Joel Kimball Diary - March 1874
|Sunday, March 1, 1874
"Went to J.E. Sprague's and to Purvis. Left tickets at J.C. Purvis' for S. Hammond. Saw Viele and Peter Ellis. Bish VanGaasbeck and G.W. Sprague went with me, called at Cyrus Mott's and at Gil Schoonmaker'
"Very pleasant and warm."
By the end of winter, road conditions were most likely a problem.
Throughout the snowy season, road crews would send a roller over the roads
to pack down the snow to allow for easier sledding. Now with the weather
turning warmer, this packed snow is turned into ice, making roadway travel
dangerous for both man and beast.
|Monday, March 2, 1874
"Worked at home until noon cutting wood and doing chores. After noon went up to the depot and rode to Flats on Express Freight, saw Asa Appley. Rode to Green's with stage, saw George and others. Came home in evening.
"Weather pleasant and warm."
With the coming of the railroad, its tracks became a popular route for
traveling. But these track walkers, both man and beast, needed to be wary of
the danger that loomed when sharing the road with the "iron horse". The
rural route of the Midland's line traversed, unfenced, through fields and
pastures of local farms which created an immediate problem. No sooner had
the train service begun in the summer of 1873, the locomotives' cowcatchers
would dislodge, dispatch, disembowel and discard grazing sheep and cows on
an all too frequent regularity, much to the dismay of the farmer and the
displeasure of railroad employees.
Tuesday, March 3, 1874
"Town meeting, spent the whole day at the polls at J.E. Sprague's. Was elected town clerk by 76 majority over A.R. Purvis.
"Weather pleasant and some rain."
Today was the town-wide general election. Without meeting halls,
which were mostly non-existing within the township in 1874, except for the
few taverns and churches, both of which may have been unacceptable for use
as a polling place, meetings were often held at stores or in the spacious
parlors of private residences. Spending the day at the home of James
Sprague, used as the polling place, Joel found out the results of the
election which proved him to be victorious over Aaron Purvis for the race
of town clerk.
|Wednesday, March 4, 1874
"Came home from canvases after six o'clock, did not go to bed. Worked all day, cut brush and wood. Johnny Collins commenced working for me today; is to work March and April for $10.00 per month and for $15.00 per month from the first of May until first of December.
"Collins, 1 days work."
Johnny Collins, eighteen-year-
|Thursday, March 5, 1874
"Went with Johnny to commence drawing stone and then went to depot with H.E. Rose. Came around by J.F. Sherwood's and got town clerk's office of A.R. Purvis and brought it home. Cut some wood on the hill.
"John Collin - 1 day."
Since the town did not have town offices or a hall to hold meetings, town records and offices were kept at the residences of the town officials. One can only imagine the mood generated and the feelings felt between the two former candidates for town clerk, one victorious and the other vanquished, when Joel visited Aaron Purvis to pick up the town records; especially so soon after the election.
The old Purvis Hotel, owned by James Purvis, was now under the proprietorship of John Fanton Sherwood. Young Sherwood just recently taken up residence at the Purvis community and began the management of the Purvis Hotel in 1871, having gained experience for the hotel business while living with his older brothers, James and Henry Sherwood, who operated the Sherwood House at the village of Parksville. - Fred
|Friday, March 6, 1874
"Started for Neversink with steer, arrived at Parksville about eleven o'clock and waited until about two. Started for Neversink, arrived about five o'clock and stayed all night at Uncle Asa's.
"Snowed in afternoon and all night.
"Ate dinner at Sturdevant's.
George Sturdevant was the proprietor of the other hotel at Parksville.
The Sturdevant family was living near Mongaup Valley when George was born in
1840. George's father, Elias, would later move to the towns of Cochecton and
Callicoon, where politically he became a prominent citizen. He died at North
Branch in 1864.
|Saturday, March 7, 1874
"Irwin and I started up the hill with Taurus on the sleds and the oxen drawing it and came to E. Stickles. There we found Arthur's sleigh and went to Parksville, all OK. Some ladies rode on the sleigh, I guess they thought they had stranger company.
"John one day."
At the end of January, Joel and his Uncle Asa Hodge had come to an
agreement on swapping cattle, Joel to give up his yearling steer for his
uncle's bull calf. Joel's trip to Neversink was for the purpose of closing
|Sunday, March 8, 1874
"Stayed at home all day. Johnny went to Tom's last night. Read papers and some of M. Twain's Innocents Abroad.
