Article Number 6 - The Corlaerskill Patent - Martin Gerretse Van Bergen, Henry Oothoudt
 
Originally published in the Catskill Examiner by Henry Brace between the years 1876 and 1879. Article 6 was published on March 25, 1876. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Catskill Examiner located at the Vedder Research Library. Transcribed by Barbara Bartley.


Local Sketches.--No. 6. An Outline of The History of the Town of Catskill, To The Year 1783. By Henry Brace 

The little brook which crosses the Athens turnpike-road about a mile above the village of Catskill, is the Corlaerskill. It probably took its name from Arendt Van Curler, or Corlaer, as the name is usually spelled, who was an Indian agent of note, and who, while living at Albany, was on terms of intimacy with Van Vechten, Salisbury, Bronk, and other early landholders of Catskill. The brook, in turn, gave its name to the patent, of which I am now about to write.

The eastern boundary of the land included within this patent is the Hudson. The southern boundary is the northern line of the estate which belonged to Gysbert uyten Bogaert, or a line drawn from Stuck, the rivulet above Dieper Hook, to the Hans Vosen Kill, a little above the second bridge on the New Road, and thence to the Catskill Path, or the Indian Path, on the western side of Jefferson Flats. The western boundary is this Path. The northern boundary is the southern line of the Loonenburg Patent, and touched the Hudson at a point in Brandow’s Bay, which was called by the Indians, Machawamick, by the Dutch, Vlugt Hoek, and by the English, Flying Corner.

In 1662, the Catskill Indians sold this tract to Marten Gerritse Van Bergen, who five years afterward, received a patent for the land from Governor Nicolls. In 1684, Van Bergen obtained a deed of quit-claim from Manneentee, “commonly called Schermerhoorn by the Dutch,” and from Unkeek, “commonly called Jan de Bakker.” These Indians seem to have had a claim to the land, which had not been satisfied by the purchase of 1662. On the twenty-third of May, 1687, a patent of confirmation was granted to Van Bergen and Jan Bronk.

To Bronk, who lived on the spot on which the house of John Van Vechten and the adjoining tavern, in Leeds, now stand, I shall again refer. This, however, being the fitting occasion to relate what is known of Van Bergen.

About the year 1640, Marte Gerretse, as he was always called, came to New Netherland. He soon became a man of note in the colony. For many years he was komisaris of Fort Orange, whose office was of varied civil function and of considerable profit, as the office of kommissie is to this day in Java. From 1684 until 1693 he was one of the Justices of the Peace for the County of Albany. In 1685, he was commissioned captain of foot. But I cannot discover that he ever went upon active service.

Of his character, one can get some notion by the careful reading of the dry and meagre records of the province. To me, he seems to have had many of the traits of a New Englander of his generation. He was a punctual and industrious man, and shrewd and keen at a bargain. He was covetous of land, and fond of the power which wealth and office confer. He liked to make money, but gave freely of his substance, when the colony or his church was in need. In 1689 few subscribed a greater sum than he subscribed for the defense of the frontier. No one, neither Van Rensselaer nor Livingston, the richest men of their day in the valley of the upper Hudson, paid a larger amount than he paid for the support of Godfrey Dellius, the zealous minister of the Dutch Reformed Church at Albany.

About the year 1696, at a good old age, this komissaris, justice of the peace, captain of militia and ruling elder, died. But the precise time of his death and the place of his burial are unknown. He left a large estate in land, lots in Albany, a farm just below Albany, and an undivided moiety in the Catskill Patent, in the Coxsackie Patent, and in the Corlaerskill Patent. This estate, on the death of their father, became vested in his sons, Gerrit, Marten and Petrus.

I do not know when Jan Bronk sold his interest in the Corlaerskill Patent to the Van Bergens. Petrus Van Bergen, however, in 1725 conveyed his share to his two brothers, who seem to have kept possession of the larger portion of the tract until they died. In 1758, Garret devised “all my right”--thus his will reads--”in the Corlaerskill Patent to my grand-daughter Annaka Bronk, daughter of Casparus Bronk, deceased.” In 1765, Marten devised his estate in the Patent to his grandson Martin, and to his sons-in-law Henry Oothoudt and Johannes Schuneman, and to their wives Neeltje and Anna Maria.

