Joel Kimball Diary - October 1874


Thursday, October 1, 1874

"Went up to depot and got two pair shoes, one dozen glass and jackknife. After noon finished cutting and setting up corn.

"Stuck up notices for school meeting. Called at J M Sheeley's and saw Charlie who is sick with typhoid fever.

"Picnic at Morsston, did not attend.

"Orrin C Sprague, due for Orrin one day."

Joel Kimball

The good news is that the volume of freight run over the Midland has increased. Last week, one hundred and forty cars of freight were received at the Westfield Flats depot while one hundred and ten were shipped out, making it the busiest week of handling freight since the railroad commenced doing business. The bad news is that the company is not able to provide adequate security for handling the freight.

Freight left off on the depot's platform waiting to be picked up by the receivers is often left unattended, becoming easy prey for mischievous parties wishing to better themselves at no cost except for the thrill of being daring. Butter tubs, both full and empty, are popular items that commonly turn up missing. Burr Wilson, the merchant from Westfield Flats, can hardly make it to the depot fast enough after the arrival of the freight train as items from his deliveries still turn up missing. One case of boots that was delivered last week had been opened and two pairs were missing. Earlier, Wilson received a case of shoes that also had been opened, with three pairs missing. - fred

Friday, October 2, 1874

"Uncle Marvin here and started for Flats. Went to blacksmith shop and made bow key. After noon H E Rose and I finished threshing buckwheat, had 38 1/2 bushels.

"Went down to John M Sheeley's and set up with Charlie.

"Still rainy."

Joel Kimball

Charlie Sheeley has suddenly taken ill with typhoid fever. Though little accurate information was actually known about this deadly disease, there was little lack of the abundance of misinformation spread throughout the medical community and beyond. Sporadic epidemics of typhoid fever have been well noted throughout history, including the destruction of the early colonial settlement at Jamestown and more recently during the war years from 1861 to 1865, not only with the camps of the opposing armies but also within the general population back home. Members of the medical community often disagreed as to the cause of the disease. Some thought it was spread by air-born matter, but when one well-known doctor denounced this theory in a paper written in the fall of 1874, he was chastised by no less an authority on human matters than the Pope himself as being a "spiritual pirate." [1]

Treatment for the disease was likewise debated. Some supposed authorities believed that it was a virtue to brave through the disease "as long as they can move a foot or wiggle a finger." [2] Some thought typhoid fever patients recovered best when no medical stimulants were used. Others professed that since the supposed organism blamed for the disease had its origins within the foul cellars of homes, people were urged "to see that, at all times, the cellars are dry and sweet, and in wholesome conditions." [3]

1 - Evening Gazette, December 26, 1874
2 - "       "      , April 7, 1874
3 - "       "      , March 30, 1871
Saturday, October 3, 1874

"Went over the river and blasted rocks for Mr. Barber until noon. Came home and Orrin Sprague helped me draw in corn and pumpkins. Dug a few potatoes.

"Orrin C Sprague due for 1/2 days work
 Mr. Barber due for 1/2 days blasting, $1.00"

Joel Kimball

It was a day for celebration at Purvis for two reasons. The proprietorship of the old Purvis Hotel has just changed hands and Sylvester Carr, the hotel's present barkeeper was to get married tomorrow. Drinks being served were on the house, partly to celebrate the occasion as well as to finish up the inventory from the former proprietor, Jack Sherwood. The raucous affair, lubricated by easy liquor, continued on from the afternoon into the early evening as the bar-room crowd took full advantage of Sherwood's gesture, amongst the participants being members of the notorious Maffett gang, ruffians and hot-blooded young-bloods who have been suspected as being the instigators of the crime-wave terrorizing the community.

Mark Brown, an Englishman who labored as lumberman and bark peeler in the local woods and who had been known to go on disorderly intoxicated binges, was recently married to Nancy Mae, the daughter of George Maffett, the gang's ringleader, but with the recent birth of the young couple's son in 1872, Mark had seemingly turned over a new leaf, including joining the local church and going on the wagon. Unfortunately, the Brown family's recent move into the village of Purvis and near the popular rum-house was much too tempting for Mark, resorting back to his old unruly ways of notorious drinking habits and flashes of hot temper. This fall from the wagon resulted in an unpaid bar tab of $1.20 at the Purvis saloon.... - Fred
Sunday, October 4, 1874

"At home. Went up to Jack Sherwood's and saw Vet Carr who was shot by Mark Brown last night about half past nine. Found the body laid out and Mark Brown on the way to Monticello. Came home and went to Flats, rode back with Ed Huntington. Heard Charlie Sheeley cannot live couple of hours.

"Charlie died this evening at half past seven."

Joel Kimball

It was an eventful day for Joel, and for the village of Purvis for that matter, as the community mourned two deaths, one of which was of a more personal nature to the diarist; Charlie Sheeley died of typhoid fever. The deadly intestinal disorder was the result of food and water being contaminated with bacteria, which was often the case when a residence's outdoor privy was placed too close to the domestic water supply, be it a shallow well or spring. Though the bacterial type and its propagation would not be discovered until after another decade had passed, much of the disease's deadly profile was all too familiar.

