The  Catskill Mountains
and the
Region Around

Chapter 3

By Rev. Charles Rockwell


Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


Ulster County.—Cloves and Mountains.—Its Extent.—Early Settlements.—The First Fort.—Indian Troubles.—Village Site.—Wars of 1659 and 1663.—Indians Sold a Slaves.—Treachery of the Indians.—Their Punishment.—Treaties With Them.—Kingston in 1695.—Dutch Church There.—Huguenots at Kingston.—Their History.—They Settled on the Wallkill.—Romantic Traditions.—Price Paid for Lands.—The Dubois Family.—Child Saved on the Ice.—The Eltinges.—Facts Favoring the Tradition.—Church at New Paltz.—Rev. Dr. Stitt’s History of it.—Letter from Rev. D. Peltz.—Fox-Hall Patent.—Thomas Chambers,--Revolutionary War.—General Vaughn.—Kingston Burned.—Its Early History.—Andresen and Osterhout.—Butler’s Raid.—The Jansens.—Caldwell’s Expedition.—Vanerlyn the Artist.—Delaware and Hudson Canal.—Coal Trade.—Water Cement.—Mines and Quarries.—Manufactures and Statistics of the County.

The dividing line between Ulster and Greene counties crosses the Catskill Mountains a short distance south of the Cauterskill Clove, so that all the eastern part of the county can be plainly seen from the Mountain House; while the Plattekill Clove, and some of the wildest, boldest and most picturesque and romantic of the mountain scenery of the Catskills is in Ulster County; Overlook Mountain, in Woodstock, being 3,500 feet above tide-water, with Shue’s Lake, a beautiful mountain gem, near its summit. The Snyders and others, taken by the Indians and carried to Canada, as spoken of in this work, lived in Ulster County, while its early history, from the year 1614 and onwards, has in it much of interest connected both with Indian warfare and our long and fearful Revolutionary struggle. A brief and rapid sketch of a few of the more prominent events in the history of the county will therefore here be given, as it properly belongs to a description of the Catskill Mountains and the county around them.

Ulster County was formed November 1, 1683, and included the country extending from the Hudson to the Delaware rivers, bounded on the north and south by lines running due east and west, from the mouths of Sawyer’s and Murderer’s creeks. Portions of the county have since been annexed to other counties, and some additions have been made to it. In 1614, the Dutch established a trading-post where Rondout now is. The first fort there is said to have been in the western part of Rondout, on a level piece of ground, still called by its Indian name, Ponckhockie. This trading-post was established six years before the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts was founded, and it is thought that a few Dutch families settled there not long after. This settlement was soon broken up by the Indians, and a new one was commenced between the years 1630 and 1640. In 1655, owing to the fearful ravages of the Indians near Manhattan, now New York, all the settlers at Esopus left their farms en masse. In 1658 a site for a village was selected, and staked out, by Governor Stuyvesant, who came there from New York, its inclosure being two hundred and ten yards in circumference, and a guardhouse sixteen feet by twenty-three was built. The Governor left twenty-four soldiers there to protect the place; and the Indians made a free gift of the land to him as "Grand Sachem," as they said, "to grease his feet, as he had undertaken so long and painful a journey to meet them."

In September, 1659, Thomas Chambers having given some brandy to Indians who were husking corn for him, during a revel they had with it one of them fired a gun at midnight, which led a party of white men wantonly to fire upon and kill several of them. The next day, the Indians near there seized thirteen prisoners; open war followed; five hundred Indians surrounded the fort, so that for three weeks no one dared go outside of it; houses, barns, and crops were burned, cattle and horses killed; and, failing in their efforts to set fire to the fort, the Indians burned eight or ten captives at the stake. In October, Governor Stuyvesvant, with one hundred and sixty-five soldiers, and as many Indians, came to Kingston; but the hostile Indians having disappeared, and the country being flooded by rains, he returned to New York. Mohawk and Mohican Indians, from Albany, by their mediation, secured a truce, and the giving up of two prisoners only, but no permanent peace. A treaty was made then, however, May 25, 1660.

