Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men
J.B. Beers and Co.
by George H. Hastings
Transcribed by Dianne Schnettler, Arlene Goodwin and Annette Campbell
The town of Prattsville, situated in the western portion of this county, is bounded on the north by Schoharie county, on the east by Ashland, on the south by Lexington, and on the west by Delaware county. It was named in honor of Colonel Zadock Pratt, and formed from the town of Windham, March 8th 1833, pursuant to an act of the Legislature.
“From and after the last day of March instant, so much of the town of Windham, in the county of Greene, lying westerly of a line drawn from the north to the mouth of Lewis brook, thence up said brook to its head, thence to the north line of the town of Windham, shall be a separate town by the name of Prattsville; and the first town meeting shall be held at the house of Henry Laraway, in said town, on the first Thursday of April next.”
The chief beauty of Prattsville is the diversified scenery. It exhibits every phrase of the picturesque, from the well-kept lawns to the roughly tilled fields, and the simple beauty of the woody fastnesses of the mountains. The surface is uneven and undulating, furnishing a constant succession of graceful contours, rising into the eminences of Round Top, Prospect Hill, Mount Royal, and other noted peaks, from each of which widely extended prospects are visible.
This is a fine agricultural region, and farming affords a livelihood for nine-tenths of the population. The soil is productive and well adapted to the raising of grass, grain, and fruit. The principal streams are the Schoharie Creek and Batavia Kill. The Indian name for the later was Chough-tig-hig-nick.
Within the past few years, the town of Prattsville has steadily grown, and is now one of the most attractive and popular summer resorts in the county. The bold mountains and winding pathways, the silvery brooklets and shady groves, give an additional charm to this quiet spot; not always quiet either, for during the summer months these mountains and groves are resonant with the gleeful laughter of the legions of pleasure and health seeking guests.
Being desirous of settling emigrants in America, Queen Anne dispatched an agent to this country to purchase land, and about 20,000 acres were bought along the Schoharie valley, in course of time a ship was fitted out and laden with German emigrants, started from a German port early in January 1710. After a long an tempestuous voyage, the ship reached the mouth of the Hudson River, June 14th 1712, nearly two and a half years after, leaving Germany, many of the emigrants having died during the voyage across the Atlantic. The voyagers ascended the Hudson as far as Saugerties, where they passed the following winter. Early in the spring they proceeded to Albany, Here some enlisted in the British army under the command of Colonel Nicholson, while the remainder, by the aid of an Indian trail, walked to Schoharie and settled along the Schoharie Kill, Several months passed and an agent was sent to these settlers to extend to them the protection of the laws and give them undisputed title to the land they occupied. Fearing oppression and taxation, the settlers resisted his offers, and arming themselves with guns, clubs, pitchforks, etc., sought to do him violence. The agent escaped to Schenectady in the night time. From this place he sent them offers, one of which was—“perfect deeds would be given all who would come to Schenectady with an ear of corn in payment for the lands.” No attention was paid to the liberal offers, so the agent returned to Albany, and disposed of the land to a private company, November 13th 1714. This transaction, together with the punishment of the ringleaders, created an ill feeling in the minds of the settlers and a portion of them moved from Schoharie, while the residue remained, “to submit to the burdens which their violence and folly had brought upon them.”
A large number of the descendants of the Schoharie settlers moved east, and pitched camp on the flats at Prattsville, and during the war the Revolution this settlement was attacked by a band of tories and Indians headed by a British officer. The inhabitants rallied and a battle was fought. The Indians and their allies were routed. Captain Smith, a leader of the tories and Indians, was shot and mortally wounded by a loyal citizen. He was buried where he fell, on the bank of the Schoharie, opposite the old battle ground. His bones were washed out by a freshet, and a Negro collected them together and buried them in a safer place. This encounter took place north of the village and a short distance below the iron bridge. Among the list of pioneers were John Laraway and sons, John, Jonas, Derrick, and Martinus; Isaac Van Alstyne; Van Loan, brothers; Henry Becker, and the Shoemaker family.
The first inn was kept by the Martinus Laraway, and opened to the public shortly after the close of the Revolution. He formed a partnership with his brother John, and they built the first grist-mill at this place.
According to the census of 1880 the population of the town of Prattsville was: males , 532; females, 583; total, 1,115; and the number of farms, 99.
The first annual town meeting for the town of Prattsville was held at the house of Colonel Henry Laraway, April 2nd 1833, in pursuance of a statute of the Legislature. There were present, Nicholas Decker and Leveritt Munson, justices of the peace, and Frederick A. Fenn, clerk of the meeting. At this meeting, by-laws were passed, resolutions adopted, and other business transacted.
The following is the list of the names of persons then elected to office: Hezekiah Dickerman, supervisor; F. A. Fenn, town clerk; Nicholas L. Decker, Isaac Haner, and Ariral Blinn, assessors; John Brandow, and Robert More, overseers of the poor; Ezra Disbrow, John Brackney, and Henry W. Shoemaker, commissioners of highways; Cornelius K. Burhans, William F. Brackney, and Willard Marsh, Inspectors of schools; Matthew R. Boughton, Titus Atwater, Samuel Tompkins, and Lawrence Brandow, constables; Micholas L. Decker, David F. More, and Elisha B. Minard, justices of the peace.
At a special town meeting held May 1st 1833, for the purpose of electing two overseers of the poor in the place of John Brandow, and Robert More, who had neglected to take the oath prescribed by law, Zadock Pratt, and John Laraway were elected overseers of the poor.
The followwing is a list of the supervisors, town clerks, and justices, since the formation of the town.
