Number Twenty-Two -
Meeting House Hill, Rose Hill and Vicinity
Written by Joshua G. Borthwick and originally published
on April 30,1881, in the Catskill "Examiner". Copy
provided by the Durham
Center Museum and retyped by Annette Campbell
Many of the first settlers of the town of Durham, especially those who came
from the New England states, built their first homes on the hills, and laid
out their first roads directly over the hills; as one has said
"they were willing to walk up the hills for the sake of riding
These hills became very bleak as the country was cleared of it's heavy
forests, and the people gradually sought refuge in the valleys, and the hills
became boundaries, not to say barriers, between
This was true of Meeting-House Hill, and also of Rose Hill. At one time there
were two church buildings, a school house, several dwelling houses, a
blacksmith shop, two roads crossing it at right angles and running out into
the surrounding country, and a nicely laid out cemetery on Meeting-House hill.
Now there is not a building of any description (except Mr. Osborn's
at the extreme eastern boundary), nor a road except a farm road, and the
cemetery is in a state of disgraceful neglect.
The ascent of the hill on the north side is steep and long, and the people
becoming tired of the toilsome journey, removed the Presbyterian church to
"Broadway," in 1821, and the people in the south part of the town
being unwilling to climb over Rose hill, and up Meeting-House hill, took the
Methodist church down and set it up again in Cornwallsville. The dwelling
houses soon followed.
James Rose lived on Rose hill, hence its name, but his farm
is divided among several owners. The house long since disappeared, and the
barn is now Mr. Dwight P. Hull's "west barn."
The Rose family---Elijah, the father and James
and John, the sons, have long since passed away.
Between these two hills is another smaller one, on which Henry
Hendrickson once lived. The road from Meeting-House hill to the
south, passed over this hill; there was another road running from the top of
this hill to the west. There are now several graves there. Deacon
Christopher Lord and Patience, his wife, a Mrs.
Kiersted, as also two brothers, sons of Mrs. Daniel Kirtland,
Sr., were buried there. Now it is an open field; the house
gone, and the barn was removed and now belongs to Mr. Horace B.
Like many other towns, Durham has no village as it's geographical centre.
Between the Hills of which we speak, there is a tract of level smooth land,
now owned by Mr. Horace Kirtland, and the Field
estate, which is suitable for building purposes, and here it was thought that
the village of Durham would be located. Some six or seven houses, a school
house, a blacksmith's shop, a boot and shoe shop, a pot-ashery and the town
pound were here; and when the Susquehanna turnpike was incorporated, an effort
was made to induce the company to follow the old Dies Manor road through this
proposed village. This effort failed largely through the influence of Judge
Thomas E. Barker, who owned a tannery and other business interests at
the present village of Durham; and later still when the Churches were removed
from Meeting-House hill, this locality was strongly urged as a suitable site
for them both. But all these plans came to nought.
Among the early settlers of this place we find the following names: Curtis
Baldwin. Peter Shue, son of Augustines Schu, Edward Daley, a
Hollander, lived on the farm now owned by H. B. Kirtland.
He became a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and in 1824 he and Caleb
Coffin represented this county in the Legislature of the State. In
his old age he was elected pound master from year to year. Solomon
Steadman was a blacksmith. His house and shop were north of the road,
near the wagon house now occupied by Elihu Moss. John
Dennison built the house now occupied by Mr. Moss,
and used it as a store and dwelling combined, and sold it to Rev.
Stephen Ostrander, who was pastor of the old Dutch Church west of Oak
Hill. He sold it to Mr. Cyrus Field who lived there until his
death a few years ago. Elisha Crane lived just east of Mr.
Field's house. He was a brother-in-law of the late William H.
Reed, of Durham. A Mr. Maynard lived north of
the road near by, and Mr. Cyrus Field lived in a block house
further east before he bought the Dennison House. This block house was
probably built and occupied by Linus Hopson who afterward
lived on the farm now owned by Minthorn Smith. South of the
village there lived a Mr. Hummel, who was a shoemaker. The
pot ashery was also south of the town. The town pound was situated just
east of Mr. Kirtland's barn yard. It was walled up high and
strong and was used for the safe keeping of stray cattle, etc. It was
expected that the owners should prove property, and also pay such a fee as the
pound master should order before they could remove the cattle.
This pound was once used by Col. Edwards, of Hunter. He had a
neighbor whose hogs and pigs troubled him very much, so one day he loaded them
into his wagon and brought them from Hunter to Durham, and placed them in the
pound, from which the owner recovered them upon the payment of the charges.