Uncle Daniel Simmons

from "The "Old Times Corner"

First Series 1929-1930 George Halcott Chadwick editor and compiler. Mrs. Jessie Van Vechten Vedder (Greene County Historian) co-editor. Republished from The Catskill Examiner by the Greene County Historical Society at Catskill, N.Y. 1932


Transcribed and contributed by Celeste MacCormack


Keeping to the left a long sweep downward across Durham creek, a short steep grade, and we nose carefully out of the narrow road into the main street of Durham village. On the corner still stand the red brick house which in my childhood was that of Uncle Daniel Simmons. He had a general store next on Main street. This house was the objective of those long rides, sixty years ago, usually in the winter, when the sleighing was good, well provided with hot soap stones and buffalo robes, under which a small child could crawl to the sleigh bottom if the mountain air became too keen for comfort.

It was a long journey from Leeds, of from four to six hours, according to the condition of the roads, and tedious for a youngster in summer, sitting on a stool in the back of a "spring wagon" without a top, and much worse in winter although a stop was made at Walter’s hotel in Cairo. The stone bridge in Durham was always a welcome sight, and it was with stiffened limbs that one descended from the high wagon to the immaculately scrubbed stepping stone and the white floor of Aunt Samyra’s summer kitchen. In the house next to Uncle Daniel’s store at one time lived Aunt Samantha and Uncle Deacon Lem Baldwin. Afterward they moved to the farm up Prink hill.

In this house the wedding of the only daughter Mary to Luman Ramsdell was a great event, and made an indelible impression along with the tedious morning prayers and scripture lesson of Uncle Daniel, and the picture on the wall of his only son, Charles, who died in a rebel prison. There were plenty of books and papers, religious most of them, but being a devourer of literature of any kind from story book to sermon a lover of words, the longer and more euphonious the better, whether understood or not, these with the daily trip helping drive the cow to and from the pasture by the bridge, were diversions which made the time pass quickly.

The Old Map

The Patent of "Kiskatominashe" included 2370 acres and a map of 1796 shows 1666 3/4 acres as subdivided between Hezekiah, Tobias, and Peter Wynkoop, Christian and Johannes Myer. The grant was confirmed by Governor Hunter June 11, 1719, to Henry Beekman and Gilbert Livingston, the first patent to Beekman being 370 acres granted in 1718. It lay in the southern part of the town of Catskill and adjoined the Catskill Patent.

On the map of 1796 the Christian Myer house is shown as on the road south from Britt’s or Story’s Corners, and back of it a burial place. This is now the home of an artist. A short distance farther on is that of Tobias Wynkoop recently sold by Mrs. Mary E. Hummel to Emerson Hull of Yonkers. Between these two houses and along the highway is an old stone which has Albany on one side and Ulster on the other, signifying that it was the boundary line between these two counties before Greene County was formed. These stone houses are also known as Abeel and Saile houses. Along the Kaaterskill nearly opposite the Christian Myer house is a small lot of two acres, designated as "Scap-an-es" or perhaps "aw-es."

There seem to have been two saw mills and falls on the Kaaterskill in the patent. How or when the Wynkoop Falls came to be know as Drummond Falls has not yet been determined. The house which belonged to the Drummonds is shown on the map of 1796 as near these falls, but on the Ulster County side of the line, and this map also shows that the Drummonds laids claim to a large piece of the Wynkoop Patent which included these falls.

This part of the town of Catskill has been neglected by local historians, very likely for the reason that it borders on Ulster County, and much of desired information would have to be sought in Kingston. Mrs. Thomas F. Rae of New Canaan, Conn., is interested in any information old residents might be able to give, and also where the Drummond family is buried. It is known that some are buried in the cemetery [above mentioned] south of Britt’s Corners, but it was found impossible early in the season by members of the Historical Society to get a list of burials there because of deep grass, shrubs, and berry bushes. This will be attempted later. -V. Sept 25, 1930.


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