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 COXSACKIE
Coxsackie has been written Kocks Hackie, Kuxakee, and Coxsackie. The French defined it “owl hoot,” Spafford the “hooting of owls.” Schoolcraft “cut banks,” and O’Callagan suggests a “corruption of Kaaks-aki, country of the wild goose.”
The town of Coxsackie has a more or less high ridge along its river front, while on top of this ridge the country stretches out into the Coxsackie Flats. This eastern section of the town has been called “the garden of Greene county,” and the extensive flat land is backed by the Kaleberg, beyond which the country is more or less hilly and uneven, with other but smaller flat lands to the west.
The oldest highway in the town is the King’s Road of 1710. A road leading from the King’s Road to the river was laid out in 1790 and ran “between the line of Peter Bronk, Richard Bronk and Anthony Van Bergen” and son on * * * “to the dock of Ephrahim Bogardus on the North River, to the high water mark.” The road at the head of the landing in 1793 is described as “leading from the dwelling house of Eliakim Reed to Coxsackie Landing.” Johnny Cake Street belongs to later history, that of 1828, and the Coxsackie Turnpike was built in 1806.
John Bronk was the first supervisor, 1800-01, and the first known school teacher after the dominies (who were the first instructors) in the town of Coxsackie was Anthony Rogers, who taught in Coxsackie village in 1795. At Jacksonville at this date was John Bower, Rev. Henry Ostrander is known to have kept school in the old stone school house on the north side of the turnpike from 1801 to 1810, and here it is said “the sons of the wealthy Van Bergens and Bronks studied Latin.”
Coxsackie according to her size has a large number of patriots of the Revolution to her credit. Some participated in the conflict, and others did good service at home. October 20, 1775, John L. Bronk was commissioned Major of the 11th Regiment, of which Anthony Van Bergen was Colonel. Bronk had been commissioned a captain of a company as early as 1740, with Sybrant Van Schaack as colonel.
Leonard Bronk was ordered by Governor Clinton in 1780 to “impress ten tons of flour or an equivalent in wheat, 20,000 weight of beef or fat cattle or equivalent thereto, for the use and service of the Army.” Like most other settlements, they had Tories in their midst and Committees of Safety were necessary to see that the roads were patrolled, and proper measures taken for the safety of the people and their property. Coxsackie also came to the front with a Declaration of Independence made before the accepted Declaration, on the “Seventeenth Day of the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy five.” This Declaration had two hundred and twenty-five signatures, and the original can been seen at Albany.
WEST Coxsackie and Catskill had much in common in the early days. Then they were known as Kocks Hackie and Katskill. Both were born on vast farm estates; had in part the same ancestors (Bronk and Van Bergen); and each was a twin, or rather triplet, for it consisted of two landing places and a country home. The landings were at first feeble infants, and some years later the upper one at Coxsackie gave up the struggle for existence as a landing, while the lower grew in length and breadth, and the sister on the hill was content to lead a farmer’s life with less family to her credit but with more widespread possessions.
Old Katskill and Kocks Hackie shared the same pastor of the Dutch Reformed faith until 1797, but with separate churches; and every other Sunday the common pastor or dominie, whose home was at Katskill, traveled through the forest on horseback to preach two long sermons on “Lord’s Days and feast days, catechizing the children and youth and those of the German brethren residing among us, in their language.”
Around this first Dutch church at Coxsackie* (*See Churches) grew what is now West Coxsackie, then the most important part of the settlement. It is not known whether Peter Bronk, the first patentee, lived there or not. He died before 1687 and the land came to his son Jan. Marte Gerritse Van Bergen purchased the north part of the Loonenburg Patent adjoining Bronk’s called the “Fountain Flats.” The land purchased of the Indians by Peter Bronk Jan. 13, 1662, and confirmed by Governor Richard Nicolls, June 11, 1776,* (*The north line of the “Fountain Flats” was the south line of Peter Bronk’s line, and the south line (original line) ran about ten rods north of the house on the Ely farm.) consisting of 252 acres, went “Westward of the woods to Katskill Path, and running along the said Path southward, it comes to the Stone Kill, from thence it runs Eastward over against the said Nutten Hooke, and so Northward along the river to the Forest Kill.” This and the Fountain Flats, also the Corlears Kill Patent, all owned by Bronk & Van Bergen, composed the three patents for which they petitioned Governor Dougan to issue another patent covering all three parcels of land, which was granted May 23, 1687. This called the “Coxsackie Patent.”
Vol. 2 of Patents, Sec. of State office, Albany, Discrepancies in land areas is accounted for by the fact that the Dutch definition of land is that which was cleared or fit for cultivation. Rocks did not count with them.
Jan Hendrickse Bruyn’s share came into the possession of Cornelius Machielis (Oct. 30, 1685) and was sold to Jacob, Casperen, and Jan Casperen Hallenbeck, Dirck Van Vechten and Jochem Collier. Machielis sold to Jacob Pheonix “the half of a farm called “Klinkenberg,” with the barn and house, in 1685. this is the first mention of a house, although in a Staats and Proovost deed of 1670 a barn is mentioned. Klinkenberg or Echo Hill is north of Four Mile Point. In 1694 and old and a new orchard are mentioned as on this farm. This new orchard was used as a burial place by the Hallenbeck family, and was on the top of a hill west of the Houghtaling house. Onthe west side of the road near Four Mile Point was the dwelling place of Jan Van Loon’s father (Jan).
At the headwaters of the Coxsackie Creek, under the high cliffs of the Kale Berg, was the home of Van Schaacks, which was given by Jan Van Loon in 1719 to his son-in-law Arent Van Schaack, who married his daughter Maria. The annual rent to be paid for this land was “one scheppel (about three pecks) of wheat, and two fowls.”
Martin and Garret Van Bergen of Old Katskill, after the death of their father and in settlement of the estate, conveyed their rights in the Coxsackie Patent to their brother Peter, who in turn relinquished his rights in the Katskill and Corlears Kill. In 1726 Jan Bronk made his home at what is now Leeds, and died there, but when Peter Van Bergen settled permanently at Coxsackie is not known. His brothers Gerret and Martin did not come down from Albany with their families to settle on their father’s estate until after their houses had been built in 1729, at Old Katskill. Previous to this date the estate there had been leased.* (*See Old Katskill.)
As Peter, Pieter, or Petrus, was married November 7, 1724, to Christina, daughter of Anthony Coster and Elizabeth Ten Broeck, it is likely he did not live at Coxsackie for any length of time before that date. The house of Peter was “on or near the site of the stone house which in 1884 was owned by William Farmer,” on the north side of the street in the upper village.
Garrett Van Bergen deeded a piece of land to Jan Caspersen Hallenbeck April 14, 1683, called “Kaniskeek,” which was at that time in the possession of Jan Caspersen, and in which a house and barn is mentioned. This was the Hallenbeck homestead and long remained in the family.
Jan Bronk deeded to Philip Leenderse Conyn in 1710 land of which Conyn had been “in peaceable possession for several years.” The house was on the opposite corner, west from the double house of Peter Van Bergen, and the farm on the south side of the street, and east from the King’s Road.
