Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men
J.B. Beers and Co.
by Elwin C. Holton
Transcribed by Dianne Schnettler, Arlene Goodwin and Annette Campbell
The precise number of years that have rolled by since the stillness of the unbroken forests of what is now Lexington, was startled by the clangor of an ax in a strong man’s hands, is not and can never be known. As to whether he came to this point with the specific purpose of building for himself a home and a cabin, the oldest traditions are silent; in fact they reach not back to that day, when the clangor of that unknown woodman’s ax rang out wild and clear, as he boldly sought the heart of some brave old tree that had stood the storms of a hundred years. And as it crashed headlong to the earth, the initial act to a lasting community had been struck. As the clangor of that ax openly defied the savage inhabitants, so its clangor proclaimed as a herald in the war of races a grand position of bravery and independence. Wearied with his first day’s toil, the camp-fire was kindled, the rude evening meal prepared, and he laid himself down upon the earth to sleep, and perchance to dream of the future prosperity of his undertaking – air-castles, as they would seem to him. And whether he, like many another intrepid discoverer, pioneer, and found, in the shadow of his camp-fire, alone with nature and nature’s God in that great forest, formally kneeled down that first night and offered up a fervent prayer for protection through its lonely one, for a blessing, and for the success of his undertaking, can be but conjectural; but there must have been in his heart a calm and unshaken trust that the guardian care of kind Providence was around about him, for this was a singularly marked characteristic of our fathers. Their stern faith in an overruling hand, has long presented a broad contrast to the hesitating belief of their children. All honor to that woodman, and may these few lines be his monument, though his grave be unmarked or his ashes as scattered as those of this first camp-fire. Could he now step from his silent grave, with what wondering awe would he gaze upon the scenes that now meet the vision! In imagination we see him coming – in fancy’s ear we hear his solemn tread. Slowly he comes, as seeking for the old familiar pathways – he is gazing upon the forms of the passers-by; the old familiar faces, where are they? the forest, the trails, the cabins, where are they? with a mournful shake of the head he turns away. Alas! too many have gone, and gone forever; and strange forms, strange sights, and strange customs have taken their places, and with a wearied, disappointed look, he goes back to his dreamless bed. Sleep on, thou unknown, sleep quietly. It may be that some day these strangers whom you pioneered to these highlands, will gather about your humble grave and erect some fitting monument telling to coming generations where you are sleeping the “dreamless sleep.”
A wondrous change has indeed come since that day. What was then the wild unbroken wilderness, is now the smiling homes of hundreds, blest with all that makes home life joyous and bright. Villages have sprung into existence; churches point their spires heavenward; the school-house is to be seen here and there, and the sweet laugh of the merry-hearted children floats like music upon the breeze; the hum of traffic, though in part a sound of the past, is still to be heard; the summer season brings hundreds of pleasure seekers. And it is well for the world’s development that man is a creature of change, that he is never satisfied with the present, but is always struggling for better things in the future.
Nor has the physical earth alone changed. In the social, moral, and civil aspect, it has yielded to an irresistible and perhaps lamentable tide of an onward progress. In those primitive days, a broad humanity, like golden sunshine, rested upon this community. The kindly sympathies of the human heart held full sway. If it was not an age of mind-education, it was one of heart. If misfortunes came sudden, swift, and sure, warm hearts and strong hands came unasked, to sympathize and assist. Then the latch string was always hung on the outside of the batten door; if a neighbor’s house took fire and burned up they came for miles around and built him another; if members of families sickened and died, whole neighborhoods came with solemn tread, and followed them to the rude, unfenced graveyard; and although the dead were placed in rough unplaned hemlock coffins, yet weeping friends, with their own hands, bore the loved ones and laid them in their graves, and with uncovered heads, stood around until friendly hands had heaped the little mound above where the silent forms were laid. Now how changed. Is it all for the better? this plunging into the busy whirl of life at the first rumble of a clod upon the coffin lid? this leaving of the unfortunate victim of a house consumed by fire to the tender mercies of the insurance agent? this pulling the latch string in and bolting the paneled door securely on the inside to all? Although in a physical sense we have changed for the better, it seems that a warmer grasp of the hand should be given; a closer fraternity among neighborhoods should be exercised. And yet Lexington, as a town, is probably as “neighborly” and social, generous and thoughtful, as one can find in these progressive days.
them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care;
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
“Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrows oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield;
How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke.”
Organization of the Town
Lexington was taken from old Windham, January 25th 1813. The following is the text of the act erecting the new town, then called New Goshen, after the town of that name in Connecticut, from which many of the early settlers came:
“And that all the remaining part of said town of Windham shall be erected into a separate town by the name of New Goshen, and that the first town meeting in the said town of New Goshen shall be held at the house of Abel Holcomb, in said town.”
This act was passed at the general session of the Legislature of 1813, and is the closing clause of the act erecting Hunter (or Greenland), and went into effect April 1st 1813. Acts have subsequently been enacted erecting from Lexington, the present town of Halcott, and its proportion of Jewett.
Lexington embraces nearly the whole of what was Great Lot No. 22, and a portion of Lot 21, owned by Robert Livingston, who, as early as 1777, was leasing its sub-lots. One lease is still in existence; that given by him to John Darling, who conveyed the same to the Kips, in whose hands it yet remains. This lease was a life lease, and for an annual rent of a few pints of wheat, to be paid at Albany. It was witnessed by John Maben and Richard Peck. Its boundary trees are yet standing, with their marks discernible.
Lexington lies in the southwestern part of the of the Catskill region, a greater portion of it being high up on the mountains and table-lands. It is bounded on the north by Jewett, Ashland and Prattsville; on the east by Jewett and Hunter; on the south by Ulster county; and on the west by Prattsville and Halcott. This region is divided into two separate and distinct valleys; both running through the mountains – in one instance across the county – one being the famous Schoharie, and the other, that of the West Kill, which has its source far up among the peaks bordering the west side of Stony Clove. For more than 11 miles this stream flows in a northwesterly direction at the base of these mountains, until it mingles its waters with those of the Schoharie Kill, just below Lexington village. There is a range of mountains whose trend is west,, which at Lexington divides the two valleys, and some points of which attain an altitude of more than 2,000 feet. These peaks or elevations, above the general altitude of the range, bear the names of Big West Kill Mountain, 3,900 feet; St. Ann’s Peak, 3,890; North Dome, 3,400; Eagle Mountain, Sleeping Lion, or Lion’s Head, Blue Bell, etc.
There is also a grand swell of land to the west, dividing the valley of the West Kill from Halcott and the Little West Kill, which terminates at Vly Mountain, sometimes called Angle’s Peak, 3,800 feet above mean tide level. The range of mountains forming the southern bounds of the Schoharie valley, and the high swelling lands forming the eastern side terminating near the Prattsville and Jewett lines; the mountain spur running westerly forming the southern side of West Kill valley; and the western range forming the Vly and Beach Ridge, give Lexington some of the grandest scenery to be found among the Catskills. Along the course of the Schoharie, traces of the Indians are still to be found, and the sites of their villages were discernible in the early days. They were never troublesome, however, in this immediate vicinity. They were quite so further to the westward, by reason of which, it is said, the early settlers were for many years deterred from pushing on to their lands. This country where the wild Indian pitched his wigwam, and through which his trails led from the eastern cloves, westward along the Schoharie Kill to the watershed of this creek and the Delaware, and on to Fort Niagara, over which the captives of the lower counties were led to captivity, torture, or death, is now a pastoral community which a quiet prosperity has long since made happy. Even high upon these towering ramparts that stand, silent sentinels in the friendly shelter of the wind protecting forest of knotted, knurled, and twisted trees; on these hills, standing like guards over many a pleasant home, will be found one of the main industries of the town, that of dairying. As many as 65 cows each are kept by some of the more ambitious dairymen, who use modern facilities, such as coolers, power-churns (by sweeps for ponies; tread-mills for dogs and sheep), butter workers, etc.
There are two small valleys in the south part of this region, of slight area, but they properly belong to Ulster division.
The geological formation is similar to that of the rest of the Catskills – wholly sedimentary, rock-capped with concrete. Near Lexington Flats is an extensive bed of fossilized plants and timber, in a very perfect condition. Mingled through it is a considerable amount of iron pyrites. This deposit underlies a large part of the town and crops out again near the southern part of Deep Notch, where there are several extensive quarries of flagging stone.
Deep Notch, variously called Bush Kill Clove, Echo Notch, etc, is the pass, or clove, or gap, that leads through the range of mountains whose trend is westerly and northwesterly of West Kill village and valley. The main notch is some three miles in length from its northern portals. The ascent is quite abrupt from the valley, and another sharp grade is encountered till the summit is reached. It is the work of those great convulsions of the earth that piled these mountains thousands of feet high, range on range, peak above peak to appear as an anomaly to the region about, and which rent the mountains in twain, forming the several great gaps, the natural highways to these in-mountains valleys. On its westerly face it has walls 1,000 feet in height, that are almost perpendicular. This sheer cliff extends for a considerable distance. Its base is deeply covered with the debris of rock that the gigantic and terrible force of the slow moving glacier ground off, and that the frosts, snows, and time have continually worn away for the battling cliffs. Above this lengthy cliff or shelf, it has been somewhat modified by this glacial action. As the glacial boulders are often seen among the debris which lies strewn along its base. The northern side is covered with a forest of birches, and is abrupt in its outlines, though not quite perpendicular. It is evident that these two sides come to a sharp point at the bottom, the debris from which has filled them to the present depth. Taken as a whole, it presents one of the grandest of passes. Where it begins to widen out, and soil is seen, and on a site wide enough for building purposes between the highway and the mountains, resides Colonel Clagstone, last commander of the 21st Missouri infantry, a gentleman of much culture, refinement, and ability, who has made Echo Notch his home for years. Here can be seen Nature in her wildest and grandest effects, through which the wild storms of the winter rage in their fury. The notch grows slightly wider as it slopes southward toward that entrance, and a few houses are encountered as the traveler passes along toward Bushnellsville. One in particular, a log hut about 12 feet square, shelters a family of nine. The head of the house is totally blind, and it is affirmed by those who should know, that he destroyed his eyesight so as to come within the rank of disabled citizens, during the days of the late civil strife. Still further down this pass was once a small tanning village, but to-day there remains but little of where Captain Aaron Bushnell first settled, from whom it was named. Through this notch runs one of the best stocked trout streams, especially at its southern terminus, with its tributaries at this point. A fine chance for geological research is to be found about its entire course, as the upper strata are cut through in the pass.
