when the British, under General Vaughn, had reached Kingston and the Esopus, the alarm of the few inhabitants of the Inbogt was great. They drove their swine and oxen into the woods upon the Kalkberg, and packed their more valuable furniture for speedy removal. John Overbagh heard the beating of drums at sunrise on the hostile ships at East Camp, and from the top of the Kykuit saw the smoke rising from the burning houses at Livingston Manor. The tories of the Great Inbogt District, as the region was designated by law, were exultant, and even began to discuss what division of lands of their whig neighbors they should make among themselves. The loyalist women were especially bitter.
John Overbagh was the type and representative of the Dutch yeomen of his day. He had their characteristic faults of willfulness, obstinacy and implacability. He had also their characteristics virtues of prudence, moderation and contentment. He was an extreme conservative, and took pride in following the ways of his fathers, in food, dress, mode of farming, and all the habits of life. He was slow of thought, silent, of sound judgment, and a firm believer in the tenets of his church. It is remembered of him that he refused to own slaves; such ownership being deemed by him to be sinful. He had three sons and three daughters.
Of the brother of John Jurry, Johannes Overbagh, who took the farm on the west side of the Kykuit, all remembrance has been lost. The house in which he lived was a wooden building of one story, and had two rooms, with an addition of one room which was used as a kitchen and was occupied by the slaves. A covered stoop extended along the southern front of the main building. The cellar and foundation are the cellar and foundation of the house which now stands on the farm.
Of the seven children of Johannes three were sons and four were daughters.
Until June 1762, Lot No. 3 in the Loveridge Patent remained undivided, in the possession successively of Michiel Van Vechten, of Raritan, N.J., who was the eldest son of Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten, of Catskill, of Michiel’s son Dirck and daughter Jannetje, and of her sons Dennis and Jacobus Hegeman. None of these owners built upon the tract. It remained unbroken forest from the Hudson to the Kaaterskill. In 1762, however, the Hegemans conveyed the estate to Paulus Schmidt and to Philip Spaan and Johannis Burger – and the clearing of the land began.
In 1783 five houses had been built upon the lot. Lena Fiero, the wife of John Fiero, was the owner, by gift from her brother Frederick Schmidt, of the west portion, Nicholas Trompbour, of the farm now occupied by Charles Anderson, and Johannis Sax of the farm which Benjamin Sax tilled. Johannis Burger lived where his son Adam was born and died, and just south of him was Philip Spaan, who in 1791 sold his land to Evert Wynkoop, of Kingston, the father of William.
A vague tradition connects the boyhood of William Van Orden with Perth Amboy and with the life of a seaman. But what is know respecting him is that, about the year 1716, he married Temperance, ne of the daughters of William Loveridge, lived in the Inbogt, upon lands which his wife had inherited, and died in 1765.
After the division of the Loveridge Patent, in 1718, William Van Orden, in right of his wife, took possession of Lot No. 4, which contained 1,415 acres. The boundary line of this lot can still be easily traced. The northern line begins at the Hudson, at or near the mouth of Burget’s Creek, crosses the road at Saugerties a few rods north of the house of the Langendyks, and touches the Kaaterskill above the bridge on the turnpike to the Palenville Clove. The southern line nearly bisects Green Point, is covered by the lane which passes by the house of Abraham Post, and touches the Kaaterskill at the southwest corner of Badeau’s farm. Within this Lot No. 4, upon the Kalkberg, the picturesque hollow, called the Streeke, almost wholly lies.
The house which William Van Orden built, and in which he lived until his death, was torn down about thirty years ago. It stood on the east side of the Vly, on the south side of the Post lane, and about fifty paces southeast from a barn of Jacob Van Orden, was partly a block or log house and partly of stone quarried from the Kalkberg, and was built against the hill, so that it was two stories high on the east side and one story high on the west side. The room on the first floor on the north side of the house was kitchen, bed-room and sitting-room, in one; the room on the same floor on the south side was occupied by the slaves. Behind these rooms, against the bank, was the cellar. The lower windows were guarded by heavy oaken shutters; the doors were also of oak and were divided horizontally, so that while the upper half could be thrown open, the lower half could be kept closed and bolted. The upper chambers were used as a granary. The house seems to have lacked the characteristic stoop.
