History of Greene County
1651 – 1800
J. Van Vechten Vedder
Originally published in 1927 by Authority of
the Greene county Board of Supervisors
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
TOWN OF CAIRO
The town of Cairo was formed from Coxsackie, Catskill and
Freehold (now Durham), March 26, 1803.* (*Land paper at Secretary of State’s
office, Albany.) It was at this time called “Canton,” and so remained until
April 1808, when it became Cairo. The
name Cairo is said to have been given by Asabel Stanley.
Its principal streams are the
Catskill, Shingle-kill, Plattekill, Jan-de-Bakker* (*After an Indian.) and
Potick creeks. The town contains
36,109 acres. The land included in this town was a part of the Salisbury-Van
Bergen Patent, the Barker Patent and
others, most of which were subdivisions. The
log cabin of the Stropes is supposed to have been the first dwelling in the
town. Ebenezer Beach settled near by in 1778. The first settlement of any size
was at Woodstock by James Barker, known as the “Patroon.”
The first town
officers were (1803):
John L. Darby
James Gale Town Clerk Joseph Reed Commissioner
Wessel Salisbury Assessor Edward Rundell Commissioner
Samuel Foster Assessor Joseph Shepherd Constable
Benjamin Hine Assessor Samuel J. Haight Constable
Joseph Shepherd Collector Stephen Olmstead Constable
Henry Persen Poormaster Oliver Palmer Fence Viewer
Jonathan Nickerson Poormaster Jonathan Allerton Fence Viewer
Stephen Bentley Pound Master Goodman Noble Fence Viewer
Jonathan Allerton Pound Master Benjamin Foster Fence Viewer
Warren Hamlin Pound Master
They were chosen at the house of Mary Carbine, April 5, 1803.
Woodstock started out with great promise for the future, being the oldest settlement of any size in the town of Cairo, when James Barker, known as “The Patroon,” settled here with his tenantry of 23 families shortly before the Revolution. The Barker Patent covered 6,000 acres of land and extended from Woodstock nine miles north to the town of Durham, on both side of the Katskill. In 1800 the Woodstock and Durham turnpike was built, passing through the little village, and a bridge built by Canton Bridge Company. This bridge in 1810 broke down with a drove of cattle, 20 of which were killed. The bridge was rebuilt the same year, and twice washed away by high water. In 1806 there was a distillery (of Montgomery Stevens) * (*Montgomery Stevens seems to have lived and engaged in business at Catskill and Montgomeryville (Wolcotts Mills) also.) at this place, and it is claimed that the first grist and saw mill in 1816, afterward owned by the Hon. Lyman Tremain. In later years a paper mill flourished, but to-day as a village the place is extinct. The Woodstock Light & Power Co. now furnishes light and power to much of the valley.
First Shingle-kill, then Canton, the present name of Cairo doubtless followed that of the town. The “great road to the western settlements,” afterward the Susquehanna Turnpike, formed its principal street, stretching west toward the mountains. After 1800 Cairo was a place for changing horses, stretching cramped limbs, and tarrying for refreshments on the long and tedious journey to Unadilla. It knew the sound of the horn as the stage coach rocked and swayed behind the gaily tasseled horses, and drew up at the inn * (*Catskill Packet, February, 1796, states that the house of Herman Deyo, tavern keeper of Shingle-kill, burned with all his household good. Adijah Dewey also lived at Cairo, in 1817.) of Major Dewey at the lower end of the village. It was the great weekly event which brought not only the mail but passengers from all parts of the country, and from foreign lands to their doors. These were ladies and gentlemen, rough men and youths, adventurers, business men, and all kinds of humanity, perhaps returned travelers, doubly welcome for the news they would bring from the outside world.
In the early days Cairo bade fair to become a manufacturing village, equipped as it was with considerable water power on the Catskill and Shingle-kill. Before 1808 Mr. Hyde of the Forge had a brick yard on what is now known as the Alden farm, but then included that of the late John Mower. The Mower house is said by an old resident of Cairo to be the oldest Alden house, and there were two brick yards at one time on the farm.
John Baylis lived in the house now occupied by Otto Pfordte, and before Baylis it was owned by the Rouses. About 1809 there was a scythe factory, three years later the property of Pliny Barton and so remained for twenty years. A grist mill, built about 1790 by a Mr. Crooker, was taken down about 1824 or 1825, and re-erected became the property of Paul Raeder.
Daniel Sayre had a shoe factory, Alpheus Webster manufactured spinning wheels, and Captain Byington had a clock factory at the Forge on the Shingle-kill. The first frame house is said to have been built by a Mr. Carbine, and the second by Ira T. Day near the Episcopal Church.
Purling, its baptismal name “The Forge,” lies one mile south of Cairo village, reached by one of Cairo’s village-street highways along which one gets a view of the Catskills and the intervening country, most beautiful and satisfying. Below the road a short distance out lies the County Farm.* (*See Public Buildings.)
“The Forge” received its name from Enoch Hyde and Benjamin Hall of Litchfield, Conn., who, about 1788, built an iron forge on the bank of Shingle-kill. This little steam runs through a beautiful glen in the center of the village. A little later another forge was built where the present grist mill stands. A few log houses were built around the forge, and two of them became the church and the school.
The iron for these forges is said to have come from Ancram, Columbia Co., by boat on the Hudson and by mule power to the Shingle-kill. The iron was known as charcoal iron and was forged into bars to be used by blacksmiths. On the site of the forge at the top of the falls below the present bridge, Mr. Hyde built a grist mill which was carried away by a freshet in 1857. It was rebuilt by Jonathan B. Webster. The next year it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt by John A. Gallatin, afterward owned by ex-Assemblyman Frank S. Decker. At one time the Forge had a nail factory. In 1813 Rufus Byington built a tavern at Four Corners.
On the bank of the beautiful falls or cascades of the Shingle-kill at the Forge have been at various times grist and saws mills, a factory for the manufacture of grain-cradles, hand-rakes, and well-curbs, one for turning furniture (A. Wright), and on the opposite bank in later years Porter and Akeley had a bucket-shop in which 5,000 buckets were made annually. A resident of Purling recently pointed out, at the foot of the first fall, the only thing remaining of the old forge. This was the stone upon which rested the trip-hammer.
This village lies along the Mohican Trail to the northwest of Cairo village and has a wide view of the surrounding country and the Catskills. The first church was the Presbyterian, a few years later sold to the Baptist. Its first inn or tavern was built by Moses Olmsted, and its first store by Joseph Lyon.
John Howell, a friend of Judge Daniel Sayre, and great-grandson of Edward Howell, founder of Southampton, came to Green County in 1794, bought a farm and built the Howell homestead on the road from Acra to Centerville, and was founder of the First Presbyterian church in Acra, in 1795. He died in 1815, aged seventy-one years. His wife Mehitable died three years later.
South Cairo rambles along the Catskill, two and one-half miles below Cairo village on what was the Susquehanna Turnpike of 1800. In former years before the present bridge was built the creek was crossed by fording, and the ford was reached by the narrow road or street south of the Jones home. The Carman house (still standing) opposite the bridge was an inn where stage horses were changed.
William Barton (great-grandfather of Mrs. William Davis of Catskill,) came to South Cairo in 1828 and established a bell-factory* (*There seems to be no doubt that the bell factory stood at the foot of what is now known as “Aratoga Hill,” where to-day there is a pond on a little stream called Myne kill, or Minorkill, and in the New York Magazine of 1797 (page 108) is the following: “At a meeting of the inhabitants, at Minor-kill, in the town of Catskill, Resolved: That the name of their settlement be known only by the name of Jay’s Valley.”) where he manufactured bells of all kinds, and was the first to make sleigh-bells in the country. Before coming here he served as a Revolutionary soldier, and had a bell-factory at East Hampton, Massachusetts, which is said to be still running. The first pension money he received was spent for a fine shawl for his wife, which Mrs. Davis still cherishes.
On the site of the old Catskill Creek House, Elisha Blackmar built an inn in 1816. Cattle were driven through this part of the country, and this was the stopping place for the drovers, where they spent the night. Later, Blackmar built the house on the Van Deusen homestead which is still standing, and retired from business.
Sandy Plains, rich in farm land, lies south-east of Cairo village and is composed of the scattered homes of prosperous farmers, and some of the earliest settlers located here. It was originally a part of the Salisbury Patent, and its early history is a history of its pioneers who came before 1800 and worshipped at Old Katskill.
Indian Ridge, northeast of Sandy Plains, was the camping ground of the Indians. This is also a farming district and here was the Wicks homestead, the first house built in 1774, at an elevation of 1,200 feet.
Round Top was known to the Indians as Wa-wan-te-pe-kook, or “Round head place,” from the shape of this small mountain which seems to stand guard over the Catskills in the town of Cairo. The village of Round Top is not on the highest part, as one would be led to think by the name, but its eminence is such as to give a fine view of the surrounding country and the forest-covered sides of the Catskill Mountains. The village consists of a Methodist Episcopal church, a modern county school house, a few stores, and a number of boarding houses, with its city of the dead where rest many of those who made a way in the wilderness for the present generation.
