Olden Time - Chapter Fourteen
The Location of the Early Business Places
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin. From the book entitled, "Ye Olden Time, as compiled from the Coxsackie News of 1889" written by Robert Henry Van Bergen, together with notations by Rev. Delber W. Clark, and edited by Francis A. Hallenbeck, 1935
The First Postmaster, Ferry and Tavern—The Location of the Early Business Places—A Noted Fox Hunter—The First House "On the Hill"—Old Residents—River Captains—Early Carpenters and Blacksmiths—Landing of New York and Albany Boats.
The first postmaster of Coxsackie Landing, in the writer’s recollection, was Ralph Barker, who built the house in which he lived—the present residence of Miss Heermance. *( The Heermance Library.) When Joshua Spencer was a young man, he was a carpenter by trade and worked on that house. He afterwards studied law, and was among the most celebrated lawyers of central New York. The post-office was in Barker & Kirtland’s store, corner of main and River streets. Dolan now occupies that site as a liquor house. George Keith, a native of Cairo, Greene county, was his successor. The office was then located at his store—the place now occupied by Collier & Wolfe. All through their terms of office the whole bulk of letters and papers, placed as they were in 26 pigeon-holes corresponding with the letters of the alphabet, in the office for distribution, at any time would not fill a peck basket. In the interval, between the incumbency of Keith and Henry Heermance, there were several changes in the office. Gilbert Bedell, Joseph Libby, Capt. Demming and Fred Dederick were appointed postmasters, but their incumbency was for a brief period only.
The first ferry was run by William Judson. He was followed by Jerry Gay, who after a time bought a farm in Columbia county. His residence was located on the bank of the river, just diagonally south of Coxsackie. Benjamin Tryon succeeded Gay, and his successors, in the order named, were William R. Mead, Jacob Shaver, Reuben Hale, Roberts, and Reed and Silvester as partners.
The first tavern was built by William Judson on the site of the New Eagle hotel *(New Eagle, now Odd Fellows’ Temple.) now conducted by William Cumming. Daniel D. Tompkins, one of the old time governors of the state of New York, was frequently a guest at that place. Judson was followed by Hazard; Hazard by Jason Mapes; Mapes by William Mayo; Mayo by Charles Backus; Backus was succeeded by Manchester and Church and Knowlton and others.
Horace Benjamin opened a tavern about the year 1842 on the site of the house now belonging to the estate of Nelson Larabee, and Charles Backus kept a tavern before 1840 on the site now occupied by Washbon as a meat market. He was followed by Clement, and Thorn followed Clement.
Godfry, who came from Long Island, had a tavern early in the century on the corner now occupied by Alexander Cumming *(The Martin Building, corner of River and Reed Streets.) as a hotel. He also owned the Sherman house diagonally opposite. Godfry was followed by G. W. Dorman and Dorman by Buckingham and others not now remembered.
In this connection perhaps it may be well to locate the business men and their several places of business, principally along Main street, between fifty and sixty years ago.
Barker and Kirtland’s store was, as we have before written, located on the corner of Main and River streets, the place now occupied by Dolan as a saloon. Patrick Stephenson next west kept a store on the site now occupied by S. H. Van Dyck *(R. H. V. B. jumped several buildings. S. H. Van Dyke was at 11 Reed St.) as a shoe store. Next site was occupied by Felix Andoye, a barber of Spanish descent and a noted character in his day. He emigrated to Coxsackie at an early day from some island of the Atlantic and brought with him a number of "No-haired dogs" indigenous to the climate from whence he came. He was familiar with the dialect of three languages. Married a Mulatto. His second wife was a pure and unadulterated negress. Hunt and Nelson’s office and Hoag’s store and Peter Fitchett & Camel’s place of business were next in the order named, all on the property owed by Horace Hart, who came to Coxsackie in 1830 from Westerlo, Albany Co., and now in the possession of Winslow Case. Palmer had a dry goods store on the site owned by A. G. Case. Smith and Heermance occupied the store now owned by Mrs. Gilbert Lusk, of Catskill, and now occupied by Wells Brown. George Keith’s place of business was on the site now occupied by Collier and Wolfe *(Collier and Wolfe’s was at 47 Reed Street; Sawyers’s Store.) The printing office of H. Van Dyck and afterwards the newspaper office of Thomas B. Carroll was next and on the angle of Main street as it was before the great fire in the year 1854. Wright had a jeweler’s shop and beyond that, where O. Lampman’s store now is, Abner Wakely lived. After a fire, which occurred in the year 1852, he built the brick edifice now known as the Commercial building, which was let for a dwelling and law office and afterwards occupied by Lasher and Meyer as a dry goods store. Dr. Collier’s drug store was occupied by Silas Holbrook as a butcher shop. On the south side of Main street was Godfry’s tavern, now the site of a hotel conducted by A. Cumming. Next was Reed’s brick store, now Church’s hardware store. Beattie’s shoe shop adjoined. Next was a hotel kept by Charles Backus, that site is now occupied by the meat market *(Washbon’s meat market was the store at present occupied by Gus Ritz, 18 Reed Street.) of Washbon. Hunt and Nelson had a freighting office in the building owned by Hallock and now used for the storage of grain and flour. Robert Kinnicut had an eating house adjoining, now Clark’s store. Next was located Dr. Dorman’s drug store and adjoining the drug store was the merchant tailor shop of Richard Van DenBerg and on the corner, where the Winans building now stands, Moses Powell had an eating house and his father. "Quaker Jno. Powell," as he was called, had a wind-mill on Reed and Powell’s wharf.
