Harmony Lodge Papers
August 7, 1862
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
In noticing these papers, some weeks since, *( The following article, alluded to in the opening paragraphs of the second paper of the Harmony Lodge series, appeared in the Recorder and Democrat, July 17th, 1862.) you took occasion to question, upon the authority of an "Old residenter," the identity of WETMORE with WHITEMORE of mop-pole notoriety. I am disposed to believe that your informant was in error, as I find two documents which sustain my view of the matter.
The first is a bill reading:
Harmony Lodge, To Bro: W. W. Wetmore, Dr.
To 4 rods of Stewarts and Deacons………..f 0 12 0
Decr. 25, ’95.
Which fixes the fact that he was a worker in wood; and the second goes far to establish his reputation for meanness. I transcribe it, in its pristine orthography and punctuation—or rather in its lack of both:
Cattskill, June the 27 1795 Masons bill Dr
To braking down a close clossett and fixing the same for them………….……………….f 0 8 0
To biskets brandy and candels………………0 10 0
To firewood………………………………....2 0 0
For the use of the room I will leave It To...... 2 18 0
Your generousity but if you are all so Mean
In Opinion as Mr. Wetmore I suppose you
Will allow Me nothing but I have A better
Opinion of some of you gentlemen than that
comes to from yours
David Van Bargan
Now, I respectfully claim that these documents either prove that Wetmore and Whitemore (so called) were identical, or that the one was small enough to crawl through the gimlet-hole which the other "charged sixpence to bore." * * *
The second and third names on the list of members of Harmony Lodge, are those of STEPHEN and IRA DAY, (father and son.) For a brief sketch of their lives and characters, I refer your readers to one of a series of articles, entitled, "The Grave-yard at C_____," furnished by me to the Recorder some six years ago, *(Published in succeeding pages.) It is sufficient here to say of them that, in all the public and private relations of life, they lived unblameable; and, dying, left a record to which a numerous posterity can point with pride.
Next, comes the name of THOMAS THOMSON. (By the way, the old Thomson mansion was a stone building, standing almost directly in the rear of the present site of your office—now "Center Brick Block"—and was, long since, demolished.) Ill health, or the spirit of adventure, induced Thomas to visit the West India Islands, soon after the establishment of Harmony Lodge, and I am not sure but his principal reason for joining the fraternity, was to become acquainted with those mysteries which are supposed to be ready passports to the hearts and hands of the brotherhood throughout the world. He went, accompanied by two faithful servants, JOSEPHUS and CAESAR, (then slaves,) and , for long years, he remained abroad—occasional, and generally preposterous, rumors reaching Catskill of his having amassed unbounded wealth, either by legitimate business, creole marriage, illicit trade, or by a hundred other means which gossip suggested.
At last he came home, and I remember him as one with whom, for all his reputed wealth, I would not have exchanged places for a day. Broken in constitution, and afflicted with a disease, said to be leprosy, it seemed to me, as he took his accustomed ride every morning, muffled to the eyes to conceal the marks of his malady, that he had paid too dearly for the riches which it was denied him to enjoy. He built the fine residence known as the Thomson Place, and then he erected, in sight of the dwelling, the vault or tomb in which, soon after, his body was deposited.
His West Indian life had been a mystery which the curious hoped his death would solve, but they were disappointed, and then they built fresh hopes upon his faithful body servants who had accompanied him through all his wanderings, and were supposed to have possessed his fullest confidence. Not much was expected from Caesar—he was a dandy negro, and if he knew anything worth telling, he scarcely knew how to tell it. But Josephus was a reserved, taciturn darkey, with whom a secret, involving even life itself, might be safely confided. He survived his master many years, and at last died suddenly, cheating the quid nuncs our of the awful disclosures, of which they had so long lived in marvelous anticipation.
The mansion built by Thomas Thomson, passed to his brother ALEXANDER, since deceased, and is now, I believe, the residence of Mrs. Cole, a relative of the family, and the widow of America’s most gifted and deeply lamented artist—the poet-painter, THOMAS COLE; the mausoleum which he erected has recently been taken down, and his remains, and those of the kindred who followed him, now rest in our beautiful Cemetery, awaiting, with the multitudinous dead surrounding them, the breaking of that "Great Day of Revelation" when all mysteries shall be made clear in the light of the countenance of Him "from Whom no secrets are hid."
ANTIQUARIAN.—We have been permitted to look over some of the business papers of Harmony Lodge, the first Masonic association ever formed in this town. These papers are principally interesting as recalling to mind the early days of the settlement, and reviving the memories of the men who have occupied the places which three succeeding generations have been called to fill.
Among those who instituted Harmony Lodge, in 1794, we find the names of STEPHEN DAY, SAMUEL HAIGHT, THOMAS THOMSON, JACOB BOGARDUS, HEZEKIAH VAN ORDEN, GEO. TAYLOR, RUFUS STANLEY, W.W. WETMORE, and many others men of note in their day and generation.
We have place these interesting papers in the hands of a friend—one familiar with the local history of this place—who will, as early as leisure will permit, gather such recollections and incidents as are connected with these departed worthies, for the edification and instruction of our readers and their descendents. It is true that human nature has ever been the same, and the acts and sayings of our grandfathers did not materially differ from those which occur in our day, yet we love to dwell upon their memories, as we hope to live in the memories of those how come after us, when "the place which now know us shall know us no more forever."
P.S.—Glancing back over this brief article, our eyes is caught by the name of WETMORE. As there is no old family of that name extant in this town, we would thank some person, who can, to inform us of his history. Inquiry of this namesake, our medical friend over the way, elicited the fact that he was at one time a prominent merchant of the place; and an old inhabitant, with confused recollection, thought him identical with one WHITTEMORE, a worker in wood, who formerly resided in Catskill, and of whom the following story is told: A poor woman, industrious and neat, as all women were in those days, had bought a mop, and to keep it where she could readily lay her hand on it, she sent it to WHITTEMORE, to have a hole bored in the handle to admit a string, to hang it up by. He performed the job, and charged the poor women sixpence for it! That sixpence purchased his immortality, for some poet, (there were such in those days, albeit BYRON was a chicken.) made him famous in the following graceful and mellifluous effusion:
Axed sixpence to bore
A small gimlet-hole
Thro’ a mop-pole!"