Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men
J.B. Beers and Co.
by J.G. Borthwick
Transcribed by Dianne Schnettler, Sylvia Hasenkopf and Annette Campbell
The territory now known as Durham was formerly included within the boundaries of Albany county.
It belonged to the district of Coxsackie, as organized in 1772. In 1788, this district was formed into a distinct town, retaining the original name, Coxsackie. March 8th 1790, the town of Coxsackie was divided into two nearly equal sections, by a line running north and south, near and east of the villages of Greenville, Freehold and Woodstock. The eastern division retained the original name, Coxsackie, while the western portion of the town was organized as the town of Freehold. The following is a copy of the original act of Legislature by which the town was constituted:
“From and after the first Monday of April next, all that part of the town of Coxsackie, in the County of Albany, which lies west of Coeyman’s Confirmation, and a fourth line to be drawn from the southwest corner thereof to the south bounds of the said town, shall be, and become, and his hereby erected into a distinct and separate town by the name of Freehold, and the first Town Meeting of the inhabitants of the said town shall be held at the dwelling house now occupied by *Stephen Platt in the said town.” (*Stephen Platt lived in the village of Freehold where C.W. Jennings now resides.)
It is supposed that the name Freehold was suggested by the settlers, for the reason that they supposed that there were no other claimants for the soil, and that they were free to hold as much land as they chose, so long as they did not interfere with the claims of their neighbors. Others, however, think that it was named Freehold from the village of that name then in the town. That village received its name from the fact that it was situated in a section of land between two patents, and was therefore a freehold. The latter theory is probably the correct one.
The town of Freehold, as thus constituted, was very extensive.** (**It is the opinion of the writer that the whole of the present towns of Windham, Ashland and Prattsville were included within the limits of Freehold; and that the southern boundary of those towns, together with the southwestern boundary of the towns of Cairo and Catskill (excepting a small tract at Palenville), constituted the boundary line between the counties of Albany and Ulster.) It included not only the whole of the present town of Durham, but large portions of each of the existing towns of Greenville, Cairo, Windham, Ashland, and Prattsville in Greene county, and nearly the whole of the town of Conesville in Schoharie county. The boundaries between the counties of those early days are very difficult to trace; and as Albany county at that time embraced large portions of each of the counties of Delaware and Schoharie, it is quite probable that the western limits of Freehold were several miles beyond the Schoharie Creek, and included several square miles in each of the above counties. In the southern part of the town, the village of Acra and perhaps the villages of Windham, Ashland and Prattsville were included, with nearly the whole of those towns.
This immense township must have contained at least 150,000 acres of land. With the exception of a few settlements in the present town of Greenville, and along the valleys of the Manor Kill, the Batavia Kill, and Katskill, it was a wilderness in which the wolf, panther, bear, deer, fox, and wild-cat roamed in almost undisturbed security. It was heavily wooded with ash, basswood, beech, birch, buttonwood, chestnut, elm, hemlock, hickory, ironwood, maple, oak, pine, and whitewood timber.
The laying out and construction of roads in such a wilderness is a very difficult task. The following are the names of those who were commissioners of highways in the town of Freehold during the 15 years of its existence under that name: Ebenezer Barker, Ephraim Darby, Captain Peter Curtis, Daniel Brown, Captain Asahel Jones, Deacon Joseph Hart, Oliver Trowbridge, Rufus Dodge, Jared Smith, Captain John Bagley, Josiah Hollister, Seth Aikens, Silas Lewis, Isaac Haight, Elon Norton, Deacon David Baldwin, Jonathan Nickerson, John Lane, Esq., Henry Talmage, Captain John Newell, Francis Wilcox, Obed Hervey, and Moses Austin, Esq.
Upon the formation of the county of Greene, March 25th 1800, Freehold became one of her townships. About this time the “Batavia country,” as it was called, which was that section of the town south and west of the eastern range of the Catskill Mountains, was attached to the territory which had been received from Ulster county and organized as the town of Windham.
March 26th 1803 the towns of Cairo and Greenville were formed, each taking a slice from Freehold.
March 28th 1805, the name of the town was changed to Durham. Many of the early settlers came from Durham in Connecticut, and from the very first they had called their settlement New Durham. The name had continually gained favor with the people and was finally adopted by universal consent as an appropriate name for the town.
March 3rd 1836, that section of the town north and west of the mountains was annexed to Schoharie county and organized as the town of Conesville; thus named in honor of Rev. Jonathan Cone, who was at that time the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Durham.
The town of Durham is bounded on the north by the town of Rensselaerville, in Albany county, on the east by the town of Greenville, on the south by the towns of Cairo and Windham, and on the west by the towns of Windham and Conesville. It is in form an irregular square, having the southwestern corner cut off by the eastern range of the Catskill Mountains, which forms the boundary between the towns of Durham and Windham. The greatest distance across the town from east to west is about nine miles, and from north to south it is a little more than seven miles. The town contains about 49 square miles or 31,033 acres of land; much of it of an excellent quality. According to the State census of 1875 (which is much more reliable than the United States census of 1880), the whole population was 2209, classified as follows: native born, 2169; foreign born, 40; whites, 2199; colored, 10; males, 1068; females, 1141; alien, 1; married, 986; single, 1079; widowed, 144; above 90 years of age, 6; above 80 years, 18.
Agriculture is the leading industry of the people; some of the statistics are as follows: number of acres improved land, 25,648; number of farms containing 100 acres and over, 147; number of farms of all sizes from 3 acres to 500, 304; acres plowed, 4,559; in pasture, 8182; in meadow 8,412; tons of hay, 10,018; bushels of barley, 575; buckwheat, 11,480; corn, 13,030; oats, 36,569, rye, 12,611; wheat, 553; beans, 173; potatoes, 10,633; apples, 33,747. There were 693 horses, 1,380 cows, 2,543 sheep, and 1,117 swine kept. In the number of improved acres of land, bushels of barley, buckwheat, spring wheat, grass-seed and beans raised, and in the number of sheep and swine kept, and in the value of farm stock Durham is the banner town of the county.
The composition of the soil along the slopes of the mountains is red slate shale, and is well adapted to the production of wheat, rye, corn, oats, buckwheat, potatoes, and pasturage; while in the valleys, and upon the lower hills, in which the town abounds, there is found a great variety of soil, including clay, clayey loam, much, gravel, and sandy loam. Excellent crops of hay and grain of all kinds are raised. Considerable attention is given to the raising of fruit for which the soil and climate are well adapted; the great hindrance to the enlarged development of this industry is the entire lack of railroad communication. Whenever this want is supplied, the town will become famous for the variety and quantity of fruit raised on her soil.
The climate is naturally dry and healthful, and, as there are no swamps or marshes of any extent, it is entirely free from malarial influences. The air is remarkably pure and strong, and its beneficial effects are eagerly sought by crowds of summer boarders from New York, Philadelphia, and other places. The water of the wells is generally hard, but very cold and pure, while that of the numerous springs is not only pure and cold, but soft, and some of them are highly impregnated with sulfur.
The natural scenery is varied; from all parts of the town, the noble Catskills are plainly visible. These mountains form the entire western boundary, and the view from any point in the whole chain is impressively grand; especially that from Mount Pisgah and High Peak. Mount Pisgah is in the angle of the western boundary, about one and one-half miles from the northwestern corner of the town. Its northern slope is in the town of Conesville, Schoharie county, and its southern and western slopes belong to the town of Windham. It rises to the height of 2,900 feet, and is crowned by a summer hotel and tower, from which the cities of Albany and Hudson, and numerous villages besides, can be seen. It is said that the view includes portions of five states: New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire; the White Mountains of the latter State being visible by means of a glass, when the air is clear. There is a famous spring on the eastern declivity of the mountain, which, on account of the low temperature of its water, is called Cold Spring. Mount Hayden is near and southeast of Mount Pisgah. It is 2,775 feet in height, and is well wooded to the very top. It is more like a ridge than a mountain, and is not often visited by tourists. Between these two mountains the road leading from Durham to Windham crosses through Blakesley’s Notch, which gives a very comfortable grade across the range.
Ginseng Mountain is the name given to a long ridge lying southeast of Mount Hayden. It is several hundred feet lower than either of the mountains just described, and extends from Mount Hayden to Butt’s Notch; another crossing provided by nature, through which the Windham Turnpike passes, has an excellent grade. This Ginseng Mountain is divided into two separate ridges by the Jennie Notch, a sharp, deep cut in the mountain, which abounds in wild scenery. Latterly the eastern portion of this ridge has been called Mount Zoar, while the western portion has retained the name of Ginseng Mountain.
Southeast of Mount Zoar, High Peak raises its lofty head to the height of 3,500 feet. It is sometimes called Windham High Peak, to distinguish it from a mountain of the same name in the town of Hunter. The town line, as surveyed by David Baldwin, in 1806, passes directly over the top of this mountain. There is a small natural opening in the forest on the summit, in which is built a lodging-house and a tower. The view from this mountain is very fine; not quite so extended in all directions as that of Mount Pisgah, but it gives the impression of great height; and a more distinct view of the valley of the Hudson is obtained here than from Mount Pisgah.
The eastern declivity of the mountains is rocky and steep, while from their foot, the land slopes gradually to the banks of the Katskill Creek, which flows in a southeasterly course through the easterly part of the town, and forms a portion of its eastern boundary. It receives the waters of every stream that rises or flows through the town. East of the Katskill the land slopes toward the west and south, thus sending all its waters into its channel. Saybrook Creek is the largest affluent the Katskill receives from the east. It rises in the town of Rensselaerville, supplies and immense reservoir there, and furnishes excellent water power for nine or ten mills of various kinds before it reaches the Katskill. It received its name from the first settlers, many of whom came from Saybrook, Connecticut. It is sometimes called the Ten Mile Creek. The scenery near the source of this stream is very wild and romantic.
There are three considerable streams flowing into the Katskill from the west. The first as we proceed up the valley is the Bowery Creek, a very appropriate name for it, as much of its course, especially below Centreville, is a meandering one through bowers of trees and willow bushes. The name (Bowery) however is of Dutch origin, and signifies a farm or meadow. It has its source in several springs on the eastern slope of High Peak, some of which are in the town of Cairo. One of its branches (that which passes through South Durham) forms a portion of the boundary line between the towns of Cairo and Durham.
Bowery Creek crosses the Durham Turnpike at the Locust Shade House, and empties into the Katskill near the fording place, and about half way between the villages of East Durham and Freehold. It becomes a roaring torrent in the time of high water.
On one occasion, Dr. Reed, then of East Durham, attempted to drive through the stream. His horse and wagon were swept down by the force of the current, and were lost while he barely escaped with his life. The scenery of Bowery Creek, while not as wild and impressive as that of some other streams emptying into the Katskill, is quite attractive. There are several beautiful cascades in its three branches which unite at Centreville, while near the outlet of the stream there is quite an extensive glen, Edgewood Glen.
The next stream as we pass up the valley is the Thorp Creek, sometimes called Fall Creek. It received its name from Captain Aaron Thorp, who, in 1790, had a saw-mill near the turnpike bridge. Thorp Creek rises on the hills, south and west of Hervey Street; and, after receiving the Cornwallsville Creek, and Post’s Creek and other smaller streams, passes through East Durham, and empties into the Katskill about a mile below the village. It has in many places a rocky bed, and numerous falls from 10 to 40 feet high. The falls near Harry Rockefeller’s are about 40 feet in height, and although the rocks are quite broken, and the stream passes over several little cascades in its descent, yet it is really one cataract. The ravine just below district school-house No. 3, is a wild, romantic place. The rocks here are red slate and are fully 40 feet high. The gorge at East Durham is 50 feet deep, and the water near the grist-mill is very deep. Here one poor woman in the early history of the place lost her life. She was the wife of Joel Jewell. Among their children, they had one unfortunate, who was of weak intellect. This son went out near the edge of this deep pool, and his mother, fearing that he might fall, went to his rescue; but in her efforts to save her son, she fell into the water and was drowned. A few years afterward, this son wandered away from the house, and although his father and the neighbors searched faithfully for him, he was not found. Several months after this, a hollow pine “stub” was cut down, and there in the interior of it, his remains were found. This hollow trunk was a famous resting place for chimney swallows, and it was supposed that he climbed into the top of the stub to secure some young birds and, falling down inside, perished there.
A man by the name of Vosdick rode off the rocks just below the grist-mill. He was a cattle buyer, and a comparative stranger in the place. He came from Patroon Barker’s (where Stephen Hedges now lives), in the evening, and it was thought that, seeing the lights in the houses on the opposite bank, and knowing nothing of the deep ravine before him, he plunged down the precipice to the rocks below. He was found lying partly under his horse, both dead.
Thorp Creek has a large tributary emptying into it near East Durham. It is generally called Post’s Creek, from Mr. Roswell (or as it is sometimes written Rozel) Post who built one of the first grist-mills of the town upon its banks. In early days it was called Heifer Creek, from the loss of a heifer by falling off the rocks near the stone bridge, where the Susquehanna Turnpike crosses its bed. The stream has but two branches; one taking its rise on Mount Hayden, and the other on the Ginseng Mountain, they unite their water on Johnson’s Flats. The flats are about a mile long and one-fourth of a mile wide. The soil is natural meadow and is very productive. It is subject to frequent overflow, and the water is very clear and, in some places, seldom freezes in the winter. It is probable that this whole flat was once entirely covered with water, perhaps hundreds of years ago, with trees standing here and there in it. It is evident that the beavers threw a dam across the stream, somewhere near Mrs. James Elliott’s residence and that this fertile meadow was one vast beaver dam. Much of the soil give evidence of having been washed down from the sides of the mountains, and there are now trunks of old trees in a remarkable state of preservation, lying buried two or three feet below the surface of the ground; and leaves of trees have been found deeply imbedded in the soil, having lain there for years, centuries perhaps, and yet retaining their freshness in a remarkable degree.
Just below these flats the stream descends very rapidly over the rocks near the grist-mill, and enters a wild, deep ravine called Shady Glen. This glen is about one-half mile long, thickly wooded, with high, steep rocks on one side, and high banks on the other. It has many romantic features in its native wilderness, and is much admired and often visited by summer boarders, picnic parties, and lovers of nature. There is a small cataract, a cave, two or three old mills, and other features of interest.
There is yet one other considerable stream flowing into the Katskill from the west. It was at first called Saw-mill Creek, afterward it was known as Prink Creek, but now is universally known as Durham Creek. One of its sources is Cold Spring, on the side of Mount Pisgah. Another source is near West Durham, and yet another is far up on the northern declivity of Mount Hayden. On this stream are two considerable falls. One, Saw-mill Falls, is a famous sheep-washing place, and the other, Bidwell’s Falls, are 45 feet high, having a perpendicular rock fall that number of feet high and 30 feet wide. There is a fine table rock on the west bank, an old mill site, and Mrs. Bidwell’s Tea cup, all of which are interesting to the curious. The falls are named in honor of Benjamin Bidwell, who was a pioneer in the town, and had a grist-mill there.
Katskill Creek, whose ample channel receives all these streams (and many more besides), rises in Schoharie county, having its principal source near the Vlaie, about four miles northwest of Livingstonville. It is also fed by the waters of two fine lakes in Albany county. It runs about 11 miles in a southeasterly course before it reaches the limits of Durham, and continues in the same course for about 10 miles before it leaves it. Its general characteristics are similar to the other streams in the town.
The Geological Formations
The geological formations of the town are not particularly striking. And yet to the man who, in the language of Shakespeare,
tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything,”
There is much to interest and instruct. Some of the rocks and stones, even far up the sides of the mountains, reveal the action of water in the remote past. The rocks on the top of Mount Pisgah belong to the Katskill period of the Devonian age, and are known in geology as old red sandstone. Some of the stones are of volcanic origin, such as the trachytes, which must have been brought here in the glacial or drift period, as that kind of rock is not found here, in natural formation. Other stones are a conglomerate, popularly known as pudding stone. Some very peculiar shaped stones have been found, which apparently were worn by the action of water, but more likely they are a species of solidified clay, and have received their form by a combination of clay and carbonate of lime. They are called clay stones. One specimen belonging to Mr. H.P. Lacy, is a close representation, of a horse’s foot. Stones are often found having the imprint of various kinds of shells, and the trail of worms. Deep indentations caused apparently by rain drops, and many other curious formations are found. Trunks of trees, found buried several feet below the surface, point to great changes in the formation of the earth’s crust; changes that took place ages ago.
There are very few if any ores that are native to the soil. It is the opinion of many that iron and silver abound in the mountains, and some investigations have been made, but no satisfactory result reached. There is a species of shale, much resembling coal, which has been discovered, but nothing of the genuine article has yet appeared. It is probable that there are minerals of value in these mountains which will yet be utilized by man.
Durham has very little Indian history. There is no reason to suppose that the mound builders, who have left their monuments in other portions of the country, ever resided here. There were roving bands of Indians who hunted in the mountains and roved through the forests, and who gave trouble to the early settlers of the soil. There was an Indian trail running the whole length of the valley of the Katskill, from Catskill to Middleburg, and also a branch of this trail which left the valley somewhere near Oak Hill, and passed on over the mountains to the valley of the Schoharie, in the town of Conesville. Along these trails the Catskill Indians and the Schoharie Indians, who lived near Middleburg, and who were tributary to the Mohawks, passed and repassed, sometimes in friendship, but oftener in hostility.
There is an old burying ground on the farm owned by Ezra Cleveland, which goes by the name of the Indian Burying Ground, and it is supposed that the Indians used it as such, especially as the settlers buried their dead elsewhere.
During the war of the Revolution, the Mohawks became hostile to the settlers. Hendrick Plank who lived where Ezra Cleveland does, was taken prisoner by them, and carried to Canada where he died. He and his family had previously occupied a clearing on the farm, built a house and barn, and put in a sowing of wheat. But the Indians becoming troublesome, they, with others, left the settlement and returned to the Inbogt. At harvest time he returned to secure his crop, but the Indians surprised him, burned his buildings and bore him away, a captive. His widow afterward married, and at the close of the war returned to the farm.
For a long time after the close of the war, there were a few of the Indians who remained here, and occasionally some strolling members of other tribes passed through the valley. But they were a lazy, thievish race, and a terror to the community while they were here. But the last red man of the forest has long since gone. It is the opinion of some people that a battle between hostile Indians once took place near Oak Hill, but there is no historical evidence to support that supposition.
The earliest reliable information concerning the early settlers of this town is found in several ancient leases and deeds, given by the agents of the patroon to the settlers. From these papers, it appears that, in the year 1767, Eliab Youmans was employed to survey several patents in this town as it is now constituted. He did not settle here, but he and his assistants were probably the first white men who ever spent the night in Durham. Maitland’s Patent, Stewart’s Patent, and others were surveyed by him.
The first actual settlement commenced within the borders of the town was made at Oak Hill, by Lucas De Witt, John Plank, Hendrick Plank, and possibly a Mr. Egbertson, although it is quite probable that he did not arrive until about ten years later. Lucas De Witt jr. was the son of Lucas De Witt, who lived in the town of Hurley, Ulster county. The family came from Holland, although originally they lived in France. Some of the ancient members of the family were civil engineers, and employed by the government of Holland in the construction of those immense dykes by which a large portion of the country is reclaimed and protected from the encroachments of the sea. Their services were esteemed so greatly, that the government of Holland caused a monument to be erected to their memory. This monument was recently visited by an American lady who was travelling in that country.