"Weather cool and windy, snowed some."
Samuel Clemens was early in his career as a writer of humor and
political satire when Joel read Clemens' second published book, a collection
of letters written while Clemens traveled through Europe, published in 1869.
He soon would become the most popular American writer during this era.
|Monday, March 9, 1874
"John and I cut some wood and went on the hill after noon, cut wood and killed two rabbits.
"Wind blowing very hard and very cold."
John Collins, who was now working for Joel helping out with the
chores, spent the weekend visiting with his brother, Thomas Collins. Tom, as
were so many other young men from that era, was a Civil War veteran, but was
decorated as few others had been by being awarded the Congressional Medal of
Honor. On his return home after the war, he married the daughter of Colonel
Moore, Ellen, and built a residence and small farm on the land of Cyrus
Gray, between Purvis Post Office and the Moore farm. Gray, the Parksville
merchant, was involved in numerous business ventures in the area, among
being the ownership of several woodlots along the Willowemoc, one of which
Tom and his bride became tenants of. By 1874, Tom began negotiating with
Gray for the purpose of purchasing the small farm. - Fred
|Tuesday, March 10, 1874
"I went down to the Flats, called at Uncle Oliver Borden and ate dinner. Called at Green's and Sheeley & Wilson's store. Called at Gus Dodge's and stayed all night.
"Weather still cold and wind blowing very hard."
Joseph and Lavina Green were the proprietors of the Rockland Hotel at
Westfield Flat, the site known today as the Rockland House. The original
farmhouse was considered to be the first establishment to accept summer
boarders in the area. Associated with the hotel was a large farm, covering
an extensive portion of the Beaverkill flats, which managed a large herd of
cattle and had much of the fields kept in grain. The Greens had two children
of note; George, the village blacksmith, and a daughter, Ahiva, who
eventually took over the business from her parents. - Fred
|Wednesday, March 11, 1874
"Still at the Flats, read paper and wrote to have address changed to Purvis, New York. Came up to depot and rode to Morsston, came down to E. Sprague's and bought two axe halve sticks for 50c. came home and recorded mortgage for B. Wilson.
"Very cold and windy.
"One meal at Green's
"John one day."
Joel's excursion to Westfield Flat was mainly a business trip, associated
with his new role as town clerk. Ambros Rockwell, the retiring superviser
for the Town of Rockland and who most likely maintained his office at
Westfield Flat, was probably receiving town-business related mail at the
post office there. Now that John Davidson, who resided near Shin Creek, was
newly elected as superviser, Joel changed the address for this mail to be
sent to Alphebet Decker's post office at Purvis Post Office.
|Thursday, March 12, 1874
"Filed saw for Laf Sprague and went to J.E. Sprague's and helped Thos. Seeley make out road warrants, worked all day.
"Weather still cold.
"John drew wood to B. VanGaasbeck.
"Recorded two mortgages.
"John one day."
Thomas Seeley resided on the old Joel Hodge homestead [Joel Kimball's
grandfather] along the road to Westfield Flat, at the base of Burnt Hill.
The forty-three year old man was active in the Rockland's political affairs,
serving many elected offices of the township, but during the recent election
of 1874, running as a Democrat for Justice of the Peace, was defeated.
|Friday, March 13, 1874
"Went down to Thomas Seeley's and helped make road warrants. Finished after dark and went to Uncle Oliver Borden's. Stayed all night.
"Cold and windy.
"John Collins one day."
Thomas Seeley's ancestral family consisted of a long line of Seeleys,
... or Seely, ... or Seelye, ... or Seley, variations of the surname used by
the different family generations. Some given names within this family,
however, would follow through each generation. Those who have researched
their family's genealogical history often find one or more given names that
were passed on from one generation to the next. As for the Seeley, ... or
Seely, ... or Seelye, ... or Seley family, the given name of Abner was like
a common thread woven through each generation. Thomas' great-grandfather's
name was Abner; Thomas' grandfather's name was Abner; Thomas' father's name
was Abner. Though Thomas had no siblings with the name Abner, he would
continue the old family traditional name with his first-born, named Abner.
|Saturday, March 14, 1874
"At Uncle Oliver's, ate breakfast and came home and went up to Purvis and to Cyrus Mott's. Distributed road warrants. Came home in the afternoon.
