Old Catskill

Written by Henry Brace and originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, December 1879, No. CCCLV, Vol. LX. Reprinted, with permission by the Catskill Examiner, date unrecorded. Retyped by Barbara Bartley.


We reprint in full by permission of Harper Brothers the very interesting article on Catskill, written for the May number of Harper’s Magazine by Mr. Henry Brace. Although unable to copy the exquisite illustrations with which the article is given in the magazine, we feel sure that the pictures of the past which the words of the sketch suggest will amply satisfy our readers: 

Four miles from the village of Catskill, upon the right bank of the river of that name, lies an alluvial plain of several hundred acres. This plain is raised a few feet above the usual level of the water, by which, however, it is covered, and also enriched, in times of flood. A continuous hillock like a terrace encompasses this fertile tract. Beyond the hillock are the Potick Mountains, and the precipitous range of Hamilton shales, which the Dutch called the Hoogeberg. This region--the plain, hillock, and adjacent land--a hundred years ago went by the name of Catskill, the site of the village of that name upon the Hudson being known as T Strand, or The Landing.

In the early days of the Dutch supremacy the plain and the terrace around the plain were the dwelling-place of a tribe of about three hundred Indians. They were of Algonkin lineage, but whether their totem, or national symbol, was the wolf of the Delawares or the wolf of the Mohicans, is a question which has been discussed by antiquarians, but which has not been determined. In later times, however, toward the close of the seventeenth century, the tribe became a mixed race of Mohicans, Delawares, Pemacooks, refugees from Connecticut, and Nanticokes, refugees from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Their sachem was the Mahak-Neminaw, whose name often occurs in the ancient records of the province. He was the type of his race. He was lazy and shiftless, and earned a precarious living by hunting and trapping. He liked to attend before the Council of the province at Albany, where he and his fellow-sachem, Keesje Wey, could talk about the great Father across the water, and about keeping the chain of friendship bright, and receive in return long strings of wampum, woolen shirts, and gunpowder. He was fond of beer, when he could not get brandy, and steadfastly resisted every attempt which was made to civilize and to convert him. The last one hears of this noble savage was in 7682[1678] when his brethren sold the remaining parcel--an estate of nearly four thousand acres--of his and their domain upon the Catskill. It is provided in the deed of purchase that Mahak-Neminaw, sachem of Catskill, not being present at the transfer, shall have, as soon as he comes home, two pieces of d[ru]ffels and six cans of rum.

The site of old Catskill was well chosen. Upon the terrace, out of the reach of the highest floods of the river, were the wigwams, the fortress and the burying-ground of the Indians. The forests abounded with game. The river and its beautiful tributaries were full of fish. A portion of the lowlands, cleared by the slow process of burning down the trees, was tilled by the women with easy labor, and brought forth an abundant store of maize, beans, and pumpkins. If during the long Winter the native occupants of this tract sometimes went hungry to the point of starvation, it was due to their child-like want of forethought and to their shiftless improvidence.

The purchasers of the plain, with the surrounding territory for four miles in every direction were Marten Gerritsen Van Bergen, komissarie, justice of the peace, and ruling elder in the Dutch church at Albany, and Silvester Salisbury, captain in the British army, and commander of His Majesty’s forces. On the 8th of July, 1678, the bargain was consummated with unusual formality, at the Stadt Huis at Albany, before Robert Livingston, secretary of the Council, and in the presence of the magistrates of the jurisdiction, and of a motley group of Catskill and Mohican Indians. Mahak-Neminaw and his six head-men, as representatives of the whole tribe, executed with rude and hieroglyphic signatures a deed of their great domain, and gave formal possession to the buyers. The sellers no longer had a permanent dwelling-place. Whither they went, or what their fate was, is no longer known. They, their chief alone excepted, are not again spoken of in any record of the province. The tradition, however, remains that in the time of our grandfathers a little band of Indians were wont to come every Summer from their home beyond the Mohawk, and encamp in a grove of chestnut-trees at the Northern edge of the plain. They asserted that their forefathers once owned the lowland near by.