The exact date of this settlement cannot now be given; but it is certain that it was several years before the Revolution – probably about 1770, or 1772. Mention has already been made of Hendrick Plank, and the location chosen by him. John Plank settled on the farm now owned by John A. Smith; and Lucas De Witt jr. took possession of the farm now owned by his grandson, Israel De Witt. His first house (a log building) occupied the plot of ground now used as a garden by his descendants. Of course, the first want of the settlers after the construction of their log houses for purposes of shelter and comfort, was bread, and the means by which it might be obtained. The forests abounded in game and nuts, and the streams abounded in trout and other fish, which gave them an abundance of food until a clearing could be made, and a crop of wheat and corn secured. For some time they were obliged to go to Catskill and Leeds to have their grain ground, until Mr. De Witt obtained a large portable mill, somewhat like a large coffee-mill, with which they ground their wheat and corn by hand. In process of time he built a mill-dam near the upper bridge in Oak Hill, and, attaching this large hand-mill to the water power thus obtained, it became the first grist-mill in the town.
This settlement was found to belong to a patent granted by George III, king of England, to Colonel Richard Maitland, who was a Scotch officer in the British army. This patent was granted June 23rd 1767. The settlers were required to acknowledge the claims of Colonel Maitland, and to take leases of their farms of his executors; for it appears that at the date of those leases, May 3rd 1774, Colonel Maitland was dead. His executors were the Reverend John Ogilvie, William McAdam, William Bruce and Thomas Moncrief.
By the terms of Mr. De Witt’s lease, he was to pay a rent of “one ear of corn, and a proportion of the King’s rent per year for five years;” and after that the rent was to be 5 [pounds] 12s. per year. This being only two years before the Revolution, it becomes an interesting inquiry – how many times did King George get his “proportion” of rent from these farms on Maitland’s Patent?
Mr. De Witt’s lease also throws light upon another subject, and that is, the time which had elapsed since the commencement of the settlement. In that instrument it is stated that “Lucas De Witt jr., a yeoman from the Blue Mountains, was in actual possession of the farm;” and it also stated that the settlement was known as “De Wittsburgh,” proving that there were people enough and houses enough there to entitle it to recognition as a “burgh.” Sometimes, however, it was called De Wittville.
These early settlers were a hardy, industrious race, and, living at peace among themselves and with the few Indians who occasionally passed through the valley, we have every reason to believe that they were prosperous and happy. But in 1776 the war of the Revolution came on, the Indians became troublesome, the massacre of a family of whites at Shingle Kill too place, which greatly alarmed them, so that, fearing for the safety of their wives and little ones, they were led to abandon the settlement, and return to their friends in Ulster county. Thus ends the history of the first settlement in Durham.
The town of Durham has a Revolutionary history, but it is a history mostly pertaining to the patriotic men who, at the close of the war, emigrated from other parts of the land and found homes here. At the conclusion of the war, probably in 1782 (as the war was virtually closed by the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in October 1781), these settlers returned to their home in Oak Hill. They were quickly followed by a large number of emigrants from the valley of the Hudson, and from the New England States. These settlers, as a class, were a hardy, industrious, patriotic, Christian people, and they soon made this "wilderness to blossom as the rose."
It is purposed to treat of events in the general history of the town in chronological order, as far as possible.
When Lucas De Witt reached his former home in Oak Hill, he recovered his grist-mill from the hollow log in which he had secreted it several years before, and it did service again until it was replaced by a more modern one built on the banks of the Katskill. The log house was also removed, and the present one, now occupied by Israel De Witt, was built. It had a log roof on the front side extending over a wide stoop, as was the fashion in those days. He owned several slaves; but they suffered none of the miseries of Southern slavery. They lived like members of his family, and were generally known by the family name. Hence we find the names of Andrew De Witt, Jack De Witt, Peter De Witt, and Jude De Witt - the latter a faithful old female slave, whom Mr. De Witt remembered very kindly in his will. His wife was Deborah, daughter of Abraham Person, of the Inbogt; his sons were James (alias Cobus), Peter, and John (Deacon John). He is now represented here by Israel De Witt, his grandson, and William F. De Witt, his great-grandson (who is a nephew of Israel De Witt), and their families.
Hendrick Plank, as has already been stated, was taken prisoner by the Indians and taken to Canada, where he died. His widow married Leonard Patrie, and they came and resided on the farm for many years. Mrs. Patrie has a granddaughter now living in the village of Schoharie-the widow Ter Bush.
John Plank also returned to his home in De Wittsburgh, but his farm has long since passed out of the ownership of the family. The names of Jeremiah Plank, Peter Plank, Hendrick Plank jr., and Peter Plank jr. are also found, but none of that name now remain in the town.
The Egbertson family located on the farm now owned by Israel P. Utter. We have the names of Cornelius Egbertson and Maria Bushkirk, his wife, Egbert Egbertson, Mrs. Rebecca Egbertson and Hannah Egbertson, the wife of Deacon John De Witt. The family is now scattered over the country.
Fredrick Gruyslaer and Catrina, his wife, settled on the farm now owned by Francis De Frate, but must have left the town quite early in its history.
Augustinus Shue probably came to this town in 1782, and settled on the flat lands near the Field homestead, and finally where William Baldwin lives. His wife was Maria Merkel. He also held slaves and was quite wealthy. He had, or claimed to have, a patent of several hundred acres in the vicinity and sold the right of soil to many of the settlers. Roswell (or Rozel) Post, for instance, bought his farm of him, for L1 6s. 5d. per acre. But many of the settlers resisted his claims, and the result was the commencement of a tedious and costly litigation in the Supreme Court, which resulted unfavorable for Mr. Shue. He finally sold his farm and left the town in quite reduced circumstances. He had a son Peter Shue, who lived where H. B. Kirtland now does. He, too, removed out of town, so that for many years there have been no representatives of this family residing here.
The next settlement which was made in this town was by some Connecticut people, on Meeting-house Hill as it was called. The hill and the surrounding country was, for many years, known as New Durham, so called from the town of Durham, in Connecticut, from which these people came. In fact, this part of the town was called New Durham until 1805, when the name of the town was changed from Freehold to Durham. The exact date of the commencement of this settlement cannot now be given; and, with one or two exceptions, the same remark holds true with regard to the arrival of any given family who settled in this town in its early history. Our forefathers appear to have been too busy in the struggle, amid all the privations of frontier life, to make or preserve any record of their first experience here. After a careful investigation of the whole subject, an investigation which has been continued for more than five years, we are of the opinion that early in the spring of 1784 was the time.
The general history of this county throws light upon this subject. It has been mentioned that a settlement was commenced at the De Wittsburgh, now Oak Hill, early in the seventies; that upon the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, that settlement was, for the time being, abandoned. It has also been shown that at the close of hostilities, probably before peace was formally declared, these first settlers naturally turned their attention to their deserted homes. Hence, in a diary kept by one of the settlers on Meeting-house Hill, is a reference to Mr. De Witt and to Mr. Shue, both of whom are spoken of as having seed-wheat to sell, showing that they had been here at least a sufficient length of time to raise a crop of that grain. It is evident that the Utters and the Pratts, the Flowers, the Baldwins, the Strongs, and the Merwins who were evidently the first Yankees who settled in this town, were dependent upon their Dutch neighbors for their seed-wheat.
The history of the nation also throws light upon this subject. Although Lord Cornwallis surrendered in October 1781, and there was very little fighting after that; still, owing to the complicated state of affairs between Great Britain and France, our independence as a nation was not recognized by Great Britain until September 3rd 1783; and the army was not disbanded until November 3rd of the same year.
Our forefathers were intensely loyal men; many of them were soldiers in that great struggle for liberty, and we are assured that not one of them forsook the standard of their country to form settlement in this wilderness, so long as that country needed their services in the field.
A brief reference to the condition of the country at large at the close of the war, will throw light upon motives of the people, which led to such a surprising emigration from the older sections of the country to the New West, as it was then considered.
The government was heavily in debt, having borrowed $8,000,000 of other nations, besides the many millions ($170,000,000 according to Patton’s history), which she owed to her faithful soldiery and marine. The whole energies of the loyal people had been given to the cause of liberty, so that trade and manufactures had been greatly neglected; and, in the language of "Willard’s History," written in 1828, "many of the inhabitants were nearly destitute of clothing and the necessaries of life." Add to this the burdensome taxes which the government was compelled to assess upon them, and we can see that the distress of the people was great. Therefore, urged by sheer necessity, many of the young men from older sections of the country emigrated to newer regions, even into the wildernesses, like Durham.
It is exceedingly unfortunate that a historical record of the settlement of New Durham, together with the subsequent history of the town, was not written by one able person, conversant with the men of those days. There is indeed, a memoir of Elihu W. Baldwin, D. D., who was a son of Jonathan Baldwin, one of the first settlers on the hill, written by Edwin F. Hatfield, D. D., which so far as its historical statement are concerned must be considered perfectly reliable. No doubt Dr. Hatfield obtained his information from Elihu Baldwin or from his father.
He says: "Shortly after the termination of the war of the Revolutions, they [Elihu’s parents] emigrated to Greene county, beyond the Hudson River, in New York, where, with six other American and two Dutch families, they settled the town of New Durham in the wilderness." Then, after speaking of their religious privations, Dr. Hatfield says: "The next year added five families to their number, and in the following year four more families took up their abode among them." The date of this emigration is not given, but, speaking of the previous history of Elihu Baldwin’s parents, he says that "they were married in 1782, that she removed to Durham, Connecticut [she was a native of Saybrook], where they resided eighteen months." Then follows the statement of their emigration to this town, which makes it very clear that the date of settlement should be 1784.
The names of all of them cannot be given with certainty; but it is known that Jonathan Baldwin, Abiel Baldwin, Phineas Canfield, David Merwin, and Selah Strong were among the number. The latter, however, according to his diary, did not arrive at the settlement until August 27th 1784 -sometime after his companions. Who the other two men were in unknown; but it is known that Daniel Merwin, John Canfield, John and David Cowles, Bill Torry, Curtis Baldwin, Augustus Pratt, Jarius Wilcox, and Francis, his son, Daniel Kirtland, John Hull, Ebenezer and Stephen Tibbals, Jesse Rose, Eliakim Strong, Timothy Munger, Jarius Chittenden, Henry Hendrickson, Adijah Dewey, a Mr. Hurd, and probably many others whose names cannot at this time be ascertained, were among those who came and settled in New Durham during the first few years of its history.
Meeting-house Hill is one of the highest of a series of foot hills lying near the base of the Catskills. It has Canfield Hill to the northeast and Rose Hill to the southeast of it. It is about 200 feet higher than the valley north of it, and about 1,100 feet above tide. The ascent to the top is gradual, the land is smooth, and in early days it was very fertile. The view from the top extends in all directions and is very commanding.
And yet it is strange, at first thought, that these men should come directly past the rich valley lands of the town of Catskill, and even the lower lands of East Durham and Oak Hill, and settle on that hill. But it should be remembered that the best lands of Catskill and of Oak Hill had already been taken up, and as they were Yankees, they thought they could not raise wheat on lower lands of East Durham -they must get up in the world. The hill must have been thickly settled at one time.
The settlement was called New Durham, and is mentioned frequently in the ancient official papers of the town. Besides the many dwellings on this hill, there have been two meeting houses, at least one school-house, a blacksmith shop, a store, and public roads passing over it from the four points of the compass. Now, while the whole hill is used as farming lands, there is not a building upon it, except at the eastern extreme, where Curtis Osborn lives; and excepting the road passing Mr. Osborn’s house, the only road approaching it is private farm road. There is also a "silent city of the dead," on the top of the hill, which, like many other sacred spots, is sadly neglected.
The spring of 1785 saw these hardy men and their faithful wives engaged in hewing out their fortunes at New Durham. In the process of time, the hill became too small for them. Only Jonathan Baldwin and Selah Strong remained permanently upon it.
Jonathan and Abiel Baldwin were brothers, and belonged to a family of eight children, all of whom eventually settled in this town. They also had eight cousins of the same name who settled here. In fact there were more of the Baldwin name among the early settlers than any other; and it is a wonder that the town was not named Baldwin, and the settlement on the hill Baldwinville. The history of Baldwin family can be readily traced back to Joseph Baldwin, who with his brothers Nathaniel and Timothy, emigrated to this county from England in 1639, and settled in Milford, Connecticut. Many of the descendants of these Baldwins have been eminent men. John C. Baldwin, of Orange, New Jersey, was a princely giver to the cause of benevolence, and his brother Henry P., was in 1872, Governor of the State of Michigan, and afterward United States Senator from that State. These were descendants of Nathaniel Baldwin.
Joseph’s descendants also rank among the eminent men of the land. Three ministers of the gospel, one president of a college, one foreign missionary, besides elders, deacons, lawyers, judges, principals, writers, authors, and soldiers and officers who participated in all the wars of this country -these positions, and many more besides, have been filled by members of this family. And in England the family was noted. In 1545, Sir John Baldwin died at Aylesbury, Bucks county, England. He was chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and a very wealthy man. He is thought to be the uncle of Richard Baldwin, the grandfather of Nathaniel, Timothy, and Joseph, who came to this country in 1639. Their father’s name also was Richard.
Students of ancient history are familiar with the fact that the name Baldwin was applied to five successive kings of Jerusalem after the capture of that city by the Crusaders, in the year 1110. After the conquest of England, in 1066, by the Normans under William the Conqueror, the name occurs frequently in that country; it originated, however, in Flanders, as early as the year 864. That was long before surnames came into use. The first earl of Flanders was called Baldwin I., and so on in succession, we find the name until we reach Baldwin IX., who became emperor of Constantinople in 1204.
Jonathan Baldwin was born in 1758, married Submit, the youngest daughter of Deacon Christopher Lord, came to New Durham in 1784, and settled on the farm now occupied by Curtis Osborn. In 1816, he sold the farm to Hezekiah Baldwin, his cousin, and removed to Atwater, Ohio, where he died in 1843. His wife died there in 1855, aged 91. They had six children, one of whom, Elibu W., was a graduate of Yale College, became a reverend, a D.D., and at the time of his death in 1840, he was president of Wabash College, at Crawfordsville, Indiana. Nearly all of Deacon Jonathan’s descendants live in Ohio.
Abiel Baldwin, his brother, eventually settled on the farm recently occupied by the late John Peck. The house stood 50 or 60 rods north of the present one. His first wife was Eunice Coe, and his second, Mrs. Elizabeth Sandford, of New Haven. He was reverend, soldier, and a pensioner. He died in 1847, aged 85 years. He had eight children -one son, Johnson, became a Congregational minister. He has a grandson, Johnson H., who is an eminent lawyer, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There are no representatives of this family now living in this town.
Phineas Canfield settled on Canfield Hill, where O. W. Moore now resides. He at one time owned the grist-mill, situated on the Katskill Creek, near Francis De Fratie’s. He died in the year 1800, comparatively young. None of his descendants remain.
He had a brother John, but none of his family live here now.
David Merwin, after residing on the hill a short time, settled on the farm now occupied by H. P. Lacy. About the year 1831, he sold or exchanged his farm for 1,000 acres of land in Ohio, and removed there, where he died not many years after. One of his children, Nancy married David Cowles, jr., of Durham village. Mrs. Anson P. Hull and her sisters are granddaughters of David Merwin by this marriage.
Selah Strong was born January 6th 1759, and married Eunice Baldwin. He was the son of Eliakim Strong, who was a lieutenant in the French and Indian war of 1755. He lived on the hill until 1798, when he bought the farm now occupied by Horace Strong, where he died in 1837. He had eight children, and his second son, Eliajah, was said to be the first child born in the settlement. His third son, Lyman, was an elder in the church, and was much respected. Salmon, the fourth son, was a graduate of Williams’ College, became a reverend, and was the father of Addison K. Strong, D.D., of Wisconsin. Anna, his eldest daughter, married Elizur Hull, and became the faithful mother of nine children.
Eliakim Strong, the father of Selah, also came to this town some time after, and lived on the north bank of the Katskill, at the ford where the road passing Abiel Baldwin’s (as it then was), crossed the stream, The land is now a part of Israel De Witt’s farm. He was one of the original members of the Presbyterian church in this town. He died in the year 1800.
The history of this family can be traced back through eleven generations, to the year 1545. They lived in Shropshire county, England. John Strong immigrated to the country in 1630, and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He lived in several other places, and died at the age of 94, at Northampton, Massachusetts. He had, up to the time of his death, 165 descendants; 18 children, 114 grandchildren, and 33 great- grand- children.
The family name is now represented in this town by Miss Harried Strong, Horace Strong, and his family; besides, another family of the same name, whose ancestor came in later.
This completes the personal history of the pioneers in New Durham settlement as far as can be ascertained. They endured great privations, and sometimes suffered for want of necessary food. Mr. Strong, in his diary, speaks of catching pigeons, and the failure sometimes attending his efforts in that direction; and, September 22nd 1784, he says: "Provisions are very scarce here." This, no doubt, led some of them to return to Connecticut for the winter. But in the following spring (1785) they came back again, bringing their wives with them. From this settlement on the Meeting-house Hill there issued streams of blessing which reached and effected not only the whole town, but whose influence will be felt by generations yet unborn. There were other Baldwins and Strongs who afterward settled here, of whom mention will be made elsewhere.
The region of country about East Durham was settled mostly by families from Cheshire and other places near New Haven, Connecticut, with a sprinkling of Dutch families from the valley of the Hudson. They were an active, enterprising race and were known as "Cheshire cats." They came here in 1784 and 1785. We are indebted to Robert Hotchkiss (now deceased), who was an estimable citizen of East Durham, for the following history of the early settlement of that neighborhood.
John Bagley settled on the farm now owned by John Morehouse. Upon the formation of a company of militia in this part of the town, he was chosen their captain. He built the first grist-mill in this part of the town. It was on Thorp Creek, about a mile west of East Durham and one-half mile north of his house.
Cutting Bagley settled on the adjoining farm, west. He was the grandfather of Harry Bagley, a respected citizen of the village of Freehold.
Bernard Bagley first lived on the farm now occupied by Abram Smith. These Bagleys are relatives of Ex-Governor Bagley of Michigan.
Robert Hotchkiss lived on the farm now occupied by Charles P. Miller, and Samuel Hotchkiss occupied the farm of Amos Rockefeller.
George Hotchkiss was the father of Robert Hotchkiss, jr., and lived on the farm previously occupied by Barnard Bagley.
David Tyler occupied the J. W. Slater place; Elisha Tyler lived where D. S. Jones now resides; and Phineas Tyler lived on the adjoining farm directly west. He succeeded John Bagley as captain of militia and the first training ever held in East Durham was held on his farm.
Joel Lindsley lived at the "Locust Shade House," while the farm occupied by William Ecklor was settled by Mr. Ecklor, one of his ancestors.
Captain William Evory seems to have lived at one time on the farm now occupied by William Wetmore and also where Lyman Rickerson now lives.
Ichabod Olmsted, the ancestor of the Olmstead family, came from Canaan, Connecticut, and bought 200 acres of a Mr. Proctor for $3 per acre. He brought his provisions, a gun and an ax, and cleared up the farm now occupied by his grandson of the same name. He reached the great age of 95 years.
In the neighborhood of Centreville, there was a family of Barkers who settled on the farm now occupied by Fletcher Rogers. They were no relation to the patroon of that name.