After this the people were so free from fear, that they left the gates of their fort open day and night. In June, 1663, the Indians in great numbers came into the fort at Wiltwyck, apparently to trade, while most of the settlers were busy out of doors. At a signal, before agreed upon, the Indians attacked the whites, who, soon rallying from their panic, and led on by Thomas Chambers, at length drove the Indians from the fort. Eighteen whites were killed and forty-two were carried away to prisoners. The out-settlements were all destroyed; and, in the war which followed, the Ulster Indians were nearly exterminated. The valley of the Wall Kill was then discovered, and in 1677 a colony of French Huguenots settled here, in what is now the town of New Paltz.

After the peace of 1660, the Director-General of New Netherlands sent eleven Indian prisoners to Curacoa, an island near the northern coast of South America, to be sold there as slaves. This outrage led to the treacherous and bloody attack on the fort, the slaughter there, the carrying away of numerous captives, and the savage and destructive war which followed. Nine days after the retreat of the Indians from the attack on Wiltwyck in June, 1663, a reinforcement of forty men, under Ensign Nyssen, arrived and relieved the fort. Captain Krygier, or Kreiger, with a cannon and two hundred and ten men, pursued the Indians to their forts, and destroyed their grain. In September, another expedition surprised an Indian fort thirty-six miles southwest of Wiltwyck, killed the chief and twenty others, freed twenty-two captives. Twenty-seven Indians were killed, besides those who were shot in swimming the creek, and their bodies swept away by the stream; and six Dutch were killed. Skins of bear, deer, elk, and other animals, and blankets enough, were taken to load a shallop. Twenty pounds of powder and eighty-five guns were destroyed. Twenty-two whites were set at liberty, and thirteen or fourteen Indians were taken prisoners, twelve of whom were sent to New Amsterdam as prisoners. Another expedition soon after made clean work with the crops of the Indians, while the materials of their palisades and wigwams were piled up and burned. The Indians were thus thoroughly scattered and subdued. Late in autumn they sued for peace, and restored all the remaining captives but three.

Krygier, who led the expedition against the Indians, fought with and nearly exterminated them, September 7, 1663, was Burgomaster in New Amsterdam, now New York, and died in Niskayuna, on the Mohawk, in 1713. There were then left but twenty-seven or twenty-eight Indian warriors, fifteen or sixteen squaws, and a few children, without houses or huts. A treaty was then made with the Esopus Indians by Governor Stuyvesant, May 16, 1664, by which their lands and forts in the region were ceded to the Dutch, while they had a new fort more remote. They were permitted to sell meat and Indian-corn at Rondout, provided but three canoes came at a time, and they went a flag of truce before them. The forts which were destroyed were on Shawangunk Hill, in the town of the same name, in the southern part of Ulster County.

In a work entitled "New York in 1695," by Rev. John Miller, dedicated to the Bishop of London, and first published in that city in 1843, we read as follows: "The places of strength are chiefly three,--New York, Albany, and Kingston, In Ulster County in a Dutch Calvinist Church, in Kingston, for five or six towns. A minister is to come"—that is, I suppose, from Holland—"his books brought, but he missed his passage." There were then three hundred families in the county, mostly Dutch, with some English and French. The Dutch Church, in Kingston, was organized May 30, 1658. There are now eighteen churches in the township.

Allusion has been made to the settlement of a colony of Huguenots, or French Protestants, at New Paltz, in Ulster County, in 1677. As the origin and meaning of the word "Huguenot," ten different opinions have been advanced. Browning, in his History of the Huguenots, claims that it came from Eignot, derived from the German word Eidgenossen, which means Confederates, there having been a party thus named in Geneva. D’Aubigne, in his History of the Reformation, holds that the word owes its precise present form to the prominent Protestant republican leader in Geneva, named Hugues. Before the Reformation, the word "Huguenot" had a purely political meaning, being applied to those alone who favored civil independence. After the Reformation, the enemies of the Protestants in France applied this term to them in the way of reproach, as imputing to them a foreign, republican, heretical origin, just as the Puritans, Methodists, Quakers, and others were so named as first by their enemies. Most of the Huguenots of Ulster County came to America some twelve or fifteen years before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which took place in 1685, the Edict having been in force about ninety years. During this period of comparative peace and comfort to the Protestants in France, they still suffered much from oppression and wrong, especially after the death of Cromwell, in 1658, whose strong hand, iron will, and manly sympathizing heart had made him a tower of strength and defense to Protestants throughout the world, and the terror and scourge of their enemies. The Cardinal Mazarin, too, in France, a mild and tolerant man, of great influence with the King, died three years after Cromwell, so that thus the Huguenots suffered more than before.