Neither Salisbury nor Van Bergen lived upon their estates at Catskill. But their sons, when they had grown up, left Albany, and took up their residence upon their patrimony. It was a transfer which brought to them serious loss of social and religious opportunities. They banished themselves in a great measure from the society of the Van Rensselaers, the Livingstons, the Van Schaicks, and the Ten Broecks; they put themselves out of the line of appointment as magistrates of the city. Their new home was in a wilderness.

The house which Francis Salisbury built for himself upon his share of the domain is still standing, as sound in foundation, walls and roof-beams as on the day, one hundred and seventy-three years ago, when it was finished. It was once the largest and most costly house between Newburgh and Albany. It is two stories high, about fifty feet wide, and about thirty-five feet deep. Its massive walls are of sandstone, which was quarried from ledges in the neighborhood, and are pierced on either story with loop-holes, narrow on the outside and wider on the inside--a lively momento of days long since gone by, when the yeomen of the upper valley of the Hudson lived in terror of the Iroquois. Along the Southern front of this building, under the eaves, may still be seen the initials of the builder and the date of erection--F.S., 1705.

The house within has undergone but little alteration. Beams of yellow pine eighteen inches square, supporting the ceilings, project into the rooms of the first story. The windows are filled with small panes of old glass, of which some have become prismatic, like the bottles from a Cyprian tomb. The fireplaces, though now disused, are huge caverns eight feet broad and three feet deep. The sides of these chimneys were once covered with square tiles of coarse Delft earthenware. These have fortunately been preserved, and a few months ago I had the pleasure of looking them over. Upon them are rudely painted in blue, scenes taken from the Scriptures--the suicide of Judas, Pilate’s washing of his hands, the cock that crew thrice. I failed to find among the collection a duplicate of the delightful tile which Mistress Maria Schuneman Van Vechten once showed me, whereon was drawn Lazarus coming out of his tomb. The restored and overjoyed man in waving over his head a small Dutch flag.

Upon the walls of the South-Eastern room, during Francis Salisbury’s life, hung the precious heirlooms which his father, Silvester, brought with him from England--the coat of arms of the Welsh Salisburys, knights of Llewenny; a picture concerning which the tradition is that it is a portrait of Anne Boleyn by Holbein; two rapiers mounted in silver, of dainty workmanship, and stamped, one with the date 1544, the other with the date of 1616.

The house which Gerritsen Van Bergen built for himself in 1729 is also standing. But while it has been made inhabitable by the alterations it has undergone, its picturesqueness has been greatly marred. The house is of brick--no other ancient house in the town of Catskill is of this material--and was of one story, with a roof of steep pitch covered with large concave tiles of red earthenware. The story goes that the bricks and roof-tiles were imported from Holland; but as kilns for both bricks and tiles were built in Albany so early as 1657, the tradition is at least doubtful

In 1732 twelve or fourteen yeomen, with their families and dependents--sixty to eighty persons all told--had settled upon these lands and in the region South of the Catskill, which to this day is called the Inbogt. The first care of the colonists had been to clear and to plant a few acres, and to build houses for themselves and barns for their cattle. These needful tasks accomplished, their second care was to found a church. Their children had been baptized and their dead had been buried by Domine Kocherthal of East Camp, and by Domines Dellius and Van Driessen of Albany. On Sunday, also, two or three times during the year, the people having gathered together in the house of Gerritsen Van Bergen, or in the roomy log-cabin of Benjamin Dubois, near the mouth of the Catskill, and had listened to the reading of the Bible and of portions of the liturgy prescribed by the Synod of Dort. But it now seemed to these pious men that the time had come for a dedicated place of worship and for an established pastor.