David More 1835-1836
Leveritt Munson 1837-1838
John Laraway 1839, 1843-1844, 1853
John Sturtevant 1840
Henry H. Snyder 1841-1842
Henry Laraway 1845, 1847
Daniel C. Scudder 1846
Bethuel Sutherland 1848-1849
Samuel Chatfield 1850
Cyrus Smith 1851
F. James Fitch 1852
John E. Bassett 1854
H. Winans 1855
Nicholas Brandow 1856
Ezekiel P. More 1857-1858
Simon Winfield 1859-1860
Omar V. Sage 1861-1862
Zadock Pratt 1863-1864
Erskine Laraway 1865
George C. Fenn 1866-1867
Henry Chatfield 1868
J. H. Chatfield 1869
Burton G. Morss 1870-1877
John A. Erkson 1878
Hiram Cronk 1879-1880
George M. Becker 1881-1882
J. H. Chatfield 1883
TOWN CLERKS 1833-1883:
Frederick A. Fenn
Platte M. Osborn 1835
William F. Brackney 1836-1837
Nicholas Decker 1838
Henry P. Osborn 1839
Hart C. Sage 1840-1841
Nicholas L. Decker 1842
Henry Chapman 1843
James B. White 1844-1845
Philander K. Salisbury 1846
Bethuel Sutherland 1847
Arland T. Humphrey 1848-1849
Lafayette Gleason 1850
Frederick M. Frayer 1851
James B. Gregory 1852-1853
H. B. Montgomery 1854
J.D. Adams 1855, 1859-1861, 1863
James D. McArdell 1856-1858
Erskine Laraway 1862
L. W. Morse 1864
Heorge Hoagland 1865
Elijah M. Rose 1866-1867, 1878-1879, 1882
Henry Chatfield 1868
Andrew Rockfellow 1869-1870
Albert Clark 1871-1872, 1874
James Lewis 1873
L. K. Howard 1875
Dwight Bouton 1876
William H. Jackson 1877
Leslie Bouton 1880
John L. Rappleyea 1881
George Raeder 1883
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE 1833-1883:
David F. More 1833
Elisha B. Minard 1834
E. B. Minard 1835
Bennet Atwood 1835
N. L. Decker 1836
George A. Chamberlin 1837
B. Atwood 1838
Samuel Tompkins 1838
E.B. Minard 1839
N.L. Decker 1840
Willard Marsh 1841
Harmon Parker 1842
William R. Parker 1842
Harmon Parker 1843
P.K. Salisbury 1844
Willard Marsh 1845
Samuel C. Bidwell 1845
Lewis C. Snyder 1846
Samuel C. Bidwell 1847
Alfred M. Haner 1848
Abram Laraway 1849
P. K. Salisbury 1849
Asahel P. Finch 1849
M.C. Bouton 1850
George D. Chatfield 1850
Henry P. Haight 1850
Jacob Myers 1851
Wilbur Lament 1851
P. K. Salisbury 1852
Ira D. Chatfield 1853
John E. Bassett 1854
Thompson C. Smith 1854
Abram Barnum 1855
Gilbert Becker 1855
P. K. Salisbury 1856
George Hoagland 1857
Sanford P. Christian 1858
Gilbert Becker 1859
Simon Winfield 1859
William H. Jackson 1860
Samuel Crane 1860
G. S. Cotton 1860
Giles S. Cotton 1861
Roderick S. Blish 1862
Samuel Crane 1863
William H. Jackson 1864
Henry Haner 1865
Wallace McDaniel 1865
Gilbert Becker 1866
E. J. Soule 1866
G. S. Cotton 1867
W. H. Jackson 1868
E. J. Soule 1869
Gilbert Becker 1870
G.S. Cotton 1871
W. H. Jackson 1872
E. J. Soule 1873
Gilbert Persons 1874
James Judson, Jr. 1875
H. M. Bouton 1876
E. J. Soule 1877
J. L. Becker 1877
Charles W. Bouton 1878
John L. Becker 1879
A. P. Myers 1880
F. M. Frayer 1880
A.S. Cammer 1881
E. J. Soule 1882
B. F. Dutcher 1882
B. F. Dutcher 1883
James Judson 1883
The officers of the town in 1883 were: Supervisor, J. H. Chatfield; Town Clerk, George Raeder; Justice of the Peace, James Judson; Commissioner of Highways, William Stickles; Assessors, J.E. Thorington (full Term), Isaac Searles (vacancy); Overseer of the poor, D. M. Frayer; Collector, George Laverack; Constables, James Mulford, Milton Dutcher, Hiram White, H. Brandow, and Frank Kuran; Auditors, J. S. Miller, C. R. Newcomb and Hiram Persons; Inspectors of election, Horace Proper, T.M. Mase, and A. A. Disbrow; Game constable, John Maginnes; Town Excise, Owen Morgan.
The following is a copy of the first school report:
“To the Superintendent of Common Schools of the State of New York:
“We, the Commissioners of Common Schools of the town of Prattsville in the county of Greene, in conformity to the statute in relation to the Common Schools, do report that that the number of entire school districts in our town organized according to law is seven, and that the number of parts of school districts in said town is ___, that the number of entire districts from which the necessary reports have been made for the present year within the time limited by law, is seven. And that the number of parts of districts from which such report have been made is ___.
“That from said reports, the following is a just and true abstract, viz.: --
Districts and parts of districts from which reports have been made
Whole length of time any school has been kept therein
Length of time any school has been kept by approved teachers.
Amount of money received.
Number of children taught.
Number of Children over 5 and under 16.
Amount paid out for teachers wages besides public money.
Number of times each school has been inspected.
6 mos. 12 days
3 mos. 12 days
4 mos. 12 days
7 mos. 12 days
7 mos. 12 days
10 mos. 12 days
10 mos. 12 days
3 mos. 12 days
3 mos. 12 days
47mos. 48 days
40 mos. 60 days
“And we, the said commissioners, do further certify and report that the whole amount of money received by us, or our predecessors in office, for the use of common schools, during the year ending on the date of this report, for our town is ____.
“(The superintendent will notice that the town of Prattsville was erected from the town of Windham after the time prescribed by law for the trustees of school districts to make their own report to the commissioners of common schools last year in this town. – But from the certificate of the commissioners of common schools from the town of Windham of the last year, the undersigned are satisfied that the moneys received by said commissioners were duly paid out according to law).
“That the school books most in use in the common schools in our town are the following, viz: Webster’s Spelling Book; Murray’s Reader; Brief Remarker; American Preceptor; History of North America; Daboll’s Arithmetic; Murray’s Grammar; Olney’s and Woodbridge’s Geographies.
“Dated Prattsville, this first day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three.
“ALBERT B. AUSTIN,
“A true copy.
“F.A. FENN, T. CLK.”
The first school was kept in a rude log house, located along the turnpike, a little east of Pratt Rocks, and was taught by a Mr. Bank.
There are several schools in town, each of which compare favorably with other county schools.
Colonel Pratt offered $5,000 to endow an academy at Prattsville, on condition that a like sum be raised by any Christian denomination. In 1842 the present academy was built, Colonel Pratt contributing liberally towards the building. In October 1883, the inhabitants of the village voted an appropriation of $900 toward improving the interior of this academy.
Reformed Dutch Church
This church (the oldest organized in town) was established early in 1802 by Rev. Mr. Lopaugh, who began by preaching in houses and barns. He remained here but a short time, and his place was filled by Rev. Cornelius D. Schermerhorn. He labored faithfully among his small congregation, and was instrumental in erecting (1804) a house of worship at the lower end of the village, almost opposite the present iron bridge.
Among the founders are the names of a number of the pioneers—notably among the list are the Deckers, Brandows, and Laraway, whose descendants are still prominent in this community.
The present church edifice was built in 1834. The pastor at the time was Rev. Hamilton Van Dyck. He was a man of fervent piety and force of character, and under his teachings the society prospered. He labored with this congregation for several years, and died at his post of duty. A marble monument, erected by his congregation, marks his grave in the village cemetery.
Under the supervision of the present pastor, Rev. N. F. Rickerson, the church has been thoroughly repaired, and now ranks with the best of our county churches.
is a list of the pastors who have ministered to the wants of the congregation of
this church: 1800, Rev. Mr. Lopaugh; 1803, Rev. Cornelius D. Schermerhorn; 1818,
Rev. Winslow Page; 1830, Rev. Henry B. Simpson; 1833, Rev. Hamilton Van Dyck;
1838, Rev. T. B. Gregory; 1841, Rev. E. Du Puy; 1846, Rev. A. V. Wyckoff; 1852,
Rev. E. S. Hammond; 1855, Rev. William Johns; 1861, Rev. A. F. Gilberts (died
while carrying on a protracted meeting at this place); 1867, Rev. Thomas E.
Dusenbury; 1870, Rev. W. H. Carr; 1875, Rev. James C. Garretson; 1878, Rev. E.
N. Sebring; 1881, Rev. Norman F. Rickerson.
Methodist Episcopal Church
This church was connected with the Durham circuit from 1823 to 1834. The church edifice was built about 1834 the site having been given by Colonel Pratt, who also contributed one-third of the cost of the building. The first pastor was Rev. Thomas S. Barrett. In 1834 the Windham and Prattsville circuit was organized; at this time Rev. J. Broadhead was pastor. In 1836 Prattsville circuit appears in the conference minutes. The following are the appointments down to 1883: 1836, William S. Collins, Reuben H. Bloomer; 1837 William S. Collins, Andrew C. Fields; 1838, Sanford Washburn, Goodrich Horton, 1839, Sanford Washburn; 1840 William H. Smith; 1841, 1842, Arad Lakin, Charles Grose; 1843, Orlif G. Hedstrom; 1844, Orlif G. Hedstrom, Lucius H. King; 1845, 1846, William Bloomer, W. C. Smith; 1847, William F. Gould, Charles T. Mallory; 1848, William F. Gould, Abram Davis; 1849 Addi Lee, M. M. Curtis; 1850, Addie Lee, William M. Spickerman; 1851, W. B. Mitchell, William Goss; 1852, William B. Mitchell, A. M. Hugh, Addie Lee; 1853, William C. Smith, George Daniel, Addie Lee; 1854, James Birch, C. M. Eggleston; 1855, James Birch, Edwin Clement; 1856, 1866, Richard Decker; 1867-69, L. R. Vandewater; 1870, O. P. Dales; 1871-73, James P. Burgar; 1874-76, Sheldon Merchant; 1877-79, Henry W. Ackerly; 1880-82, Lyman S. Brown; 1883, William Green.