Frederick Schermerhorn was but a lad of 17 when (1780) sent by his father from their home, on what is now the Barringer farm between Leeds and Cautersill, to the vicinity of Round Top, where a brother Jacob lived, having married the daughter of Johannes Strope (Stroop), where they were living with her parents. It is said that Frederick’s dog refused to go with him on this walk of ten or twelve miles through the forest, and the lad, although disliking to take the trip alone, continued on and reached the place in safety. His brother Jacob, who was to help him drive some sheep from the Shingle kill, had already gone to Wynkoop’s mill on the Kaaterskill. Frederick remained over night and early next morning was awakened by his sister-in-law’s screams, who called to him that the Indians were coming. She fled with her children to a field of rye near by and later escaped, reaching a neighbor’s at Kiskatom.
The elder Stropes were both
tomahawked and their bodies burned with the house, and Frederick taken captive
to Canada (see Indians and Tories). Jacob came back later in the day to find his
home in ruins. The father of the
boys, becoming anxious about Frederick, started out and on the way met Jacob,
who told him the sad news. It was not until a year later that word was sent him
though a Tory that his son was living, but it was not until the close of the war
that he returned home. He had been given the choice on reaching Fort Niagara of
enlisting in the British Army or being turned over to the Indians. He chose the
former, and although he made many efforts to escape was always unsuccessful.
When ordered to fire the property of Americans he steadfastly refused.
After spending some time with his parents he married and removed to
Stockport, later to Round Top, where he bought a part of the Greene and Biddle
Patent, building a first log and afterward a frame house about a mile from the
church. he died in 1847, aged eighty-four, at the home of his
son-in-law Miller Jones.
The picture shows Harrison Jones, father of the County Clerk Floyd F. Jones, and grandson of Frederick Schermerhorn, as standing where the cabin of the Stropes was burned in 1780. Mr. Jones is now over eighty years of age, owns the Strope farm, and remembers when a a boy hearing his grandfather tell of the tragedy and of his own captivity.
Among the earliest settlers at Round Top was Elias Dutcher, born in Dutchess County in 1755. He was among the first to volunteer in the war of the Revolution, and was with General Israel Putnam in several engagements. He married Mary Rose and had five children, removing to Cairo in 1790, not far from Round Top, near what was called Steuffel’s Point. His son Seth was born here in 1796 and had what was called a liberal education in those days, of three months in a log school house. Seth married Mary, one of the English Salisburys, and became one of the staunch supporters of The Round Top church, a loved and respected citizen. He died at Ellenville, Ulster County, in 1860.
PIONEERS AND THEIR
(*From Allerton Genealogy by Walter S. Allerton, loaned by Miss Betts of Catskill. When possible “Pioneers have been given in Alphabetical order.)
Isaac Allerton, the ancestor of the Allertons of this vicinity, came over in the Mayflower, which sailed from Plymouth, September 6,1620. He had with him his wife, three children and a servant, John Hooke, by name.
When Isaac was born is not known, but it was between the years 1583 and 1585. Some time before removing to Holland he had resided in London. His business it has been stated was that of “farmer, seaman, and taylor,” but he was more frequently called a merchant. As he was but twenty-four years old when he left England, it is quite possible he had no particular business or occupation, for he is generally admitted to have been the wealthiest of all the Pilgrims, and was always given the title of Mr., as was also Mr. Brewster. He was one of three upon whom the privilege of citizenship was conferred by the city of Leyden in 1614, the other being William Bradford, afterward Governor of the Colony, and Degory Priest, Isaac’s bother-in-law.
Isaac Allerton married (Nov. 4, 1611) Mary Norris of Newbury, England, and had four children all born in Holland. Bartholomew, Remember and Mary came to America with their parents, but Sarah came over later with her aunt, Sara Priest. Isaac was the fifth signer of the famous compact made by the Pilgrims for self-government which has been styled the “first American Constitution.”
He was assigned a “Garden Plote,” and it is not known whether he built a house upon it or not, but in 1653 he lived at Rocky Nook, on Jones’s Rive, in Kingston, which house he afterward sold to “my beloved sonne-in-law Thomas Cushman.” The History of Isaac is bound up in that of the Colony, and for some time he held the position of Assistant Governor. His wife died in 1621, and five years later he married Fear Brewster, who had come over in the ship Ann (1623) with her sister Patience. Fear died in 1634.
Isaac was sent over to England in 1626 for supplies and on other business, and returned with a contract from the “Adventurers,” the men who had advanced the money for the colony, by which contract they eventually sold their interest in the colony for 1800 pounds. He was immediately sent back to England to confirm the contract, and made several trips to the country on business for the colony. Being liberal-minded toward Roger Williams and the Quakers, as well as toward religious beliefs in general, he finally had serious disagreements with Governor Bradford, and because of this he left Massachusetts in 1636 and went to New Amsterdam. His temper was quick and he was not easily reconciled.
From 1634, when he lost his second wife, until 1644, he had a series of misfortunes. In 1644 he was wrecked at Scituate, and at that time there was reference to a third wife whose name was Johanna. Two years later he became a permanent resident of New Haven and built a “grand house on the creek, with four porches.” He died early in the year 1659, about seventy-five years of age.
This Isaac Allerton was the direct ancestor of Jonathan Allerton, who bought with others in 1783 the Van Schaack Patent in the town of Cairo, N. Y. Jonathan was born at Plainfield, Connecticut, Sept. 15, 1746. He learned not only farming on his father’s farm but his father’s trade of builder and house-joiner. He taught school winters, and while at Amenia, Dutchess County, he married Bathsheba Mead, September 17, 1772. She was the daughter of Joshua Mead.
Jonathan Allerton was well educated and an excellent penman, always in demand to draw contracts, deeds and like documents. He was an ardent patriot and soldier of the Revolution, selling his homestead for $2,000 in Continental currency, losing nearly all he had of this world’s goods. When he came to Cairo he taught school for several winters, and died August 10, 1806, his wife surviving him thirty-two years. His children were: Joshua, who was brought to Cairo by his parents in his childhood, and became a successful farmer, marrying in 1804 Polly Bassett. Isaac married Charlotte Townsend. John married Polly Andress, and they removed to Delaware County; Anna married Reuben Germain; Reuben married Maria Miller, was a soldier of 1812 and became a minister of the Christian Church. Lucy married Benjamin Bullock. Jonathan Allerton, the father, was buried near Cairo and his grave was recently marked by the Sagtakoos Chapter, D. A. R., of Long Island, of which one of his descendants was a member.
James Barker, who was known as “The Patroon,” came from London, England, where he was born in 1727, and settled first at Catskill. His stay there was probably short. “He was a prominent member of the English Bar, and his wife a lineal descendant of the Tudors.” She had married James Barker against her parents’ wishes, left rank and friends and came to America with the husband of her choice to settle in a new country which was practically a wilderness.
Mr. Barker had forfeited his claim to a large estate in England to which he was heir. They brought with them 23 families, former tenants. He first purchased a tract of land in the town of Durham, and when his wife received a part of he mother’s estate, they added land in the town of Cairo* (*Tagphkight and Magquamsasick, two plains along the Catskill, “between two creeks” (400 acres above Potick), was granted to Elizabeth Barker in 1791.) (Woodstock). Soon dwellings were put up, the land was cleared for planting and sowing, and community life began under as excellent conditions as could exist in the new and unsettled country.
On Sundays his tenants were called together for divine service, which he conducted himself according to the form of the Church of England. A lawyer by profession, he found little time or perhaps inclination to follow it. Now and then he figured in a great criminal case, and defended his friend Salisbury in his famous murder case at Catskill, which never came to trial.* (*A document in Catskill, Public Library proves that the indictment was “quashed.”) He took no part in the Revolutionary War, either for or against it. His life and property were often in danger from the Indians and Tories, and he was obliged to bury his money and silver, much of which was never recovered. Mr. Barker lived to be ninety-three years of age; his wife Elizabeth Moore Barker died in 1796, aged fifty-eight years.
TOWN OF CATSKILL
The district corresponding to that of the town of Catskill by act of March 24, 1772, was called the “Great Imboght District.” Its boundaries are described as “All that part of the said county of Albany which lays on the west side of Hudson’s River, and on the south of Coxsackie District.”
This district was much larger than the present town, which was erected by the clause of the act of March 7, 1788, for dividing the county into towns. It was then bounded by Coxsackie on the north, Columbia County on the east, and Ulster on the south, and was to be called “Cats-Kill.” By act of April 5, 1798, it was placed in the county of Ulster.
When Greene County was formed Catskill became one of four towns composing the county, and some territory from Woodstock, Ulster County, was added. It lost some of this territory when Canton or Cairo was formed, and some to the town of Windham. In 1812 the line bordering Saugerties was changed, still further reducing it, and in 1815 again lost out to Athens.
The first town meeting was held April 8, 1789. The first officers: Egnatius Van Orden, Abraham Salisbury, Jurry Laman, John Fero and Egbert Bogardus. Assessors: Egnatius Van Orden, Samuel Van Vechten and Abraham Salisbury, Commissioners of Highways: Samuel Van Vechten and Frederick Smith, Overseers of the Poor; John Overbaugh Jr., and Mathagaritse (Martin Garretse) Schaneman (Schuneman), Collectors; Petrius Osterhoudt, John Overbaugh Jr., and Arent Van Dyke, Constables: Petrius Souser, Johannes Saxe, Joseph Groom and Jurry Laman, Fence Viewers.
