Olden Time - Chapter
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
How Coxsackie Was to Have Been the County Seat, and How it Wasn’t—Personal Reminiscences.
When we commenced a series of old-time articles more than a year ago, we had very confident expectation that some abler pen, with perhaps better sources of information and fuller knowledge of the subject matter of these writings, might come to aid in a field of labor, surely very full of pleasant and interesting reminiscences. We know that the recollections of some of our fellow citizens are fuller and clearer than our own, and for that reason, in recalling "the olden times of Coxsackie", the result of their labors would have been perhaps more valuable and interesting, but in this we are disappointed.
Our articles hereafter will be personal reminiscences mainly, which, although limited to space of about 60 years, will be largely supplemented by a copious mass of traditional matter; and here let me say once for all, that although we have been sharply criticised for some statements made in former articles, which were entirely undeserved and uncalled for, we will continue in our personal accounts hereafter to record only what is well known to our older citizens, even although by so doing, we may come in contact here and there with some one’s pride of ancestry, someone’s self constituted claims to social position, founded mainly on the Almighty dollar. Our position in regard, curtly and shortly defined, will respect no man the more on account of the dollar, nor regard him any less on account thereof.
The successful efforts of our Board of Trade to introduce a new enterprise into our city, thereby infusing so far, new life and importance, and adding that much to the city’s growth, recall two prominent events which occurred in this town well onto a hundred yeas ago. I refer to the erection of the county buildings, the court house, the jail, the clerk’s office the alms house and the establishment of a botanical garden. It seems that Greene County was erected in the year 1800, taken from Albany County.
It then became necessary, of course, for Green County to select a site for the erection of the county buildings. Commissioners were selected by State authority to look over the boundaries of the new county for that purpose, and after a careful and diligent reconnoisance along the river, they finally chose Coxsackie, as on the whole presenting some advantage not found elsewhere, for the county buildings.
It became thereupon necessary to consult with the inhabitants of the town to obtain their views as to the locality of the buildings and at the same time ascertain in a general way, as nearly as might be, what aid and assistance, pecuniary or otherwise, might be volunteered, expected or offered by the people in aid of the enterprise.
The result of their labors in this direction was that the whole body of the people, with here and there an exception, heartily endorsed, the plan, and offers were at once made of sites for buildings, a free gift to the county, but notwithstanding all this ready acquiescence and voluntary offers of aid and support by the people, it became necessary, or seemed so to be, to get the encouragement, aid and support of a few of the most prominent individuals of the town, who as yet stood aloof—prominent because of their educational advantages and superior wealth. Among such men was Judge Leonard Bronk, who died in the year 1828. And it was on account of Judge Bronk’s counsel and objections and general influence, he being at that time the main capitalist of all this section of the country, that the whole thing was abandoned, and the town of Catskill was finally selected as the shire town of the county. The query then naturally arises, what was the nature or foundation of Judge Bronk’s opposition or objection to the plan? It is charitable to conclude that we, or some of us, occupying the standpoint of the Judge at that day early in the century, would perhaps have been influenced by the same motives.
He was a large capitalist, had hundreds of acres of real estate and was constantly adding onto his ownership by shrewd purchases and investments, and was withal a man well educated in the schools. He was not anticipating the growth and increase of population and the general progress and improvement of all the river-side towns along the Hudson for half century or more beyond his own life time. Who of us are today shaping our business relations for a period of time fifty years hence?
Change, change is written over everything. Building air castles is a very pleasant occupation for the mind, but this after all is a utilitarian age. We live in the present, and our final destiny is not far away. Ordinarily a generation or two ahead embraces about all that is uppermost in our thoughts about the future.
Judge Bronk, over all this country, was well and widely known as a man deeply inbued with the God-given gift of courteousness; well known for this disposition to entertain the wayfaring man always.
He occupied a solid position somewhat above his fellow citizens, and he might well anticipate that the location of the county buildings in the town of Coxsackie would of course introduce into the town from abroad very frequently an influx of people, judges, jurors, clients, and witnesses, many of them personal friends, and that on account of the limited accommodations for public entertainment on such occasions, he would, of course, living in his baronial castle on his estate near by, with a retinue of servants about him, be expected from time to time, to make an extraordinary draft on his general good nature by way of entertainment.
He did not look very kindly on a necessity of this kind, which was so clearly apparent to him, and for this reason only, it is stated, turned the cold shoulder to the general plan of locating the county buildings in Coxsackie. May 23, 1891 R. H. Van Bergen.
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