According to a map drafted by John Wigram, of Woodstock, in 1810, from surveys made that year of Sub-lot 21 of the Great Patent, we find the Schoharie Kill marked a meandering through or dividing the following men’s property, commencing on the south bank at the east line: John Maben, Samuel Peck jr., Derrick L. Schermerhorn (who came to America from Germany along with Showers, Hess, Swap, and Bronson, prior to 1800), Lambert Van Valkenburgh, Peter Van Valkenburgh,; on the north side from the east, John Maben, 86 ½ acres; to his north, Robert Van Valkenburgh and Robert Thompson; south, Abraham Van Valkenburgh; 100 acres; north of him, William Faulkner; north again, James Latham and John Mills; south again, Isaac Van Valkenburgh, 90 acres; north of him Jeremiah Barber and John Frint; south again, Benjamin Chamberlain, 80 acres; south, Weeks Rowley, who leased to James Camp 40 acres, to James Pixley 62 ½ acres; south of Rowley, Edger Barnum; north, Caleb Elmore, 66 ¼ acres; south again Hezekiah Pettit, 86 acres; south again, leased to John Darling (1810), Benjamin Kip, and now (1883) Isaac Kip (leased as early as 1777 by Robert Livingston). Lambert Van Valkenburgh, Eder Barnum, and H. Pettit owned the lands adjoining the confluence of the Big West Kill and the Schoharie Kill.
The old farms on the heights north of Lexington Flats were for many years designated by the name of Barber Town, from two families who were long residents there, though they were not the first lessees of these sub-divisions of Great Lot No. 21. Among the first of these was a man named Miller. He was not long a resident, however, but soon sold his right to Collins Edwards, who sold to William Chamberlain, a blacksmith, who, it is said, built the first forge in the town; and he to Jeremiah Barber. The latter gentleman, in 1812, sold his lease-right to a new and poor comer, Josiah Clawson—a hard-working, sterling-hearted man, who came into these mountains with his wife Peggy form Claverack, where he had resided some 10 years. Other families in this highland community were originally from Canaan, Columbia, county, New York. These were the two brothers, Joel and Jonathan Ford; the Pettit brothers; and John Valentine. In the near vicinity was David Foster, a Revolutionary war hero; and in another direction William Streeter, an Englishman, and a sturdy pioneer. William Chamberlain, after selling his lease-right to Jeremiah Barber, did no move from the neighborhood, but with his brother Lewis, also a blacksmith, continued to clear his land and to improve the clearings. Log houses and out buildings of the same primitive material furnished shelter for the family and their live stock, and the weird and mournful howling of the numerous wolves was the annoying and unwelcome music of the nights. At this date there was an abundance of wild game to be had for the hunting, upon which the pioneers largely depended for their winter’s provision supplies.
only survivor of these early days, now a resident of this vicinity is Jacob A.
For a period of 72 years, Mr. Clawson has been a resident of this highland farm, and his reminiscences of the early days have often furnished the present generation with vivid pictures of the pioneer life. Fire arms and ammunition were scarce. And hence until a comparatively recent day, wild cats, panthers, wolves, bears, and other wild animals, common to early North American forest, were to numerous for the security and comfort of the settlers. The flint-lock musket that the elder Clawson brought with him from Claverack, a souvenir of the Revolutionary war days, is still in good repair at the homestead, and is yet used by a great-grandson in the neighboring shooting matches. More than one panther, wolverine, wolf, and bear, has succumbed to its death-dealing bullet, though, like other flint-locks, it often took several attempts before a discharge could be effected, owing to the coarseness of the powder. With this same gun, Jacob A. killed a large wolverine in a neighboring swamp, whose skin was on exhibition at Hudson for a long time thereafter.
How little are the hardships and toil of these pioneer yeomen, at their log rollings wall buildings, road layings, and all other discouraging experiences, realized by the people of this day, Josiah Clawson, and his son, Jacob, were god-fearing men, plain and unassuming; through long lives they acted most thoroughly the principles of the golden rule
Remembering the instinct implanted in the human breast, which yearns to know something of by-gone days; something of the source from which they and the objects of their affections were derived, something of the features of the fathers of the community, we say, in lieu of such a mark of respect, for the benefit of their posterity, that they, in reading these lines, whether it be this year or after 500 have rolled along, may know that at this age these fathers were honorable men, wise in their judgment, kindly in their manner, industrious and frugal.
The chief interest of this vicinity to-day is that of dairying, which is carried on quite extensively, and the more modern appliances in its production are generally used. The soil is a yellow loam, made up of debris of the glacial period, and is moderately fertile. The rocky formation is of a sedimentary character, and is almost free of traces of the old red sandstone formation. It contains many fossil plants in its layers or strata.
Among the early settlers were some who were Leather Stockings, and had Cooper, the great delineator of frontier life, touched upon them with his magic pencil, the world would have had no mean contemporaries of the conscientious, but brave, daring, and nature-loving Natty Bump, in Henry Cline, Elisha Pelham, and Aaron Dunham, whose love of Nature in all of her varied primeval aspects, and whose intrepidity with panthers, wolf, and bear, were the wonder of even that pioneer age, the stories of which, could they now appear on the printed page, would fill volumes, proving truth stranger that fiction. This will apply to the following pioneer families as well.
Beach Ridge, in Lexington, is a portion of the town lying on the highlands, between Lexington Flats and West Kill village, and to the westward. It is a high, rolling tract, partly on the mountain range which divides the town from Halcott, and where it reaches an altitude of 3,800 feet at the summit, called by some Vly Mountain, and by others Angle’s Peak, named for one of the first settlers of this ridge, Daniel Angle. He was one of the Brunswick or Hessian soldiers, who, under Baron Riedesel, served in Burgoyne’s army, and was captured with the army at Saratoga. He, however, soon enlisted in the American service, and was honorably discharged from the same at the cessation of hostilities, and was afterward granted a pension for his services. The monument over his grave in the Angle homestead burial ground records his age at 107 years. For many years he was a member of the Dutch Reformed church. His second son, Christopher, long and favorably known as one of Lexington’s representative men, lived upon the homestead. He married, in 1828, Miss Amy Frint. He saw service in the war of 1812 under McComb at Plattsburgh, and was afterward captain of the Lexington artillery company. With the elder Angle was Darius Briggs, a man of a strong and marked character. Also Dr. Eder Branum and Benjamin Derry were residents of Beach Ridge, and on its southern slope were Robert Maben and Henry Cline. The latter was of the same nationality as Daniel Angle, and passed through the same career as a Revolutionary soldier. He was a great hunter, and also one of the bitterest opposers to the Tory element, and gave but little peace to this class of settlers, as he considered them outlaws who should have been banished beyond the pale of civilization; one in particular, who was credited with a number of outrageous acts in the neighborhood, as well as war crimes, and for whom he evinced an especial antipathy. Another of this community was Elihu Humphrey, a native of Simsbury, Connecticut, whose homestead is now occupied by his son, Eli. He (Eli) has at times officiated as local Baptist preacher.
This ridge seems to have been a great stomping ground for wolves, and the descendants of the early families claim that their cabins were more than once surrounded by these fierce brutes, and that it was not uncommon to be followed home by them, if out after nightfall. An incident illustrative of these precarious days was related by Eli Humphrey, wherein a neighbor, undertaking to cross the Schoharie Kill near the mouth of the West Kill to attend to some cattle that were running at large in the woods, happened to cast his eyes to the limbs of the tree that he was under, and beheld a large panther closely watching him with an intent to spring. Not daring to stir lest it should incite the unerring leap of the ferocious animal, he called loudly for help, the noise tending to delay the movements of the animal. Fortunately Henry Cline was within hearing distance, and his steady arm and perfect aim dropped the animal dead at Mr. Peck’s feet, who, however, from excitement, chopped it with his axe before he realized that the beast’s career had been ended by Cline’s bullet.
Peter Van Valkenburgh, another historic character of this vicinity, came from Chatham, Columbia county, and settled at first between the two villages, where he carried on blacksmithing until he moved to the Ridge, on the farm which he bought, cleared, and where he raised his family. He passed over sixty years of his life here, and had many adventures with these animals.
Mrs. John Sharpe, the only surviving daughter, and one of the oldest of the living pioneers, states that when she was 15 years of age in company with her younger brother, she started as usual after the cows, which were at quite a distance from their home. Trout were numerous in the kills, and afforded the family considerable aid in the line of supplies, and it was their custom to carry their fishing tackle with them, angling for a mess before returning with the cows. Upon this occasion they were accompanied by the house dog, a large and powerful animal. They had proceeded by a short distance when she noticed some strange actions on the dog’s part, as if the were watching something on the opposite bank, and looking closely into the bushes there, she discovered a huge “painter.” With more than average female courage she signaled her brother, informed him of the facts, and told him their safety lay in quietly working their way homeward. And thus this trying march commenced, “we on one side of the stream, the panther closely following on the other,” each intently watching the other. As they neared the house and its clearing, the animal, seemingly thinking that he was to be cheated out of his prey, began one of those piercing screams that would always unstring the nerves of the strongest. These screams brought the family to the door, whose commotion was so great that the panther seemed partially frightened, and the dog, taking courage, started in hot pursuit and drove him up a tree, but as no fire arms of sufficient caliber were in their possession, they allowed him to escape. This was not her last experience, however, with these animals. Another, more startling still, happened to her after her marriage.