Hezekiah Van Orden was elected Supervisor, and William Van Orden Jr., clerk. For the purpose of keeping the highway in repair the town was divided into fourteen districts.
There were at least twenty-four taverns or inns in the town in 1789, and in 1803 fifteen schools. In 1795-97, pot and pearl ashes was a considerable article of trade, “brought to Katskill from a distance of about 150 miles.” The potash sold for $175 a ton, and to produce a ton, from five to seven hundred bushels of ashes were required. The ashes sold for one shilling a bushel. “At this time workmen received $13 a month and were not easily procured.”
The Rev. Clark Brown wrote in 1803 that the “principal timber was white and black oak, yellow and white pine, walnut and maple. About 1,000 bushels of walnuts are exported annually from the town. In the southwest part of the town black spruce grows in abundance, from which a large part of the essence is extracted for beer, the greater part of which is exported. There are between five and six thousand inhabitants in the town, 700 electors, between seven and eight hundred blacks, seven grist mills and about the same number of saw mills. In Madison a flouring mill lately erected by Ira Day and Company.
Jefferson has ten dwellings, three stores and two public houses. The merchants trade in lumber which they receive for their goods. Catskill Landing forms a safe and convenient harbor for vessels. The creek is narrow and deep, but no vessels drawing more than ten feet of water can ascend it by reason of a sand bar near its junction with the Hudson River. There are twelve wharves built into the creek, twelve ware houses, 200 buildings, 31 mercantile stores, a court, a jail and a printing office, the remainder dwellings. Many of the buildings are of brick mostly two stories high, one large and handsome street, one dwelling* (*Stephen Day’s) on the hill built the present year. A wharf might be built into Hudson river as far as a small island a quarter of a mile from shore at little expense. This is in contemplation.
“After October first next, a stage will start for Albany and for New York on every Tuesday and Friday. The mail goes to and returns from Hudson twice a week by water. There is also a mail from this place to Tioga-Point, Penn., which is commonly but one fortnight going and coming. Between three and four hundred thousand dollars worth of produce are exported to New York annually, more than three hundred thousand of which goes from Catskill Landing. The only bridge of any considerable magnitude is that over the Catskill creek; a tool bridge with a draw.
“Shad, bass, herring, sturgeon, pike, trout, perch etc. are caught in the Hudson. Wild geese and ducks are plentiful in spring and wild pigeons are the chief fowls which are killed for use. No restrictions to fishing and fowling. Land which sold for ten dollars an acre in 1786 now sells for $400. In Catskill village shipping to the amount of 37,000 tons have been built in one year for foreign markets.
“There are fifteen schools in the town, there at the Landing. In the one languages are taught. There is a well regulated library of 672 volumes, four churches, two at the Landing, one Episcopal of which Mr. Bradford is minister, one Presbyterian at Lunenburg, one within two or three miles west. Mr. Labagh minister. The Presbyterian Society expect soon to build them a meeting house, also the Episcopals. There are eight licensed attorneys in town and several merchants who have received a public education, two of whom have been regular settled ministers in Connecticut, another, a licensed candidate. These three are members of the Presbyterian church at Catskill Landing and gentlemen of reputable character.”
Old Katskill was four miles from the present village of Catskill, about a half-mile southwest of Leeds, and entirely distinct from it. Here on the foothills overlooking the Leeds flats the first house and barn was built in 1680. By 1733, a church, a school house, six houses and a smithy had been built.
The name Katskill at that time probably covered most of the territory in the present town, but naturally centered around the church and houses mentioned. Why it was called Katskill is only conjecture. Undoubtedly it was first given to the creek as it was seen emptying into the Hudson kill meaning creek. The most reasonable inference seems to be that the first Dutchman to look upon what is now Greene County named it after Jacob Kats, “Keeper of the Great Seal,” in the homeland. The fact that in very early documents it is written Catskill means little, for at that time scant attention was paid to the spelling of either place or individual names. It had been most frequently written Kats-Kill, Kaatskill and Katskil by the pioneers.
Old Katskill was included in the patent of 35,000 acres of land purchased of the Indians July 8, 1678 by Silvester Salisbury, Commander of Fort Frederic,* (*Fort Frederick, called the “Fortress of the Crown,” occupied the site of the present St. Peter’s Church, Albany.) and Martre Gerritse Van Bergen, Commissarie General. (Jan Bronk’s land, now Leeds, was excepted). The purchase price was 300 guilders in wampum, several hundred ells of woolen cloth (or Duffels), ten blankets, ten fuses, ten axes and ten pair of stockings. This land is described as consisting of “five flats (vlaktens) lying on both side of the kill, the name of the first flat being Wachachkeek, the second Wichguanachtikak, the third Pachquyak, the fourth Assiskowachkok, and the fifth Potick, with the wood land for a cattle range or otherwise, to wit, four English miles around said land.”* (*See the map at Court House.) * * * The first house and barn to be built at Old Katskill was that of Marte Gerretse Van Bergen in 1680. The house was small and of stone, the barn large, and it was necessary to procure help from Kingston and the neighboring settlers to raise it. There was also a stone smoke house.
Marte Gerretse van Bergen* (*Marte Gerretse Van Bergen was killed by Indians.) never lived there, and the farm was leased the same year to Teunissen Van Vechten, his wife’s relative, and Johannes Volkertson Douw for six years, “for Twenty-two beavers yearly for the first three years, and twenty-five for the next three.” And in addition to this “100 skipples of maize at market price. A house, barn, orchard, eight horses, six mares, one gelding, one stallion, a half worn wagon and plow, eight traces, four lines, four whiffletrees, four stirrups, two bits, one iron neck yoke, one fan, one iron chain, a harrow with iron teeth and a winning fan” are mentioned as on the place, and in additions to these the lease goes on the state, “there is now fifty-one skipples of wheat in the ground, and the lessor promises to build a rick and have doors made for the barn. * * * In case of general war (from which God protect us), the loss shall fall upon the lessor, and in case of burning upon the lessees.”
The house in 1680 was torn down about seventy years ago, having served as a kitchen and place for the slaves after a new house of brick was built in 1729* (*The house of 1729 is still standing, the property of Henry M. Vedder Jr. The frame of the barn of 1680 is still doing duty.) by Garret Van Bergen, the son of the first owner. The stone house was never occupied by the Van Bergens, but shortly after the new house was built Gerret came down from Albany (perhaps from Coxsackie) with his family, consisting of wife (Annetje Meyer) and seven children, to make their home there. The house was a story and a half high with roof of red tile (taken off in 1836 and the house raised a half story.)
Martin, the brother of Garret, built a stone house the same year (1729) a few rods east, with interior arrangements much the same as his brother’s. It was torn down in 1862 and replaced by the late Jeremiah Burgett with one of brick. Martin also built a large barn and had a smithy.
In 1733 the Reformed Dutch Church of “Katskill and Kocks-Hackie” was built on the rise of ground just above this house, and a parsonage on the hill across the flat to the east (June 12, 1733). * (*A stone bearing this date and taken from the old parsonage is in the possession of W. W. Van Vechten of Leeds.) A school house is spoken of in an old deed as being near the parsonage before 1787, and a little later one was built near the church.
Silvester Salisbury died sometime between 1679 and 1680. The formal division of the land was not made until 1721, but in 1682 the lands of Salisbury were leased by the trustees of the estate to Andreas and Hendrick Whitbeck. In lieu of rent they were to build a fence around certain portions of the land and orchard, “build a barn 52 ½ ft in length, and as broad as the barn Marte Gerretse (Van Bergen) has built.” They were also to erect a dwelling 22 ½ feet square with roof of shingles and “a cellar of stone as large as the house.” The were also to “plant an orchard of 200 fruit trees, and pay yearly rent of twenty-five pounds of butter.” Whether the house was ever built is not known, the present house* (*now the Tiffany farm (Van Deusen’s)) was built in 1705, by Silvester’s son Francis.
In 1730 Salisbury built two houses for his sons William and Abraham. The first, still stands;* (*George Y. Clements) the second, on the Elting farm, has long since been torn down.
(For continuation of the Old Katskill history see Churches and Pioneers.)
Situated at the mouth of the Catskill Creek, in a swamp called Eckerson’s Vly, where that stream joins the Hudson after a forty-mile journey form a little spring on the mountain-top, it was first called by the Dutch the “Het Strand” or Landing. Its rugged sloping hillsides “down which ran numerous brooks and rills.” Did not appeal as a permanent hoe to the early Hollander who purchased land farther up stream. Below the Hop-o”-Nose was an Indian village, and also at Mawignac, where the Kaaterskill enters the Catskill.
Very early in the history of the Landing the names Uylen Spiegel’s Kill, Uylen-Vly and Uylen-Hoeck, had been given to what is now DuBois Creek and the land along it, and Uylen-Spiegel’s (or Ulyenspeigel’s) land is mentioned in an old deed, but little else is known of this probably earliest landowner of Catskill.
