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Purling Received First Name from Old Iron Forges

By Grace Story Webber, Cairo Township Historian
Published in the Catskill Daily Mail July 31, 1952

Newspaper article courtesy of Linda Larsen. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin

(Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of articles on the early history of the Town of Cairo. The last article dealt with the first religious service in Cairo.)

We read in the History of Greene County, Vol. 1, by J. Van Vechten Vedder and confirmed by the Beers History, the following: "Purling, its baptismal name ‘The Forge,’ lies one mile south of Cairo village, reached by one of Cairo’s village—street highways. . ."

The Forge received its name from Enoch Hyde and Benjamin Hall of Litchfield, Conn., who about 1788 built an iron forge on the bank of the Shingle-kill. This little stream runs through a beautiful glen in the center of the village. They also built a few log houses around the forge or furnace and two of them became the church and school.

In 1884, Mr. Orrin Slater, then an old man, 81 years of age, who lived in Purling, attended school and religious services when a boy in the log-houses. Today no trace of any log cabin can be found in the town. The stone upon which rested the trip-hammer at the foot of the first fall is the only thing remaining of the old forge.

These buildings were on the property owned in 1884 by George Stoddard which was formerly known as the Joe Curtis place and today is the property of Mr. Howland of the Howland Lodge.

Two Brick Yards

When Mr. Hyde erected his first dwelling, he carried the slabs of timber on his back from the mill to his house, which he built himself. Before 1808, Mr. Hyde had two brick yards on his property on what in 1884 was known as the Alden farm and the Chichester place in 1950, on Route 145. Mr. Hyde seems to have had many and widely located interests. He was also known for the jokes which he played on his friends and neighbors. The following incident is related to him: "He called at the country store one day, which was kept by a man named Stone, and inquired of him what he would charge for a jug of rum. Stone replied one dollar. Hyde then procured a jug holding four or five gallons and handing him the money and the jug said: "here’s your dollar; fill it." This was rather more than Stone bargained for, but he kept his agreement and filled the jug. Instead of drinking it himself, Hyde buried it in his cellar, and several years after his death his friends found it under a stone on which the following inscription:- Beneath this stone a brown jug lies, Filled with New England rum. To treat Hyde’s friends ere he dies—God grant the time may quickly come."

A little later in the 1790’s another forge was built at the top of the falls just north of the present bridge, which was swept away by the flood. Mr. Hyde then built a grist mill which in 1857 was also swept away by the raging stream. It was rebuilt by Jonathan B. Webster. The next year it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt by John A Gallatin, afterwards owned by ex-Assemblyman Frank S. Decker.

Old Mill Converted

Today the Miss Wrights have converted this "Old Mill" into a very attractive gift shop and lunch room where one may sip a cup of tea or a glass of soda and dream of our pioneer fathers and mothers of the boys and girls who took life very seriously. Here, we may watch the foaming water cascade over the falls which once turned the mill wheels, that ground the grain, that fed the people. . .Who taught these children and what were their surroundings? Primitive, of course! Who preached the sermons, one of two hours in length? Did these people have foot-stoves and backs to benches? What became of the first church building in the township? Was this 1780 or earlier? We should be thankful that we know this much: that there was an early church and a school for our heritage.

Colorful Meetings

Some of the old residents of today remember attending the Camp Meetings" held in the "Pine Grove" on the property of Alpheus W. Wright, the great-grandfather of The Miss Wrights of Main St., and which is across the road from George Wenz’s. Pine Grove House of today just south of Main Street. According to reports these camp meetings were colorful and exciting. The grove is gone and only a few trees remain but the large flat rock, called the pulpit rock, is still there and what tales this rock could tell if it could but speak!

There were varied evangelists who preached here, some very good, some not so good, and some dramatic. The one best known was Mrs. Maggie Van Cott, who made her home with Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Schermerhorn who lived on Boss St., now the George H. Turner Funeral Home, when she was in this part of the country.

Mrs. Van Cott was pre-eminently among the women of her day. She was ordained as a minister of the Methodist Church, and much of her life was devoted to revival work. She went from one end of the country to the other and her converts are said to have numbered over 100,000. She had a commanding appearance, remarkable voice, and personal magnetism, with an appeal that was irresistible and which made her a great power for good. Mrs. Maggie Van Cott passed away in 1914 at her home at Catskill bordering on 90 years of age.

The people of The Forge have always been a sturdy people and while they had a church building for only a limited time they were very religious, traveling, even in the early days, great distances to attend the church of their choice, some going to Leeds to the Dutch Reformed Church, to Acra to the Presbyterian Church, or to Woodstock to the Catholic service.

Yes, our forefathers set us a good example. Are we following them in spirit as well as in letter?

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