Article Number Eight - 
Dewitt and Plank Families 

Written by Joshua G. Borthwick and originally published
on May 24, 1879, in the Catskill "Examiner". Copy provided by the Durham Center Museum and retyped by Annette Campbell



We will now turn our attention to the eastern part of the town---to Oak Hill and its vicinity. I find in an old lease, given to Lucas DeWitt, May 3rd, 1774, that at that time it was called De Wittsburgh, showing that the place had been settled long enough and had houses enough to be called a Burgh.  Lucas DeWitt held slaves for probably 20-30 years, but they suffered none of the miseries of Southern slavery. He evidently possessed a kind heart, and gave them many privileges. They lived like members of his own family, and such was their regard for him and their attachment to the family that they delighted to be called by the family name. Hence we find the names of Andrew DeWitt, Jack DeWitt and Pete DeWitt.  In 1805 Mr. DeWitt divided some of his slaves among his children, and set others free, and afterward he provided by will for a faithful old female slave, "Jude," directing that she should have a home with his children as long as she lived; also that she might live with any of them that she preferred, and they were to take good care of her, provide clothing, food and medicine for her, and at her death provide for her funeral expenses and burial. Andrew, another slave of Mr. DeWitt, received his freedom, married and lived in an old house in the neighborhood of the New Durham settlement. He had a gigantic frame, and while a slave was very useful in Mr. DeWitt's grist mill, in lifting and in doing the heavy work there. He was exceedingly fond of cider.  I have heard some of my neighbors say that after he obtained his freedom and earned his living by day's work, he always wanted a drink in the morning before he commenced, and that he would take a quart pitcher of cider down at one breath.  Jack, another slave, was afterward owned by a gentleman in New York city, who gave him his freedom in 1822, and I wish right here to copy the instrument for the information of the readers of these sketches:
            " I do hereby certify by virtue of a power or letter of attorney
              of Capt. Henry Robinson, of the City of New York, who is
              the lawful owner of a colored slave named Jack, aged
              about thirty-five years, and raised by Lucas DeWitt, de-
              ceased, I do by these presents manumit or free the said
              colored man named Jack to enjoy hereafter all the rights
              and privileges appertaining to a free born citizen agreeable
              to the laws of the State in that case made and provided.
              Given under my hand and seal this 20th day of September.
              1822."

This instrument was signed "Henry Robinson, by his attorney, Asa Starkweather," attested by Jacob Roggen, and recorded in the town clerk's office by Platt Adams, town clerk.  This Asa Starkweather lived at Livingstonville, Schoharie county, and was an excellent man. He possessed talents of a high order, had a family of children, eminent in good works, was himself a father in Isreal, one of the original founders  of the Presbyterian church at Livingstonville, and an earnest friend of the colored man. He died in New York City, but was buried at Livingstonville, in the same cemetery with David Williams, one of the captors of Major Andre.  Among the very first settlers of Oak Hill I find the name of Hendrick Plank, who settled on the farm now owned by Ezra Cleveland.  He may have been a distant relative of John---of whom we have before written---and Jeremiah Plank, who lived where John Kenyon now does, but that is uncertain. He certainly came here before the Revolution, for after he had built his house and barn and commenced to clear the land he was captured by the Indians and taken to Canada, where he died. This was probably early in the war, about the time that a family was massacred by them on the Shinglekill, in the town of Cairo.  His widow afterward married Leonard Patrie, and they came and lived on the farm for many years. One granddaughter, Mrs. James TerBush, now lives at Oak Hill, to whom we are indebted for these facts. Mr. George Flower settled on the farm now owned by Mrs. Lucina Henderson, his daughter, just north of Oak Hill. He was born in 1741, lived for a time in Richmond, Mass., then removed to New Hartford, Conn., from whence he came to this town very early in its history. His wife was Roxaline Crowe, and they had ten children. He was a clothier by trade and had his machinery on the small stream north of Oak Hill, several rods above Lucas DeWitt's saw-grist mill. He built that long red building which stood near the street just in front of the present residence of Mr. Henderson, and occupied it in connection with his business. He was justice of the peace for many years, and died in 1827, aged 86 years. Abner, his son, succeeded him in his business and was also a justice of the peace, town clerk in 1832, 3, 4, and 5, and supervisor in 1836.  The George Flower mentioned above was a Revolutionary war soldier, just in the prime of his life, being 35 years of age at its commencement and 42 at its close. Daniel Peck lived where N. C. Whitcomb now does, and had a tannery just back of the house. His son, Eli R. Peck, was a merchant, and had his store where the reading room now is.  He was town clerk in 1831, and died in office. His wife was Lucina Flower, now Mrs. Henderson, mentioned above. Adoniram Skuls (Skeels? - SH), one of the early settlers of Oak Hill, lived where Judson Cleveland now does---a few of his descendants and relatives still remain, living at Oak Hill and Cooksburg and between the two places.

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