In 1653 Pieter Teunissen Van Brunswick was granted land on the north and south sides of the Catskill and his house is said to have been built in 1651, described as having been “only one story high of timbers,” with a huge stone chimney, and roof thatched with rushes. The land granted to Van Brunswick in 1653 was the “plain which lies opposite the Van Vechten house, just below the second railway bridge. The house was built in 1651, just above the embankment of the railway.” When the late Henry Brace was living the foundation could still be seen.
In 1686 Harme Gansefort and wife Maria deeded land on the west side of the Hudson River to William Loveridge for “200 good and merchantable beavers,” which included “messuage, or dwelling house and barn, * * * near yea mouth of ye said kill or creek; where ye said Loveridge now dwells; which said land was purchased jointly by ye said Gansfort and Eldert Gerbertsen Cruyff, of Jan Andriese ye Yrishman; who married the widow and relict of Pieter Teunise Van Brunswick.”
Harme Gansefort had sold this farm to Jan Conell, who was unable to pay for it and transferred his rights and title to William Loveridge. In 1682 the Indians released all claims to the land at the Hop-o’-Nose to William Loveridge, “felt maker and hat maker of Beverwyck,”
Dirck Teunise Van Vechten had a mill 100 rods north of the mouth of the Vosenkill, which is mentioned in the deed of the Indians to Gysbert uyt Bogaert (Egbert Bogardus) in 1684, and account books in the possession of the family show entries from 1695 to 1741. He often received bear-skin in payment of accounts. In 1765 Petrius Souser lived in the house belonging to the mill. The stone of this mill is in the possession of William Van Dyke of Catskill. There is a grist mill permit dated 1675.
The lands which now compose the eastern side of Catskill village from the Hans Vosenkill to Boomptje’s Hoeck (variously spelled), and northward to the little stream called “Stuck” or “Stuk,” which enters the Hudson west of Roger’s Island, cost Gyusbert uyt den Bogaert “one coverlet, one gun, one kettle , one beaver in stocking, one beaver in rum, two shirts and two half casks of beer.”
The deed, “from Esopus Indians to William Loveridge” reads in part as follows: “Appeared before us the undersigned magistrates of Albany, colony of Rensselaerwyck and Schenectady, etc., the following Esopus Indians, owners of a certain parcel of land lying at Catskill viz, Wannachquatin, and old Indian; Mamanauchqua, a squaw, and her son Cunpwaen; and Usawanneek, alias S() heele (cross-eyed), Jacob, and Wanninmauwa, Taw-wequanis, Annaneke, and Naktemook, squaws, who declare they granted, conveyed and made over in true, rightful and free ownership to and for the behoof of William Loveridge senior, hatter, “ to certain lands from the kill of Loveridge’s house to the Imbocht westward to falls on the Kaaterskill named Quatawichnaak, and so along the east side of the Caaterskill. * * * (Early Records of Albany Deeds Vol. 2 p. 161.)
Quoting the late Judge Chase, “Bogaert’s house of logs was near the Catskill Creek, and the county property then constituted a part of the forest in the rear of his buildings. In 1688 he conveyed his land in Catskill to his son-in-law Helmer Janse, who in 1703 obtained a patent of Confirmation thereof. Janse died in the house mentioned, without heirs, and in 1738, John Lindsay of Cherry Valley obtained what is known as the Lindsay Patent, covering a large tract of land between the Hudson River and the Catskill Creek. He sold the tract purchased by him to George Clarke and others. In 1741 the owners agreed upon a road from the Hans Vosenkill to the mouth of the Catskill sixty-six feet in width, which, except as to that part South of the present Greene street, is our Main street.”
Hans Vos lived along the creek or brook which became known as Hans Vosen Kill, or John Fox’s Creek.
In spite of its early beginning, Catskill or the Landing was but a small and unattractive hamlet until 1792, when it began to wake up to commercial possibilities, acquired a newspaper—The Catskill Packet, published weekly and edited by Mackay Croswell—and its first settled physician, Dr. Thomas O’Hara Croswell. It is not known when Dr. Elisha Camp came to Catskill, but he died there in 1793, and his wife turned to tavern-keeping to support her small children. In May of 1793 a post route was established “from Hudson through Catskill to the Painted Post in Tioga; there to meet the post from Reading, Pa.”
Thomson and Greene streets were wood roads. There was no Long Dock, for an island called “Wanatonka” was what is now its eastern end, while between that and Boomptje’s Hoeck or the main land was a stretch of water. “The Point,” so called in those days, had reference to what is now known as DuBois Landing. There was a wharf at the mouth of the Vosenkill. The Long Dock was not filled in until 1820.
On the farm of William Loveridge, which had become that of Benjamin DuBois, a stone house was built. On the west bank of the Catskill Cornelius DuBois built a house in 1762, and the next year Madam Jane Goelet Dies commenced her mansion called by the prudent Dutchmen of the vicinity “Dies Folly.” The ship yards turned out brigs, sloops and schooners, while from 1792 to 1802 dwellings increased from ten to 180 in the village.
The first post office was on the corner of Greene and Hill streets. A house in the rear of William DuBois’s drug store was occupied by Dr. Thomas Thomson, and in the remembrance of the late Abram Van Vechten’s mother a peach orchard bordered on Main Street, and Peter Souser lived in the mill house on the Vosen kill, and Peter Meigs’s house was a short distance north of Outhoudt’s, (Jefferson), where Walter Palmatier later lived. Near the Corlaerskill was the stone house of Jacob Newkirk. It stood near a spring. The Corlaerskill was then known as Goetchius Creek.
The Van Orden house, which stood at the south end of Pruyn Park and a few years ago was removed to the east bank of the Vosen-kill, was built by Captain Barent DuBois. What is now Upper Main Street, at that time (according to Brace) ran between this house and barn nearer the Catskill and from there to the Meigs house.* (*The Meigs house is said by old residents to have been the house at the head of the street, the residence of the later George Warner.)
In 1799 it was written of Catskill Landing that “from its eligible situation for trade and commerce and the excellent disposition of its roads, it may with propriety be termed, “a key to the Western Country” of prodigious extent, which bids fair to be the most rich, fertile and luxurious of any perhaps in the world.” * * *
The article goes on to state that Catskill has four rivals but does not name them, and says that the principal rival of Catskill Landing “leaves no art unemployed to injure its reputation and prosperity, and spares no pains to monopolize the trade of the “Western County.” * * * One scarecrow argument employed by the enemies of the place is, that the land is in dispute, has no good title, and consequently there is no safety in settling upon it.” Another accusation of this now unknown rival was that of “unfair dealing, which should this prove true, the ruin of the place would be unavoidable.”
Jack Croswell, then sixty-two, an illiterate but intelligent Negro who was brought up by Dr. Croswell, told Brace in 1861 the he remembered a mill and dam on the Hans Vosen kill, and a house of two stories near by. Jack used to bathe in the brook which drained the Vosse gut, and which emptied into the Hans Vosen kill. It was eight or ten feet wide in many places; now it is only a foot or two wide and has water in it only in the spring, when the snows are melting.
In 1795 or 96,* (*Copy of Dr. Corswell’s certificate at Public Library, Catskill.) Dr. Croswell opened a drug store in the building now occupied by William DuBois, and Dr. Brace was his successors.* (*See “Physicians.”) William H. Wey married Dr. Croswell’s adopted daughter and continued the business until his death, then Benjamin Wey kept it alone, having a partner for one year—Edward Lavelle. For thirteen years it was Wey and DuBois.
Dr. Croswell was the “Uncle Doctor” of Catskill, and Dr. Abel Brace studied with him, became partner and succeeded him, “not only in business but in love of the community;” for sixty years a citizen, “one of the landmarks of a generation now passed away.”
Harmony Lodge was the first Masonic association in Catskill, instituted in 1794. Among the first members was Samuel Haight, merchant and Brigadier General. Thomas Thomson, a great man who went to the West Indies accompanied by two slaves, Josephus and Caesar, came home broken in health, a suspected leper, never going out without his head swathed in bandages. His mysterious West Indian experiences were never revealed by him or his faithful slave. His mansion which he built was afterward the home of Thomas Cole. “He caused a vault to be built near his home, but later it was torn down and he rests in the village cemetery.”
John Van der Speigle Scott was an able lawyer and politician respected by all. He was also Judge of Greene County. As a hobby he turned to horticulture and gained a reputation for raising choice fruits and vegetables which he sometimes protected from youngsters with a gun. It is recorded of Stephen and Ira Day that “they lived lives unblamable.” Stephen Day “exchanged wares of Eastern Colonies and imports from West Indies for the grain of the farmers and dairy products of their vrouws.” Before many years he became Judge Day. “By Captain Hale housewives used to set their clocks.”
In 1773 the map of the Lindsay Patent shows only one road and that is Main Street, which was laid out as a road in 1741 and merged into the road which is now the main highway. At the Vosenkill the highway then followed the west bank of the stream back of the Allen house (now Elmer Davis’s) and came out just below the Holcomb house on the top of the hill, where a little later there stood a tavern. This tavern site was pointed out by John Schuneman to William Van Dyke when the latter was a boy. The highway was surveyed and laid out in 1795 from Samuel Haight’s (Allen house) to Martin Schuneman’s at the stone bridge (Madison), “thence to the brew house of Francis Salisbury.”