In those days the women were not ashamed to do their portion of the farm work and its chores. They believed in this sort of women’s rights—their right to aid their husbands to establish a home. On this occasion, Mrs. Sharp was in search of the cows, about a mile and a half form their cabin, carrying in her arms a child which weighted 25 pounds. It had been a long search, the bells about the cows’ necks had not been heard, and night was fast coming on. Knowing that they could not be far off, she laid the child at the foot of a tree, and walked up another partly fallen one to gain a point of sight. In this position she heard a cry in the distance, which she supposed to be that of some neighbor, and answered it; but the second cry at once told its own terrible import, and, hurriedly descending, she grasped the child and started on a run for her home. She had proceeded but a few rods when an enormous panther came jumping from tree-top to tree-top, making the woods ring with his blood chilling cries. Grasping anew her baby, with a mother’s desperation she began her fearful run for life. Accompanying her was a small dog of no value as a protection, “seeming even more frightened than myself.” As she reached the fence enclosing the clearing, she saw the animal crouching in a tree hard by, lashing its sides with a nervous fierceness. How she climbed the rails with her child, and crossed the clearing, and the threshold of the cabin, and bolted its rude, heavy door, remained and does yet a blank mystery. The animal, like some baffled fiend, raged around the outside for hours, making the air ring for miles with his infernal din of disappointment, and a neighbor living a long way distant, hearing the yells, came to her relief, rifle in hand, but the panther, evidently mistrusting mischief, kept out of his range, and the man, not desiring too close an acquaintance, deemed it very hazardous to attack it alone. This panther kept them in siege during the entire night, and the neighborhood in fear for three months, and was not killed in that vicinity.
There were many more “hair breadth escapes,” though space can be found for but one of the closest of them, which is worthy this place in the annals of the town.
The local pastor of the Baptist church, Hezekiah Pettit, was also somewhat of a dealer in live stock, and often had occasion to cross the Vly Mountain, into what is now Halcott. Becoming belated one night, and there being no stopping place but at the notorious “Tory Crystler’s “ cabin, he determined to recross to the West Kill valley, though the road was little more than a rude sledding path, over which locomotion was always difficult, even at noonday. When nearing the eastern slope, which is very steep — abruptly descending over 2,000 feet within a distance of a mile and a half—one of the largest of these animals came bounding through the trees and underbrush at an alarming rate. The elder, realizing that his only hope of life was in the speed of his good horse, twisted his hands in his mane and urged him down this dangerous descent at an alarmingly reckless gallop, and the horse, as frightened as his rider, plunged on and down, over stumps, and knolls, and logs, and stones, stumbling here and there, followed closely by the screaming panther. It was a fearful, blood curdling ride, and more so by reason of the forest darkness. Miraculously, he reached the cabin of some settler safely, but it took brands of fire to keep the animal from the yard while the horse was being hurried to the shed.
Another early settler coming over the same road was driven by a band of wolves to seek shelter with Crystler. Upon these animals a county bounty for $40 was given, and this, together with the with the town bounty of $10, was such an inducement, that the settlers made a business, in the late fall, of exterminating them, and with financial success. The fence between the woolen-mill at the Flats and Squire Jake C. Van Valkenburgh’s has been ornamented with hundreds of wolves’ noses, the guarantee for the bounty paid.
It is claimed that a surveyor named Miles, living at Jewett Heights, finding that a number of settlers on this ridge had defective deeds to their farms, procured the proper titles, and proceeded to expel them; and his name is yet a by-word of contempt among the inhabitants of this neighborhood. Among those ejected was James Cole, who had a contract for the deed of the property, and whose wife by perseverance succeeded in growing many fruit trees, some of which are yet standing. Others in the West Kill valley were forced to abandon their improved farms for unimproved, losing their word and payments, or pay the second time for what they believed they owned.
The Ridge to-day has an active working population. Dairying and maple sugar manufacturing in its season are the principal occupations. Among the wide awake men of these heights are John Roraback, A. H. Decker, John Bonesteel, and James Deyoe. It is grandly adapted to the demands of the summer city guests, with its bold panorama of mountains to the north and east, and no visitor to Lexington should let a visit pass by without feasting his eyes on the picturesque beauties which meet one’s vision from the Angle neighborhood.
The present village of Lexington, locally called the Flats, is considerably further down the stream than the original settlement. This was first located near the site of what was the Bray Tannery, which was abandoned many years ago, razed to the ground a few years later, have all disappeared but one weather beaten house. The dam has also disappeared, the abutments alone remaining to tell the tale.
This tannery was built by John Bray about the year 1819, and was quite an extensive establishment. He afterward added a grist-mill and saw-mill. He employed a large number of workmen, both in the tannery and in the bark woods, and this made a market for the surrounding country, the residents of which were not slow to seek thereby their scant amount of ready cash. This business was subsequently carried on by Ogden Edwards, and finally, through some financial embarrassments, passed into control of Burr & Thompson. In this village was also a store and post-office established by a son-in-law of Mr. Bray. The site of this vanished hamlet is now the property of Barnard O’Hara Esq.
In the year 1823 a dam was thrown across the Schoharie Kill below this upper one and just above the present bridge, the site of which is yet to be seen. This was built by Bruce Smith, who also built a second grist-mill, to which he added a small distillery. At this point, Derrick Schermerhorn established the first woolen-mill for dressing home-spun cloths. Here he colored, dressed and pressed the woolen and linen cloths; the pressed, cloths for the women, the fulled for the men. At this point potash was also manufactured. This man Schermerhorn was man of gigantic size and strength, weighing some 300 pounds. He also built the first forge in the place. The first grist-mill was built in 1792 by Thaddeus Bronson, about one and one-half miles above the present village. Richard Peck is said to have kept the first inn.
The village of Lexington as it is now located, is divided by the Schoharie Kill into two parts, which are connected by a substantial iron bridge of the Whipple patent. This bridge is 180 feet in length, of one span, and was built in 1870, at a cost of $9,000. In early days the steam was forded for many years. The stream in summer is always exceedingly low, evaporation seeming to keep in check the waters of the numerous mountain tributaries which flow through the colder and sunless ravines and forests.
There are three churches now in the village, two Baptist and one Methodist; two well kept and well stocked stores; two hotels; and some six or more summer boarding houses, and many private residences. The public school building is some distance from the center, and is no particular honor to the district.
The village cemetery is located on the first settled land of the region, northwest of the tannery site, on land formerly owned by John Maben, who settled in the town as early as 1777. It is very carefully kept, and surrounded by a neat and substantial wall. Many fine granite monuments have been erected, some of which are of imposing proportions, one of which is of mountain sandstone, and bears upon its base the name of Faulkner. Another has the name of Van Valkenburgh chiseled in full, round letters. The names Maben, Kipp, Clawson, La Mont, Ford, Thompson, Hogaboom, Cross, and Pettit are to be found upon numerous tablets. About the oldest date is that of 1812. A few of the bodies lying here were first interred on the flats, nearer the river and the first settlement; they were removed as a precaution against their being washed bare by the spring waters of the Schoharie. There are many older graves in the yard, but they are either unmarked, or the headstones are without dates.
Among the live, wide-awake men of to-day are Captain J. Munroe Van Valkenburgh, Barnard O’Hara, Edgar and George O’Hara, Dr. E. L. Ford, William Martin, Robert Faulkner, Captain Jacob Hogaboom, John P. Van Valkenburgh, Isaac Kipp, and Herbert his son, and last but not least “Uncle Dave” (David Ford), who is known from one end of the county to the other; for no merry-making hereabouts is considered complete without his presence. With uplifted bow, and flowing white locks, he enters into the spirit of the scene, singing the changes to the various quadrilles in his musical falsetto voice, or with closed eyes, as he bows off the jigs and contra-dances, passing remarks to himself of the ability of the dancers before him. This is also the home of George H. Hastings, well known as a newspaper correspondent under the nom de plume of Harry Howe, and who is not without literary genius and talent.