It was a sheltered and lovely situation. The hill and the forests on the west kept off the coldest winds, and the sun shone upon the house all the winter’s day. In front was the Hudson, in front also was the “canoe place” at which the boats were tied.* (*Ancient deeds of indenture record the jealous care with which access to the “canoe places,” as they were called, was guarded by the landholders of the last century. The roads along the Hudson being rude paths, over which hauling was always difficult and sometimes impossible, the yeomen brought their wheat and staves to the nearest accessible point on the river and loaded them into skiffs or bateaux, as they were then named. Besides the canoe place in front of William Van Orden’s house, there was another at the head of Burget’s Creek, and another at the first bend in John Dubois’s Creek or the Uylen Kill.)
William Van Orden was buried on the crown of the hill northwest from his house, in a field which lies in front of Abraham Post’s. The rude stone which marked his grave, lies upon the ground. It bears the inscription, W.V.O. 1765. He was one of the first elders of the Dutch Reformed church at Old Catskill, and under his training his children became leaders in the little community in which they lived.
In 1767, his children cast lots for that portion of their father’s lands which lay between the Kalkberg and the Hudson. William Van Orden received 118 acres, which lay upon the road to Saugerties, and which afterwards became the farm of his grand-daughter, Mistress Angelica Overbagh. He also drew a lot of six acres, nearly in the center of the eastern half of Lot No. 4, of the Loveridge Patent, which was known as ‘T. Kleine-hooilandtje, or the little hay field. Margaret, the wife of Jan Baptist Dumond, received 93 acres which lay upon the road to Saugerties, and which afterwards became the farm of John Langendyk. She also drew a lot of 25 acres, which lies in front of Abraham Post’s house. Elizabeth, the wife of David Dumond, received a lot of 118 acres, east of her sister Margaret’s portion, andanother lot of _____ acres, upon and around Green Point. John received 100 acres and more, lying on the Hudson, in the northeast corner of Lot No. 4. Ignatius received the homestead and the farm which surrounds it. The Vly upon the south side of Burget’s Creek, and the woodland upon the Kalkberg to the Kaaterskill, were reserved by the children as commons.
The personalty of William Van Orden was not divided until 1774, after the death of his wife, Temperance. The inventory is in the possession of his great-grandson, William H. Van Orden, of Catskill. It is an interesting paper to a careful reader, not only because it gives some notion of the kind and quantity of furniture which went to the due furnishing of the houses of the well-to-do yeomen of the earlier portion of the last century, but also because it affords an insight into their habits and mode of life. The Indian baskets, for example, set down in the list, recall the drunken and shiftless savages, who dwelt at the junction of the Katskill and the Kaaterskill, in the Wilden-hausje, beloe the Boekoven, and along the Kiskatom, and who earned a scanty living by basket-making, by hunting, and by working in rare emergencies for the farmers. The careful pride with which the women laid up great stores of linen is illustrated in the fifty-one ells of home-spun cloth, the fifteen sheets, the thirty pillow cases, the five table cloths, the thirty shifts, the twenty-three kerchiefs and the fifty women’s white caps, which are duly set forth in the inventory. The six cups and saucers of china, the three silver tea-spoons and the five silver table-spoons, were only brought out upon occasions of ceremony. For daily use, the spoons of pewter and the plates of yellow earthen ware were sufficient. That William Van Orden, like most of his neighbors, was not given to reading, may be inferred from that fact that the only book in his possession seems to have been a Dutch Testament with silver clasps. Of money, however, there was a good store. Three hundred and sixty dollars, fourteen half-joes and one guinea, are mentioned.
William, the oldest son of William Van Orden and Temperance Loveridge, spent a quiet and uneventful life in the Inbogt. In a deed of indenture he is described as a weaver, but even if this be a true description of his trade, it may be doubted whether he ever worked at it. His wants were few, and these were easily supplied from his farm of 124 acres. The house in which he lived was built by himself about 1742, after his marriage with Sara Dubois, and stood for nearly 130 years. It had two rooms over the cellar or basement, and stoops both in front and rear. The larger addition to this cottage which many of us remember as the home of Mistress Angelica Overbagh, was built by William Van Orden at the request of his son Hezekiah. The father proposed tearing the old house down and building a new one of stone upon dryer ground on the west side of the Saugerties road. But the son wanted a “Yankee house,” as he called it, that is to say, a house built of wood, and of this material the addition was made.