In 1795 Road District No. 6 was formed, “beginning at the south side of the Cauterskill bridge, running as the road now (1795) runs to the stone house or landing of Jacob Bogardus, from thence along the creek to Albertus DuBois’; from thence as it now runs, crossing the Catskill to the barn of Samuel Van Vechten, also beginning on the south side as it now runs up the hill to where it intersects the road as first mentioned, near the corner of Alburtus DuBois’ fence. The above tracts shall be considered one road district numbered 6.”
The store of Jacob Bogardus was at the west end of the bridge. The house* (*Afterward occupied by Benjamin P. DuBois.) of Hubartus DuBois, built 1740, still stands on the Washburn brickyard property, and the barn of Samuel Van Vechten was near the ford of the King’s Road, just across from the second railroad bridge. In 1799 Caleb Benton purchased from Jacob Bogardus and wife a large tract of land on the west side of the Catskill. He built the brick part of what is now best known as the Hopkins place and planned for a large village. A map of 1807 is still in existence showing streets and building lots.
It was some time between 1795 and 1797 that Duke de la Rochefoucault Liancourt on a tour through the United States visited Catskill, the guest of Jacobus Bogardus, “an American loyalist and son-in-law of Major Prevost,” who had purchased the house and lands of Cornelius DuBois. The duke was the guest of Mr. Bogardus for several days and slept in the southwest corner room of what is now the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Palmatier.
In the Summer of 1797 Thomson and Grand established “a ferry across the North River at Catskill Landing with good, new, safe boats,” and it was “hoped that no person will be induced in the future to lose several miles of travel by crossing at Hudson, as the price is here set at the same rate. Constant attendance will be given at the sight of the ferry landing, near Caleb Street’s white house on the corner.”
The winter of 1799 was severe, the river breaking up the last of March after having been closed for four months, and flocks of herds suffered from want of fodder.
In 1800 subscriptions to the Susquehanna Turnpike were open, the Commissioners being Henry Livingston of Ancram, Stephen Day, George Hale, Garret Abeel, Samuel Haight, Caleb Benton and Martin Schuneman of Catskill, Salmon Wattles of Franklyn, Solomon Martin of Unadilla. By the middle of August “2,500 shares had been taken and some distance laid out.”* (*In 1804 high water carried off four valuable bridges on the Susquehanna Turnpike.”)
In 1801 Croswell notes “with pleasure the growth in population, and the flattering prospects of Catskill Landing,” “In the year 1792,” he says, “the village contained but ten buildings; a coasting sloop of 50 or 60 tons burthen was then the only vessel owned in the place, and this was more than sufficient to transport to New York, all the produce brought to market—no more than 624 bushels of wheat was purchased in the course of the year, during which time upwards of 700 bushels of corn was brought from New York and other paces for the subsistence of the inhabitants at the westward, until their crops should come in. Now (1801) Catskill contains 156 buildings, two ships, and one schooner engaged in foreign trade, are owned here, besides 8 coasting sloops of 70 to 100 tons burthen, which are constantly employed in transporting the produce of the county to New York and the sea ports. Shipping to the amount of $37,000 was built here the season past. In 1792 there was brought to market 624 bushels of wheat, and in 1800 it had increased to 46,164 bushels. The prospect for 1801 is proportionately much greater, as in one day last week the quantity of wheat taken by the merchants of the place amounted to 4,208 bushels, and upward of 800 loaded sleighs entered the village on that day by the great western roads. The number from the other quarters is not precisely known but was probably somewhat less. * * * Much more rapid growth may be calculated upon.” That year the ice broke up in the creek and river the last week in April.
In 1802 the pride of Catskill was the new drawbridge, so much of a curiosity that people came miles to see it. It was opened with great ceremony. The fee for foot passengers was three cents, and of the bridge tenders “Old Batterson” tapped the pockets of the passersby, knocking off their hats when they refused to pay, and Zacharias Dederick “tapped while they waited” the boots and shoes of the people in a little building at the end of the bridge.
The bridge across the Catskill was erected April 4, 1801, as a toll bridge; its incorporators, Joseph Graham, Gerritte Abeel, John M. Canfield, George Hall and Solomon Chandler. * * * Foot passengers paid 3 cents, two-horse carriages 25 cents, four-horse carriages 31 cents. It was open for traffic in 1802 and remained a toll bridge until 1870, when it was purchased by the town and toll abolished. The present bridge was erected in 1881-82, at a cost of $52,000.
As early as 1803 Catskill had some kind of water system. The water ran through wooden troughs from Cold Spring on the lands of James Bogardus. Nearly every house in the village was supplied with water in this way. The Acqueduct Association was chartered in 1818, its name changed to Greene County Bank February 5, 1819, and a new charter was obtained. The institution failed in 1826, but the acqueduct continued to be used as late as 1837, when Elisha Meggis was in possession of it.
The first public burial place in Catskill village is said to have been located on Broad and Livingston streets. Its occupants were moved to the present Thomas Street Cemetery. On Sept. 2, 1811, so the records run, it was “moved and carried that the trustees attend on the 2nd October next, to point out a suitable lot for burying ground.” Land was purchased of John Bogardus and Sally his wife, April 16, 1812, and also of Garret Abeel. The cost of these lots was $125 each. In 1832, 1848 and 1850 it was added to; in 1859 a receiving vault was built.
Dr. Lee Ensign, who was most prominent and enthusiastic in enlarging the grounds, was the first to be buried in the new ground. His wife was the author of a poem of some length printed in The Examiner in 1860, from which I quote one verse:
“And let yon
grand old mountains from afar
With their proud battlements fence in the scene
So vast and beautiful, that nought can mar
The symmetry and grace that intervene.”
The real life of Catskill as a village began March 14, 1806, when it was incorporated. Its first Board of Trustees organized May 12th with Stephen Day president, Garret Abeel, James Pinckney, John Blanchard and Caleb Benton trustees, Hiland Hill, Stephen Root, Isaac Nichols, Orrin Day and John DuBois Jr. assessors, Isaac DuBois treasurer, and James Bennett collector. During the first year of village life William street was laid out, known as Jesse Brush street.
At the first meeting the Board adopted nine by-laws which in effect prohibited slaughtering of animals within the village limits, the “running of large to exceed 48 hours of unyoked and unrung swine, or of geese or ducks within the compact part of the village,” for obstructing the street, neglecting to remove anything contrary to good health, for all of which fines were imposed, and also for willfully running or galloping a horse or horses through street or alley; and one dollar to be paid “by an inhabitant of the village who shall spend his time during the Sabbath at tavern or grocery and there purchase or drink any liquor on the Sabbath, or shall angle with hook or line or fish with nets in any creek, or shall swim or bathe in any creek or river within the limits of the village on the Sabbath.” If horse or horses ran away through street or alley then the owner should “forfeit two dollars.”
The history of Catskill village after this date is full of interest, but limited space forbids further recoding at this time. In 1807 the future President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, was married by the Rev. Peter Labagh of the Dutch Church to Hanna Goes or Hoes in the Haxtun house in West Catskill. This house is said to be still standing. A few years later a “public supper was given Judge Cantine at Catskill, and among the guest was the Honorable Martin Van Buren.”
The second village in size in the town of Catskill is Leeds, first called “Pasqoecq”* (*it has been written Pasqoecq, Pascakook, Pastakook and Pistakook in old deeds.) by the Indians, afterwards Madison, then Mill Village, and finally in 1827 it became Leeds in honor of Richard Hardwick, who came from Leeds, England. At this time a post office was established.
Jan Bronk, a trader among the Indians, who in 1675 invested in land along the Catskill upon which the village now stands, was its pioneer settler. Tradition says he “was the first man to make his home among the Indians” and sleep in their wigwams. That he actually lived with them as has been inferred is doubtful, for he is known to have had a log cabin before 1675 on the east bank of the Catskill just below the bridge, then a fording place. A trail led down what is now Green Lake Avenue and across the ford to the Indian village, and his nearest white neighbor was at the Landing four or five miles through an untraveled forest.
It is also doubtful if he lived in this cabin for long periods, as he was married and had children at Albany before 1686; very likely he occupied it only when gathering in the pelts which the Indians secured in this then great fur-bearing section. In 1711 Bronk gave Van Bergen and Salisbury the “privilege of building a mill or mills on the “Great Falls”* (*Upper Falls.) near his cabin, and around these mills were soon built a few rude houses. In 1731 he replaced the log cabin by small house of stone, and it was in this house his second daughter Antje was married* (*Nov. 25, 1733.) to the Rev. George Michael Weiss, the first dominie of the Dutch church at Old Katskill. His eldest daughter became the wife of Jan Whitbeck, who built a third house which was of brick and “was finished inside with cherry paneling, with four fireplaces and considered very fine for the times.” This house was sold in 1790 to Martin G. Schuneman, a son of the Rev. Johannes, for 1,187 pounds, 5 shillings and 6 pence and became a noted hostelry. Martin G. Schuneman had married a daughter of Jan A. Whitbeck and Agnietje Bronk (she died in 1800). Four years later Schuneman offers the house for sale with “large horse shed accommodating twenty horses, and opposite it a stone house, 42 by 21 feet, then occupied as a store.” The brick house stood close to the road, with the first stone house attached at the back and whether there was a stone house opposite or not is unknown. There was however, a large barn and an ashery directly opposite the house, and it is supposed that the stone building which once stood on the corner of what is now Duncan’s is the one mentioned. This was a store in 1800 and occupied by James Brown. It burned in 1883, and was then occupied by the late Benjamin T. White. The house of Bronk finally came into possession of John Van Vechten, whose second wife was Martin Schuneman’s daughter, and it was burned in 1876 (now Elizabeth House).
