Olden Time - Chapter Thirteen
Levi Freligh; Some Notes of his Life
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
Levi Freligh; Some Notes of His Life and What He Has Done In Coxsackie—The Manufacture of Brick in the Past—Twenty Yards in Operation At One Time—Some Early History of the Coxsackie Bank—W. V. H. Heermance.
In continuation of our narratives of the freighters who were in the transportation business at Coxsackie fifty years ago, we have only the name of Mr. Levi Freligh, who is yet a hale and hearty man in the 82nd year of his age. And although a very busy man all his life, is yet preserved with all his mental faculties unimpaired.
He was a carpenter by trade up to his 28th year. He came to Coxsackie from Malden about the year 1840. At Malden he was employed in the freighting business or trade at New York City. He carried the first sloop load of flag-stone from that place to the city, but his principal freight was leather and hides. At Coxsackie he opened a store on the site now occupied by Stephen Hallock as a grocery, and in a short time revolutionized the store trade of Coxsackie. Up to this time the principle trade of the town was monopolized by the merchants at the Upper Village---T. W. Gay, W. V. B. Adams, W. S. Stoutenberg and others. But by Mr. Freligh’s enterprise and conduct of the business, he gradually set in motion the trade current to Coxsackie Landing and it has been flowing in that direction up to the present time. By way of itemizing the extent of his business we note the fact that he sold during the first year in business about four thousand bushels of salt, forty odd hogsheads of molasses, twelve bales of buffalo robes, equal to one hundred fur muffs, twelve cases of cloaks, equal to seventy-two clocks, and all classes of goods usually found in a country store, in proportion. Even merchants from Greenville, Norton Hill, Chesterville and other villages, when they had occasion in the fall of the year to go to New York, to buy goods, would give him a call on their way to the city, examine his goods, note his prices and often return and make their purchases at his place. Mr. Freligh bought largely at auction and was thus often able to undersell the New York jobbers.
He was thus engaged in trade for about five years. He then bought the wharf owned by Peter Hubbel, now called the "stone dock" and build thereon a store house and was engaged in the freighting business about two years. His storehouse was burned at that time and he discontinued the business and engaged with Hunt & Nelson as captain of the barge Jefferson for two years. He afterward ran a steamer from Albany to New York for three years and during the summer season of those years ran his boat as an excursion boat to points near New York. He was in fact the pioneer, the first to engage in that enterprise in New York harbor. In reviewing the items of a busy life, as above recorded, we may well congratulate the man on the fact that he has lived a long life of average good health and is able today to enjoy the fruits of his labor, living in retirement in his handsome mansion of the hill.
In coming now to the several industries of the town it may be safely written that the manufacture of brick, at an early day, mostly for the New York city market, was among or one of the most important. It gave at once an impetus and importance to the business and growth of the place which we as inhabitants have seen slow to recognize. It made a leverage which added materially to the business of the people in many ways.
Men of push and enterprise, from the eastern states mainly, who were engaged in the manufacture of brick at home, soon foresaw that the production of brick at the yards near New York city would in a short time be inadequate or fail to supply that city with building material and with characteristic sagacity they located gradually all along the clay hills of the upper Hudson where there was abundant material, both clay and sand, for the manufacture of brick and an inexpensive mode of transportation of the same to New York and adjacent cities. At the same time a number of our own citizens were engaged in brick making. So that altogether many brick years were in successful operation for many years. Some in time discontinued, some enlarged and others started anew. This work was pushed for many years with more or less success, but at last, through competition and perhaps failure of raw material, the business has declined, and but two or three remain in business in Coxsackie. A brief account of the location of yards, and the owners by whom they were managed, may perhaps be interesting to some.
Patrick Stephenson, who came from the east, owned the yard located near the Methodist church., he lived in the house now owned by Mrs. Jay Adams. *(Mrs. Jay Adams lived at 7 Ely Street. Now occupied by Francis Worden.) Silas Holbrook and his successor Madison Parker ran a yard on the site of the present Malleable Iron Works. They lived in the double house opposite the blacksmith shop of Fred Page. *(Fred Page’s blacksmith shop was at 49-51 Mansion Street; large frame building opposite home of Hiram Gates.) Samuel King’s yard was located east the dwelling house which he occupied up to his death. Olney F. Wright ran the yard south of the residence of Dr. Greene, now a fruit yard. Nathan Hubbel’s yard was located on New Street and afterwards occupied by Jno. B. Bronk, Henry Wolfe occupied a site west of his house and west of the highway. He lived in the house occupied by David Van Wie. French had a yard west of his home which is now occupied by J. Cuyler Vosburg. P. W. Van Bergan and Abm. Vosburg had yards south of the Methodist church and east of the highway. Peter Hubbel, Arthur Beattie and Capt. Isaac Smith each had yards on their respective properties. James Wilson and his successor Henry Mackey occupied the yard now run by Cooper & Bell, near Dr. Van Slyke’s residence. Joseph Wells, Isaac Van Schaack and Jno. Walker also had yards in the south part of towns.
