Catskill Cemetery Papers
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
Wednesday, May 17, 1865
As I write the above date, I am reminded that another birth-day has arrived—another stage of the journey of life has been accomplished. Though many who entered on the path before me are still plodding on in advance, yet there are more, many more, who, starting with me, have lain down, weary, by the wayside. With my few surviving contemporary companions, as with myself the summit of the road has been passed, and we are now almost imperceptibly, but with accelerated speed, hastening down the declivity. A few more birth-days—perhaps no more—and our pilgrimage will be ended, and we lie, unremembered, with the dead of "Our Cemetery."
Recalling to memory the names of the early settlers of Catskill, I find that the subjects of most of my hasty sketches, (not only of the current series, but also the "Harmony Lodge Papers") have been natives of Connecticut. Indeed, the early Dutch settlers had scarcely got warm in their cosy nests on the Kaatskill and Kauterskill, and at Kiskatom, and Kaatsban, and the Bockover, and the Groedt Embought, before they were disturbed by the influx of Eastern immigration. Though, after a time, they settled down into a sort of harmony, produced by a certain identity of pecuniary interests, yet perfect cordiality was never fully established between the first generation of the Dutchman, and those whom they looked upon as "Yankee interlopers." In fact, when I was a boy the low dutch was the prevalent language in the town, and the merchants were obliged to employ interpreters or have their own jaws broken to the Catskill vernacular; the old settlers utterly refusing to substitute molasses for stroep pork for spack, handkerchief for nuesdock; jack-knife for sluet-mas, or shin-bone for shanklebeen; and it was fortunate for the Connecticut men that they brought wives with them, as they would have found it extremely difficult to supply themselves with such commodities in or about Catskill. Many of your readers will probably remember an anecdote in illustration of this aversion to miscegeny on the part of the Dutch: A down-Easter had been enamored of a damsel (of perhaps of her father’s farm) in or near Kauterskill, and applied for the old gentleman’s consent to the union, which was decidedly refused. A Catskill merchant was enlisted in the suitor’s favor, who endeavored to shake the "cruel parient’s" determination, representing the young man as very smart, very learned, and a Poet, withal. "He a boet!" said the old man, "why, I can make better boetry as him, any day," and he forthwith produced the following specimen of the "divine afflatus":
"Tutch and Yankee mixed togedder,
Always make a tam bodder."
Truth compels me to relate, however, that the "bodderation" ensued; the Yankee making interest with the "goode vrow," and, in this case as in a thousand others, "the gray mare proved the better horse."
The VAN ORDENS, the VAN VECHTENS, the VAN LOANS, the VAN GORDENS, the VAN GELDERS, and the VAN HOESENS, the OVERBAGHS, the HALLENBECKS, the BOGRADUSES, the GOETCHIUSES, the WYNKOOPS, the SCHUNEMANS, the FRELEIGHS, the TRUMPBOURS, and the SCHMIDTS; and many others of Netherland origin are numerously represented at this day, by their descendants, in the population of Catskill, and I hope to be able, some time, to pay fitting tribute to the memories of the good old low dutch burghers. In the present paper I only propose to speak of one or two more of the early settlers from "the land of steady habits."
Among these was WIKES HYDE. Of him there is little to be said, except that he endured the reputation (whether deservedly or not I cannot vouch from personal knowledge) of being the most penurious and miserly inhabitant of the town. He was held responsible for all the clipped or bored coin in circulation, and he was supposed to be the person of whom it was originally said that
"He was so mean, he’s skin a flint
If he could see a sixpence in’t."
Whether he ever really performed this operation or not I am not credibly advised, but I have heard from pretty good authority, that, at one time, while escorting Mrs. E___A D__y through his garden, and extolling the quality of his fruit, he picked a cherry, and, carefully dividing it, offered her one-half of it! If this was a fact, he was meaner that the devil, for I have never heard "the old serpent" reproached with halving the apple he gave to EVE.
There are many anecdotes of his parsimony extant, but I refrain from repeating them---"de mortuis nil, nisi bonum."
Mr. HYDE was a merchant for many years, and, I think, was the first to established an extensive crockery store in the Village. He was something of a pomologist, also, and after retiring from the mercantile business he purchased a small farm in Kiskatom, and went into the fruit raising line, though I believe this speculation was rather unprofitable. He was also engaged with ALFRED BUEL, in the spinning-Jenny business, and I think he had at one time a pretty sharp attack of "morus multicaulus" fever.
He died, at a somewhat advanced age, from injuries received by being thrown from a wagon, leaving four or five sons and daughters, most, if not all, of whom, I believe, have since died.