The inhabitants of Coxsackie were of like mind, and joined their neighbors of Catskill in inviting George Michael Weiss to become their minister. The call bears the date of the 8th of February, 1732. The united congregations agreed to pay Weiss a yearly salary of fifty pounds, to provide for him a house, garden, and fire-wood, and to give him a horse, saddle, and bridle. He agreed to preach twice on every Sunday in Dutch--thirty days in Catskill, and twenty two days in Coxsackie--to administer the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and to instruct the children in the Heidelberg Catechism. A portion of his parishioners, however, being German, he also engaged to give their children religious instruction in their mother-tongue.

Seventeen days after the call had been given, on the 25th of February, 1732, the church at Catskill was organized by the installation of the pastor. The next year the church edifice was built, and was duly consecrated, Domine Petrus Van Driessen of Albany preached in the morning from that glowing verse in the Twenty-seventh Psalm in which David sings of his desire to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. The new pastor preached in the afternoon, but from what text will never be known. When he had made the entry of the services of dedication in the church book, he dropped a blot of ink upon the record of text and verse, then smeared the blot with his thumb, and obliterated the figures forever.

Domine Weiss was a native of one of the Palatinates, and was trained in the great theological school of the University of Heidelberg. In 1727 he was sent to Philadelphia, apparently as a sort of foreign missionary to the heathen; removed thence to Huntersfield, on the Schoharie, and from Huntersfield came to Catskill. The testimonials he received from Heidelberg and from his flock in Philadelphia attest his orthodoxy and zeal--testimonials which he copied with proper pride and in bad handwriting in the Doep Boek, or Book of Baptisms, of the Catskill church. It is especially remarked of him that he could speak Latin with great fluency--more correctly, it is to be hoped, than he could write Dutch.

Domine Weiss’s ministrations lasted four years, when he went back to Philadelphia. From 1736 until August, 1753, the church at Catskill remained without a pastor. Then followed the long and faithful life-services of Domine Johannes Schuneman.

The Schunemans were Germans, and were among the Palatines whom Queen Anne, between the years 1708 and 1711, had sent to New York. The Lower Palatinate had been cruelly ravaged by the French. In the sore distress of the poor inhabitants, they petitioned Queen Anne to transport them to America. Several hundreds were accordingly brought over in Government transports. It was the first German immigration into New York of importance. The new-comers were peasants, but they were a thrifty and industrious people. They were established at East Camp, on the Hudson, on a tract of six thousand acres which the province bought from Robert Livingston, and at West Camp, directly opposite, on unappropriated lands. They not only had a free passage to this country, but they were also fed and clothed and furnished with tools for a year. It was the intention of the Government to employ them in raising hemp, and in making tar, pitch, and resin, and in getting out masts of pine for the royal navy. But the enterprise proved a failure. Many of the colonists migrated to the valley of the Schoharie; others bought the land upon which they had been placed.

Among these German refugees were the Fieros, Webers, Plancks, Dietrichs, Newkirks, and Schmidts, whose sons afterward became well-to-do yeomen in the town of Catskill. Among them was Herman Schuneman, a man of mark among his brethren. And to him, at East Camp, in august, 1712, was born Johannes Schuneman.

Who were the teachers of the son, under what influences this Lutheran by birth, baptism and early training became a Calvinist, what chance brought him to Catskill--these things are no longer known. He studied theology under the ill-fated Domine Theodorus Frielinghuysen, at Albany, and in 1751 was chosen pastor of the united churches of Catskill and Coxsackie. But it was then the custom, if it was not the law, that ordination into the ministry should proceed from classis of Amsterdam. It was therefore made the condition of Schuneman’s appointment that he should go to Holland, study in her theological schools for a year, and receive due ordination. The condition was performed: he went to Amsterdam in 1752.

No account of the student life of Domine Schuneman in Amsterdam has been preserved. The tradition, however, is that during his sojourn in Holland he was so disfigured by the small-pox that upon his return home not even his sweetheart, Anna Maria Van Bergen, knew him. It is also said that sometimes upon festal occasions of a christening or a marriage, when the Canary wine had been passed around, and the long clay pipes had been lighted, the Domine would speak of the glass of Hollands which the good wife of the foremost divine in the Classis of Amsterdam used to give him after his return from Sunday morning service.