In Centreville are found the names of John Howell and Jeremiah White, who were partners in tanning leather and in making shoes. Gillamore Rickerson and Ebenezer Brocket also settled here, but perhaps later than 1785.
There are other names in the old records, but their history is unknown; such as Van Loan, Ackerly, Moses Cory, Samuel Judson, William Earl, and Michael Webster.
Crossing to the east bank of the Katskill, there were a few settlers as early as 1784-5. Captain Eliakim Stannard, born in Connecticut, August 31st 1752, married Bathiah Kelsey, and in 1785 he came to this town and lived on the farm now occupied by Clark, his grandson. He was a Revolutionary soldier, and upon the formation of a company of light infantry in this town he became its captain. He died in 1838, and had nine children. Of his sons, Silas was a soldier in the war of 1812, and Lyman was supervisor of this town.
Ransom, a son of Lyman occupies the homestead of his father and is a successful farmer. He gives special prominence to fruit-raising for which his farm is well adapted.
Grovenor, son of Silas, was engaged in public works for ten years, was commissioner of highways nine years and is now successfully engaged in farming near Centreville.
Clark occupies his grandfather’s old farm, formerly occupied by Josiah his father. He has a good farm and is a good farmer. There are many other representatives of this family in the town and all are excellent people.
Deacon George Wright, one of the first settlers of Wright Street, came from Saybrook, Connecticut, and settled on the farm recently occupied by Silas Wright, his grandson. He was a Revolutionary soldier. His family representatives are found in nearly every State of the Union. Bradford and Anson B. are grandsons still living in Wright Street. Both of them are farmers and are much respected.
Anson B. has held the office of commissioner of highways several terms. He is a strong friend of temperance and of political reform.
Oliver Wright is a man of intellectual force. He has served his town as commissioner of excise. He is the son of James, and grandson of Deacon George. There are other representatives of this family living here. The family is very influential in the town.
Philip Moore and Maria, his wife, were natives of Germany, and immigrated to this country, and settled first in Dutchess county, from whence they came and located on the Moore farm, now owned by L. Sherrill. They had four sons: William, Jacob, John, and Edward. Jacob was the father of Ransom and Ezra, and Edward was the father of Madison Moore. All of them are thrifty farmers, living in the vicinity of Wright Street.
John Showerman was an early settler here. He had four sons: Peter, Andrus, Tunis, and John.
There was a family of Benjamins who settled in Wright Street and in Saybrook but they are now only represented through intermarriage with other families. Silas and Lyman Stannard married into this family -daughters of Daniel and Richard Benjamin. The latter built the present Abrams House at Hamburg, alias Saybrook, and kept a hotel there. On one occasion, a company of young people from the other side of Saybrook Creek spent the evening at Mr. Benjamin’s. They came on foot, crossing the creek in a small boat. Joseph Wright, "for the fun of it," went and cut a hole through the bottom of their boat, and fitted a piece of board so nicely that the boat did not leak. To this board he attached a strong cord about twenty feet long (letting it run under the boat), and fastened the other end to the tie stake on shore. When the party broke up, they stepped into the boat and launched forth; but they soon found themselves at the "end of their rope," the water came rushing in, and, "with screams and wet feet, they made a hasty retreat."
It is impossible at this late day to give the names of all the early settlers of this town, neither is it considered necessary, and yet there were men who gave shape to every interest of the town and whose memories should be embalmed in the records of history.
James Utter sen., a native of Saybrook, Connecticut came here in the summer of 1783, and settled on Saybrook Hill. The farm was until recently owned by Addison Utter, his grandson. He cleared a piece of ground, built a hut, and sowed a little wheat. He spent the winter in Connecticut, and in the spring of 1784, he brought his wife, Hannah Spencer, and their eldest child, on horseback, he walking all the way by her side, and began settlement. They were accompanied by Captain Jonathan Pratt and Abigail, his brother. [I believe this should be the name Abijah as you will see reference to his name later - CM] It is said that Mrs. Utter became so homesick the first year, that she went back to Connecticut on horseback, carrying her children in her arms. She burned out the upright end of a log in such a way as to make a very respectable mortar of it, in which she pounded corn for family use. Mr. Utter was a Revolutionary soldier, and was much respected. They had six children, and the family is quite largely represented and much respected in the town.
Israel P. Utter is a grandson of James Utter sen., and is now (1884) the supervisor of the town, being first elected in 1882. He has a fine large farm and is a successful business man.
Addison Utter, brother of Israel P., lives in East Durham and carries on an extensive milling interest, both in lumber and in grain-grinding.
James L. Utter, son of Isaac Utter, and great-grandson of James Utter sen., is a well-to-do farmer living near Oak Hill. His farm buildings and the farm itself indicate first class management.
Isaac Utter Tripp, another great-grandson is a prominent merchant in Oak Hill. He succeeds his father Alfred Tripp in that business, and in the general management of the farm.
Captain Jonathan Pratt and Abijah Pratt sen., came from Saybrook, Connecticut, and settled on Saybrook Hill, a little north of James Utter’s. Captain Pratt commanded a company of Connecticut soldiers in the Revolution. He was a very energetic man. On one occasion he had received quite a sum of money from Connecticut, and was on his way home, when, going up the road east of Oak Hill, it being after dark, a man sprang out of the thicket by the roadside, and demanded his money. The Captain bounded out of his wagon; and applied his "Blacksnake" whip so vigorously, that the cowardly rascal ran for dear life. The Captain’s descendants now reside in Schoharie county, and in Michigan.
His brother, Abijah Pratt sen. married Priscilla Shipman, and settled on the farm now occupied by Ezra P. Pratt, his grandson. His son, Abijah, jr., married a niece of Colonel Ezra Post, and settled near by. The descendants of this family are quite numerous: they are represented not only in this town, but in many of the towns and States throughout the country.
Electus A. Pratt, a grandson of Abijah Pratt sen., was a captain in the late civil war, and lost an arm in a skirmish at Darbytown, Virginia. Upon his recovery, he was favored with a position in the pay department at Washington. He has now relinquished that, and is engaged in business at Minneapolis, Minnesota.
George Flower was born in 1741, married Roxaline Crowe, was a soldier in the Revolution, and, at its close he emigrated from New Hartford, Connecticut, and settled on the farm now owned by Mrs. L. Henderson at Oak Hill. He was a clothier by trade. He also owned a saw-mill connected with the dye-house and fulling-mill. He was justice of the peace for several years. He died in 1827 aged 86 years. He had ten children. Abner, his eldest son, succeeded him not only in his business, but was also a justice of the peace, town clerk, and supervisor. Jervis, another son, was an intellectual man and a great musician. He was also a man of method in his farming operations. His son Ambrose now occupied his father’s homestead, and inherits his virtues. He is specially fond of music, and possesses remarkable skill in playing the flute, the fife, and the clarinet. He is the only grandson of George Flower sen. who now lives in the town. Mrs. Roxie Fordham, Miss Maria Flower, and Mrs. Lucinda Henderson, daughter of George Flower sen. are now living in Oak Hill, and are much respected. They are all in the eighties of life. There is one grandson, Roswell Flower, who is a wealthy business man of New York city, and recently represented his district in Congress.
There are doubtless many others who settled in De Wittsburgh and its vicinity during the eighties of the last century. We find the names of Captain Sheldon Graham, Denis Spencer, William Edwards, Solomon Guild, Adoniram Skeels, Captain Hinman, Bela Strong, jr., Oliver Bull, and Josiah Doane.
Captain Hinman was a soldier in the French and Indian war of 1755. He held the office of captain at that time, and was under the command of General Washington at Braddock’s defeat before Pittsburg, in July of that year. He also participated in the Revolutionary war. He and his family had suffered so much from the Indians, that he naturally felt a strong dislike to them. On one occasion he attended an "Indian show" in Oak Hill, and so excited did he become, that it was with difficulty that he could be restrained from wreaking vengeance upon them. He lived where Mrs. Harry Peck now does; but he moved to Ohio where he died.
The first settler in the present village of Durham, was without doubt, Adijah Dewey. He built a log house in "Esquire Cowles" front yard. This was the first hotel kept in the village. Some years later, probably about 1820, he moved to Leeds. He is remembered by the old people as Major Dewey. Anna, his daughter, married Jarius Chittenden jr. Polly, another daughter, married Peter Elting.
Timothy Munger was a soldier in the French and Indian was of 1755. He also settled near Major Dewey. He arrived November 4th 1784, and lived for a few years in a house that stood on the present site of W. R. Cowles’ house. Then he and Titus, his son, took up the farm now occupied by Bela Munger, a son of Titus. The family representatives are Bela and his family, Lyman and his family, Mrs. Israel Brown of Durham and Sylvester and family of Windham.
It is possible that James Chapman settled in the village about this time. He lived on Dr. Cowles’ farm. The present house, built by him is said to be the oldest one in the village. It was his second.
Daniel Merwin was a brother of David Merwin, one of the "seven pioneers of New Durham." He came the following year (1785), and settled on the farm now occupied by Thaddeus Collins. The old log house stood near the present burying ground on that farm, but in time gave way to the present one, built there at first by him, in 1790, but moved to its present location, in 1812, by Benjamin Chapman. This house was said to be the first two-story house that was built in the town of Durham. The frame is of white oak and will last for generations to come. In 1808 he sold his farm and bought a smaller one, together with an interest in a saw-mill near the residence of Laurence Benton.
Curtis Baldwin, a brother of Jonathan and Abiel, arrived in 1785, lived at first in the family of Selah Strong, married Polly Chittenden in 1789, and lived and died on the farm now occupied by Z. Brand. He and his brothers just mentioned were earnest Christian men, and were strong pillars in the church. He has one daughter (Mrs. Levi B. Gilbert), and she has two sons living in Albany. The oldest son, Professor J. H. Gilbert, is an author, and has been the principal of one of the city schools in Albany 28 years.
Josiah Doane lived directly across the Katskill, opposite Brown’s mill. He had some knowledge of dentistry. On one occasion, after the country was quite fully settled, a company of young people were gathered together in the village of Durham, and, thinking to play a joke upon the "Doctor," they procured a sheep’s head, and sent word to him that his services were needed "to pull some teeth." He arose from his bed and responded to their call, when they presented this head, saying, "There are your teeth, Doctor." With the utmost coolness, he applied his turnkeys and pulled every tooth; then he made them pay him 25 cents for every tooth drawn, and left for home.
Gideon Hulbert was one of the very early settlers of the town, although the date of his arrival cannot be given. He was born in Middlesex county, Connecticut. He died in 1835, and Sarah, his wife, died in 1841. His ten children are also dead. Asaph, one of his four sons, married Roxy Sage, and of their children, Sanford and David live in Catskill, and Levi and his sons occupy the old homestead. They are very prudent and very respectable people. They are influential members of the Methodist church.
Ebenezer Tibbals was one of the original settlers, and lived where Mrs. A. P. Hull now resides; but his subsequent history is not known.
John and David Cowles, brothers, came to this town about the year 1786. John settled on the farm now occupied by Horace Strong; he finally sold it to Selah Strong and went to the northern part of the State. David lived at first on Horace Mabey’s farm until finally he built the house still standing, about 60 rods east of George Pratt’s. It is probably the oldest house in the town of Dunham [as spelt book]. Here he and his wife (Eunice Payne) lived, and raised a large family of children. His youngest son was named Jonathan Bird, from perhaps the first missionary who ever preached the gospel here. He was born May 29th 1799; attended the select schools taught by Professor Eaton and Reverend Salmon Strong; studied medicine with Dr. Halsey of Kortright, New York, and with Dr. Hamlin of Durham; received his diploma in 1821; and commenced practice in Stamford, New York, where he married Harriet, daughter of Judge Truman Beers. He afterward practiced in Roxbury, New York, and in 1842 he moved to his native town. He has been long known as a very skillful physician. In 1862 he represented his county in the Legislature of the State -85th session. He now resides in New York city.
Alanson Camp Cowles is a grandson of David Cowles, and a nephew of Doctor Cowles. He is a lawyer of extensive practice and of excellent legal attainments. He studied with Almeron Marks of Durham, and commenced practice in Ulster county; removed to Roxbury and from thence to Durham, where he is familiarly known as "Esquire Cowles." He has held the offices of justice of the peace and supervisor, and in both Greene and Delaware counties. Cornelius, Hobart, and many others are representatives of this family.
Augustus Pratt sen., was born in Durham, Connecticut, in 1751, and in or about 1786, he and Esther, his wife, established their home where George W. Pratt, their grandson, lives. He was a soldier of the Revolution and drew a pension of $8.00 per month. He was one of the original "nine" who constituted the First Presbyterian church of this town. He died in December 1850 in his 100th year. The family representatives now in this town are Addison and George W., and their families. Henry Pratt, a grandson, was once a colonel of the 49th regiment.
Daniel Kirtland, sen., was a native of Durham county. He married Lovisa Lord, a sister of Jonathan Baldwin’s wife. He lived on the farm now occupied by the family of the late Orin Porter. He was a tanner and shoemaker, as those two trades were generally united in those days. He pounded his tan-bark with an ax -that was before "bark stones," the predecessors of the modern bark-mills, were known. Of their eight children, Christopher married Rhoda Coe, sister of the late Deacon Coe, of West Durham, and Orlando Lord, their son, became a clergyman, and lived at Morristown, New Jersey. Roxiana became the second wife of Foster Morss, of Prattsville. Daniel married Huldah Stevens. They had seven children. One son, Daniel, married a daughter of Deacon Chapman. Amelia Caroline became the wife of Hon. Burton G. Morss, of Red Falls. He was the son of Foster Morss, above mentioned. So she married her uncle’s son, and at the same time they were not related to each other. She was a very active Christian woman, and died a few years since, greatly lamented. Another son, Horace B., lives in Durham. He has been supervisor and deputy sheriff. He is very much respected.
Jesse Rose lived on the Meeting-house Hill. He was the grave-digger for the settlers. His son James owned a farm on Rose Hill. Hence the name.
John Hull was the son of Joseph and Sybil Hull, and was born in Durham, Connecticut, November 18th 1756; Sally Baldwin, his wife, was born in the same town November 2nd 1765. In or about the year 1786, they came to this town and settled on the Van Wagoner farm. It is said that when he moved his goods from Catskill, he constructed a sort of dray from two strong poles, hitching a horse between the front ends of these poles and letting the back ends drag on the ground. Upon this dray he brought a barrel of pork and other articles needful for their family use. He was very quiet, bashful man, and at the same time courageous in time of danger. On one occasion a wolf came upon his sheep and he went to the rescue, and in some way managed to catch the wolf by the hind foot, and, breaking its leg across his knee, rescued his sheep. He, also was one of the nine original members of the Presbyterian church, and while he was not demonstrative, his live was consistent with his profession. They had six children, five of whom lived to maturity. Anson died young.
The descendants of this family have been very numerous and influential in the town. Two of the sons, Elizur and Luman, were industrious farmers, and each left large families. Lyman A. and David B., who were Elizur’s sons, and Anson P., Luman’s son, have passed away within a few years, greatly lamented. They held various offices of honor and trust in the town. They were all of them elders in the church. Anson and David were Sunday-school superintendents, and Lyman was the teacher of the old ladies’ Bible class. John and Dwight, sons of Elizur, are highly esteemed for their sterling worth. Theodore P., son of Luman, is a merchant in Durham village. He is a good financier, and is a well read man. These are grandsons of John Hull sen. The granddaughters, twenty in all, have thus far been an honor to the family and a blessing to the world.
Among the many descendants of John Hull sen., in the third and fourth generation, Austin L., David S., and Cowles are enterprising, successful farmers and Judson D. and Addison O. are prominent merchants in the town.
Silas Hull was a brother of John Hull sen., but he removed to Berkshire, Broome county, long ago.
Lemuel Hotchkiss came from the same place in the land of steady habits and stood by the side of John Hull in the formation of the church and in upholding the right. He had three sons: Jason, Lemuel, and Henry, and he and they were blacksmiths. He lived in the village near the present dwelling of W. W. Burhans. He was quite prominent in the public affairs of the town. He died in 1802.
His son Lemuel was very active as a public man, and in 1813 he was sheriff of the county. John, a grandson, died on the isthmus during the wonderful gold excitement following the year 1849.
The family is now represented in the town by Benjamin C. Hotchkiss, a worthy farmer, and his family.
Roswell (or as it is sometimes written Rozel) Post came to Greenville with his father, and in 1787 he came to this town, and spent his days on the farm now occupied by Edwin D. Elliott. His wife was Elizabeth Shaft, and they had six children, one of whom, Ransom, was a deacon in the Baptist church. Temperance married James Conklin, and lives in an honored old age in the village. Seymour, the youngest, lives near the old homestead. He is a dealer in stationery, etc. There are three grandsons living in California. Other representatives of the family are found not only in Durham, but in many other places. Mr. Post sen., reached the age of 90 years.
Captain Jarius Chittenden, descended from an illustrious family. Their history can be traced back to the year 1594. William Chittenden was born in March of that year, and in 1639, he came to this country and settled in Guilford, Connecticut. He had previously served in the Netherlands in the thirty years’ war, and attained to the rank of major.
Among his descendants there have been two governors of Vermont, one register of the United States Treasury, and several members of Congress; among whom Hon. S. B. Chittenden was conspicuous in his devotion to the best interest of the land.
Captain Jairus was the great-great-grandson of William Chittenden. He was born in Guilford, October 17th 1745, married Rebecca Hall, and in 1787, he came to this town and took up about 400 acres of land about a mile west of Durham village. Here he reared a large family and died in 1828. He also was a Revolutionary soldier.
Leverett, his second child, and father of Leverett jr., was a major of the 49th regiment. He has two daughters now living in town. He had one son, Alanson B. who was a minister in the Reformed church.
Hervey was the youngest of this family, and the only one born in this town. He was colonel of the 49th regiment, and during the war of 1812, they were under marching orders, but were not called out. He was an elder and also deacon in the church. He married Sarah Pratt, and three of their children reached mature life. Orville H. was an eminent lawyer and held the office of surrogate of Albany county. He was also judge advocate to the 31st and 37th brigades of New York infantry. He has two sons living in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of whom is a lawyer of high standing. Judson H. became major of the old 49th regiment, and was a progressive farmer. Louisa K. married Lyman A. Hull, and still resides in town, and is much respected. Horace K. is the only male representative of this family now remaining.
There is another family of the same name who are distantly related, of whom Joel was the ancestor. They are now represented by Roscoe and Joel his son. They are doing a good business in cabinet making and in general house furnishing.
There was a family of Jewells who came here about the year 1787. Some of them lived in East Durham, and one of them, Joseph, settled on the farm now occupied by Mrs. James Elliott. In 1640, Thomas Jewell, the ancestor of this family lived in the same neighborhood with Henry Adams, who was the ancestor of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, presidents of the United States. This was at Mount Wollaston near Boston. Seven of this family served their country in the field.
Up to this time, this town was simply a portion of a district, belonging to Albany county, and governed by the officials of that county. Probably the people here had little to do with affairs outside of their own neighborhood. But in March 1788, this district was organized as the town of Coxsackie. Meanwhile, the unsettled portions of the town were rapidly filled up with people from New England and New Jersey and the valley of the Hudson.