A tree which stood back of the house and destroyed by the first “measured 13 ft. 10 in. in girth, spreading out 74 feet. This tree was saved from cutting by a slave of the Van Bergen’s, who told his companion, sent to clear the spot, that he must not cut the sapling for it was his. In his old age this slave, who could then only walk with two staves, used to spend most of his time sitting under the elm in a hickory arm-chair. Before him was a work-bench and a small tool-chest with which he amused himself making ladles and bowels out of wood brought by fellow-slaves from the forest. These things he sold for enough to keep him in tobacco and rum. When destroyed by fire this tree was over 160 years old.”* (*From Henry Brace papers.)
In the Catskill Packet of 1796, M. G. Schuneman is said to be building “a large and expensive house” at Madison, and in 1809 he offers for sale a brick house at the junction of the Athens and Susquehanna Turnpike at that place, then occupied as a tavern by Joel Bellamy (who before this occupied the stone store) and known as stand No. 2. This undoubtedly the brick part of the house now owned by Louis J. Gelis and known as the “Madison.” In 1805 M. G. Schuneman took into partnership at “his old stand No. 1” (near the bridge) Garret Persen Jr.
In 1805 Jonathan Kies or Kyes, who married Maria Van Bergen, kept a tavern on the east side of the Reformed Church where the chapel now stands. He was a surgeon in Colonel Abeel’s regiment and had a son by the same name. He and his wife are buried in the cemetery at Leeds.
The Rev. Clark Brown in 1803 states that “Ira Days flouring mill at Madison set in motion Feb. 1803 is a most curious and complicated piece of machinery. It daily manufactures between five and six hundred bushels of wheat into flour. * * * Madison consists of nine dwellings newly and neatly built at the mill, three stores, one public house and a few small buildings. There is also kept here a large store of West India and European goods.”
A wooden bridge was built across the ford at “an early date and was washed away by the spring flood. About 1760* (*From Van Vechten papers.) another was commenced and two eastern arches built for some reason now unknown the west end was finished with wood. This wooden part was set on fire by some malicious person in 1785, and it was not until Aug. 1792, that the western end of stone was added. This is proved conclusively by the “Catskill Packet” of Aug. sixth of that year.”
A one-arch bridge built 1804* (*In 1804 sealed proposals were asked for building a bridge across the Catskill near Martin G. Schuneman’s house. While this is not strictly across the Catskill, there is no other near his house excepting the larger bridge.) by the Susquehanna Turnpike Company just below the Salisbury house, where the Kolk flows across the road in times of flood, is often confused with the first bridge. This small bridge was built across a gully of considerable depth which extended for some distance into the field, and on an old map a stream is shown running from it and crossing the Cauterskill road by Harry Vedder’s hay-barn. The late Henry Brace says in his “Historical Memorandas” that the late Henry Vedder had told him this gully “was so deep at certain times of the year cattle had to swim in crossing it,” and that the “Cripple Bush” was a thicket which extended along the north line of his (Henry’s) father’s land.” The flats at that time had a number of these thickets and gullies dividing one field from another.
Jefferson was first known as the “Flats,” then Jefferson Flats, and now as Jefferson Heights. When the Dutch first came to Catskill it was considered by them as a sandy waste and portion was given away as “not worth fencing.”
The first house to be built in this vicinity was on the Snake Road, and was built by Jan Van Bremen near the creek. This house was carried away by a flood. At this spot, just below the junction of the Kaaterskill with the Catskill, called “Mawignack” (or place where two rivers meet) by the Indians, Adrain Van der Donck in 1643 hoped to plant a colony, but the Patroon wanted this tract of land and objected to Van der Donck’s taking it.
In 1646 “Cornelius Antonissen Van Slyck of Breucklen” obtained a grant of the lands at Catskill, but never claimed them. Three more years passed on and (1649) Brandt Van Slechtenhorst bought from Pewasck, and Indian squaw, and her son Supahoof, the “kill with the falls for 17 ½ ells of duffels, a beaver jacket and a knife.” As this bargain had been made without the consent of the West India Company, Stuyvesant, the director general of New Netherlands, protested, and forbade any settlement being made there. Van Slectenhorst was arrested and became a prisoner at large in New Amsterdam for four months for trying to annex Catskill to his already large possessions. The conveyance was made void in 1652.
In the meantime (Jan. 13, 1650) Jan Van Bremen leased it for six years, agreeing to give a certain number of skipples of wheat, to “build a house, barn and barrack, that is furnish for the same stone, timber, and reeds for the thatch, dig the cellar, feed the carpenters, masons, thatchers and other laborers: the patroon to pay the wages and furnish various other necessities while Hans Vos should help the laborers for fourteen days.” Van Bremen was to “reserve a room with a fireplace for the director of Rensselaerwyck and his family whenever he should need it, and on every Lord’s day and holiday read to his Christian neighbors the Holy Gospel, and according to the custom of the Reformed Church sing one or more Psalms before and after prayers.” He was also enjoined “to live in peace with the Indians and his Christian neighbors.” Or forfeit his lease.
In 1653 Van Bremen obtained a patent for his lands, and six years afterward purchased twelve acres of Jan Andriesen. Fourteen more years passed and he sold all his land to Eldert Gerbertsen Cruyff in exchange for a house in Beverwyck. In 1675 the land was conveyed to Stephanus Van Courtland, director of Rensselaerwyck, and Oct. 20, 1681, Van Courtland sold it to Dirck Teunis Van Vechten for “400 guilders in beaver skins and 2565 gilders in patroons money: namely in wheat at ten guilders the muddle.”
Van Vechten had a flour and saw-mill* (*The deed of Curpuwaen to Gysbert uyt den Bogaert, July 26, 1684, mentions Van Vechten’s mill. (Early Records of Albany, Bulletin 9, Vol. II, page 225) on the bank of the Vosenkill. He also sold molasses (stroupe), rum and lumber. Sloops came up the Catskill as far as the mouth of that stream, where there was a wharf. The captain of the sloop took orders to New York for supplies and articles of trade not produced on the farms. A mill was built near the Van Vechten house in 1715, and the present one in 1830.
Neeltje Van Bergen Oothoudt and Anna Maria Van Bergen Schuneman inherited lands from their father, Martin Van Bergen of Old Katskill, and, as was the custom in those days, their husbands claimed to all intents and purposes, although not lawfully, their wives’ property as their own, for why should a woman handle money, and of what use would land be to her?
Neeltje’s husband, Henry Cookout, built a house in 1775 at the foot of the limestone hills called the “Kale Berg” (Brooks farm) and Rev. Johannes Schuneman (Dutch Dominie of the Catskills) about 1792 built one of brick on Anna Maria’s portion of the land, which is still standing on Jefferson Avenue. Here he died in 1794. In 1783 Peter Mey lived near Henry Oothoudt’s.
Before 1797 Petrius Souser had a tavern on or near the site of the house owned by George Badeau, and many political meetings were held there. Near this tavern was the race track,* (*The race track is located by a lease of land of 1797.) and the bend of the road just below this spot is attributed to the tavern. * (*The late Peter Van Vechten Jr. has stated that Souser’s tavern was situated on the northwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and what is now the state road, but Wilhelmus Schuneman had a tavern there at that time, according to an advertisement in the Catskill Packet of that date.) An Indian trail ran from a fort on the southwest of the plain to the Kale Berg, and for a time in later years it was a wagon road.
The brick house recently owned by A. C. Fanchier was built in 1814 by Joseph Allen, a retired sea captain, and afterward owned by William Pullman, an Englishman. For thirty years it was the Jackson farm.
In Austin’s Glen is the ruin of an old paper-mill, in 1800 that of Nathan Benjamin. This mill burned in 1807, almost impoverishing its owner, but was rebuilt the following year by Abner and Russel Austin, and when paper-making no longer proved profitable was suffered to fall into ruin. The warehouse of Abner Austin stood at the foot of the Salisbury hill and is now the home of L. Carlton Austin.
The first school house was of logs and before 1767* (*Account book of Teunis Van Vechen of that date.) stood on the Snake road just below the site of the Grant House. The second, also of logs, stood nearly opposite the present one and was used until 1832 or 1833. (See Schools and Libraries.)
The Imboght has no village center. It was a part of the Loveridge Patent settled by a community of Dutch and Palatines of considerable importance, who in 1732 helped organize the church at Old Katskill and Kaatsban, and, like their distant neighbors at Kiskatom, traveled over the rough forest roads every other Sunday to Old Katskill, or with equal difficulty and courage to the latter church.
These settlers were also patriots, with now and then a Tory looked upon with disgust not unmixed with fear by his neighbors. Loyalists were no doubt watched closely, but many were respected as having an honest difference of opinion and keeping on their own side of the fence. When Kingston burned in 1777, the patriots drove their stock to the woods and packed their household goods for quick removal.