Outbreaks of typhoid, either sporadically or as an epidemic, were most common during the autumn season, thus it was known as "fall fever". The disease frequently was confined to a single family within a neighborhood, often with several members falling ill at the same time. Sometimes family members would be stricken with the fever in succession, one after the other, so that the disease would stay within the household for months. What appeared to be unusual, normally healthy people between the ages of fifteen to thirty seemed to be the most susceptible to coming down with typhoid, with few cases occurring after the age of forty. Charlie was only nineteen years of age. - fred
Monday, October 5, 1874

"Commenced digging potatoes in garden. Orrin Sprague helped me until noon. Met with election board and appointed electors at James W Davis' the 3rd of November. Came home and picked up potatoes.

"Charlie Sheeley died last night one half past seven.

"Town of Rockland due for one day meeting, election board, $2.00."

Joel Kimball

Sylvester Carr, behind the bar at the Purvis Hotel, was known as "Vet" to all who knew him. The burly man acquired his nickname having served in the previous war, being amongst the earliest enlistees into the locally formed regiment in August of 1861. His record shows his stay with the 56th New York Infantry was not of a lengthy duration, deserting from the regiment in March in 1862. His service to his country, however short and possibly discredited, is forever preserved. In his haste to leave the army, he left behind his soldier's prayer book amidst his other belongings, which is now amongst the hallowed artifacts from this war kept at the Gettysburg Military National Park.

Vet Carr, the thirty-five-year-old bartender, came from the Parksville area, and was friends with Jack Sherwood, who hailed from the same village. He worked as a stage driver on the route from Liberty to Monticello but Saturday night found him behind the bar, serving what remained of Sherwood's inventory. Carr was friends with Mark Brown, and had often visited with the Brown family, but was also aware of Brown's weakness for intoxicant beverages and the running bar tab owed to the hotel. By early evening, Brown, in company with other members of the alleged Maffett gang, was in an inebriated condition. Asking for a bottle of rum, Vet refused to serve the drunken Englishman any more drinks until his bar tab was settled....  - fred
Tuesday, October 6, 1874
"Attended Charlie Sheeley's funeral at Purvis church acting as one of the bearers, the others were George Hodge, Ed Huntington, Jeffery Campbell, Jay Davidson and Jay Morton.
"Weather cloudy signs of rain."
Joel Kimball
Joel first introduced us to Charlie Sheeley in his very first entry of the year, when the boys borrowed their neighbors' rifle and hunting dog to chase rabbits. Throughout the rest of the year, Joel often visited with Charlie and the Sheeley family, commenting in his diary on a couple of occasions, perhaps with disappointment, that Charlie's older sister, Ida, was "not at home." Other visits were of a business nature; John Sheeley, the father, was known as a "collector", maintaining a salvage yard of scrap metal, wheels and other discarded items that Joel found useful during the course of the year.
The family of John and Catherine Sheeley was only too familiar with similar tragedies, being most likely unaware of the dangers that may have lurked within their water supply. Charlie's younger brother, nine-year-ole Oscar, died only two years before while another brother, Edward, had died ten years earlier at the young age of four years. No records survive as to the actual causes for their early demise. This tragic trend continued on within the Sheeley family even after Charlie's death. - fred
Wednesday, October 7, 1874

"Husked some corn. Went up to depot with Adelie, had Decker's horse.

"Started for Uncle Theron's, rode to Hancock on the Midland Railroad, changed to Erie and went to Callicoon. Stayed all night at the Minard House.

"Weather rainy."

Met Mrs. A Disston and son, Phila.

"Fare to Hancock,   1.86
 Stage,              .50
 Fare to Callicoon, 2.10
"JDWM Decker credit for cash, $10.00."

Joel Kimball

While the communities of Purvis and Westfield Flats were shocked and in mourning by the recent tragic events which resulted with the loss of two of their sons, the rest of the county enjoyed the spectacle of marvelous inventions, unusual animals and assortment of odd curiosities as thousands of people flocked to Monticello on Tuesday to be entertained by the greatest showman on earth; Phineas Taylor Barnum and his Great Traveling World's Fair and Universal Expedition of Features. The grand site was filled with twenty center pole tents, the largest of which housed the accompanying three traveling circus companies of artists performing thrilling and daring acts to the awe and ensuing gasps from the audience gathered around the circus rings underneath the large canvas.