Of the hundreds of summer boarding houses and hotels located in and about the county, but very few can compare with Lexington’s O’Hara House as a mid-summer visiting spot, in which to recreate and revive the exhausted strength, and to quicken the malaria stricken spirits. The climate of this charming and picturesque mountain hamlet is highly salubrious, malaria and mosquitoes being unknown. The landscape touches warmly upon the pastoral in all it s quaint and quiet beauty; and the lover of Nature in this form, can in this immediate vicinity, go forth and commune with her visible forms in which she has “a smile and eloquence of beauty” for his gayer hours, and a fitting language for all his varying moods. At but a short distance from this hamlet, Nature, in her grand forms of mountain sublimity—towering cliffs, passes, gorges, and amphitheaters—attracts the attention of the geological student. From the valleys, looking up if he be acquainted with the theories of Leibntz, Hooke, Ray, Vallisneri, Moro, Buffon, Lehan, Fuchsel, Hutton, Lyell, Werner, Smith, Agassiz, Dana, and other geologists eminent as theorists, he will become enwrapped, studying the physical aspect presented. These grand old mountains were one group of the few islands that rose above the level of the mighty continental seas, previous to Palecozoic time. Their shores have been washed by the waves of countless ages before the undermost strata of the lower Silurian were deposited upon them, entombing and preserving many of the Trilobites, Brachiopods, and other curious crustacean in habitants and mollusks of that vast ocean. In the stromatology given in the usual diagram, treating of the physical history of the globe, that of the Hudson River is found only third from the lowest of the strata, and the various subdivisions which compose the crust, their order of division in geological time, forms of animal and vegetable life, can all be studied from this point with accuracy and interest, for below this lower Caradoc lies only the Potsdam sandstone and the lime rocks of the Trenton period. This one marked the shore line, so to speak, of the ancient islands, and though broken and interrupted, enough of it still remains to afford tantalizing glimpses of the life of that time, torn pages of the fragmentary chapters that constitute but a half told story to excite imagination and regret. The followers of Van Linne can here find the most satisfactory of botanizing excursions. To those who come to the mountains for pleasure and recreation only, this mountain hamlet affords the healthiest of tramps, among which that to the Vly, Eagle, St. Ann’s Peak and West Kill Mountain are the most delightful. The purling waters of the Schoharie, the meadows, and the evergreen woods, afford delights for the angler; and the pond below the bridge the best of boating privileges. All in all, the spot is indeed charming, and the Lexington people can well be proud of their attractions and their O’Hara House. It is so arranged that every room connects, and is an outside room; and form the lower to the upper stories nothing but solid black walnut furniture graces the apartments. To say that it is expensively built and superbly furnished, is but a fair statement. At this point telegraph and money order offices are to be found, and its central location renders it a most desirable stopping place.
The Baptist Churches
The Old School Baptist church of Lexington is the pioneer society of the region, having been organized as the church of Windham, the result of a council that was convened October 25th 1790 by the Baptist churches then included in the Rensselaerville Association. Among the delegates to this council were Elder Hervey, from the church at Freehold, and Joseph Arnold, William Warren and others from the church at Stamford. This council agreed that it was necessary that a church should be organized at Lexington, and the records show that this was done with much solemnity, October 25th 1790. Elder Warren, of Stamford, preached on this occasion from the text “In whom ye have builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” The first elder placed in charge was Thaddeus Bronson with Derrick Schermerhorn as first church clerk. He was followed by Jerome Barber in 1801; he, by Amos Pettit. Their records show that Elder Hezekiah Pettit was preaching a portion of the time, in 1801, and that permission was soon granted him to officiate alternately between the Flats and the Heights—now Jewett. He held the pastorate over this church for 50 years, and under his care it is said to have had a very prosperous career. Some of the records show that the old Adam spirit was not wholly extinct in the early days, and that even deacons became angry. An instance upon these books depicts how this was developed. The first clerk above mentioned was also a deacon, who, once losing his temper at an insult, took the law into his own hands and deliberately knocked his opponent down. Upon complaint he made a confession of repentance to the church, and was re-instated. The charter members of this church were recorded as follows: Thaddeus Bronson, Adanijah Ford, Daniel Gregory, Elijah Moore, Nehemiah Roswell, Jesse Whitcomb, Hezekiah Pettit, Sarah Bronson, Mary Moore, Rhoda Peck, Elizabeth Cornish, Annie Bushnell, and Amos Whitcomb. Many who soon after joined were long well known individuals, who were town officers many years, and whose names appear in their proper place in these annal. This church was evidently the arbitrator in a great many instances, if its records are correct, where now the courts would be the resort of the plaintiff. Like the old Connecticut days, the church was the court, the elder the judge, and stern justice was meted out to any delinquent who was complained of at this tribunal, and the pages are full of confessions and promises by those who through wisdom had owned up to their shortcomings. This church continued to be the leading one until 1827, when through differences it was divided. At present there are three of this denomination in the town. Its pastors have been: Hezekiah Pettit, and English gentleman named Simpson, Joseph L Perrington, Harvey Allen, Samuel Moore, and Israel B Whitcomb. (Photo courtesy of Pam Moore Leitt. The church was destroyed by fire in 1940)
By the records
of the “New School” Baptist Church at Lexington village it is found to have been
organized July 19th 1870, and that by a resolution it was denominated
“The Regular Baptist Church,” and that it was received into the Hudson River
Baptist Association August 31st 1870. The organization took place in
what was the old arsenal of the town in militia days. Jacob Hogaboom was chosen
chairman of the meeting; John H. Miller, Eber Clawson, Daniel C. Deyoe, Dennis
Hubbard, William Van Valkenbugh, and Jonathan Ford, were chosen its trustees,
and A. J. Briggs, clerk. A suiatble church edifice was soon erected which adds
much to the pleasant appearance of its picturesque village. Thus far it has had
very prosperous history. Its pastors have been Rev. Leonard Cox, H. Haines, John
D. Flansburg, and J. B. Van Houten, present pastor.
Methodist Episcopal Church
Though the Methodist Episcopal society was organized previous to 1845, they had no dedicated place of worship. The class numbering fifty members, the necessity of a more appropriate place of worship was felt and a suitable building was soon erected, Rev. Smith Hubbard preaching the dedication sermon October 14th 1845. Of this class, but Elizabeth Martin, Chauncey Williams and wife survive. Itinerant circuit riders were the only clergymen who at first officiated.
As may readily be supposed, the accommodation of the earliest schools were not good. Sometimes schools were taught in a room of a large double log cabin, but oftener in a log house build for the purpose. Stoves and such heating apparatus as are now used were then unknown. A stone and mud chimney in one end of the building, with a rough stone hearth and a fire-place deep enough to receive a six-foot back-log and smaller wood to match, served for warming purpose in winter and a kind of conservatory in summer. For windows, part of a log was cut out in two sides of the building, and perhaps a few small lights of glass set in, or the inside lighted by leaving the door open or the aperture covered over with greased paper. Writing desks consisted of a heavy plank or a slab laid upon wooden pins driven into the wall. The benches were in front of these, and the pupils, when not writing would sit with their backs against the front, sharp edge of the writing desk. The floor was also, in the earlier days, made out of split logs hewed to a level surface, which were laid upon log sleepers. Everything was rude and plain; but many of America’s greatest men have gone out from just such school-houses as these to grapple with the world, and make names for themselves as statesmen, financiers, and clergymen, and reflect honor upon their country.
Imagine such a house with the children seated around, and the teacher seated on one end of a bench, with no more desk at his hand than any other pupil, and you have in view the whole scene. The school-master has called “Books! books!” at the door, and the “scholars” have just run in almost out of breath from vigorous play, have taken their seats, and are for the moment “saying over their lessons” to themselves with all their might, that is, in as loud a whisper as possible. While they are thus engaged, the teacher is perhaps sharpening a few quill pens from a well selected stock of goose-quills plucked from a neighbor’s flock, for no other kind of writing pen had been thought of as yet. And even with these, some of the clearest lined script can be found and a marvel of clearness and neatness even in these days of commercial colleges and Spencerian schools. In a few minutes he calls up an urchin, clad in his coarse home-spun fulled woolen, to say his A B C’s; the little boy stands beside the teacher, perhaps partially leaning upon his or her lap; the teacher with pen-knife or wooden pointer points to the letter and asks what it is; the little fellow remains silent, for he does not know what to say. “A;” the teacher points to the next and asks its name; the boy is silent again; “B,” says the teacher; “B” echoes the urchin with a strong upward inflection; and so it goes through the exercise, at the conclusion of which the teacher tells the little one to go back to his seat and study his letters, and when he comes to a letter he doesn’t know, to come to him and he will tell him. He obediently goes to his seat, looks on his book a little while, and then goes trudging across the rough floor, perhaps in his bare feet, to the teacher, and points to a letter, probably outside of his lesion, that he need not study, and asks what it is. The teacher kindly tells him, and also that it is not his lesson, that he will come to that some other day, and the simple-minded little fellow then trudges, smiling as he catches the eye of some one, back to his seat, but why he smiled he has no definite idea.
To prevent wearing the scanty supply of books out at the lower corner, every pupil was expected to keep a “thumb-paper” under his thumb as he held the book; even then the books were soiled and worn out at this place in a few weeks, so that a part of many lessons were gone. It was also customary to use book pointers to point out the letters or words in study as well as in recitation. The black stem of the maiden-hair fern was a very popular material from which pointers were made.
The a-b ab scholars through with, perhaps the second or third reader class would be called, who would stand in a row in front of the teacher, “toeing the mark,” which was sometimes actually a chalk or charcoal mark drawn on the floor. Commencing at one end of the class, one would read the first “verse,” the next the second, and so on around, taking the paragraphs in the order as they occurred in the book. Whenever a pupil hesitated at a word, the teacher would pronounce it for him. Sometimes this custom of relying upon the teacher would bring out amusing blunders on the part of those pupils in the second stage of the art. Stumbling along, with book in one hand and pointer or thumb held awkwardly, bunglingly, and clumsily, at the puzzling word, he would by silence call for its name, and the teacher, seeing some urchin “cutting up: in some part of the room, would sharply call out “John!” “John” would quickly come from the pupil and he would pass to the next word until corrected; or perhaps the teacher would say, “Isaac, stop that and sit straight!” “Isaac, stop that and sit straight,” the urchin would lustily repeat, only too glad to so easily get over the lesson. This would bring out a smothered tittering all over the room. And this was called the reading lesson.
The phrase “past the pictures” had its origin in just such schools as this, which used Webster’s Elementary Spelling Book. Toward the back part of that time honored text book was a series of seven or eight pictures, illustrating morals and fables, and after these again were a few more spelling exercises of a peculiar kind. When a scholar got over into these he was said to be “past the pictures,” and was looked upon as being smarter and more learned than most people ever hoped to be. Hence, the application of this phrase came to be extended to other affairs of life, especially where scholarship was involved.