Captain Asahel Jones was born in Hackettstown, New Jersey, in 1753. He came and settled on the farm now occupied by Alvin Jones, south of Hervey Street. This was in 1788. The following winter was very severe, so that in the early part of the spring they were obliged to turn their cattle into the woods, to browse on the tender twigs of the trees, and finally they took the straw with which their beds were filled, and fed it to the starving creatures. In the Revolutionary war he commanded a company of New Jersey soldiers. After the town was organized he was commissioner of highways. He also kept a hotel on the Batavia road as it was then called. His death was hastened, as it was thought, by the bite of a mad dog. He had a son, Stevens, who was a surveyor, and he located the Windham Turnpike in its excellent grade over the mountains. Alvin Jones, Mrs. Paddock, and other descendants of the captain live near the homestead.
Deacon Obed Hervey was born in Putnam county, New York, in 1722. From there he moved to North East, in Dutchess county, and, in 1788, he and Obed, his son, came to this town, and took up land west of Hervey Street. He died in 1808. His son Obed was born in 1756, and accompanied his father to this town. He was a splendid business man, built a carding machine, saw-mill, store, and blacksmith shop, and he and his father were the prime movers in the building of the church at Hervey Street. Deliverance Bell, a son of his, was generally known as "Esquire Bell." He was not only a justice of the peace, but, in 1845, he represented this county in the Legislature. His children, as well as their ancestors, are eminent for their virtues. Very few of them, however, are now residents of the town.
The genealogy of this family can be traced back to Sir William Hervey, who belonged to one of the families who left Normandy, and settled in England in the eleventh century, in the time of William the Conqueror. The ancient coat of arms is now in possession of the family.
Thomas Smith was born in Haddam, Connecticut. He came to this town in 1788, and took up the farm now occupied by Embury Strong. In his youth he was a sea-faring man, and became the commander of a vessel on the ocean. He went by the name of Captain Smith. He had seven children, and their descendants are very numerous and influential. Quite a number became preachers and teachers. In fact, there are few families that have exerted so great or so good an influence in the town as the Smiths of Cornwallsville.
Captain Daniel Cornwall, a Connecticut man, came and made the first settlement in Cornwallsville, about the year 1788. He lived on the farm now occupied by Benjamin Hubbard. He commanded a company in the Revolution, and was a pensioner. He was 90 years old when he died, and Rachel, his wife, was ten years older than that when she died.
David, his son, received fatal injuries in Mexico during an earthquake there. Amos and his descendants lived in Catskill. Helen married Hon. Lyman Tremain, who was without doubt one of the greatest men ever born in Durham. Another daughter married R. E. Austin Esq., of Catskill.
There was a family of Percivals who lived in Cornwallsville about this time. One of them, Elkanah, lived to a great age. His adopted daughter, Gertrude Ames, married William Pierce, of Durham village.
Moses Austin was born in Wallingford, Connecticut in 1768, and in 1789 he took up some land lately owned by F. A. Strong, and in 1806 he removed to Cornwallsville, and built the house now occupied by Armenus Smith. He was a good business man, and became very wealthy. He was a judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and in 1819, he was elected to the Senate of this State, holding his office four years. Then years later he was elected to the Assembly. He spent the evening of his life in Cairo, and died there in 1748. He was twice married. His second wife was a niece of General David Humphrey, who was a United States Minister of the Court of Spain and Portugal.
He had a large family, one of whom, Elias B. inherited the homestead, and was at one time elected supervisor of the town. The family is now largely represented by descendants and relatives in this town, and also in Cairo and Windham.
Captain Jarius Wilcox and Francis, his son, settled on the farm now occupied by Ezra Brown and son. The date of their arrival cannot be given. It may have been as early as 1785. It is possible that they were among the seven pioneers of New Durham. They were prominent men in the town. Lyman, the son of Francis, was an elder in the church. He inherited the farm, but afterward sold it and removed to Stamford, New York, where he died.
Captain Charles Johnson was the son of Solomon Johnson, and was native of Wallingford, Connecticut. He was an intimate friend of Moses Austin, and came here at about the same time. They were accompanied by a Mr. Ford, who died soon after their arrival. Mr. Austin went to Hudson for medical aid, but it was of no avail. Mr. Johnson spent his days on the farm now occupied by his grandson, William F. Johnson. In his letters written to his parents soon after his arrival here, he addresses them as "Honored Parents," and speaks of his wheat, and of his cattle, and of the land he bought, "having on it a small frame house." He was captain of a cavalry company which was formed in the town. He was also justice of the peace, chorister, and singing-master, for many years. He introduced a bass-viol, which was the first musical instrument ever used in church in this town, and it made quite a commotion among the people for a time. Elizabeth, his wife, died in 1840, and he in 1848.
They had nine children. Solomon, one of the sons, married Mary Whittlesey, a sister of Deacon Zina Whittlesey, and their son, S. W. Johnson, is a highly esteemed business man, living in Brooklyn. Edward married Harriet Field, and spent his days on the old farm, greatly respected by all. William F., his son, inherits not only the farm, but the genial qualities and the generous nature of his father. Collins B. was the youngest of Charles Johnson’s family. He married Charlotte Field, and lived at first on the old farm, but in time he bought the "Hendrickson place," which is now occupied by Sherwood, his son. He is a successful farmer, and his location is commanding and pleasant.
The farm itself was settled by Henry Hendrickson, about the year 1790. He and Cataline Shoemaker, his wife, were of Dutch descent. Their only child died young. He was a famous hunter, and spent much time in hunting and digging for coal. He died June 24th 1858, aged 90 years. He had a brother William who had a large family. He had a son John, who lived on the mountain near West Durham, and who froze to death near his home.
The year 1790 introduced a new departure in their history. A writer of some note has said that "The two most important events in the history of a country are its settlement and its government." For two years they had belonged to the immense town of Coxsackie. The people no doubt had participated somewhat in the management of town affairs and now they were called upon to provide for themselves. They had watched with interest the proceedings of the continental Congress and of the constitutional convention at Philadelphia-had voted to adopt the immortal United States Constitution-had assisted in the election of George Washington as their president, and now, rejoicing in the full enjoyment of their liberties as American citizens, they met at the house of Stephen Platt, in the village of Freehold, to elect town officers. There was really but one political party then, who were called federalists, so that it is fair to presume that the federal ticket was triumphantly elected. Their road commissioners during the 15 years history of the town of Freehold have already been mentioned.
Among those who acted as supervisors we find the names of Perkins King, De Alancey King, and James Thompson.
The latter lived near "Broadway," on the farm now occupied by William Falk. He evidently was a man of superior attainments. He held the office of supervisor at least ten years in succession, from 1800 to 1810. He also represented his constituents in the Legislature during two years of that time, 1806 and 1807. He afterward became an Episcopal clergyman, and was the first pastor of St. Paul’s Church at Oak Hill. He died August 19th 1844, aged 77, and was buried in t he cemetery near the church.
Ebenezer Barker, or, as he generally wrote his name Thomas E. Barker, belonged to the family of Barkers who settled on the farm now occupied by Fletcher Rodgers. They came from Branford, Connecticut. They were accompanied by John Butler, who belonged it is said to the same family from which Governor Butler of Massachusetts descended. His daughter, Sally, married Anson Strong, Esq., of Cornwallsville. Mr. Butler owned the farm now occupied by C. Shermerhorn.
About the year 1790 Mr. Barker, it appears, sold his interest in the farm and potashery to his brothers, James and William, and bought the farm now occupied by George Easland. He also bought or built the house now occupied by the Methodists in Durham village as a church. He built a tannery near the village, and the house now occupied by J. B. Bascom he built for an office and a leather store. He was the first man form the region of country comprising the present town of Durham, who became a member of the New York Legislature. That was in 1798 and 1799, while we belonged to Albany county. In the year 1800 he and Caleb Benton were the first representatives from the new county of Greene. In 1822 and 1824, he was the supervisor of Durham. He was also judge of the Court of Common Pleas and justice of the peace. He was evidently the business man of his day. His signature is a fine specimen of penmanship.
Stephen Platt, from the present village of Freehold, in the town of Greenville, was a member of the Legislature in 1795.
Dr. William Cook lived where J. M. Hallock does. He was the first physician who settled in this town. He was a soldier of the Revolution. He used to relate an anecdote about General Washington, as follows:
The army wintered in Morristown, New Jersey, during the winter of 1777 and 1778, and so little did they have to eat that, at one time, their rations were limited to a single gill of wheat per day. Said Dr. Cook: "Washington used to come round and look into our tents, and he looked so kind, and he said so tenderly, ‘Men, can you bear it?’ ‘Yes, General, yes, we can,’ was the reply, ‘and if you wish us to act, give us the word and we are ready.’"
While they were in Morristown, Washington had a dangerous attack of quinsy. The officers feared that he would die; and they asked him to indicate the man best fitted to succeed him, and without hesitation he pointed to General Nathaniel Greene.
The central part of Broadway was, at this time, held by a family of Fordhams. Silas S. lived where Lyman Munger now does. He also owned a saw-mill on the stream north of him. Mrs. Roxiana Fordham of Oak Hill, married Justin P. Fordham, of this family; but, like many others, this family has very few representatives now living here.
Daniel Brown lived where the family of the late William J. Reed now resides. He was very prominent in society. He went by the name of General Brown. He was frequently the moderator of the business meetings held by the people.
Richard Tryon lived where S. Crandall does at the "Crandall House." He was one of the tything men of the church. He had a remarkably large nose, and he even went so far as to make it a matter of pleasantry rather than a misfortune. On an occasion he met an acquaintance on the sidewalk who had an equally large facial appendage. Mr. Tyron halted him, saying: "Hold, my friend; will you please turn your nose that way, and I will turn mine the other way, and perhaps we can pass." He had several sons, and one of them joined the temperance society on condition that he might drink when he washed sheep; and it was said that he had one old sheep that he washed every day.
William Torry married a sister of Jonathan Baldwin, and lived where Mrs. Marion Campbell now resides. He was a shoemaker and had a large family. In 1809 they removed to Broome county.
There was a Mr. Ford who started the first cabinet shop in the village. He built the first bier for the dead, and his own body was the first corpse that was borne to the grave upon it.
Deacon Noah Baldwin was a cousin of Jonathan Baldwin, Abiel, and Curtis Baldwin. He was born in Durham, Connecticut, February 20th 1768, and moved to this town as early as 1790. He married Phebe Hull, a sister of John Hull, and at first they lived in that neighborhood, but eventually he bought the farm now occupied by Hezekiah, his son. He died in 1843. His first wife died in 1809, and he married the widow Beach, who was an aunt of Honorable Horatio S. Lockwood of Hunter.
There were ten children in this family, but now nearly all of them have passed away. Hezekiah and Elizabeth occupy the homestead. He is a farmer and shepherd. In 1857 he was chosen to the Legislature of the State. He is a genial, kind-hearted man, and is always interested in the civil and political welfare of the people. Hannah, a sister of the above, now resides in Norton Hill, having married S. Ramsdell.
William and Lewis are sons of Lemuel Baldwin, who was a son of Deacon Noah; and these three families are now the only representatives in this town of that ancient and numerous family. William is a good and scientific farmer, and Lewis is an obliging expressman.
James Baldwin was a brother of Deacon Noah, and came to this town and bought the farm now occupied by Ralph Campbell. His wife was Mabel Jones, a daughter of Seth Jones of Saybrook, who was killed in the Revolutionary war. He was a very quiet, pleasant man, and was much respected. He and Noah built each of them a substantial hip roofed house, both of which are still standing and in good repair. All the nails and door hinges were made by a blacksmith. The internal arrangements of these houses were exactly alike, every door and window occupying the same relative position, and not only that, but they were built the same year, and the frames were raised the same day; the only difference in them was that one was built on the north side of the road and the other on the south side.
He had five children. Dennis, the eldest was the elder in the church, and in 1840 and 1841, he was the supervisor of the town. He owned the farm now occupied by Thaddeus Collins. But he sold it and moved to St. Paul where he died in 1875 aged 80 years.
Stephen Tibbals married Hannah Baldwin, a sister of Deacon Noah, and lived on the western half of the Van Wagoner farm. It used to be said that "everybody in Durham was related to everybody else," and there certainly was a very general relationship existing in this part of the town, as has already been seen.
Stephen Tibbals jr. was the oldest child. He married Fanny Wright and lived where Curtis Osborn does-built that fine brick house, and now lives near Poughkeepsie. He was once fife-major in the 49th regiment, New York infantry. The family were noted for their musical abilities.
Benjamin Bidwell settled at first on the Lewis Baldwin farm. He afterward sold it to Captain Cooley and bought the Garret place. He built a grist-mill at the falls on Durham Creek known as Bidwell’s Falls. He also built a saw-mill at the smaller falls above the grist-mill. He is described as abroad built, broad faced, noble-looking man, who always wore a white hat and generally rode a white horse. But he left town long ago, and has "nor kith nor kin" here.
Captain Jehiel Cooley and Samuel Cooley were brothers. Samuel kept a hotel in the village, where Mrs. Montross lives. Both families are gone. Frank Cooley, grandson of Jehiel, lives in Dakota. William Cooley, a great-grandson is a minister. Samuel Cooley had a son Ira. A. who became a Baptist minister, and his son, Hon. E. C. Cooley, has held the offices of mayor of Decora, Iowa, and member of the Iowa Legislature.
West Durham was settled by a number of Connecticut people in 1790-7. Some of them did not remain long, and have left only their names. There was a Mr. Clover who settled on the south part of E. E. Newman’s farm, who froze to death in trying to carry provisions home to his family; also a Mr. Rood and Captain Daniel Shepherd, and probably others whose names are forgotten. Benjamin Hubbard, sen., settled on the farm belonging to William McLean. His native place was Haddam, Connecticut, where he was born in 1761. He had a large family of children, and his descendants are widely scattered. He was active in the church, was a deacon, and was much respected. He died in 1853, aged 92 years.
Benjamin Hubbard, jr., was a thorough-going farmer, and his son Edwin has his homestead. He is a straight-forward man.
Benjamin W. and Ira are sons of James, a son of the deacon, and are successful farmers.
Benjamin Doty was an excellent man, who came from Saybrook, and settled in the north part of West Durham in 1790. His family were mostly girls. He had sons, however.
Alvin was an earnest promoter of the church and all good. He was the father of David Doty, Esq., of East Durham.
William Doty was universally known and admired as a man, as a chorister, and as a singing master. G. H. Doty, Esq., of Windham, is his worthy son.
Captain John Newell, the third son of Josiah Newell, was born in Southington, Connecticut, January 15th 1755. He married Sybil Andrus, and in May 1791, he bought the farm well known as the Newell farm. He was a Revolutionary soldier, justice of the peace, and commissioner of highways. They had nine children.
Andrus, the youngest son, married Julia Bushnell, and second, Melissa M. Porter. Mr. Newell was born in 1798, and is still actively interested in every good work. He has 8 children, 29 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren living. Zina, a life-long teacher, lives in Nebraska; John is a much respected citizen of Windham; while the three younger sons are progressive farmers at Durham.
The history of this family can be traced back to the year 1632. Thomas Newell was one of the first settlers of Farmington, Connecticut. The family have always been noted for their sterling virtues.
Daniel Coe and Seth, his brother, must have reached West Durham at about this time. Seth was a good reader, and frequently read sermons in the absence of a preacher. Daniel lived on the Goff farm, and was the father of the late Deacon Daniel Coe, who was a splendid specimen of the courtly gentleman of his day. He had means, and it was his delight to use them for the good of his fellow men. Coe College, in Iowa, is a noble monument of his beneficence, as well as to his memory. He removed to Alabama, and died there not long ago. His removal from West Durham was a great loss to the church and society there. He was thrice married, and his only child, Mary, married a son of Dr. Jewell, and lives in Alabama.
Ephraim was an older brother of Deacon Coe. He married Polly, the eldest daughter of Captain Cooley. They were the parents of Kirtland Coe, a hard-working farmer who occupies his father’s homestead in West Durham. Eliza, now the widow Lord, lives in Oak Hill.
Elihu Moss came from Connecticut soon after, and settled where Mrs. Daniel Ingraham lives. The house stood where the stone blacksmith shop is. His wife was Hannah Tyler, and they had three sons and five daughters. Elihu, the eldest son, bought the farm now occupied by Mrs. Reynolds. He had two sons: Orville lives in West Durham, and Reuben lives at Cornwallsville. Both are farmers by occupation, and both are active in church and Sunday-school work. Orville has a son, Elihu, who is worthy heir to the favorite name, Elihu. The other members of both these families are worthy young people.
There are several representative families who came in here at a later date, of whom brief mention will be made.
In 1790 Captain Aaron Thorp owned a saw-mill on the north bank of the Thorp Creek, at East Durham. He afterward moved to Oak Hill. He lived where Walter Cheritree does, and had a store where Charles W. Pierce lives. He was a native of Saybrook, Connecticut, and was born in 1746. He died in 1819. His daughter Nancy married Jacob Roggen, and they had the Thorp homestead at Oak Hill. The captain had the honor of serving his country in the Revolutionary war.
Deacon John Cleveland lived on the farm now occupied by Edwin Palmer. He lived originally in Massachusetts and also in Hillsdale, New York. He also was a Revolutionary soldier, and had a British ball through his hat and another through his pants. He was consistent member of the Baptist church. His wife was Elizabeth Searing and they had four sons, Searing, Amos, Ezra and John. Searing was killed by falling in the barn. Amos married Mercy Piece, and their son Amos is the well known and popular hotel keeper of East Durham. Ezra married Polly Wright, and was the father of Ezra and Lyman Cleveland of Oak Hill. The Cleveland family originated in England, and it is claimed that there is a relationship among all of that name now in this country, Governor Cleveland, of course, included.
Mr. Ecklor was one of the early settlers near East Durham. The farm is now occupied by William Ecklor, who is a successful farmer and a respected citizen. This was also the home of Darius Winans, who was a member of the Legislature in 1853. He was the father of Frank D. Winans, a young lawyer of great promise, whose early death was greatly lamented.
Deacon Benjamin Chapman was born in Saybrook, Connecticut, February 23rd 1768; was married in March 1792, and came to this town in June of that year. He located about a mile southeast of Cornwallsville, and in the year 1800 he moved to Durham village and built the house now occupied by A. C. Cowles. In 1808 he bought the farm now occupied by Thaddeus Collins, where he spent the remainder of his days. He died February 2nd 1842. Lydia, his wife, formerly the Widow Cochran, had two daughters by her former marriage, and six daughters were added to her household after her marriage with Deacon Chapman. She died in 1864, in her 99th year. Mr. Chapman was a deacon in the Presbyterian church more than 41 years. He was a man of excellent spirit and judgment, and was often employed to settle difficulties in the community. In 1810 he was a member of the Legislature. He was very absent-minded, and very humorous accounts are given of his directions to "Toby," the hired man, about the work on the farm. On one occasion he and his wife went to church in the family "gig," and at the close of the service he forgot himself and walked home, leaving his wife, horse and gig at the church. It is said that he so far forgot himself that on one occasion at least he knocked at his own door for admittance, supposing he was at the door of a neighbor. Temperance, his second daughter, married Dennis Baldwin, and is still living, in her 88th year, at St. Paul, Minnesota.
Robert Chapman, the ancestor of this family, came from England in 1635, and was one of the first settlers of Saybrook, Connecticut. He was the great-great-grandfather of Benjamin Chapman of Durham.