In the second division of the Coxsackie Patent in 1730, Jan Bronk conveyed to his son Leonard, of Coxsackie, a piece of land next and opposite to the homestead of said Leonard, and also a piece called “ronde vlackie or round flat.” 160 acres was sold in 1789 by Peter Van Bergen to Silas Rushmore. This tract was bounded on the west by the Catskill Path, and north and east by Murderer’s and Coxsackie Creeks. Rushmore sold twelve acres of this at the junction of the two creeks to Martin Hallenbeck, the remainder to John L. Bronk. It is still called the Rushmore lot. The part next to Murderer’s Kill was sold to Hendrick Vandenburg, the remaining acres were divided into 64 lots, and equally divided between the families of Bronk and Van Bergen. The whole of Lot No. 48 is now the business portion of Coxsackie Landing. Lot No. 50 is what in days gone by was the Upper Landing, while Nos. 46 and 47 are the Lower Landing. At the junction of the King’s Road and the road to Greenville near the New Baltimore line, on the northwest corner, stood during the Revolution and for years after the noted tavern kept by Peter Bronk, a grandson of the first settler.
At first the Upper Landing surpassed its sisters in growth and strength. One Ephrahim Bogardus established a ferry here just after the Revolution, and “one of the first acts of the County Court, in 1800, was to give him a license” for that purpose.
Before the war William Wells came from New England and built a stone house at Upper Landing. It stood on the northeast corner of Lot 52, in the Coxsackie Patent, and south of the road from the upper village. In 1818 the house and land near by was sold to Leonard Bronck. This sale included Well’s Island, which was opposite the house and contained eight acres. The oldest known name of this island when sold to Marte Gerritse Van Bergen, is “Nutten Flat.” One north of it “Blinder Flat,” and another still farther north, “Dover Flat.” The island at the mouth of Coxsackie Creek is shown on old maps as “Marte Gerritse Island.” Others who had homes here were William Rea and Peter Cuyler, but as time went on business moved down stream.
Peter and Richard Bronk sold to “Israel Gibbs, merchant
of the town of Catskill,” March 7, 1794, Lots 46 and 47 of the Coxsackie
patent. One contained 14 acres, the other 35 acres. Of this tract small lots
were sold to Joseph Chaplin, “on which (1794) the potash works now stands;”
another to John Gibbs who had a house there, reserving “14 feet square where
Miss Nancy Gibbs and Pauline Gibbs are buried.”
Mary Wells also had a house near the Knickerbocker ice-house. This was
Lot 47, and known as “Molly Well’s Point.” Squatters settled farther south,
and at this point was the wharf of Israel Gibbs, known as Gibbs Landing.
At the top of the hill, at what is now known as Coxsackie Landing, before 1744 stood a stone house built by Claude Ducalon, a French doctor, who had a daughter Catharine, baptized in the Lutheran church at Athens at that date. He was still living there in 1784 (one site of Collier house). What is now the landing was then a rocky point separated from the mainland by a marsh, at high tide covered with water. Eliakim Reed built a wharf on this rocky point and it became Reed’s Landing. The hillside was then a forest, the streets and roads but paths cut through the forest, in some instances only blazed trails.
In the New York Magazine of December, 1797, is the following: “On Saturday last Peter W. Yates, Esq. by virtue of a dispensation from the Grand Lodge (previously referred to as “ancient Masonic fraternity”) constituted a new lodge at Coxsackie, and installed its officers. He delivered to the officers and members, and the visiting members from adjacent lodges, and oration suitable to the occasion. Afterward they partook of a supper in and elegant lodge room, lately constructed by the members of the new lodge; and the next day the Rev. Mr. Knap preached a sermon for them in the new Presbyterian church.”
Jacksonville is a small village in the western part of the town whose first inhabitant was Gerret Roosa, who owned a share of the Roseboom Patent. He lived on the south side of the road east of Jacksonville, and his memory is perpetuated by two rude stones, one bearing the inscription “G. R. 1776,” and the other “Here lies the body of the wife of G. R. 1787, Apr. 28.”
The first tavern here was that of Joseph Bullis, built 1799. He also had a distillery opposite it. The name of the village is said to have been given it by “James Farlee Burroughs who came from Greenville and established a store there.” The story is that his goods arrived at Coxsackie Landing addressed to Jacksonville, Coxsackie, and for some time it was a mystery where the place could be, for previous to this, presumably because of the distillery, it had been called “Swill Street.” Jacksonville was doubtless named for “Old Hickory,” for it was in his time that Burroughs settled there.
In 1796 Shadrach Hubbell bought the farm on the south side of the road by the school (Dist 8). The principal business in the early days of Jacksonville was sawing. Robert Vandenburg and Pazzi Lampman had saw mills there.
The Houghtaling Patent was beyond the Kale Berg, from the Stony Kill on the south to the Diep Kill in the town of New Baltimore. This patent was granted to Mathias Houghtaling July 8, 1697, by Governor Benjamin Fletcher, who represented the English crown.* (*See Book 7 of Patents, page 127. Sec. of State’s office, Albany.) The Diep Kill crosses the county line and the Catskill Path at almost the same spot. Conrad Houghtaling, eldest son of Mathias, conveyed to his brother Hendrick a small tract along the Catskill Path, which was afterward the home of Conrad’s son Thomas. His house stood a few feet east of the house which was afterward Truman Mackey’s. Hendrick in 1770 conveyed the rest of the patent (excepting that of his brother, and the land conveyed to Casper Collier) to Hendrick and Robert Vandenberg, reserving “one-half of all mines which may be hereafter found on the above lands.”
There is an old tradition that when Coxsackie was young, Indians had gone out to the hills early one morning and had returned before breakfast with a quantity of lead. Tradition further states that an Indian chief offered to sell one of the pioneer Houghtalings the secret of the place where lead could be found, and upon his refusing to give the desired price the Indian “declared in a rage” that the mine should never be found while it remained in the hands of any who bore the name Houghtaling. “This tract is commonly known as the Vandenberg Patent, but that is not the original grant. It was afterward divided into seventeen lots of fifty acres each, one of which for some reason contained sixty acres and was the cause of a suit in Chancery. Thereafter it was known as the Chancery Lot.”
The Vandenbergs * (*The name is spelled Vandenberg in early deeds but is known as Van Den Berg.) were living at Coxsackie in 1729, for Richard Vandenberg purchased on April 18th of that year, land of Thomas Williams formerly owned by Jan Bronk, which began at the Spruyt or Slink (marshy piece of ground), bordering on the lands of Philip Conyn and the orchard of Peter Van Bergen. Vandenberg had evidently been living on the land previous to the purchase. The family seem to have been friends of the Van Bergens and it was through them that they settled here. The Vandenbergs also leased other land of the Van Bergens, paying annually five scheppels of good wheat until 1820, when a satisfactory arrangement was made between the heirs of both. With this land and the purchase of other tracts they became large land-owners west of the upper village.
About thirty rods east of the Kaleberg, on Murderer’s Kill, was the early home of the Vandenbergs. The first house was built before 1725, the second of stone about 1764. West of the house on the ridge above was the Catskill Path, and the old Indian trail on a line with the back garden fence.
This patent was south of the Houghtaling and Coeymans Patent, extending into the town of Athens, and was granted April 12, 1751, to Jacob, John Jacob, and John G. Roseboom. The last named had obtained his share for a friend, John Henry Lydias of Albany, and it was transferred to him in 1751. The tract seems to have been divided and transferred from one to another, denoting speculation until in 1771 it had thirteen owners who employed an Albany lawyer, Robert Yates, to divide it into lots. These were set apart to their different owners by a kind of lottery, each drawing a number in turn from a box. Nos. 4 and 5 were drawn by Martin Lydias, who with his wife Genevieve sold them to Dirck Van Vechten, reserving “his mill and stream of water where his mill stands.” This was called the “New Patent.” It is a rocky tract and the north end of High Hill* (*Coxsackie High Hill.) is within its boundaries.