"John Collins one day."
Cyrus was the great-grandson of Thomas Mott, another veteran of the
Revolutionary War who was enticed to purchase farm lots from the
aristocratic family of John R. Livingston in the wild and unoccupied valley
of the Willowemoc. Four generations of Motts cleared the land and
established the finest of the early farms within the area. With the
Willowemoc River running through the farm, its waters were used to operate
the Mott sawmill erected along its banks and used to send the lumber to
market by raft down river.
|Sunday, March 15, 1874
"Done chores and went on the hill and fed cattle. I went up to Col. Moores. Chas. Sheeley came up and we stayed until two o'clock and came home. Ate dinner and I went home with Chas., saw Sid and H. and B. Ronalter, Arch Cochran.
Joel introduced us to Charlie Sheeley early in his diary [see January
1st] when the boys borrowed Sprague's dog [see January 15th] and Decker's
gun [see January 5th] to go rabbit hunting. Charles and Sidney were the sons
of John Sheeley whose farm was just done the road from the Kimball's, across
from the one-room school [see February 20th].
|Monday, March 16, 1874
"Johnny quit, came back and settled 84c due him. I went on the hill and cut some wood. Went to Morsston and got jug and one gallon tanner's oil to tan deer skins. Heard Ed Dawson has the small pox.
"Called at William Purvis' and got town meetings, read and came home.
"Some mistake, did not go to Morsston until tomorrow."
John Collins ended his employment with Joel. Collins, when at the age
of sixteen years, moved to Colonel Moore's in 1872, eventually spending the
rest of his life on the farm. He married the Colonel's daughter, Martha, in
1881 and the couple took over the farm in 1886.
Tuesday, March 17, 1874
"Went to Morsston after done chores and I got jug and one gallon of oil. Came back and heard Ed Dawson had small pox.
"Hiram Rose commenced to raft his lumber today. I did not get much mail.
"Weather warm and some rainy. Notified town board to meet one week from today."
With the rain and the recent warm weather, the ice is now completely out of the river and the water level is high with spring snow-melt. The riverbank in front of Hiram Rose's, Joel's neighbor, as stacked with logs, the result of Hiram's winter work and now the staging area for assembling "colts" to be sent down the river.
The accompanying photograph, which shows the Willowemoc valley in front of the Kimball residence, was on the cover of the O&W railroad magazine "Summer Homes" published in 1923. The photo itself, however, was taken much earlier, for it shows the Purvis to Westfield Flat highway along its original route. It was later moved, in 1913, closer to the river, near the road's present location. The farm shown near the center of the image would have been the site of the 1874 Rose farm. - Fred
|Wednesday, March 18, 1874
"Wm P Rose and I went on the hill and cut set of lash poles for him and I chopped fallow some. After noon, tossed my boots and helped H E Rose raft his lumber.
"H E Rose due for 1/2 days rafting, 75.
"Wm P Rose due for four oar stems, $4.00."
William Rose, the forty-eight-year-old lumberman who was the immediate
neighbor to the Kimballs, was also assembling his lumber into colts along
the river. Logs would be placed side-by-side and held in place by "lash
poles", smaller tree saplings, that were laid perpendicular to the logs.
Sets of two-inch holes were then bored into the end of the logs, into which
wooden dowels, or stakes, would be driven. These dowels would then be used
to fasten the pole to the logs, holding both the logs and the pole in place.
|Thursday, March 19, 1874
"Done my chores and went down to Cochran's and rafted for Hiram Hodge. Nearly finished one colt, 27 feet wide. Ate dinner at Geo Crippen's. Went home with Hiram at night. Water raised nearly to a freshet.
"H Hodge due day's work rafting, 1.50."
In early spring, lumbermen watched the river as the winter's snow-pack
melted, raising the water level, in anticipation of launching their rafts of
lumber into the current. Misjudgment of the river's flow, from normal high
levels to freshet to outright flooding, can lead to disastrous results.
During the early rafting season of the previous spring , rapid
snowmelt and spring rains raised the rivers' level to flood conditions
creating havoc with raftsmen and their rafts up and down the Beaverkill and
Friday, March 20, 1874
"Worked all day rafting, finished one colt and ran it across the river and commenced another. Put in 13 streaks. I went to Mrs. Campbell's and went to Cochran's to a little dance, had a pleasant time.