Those studying arithmetic were but little classified, and they were generally called forward singly and interviewed, or the teacher simply visited them at their seats. A lesson containing several problems would be given for the next day. Whenever the learner came to a problem he could not solve, he would go to the teacher, who would willingly and patiently, if he had time, do it for him. The majority of the scholars seldom went beyond the “rule of three,” and if a few succeeded in solving the mysteries of practice, as fractions were then called, they were indeed able to teach, but few, however, succeeded in this; and yet some mathematically inclined would get beyond this, even to proportion. This was generally foreign to the teacher’s knowledge.
In geography no wall maps were then used, no drawing required, and the studying and recitation comprised only the committing to memory, or “getting by heart,” as it was called, the names and locality of places. The recitation proceeds like this: Teacher – “Where is Norfolk?” Pupil – “In the southern part of Virginia;” Teacher – “What bay between Maryland and Virginia?” Pupil – “Chesapeake.” And then would come a long sing-song series of States with capitals of each, and the names of the principal rivers or towns, given from “heart,” and given in unison in a drawling tone.
When the hour for writing came, the time was announced by the master, and every pupil practicing this art would turn his feet over to the back of his seat, thus throwing them under the inclined slab constituting the writing desk already described, and proceed to “follow copy,” which was invariably set by the teacher, not by rule, but by as nice a stroke of the pen as he could make. The first copy for each pupil would be letters, and the second kind and last consisted of maxims. Blue ink on white paper, or black ink on blue paper, were common; and sometimes a pupil would be so unfortunate as to be compelled to use blue ink on blue paper, and a blue time he had of it.
About half-past ten o’clock, the master would announce, “School may go out,” which meant “little play time,” in children parlance, called nowadays recess, or intermission. Often the practice was to have the boys and girls go out separately, in which case the teacher would first say, “The girls may go out,” and after they had been out about 10 minutes, the boys were allowed a similar privilege in the same way. Childhood will always be the same, as far as merry laughter and sprightly ways may go, which will remind those who are older, of the days when they too were young, and were the school boys and the school girls of the district. And the teachers, many and many a time, may be seen gazing upon the dashing and engaging picture of youthful and healthful vivacity, with a thoughtful mien, wishing for time to roll them back to their school recess days of thoughtless carelessness. The games of the children may change, but the sportive, active, and animated scenes of the school recess, never. In calling the children in from the play-ground the teacher would invariably stand near the door of the school-house and call out, “Books! books!” Between play-times the request, “Teacher, may I go out?” was often iterated to the annoyance of the teacher, and the disturbance of the school.
At about half-past eleven o’clock the teacher would announce, “scholars may now get their spelling lessons,” and they would all pitch in with their characteristic loud whisper, and repeat their lessons with that vigor which characterizes the movements of those who have just learned that the dinner hour, and “big play time” are near at hand. Who, that has attended a country district school, has not pleasant memories of the merriment of the dinner hour. A few minutes before twelve the “little spelling class: would recite; then the “big spelling class.” The latter would comprise the larger scholars and the major part of the school. The classes would stand in a row, either toeing the mark on the floor, or straggling along next an unoccupied portion of the wall. One end of this class was the head, the other the foot, and when a pupil spelled a word correctly which had been missed by one or more above him, he would “go up” and take his station or “place” above all that had missed the word; this was called “turning them down.” Another method was for the pupil at the foot one day to take his place at the head of the next, thus encouraging the poorer spellers to exert themselves for better deeds. Yet there were a few ever at the foot, particularly among the boys, as the girls were usually the best in spelling. At the conclusion of a recitation, another method was for the head pupil to go to the foot, thus reversing the above, to have another opportunity of turning them all down. The class would number, and before taking their seats the teacher would say, “school dismissed,” which was the signal for every child to rush for his dinner, which would be swallowed in haste, in anticipation of the “big play time.” The same process of spelling would also be gone through with in the afternoon just before dismissing the school for the day.
Schools were usually kept five days in each week, and were what were called subscription schools, until the school laws were passed, appropriating a State fund for each district. Districts voted after this a like amount, so, instead of restricting the school to those who could pay two or three dollars per scholar, each and every child had the same chance. Districts were wide in extent, and the wild animals roaming through the woods made it quite dangerous for those children whose homes were on its limits, sometimes three to four miles from the school-house, which was usually located near the center.
The older boys took the responsibility by succession, of arriving early enough to build the fire. Upon New Year’s day the scholars, by a licensed custom, were allowed to “lock the teacher out.” Some teachers took it good humoredly, and quietly went home, letting the young folks have the day for a wild frolic. Others would try to force an entrance, or else climb to the top of the house, and by boarding the great chimney, smoke them out. When once in, with a good ruler he would frighten them into repentance, and quite often the ring-leader would get “warmed.”
The chief text books, in which the scholars got their lessons, were Webster’s or some other elementary spelling book; the arithmetic may have been Adam’s, Pike’s, Dilworth’s, Daboll’s, or Smiley’s; McGuffey’s, or the old English reader, and probably Roswell C. Smith’s geography or atlas. Very few at the earliest day got so far along as to study geography. Grammar and composition were scarcely thought of, and when introduced, their utility was questioned. First old Murray’s, then Kirkham’s grammar, were the text books on this subject. Writing was generally taught with fair diligence.
In common phrase description has been given a picture of the district school of the olden time, forest clad, log school-house days. “book l’arnin’,” instead of practical and oral instruction, was the only thing supposed to be obtained in those primitive times. But then, as now, the youth learned more true wisdom in such an institution in its brief terms than by a private or more modern education in a year. It was not from their masters, but from their equals , that they learned a knowledge of the world. Having been far more vigorous and original in thought than now, and if so in mischievousness and innocent wantonness, the little tricks they played upon each other, the punishment that frequently attended the commission was to them the realization of a just picture of the great world, as the ways of men are practiced in a public school in miniature. The germs of independence of mind, common sense, and practical worth, were there to ripen and expand by this wholesome contact. Addison, citing Aristotle, to illustrate this force of education and to explain his doctrine of substantial forms, tells us that a statue lies hidden in every block of marble. The hero, the statesman, the wise, the good, or the great man, very often lies hidden and concealed in a country or pioneer-born. And the history of this great nation and its great men only prove the period, “The figure is in the stone,” and the world has often made dignified obeisance to the graduate of the log cabin school-house of the backwoods, and proves that “The pith o’ sense, and pride of worth, -- A man’s a man for a’ that.”
Among the district school teachers of Lexington Flats district, as early as 1826, were Sally Cline, Lucy Olds, a man named Hubbard, and another by the name of White. The families were then very populous, averaging, at least, 10 children per family. The school in number of scholars would average 50 to 60, though in the district there would be at least 80 to 90 of school years. Among the families who patronized this school, were Clever, Benjamin kip, Gregory, Hezekiah Pettit,, Cornelius Decker, Wixon Rowley, Joel Ford, Robert Maben, Abram Van Valkenburgh (Uncle ‘Brom), Jersey Marlin, and William Faulkner (who owned the Thompson farm); and on the south side of the Schoharie, Derrick L. Schermerhorn, Amos Pettit, Jacob Van Valkenburgh, and a few others. The school-house was located near the site of the present Methodist church building.
Among the private educational movements in the town was that of an academy. A suitable building was erected in 1831 near the site of the Bray Tannery. The enterprise was placed under the charge of a Scotch Presbyterian domine named Frazier, who also conducted religious services in the building on the Sabbaths. The expense was borne in great part by the Edwards, who then controlled this business. The frame of this building still stands, having been moved on to the hotel property of Barnard O’Hara. It has recently been repaired and is used as a bowling alley and billiard room, with sleeping apartments overhead.
The State school laws, prior to 1850, at least, obliged each board of school commissioners to answer annually a given list of questions, though this was not regularly complied with. From the one of 1846 are quoted the following data: The average number of months of school in the different districts was eight. The amount of public money per district for teachers’ wages was a trifle over $17. The amount of library money was $5.50 per district. The number of children taught averaged 40 per school. The number of volumes per library was 68. The average of the superintendent’s visits was not three times for each school. In the remarks accompanying this record it states that “the school funds of district No. 20 are not accounted for, as the trustee has absconded with the sum total.”
Lexington, in common with every township, when the old militia laws of the State required every male citizen liable to military duty to appear for training – brigade, regimental, and general – had her muster and her muster grounds. These were a little below the present village, near the confluence of the West Kill with the Schoharie. Upon the advent of this law, the people, seeing the necessity of military training, went into the spirit of it with all the sober earnestness of their nature. In a short time, however, independent companies were formed, which were attached to State regiments, absorbing all those spirits who had a taste for military life, and training day became a broad and ridiculous farce, and an event wherewith went an acknowledged general jollification, where apple-jack, rum, and cider played no small part as spirits, often terminating in a mixed up off-hand skirmish and general confusion; looked upon, too, by the younger class, as an entertainment for them – a holiday, which was looked forward to in much the same light as the 4th of July, or other days of a similar character.
The Lexington artillery company was organized in 1820, under Colonel Zadoc Pratt, who uniformed the company at his own expense. It was once the pride of all Lexingtonians, as well as its eccentric captain. Many queer stories are connected with its artillery practice; its captain tried to find amusement for the boys, even at his own expense, and on several training days ordered the “bombardment” of different buildings, especially of barns, but always footing all the damages from his ever-ready pocketbook. Among the captains, subsequent to the colonel’s resignation were “Captain Jake” (Jacob Hogaboom) and Captain Cross. It continued to exist until the civil war opened, when it volunteered for three months’ service under Captain George Wheeler. It was reorganized August 14th 1863, by James Monroe Van Valkenburgh, who was commissioned its captain, with John Gagherty and Ezekiel Thomas as lieutenants. He was promoted to the rank of major, January 29th 1867, and A. Judson Briggs was elected and commissioned captain to fill the vacancy, having been commissioned 2nd lieutenant sometime previous. Edwin Ford was commissioned as 1st lieutenant to fill a vacancy of John Gagherty, who removed from town, with Christopher Riley as 2nd lieutenant. This company was attached to the 86th regiment. It was disbanded by order of the adjutant-general, October 9th 1872.