The Stighkoke Patent is in the western part of the town and in the form of a square. The village of Jacksonville is within its eastern limit. Five Indians—Herman Backer,* (*Vol. XIII, Land Papers, page 134. The Patent in Book XII page 198.) Tanighsanow, Koughan, Aquahannit, and Tansaghoes—sold this tract of land to Casperus Bronk for thirteen pounds and ten shillings, June 6, 1743. The Patent was issued June 30th to Bronk, Martin and Garret Van Bergen and Hendrick Remsen.
The Coeymans Confirmation line runs through Stighkoke Patent from the east to near the west corner, and divides the patent into disputed and undisputed lands, for the Coeymans line at this point has been the cause of much ligitation. The Salisbury Patent lies south of the Stighkoke and contained 700 acres. A patent was granted to Casperus Bronk, William and Abraham Salisbury of which Bronk sold his share to Teunis Van Vechten for 50 pounds, and he in turn sold it to the Salisburys, reserving one-third of the saw mill, and one-third of the utensils and implements belonging to the mill, with “liberty to ride or lay down saw logs and planks in a convenient place near the mill.” Abraham Salisbury left his part by will (1756) to his son Wessel. Teunis Van Vechten left his share in the saw mill to this sons Teunis and Abraham. Wessel Salisbury and his brothers sold to the Brandows, and the land was divided and sub-divided until at last the mill, lot and streams passed into the possession of Henry Cornwell, a native of Duchess county who did an extensive business at what was widely known as Cornwell’s Mills. He married Sarah, a daughter of Nicholas Van Hoesen. The mills were sold by his sons Henry and Richard to Reuben Jump. Robert Vandenberg had a saw mill on a branch of the Potick within this patent.
This tract of land, for which a patent was secured in 1770 by John Morin Scott and seventy others, occupies only a small portion of the town of Coxsackie, the town line running through it only a little way east of the Stighkoke Patent.
CASPARUS BRONK’S ONE HUNDRED ACRES
This one hundred acres bordered on the Stony Kill and was on the “west side of the Catskill foot path where the Path crosses the Stony Kill.” All this land came to Annetje Bronk, only child of Casparus, who afterward married John A. Whitbeck, and the upper half was sold to John L. Bronk in 1764, the lower half to the same person in 1773, together with her share in that part of the Fountain Flats which lay between the Catskill Path and the creek.
This first patent, the principal part of which is in Albany county, had its south boundary near West Coxsackie. This was granted in 1673 by General Lovelace to Barent Pietersen. The second patent was granted in 1714 at the request of Andries Coeymans, son and heir of the first patentee. A patent granted to Kilian Van Rensselaer in 1685 enroached upon the Coeymans Patent, but the contest over these disputed lands was settled by a deed from Van Rensselaer.
PIONEERS AND THEIR HOMES
The following has been taken from a paper prepared by Rev. Lewis Lampman and read before the Greene County Bar Association in 1911:
Leonard Bronk, fifth in descent form Jonas Bronck, was born in Bronk House (still standing and occupied) on Bronk Patent, about two and a half miles west of Coxsackie village, May 11th, 1751 or 1752. His first ancestor in this country was Jonas Bronck of Westchester County, after whom Bronck’s Manor, Bronck’s River and Bronck’s Borough were named, the “ck’s” being changed into “x” on account of euphony.
In 1639 Jonas Bronck, liberally educated and rich, with his friend Jochiem Pietersen Kuyter, a Danish officer, sailed in his own private armed vessel, named the Fire of Troy, from Hoorn, Holland, taking their families, farmers, female servants and stock, for New Amsterdam, reaching that place in July, 1639. The arrival of the ship was hailed by the colony “as a great public good.” Where Jonas Bronck came from originally is yet a matter of dispute. I am inclined to the opinion that he was a Dane. His last European residence was in Amsterdam, and there he married Antonia, daughter of Juriaen Slagboom (probably his second wife). Riker’s History says of him: “Signior Bronck was a family long distinguished in Sweden, though probably himself from Copenhagen, where some of his kindred lived.” What adds emphasis to my suggestion that he was probably a Dane, is the fact of his intimate association with Kuyter, a Danish officer; and the Danish library which is mentioned in the inventory of his possessions after his death.
The probabilities are that the place of his location had been settled by him, and the necessary steps to secure the land had been taken, before he left Holland. Hudde spent the preceding winter in Holland, and met both Kuyter and Bronck. And we find that the Directors of the Colony sent explicit directions to the governors of the Colony of New Amsterdam to further the wishes of both Bronck and Kuyter. He secured a “Grond Brief,” a tract of land of 500 acres north of Harlem River, and became to the first white settler in that section. It is interesting to note this characteristic of Jonas Bronck, for it crops out in his descendants, viz: he was not content with the deed from the authorities of New Amsterdam, but in addition made an honest purchase from the Indian Scachem, Tackamack, and his associates. The tract of land purchased by him was called by the Indians “Ranahqua.” It lay between the Harlem River and the River Abquahung, now known as the Bronx. Here Bronck made his improvements and began his life.
Jonas Bronck died in 1643. Kuyter and Dominie Bogardus were his executors: From the inventory of the estate we learn of the fine Latin and Danish library, as also a large collection of works on law and history and divinity. Jonas Bronck left a widow and one son, Pieter Jonassen Bronck. The widow married Arendt van Corlear, Sheriff of Rensselaerwick, and removed with him to Albany.
It was this Peter Bronck, the only son of Jonas, who in 1662 purchased from the Indians a tract of land and secured for it from the Dutch authorities what is known as Bronck’s Patent. On the overthrow of the Dutch by the English the purchase the original grant to Peter Bronck were confirmed by a patent granted by Gov. Richard Nicolls, June 11th, 1667. The grant was bounded on the north by the Coeymans Patent; on the south by the Fountain Flats and Loonenburgh Patent; on the west by the ridge of hills running north and south that makes the west bounds of the valley; on the east by the Hudson River, taking in the whole fertile valley and the river’s bank from an east and west line about a mile south of Coxsackie landing to an east and west line on the north bounds running from the mouth of the Coxsackie Creek to the ridge of hills to the west of the Coxsackie valley.
On this patent, by the terms of the grant, a house was built in 1663. I think the stone house at the southeast corner of what is known now as Bronk House was built at that time. My father-in-law, Leonard Bronk, youngest son of Judge Leonard Bronk, said many years before he died that that part of the house was a good deal more than two hundred years old. He died in 1872. The brick house was built in 1738. The date is cut in the foundation on the north side of the house. The kitchen extension was rebuilt in 1792.
The house, the mills and the land descended to his son Jan Bronck, and from the date of the original purchase the homestead and many acres of the original grant have never been out of the hands of the lineal descendants.
The immediate ancestor of Judge Leonard Bronk was John L. Bronk, who married Elsie van Buren. He inherited the old home and the traditions, and he was worthy of both. He was the most influential man in his section in his time. In 1770 he was commissioned Captain of Militia by Lieut. Gov. Cadwallader Colden. On Oct. 20th, 1775, he was commissioned Major of the 11th Regt. N. Y. by the Provincial Congress. In 1778 he was commissioned 2nd Major by Gov. Clinton. These commissions are in my possession. He was Justice of the Peace in 1782. The History of Greene County closes with this tribute to him: “John L. Bronk was in his day one of the prominent citizens of Albany County. Throughout his life he was a prominent man, and by his death Albany lost one of its most valuable citizens.”