Deacon David Baldwin was without doubt the most influential man in the town. Others were possessed of more property, and perhaps more learning, and possibly had more brilliant talents than he. But for soundness of judgment, correctness of principle, evenness of development and kindness of spirit, he was the man of his time in this town. He was born in Durham, Connecticut, November 23rd 1768. He was a brother of Jonathan, Abiel and Curtis Baldwin, who have already been mentioned. About the year 1796, he came here and brought the farm recently owned by the late Justus Finch. He married Julia Chittenden, daughter of Jairus Chittenden, but they had no children. They adopted two or three, besides assisting in the education of their nephews, Elihu and Dwight, who became ministers. He was very liberal in the use of his property, devoting much of it to the cause of benevolence. His knowledge of the Bible was wonderful. His pastor often spoke of him as concordance. He could generally give the book, chapter and verse of any passage of Scripture. In the church he was clerk, trustee, deacon, elder, and the first superintendent of the Sunday-school. In the town he was surveyor, road commissioner, commissioner of schools, school inspector, and supervisor in 1829, 1830, 1832, and 1833. but the good man died March 27th 1841, and his excellent wife died December 4th of the same year.
Seth Baldwin was the youngest brother of the above. He was also born in Durham, Connecticut, in 1775, and came to this town and bought the farm now owned by Reuben Moss. His wife was Rhoda Hull, daughter of Timothy Hull, of Connecticut. They had twelve children, and their oldest son, Dwight, is now living at Honolulu, Sandwich Islands. He was born, September, 29th 1798. He was graduated at Yale College in 1821; was principal of Kingston Academy one year; taught select school in Durham three years; graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1830; and on the 28th of December, the same year, set sail for Honolulu. He became the pastor of the native church of Lahaina, and received 2300 members into it during his 33 years residence there. He is now teaching in the native theological seminary at Honolulu. Seth Baldwin, his father, died at Cornwallsville, from the kick of a horse.
Anson Strong came to this town from Durham, Connecticut, about the year 1796, and bought the farm now occupied by his son, Ellsworth Strong Esq. He was a nephew of Selah Strong, who settled on Meeting-house Hill. He was well educated, and taught school 17 winters. He was town clerk, and justice of the peace. He was a soldier in the war of 1812. He was an earnest Christian. He married Sally Butler, and they had six children. Ellsworth, his son has long been a justice of the peace. One of his sons, Wilbur Fisk, was a soldier in the great civil war. He died in a hospital at Martinsburgh, Virginia. Another son, Frederick, died greatly lamented , a few years since. The family of John Strong, brother of Ellsworth, are quite numerous in this and other towns; and all the descendants of Anson Strong are highly esteemed.
Ethan Pratt was a brother of Captain Jonathan and Abijah Pratt. He lived one-half mile east of Oak Hill. He married Mabel Skeels. Ethan, his son, became a minister. Sarah married Col. Hervey Chittenden. Eveline married Deacon Zina Whittlesey. Edmund married Eunice Hull. Elizur H., son of Edmund, graduated from Williams College in 1867, also from Union Theological Seminary in 1870. He became pastor of the church at Cape Vincent, New York. For the last few years of his life, he was associate editor of the New York Evangelist. He died July 4th 1883, in his 41st year. He was one of the best and purest of men; and the world and the church met with a great loss when he breathed his last. His only surviving brother; Ezra B. Pratt, M. D., is a prominent physician, living at Brownsville, Jefferson county. N. Y.
William Ingraham came from Connecticut in 1797, and located eventually on the farm now occupied by Benjamin Ingraham of West Durham. His wife was Hester Doty, and one of their sons, John B. Ingraham became an eminent physician and minister. He died in 1834. Daniel Ingraham became a wealthy man and farmer. Dr. George Ingraham of Amsterdam, New York, was an adopted son of David Ingraham.
Thomas Adams, was in 1798, one of the first business men of Oak Hill. He built the house now occupied by Messrs. Roggen and Dietz, which is probably the oldest dwelling in Oak Hill. He was a nail-maker, which in those days was a good trade, as all the nails used in the construction of buildings were forged on the anvil, one by one. He also kept a store, and his wife waited upon the customers while he made nails. His wife was a daughter of Captain Thorp, and sister of Mrs. Jacob Roggen. One of the sons, Norman, became an Episcopal clergyman, and his son John is a resident of Oak Hill. Another son of Thomas Adams, Calvin Adams, was for many years engaged in manufacturing at Oak Hill. His daughter married Johnson H. Baldwin Esq., of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Colonel Ezra Post was very prominent in the early part of the present century. He lived on the farm now occupied by Henry Haskins, and must have settled there as early as 1799. He built that fine house, and occupied it as a hotel while he lived there. It is near the geographical center of the town, and that fact, together with the personal popularity of the colonel, made it the place for town meetings, caucuses, trainings, etc. He was colonel of the 49th regiment in 1812, while his regiment was under marching orders for the war.
He had two sons, Ezra jr., and William, the latter of whom became a colonel of militia. This family now have only distant relatives here.
The year 1800 brought about a change in the relations of the town of Freehold. Hitherto it had belonged to Albany county, but in March of that year the county of Greene was formed, and Freehold became one of her four towns. James Thompson was chosen supervisor, and he and Garret Abeel of Catskill, James Bronk of Coxsackie, and William Beach of Windham, met in Catskill on the last Tuesday in May 1800, and organized with Mr. Abeel as chairman.
The total amount of town and county accounts allowed by the board of supervisors at their meetings for that year was $944.86. The town account for Freehold was probably about $60.00.
The year 1800 also introduced a very notable family to share in the fortunes of the town. Joseph Adams sen., was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and early in life he located on the west bank of the Hudson River, about six miles below Catskill. He had a farm there, and also carried on the mercantile business in Catskill. At the commencement of the present century he bought the farm now occupied by Henry S. Mace, where he died in 1832, aged 94 years.
Joseph Adams jr., son of the above, was a farmer, and lived near Cornwallsville, although at the time of his death he lived near South Durham. He was nearly 100 years old at death. Morgan Adams of Windham, and Seymour Adams of Cairo, are his sons.
John Adams, another son of Joseph Adams sen., commenced his public life as a school teacher, reading law meanwhile, and in 1810 he was appointed surrogate of Greene county, by Governor Daniel D. Tompkins. In 1812 he became a member of the Legislature. In 1815 he ran for Congress, and was declared elected; went to Washington and took his eat, but his opponent, Erastus Root of Delhi, contested his election, and finally secured his seat.
Just 18 years after, in 1833, he was elected to Congress, and served his full term. He had hitherto lived in Durham village, and practiced law, having for his office the building formerly occupied by Judge Barker as a leather store, but now it is the dwelling of J B. Bascom. Soon after his return from Congress, he removed to Catskill, where he continued the practice of law until his death, September 25th 1854.
Colonel Platt Adams was the youngest of this family, and was born December 20th 1792, at his home near Catskill. He was trained to the legal profession, but he preferred a mercantile life. His store was the one now occupied by W. W. Burhans, Esq. He lived in the present Presbyterian parsonage. He married Clarissa Dudley, daughter Mrs. Seth Williston. His business capacity was marvelous. His store burned to the ground in 1821, involving a loss of about $5,000 more than his insurance, and yet in less that three weeks, he built a new and better store, and was selling goods as though nothing unusual had taken place. He was before the public in an official capacity perhaps more than any other many who ever lived in the town.
In 1820 he was a member of the Legislature. From 1821-1824 he was town clerk. From 1825-28, 1834-38, he was supervisor. From 1828 to 1830 he was sheriff of the county. From 1837 to 1840 he was justice of the peace. In 1848 and 1849 he was member of the New York Senate. He succeeded Colonel Ezra Post in the command of the 49th regiment, holding that position about ten years. He now resides in New York city, and retains his mental and physical vigor in a remarkable degree. His son Grovenor was an eminent lawyer and judge, residing in Brooklyn. He died in 1883.
This family were distant relatives of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, presidents of the United States.
The Humphrey family have been quite prominent in this town since 1802. Alexander settled in Conesville, while Sylvester and Romanta lived on the mountain near Blakesley’s Notch.
Isaac Humphrey was a road contractor and assisted in the construction of the Susquehanna Turnpike which runs through the town. He located on the farm now occupied by Adelbert Newell. He was the son of Fredrick Humphrey, and was born in Connecticut in 1779, and died in West Durham in 1856.
He had seven sons and two daughters. Curtis married Caroline A. Benedict, daughter of Dr. Benedict, of Otsego county, and lived on the farm now occupied by his widow. He was a successful farmer and shepherd. He once wintered 1,000 sheep. In 1853 he was the supervisor of his town.
Ira D. Humphrey formerly lived in Conesville, but now resides in Durham village. In both towns he was held the office of justice of the peace, also in Conesville he was their supervisor.
Oscar T. Humphrey, long a resident of Durham, now of Catskill, was in 1877 a member of the New York Legislature.
The year 1803 witnessed a contraction in the limits of the town. The present town of Greenville received about one-half of her territory, and Cairo received about one-third of hers from the town of Freehold.
In 1805 the name of the town itself was changed from Freehold to Durham.
In or about the year 1806, Jacob Roggen came to Oak Hill and took up his residence. He was born in Kingston, Ulster county, and lived near Cooksburg, Albany county a little while previous to this. He married Nancy Thorp, and they lived where Walter Cheritree does. He was a successful business man, and was the supervisor of the town from 1812 to 1821. In 1816 and again in 1822 he represented his district in the Legislature. He did a great deal of business for others in the way of writing contracts of various kinds. He was employed in settling up the estate of Patroon Barker, who owned a large patent of land in this town and in the adjoining town of Cairo. He died quite young, July 1st 1824, aged 47. His widow married Abijah Pratt sen. and died March 15th 1849, aged 68.
Peter Roggen was the son of Jacob Roggen, and owned the farm now occupied by John A. Smith-the original Plank farm. He was a good farmer and a good citizen. He died January 6th 1858. His daughter, Cordelia, is the wife of Judge M. B. Mattice of Catskill.
Jacob Roggen, jr., is the youngest of these sons, and is highly esteemed by all who are acquainted with him. He was formerly engaged in manufacturing, at Oak Hill, and resides there now, although he spends his winters in Hudson. In 1849 he was chosen supervisor of the town.
The ancestor of this family, Franz Petrus Roggen, was a Huguenot, of French-Swiss extraction. He came to this country about the year 1740, and settled in Kingston, Ulster county. His only son, Petrus, married Annatje Masten, and Jacob Roggen who came to Oak Hill in 1806, was one of their nine children. He was an infant at the time Kingston was burned by the British. The family fled for safety to Hurley, in the same county.
The family are allied by marriage to the Pardee, Holmes, Hardenburg, and Schoonmaker families, of Kingston, to the Newkirks of Delaware county, and to the Goulds of Columbia county.
The year 1806 was remarkable for the great eclipse of the sun. That darkness has not been equalled since.
Cyrus W. Field was born in Durham, Connecticut, April 5th 1782. He was the son of Ambrose Field, who with Sarah Bates, his wife, came to this town very early in its history. They lived a part of the time on Judge Barker’s farm, now occupied by George Easland. They had six children. Cyrus married Ancy Stocking, whose father Stephen, was a pioneer settler, and also a pioneer singing master in the town.
They had one son and six daughters, viz: Mrs. Edward Johnson, Mrs. Collins Johnson, Mrs. Judson Chittenden, Mrs. H. B. Kirtland, Mrs. Peter Millar, and Mrs. Platt A. Smith. The son Oscar B., lived on the homestead until his death in 1870. It is now occupied by his sons, Cyrus W. and Oscar B., who are enterprising young farmers. Cyrus W. Field, sen., reached his 83rd year. His second wife was Mrs. Maria Best, an excellent woman, now living in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Peck family, of Oak Hill, were prominent as manufacturers in the days gone by. Daniel Peck built the first tannery in Oak Hill. He was the father of Eli R. Peck, a prominent young merchant and manufacturer of Oak Hill, who died in his youth. He was the town clerk at the time of his death, in 1831.
Burwell Peck lived where Perry S. Kenyon now resides. He was the father of Henry J. Peck, the well-known manufacturer in Oak Hill. He (Henry) was supervisor in 1851. Wellington, his brother, was supervisor in 1858.
Lyman Tremain was the son of Levi and Mindwlll Tremain, and was born in Oak Hill, June 14th 1819. His parents came from Berkshire county, Massachusetts in 1812. Nathaniel Tremain, the grandfather, was a Revolutionary soldier, and died in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The family eventually located on the farm now owned by Francis De Frate, where Mr. Tremain engaged in farming, and manufacturing on a large scale. Lyman attended school, and finally entered the academy at Kinderhook. At the age of 15, he commenced reading law with John O’Brien, of Durham village. He afterward studied with Samuel Sherwood Esq. of New York city. In 1840 he formed a partnership with Mr. O’Brien, and immediately entered upon an extensive practice. In 1846, he was appointed district attorney. In 1847, he was elected county judge, and was re-elected in 1851, but owing to some legal questions pertaining to the returns, he himself doubted his election, and , although the certificate was given to him, his sense of honor would not permit him to accept it. In 1853, he moved to Albany and formed a partnership with the late Rufus W. Peckham. In 1857, he was elected attorney-general on the democratic State ticket. Hitherto he had acted with that party, but on the breaking out of the great civil war, he identified himself with the republicans, and in 1862 he was nominated by them for lieutenant governor, but was defeated. In 1865 he was elected to the Legislature, and became speaker of the House. In 1872 he was urged to accept the nomination for governor, but declined, and was elected Congressman-at-large. This ended his official career.
As a lawyer, he stood in the very front rank, among the best of the Empire State. To him, probably more thank any other man, was due the conviction of Boss Tweed, the chief scoundrel of New York city. He defended Stokes for the murder of James Fisk jr. so successfully, that a final verdict of manslaughter, and four years of imprisonment, was the result, instead of the gallows.
But these severe labors had their effect upon his constitution. He went to Europe twice for his health, but the loss of all three of his sons wonderfully effected his spirits, so that he felt and often remarked that he had nothing to live for. He had long suffered from inflammatory rheumatism, and finally that terrible disorder, Bright’s disease, fastened upon him and he died November 30th 1878.
His wife was Helen Cornwall and they had four children. Frederick became lieutenant-colonel of his regiment and was killed at Hatcher’s Run in October 1864. Grenville, another son, a young lawyer of great promise, died suddenly in the spring of 1878. His youngest son died in 1868. The daughter, Mrs. Martin, and the mother still remain.
Joseph Blanchard was one of the best business men in Durham. He lived where A. C. Cowles, Esp., does. He probably bought the place of Deacon Benjamin Chapman in 1808. He not only had a good sized farm there which he managed, but at the same time he carried on the business of wagon-making and blacksmithing. He was a well learned physician, and was also a justice of the peace many years. That office was formerly filled by appointment, but in 1830 the towns began to elect their justices, and he was the first man elected in this town. His talents as a justice of the peace are often spoken of by the old men of the place. He was a very capable man. One of his daughters married William Tremain, a relative of Lyman Tremain, and another daughter married D. K. Olney Esp. of Catskill.
Among the many apprentices and journeymen who worked for Mr. Blanchard were William Pierce and Daniel Simmons, who are well known and highly respected citizens and tradesmen in the town.
Early Business Enterprises
The first want of the settlers, after the construction of their bark huts and log houses for purposes of shelter, was food. Hence grist-mills became a necessity. At first they pounded their grain in wooden and stone mortars; a few of them could be accommodated at Mr. De Witt’s “coffee-mill,” while some went to Leeds and even to Catskill.
In the process of time, Stephen Platt built a grist-mill in Freehold village, which was a great convenience to the south part of the town. It is not known who built the first grist-mill within the present limits of the town, but Benjamin Bidwell had one in operation at Bidwell’s Falls, on the Durham Creek, previous to the year 1790.
Roswell Post built a mill on the north bank of Post’s Creek, about the same time (possibly before this, even as is claimed by French). This mill was finally torn away, and the present one built on the opposite side of the stream.
Lucas De Witt built a mill on the west bank of the Katskill, about opposite the mill now owned by S. Deane. This was previous to 1795. This mill had a great run of custom, and was used for a long time. Finally a freshet washed a part of it away, and the water power was used by a tannery, built on the opposite side of the stream by Levi Tremain. Upon the abandonment of that, another grist-mill was built, which has been enlarged by Mr. Deane, and is now capable of grinding from 30,000 to 50,000 bushels per year.
On Saybrook Creek there was a grist-mill, but it is not certain who built it, although it is generally conceded that Joseph Wright was the man. It was afterward owned by Silas Stannard and others, but was finally destroyed by high water in April 1870.
There was a grist-mill built on the south bank of the Katskill, on the rocks which are opposite Ezra Cleveland’s flats. A Mr. Schenck owned it, but it was destroyed by fire about the year 1825.
The De Witts built another grist-mill in Oak Hill. It was near the present site of Cheritree’s foundry. It was used as a grist-mill and for grinding land plaster, but it was also destroyed by fire.
Stacey Brown came from Coeymans, Albany county, and built the present Brown’s mill. The business was conducted by him, until Timothy Baldwin became a partner, who, together with Jerome, his son, were very successful and popular millers for many years. The property is now owned by Augusta Brown, daughter of Isaac Brown, and granddaughter of Stacey Brown.
A Mr. Webster, living at the Forge, had a grist-mill at Centreville, which was used until about the year 1835.
The first grist-mill in the south part of the town was built by John Bagley. It was located on Thorp Creek, about a mile west of East Durham. It was long since abandoned.
This was followed by a similar mill at East Durham, built a great many years ago, and owned by the venerable Robert Hotchkiss. Addison Utter now owns it, and it is doing a good business.
At Hervey Street, on this same stream, there has been a grist-mill for many years. It is now owned by Thomas Taylor. Besides these grist-mills, there are two feed-mills, owned by S. Deane of Saybrook, and Chittenden and Laraway of Durham village.
After a while the settlers came to the conclusion that log houses were not good enough for them; so they needed saw-mills to prepare lumber for more stylish dwellings. French, in his gazetteer, says that Jared Smith built the first saw-mill in the town. This mill was on Post’s Creek, very near and above the arch bridge on the turnpike near East Durham.
There was a saw-mill on Saybrook Creek as early as 1788, which was probably built by Joseph Wright.
Lucas De Witt built a saw-mill quite near the upper bridge in Oak Hill; and George Flower also built one on the same stream, one-half mile north of Oak Hill.
Benjamin Bidwell had a saw-mill near his grist-mill at Bidwell’s Falls. In fact there were a great many mills of this kind throughout the town, and an immense quantity of lumber of all kinds was manufactured and marketed.
The next want of the settlers was clothing; they could go barefooted, but clothing was a necessity. They raised flax, and kept sheep; and their good wives spun and wove linen and flannel, and linsey-woolsey; but they became a little proud, and wanted fulled cloth. To meet this felt want, George Flower, Esq., built a large carding and fulling-mill, with dye-works attached, near his saw-mill at Oak Hill.
Joseph and John Wright had a similar establishment near Schenck’s Bridge, north side of the stream. This bridge fell down with a drove of cattle on it, causing the death of three of them. The bridge and the road connected with it were then abandoned.
Simeon and Asa Jones, and John Jerome, also built fulling-mills on Thorp Creek.
There was also a fulling-mill on Saybrook Creek. But the last carding and fulling machine was the one which was built and occupied by Israel Brown, near “Brown’s Mill.” He, at one time, carried on a large business there, but since his death in 1881, it has not been used.