The remaining tent-grounds featured less dramatic but equally startling oddities. Perhaps the most popular was the Museum and Polytechnic Institute and its sensational mechanical talking machine, which laughed, sang and fluently spoke in the illusion of a human voice. Steam engines chugged outside the tent as energy was pumped into a collection of lifeless replicas of human and animal figures, mimicking life-like movement in the most natural of ways. The many other unusual exhibits more than satisfied the curious, including Admiral Dot, the pigmy, fearful cannibals brought to this country from the South-Pacific Fiji Islands, along with dwarfs and other assumed freaks of nature. Creatures both of great size and great ferocity were on exhibit, including the display of the only living giraffes in this country and tanks of roaring monster North-Pacific sea lions. The exhibit of the unusual and extra-ordinary lasted throughout the day and into the evening under threatening but rainless skies. At the show's end, the tents were struck and the animals boxed as the troupe headed for its next day's show at Port Jervis. - fred
Thursday, October 8, 1874

"Started from Callicoon about half past nine, arrived at Cochecton all OK. Walked from depot to Uncle Therons', found folks all well. Welmot away to Ellenville. Gathered some chestnuts.

"Bill at Callicoon,   2.50
 Fare to Cochecton     .30
"Some rainy"

Joel Kimball

The traveling menagerie of rare animals, peculiar mechanical devices, human oddities and circus troupes of the great P. T. Barnum's Great Traveling World's Fair headed out on the road to Port Jervis Tuesday evening just as the daylong threatening overcast let loose with a deluge. Wind and rain pelted this curious army all night as the road it traveled upon thickened with mud, becoming a quagmire that greatly hindered progress, demoralized all hands on the caravan and delayed its arrival for its next showing until mid-morning. What should have been a grand review of the Greatest Show on Earth as it entered the village was now a parade caked with a great showing of earth upon the mud-splattered, wet and weary wagons, animals and performers. Still, the soggy tents quickly popped up and the much anticipated amusement went on, though dripping with less enthusiasm for both the troupes and audience as the heavy rain continued throughout the day. - fred
Friday, October 9, 1874

"At Uncle Theron's. Otto and I went to Honesdale, had pleasant day, came home in the evening. I think Honesdale quite a busy place and quite dirty owing to the coal dust.

Paid toll,  .13

Joel Kimball

Joel is once again visiting relatives, the family of Theron Appley of Damascus along the Delaware River, but instead of hopping aboard a passing freight or gravel train, as he often did on short trips  between Westfield Flats and Morsston, he purchased the fare for passenger service aboard the Midland railroad up the line to Hancock Station. The Midland's rail service to the village of Hancock, which was an important junction of the the New York & Erie Railroad, was by name only for the Midland's route followed the easiest path northward into the heart of Delaware County and upstate New York by way of the valley of the Cadosia Creek, three miles east from the village and the Erie's depot. Stage service was provided to connect the two railroad stations, costing Joel an additional fifty cents. - fred
Saturday, October 10, 1874

"Otto, Judson and I went squirrel hunting, killed several and gathered some chestnuts. After noon went down to the river and saw game of baseball played by the Mutuals of Cochecton and the Short-Stops of Conklin Hill. Mutuals won, Otto played with the winning club."

Joel Kimball

Theron Appley was a physician whose practice was located at Damascus, Pennsylvania. The Appley family was well respected within the area's medical community as Theron and his brother, William, who both received medical training from their father, Dr. Luther Appley, conducted separate practices in Damascus and Cochecton, communities on opposite banks of the Delaware River, connected by the six hundred foot long toll-bridge.

The two communities were an important link along the early thoroughfare known as the Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike, an important transportation route from the Hudson Valley, which terminated at Cochecton and the Delaware River. Early river crossings were done by ferry, but with the erection of the wooden bridge at the turnpike's terminus across the Delaware in 1817, the route was continued on into Pennsylvania to the Susquehanna River. Low-lying wooden bridges spanning over the Delaware had a rather precarious existence and were often short-lived. The first Damascus-Cochecton bridge, having only one pier to support the five hundred and fifty foot long span soon collapsed under its own weight. Its replacement, consisting of three spans with the addition of a second pier, remained in place for twenty-five years until flood waters destroyed one of the piers and washed away two spans. Again the bridge was replaced but soon was destroyed when rammed by floating timber. An ice-jam during the winter of 1857 smashed into the next replacement bridge, which was swept away down river by the ice flow. Finally, a wooden covered bridge was erected in 1859, the fifth to be built, but with the height of the piers also being raised, the new structure sat high above the river's flow and allowed whatever dangers it carried to pass underneath the decking. - fred
Sunday, October 11, 1874

"Stayed in house nearly all day, have a cold. Visited new church and grave yard."

Joel Kimball

The "National Game" was becoming very popular and though no information has yet to be discovered whether the game of baseball was played either at Morsston or Westfield Flats, ball clubs were already well organized and thriving at many communities all along the Delaware River valley, from Port Jervis to Hancock. Games played amongst these clubs were treated as important news items by the local newspapers, often dominating the paper's front pages with game results, though not always in the most flattering manner;

"...W. Wheat - As a centerfielder this youth distinguished himself. In the most adroit manner possible he kept his feet out of the way of nearly every ball than came into his neighborhood. Those that went over his head reached the ground without injury...
"...M. D. Rundel - Was pitcher. He slung some "nasty" balls over the home base and played his part well. He was one of the three in the force who knew one base from another and can make some show at playing...
"...George Decker - This young man made some most remarkable playing on record. He was on left field, The only thing, except flies, that aroused his attention was a ball that would occasionally float over in his direction. His efforts to keep out of its way were painful to beholders. Nevertheless, he did so most effectively. After which he would resume his seat and become lost to all surrounding affairs.
"...W. T. Doty - Distinguished himself on right field. His chief duty consisted of chasing stray balls down the hill, through a berry patch and into a marsh..."

