Catskill Cemetery Papers
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
April 20th, 1865
Looking over the Recorder of the week before last, I was pleased to see an article from the pen of THURLOW WEED, and I confess to have been considerably flattered to know that my imperfect sketches had been the means of "turning his thoughts back to the Catskill that he remembered during the first seven years of the present century." I may well, now, give over my task, since I have attained the object for which I have labored, (and which you are aware I have often avowed to be,) the enlistment of the feelings and the pen of some one whose recollections are clearer than mine, and who can, in more fitting terms than myself, recall the "olden times" of Catskill, and do justice to the memories of the early settlers. I shall not, therefore, in this paper, attempt to sketch from any new subjects, but will confine myself to elucidating some of the characters and incidents referred to by Mr. WEED, and which may not be quite clear to some of your present readers
The "CHANDLER’S alluded to was a tavern on the corner of Main and Bridge streets, where the Catskill House now stands, and a part of which it is. It was kept by SOLOMON CHANDLER, and elderly man, (old, even in my boyhood,) with a clump foot, a hickory cane, and a voice like a Numidian lion, which last he was fond of exercising in groaning our sacred music. The house was afterwards taken by MACKEY CROSWELL, and was called the "Village Tavern" for some years, and until it took the name of which it is now known.
Mr. CHANDLER was popular as a publican, and was a peaceable, quiet man, except when some of this customers ventured to punch his fire, or when JACK CROSWELL (who in his wrath, he used to anathematize as "a d___ sugar nigger,") mimicked the guttural tones of his original psalmody. He was the father-in-law of the later respected SAMUEL A. BAKER, and grand-father to EPHRIAM and HENRY BAKER, of our Village.
The "Stone Jug" mentioned by Mr. WEED, was near the bank of the Creek at the foot of Greene street. It was a substantial stone building, and was built, probably, as early as the Revolution, by a Madame DICE, who was, in some way, related to the DUBOIS or VAN LOAN families, or both. After the death of the madame the house was neglected, and, becoming dilapidated, was occupied as a tenement house by—I dare not say how many—families at a time. This was the period referred to by Mr. WEED. Afterwards it was repaired without and renovated within by ISAAC DUBOIS, and occupied by him as a family mansion. [One among the first evening parties which I ever attended was in this house, and was given by one of the schoolmates, who is still living—the wife of SOLOMON BOGARDUS.] After some years’ occupation by ISAAC DUBOIS, and, subsequently, by his brother IRA, the house was leased by a Miss PALMER, who established a female school, to which she gave the imposing appellation of "Castle Hall Seminary." Since then it has been successively occupied by Judge COOKE, Maj. BEACH, and perhaps others, and is, at this day, one of the finest mansions in the Village. But, "among all the changes and chances of this mortal life" it has retained its name of "the Old Stone Jug."
"Number Eight" (so called because it contained eight rooms) stood on the East side of Main street, nearly opposite "the BRONSON House," and usually had as many tenants as a bee-hive. The frame was, many years ago, removed to the foot of Broad street, by PETER SHAURMAN, and converted into a comfortable and commodious dwelling.
Of "GULLEN’S Barber Shop" I know nothing, although I have some recollection of a JIM or JOE GULLEN who, with his crony ZEKE WILKES, was famous for stealing and sucking goose eggs.
Of the two brothers of Mr. WEED, (ORRIN and OSBORN) I have no recollection, but I cannot help thinking that they must have been named after a Mr. OSBORN who died many years ago, and who was the father of the well known ORRIN E. OSBORN of Athens, the original proprietor of the Osborn House. I remember this ORRIN E. as the ward of MICHAEL CASEY, who resided at the head of Main street, in Catskill. If I am not mistaken, the widow of DAVID ELY was a daughter of the elder OSBORN.
GEROGE L. WEED, the cousin of THURLOW, I remember well as a most exemplary young man, universally beloved. He was, at one time, I believe, a clerk or book-keeper for SAYRE & BREASTED.
Mr. WEED refers to the present apparent difference in "the distance from DONNELLY’S to the Court House," as contrasted with his early remembrance. Such a difference is not altogether fanciful, as the Court House, in the days of his boyhood, occupied a different site than its present one. It then stood on the hill, adjacent to the Jail, and the street leading to it was, emphatically, "a hard road to travel." I have never climbed it without being reminded of the Hill of Difficulty described by the pious BUNYAN, and, by an easy association of ideas, the Jail became, to my youthful imagination, the Castle of Giant Despair.
