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Article Number 15
Old Times in Windham 

by Rev. Henry Hedges Prout

Originally published in the Windham Journal from February 18, 1869 to March 31, 1870. Article 15 published on June 3, 1869. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Windham Journal located at the Vedder Research Library

Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin

When the first inhabitants came to this region of the country, it was called Woodstock and joined Ulster Co. At that time there was a glass factory, not far from Stoney Clove, that did a good deal of business. People used to go from this place to see the curiosities, and see them blow glass, and bring home glass canes, and glass pitchers, & c, which were very nice. There was also a good Library there, and when the town was divided—Windham taken from Woodstock—the Old Woodstock Library was put up and sold at auction. Some of the books are extant now, for instance, the Beauties of Spectator; Arabian Nights & c. About 1778, Hunter, Jewett, Windham, Ashland, Prattsville, Lexington and Halcott, were all one town, the town of Windham, one Supervisor over all, the same as one to each of these towns now. Those fond of antiquity, can look back and see the growth of the country, and the increase of inhabitants in one century. The principal part of the inhabitants here now are the third and fourth generations, grown out of all knowledge of old times, unless they have a taste to look back. Youth generally look forward instead of backward.

Zephaniah Chase, father of West Chase, yet living, must have been on of the earliest settlers, came in with a family of sons and daughters and settled where Mr. West Chase now lives, in a pleasant little valley, between two mountains, where the two streams or creeks come together, one from Hunter, the other from Eastkill, then winds its way down into Schoharie Kill.

About 1785 Laban Andrews came in with a family of children mostly grown, the youngest a daughter of 12 years old. What an idea of a child coming in this dense wilderness, to live and spend her days here! He built him a house, also bought land for his boys, and built a gristmill and sawmill on the east stream, about a mile above Mr. Chase, a great convenience to the neighborhood. They had great freshets in those days, as well as now. But they seemed more destructive. The banks of the streams were so thick with timber that the mighty waters would wash down great trees with roots, sometimes a number together, come tumbling down the foaming stream, enough to destroy everything. In one of the freshets both of Andrews mills were carried off, to the greatest sorrow of the community. The writer can just remember the excitement, and the clinking of irons as they tried to wrench them from the mills, but all in vain. They were never rebuilt.

Not very long after, a man by the name of Stephen Johnson came in and built a sawmill, and wooden dish mill, about a mile above, on the same stream, and turned wooden bowls, and trenchers to eat on, when they could not get anything else. A few years after that, a wealthy man by the name of Abner Hammond came in from the city of Hudson, and built a grist mill, half a mile further up the same stream, with an over-shot wheel that stood the freshets. He also built a good house, and put a store of goods in one room, for the accommodation of the new inhabitants, said he came with that view, to try to help the new settlers. He was a son-in-law of Laban Andrews, and a philanthropist, liked to see others do well. It was very pleasing to the inhabitants but he only stayed a few years. It was said he sank money all the while he was here, and the neighbors said he was a city man, and did not know how to live in the country. He sold his mill and property to Judge Buell and brother, that gave it the name of Buell’s mill. He left rather homesick, said he would never come to Windham again, until it burned down. He got back to the city and became a rich man.

On the upper road, as it was called, there were four brothers came in, perhaps not all together, by the name of Rice. Three of them settled on their farms, about a half mile from each other, the youngest, a single man by the name of Amos Rice, went into the woods, and while chopping down the trees, one tree fell on him and killed him. That case a gloom over the whole neighborhood, being the first grown person that had died there. They had no burying ground, and they buried him on the best spot they could find, until they laid out a burying ground, when he was removed. Report says one of the brothers had a hog taken from his pen, and carried or dragged on the mountain east of West Chase’s, which gave it the name of Hog mountain, which it has ever since retained.

Ichabod Andrews, son of Laban Andrews, lived near the burying-ground, half a mile below the church, and as they had no physician there, for some time, he was better than nobody. He had studied some, for a doctor, before he left Conn. He could pull teeth—of course they had the toothache—he could bleed and knew something about medicine. He also kept a Public House, where they had their trainings, and did the public business for the town.

In those days they held the elections on the first day of May. A jolly day it was. The girls had their quiltings, the boys their balls, all so merry.

Mr. Zadoc Pratt, father of Col. Pratt, lived there afterwards, and carried on the tanning business, with his three sons and ground bark with a horse, about 70 years ago. Next up the street was Mr. Ives, father of Mr. Roma Ives, yet living in the village.

About 1798, Dr. Abram Camp came in from Connecticut, and lived where Mr. Levi Peck now lives, near the church, who was the only physician for many years.

The first ministers that came in, were Rev. Wm. Perry, Episcopalian; Rev. Elmer, Methodist; Rev. Charles Labatt, from Connecticut, Presbyterian. The society gained wonderfully, as almost everyone came in with a large family of children.

Perhaps the young children would like to hear something about the schools in old times. They would not be apt to think they could have good schools in the woods, but they commenced almost with the settlement, and soon got to be large. The children seemed to like to go to school. They would go two or three miles through the woods, every step afraid of meeting a bear, a wolf, or a snake, but on they went. Most of them were good scholars, for instance: Albert Buel, who went to Ohio, and Amos Rice, now in California, could not be beat in scholarship, with the same advantages. They were retired men, who never made the display in the world that John Tuttle Andrews, son of Laban Andrews, and Col. Zadoc Pratt did, with less education. Both went from one school, one house, and got to be noted men, even Congressmen & c. The teachers principally came from Connecticut. When the schools first commenced, they had no studies but the Spelling book, Testament, writing and arithmetic. One teacher introduced Geography, with no maps as they have now. Another wanted to introduce Grammar, but the parents thought that would be spending their time for nothing. But two or three of them consented. They formed a class of five. At the end of the school, they could parse quite smart, much to the amusement of the parents and the school, although they had no grammar, only a few leaves in the back part of the old Dilworth spelling book; but after that grammar went right along in the school, as fast as they could get books. In Summer, with a lady teacher the girls carried work, or they could not go to school, and did most of the plain sewing for the family, which the mother spun and wove the cloth.

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