August 25, 1874
Evening Gazette

Monday, October 12, 1874

"Otto and I gathered chestnuts all day, had very fair luck. Judson went to work for Mark Appley, his uncle, dragging fallow."

Joel Kimball

Chestnuts trees may have been still plentiful in some sections of the county but they were disappearing fast. Groves of chestnuts trees were very much sought after by lumberman, the wood being resistant to rot and valuable to the insatiable appetite of the railroad industry who used the wood as railroad ties. The nuts from these trees were also a popular food, and used as feed for livestock. Once easily gathered by the wagonload, collecting chestnuts was now only bringing "fair luck" to Joel and Otto.

Otto Appley, the twenty-one-year-old son of Dr. Theron Appley, along with his nineteen-year-old brother Judson, were Joel's cousins, the father being married to Lois Ann Hodge, the older sister to Joel's mother. The Appley family from the Cochecton-Damascus section had long been associated locally within the medical field, with Otto's grandfather, Luther Appley, being credited as being the area's first physician. Luther's sons followed their father into medicine, establishing successful practices and were important figures in the area's first medical organization, the Tri-State Medical Society. It is no wonder that Otto was also interested in being a physician, and was in training under his father.
- fred
Tuesday, October 13, 1874

"Gathered a few chestnuts and started for home. Came to Hancock and went to Midland depot, was too late for train. Walked back and stayed at Griffin's House.

Joel Kimball

Returning home from his visit with the Appley family at Damascus, Joel retraced his route, boarding the local westbound train during the noon hour at the New York & Erie's depot at Cochecton bound for Hancock, but because of a mishap at one of the stops along the way, the train fell behind schedule. While coupling cars at Hankins, Thomas Lane, a brakeman for the Erie, had the misfortune early this afternoon to get caught between two cars, the results being that his hand and arm were crushed. He was immediately taken to Port Jervis for surgery, briefly tying up rail traffic, including delaying the two o'clock arrival at Hankins of Joel's train as well as the scheduled five o'clock arrival at Hancock where the stage waited to transfer the passengers from the westbound Erie train to the Midland station. The stagecoach made the three-mile journey to the station but because of the delays caused by the earlier problem, the south-bound Midland had already departed. To make matters worse, when Joel had found that there would be no trains running until the next morning, he also discovered that the stagecoach had already departed back to Hancock, stranding the passengers, leaving Joel with no other alternative but to take his bag and trudge back to the village in the gathering darkness of the autumn evening and find overnight accommodations.

The Hancock House was well adapted to offer first-class accommodations for the traveling public, being located in the very center of the village near the depot and being the terminus for the Griffis stage line. Calvin Griffis engaged in many successful ventures in the area, which included running stage routes from Hancock to Downsville and Hancock to Delhi. Prior to the completion of the Midland and other railroads that would eventually serve interior portions of the state, Hancock was the gateway into Delaware County and the Griffis stage line's coaches carried as many as one hundred passengers a day. To add convenience for his stagecoach customers, Griffis purchased the largest hotel in the village in 1872, the Hancock House. - fred

Wednesday, October 14, 1874

"Came home on the Walton Way on the Midland road, arrived about eleven o'clock. Mrs. John Dougherty's corpse was sent to New York today. Found grandfather at our house, he had husked all the corn and was gathering butternuts. All well.

"Stage fare         .25
 Fare to Morsston, 1.86

"JDWM Decker due for cash, 5.00"

Joel Kimball

In attempt to finding ways to cut operating expenses, rumors were spreading that the mortgaged Midland railroad was considering cutting back passenger service, though it was still running two passenger trains a day the line's entire route in each direction. With the winter season approaching and decline of the number of passengers, the failing company began attaching freight cars onto passenger trains, as well as passenger cars onto freight trains, actions that fueled the speculation as to the future of the company's passenger service.

Riding along on the newly built Midland's route was an exciting and sometimes harrowing experience for some first-time passengers, including those who have never ridden on the rails behind a steaming locomotive before, especially when the trains passed over long, rickety trestles seemingly suspending the travelers high over the valley below or when the trains were swallowed whole into the yawning portals of mountain tunnels, enveloping the passengers into darkness. No sooner did Joel's south-bound train leave the station when it encountered the wall of earth and rock known as Hawk's Mountain and the man-made cavern that passed underneath. For Joel, who has ridden along the Midland for short distances, this is probably the first tunnel that he has passed through and we can only imagine his thoughts on the experience. - fred

Thursday, October 15, 1874

"Drew and cut some wood, dug potatoes in the afternoon, grandfather helped me. Weather quite pleasant. Sent tub of butter to Fleming, Adam & Howe."