Marten Van Bergen, the son of Martin Gerritsen, had three daughters. To these maidens, renowned for their beauty, and known to have a rich father, suitors from all the country round, from Kingston to Coxsackie, were not wanting. The sisters seem to have chosen wisely. Catharine and Nelly became the wives of young yeomen in the neighborhood; Anna Maria, the youngest, married Domine Schuneman, soon after his return from Holland, he being forty-two years old, and she twenty-six.

During the year in which he was married, and in anticipation thereof, the house which to this day is known as the Parsonage was built for him by his sweetheart’s father and by the church. It stands on the South-Eastern edge of the terrace of which I have spoken, and is approached through an orchard of venerable apple-trees, old enough, apparently, to have been planted by Domine Schuneman himself. The house is of gray sandstone, and is a story and a half high. A hall on the ground-floor from East to West, gives access to two rooms on one side, and to a larger room on the other. The studeer kamer of Domine Schuneman, or his study, as the New England ministers would have called it, was the South-Eastern room. Here he kept his scanty library; here he wrote his sermons; here he received his neighbors when they came to him for friendly gossip or for advice.

I have been told that, fifty years ago, the diary of Domine Schuneman was in existence. It was a large book, and contained a record in Dutch of his husbandry, his journeys, his expenses, with brief meditations upon his daily reading of the Scriptures. My informant was able to remember one entry. I have somewhat softened the unconscious incongruity of the lines, which ran after this manner: “Attended the funeral of Johannes Diedrich at the Katerskill; also sold my lame mare. All flesh is grass, Isaiah, xl.6.”

The ministry of Domine Schuneman was a faithful service of forty years. It was his habit to preach on one Sunday at Catskill and on the next at Coxsackie, traveling in Summer on horseback, and in the Winter in a sleigh, through the unbroken and solitary forest which lay between the two hamlets. The texts of a few of his sermons have been preserved, and from them I infer that his preaching was of a practical rather than of a doctrinal character. His voice was deep and strong, his gestures were many and earnest, his enthusiasm was great and contagious. As for the manuscripts of his sermons, I once asked his granddaughter what had become of them. She answered that in her girlhood, before she was old enough to know their value, they were used by the negro servants in the kitchen of her father’s house in lighting the fires and in cleaning the smoked outsides of iron pots and frying-pans.

During the war of the Revolution, Domine Schuneman was an ardent Whig. All his zeal and superabounding energy flamed out in behalf of his country. On Sundays he preached the high duty of strenuous defense; on week-days exhorted and advised with his neighbors and parishioners in behalf of the good cause, became a member of the local Committee of Safety, made his house a shelter for the soldiers who passed by on their way Northward to Skeenesborough and Saratoga, and a hospital when they came back sick with fever. His enthusiasm aroused the fury of the few Tories in the neighborhood, who would gladly have set the Mohawks upon him. But he went about armed by day, and slept, his men-servants also, with his gun by his side, and his precaution and his well-known courage kept him from the fate of the Abeels.

The congregation of Domine Schuneman were in full sympathy with his high-wrought patriotism. They were slow-witted men, cautious, and not a whit sentimental. But during the Revolution their ardor glowed against Great Britain in some degree as two hundred years before the ardor of their ancestors had glowed against Spain and Alva. One in six of the men of Catskill became soldiers. Some received commissions in the battalions of the New York line; others enlisted as privates, and walked with their muskets upon their shoulders to Fort George and Stillwater; others became scouts with Murphy upon the Mohawk; others, through fear of the Iroquois, patrolled the roads along the Katerskill and in the valley of the Kiskatom.

