Philip H. (Philip Henry) Smith.

General history of Duchess County from 1609 to 1876, inclusive online

. (page 19 of 41)
Online LibraryPhilip H. (Philip Henry) SmithGeneral history of Duchess County from 1609 to 1876, inclusive → online text (page 19 of 41)
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made of wood. The coals were drawn out upon the hearth,
in which their potatoes were roasted, and before which their
johnny-cake that staple of the early culinary department
was baked, on a board. At that time it was no uncommon
thing to see the children at play barefoot on the ice.

The old couple from whom the writer obtained these
particulars were firm believers in witches and ghosts. Near
this place, in former times, was a haunted house. In one of
the chambers a couple of lads went to bed one cold Decem-


ber night, and just as they had comfortably settled themselves
for a good nap, they were disturbed by the presence of some
thing hovering over them in the darkness. Pretty soon the
apparition grasped the blankets covering them, hauling them
upon the floor. The act was accompanied by a noise resemb
ling that of a brass kettle rolling upon a hard surface. As soon
as the boys could muster courage they recovered their blankets,
and again betook themselves to sleep. But again the appari
tion returned, with the same result as before. This was
repeated at intervals during the whole night, which so bothered
the boys that not a wink of sleep did they get before morning.

They also mentioned a witch, who flourished in the " good
old times of yore." A friend went on a visit to her house one
evening, taking with her a little child. The witch asked leave
to take the child in her lap, to which the mother consented.
Presently the babe began to cry. Nothing would avail to in
duce it to stop, and the mother was forced to return home.
The child continued to cry during the whole night, at times
violently ; but the next morning it fell into a gentle slumber.
It was thought that the witch had wrought a spell over the
child which caused its fit of crying. This witch afterward fell
into a quarrel at the dinner table with her spouse ; his ire was
aroused to such a pitch that he threw a knife which, entering
a vital part, put a period to her existence. He then threw her
upon the fire, where she was burned to a crisp. Her end was
a source of much rejoicing to the good people of the vicinity.

But if the old settlers were troubled with witches, a means
was provided whereby their evil machinations might be effec
tually avoided. This was by employing what were then de
nominated " witch doctors," who were reputed tc have great
skill in such matters. Their remedies did not consist of
useless drugs, or in prescribing unwholesome courses of diet,
which constitute the practice of other classes of physicians, but
in the more reasonable and efficacious observance of certain
rules, which the witch doctor would prescribe. Sometimes
under his direction the witch s designs might be circumvented


by strictly refusing to lend anything out of the house for a cer
tain number of days. Sometimes the same desirable results
could be brought about by repeating certain talismanic words,
or by nailing a horseshoe to a specified part of the house.
Some of these doctors are said to have acquired great wealth
and notoriety in the practice of their profession.

A society of Methodists was formed in this town about the
year 1790. Their house of worship was situated near the
present M. E. Church, not far from Milanville. It was a large
square building, two stories high, and was never painted. A
Quaker meeting house, built about the same time or previous,
stood near it. This was said to have had high posts and a
short roof in front, with a long roof in the rear, extending
nearly to the ground. It is asserted that Robert Thorn, a
.staunch old Quaker, used to go to this old church, with no com
panion but his dog,
and sit during the
stated hours of wor
ship. This was after

the congregation had
been almost depleted
by deaths and remov
als. A second church

" Lafayette House." was b u j} t near t ] ie s i te

of this, but both structures have been removed. There are
two M. E. Churches and a Christian Church in the town, in
-addition to those already mentioned.

Robert Thorn built a mill about two miles west of Lafa-
yetteville, which is perhaps the oldest in town. Buck s mill,
in the southeast part, is an old established concern.

The Lafayette House, situated in Lafayetteville, was built
about the time of the visit of the Marquis Lafayette to this
country, after whom it was named. This was an important
place of business before the railroads were constructed in this
vicinity, it being on the thoroughfare leading from Millerton,
-Ancram, and other points to the river.


Jacob Stall was at one time an extensive real estate owner
in the vicinity of Jacksons Corners, to whom the place owes
much of its growth and prosperity. A considerable portion of
this and the adjoining town of Pine Plains is held by leasehold
tenure, which has exerted an influence detrimental to the
growth and prosperity of the towns.