Roxbury, Delaware county was taken from the Prattsville circuit in 1859.
Rev. Lucius H.
King is the presiding elder of the Prattsville circuit and resides in the
village of Prattsville.
Protestant Episcopal Church
Prior to 1843, the services of this church was occasionally held in Prattsville by clergymen of the adjacent parishes of Windham and Hobart. In that year the committee on diocesan missions, of the diocese of New York, granted a stipend of $125 per annum, and the Rev. Thomas S. Judd, rector of the Trinity church, Windham, was placed in charge of the Prattsville mission. The services of the church were held regularly on alternate Sundays, and the holy communion administered once in each month. The number of persons attending these services was small at first, but increased with each successive service.
In May 1844, at an informal meeting of the male members of the congregation, it was decided to organize the parish and build a church edifice. Due notice was given of a meeting of the congregation, to be held at the academy in the village of Prattsville, June 10th 1844, for the purpose of incorporating the parish under the laws of the State. At this meeting, the Rev. Thomas S. Judd was called to the chair, and William H. Jackson, and Asa W. Lee, were appointed to certify, with the chairman, the proceedings of the meeting. Thomas Montgomery and Abraham Chatfield, were elected church wardens, and Zadock Pratt, John Watson, Henry D. H. Snyder, Daniel C. Scudder, John W. Brackney, Edwin H. Sheldon, Robert P. More, and Smith H. Shaw, vestrymen: and the name, “The Rector, church wardens and vestrymen, of Grace Church in the village of Prattsville,” was fixed upon as the corporate title of the church.
The certificate of incorporation was signed and sealed by Thomas S. Judd, William H. Jackson, and Asa W. Lee, and witnessed by F. James Fitch (since county judge of the county, then in this first years practice as a lawyer), and John Hopkins—(then Cashier of the Prattsville Bank, and subsequently of the First National Bank of Saugerties). The proof of the execution of the instrument was made before Frederick A. Fenn, then judge of the Court of Common Pleas of this county. The instrument was drawn by F. James Fitch, and recorded in the county clerk’s office, in Book A. of Miscellaneous Records, page 147, June 13th 1844.
Many of the persons whose names appear upon that certificate were, or have since become, honored, wealthy and well known in the communities in which they severally resided. Of the 17 names appearing thereon, but four, viz., John Watson and John W. Brackney, both of New York city; Edwin H. Sheldon, of Chicago; and F. James Fitch, now a resident of Prattsville, survive.
Immediately after the incorporation of the church, steps were taken by the vestry for erection of a church building. A subscription paper was circulated. Colonel Pratt headed the paper with the donation of a church lot; his wife, Mary E. Pratt, followed with a subscription of $500; then came subscriptions for smaller amounts, but all liberal, considering the circumstances of the donors at the time, until about $2,000 was subscribed, exclusive of the lot. A building committee was appointed. Nelson Fitch, a skillful mechanic and honest man, was entrusted with the construction of the building, and Rev. Mr. Judd, and Messrs. Fitch & Sheldon, with the design, or plan, of the same. So vigorously was the work prosecuted, that before the ensuing Christmas a handsome Gothic church was opened” for the worship and service of Almighty God.” It was consecrated September 25th 1846, by the Right Rev. William Heathcote Delancy, bishop of the diocese of Western New York. The little church still stands, and ornament to the village.
The total cost of the building the church was $1,991,15.
For ten years or thereabouts the church was prosperous and flourishing. At one time it its history the number of its communicants exceeded 50, and every seat was leased and occupied. Between the years 1850 and 1855 Pratt & Watson’s tannery (at one time the largest in the world), the Smedberg Tanner, one mile below the village, and Burton G. Morss’, two miles above, were closed by reason of the giving out of the hemlock bark. Other manufactories of woolen cloths and cassimers, of oil cloths, gloves, and mittens, iron foundries and machine shops were forced to succumb, because of the high cost of transportation, and the exodus that followed took to places more favorable to enterprise and thrift nearly all connected with the church, who had the pecuniary ability to maintain the service. Most of the few remaining have been by death. Of the generations succeeding, few care or will take the place in the church’s work of those who lived here 40 years ago. Hence Grace church, Prattsville, though still in existence as a corporation, has lapsed to its “first and former estate;” and the few churchmen here are dependent upon a missionary stipend, augmented some what by voluntary contributions, for services during four or five of the summer months.
The following clergymen, and in the order named, have been rectors, or have officiated as missionaries in the church: Revs. Thomas S. Judd, James W. Stewart, Horace L. Edgar Pratt, William W. Olssen, James P. F. Clarke, Daniel G. Wright, J. W. Bradin, E. Webster, William Wardlaw, Edward N. Goddard, H. H. Prout, E. Augustus Edgerton, H. C. Hutchins, and the present missionary, Rev. Aubrey F. Todrig.
The present officers of the church are: Dr. Thomas Fitch, warden; M. G. Marsh, J. H. Chatfield, Charles Platner, Willis Stewart, I. Houghtaling, and Hiram White, vestrymen.
vales are sweet with fern and rose,
Our hills are maple crowned;
But not from them our fathers chose
The village burying ground.”
There are two cemeteries in Prattsville. The first is located on a small bluff, overlooking the old battle ground. Here are the graves of the Laraways, Mores, Hardenbergs, and many other prominently identified with the early history of the town.
The second cemetery is at the lower end of the village. Here also repose the remains of many of the early citizens of the town. A number of handsome monuments are in this cemetery. Near the main entrance is that of Colonel Zadock Pratt, the founder of Prattsville. A monument erected to the memory of Rev. Hamilton Van Dyck, by the Reformed Dutch church, is also in this cemetery.
The Village of Prattsville
The village of Prattsville has an elevation of nearly 1,200 feet, and is pleasantly situated along the side of the Schoharie Kill, that here and there sparkles over the shoals that impede its course, as it winds its way to the Mohawk. The village is embowered in a rich growth of foliage, which, in the style of its dwellings, and the laying out of its thoroughfares, makes just pretensions to rural beauty, and at once strikes the visitor as a prosperous and thriving place.
This village, containing an area of 181 acres of land, was incorporated in September 1883, and the following officers elected at the first charter election, held on Monday, October 15th 1883: president, Dr. Thomas Fitch; trustees, W. H. Paddock, A. Lutz, Charles A. Layman; collector, Charles Myers; treasurer, A. P. Myers.
The village of Prattsville is about four miles from Grand Gorge depot, on the Ulster and Delaware Railroad, and is reached by stages and other vehicles, which are in waiting on the arrival of all trains.
This village has three churches, Dutch Reformed, Episcopal, and Methodist; an academy, three hotels, several stores, telegraph and post-offices, an enterprising weekly newspaper, a thriving masonic lodge, a fruit evaporator, etc.
This pleasant hamlet is located in the eastern part of the town of Prattsville, in a natural basin, surrounded by hills and mountains, and owes its growth to Hon. B. G. Morss, who owns the place. This place was named by Mr. Morss from the peculiar reddish color of the stream that flows through this locality, in connection with the small falls just west of the old cotton factory. In 1830 Mr. Morss and his father built a large tannery at this place, and ran it 20 years. This building is now used as a barn, planing-mill, and cider-mill. The present grist-mill was built by a Mr. Elmendorf, in 1825, and the saw-mill by a Mr. Gunn the same year. A distillery was also erected at this place.
The cotton factory was built by Mr. Morss in 1848, and continued in operation till 1881, giving employment to 80 hands, 50 females and 30 males. It is now used as a paint shop, etc.