Leonard Bronk was an only child, and he inherited a large fortune in mills and lands. But that was not his only inheritance. He inherited the traditions of his father’ house—kindliness to neighbors, uprightness in business and loyalty to his country. He saw his father living in friendly relations with all his neighbors, an officer fitting his men to fight for liberty, and a justice striving to resolve disputes and establish equity. And all of this entered into his life and became a part of it. When and where he got his education I do no know. The first documentary information I have of him is in 1773. It is a book of old patents, laboriously copied from the originals by Mr. Bronk. I have the book in my possession. He was evidently equipping himself as a surveyor. He seems at that time to have been in New York city. He was then twenty-one years of age and may have been finishing his studies in that place. In 1776 he is evidently an attorney at law.
But here comes in the documentary story a very sudden and abrupt transition. In 1777 he is appointed 1st Lieut. “in convention of the Representatives of the State of New York.” The commission is signed by Pierre van Cortlandt, Pres’t; Robt. Benson, Sec’y. In the same year Adjutant in Colonel Anthony Van Bergen’s regiment, and 1778 1st Lieut. By Governor Clinton.
In 1779 he married Catharine Van Den Berg, daughter of Robert Van Den Berg. She is said to have been a very beautiful woman. At any rate, for the evidence is abundant, she made her husband a very happy man and added to this influence.
In 1781 he begins that long civil career that ends only with his death, but in his multiplied activities he neither abates his interest nor his efforts for the success of the Revolution. He is selected a representative in the Assembly this year, and is at the head of the poll. He is also chosen Supervisor of Albany County. And John Wigram of Columbia County, writing to him a congratulatory letter, says that he is the youngest Supervisor yet chosen in Albany County. The list of honors conferred upon him by county and state is long and noted under another heading.
During all his life he was a slave-holder, and for the last twenty years of his life quite a large owner of slaves. When any of these slaves ran away Judge Bronk refused to go after them. When his friends remonstrated with him he would answer, “If they are not satisfied with my treatment of them I will not force then to live with me.” And his children and his grandchildren not only honored him—they adored him.
His grave is just beyond the house to the south and west on a little knoll at the bend of the creek. In the little inclosure is a plain slab with this inscription: “In memory of Leonard Bronk, who died April 22d, 1828, aged 76 years. I am the Resurrection and the Life.” And beyond the inclosure, crowding all the rest of the knoll, are the graves of the faithful servants who trusted him while he was alive and wanted to be buried near him when they were dead. On the whole I am proud that I an even remotely connected with him. He died as he had lived—trusted, honored and loved by all who knew him.
TOWN OF DURHAM
The town of Durham previous to March 8, 1790, was a part of Albany County and belonged to the district of Coxsackie which was organized in 1772. In 1778 Coxsackie became a town. In 1790 this town was divided and the western portion became Freehold (Durham).* (*The late J. G. Borthwick, uncle of William S. Borthwick, Supervisor of the town of Durham, from whose writings most of this sketch had been taken, states that in his opinion Freehold included at this time the present towns of Windham, Ashland and Prattsville, and the original Act of Legislature seems to confirm his opinion.)
The name Freehold originated either from the fact that there were no other claimants for the land, or as the late J. G. Borthwick believed, from the village of Freehold, which received its name because it was situated “in a section of land between two patents and was therefore a freehold.”
The town of Freehold included the present town of Durham and portions of Greenville and Cairo.* (*Ephrahim Darby, Ebenezer Barker and Peter Curtis were the first commissioners.) and a large part of Conesville, Schoharie County. It may also have intruded on Delaware County, as the boundaries are indefinite and embraced 150,000 acres, a vast forest wilderness where fish and game were plentiful.
Ebenezer Barker was the first Commissioner of Highways, and Ephrahim Darby the second. Upon the formation of Greene County, Freehold became one of her townships. In 1803, Cairo and Greenville took away a piece of Freehold, and two years later (March 28, 1805) the name was changed to Durham. As many of the early settlers had come from Durham, Conn., the name New Durham had been used for the settlement from the first, and was finally decided upon for the town.
The section of the town north
and west of the mountains was annexed to Schoharie County March 3, 1836, and the
town portion thus annexed became Conesville in honor of Rev. Jonathan Cone, who
was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Durham.
The section of the town north and west of the mountains was annexed to Schoharie County March 3, 1836, and the town portion thus annexed became Conesville in honor of Rev. Jonathan Cone, who was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Durham.
The town of Durham contains 31,033 acres, is an agricultural town with varied scenery. Mt. Pisgah is in the angle of the western boundary, its northern slope in Conesville, its southern and western in Windham. This peak is 2,900 feet high. On its eastern side is its famous “Cold Spring,” while the view from its summit includes portions of five states. This peak is one of several which may be said to be the northern frontier of the Catskills. To the south you may see Mitchell Hollow intersecting the Windham valley; beyond these valleys, tier upon tier of mountains. The peak stands alone, bleak and bare, no trees obstructing the view on any side, and one involuntarily quotes the old hymn, “When from Mount Pisgah’s lofty heights.”
Walter Doolittle in 1880-81 built up it a winding road, and the first vehicle made the ascent July 4, 1881. On the summit Doolittle built a house and observatory equipped with a telescope. During the year 1883, 1,500 persons registered there, and probably another thousand, who did not register, visited the spot. The number of carriages was 600. To-day there remains only the wreck of house and observatory, and the road is but a trail which still lures the nature lover.
Mt. Hayden is near, and southeast of Mt. Pisgah, its height 2,775 feet and well wooded to the top. Between these two the road from Durham to Windham crosses through Blakesley’s Notch. Jennie Notch divides Mt. Zoar and Ginseng Mountains, while southeast of Mt. Zoar, Windham High Peak raises its lofty head 3,500 feet. The town line as surveyed by David Baldwin in 1806 passes directly over the top of this mountain.
The Catskill Creek flows through the eastern part of the town of Durham, with Saybrook Creek its larges branch from the east. The latter received its name from settlers who came from Saybrook, Conn., and it is also called “Ten Mile Creek.” From the west come Bowery, Thorpe and Sawmill creeks.
Thorpe Creek received its name from Captain Aaron Thorpe, who in 1790 had a sawmill on its banks. It is a turbulent stream of rifts and falls and receives the waters of Cornwallville and Post Creeks. The gorge on this stream at East Durham is 50 feet deep, and here the wife of Joel Jewell lost her life while trying to save a weak-minded son. A few years later this son wandered away and was not found for several months, when a hollow pine “stub” was cut down. In the interior of this stub or trunk his remains were found. It was a favorite place for chimney swallows, and it is supposed he climbed to the top to secure the birds and falling in was unable to extricate himself. A man by the name of Vosdick road off the rocks on the side of the gorge in the night, and was found lying partly under his horse, both dead.
Roswell, or Rozwell Post, built one of the first grist mills in the town on Post Creek. This stream has also been called Heifer Creek. The two branches of Post Creek unite forces at what is known as Johnson’s Flats. This flat is supposed in early days to have been covered by the water of a huge beaver dam. Just below these flats the stream descends very rapidly over the rocks and enters a ravine called “Shady Glen.”