As early as 1625, some French Protestants came to New York; but these did not go to Ulster County. Others, at different times, settled at New Rochelle, in Westchester County; in Charleston, South Carolina; in Massachusetts; and elsewhere. Those who afterwards came to Ulster County, went first to Germany, where they found a home in the Palatinate, on the Rhine, and hence they called their first settlement in America De Paltz, or as it is now called, Paltz, or New Platz.

It has already been stated that the valley of the Walkill, which lies along the bands of a creek of that name, was first discovered in the destructive war against the Indians in 1663, during which they were nearly exterminated. A few, however, remained, and, as elsewhere stated, had a new fort more remote from the white settlements than their old ones. And were permitted, in small numbers at a time, to come to Rondout to trade. About twelve years after this war, mostly in July, 1675, many of the Huguenots of Ulster landed at Wiltwyck, where they were kindly welcomed by the Dutch, as the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, when the first left Great Britain, found a home among the same people in Holland. These Huguenots lived in an unsettled state near where they first landed about two years, and their leading men among them, known as the "twelve patentees," purchased of the Indians, in 1677, a large tract of land opposite Poughkeepsie, where is now the fertile and pleasant town of New Paltz.

Some Huguenots came to Kingston as early as 1660. To one of these and his family the narrative which follows relates, in connection with the massacre, captivity, and war of 1663. The tradition in the case is indeed a singular one; and yet so full and minute is it, and coming down to us, as it does, through generations of truthful and devout Christian men, and withal of a nature so peculiarly tender and dramatic, that one can hardly believe that it is not essentially true, whatever minor errors of time and place or circumstances there may be in connection with it.

I therefore give the tradition, referred to above as it is found in one of a well-written and instructive series of articles, on the Huguenots of Ulster County, in the "Christian Intelligencer" of 1842, vol. XVI., No. 42.

The tradition is, in substance, as follows: Catherine Lefever, wife of Louis Dubois, and three of their children were taken captive by the Indians, and carried away. Some time afterwards a friendly Indian came to Kingston, and told where the captives could be found. His directions were, to follow the Rondout Creek, and then the Walkill, and after that a third stream, on the banks of which Indians were then encamped; and as they intended to remove near to some white settlements, where they did not wish to have prisoners with them, they were about to put their captives to death. The Indian camp is said to have been about one hundred yards from the east bank of the Shawangunk Creek, in the town of same name, and one mile from where the Reformed Dutch Church in that town now stands.

Thus warned and guided, Dubois and a company of friends, with guns, knapsacks, dogs and provisions, marched through the forest, a distance of twenty-six miles, to the place pointed out to them. Before reaching the camp, Dubois came suddenly upon an Indian, who, in attempting to shoot him, missed the notched in the end of this arrow, as he brought it to his bowstring, when Dubois, springing upon him, killed him with his sword without alarming the other Indians. They put off the attack on the Indiana camp until evening, with a view then to rush upon it with a loud shout, thus giving the impression that their party was a large one. As the dogs ranged ahead, and the Indians saw them, they cried, "White Man’s Dogs," and hearing the shouts of the men, they fled. The captives, alarmed with the rest, and not knowing who they were that were coming upon them, fled with the Indians, until Dubois pursuing his wife, and calling her by name, she with the others turned back. When they approached the camp, Mrs. Dubois had been placed by the Indians on a pile of wood, to be burned at the stake, and, preparatory to this, was singing of the captive Jews, as, by the rivers of Babylon, they hung their harps upon the willows, and sat themselves down and wept. And we may well suppose, that with the eye of faith looking upwards to a heavenly home, which then seemed so near, and to which, as she thought, she was so soon to ascend, her music, in those forest depths, had in it heavenly harmony; softened and enriched by the tender love an sympathies of earth. Nor is it strange, that even savage hearts, softened, charms, and awed by such music, and by such high-wrought and heroic fortitude in the near view of death, should have urged her again and again to sing her song of plaintive melody, and of high and holy hope and trust in God, until, when she looked not for it, that deliverance came, which, but for her continues singing, would have been to late. There is indeed much of unwritten history, quite as true and of far higher interest than are large portions of that which the world believes, and over which it joys or weeps.

