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Article Number 17 - The Catskill Patent No. 10 - Barent Staats Salisbury - The Katerskill Road

Originally published in the Catskill Examiner by Henry Brace between the years 1876 and 1879. Article 17 was published on October 6, 1877. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Catskill Examiner located at the Vedder Research Library. Transcribed by Barbara Bartley.

Local Sketches.--No. 17. An Outline of the History of the Town of Catskill, To The Year 1783. By Henry Brace. 

[The following account of Captain Salisbury was omitted by me in a previous article.] 

The House of Barent Staats Salisbury.

This man was the son of the first William, and the great-grandson of Silvester Salisbury. In 1776, being then 33 years old, he was made a first lieutenant in the first regiment of the New York Line, and remained in the service during the War of the Revolution. He was at Saratoga, at Monmouth, and at Yorktown, and bore himself well in these battles.

After the war, Salisbury built for himself a wooden house, upon the limestone hill which crosses the Susquehannah turnpike road just beyond the Austins’. Here he lived until his death. He was buried at the edge of the hill near the road leading to the paper mill. In that place his remains lay until about the year 1860, when they were removed by his grandson to the graveyard in Jefferson. On the stone, which stands at the head of the new grave, is the following inscription:

“Barrent S. Salisbury, a prominent American officer during the Revolution, died Apr. 11, 1797, aged 54 years.”

The road from Leeds to Katerskill is an ancient one. It was probably cut through the forest before the end of the seventeenth century, but is first mentioned (“the path,” and also “the highway,” it is called,) in a deed which was executed in 1738. At its northern extremity, it crossed the Catskill at a ford near the site of the stone bridge; at its southern extremity, it crossed the Katerskill at a ford just below the Falls.

Upon this road, or near it, at the close of the Revolutionary War, had been built the following houses, in addition to the dwellings of the Van Bergens, the parsonage, the church, and the school-house. I hope the catalogue will not prove tiresome to the readers of The Examiner.

1. The house of Jurry or Michael Planck. In July 1771, Jurry Planck bought ninety acres of land, near the Kelder Kilje, from Marten G. Van Bergen, and soon afterward built a small house of stone upon the farm. This dwelling is still standing in a little valley west of the road to Katerskill.

In 1858 I visited the place and met William Plank, the son of Michael and the grandson of Jurry. He was then ninety-five years old, in good health, but with a memory greatly impaired with regard to those things in which, in his boyhood, he had had no part. He told me, in answer to my eager questions, that in two days after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, the news reached Catskill. “That was the time,” he said with enthusiasm, “when ninety thousand British surrendered to two thousand Americans, with a loss on our side of only five men.” But he spoke coherently and without exaggeration of the trials and privations of his father and of himself in his younger days, how poor they were, how hard they worked in clearing, fencing and tilling their land, and worse than all, in what fear of the Indians and the Tories they lived. Their house was secluded, and seemed to invite attack, and, upon a rumor or suspicion of danger, they often sent the women and children to Palmer’s for safety, while they themselves, guns in hand, spent the night in the forest, hard by their dwelling, awaiting an attack. ‘Cobus Rowe and Hans Burger, he told me, were the chief tories in the neighborhood. One lived on the Katerskill, the other in the Inbogt.

One other family, William Plank said lived also in the valley--the family of Peter Scram. I have not been able to identify the place of their abode. They seem to have been tenants of Martin Van Bergen.

2. The house of ----Palmer. This was a stone building, one story high, and stood on the east side of the highway to Katerskill, a hundred rods north of the road which led down to the Van Vechten ford. It was torn down about twenty years ago and a wooden house was built upon its site. During the Revolutionary War it served, like Christian Overbagh’s house in the Inbogt, as a place of refuge to the few families in the neighborhood, when an alarm of outlying Indians was given. In the garret were loopholes for musketry.

3. The house of Gysbert Oosterhoudt. During my boyhood, my father often took me with him, when he went into the country to visit the sick. The houses to which I liked best to go were the houses of John Dubois, of William Wynkoop, of John Fiero and of Hansje Rouse. These were old men, who had heard their fathers talk of the Old French War, and who themselves remembered the War of the Revolution. During the winter afternoons, I usually found them sitting by the spacious fire-places of their kitchens, smoking their clay pipes, and ready to talk to a willing listener about the things which had transpired in their younger days. One told me how he took a load of hay to Newburg on the frozen Hudson, for the use of the American army and how he saw Washington standing at the door of his headquarters, and then showed me the rude paper money which he took in payment. Another spoke to me of the wolves which used to come down at night from the Potick Mountain and howl about the covered pens in which the hogs and sheep were secured. Another recalled the day, in the autumn of 1777, when the British ravaged Livingston Manor, and from the Kykuit he saw the smoke ascending from the burning houses. The stories that were told me were perhaps trifles, but they served to give me some faint notion of the lives which our forefathers led, and of what manner of men they were.

These venerable farmers were wont to speak often of Gysbert Oosterhoudt, who was a notable man in his generation, both in his own estimation and in the estimation of others. He was probably of German origin, for the name of Oosterhoudt occurs frequently in the annals of the Palatines, who, in 1712, were settled in East Camp. The traditions of his family, however, declare that their grandfather came from Amsterdam. He was born about 1720, was brought up “within a mile of the Van Vechten farm,” and in that neighborhood had his home for the greater portion of his life. At least so early as 1765, he owned and was living in a small house, which, in an old will, is described as standing “where the wolf-pits used to be,” and, in the letters of his grandson, as having stood, “at the bend of the road” to Katerskill; “between Mr. Plank’s and the late residence of Reuben Palmer.”