Previous to the Revolution, Lieutenant-Governor Clark
acquired title to large tracts of land in this vicinity. At the
breaking out of the war he espoused the cause of the Crown,
and soon afterward embarked for England. His son came
over and assumed control of the property, and professed to be
a Whig. At the close of that struggle, the Colonists having
been victorious, this son claimed the land, and was allowed to
retain possession, On making his will he saw fit to dispose of
much of the land in such a way that his heirs have not yet
been able to give a clear title. It has therefore been mainly
occupied by persons holding leases, sometimes for life, but
more generally for periods of but one year. Of cour-se a ten
ant has not the same incentive to improve the land as he would
have if owner of the soil ; as a result the farms are greatly im
poverished, and many places are nearly worthless. Man> of
the houses are badly out of repair, and hardly tenable, and the
vicinity wears an aspect of neglect and desolation. The barns
and outbuildings are not unfrequently thatched with straw,
with doors broken from their hinges, all bearing the impress of
age. In a few cases the tenant makes a good livelihood ; but
in the majority of instances he can barely provide subsistence
for his family, to say nothing of rent. Sometimes, rather than
leave the place, the tenant will mortgage his stock, in the hope
that something will turn up in his favor ; but he not unfre
quently finds himself at the end of the year stripped of his
goods and turned into the street. On the other hand, some
unprincipled tenants will not scruple to raise something on the
farm, turn it into cash, and move into other parts before the
landlord comes around after the rent. This system is greatly
prejudicial to all parties concerned.



was formed as a town, March 7, 1788. It
derives its name from its geographical position in the
) county. Milan was taken off in 1818, and Pine Plains
in 1823. A tongue of land nearly two miles wide
extends nearly four miles north of the remaining part of the town.
The surface is a hilly and broken upland. The Taghkanick
Mountains, extending along the eastern border, are rocky and
broken, and are from 1000 to 1200 feet above tide. The highest
point in the valley west of the mountains, forming the summit level
of the New York and Harlem Railroad, is 771 feet above tide.
Ten Mile River, the principal stream flows south, nearly
through the town. Shekomeko Creek flows north through the
west part. Indian Pond, on the east line, Round Pond near
the south part, and Rudds Pond, are the principal bodies of
water. The valleys have generally a gravelly and clayey soil ;
the hills in many places are rocky and fit only for pasturage.
Extensive beds of iron ore have been opened in the town.
Northeast Centre, Millerton, Spencers Corners, Coleman Sta-

* See page 49.

241 p


tion, Mount Riga, Shekomeko, Federal Store, and Oblong, are
hamlets. The pioneer settlers were mostly from Connecticut,
and located here from 1725 to 1730. The first religious
services were held by Moravian Missionaries, at an Indian
mission house near the north borders of Indian Pond. The
site of this mission house is yet shown on lands of Hiram

The Dakin ore bed was opened in 1846, by the proprietor,
who erected a furnace in the vicinity, and ran it until 1856.
The mine is at the foot of the Taghkanick Mountain, where it
makes a bend into Connecticut, about one-and-a-half miles
above the Salisbury mines. An extensive furnace is located
about one mile northwest of Millerton. A cupola furnace
was erected here for the manufacture of car-wheels. A slate
company was formed in this town in 1812. In 1851, there
was no house where the thriving village of Millerton now
stands. Baltus Lott and Adam Showerman first settled in
the south part of the town.

The following are extracts from the early town records of
Northeast :

Pursuant to an Act of the Legislature of the State of New
York, passed March 26, 1823, for dividing the towns of Amenia
and Northeast, in the County of Duchess, and erecting a new
town therefrom by the name of Northeast, and directing the
first Town Meeting to be held at the house of Alex. Neely in
said town ; a Town Meeting was held at the house of the
aforesaid Alexander Neely, in the town of Northeast, on the
ist day of April, 1823, Reuben B. Rudd, one of the Justices
of the Peace for the County of Duchess, residing in said town,
presiding : The above mentioned act was read ; Enos Hop
kins was chosen Moderator, and Charles Culver and Alanson
Culver, Clerks for the day. The following are the by-laws and
regulations passed by the town of Northeast at the aforemen
tioned town meeting :

That $500 be raised for the support of the poor during the
ensuing year.

* See chapter on Pine Plains.


That the town elect three Assessors, four Constables, and
two Pound Masters for the ensuing year.

That a fence to be considered lawful shall be four and one-
half feet in height, and the materials shall be laid no more than
five inches apart for two feet above the ground.

That no hogs shall be suffered to run in the highway after
three months old, without a ring in the nose.