Thus we find that there was in operation at about the same period of time near the Middle Landing (the yards at Upper Landing will be noticed in a following article) some twenty brickyards, manufacturing at least fifty millions of bricks yearly, employing twenty-five sloops for transportation, hosts of men in different grade of labor on the yard, many men and teams hauling the brick from yard to vessel, and beside many engaged chopping cord wood all over the country and drawing the same with teams to their respective yards. Good hard wood delivered on the yards was worth about four dollars per cord. Board of men about the village ten dollars month. The price of man and team two dollars and fifty cents a day. Brick at the same time in New York three and a half and four dollars per thousand and the wages of the best men one dollar per day. We will now refer, at the request of some parties, to some matters about the Coxsackie bank---something of its early history.
W. V. B. Heermance was, in a sense, father of the Coxsackie bank. It was through his efforts in great part that a bank was here organized in the year 1852. He contributed liberally towards the capital (being in fact the largest stockholder) and induced his wealthy friends abroad, particularly the "Brother’s Judson" in the city of Syracuse and others in that locality to subscribe largely so that the largest share of the stock, when finally subscribed, was owned abroad. Heermance was the first president and there probably was not in the town at that time an abler or more conservative man for the place. He was literally a self made man; was in early life a justice of the town for many years; was later on elected to the office of County Clerk and re-elected so that he held the office continuously for nine years. He was a great reader in his day, of standard literature particularly, but was as well fully posted in the current literature of the time. He fully digested and remembered all he read and was on the whole one of the most enterprising men conversationally the writer ever met. He cultivated alike the fine and useful arts and was thus able not only to please but to instruct practically as well. As president of the bank he was seldom absent from the institution for a day. Always on hand, noticing every detail of business. Sometimes giving a word of caution and advice when it seemed to be necessary and then again some times protesting vigorously against some management which he considered on the whole not to be for the best interests of the bank. He continued in the discharge of his duties as president up to the year 1866. He knew that a clique had been forming for some time among the directors and officials which seeded to have for its final object to make a sort of family machine of the institution and one of the first steps among others, by the way of promoting and accomplishing the end in view, was the displacement of the president, thus making an opening for the appointment of one of their own number. The Board of Directors did not care to ask for his formal resignation nor yet to propose or discuss in regular meeting the propriety of the election of a new president for they well knew that a large majority of the stockholders in regular annual meeting, if the election of a new president had been proposed, would have re-elected Mr. Heermance. To accomplish their ulterior designs however, they sometimes collectively, sometimes individually and always when a proper occasion occurred, would by their actions towards and personal intercourse with him, at last leave an unmistakable impression on his mind that they looked forward in the near future to much longed for opportunity to accept his resignation.
The old gentleman finally succumbed to circumstances. He was growing old, the shadows of life were lengthening behind him and the general infirmities of age were gradually creeping over him. He now considered his relations with the bank officials as very strained and unfriendly. A serious grievance and cause of uneasiness and complaint.
He brooded over it for a time and at last, after a conference with his friends, he concluded to sever his official relations with the bank and accordingly sent in his formal resignation to the Board of Directors and very soon thereafter withdrew a large portion of his stock from the bank.
The bank then run along nearly one year with the vice president acting as president. The annual election of the stockholders then occurred, in the year 1867, for the office of president. There were two candidates in the field, the one proposed by Heermance, the Judsons and their friends, the other by the clique first written about. The election was hotly contested. The vote of the proxy of every stockholder was solicited by the candidates or their friends. In the early morning of the day of election it was well known before the deposit of a ballot which candidates must be elected. But in the course of the canvass, a proxy, which had been placed in the hands of Mr. Wm. Farmer (100 shares) in the interest of one of the candidates, was withdrawn by the owner, a gentleman then living at Durham, Greene County, New York, and finally deposited by the owner himself for Jacob C. Van Dyke, and this diversion of one hundred votes from one side to the other, together with other small changes accomplished as it was by much button holeing, wineing and champagning, made J. C. Van Dyke president.
It is well in this place to state that this short account of some of thinner history of the Coxsackie bank, although not a matter of the Olden Time, having occurred only some twenty odd years ago, is placed here in deference to the wishes of a few citizens who look upon it as an item of general information belonging to Coxsackie Landing and well worth recording in this series of papers.