The place contains the fine residence of Mr. Morss, a store, post-office, school, creamery, and a score of cottages.
The drives in the vicinity of Prattsville are among the most pleasant on the mountains, while the rambles are numerous, and cover many interesting places. A history of Prattsville would be incomplete if mention was not made of Devasego Falls and Pratt Rocks.
Devasego Falls are located “just over the line,” a trifle over one mile northwest of the village, near the road leading to Gilboa, Schoharie county. These falls were named after a French Indian who resided in this vicinity. In a deed, executed in 1765, these falls were termed Owlfleck, a name generally unknown to the residents of this place. These falls are over 50 feet high and nearly 125 feet wide, and are almost a perfect miniature of the great Niagara Falls. The basin below the falls is hemmed in by lofty perpendicular ledges, presenting a picture worthy a memory frame. These falls are annually visited by thousands of sight seekers.
The Pratt Rocks are at the eastern end of the village, nearly 500 feet above the Schoharie. The following notice, which appeared in The Mountain Sentinel, April 17th 1869, is an excellent description of these rocks.
“For the benefit of that portion of our readers who have never visited this vicinity, we publish the following brief description of the locality familiarly called ‘the rocks.’
“Carved on the rocks, under a protecting shelf, is his bust, under which are the words ‘Zadock Pratt, born October 30, 1790,’ on the right, is a view of the tannery, and the words: ‘One million sides of sole leather tanned with hemlock bark, in twenty years, by Z. Pratt’ upon which he received a diploma from both the New York State, and Greene Co. Agricultural Societies, also medal from Prince Albert, at the World’s Fair in London, and the Mechanic’s Institute, N.Y., for making the best leather. Likewise a scroll, upon which is carved in bass-relief, “Bureau of Statistics, 1844,’ held by a hand, of which he was the originator while in Congress, under which is a beem knife; near by is a square containing a wreath and the names of his two children, George W. and Julia H. Pratt, together with the following verse:
virtue be your greatest care,
And study your delight.
So will your days be ever fair,
And peaceable your nights.’
“Under this bust is a grotto, dug in the solid rock; on the right, and near the ‘Bureau of Statistics,’ is a mechanic’s uplifted arm, holding an hammer in its hand. On the left, and higher up, is his coat of arms, consisting of a hemlock tree and the words ‘Do well and doubt not,’ enclosed in a wreath; also, a horse standing near a hemlock tree, and a sofa. A fine walk is built in front of the rocks leading to a during spring of water, shaded with apple trees.
“Also a colossal bust of his son, the late Col. George W. Pratt. The bust is in bass-relief, cut from the solid rock. The likeness to the lamented hero is very striking. He is represented in full uniform, and immediately below the bust is the following inscription; ‘Hon. G. W. Pratt, Ph.D., Col. XX Regt., N.Y.S.M., Ulster county. Born Apr. 18, 1832; wounded August 30 1862, in the 2d battle of Manassas, Va. Good, brave, honorable.’
“This inscription is cut in the solid rock, and legible at a long distance. Near by is an uplifted open hand (the right) with the motto: ‘This hand for my country.’ The bust is cut in such proportions as to give a life-like size and view from the turnpike, a distance of about a quarter of a mile. It is one of the first objects, among the many works which Col. Pratt has caused to be placed upon ‘the rocks,’ which strikes the traveller’s eye on his approach to this village.
“Also on the rock is carved: ‘On the farm opposite, 224 pounds of butter was made from each cow – from one hundred cows, in a season, by Z. Pratt,’ upon which he received an honorary diploma from both the N.Y. State and Greene Co. agricultural societies, for the best dairy farm in the State.
“Leading to ‘the rocks’ is a zigzag path, built through the shrubbery, half a mile in length, along which are three sofas and an arm chair cut in solid rocks and ornamentally carved. On one side of the grounds is a beautiful grove of maples, chestnut, white oak, and hemlock, containing stone seats, which is used for public meetings, picnics, &c.
“Along the main road is built a heavy terraced wall, fifty rods long, capped with four feet flagging stone, in the rear of which are two rows of hemlock hedge, and a fine gravel sidewalk in front; each side of the road is shaded with maples.
“At the foot of the hill and near the walk, is a stone monument erected to his horses and dogs; upon which is carved a circle, and inside, a horse and a dog. On the circle is the following inscription: ‘Of over one thousand horses owned and worn out in the service of Z. Pratt the following were favorites.’ Below is inscribed their names: Bob, a sorrel, aged 24 years; Bogue, a bay, aged 18 years; Prince, a gray, aged 30 years.
“Below these are the names of his favorite dogs, noted for their sagacity: Carlo, a Scotch terrier and Newfoundland, aged 12 years; Rough, an Irish Canadian mastiff, aged 11 years; Mingo, a half English terrier, aged 10 years.
The Prattsville Bank, having a circulation of $100,000, was established by Hon. Zadock Pratt, October 30th 1843.
In February 1845, the secretary of the treasury offered to deposit in the Prattsville Bank $50,000, which Mr. Pratt declined; adding that he had as much of his own as he wanted to take care of.
In the chronological biography of Hon. Zadock Pratt is the following report:
1st 1846 – Quarterly report of the Prattsville Bank:
Loans and discounts $141,486.62
Stocks, ½ U.S. and N.Y. State 6 per ct. 100,000.00
Loss and Expense account 125.14
Over drafts 1,760.31
Cash items consisting of the bills of solvent banks 1,356.00
Due from banks 25,928.93
Total -- $ 272,266.30
Bank notes issued $100,000.00
Bank notes on hand 12,673.00
Due depositors on demand $ 49,118.61
Due banks 70.25
Total -- $ 272,265.80
$20,000 7’s N.Y. State Stocks.
$30,000 6’s do. do. do.
$50,000 6’s U. S. do.
“Z. Pratt, President.”
“November 30th 1852, this bank was closed. During the nine years of its existence this bank doubled its capital, paying specie for all demands, and has in various ways handled about eight millions of dollars.”
Prattsville Agricultural and Horticultural Association
This society was formed by the execution of articles of association, August 17th 1882, which were filed according to law, September 4th of the same year. The founders of this association were: W. B. Totten, J. A. Erkson, Isaiah Hotaling, Edgar White, Dwight Miller, Chester A. Platner, A. M. Allen, M. G. Marsh, T. H. Wright, and J. E. Platner.
The following is a list of the first officers: acting president, Charles P. Moffatt, Grand Gorge; vice-presidents, John A. Erkson, Prattsville, and D. C. Deyoe, West Kill; secretary, L. E. George, Lexington; corresponding secretary, Dwight Miller, Prattsville; treasurer, George M. Becker, Prattsville; directors, John Doyle, J. H. Chatfield, and Frank Kreager, Prattsville; J. M. Van Valkenburgh, and David Schermerhorn, Lexington.
This association bought 23 acres of land lying along the main road, near the Red Kill bridge, for which they paid $2,300.
Two annual fairs have been held on these grounds – each financially a success.
At the annual meeting of the society, held at the Prattsville House, November 3rd 1883, the following officers were elected:
Charles P. Moffatt, president; John A. Erkson, vice-president; L. E. George, secretary; J. H. Chatfield, corresponding secretary; George M. Becker, treasurer; David Schermerhorn, Cyrus E. Bloodgood, John Doyle, Frank Kreager, George M. Hare, directors.
Lodges and Associations
Sons of Temperance. – There have been several Sons of Temperance lodges and other divisions organized in Prattsville, the records of which have been destroyed, consequently it is impossible to obtain details of their history. At present, there are no temperance organizations at this place.
Literary. – There have been several literary societies formed here, but no records have been preserved. Some of these societies have produced very fine dramatic entertainments.
Aurora Lodge, F. and A.M., was organized in the year 1827. The following officers were installed: Thomas Benham, W.M.; Sidney Lovejoy, S.W.; C. K. Benham, J.W. During the Morgan excitement this lodge disbanded.