Joel Kimball

Leaving Hancock Station, Joel's southbound Midland train pulls itself up the steady incline towards Hawk's Mountain, passing hemlock board shacks along the way, vacant for the past year and in various stages of disrepair, that were used as living quarters for "Midlanders", tunnel workers for the Midland railroad. The mountain's landscape presents an eerie appearance as the train approached the western portal of the tunnel, with lifeless, bare trees still standing tall amongst sparse, low growth vegetation, the scene being the result from the devastating forest fire in May of 1872, occurring while the tunnel construction project was in full operation. Flames from that inferno whipped up the mountain's slopes toward the tunnel construction project and its storage buildings, heading straight for the powder house which contained over one hundred barrels of explosives. Only with great effort by construction workers, setting back fires, were they able to check the flames, which had reached as close as six feet from the structure. Passing through a long rock embankment, the mountain looms large in front of the laboring locomotive, and the site of the tunnel portal comes into view, a hole burrowed into the mountainside, twenty-five feet wide and almost twenty-three feet in height. At the entrance, timbers can be seen lining the portal opening, placed close together, holding back the mountain's covering of earth and loose stones from cascading down upon the tracks.

As the train is seemingly swallowed-up into the mountain's rocky core, complete darkness sweeps through the passenger car, the only illumination being the flashes of light from beneath the train when sparks fly off the cars' wheels as they turn and slide over the iron rails. Smoke and steam from the locomotive, trapped within the underground cavern, combine with the underground dampness and filter back into the passenger compartment, as the sooty fragrance of smoke fills its chambers. Deep within the mountain, over one thousand beneath its peak, the roar of the locomotive and loud rumbling of the train's cars echo and are amplified against the tunnel's rock walls, as the passenger car sways back and forth in darkness over the less than even rails. The five minute ride through the one-thousand-foot long tunnel seems an eternity when finally, a glimpse of daylight coming from the eastern portal reflects off the timbered walls, signaling an end to the underground venture. As the train emerges back into the full light of day, none of the travelers are the worse for wear, except for the soot caked upon the droplets of perspiration dripping from the foreheads of the relieved passengers. - fred

Friday, October 16, 1874

"Grandfather and I dug potatoes all day, got only eleven and one-half bushels. Put them in cellar, potatoes pretty poor crop.

"Grandfather fixed fox beds on hill.

"Settled with John DWM Decker and took notes up, $27.35."

Joel Kimball

Joel's grandfather has been helping Lavina Kimball with the farm chores and gathering the year's harvest while Joel visited the kinfolk at Damascus. The seventy-seven-year-old Joel Hodge, who we first met last February 21, was married to Lucy Fish, the youngest daughter of Edmund Fish.

Edmund Fish was a soldier during the Revolutionary War, the family originally from Connecticut and later Vermont before coming to the township of Liberty while Lucy was still a baby, around the year 1800. Family historians place the death of Edmund in Albany County during this same period, perhaps suggesting that the father died during this move. There were ten children in the Fish family, including the older brother, Isaac, who eventually married Rachael Stewart, the daughter of the pioneer settlers of Westfield Flats, the Jehiel Stewart family. - fred

Saturday, October 17, 1874

"Finished digging potatoes and picked them up, ten and one half bushels all dug. I went to depot and to Morsston, called at Capt. D.'s, came home."

Joel Kimball

[Continued from October 5]... Jack Sherwood had grown weary from the day's heavy celebration and had retired upstairs to the second floor of the Purvis Hotel, where both proprietors had rooms; Sherwood, who was leaving the hotel business and the new proprietor, Ogden Beers. Just as Sherwood had settled down, a loud commotion was made outside his door, whereupon investigating the hard knock on his door, found the somewhat intoxicated and boisterous Mark Brown standing before him. Maddened over the refusal of not being served drinks in the saloon downstairs due to the bar-tab he owed Sherwood, Brown asked for a loan to satisfy the bartender, Vet Carr. Sherwood had just taken over the proprietorship of the old Purvis lumber mill and was familiar with the drunkard, who often brought lumber down to Sherwood's mill. He liked Brown when sober, but was also aware of the man's wild streak, and in an effort to calm him down, Sherwood loaned him the money in question to satisfy the claim.... fred
Sunday, October 18,1874

"Went up to post office and got my mail. Called at Laf Sprague's. Came home and went on the hill. Went down the road with Uncle Hiram Hodge and came up the river."

Joel Kimball

Brown went with Sherwood back downstairs to the tavern and the former proprietor placed the money in question on the counter before the bartender. As Vet Carr reached for the money, Brown quickly snatched it up, demanding a receipt. Carr had just about had enough of the shenanigans and with Brown now becoming abusive and belligerent, came out from his room to chase Brown out of the saloon. In the struggle that ensued between the two men, Carr grabbed the wild-man Brown around the neck, choking him until he was subdued, the money falling onto the floor and rolling about. He then pushed the limp torso out the door and with a little help from a well placed boot to the rump, Brown went face first into a drunken heap in the street... fred
Monday, October 19, 1874

"Went on the hill and saw fox beds.