When winter came, the settlers needed shoes: hence small tanneries sprang up in great numbers all over the town. At first, tanning and shoemaking went together, almost as one trade, but it was a slow process. They were obliged to break up the bark with axes or hammers, and then let their hides lie in cold liquor for months before they were tanned. Almost every shoemaker was a tanner.
Jeremiah White and John Howell of Centreville, had quite a large tannery of this kind. They did custom work: that is, they tanned leather for one-half, while those who furnished the hides had the other half. Business was continued in this tannery until 1840.
There was another tannery of this kind on Post’s Creek, about 30 rods below Jared Smith’s saw-mill, which was said to have been the first one ever built in the town, and it was claimed that the first side of leather ever tanned in Greene county was tanned here.
Daniel Peck’s tannery at Oak Hill, was of this kind. It stood where Mr. Sutton’s barn is.
Abiel Baldwin and Simeon his son had a similar establishment about a quarter of a mile east of Durham village.
Judge Barker had a large modern style tannery on Durham Creek, south of the village. The bark-mill was below the bridge, at or near the present location of Chittenden’s cabinet works.
Levi Tremain and a Mr. Dryer established a tannery just below the upper bridge, in Oak Hill. It was eventually turned into a foundry.
Mr. Tremain and a Mr. Howard then built a very large tannery where Dean’s grist-mill is. He tanned sole leather principally. He also kept a store there, and built quite a number of dwelling homes for his workmen. The place was called Tremainville.
The last tanning done in this town was at Wellington Peck’s tannery, about a mile west of Oak Hill. He tanned upper leather principally, and continued the business until eight or ten years ago.
The business of brick-making was followed by Dennis Baldwin, “Honest John Peck,” and others. It was said that there were five more bricks in Dennis Baldwin’s chimney than were used in building the school-house near Darius Wagoner’s.
Dr. J. B. Cowles had a glue factory near Durham village, but it is now John Post’s dwelling.
The Durham Creamery Association was organized in 1869. It was a stock company, having a cash capital of $3,000. An excellent quality of butter and cheese was made here. But it was not considered a profitable investment, and was abandoned.
The village of Oak Hill has always been the center of the manufacturing interests of the town. About the time that the more progressive farmers became tired of the old wooden plow, Messrs. Campbell and Scofield established a plow manufactory on the site now occupied by the Empire Foundry of Cheritree Brothers. They made and introduced the “Dutcher Plow No. 2,” which proved to be a great boon to the farmers. But they were afraid of them at first; they thought they would break! Wooden plows would not.
In 1844, Sheldon Cheritree of Middleburgh, but formerly of Greenville, bought these plow works, and extended the scale of operations to other classes of work. In 1854 he also bought the De Witt grist-mill adjoining, for the water privilege.
Previous to this however, a Mr. Kimball, who had acquired the art of malleableizing iron, started a manufactory in the tannery building previously occupied by Tremain and Dryer. The business finally went into the hands of Calvin Adams, who made harness trimmings, principally. Not succeeding as he desired, he went to Pittsburg, where he soon acquired a fortune in the same business.
In 1865, the grist-mill, Cheritree’s foundry, the malleable works, and all the other buildings connected with these interests, were burned to the ground, involving the loss of many thousands of dollars.
The Cheritree brothers rebuilt their foundry and plow-works immediately after the fire, and are now doing a very successful business in making “Climax” plows, and many articles in the hardware line.
In 1854, Calvin Adams returned to Oak Hill and built and built the lower foundry, and commenced the manufacture of coffee-mills, corn-shellers, door trimmings, etc. In 1856 the upper part of the building burned, but was rebuilt again.
In 1857, Mr. Adams returned to Pittsburgh, and the business was continued by a stock company of ten share-holders. Capital $10,000.
In 1862, William Paddock, N. C. Whitcomb, and S. R. Potter, formed a partnership, bought the franchises of the stock company, increased the capital to $15,000, and went on with the business.
In 1866, Potter sold his interest to Messrs. Winchel and Dietz. The property was purchased and the capital increased to $26,000 including real estate, fixtures, stock on hand, etc. This firm employs from 20 to 30 hands, and has been very successful.
Gifford and Hayes, Mr. Jacob Roggen, Mr. Strowbridge, Simeon B. Smith, Dexter Stannard, and others have been intimately connected with the manufacturing interests of Oak Hill. Many of these men have held prominent positions in social and political life.
William Paddock has held the offices of justice of the peace, and supervisor. He is the son of the late Rev. Seth Paddock, pastor of the Hervey Street Baptist church.
N. C. Whitcomb, Jacob Roggen, and A. H. Hayes, have occupied the highest official positions in the town.
Mr. Hayes lived in Durham village, and was engaged in the tin and hardware business there. He was an excellent man, and belonged to an excellent family. His father, Luther Hayes, came to this town in the early days of the present century.
The cabinet-making business was commenced in Durham village by a Mr. Eells, early in the history of the place. His shop, two or three dwellings, and several smaller buildings were destroyed by fire, November 24th 1807. This was the largest fire that ever visited the village. David Cowles and Daniel Booth were apprentices of Mr. Eells. These young men afterward continued the business on their own account; although Mr. Booth branched off into the manufacturing of hand hay rakes. The business is now represented by Cornelius Cowles, son of David Cowles, and R. P. and J. B. Chittenden.
The Legal Fraternity
Durham village has always been the home of the legal fraternity. The first lawyer that we have any knowledge of, was a Mr. Carter. There was also Esquire Battal who practiced law. Both of these men lived in “Broadway.”
The Adams brothers, as we have seen, were lawyers. John O’Brien bought the present A. C. Cowles’ homestead and practiced law there. Lyman Tremain was his student, partner, and successor.
Benedict Bagley (a relative of Harry Bagley, Esq.) and Malbone Watson, of Rensselaerville, composed a legal firm, and had the present lecture room for their office. Bagley became a member of the Legislature, and Watson went to Catskill.
They were succeeded by Almeron Marks, who not only practiced law and had several students in his office, but at the same time managed an extensive business as banking agent for the Tanners’ Bank of Catskill, and also for a New York bank in which Colonel Adams was interested. He was a member of the Legislature and supervisor of the town. But his many cares and heavy labors broke him down, and he returned to Connecticut, where he soon after died.
Johnson H. Baldwin, Augustus R. Macomber, J. P. Cowles, and H. C. Soop have successfully occupied the building he erected, as a law office.
Among Mr. Tremain’s students were Frank D. Winans of East Durham, and M. B. Mattice of Livingstonville, who, upon Mr. Tremain’s removal to Albany, succeeded him in the practice of law here. After the death of Mr. Winans, Mattice opened an office in Oak Hill, from whence he went to Catskill, and is now the county judge and surrogate. He also was a member of the Legislature and supervisor.
Besides these, there was a Mr. Cummings, who was a very able lawyer, and also a Mr. Barlow, who practiced his profession in the village. The fraternity is now ably represented by A. C. Cowles, Esq.
Durham has given to the world at least two members of Congress, two New York State Senators, 17 members of the Legislature (lower house), one attorney- general, two district attorneys, one justice of the State Supreme Court, two county judges, two sheriffs, one county clerk, and one mayor, besides 32 supervisors and 37 justices of the peace; and in the educational world, one president of a college, several principals of public schools, in Albany, New Jersey, Long Island, and in the State of Nebraska. Connected with the church, there have been two foreign missionaries and 27 ministers, besides church officials in great numbers.
The Medical Profession
The medical profession has been ably represented. The first physician was probably Dr. William Cook, to whom we have already referred. Dr. Luther W. Hart, Dr. Joseph Blanchard, Dr. Amos Hamlin, Dr. Thomas Barrett, Dr. Baldwin, Dr. Bradley, Dr. Hubbard, Dr. Van Dyck, Dr. Rugg, Dr. J. B. Cowles, Dr. Robert Cone, Dr. Elias Whittlesey, Dr. Frank Baldwin, Dr. Reed, Dr. Rouse, Dr. Westover, Dr. Wilbur, Dr. Ingraham, and Dr. Magilton are among those who have practiced in this town. The profession is now ably represented by Drs. George Conkling, M. H. Simmons, B. J. Hunt, and Benjamin.
The first merchant was probably Gideon Brockway, who kept a store on Meeting-house Hill, in 1789. In 1806, Benjamin Kirtland had a store in Broadway. In 1811, Alfred Hand had a store in Durham village. The present firms are Hollenbeck & Ford, I. U. Tripp, Lacy & Co., Wetsell & Co., Hull Brothers, W. W. Burhans, T. P. Hull, Schuyler Ives, and Joseph Porter.
The Katskill Creek
The Katskill Creek is a very rapid stream in time of high water, and much difficulty has been experienced in maintaining bridges across it. Probably the first bridge across this stream was built by Jacob Carter. It has been rebuilt several times, and, in 1878, a substantial iron bridge was constructed, which, like its predecessors, is called the Carter Bridge. He also built a bridge across the Katskill at Brown’s mill, and, soon after its completion, he was seen approaching it from the north side of the stream; but, as he did not appear on the south side, search was made for him, which resulted in finding his body in the water below. Whether it was a case of accidental drowning will never be known.
March 3rd 1831, the stream was very high and full of floating ice. The bridge at Oak Hill was very much weakened by the undermining of the abutments. Vincent Stillwell attempted to cross it with horses and sleigh, having with him his brother-in-law, Christopher Waterous, and Waterous’ sister. They were thrown into the stream, and Mr. Waterous and his sister were drowned. It was two weeks or more before Mr. Waterous’ body was found.
The Catskill and Canajoharie Railroad crossed the Katskill several times in this town, and at the second crossing below Oak Hill, there was a lattice-work bridge. March 4th 1840, this bridge broke down with a train of cars upon it, causing the death of Jehiel Tyler of East Durham.
Crimes and Accidents
Early in August 1846, Robert James, a drover, was murdered by Patrick Flynn, near East Durham. The trial was conducted in behalf of the people by Lyman Tremain, district attorney, and resulted in the conviction of Flynn, who suffered the penalty of the law. He was said to be the first criminal who was executed in Greene county.
August 24th 1846, Florentine Humphrey of West Durham, and another young man, were mowing in the field, when, by some means, the scythe of the young man cut a deep wound in the leg of Mr. Humphrey, severing the main artery. In a short time he was dead. The young man was tried but acquitted. He left the country.
James Donnelly was swept away by high water and drowned, on the night of November 3rd 1861. He went into one of the buildings connected with the foundry at Oak Hill, in order to secure some of the property of the company. While there, the water rose so high that the building was swept away, and he was lost. The poor man called for help as he passed down the stream, but no help was possible. Stephen Snyder of Medusa, was drowned at the same time.
In April 1870, the reservoir at Rensselaerville broke away, and the consequence was a tremendous rush of water down the valley of Saybrook Creek; bridges, barns, mills, and mill-dams, were swept away like children’s toys.
Miss Minnie Turner, about 12 years of age, and other members of the family, lived quite near the stream, at Saybrook. The water came up against the house so high that they, fearing to remain in it any longer, attempted to reach the house of a neighbor; but Minnie was caught in the current, and borne on down the stream of death.
The autumn of 1869 abounded in heavy rains and floods. It was said that the flood of October 4th destroyed 16 bridges in the town. Farms were very much injured by the washing of the soil. Oren Porter’s farm was supposed to be injured to the amount of $1,000.
One of the largest fires in the history of the town was that of May 26th 1876, when two hotels, two hotel barns, and most of their contents, were destroyed.
In April 1857, the town was visited by a fearful snow-storm. Snow fell from four to six feet deep, and very damp and heavy. The glue factory was partially demolished. L. A. Hull’s barn, and Abijah Ransom’s barn, were broken down, killing cattle and sheep. Fruit trees, in great numbers, were also destroyed.
The Reformed Dutch Church
The most important event connected with the history of any town or community is the organization of its churches; those centers of moral and religious power and blessing, without which no community can be truly prosperous. The first church organization in this town was, without doubt, the Dutch Reformed church at Oak Hill.
The valley of the Katskill was settled principally by the Dutch; hence in the records of that church a large number of names of that nationality are found. They were a sober, religious people, and strongly attached to the church of their fathers; and, naturally enough, all the Dutch people living in the valley, from the village of Freehold to Livingstonville and Smithton, together with the few scattering families living on the hills in the towns of Durham and Rensselaerville, was drawn together into one church organization
The church building was located about a mile from Oak Hill, on the turnpike leading to Preston Hollow. The site was donated to the church by Stephen Van Rensselaer, the patroon; so that the building itself stood just over the line on Rensselaerswyck..
The exact date of the formation of this church cannot be given, but probably it was about the year 1787. The preliminary records are lost, but the regular “Church Register” dates back to 1790. The record of infant baptisms commences August 7th 1794, in which Rev. Petrus Van Vlierden acted as pastor. How long he had been in the field at that time is not known. His pastorate closed in the spring of 1798.
Rev. Peter Labagh was his successor, and commenced his labors in 1798, and continued them until May 1809, when he was dismissed. He also had the charge of the church in Catskill at the same time. The church was every prosperous and united under this ministry.
Rev. Cornelius Schermerhorn began his labors in 1809, and remained until May 21st 1818, when he was dismissed. The pulpit was then supplied for brief periods by different ministers, among whom were: Rev. Abraham Fort, Rev. Peter Van Zandt jr., Rev. Jacob Van Nehan, Rev. S. Sage, and Revs. Bassett and Page.
Rev. Stephen Ostrander was installed September 9th 1824. He remained until March 1st 1831, when he resigned. The church had become quite weakened by deaths, and removals, and the formation of other churches, so that upon the retirement of Mr. Ostrander they were without a pastor until June 1832, when they employed the Rev. Peter Stryker, V. D. M., for three months. It is probable that he remained through the summer; but there is no record of ministerial labors performed after his retirement, and no additional history of the church can be written except that the church building stood unoccupied for several years, and was finally torn down and used in the construction of a dwelling house in Oak Hill. The church register contains the names of 178 members and 750 children baptized.
The First Presbyterian Church
Many of the settlers of New Durham belonged to the Congregational Church of Connecticut. They were Puritans, and believed in God, his word and his day. Among the first things they did was to build a log meeting-house on the hill, and provide for regular meetings on the Sabbath. But they were young, and no doubt quite diffident, and thought they needed some one to take charge of their meetings.
Deacon Christopher Lord of Saybrook, the father-in-law of Jonathan Baldwin, was sent for. He and Patience, his wife, came in 1787 and spent the remainder of their days here. He well supplied the place of pastor for ten years. He was a very holy man and was sometimes called Priest Lord. He lived near Mr. Baldwin’s until the death of Mrs. Lord in March 1794, after which he lived in Mr. Baldwin’s family until his death in November 1797.
The church was organized November 8th 1792 by Rev. Beriah Hotchkin of Greenville. Christopher Lord, Lemuel Hotchkiss, Jairus Chittenden, Eliakim Strong, Augustus Pratt, John Hull, Joseph Hart, Daniel Merwin, and Ichabod Scranton, were the original nine members. January 13th 1793, 37 others united with them. Christopher Lord and Joseph Hart were chosen deacons.
In September 1794, Rev. Mr. Knapp of Canaan Connecticut, was with them, and eight others identified themselves with the church.
The Rev. Samuel Fuller and Rev. Jonathan Bird preached for them occasionally.
In 1796 they built a new frame meeting-house on the hill near the site of the old log building, which had become too small to accommodate them.
In the autumn of 1797, Rev. Jesse Townsend came among them and remained 12 years. He was much liked and his ministry was very successful. During his ministry 174 members were received into the church. He also baptized 232 children.
September 29th 1799, “The church voted to put themselves under the care of the Northern Associated Presbytery,” but they retained their Congregational form of government. About this time Jonathan Baldwin and Benjamin Chapman were chosen deacons in place of Deacon Lord, deceased, and Deacon Hart, removed.
Rev. Seth Williams, D.D., was the next pastor. He remained from 1810 to 1829. He was an eminently faithful and holy man. His ministry was greatly honored. He received 241 members and baptized 385 children. May 3rd 1810, 56 members were received. In 1813 they elected Benjamin Hubbard sen. as deacon. In 1816 they gave letters of dismission to 35 members, who organized the Second Presbyterian Church at West Durham. The same year they elected David Baldwin and Noah Baldwin deacons, in place of Deacon Jonathan Baldwin, removed, and Deacon Hubbard, dismissed. In 1821 the church building was removed to “Broadway,” which interrupted their peace for the time, but the wisdom of the pastor and others prevailed and harmony was restored.
Upon the retirement of Dr. Williston [sic. Williams?], Rev. Elam Clark preached for them a short time.
Rev. Jonathan Cone came among them in 1830, and remained nearly 17 years. Soon after his arrival the church became Presbyterian in its form of government, and elected Benjamin Chapman, David Baldwin, Noah Baldwin, Luther Hayes, James Baldwin 2nd, Lyman Strong, Dennis Baldwin, Thomas Hitchcock, and John Wright jr., elders. The year 1831 was a prosperous year for the church. A powerful revival of religion continued nearly through the year. At two communions 78 members were received, and 203 during his ministry.
Rev. Charles Evans then preached for them about a year, and was succeeded, June 1st 1848, by Rev. Marcus Smith, whose ministry continued eight years. He did a great work for the church, not only in restoring union and peace among its members, but in 1851, largely through his influence, they took their church building down and built a larger one in the village. In 1850 they secured a suitable building for a lecture room. During the pastorate of Mr. Smith 48 members were received into the church. He was of Scotch ancestry, and as a preacher and an organizer he possessed rare abilities.
Rev. Elias L. Boing was his successor. He commenced his work July 13th 1856, and continued until March 13th 1864. He was a faithful pastor, and received 101 members into the church.
Rev. Andrew P. Freese very ably and acceptably supplied their pulpit for 15 months.
Rev. V. Le Roy Lockwood was the next pastor. He came in October 1865, and remained until April 1869. There were 75 persons who united with the church during his pastorate. He was a man of talent, and a splendid preacher.
Rev. Charles Boynton succeeded him in the summer of 1869, and remained until June, 1879, during which time 74 were added to this church. He was a well read man, and an instructive preacher.
In October 1879, Rev. E. L. Boing commenced his second pastorate in this church, and is the present incumbent. The membership May 1st 1883, was 127. More than 1,000 persons have been members of this church.
There were some peculiar customs in vogue in the early days of this church. They had a “covenant,” which all who were willing to aid in “supporting preaching” signed; some more and some less. Upon this “covenant” a tax was laid, as funds were needed from time to time. But as the circumstances of those who had signed the covenant were sometimes reduced, this tax became oppressive. After several experiments the present annual per pew rent system was adopted.
For a long time they had “tything men.” They were elderly men, appointed once a year, and their business was to keep order among the young people, especially those who occupied seats in the gallery. Everybody went to church in those days, rowdies as well as others. Now it is different and tything men are not needed.
The introduction of instrumental music was attended with difficulty and danger. Charles Johnson was the chorister, and the wording of the subscription paper which he drew up and circulated, is a model of courteous entreaty. He succeeded; and when Elizur Baldwin began to play on that bass-viol, “there was music in the air.” But, as one of the ancient men said, “peace and harmony was restored.”
