Article Number Seven - 
 Munger, Rose and Cowles Families - Highways and Mills

Written by Joshua G. Borthwick and originally published
on April 26, 1879, in the Catskill "Examiner". Copy provided by the Durham Center Museum and retyped by Annette Campbell



At the time about which we are now writing, (1783-4) there were no roads worthy of the name, in this whole town of Durham, as it is now constituted. It will be remembered that at that time it had no organization as a Town, but simply as a District, under the general name of Coxsackie, and that it continued in this unorganized state until 1788, when it became a part of the town of Coxsackie. Consequently there were no Road Commissioners elected, and no road laws.  The few who lived here, had paths through the heavy forests from one log cabin to another; and from settlement to settlement; they had rough roads indicated by marked trees, over which there rolled no fancy buggies, or glittering carriages, to say nothing of the more simple vehicles of the present day; but first of all, we see the hard working man, carrying his bushel, or bushel and a half of seed wheat on his back; then came the boy and the horse, carrying as much, or more, evenly balanced on the horses back; (our forefathers and their sons did not put a stone in one end of the bag to make it balance--they were too shrewd for that) then came the patient oxen dragging a very simple conveyance, made from a single tree, in which there were two even branches, which was cut off in such a way as to make a splendid capital letter Y.  To the trunk end of this dray they hitched their team, letting the two branches (cut off about four feet long) drag on the ground. On this dray they piled their movables, and, singing out the word, "whoa---haw---bright---gee," on they went.  This soon gave way to the sled, and afterward to the cart; but I doubt if a single wagon, great or small, could be found in the town. There were only two saw-mills; one Jared Smith's, and the other a saw and grist mill combined, belonging to Lucas DeWitt, at Oak Hill. Many of the settlers pounded their wheat and corn in mortars, burned in the upright end of a log, or found a suitable hollowed out stone, which, with a pestle, answered the purpose very well. They suffered many privations, not the least of which was a lack of sufficient food. For the first few years they lived largely on game of various kinds. Pigeons were plenty at some seasons of the year, and yet on the 22nd day of September, 1784, Selah Strong says, "provisions are very scarce here."  Many of the first settlers came alone that first year and cleared a piece of ground, sowed some wheat, built a log house and returned to Connecticut, or to the Imboght, the first winter, and in the following spring come on with their families to make a permanent home. But to return to our history. There are some families who settled here as early as 1784, about which nothing further than that fact, can at present be ascertained. There was a Mr. Hurd,  a Mr. Bronk, Caleb Cook and Bill Torry, about which I know nothing, except that it appears that the latter was in some way related to the Baldwins, and that he was a weaver by trade. Elijah Rose settled on "Meeting House Hill," about 40 rods south of Selah Strong's and after the burying place was established, he was generally employed to dig the graves and assist in burying the dead.  John Cowles, and David, his brother, came about the year 1784, as near as can be ascertained, and settled---John on the farm now owned by Horace Strong, and David on Horace Maybee's farm.  In the year 1798 John sold his farm to Selah Strong and moved to the northern part of the State. David was soon joined by his father, and they after a time moved about half a mile north and built a log house, and afterward they built the old house which now stands about sixty rods east of George Pratt's  house.  On the second day of August, 1801, David Cowles and Eunice, his wife, united with the church, he receiving the ordinance of baptism, and on the 23rd day of the same month, their seven children, to wit: Charlotte, Oren, David, Abner, Alanson, Norman, and Jonathan Bird, were baptised. David Cowles, Jr., married Nancy Merwin, daughter of  David Merwin, of whom we have before written. Their children were Erwin, Sophronia, David Porter, Nancy, Irene, Amelia,  and Eliza, and by his second wife, Ellen Catherine, and Cornelius. Alanson married Catherine Boughton, daughter of a Mr. Boughton of West Durham. He died young, leaving one son, Alanson Camp, who is a lawyer, now living in the village of Durham. He has been a Justice of the Peace and Supervisor for several terms in this County, and in Delaware County, and is universally known as "Esquire Cowles."   Jonathan Bird, the youngest son of David Cowles, was named after a Missionary of that name, who frequently preached for the settlers. Early in life he began the study of medicine, and began his practice, and has followed it successfully for more than sixty-years: both in Delaware county, and now for many years in this, his native town. He has been honored by his townsmen with tokens of confidence, having represented them and the County in the Legislature of the State.  His wife, an estimable woman, died a little more than a year ago. They had five children, viz: Ann Eliza, Louisa, Augusta, J. Hobart,  and Proctor.  The two eldest have died within a few years; the others remain.  Timothy Munger settled on the farm of which his grandson, Bela Munger, owns a part, on the 4th of November 1784.  His first house was on land now occupied by A. B. Gilbert, about thirty-five rods west of the present house. Afterward he built a frame house 8 or 10 rods east of that, and the frame is now in one of Mr. Lacy's buildings doing service yet.  Titus Munger, his son, inherited his farm and built a log house opposite the present one, and in 1809 built the house now owned by Bela Munger. Titus Munger was born January 4, 1772, and married Amy Griswold, and died at the age of 73.  They had six children, viz: Sylvster, Polly, Lyman, Bela, Linus, and Julia.  The last two mentioned are dead. Sylvester lives in Windham, and the others still remain in Durham.  Bela was born in the house in which he lives, having never lived in any other, except about seven months when he was first married, and he is now 69 years of age, and the farm has never been owned by any out of the family except a portion sold off several years ago.  And now before I leave this part of the town for the present, I wish to say that in the last sketch (number 6) I may have done an injustice to the memory of Augustines Shue.  I wish to write these sketches impartially and with "malice toward none, and charity for all."  Mr. Shue had virtues and excellencies of character, and far be it from me to speak disrespectfully of the dead. Of course, his neighbors did not like to pay him rent for the use of their lands, and their feelings toward him were not pleasant, but whether they were justifiable or not, is not for me to decide. Some of his household were connected with the church, and he gave to its support; and let us hope that the truth he heard was blessed to his eternal good. Of Mr. Hendrickson I will add, that he spent a great deal of his time, as his life drew to its close, with his Bible in his hands, reading those precious words of life given for a lost world.

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