Number 12 - The Catskill Patent No. 6 - The Salisbury Estate
Originally published in the Catskill Examiner by Henry Brace between the years 1876 and 1879. Article 12 was published on November 18, 1876. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Catskill Examiner located at the Vedder Research Library. Transcribed by Barbara Bartley.
Local Sketches.--No. 12. An Outline of The
History of the Town of Catskill,
To The Year 1783. By Henry Brace.
The formal division of the alluvial land at Old Catskill was not made between the Salisburys and the Van Bergens until the year 1721, but, so early as 1682, a partition had been agreed upon. Francis Salisbury, as I have already said, took the northern portion of the low-lands, which included the plain that now lies on the Catskill between the highway from Leeds to Katerskill and Wolcott’s Mills. It was a noble domain. The terrace bordering the plain was covered with trees, but the fertile plain itself had, for the most part, been cleared by the Indians, a few oaks and chestnuts, however, remained upon the flats. Of these trees, a few remained fifty years ago. In my boyhood, old men told me of the huge trunk of one of the oaks, and of the strange shadow which its gnarled boughs threw, in winter, upon the snow.
Gerrit Teunisse Van Vechten, the brother of Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten, of Catskill, was the first white occupant of these lands. But his possession, which was that of a mortgagee from the Indians, was not of long continuance. In 1682, “the half of the meadow-land at Catskill, consisting of the half of two flats, the first where Gerrit Teunisse now lives, and the second called Potick,” were let for ten years by the trustee of the Salisbury estate to Andries and Hendrick Witbeck. The lease, in the original Dutch, can yet be read in the third volume of deeds in the office of the county clerk of Albany. The lessees agreed, in lieu of rent, to put a substantial fence around certain portions of the land, that is to say, around those portions which now constitute the flats in the possession of the Van Duzens and the Eltinges. They also engaged to build, within the fenced enclosure, a barn twenty-two feet and a half in length, and as “broad as the barn which Marte Garritse has built there,” to erect a dwelling house twenty-two feet and a half square, with a roof of shingles and “a cellar of stone as large as the house,” and to plant an orchard of two hundred fruit trees, to be furnished by the lessor.
Assuming, as I think we can, that the provisions of this lease were carried out, it may be that the barn which the Whitbecks built, between the first day of May, 1682, and the first day of May, 1692, is the barn which now stands in the rear of the house built by Francis Salisbury and now occupied by the Van Duzens. The frame of this building is perfectly sound, and its great age is proven by the mode of its structure and the size of its timbers. The principal beams are of white oak--many of them eighteen inches square--and are stayed by braces, which are nearly as large. The floor is also of oak, in planks about four inches thick and dovetailed together in a most solid manner. Even if this barn was not built by the Witbecks, it is at least one hundred and seventy years old, and bids fair to last another hundred.
An old pear-tree, which stands in front of the Van Duzen house, may also be one of the momentos of the Witbecks’ possession, and be one of the two hundred fruit trees which Van Dyck sent down from Albany, and which his tenants planted. Its few branches bear a few twigs and a scanty leafage, but it is guarded with care and a feeling akin to reverence. Fifty years ago--so Mr. Claude Van Duzen told me--Wessel Salisbury, (who was then a man of ninety years of age,) declared that in his boyhood the tree was full grown.
Francis, the oldest son of Silvester Salisbury, came of age about the year 1691, but probably did not enter into the possession of his father’s estate until after the beginning of the eighteenth century. Meanwhile he lived at Albany. In 1689, he is described as “one of the principal men of ye Towne.” In the autumn of that year, he enrolled himself, as did Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten, as a private soldier for the defence [sic] of the frontier against a threatened invasion of the French. But in 1705 he removed to Catskill.
Here Francis Salisbury lived until his death, about the year 1755. By his will, he devised the homestead to his oldest son, Abraham, his estate at Fox Hall, near Kingston, to his son Lawrence, and the farm of Potick, with the house which stands near the turnpike gate, to his son William.
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