Lexington is happily situated, so far as regards its salubrity of climate. In the heart of the mountain region, its wholesome atmosphere tends only to longevity, and the climatic periods are not as critical as in lower temperatures. With this invigorating air, and the ever-salubrious exercises and customs of a purely farming community, the large number of septuagenarians and those even of four score years, to be seen about the town, is proof presumptive that health, pure, and untainted by malarial affections, is no stranger to its mountain valleys as well as its uplands. And hence the vital statistics, had they been preserved, would have shown that the few physicians who have practiced here – few, considering the period which their history covers – had but few local epidemics to combat against. Pulmonary diseases have been quite rare. Rheumatism, infantile maladies, accidents, and those complaints peculiar to the summer season, are everywhere more or less prevalent.
Among the earliest physicians of the town, Eder Barnum, who for many years lived where Dr. Ford now resides, and latterly on Beach Ridge (where he died), stands as first. Another was James Smith who lived just above the Flats, where he died. Walter Barker practiced some three or four years at Lexington, removing to Jewett Heights. A gentleman of Irish lineage and foreign education, named White, moved into the town with his family soon after this. He practiced here as physician and surgeon some 20 years. Dr. C. V. Barnett, a physician well known throughout the county, practiced here 10 or 12 years, either preceding Dr. White, or as a contemporary during the latter years of his stay; a portion of which time Dr. Barnett had Dr. John Ogden associated with him. Dr. Barnett removed from Jewett to Windham and is now retired from active practice, residing at Coxsackie, the late field of his labors. About 1850 Dr. Burroughs located in Lexington as a resident physician. He was followed by John Keator in 1868, who remained but one year. Dr. James Griffin practiced during the year 1869.
The physicians of West Kill village, who of course have had more or less practice throughout the town, have been few. In its early days Dr. Shepard, a retired and highly educated physician from Connecticut, made that the home of his declining years. It is conjectured that, though far advanced in years, he was not without some practice. A letter still extant shows him to have been a man of a refined nature and a rare scholar. He was buried in the West Kill church yard. W. H. Marsh jr. was resident physician for 30 years or more, or until his death, in September 1881. His advent as a physician was soon followed by S. L. Ford, about 1860, and who also practiced until his decease, August 1882. It was with this latter physician that Dr. E. L. Ford of Lexington Flats commenced his readings, and with whom he practiced some three years. Dr. Ford is a graduate of Albany Medical College. He located on the Flats in 1871, and has since met with flattering success. The present resident physician of West Kill is Dr. Deyoe, who is also receiving substantial encouragement.
The Lexington Dramatic Society
was organized January 1883, chiefly for local culture and improvement. The
organization numbers about 15 members. Soon after the organization, they brought
out the well known temperance drama entitled, “The Social Glass; or, the Victim
of the Bottle.” This was well studied and cast, and met with an encouraging
reception wherever performed. Among its members are: George Moore, Frank H.
Pettit, Wesley Haner, George H. Hastings, O. M. Follett, Charles Haner, Miss
Mina Streeter, Miss Hattie Swan, and Miss Mary Norton. Its officers are: R. L.
Hogaboom, general manager; Edgar O’Hara, treasurer; George H. Hastings, advance
and advertising agent; O. M. Follett, stage manager.
West Kill Valley
West Kill Valley and Village
Among the first settlers to locate in the valley that lies between the villages of Lexington and West Kill, was Jerome Van Valkenburgh, one of the three men of this name who settled in the region about 1780, from Rensselaer county, though unrelated. The name Van Valkenburgh, at the present writing, is very common, so much so, in fact, that the Valkenburgh is dropped, and the persons saluted by their Christian name, as, for instance: Roe Van, John Van, Ed Van, etc. three brothers by the name of Butler, emigrants from Herkimer county, were also of this community, and another man named Dryer, who seems to have been a man of enterprise, as he built a woolen factory, which he successfully run for a long term of years. It changed hands several times, and was last operated by Samuel Cole. To build a mill, and successfully accomplish the difficulties incident to the pioneer days, requires at all times energy and force of character, as well as business tact. This is yearly proven by our frontiersmen of the present day. This Dryer mill was destroyed by the freshet of 1869, which also swept away a saw-mill, together with its accompanying cider-making works, that had been erected by Darius Briggs, Esq., who owned the dam and its privileges. This family of Briggs came form Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and were of old New England stock. There was quite a family of them, of whom but one is now living in Lexington, Mrs. Jacob Hogaboom. Tunis Van Valkenburgh, Hezekiah and Amos Pettit, and Ephraim Dunham, were others residents of this valley in its primeval days. The Pettit brothers were widely known throughout the country; Hezekiah in particular, as he was a modern John the Baptist, of the old school. His voice was often heard “calling the sinners to repentance,” and his influence is said to have been felt long after his death. Ephraim Dunham was noted for this great strength of muscle, and many anecdotes are told of this family, and their physical exploits at the logging, bees and similar gatherings, at which they were without rivals. At one of these gatherings, one of them closed his career while exhibiting his strength. Only one of the descendants of this family is living in this vicinity, Mrs. Hannah Lament.
Near the confluence of the West Kill with the Schoharie Kill at the lower end of this valley, Hiram Wheeler and Jacob Van Valkenburgh built a large and well equipped grist-mill in 1847. It is now owned by Captain Jacob Hogaboom. This Jacob Van Valkenburgh was a queer and quaint character, who went by the so-briquet of “Square Jake.” He was an honest old Dutchman, and justice for many years. His advice was often sought in matters of legal dispute, and though his decisions would not probably tally with all the decisions of the Supreme Court, yet they were usually sure to be on the side of justice.
The village of West Kill is located in a mountain valley of considerable extent lying in the south part of Lexington town. This valley of the Big West Kill is about 12 miles in length, and forms a complete letter L., the village being located on the western corner, where the valley turns to the northward. It is a pleasant, quiet hamlet, with many grand elms and maples shading its streets in the summer time. A favorite resort of the city guests, it, of course has its hostelries and boarding houses. In its early days it was the home of Captain Aaron Bushnell who was one of the most extensive tanners in that region. His first effort in this direction was commenced in 1820 in company with Abraham Hare, the latter gentleman having been recommended to Mr. Bushnell by his former employer, Colonel Edwards of Hunter. They employed some 60 hands in and about the works. In the years 1830 another tanning establishment was built two miles up the valley by Philo Bushnell, who associated with him another of Colonel Edwards’ men, David Van Hoesen. It subsequently passed into the hands of Pratt & Watson, and was destroyed by fire while their property. They soon rebuilt and enlarged it to 30 feet in length. They sold it to Iretus Bushnell, and what is left of it is now the property of David Downs.
A nephew of the enterprising captain established another tannery about four miles south of West Kill, and the hamlet that grew up around it was and is yet called Bushnellsville, though the tannery and most of the buildings have long since disappeared. Captain Bushnell was the owner of the first grist-mill at the village, and is seasons of scarcity imported large quantities of grain from England, which was brought across the mountains from Rondout, and it is said that without his forethought in this direction there would have been much suffering. In these days of fast freights and truck lines, and millions of acres of the cereals went west of the Mississippi, it seems strange to record the importation of grain to a land which has now annually thousands of pounds of sterling in its favor, on the balance sheets from the exportation of the same product.
Other leading citizens of those early days were Eber Cornish, and John and Amos Newton, at the present day the village is the home of the Hon. Orlando L. Newton; Daniel P. Deyoe, for many years proprietor of the Deyoe House in the village; Horace N. Winter, Esq.; Horace Briggs; and other prominent and representative men of the town, who have a different dates filled with credit the different town offices.
The West Kill valley proper lies to the southeast of West Kill village. One of the first setters in the valley was Cornelius Schermerhorn, and contemporary with him were Brant, Peter, and John Goes, Henry Kirk, William Dunham, Stephen Butler, John Crayton, William Cole, Daniel Pelham, and John Denton. These men comprised the head and front of this settlement. When first made there was little else than the Indian trail, hence locomotion was extremely difficult, and the scanty supplies had to be secured as best they could from Kingston, and it was not infrequent that a scarcity of food was sorely felt. With the woodman’s ax, pluck, and perseverance as capital, they were not slow in opening out their respective clearings, though the lowlands, which were mainly the available ones, were covered wit a dense growth of pine timber, making it doubly difficult to clear. The foot hills and the sides and tops of the mountains on both sides of this valley were covered with monarch hemlock, and old growth spruce, with beach and maple, which, when the tannery interest were at their height, succumbed to the numerous lumbermen who filled the woods for at least two decades. Hundreds of acres in and about this valley were cleared of their grand old hemlocks simply for their bark—the timber being either burned or allowed to rot on the ground, except in a few cases where it bordered the roads and was easily accessible, in which case it was drawn to some neighboring saw-mill, of which there were a number, Jacob Van Valkenburgh, Bartlett Hall, Cornelius Schermerhorn, William Crayton, and Trowbridge Myers, owning one each. They utilized some of the timber, though an exceedingly small part.
