Catskill Cemetery Papers
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
Tuesday Night, April 25, 1865
While I write, the remains of the dead President are being conveyed, with all "the pomp and circumstance" of ostentatious sorrow, toward his final resting-place in a distant State. As I listen to the hollow booming of the minute gun, and the sad notes of the funeral march, I cannot but contrast this last journey with that which he pursued but four brief years ago. Then, amid acclamations and rejoicings, and carrying with him the mingled hopes, and doubts, and fears of a whole country, he went proudly on his way to the National Capital, to assume the position to which he had been Constitutionally elected, and to grasp the reins by which the Government was to be guided through the fearful issues of a war, the dark clouds of which were, even then, visible in the Southern horizon. To-night, he is retracing the path of his former triumphs towards a grave in the Western prairies.
Of the events of the four years of War and Desolation which have intervened, this is not the time, nor is such a paper as this the proper medium, for discussion. History, divested of political bias, and uninfluenced by considerations of party pride, or private grief, will do his memory justice. To that impartial history I willingly leave the task of inditing his memorial, while I turn to the dead who have been deposited in "Our Cemetery," with a grief as bitter, and a sorrow as unfeigned as that which is manifested by those who bow before the bier of him who is now, alas! but another exemplification of the truism that "the path of glory leads but to the grave.
Among all those who lied in our burial place, there are none whose memories are more pleasant than that of HILAND HILL. As far back as my recollection extends, I remember him as an industrious and cheerful man, whose integrity was never questioned, and whose humble piety was beyond reproach or doubt. He was a ship-builder by trade, and most of the sloops employed in the carrying trade between Catskill and New York were of his handiwork. After the application of steam to navigation, the demand for sail vessels was materially lessened, and in process of time the extensive ship yards of Mr. HILL gradually became contracted to the limited dimensions of a shed, between his garden and the Creek, where, almost to the day of his death, he continued to labor in the construction of small craft, consisting of principally of sailing and rowing boats.
I think that the ship building firm, (and I am not sure but there was a mercantile establishment connected with it) was styled HILL, HALE & HILL, and either GEORGE or THOMAS HALE, or perhaps both. I have no distinct remembrance of RICHARD HILL, and he must have died when I was quite young. I remember, however, another of the family, Mr. HENRY HILL, who is, I believe, still living at Boston, well known as a successful merchant and an ardent philanthropist, constant in good works. My impression is that he is the son of RICHARD HILL, but I am not confident. More than forty years ago he was a resident of South America, (I think as U. S. Consul at Valparaiso) and some of your readers will, doubtless, remember two lads who were sent by him from that country, to be educated by the Rev. Dr. PORTER, at Catskill. Their names were EDWARD and BLANCO, and with the former, who was commonly called "the little Spaniard," I was very intimate when a boy. He was a slight made youngster, easily irritated, and I remember more than one blackened eye that I have received as his champion. [Strangely enough, I met, within the last year, at my office, a Chilian named NARANJO, who knew EDWARD well, and who informed me that he was still living, a wealthy and respected merchant.] HENRY HILL married LAURA, the daughter of Dr. PORTER, and I do not remember to have seen him since about that time.
The children of HILAND HILL were HILAND Junior, CHARLES and JOHN. There were, also two or more daughters. HILAND HILL Jr. was so well known, as the Cashier of the Catskill Bank from the foundation of that institution to the time of his sudden death; was so universally beloved, and has left us so recently, that it is unnecessary for me to sketch his history, or to extol his virtues. He married a daughter of COMFORT BUTLER, whose brown tomb-stone, transferred, with his remains, from the old burying ground at the junction of Livingston and Broad streets, now marks his grave in "Our Cemetery." CHARLES HILL died recently in Brooklyn. The eldest daughter of HILAND HILL Sen. married CALEB HOPKINS, a merchant of New York, (and one of the celebrated firm of PIERSON & Co.) who, retiring from business, purchased the residence of Doctor BENTON, on the West bank of the Catskill Creek, where he lived and died, and where his family still resides. Mary, the younger daughter, married FRANCIS I. MARVIN, also a New York merchant, who afterwards removed to Catskill, and who died not long since. The widow of HILAND HILL Jr., and at least two of the sons, (FREDERICK, Cashier of the Tanners’ Bank, and HENRY B., Teller of the Catskill Bank) still remain in Catskill, and are (as their progenitors were) among the most estimable citizens of the Village. But I find I am running down the genealogical line of this family to a period too modern to deeply interest those lovers of antiquity for whose amusement, if not instruction, these hasty and imperfect sketches are more especially written.
Col. GEORGE HALE died before my time, although I remember to have heard him spoken of, in my early youth, as one than recently deceased. He is the person referred to in Mr. WEED’S very interesting letter, as having been buried with military honors, early in the present century.