A brief summary now of some of the old residents and the places where they lived will suffice for this paper.
Capt. Dobson, who came from Athens and was a partner of George Reed in 1840, lived in the house now owned by Mrs. Dr. Jackson.
Capt. Deming, who was a steamboat pilot on the Hudson all through his business life, lived in the house adjoining the hotel property or Wm. Cumming.
Wm. Kempton was one of the early settlers in Coxsackie, came from Long Island, kept a store for some time and lived on the place now occupied by W. K. Reed. He was a noted fox hunter and had a kennel of several hounds. He died with cholera in the year 1832. Tennis Cochran was another early settler. He was a carpenter by trade, lived opposite the residence of O. F. Wright. He gradually amassed a sufficient amount to buy a farm on one hundred acres or more which was productive and vainable. The evergreen woods are held, was included in that farm.
Dr. Jno. Ely, of Newry, Albany Co., afterwards in Greenville Co., came to Coxsackie early in the century. He built the first house "on the hill," *(Residence of Leonard Bronk: Ely Farm.) as it was then called, the same dwelling occupied by Leonard Bronk in his life time and now owned by his daughter, Mrs. Lewis Lampman. Dr. Ely’s friends tried to dissuade him from building a house on such an elevated place—such an exposed location, claiming that the high west winds of the winter would tumble his home over the bank towards the river. He was not dissuaded however from his original plan, but as a security against the fury of the winds the house was sheathed with two inch plank well spiked on with wrought iron nails and then sided or clapboarded in the usual way.
Eli Hunt, in 1840, built the brick house now occupied by O. Lampman. *(Obediah Lampman lived at 31 Ely Street.)
Captain Kempton, as he was generally known, was clerk of the steamboat Dewitt Clinton and built the house on the corner of New and Ely streets, no owned by the Misses Parslow.
Capt. Truesdell, of the steamer South America, a mail boat, lived on Lafayette ave., in the house now occupied by the Wakely family. *(The Wakely family lived at 10 Lafayette Ave.)
Robert Brown, a Scotch-Irishman, was here an early settler and established a foundry on the site of the residence of the late Charles Bouton, attorney at law. He afterwards moved his family over the way to the building lately occupied by Parker and Salisbury in the lumber trade.
The early carpenters were David Van Wie, Henry Mackie, Dan Cumming, James Smith, Benjamin Tryon. The first job undertaken by Benjamin Tryon, after the expiration of his apprenticeship with James Smith, was the building of a house for Horace Hart.
The Beattie brothers were also early at Coxsackie. George was a cooper and his place of business was south of the "Olympic" on River street. William was a blacksmith and had a shop on the east end of the house lot now owned by W. R. Church. Benjamin F. was always a boatman on the Hudson.
Jno. Holton, who died on Long Island, had a shoe shop on River street on lot No., 21 and George Beattie occupied the adjoining lot No. 20 of a grant of land under water surveyed by Jno. Bartlett in the year 1810 and relocated by Abm. Van Dyck in the year 1820.
Steward Austin, who died from cholera in the year 1849, started the first livery at Coxsackie Landing. He was followed by James Wilson, Jno. F. Sharp and Cal Searles and Smith and Hamilton is the order names.
Silas Wood occupied the Olympic for a time. He was followed by Abner Wakely and Wakley was followed by Hiram Livingston.
James Wilson was a blacksmith doing a large business at the stand now occupied by Fred Page. He lived on or near the Malleable Iron Works and afterward on the site of Dr. Van Slyke’s residence.
Henry Hollister was also engaged in blacksmithing for years. His shop was just south of the Methodist church.
Mr. Van DenBerg was engaged in the harness and saddle trade and occupied the old printing house of Carroll. Gillette was also thus engaged before 1840 on the south side of Main street.
Robert Carter was the first undertaker and general cabinet maker. He was followed by Buckhardt who died from cholera in Coxsackie.
James Smith and William Van Note were tanners and curriers and their yards were located near Fred Page’s blacksmith.
Jno. Bedell, 60 years ago, had an office on Baker’s wharf at the Lower Landing where the public sampled liquors and segars and furnished lodging for river travelers. The New York steamers landed their passengers all along the river by small boats or yawl at that time and Bedell was employed to take and fasten the line when the yawl came to the wharf. He exacted a fee of ten cents from every passenger who took passage on the steamboat, which probably was his compensation for his services. The steamboats of that day never came to the wharf. The passengers who landed were transferred to a yawl which always hung on the davits at the side of the steamer when not in use. Whenever a landing was to be made the yawl was lowered by a hook and tackle arrangement at the bow and stern to the water and by a step ladder from the guards of the boat the passenger descended into the yawl. The steamer then slowing up and passing beyond the wharf gave propulsion to the yawl by a line attached to the bow, and the captain by rudder directed the boat to the wharf. Freight was not carried on that time by the New York and Albany steamboats, not even between the terminal points.
The question has often been asked why the steamboats of that day did not come to at the wharf as they do now. That question is perhaps fully answered by the statement that the wharfs were not at that early period built and constructed as solidly and substantially as now. They were in fact only used by sail vessels and there was absolute danger especially when freshets and high tides occurred of some damage to the steamer. Fenders and other appliances along the face of the wharf to protect vessels were not then in use.
The above article, Mr. Editor, although very fragmentary, we trust will be none the less acceptable to the general public.
Another paper, taking in some of the representative men of the Middle Landing, reference to whom has hitherto been omitted, will perhaps finish this series. Other papers to follow will include the Upper Landing.