CHARLES RODGERS was another immigrant from Connecticut. He was a native of Wallingford, and came to Catskill at an early day, and was a most excellent citizen. He was a Hatter by trade, and at one time employed many workmen, of whom I only now recollect LUCIUS COOKE and PETER BOGARDUS, and they were two characters not likely to be forgotten in Catskill for many a day. His shop and warehouse stood upon the site of, and was the same building which has since been known as "Old GRIMES’S" and the "EGNOR HOUSE." I shall never forget the huge sign which covered almost the whole width of this building, representing, on one side, a tall Indian with a fist full of fox-skins, and on the other an enormous chapeau-bras, inside of which the aforesaid Indian might easily have hidden himself and his peltry. [By the by, huge signs were fashionable in Catskill and these days; the elder JOHN ASHLEY had one bigger than his bake-shop, on which were pictured sundry loaves of bread, barrels of crackers, and inscribed with the benevolent and patriotic sentiment, "May our Country never want for Bread." While MACKAY CROSWELL’S book store and printing office was almost entirely concealed by an immense sign-board, on which was painted a Ramage Press and the following inscription, in capital letters: "Call and pay me what thou owest me; if thou owest me nothing, call and buy something."]
Mr. RODGERS, as I have said, was an excellent citizen, and was very sociable and companionable, even with the lads of the Village. He was very fond of relating stories of Wallingford, and of the early times of Catskill, yet he could not approximate to his brother-in-law, NAT. COOKE, who used a longer bow in his relations of the marvelous, than Mr. RODGERS did in whipping furs. Until somewhat advanced in life he wore his hair combed carefully back, and wound tightly with an eel-skin, covered with black ribbon. This kind of queue was called a club, though it more closely resembled a huge Bologna sausage. He was as proud of this caudality as a Bashaw of his three tails, and he assured me that at one time it had been so long and so rigid, that upon sitting down he was obliged to shift it to one side, lest by its striking the chair bottom, he should be incontinently scalped!
He knew the late JOHN JACOB ASTOR well, and I have heard him say that he had bought peltries from him, when ASTOR first commenced the fur trade and carried a pack. Mr. RODGERS was always good-natured and pleasant, and I do not remember to have ever known him to get vexed except when washing hats in the Catskill Creek. On such occasions he usually wore a long surtout, or tunic, with a cape about the breadth of my hand, and sometimes, when the wind would blow this narrow appendage about his ears, he would lose patience, and rather profanely exclaim: "dud-darn the everlasting cape!" I remember that these ebullitions used to tickle my friend FRANK DUNHAM exceedingly.
Mr. RODGERS and his estimable wife lived to a ripe age, enjoying the respect of the entire community, and, dying, left the record of a good name. Their children were LYMAN, MARY, CHARLES and AUGUSTUS. LYMAN was a fellow clerk with me in the store of the late JOHN W. HUNTER, more than forty years ago. He went to New York, and thence to New Orleans, but after an absence of a few years he returned to Catskill, and, in connection with IRA DUBOIS, established a restaurant, where he was long and favorably known as "Old GRIMES." CHARLES studied law with POWERS & DAY, but abandoned the profession, and followed the business of an accountant until his death. MARY married IRA DUBOIS; and AUGUSTUS still survives, the last of the RODGERS family—father, mother, sister and brothers are all asleep in "Our Cemetery."
CHARLES CLARK married the sister of Mrs. RODGERS, and, I presume, came to Catskill about the same time. He was a clock and watch maker by trade, but on account of failing health and eye-sight he relinquished the business, and kept a little grocery store on the spot where the Tanners’ Bank now stands. I shall probably never forget the taste of the fruit of the spice-apple tree which grew on the vacant lot between CLARK’S grocery and RODGERS’ hat shop. Even to-night, its rich flavor seems to linger on my palate, and its deep green tinge is painted on the retina of my "mind’s eye." Perhaps my remembrance of those apples is pleasanter from the fact that they were usually surreptitiously obtained, it being conceded that "stolen fruit is sweetest."
Mr. CLARK was a native of Norwich, Connecticut, and was quite a stripling at the breaking our of the Revolutionary War. He espoused the patriot cause, and at the early age of seventeen shouldered his musket and marched to repel the invasion of New London by BENEDICT ARNOLD, though his company arrived at that place a few hours to late to prevent the conflagration. [The musket referred to was taken from a British soldier, and still remains in the possession of his son HIRAM.] The old gentleman was an enthusiast in relation to the Revolution, and never adverted to the scenes of that trying period without intense emotion, nor spoke of WASHINGTON without shedding tears. I have often sat, for hours, hearing him converse with those who had shared the dangers and honors of those stormy years; among whom I well remember DAVID HAMLIN, a drummer, who used to boast that, while playing Yankee Doodle, he could toss his drum-stick in the air, drink off a gill of whisky, and catching the stick in its descent, go on with the tune without missing a note! It is not impossible that he might have done so, for I can vouch that he would perform the whisky-drinking part of the feat with marvelous facility.
Mr. CLARK died many years ago, his widow surviving him until quite recently. Their children were CHARLES, EDWIN, ERASTUS, ANDREW and HIRAM, two only of whom (EDWARD and HIRAM) are living—the former residing, I believe, at Ogdensburgh, and the latter in Canada West.
I meant to have written at much greater length of the CLARK family, but the lateness of the hour admonishes me that it is time to close this rambling sketch, and so—good night!