That proper persons shall be employed to run the line
between the towns of Amenia and Northeast, with proper
attendants, at the expense of the town.

That the Collector shall be allowed but three cents on the
dollar for collecting fees.

The following officers were duly elected officers of the town
of Northeast for the ensuing year, the ist day of April, 1823 :
Philo M. Winchell, Supervisor ; Platt Smith, Town Clerk
David Sheldon, Noah Brown, and Amos Bryan, Assessors ;
Jacob Dakin, Douglass Clark, and Hiram Hamblin, Commis
sioners of Highways ; Enos Hopkins and Eben Wheeler,
Overseers of the Poor; Wm. Park, Stephen B. Trumbridge,
and John S. Perlee, Commissioners of Schools ; John But-
tolph, Jun., Chas. Perry, and Peter Mills, Inspectors of Schools.

Voted, April 5th, 1825, that the Commissioners of Common
Schools, and the Inspectors of the same, shall be allowed a
compensation for their services for 1824.

Voted, April yth, 1829, that the town disapproves of uniting
with the county in the erection of a County Poor House.

The Dakin family came from Putnam County. Elder
Simon Dakin moved into this town about 1766, and formed
the first Baptist Church at Spencers Corners. He had three
sons Joshua, Caleb, and Simon ; also four daughters.
Another prominent family were the Winchells. Jas. Winchell
was a man of considerable property. He owned a farm and
mill, and was one of the principal men of the Baptist Church.
At his death, a portion of his estate was devised by will to the
church. His brother, Martin E. Winchell, was likewise a member.
Martin had represented his county in the Legislature, and was


# man of considerable note. Philo M. Winchell, another
brother, was a farmer, and had also occupied a seat in the
Legislature of the State. Major Abraham Hart well lived on
the farm occupied by Orville Dakin. Philip Spencer, ancestor
of the Spencers in this town, had three sons Ambrose, Philip,
and Alexander. Ambrose became a Judge; Philip was a
lawyer of some repute, and was at one time Clerk for the
County ; Alexander was a farmer, and once elected to a seat
in the Legislature.

Stephen Brown was a member of the Baptist Church. He
had three sons Joseph, Abner, and Ransom. Abner married
a daughter of Philo M. Winchell. The Lawrence family
descended from Uriah, who had one son named Martin. The
old gentleman was Justice of the Peace. A man was brought
before him and fined for swearing. He paid his fine, but
continued to swear, and the penalty was again imposed, and as
promptly paid. This was repeated until his friends took him
away from before the magistrate.

The ancestor of the Rudd family was Major B. Rudd,
who had four sons. One of them was a Justice in the town
of Northeast Josiah Halstead lived in this town on the farm
known as the Wilcox place. He was a prominent member of
the M. E. Church. He was a blacksmith, and worked at his
trade. Before the year 1800 he removed to Ancram, where
he engaged in agricultural pursuits. He had six sons and
three daughters, Benjamin, John, Samuel, Joel, Joseph and
James ; Betsey, Lavinia, and Nancy. John was a man of good
abilities, and studied for a physician under Dr. Dodge. He
once delivered a Fourth of July oration at the Mountain
Meeting House, near Col. Wincheli s.

Samuel Eggleston was a farmer who lived about one and a
half miles north of Millerton on the farm now owned by Noah
Gridley. He had three sons, viz : Nicholas, David, Samuel,
and seven daughters. Nicholas married Polly Stewart, by
whom he had seven sons: Truman, Ambrose, John, Albeit,
-Stewart, Hamilton, and Benjamin ; also one daughter, Martha,


who married Philip Jenks, a deacon of the Presbyterian
Church. Ambrose became a Presbyterian minister. John
was a physician, and the rema : ning sons were farmers. David
married Olive Cartwright. He took an active part in religious
meetings. Notwithstanding his earnest piety, he would some
times allow his temper to get the mastery, as in the following
instance :

He with several of his neighbors were on their way to
Poughkeepsie, each with a load of pork. They fell in with a
man of giant proportions, who felt his importance, and was
disposed to abuse the whole party. They soon met a wagon-
in which were two little boys. The big man locked wheels
with the boys, and then swung his whip, and uttered sucli
profane epithets as frightened them. David Eggleston, being
the nearest, came to their relief; and then, turning to the man
upbraided him for his ungentlemanly conduct. Thereupon the
fellow jumped out of his wagon for the purpose of giving
David a sound beating for thus presuming to meddle in his
affairs; but he soon found, to. his sorrow, that he had got the
wrong David, at whose hands he received a severe thrashing.