In one of the letters which passed between the Ten Broecks of Kingston and the Ten Broecks of Rocky Hill, in New Jersey, the writer mentions the betrothal of his niece, Elizabeth Van Vechten, to a young man of some estate and of unblemished character. The young man was Hezekiah Van Orden. During the war of the Revolution, he, like his uncles John and Ignatius, and his cousins William and Benjamin, was an ardent whig. He was a member of the military committee of the Groote Inboght District, kept close watch upon the tories of the neighborhood, took his turn in patrolling the roads, shouldered his musket and joined the yeomen, who, in October 1777, flocked to Green Point and Maquaa’s Hoek, to oppose the British in their progress up the Hudson. In 1781, being thirty-two years old, he was a justice of the peace, an office, at that time, of considerable honor, and usually conferred upon older men.
His sister Annaatje, a handsome and willful girl, made an unfortunate marriage. Her love was won by James Milliken, who had been a private in the Continental army, and who had come into the neighborhood an entire stranger and without credentials. The Van Ordens opposed the match, but without effect. The pair were married, and were put by William Van Orden upon a tract of land upon the Kaaterskill, nearly opposite the house of David Abeel. Milliken, though quick-witted, turned out to be a shiftless and intemperate man, and Annaatje passed her life in seclusion and in poverty.
John Van Orden, lived, after his marriage with Tryntje Dubois in 1751, in a cottage, upon the foundations of which the stone house called the hospital was afterward built. During the war of the Revolution, he was too old to become a soldier, but none of his neighbors were more zealous than he in the cause of the colonies. One can read in the manuscripts at Albany that in May, 1775, he and David Abeel were in that city, as the committee from the Groote Inbogt, to aid in the election of deputies to the Provincial Congress. In 1776, he was chairman of the military committee of which Gozen Van Shaick and Hezekiah Van Orden were members; and in the autumn of that year was brought before him his own nephew, who had been a second lieutenant in Colonel Anthony Van Bergen’s regiment, charged with inciting men to join the British forces, when “they should be near.” The offence was proved by the evidence of Peter Porkert and Solomon Shutt. The young man was found to be guilty and fined ten pounds, to defray the expenses of the committee in convening for the trial, and was order to give a bond for his future good behavior.
William, the oldest son of John Van Orden, joined the northern army, fought at Stillwater and Saratoga, was taken ill of fever, and on his way home died at the house of Teunis Van Vechten. Benjamin, the second son, was commissioned quarter-master, with the rank of ensign of the eleventh regiment of New York volunteers, and served with honorable fidelity until the close of the war. In later days, between 1790 and 1800, he was master of the sloop Catharine, plying between Catskill and New York. He was also a grocer in the village and dealt, as may be learned from his advertisement in the Catskill Packet of January, 1797, in rum, imported direct from Jamaica, in salt from Turks Island, and in sole leather of approved quality; all kinds of country produce, and especially flax seed, being taken in exchange. His “store” and his dwelling were in the long and hip-roofed building still known as the Arcade – a building which he himself erected and which, at the time, was almost a wonder because of its size and cost. About 1809, he bought from Peter I., one of the heirs of Hubartus Dubois, the farm which is now owned by Isaac Rouse. From Catskill, Benjamin Van Orden moved to Coxsackie and died there in 1837.
Sara, the second daughter of John Van Orden, learned to read and write English in the old school-house which stood by the side of the road to Saugerties, between the house of Jan Baptist Dumond and Johannis Sax.* (*In later days, about 1800, when Frederick Overbagh was a boy, the school was kept by one Macomber, who would not allow Dutch to be spoken in his hearing during school hours.) The master was a Scotchman, John Tattersall. After her marriage with Samuel Van Vechten, she received a silver spoon from her teacher as a token of regard. It is now in the possession of one of her sons, and is marked “J. T. to S.V.V.” Of this lady Dr. Abel Brace used to speak in terms of high respect. Her manners were gentle, she was friendly, hospitable, kind to the poor, fond (but without demonstration) of her children and nieces. Her married life was a life of ease. When she had grown old, the doctor often found her knitting in the west room of her husband’s ancient house, and teaching a reluctant negro girl by her side to knit also.
