Reminiscences of Catskill
by the late
James D. Pinckney
Together with Interesting
Articles by Thurlow Weed, Edwin Crosswell, S. Sherwood Day and Joseph Hallock, Esqrs.
J. B. Hall, Publisher, "RECORDER AND DEMOCRAT" Office
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin. A very torn and worn copy of this document can be found at the Catskill Public Library.
We deem it pertinent to this undertaking to say, that in republishing these Letters, we have been governed by a desire to perpetuate them—not only their intrinsic excellence, in their way, as evincing the fine descriptive power and versatile talent of the writer, his genial humor, his analysis of character, bringing out its salient points with so much grace as not to offend the most fastidious,—but also for the entertaining local matter, and gossip, of time, place, and person, which, in his day, and before it, floated currently upon the stream, and which he has carefully gathered up, piece by piece, and woven, with a little embraving, perhaps, into these sketchy papers.
Every generation has its characteristic men, and women, too—persons of mark—at least fair subjects for common talk—peculiar for their idiosyncrasies upon some subjects—who figure as "characters"—always stirring up the stagnancy of domestic and social life by their strange conceptions of it. His impressions of these, formed by looking at them from the stand-point of Youth, when the metal lense pictures of exaggerations, doubtless led him to believe that the men of his day were really more strongly marked in character, more resolute, magnanimous and adventurous, more noble and kind in their natures, more shrewd and practical, or more mean and contemptible, then those who were coming up with him to form the next generation.
This latter class, having regard to the proprieties of life, he had left to rest quietly in their unhonored graves the others, however, he had delineated to the life; and if we fail to see them as they were, it may be because we never knew them. There were many others whom he might have justly added to his list of "honorables," as well as of the eccentric class, some of whom no doubt slipped unconsciously through the meshes of this memory; while others, of whom he purposed special mention, were unnoticed in consequence of the interruption of the series by his sudden death. But these, equally with those of whom he did speak, were subjects well worthy of his praise. They were the good old fathers and mothers who once walked these streets, built these habitations that now shelter us, and these churches, and roads, and docks, and laid out the future for their children, and died, and sleep now in that same Cemetery about which, in his more meditative mood, he so eloquently wrote. The writer held a facile pen, and blended life as it was made up, in an amusing commentary—arranged in boquet order, odd, but attractive.
His theme was CATSKILL—his Catskill. He loved it, its people, its customs, its traditions, and his memories of it, though some were sad indeed. Yet they once belonged to the living.---With these he associated his own early life, as he wandered by the streams with which Catskill so abound, and through its woods, and under the shadows of its mountains. But we will not pursue the subject further, and will leave it to allude to others, which was the main purpose of this writing.
We will merely add that we might furnish a brief chapter of contemporary incidents, related by others, some of a grave character, others whimsical and ludicrous, with now and then some smacking of the mischievous—but we have not the time. The latter class, especially, we would not mention, for fear of the "rising generation." The "wild oat" crop, from some experience, we pronounce a failure, and we prefer not to stimulate its production by anything we might say. These Pompeiian explorations, we admit, sometimes pay well for the cost of making them—in opening up fine vistas by which to measure the progress of the ages—while others, again, have no compensating gains. And, as respects this latter, we would say, let the old cinders lie, undisturbed, over youthful peccadillos, just where they fell and burnt themselves out.
When this volume was commenced, it was intended to include in it only the letters of Mr. Pinckney, originally contributed to the Recorder and Democrat as occasional sketches, which the author never contemplated would be preserved in book form. But as the work progress, and popular interest began to manifest itself, we considered it our duty to avail ourselves of the proffered assistance of other able contributors, whose articles, in addition to those of Mr. Pinckney, would furnish a more complete local history. This change of plan, although it has involved additional expense, labor and delay, will be justified by the increased value of the volume.
We acknowledge our obligations to those gentlemen who have aided in giving our book a more full and complete table of contents. With these few explanatory words, we commend our little book to the citizen of Catskill—and to those "native and to the manor born" who have wandered into other places, but whose hearts ever turn fondly towards home—and trust that, as a tribute to the history and attractions of the "old town," it will meet with a cordial reception.
Harmony Lodge Papers
Catskill Cemetery Papers - First Series
Catskill Cemetery Papers - Second Series