The church, or rather, meeting-house on the hill, was without a steeple, although at one of their society meetings they voted that “if any persons wish to adorn the house with a steeple, they may have free toleration.” But in 1821, when the church was removed to “Broadway,” they erected a steeple, and in 1823 they purchased the bell. They retained the old-fashioned pews until 1833.
The meetings connected with the Washingtonian movement of 1841-44 were held in this church, and 500 signed the pledge.
The Baptist Church
In the year of 1788, Deacon Obed Hervey and others settled in Hervey Street. They belonged to the Baptist church of North East, Dutchess county. Deacon Hervey was a very godly man, and was about this time (although well advanced in life) ordained as a preacher of the gospel. Their first meetings were held in the houses and barns of the settlers. Elder Hervey died in 1808, aged 86. His son Obed was also a deacon, and contributed much toward the welfare of the church.
His son Hermon was ordained, and was their pastor 30 years, and the church was very prosperous under his ministry. The meeting house at Hervey Street was built, and many additions were made to the church. One of his sons, Russell, was also ordained and is now preaching in Michigan. In 1839, Elder Hermon Hervey resigned.
Elder Stephen Jones succeeded him, He remained about three years, and his labors were very acceptable to the church. He was succeeded by Elder D. W. Robertson in a short pastorate. In 1843, the excellent and venerable Elder Seth Paddock became their pastor. His ministry continued until 1857, when he resigned on account of the infirmity of age. The church had become weakened by deaths and removals.
In 1859, Elder Alexander Mackey became their pastor and continued his labors until August 1860.
In September 1860, Elder W. W. Ferris preached for them, and also at a school-house in East Durham. There was no church there at that time, but the interest was such that they soon took measures to supply that lack. In October 1861 the church was dedicated, and Elder Ferris remained until 1864, when he resigned.
Elder Hiram Haynes then occupied their desk for one year; and in 1865, Elder Avery M. Cole became their pastor and continued about thirteen years. He was succeeded by Elder Alling. Elder Haas also preached here at one time.
The present pastor, Elder J. R. Simmons, came in 1882, and the church is prospering under abundant and well directed labors.
In 1868 the portion of the church living near Acra in Cairo, was organized into a separate church which somewhat weakened both the Hervey Street and the East Durham churches.
The church at
Hervey Street has had occasional preaching by the late Elder Paddock (after his
resignation), and others, although their numbers are small and they are quite
The Methodist Episcopal Church
The early settlers of East Durham organized a class, and commenced to build a church. The frame, was raised and work commenced upon it. It stood quite near the present cemetery, near the village. The date cannot be given, but it was probably 90 years ago, perhaps longer ago than that.
Quite a number of settlers about New Durham were Methodists, and they finally bought the frame, of the East Durham people, and set it up on the hill near the Presbyterian meeting-house. Among those who were members of this church in early days, were Zoath Smith sen., John Jerome, Harris Giddings, Jabez Hubbard, Caleb Wetmore, Ezra Walker sen., Joseph Adams, and Russell Goff.
Some very eminent clergymen were among their preachers. Phineas Rice, Nathan Bangs, who was a very able man, Bela Smith, a native of Cornwallsville, and Thomas Barrett D. D. and M. D., and probably others, preached on the hill. The Methodist preachers in those days had very large circuits. This church is supposed to be the oldest church of the denomination in the county. The church at Coeymans, Albany county, is the mother church, and the circuit included Coeymans, Catskill, Durham, and a part of Delaware county. As the forests were cleared away, the hill became very bleak, and moreover a majority of the church members lived in the neighborhood of Cornwallsville. Hence, in 1821, they moved the church building there. Dr. Barrett was the preacher then, and lived in Cornwallsville, and served the church several years. He was succeeded by Revs. Jesse Hunt, Moses Amadon, Eli Denniston, Samuel M. Knapp, O. G. Hedstrom, W. H. Smith, William Bloomer, A. S. Lakin, and Valentine Buck, who afterward became a presiding elder.
In 1844, the part of the church living in Durham village was organized as a separate church. They bought the dwelling house formerly occupied by Judge Barker, turned it around, and fitted it up for a church. Since then it has been enlarged and beautified, and is now a pleasant sanctuary. The first board of trustees consisted of Daniel Booth, John O’Brien, Eben P. Smith, William Pierce, and Asaph Hulbert.
Both of these churches belonged to one charge, and their ministers were the Revs. Silas Fitch, Aaron Rodgers, William F. Gould, O. P. Mathews, Z. D. Scoby, William Goss, Jeremiah Ham, Daniel Wright, H. C. Humphrey, L. B. Andrus, and A. F. Selleck.
During Mr. Selleck’s pastorate the Methodist people at Oak Hill were organized into a church. They chose Charles W. Pierce, Israel P. Utter, James H. Welch, and William Paddock as trustees. They also elected a building committee, and on November 2d 1859, the church was dedicated. Mr. Selleck was the first pastor, this church being added to his charge. For a few years this charge had two preachers; the principals were Revs. O. P. Mathews and William Hall. Since that, this church has belonged to another charge. It is now under the care of Rev. W. R. Goss, and excellent preacher, and the church is in a prosperous state, and is doing good work for the people, and for the cause of religion and temperance.
The churches at Cornwallsville and Durham have since had, as preachers, Revs. J. H. Hawhurst, Robert Kerr, W. W. Shaw, O. P. Dale, J. P. Burger, S. Merchant, M. Couchman, and J. H. Champion.
The people of East Durham, although without a church building, had kept up the class, although it does not appear to have had a continuous history. But they held meetings when they could, and struggled on. In 1880, they were organized as a church. J. W. Slater, J. Morehouse, Thomas Catlin, W. H. Wetmore, and C. D. Tubbs were the first board of trustees. They built a neat little sanctuary, which was dedicated June 25th 1882. Rev. M. Couchman was their first pastor, and Rev. J. H. Champion is his successor. The new organization is full of promise for the future. The church belongs to the Durham charge.
The Methodist churches of this town have given to the world a large number of earnest Christian people not only, but very many preachers of the Gospel, among whom are Bela Smith, Harris Giddings, Samuel Merwin, John B. Straton, Samuel M. Knapp, a Mr. Lockwood, David Dutcher, James W. Smith, Thomas B. Smith, Charles Battersby, Henry Battersby (son of Charles), and Stillman Goff.
Methodist churches have been thus grouped, without regard to their chronological
order, because they are or were so grouped as one charge.
St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church
The first record we have of any attempt to establish this church, is in connection with a meeting held at Adijah Dewey’s, in Durham village, October 16th 1809. They had probably held meetings for consultation previous to this, but at this time they subscribed to a covenant as follows:
“We, the subscribers do here by covenant with each other that as soon as fifteen or more shall have subscribed to this Instrument, we will meet and form ourselves into a church agreeable to law.”
Thompson, who has already been mentioned, was for a long time pastor of this
church, and lies buried in the church cemetery at Oak Hill. He kept a journal
from which the following is copied:
“The Rev. Samuel Fuller was the first clergyman that preached at Durham, and organized the church. He was a Presbyterian minister for eighteen years, and being convinced of the invalidity of his ordination, left that body and embraced the Episcopal church, as the true church of Christ, and was ordained in1811. He preached at Durham one-half of his time, from the time of his ordination until 1818, as a missionary. He had the care of the church at Windham and Stamford also, for one or two years. After that the Rev. James Thompson had the care of the parish as missionary until the church was built and consecrated, November 21st 1834. The Rev. William Morris preached here and at Rensselaerville one year. The Rev. Mr. Prout, one year, Rev. John Scoville, nine months, after him the Rev. George Sayres. The above named clergymen have been hired as assistants with the Rev. James Thompson, who now continues his services in the 75th year of his age. These minutes were made by me, April 13th 1841.”
“James Thompson, Missionary.”
Rev. James Thompson died August 19th 1844, aged 77. The church was consecrated as St. Paul’s church, by the Right Rev. Benjamin Tredwell Onderdonk, D. D.
The pastors since Rev. Mr. Thompson have been: Rev. James W. Stewart, Rev. L. A. Barrows, Rev. Mr. Parker, Rev. D. G. Wright, Rev. John W. Hoffman, Rev. Henry H. Bates (died at Oak Hill), Rev. W. T. Boone, Rev. H. C. Randall, Rev. Erastus Webster, Rev. H. C. Brayton, and Rev. Joseph W. Norwood.
have been: Edward Hand, Stephen Jarvis, George Bellamy, Sheldon Cheritree, Levi
Tremain, Aaron Roggen, John H. Cheritree, Harry J. Peck, James Ter Bush, and
Charles A. Hall. The church is now (1883) undergoing repairs and enlargement.
The Second Presbyterian Church
This church, located at West Durham, was organized May 7th 1816, and, on the 2d day of May the same year they installed Rev. James Jewell as their first pastor. This church was a colony from the first Presbyterian church, and its history up to this time was intimately connected with the history of that church. In many respects, however, it had a separate history.
Deacon Samuel Scoville was very much such a man as Deacon Christopher Lord, and did the same kind of work for the community in the early days.
In 1808, a meeting-house was built in which the Revs. Townsend and Williston preached at times. This building stood at the west side of the cemetery.
January 14th 1814 the society was organized, and Deacon Benjamin Hubbard, Elam Finch, and Joshua Nowlen were chosen trustees. At this time they employed a Rev. Mr. Hardy as their minister, and paid him by means of their covenant tax. Mr. Jewett was their pastor until his death, which took place in July 1825. He was a faithful pastor, and 22 were added to the church during his ministry.
Rev. Linus H. Fellows succeeded him in April 1826, and was their pastor thirty years. He was very sedate in his manners, and the church enjoyed a steady prosperity under his teaching.
Rev. Salmon Strong and others preached for them occasionally for the next four years. During Mr. Fellow’s pastorate, in 1834, they rebuilt their church building on its present site, and M. C. Boughton, Wells Finch, G. Brainerd, and Alvin Doty were the building committee.
They also had tything men, and, April 1st 1825, they instructed the tything men “to call the children by name that play in the gallery twice, and if they persist in play, to put the law in force; also that notice be given to the young men not to take seats in the female’s pews in the gallery, also that we will endeavor to suppress immorality and traveling on the Sabbath by talking with the offender, and if necessary proceed according to law.”
They gave much attention to singing, and appointed William Doty as chorister, with Matthew C. Boughton, Alvin Doty, Thomas Sutton, Jesse Addis, and Andrus Newell, as assistants. They, with the early members of the other Presbyterian church in the town, were in the habit of “keeping Saturday night” as holy time; a custom which was kept up in some families until within perhaps 25 years.
Rev. Alvin Cooper was their pastor from 1860 to 1870. Up to this time it was a Congregational church, but during his ministry they became Presbyterian. Beri Wade, Orville Moss and Zina Newell were chosen elders.
Cooper’s resignation they have had preaching by the Revs. Mr. Gillett, S. Goff,
A. Rodgers, C. Boynton, C. O. Reynolds, Mr. Wyckoff, and E. L. Boing. These men
are all living except Rev. Mr. Reynolds, who was a clear and earnest preacher, a
devoted minister, and a most excellent man in all respects.
The Presbyterian Church of Centreville
This church was organized July 6th 1834, by Rev. Jonathan Cone and Rev. Linus H. Fellows, who were appointed by the Columbia Presbytery for that purpose.
Thomas Caldwell and wife Minerva, Henry Clark and wife Lydia, William Field, Miss Catherine Field, Mrs. Elizabeth Judd, Mrs. Polly Howell, and Mrs. Jerusha Howell, were the original members. Thomas Caldwell and Henry Clark were chosen elders.
September 12th 1835, Rev. John J. Thompson became their pastor. In November 1835, 32 members were received as the result of a revival under Mr. Thompson’s ministry.
Among those who have occupied the pulpit of this church are the following: Rev. Ransom B. Welsh, Rev. Dr. Henry White, Rev. Ezra Gordon Johnson (died December 23d 1851), Rev. Mr. Fellows, Rev. A. H. Lilly, Rev. Alexander Totten, Rev. A. P. Freese, Rev. S. M. McKinney, Rev. William Carr, Rev. B. D. B. Wyckoff (now a missionary to India), and Rev. A. P. Freese for the third time of service in this church. He died November 21st 1883. He was an eloquent preacher, and an able expounder of the truth.
Messrs. Thomas Caldwell, Henry Clark, Abram Synder, Hon. Perkins King, Daniel T. Teal, Jacob H. Bogardus, Peter H. White, W. O. French, Ansel Webster, and James V. Hulse, have constituted the session.
The town of Durham had had, and still has, many excellent schools and many excellent teachers, one of whom is now passing through his 28th year in the business. The first teacher we have any knowledge of as teaching in this town was Polly Chittenden in 1787 and 1788. She was succeeded by Elizabeth Dudley in 1789. “Master Wires” lived on the “Hill” and taught many years. Anson Strong and William C. Farmer were almost life-long teachers.
In Durham village there have been select schools from very early in its history taught by Prof. Eaton, Dwight Baldwin, Salmon Strong, Robert Cone, Prof. Nowlen, Mrs. Best, Prof. Ayres, J. P. Cowles, Miss Elizabeth King, Miss Fensham, Miss Hartwell and others.
Prof. Zina Newell taught the West Durham Seminary, a flourishing institution, for a long period of years. That institution was the means of sending forth into the world some of the brightest intellects and some of the most practical men of the age. This institution would probably have been sustained and have become permanent if it had enjoyed the advantages of a large village and been located on some thoroughfare.
The keeping of summer boarders is becoming a business of increasing importance in this town. A few are mentioned as representatives of the many who are engaged in this business.
The Grand View Mountain House is located on the northern declivity of High Peak, and as its name indicates, the view from the porch and from the roof is grand, embracing portions of the four States – New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont, also the Capitol at Albany and the Hudson River. It is six miles from Windham, ten miles from Hunter, twelve miles from South Cairo, and nine miles from Mount Pisgah. The house was built by E. Dickerman in 1872, and accommodates from 85 to 90 guests. A. B. Chichester is the manager.
The Butts House is in the immediate neighborhood of Grand View and was built in 1879 by Isaac Butts, the present proprietor. Capacity, 35 guests. It is easy of access, being on the Windham Turnpike, which is an excellent road and abounds in many charming views of nature.
The Summit House, as its name indicates, is at the top of the mountain. It was built in 1848 by Barney Butts, who was the most famous hunter in this section of the mountains. He possessed remarkable courage and powers of endurance, and it was his special delight to hunt bears, and his guests were often gratified not only in hearing him rehearse the many intensely interesting incidents of bear hunting, but they were permitted to form a personal acquaintance with the bruin himself, tamed and subdued by Mr. Butts’ skill. The house itself has been enlarged and improved since its construction, and will accommodate 90 guests. Abbot Lamereaux, a son-in-law of Barney Butts, is the proprietor.
The Curtis House is on the same turnpike, and on the eastern declivity of the same mountain. Opened in 1842 as a hotel, since 1856 the principal business has been summer boarding. It will accommodate 40 guests. A farm of 500 acres is attached. Gilbert Curtis is the proprietor. He has carried on an extensive business in lumbering and coopering. He is the son of Silas Curtis, and a native of Connecticut. He was born in 1808, and came to Durham in 1825. He has been prominent in town affairs.
The Lawrence House at Cornwallsville is a unique structure of cottages, connected by broad verandahs, which give it an inviting look to the heated denizens of the city. It has a capacity for 25 guests.
H. H. Hough is a farmer and boarding house keeper, near Cornwallsville. He is one of twelve children, was born in 1815 of Connecticut parentage, and is much respected. His father, Theron, reached 90 years of age, and was an estimable man.
The France House is conducted by Mr. France. He is a native of Albany county, and is of Holland-German descent. The location is sheltered and sightly, with an abundance of fruit, and a fine spring of water.
The Wetmore family have been very influential for the last 50 years. Caleb Wetmore was a native of Canada and was a cattle dealer. About the year 1823 he came to Cornwallsville and engaged in business, managing a farm, keeping hotel, etc. He had a large family of children.
Hiram was the eldest; his wife was a daughter of Christopher Waterous who was drowned in the Katskill Creek. Three of their sons live in town, viz: Clark, who is extensively engaged in the boarding house business, and who married Julia Utter, of Oak Hill; Charles, a hard working farmer; and Ferris; the latter of whom occupies his father’s homestead.
Caleb Wetmore’s youngest son, Charles, was a long time resident of the place, but now resides in Catskill. Armenus Smith, who married his daughter Elizabeth, occupies his former house, the Judge Austin place, while William, the son, is a farmer, living near East Durham.
Mrs. Leah Snyder, a daughter of James Ransom, and the widow of James Snyder, both belonging to ancient families in the town, is also engaged in the boarding business. She and her son William are respected by all. Her daughter, Mrs. Strong and son Wilbur, also keep boarders.
Ezra Brown and son are engaged in keeping summer boarders. Mr. Brown is a native of Schoharie county, although the family formerly lived in Coxsackie town. He is very active for a man born in the last century, and retains his mental faculties remarkably. He reared a family of nine children, four of whom reside in Durham.
The Shady Glen House stands on an eminence from which an extensive view of the mountains is obtained. Its proximity to the glen adds materially to its advantages as a boarding house. It has a good farm attached. E. D. Elliott is the proprietor. Mr. Elliott and James, his brother, who died in 1882, greatly respected, belong to a family of eleven children, descended from Nathan Elliott, who was their great-great-grandfather, and who was born in Guilford, Connecticut, about the year 1740. He became a Baptist preacher and located in Orange county, New York. He was an ardent patriot, and in his sphere, did what he could for his country in her time of need. His only son, Nathan, located in Albany county, from whom descended James, the father of this family of eleven. The mother was Abigail Ramsdell of Greenville. Theodore, another brother, was an enterprising farmer. He died in 1880.
These three brothers forcibly illustrate the maxim that, “where there’s a will there’s a way.” Having few of the advantages which wealth brings, they, by intense energy, pushed their way upward to independence.
The Mace House is conducted by Henry S. Mace. The location is central and of easy access, being about equally distant between the villages of Oak Hill, Durham and East Durham, in a pleasant neighborhood, and abounding in attractive rural scenery. Mr. Mace and his neighbor, H. Haskins, are Schoharie county men; they are good farmers and are valuable men.
The Summer Home, Francis De Frate, proprietor, is a deservedly popular house, located near Eagle Bridge. Mr. De Frate was born in New York city in 1811, and is of French descent. The house and its surroundings are very pleasant. It was the early home of Hon. Lyman Tremain, the great lawyer, judge and statesman.
The Patroon Place, S. Hedges, proprietor, is the former home of Patroon Barker; large farm, fine house and quiet neighborhood. The family is connected with some of the most ancient and honored families in the town.
The village of East Durham is a charming place for boarders; bright, clean and new. Some of the city people own and occupy houses there.
The Rockefeller family is an ancient and highly respected family, and quite numerous. Amos, Harry, Jacob and others keep summer boarders.
The Van Tassel family originally consisted of 15 children. The father, Theodore Van Tassel, was a native of Germany, and located at East Durham about the year 1800. Reuben, his son, married Elizabeth, daughter of Cyrus French, and has a fine boarding house and farm. Allen lives near the Carter Bridge, and is a fine man. Luke, the youngest, occupies a good farm. His wife was a daughter of Deacon R. R. Post, of the Baptist church.
The town of Durham has many enterprising men, whose influence has a controlling effect upon the character of the town.