Peter, the third son of John Van Orden, though but a stripling, was, during the war of the Revolution, the captain of a company enrolled for the protection of the Inbogt, and having in its ranks many young men of the neighborhood. His duties were chiefly those of a scout. On one occasion he led his men down the Schoharie nearly to Brakabeen. On another occasion he patrolled the rude path which had been cut through the forest in the Valley of the Kiskatom from the Shinglekill to Wynkoop’s grist-mill, near what is now known as Drummond’s Falls. But Peter Van Orden is chiefly remembered as an innkeeper on the Windham Mountain. About the year 1797, he left the Inbogt and built a tavern in the woods west of the site of the Grand View House, upon the road which a few years after became the Susquehanna Turnpike. Sixty-five years ago, a great traffic passed by this inn. Immigrants from Connecticut were making their way into the Valley of the Susquehanna and its branches. Rough backwoodsmen – many of them on foot – were returning from Baltimore and Philadelphia, after taking their rafts of lumber down the rivers in the May freshets. Teamsters were hauling goods to northern Pennsylvania and to Owego, Bainbridge, Norwich and Unadilla. Peter Van Orden, being a reserved man, was, perhaps, not a popular landlord, but he was known to be rigidly honest and upright, and his inn had a full share of patronage.* (*During a day and evening, on a special occasion, three barrels of cider were drunk in his inn. During the first quarter of the century, when, in the Windham valley, the price of eggs was eight cents a dozen, of butter twelve to fifteen cents a pound, of beef six dollars a hundred weight, the usual charge for a lodging was a York shilling, or twelve and a half cents, for dinner twenty-five cents, for a quart of cider five cents.) The competition, however, was great. Between Catskill Landing and Windham Center there was a tavern for every mile of road.
From 1765 until his death in 1807, Ignatius Van Orden lived in the house which his father built near the Hudson. In 1778, Ignatius received a commission in Colonel Anthony Van Bergen’s regiment, and saw some service. After his death, his son Ignatius took the homestead, became intemperate, and about 1844 was found dead in the road near his house. Another son William built a cottage for himself on the beautiful knoll known as Green Point, married Catharina, a daughter of Wessels Ten Broeck, of Germantown, became a noted sportsman, and at the age of 75, while out for wild ducks, was drowned in the Hudson on the flats near his dwelling.
Margaret, a daughter of William Van Orden and Temperance Loveridge, became the wife of Jan Baptist Dumond, of the Kingston family of that name. The house which Dumond built in 1761, is now in the possession of his descendants the Langendykes. During the Revolution, it was a tavern, and the owner and inn-keeper was more than once under suspicion for disloyalty to the Confederation. It was his son, it is believed, who in January 1782, was attainted for treason and fled to Nova Scotia.
Lot No. 5 in the Loveridge Patent containing 1,215 acres was sold in 1733 by Michiel Van Vechten of Raritan, to Abraham Persen, Hendrick Oosterhoudt and others. The subsequent divisions of the land before 1783 are unimportant. But, in that year, the lot was owned by Jurry Wilhelm Dietrich, Abraham Persen and Frederick Marten. Dederick, as the name is now spelled was the owner of that portion of Lot No. 5 which lay between the Kaaterskill and the King’s road. He was a son of Johann Wilhelm, a Palatine probably from Wurtemberg, was born at West Camp in 1711, was brought up as an orphan by Behr, and died in 1786. He was a weaver by trade and his rude loom stood in one corner of the kitchen of the house he built in West Camp. To him, the people of the neighborhood were wont to bring their yarn to be woven into cloth, and to buy thread or needles, of which he kept a small stock in a cupboard. The thread and needle proved profitable, and little by little, he enlarged his stock until he became a general trader. In addition, he had an ashery and a blacksmith’s shop. He was short of stature, rather stout, very active, industrious and thrifty. As his sons grew up, he gave each of them a farm. The gift of his land in lot No. 5 was to his son Zacharias.
The stone house which stood on the Dederick portion of this lot was built by Philip Spaan in 1749, and was torn down in 1849. Upon its site was built a wooden house, in which Peter Z. Dederick now dwells. About the time the Abeels were carried into captivity by the Indians, Jurry Wilhelm and his hired man, one Bergmann, were living in the house. An attack by the savages was expected, and when their dog barked in an unusual way at night, these men would seize their guns, jump out of the south back window, and take refuge in the forest. One day they met a tory of the neighborhood who told them not to be afraid, as the Indians were after other people. Many a boy has looked at this back window with lively interest, picturing to himself, while he gazed, the loneliness of the place, the lurking savages, and the flight of the men.