"Went to blacksmith shop and got iron fixed to put under pipe. Went over the hill."

Joel Kimball

As the Yankee settlers became more numerous, the former wilderness of the Town of Rockland began to change in its character as the early homestead clearings that were opened up within the virgin forests became larger and the timber became harvested for profit. Valleys and hillsides once carpeted in trees was now replaced with fields of corn and other grain crops. The change in habitat and over-hunting resulted in the displacement of native animals in the wild with those who were more domesticated. Deer, bear, wolves and pigeons were now replaced with cattle, sheep, dogs and chickens. One native woodland animal did prosper though, perhaps due to the combination of its shyness and cunning ways, and adapted to these early settlers as poultry became easy prey for the Eastern Red Fox, as noted by the following story concerning the plight of one local farmer; - fred

"William Cutler has a farm near Shandley Pond in Sullivan County. The foxes are so numerous in his neighborhood that they come out at midday to the barn and steel his chickens. Within two weeks he has lost thirty chickens. He killed a fox on the 13th, and the next morning there were three more in his barn."

January 30th, 1886
Walton Reporter
Tuesday, October 20, 1874

"Fixed chimney foundation, drew and cut some wood. L Stewart commenced Hiram Rose's chimney. I drew sand and brick home. Went over the hill to A R Purvis for J D W M Decker."

Joel Kimball

...Vet Carr returned to his work, while outside the saloon, George Moore, one of Mark Brown's associates, helped lift the now outraged drunkard up from the dusty street and back onto his feet. Moore tried to calm down the unruly man, suggesting that they leave and go to the dance being held over town, but Brown was inconsolable, saying, "If Carr so much as lay a straw in front of him, he would shoot him." As Brown stormed off down the street towards his home, he called back to Moore, "Stick around and you'll see something down tonight you have never seen before."  - fred
Wednesday, October 21, 1874

"Went up to blacksmith shop and got irons fixed for chimney. Levi Stewart came from Hiram Rose's and laid my chimney in the afternoon. Paid him 6.50.

"Called at P O in the evening.

"Rained in the morning."

Joel Kimball

Joel and his neighbor both have had brick chimneys erected, the masonry work done by Parksville resident, Levi Stewart. The Stewart farm was located outside of the hamlet of Parksville where the widowed mother, Fannie Stewart, raised her eight children, Levi being the youngest of the boys. Though not actually related, there still was a family connection between the thirty-seven-year-old Levi and Joel as the bricklayer's brother, Darius Stewart, married Sarah Hodge, a cousin to our diarist. During the years prior to the recent war, Levi lived with his brother's family at the community of Neversink where both practiced the trades of cobbler and mason.

Levi was one of the early enlistees with the locally recruited 143rd New York Infantry, signing on in August of 1862 at the age of twenty-six, commissioned as sergeant of Company G under the command of his friend and Parksville neighbor, Captain Benjamin Reynolds. He served with the regiment throughout the war, a period of over three years, during which time he received a severe wound, being struck by gunshot that injured his spine, and injury from which he never fully recovered from. - fred
Thursday, October 22, 1874

"Went to mill at the Flats, played croquet some. Got barrel to make tubs and spoke shave. Took assessments to B Wilson and school report to A J Thompson. Bought paper from A Cochran to make assessment for school tax."

Joel Kimball

...An hour had passed after the earlier fracas at the Purvis Hotel and activity in the saloon had returned back to normal when Brown re-appeared outside, calling out for Jack Sherwood. When Sherwood went outside, the now somewhat subdued Brown grabbed him by the arm and pleaded for a bottle of rum. Sherwood informed Brown that since he was no longer the proprietor of the hotel, he could not lay out for the bottle. Pulling himself out of the grasp of Brown, Sherwood stepped back into the saloon. Still, Brown continued to call out for Sherwood, but this time Sylvester Carr went outside to see what was the matter.

As the two former combatants again confronted each other, the subdued Brown asked Carr if he had any hard feelings toward himself. When Carr responded that he had none, Brown's mood quickly flared up and he was heard to say; "You are the man that choked me, you'll never choke another man." With this, he quickly pulled out a pistol that he was concealing and aimed it next to Carr's head. The sudden movement caught Carr by surprise and he had little time to duck out of the way when the pistol's report aroused everyone in the saloon, as well as the immediate neighborhood. The bullet entered Carr's cheek and lodged in his brain, sending him staggering to the ground...  fred
Friday, October 23, 1874

"Cut some wood in the morning and fixed around chimney. Went on hill and over to brook and cut some mink traps. Called at store and came home."

