Joel Kimball Diary - September 1874
|Tuesday, September 1, 1874
"Working at fence on the hill. Riley Brown came and I gave him order on J D W M Decker for $2.25. I called at post office in evening and received New York Weekly and some mortgages.
"Riley Brown for order on J D W M Decker, $2.25"
With the start of the fall term for area schools approaching, local children were not the only "students" heading back into the classroom. Today was the first session of the Teachers Institute, being held at the Baptist Church in Liberty. A series of Albany's Education Department sponsored meetings held at each of the statewide counties' school districts, teachers from all the individual school districts were obligated to attend these training sessions in order to receive their teacher's certificate. For most, if not all of the rural one-room schoolhouse instructors, this would be their only formal educational meeting they would attend all year. Seventy-two Sullivan County educators attended this two week session. - fred
|Wednesday, September 2, 1874
"Cleaned Geo Sprague's and our wells. Irwin came. I went on hill and worked at fence a while and after noon we went to Westfield Flats with Decker's horse, saw Geo Sheeley and Geo R Green. Came home in evening.
"Returned $2.00 to Geo Green that I borrowed."
Any journey Joel made to Westfield Flats usually meant a visit with George Sheeley and George Green, and often the three, since they were all members of the currently defunct community brass band, would break out their horns and practice in anticipation of the band's revival. George Green is the thirty-four-year-old son of Joseph Green, the proprietor of Green's Hotel, situated in the center of Westfield Flats. Joseph Green had one of the larger farms on the flats when, immediately after the war, he became an innkeeper with the erection of a large three-story hotel building, his guests being catered with the freshest produce provided from the farm's harvest. George, besides helping on his father's farm, learned the trade of blacksmith and was now considering to go into that business.
George Sheeley was the eighteen-year-old son of Amos Sheeley. The father cast a large shadow over the community as he was highly prominent both in town politics and business, as well as being prominent in size, for he carried himself about town on a skeletal frame of six feet and seven inches. In politics, he was then considered, and perhaps even to this day, to be the largest man to ever sit on the county Board of Supervisors. In business, he began as a lumberman, cutting an imposing figure on a freshet as he piloted his raft down the river to market. He later became a dealer in lumber, joining into a partnership with Burr Wilson, both as lumber dealers and merchants, proprietors of a mercantile business that was the most popular and largest at Westfield Flats. George may not have inherited his father's physical size, but he most certainly acquired the father's business skills, for the son became a partner with George Green into the proposed blacksmith venture. - fred
|Thursday, September 3, 1874
"Irwin and I went to Uncle Billing's and stayed after 10 o'clock, then went berrying, picked fifteen quarts blackberries.
"Went up to Decker's and finished set line and went to the pond in the evening, caught three catfish, one pickerel jumped in the boat."
On numerous occasions, Joel has had access to John D. W. M. Decker's horse. Born and raised on the family homestead at Willowemoc, Decker, being the second oldest son, assisted on the farm and, with the death of his father, continued the business of dealing with livestock, herding his stock to the Delaware & Hudson Canal for shipment to ports on the Hudson River. Because of this youthful experience, Decker became known as a horseman, a trait that would eventually serve him well during his upcoming military service.
John Decker campaigned with the 143rd New York Infantry for less than a year when in the summer of 1863 he was stricken with typhoid fever. While convalescing in a Washington military hospital, the regiment was sent to the war's western theater, under the command of Union General Tecumseh Sherman. Upon his recovery, Decker remained at the nation's capital, serving with the Veteran Reserve Corps, whose duties were to guard Washington, but with Decker's familiarity with horses, he was detailed as a mounted orderly and the responsibility of carrying dispatches to and from the various headquarters, including the War Department and the White House.
One story Decker liked to relate in his later years happened while he was delivering a dispatch at the White House. While there, General Grant, who had just arrived from the war's front to visit the President and was dressed in a private's army blouse, his uniform soiled from the day's travel, was challenged by the guard on duty. Known for often sporting a cigar, the Commanding General was chomping on one when he was ordered by the guard to discard the stogie. Grant, who offered no hint of protest, calmly saluted the guard, threw away the cigar and was then allowed to pass. - fred
|Friday, September 4, 1874
"Drew some slabs on the hill and finished the fence, turned the cows on the hill. Cut down large soft maple tree and sawed into it twice. Went up to depot and to Cyrus Mott's. Stayed all night."