Sawmill Creek, later called “Prink Creek,” is now known as “Durham Creek,” one of the sources of which is Cold Spring on Mr. Pisgah. Another source is near West Durham, and still another on Mr. Hayden. On Durham Creek are Sawmill Falls, a famous sheep-washing place; Bidwell’s Falls, named after Benjamin Bidwell, and a spot called “Mrs. Bidwell’s Tea Cup.”
The town of Durham had very little Indian history. Their trail followed the Catskill, and there is a spot on what is known as the old Cleveland farm called an Indian burying ground. Hendrick Plank was carried captive to Canada by Indians during the Revolution, and died there. After the war a few still remained—a lazy, thievish set.
Eliab Youmans, a surveyor of patents in 1767, and his assistants is supposed to be the first white man who spent the night in this section. He surveyed the Maitland, Stewart, and other patents. The first settlement is the town, probably about 1770 or 1772, was made at Oak Hill by Lucas DeWitt, John Plank, Hendrick Plank and possibly a Mr. Egbertsen, although the last may not have come until ten years later. Lucas DeWitt Jr. was a son of Lucas of Hurley, Ulster County. They came from Holland but were originally from France. Some of the family were civil engineers employed by the government of Holland in the construction of dykes. Their services were considered so great that a monument was erected by the government in their memory.
Lucas DeWitt’s first house was of logs and he carried has grain to Madison (Leeds) or Katskill to be ground until he obtained a large portable mill, described as something like a coffee mill, with which he ground his grain by hand. As time passed he built a dam near the upper bridge in Oak Hill, attached his portable mill to water power, and it became the first grist mill in the town. When the war of the Revolution broke out DeWitt hid his mill in a hollow log, and on his return found it intact and ready for business. It was used until some years later, when a modern one was set up on the bank of the Catskill.
The town of Durham was the home of Revolutionary patriots and soldiers who had come after the war, probably 1782-83, to settle there, or had returned to deserted farms from which they had taken their families to a safer place while they served their country. At any rate, shortly after the war settlements within its borders began to grow rapidly.
Oak Hill was the earliest settlement in the town. It belonged to the patent granted by King George III of England to Colonel Richard Maitland, a Scotch officer in the British army. This patent was granted June 23, 1767. The settlers were obliged to take leases of Maitland’s executors, he having died. These leases were dated May 3, 1774. Lucas DeWitt’s lease stipulated he was to pay “one ear of corn, and a proportion of the King’s rent per year, for five years,” and at the expiration of five years the rent was to be 5 pounds 12s per year. As the war was on two years later, it is likely the King did not for long receive his rent. In the lease it is stated that Lucas DeWitt Jr., a yeoman from the Blue Mountains, was in possession of the land and, and also that the place was known as DeWittsburg. After the massacre of the Stropes or Strops at Round Top the settlers took their families to Ulster County.
The first church organization in the town was at Oak Hill and of the Dutch Reformed faith. The church building was about a mile from Oak Hill, on the road to Preston Hollow, and the site donated by Stephen Van Rensselaer. It was probably organized about 1787. (Vosburg says, “the earliest date appears to be July 7, 1794. Before 1800 probably a part of Albany Classis”).
Jan. 2, 1796, “ At a meeting of the citizens of a place called Oak Hill in the town of Freehold, they being desirous of changing the name of said village, it was unanimously voted to call it by the name of DeWittsburgh” (Catskill Packet).
VILLAGE OF DURHAM
Durham or New Durham is second in time of settlement in the town. The Revolutionary War had left the country burdened with debt and now followed hard times for many a yeoman and his family. Land was cheap in the wilderness, and emigration to the newer parts of the country was one of the ways of solving the living problem.
Meeting-house Hill is one of the highest of the foothills in this section at the base of the Catskill Mountains, 1,100 feet above tide water, and this spot was chosen by seven young men from Durham, Conn., in 1784, as a suitable place for their homes. These young men came by boat to Catskill Landing, then with knapsacks, muskets and axes, continued their journey on foot. The names of only four are known, those of Jonathan and Abiel Baldwin, Phineas Canfield and David Merwin. Selah Strong came later in the same year. The next year five families came.
This choice of a settlement commands a fine view in all directions, but though there had been two meeting houses, a school house, blacksmith shop, and store, besides a number of dwellings, on this hill, there is now nothing but a forsaken “city of the dead” upon the hill-top. It became too small for all, and only Jonathan Baldwin and Selah Strong remained. The last purchased the farm which belonged to the later Horace Strong in 1798, and died there in 1837. His second son Elijah is said to have been the first child born at New Durham. These settlers endured many privations, for Mr. Strong’s diary tells of “provisions being very scarce,” but the influence of these God-fearing, thrifty men and women can never be measured. Many of them belonged to the Congregational Church of Connecticut, and among the first things they did was to build a log meeting house and provide regular services on the Sabbath. Deacon Christopher Lord of Saybrook, Conn., father-in-law of Jonathan Baldwin, came in 1787 and filled the place of pastor for ten years.
The first settler in what is now Durham village was Adijah Dewey. He was called Major Dewey and built a log house which is said to have been the first hotel there. He moved to Madison (Leeds) about 1820.* (*His daughter Anna married Jarius Chittenden Jr. Polly, another daughter married Peter Elting, Major Dewey also lived in Cairo.) Dr. William Cook was the first physician. He was a soldier of the Revolution, and the following anecdote of General Washington has been handed down as related to him: the army wintered in Morristown, N. J., during the winter of 1777 and 1778, and so little did they have to eat that, at one time, their rations were limited to a single gill of wheat per day. Said Dr. Cook: “Washington used to come around and look into our tents, and he looked as kind, and said tenderly ‘Men, can you bear it?’ “yes, General; yes we can,’ was the reply, ‘and if you wish us to act, give us the word and we are ready’.” While they were at Morrisown Washington had a dangerous attack of quinsy. The officers feared that he would die, and they asked him to indicate the man best fitted to succeed him, and without hesitation he pointed to General Nathaniel Greene.
It is said of a man by the name of Ford that he had the first cabinetmaker’s shop, built the first bier and was the first to be borne to the grave upon it. Polly Chittenden taught school during 1787 and 1788, and Elizabeth Dudley in 1789. A Mr. Carter was the first lawyer, while Jacob Carter built the first bridge over the Katskill, and another at Brown’s mills, soon after the completion of which he was drowned near it.
In the year 1788 Deacon Obed Hervey and others.* (*Among them were Captain Ashael Jones, Mr. Bumhourd, John Butler, Elder Arnold and Henry Bartell.) settled in Hervey Street. They belonged to the North East Baptist church of Dutchess County. The Deacon was a godly man, and although well along in life was ordained a preacher, holding meetings at Hervey Street in houses and barns. He died in 1808, aged eighty-six. His son Obed was a deacon, contributing much toward the welfare of the church. Elder Hermon, son of Deacon Obed Hervey Jr., was pastor for thirty years during which the church was built. He resigned in 1839. The Presbyterian church was organized Nov. 8, 1792, and with that of West Durham makes interesting history.
Cornwallville is one of those “below the mountain villages,” set among the hills and farms lands of “Durham Town,” for the southwestern boundary of the town runs on the tops of high mountains, the sloping sides of which meet the villages half way, and the shadows of the “Blue Mountains” grow long as evening falls.