During my boyhood my father often took me with him when he went to visit the sick among the farmers in the neighborhood of Catskill. A number of men who remembered the Revolution were then living. During the Winter afternoons I usually found them sitting by the spacious fireplaces in their kitchens smoking their pipes, and glad to talk to a willing listener about the things which had transpired in their youth. One recalled the day when going to the top of the hill called the Kykuit, he heard the drums beat in Vaughan’s boats, and saw the smoke rising from the burning houses in Livingston Manor. John Fiero related the exploits of Gysbert Oosterhoudt against Brant and his Indians in the upper valley of the Mohawk. John Dubois told me about his drive to Newburgh upon the frozen Hudson with a load of hay for the American army, and made me happy by the gift of a few pieces of the rude paper money which he received in payment. A Salisbury, who called General Philip Schuyler uncle, remembered the headlong impetuosity of Arnold at Stillwater. These things are perhaps trifles, but they served to give me a certain notion of the spirit with which the men of Catskill were animated during the war of the Revolution.

The church edifice in which Domine Schuneman preached at Catskill stood upon the edge of the terrace of which I have spoken, near an ancient burying-ground of the Indians. It was a wooden building, nearly square, with a pyramidal roof, but with the apex of the pyramid cut off. Two aisles led to the pulpit at the West end of the building opposite the door. Slips, as they were called, were placed between the two aisles, and between each aisle and the Northern and southern walls. In the Winter the congregation sat without a fire, except that the women who lived near by brought foot-stoves.

In 1798, when the building was undergoing repairs, it was proposed by certain young and effeminate members that a stove should be placed in the room. A stormy discussion thereupon arose, which came near rending the church. On one side, the comfort of the congregation was urged; on the other side, the characteristic and conclusive answer was given, that their fathers had gone without a fire. But the innovators were in a majority, and the innovation was voted. It was a huge box of wrought iron, and stood in the centre of the room, upon a platform, which was raised upon four stout posts six or eight feet above the floor. The floor of the platform was reached by a short ladder, and upon the floor was piled the wood for the stove. The old men reluctantly submitted to the novelty. It was sturdy Evert Synkoop, I believe, who, however, refused to come to church for a whole Winter, alleging as a reason that the heat brought chilblains upon his feet. It was his son William, I know, who, in later days, when the white inner walls of the new church were colored pink, never took his seat in the elders’ pew by the side of the pulpit without putting on a pair of blue spectacles. The glare from the walls, he said (he had opposed the painting in consistory), made his eyes ache.

But I should be sorry to give a wrong impression respecting the character of the Wynkoops, and of the class to which they belonged. The Dutch yeoman of the better sort at Catskill were rude and unlettered men, obstinate, bent on having their own way, perverse when they did not have it, and greatly and unreasonably adverse to change in their habits of life or in their mode of farming. But they were honest, just in their dealings, hospitable, kind to the poor, and especially kind to their poor kinsfolk.

In 1732 the number of the members of the church at Catskill was about twenty-five; in 1780 the number was about one hundred. It was an orderly and God-fearing congregation. On every other Sunday morning they met together--the Salisburys and the Van Bergens from the neighborhood, the Van Vechtens and the Duboises from the banks of the Catskill, the Van Ordens and the Overbaghs from the Inbogt, and the Abeels from the Bak-Oven. Some came on horseback over the roads which had been cut through the forests, others in rude wagons. During the Revolution all were armed. The men wore queuës and three-cornered hates of brown beaver; their knee-breeches and their long waistcoats were of homespun; their stockings, knit by their thrifty wives in the light of the open fire during the Winer evenings, were of coarse blue yarn; their low shoes were of russet leather, and bore large buckles of brass or polished steel. The women were clothed in petticoats of heavy flannel, and in gowns of linsey-woolsey, short in the waist, scanty in circumference, reaching only to the ankle, and dyed black with logwood, or brown with butternut. A few of the richer maidens, Katharina Oothoudt, perhaps, Elizabeth Van Vechten and Neelbje Van Bergen, wore strings of gold beads about their necks.