Stream crossings, especially on the simple bridge spans made of stringer and planks, often were adventurous affairs as timbers rotted with time. Those with heavier loads attempting to cross the stream on these bridges had no guarantee that they would safely make it across without some sort of mishap. The Record, the weekly newspaper published at Jeffersonville, carried the following article in the September 4th edition;
"After tarrying until the "eleventh hour," it has been decided that the suspension bridge which crosses the Callicoon Creek directly opposite the Jeffersonville Drug store, shall be repaired. While crossing that bridge with a team of horses last Monday morning, Joseph Ulrich very narrowly escaped from being precipitated, together with his load, into the stream, by breaking on one of the bridge-stringers. It was a narrow escape and not only Ulrich, but the Road Commissioners of the Town of Callicoon are to be congratulated that no life was lost." - fred
|Saturday, September 5, 1874
"Came home and went on the hill and drew out toggle timber and commenced to make fence of it. Drew some slabs on the hill.
"Went down to flat with John Decker's horse.
"Got $20.00 of grandfather, gave him note, due January 1st, 1875."
As an orderly attached with the 9th Regiment Veteran Reserve Corps, John Decker was soon assigned to the General Court Martial under Judge-Advocate Major H. B. Burnham. Decker delivered dispatches issued from this court, summoning witnesses or issuing subpoenas to officers who were to be tried by this military tribunal. John Decker was probably not a welcome site to see as he rode into a camp's headquarters with subpoenas issued by Major Burnham, including the headquarters of General Franz Sigel.
Though General Franz Sigel's military ability was suspect, he was important to the Union cause through the successful recruitment of thousands of German immigrants, like himself. His command enjoyed success early in the war campaigning in Missouri, but when in charge of Union forces within the Shenandoah Valley in 1864, his command was soundly routed by the young cadets of the Virginia Military Institute on the battlefield at New Market. When the Confederate Army of General Jubal Early continued down the valley, Sigel's army was again defeated at Harpers' Ferry, allowing Early to march his troops across the Potomac River into Maryland and to within the outskirts Washington. As a result of this action, Sigel was removed from his command. Though branded "the dammdest coward I ever saw" by a fellow officer, no charges were ever proven against Sigel and he resigned his commission soon after the final shots of the war were fired. - fred
|Sunday, September 6, 1874
"Went up to depot, saw Will Darbee, went in the office and talked with Ed Schoomaker. Went in store and left $4,75 with Dubois for Frank Beach. Went to Capt. D's with L. Came home in evening.
Joel may have stopped at the depot to inquire about the arrival of mail, or rather the lack thereof. The mail train coming from the east had been late in arriving and for good reason; the large railroad bridge over the Shawangunk Kill below Bloomingburg was caught on fire by embers from a passing locomotive. Conflicting reports vary as to the extent of the damage the bridge sustained, the harshest report being that it was reduced to ashes. Another fire on the Smith Hill trestle, below Luzon, was thought to be the handiwork of a disgruntled employee, perhaps one of the discharged bridge-watchers or an unpaid worker. In the midst of a severe drought, timber on these trestles and river crossings has become tinder dry, and the company's money-saving approach of white-washing the wood instead of using bridge-watchers to protect the bridges from fire is proving to be an unwise move. - fred
|Monday, September 7, 1874
"Riley Brown called and brought back brush scythe then I went over to Geo Sprague's and cleared up buckwheat. I worked on the hill breaking fence.
"Riley Brown due for cash on balance account $2.25.
"Pretty warm and dry."
It's been "pretty warm and dry" for some time now. The last rainfall of any type was back on the evening of August 21, a shower which had hardly enough rain to hold down the dust stirred up from the roads. For the past six weeks there has been no appreciable rainfall and the fields and rivers were now showing the effects. With pastures drying up and the grass dying off, farmers were hard-pressed finding feed for their livestock, some resorting to using the recent summer's cutting of hay, feed normally used for winter fodder. With Joel's pastures withering away in the rainless summer's heat and now being overgrazed, he has been working the past couple of weeks erecting fences, some of rails and some of brush, around the field recently cleared on the hill behind the farm. Last Friday he set out his nine head of livestock into a portion of the hayfield-turned-pasture. - fred
|Tuesday, September 8, 1874
"Cut buckwheat and shot chipmunks, killed seven, pretty fair hunt."