A healthy desire for the education of their offspring soon manifested itself among these early settlers, and a log school-house was erected, which was the only one anywhere near the upper end of this nestling valley. The district embraced a territory four miles in length, and the number of scholars was limited to the children of these 10 families—on an average, though, of 10 each.
The first religious services were conducted by Bartlett Hall in his own log cabin, where they were held for sometime, but subsequently in the log school-house mentioned above. The Methodists of this valley at the present time have two places for worship.
The chief business here is dairying, and cows are kept and tended by the scores, and the people as a community seem to share generally in a common prosperity.
The era of turnpike building, whereby every town sought by tolls to better their highways, was prior to 1850. By incorporating themselves into stock companies, more interest was taken to have the main or great road in the best possible condition. By a system of tollage, while the towns-people were sure to support the repairs, they gained from the in-coming travel. Hence but few towns in the State were without their turnpike companies. There was only one, however, that passed through Lexington. The company was incorporated April 17th 1843, and had a capital of $12,000, divided into shares at $25 each. They laid out a road from Prattsville to Shandaken, Ulster county, passing through Lexington, crossing the Schoharie near the mouth of the Big West Kill, thence up the valley to West Kill village, through the Deep Notch or Bush Kill Clove, through Bushnellsville village, etc. Hezekiah Dickerman, Alvin Bushnell, Aaron Bushnell, Irwin Pardee, William Kerr, Francis Voorhes, David P. Mapes, and John D. Murdoch, were appointed to receive subscriptions to the stock, and Alexander Humphrey and Alvin Bushnell, to lay out the route. According to their records, it was sold under mortgage in 1849, and was finally abandoned in 1857, and laid out by the town commissioners of that year into districts.
organization of the Baptist church of West Kill village was indirectly the
result of the great revival at Lexington Flats, in 1827. Other causes, however,
had been slowly at work tending to a segregation of the body corporate,
consisting then of more than 300 communicants, among which, and probably the
most calamitous one, was a strong desire by a portion of the church for a new
and younger domine, and this, coupled with the inducements urgently held forth
to them by many of the citizens of West Kill village, hurried the crisis. For
more than a third of a century Elder Hezekiah Pettit had presided over them. To
many of this church his word was law, as well as gospel, but the natural results
followed so earnest and incessant labors. He was declared to have become more of
a judge than a priest, and from his long standing privilege to have conceived a
childish arbitrariness; to have grown rusty, worn, and antiquated, and dull from
senility. Such were the causes and such the charges that directly created the
division. But the division was not accomplished without a struggle by the
adherents of the elder, led by himself, and a general council was convened
before the contest ended, which decided against the secessionist. They, however,
believing in their right of independence, would bow to no such decision, but
proceeded to a new organization which is recorded in their records as having
occurred October 17th 1830. The following were the persons who were
active in its establishment, and who constituted its charter members: Elijah
Bushnell, Myron Clark, Henry Clawson, Darius Dryer, Jeremiah Martin, Alonzo
Bushnell, Jacob Schermerhorn, Jacob Van Valkenburgh, Kate Van Valkenburgh, Anna
Bushnell, Elizabeth Dryer, Sally Eastman, Polly Van Valkenburgh, Abi C. Newton,
Ruth Schermerhorn, Harriet Martin, Elizabeth Bushnell, Betsey Bushnell, Dorcas
Clawson, and Maria Clark. The first action taken was the appointment of a
committee, February 5th 1831, to employ a regular pastor. They soon
conferred with Elder Ormsbee, who had officiated in this capacity on several
previous occasion, May 18th 1831, delegates were appointed to confer
with the Hudson River Baptist Association, who received a fraternal welcome. The
men who so independently founded this church were of the staunch, earnest type,
of original minds and actions, as every entry in the church records prove, and
by which a faithful view of the absolute independence in this affair by these
spirits can be had. Large accessions were made soon after its organization, and
it was not long before the new-born was as strong as the parent church. From the
first it has prospered, and now in a convenient and neat church edifice is
holding its weekly meetings. Captain Aaron Bushnell left quite a bequest, the
interest of which is used in its support. The Sunday-school was organized April
Methodist Episcopal Church
The early settler of this region was no hypocrite. If he believed in horse racing, whisky drinking, card playing or anything of like character, he practiced them openly and above board. If he was of a religious turn of mind, he was not ashamed to own it. This religious element was such as to attract the attention of those living in more favored places. Although they smiled at their rude earnestness, they yet admired their bold enthusiasm, and praised the tenacity with which they clung to the faith of their fathers. If he had been a Presbyterian, of Baptist, or Dutch Reformed, they were too, and prided themselves on being one of the elect, and if a Methodist, was one to the fullest extent. They prayed long and loud if the spirit moved them, and cared nothing or the sneers of others.
Of all the various sects whose doctrines were given broad-sided to the generations now lying in village church yards, those of the Methodist Episcopal were among the later. The reason whereof is hinted at above. But the devout and hard working circuit rider appeared here as elsewhere, and, by dint of argument, succeeded in planting the seed of Methodism, though it was not until a comparatively recent date, and amid a strong opposition to his labors. But in 1866, after a number of years mission work, a class was formed by a Rev. Mr. Clement, who organized the Methodist church of West Kill. The first services were held in an old tumble-down building, dubbed by the opposition “The Tabernacle,” the site of which was a little east of the village, near the present residence of R. J. Clawson. They were soon deprived of this place for worship, and, not to be deprived of their religious consolations, worshipped in the private houses of the brethren.
These persevering founders were William Schermerhorn, Adam Montrose, Horace N. Winters, Charles Deyoe, and a few others. At the present writing, their services are conducted in the session room of the Baptist church, proving that the strong sectarian feeling is rapidly given place to a more Christianly one, and that the average “church member” is beginning to believe that the laws of Christianity preach a common salvation toward all believers in Christ. The society, for so small a one and in so small a hamlet, with the influence of the elder society, is quite prosperous, and expect, at an early day, to erect a comfortable and ornate church edifice.
Elections have been held alternately in the two villages, at West Kill for many years at the Deyoe House; and at the Falts at J. and M. Lament's, J.T. Huggin's, Rufus W. Moore's, H.A. Martin's, and others.
The following men have been chosen to fill the offices as stated:
The first town board of Lexington consisted of Peter Smith, Jacob VanValkenberg, Abram Camp, and Nelson Beach. Following is a chronological list of the Justices of the town since that date, 1813:
Jacob VanValkenburgh 1813-1822, 1827-1835, 1839, 1852-1853
Abram Camp 1813
Nelson Beach 1813
Justus Miles 1814
Willis Miles 1815
George Miles 1816-1821
Lewis Chamberlain 1816-1817
W. Rowley 1818-1819, 1822-1825
Henry Goslee 1818-1821, 1825-1827, 1834-1835, 1838, 1840-1845
D. Finch 1820-1821
Munson Bird 1822
O. Coe 1822
Elijah Bushnell 1823-1833
Zadock Pratt 1823-1824
Henry Hosford 1824
Jacob Miller 1828-1833
Darius Dyer 1834-1837
J. P. VanValkenburgh 1837-1838
Iretus Newton 1838
B.C. Smith 1838-1839
B.P. Smith 1840-1843
J. D. Bushnell 1840-1845
Conger Avery 1840-1843, 1851
John Thompson 1844-1845, 1847, 1851, 1856
Michael Mann 1846
Austin Chase 1846
Isaac Hinman 1848
Iretus Bushnell 1849
W.W. Pettit 1850
Isaac Kipp 1852, 1860, 1864, 1868, 1873, 1876, 1880
Adam Montrose 1852, 1854, 1858, 1862, 1866, 1872,1874
William Pettit 1855, 1859, 1863
W. H. Marsh 1857, 1861, 1865, 1877, 1881
Jusdon Briggs 1867
H. N. Winter 1869, 1873, 1878
George Wheeler 1870
A. J. Briggs 1871, 1875
Simeon Reynold 1872
James E. Moore 1878-1879
Sherwood Deyoe 1882
George H. Faulkner 1883
William Faulkner 1838-1839
Christopher Angle 1840
West Chase 1841, 1844
E. Briggs 1842-1843
O. L. Newton 1845, 1847
W.W. Pettit 1846
Cornelius Hagaboom 1848
Jacob Hagaboom 1849, 1864
John Thompson 1850
George Lawrence 1851
H. B. Briggs 1852
Frances Dewey 1853
Franklin Lament 1854
Jacob Hagaboom 1855-1857
E. Bushnell 1858-1861
I. Kipp 1862-1863
Sidney Ford 1868-1869
Barnard O'Hara 1870-1871
Daniel Deyoe 1872-1873
J. M. VanValkenburgh 1874-1875
Horace Briggs 1876-1877
John S. Thompson 1878-1879
O. L. Newton 1880-1881
Henry Haner 1882-1883
TOWN CLERKS 1835-1883:
Bruce Smith 1837
Cornelius Hagaboom 1838-1843
H. B. Briggs 1844
C. Hagaboom 1845
G. W. Halcott 1849
E. O. Nushnell 1850-1852
S.G. Bushnell 1853
O.L. Newton 1854
Minard VanValkenburgh 1855
Shepard Bushnell 1856
H.B. Briggs 1857-1866
Iretus D. Newton 1867-1883
According to the State census of 1875, Lexington contains 18,357 acres of improved lands; and of unimproved lands 20,282 acres of woodland, and 9,147 of other. The cash value at that date was given as follows: farms $604.098; farm buildings $120,205; stock $126,387; tools $24,944; total number of dwellings, 308; frame, 285; log, 22; stone, 1; value of dwellings, $174,440; there were 1314 inhabitants; 305 families; 285 inhabited houses; number of persons to family 4.31; to house 4.61; in 1874 there were 1341 acres plowed; in 1875, 1324; 8,483 acres pastured; 8,050, mown, producing in 1874, 6, - 778 tons of hay; amount of grass sales from farms in 1874, $77,641.