The subsequent subdivisions of this Patent are unimportant, and I pass to an account of it as it was in the year 1783. But the brief recital will, I fear, prove tiresome to my readers. Even so late as the year 1800, this tract was deemed of little value. The eastern portion, between the Hans Vosen Kill and the Hudson, is traversed, from north to south, by rocky ridges. On the sides of these ridges, and in the valleys between, the soil is a stiff clay. The western portion, between the Hans Vosen Kill and the Catskill Path, is chiefly a plain of sand, deposited by the Catskill and the Caterskill in post-tertiary times, when, by the sinking of the northern continent, the Hudson was a broad arm of the sea, and poured a free tide into Lake Champlain and the Saint Lawrence. For portions of this plain, the immigrants who, after the Revolution, crossed the Hudson from Wallingford and Litchfield and Sharon, refused to pay eighteen pence an acre, and pushed on in their canvas-covered wagons into Durham and the fruitful valley of the Batavia Kill.

At the time of which I write, two roads, at least, had been cut through the forest that covered the Corlaerskill Patent. One is now the turnpike-road which passes through Jefferson. But at a point nearly half-way down Jefferson Hill, the rude path, turning sharply to the left, passed behind the house which was known as the Haight house, and then turning again sharply to the right reached the Catskill and the highway--now Main Street--through the Lindesay Patent, at the spot where the stone bridge crosses the Hans Vosen Kill. The other road was the King’s road. It left the ford of the Catskill, which was a few rods east of the Van Vechten House, and mounted the hill west of the spring and of the site of John Foote’s cottage. From the head of the gully on the Snake Road, the highway through Jefferson, across the Hans Vosen Kill and thence by William Van Orden’s house, was laid out upon the King’s Road.  

Further search among the wills and the deeds of a by-gone generation may increase the number, but, so far as I know, there were five, or, at the most, six houses, about the year 1783, within the boundaries of the Corlaerskill Patent:

1. The house of Ephraim Concklin, which stood upon the bank of the Hudson near the house in which Isaac Penfield and his son Lewis afterwards lived.

2. Of Peter Schmidt, which was probably in the hamlet now called Hamburg.

3. Of Peter Souser. His was the house belonging to the Van Vechten grist-mill, on the Hans Vosen Kill. Souser was living on this spot, as early as 1765.

4. Of Peter Mey, a short distance north of Henry Oothoudt’s house, under the Kalkberg or Limestone Hill. Walter W. Palmatier now lives at the same place.

5. Of Henry Oothoudt, built of wood about 1775, and still standing. It is the first farm-house on the right-hand side of the lane which leaves the turnpike-road in Jefferson nearly opposite the dwelling of Robert Austin.

Henry Oothoudt was born on the sixth of January, 1739. His father was Volkert Oothoudt, who, about the year 1741, was one of the owners of thirteen thousand acres of land within the present boundaries of Otsego County. I do not know when his son Henry came to Catskill, but it was either after his marriage in 1760, with Neeltje, a shrewish daughter of Marten Van Bergen, or after the death of Van Bergen, in 1770.

Henry Oothoudt was a man of some note among his fellows. He had been well educated; his natural parts were good; and for ten years or more he was a judge and surrogate in the county. He died on the fourteenth day of July, 1801, and was buried in the Jefferson grave-yard, where his tomb-stone may still be seen. He was the owner of large tracts of land in the northern and central part of Oneida county, which, after his death, were sold for a small sum, as not worth holding. He had one daughter, Catharine, who, in 1779, married John Demarest. Their only son was Henry Oothoudt Demarest, who is still remembered by the older residents of Catskill.

There is a tradition among the descendants of Henry Oothoudt, that he had, among his papers, ancient memoranda, written in Dutch, which contained directions to the places where silver had been found among the Catskill Mountains. I have made careful enquiry for these papers, but have been told that they have been destroyed. I would have been interesting to have known exactly what the memoranda were, since Vanderdouck, whom Irving, in his History of New York, follows, asserts that silver ore was, in his day, to be found among the Blue Hills, as they were called, and young Gerrit Van Slectenhorst, as my readers will remember, once came down from Rensselaer’s Wyck to the Patroon’s Bowers, on the Van Vechten estate, to search for the precious metal.

6. About the year 1803, a stone house stood, as I have been told, near a spring, in a field a short distance above the bridge across the Corlaerskill, and west of the school-house on the road to Athens. This house was then occupied by Jacob Newkirk and John Persen, and probably was standing in the year 1783.


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