Oasis Lodge, No. 119, F. and A. M., was organized in 1847, by Mr. Willard, of Troy, N.Y., and the following officers installed: C. K. Benham, W.M.; ____ Bouton, S.W.; _____ Scanlon, J.W.
This lodge formerly held its meetings in the attic of the present Erkson’s store. A committee, consisting of Messrs. Benham, More, and Montgomery, was chosen to purchase a building suitable for the meetings of the lodge, and the building now occupied by the lodge was bought, and remodeled to suit the wishes of the members.
The officers elected December 22nd 1883, were: M. G. Marsh, W.M.; J. C. McWilliams, S.W.; S. B. Beers, J.W.; Ahira Brandow, treasurer; Theodore Rudolph, secretary; V. Decker, S.D.; George Raeder, J.D.; Rev. William Green, chaplain; Dwight Conine, Sylvanus Conine, M. of C.; F. Smith, tyler.
The worshipful masters have been: Dr. C. K. Benham, Ezekiel More, Cornelius Platner, William Fenn, Albert Newcomb, and Sidney Crowell.
This lodge is in a prosperous condition, and meets regularly.
Prattsville Cornet Band. – For several years this place has enjoyed the music of a brass band, but for a year or two the joyful notes of the brass instrument was no more heard in the land, they having disbanded. In October 1883 the present band organized, and the following is a list of its members: Leslie Bouton, leader; C. A. Munn, George Raeder, F. G. Churchill, A. Y. Salisbury, C. McArdle, C. Enderlin, C. Holcomb, N. H. Disbrow, James Vroman, F. Frayer, James Richtmyer.
From the close of the Revolution to the advent of Colonel Zadock Pratt, in 1824, the business transactions at Windham, now Prattsville, were inconsiderable, but since the year 1824 they have gradually and steadily grown.
Prior to 1800, one Bell built the first tannery in this locality. It was situated near Devasego Falls. Charles Smedberg, a native of Sweden, purchased this tannery and ran it till about the year 1823, when it was destroyed by a fire, supposed to have been started by Bell, who suddenly disappeared. Many claimed Bell to be a pirate, and it is said that he was captured and hung near Philadelphia. Mr. Smedberg soon erected another tannery on the same site; this also was destroyed by fire. Mr. Smedberg also owned and ran a grist-mill, saw-mill, and store, and carried on the business of farming.
In 1825 Colonel Pratt built his great tannery on the banks of the Schoharie Kill. This tannery was 550 feet long, and 43 feet wide, with 300 vats, conductors under the vats, and 12 leaches, with six heaters, together with three hide-mills, and ball and press pumps.
In 1839, the tannery was badly injured by a freshet, and the dam carried away.
This tannery was closed in 1845. During the 20 years it was running, Colonel Pratt used 150,000 cords of bark and wood, paying therefore a half million dollars; employed in different ways nearly 30,000 men, paying over two and a half million dollars for their labor; caused to be cleared some 12,000 acres of land, tanned over 1,000,000 sides of sole leather, and in various ways used over $10,000,000, without calling a jury or having a law suit, having endeavored to live with, not on, his neighbors, while the profits of the tannery have been a fair fortune to him. The leather, when placed on exhibition in America or England, has invariably received a premium.
At an annual dinner of the Hide and Leather Trade of the city of New York, early in 1859, Colonel Pratt delivered an elaborate address. In his speech he said, “I am an ex-tanner, and having sold the last of nearly a dozen tanneries, withdrawn my interest from nearly twice that number, and dissolved partnership connections with more than a score of men in peace, I have now my pockets filled with consols. As it has seemed best to those concerned, that one who has tanned more than 2,000,000 sides of leather should speak to his brothers of the tanning trade. I love to talk on tanning leather as others like to wear it,” etc.
About the time the tannery was building, a grist-mill was erected by Colonel Pratt, directly opposite the Reformed church. It was run a few years, and then fell into the hands of a Mr. Myers, who turned it into a cabinet shop. Harlow Taylor got possession of the building and converted it into a machine shop, and used it as such up to the spring of 1849, when it was sold to Wilbur Lament, who in a short time assigned it to Dr. Willard Marsh. During the latter part of the year, Colonel Pratt again became the owner. In 1851, the colonel and one Smith turned the building into a hat shop. In 1853, Colonel Pratt sold his interest to Henry A. Groat. In 1854, Smith & Groat failed, and Colonel Pratt again became the owner. During the latter part of 1854, Cornelius Platner and Theodore Rudolph bought the building, and carried on hatting till 1865. In this year, Mr. Rudolph bought Mr. Platner’s interest, and continued the business till October 4th 1869, when a severe freshet swept the building and contents away. A new building was erected by Mr. Rudolph, who carried on the hatting business till 1880, when the business was suspended on account of a large accumulation of stock. The building is still owned by Mr. Rudolph, who uses it for carding rolls and making cider.
There have been several factories within the village limits, all of which for the time being did a thriving business. Among the number was a distillery on Washington street, built about 1830, and run for about 10 years, by Bennet Atwood and Alfred Doolittle. There is a match and rubber factory on the same street, a cassimere factory at the lower end of the village (since destroyed by fire), and a comb factory.
Ackerly’s fruit evaporator was started September 1st 1883, and employs 25 hands, using 200 bushels of apples per day. There are two evaporators in this building, both of which, when running, give employment to 40 hands, and use over 300 bushels of fruit daily.
In 1843 The Baptist Library, a periodical paper, was started at this place by L. L. and R. H. Hill. This was the first paper published at this place. In 1845 it was removed to Lexington.
The Prattsville Advocate was started in January 1846 by John L. Hackstaff. Mr. Hackstaff learned his trade at Plattsburgh, New York. He was one of Hon. Sam Houston’s private secretaries when the latter was governor of Texas. Colonel Pratt furnished the outfit for this paper, and rooms in the old academy building free of charge. He subscribed and paid for 100 copies, but only took five. In October 1847, S. B. Champion, now publishing and enterprising paper at Stamford, New York, became a partner with Hackstaff. Two years later, Mr. Hackstaff bought Mr. Champion’s interest, and became its sole owner. He finally sold out to E. B. Fenn. The paper was discontinued in 1858.
The Prattsville Bee was established in this village in 1852. It did not live long.
In the year 1853 a paper called The Mountaineer was published here by Charles H. Cleveland. It died in its infancy.
The American Eagle was started at Prattsville in 1854 by E. and H. Baker. This paper was removed to Catskill the same year.
In 1858 The Prattsville News was started by J. G. Gregory, who ran it about two years and then sold it to E. P. More. The name was then changed to the Mountain Sentinel. In 1864 M. G. Marsh purchased the paper, and afterward changed its name to its original name, The Prattsville News. This paper is still published by Mr. Marsh, and makes its appearance every Saturday, to the entire satisfaction of its numerous patrons.
Prior to 1824, the main road followed what is now the bed of the Schoharie. Shortly after Colonel Pratt moved into town, he had it changed, contributing $150.00 toward the change.
Fenn & Dickerman kept the first store, dealing in dry goods, groceries, notions, etc.
Cornelius Decker was the first inn keeper, and his tavern occupied the site of the present Fowler House.
In 1842, Prattsville Academy was built. Colonel Pratt donated the site and contributed one-half the expense of the building.
About 40 years ago, Dr. C. K. Benham was called on in the night to attend a sick person, and on his way home, about one o’clock A. M., he met a man near the eastern end of the village. The Doctor spoke three times to the man before he received an answer; when he spoke the doctor recognized him. As he was ready to partake of his breakfast he was called on to visit the Widow Lewis; he went and found her dead. She had been choked to death; the prints of the fingers were plainly visible on her throat. A jury was summoned, and the verdict was “choked to death by some person now unknown to this jury.” Dr. Benham related meeting a man near Mrs. Lewis’ early in the morning. Parties began searching for the man, and he was found asleep in Colonel Steele’s wagon-house at Windham. He was taken to Catskill and tried, and by the evidence of Dr. Benham was convicted of murder and hanged.
