Catskill Cemetery Papers
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
May, 15, 1856
A week of warm, sunny weather, succeeded by a timely and refreshing rain, has ushered in the Spring, and Nature rejoices in a happy deliverance from the vigor of a severe and protracted Winter.
It has not been pleasant, during the cold and tedious months to think of the dead in "Our Cemetery." It is not pleasant to remember that, all Winter long, as in many a long Winter before, they have lain in their cold beds, beneath the deep snow-drifts; and that, all Winter long, the chill winds have moaned over them in tones to which those of human lamentation are feeble and vain.
But I do love to think of departed acquaintances and companions, and friends, in the Spring-time, and to indulge in the fancy (almost the belief) that they, too, feel the warm rays of the returning sun, and the soft influences of the rural breezes, and listen to the songs of the little birds in the branches which bend over their quiet graves.
And of all of whom it is thus pleasant to think, there is none whose memory is revived with a deeper affection and reverence than that of Doctor CROSWELL; the good old "Uncle Doctor" of my boyhood’s remembrances and love.—I have before said that I have no record from which to write the history of the lives of the early settlers of Catskill, nor is it my intention to attempt the task. I am content if I shall be able to bring them back to the mind and memory of some one better qualified than myself worthily to perform that labor of love.
My earliest recollections of Dr. Croswell are associated with the sugar-plums and licorice-sticks with which his capacious pockets were stored, and which, for all my youthful ailments, were a sovereign panacea whose sweet flavor still seems to linger on my tongue. I remember his kind looks and cheerful laugh, and recall the very words of the nursery songs which he essayed to sing, albeit the melody was not of the richest, nor the music precisely such as would be adapted to a modern concert-room, for the chiefest merits of the Doctor’s warbling was that it came directly up from his benevolent heart.
Many years ago—long before I can remember—he came to Catskill, and commenced the practice of medicine. He also, in connection with his brother, MACKAY, established a weekly newspaper, of which there were but few then in existence in the country.
In this little printing office, all the time which could be spared from the arduous duties of a physician in a new, extensive and sparsely settled district, was occupied in the printing for a wide range of country, and the hebdomadal publication of a paper which soon became a necessity to the inhabitants of all the region South of Albany, and between the Hudson River and the then far-off Susquehanna and Chenango.
Many a long night, passing into morning, found him engaged at the "case," or in carving wood-cuts, rude enough, truly, but which in those primitive days were viewed with as much admiration as are now the productions of the burins of our most finished artists.—Morning succeeded night but to call him to the sick chambers of his patients, and thus day and night were but changes of a toil of which the profession in these days can scarcely be conceptible. In process of time a Post Office was established at Catskill, and the Doctor received the appointment under the hand of GEORGE WASHINGTON. How well and how faithfully he performed the duties, may be inferred from the fact that, through all administrations of the Government, and through all the mutations of politics, he held the appointment for fifty years, and only resigned it into the hands of Death.
So, from early manhood to old age he lived and labored in the Village of Catskill. Many whose first early gaze was upon the Doctor’s face, grew up, through childhood and youth, to man’s estate, and then gave their last look to the same kind face as they passed away forever. Few who began life with him here, remain, and yet he lingered to minister to the children and children’s children of his early associates and friends.
With no family except his excellent wife, who still survives,* he acquired a fair proportion of the world’s goods, and was esteemed quite wealthy. Possessed of a liberal mind, desirous to contribute to the welfare of all around him, and confining in the integrity of his fellow-men, he parted with a large portion of his means, and lived to find his confidence misplace, and his hard-earned gains virtually lost. Years, and incessant occupation and toil, at last began to make their marks upon him, and one Winter’s morning we heard that God had called him home.
It was my purpose to relate some of the many biographical anecdotes and incidents of the Doctor’s life, but, to most of my readers, they are "household words," and might suffer in the telling. His benevolent acts, his pleasant sayings, and his sterling worth, will be remembered when all who knew him here shall have taken their places beside him in "Our Cemetery."
*(Mrs. Ruth Croswell, relict of Dr. Thomas O"Hara Croswell, died at the residence of her adopted daughter, Mrs. Wm. H. Wey, in Catskill, January 7th, 1862, aged 96 years, 10 months and 15 days. The following obituary, written by Mr. Pinckney, was published in the Recorder and Democrat, January 16th, 1862:
There are few, with one possible exception, their is not one, of our inhabitants living whose memory reaches back to the time when Mrs. RUTH CROSWELL became a resident of Catskill. Born in New England, at a time when our present vast domain was a colonial possession of the British Crown, she lived to witness the most important changes which the world has ever known. She saw a young nation burst the cords of thraldom and assert its right to civil and religious freedom; she hailed the day when our beloved WASHINGTON assumed the command of our public army; she rejoiced in his success, she wept for his reverses, and she mourned, as a whole nation mourned, when he "died and was buried."
She had arrived at womanhood when the first NAPOLEON was born; she witnessed his career from the time his star first faintly shone at Brienn, and tracked that meteor as it gleams over fields of blood and conquest until it reached its zenith, and paled at Waterloo, and she saw it go down in darkness at St. Helena.
She witnessed the birth of our infant Republic; she saw it rising higher and higher in the scale of Nationalities, until it had attained a glorious elevation, towards which the gaze of the world was turned in wonder and admiration. She saw, too, with the dimmed eyes of age, impious hands raised to sever the bonds of union, and to pull down from its towering height, that proud republic. Heaven did not permit her to see the foul act accomplished.
More than three-quarters of a century ago, she made this place her home—when the red men were more numerous than the whites on the present site of the Village, and when the regions beyond the Catskills were a far-off country. Here she has lived while successive generations have sprung into existence, served their allotted time and passed away. And still she has lived on.
Armies of humanity have come to the battle of life—have borne the heat and burthen of the day, and have laid down beside their arms in endless rest. And still she has survived.
Thousands, later than she, have commenced the journey of life—have trodden the world’s dusty thoroughfare, and have gone to their eternal repose. And still she has lingered, until it almost seemed that busy Death had deemed he might well permit to tarry in the world, one whom earth’s cares could not too deeply depress, nor its folly or its sin either sully or corrupt.
And now, she too, who so long awaited her appointed time, has taken the path upon which there are no returning foot-prints. She rests from her labors, and her works do follow her.
We do not propose to write her eulogy. That duty belongs to those who have known her longer and better than we have; yet we cannot refrain from mingling our sympathies with those among whom our lot is cast, and who mourn the euthanasy which has removed, a "Mother in Israel" from our midst.