"H Bennett started three colts, landed one at Cochran's pond and stuck two on Granny's Island, got them off and landed at foot of Coalpit Rift.
"H Hodge, one day's rafting, $1.50."
Rafting on the smaller streams such as the Beaverkill and Willowemoc under normal conditions can be a tricky affair, but during a freshet the fierce rapids of these narrow creeks would become extremely difficult to negotiate. Pilots for Abner Bennett, whose sawmill was midway between Kimball's and Westfield Flats, soon discovered that they had launched their colts too early. After struggling to keep the rafts off the river's rocky shoals, they were probably only too happy to reach the relatively quiet waters of the eddy behind Cochran's dam, only a mile or so from their departure point.
Cochran & Appley was the firm that operated a sawmill and small tannery, both situated along the banks of the Willowemoc, below Westfield Flats. A dam was placed across the river, creating a millpond that served two raceways, one that led to the sawmill and the other to the tannery. The accompanying image, taken twenty years later, shows the mill, which stands in front of the covered bridge, and millpond. The tannery is no longer in existence when this photo was taken but the second raceway still remains, leading up to and under the building behind the mill. - Fred
March 21, 1874
"Worked all day rafting.
"Weather pretty cold and windy. Finished second colt and commenced another, swung number two across the river. Put twelve streaks in number three. Went to Uncle Hiram's in the evening and stayed all night.
"Hiram Hodge due for one day's work, $1.50."
needed to learn everything about the streams they were rafting, an education
that had to be treated as if their life depended upon it. Geographic
landmarks would map out the stream in their head, hint at the height of the
water level, warn of mid-stream obstructions and forewarn the experienced
pilot of dangerous currents ahead. Tributary creeks feeding into the main
river could bring dangerous cross-currents that would throw the vessel cross
channel onto the opposite bank. At sharp bends in the channel, an outside
route would could catch the raft in a current that would slam the raft
against the bank, the raft and contents subject to any danger that may exist
|Sunday, March 22, 1874
"Got Hiram's mare and wagon and came home, found things all OK. Called at Emmitt's and saw J.D.W.M. Decker, recorded mortgage and went on hill and fed cattle and went back to Hiram's."
J.D.W.M. "Alphabet" Decker was the enterprising merchant and post
master at Purvis Post Office. His duties as clerk for both positions usually
kept him quite busy. One morning, during a lull in his store, he noticed
that he was missing one bag of flour. Being preoccupied all morning with
customers he had failed to note who had walked off with it, so he decided to
bill each of the twenty customers that he served that morning. Decker, being
known as fair, honest and upright in his dealings with his customers,
received payment for the flour from nineteen out of the twenty. It was now
obvious who the culprit was; the one "left holding the bag." - Fred
Monday, March 23, 1874
When the rail line of the Oswego Midland Railroad passed by
Westfield Flats, it missed the village by a mile. The closest neighbors to
the new railroad were the inhabitants of the Westfield flats Cemetery. To
make matters worse, the passenger and freight depot the company built was
placed in the perennially flooded mudhole. Without access to the highway,
a road was built to the depot which was continuously drifted shut with
snow a good portion of the year. The other portion, the road was a
bottomless quagmire. Still, the attraction of railroad transportation
lured businesses into the area and eventually a new community developed.
|Tuesday, March 24, 1874
"At home. Attended town board, appointing officers to fill vacancies at J.D.W.M. Decker's. We appointed constable, collector and inspector of elections.
"Cold, windy day.
"Town of Rockland due for one days's work, $2.00."
The first meeting of the town board since last month's elections was
held at the store of Alphabet Decker's. Joel would probably have done more
than just "attended" the meeting, for being the newly elected town clerk, he
would have been responsible for recording the minutes. Little of the town's
records have survived from this era, one reason being that records were not
required to be saved before the 1880's.
|Wednesday, March 25, 1874
"Started for Westfield Flats with Bishop VanGaasbeck. Saw where accident happened on railway at Buck Eddy. Stayed there until noon, went to Cochran's and to Hiram Hodge's. Did not work any.
"Asa Cochran, 30c."
The location of the depot along the Midland's line at Westfield
puzzled many of the local residents, as it was placed in the flood-prone
valley section of the Willowemoc. Many thought that it should be moved to
the higher ground near the Callicoon Turnpike railroad crossing. Besides
being above the flood plain, it also had the advantages of being along the
main highway between Purvis and Westfield and near the small industry
community that had developed there.
|Thursday, March 26, 1874
"Helped Hiram raft all day. C Cochran helped in place of Geo. Crippen. Billings Hodge finished his colt.