The Maben Family
The name of Maben has been familiar to the residents of Lexington from the earliest days. The Mabens are directly descended from the hardy and thrifty Scotch-Irish, and the Scotch clan Gregories on the maternal side. To those acquainted with the characteristics of this branch of the staid going Scotch race, they will trace the same in those of the Maben--honest to a farthing; honorably frugal; decisive; energetic; keen in humor and wit; and God-fearing men and women.
It is conjectured, and upon good grounds, that John Maben, the first of this name, came of a well-to-do, if not of a wealthy family. Born in 1753, he came to America, sight-seeing, about 1768-70, "with twenty-four linen shirts, a plenty of other linens, clothes, and money, to live the gentleman for three years, and to return home," so runs tradition. Young as he then was, the inborn love of freedom, his antagonism for English rule, the solemn and grand intensity of action on the part of the sturdy and earnest Connecticut yeomen, as they formed their plans of resistance of the British yoke, attracted and gained his support. Of strong and robust frame, he at once threw himself into the patriotic movement, and was no slow participant in the skirmishes of that colony. These incidents shaped his course and destiny. Instead of returning to the north of Ireland, he married, in Connecticut, a Miss Sally Pearce, a descendant of the early Puritan stock. With the cessation of direct hostilities in Connecticut, he (probably, through friends of the earliest Jewett settlers, or Day) found his way to what is now Lexington Flats, as early as 1777, as, at this date, his signature appears upon leases given by Robert Livingston for these lands. Here he lived, and died in 1813; and here he reared his family. It has been said that two mothers with their children can never live in peace in the same house. This was, by him, proven false doctrine, for in his small cabin there lived three mothers with an aggregate of 15 children, in all three families. The stern discipline of these connected kept peace. John Maben's children were: Robert, Hugh, Hannah, John, Benjamin, William, Sally and Luther.
Hugh Maben married Elizabeth Gregory. The church records of Norwalk, 1652 and later, show these Gregories to have been eminent freemen, and that John Gregory was a founder of that town. To Hugh and Betsey Maben but one child was born, William, January 12th 1822. Hugh died April 27th 1856; his wife preceded him, June 26th 1846.
William Maben married, as his first wife, Louisa Coon, daughter of Benjamin Coon, of Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania. She died November 29th 1851, leaving one child, born May 26th 1831. He married, May 2nd 1853 in Prattsville, for his second and present wife, Miss Catharine Wyckoff, a lady of education, who brought to his home those qualities requisite for a kind mother, and thoughtful help-meet, by which a man meets success. Her parents were John W. and Mary (Scudder) Wyckoff, the father a native of New Jersey and son of Cornelius Wyckoff, who was a bugler in the New Jersey Light Horse, and undoubtedly related to the Queens county, Long Island, Wyckoffs, near Newtown. The Scudders were natives of Long Island; John W. was also a Revolutionary war hero. His family by two wives consisted of six sons and eight daughters.
To Mr. and Mrs. Maben have been born: George S., Charles W., Benjamin S., Adelaide, Elizabeth I., and Mary; all deceased except Charles W., and Benjamin S. This excellent couple have given their children a sound, practical education. George and Charles graduated from the State Normal School at Albany; and Benjamin and Mary from a class. The eldest, by indefatigable labors had fitted himself as an attorney, when he was suddenly struck down by the unforseen messenger. His death was deeply deplored by his many friends. Benjamin is attending the theological institute at Sanfordville, Dutchess county, and Charles remains at home. He is well known as a young man of literary talent, and graduated from his class with honors. He married, 1883, Miss Minnie Karau. Mary wedded John Moseman, of Windham.
Mr. Maben is a modest, unassuming man, possessing, however, many of the Scotch characteristics. Mrs. Maben has ever been a fitting help-meet, a careful, industrious housewife, and a kind and thoughtful mother. Both have that love of home and family so worthy in all.
Orlando L. Newton
This gentleman, well known throughout the county of Greene, and highly respected for his sterling integrity and masculine common sense, is descended from one of the oldest and most prominent families of the early days of this town. He was a son of John and Eunice (Bushnell) Newton, and was born in West Kill village, August 30th 1808. His father was of good Connecticut stock, a son of Silas Newton, of Cheshire town, that State, and was born February 3rd 1776. In this town he spent his minority, during which he served an old-time apprenticeship at the wheelwright business, and then came to Lexington, in 1797, settling in this village, and establishing himself in his trade, marrying Captain Bushnell's daughter Eunice, January 25th 1798, and to whom Julia M. and Orlando L. were born, May 5th 1800, and August 30th 1808, respectively. Captain Elijah Bushnell (born April 10th 1746) married, February 12th 1769, Eunice Pratt (born May 10th 1750), to whom ten children were born: Elijah, Jr., Zerriah, Aaron, Eunice (born October 16th 1778), Samuel, Lewis, Lucia, Ira, Anson and Alvin (born ) October 4th 1793. Of all this large family of Bushnells, and their male descendants, not one is left in the town to bear the time-honored name.
Orlando L. Newton was reared in the village, or on the farm of his father, of whom he learned the wheelwright trade, which he has followed more or less since. He received the education common to the early district schools. He married, April 8th 1830, Harriet P. Bump (born December 23rd 1809), daughter of Elijah and Rebecca (Anjevine) Bump, of French extraction. To this union were born: Champion M., May 15th 1831, married Orthelia N. Kipp, October 15th 1859, died February 20th 1867; Corydon B., December 3rd 1832, married Minerva Clawson, April 20th 1858; West C., August 24th 1834, married Myra Winne, April 7th 1869; Augustus T., May 10th 1836, married Rachel Dubois, October 13th 1857; Iretus D., December 1st 1838, married Lolla T. Clark, May 22nd 1862; Orlando L. Jr., October 22nd 1844, married Ruth E. Winters, May 12th 1868; and Harriet M., December 11th 1849, married James L. Allaben.
John Newton died November 29th 1853, aged 78 years, and Eunice, his wife, February 15th 1868, aged 88 years. Harriet P. Newton died March 3rd 1872.
Mr. O.L. Newton married, May 7th 1873, for his second wife, Mrs. Ruth Christina Van Valkenburgh, relict of Jacob Van Valkenburgh, of Lexington. She died in 1877, and for his third wife, he married, November 21st 1877, Miss Rebecca A. Bump of Windham, a cousin of his first wife, and a daughter of Roswell Bump, formerly of Dutchess county.
Mr. Newton, from early manhood, has been most emphatically a representative citizen, and, by a distinctly marked course of conduct, has won and long enjoyed the high respect of his fellow townsmen, as well as those of the county who were numbered among his constituency. He held some town office for over 32 successive years, as well as several appointments as notary public. Always a staunch democrat of the Jacksonian school, he was nominated to represent the county in the General Assembly for 1881, and elected by a good majority (452), and participated in the excited scenes, the result of the Conkling-Platt resignation. This year (1883) he was also supervisor.
The subject of this sketch was a son of Peter O’Hara and was born at Fishkill, June 1st, 1816. As one of a large family, his education was strictly practical. Reared to the hardships of those early farm days, with more work than schooling, he, at majority, realized the reality of life. With a capital of 50 cents, and the clothes upon his back, he started to fulfill a contract made with an Albany merchant, with whom he was to serve an 18 months’ apprenticeship for $10 a month. Before the expiration of his time the merchant died, and, in the employ of the assignee, he commenced peddling and collecting, to close out the stock. After attending school in Freehold for one term, he made another 18 months’ contract with another party in the same business, after which he continued the business for himself for nine years. His circuit embraced the counties of Albany, Saratoga, Schoharie, Greene and Delaware, with occasional outbranching trips. December 10th, 1845, he married Charlotte, daughter of Darius and Mary A. Briggs, of this town (Lexington), where he has since resided, one of its influential and successful business men, occasionally in official positions for the town, and ever a sound practical citizen. For 42 years he kept the principal store at the Flats, with which he combined farming. Owning but a house and lot at his advent to the town, he is now the owner of one of the largest houses in this mountainous region. This house, planned and superintended by Mr. O’Hara, by its ingenious plan, is at once convenient and economical. In addition to this valuable property he owns the entire site of the Fixbee Tannery and grounds, and in all about 240 acres of these valuable village lands.
To Mr. And Mrs. O’Hara have been born: Mary Alice, February 14, 1847; Edgar B., May 7th, 1848; Arthur D., May 26th, 1850; George P., October 16th, 1852; Arrietta, May 11th, 1854; Ida C., January 7th, 1861; and Anna Belle, May 3d, 1863.
Mrs. O’Hara died December 10th 1880, and was buried at Greenville.
George H. Hastings
George H. Hastings was born in the city of New York, March 23rd, 1848. His father, Henry S. Hastings, was a native of Vermont, and from his 18th year to the time of his death in 1859, was an officer in the United States navy. His mother, Julia A. Delancy, was born in Westchester County and was a descendant of the Huguenot race. At the age of five, Mr. Hastings, in company with his parents, made a trip to Europe, being abroad nearly one year. At the age of 10 he accompanied his parents to New Orleans where he resided two years. While in this city his father was stricken with the yellow fever and died. At the outbreak of the war young Hastings emigrated to the Catskills and among these noble hills has resided ever since, 13 years of which he has passed in Lexington.
In 1868 he was married to Miss Rocelia Van Valkenburgh of Lexington, and has three daughters: Maude, Bertha, and Grace.
Mr. Hastings is well-known throughout the county as a newspaper correspondent under the non-de-plume of Harry Howe.