Gysbert Oosterhoudt’s autograph, which is in my possession, proves that he knew how to read and to write Dutch with freedom. His trade was that of a carpenter, and his handiwork, it is said, can be traced in the rafters of the house of the Van Vechtens. But I doubt whether he ever worked persistently. One hears of him too often as spending days in hunting in the unbroken forests which then covered the valley of the Kiskatom, as being the judge at the horse-races on the Renbaan, as a leader in convivial meetings at the tavern of John Baptist Du Mond, in the Inbogt, and as a fearless soldier during the Old French War and during the Revolution.

His wife was Aantje Overbagh, the daughter of Johan Pieter Overbagh, of the Keykuit [Kykuit]. Husband and wife had many altercations during the last years of their lives, and he at last abandoned her. She was cared for by her son Peter. He, in consideration of the devise of his estate of about two thousand dollars in value, found shelter and maintenance near the Livingston Iron Works, with a man named Rose. A year or two after he left Catskill, he and Rose were driving home from Livingston’s store in East Camp, and began to quarrel. During the dispute Oosterhoudt either fell or was pushed out of the wagon. He was then about seventy years old and had become infirm, so that, from the effects of the fall, he soon afterward died.

He was a large man, of great strength and endurance until he became old, fearless, resolute, quick at perceiving and equally quick at resenting an insult, voluble and noisy. In his younger days, a few Indians--Rube, Wancham, Jan de Bakker, were the names of some of them--lived on the west bank of the Catskill, at its junction with the Katerskill, and upon the alluvial plains beyond Old Catskill, near the mouth of the Potick. Their squaws cultivated small patches of corn and beans; they themselves spent their time in hunting, in lounging about the kitchens of the Salisburys, the Van Bergens and the Van Vechtens, and in drinking cider, when they could not get Barbadoes rum. To these Indians, Oosterhoudt was a terror, especially when he was in his cups. He hated a redskin, and upon the slightest provocation delighted to fight with him.

Oosterhoudt served as a soldier through the whole of the Old French and of the Revolutionary War. Some of his adventures are narrated by Mr. Rockwell in his “Sketches of Catskill.” I copy one adventure because it reveals the character of Gysbert Oosterhoudt:

“During the French War”--it is his grandson who tells the story--”part of the English and Provincial army was for a time quartered at Albany, waiting for the building of boats or bateaux, as they were called, with which to transport troops and their baggage over rivers and lakes in their invasion of Canada. These troops were under the command of General Bradstreet, a British officer. My grandfather, who was a carpenter by trade, was captain of the bateaux, superintending their construction. Bradstreet, whose quarters were on the hill where the Capitol now is, was in the habit of daily walking down to where the boats were being built, to see what progress was made. One day he asked my grandfather an absurd and impertinent question, who answered him rather tartly, giving offense to the General, who raised his cane and struck him on the head, in return for which my grandfather knocked him down with his fist. The General rose from the ground and went off in great wrath, cursing and swearing that he should be punished for the assault. No sooner had he gone, than my grandfather was urged to make himself scarce, to take to his heels, and thus avoid being arrested and consequently hung or shot, as, by British martial law, for a subordinate to assault his superior was punishable with death. He refused to leave, however, saying that Bradstreet had struck him without cause and that, in such cases, he always struck back again, regardless of consequences. Soon a sergeant with a guard arrested him and marched him to the General’s quarters, who told him to come in and take a seat. On the table were some bottles of liquor. The General poured out two glasses, took one himself, and told my grandfather to drink the other, which was done. He then told him he was a good fellow and to go about his business. This unexpected result so affected him, that he burst into tears and swore that he would shed the last drop of his blood to defend the General in battle or elsewhere. The effect on the troops was electrical when they heard what had taken place, and a loud shout was given for General Bradstreet.”

During a portion of his restless life, Gysbert Oosterhoudt was the captain of a schooner, which belonged to the Livingstons of Livingston Manor, and which usually plied between Red Hook and the West Indies. Once, however, the vessel and its master were sent to Holland with a cargo of furs and naval stores. Walking out soon after his arrival at Amsterdam, Oosterhoudt happened to see the family name engraved upon the large brass knocker, which was fastened to the front door of a stately mansion in that city. He went quickly and boldly up to the steps of the stoop or porch and rapped a loud rap with the knocker. A venerable man, in a gown of brocade, opened the door and asked. “What do you want?” “I am Oosterhoudt of Catskill, in North America.” “I don’t know any Oosterhoudt of Catskill, in North America,” was the curt reply, and the door was slammed in the face of the American. His wrath was great and his curses deep, and he never told the story, in after days, without getting into a passion at the remembrance of the insult.

4. On the east side of the Falls, at Katerskill, and just below them, there stood, in 1783, a grist and saw mill, which, fifty years before, the Salisburys and the Van Bergens had built for their own use and that of their neighbors. It was not a large mill. A single saw was enough to supply the neighborhood with boards and joists; as beams and rafters were either hewn out or sawed out by hand in a pit. A pair of stones sufficed to grind the maize and the wheat which was raised on the low-lands at Old Catskill and along the Katerskill, from the house of Benjamin Dubois to the farthest bounds of the Bak-Oven. The sawyer and miller, at one time, was Helme Jansen Turner, an honest man but stupid, who was more than once complained of for putting David Abeel’s Indian meal into Aaront Vedder’s sacks, and at the same time putting Vedder’s wheat flour into Abeel’s bags.

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