The “Kykuit”* (*According to Brace, pronounced “Kakeout.”) or lookout, upon which in times of danger from Indian or Tory a signal fire was built, is but a short distance from West Catskill and on its side is the grave of Johan Pieter Overbagh, the stone of which is said to be “the oldest in the town” (Sept. 14, 1734). This hill rises abruptly on all sides to a considerable height, and on its summit Elias Lasher had built a bungalow very near if not on the exact spot of the signal fires of pioneer days. It commands one of the finest views in the county, taking in as it does the Hudson River from Hudson to Saugerties and beyond, with the broad sweep of Van Orden’s Bay on the south, while to the west are the green fields of the Imboght, the rugged Kale bergs, with miles of mountains in the background.
From the Kykuit you motor down Burgett’s Hill and strike the road which is a part of the dividing line between the Imboght and Kykuit districts, and turning to the east you come to the ancient stone house of Judge Wynkoop, built in 1792. (See Pioneers and Their Homes.)
Because of lapse of time and little but tradition and old deeds to depend upon for information, I can do no better for the earliest history of the Imboght than quote verbatim from the local sketches of the late Henry Brace, whose reliability as the local history is unquestioned, and to whom the town of Catskill owes much of patient untiring research along historic lines, and the recording of the same for the future generations.
“The Loveridge Patent was divided from north to south by the precipitous face of an ancient coral reef, which bears in the county of Albany the name of Helderberg, and in the town of Catskill the name of Kale Berg.* (*This is said to be the proper spelling, by the State Archivist.) In 1783 the region between the base of this cliff and the Kaaterskill, a few patches of land only were under cultivation. John Fiero had made a meadow of the interval at the foot of the West berg; Petrius Overbagh was tilling a few acres in the lonely but picturesque glen of the Fuyk; Frederick Diedrich, a thrifty and industrious German, had established himself on the Kaatskill, above Loveridge’s Valentje, or the rapids at the second bridge; farther down this river Benjamin DuBois had his wheat fields and an orchard of apple trees. The remainder of this rugged tract was covered by a dense forest, which for many years had been held as commons by the yeomen of the Imboght, with free access for timber, fuel, stone and pasturage. So late as 1860 a few of the larger trees of the primeval forest had escaped the axe. A white oak stood on the western side of the road to Saugerties, a short distance below the brick school house. Five feet from the ground the kingly tree when cut down measured fourteen feet in circumference, and I counted more than 200 rings of yearly growth in the stump.
“The southern boundary of Lot No. 2 is the Loveridge Patent began at the Hudson, one hundred and thirty-eight feet and six tenths of a foot below the mouth of the Grootekil or Plattekil, as Rams Horn Creek, was once called, and extended upon the course north seventy-two degrees west of the Kaaterskill. In 1740, and old deed declares this boundary was a “line of marked trees now run by Jan Eltinge.” The trees excepting one are all gone, but the line can still be traced by fences and stone walls of division. It lies between the lands of Burgett and Overbagh, crosses the road to Saugerties a few feet north of the stone cottage in which a Negro woman, Sarah Person, once lived; crosses the King’s Road a short distance north of the Mountain Turnpike and touches the Kaaterskil at a huge black oak (standing at this time.)
“The land upon the north side of this line, between the Kalleberg and the Hudson, was bought by five Germans of the Lower Palatinate in the autumn of 1728. John Wilhelm Brandow became the owner of a hundred acres, which were afterward occupied by Paulus Schmidt and still later by Paulus Trumpbour; Jourya Overbagh became the owner of one hundred acres, which are now in the possession of James P. Overbagh; John Pieter Overbagh became the owner of one hundred and forty acres, which consisted of a strip of land nine chains wide extending westerly from the Hudson; Frederick Dederick, fifty-two acres adjoining Brandow on the north. * * * These Palatines chose the uplands; if they had been Dutchmen they would have settled upon the flats or plains on the banks of the Catskill or Kaaterskill.”
Kiskatom is a small community of indefinite limits, and widespread flat lands. As Kisketon it was and Indian village, and in an old deed is designated as Kiskatominakauke, a purchase from the Indians by one William Beekman in 1708. It is described as “lying under the Blew Hills, and below where the Kiskatametie kill watereth the said Kaaterskill.” In 1796 it is written Kiskadominatia. It finally settled down to Kiskatom, the meaning of which is disputed but is generally accepted as “Lace of thin-shelled hickory nuts.”
There is very little known of its history previous to the Revolutionary War, or until some time after that period. For the “beautiful vale,” as it is then described, was almost deserted during the time when Indians and Tories were a menace to life and liberty in every unprotected community.
Becker, Rau, Jung, Schmidt and others lived there in 1727, and before the war the Timmerman family lived near the cross-roads on the way to Round Top. The house still stands and has heavy double doors and a well-sweep. The road formerly ran in front of the house, but this did not please the great-grandmother of the present owners, and a strip of ground was exchanged for it which brings the barn instead of the house facing the public road. Here Jacob Schermerhorn’s wife and children found refuge when the Indians burned their dwelling and murdered the wife’s parents.
In 1796 John Schepmouse died at “Kiskadominatia,” a farmer and captain in Colonel Abeel’s regiment, and before 1804 John Freleigh owned 300 acres there. Rockwell, who wrote “The Catskill Mountains and the Region Around,” says Wynkoop’s mill was on the Kiskatom Creek, where Jacob Schermerhorn took his grist and so escaped death or captivity by the Indians, but Henry Brace says this mill was on the Kaaterskill near Drummond Falls.
Kiskatom was originally a tract of 370 acres, but in 1718 or 1720 the Patent was confirmed and enlarged to 2,000 acres, conveying the whole valley excepting such portion as had been previously covered by the Catskill Patent. It joined the Catskill Patent and was disputed land. The Van Bergens, part owners of this patent, retained an interest in the Kiskatom Patent, for their wills dispose of lands at that place.
Garret Van Bergen’s will, dated July 5, 1758, says, “I leave to my daughter Ann, wife of Wilhelmus Van Bergen, all my right to a certain tract of land called Kiskatomachy,” and an abstract appears in Albany County deeds whereby Ann Van Bergen conveys to John Moore land called Kiskatomachy, also privilege to cut wood from lots 2, 4, 6, 8, 16, etc., dated September 16, 1786.
John Moore married in 1767 Deborah, daughter of Ann and Wilhelmus Van Bergen and must have built about 1786, the house on the farm lately owned by the later George Winans. This house had been added to and enlarged. The basement, built of stone, was the slave quarters and had a large bake oven at either end (this has been taken out). The beams overhead are of hard wood 10 x 12 inches thick and laid very close together. In 1796, or about that time, Henry, the son of John Moore, married Esther Ann Mallory. Esther for some reason left her husband, who in or about 1809 with his three children (John, Sarah Ann, and William) moved to Geneva, N. Y., and the farm was sold April 8, 1809. The first John Moore’s oldest son Wilhelmus lived at Kiskatom for some years, in what is now best known as the Overbaugh house. The farm of Winans was owned by Jarvis Webster in 1828.
Palenville, the “Village of Falling Waters,” is the namesake of Jonathan Palen, who had a large tannery at or near the entrance of the Kaaterskill Clove before 1817. Palenville, like her neighbor Kiskatom, has little but Indian history antedating the Revolution.
In the days when the Hudson valley settlements were slowly growing into villages, this particular spot was uninhabited. An Indian trail ran from the valley through the Clove to their fort on greater Round Top. Along this trail the Kaaterskill, a typical mountain stream, bounded over high ledges, traveled lightly and speedily to the valley among boulders and between laurel and fern-covered banks, overhung with the mammoth trees of the primeval forest.
The winds of heaven swept down between cleft mountain sides, and the “old squaw of the mountains” from October until May had frequent spells of emptying her feather beds and sending the contents scurrying down the valley. Only the Indian, the hunter or the trapper ventured into the forest or along the stream. Wild beasts roamed the mountain-sides, fish and game of all kinds were abundant, venomous snakes lived among the rocks, and eagles soared overhead, while Hendrick Hudson’s men in summer time played nine pins and the sound echoed from cliff to cliff.
After the Revolution settlers came in from Connecticut and the Schoharie to Hunter, building grist mills and tanneries and cutting a road to the valley over which they might draw their produce in rough ox-carts, exchanging it for the few necessities not produced on the farms.
The Indian trail developed into a Turnpike in 1823, which a broad highway now in part follows. The development of the village came with the establishment of the tanneries, the owners of which began about 1817 to purchase large tracts of hemlock timber land, and to erect tanneries. I am indebted to Mr. C. M. Britt of Catskill, formerly of Britt’s Corners (where his grandfather Nicholas Arthur Britt, a soldier of the 1812 settled), for the following: Palenville before the advent of Jonathan Palen was called “Lower Clove Village” and “Yankeetown.” Palen lived on the right hand side of the road as one approaches the bridge at the foot of the Clove from Palenville, where there is now a high sustaining wall. The original house was burned some years ago.
The Palens were relatives of the Britt family, and frequent visits passed between them. They were well educated and had the first piano in the vicinity and the first Mr. Britt had ever heard.