In the Rockland correspondent column for the September 19th edition of the Evening Gazett, William Cairn, the correspondent known to that newspaper's readers as "Rusticus" notes the following;
"Squirrel hunting is all the rage among our amateur hunters at present." - fred
Wednesday, September 9, 1874
"Worked all day for Hiram Rose cutting and raking buckwheat."
Though area farmers such as Joel and Hiram Rose laboriously toiled at manually cutting their fields with scythes, innovative work-saving farming implements were beginning to work there way into the Town of Rockland. Samuel Darbee, considered one of the more progressive farmers within the township, farmed the original old family homestead in the lower Westfield Flats valley. This past summer, Darbee had brought the first mechanized mower into the township; a Buckeye Mowing Machine. This lightweight but sturdily built machine was drawn by a team of horses, where once the mower is set in motion, the turning of the wheels would engage gears that, through the use of levers worked by the machine's operator, would lower or raise the cutting bar and slide the cutting blades back and forth along the bar.
The popular Buckeye mower was considered to be superior in design, durability and execution when compared to similar models from other manufacturers. The New York State Agricultural Society compared twenty different models in field tests held during the summer of 1868 with the Buckeye scoring highest in quality amongst the group. Similar trials held in 1857, the year the Buckeye first came on the market, and 1866 also had similar results. This well-founded reputation of being the "most perfect and most durable harvester in the world" was well advertised by the local agent for Buckeye mowers, the firm of Gray & Crary, general merchants from Parksville. - fred
Thursday, September 10, 1874
"Worked at cutting buckwheat and making fence on the hill.
"Went up to Decker's and A Overton came over and he, John and I started for Hodge Pond to catch pickerel.
"Weather dry and hot."
Up in the highland wild forests of the Town of Rockland, at the watershed divide where the runoff from rainfall separates, a portion flowing into the valley of the Willowemoc and the rest into Beaverkill waters, only to come together again when the streams merge at Westfield Flat, lies the wilderness lake known as Hodge Pond. It is arguably the highest naturally occurring body of water in the Catskills, certainly in Sullivan County, its waters filling the carved-out depression left behind with the retreat of the continental glacier over ten thousand years ago, with an abundance of fish, whose early ancestors once swam the chilly melt-waters from glacial-ice, and who have survived the recent onslaught of angler's bait due to the pond's isolation.
The task of reaching this destination was difficult indeed, as our three sportsmen leave the primitive trail known as Hunter Road above the Whipple family sawmill and struggle over woodland footpaths left behind by woodsmen and hoop makers, carrying their provisions on hand-carts, optimistic that the supplies they brought would be used up and replaced on their carts by the expected bounty of pickerel upon their return home. - fred
The path from Kimball's house to Hodge Pond was difficult by any route especially through Lew Beech (Green). Perhaps a better route (Blue) would be up the newly finished DeBruce road and up the Mongaup Creek requiring very few hills to climb since it follows the streams that Hodge Pond runs into. - Harold
|Friday, September 11, 1874
"Arrived at Hodge Pond first day pretty will bruised and sleepy. Commenced to fish. Had some fun and hard work, caught fourteen today.
"Mr. Overton acted cook and bait catcher, pretty jolly old gent.
"Bill of fare
tea and coffee
bread and butter
milk and sugar
table dry goods
box seated on earth
"Slept in a brush shanty on hemlock, feathers and blankets."
James Quinlan, the writer of the highly celebrated, recently published book detailing the history of Sullivan County, probably never met Johnny Caesar Cicero Darling, the quick-witted story teller, but he did, however, meet Alexander Overton, who was in fact a good friend of Darling, and who himself was known to spin a tale of two. In gathering information concerning the history of the Town of Rockland, the Monticello publisher relied heavily on stories from the "jolly old gent", perhaps twisting a fact or two. But then, maybe no one tale was ever told twice the same way.