A quarter of a mile south of this cottage was the Wilden-hausje or Indian cabin. This was a camp of the Mohawks before and during the Revolution. Within the memory of men now living, the rocks which formed one side of the encampment were white from the action of fire, and near by were hollows in the ground, where maize had been buried for use in winter.
Abraham Persen, besides a large tract of land on the Kalkberg, owned also the land within Lot No. 5, between the Kalkberg and the Hudson, excepting only the farm of Frederick Marten. His house stood on the site of the house in which Jacob Persen now lives. Upon his death, his son Jacobus took the homestead, his son Abraham took what is now the Abraham Post farm, and his son Henry the land which Kittell, the DeWitts, and John Post successively owned.
THE LOCKERMAN PATENT
Between the south line of the Loveridge Patent and the north line of Ulster county is the tract covered by the Lockerman Patent.
Jacob Lockermans came from Turnhout in Holland and with his two brothers was one of the first settlers in New Netherland. In 1664, he was one of the commissioners to negotiate a peace between the Mohawks and northern Indians. In 1657 he was indicted for assaulting one Hoogenboom, whose face, from the forehead to the upper lip, he split open with a knife, and was fined 300 guilders, beside being compelled to pay for the surgical attendance upon his opponent, for his board, and for his loss of time.
In 1686 Lockermans bought the land in question from the Indians, and in November 1605, his title was confirmed by a patent from Governor Fletcher. The boundaries of his estate are thus described “Bounded to the North by the Land of William Loveridge, to the South by a Kil called Canasenc, and otherwise Apomepeck [the Beaver Kill], and to the East on the River in the Great Imbocht where the said Loveridge leaves off called by the Indians Pesquanachqua [De Witt’s Point], and to the Westward by a Place called by the Indians Quachanock; the said Land Lyeing along the Catterskill: Containing within the same four or five flats or Plains more or less with a Hasell-nut Plain and a March.”
Lockermans died the owner of this tract, leaving a daughter and heir, Catharina, who married Wessels Ten Broeck of Albany. In 1723 Wessels and Catharina made a joint will, in which they devised the lands in the patent to their children, Dirck, Jacob, Cornelius, Anna Katrina, wife of Anthony Van Schaick, and Christina, wife of David Van Dyck. Cornelius in 1740 obtained a confirmatory patent for his share in the inheritance.
The plain which lies almost at the base of the Catskill Mountains was called by the Indians Kiskatominakauke, that is to say, the place of thin-shelled hickory nuts or shag barks. The name, in a corrupted form, first occurs in a deed dated in 1708.
This place was bought by Henry Beekman from the Indians, and in 1717 he received a patent for a portion thereof, namely 370 acres. Two years afterward this patent was confirmed and the grant enlarged by an addition of 2,000 acres. The description in the latter patent is as follows: “Known by the name Kiskatameke, lying under the Blew Hills, beginning at a spruce tree marked with three notches and the letters H B standing on the East side of Katerskill being on a straight line 46 Chains below where Kiskatametie Kill watereth into said Katerskill N. 44 degrees E. 86 Chains, thence N. 218 Chains, thence W. 60 Chains, thence S. 46 Chains, thence S. 55 degrees W. 70 Chains, thence S. 28 degrees E. 65 Chains, thence S. 12 degrees W. 100 Chains, thence S. 35 degrees E. 84 Chains, thence N. 30 Chains to the place of beginning.” This noble grant covered the whole Kiskatom valley, excepting such portions as had been previously covered by the Catskill Patent.
The settlement of this valley probably began immediately. The records of the Lutheran Church at Athens show that its minister in 1727, and the following year, frequently baptized there the infants of the settlers of Becker, Rau, Jung, Schmid, and other Palatines. But other details are wanting, and it may be presumed that during the Revolution, fear of the Mohawks caused the valley to be deserted. Whatever history this lovely region has, however, can only be recovered by the patient labor of a summer, in going from house to house to examine ancient deeds and records, and to gather the few traditions which remain.
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