Dr. Smith was the first physician. He came here about 1790. In 1800 Dr. David Curtis moved here. In August 1825, Dr. C. K. Benham commenced the practice of medicine at this place, and has continued in this business up to the present time. The present physicians are Drs. Fitch and Munn. Dr. Frayer is the village dentist.
Hon. Zadock Pratt
Extracts from his chronological biography.
"Zadock Pratt was born at Stephentown, Rensselaer county, New York, October 30th 1790."
"1802---Removed to Windham, since Lexington, now Jewett, Greene county, New York, and there worked at tanning in his father's yard."
"1807---Was one of the passengers on board the Fulton, the first steamboat that navigated the North River."
"1811---October 30, was twenty one years of age. Had $30."
"1812---Commenced business on his own account, at Lexington, in one of the store-houses, working from 14-16 hours a day; keeping a debit and credit account, and each year an inventory, which he has practiced ever since."
"1814---Caused to be made 100,000 oars, and transmitted them to New Tork from the Catskill Mountains."
"1816---Joined the Masonic order at Windham."
"1817---Was married to Miss Beda Dickerman. (She lived 6 months and eleven days.)"
"1820---April 25, unanimimously chosen captain in the 5th Regt., NY S. Artillery, and uniformed the company consisting of 100 men, at his own expense."
"1821---October 2, married Miss Esther Dickerman."
"1823, July 12---was unanimimously elected colonel of the 116th regiment of infantry of the State of New York."
"1824, August 16---was present at the landing of LaFayette and his son in New York; during same year was at the completion of the Erie Canal."
"1824, October---located and began to build on the Schoharie Kill, now Prattsville, carrying all in onehorse wagon, $14,000. He said to the people, "I came to live with them, not on them." November 17, finished the tannery dam and swam it---ice making fast."
"1825, March 14---began to build this great tannery on the banks of the Schoharie Kill. Same year commanded the escort of General LaFayette into Catskill; also laid out the village of Prattsville, gave the turnpike company $150 to improve the turnpike."
"1826---Mansion house built, and the hickory, maple and elm trees planted in front of his house and on each side of the street throughout the village (nearly 1,000, and as many on his farm); same year resigned the office of colonel of 116th regiment to the commander-in-chief, governor of the State of New York."
"1827---was elected supervisor of the town of Windham."
"1829, January 12---married his third wife, Miss Abigail P. Watson (she lived 5 years)."
"1832, November 20th---gave notice that an application would be made to the Legislature of the State of New York, at their next session, to divide the town of Windham."
"1833, March 8th---the town of Prattsville was set off from Windham, with a population of about 1500, and named after the founder."
"1835, March 16th---married his fourth wife, Miss Mary E. Watson, sister of his late consort; same year built a parsonage and carriage-house, and gave a deed to it to the Methodist-Episcopal society, also gave the ground of the Methodist, and paid one-third the expense of both the Dutch Reformed and Methodist churches---gave the bell of the Reformed church."
"1836, March---built a bridge 130 feet long over the Schoharie Kill in 11 days, without the use of ardent spirits---snow 3 feet deep on the level. November same year, was elected a Representative in Congress from the 8th Congressional district, composed of the counties of Greene, Schoharie and Columbia, by over 2,800 majority; was chosen one of the electors of president and vice-president, for the State of New York, met with the electors, and cast his vote for VanBuren and Johnson at Albany."
"December 4th---met at the regular session in Congress."
"1838, March 19th---moved a resolution in favor of the reduction of postage---7 years later had the pleasure of voting the postage down to 5 cents a letter from 25 cents."
"1839, September---was elected member of the American Institute; same year tannery located at West Kill, town of Lexington burnt, loss $10,000, insured for $7,000."
"1842, November 8th---was chosen a Representative in Congress from the 11th Congressional district, New York, composed of Greene and Columbia counties."
"1843, October 30th---established the Prattsville Bank. December 4th, was present at the meeting of the 27th Congress."
"1844---elected president of the Greene County Agricultural Society."
"Moved the survey of railroad route from the Mississippi to the Pacific."
"February 28th---was on board of the Princeton at the time of the explosion of its great gun, in the harbor of Alexandria, when Messrs. Upshur, Gilman, Gardiner, and others were killed, and was the first to aid the wounded."
"May 25th---was appointed on a select committee consisting of Messrs. Winthrop, Pratt, C.J. Ingersoll, Slidell, and Marsh, to report a place for the permanent location of the statue of Washington."
"August 9th---12 M., Windham tannery burnt; loss $12,000, insured for $9,000."
"December 4th---met with Congress."
"1845, February 20th---caused to be put up, the marble jet d'eau fountains in the Capital Square, Washington."
"March 3rd---Congress adjourned sine die; was glad---tired of legislating and doing business with others; in the 5 sessions of Congress was never absent one day."
"June 10th---Grace Church (Episcopal), Gothic architecture, built at Prattsville; was trustee, builder, and vestryman, gave one-third the cost and the land. (During this year had the carvings done on the rocks.) Also closed the Prattsville tannery."
"1847, January---elected an honorary member of the Louisiana State Agricultural and Mechanical Association."
"August 28th---addressed a letter to the people of the United States on the importance of a railroad across the continent to the Pacific Ocean."
"1848---bought the Palen Tannery; remodeled and built the Samsonville Tannery, in partnership with Henry A. Samson, where 60,000 sides of oak leather were tanned yearly."
"July 23rd---received the honorary degree of master of arts from Union College, Schenectady, New York. (This is the first instance in the State of a similar honor being conferred upon a self-taught mechanic.)"
"September 6th---received a respectable vote for governor, at the democratic convention, met at Syracuse, New York. Same year in company with Julius F. and Levi H. Alden, built the Aldenville Tannery at Aldenville, Wayne county, Pennsylvania, where 60,000 sides of leather were tanned yearly with hemlock bark."
"1851, July 8th---appointed a delegate to the World's Fair, by the Mechanic's Institute of the city of New York. Same year was at the celebration and completion of the Erie Railroad."
"1852, January 10th---joined the Tammany Society, at Tammany Hall, New York."
"November 30th---closed the Prattsville Bank."
"1853, June 8th---Windham Tannery burnt at 12 o'clock at noon the second time; loss $12,000, insured for $10,500."
"Same year received a diploma and medal and 3 elegant gilt bound volumes with a likeness of Prince Albert, for six different kinds of sole leather and butts, sent to the World's Fair, London, from as many tanneries, received by letter from Millard Filmore, president of the United States."
"June 7th---Elected president of the Six-Penny Savings Bank in the city of New York, one of the first of it's kind in the State. Gave his son and daughter on their coming of age, each $50,000, and each one-half of a tannery---George, the Samsonville; Julia, the Aldenville."
"1854---Appointed by the Legislature of the State of New York, director in the United States Inebriate Asylum."
"March 31---Saw Estrampes garrotted at Havana for high treason."
"1857---Elected a member of the Geographical and Statistical Society of New York City."
"1858---Received an honorary diploma from the New York State Agricultural Society for the best dairy farm---365 acres---keeping 50 cows."
"1861---Gave to the town of Prattsville the grounds for a cemetery (about 8 acres) and laid it out in terraces with ornamental mounds. Same year made a full report to the U.S. Department of the Interior and the the New York State Agricultural Society, of his dairy farm, consisting of 365 acres, on which he kept 50 cows, for each of the years 1857,58,59,60 and 61, showing the following satisfactory results:
Butter made from each cow:
1857-- 130.16 pounds; 1858--161 pounds; 1859--166 pounds; 1860--182.86 pounds; 1861--217.20 pounds.
Net income from farm:
1857--$460.20; 1858--$964.60; 1859--$938.00; 1860--$1,558.62; 1861--$1,716.95."