The services were conducted in the method recommended in 1618 by the Synod of Dort--a method which obtains substantially, I believe, in the Church to this day.

Hymns were not used, except on rare occasions, when the exulting prophecies of Zacharias and of Mary were sung in rude rhymes to a simple and not unpleasing melody. But the Psalms of David were employed in all the Reformed Dutch churches. The rhymed version which Domine Schuneman used is a translation into Dutch from the celebrated version in French of Marot. The stanzas are not worse than Sternhold’s or Hopkins’s; they could not be worse than the verses of the priceless Bay State Psalm-Book.

The morning service was over by one o’clock. Then came an intermission of about a hour. It was spent by the congregation in eating the dinner which each family had brought, in smoking under the red cedars, or savins, which stood on the South side of the church, and in talking over the news and the gossip of the day. While the war of the Revolution lasted, I can readily believe what William Planck once told me, that little else was discussed than the progress of our arms. But news came slowly and in fragments to these men. They, of course, had no newspapers, and they seldom wrote and seldom received letters. He who had that week taken a journey to Kingston or Albany, or had entertained a courier, was the centre of an interested group under the savins.

During the last century, under the preaching of great divines--divines like Edwards, Bellamy and Hopkins--the church members of New England were being trained in one of the most rigorous theological schools the world has ever known. Under the elms upon the green in front of the meeting-house, in the hay-field, on the way to mill, in the blacksmith’s shop at the cross-roads, around the fire during the long Winter evenings--everywhere, in season and out of season, the farmers and tradesmen of Massachusetts and Connecticut were discussing with exact logic and with the nicest distinctions the subtle doctrines of predestination, election, man’s free-will, and God’s sovereignty. These debates, our New England forefathers believed, tended to make the debaters better christians; we, their descendants, are beginning to suspect that the effect chiefly was to sharpen the debaters’ intellects.

I can find no trace of this fondness for metaphysical discussion among the Dutch yeomen in the upper valley of the Hudson. Nor was the first day of the week kept by the Dutch with the terrible rigor with which that day was kept by the New-Englander. The Sundays on which Domine Schuneman preached in Coxsackie were spent by the members of his church at Catskill in restful idleness upon their farms, or in paying and receiving visits. Families came together at the homestead; neighbors walked over rough paths thro’ the forest to the nearest house to talk and smoke; lovers sat upon the stoops, and spoke the universal language in corrupt Dutch.

On special occasions a dinner or supper was given, and of one of these feasts the story has been handed down. The occasion was the surrender of Cornwallis; the giver was a staunch patriot and captain in the New York line, Cornelius Dubois; the place was his stone cottage on the right bank of the Catskill, near its mouth; the time was a Sunday afternoon, late in the Autumn of 1781, after the chickens and the turkeys had been fattened, the hams cured, and the cider ripened. The house was filled: the sitting-room above with the Whigs of the neighborhood--with the Duboises, the Salisburys, the Van Ordeens, and the Van Vechtens; the kitchen beneath with the uninvited but not unwelcome slaves of the yeomen. There was loud and hearty talking; there was fiddling by the negroes; there was a long table covered with savory food; there was an abundance of flip and toddy in bocjes, or wooden bowls. A prominent figure in the assembled company was the figure of a repentant Tory, who went about with a large pitcher of milk punch, asking each guest to drink with him to the final success of the American arms. The party broke up late; and it is said that a venerable elder of the united churches of Catskill and Coxsackie went home, for the first time in his life, in a state of unnatural exhilaration.

Domine Schuneman, by the death of his father-in-law, Marten Van Bergen, in 1769, became a rich man. When he had grown old he built a stone cottage upon a fertile portion of the devised lands in what is now known as the village of Jefferson, and moving thither from the parsonage, died there in 1794.