It is said, that the knowledge gained of the country around, by those who went on this expedition, led the Huguenots to select the banks of the Walkill as their future home, and to settle there. The deed given by the Indians to the Huguenots, of the lands of New Paltz, is dated May 2, 1677, for which the Indians received forty axes and the same number of kettles, forty adzes, forty shirts, four hundred strings of white beads, three hundred strings of black beads, fifty pairs of stockings, one hundred bars of lead, one keg of powder, one hundred knives, four quarter-casks of wine, forty jars, sixty splitting or cleaving knives, sixty blankets, one hundred needles, one hundred awls, and one clean pipe. The land thus purchased was twelve miles square, and extended from the Shawangunk Mountains to Hudson River. Some families removed there early in 1677.

The Huguenots were three days in removing through the forest from Kingston to New Paltz, a distance of sixteen miles. The Eltinges, of New Paltz, are said to have been of Dutch descent. One of the Eltinges of Kingston, having married a Dubois, removed with his wife’s relatives to their new home.

Edmund Eltinge, Esq., in the "Ulster County Historical Collection for 1860," give the maiden name of the wife of Louis Dubios as Catherine Blanshan, instead of Catherine Lefever, and states that three women, wives of residents of Kingston, were with her when she was freed from captivity. He says that the Indian who gave directions as to where to find the captives was a man of some standing among them, who had been taken captive by the whites, and was detained by them as a hostage while Dubois and his friends were absent. He further states that the Psalm sung was the 137th in the Dutch collection, beginning thus:

"By Babel’s stream the captives sate,
and wept for Zion’s hapless fate;
Useless their harps on willows hung
While foes required a sacred song."

As connected with the tradition above, we find in the list of captives taken by the Indians in June, 1663, the wife and three children of Louis Dubois. After that, a Wappinger Indian, who was a prisoner, was asked if he would guide them to the fort of the Esopus Indians; and he answered, "Yes." As for six months or more after the massacre, prisoners, in small numbers at a time, were in various ways often recovered from the Indians, as appears from Krugier’s Journal and other early records, there seems to be nothing but the silence of early written history to disprove the tradition above. As peace was not finally made with the Indians until May 16, 1664, nearly a year after the massacre, during all autumn of 1663, the Indians were at times hovering around Kingston, and soldiers went to the fields with laborers to protect them in securing the crops. Under date of October 11, we read that Louis the Walloon, that is, Huguenot (meaning Dubois), went for his oxen, when three Indians attacked him, one of whom slightly wounded him with an arrow, and tried to seize him, but Dubois struck him with a piece of paling, and escaped through the kill or creek. Dubois was afterwards first elder of the church in New Platz.

It is said that the family name of Dubois at one time was very near becoming extinct in Ulster County, inasmuch as there was a New Paltz but one family of that name, in which, though there were seven daughters, there was but one son. As also there was then no church nearer than Kingston, a distance of sixteen miles, children were taken there to be baptized. It is related that as the father and mother of this only son were returning from his baptism, their team and sleigh, in crossing the creek, broke through the ice, and they, with their horses, were drowned; the mother having thrown her infant on a floating cake of ice, from which it was rescued, and its life saved. In 1744, Johannes Decker, of Sawangunk (pronounced Shone-gum), while going to or returning from the baptism of his child, was lost, with his horses and a negro who came to help him,--his horses having broken through the ice,--while his wife and child were saved.

