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Catskill Cemetery Papers

Second Series
NO. 3

Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin

October 23, 1863

I believe I proposed in my last to continue my notice of the DUBOIS family. My earliest recollections of Captain BARENT DUBOIS, is a master (or Skipper) of the packet sloop Thos. Jefferson, famous in those days, for sailing qualities which, wind and weather permitting, enabled her to make the round trip from Catskill to New York, and home again, in about a fortnight—say a few days more or less. My next remembrance of him is as vocalist at the after-dinner sit-downs on Independence days and General Trainings. It is true that this musical qualifications were not of that high order which would, in these days, command a very large salary in a fashionable choir, yet I can bear witness that his performances were always greeted with rapturous applause. I said performances, though I believe he never attempted to sing but one song, and that was something about "Lord Butte," accompanied by sundry pantomimic gestures and genuflexions of a cotton handkerchief, twisted into the partial semblance of an old woman, operated by the dexter fingers, and keeping time with the chorus of "Boo me here, and scratch me there," at which the aforesaid applause always "came in."

As years passed on, carrying me towards "man’s estate," I became more intimately acquainted with the good old Captain, and I have spent hours in hearing his stories of the barbarities committed by tories and savages, and of combats in which he had borne no unimportant part. In all these narratives he managed to introduce his beau-ideal of a warrior—"Old MURPHY"—in such a way as to induce the suspicion that he might have been coadjutor of the "Schoharie Indian Killer." That Capt. Dubois had done good service to his country, (though in what capacity I am unable to say) is proven by the fact that he was in the receipt of a pension from the Government until his death.

It was said that in early life he had been a Federalist, but if so, he abundantly atoned for that heresy by a subsequent active and efficient support to the Democracy. I well remember that when, in 1828, I deposited my first vote, and ANDREW JACKSON, it immediately followed one of the same sort from Capt. Barent Dubois, and I know that he lived and died in the Democratic faith. When, at last, at a good old age, he went to his rest, there were none who did not mourn the loss of an excellent citizen and honest man.

Barent Dubois had three sons, who are all now dead. The eldest, CORNELIUS, was a lawyer, and married a daughter of JOHN DUBOIS, (of whom I wrote in my last article.) He died so long ago that I am unable to give any sketch of his life, character or peculiarities. His widow died, I believe, within the last year, leaving two daughters, who suffer the penalty which is said to attach to consanguineous marriages. The second son was named Barent, and was a tanner by occupation, having served one of those old-fashioned apprenticeships, of seven years, with the late HENRY ASHLEY, (I think contemporaneously, or nearly so, with two of your present respected citizens, ISAAC ROUSE and GEORGE BELLAMY.) Soon after attaining his majority, young Barent left Catskill, and was, for many years, an Agent of the Government for the removal of the Indians to the far West. Subsequently he purchased a tract of land at Montgomery, Alabama, and it is said he became quite wealthy. He is especially associated in my memory with a feud between the Villages of Athens and Catskill, which, at one time, assumed a belligerent aspect. Though it fortunately terminated without any loss of life, or much bloodshed. There had been, for some time, a bitter feeling existing with our Athenian neighbors, growing out of the contest in relation to the location of the County buildings, and very little provocation was requisite to fan the fire into a blaze of war. The immediate cause belli was as follows: Catskill and Athens had each an Artillery Company; the first commanded by Capt. JARED STOCKING, and the other by Capt. SAM. HAMILTON. Soon after the close of the last war with Great Britain, (only a few years previous to the time of which I am now writing) the Government withdrew all the ordnance from these Companies, except one brass six-pounder, which had to do duty for both. Just before the fourth of July, about the years 1820, (I am not clear as to the exact year) the Catskillians, having resolved to celebrate the anniversary, asked of the Athenians the return of the gun, which was flatly refused. The war spirit of 1812-15 had not entirely subsided, and the Catskillians determined to capture the artillery, or "perish in the last ditch." Accordingly, two nights before "the Fourth," a devoted band—a sort of forlorn hope—made a midnight raid into our sister Village, and, breaking into the barn which served as an arsenal, bore off the field-piece in triumph.

Athens reposed in quiet until its slumbers were broken by the echoes of the stolen gun, fired from the height near BRANDON’S. Then there was hurrying to and fro, tall swearing and threats of vengeance, as the infuriated Athenians started in pursuit of the despoilers. They were to slow of foot, however, to over take the Catskillians, who reached town in safety, dismounted the gun, deposited it in the bar of MACKEY CROSWELL’S tavern, and put up the carriage in the wagon-house.—Being highly elated with their success, and feeling assured that "the gun" was safe, as they cast an eye upon it every time they went to the bar to drink, this little band of heroes relaxed their vigilance, of which, the Athenians taking advantage, effected an entrance into the wagon-house, recaptured the gun-carriage, and harnessing the landlord’s cow to it. They succeeded in reaching home with their prize, before daylight. War was now, of course, fairly inaugurated. Our Village was then placed under martial-law, and young Barent Dubois was constituted Military Governor. (I well remember how proud and patriotic I felt, young as I was, when he tied a blue ribbon into the button-hole of my jacket.) Pickets were stationed at every outlet or inlet to the town, while the draw-bridge was opened, and a swivel, loaded with slugs and paving-stones, was planted upon it, to repel any attack which might, by possibility, be made by the way of Kiskatamanatie! All the next day and night the Village resounded with the beating drums, the squealing of fifes, and the ebullitions of patriotism. The succeeding morning’s sun ushered in the "Glorious Fourth," it was a lovely day, and such a celebration was never witnessed in Catskill before or since. "The Gun," mounted on the axletree of an ox-cart, its muzzle pointed towards Athens, bellowed "from morn till dewy eve," doubtless striking terror to the hearts of our adversaries; the little swivel chimed in with a sharp accompaniment, and fire crackers filled up the intervals. The day closed, as usual, with a dinner and a drink, and the next morning, "the gun" was hoisted up into ISAAC DUBOIS’ loft, from which time to the present I have never seen nor heard from it. The war was over, but a long time elapsed before amicable relations were fully re-established between the two Villages.

Perhaps I ought to apologize for this tedious episode, but I could not bear that the waters of oblivion should entirely overwhelm an affair which, at the time, was as important to the actors in it, as SHAY’S Rebellion, the Whisky Insurrection or the Helderbergh War. Let those who are disposed to sneer at the slight cause which produced this belligerent feeling among neighbors, ask themselves whether the war which is now devastating, depopulating and impoverishing our Country has any nobler or more honorable origin.

The third, and last son of Barent Dubois was SAMUEL. He was only a few years my senior, and was at one time a school-mate. My first recollection of him, in business life, was, I believe, as a partner of Mr. PETER T. MESICK—afterwards he kept a Grocery store "on his own hook" at the corner of Main and Liberty streets. I do not recollect any very especially interesting incident in his life, except that he once knocked out two of MARK SPENCER’S teeth, while under the influence of laughing gas, although there were some ill-natured enough to insinuate that party spirit had more to do with the affair than the protoxyd of Nitrogen. He commenced the trade of politician very early, and was for many years, Under Sheriff and Jailor, and finally, High Sheriff of the County. But his death is so recent that most of your readers knew him as well as I did, and, as I am exceeding my limits, I conclude.

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