Overton delighted in conjuring-up tales of hunting; deer, bear and panthers all being fair game for his stories. One of these tales repeated by Quinlan being the visit to the then wilderness body of water later to become Shandelee Lake by Overton's father, David. It was a common practice in these early days of settlement for hunters to shoot as much game as they could carry. At this pond, David Overton came upon upward of forty deer along the shore's edge, frolicking in the water. As he carefully approached the seemingly unconcerned herd for a good shot, they caught wind on him and scattered into the woods. The same story, as told later, would become a visit to this same body of water by Overton along with a friend of Dr. Livingston, the Frenchman known as Shandley. Upon approaching the lake, this time they spotted fifty deer, the herd unconcerned over the danger that lurked in the surrounding forest as they drank and pawed at the water. The hunt turned more successful this time, for "Frenchie" and Overton shot down all fifty, skinned and cut them up all in the same day. As Johnny Darling, known for similar hunting antics himself, later remarked, "That's a pretty fine piece o' hunting." - Fred
|Saturday, September 12, 1874
"Fished until about noon, loaded up and came home, pretty rough road. Arrived home just dark, found Julia and Dave and Charlie Borden here. Caught eighteen pickerel in all. Too late to go to C M's.
"Dry and hot."
The sixty-two-year-old "jolly old gent" was a descendant from the family of James Overton, who settled on a farm-lot purchased from Robert Livingston's land-holdings at what was originally known as Upper Westfield Flats, carving out a farm into the virgin forests alongside the Willowemoc Creek. The year was 1790 when James and his young family, along with the family of his wife, Sybilla Ellis, left their homes at Bloomingburgh, on the very soughern edge of Sullivan County, and ascended into the wilderness of the Catskills, blazing the trees along the way so as to be able to retrace their steps if need be.
Alexander Overton, the grandson to the pioneer and who eventually purchased the original homestead in 1848 from his aged aunt, Rachael Overton Knapp, did, on at least on one occasion, retrace his grandparent's steps on the trail back to Bloomingburgh when in May of 1855 he married a descendent of his grandmother's family, Malinda Ellis, at the Bloomingburg Church. - Fred
Alexander Overton was my 3rd Grand Uncle
|Sunday, September 13, 1874
"H E Rose and I went to depot, called at Cyrus Mott's, nobody home. Stayed at depot until 3 o'clock and came home. Picked water melon, Dave and Julia went home.
"Received check of $15.70 from Fleming, Adams & Howe for butter, 38 c per pound.
"Received $3.00 from Dave to pay freight on wool.
"H E Rose bought one bbl flour, $8.00."
Not everyone was happy to see the Midland railroad commence operations. The first penetration of commercial rail service into the rugged terrain of the Catskills was by the New York and Erie Railroad, its route winding its way along the banks of the Delaware River. This one hundred and twenty-seven mile long stretch of tracks was completed and opened to traffic late in December of 1848. The remote Town of Rockland was linked to this rail service by a tortuous wagon trail, known as the Callicoon Turnpike, that went from the railroad's depot located at the hamlet of Callicoon Depot, following the valley of the North Branch of Callicoon Creek, a tributary to the main river, up, over and through a narrow gap at the watershed-dividing ridge and down into the Willowemoc valley at Westfield Flats. This turnpike was not only important to the interior hamlets of Sullivan County for the easier access to necessary supplies and mail, but also became an important transportation route for raw materials such as hides, allowing the development of the tanning industry in this section.
The hauling of freight and mail from the Erie's depot to Westfield Flats created employment for numerous teamsters, but with the completion of the Midland railroad's route through the interior section of Sullivan County in 1873, the importance of the Callicoon Turnpike was diminished. Oliver Sherwood, for years a teamster hauling hides over the turnpike for the Utter & Palen tannery at Westfield Flats, was affected by the building of the new railroad. In September of 1874, it was announced by the local correspondent that Sherwood was now in the business of carting freight over the mountain from the flats to Downsville, in Delaware County. - Fred
|Monday, September 14, 1874
"Finished cutting buckwheat on the flat and mended J Decker's fish cart. Took Hiram Rose's hand cart home and helped J D fix fish box. Came home and caught 42 bait fish. Went on the hill and made some fence and cut brush.
"Very dry and warm."
Our sportsmen have returned from their fishing trip, again traveling over the rugged trails from Hodge Pond, none the worse for wear; unfortunately the same could not be said about their equipment. Joel had borrowed his neighbor's hand cart for the excursion, which seemed to survive the trip, but John Decker's equipment was not so fortunate, with both the cart and its container, used to carry the pickerel that were caught, being damaged along the way. - fred
|Tuesday, September 15, 1874
"Raked up buckwheat on the flat and caught some bait fish. Went to the depot in the afternoon, called at Cyrus Mott's.