The "DONNELLY’S" referred to was one of the oldest public houses in Catskill, and was kept by TERENCE DONNELLY, the father of Mr. JOHN M. DONNELLY, a resident of your Village. The house was afterwards called the Greene County Hotel, was kept a long time by HELMUS VAN BERGEN, and was burned in the "big fire" some fifteen years ago.
Mr. WEED makes honorable mention of "the HAIGHTS, the CROSWELLS, the DAYS, the COOKES, the HILLS, &c. in the first sketch which I furnished to the Recorder (some eight or ten years since) I wrote at some length of the DAYS and CROSWELLS; in the "Harmony Lodge Papers" I have spoken of the HAIGHTS, and I proposed, hereafter, health and leisure permitting , to gather up and put into some sort of shape my recollections of the COOKES, the HILLS, the HALES, and other notables of Catskill.
Speaking of hotels, Mr. WEED names DONNELLY’S, CHANDLER’S and BOTSFORD’S as the three in the Village. He surely must remember STREET’S tavern, and Mr. OGDEN’S, near the foot of Main street, and BROSNAHAM’S is certainly as ancient as the town itself.—There was also a tavern in the house now occupied by Mr. HENRY ASHLEY, and it was kept, as long ago as I can remember, by SAMUEL MAGEE. In the barn attached to the house, a man named HIGHDECKER hung himself; and I remember that the landlord was somehow censured at the time, and became quite unpopular in consequence.
I must have been quite young when the murder alluded to by Mr. WEED was perpetrated at NANCY McFALL’S. I remember, however, that the victim’s name was SCOTT, and that the assassin was named WILLIAMS; and that the rage of the populace when WILLIAMS was reprieved was more violent, if possible, than it was when the crime was committed. The house of NANCE was on the lower road to Point, near the shore of the Creek, and it is not many years since that vestiges of the foundation remained. Poor old NANCY! The last time I saw her she was passing the corner of Main and Thompson streets, when a team, driven furiously down the hill, caught the "old gal" and dragged her some distance, breaking her thighs and inflicting other injuries, from which I think she never recovered—at any rate, I never saw her again.
I meant to have touched upon many subjects embraced in Mr. WEED’S letter: of "the Limits" and their boundaries (of which I could speak feelingly, having myself perambulated for ten weeks that circumscribed area)—of the duel, "all for love," and the sanguineous contents of the pistols of the combatants,--of the searches after KIDD’S treasures, which have been prosecuted long since Mr. WEED’S time, by a great many credulous individuals, among whom were Old KOON, and NATHAN FREAR who held implicit belief in supernatural appearance, and who defended his faith in demonology by Bible authorities, and clinched his arguments by a triumphant reference to the raising of the prophet SAMUEL by "de witch of Andover."
I meant to have written of JACK and BILL GRAHAM (one of whom was killed in a duel by one BARTON, at HOBOKEN, some years ago)—of JACK HAIGHT, GIL. FROST (my cousin), who was surnamed "the dancer," and other dashing bucks of the town, most of whom possessed abilities of high order, and who might have made their mark in life, but all of whom perverted their talents to—their own utter ruin.
The allusion of the "Fishing ground" to which young THURLOW and his father used to stroll on free Sundays, calls to mind Old EGBERT SCHOONMAKER, GARRY PERSE, JACOB GOETCHIUS, and the excellent and amiable ISAAC PENFIELD; while the mention of Jefferson reminds me of Pinkster holidays and horse races at MERRIFIELD’S tavern, when I was a boy and enjoyed such sports. I cannot, this evening, spare time to tell of the many interesting incidents of which I have been witness, and some times an actor in, at these places; but if I shall think it worth while to continue this series of papers, I shall contrive to weave those incidents into future sketches.
In conclusion, Mr. WEED speaks of Catskill as "a charmed locality." It is truly so. There is probably no place on the continent from which there is so little emigration of the descendants of the early settlers, and it is proverbial that few leave it who do no sooner or latter return. For myself, I have been a wanderer for twenty yeas from my native Village, and yet absence has but strengthened my attachment to my birth place. In the crowded cities where I have, whilome, dwelt—amid the festive scenes of a fashionable watering place, where I have lived of some years—and during a somewhat lengthened residence in the chilly regions of Northern New York and Canada, I have never forgotten my first home, nor ceased to long for a sight of the blue mountains which shadow it at evening.