Rev. Dr. Stitt of Kingston, for many years pastor of the church referred to above, relates in the Ulster County Historical Collections" that it was organized January 22, 1683, by Rev. Peter Duelle, under the title of the congregation of the "Walloon Protestant Church." The Rev. Peter Pierret came here in 1697, and received twenty pounds yearly from the colonial government. The preaching and church records were at first in French. From 1700 to 1730 there was a transition from French to Dutch, there being then no regular preaching, but Dutch ministers came from Kingston and Albany to baptize, marry, and administer the Lord’s Supper. In 1720 their second church was built of stone. It was small, and had a large window on each side, a steep, pointed roof, and a small cupola on the top. Where a horn was blown to call the people to service. It is still standing, and is used as a school-house. In due time the preaching became English instead of Dutch. Rev. Dr. Peltz, the present pastor of the church, writes me that "the church records are in French, Dutch, and English; that, as the early dwellers there did not cheat the Indians, they had no wars with them; that they never let a lawyer live among them (though they would have tolerated witches and Quakers), and refused to have the county seat there because of its association." There are we think, few flourishing towns of two thousand habitants, which, on the ground of a regard for the morality of the place, would have refused such an offer.

May 21, 1667, the Fox Hall Patent to a large tract of land in the south part of Ulster County, discovered during the Indian War of 1663, was issued to Thomas Chambers, who had been active in that war. He had before lived on a tract of land where Troy now is, which he had rented for the Patroon, Van Rensselaer. He removed to Esopus in 1652, where he acquired a large estate which he tried to entail by will to his family, but it passed out of their possession before the Revolutionary War.

During the Revolutionary War, the out-settlements in Ulster County were much exposed to attacks by the Indians, and were most of them destroyed or abandoned. The towns on the river, too, were all taken by the British; and, in 1777, most of them were pillaged and burned. General Vaughan, with a force of three thousand men, was sent up the river with a view to aid General Burgoyne. For ten days after passing the Highlands, his troops were employed in plundering and burning towns they took. October 17, after plundering Kingston several hours, they burned every house in it but one. These houses, however, like most of those early built by the Dutch, in the valley of the Hudson, had strong, thick walls of stone, so that they suffered by little from fires, and their woodwork as easily replaced. The Provincial Congress and the State Legislature held several sessions in Kingston during the war and soon after, and the first Constitution of the State was formed there. The First State Convention adjourned from Fishkill to Kingston on the approach of the British in 1777, and October 7 of that year the State Legislature is session was dispersed by the approach of Sir Henry Clinton and the British troops. When Kingston was burned, it was the third town in the State in size, elegance, and wealth, New York and Albany alone being in advance of it.

In 1778, two men named Andreson and Osterhout, of Ulster County, were taken by the Indians. When within one day’s march of Niagara, Andreson relieved himself and his companion from their bonds at night when the Indians were asleep. They killed the Indians, except two squaws, who escaped, and took the provisions, spoils, and guns of the Indians, and returning some four or five hundred miles through the woods, reached home in seventeen days, killing game by the way for food. They we much weakened and reduced by hunger and fatigue, but greatly rejoiced at their escape.

In May, 1779, Colonel Butler, with forty rangers, burned four houses and five barns in Fantinekill, murdered six persons, and three or four more were supposed to have been burned in their houses. Colonel Van Cortland pursued them, and twice came in sight of them as they were crossing the tops of distant hills, but could not overtake them. When he turned back from pursuing them, they fell upon Woodstock, made a few prisoners, carried them away to Canada, burned several houses, and committed other depredations. It was at this time, probably that Miller and Short, elsewhere spoken of in this work, were carried away.

It is said that in the spring of 1780 an atrocious raid was made by a party of Indians and tories, with a view to seize Thomas and Johannes Jansen, wealthy men of Shawagunk; and that some of their negroes and neighbors were made prisoners, a Miss Mack and her father, with a young lady, on a visit from New York, killed, houses plundered and barns burned. It is also stated that some of the same party took the Snyders, of Saugerties, prisoners; but it will be seen from their narrative that they were carried away before this raid against the Jansens.

