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Article Number Twelve -  Hotchkiss  Family - Grist Mills

Written by Joshua G. Borthwick and originally published
on April 10, 1880, in the Catskill "Examiner". Copy provided by the Durham Center Museum and retyped by Annette Campbell

About half a mile below Capt. John Bagley's Grist mill, on Thorp Creek, Simeon and Asa Jones built a Fulling mill. It was about twenty rods above the present Turnpike bridge near Amos Rockerfeller's.  This was one of the first and perhaps the first Fulling mill in the town.  Thorp creek, on which these mills were located, rises on the hills South and West of Hervey Street, and after receiving the Cornwallsville creek and Post's creek and other smaller streams, passes through East Durham and empties into the Catskill about a mile below the village. It has in many places a rocky bed, and numerous falls from 10 to 40 feet high; and in some places flows through deep gorges.  The falls near Henry Rockerfeller's  are about 40 feet high, although they are not perpendicular but broken into a series of falls, and yet constituting one cataract.  The ravine just below the Wetsel school-house in District No. 3, is a wild, romantic place. The rocks here are red slate and are fully 40 feet high. The gorge at East Durham must be 50 or 60 feet deep, and the water below the falls near Mr. Robert Hotchkiss's Grist mill is very deep. Here one poor woman, in the early history of the town lost her life. She was the wife of Mr. Joel Jewell.  Among their children they had one unfortunate, who was of weak intellect. This son went out near the edge of this deep pool, and his mother fearing that he might fall, went to his rescue; but in her efforts to save her son she lost her balance and fell into this deep water and was drowned. The boy was saved, and a few years afterward wandered away and was lost; his father and the neighbors hunted day and night for him, and all in vain. Several months afterward, a hollow pine "stub" was cut, and there in the interior of it, his remains were found.  This hollow trunk was a famous resting place for chimney swallows, and it was supposed that he climbed to the top of the stub to secure some young birds and falling down inside, found it impossible to escape and thus perished there.  A man by the name of Vosdick rode off the rocks just below Mr. Robert Hotchkiss's Grist mill and he and his horse were killed. He was a cattle buyer, and  a comparative stranger in the place. It was supposed that he came from the neighborhood of Patroon Barker's in the night, and seeing the lights on the opposite side of the stream, and knowing nothing of the deep ravine before him, plunged down the precipice to the rocks below. He was found lying partly under his horse, both dead.  The first meeting-house was built on the knoll about 20 rods South of the hotel in East Durham. The ground is now occupied as a cemetery. The timber for this house was cut on a farm near the Catskill Creek, then owned by a Mr. VanLoan. The building was never finished, but was taken down and moved to "Durham Hill" and put up and used by the Methodists. It was afterward moved to Cornwallsville, re-erected there, and is now occupied as a Methodist church.  Elisha Tyler settled on the farm now owned by Sutherland Jones, and the first company training in this part of the town took place on this farm, John Bagley, Capt.    The first tannery built in the town was located on Post's Creek, 10 or 12 rods above the present Lindsley's saw mill, and it is claimed that the first side of leather ever tanned in Greene county was tanned here.  The first framed school-house in Durham was built near this tannery, and the frame, 14 feet square, is now used as a woodhouse by Mr. Mott, who lives near its original site.  Phineas Tyler lived where Harry Rockerfeller now does, and he succeeded John Bagley as the second Captain of Militia in this part of the town.  Samuel Hotchkiss settled the farm now owned by Amos Rockerfeller.  He married Miriam Hotchkiss, belonging to another family not related to him.  Robert Hotchkiss took up the farm now occupied by Charles P. Miller.  He had two children, Amos and Lolu, and they afterward settled in Smithville, Chenango county. Amos married Lottie, Elisha Tyler's  daughter, and they had sixteen children, and all are living but one.  George Hotchkiss, the brother of Robert lived on the farm previously occupied by Barnard Bagley, and was the father of Mr. Robert Hotchkiss, who now lives in East Durham, and to whom we are indebted for the facts and incidents contained in this and previous sketches. Mr. Hotchkiss is probably the oldest man in the neighborhood of East Durham, and yet he is well, and active, and although he had the misfortune to fall out of an apple tree about two years ago and break one of his limbs, still he is able to perform his daily work in his Grist mill. He is worthy of the respect and honor belonging to virtue and a long and useful life.

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