"Weather windy and cool. Went to Flats and practiced with the band.
"Hiram Hodge due for one day's work, $1.50.
"One meal at Green's."
George Crippen's family resided across the river from the Cochran &
Appley mills. He was raised at Cannonsville in Delaware County coming to the
Town of Rockland after the Civil War. He, like so many of the other men
during this era, worked the lumber and rafting industry along with being a
carpenter. In the winter of 1874, the forty-five year-old man built a wagon
shop and began a career as wagon-maker. - Fred
|Friday, March 27, 1874
"At Joseph Green's in the morning, went up to Cochran's and helped Hiram raft for three quarter of a day, finished from the cold and hung one pair of oars. Chet Cochran helped us.
"Hiram Hodge due for three-quarter day's work."
Chester Cochran was the nephew of Asa Cochran, one of the partners in the firm of Cochran & Appley who operated the sawmill at Westfield Flats. Chester, thirty-two years old at the time, and his brother Wesley both worked as lumbermen, perhaps being associated with the family business.
Both Cochran boys were Civil War veterans, enlisting in October of 1861 with the 56th New York Infantry Regiment, the local Sullivan County regiment organized during that summer and fall. Chester's military career was brief, however, for he received a disability discharge the following May. - fred
|Saturday, March 28, 1874
"At Hiram Hodge's in the morning, came to Cochran's and started for home, sold pike to Hiram. Came home, concluded not to raft anymore.
"Weather quite cool and two inches of snow. Hiram and others went to fix Brown's race.
"Hiram Hodge due for one pike, $.75."
For whatever reason, Joel seems to have lost his enthusiasm with rafting. Perhaps it was the weather, with the two inches of fresh-laid spring snow, or perhaps the workload of the town clerk's position, coupled with the usual chores on his own place. He sold his pike and went home. - fred
|Sunday, March 29, 1874
"At home, Bish and Ida here. I went with them to J. Sheeley's and then went over to river. Sid and I went down near Appley's and saw car off tracks. Came home in afternoon.
"Pleasant and windy."
The accident that Sidney Sheeley and Joel observed was the third such incident in the past few days. The previous Wednesday, Joel noted the rail accident at Buck Eddy and yesterday he noted that the raceway to one of the mills needed repair. Apparently the spring thaw had created some havoc along the Midland railroad's line, perhaps the rail bed being undermined by mudslides or slumps with the rails being repositioned, allowing the cars to be derailed.
The Midland's rail route from Appley's switch to Buck Eddy, a distance of less than a mile, crosses the Willowemoc no less than four times. From Buck Eddy toward Westfield Flat, the valley becomes narrow, with the highway, railroad and river all funneled into the scant space within the valley's walls. As we all have well learned over time, when the highway, railroad and river compete for position, the river usually wins out. - fred
|Monday, March 30, 1874
"Made sap spiles, went to shop and made a spile punch. Went on the hill and
worked in sap bush all day, tapped about thirty trees, did not boil any.
"Went to post office in the evening.
After a long winter, early signs of the coming spring become evident with the
swelling of buds on the limbs of trees. Food that had been produced by last
year's tree leaves has been stored during the dormant period at its roots and
now, with the warmer weather, rise back up the trunk to provide nourishment for the coming year's growth.
The sap of maple trees is noted for being particularly sweet, though diluted,
and after being processed was used during Joel's era as a sweetener, candy and syrup. The "river" of sap flows up the tree through a layer behind the outer bark. When a hole is punctured though the bark, the sap would be released outward though the hole by use of a "faucet", spiles made of either wood, as in Joel's case, or metal, and collected in containers placed below.
|Tuesday, March 31, 1874
"Went in the woods and boiled sap until noon, came home having finished, weather so cold sap did not run. After noon went to the depot, saw Cyrus Mott, Sam Maffett and others.
"Received six mortgages to file and record, cash 85c.
"Mother went to Billing's."
The amount of sap rising up the trunk of maple trees is highly dependent upon the weather's temperatures. Ideal conditions for the best flow are when
temperatures fall below freezing over night and rise into the 40's during the
next day. Prolonged periods of cold or warm temperatures tend to slow, or shut down altogether, the "run". - Fred