Catskill Cemetery Papers
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
Monday Ev’g., January 29, 1866.
I meant to have confined myself, in this and one or more succeeding numbers, to brief sketches of some more of the old residents of West Catskill, or "across the Creek." But other names suggest themselves, this evening, of those who were, especially, mixed up with the interests and welfare of the Village, and fearing that if I neglect them now, they may not soon recur to my memory, I propose to devote this paper to that class.
Among those who were thus identified with the interest and prosperity of Catskill, and ever leading in every good work, and who have passed away, were WILLIAM SEAMAN, HENRY ASHLEY, JAMES COLE, ISAAC VAN LOAN, PETER BREASTED, with others, of whom I hope to be permitted to speak hereafter.
WILLIAM SEAMAN was, I believe, a native of Long Island, and, if I am not mistaken was a Quaker (Hicksite) parentage, or, at least, descent. He must have come to Catskill more than fifty years ago, for I cannot remember the time when he was not one of its prominent citizens. I first recollect him as residing, and carrying on the business of saddle, trunk and harness making, in the building now occupied by TUZAR BULKLEY, in Main, opposite Church Street, and I recollect, too, that not having a strict regard for the tenth commandment, I often coveted the rocking-horse which was suspended as a business sign above his door.
[And here, allow me to "switch off," for a moment, to recall to memories of your elder readers, another person who was of the same trade, and who lived somewhere near, if not on the same spot, on which "the STARR HOUSE" now stands, just above Spring Alley. His name was JOHN P. BOLEN, but either old ARCH THORP or ‘LIGE WELLS dubbed him JOHN BO PEELEN, and I think he was best known by the latter cognomination. He was a fidgetty, excitable man, and I suspect it was owing to this nervous temperament that he left town very suddenly after being burnt out one Summer Sunday afternoon. He had five or six children, of whom I recollect HENRY, DANIEL, JAMES, CAROLINE and SALLY ANN. HENRY was a printer, and learned his trade with MACKAY CROSWELL, in the Recorder office; DANIEL was a book-binder, with Deacon ELLIOTT, I think; and JAMES was a tailor—possibly a spontaneous one, for I don’t recollect with whom he served his apprenticeship. As the family left town many years ago, I do not remember any striking incidents in the lives of either of them—except that I once saw HEN. BOLEN filling Fourth-of-July cartridges from an open powder-keg, in the hall of the Court House, with a lighted cigar in his mouth! And that I incontinently vacated the premises, under a strong impression that a conjunction of the two articles might produce an "upward tendency" of matters and things in the neighborhood, and I preferred some other mode of achieving the character of a rising young man. CAROLINE married a five-fingered tailor, named SAMPSON HETHERINGTON, and SALLY ANN married probably somebody else—I don’t know who. They all went to New York a good while ago. and I have lost track of them. So much for my digression Bolen-wards.]
WILLIAM SEAMAN, at about the time MOSES I. CANTINE was appointed State Printer, and left Catskill, removed to (and purchased, I believe) the property of Mr. C., where he resided until his death. As I have stated above, Mr. SEAMAN was foremost and busiest in every plan to advance the interest and ensure the prosperity of the Village. He was, for some time, a Trustee of the Corporation, and more than once a Supervisor of the town, and it is not invidious to say that there never was a better one—his sound sense and practical business knowledge enabling him to withstand and foil the efforts which the other towns did then, and, I suppose, have ever since exerted to fasten the lion’s share of taxation upon Catskill. He was, once at least, a Member of Assembly, when that position was considered highly honorable, and before the Capitol desks were converted into the tables of money changers, or the members got into the present practice of lucking pigeons, if not of selling doves in the legislative temple. Mr. SEAMAN’S colleague was ADDISON PORTER, and the representation of Greene County, that year, was one of which any constituency might well be proud. Mr. PORTER’s health failed, keeping him from his seat almost the entire session, and, so Mr. SEAMAN was left alone to do double duty. And nobly did he advocate and maintain, not only the interest of his immediate section, but the honor and dignity of the State. Neither time nor newspaper space will permit me to recite the various measures to which he contributed his support, and, perhaps, it is sufficient here to say that a review of his arguments and votes on all the questions and enactments of that session, will present a record to which his descendants, as well as the County of Greene, can point with a just pride.
Mr. SEAMAN will long be remembered (in connection with HENRY ASHLEY and others) as one of the leading men in (if not one of the originators) the Catskill Mechanics’ Benevolent Society, as the friend and patron of all worthy young mechanics, and as one of the founders of the Apprentices’ Library—an institution now. I believe, extinct. I remember many young men who served their apprenticeships with Mr. SEAMAN, but I do not remember one who did not, faithfully, serve his full term, and enter his majority with a good reputation and a fair promise of becoming a worthy member of society. I remember one, however, whose bright hopes and fair prospects were blasted, even while he was crossing the threshold of manhood. Poor ABRAHAM OSTERHOUT had just arrived at age, and was indulging in high hopes of the future, when he was called away. One of the earliest of my sad remembrances, as it is one of the most lasting, is the event of his death: It was on a Christmas Eve, while I was being led to church, by my mother, that it was told that he was drowned. I think he had been skating on the Creek, and was taking off his skates, when the ice gave way, and he was lost—the indentures which had bound him to earth and earthly toil were cancelled forever. Such casualties were infrequent in Catskill then, and I well remember that this one cast a deep shadow over the holiday festivities.