Captain THOMAS HALE I knew well, and he came nearer to my ideas of one of the Puritans who immigrated in the Mayflower, than any one I ever saw. He was a man of unbending integrity, indomitable will, and strict conformity to Christian faith and observances, even to the closing of his store at sunset on Saturdays, and the commencement of the family washing on Sunday nights. He had been, at one period of his life, of that class "who go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters," and I can easily imagine that he had a well disciplined crew, and that there was little need of a chronometer on board his ship, to make the hour for piping to duty, or grog, or hammock—indeed, so regular and so punctual were his habits that the matrons of the Village timed their domestic arrangements by his movements, and when it was first proposed to erect a town-clock in Catskill, it was thought by many to be quite unnecessary so long as Capt. HALE was living. After the closing up of the firm of HILL, HALE & HILL, the Captain transacted a mixed mercantile business, in the basement of his dwelling-house on the corner of Main and William streets, dealing in such articles as in those days made up the assortment of a country store—such as West India goods (meaning rum and molasses principally), farm produce, dry goods, groceries, wooden ware, mouse-traps, grind-stones, "tea, tar, tumeric, turpentine and tin." He always kept good articles, gave honest weight and measure, and made correct change, and yet, I know not why, his store never seemed to be over-stocked with customers, while less scrupulous dealers drove a thriving business. I have, sometimes, thought that there was a deal of truth in the poet’s assertion that
"To some, the pleasure is as sweet
Of being cheated as to cheat."
Captain HALE was a quiet, peaceable man, with a voice as soft as a woman’s, but when aroused he was a very SAMPSON. I remember one Winter day, when old ARCH. THORP was pretty drunk and profanely abusive, that the Captain remonstrated with him until his patience became exhausted, when he seized him by the collar of his coat and that part of his trowsers which he usually sat down upon, and tossed him over the lower half of a double door, and over a sleigh load of oats standing on the side-walk, quite into the middle of the street. ARCH. was partially sobered by his sudden transit, and so thoroughly frightened that , as he staggered off, he only dared to venture the remark, in a subdued tone, that the Captain was "the ____st strongest old divil in town."
Related, somehow, to Captain HALE, by marriage, was Deacon NATHAN ELLIOT. He, too, was a Puritan, after the straitest sect.—He kept a book store, and his wife a millinery shop, at the upper end of what is now called "the Central Block," though it is now just about forty years since the building which he then occupied was burned. To his bookstore was attached a bindery, and at one time he established a newspaper called The American Eagle, a high-toned Federal sheet, intended to rival the Recorder; but the enterprise proving unprofitable, "the bird of Jove" very soon went to roost. Mr. ELLIOT was doubtless a very excellent, though not a popular person; the strictness of his habits and the austerity of his manners being unsuited to a community such as Catskill possessed at that time. He had the reputation of being very penurious, though I have never heard of any act of his which deserved a harsher appellation than that of prudent parsimony. He had a wild set of apprentices, (among whom was GIL FROST,) and they used to annoy him excessively by stealing and drinking his currant wine, and other tricks incompatible with the customs and usages to which the Deacon had been bred in Old Connecticut; and it is no wonder that when he locked up his cellar, and sometimes flourished the rod, that they stigmatized him as hard, and mean and miserly.
He died quite suddenly, leaving two sons, JAMES G. and NATHAN G. The first named was, I believe, educated for one of the professions, though I do not remember that he studied either law, physic or Divinity. He was for some time engaged in mercantile business with REUBEN ADAMS, and afterwards went to New York, where he died a few years since.
NATHAN G. ELLIOT was my school mate at Catskill, and also at the Greenville Academy in 1823-4, and was one of my most intimate friends. About 1831 he purchased the Catskill Recorder office, from CHARLES FAXON, and soon after that I became temporarily associated with him in the editorial department of that paper. I have known but few person in my life-time who possessed a happier disposition, or who carried, under a somewhat rough exterior, a heart more full of generous impulses and warm affections. Knowing nothing of the art of printing, it is not strange that he was unsuccessful in the newspaper business; and he soon abandoned it and went to Alabama. There he engaged in various pursuits, and at last, loading a vessel with lumber, &c., he started on a voyage to New Orleans or Galveston, from which he never returned. His vessel was lost in "the Gulf," and I have heard that his last act (in keeping with his whole life) was to lash to the rigging a boy, who was the only survivor of the wreck. A tomb-stone, inscribed to his memory, stands over an empty grave in "Our Cemetery," and as I have looked on the tenantless tomb, I have thought that this was a fitting burial, and that the Gulf of Mexico was a sepulchre none to wide or deep to cover his capacious heart.
But I have wandered away from my first subject. I meant to have written of the extensive establishment of the HILLS, and to have called up the memories of many who there found employment and support. I meant to have told of ‘LISHE HAMMOND; of OLD SAM HULL, and his boys, IRA, GEORGE, MARK and TIRRELL; of NOAH REEVES; of old MR. STEWART and his sons SAM, ANDY and ADAM, and others associated in my mind with the old ship-yard, but lack of leisure and limited space forbid, and they must "bide their time."