Looking from East Windham Mountain the land shows little of its hills and valleys, of the many streams by which it is watered, of the gorges, glens and cascades of these same streams, but rather stretches like a great map to the Hudson River and the country beyond. Yet these villages overlook valleys of their own, and in addition have hills a-plenty, all of which form attractive and diversified scenery.
It would seem that Daniel Cornwall was responsible for the name. He was born in Connecticut about 1753, married Rachel Hall, and settled on a farm owned by Benjamin Hubbard in 1788. His first house was of logs. The pair were two weeks coming from New Haven , Conn., to Catskill in a sailing vessel. A defective title to his land caused him to pay twice for it.
Mr. Cornwall was a soldier of the Revolution, and both were members of the Congregational Church of Connecticut. They brought their faith with them, and in 1793 united with the church of Durham. In his old age he was often Moderator at the annual town meetings. Both he and his wife lived to extreme old age. They had six children, and his son David married Mary, a sister of the late Edward Johnson. One of his daughters married the Hon. Lyman Tremain of Durham, and another Robert E. Austin of Catskill (Jefferson).
John and Paul Percival were among the first settlers of Cornwallville. “Quaker Orchard,” about two miles southeast of that place, was the last resting place of Capt. Thomas Smith and Charity his wife, and was named because of the springing up of self-sown apple trees, the seed scattered by people attending camp-meeting there. Deacon George Wright was one of the first settlers in Wright Street, and he came from Saybrook, Conn., very early in the history of the town, living on the farm afterward his grandson’s. He was a soldier of the Revolution and musician for his company. The country about this settlement belonged to the Cockburn Patent.
This church observed its one hundredth birthday October 16, 1921. Quoting from a “Historical Sketch” by William S. Borthwick, delivered on that day: “Many of the settlers of New Durham, which was the first English settlement in the town and was located on the hill north of where Platt Hill now lived, belonged to the Congregational Church of Connecticut, and among the first things they did was to build a log meeting house and to provide for regular meetings on the Sabbath.
“Quite a number of the settlers about New Durham were Methodists, and they bought the church frame of the East Durham people and set it up on the hill near the Presbyterian Meeting House. * * * This church is supposed to be the oldest of the denomination in the county. The church at Coeymans, Albany county, is the mother church, and the circuit included Coeymans, Catskill, Durham and part of Delaware county. * * * It was while the church was on the hill that it was incorporated September 21, 1819, and Harris Giddings was chosen President, Caleb Wetmore Secretary, and the corporation was known as the Methodist Episcopal Church of Durham, N. Y.”
As the forests were cleared away, Meeting House Hill became very bleak and bare, and a majority of its members lived in Cornwallville, hence in 1821 they moved the church building there. Dr. Barrett was the preacher. In 1825 the Trustees were Caleb Wetmore, John, Jerome and Jabez Hubbard. (See Churches).
South Durham is a tiny village at the foot of the Mohican Trail, and is composed of post office, store, hotel and a few dwellings. Its foothold seems precarious as you come from still lower levels, as if it might on an icy day slip and slide from its moorings. The shadows of Windham High Peak fall upon it early in the afternoon, and it is almost surrounded by the mysteries of deeply wooded mountain-sides.
A collection of summer hotels, a post office, a store and a wide-spread view of the Hudson valley to the Capital City and the Berkshires, constitutes East Windham. Its one-sided street is set close against the rock-terraced side of the mountain, at the front dropping precipitously down to the valley. It is the summit of the long and beautiful ascent up the mountain, now known as the Mohican Trail, which follows in part at least the blazed trail up which Jehiel Tuttle brought his family and household goods just after the Revolution, said household goods being fastened to two small trees which he cut at the foot and to which he fastened his ox-team.
Captain Peter Van Orden Sr. purchased 200 acres of land and built the first hotel in the town of Windham just outside this hamlet near where the toll-gate afterward stood, when all about him was a wildness given over to the wild beasts of the forest. It was a log house and he entertained emigrants and chance travelers of all kinds. It is said of him that “he often rose on dark rainy nights, yoked his oxen, and taking hold of old Bright’s bow in order to keep the track, drew emigrant wagons out of the mud.” Peter Van Orden Jr. was born here in 1800, and the family burial place is near by.
In 1836 Ira Sherman had a hotel at East Windham, He was a son of Samuel Sherman, and a first cousin of Gen. William T. Sherman. Barney Butts, whose after life was closely connected with this vicinity, was born a mile from Hensonville.
PIONEERS AND THEIR HOMES
Joseph Adams lived at what is sometimes called Durham Center, on what was afterward known as the Lant place and then became the property of Henry S. Mace. The annual town meetings were often held there. Mr. Adams had four sons—Joseph, Gopher and John by his first wife, and Platt by his second. John and Platt became eminent public men. Mr. Adams was born in 1738 and died May 16, 1832, aged ninety-four years; his son Joseph lived to be one hundred, and lived near South Durham at the time of his death.
John Adams became a teacher of district schools, studied law, and in 1810 was appointed Surrogate of Greene County by Daniel D. Tompkins. He was a Federalist, and, forming a co-partnership; with Malbone Watson (afterward Judge Watson), removed to Catskill.
Platt Adams, a half-brother of John, was a man of great force of character, possessing great executive ability. He was a lawyer by profession although he never practices much, preferring business and politics to law. He married Clarissa Dudley, daughter of the widow Dudley, who afterward married the Rev. Seth Williston, D. D. The name of Platt Adams is found frequently in the church records as clerk and trustee. He was Colonel of Militia, Town Clerk from 1821-25, when he was chosen Supervisor and filled that office for a number of terms. He was also Sheriff, and member of Senate and Assembly. He had two sons and two daughters. His son Governer married Nancy Cone, daughter of the Rev. Jonathan Cone.
The following was written by the late J. G. Borthwick over forty years ago: “Moses Austin was born in Wallingford, Conn., abut 1768; came to Durham at about twenty years of age, and bought land where Asbury Strong now lives. The farm still goes by the name of the “Austin Place;” the house long since disappeared, and the barn was destroyed by fire two or three years ago. His neighbors were Charles Johnson and a Mr. Ford who lived in the same house. Mr. Ford was taken violently ill, and Mr. Austin rode horseback, and in the night, to the city of Hudson for medicine, but it was in vain. Mr. Ford died, and Mr. Austin was often heard to say that it was one of the most melancholy recollections of his life. In 1806 he bought the farm now owned by Charles Wetmore.* (*He is said to have “built in 1806” the house where Edward J. Parks now lives.) and built the large house now standing, occupying in the meantime the old block house which stood near by. He was a prosperous business man—owned a woolen factory in Cairo, was engaged in various business enterprises and became very wealthy. He was at one time Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and in 1819-22 was one of the members of the New York State Senate. * * *
“Mr. Austin was twice married. His first wife was Elizabeth Cooper of Chatham, Conn.; his second, Sallie Humphrey of Derby, Conn., a niece of the Hon. and Gen. David Humphreys, who was United States Minister to the Court of Spain and Portugal. He had a large family and one of his sons remained on the farm, and became Supervisor of the town. Two daughters and one son lived in Cairo. His brother Aaron lived on the “old Austin place,” and died in Cornwallville. Another brother lived in Durham, his descendants in Windham. Mr. Austin spent the evening of his life at Cairo, and died there on the 2d day of May, 1848, aged eighty years.”