Until within a few weeks past, one man, Mr. John Van Vechten of Catskill, was living, who remembered the funeral of Domine Schuneman. The ceremony was in accordance with the customs which the Dutch, a hundred and seventy years before, had brought with them from the mother country. A man, especially deputed for the purpose, met each male comer at the door, and offered him a glass of rum from a flask. A woman waited in like manner upon each female comer. The relatives of the dead sat together around the corpse; the friends and acquaintances took their seats in another part of the room, or in an adjoining chamber. When the services were over--these were in dutch--they who chose went up to the coffin to take their last look at the deceased. The coffin was then closed, put upon a bier, and taken f from the house to the grave, the relatives following, and after them all comers. When the coffin had been laid in the ground, the procession returned to the house, but in inverse order--the relatives and the empty bier and its bearers coming last. One room in the house was assigned to the bearers, another to the assembled people. In each room a table had been set with bottles of rum, a jar of tobacco, and long clay pipes. All the men drank and smoked, talking in the meanwhile of the character and virtues of their dead pastor, of their horses, of the Spring planting, and of the weather. One or two of the lower sort got tipsy, and amused themselves by singing funeral ditties out-of-doors.

Domine Schuneman was buried in a newly-cleared field, which forms the burying-ground of Jefferson. At the head of his grave was erected a tombstone of red sandstone, which is still standing. It bears the simple inscription, “In memory of Rev. Johannes Schuneman, who departed this life May 16, 1794, aged 81 years, 8 months and 28 days.” 

Domine Johannes Schuneman.

In the May number of Harper’s is an interesting sketch under the title of “Old Catskill,” which has no doubt been read with pleasure by many residents of that town. It was not expected, probably, that any considerable number of readers would be found elsewhere who would peruse it with keen relish, but that it would be received generally as a cleever sketch and share the fate of similar literary products.--However this may be, we are pretty safe in saying that very few of its readers in either Newburgh or Catskill have knowledge of the link that unites the two communities in the person of Domine Johannes Schuneman, whose life and times occupies a large portion of the sketch, and who is introduced in the following language:

Then followed the long and faithful life-service of Domine Johannes Schuneman.

The Schunemans were Germans, and were among the Palatines whom Queen Anne, between the years of 1708 and 1711, had sent to new York. The lower Palatinate had been cruelly ravaged by the French. In the sore distress of the poor inhabitants they petitioned Queen Ann to transport them to America. Several hundreds were accordingly brought over in Government transports. It was the first German immigration into New York of importance. The newcomers were peasants, but they were a thrifty and industrious people. They were established at East Camp, on the Hudson, on a tract of six thousand acres which the province bought from Robert Livingston, and at West Camp, directly opposite, on unappropriated lands. They not only had a free passage to this country, but they were also fed and clothed and furnished with tools for a year. It was the intention of the Government to employ them in raising hemp, and in making tar, pitch and resin, and in getting out masts of pine for the royal navy. * * * Among them was Herman Schuneman, a man of mark among his brethren. And to him, at East Camp, in 1712, was born Johannes Schuneman.

And of this German, Herman Schuneman, the writer in Harper’s (Henry Brace) knows no more. Turning to our Newburgh history, however, we find that he was one of the nine families who held the Palatine parish of Quassaick (now Newburgh), his particular farm or plot being the one hundred acres of which the property known as Washington’s Headquarters is a part. He was one of the first company of immigrants from the Palatinate, and was entered on the emigrant records in 1708 as “aged 28”, occupation, clerk--unmarried.” The word “clerk” had not the same signification then as that in which it is now generally received; ministers were called clerks, as they are now in England. In this instance, however, it is inferred that he held a subordinate ministerial relation and was a parish clerk and schoolmaster. It is not known that he was ever a resident of Newburgh, but may have been for a few years. He found a wife, Elizabeth, in the daughter of one of his fellow-immigrants, and located and died at Catskill, bequeathing to the new world his son Johannes, whose long and useful ministry at Catskill is among the brightest pages in its early history.--Rondout Courier. 


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