In the town of Wawarsing, are peaks of the Catskill Mountains, from two to three thousand feet high. A large party of Indians and tories, under one Caldwell, appeared in this town August 12, 1781. They had intended to attack Napanock, by having learned that it was defended by a cannon, they went to Wawarsing, where there was a stone fort. Two men and a young woman discovered them before they reached the fort; it being early in the morning; and the woman succeeded in closing the door of the fort just in time to shut out the Indians. They found it dangerous to make an attack, and the next day withdrew, having burned five or six houses, several barns, and a gristmill, and loaded themselves with spoil. A number of lives were lost on both sides, and much property destroyed and carried away.

John Vanderlyn, the celebrated painter, was born in Kingston, late in the last century. Until near twenty-one he was an apprentice to a wagon-painter. Some of his drawings have been shown to Aaron Burr, while at a tavern in the village, he sent him to Europe, where, in 1808, he received a gold medal, offered by the Emperor Napoleon for the best original picture, at the exhibition of the Louvre, through twelve hundred paintings were exhibited by European artists. This painting was "Marius on the Ruins of Carthage," now in the possession of Bishop Kip, of California. In 1842, he painted the "Landing of Columbus," now in one of the panels of the Rotunda of the Capitol at Washington, for which he received twelve thousand dollars. It is inferior to his earlier works. He was then old and broken in spirits. He died in poverty in Kingston, in 1850, where he was buried in the Wiltwyck Cemetery.

The Delaware and Hudson Canal, which brings vast quantities of coal from the mines at Carbondale, Pennsylvania, enters the Hudson River at Rondout, from whence it is shipped to all parts of the United States. In the year 1818, water-limestone was discovered by accident on the line of the Erie Canal by an engineer named White, who was employed there; and it was afterwards found in large quantities along the line of the Delaware and Hudson Canal (about the time it was commenced), from Rondout, to some twenty miles along and near the line of the canal. The manufacture of water cement now employs one thousand men and one million dollars of capital. In 1859, there were fifteen manufactories of cement in the county. One company at Rondout manufactures seventy thousand barrels of cement annually, and another ninety thousand. Five manufactories in the town of Rosendale produce each year two hundred and forty-one thousand barrels, one hundred and twenty-five thousand of which are manufactured by a single company. The cement trade in the county amounts to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. The Newark Lime and Cement Manufacturing Company, organized in 1848, has two manufactories in Newark, New Jersey, and one at Rondout, where the limestone is quarried, producing seven hundred and fifty thousand barrels annually.

***A lead-mine was worked near Ellenville, without profit, more than forty years since; and another was opened in 1837, in the south part to the county, six hundred or seven hundred feet above the valley below. Millstones of an excellent quality were formerly quarried in large quantities ten miles from the river, and small ones are still made there. In Marlborough, fifteen thousand wheelbarrows and forty thousand dollars’ worth of agricultural implements are manufactured annually. In the town of Olive are four large tanneries, one of which produces seventy thousand sides of oak-tanned sole-leather annually. Shokan Point in this town is three thousand one hundred feet high. In the town of Shandaken two hundred thousand sides of leather are manufactured annually.

In Saugerties, the Ulster Iron Works employ three hundred men, night and day, and manufacture six thousand tons of paper annually. The White-Lead Works employ forty men, and manufacture fifteen hundred tons of paint each year. About two thousand men are employed in this town in quarrying, dressing, and shipping stone, and about five hundred thousand dollars’ worth of stone is annually shipped from Glasco, Maden, and Saugerties, all of them ports in the town of Saugerties. Large quantities of gunpowder are also manufactured in Saugerties and Kiskatom, The old Dutch church, built of stone in 1732, in Kaatsban, in the north part of Saugerties, and the ancient oaks near it, are objects of peculiar, antique attractiveness and interest.

Ulster county contains 1204 square miles, and in 1860 produced 847,549 bushels of grain, 64,795 tons of hay, 134,539 bushels of potatoes, 397,754 bushels of apples, 1,669,631, pounds of butter, and 520 pounds of cheese. Population of the county, 67,936, there being 1,576 more males than females in this number.


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