Joel Kimball

Along the line of the Midland Railroad is a place named the Hell Hole, a section of track located between East Branch and Cook's Falls, which is appropriately named considering the event that has unfolded there. At this point is the end of the railroad's districts for two section of work gangs, with the gravel train working the one section of the road coming down out of Walton and the second coming up from Westfield Flats. The short switch located at the Hell Hole is used by either gravel train to allow other traffic to pass by. Today, both gravel trains were working in proximity of each other.

With the oncoming south-bound freight approaching, the Walton work train pulled onto the side track to get off of the main line while the work train from Westfield Flats had yet to reach the switch. Harvey Moore, the engineer out of the Westfield Flats' yard, sent his flagman, named Hafberger, on up-ahead to warn the on-coming freight that the track was not yet clear. Hafberger trekked down the track beyond the Walton train and flagged down the freight, informing the engineer that his gravel train had not yet entered the side track. Hafberger then hopped aboard the locomotive as it continued along slowly until it reached the Hell Hole switch, and upon seeing that the side track was occupied by a work train, the engineer assumed it was Hafberger's work train and that the track was now clear. With fireman Peter Ryan stoking the engine's firebox, the freight had just begun to gather speed when it quickly came upon the second gravel train still on the main track heading for the switch. There was little time to respond except to apply the brakes and jump off the train....  fred
Saturday, October 24, 1874

"Fished for succors in Emmett's Eddy with Uncle Billings and grandfather, caught 300. Came home and put off two blasts for H E Rose.

"Went to Flats - afoot - and looked over road law at G A Read's office.

"Stayed at Geo Sheeley's, went to meeting."

Joel Kimball

With the upcoming elections just over a week away, the town's Republican party membership gathered at Westfield Flats to rally their supporters, which was no easy task. President Grant's administration was now in the middle of its second term, providing the last six years with plenty of corruption, scandal and cronyism that has soured the nation's mood concerning Republican politics at all levels of government. The new postmaster at Westfield Flats, Mckendree N. Dodge, who took over the position this past summer from Burr Wilson and himself a political appointee [see June 21], conducted the meeting praising the current adminsitration and its policies to the partisan followers; - fred

"The Republicans at Westfield had a political meeting the other night. The new postmaster presided and with one or two speakers, talked Grantism 'till their throats were sore."

October 31, 1874
Evening Gazette

The political problems at Washington spread well beyond the nation's capital, including the administration of first-term New York State Governor John Dix, which was mired in its own scandals of pilfering state money and the governor's dubious ties with the railroad industry. The Democratic party, buoyed by the incumbent's political problems, supported popular anti-graft language in their party's platform, such as term limits and a free press, and nominated a reformed-minded and anti-corruption leader for its candidate for governor, Samuel Tilden. - fred
Sunday, October 25, 1874

"At A Y Sheeley's, went to church and to Morton's, saw father. Started for home and called at O O Horton's, saw E and Biff, came home."

Joel Kimball

Another heavenly show [see July 17] was on display early Sunday morning as the moon, in its fullest stage, began entering the earth's shadow shortly after midnight. The moon's orbit placed the evening's brightest fixture unusually close to the earth as its shadow slowly erased the orb's bright moonbeams from the night sky, the first total eclipse of the moon to be seen from the Eastern states in over eight years, an unusually long period of time between events. As the true darkness of night descended upon the heaven-gazers, the moon showed as only a dull red glow, lasting for over forty minutes before the sun's rays began to slowly reclaim the moon's surface again as it passed back out of the earth's shadow. fred
Monday, October 26, 1874

"Commenced to plow for rye after looking to traps, found nothing in them. Weather warm and pleasant."

Joel Kimball

As wary and cunning a red fox may be, a trapper needs to be likewise if he wishes to catch the animal. While Joel was off visiting relatives at Damascus, a problem developed back home as foxes made raids on the Kimball farm. In an effort to stop the chicken thievery, Joel's grandfather set up "fox beds" on the hill [see October 16]. Layers of straw were spread out at various locations, the center of which where bait was set. To help entice the animal to enter the bed of straw, the bait, which may have been cooked meat, would be dragged from a distance outside, leading to and onto the bed, leaving an odorous trail onto the straw and to the bait. After a while, when the fox becomes less suspicious at the ease of getting his meal, a steel trap is then set in the bed, underneath the straw and invisible, next to the bait. As the animal paws at the bait, the trap is sprung, at least that is how its suppose to work, but not so for the Kimballs for apparently they have been doing nothing more than feeding the sly critter for the past two weeks. fred
Tuesday, October 27, 1874

"Plowed some on the flats for rye, went on the hill and saw traps. Warm weather.

"Went up and got mail, letter from M S."

Joel Kimball

A correspondence appears to have started up again between Mary Schoonmaker and Joel. Throughout most of the year, according to the entries recorded into his diary, Joel seems to have been sweet on Liz Davis, the daughter of Captain Davis from Morsston, as evidenced with the exchange of letters and the numerous visits. However, since the July 23rd date with Liz, going to the dance at Westfield Flats, the letters seemed to have ceased and though Joel still continued to visit the Davis family, often times he found them not at home, including the August 27th visit where he was "some displeased" upon leaving.