This was their first meeting. Their second occurred about
twelve years afterward, at an auction at Paine s Mill, a short
distance below Millerton, when the man said to David, " They
tell me you are the man that abused me so on the road to
Poughkeepsie." David, who was a little deaf, replied
"Abused you, did you say, or bruised you ; I remember of
bruising a man." " Well, both," wis the reply ; " you struck
me with a stone." " Oh, yes," said David ; and raising his
fist continued, " that s the stone I struck you with, it was an
Eggle-j/0/^." Two of David s grandsons are now Methodist

Elder John Leland was a Baptist preacher, and came from
the western part of Massachusetts. While living in Massa
chusetts, the people of his town made an immense cheese,
weighing some five hundred pounds, and commissioned Leland
to present it to Thomas Jefferson, then President of the United


States. He received it graciously, and in turn sent a piece of
it to the Governor of each State.

Joshua and Ephraim Hamblin owned the farm on which is
situated the Mount Riga ore-beds. Wm. Tonkey came
from France, and bought a large tract east of the center line
of the Oblong, extending northward to Boston Corners. He
had three sons, Daniel, Anthony, and Nicholas, and one
daughter. Nicholas was a singular character. He was a firm
believer in witches. They appeared to him in the shape of
cats, woodchucks, and fleas. He believed all women having
black eyes and black hair were witches. One Mrs. Hamblin,
who joined farms with him, was the worst of the whole lot.
This aged lady, then seventy-five years old, wished to go to the
house of a neighbor, and took a back road to avoid going by a
house in which some people were sick with the small-pox.
Tonkey met her, and cut her on the forehead so as to cause
the blood to flow, for the purpose, as he said, of breaking the
enchantment. It is supposed that he hid the money in the
rocks that Byron Bishop found a few years ago. His affair
with the old lady cost him several hundred dollars.

John and David Buttolph were brothers. The former was
an influential member in the M. E. Church. He had six sons,
viz : Asa ; Warren ; John, who was a Baptist minister, and
preached several years in this town ; Milton, a Methodist
preacher in the early part of his life, but who afterwards joined
the Presbyterians ; Morris, and David.

Elder Truman Hopkins for many years preached in the
Baptist Church of this town. He had three sons and two
daughters. The sons were named Enos, Truman, and Joseph.

The ancestors of the Ketcham family bought a tract of
five hundred acres in this town for five hundred pounds, a part
of which is now owned by the Egglestons and Sheldons.
Ketcham erected a mill on a small stream, the head of the
Oblong River. He also kept tavern. He had twelve child
ren. His son Noah became crazy, and cut his throat with a
razor, at Pine Plains. The razor was afterward in possession


of Josiah Halstead. Simeon Kelsey owned what is known as
the Camp farm, and was a man of considerable wealth. He
left three children, two sons and a daughter. To the latter, he
gave at his death his whole property, except ten dollars to
each of his sons.

Josiah Wilcox lived on the farm now occupied by Alanson
Culver. Jonathan Close came from Putnam County. He
had three sons, Jonathan, Reuben, and Solomon, and a
daughter that married a Williams, a gunsmith at Boston
Corners. Joel Rogers lived near Boston Corners.

Nathaniel Lathrop married a daughter of Elder Dakin, and
lived near Mount Riga Station. He moved from this town
before 1800.

Three brothers by the name of Culver came from France,
and settled in this country. Elisha Culver was a descendant
of one of the brothers, and settled near the old Baptist Church
at Spencers Corners. Both himself and wife were members
of the Episcopal Church. He was a Justice of the Peace
under King George. He used to draw up many of the legal
documents for the people. The family have preserved a deed
written by him which is dated 1764. He had three sons and
four daughters; Eiisha, Jun., Joseph, and John; Hannah,
Sarah, Martha, and Polly. Elisha had a son who became a
sea captain, and who died on the voyage from Batavia to
Philadelphia. John Culver became a Methodist preacher,
having been received into the church July, 1788. He was
licensed to exhort July, 1790, by Rev. John Bloodgood, and
was accepted as a local preacher by Rev. Freeborn Garrettson,
in August of the following year. When John Culver began to
preach there was no Methodist Church in this town. He held
his meetings in barns, school-houses, and private dwellings. He
preached in Ancram, Pine Plains, Milan, Copake, Hillsdale,
Mount Washington, Sheffield, Salisbury, Sharon, Canaan,
Amenia, and Stanford.