"Paid Arthur Dodge 55 cents being balance due for work in hayfield. Received letter from L.
"Weather some cloudy and warm."
And still it hasn't rained. With the lack of water, the river has taken-on the appearance of a small brook, a condition that has never been seen before in anybody's memory. No longer do folks need to take their shoes off and roll up their pants when crossing the river for now they could cross without even getting the bottom of their soles wet. Smaller creeks have dried have up completely, forcing mills to shut down operations throughout the valley. As livestock become starved for water, farmers have set loose the animals to drive them to the river for a drink. It has also been the same for residences as shallow wells have dried up, forcing folks to either dig deeper wells or carry water from the river for washing purposes.
As desperate the situation seems, the news concerning the effects of the drought wasn't all bad. The shutting down of the mills allowed needed repair work to be done on the machinery. Also, the price of butter has now risen to over forty cents per pound. The Delaware & Hudson Canal, the waterway that ran from the coal-fields of Pennsylvania and a vital supplier of coal to the Midland's freight traffic, had their reservoirs so low that the canal company was able to work on repairing the dams. - fred
|Wednesday, September 16, 1874
"Worked for Hiram Rose cutting buckwheat until noon, came home and went on the hill and commenced to cut my buckwheat.
"Commenced raining, came home, done chores and called at post office. Went to J H Sheeley's with John Decker. Came home about 8 o'clock."
Finally, the first substantial rain in over two months has fallen, wetting down the parched countryside and assisting in putting out the numerous forest fires that were raging throughout sections of Sullivan and Delaware counties in New York and Pike County, across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. The smoke rising from the scorched forests resulting from these fires blanketed the sky throughout the whole area, the air reeking from the putrid haze.
Sparks rising from smoke-boxes of passing steam locomotives were often blamed for many of these fires. Above Cook's Falls, one hundred cords of hemlock bark, stacked alongside the Midland's tracks, caught fire from a passing train, reducing the pile to ashes and setting the surrounding timber on fire. - fred
|Thursday, September 17, 1874
"Expected to go to Mongaup Pond but the weather was rainy so we did not go. I made a whip-lash and commenced to repair bob sled.
"Rained quite steady in the afternoon.
"Bish fixed bolt for me."
The rain continues. Perhaps no one was more relieved to see the rain than the Midland's railroad officials. Trains coming down from upstate often needed to take on water from the Rockland or Morsston Depot railroad yard's water tank to make the final hard push over the highest point along the line at Young's Gap. Due to the present drought, the water level in these tanks was so low that water needed to be taken out of the river to satisfy the railroad's needs. - fred
|Friday, September 18, 1874
Still rainy. Went on the hill and worked at fence all day. Drew up slabs."
The highly anticipated report from General George Custer, concerning the findings regarding the past summer's expedition of his Seventh Calvary into the Black Hills, has been published in newspapers back east and as rumored, it has stated that gold was discovered. The accuracy of the report was over-shadowed by the wild accusations that followed, including reports that grass roots would pan out large quantities of gold. These accusations set off a nation-wide affliction of gold fever, with gold-digging expeditions setting out from all directions and descending into this section of the Dakota Territory. - fred
|Saturday, September 19, 1874
"Worked at fence on the hill. Drew up some slabs and drew out toggle timble."
The invasion of prospectors into the Black Hills created immense problems for the nation's frontier army, for the area had been previously sanctioned by the government to be a reservation for the Sioux Indian nation. Protecting the army of gold-diggers from deprecations would be difficult without violating the terms of the treaty with the Sioux. General Sheridan, the nation's top commanding officer, issued the following to General Alfred Terry, in charge of the district that included the Dakota Territory;
"... Should companies now organizing trespass on Sioux Indian Reservation, you are hereby directed to use force at your command to burn their wagon trains, destroy their outfits and arrest their leaders, confining them to the nearest military post in the Indian territory."
But later, in the last sentence of the same dispatch, Sheridan seems to suggest the government was considering a change in policy towards the Sioux and its commitments to previous treaties;
"... Should the government open up the territory for settlement by extinguishing the treaty rights of the Indians, the undersigned will give his cordial support to the settlement of the Black Hills." - fred
|Sunday. September 20, 1874
"Started to go to Flats. Called at A Cochran's barn. Rained so hard, did not go any farther. Came home and read Shakespeare. River raised some."
