Article Number 26
Old Times in Windham 

by Rev. Henry Hedges Prout

Originally published in the Windham Journal from February 18, 1869 to March 31, 1870. Article 26 published on November 4, 1869. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Windham Journal located at the Vedder Research Library


Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


Passing through the village of Windham eastward, and taking the first road that leads from the turnpike northward, you would be led through an elevated valley, a fine specimen of beautiful grazing territory, till, reaching the head of it, you look across the dividing ridge and see spread before you a vast expanse of variegated country, checkered with culture, comprising in a single view, Durham, Greenville, parts of Cairo and Rensselaerville, and in the remoter distance, Albany county, and the regions beyond the Hudson. This elevated valley, clearly defined and hemmed in by mountains, is Mitchell Hollow. It is four or five miles in extant, and a fair specimen of the high barriers which mark the western slope of the Catskill range. Its abundant springs from a creek which flows into the Batavia Kill.

About 1800 one Mitchell settled on the flats now owned by Mr. Brockett, and gave name of the valley. The same farm afterward fell into hands of one Brown, who built the house where Sylvester Andrews afterward lived. Andrews taught school as his profession and reared a large family. His sister, Julia Ann, *(Later corrected—Julia Anna (not Ann) Andrews had a brother Sylvester, but is not the Sylvester Andrews who lived in Mitchell Hollow. The sameness of the name misled me.) was well known to the writer as one of a class of most estimable young women, like Solomon’s virtuous woman, "whose price is above rubies." She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She maketh fine linen. The hum of the spinning wheel in the home manufacture of wool and flax is an old-time memory. An early recollection of my childhood is a personal one—of an industry unremitting; a joyous musical cheerfulness, equally uninterrupted; a bright melody of voice that beguiled care and sweetened labor; a fresh elastic tone of character which made the burdens of life appear to be no burdens at all. Such in spirit and life was Julia Ann Andrews, a frequent inmate of my childhood home.

The family of my kind informant, Captain Nelson Bump, having removed from Dutchess county to Catskill, and from thence to Durham, settled in Mitchell Hollow about 1810. Mr. Roswell Bump’s family numbered 13 children—nine boys and 4 girls. Of these 8 are now living, occupying with there descendants, positions of respectability and honor in various parts of the country. The custom was to chop and clear the land in the winter, and sow it the first year in wheat, the next in rye. In one year Mr. Roswell Bump and his sons raised 3 or 4 hundred bushels of wheat, and for a part of the crop got $2,75 a bushel—but reserving a part till next spring, got only $1,50 a bushel for it. This was during the second war with England, 1813.

Deacon Finch probably settled in Mitchell Hollow about 1800. His sons were Wells, Elem, Clark and Willis—all carpenters—and William. Two of the brothers Finch, built the Episcopal Church in 1818. Jared Clark built a saw mill about 1817. In 1805 Fordham built a small farm house and had a store, A many by the name of Peck came in about the same time. Mr. Robb, and Irishman, built a log house; Pratt, also, and James Addis, lived in log dwellings. These log tenements were generally in use. Deacon Finch and Mr. Andrews had the first frame houses.

Waterman, Burhans and Wolcott were early settlers, George Carr was another—whose son afterward became famous as a teacher. Richard Kirtland was there about 1817, and Billy Nelson 1820. Roper came in 1817, Amos Smith as early as 1805, and also Williams. A family named Johnson who called themselves Portuguese, who were however half Indian by descent, were dwellers here. Simon Cobb and Bartwick Tuttle also for a time lived in Mitchell Hollow. Finally David Lake and family settled there in 1816. They were from Connecticut, and churchmen by religious profession. Exemplary in general deportment, steady and unflinching in their religious calling, the head of this family have left to their descendants a truly good name.

Our next memoranda relate to the early history of a single family, George Robertson, Sr., emigrated from Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1774, at 17 years of age, and served in the War of Revolution. which broke out just at that time. He was skilled in tailoring and saddle making. He removed to Windham from Troy, bought the farm now owned by Sylvester Austin, and is supposed built the first frame house in Windham Center—the one now owned by Mr. Brannaugh, and died there about 1822. His son, Col. James Robertson, came to Windham with his father. He was then a young man, and soon afterward (1804) married Elizabeth Rogers. His residence was first with his father, then in the house above the village of Windham, where his son-in-law, Mr. Barney now lives. It was what is now the back part of the house occupied by Mr. Barney and then unfinished—a skeleton of the building, having a blanket hung up for a door, in which, on a cold wintry day, when the snow was 5 feet deep, their second son was born. Col.. James Robertson, after a life of industry and enterprise, died at nearly 70 years of age.

The venerable relict of Col. James Robertson still lives in the enjoyment of good health at the age of 87 years. Her ancestors, the Rogers family, according to an authentic tradition, were passengers on the Mayflower, when she made her cruise to our shores and touched at Plymouth Rock, Elihu Rogers removed for Branford, Conn., about 1800, when Mrs. Robertson was 17 years of age, to a farm on North Settlement. It was in the winter, and the journey was made on an ox sled. The neighbors were Ebenezer Baldwin, Eli Osborn, Silas Lewis, Joel Tuttle, Jabez Barlow, Jairus Munson. The family were used to attend Divine worship at the old Meeting House and Mrs. Robertson thinks the meeting was held in Captain Hunt’s barn before the House was built. Soon after the arrival her of the family, Mrs. R. remembers going to school house probably near Esquire Lewis, to a singing school, and there her future husband first saw her. That was our country, spring time. The lover *(later corrected—That was our country’s spring time. The lover must needs brave (not have) a lonely, often a trackless solitude) must needs have a lonely, often a trackless solitude, to gain the wistful smile he prized so dearly. A bright newcomer was a welcome guest in the land, and hearts gathered round to protect and cherish the gift. Genial abounding alacrity of feeling, adventure, ardent imagination marked the people of the period. The grand old forests awed and refined them. The bracing air of the mountains strung there frames to unwonted vigor. Wit and humor and adventure were indigenous. The women were girls, and men boys, and the young folks children. So it was, the country’s hey-dey rapture of bright anticipation, when young men such as James Robertson, led to the altar brides so hopeful and modest as Elizabeth Rogers.

It would be interesting to know at what price State lands were sold at about 1800. Col. George Robertson remembers that $2.50 per acre was the price some years ago, but is not informed at what price they had been sold in old times.


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