According to his Journal, he solemnized over two hundred
marriages, and probably preached over eight hundred funeral


sermons. He preached at the time of the epidemic in
Ancram, when the deaths averaged three a week. The Metho
dists then built their houses of worship very plain. When
about to erect one at Salisbury, they asked John M. Holley
to contribute for the purpose, who declared his willingness if
they would " build anything but a sheep pen." The society
have now two neat houses of worship in the town. In the
year 1807, and for some time thereafter, one traveling Metho
dist preacher supplied the following places with preaching once
a fortnight, viz : Pine Plains, Milan, Ancram (where they
built the first house of worship in that town), Copake, Hillsdale,
Amenia, Salisbury, Sharon, and Canaan.

Elisha Driggs was a tanner, and came from Middletown y
Conn., and lived on the James Halstead place. Thomas
Haywood moved on the George Dakin farm about the year
1802. He had five sons and nine daughters that grew to years
of maturity. Most of them were members of the Methodist
Church. The traveling minister used to preach at his house
once a fortnight. A resident of his vicinity died, who
bequeathed his property to a school district, to be expended
in the erection of a school-house. Haywood promised $50
more, provided they would build it large enough to hold
meetings in, which they did. This was in the year 1807, and
the building is yet standing, we believe.

Agrippa Martin lived on the David Eggleston farm. He
married a daughter of Elder Hopkins. Holley had two
sisters, who married, respectively, Philip Spencer and Elisha
Colver. Holley had four sons, Luther, Josiah, John and
Newman. Luther married a daughter of Elder Dakin, and
lived in Salisbury. He left five sons: John M. was a merchant,
and owned a furnace at Salisbury ; Edward O. was Sheriff of
Columbia County; Newman was a farmer ; Horace became a,
Presbyterian minister, and Orville was a lawyer.

Josiah Holley lived on the Douglass farm, at the lower end
of Rudds Pond, and moved from it during the Revolution to
the town of Ancram. Newman belonged to the British Light


Infantry, and at the close of the war emigrated to Nova Scotia.
John Holley, Jun., took an active part in that struggle. He
was at the battle of Saratoga, and a number of other engage

About one hundred and fifty rods from the west line of
Northeast, in the town of Ancram, are the " Cave" and
" Oven," two natural curiosities which attract numbers of
visitors. The cave was discovered by a man named Holmes..
He was hunting ; and hearing his dog barking in a peculiar
manner, he went up to him, but all he could see was a hole in
the ground. Holmes pushed his dog into the opening, and
went on, thinking the animal would soon follow him ; but he
never returned. This excited some curiosity ; and one day
some young men went to examine the cave. They advanced
a few feet, got frightened, and scrambled out as quickly as
possible. They said they saw some barrels in the further end
of the cavern, and heard strange noises, and believed it to be
a den of thieves. Afterward John Holley, Moses Dolph and
John Culver, went into the cave, and at the farther extremity
found a spring and the remains of a dog. After this it was
frequently visited.

About this time the State appointed some men to examine
it, to determine its fitness for a prison, like one in Connecticut.
They decided it was too damp to be used for that purpose.
The oven lies about eighty rods west of the cave. It is a piece
of detached stone, and is so named from its shape, which
resembles a large oven. A few years ago a geologist visited
the locality; he gave it as his opinion that the oven was formed
by the action of water.

At the foot of Winchell Mountain, near the Snyder tan
yard, at the time of the Revolution, stood a log hut. Sixty
rods from this stood another. In the vicinity dwelt the Hart-
well family. These three dwellings were the only ones in that
immediate neighborhood ; they stood in the edge of the forest,,
each in a small clearing. Back of them the woods were filled
with Indians, friendly and unfriendly to the white people.


These pioneer settlers were staunch Whigs. A little to the
north of them in the town of Ancram, lived two or three fami
lies, who were Tories of the rankest type, who did not scruple
to add murder to their list of crimes. A plan was matured, by
which they were to surround the Whig dwellings in the dead of
of night, and assisted by some of the Indians, murder the

Online LibraryPhilip H. (Philip Henry) SmithGeneral history of Duchess County from 1609 to 1876, inclusive → online text (page 19 of 41)