The name Baldwin date back to the year 864. the first Count of Flanders married Judith, the daughter of Charles the Bold of France. His first name seems to have been Baldwin, and his successors were called Baldwin down to Baldwin IX, who became the first Emperor of Constantinople. The first mention of it as a surname was in 1198.
Three brothers—Timothy, Nathaniel and Joseph—settled in Milford, Conn., in 1639. Joseph was the ancestor of the first Baldwins to come to Durham, N. Y. These were Jonathan and Abiel, sons of Abiel and Mehitable Baldwin of Durham, Conn., who came with five other young men in 1784 and settled on Meeting-House Hill. Abiel Sr., with his wife and younger children, did not come until 1804.
Jonathan is spoken of as a remarkable man and the means of bringing together the settlers of worship long before the church was organized. He was a blacksmith, and became treasurer and chorister of the first church; had charge of the building and received $3.25 per year for his care of it, which included sweeping it out at least once a month. He married Submit, youngest daughter of Deacon Christopher Lord, and in 1816 removed to Atwater, Ohio, where he died in 1843. One of his children, Elihue Whittlesey Baldwin, became a minister of the gospel and President of Wabash College, at Crawfordville, Indiana.
Abiel was a soldier of the Revolution; married Eunice Coe, had nine children, one of whom became a minister; and Abiel is spoken of by the late J. G. Borthwick as “the most godly man I ever knew.” Of the other brothers, Curtis, who came in 1785, married the school teacher Polly Chittenden. He had taken up land on Meeting-House Hill. David was a man of uncommon piety and had a wonderful memory. The Rev. Seth Williston called him “his concordance, “ and it had been said of him “his Christianity was a living principle.”
Seth Baldwin married Rhoda, daughter of Timothy Hull of Durham, Conn. He lived on the old farm until 1804, and then removed to a place near Cornwallville. He had twelve children, one of whom, Dwight, was at one time principal of Kingston Academy, taught in Catskill and Durham, and finally, after his conversion, became a medical missionary to the Sandwich Islands. Aaron, another son of Abiel Sr., marred Sarah Norton of Durham, Conn., and in 1816 removed to Ohio. Of the daughters of Abiel Sr., Eunice married Selah Strong, Mehitable married William Torrey, and Ruth, Leverett Chittenden.
The second family of Baldwins was that of Noah Sr., brother of the first Abiel, and eight years his junior. They seem to have been very firm friends, living and dying on the same farm. Their children were well educated, professors of religion, and became useful members of society. The three oldest children of Noah died in infancy, and Sally, the fourth child, on her mother’s death (when Sally was sixteen) took the entire care of seven children younger than herself. She often said if it had not been for the assistance of her brothers she would have utterly failed in the undertaking. She married John Hull of Durham, Conn., and, removing to Durham, N. Y., settled on a farm one mile south of the village.
Noah Baldwin Jr., brother of Sally, married Phoebe Hull, James married Mabel, the daughter of Seth Jones, a Revolutionary soldier of Saybrook, Conn., who gave his life for his country. James and his brother Noah lived about thirty rods apart and each built a substantial hip-roofed house, with internal arrangements exactly alike, built the same year and raised the same day. One stood on the north side of the road and the other on the south. James was a very quiet man, much respected, and finally sold his farm to his nephew, Lemuel Baldwin.
Hezekiah and his wife Rachel did not come to Durham until 1816, when he bought the farm at that time owned by Deacon Jonathan, where he lived the remainder of his days. They had no children and his widow became the second wife of Captain Jehiel Cooley.
Adah Baldwin married Christopher Post, and died in 1854 without children. Hannah married Stephen Tibbals and settled on what was afterward the Van Wagener farm. Mehitable married Luther Hayes, born in Massachusetts. They came to Durham village, where he was a hardware merchant, and by honest industry gained a competence. He was Elder in the church, a faithful Christian man. His wife, Aunt Hatty, was very cheerful, pleasant Christian woman. They had nine children.
Rhoda was the youngest and eleventh child of Noah Sr., and she married Constant Bushnell of Saybrook, and came to Durham about 1800; in 1815 removed their church membership to Madison county, N. Y., and at some later date to Marshall, Michigan. They had at least nine children. The name of Baldwin, originating in Durham, is scattered nearly all over this country, from New York to California, from Minnesota to Mississippi, and when this was written over forty years ago there were twenty-three in the Sandwich Islands.
TOWN OF GREENVILLE
This town was organized under the general act passed March 26, 1803. The name was changed from Greenfield to Freehold on April 6, 1808, and on Oct. 6th of the same year, at the house of Seymour Minor, inn-keeper, it was voted to change the name to Greenville, which was confirmed March 17, 1809.
The first town meeting was held at the home of Eli Knowles on April 5, 1803, and the first town officers were as follows:
Charles Griggs Town Clerk Henry Talmadge Assessor
Aaron Hull Overseer of Poor Francis Hickock Assessor
Thomas George Overseer of Poor Reuben Byington Collector
Eben Norton Commissioner Reuben Byington Constable
Daniel Miller Commissioner Robert Frazier Constable
Peter Brandow Commissioner Joseph Heath Constable
Eli Knowles Pound Master Nathaniel Fancher Constable
“In 1804 it was voted that all hogs one year old and upward may run at large, being yoked with a yoke 20 inches long. All under one year with a yoke 12 inches long.” If left unyoked there was a fine of 50 cents for each offense.
In 1813 fourteen schools districts were organized. There were numerous grist and saw mills on the Basic, “Jan-de-bakker” and Potick creeks—the grist mill of Augustine Provost in 1800, the woolen mill of the Kings in 1802, and the saw mills of Reuben Rundle and David Baker, one built by Simon Losee in 1792, a sort distance above where Losee creek empties into Potick; the mill of Henry and Peter Bogardus on “Jan-de-bakker” about 1820, and the Jennings grist mill on the Basic, built 1800. There was a tannery in Freehold in 1805, built by a Sanford; with several others at Greenville; also leather, stoves and shingle factories.
John L. Raymond was one of the first settlers on the Prevost Patent.
The town of Greenville is comparatively free from mountains and high hills, its land more rolling than that of any other town in Greene County, yet it has an elevation from 1,600 to 2,000 feet. Basic Creek is its largest stream. About the time of the town’s organization there was a post route between Coxsackie and Westerlo, with a post at Greenville village, and shortly after one at Newry. The first post-rider was known as “Old Brownie.” The mail of Aaron Hall was his near neighbors was left between two flat stones at the four corners near Hall’s home. The post was weekly and soon became semi-weekly.
Godfrey Brandow, Stephen Lampman and Jacob Bogardus were the first settlers. Reuben Rundle came in 1786, with wife and two sons. He had been a lieutenant in the Revolutionary Army, and married Sally Holly of Stamford, Conn,; his home on what is known s the Dean farm. For a time he was a shoemaker, bringing leather from Catskill on his back and exchanging boots and shoes for grain. He was senior warden of the first Episcopal church. Joseph Waldron was an enterprising settler of 1790; Obadiah King of 1791. Reuben Stevens paid $2.50 an acre for land at “The Hemlocks,” where he died in 1804. His eldest son was a soldier of the Revolution; his wife, Mary Williams.