George W. Russ of Centreville is an excellent farmer, and a very capable business man. He was for several years assistant United States revenue assessor, also town assessor. He spent much of his younger days in school teaching. His father, Adam Russ, was a native of Albany county, and came to Durham in 1809.
R. E. Taylor was born in Westerlo, Albany county. His father, Owen, came from Rhode Island while a young man, and settled in Westerlo. Mr.Taylor owns one of the best farms in the town, and as a citizen he is much esteemed. He married Louisa Utter of Oak Hill. He also is an experienced school teacher.
Warren Barlow is a native of Albany county and is the neighbor of Mr. Taylor. His mother was Lydia Wright, daughter of Deacon George Wright, one of the first settlers of Wright Street. Mr. Barlow has a large and well cultivated farm. He married Jane Jones of Connecticut parentage, living in Cairo.
Fletcher Rodgers is the son of Rev. Aaron Rodgers (deceased), who was a very able preacher in the Methodist Episcopal church. He was a native of Schoharie county, and was of Welsh ancestry. He learned the hatter’s trade by which he supported himself while preparing for the ministry. He married Rebecca, the daughter of Gillamore Rickerson, one of the first settlers here. Fletcher is the only child now living in this town.
Andrew J. Mackey is a native of Albany county. He was one of a family of twelve children. His father, Alexander, formerly lived in Dutchess county. Mr. Mackey is a member of the Baptist church at East Durham, and a respected farmer.
Charles O. Miller is a substantial farmer of Durham. His father, Peter H., was born in 1798, and his grandfather, Jacob, was a resident of the present town of Halcott. He was a soldier in the war of 1812, and a justice of the peace in the town of Lexington. Mr. Miller married a daughter of Elder Moore, a Baptist clergyman of Lexington.
Niles Gifford is the son of John N. Gifford of Rensselaerville. He has an excellent farm and is a successful sheep raiser. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church at Oak Hill, and superintendent of the Sunday-school. He has held the office of town assessor.
John Parks was born in Ireland in 1817; came to this country in 1846; and now has a good mountain farm of about 200 acres, which he has secured by the labor of his hands. He and Isabella Hunter, whom he married in Ireland, are members of the Methodist Episcopal church. They have had 12 children, of whom Alexander H. Parks is the eldest. He is one of the most enterprising young farmers in Durham. He devotes much attention to the dairying business. He married Mary E., daughter of E. Nelson More, who is one of the best Christian men in the town.
A. L. and D. L. Hull have productive farms and are good farmers and excellent men. The former gives special attention to dairying, and the latter has a large and well conducted apiary.
J. W. Cunningham is a successful farmer and mechanic. He raises premium stock, and excellent crops of corn and other grain. His farm is a model of neatness.
George A. Cunningham is a half-brother of the above, and they belong to a family of 15 children. The father, Henry Cunningham, was born in Ireland, and emigrated to this country in 1819. He was a nail-maker. George has a good farm and a fine new house near Carter Bridge.
Oswin Rockwell has a good farm and stone-quarry near Cornwallsville. He married Philura, daughter of Rev. Seth Paddock of Hervey Street. His father, Martin Rockwell, was a native of Ridgefield, Connecticut, and died in this town. Silas, a brother of Martin, was a Revolutionary soldier and is said to have served in every campaign of the war.
Calvin Borthwick is a farmer near Cornwallsville, and is a very useful man. His paternal ancestors were natives of Scotland; his maternal, of Connecticut. He was a soldier in the great civil war, and was possessed of inflexible patriotism and courage. He was entrusted with many difficult and dangerous expeditions. His wife was the daughter of Bela Smith, jr., who was an excellent man and a son of Rev. Bela Smith. Mr. Borthwick is a native of Schoharie county.
Hiram Dietz is a native of Albany county, and is now engaged in manufacturing at Oak Hill. He is a prominent member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and was for many years their chorister.
J. H. Lacy, formerly of Freehold, is now engaged in the mercantile business at East Durham. He is an enterprising business man. He married a daughter of George Clark, Esq., of Freehold.
Aaron Baker was formerly engaged in the hardware business at Durham village. He is now the postmaster at Oak Hill. He is much respected and is a member of the Christian church.
Kingsley Baker, son of the above, is a hardware merchant in Durham village. He was a soldier in the great civil war, served three years and was honorably discharged. He was in the battle of Gettysburg, and many others.
U. B. Winchell is a prominent and useful man in the church and community at Oak Hill. He is engaged in manufacturing.
J. M. Hallock occupies the former Dr. William Cook place. He is a good farmer, and has an extensive practice as a veterinary surgeon and farrier.
Abraham Snyder is a venerable citizen of Durham village, and was born in Albany county, in 1801. Until a few years since he was an active farmer, and is still an unceasing worker in the church.
Edwin Palmer, a native of Albany county, is an active business man, possessing the confidence of all. He was for a number of years the deputy sheriff.
Hollenbeck and Ford are cousins, and natives of Albany county. Their parents were influential members of the Baptist church. They are enterprising young men, and successful merchants in Oak Hill.
John Campbell (deceased) was one of the hardy, industrious tillers of the soil in Durham. He was a native of Ireland, and when he emigrated, he came without friends or means here, but he acquired both. His widow is a daughter of the late Eli Hubbard, of Windham.
Henry P. Lacy is a native of Homer, Cortland county. His father, Rolland, was a farmer and mechanic. His mother was the sister of Hon. Zadoc Pratt, of Prattsville. Mr. Lacy has been an elder in the Presbyterian church of Durham, since 1857. He is much esteemed in the community. He is an agriculturalist.
Newell Goff is a native of Albany county. He formerly resided in Conesville, and during the last 15 years has resided in Durham. He has a fine large farm, and is engaged in raising hops.
Henry Abrams is the present efficient road commissioner of Durham. His father was a native of Long Island, and a resident of Greenville. Two of his sons gave their lives in defence of their country during the great civil war.
Orloff Austin is an honest, industrious and genial farmer of Durham. He is a native of Windham, and his wife was born in Schoharie county. They are much respected in the community.
W. S. Doolittle is a native of Albany county. His father, Daniel Doolittle, was born in 1796, and at six years of age came with his parents to Medusa. There were four sons: Talmage, William S., Daniel and James. Mr. Doolittle has a good farm and is a thorough farmer.
George Richmond is one of a family of six children of Asa Richmond of Columbia county. In 1803 he moved to Windham, where he reared his family. Mr. Richmond is a farmer of good standing, and of a kind, sociable nature.
A. W. Purington was one of our noble “boys in blue” in the great civil war; the son of Joseph P. Purington, and was born in Malta, Saratoga county. His mother was Ann Wright, a descendant of the family of that name in Wright Street. Mr. Purington enlisted in the 14th N. Y. volunteers, September 2nd 1861; was in the seven days’ battle before Richmond; received a gunshot wound July 1st 1862, and was discharged September 20th 1862, a cripple for life, but a noble fellow every way.
William Laverty is a native of Ireland. He came to America at 18 years of age; worked for Hon. B. G. Morss 24 years; enlisted in 1863; was in the battles of the Wilderness and others that followed it until the fall of Richmond, and until the close of the war. He is now a prosperous farmer of Durham.
James J. Reed enlisted in the 156th N. Y. volunteers, August 3rd 1863; was engaged in the quartermaster’s and commissary departments, and was discharged September 11th 1865. He is a mason by trade and resides in the village of Durham.
Platt A. Smith is a representative farmer and shepherd of Durham. He married Sarah Arminda Field, a member of one of the ancient and honored families of the town. His is the son of Eben P. Smith, formerly of Catskill, but now spending the evening of his days in the home of these, his dutiful children. The grandfather, Abiel, lived in Middlesex county, Massachusetts.
A. A. and R. E. Searing are the sons of Amos Searing, who was born in Columbia county, in 1796, and became a resident of this town in 1824. This family and the Cleveland family are related by marriage. These brothers are well-to-do farmers.
Erastus Traver is a farmer residing near East Durham, is a native of Schoharie county, the son of John, and the grandson of Charles Traver, who was born in Connecticut, and was a prominent member of the Methodist church in Schoharie county.
Erwin Lawrence. The circumstances under which Mr. Lawrence has risen from obscurity to the position he now occupies, afford a striking example of what a young man of perseverance may do. He was born in New York city in 1853, and, while yet an infant, both his parents died, and he was taken to the Orphans’ Home, where he remained until he was 11 years of age, when he was adopted by Edward Johnson of Durham, where he found a home indeed until he reached his majority. Then he tried the West for a short time, but preferring the East, he returned, married Miss C. Fairchild of Windham, bought a farm, and is successfully and honorably filling a good position in society.
Peter Miller is the son of the late Peter Miller, who was a native of Columbia county, but lived on the farm now occupied by Mr. Miller near Norton Hill. He married Eliza, daughter of Cyrus Field, of Durham. He is a first rate farmer and a fine man.
Ralph Campbell is of Scotch ancestry, a son of William and Mary (Gray) Campbell, and a native of Albany county. He is a successful farmer and dairyman, very retiring in his manners, but of sterling worth.
Jared Woodard is the son of Amos Woodard, who was born in this town in 1817. His father, Jared, was a native of Washington county, and was a blacksmith. The whole family are frugal in their habits and are well-to-do farmers.
William H. Cummings, of Durham village, distinguished himself as a soldier; serving in that capacity for 14 years, first as a volunteer until the close of the war, when he entered the regular service until 1875, when he was discharged. He is a member of the Presbyterian church.
Lawrence Benton has probably seen more of military life than any other of Durham’s citizens. He enlisted September 24th 1847, in the U. S. marine corps, and served on board the steamer Iris, and the frigate Raritan, and was discharged at Washington, May 22nd 1850. September 23rd 1855, he enlisted for five years in the regular army, 9th infantry, commanded by Colonel Wright. He was discharged at Walla Walla, Washington Territory, September 24th 1860. September 18th 1861, he enlisted in the 84th N. Y. volunteers, Colonel Fowler commanding. He took part in several engagements, was wounded at Spotsylvania, and was honorably discharged at Petersburg, September 19th 1864. He is now an industrious farmer and laborer, living near the village of Durham.
John Lorton was enrolled as a private in the 95th regiment, N. Y. volunteers, December 17th 1861, and was discharged for physical disabilities, October 3rd 1862. His son, William H., entered the navy in September 1862, and served until the close of the war. John Lorton had three brothers, Charles, Eugene, and Edward, who also served their country in the field.
Anson P. Hull
The subject of this sketch was born at the family homestead, near the village of Durham, October 21st 1822. His mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of Richard Peck, who was a prominent citizen of the town of Lexington. The first part of his name was given in honor of his father's youngest brother, who died in early childhood; while his middle name (Peleg) was the name of another uncle on his mother's side, who died from the effects of the bite of a mad wolf, in the early history of Lexington.
From his childhood, he displayed a quick and penetrating turn of mind, which, combined with studious habits, and an uncommon energy of character, soon placed him in the front rank among his schoolmates. In addition to the advantages afforded by the common schools of the town, he attended a select boarding-school taught by Professor Young at Durham Centre. He also was a student at the academy at Rensselaerville, Albany county. At 16 years of age, he commenced teaching in the public schools of his native town. He also taught the village school of Cairo for two seasons. After a successful experience of 10 years as a teacher, he purchased a farm, and devoted the remainder of his life to agricultural pursuits. He was possessed of industrious and frugal habits, and he accumulated a handsome fortune. He was thorough-going in all his ways.
September 21st 1848, he was married to Miss Irene Amelia, daughter of David Cowles, Jr., and Nancy, his wife, who was the daughter of David Merwin, one of the pioneer settlers of the town. Their children were four in number. Ellen F., the eldest, married Anson B. Gilbert, and resides in Albany; D. Cowles, married Annie Crawford, and occupies the homestead; Elizabeth and Louisa are unmarried. The latter is a graduate of the Normal School in Albany.
In the years 1848 and 1849 he was the town superintendent of schools. He also engaged in land surveying as occasion required, in this part of the town.
March 7th 1852, he and his wife were united with the Presbyterian church of Durham, and for many years he not only sang in the choir, but was the leader of the same.
April 21st 1859, he was elected superintendent of the Sabbath-school, which office he held until January 1872, when he became the teacher of the old men's Bible class, which position he held until his health failed. September 8th 1859, he was elected to the office of ruling elder in the church, which office he held until his death April 1st 1882. For about a year and a half before his death he was afflicted with heart disease, which was no doubt the cause of his death. He was a valuable member of society, a faithful friend, a kind husband, and an affectionate father.
The board of elders in the church passed the following resolutions, expressive of their high regard: "Whereas: In the holy and all-wise providence of God, our brother Anson P. Hull, who was for more than twenty years a member of this Session, has been recently removed from us by death----therefore "Resolved, that we are led to realize in this solemn providence, the uncertainty of human life, and also the importance of our Savior's injunction, 'Be ye ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.' "Resolved, that we deplore the removal of our brother, as a member of our Session, in whom we trusted as a wise councilor, a safe leader and teacher in the Sabbath School and elsewhere, whose knowledge of the Scriptures, and of the teachings of Christ, together with the superior gifts of mind which he possessed, eminently fitted him for usefulness in the church." "Resolved, that we deeply sympathize with the widow so greatly bereaved, and with the children now left fatherless, and most affectionately commit them to the widow's God and to the Father of the Fatherless, praying that He may be their portion forever." "Resolved that a copy of this, our tribute to our brother's memory, be given to the family afflicted."
Lyman Stannard belonged to that large and very influential family whose ancestor, Captain Eliakim Stannard, came from Connecticut in the eighties of the last century, and settled in Wright Street, town of Durham, New York. Captain Eliakim was a Revolutionary soldier, and upon the formation of a company of light infantry in this town, he was chosen its captain. His wife was Bathiah Kelsey, also a native of Connecticut. She died several years before her husband, having reached nearly three score and ten years, while her husband, the captain, was 85, at his death, June 28th, 1838. They raised a family of nine children, of whom Lyman, the subject of this biography, was the seventh.
He married Lodema, a daughter of Richard Benjamin, one of the ancient and honorable men of the town. He purchased the farm now owned by his son Ransom, and, by honest toil, and good management, he secured a competence. He was a very thorough farmer, and raised excellent crops of corn, rye, and other grains. He also gave much attention to the raising of cattle, in which he was very successful. He was a man of excellent judgment and of good executive ability. He was called by his townsmen to fill several different offices of trust among which was that of supervisor in the years 1845 and 1846. He belonged to the whig party, and upon the formation of the republicans as a party he identified himself very heartily with them. In the evening of his life he retired to a cosey home in the valley of the Katskill, where he died June 4th, 1883, having reached four score and six years. His wife preceded him to the "silent land" by several years. He was a noble old man. He retained his mental faculties wonderfully, was very friendly and cheery in his ways, had a pleasant word for all, and his death created a vacancy which was felt by all. His family consisted of seven children, three of whom are deceased. One son, Vactor, is a railroad mechanic in Cleveland, Ohio; Luman resides at Saratoga Springs; while the remaining two, Ransom and Jerusha, are residents of this town.
Anson P. Wright
Anson P. Wright was born on the farm now owned by Mrs. Silas Wright in the town of Durham, New York, January 30th 1792. He was a representative man of that large family, who were among the first settlers of Wright Street, and from them this particular locality received its name.
George Wright and George Wright Jr., the grandfather and the father of Anson P. were natives of Connecticut. George Jr. was a musician in the Revolutionary war. His wife, Betsey Post, lived to the great age of 95 years and 10 months. They had seven children. Anson P. was the second son and child. He was married, April 27th 1815, to Miss Abbie, youngest daughter of Job Pierce, who also was a native of Connecticut. His wife, Hannah, was a daughter of Colonel William Bullock, of Connecticut, and died at the age of 94 years and 8 months.
Anson P. Wright and Abbie, his wife had a family of nine children, six sons and three daughters, all of whom were married, but like the other descendants of George Wright, as well as the descendants of many of the early settlers of this town, they are very much scattered, and may be found living in nearly every State of the Union. Mr. Wright was a man of good judgment, honest and industrious, and was much respected. He died at the place of his birth, April 27th 1866, aged 74 years. Abbie, his wife, died October 15th 1882, aged 90 years.
Bradford Wright and Anson B. Wright, sons of Anson P. Wright, are excellent farmers and are greatly respected in the town. The offices of superintendent of schools and commissioner of highways are among the positions of trust which they have successfully occupied.
"Uncle" Barney Butts, as he was widely known, was born in the town of Windham, now Jewett, one mile south of Hensonville, early in the year 1799. He removed from the place of his birth to the Sherman farm, near the Jennie Notch, in the town of Windham. After residing there, and at several other places in the immediate vicinity, he built what is now the Summit House, owned and occupied by Abbott Lamoreau, his son-in-law, at which place he resided for 35 years. Mr. Butts was a man of strong physical build, and was a descendant of a family noted for their longevity, both his parents having attained the age of 100 years. He was a noted hunter and trapper, and was familiarly spoken of as Barney Butts, the bear hunter, he having captured over 100 black bears. During the summer of 1882, he had three bears in captivity; these were chained in the rear of the Summit House, and were quite an attraction to city guests. During the fall, while Mr. Butts was confined to the house by sickness, two of the bears escaped, having broken their chains during the night. One had been in captivity about four years, and had become so tame, that it would take an apple from Mr. Butts’ teeth, or put its arms about his neck and kiss him. This bear was killed near Round Top, about two months after its escape. Uncle Barney was the owner of a horse, which he always rode on his hunting trips. Fences, ditches, or fallen trees were no obstacles in his way. In his 80th year, Mr. Butts ascended High Peak on hunting excursions.
About 10 years ago, while covering a trap with leaves, he accidentally sprung it, and its sharp spikes passed through his hand, holding him fast. This would, no doubt, discourage a man with ordinary pluck, but he, with no assistance, after a painful effort, removed his hand from the trap and walked home, where a surgeon was summoned and the wound dressed. He has often captured three bears in a single day, having tracked them to their dens. The number of wild cats which can trace the cause of their demise to his hands would be nearly as large as the number of bears. The last wolf ever exhibited alive in Windham was about 50 years ago, by Barney Butts. One morning, while he lived in Jennie Notch, he started after his horses in the lot, and, when he returned, he had two wolves. He also found and cut over 500 bee trees. He had always lived within a radius of six miles of where he died, hence he was well known, not only to the residents of this and neighboring counties, but by all who had ever visited the Catskill Mountains. The history of these mountains was as familiar to him as to any historian who ever attempted to describe them by pen. Although studying the habits of the savage denizens of the forests, he never neglected his duty to his fellow men, as his genial nature, kind hospitality, and never-failing generosity will attest in the remarks of gratitude to the acts of his life by his neighbors and acquaintances.
Mr. S. E. Warner, associate editor of the Christian Weekly, says: "If I had the fortune to share his (Barney Butts’) experience, or could put on paper the vivid account of his adventures, I could safely challenge any one to go beyond me in the record of what I know about bears."
Mr. Butts was not only a successful hunter, but he was famed, far and wide, as a skillful landlord.
October 11th 1827, he married Miss Eleanor Loomis, and by this union had four children: Elizabeth C., Isaac C., Newell J., and Mary J. All but Newell are living. Isaac and Mary (Mrs. A. Lamoreau) reside on the old homestead.
Mrs. Butts was born in the town of Durham, now East Windham, July 4th 1804, and died June 1st 1874.
Barney Butts died December 14th, 1882.