Mr. SEAMAN was an active and ardent politician, and to him as much as any other one person, Greene County is indebted for the prominent position which it had long held in the Democratic party of the State. I have known of more than one instance, when the success of the ticket seemed jeopardized by local dissensions, and when a journey through the mountains towns by Mr. SEAMAN, on his famous horse Jack, was potent to harmonize all difficulties, and to restore faith and confidence to the doubting and the despondent.But not alone are the public services of WILLIAM SEAMAN to be approved and imitated. In all the walks of private life, he held the confidence and esteem of those who knew him. He was a kind and considerate master, ever solicitous for the welfare and good name of his apprentices. He was a just, impartial, by indulgent father, a friend to the worthy unfortunate, and a comforter and consoler of the sick and afflicted. His presence and care diffused cheerfulness even in the death chamber, and when all of earthly care and kindness was unavailing, he was still found assisting at the last sad obsequies of the departed, and assuaging the griefs of surviving mourners.
I have given more time to the subject of this sketch, than I have usually devoted to the old inhabitants of Catskill, but I could not help it, and I only regret that time will not permit me to pay a fuller tribute to the memory of one so universally esteemed, and to one to whom I am, individually, indebted for much good counsel, and many kind favors.
WILLIAMS, Junior, the son and eldest child, was my special crony and companion. Together, we have fished in all waters, from DIEPERS HOOK to the Ram’s-horn, and hunted all over the Long Swamp, along the banks of the Cauterskill, and through VAN VECHTENS woods, before vandal hands felled the forests, to make room for the unsubstantial bubble, the Canajoharie and Catskill Railroad.
Young WILLIAMS was imbued, too, with a considerable degree of martial spirit, and I remember well with what pride I carried the colors of an adolescent company of which he was Captain, and JOHN B. COZZENS 1st Lieutenant.
I also recollect and occurrence which signally evidenced the strategy of Captain "BILL." Our company had, upon some public day, marched to Madison (now Leeds), where the Artillery, the Rifles and the Light Infantry were parading. We were generously entertained by the Madisonians (especially by BILL SCHUNEMAN), and, after filling our uniforms with cakes, spruce beer, and, mayhap, something a little stronger, we started homewards in advance of the older Companies; and, just here, the military tact of Captain SEAMAN manifested itself. Leading us, silently, from the turnpike, he directed us to conceal ourselves behind an elevated knoll nearly opposite the place since known as "the upper JACKSON’S." loading a small swivel, loaned us by Deacon JIM OLMSTEAD, we awaited the coming of the Light Infantry, under the command of ___, I couldn’t tell his name if I recollected it. Pretty soon, like JOHN BROWN’S soul, they came "marching on." It was a warm day, and all was silent, save the measured tap of the drum, to which they kept indifferent step, when, just as the center of the column came opposite our hiding-place, the match was applied to our gun, and the woods and rocks rang with the reverberating. Such another stampede was, probably, never witnessed between the days of Chevy Chase and Bull Run. Faint orders to halt, and form, and dress, were unheeded. As they scattered in all directions, there was not a perceptiable halt in any man among them, and it is doubtful if they would have stopped to dress, had they been nude as new-born babes. It was said (I do not vouch for the truth of the story) that the Captain didn’t get home until the following morning. After that, we were all heroes, of course.
Young WILLIAMS SEAMAN went to Buffalo a long while ago, and I do not know whether he is still living or not. I have not heard from him in many years.
ELLEN was next oldest, and, I believe, an only daughter. As she is still living, and held in deserved esteem among you, any lengthy notice, by me, would be ill-timed now.
The other boys were VICTOR, CHARLES, HENRY, EDWARD, JOHN and ROBERT. "Vic." Learned the printer’s trade, in the office of the Recorder, with CALEB CROSWELL or N. G. ELLIOTT, (or both) but afterwards took to a sea-faring life. I have not seen him for many years, and the last time I heard from him, he commanded the vessel in which our old townsman, HENRY MEIGGS, and family, made their HEGIRA from Sam Francisco.
CHARLES died in the year 1844. He was an estimable young man, and his death is still remembered with sorrow by those who were his companions.
HENRY, JOHN, ROBERT and EDWARD, all, I believe, reside in New York. They were all younger than I, and as I have been an absentee from Catskill for twenty years, I cannot, of course, give their histories. It is, perhaps, enough to say here that they have all been deservedly successful in life’s affairs, and that each is a living exemplification of SOLOMON’S aphorism: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and, when he is old, he will not depart from it."
But the hour is late, and so, with my sincerest wishes for the health and happiness of each and all the survivors of those of whom I have now and heretofore made brief mention, I say Good Night!
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