Harmony Lodge Papers
March 19, 1863
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
I close my last sketch, by leaving the members of the Masonic Fraternity in St. Luke’s Church, listening to an address from the Rev. JOSEPH PRENTISS. The clergyman will be remembered by many inhabitants of Catskill, as perhaps, the most eloquent divine who ever occupied the desk of the church. It is doubtful whether any Rector ever received such a measure of love as his parishioners bestowed on him; and it is equally doubtful whether any Rector so well merited the unbounded affections of his people. Frequently, even at this day, I meet some old fellow-townsman, or school-mate, and it is seldom that our conversation does not revert to the good old days of our youth, and among the many pleasant memories of those days, that of Mr. Prentiss is the most prominent and enduring. Gentle, cheerful and affectionate indisposition, he mingled with the people, and while he thought no evil of others, he was incapable of the suspicion of that evil could be meditated by others against himself. But it has been said that "It is, alas! too true, with respect to the clergy, that anything like a freedom of genial intercourse, will afford occasion which will be used against them." He was not an exception to this truism.—Groundless insinuations and half uttered slanders, vexed a mind, which, though strong to contend for the truth, was unused to combat calumny, and he retired from the field in which he had so long, so zealously and so successfully labored. The mutterings of defamatory malice did not long vex his ear, for death—that sudden death from which he had so often prayed the good Lord to deliver us—removed him to a better world. In the church in which he had so long ministered, a tablet was erected in his memory, expressive of the sorrow of "the Wardens and Vestry," some of whom had followed him with vituperation to the brink of the grave. When, years after, the church edifice was burned, more than one person rejoiced that the conflagration had destroyed that lying record of regret.
But let us look about at those who were congregated to listen to the address, upon the occasion alluded to. The eye of memory rests, first, upon the whitened locks of good old JAMES COLE. He was among the earlier settlers of Catskill, and, as long ago as I can remember, a widower. He had two sons, JIRA and ALANSON. Jira was a tutor or professor in a Baptist College near Utica, and may be still living. Alanson, (better known as "Buck Cole,") had a penchant for the sea, and after starting on his third voyage, was heard from no more. His father bore up under this and other afflictions, for some years, but his reason gave way at last, and one morning his body was found floating, lifeless, in the Catskill.
Near him sits JAMES COLLIER, whose life presents little that is note-worthy, save one incident which I never shall forget: a strolling vagabond had stolen from him an ox-chain, was arrested and committed to jail. Imprisonment for the offense, and he, with the connivance of the jailor, consented to release the thief and give him a pint of whiskey, if he would suffer himself to be whipped thirty lashes on the bare back. One of the poplar tree which then bordered the avenue leading to the Presbyterian Church, was selected as a whipping-post; the culprit was stripped, and Collier proceeded to inflict the punishment.—I can almost see, now, the livid track of the twisted thong imprinted on the naked flesh. The brutal act was, however, a brief one, for, at the third blow, MOSES L. CANTINE pressed through the crowd, hurled Collier to the earth, released the bound wretch from his confinement, and giving him a small sum of money, bade him begone. I always looked with horror upon Collier afterwards.
Another of the Masonic gathering, was CORNELIUS DU BOIS. He was the eldest son of Capt. BARENT DU BOIS, and was a lawyer by profession. He died many years ago, and I know little of his history. His widow, I believe, still survives, and his daughters are well known to every inhabitant of Catskill, for their constant attendance, in storm as well as in sunshine, at St. Luke’s Church and Sunday School.
THOMAS HALE, MACKEY CROSWELL, and FRANCIS BOTSFORD, of whom I have heretofore spoken, were also there, with ABRAM F. RIGHTMEYER,*(since deceased) who is, I believe, still with you, and who is about the only survivor of all those who composed that Masonic assemblage; D. D. DUTCHTER, a tobacconist, and afterwards a partner in the business of the late JOHN CARGILL; WILLIAM CHIDESTER (usually called "Squealing Bill;") JOHN E. DAVID (familiarly known as "Old Verachter;") NOAH LINDSEY, who use to tell story about Gabriel’s horn, and tell it well, too; EGBERT BOGARDUS (time out of mind the Town and Village tax gatherer;) WILLIAM TINKER, (a hatter and the best looking man I ever saw) and many others, whose names are before me, were there. I could call to mind some incidents in their histories which might interest your readers, but, as I have about used up my column, I must defer their recital to a future number.