Col. Pratt has been chosen chairman of five democratic county conventions. Has entered into some 30 partnerships. Has been director of several banks. Has executed more than 200 warrantee deeds---not a title doubted. He has traveled through Europe, twice through the United States, and four times to the West Indies. Twice elected to Congress. As a soldier he has been a private, corporal, sergeant, captain and colonel. He built the village bearing his name---having erected over 100 houses. Was the cause of the erection of the town. He has received at different times 20 premiums from agriculture and mechanical associations, including five at the World's Fair, London. He has set over 1,000 shade trees along the streets of the village and built 1 1/2 miles of sidewalk. Been a member of 50 societies and associations. Has lived under the administration of every president of the United States from Washington to Grant. He has been president of one bank, one savings bank, and of the Mechanic's Institute of New York; has been offered the presidency of four banks and of one railroad--only one of which he accepted. He has contributed largely in aid of the fine arts, having had nearly 100 statues, paintings, engravings, etc., executed. Has twice been chosen the elector, and once president of the electoral college. He has been chosen a delegate to the National, State, Congressional, Senatorial, Judicial, and County Democratic Conventions. Col. Pratt died at the ripe old age of four score years, April 5th 1871. A large and costly monument has been erected to his memory in the village cemetery."
Burton G. Morss
Asa Morss, the founder of the family, was from Massachusetts. He married Hannah Austin of Dracut, Massachusetts. Mr. Morss soon removed to Lisbon New Hampshire. They had a family of fourteen children; 1. Foster, father of Burton G. 2. Asa, who died in childhood. 3. Benjamin, who came to Windham about the same time that Foster married Mrs. Berry. They had five children, Asa, Benjamin, Jr., Eliza Ann, Samuel and Gilman. 4. Farnham, who married Mehitable Blanchard of Milford, Massachusetts. Their children were: Enos, Foster, Lucy, Rachel, Persis, Trachey, Mary Ann. 5. Patience, who married David Perry. Their children were: David, Jr., Priscilla, Bradley, Sarah Jane, Jacob, Aaron, Julia, and Hannah. 6. Asa 2nd, who married a Miss Hubbard of Old Haverhill, Massachusetts, and had two children: Caroline and Alice. 7. Aaron, who married Polly Davis. Their children were Betsey, Lucy, Frances, Percy and Elizabeth. 8. Harmon, who had two children. 9. Hannah, who married Ebenezer Morris, and had three children, Henry, Luther Titus, and Alice. 10. Mary, who married Enos Sumner of Lowell, Massachusetts, and had four children: Mary, Harriet, Hannah and Belinda. 11. Stephen, who had three children, Abigail, Bartlett, and Abi. 12. Caleb, who died at 20 years of age, unmarried. 13. Phebe, who married 1st, a Mr. Hamlet. Their children were Asa, Mary Jane, Harris F., and two who died young. Her 2nd marriage was to a Mr. Currier. 14. Nathan, who married a daughter of Springer Berry of Plymouth, Indiana; of his children, Austin lived in Alliance, Ohio; Eliza married a Dr. John Thompson of Lisbon, New Hampshire.
Foster, the eldest son and child of Asa Morss, was born in 1774, and died in February 1835. He was three times married. By his first marriage he had two sons, Lyman and Horace, who came with their father, or soon after to Windham. Lyman succeeded his father in the management of their first tannery, at the foot of the hill, west of the Episcopal rectory, and built the house yet standing on the opposite side of the turnpike road, occupied many years as a tavern. He afterward in the employ of Burton G. Morss, in his tannery at Carbondale, Pennsylvania.
Horace died at his father's house, east of Ashland village, after the large tannery at Red Falls or Federal City had been built, and a year or two after the burning of the tannery on White or West Hollow Brook, near Ashland village. Foster Morss' second wife was Lois Gilbert. They had two sons, Austin, who died at Geneva, N.Y.; and Burton G., our subject; and a daughter Elizabeth, who married Austin Strong, and removed to Woodbourn, Sullivan county, New York, about 1855.
Austin Morss was a Presbyterian clergyman, and preached the last sermon in the old Windham church from the text, "Your fathers---where are they."
Burton G. was born in Windham, April 15th 1810, on the place now owned by N. Snow, east of Ashland village and where Foster lived while engaged in his tannery and grist-mill on White Brook. His mother died when Burton G. was two weeks old.
Foster Morss' third wife was Roxana (Kirtland) Butler, a sister of Daniel Kirtland, the father of Burton G.'s first wife, Caroline Kirtland, who was born August 28th, 1810, and died April 17th 1880, date of marriage 1834.
The children of Foster and Roxana Morss were: John B. (thrown from a sulky and killed), George L., Dwight F., Daniel K., and William P.E.
Burton G. attended school at the White school-house, near Ashland village, where he afterward taught one winter. He also attended school one year at Lexington. At the age of 17 he attended the select school at Durham one winter; at Greenville Academy the following winter; and at Ballston Spa, Saratoga, the next winter. He also attended school one winter in the Reynolds district, Windham, doing chores on a farm belonging to his father. As his brother, Austin, was in school, there was no one to share with Burton the responsibilities naturally devolving upon a son. He drove teams, worked in the tannery, and acquired a practical knowledge of his father's extensive business. In the first tannery, the vats were not under cover, the bark-mill was worked by horse power, and a stone wheel, also turned by horse power, was used for milling the hides. For about 12 years after Foster Morss built the tannery on White Brook, it was worked by Lyman Morss, who lost his life by being scalded in a vat at Carbondale, Pennsylvania. He was a just and upright man. Foster Morss built his second tannery about 1820. This was conducted upon the new system of tanning. It furnished employment to about fifty men, and had a capacity of 40,000 hides yearly. Loring Andrews, afterward a millionaire of New York city, served an apprenticeship at this tannery, and with his earnings laid the foundation of his immense fortune. This tannery was burned about 1826---a total loss. About 1829 Foster Morss built a tannery at Red Falls. The building is still standing but devoted to other purposes. This, as well as the one on White Brook was run by water power. It had a capacity of about 50,000 hides per annum. It was conducted by Foster Morss until the spring of 1831, then for about two years by Horace and Burton G., then for one year by Horace and Stephen Steel as partners, then by Foster and Burton G. Morss for one year, or until Foster Morss' death in 1835, after which it was conducted by Burton G. Morss until it was closed in 1849.
Haskell Curtis, a single man, was killed by getting caught in the bark mill. Lyman Morss was scalded to death in a tanning vat at Carbondale, Pennsylvania. A third man was killed in the grist-mill at Red Falls, by being caught in the smaller shaft. Mr. Morss sold out his business in Carbondale to his half brothers, George L. and D. F. Morss, in 1842. He had a foundry at Red Falls for casting rough irons, employing eight to ten moulders, pattern workers, lathe men and a forman. The machinery for the Gilboa cotton-mill was made here, and soon after, he constructed the machinery for his own mill. The cotton factory commenced operations in the winter of 1848-9. The building is 110X50 feet, and three stories high. He also built several commodious tenant houses near the factory. The buildings cost about $20,000, and the machinery about $50,000. The dam was 32 feet fall, and cost about $6,000.