We first met Mary on January 30th, as perhaps Joel did also, over a game of dominoes during his visit with relatives at Neversink. Joel had sent letters to Mary on two different occasions afterward, but it appears that he never received a reply from her; that is until today. - fred
Wednesday, October 28, 1874

"Plowed for rye and cut some wood. Weather warm and pleasant."

Joel Kimball

...With the sound of a gun's report outside, Jack Sherwood rushed back out the door of the Purvis Hotel, finding Mark Brown, still holding the pistol in his hand, standing over the lifeless form of Sylvester Carr lying on the ground. Others from inside the saloon followed Sherwood, helping to relieve Brown of his weapon and retaining him from leaving, though the murderer never made any attempt to escape. With Brown in custody, Sherwood went to the assistance of his wounded friend. "Vet, can you here me." Sherwood asked, but Carr only rolled his blood-stained eyes up at him, gasping for breath with a voice now silenced. It took only a minute before life was extinguished out of the man known as Vet Carr.

Brown was held by Sherwood until the town constable arrived who transported the prisoner down to the Monticello jail. Today, the twenty-eighth, the grand jury met at the Monticello Court House to decide the fate of the now sober and somber man. The people's case was presented to the jury by County District Attorney Alpheus Potts, seeking the charge of murder to be levied against the prisoner, while defense attorney, Arthur C Butts, entered the plea of not guilty in Brown's behalf by reason of advanced insanity being the cause for the shooting. The jury quickly returned from deliberations, carrying the indictment sought-after by the District Attorney, setting the stage for the upcoming trial. - fred
Thursday, October 29, 1874

"Sowed some rye today on the flats, one and one-half bushel. Weather cool and some pleasant."

Joel Kimball

The Midland's route along the Beaverkill River between Westfield Flats and East Branch was probably the most desolate and dangerous section along the company's line as both railroad and river competed for same space within the narrow valley. The steersmen of river rafts have long been familiar with every twist and turn in the river's channel and aware of the particular care needed to pilot a raft safely through its rapids without being smashed to smithereens. After the harrowing ride over the falling rapids at Cooks Falls, the rafting crew would then prepare for its next adventure as it approached Horton's Turn. Strong pulls on the oars by the full crew were needed to keep the raft off the rocks as the craft gained speed, passing Spooner's Turn and entering into the Pull Hair, where if a raft were as much as a hair's width off course, it would be destroyed. There was no respite from danger for the raft and its crew once in Whirling Eddy, for it has gained so much speed from the previous rapids that it passes over the eddy's relatively calm waters quickly, heading for Hell Hole, where rafters claim to be "a hell of a hole to run a raft through." *  -  fred

* August 26, 1880
  Evening Gazette
Friday, October 30, 1874

"Cut fallow and sample of beech lumber for H Disston & Son, Phila.

"Went to depot, deer skins had not come, rode down to Decker's with W H Waters. Cool and windy."

Joel Kimball

While enjoying the accommodations of Zilar Minard's hotel at Callicoon Depot during his recent journey to Damascus [see October 7th], Joel happened to meet a representative from the firm of Henry Disston & Son, the large saw manufacturing company from Philadelphia. Soon after emigrating from England with his family in 1833 at the age of fourteen, Henry Disston became orphaned and was left to devise his own methods of survival. Becoming an apprentice to a saw manufacturer, Disston began his own business when he became twenty-one, building the furnace used to produce his steel with his own hands, and became known for making the finest American-made saws. When his son, Hamilton Disston, returned home after the war in 1865, he joined his father in the firm, continuing the production of high-quality saws and files in the growing business. - fred
Saturday, October 31, 1874

"Went on the hill and cut fallow until noon. Came home and cut some wood and went to depot. Got some muslin for shirts, some clover seed and came to Decker's. Bought two yearlings for $22.00 and gave note due next June.

"A little snow.

"Grandmother came."

Joel Kimball

...The isolated section below Westfield Flats made headlines a year ago as two Midland trains, heading in opposite directions, converged on the railroad's unfinished track between Whirling Eddy and the Hell Hole with the anticipation of laying the last rail along the company's line. With company officials and other dignitaries having already arrived at Westfield Flats the evening before in preparation for the upcoming merger of the railroad's northern and southern sections and planned celebration, the day of July 9th, 1873, began as a wet and dreary day. With three miles of rails still needed to be laid, work was pushed throughout day despite the inclement weather and by late afternoon the last rail was in place ready for the ceremonies. Elisha Wheeler, the ex-vice president of the company who began the project years ago by lifting the first shovelful of dirt, was given the honors of driving the last spike, and with thirteen blows with the hammer, not all hitting its mark, the spike was set and the rail line complete and ready for through traffic. The wild and desolate location of the Hell Hole along the Beaverkill made newspaper headlines as far as New York City with stories of the Midland's completion, but soon another tale of converging trains would bring back this section's original reputation for mayhem known so well by river steersmen and lumbermen.... fred