Augustine Provost was responsible for the existence of Greenville Center village. * (*Once known as “The Hemlocks.”) His patents covered 7,000 acres, and coming to the town of Greenville (1794) he immediately built a frame house a little west of the present village, near the center of his estate, and around it tenant-houses, grist and saw mills, a bark mill, and opened a real estate office where he disposed of small portions of his land on reasonable terms. He built roads and looked after the religious and educational interests of the people, by whom he was much beloved. A school house was built for his own children, and those of his neighbors were allowed to attend without charge. He improved his house and grounds until it looked like an old English estate. There was rich furniture of English manufacture, and valuable paintings. He was acquainted with the prominent men of his day and the notables of England. The portrait of the Duke of Kent, who was a personal friend of his own and his father’s hung on his wall. Three of his sons were in the English army and he a Royalist whose unspoken sympathies were doubtless with England, but he maintained a strict neutrality. It was written of him in 1799, “Major Prevost has a neat little house built on a tract of nine thousand acres, which belongs to him. He is a son of the General Prevost employed in the British service who distinguished himself in the defense of Savannah, and disgraced his character by the burning of many American towns.
“Major Prevost, a native of Switzerland, has all the frankness of an honest Switzer, and of a genuine honest Englishman. He is beloved by his neighbors, seems just and impartial in his opinions, speaks well of the American government, and is a good-natured and agreeable man.” Major Prevost was born in Geneva, Switzerland, August 29, 1774, was twice married, died in 1821, and lies in the Prevost cemetery with others of his family.
The Academy of Greenville was incorporated by Regents on Feb. 27, 1816. This act of incorporation was signed by Daniel D. Tompkins, chancellor of University of State of New York, and Gideon Hawley, secretary of state. The corporators were:
R. Beriah Hotchkin Levi Callendar Daniel Miller
Dr. Amos Botsford Abijah Reed Joseph Bishop
Augustine Prevost Truman Sanford Daniel Hitchcock
Eliakim Reed Alexander Calhoun Josiah Rundle
Aaron Hall Reuben Rundle Jr. Obediah King
James Waldron came to Greenville in 1790 and purchased 100 acres of Levi Blaisdell, a part of which was in the Coeymans Patent. His father came over from Holland in 1757.
Dr. Amos Botsford married Elizabeth Clark, (1801) and the young couple settled on the Eli Knowles place. The only physician in that vicinity for many years, he rode horseback on his innumerable calls throughout the town. He is said to have been very dignified, had a fine physique and commanded the respect of all. For fifty years he was the faithful and successful physician, a Supervisor for a number of years, and one of the incorporators of the Greenville Academy, to which pupils came from all pats of the county. His fourth child, Mary L., married Dr. Bradley S. McCabe, a later physician of Greenville.
On the road from Greenville to The Hemlocks was the house of the Townsends, afterward occupied by Russel Townsend, whose uncle, John Russel, was one of George Washington’s life guards in the Revolution and had the honor of carrying him from the field when thrown from his horse. Abel Townsend kept a public house on the borders of Greenville and Coxsackie.
The first physician in town is said to have been Dr. John Ely of Newry, whose fame spread throughout the county. Isaac Hallock kept a hotel in 1820. Among its merchants are Ransom Hinman (1803), Abijah Reed (1810), and Levi Callendar (1816). Buel Cheritree was the blacksmith and Eli Knowles another hotel-keeper.
Freehold was once an Indian village. The Indian village disappeared in 1616, followed by squatters in 1700, for here was some of the best land in the Catskill valley. Then George III of England granted it, in all 1,000 acres of land, to Johannes Hallenbeck, and a part was sold to the Beckers in 1720. Near by came Christopher Kniskern, Morris Hazard and the Truesdell family. Of the three last their families have disappeared from this vicinity, leaving behind only a few brown stones whose dates are all before 1795. Stephen Platt was an early comer and lost his life in 1800, trying to save a bridge in time of flood. He was active in the business of the town. The King brothers came from Massachusetts. They were educated men, and Perkins King was justice of the peace in 1818 and for seven terms of three years; County Judge for twenty-four years, Member of the Assembly and Congressman. Andrew Dodge was a successful merchant. Formerly potash was manufactured, and there were two brickyard, one near the old cemetery.
The little village of Gayhead lies on the edge of the town, and partly in the town of Cairo. Peter Scriver (now usually called Scriber) came from Clinton Corners, in Dutchess County, in 1818, and settled on a farm which is now the village of Gayhead. He had seven daughters and one son. The son went to Ohio, and his descendents now live in Annapolis, Michigan. He was a soldier of the Revolution, and the great-grandfather of Counselor Ambrose Jones, and grandfather of the late Addison P. Jones of Jefferson.
PIONEERS AND THEIR HOMES
Godfrey Brandow, who married Catrina Overbagh, was the first settler (1750) in the town of Greenville, the Overbaghs of Sandy Plain were his nearest neighbors, and his daughter Catrina, whose baptism is found in the old Katskill church records, was the first white child born there (1751), and the first marriage was that of another daughter, Maria, who married Stephen Lampman, their neighbor in 1752, coming from Coeymans by ox-team.
It is supposed that Godfrey Brandow was of Holland Dutch descent, but his birthplace is unknown, and previous to his coming to Greenville he lived near Saugerties. In the year 1750 he located land in the town of Greenville, and his log house stood on what is sometimes known as the Seabridge farm. His nearest neighbors for two years being the Overbaghs of Sandy Plains, who were his wife’s relatives. Godfrey Brandow and his wife Catrina Overbagh, at the time he settled in the town, had two sons and two daughters.
His farm contained 800 acres, the southern part in the Livingston Patent, and the northern in the Coeymans Patent, afterward Lot No. 1 of the sixth allotment. He cleared a little spot on a ridge which was covered by thick forest trees of oak, hickory and maple. Ten years later it was a large clearing well stocked with cattle and sheep. He brought to this new home plenty of such farming tools as could be secured at that period, and are said to have been imported from Holland.
There are no records of Indian troubles or other exciting events in his life in the wilderness, only wolf-hunts and the killing of other wild beasts of the forest. His son John settled near him, and after the father’s death, in 1795, the homestead came to his then only remaining son, Peter, who bequeathed it in 1830 to his sons, Jacob and Peter P.
Peter, son of Godfrey and Catharine Brandow, was born March 22, 1750, and married Hannah, daughter of Jacob and Maria Bogardus. Peter had courted the mother of his future wife without success, and thereafter had no use for any other women. He also refused to be friends with Jacob and Maria, but when their first child proved to be a daughter they again became friends, and a bargain was made that in case he could win that child’s consent when she became old enough, he should marry her. Her consent must have been obtained, for he married her in 1792, and they had eleven children.
Jacob, who came from Coxsackie, was the third settler, and in 1772 he commenced to clear land on the farm which in 1882 was occupied by his grandsons, Henry and David Bogardus. For two years he spent his summers clearing away the forest, and his winters in Coxsackie. Coming back with a family in 1774 to make a permanent home, he found it unsafe because of the Indians, and returned to wait for more peaceful times.
He enlisted as a minute-man in the Revolutionary war, and it was not until 1783 that he returned to Greenville with his family. The log house stood only a few rods east of where the family residence stood later. He had 800 acres, half of which was afterward sold, 200 acres to his brother Manning, who settled there in 1784.
Jacob Bogardus was a direct descendant of Everardus Bogardus, who was the first minister sent over by the Dutch West India Company to New Amsterdam. Jacob had a strong character and was noted for honesty of purpose, retaining the customs and manners of the Holland Dutch until the day of his death.
Manning Bogardus, who settled on a part of Jacob’s original estate, was born in Coxsackie; was a Revolutionary soldier, and had command of a company of rangers.