The first toll-gate in the Clove was owned and kept by Martin V. Bonestell, another relative of Mr. Britt, and this gate was much farther up the Clove road than the last one, which is still remembered by many. The foundation of the first gate can still be seen on the side of the road, and its back door must have been perilously near the edge of the ravine. Across the road where there is a level space, now grown up with tall trees, was their garden. The toll-gate was afterward moved up to Fawn’s Leap and kept by the Brocketts, and still later (the last one) was put near the foot of the Clove. The artist Mason purchased the Bonestell property from the heirs, hoping to preserve the beauty of the surroundings, but he too passed on.
Formerly Palenville had several mills: those of McKinley on the south side of the creek, a powder-keg factory furnishing kegs for the powder mill at High Falls, a chair factory, and Griffin’s stone-rubbing machinery, which did a big business, with a quarry in connection with it. Barton had saw mill and cider mill, later the turning mill, and Chauncey Goodwin a flour mill.
Below Britt’s Corners is a stone house which was originally that of Wendell Saile, who was born in Germany and buried in the cemetery near by. The next house was that of G. N. Abeel, of whom two sons, Augustus and Eugene, and a daughter Nelly are remembered. They had colored help and built a school house for a private school which the Abeels, Wynkoops, Kings and Roots attended. The farm had the appearance of a Southern plantation. Between the two houses runs the present Ulster and Greene County line.
Mr. Britt was the personal friend of the Rev. Charles Rockwell who wrote the “Catskill Mountains.” Mrs. Rockwell taught French and grammar at the old Dutch parsonage at Kiskatom, which was some distance south of the present one (now Hazard Morey’s) with hair-flower, burr and seed-flower making and music as accomplishments.
As you approach Palenville on the new highway the mountains rise higher and more impressive, and impassable barrier stretching for miles along the horizon. Gradually On-ti-ora, who was condemned by Manitou to lie forever upon his back for this pranks with the sun, moon and stars, his hatred of the Red Men, and the evil he did in the long, long ago, loses his individuality and merges from prostrate monster into the green fringe of treetops or the mists of heaven as the weather man decrees, and the cleft or clove between South Mountain and High Peak gradually opens before you.
The Palenville of to-day is a beautiful little village separated into two parts by the Kaaterskill Creek, which, having reached middle life, flows at will through the green pastures of the valley, twice trespassing upon Ulster County but yet returns to its native heath, encountering some rough passages on its journey, at last scarcely moving as if reluctant to mingle its waters with those of Catskill.
Cauterskill proper is a collection of scattered homes, a mill and a chapel, west of Catskill village on one of the branches of the “Old King’s Road.” One can visualize the beauty of the scene in the time of the Indian. Here at Kaaterskill (or Cauterskill), after zig-zagging through the valley from the mountain top, finally rushes over its last obstruction with satisfied rumblings and roarings on the way to the Catskill. No doubt its banks were overhung with forest trees, and ducks and geese in their season swam on its waters, while the trail of the Indian followed it on the way to Schoharie.
Later it became a part of the vast estates of the Salisburys and Van Bergens. Their fist thought was to utilize the power of its falls, and there in 1690 Van Bergen had a saw mill opposite the present mill, and the stream was crossed by fording. Another ford was between what is now the Barringer and Brandow farms.
In 1733 Salisbury and Van Bergen had both grist and saw mills. On the other side of the stream near the bend of the road in 1751 a house was built for Solomon DuBois, and tradition has it that it was a trading post where the Indians brought their furs.* (*See Pioneers and Their Homes.)
In 1794 began the building of a bridge; the contractors, Martin G. Schuneman and John Cook. Those who had the matter in charge were William Van Bergen, William Brandow and Jacob Bogardus.* (*Catskill Recorder.) The last named had a plaster mill there. It is not known whether this bridge was at the Falls or farther up stream, but in 1815 a bridge was built across the stream, “on or near the falls of Joseph Klein,” who had a mill at that place.
PIONEERS AND THEIR HOMES
(*From Abeel Genealogy.)
Christopher Janse Abeel, was born in Amsterdam, Holland,
in 1621, was left an orphan at twelve years of age. His mother just before her
death left what money she had with a neighbor, to be kept for him when he should
become of age. This neighbor put
him in charge of the master of an orphanage, where he was taught the trade of
carpenter, and when he became of age she gave him the money entrusted to her
Christopher Janse chose America in which to start in business for himself, and with a stock of hardware, about 1647, left Holland for Beaverwyck or Albany. In 1665 he had become a master builder, and erected the First Reformed Church which took the place of the log one at Albany. Two years later he was a deacon and treasurer of the poor fund of this church, and in 1665 it is recorded of him that he sailed for Holland to secure a legacy left him by a great uncle. His passport was made out in the name of the Hon. Stoffel Jans Abeel. He was a magistrate in Albany and filled other important positions, dying in 1684.
Christopher Jans had married in 1660 (Nov. 22) Neiltje Jans Croom (Kroom), a native of Holland. Of their children, Johannes the eldest became a prosperous merchant and mayor of Albany; in 1701 Assemblyman, and again mayor in 1709. He married Catharine, daughter of David Schuyler.
Johannes Abeel, a grandson of Christopher Jans, was a fur-trader among the Indians and is recorded as an “alleged lunatic” because he married an Indian Princess, Aliquipiso, of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Tribe. Their son was known as “Cornplanter” (correct spelling “Corn Plant”). In 1759 Johannes married Mary Knout, and during the War of the Revolution he was taken prisoner by the Indians and saved from death by Corn-Plant, who addressed him as “father,” which secured him safety. “He was given his liberty either to accompany the Indians under the protection of his son, or to return to his white family. He chose the latter.” After the close of the war Corn-Plant visited him at his home, and he was received with “much hospitality.”
Christopher Jans Abeel who came to America about 1647 was the ancestor of David Abeel Jr., son of David, son of Johannes and Catharine Schuyler, who settled near Katskill. Above the bank of the Kaaterskill not far from what is now known as “Webber’s Bridge,” just off the mountain highway between Catskill Village and Palenville,* (*Not the farm of Mrs. Charles Overbaugh.) is still standing the stone house which David Abeel built, and where he lived until his death in 1813. The family burial place is between the house and the highway.
The exact date of the building
of the house is not known, but as the land was a part of the Salisbury-Van
Bergen Patent, and van Bergen is not known to have built a house on this portion
of this estate, it is presumed that Abeel built it about the time of his
marriage with Neiltje a daughter of Van Bergen, which was in 1752. David was
probably born in Albany, but at the time of his marriage was living in
Catskill.* (*A patent dated Nov,
27, 1771, was granted by Governor Clarke to David Abeel Jr., John Dederick,
Jacobus Abeel and James Abeel which give possession to David Abeel Jr. in virtue
of the will of Garret Van Bergen a part of the land composed of the first
division of Catskill Patent called “Backover.”
The residences of the petitioners having been in their possession over
fifty years, this may apply to the wing of the house.)
The house is of limestone with a wing on the east end, its interior much the same as the others of Old Katskill, excepting a cellar-kitchen beneath the house, where Lon and the other slaves of the Abeel family spent their days. There is the same hallway running north and south with door at either end, an enclosed stairway (which may not have been enclosed when the house was built) leading to the garret. On either side of the hall were rooms with fireplaces, and on the southern side of the house a Dutch stoep which has been removed.
David Abeel did not receive a patent for his thousand acres of land until 1771, “on the west side of , and adjoining the brook called the Caterskill, at a place called the Bak-Oven.” The Van Bergens already owned this land but consented to the issuing of this patent.
Here David and his wife Neiltje lived and raised their little family, which consisted of Anthony, Garret, Catharine (or Caatje), Anna (or Annatje), in peace and comfort, receiving religious instruction at the church at Old Katskill, following the rough road through the forest on horseback or in rude sleighs,* (*The deep boxed sleigh which was once the property of Dominie Schuneman was for a long time in the possession of the late William Newkirk of Leeds, and some time after his death was purchased by Miss Anna Abeel, great-great-granddaughter of the dominie.) drawn by oxen in the earliest days and later by horses.
The Revolution made an end to peaceful days, for David and his sons were strong Whigs. The few Tories of that neighborhood were their enemies, and it was necessary to be constantly alert and watchful. Of the Tories, Jacobus Rowe was the most feared, for he was not only Abeel’s enemy but was friendly with the Indians who occasionally raided the valley. It was on a Sunday evening in 1780 that the family were returning from services at old Katskill when the blow fell (see “Indians and Tories”). David and Anthony were taken captive to Canada.
Garret Abeel, the second son of David, seems to have lived in the brick house, now best known as the Webber house, just below the bridge, at that time a part of the estate of David Abeel. He moved to Catskill about 1785. “Garret became judge of the Court of Common Pleas, which office he held for many years.” He had never studied law, but had a vast amount of common sense, and a deep sense of justice.”* (*See Attorneys.)
The mountain road in those day passed the Abeel house, crossed the Kaaterskill by ford below the farm, crossing the King’s Highway and present state or Saugerties road south of the Young home.
Garrett Abeel built a stone house in 1785 which stood on the site of the present Armory and was torn down forty years ago to make room for the present building by Contractor George W. Holdridge. The house faced the creek and was afterward the property of Captain Caleb S. Spencer.
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