Because of the difficulty in procuring transportation on the Hudson, at the time when cotton for his factory was required, Mr. Morss chartered and loaded a steamboat with cotton in December 1848, so late that he could not get it run at owner's risk. The cotton-mill contained 70 looms (for weaving yard wide sheeting), and facilities for making cotton yarns, warps, wicking, twines, and batts, and employed 40 females and 30 males. The power was supplied by two turbine water-wheels, replacing a 30 foot overshot wheel. The cotton-mill was kept in operation until 1880, when the machinery being much worn, and the water power becoming unreliable, the business was discontinued. The water power and buildings are now used for the manufacture of carriages, sleighs, and wagons. About 1840, Mr. Morss built a grist-mill on the site of a shingle factory, succeeding an earlier gristmill, which had been burned. Mr. Morss has a grist-mill at Ledgedale, Pennsylvania; has built and twice rebuilt his mill at Hobart, in Delaware county, New York; has built 11 saw-mills; and has burned several kilns of brick. His foundry was burned, loss $11,000; was rebuilt, and used for casting plows and other agricultural implements. He owns about 3,000 acres of land in New York, devoted to stock and dairy interests, about 15,000 acres of wild land. He has 200 acres of wild land in Delaware county, New York. He has about 200 cows, and 200 head of other cattle. His farms are under his own supervision. It requires about 50 men and 20 teams, to do the work on these farms. Mr. Morss was elected supervisor of the town of Prattsville, in 1869, and reelected consecutively for nine years, filling the office with credit to himself and to the satisfaction of the town. In 1875 he was elected a member of the State Legislature, and took his seat in January 1876. During the session he served on three committees.
The public school building at Red Falls was built about 30 years ago at his own expense. In the great freshet of 1869 he lost $100,000. It swept away everything at Red Falls, Gilboa, Schenevas, and Hobart. He lost two tanneries, grist-mill, and foundry, by fire. His total losses, by fire and water, amounted to $153,000. December 11th 1880, he married his second wife, Mrs. Nellie Chase, widow of Prof. E. B. Chase of Paterson, New Jersey. Mrs. Morss is a daughter of Richard and Philinda (Craven) Dutcher, of Rochester, New York.
The children of Burton G. and Caroline (Kirtland) Morss are: Arabella, wife of Rev. Anson F. Munn of Kingston; Leonidas W., now engaged in the tanning business at Ledgedale, Pennsylvania; Foster, died in infancy; Rosaline A., wife of Colonel Thomas H. Tremper, of Kingston; Foster 2nd, a civil engineer of New Haven, Connecticut; Julia S., died at 8 years of age; Burton G. Jr., at home. His eldest and youngest sons both have second wives, but no children. Mr. Morss has always contributed his full share and often much more to the improvement of his town and locality. He donated a handsome parcel of land for the enlargement of the old Windham Presbyterian church cemetery at East Ashland.
To his robust health and consequent powers of endurance, to his constant personal supervision of his entire business, and to his judgment in the selection of his subordinates and employees, Mr. Morss is chiefly indebted for his success. He is the architect of his own fortunes---a self-made man in that sense. His fortune was not inherited but acquired. He appears to have entered into his business with a resolve to rely wholly upon himself, to allow no difficulties or discouragements to deter him from prosecuting his matured plans, and therefore has carried on his enterprises, persistently and successfully.
Cornelius K. Benham, M.D.
Tracing this surname back to the famous Hundred Rolls of King Alfred's time---the earliest of civil records in England---it is found to be of pure Saxon origin. According to Savage, a John Benham came to America in 1630, in the then well-known ship Mary and John, and settled in Dorchester. He acquired the right as freeman, October 19th 1630. He acquired this by a first wife, by whom he had two children, Joseph and John. He removed to Hartford in 1630; he married again, Margery, daughter of Thomas Alcock, of Dorchester, in 1659, who died a few weeks after reaching Hartford, and he followed her, in 1641, at New Haven. Upon the church records of this place, of date 1669, are found the names of freemen, John, John Jr., and Joseph Benham.
Family traditions, however, say that the first men of this name who came to America (during the latter part of the seventeenth century) were three brothers, who settled as follows: James in Rhode Island, Joseph in Connecticut, and John on Long Island; but the absence of this name from a long list of immigrants who sought the freedom of American shores, other than the John of Dorchester in 1630, prior to 1700, is a strong argument favoring the theory that these "three brothers" were descendants of this first John Benham.
Cornelius K. Benham M.D. is descended from good stock, who for at least three generations have been practicing physicians, which accounts for the enthusiasm Mr. Benham has always displayed in his professional work. And after a long and well spent career as a pioneer physician it is doubtful if there has been or is another who has done as much in this professional line as Dr. C. K. Benham. His circuit, from Delaware county line to that of Cairo, from beyond Ulster to and into Schoharie, has been thoroughly cared for in former years, and let these lines extol to posterity his worth as a citizen and his value as a physician. Though having reached four score years, he is yet sound in mind and quite hale in body.
Mr. Benham was born in Ashland, Greene county, New York, and was a son of Thomas and Margaret (Patrie) Benham, and sixth child of a family of eight: Margaret, Thomas, Jacob, Margaret 2nd, John P., Cornelius K., born September 19 1801, Mary, and Clarissa.
Thomas, a physician, was a son of Cornelius and Garetty Charter (Charity Carter), born at Hillsdale, New York (Columbia County-AC), November 6th O.S. 1736, and married about 1760. His children were: Peter, born November 11th 1762; Madeline; Margaret; Thomas, born January 8th 1770; Mary; Margaret 2nd; and Garretty S., April 13th 1790. He was also a physician, and died August 22nd 1805. His father was also a physician, though his name is unknown. He was a son of the John Benham of Long Island tradition. This latter (John) married a Miss Kymber--a young woman who, when a school girl in some one of England's coast towns, with a bevy of others was decoyed aboard an American vessel and kidnapped, and from marital circumstances never returned.
Dr. Benham married, for his first wife, Miss Elizabeth, daughter of Martinus and Rosina Laraway, November 30th 1825. Their children were: Jacob Gumalia, born in 1827; Thomas Leander, born in 1831; Rose L., born in 1836; Martinus, born in 1838. Mrs. Benham died September 10th 1866, and he married Hannah Cartwright, of Roxbury, New York, January 15th 1868. She was a daughter of Samuel Cartwright, born August 11th 1825 and is yet living (1883-AC). He has an elegant home in his old age, and a kind and thoughtful wife.
John A. Erkson
Prior to the war of the Revolution, driven to desperation by the drafts, impressments, taxes, and religious persecutions, arising from the frequent quarrels of the petty princes of those dutchies and provinces, whose moods were as varying and changeable as the winds of the Black Forest, there had immigrated to the peace-abiding shores of Pennsylvania hundreds of their peasantry artisans, to escape an ever annoying servitude and the injustices incident to these border frauds; to a land whose liberty of speech, action, and religion, was as a magnet---stronger than a love of kith and kin and childhood's home. Among these men were three brothers, from some Belgian province, who landed in Philadelphia, and from whom the Erksons (a quite uncommon name) of today sprang. One was a teacher, the second a clergyman, and the third, at a later date than their arrival, infused with zeal for the American cause, enlisted as a private in the continental army. Taken prisoner by the Indians, he was delivered to the British in Canada, undoubtedly experiencing the sufferings and exposures incident to the tedious marches and imprisonment; and, escaping after several years, those of the return to the American lines, through the forests of Northern Vermont and New Hampshire, the stories of which, as related by others, are pitiful. He soon settled as a pioneer in what is now Bovina, Delaware county, where he lived and died. From this latter brother, in a direct line of descent, the subject of this sketch traces his ancestry. Though reputed as emigrating from Belgium, well founded conjectures trace the linage of the Erksons back to Norman origin.
Mr. Erkson was born in the town of Bovina, May 15th 1840, and was a son of Archibald C. and Nancy (Hamilton) Erkson, the latter a direct descendant of the Duke of Hamilton. Her grandfather was killed at the battle of Waterloo. He lived at Bovina until about December 1871, when he located at Prattsville, in the merchantile trade, in a small store opposite the commodious and well stocked store he now occupies. He purchased this latter eight years ago, and most thoroughly remodeled it upon a practical plan. By a natural adaptation to this business, he has built up for himself a large and extended trade, for a country town. Mr. Erkson is emphatically and active citizen of Prattsville. He was one of the originators and vice-president of the Prattsville Agricultural and Horticultural Society, and has held the office of supervisor, and as a democrat, stands high throughout the western portions of Greene county in the esteem of his party. Mr. Erkson married, January 1st 1863, Miss Emma Tyler of Roxbury, Delaware county, New York.
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