Catskill Cemetery Papers
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
March 21, 1865
For most of the past week I have been occupied sitting up of nights, to watch, like CANUTE, the advancing waters, * (Ice freshet at Albany.) which threatened to invade my domicil. The consequence is a general disarrangement of pots, kettles and pans and a most villainous attack of rheumatism. To this must be attributed the brevity and defects of the Sketch which I attempt, this evening, to furnish you. Your readers will doubtless find comfort in the assurance which GOLDSMITH offered, in his "Elergy on a Mad Dog," that
"If they find it wondrous short,
It will not hold them long."
The earliest draymen of Catskill, of whom I have any recollection, were WILLIAM (or "Wooley") SCOTT, the two JOE WEEDS, (Joel and Joseph,) and HOUGH DOUGHERTY. Of the latter there is nothing to relate, unless it may be of interest to know that he was a little, cross-grained, testy Irishman. Of the two WEEDS, I have but an indistinct personal remembrance. Though in humble walks of life, they were both, I believe, esteemed as honest, industrious men, and one of them (do not know which) has acquired some posthumous celebrity as being the progenitor of the well-known THURLOW WEED, of political notoriety and editorial renown, and who has so well exemplified the truism that "Honor and shame form no condition rise." And here I am remained of the somewhat remarkable fact, that the two most distinguished editors of the rival parties of the State, EDWIN CRONWELL and THURLOW WEED, were boys together in the same little Village.
I have heard some anecdotes of Mr. Weeds’ early life, from the old inhabitants of Catskill, but as they do not come immediately into connection with the subject of the present paper, I refrain from relating them; and I should not even now venture to allude to his birth-place or boyhood, if (in reply to a recent invitation of the city of New York to accept a public dinner) he had not himself referred to his early life, and to his first entrance into that city, as cabin boy of a Catskill sloop; nor if I had not been told, by those intimate with him that he now, in his old age, cherishes fond recollections of our Village, and those friends of his youth who have passed away forever.
My first, and indeed only individual acquaintance with Mr. Weed, consists in an introduction to him, by himself, in a stage coach, somewhere between Canandaigua and Albany, in the Summer of 1828. That was the very year in which I became a voter, and it is pretty well known that I have never since that time cast my ballot with any other political parties of which he has been the acknowledged leader; yet I am sure there are none who entertain a deeper personal respect for him than I do, nor who more highly estimate his talents, and admire his social qualities and generous disposition. Long may he be spared to his many zealous and devoted friends.
But I am forgetting that my task is not to eulogise the living, but to chronicle the sayings and doings of the dead.
WOOLEY SCOTT lived at the foot of Main street, adjacent to the Golconda of my youthful imagination, "NANCY’S Diamond Hill," and opposite the "Hop-o’-nose"—a promontory made classic by the pen of the prolific, if not profound authoress of "Mary Derwent." His vocation, as I have stated, was that of a carman, to which he added, aided by his son WILLIAM, the management of a little garden, which was noted for its early productiveness, and filling out his surplus of time by selling white sand and Amboy clams. Taxing my memory carefully and conscientiously, I am bound to say that I never knew Wooley Scott to be perfectly sober on a week day, nor drunk on a Sunday. In that particular he had an advantage of one-seventy over some others of that, and, perhaps, of the present day. Many tricks were played upon him by the Village boys—such as removing his linch-pins, stealing his clams, spilling his sand, and enticing away "Ould Dick," his horse, while his master was filling his skin at the groggery. I remember that one cold, wintry, windy day, Wooley was going to his little barn with a huge back load of straw, when ABE DUMOND, a finished loafer, seized a brand from the hearth of TERT. LUDINGTON, and thrust it into the straw. Poor Scott, unconscious of the "fire in his rear," continued his course, and it is more than probable that himself, his barn, and his dwelling would have been consumed, had not his "gude wife" discovered his predicament, and shouted at the top of her voice: "Cast off your burden, Willie, for ye’re a’ in a lowe!"
He always insisted that he was near relative to SIR WALTER SCOTT, and he wont to boast that he, too, had successfully wooed the muses. More than fifty times has he commenced to recite to me an elegy upon his deceased horse, but as he never got beyond the first line:
"Ah, wae’s the day, poor Dick is deed,"
I am unable to state the precise merits of the dirge. He often promised to make me his literary legatee, and I, as often promised to secure to him posthumous fame through the publication of his works. He is dead now—I am sure of it, for I saw him in his coffin, and followed him to the grave, years ago—but I have never seen nor heard of the legacy. I suspect that, though the spirit of poesy might have been inherent, yet that he neglected to convert "the bullion of the brain" into a negotiable commodity. One thing is certain, the only four lines of rhyme which I ever knew him to repeat, was the professional quatrain of a clam pedler, which ran something in this way:
"Here’s clams, gentlemen, and good, I say,
for they’ve just come out of Amboy Bay;
There’s some for the roast, and some for to fry,
And some for to make a clam pot-pie."
Having a little space left in my column, I cannot, perhaps, do better than to fill it with a brief mention of Mrs. KANE, or, as she was familiarly called, "Mammy Kane," by all the boys and girls of the Village, although I never knew that she held a maternal relation to any body or any thing except one great, lazy, swearing, whiskey-drinking DICK KELSEY, the hopeful issue of her first nuptials.
She kept a cake, and candy, and spruce-beer shop near the center of Main street, and it is safe to say that nine-tenths of all the small change which came into the possession of the children, of both sexes, ultimately found its way into Mammy Kanes’ till.
I suppose she married her second husband, JIMMY KANE, in consideration of his wonderful skill in painting sugar shepherdesses, whistles, drums, dogs, cats, and every other variety of saccharine images and toys; certainly, as a specimen of the genus, Man, he did not amount to much, and the old lady might, at any time, have put him into her pocket, alongside of her spectacles.
I do not suppose there is a native of Catskill, who has arrived at nigh my age, who has forgotten, or ever will forget Mammy Kane. For myself, I sometimes think that I took more delight in the watching Jimmy, as he applied the brilliant colors to the baked figures, than I have since experienced in the contemplation of the works of the lamented COLE, or a whole Dusseldorf gallery of paintings; and the pungency of her spruce beer, an the exquisite flavor of her ginger-bread and molasses candy, are, in imagination, once more exceedingly pleasant to the taste. If there is one grief in which I sympathize with the rising generation of Catskill, more than in any other, it is that they do not and never will possess such another "institution" as Mammy Kane.
I had intended to speak of her solitary boarder, DAVID FISH, or "old Dawvie," the Scotchman, who she had, undoubtedly, taken in on account of his diminutive size, for it is certain that both him and Jimmy Kane did not, aggregated, occupy more room at the chimney-corner than the and-irons; but I must leave him and others for another paper.