The rain during the past five days have alleviated the area's drought and, as noted by the river-pilot, have raised the level of the river. It also raised the level of the mud along the road and Joel's trip to Westfield Flats was quickly curtailed by the additional downpour, with him turning around at Archie Cochran's place, not very far from home.
The thirty-one-year-old Archibald Cochran was another of the young veterans who enlisted into the Union Army during the Civil War, with the 143rd New York Volunteers along with his neighbors and fellow Rocklanders, and served until the completion of the war. Soon after returning home, he purchased the family farm from his widowed mother, located on the opposite bank of Bascomb Brook across from the William P Rose farm [see March 18, April 8 and May 19]. The Cochran family were amongst the earliest settlers in the valleys of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc rivers, arriving to the wilderness of Westfield from Massachusetts in 1789. Nelson Cochran, Archie's father, rented from the Livingston family until 1842 when he acquired ownership of his homestead. Nelson died nine years later, at the young age of thirty-five, leaving his widow, Phoebe, the responsibility of the farm and the raising of their young boys, the oldest being only nine years of age. - fred
|Monday, September 21, 1874
"Went down to Westfield Flats. Left note with Doc Reed against Martin Gillet for collection $12.42. Saw Geo Green, Geo Sheely and others. Ed Huntington went down with me from Arch's. Came home and cut buck wheat in afternoon. Called at H
"Robert Schriber tried to catch pigeons and failed.
"H E Rose for one sack salt, $4.00
Due for cash, $8.00"
Joel was witness to a small part of one of the greatest mass extinctions ever seen. Passenger Pigeons flew in such great numbers that they appeared as if they were clouds in the sky. Living in large flocks, their roosting sites would completely cover many square miles of forests where they fed on nuts and seeds. Their numbers, which was estimated to be in the billions, dwindled by the latter half of the nineteenth century with the destruction of these forests and the increase of predation by man. The birds were hunted for meat; they were hunted for sport; they were hunted by farmers to protect crops from denudation. They were hunted with guns, clubs and nets. A single stone thrown into a roosting tree would likely knock numerous birds from their perch. Hunters foraged from roost to roost, state to state, persistently following these flocks of pigeons until the species was finally unable to survive this murderous sport.
In late September of 1874, large flocks of Passenger Pigeons visited forested sections of Sullivan County, including roosts in the upper Beaverkill and Willowemoc valleys. Local sportsmen, as well as the roving band of pigeons hunters, followed them to their roosts and continued the slaughter, sending their kill to markets in the city. - fred
|Tuesday, September 22, 1874
"Got up early and set up buckwheat and started for Mongaup Pond fishing. Arrived about 1 o'clock and commenced to fish, caught twenty by night. Jim Rush fixed shanty and John Decker went watching for deer. I fell in the pond and sat by the fire and tried to dry myself. John came in at midnight and found pretty hard pillow."
Once again, Joel and Alphabet Decker set out for the highland forests above DeBruce, this time following along logging trails above the Whipple mill, which allows them to haul Joel's newly-made boat by wagon, to the waters of Mongaup Pond. The largest of all the ponds found within the Catskills, the natural beauty and abundant wildlife in and around its waters has long attracted anglers and nimrods to this wilderness area. Their third companion is James Rush, a sixty-four-year-old Englishman who resides near the one-room school house near Buck Eddy. A well-educated man, James is the trustee for the school district and has an extensive library, for these parts, filled with English literature, some which he has shared with Joel. - fred
|Wednesday, September 23, 1874
"Still at pond, commenced fishing and caught thirty-one. G Moran and Cal Johnston came and I ran them across the pond in my boat. They came back just as we were packing to leave and I carried them across the pond. I changed places with Johnston and rode his horse and he rode in the wagon. I had a pleasant talk with Moran.
"Arrived home just before night.
The territory surrounding Mongaup Pond lies in the section of the original land grant of the Hardenburgh Patent known as Great Lot Five. Due to the area's isolation and rugged terrain, much of Great Lot Five still remained in the hands of the absentee landholders, who rented smaller lots within this tract to homesteaders and sold rights for the taking of the hemlock bark to Stoddard Hammond for use at his tannery in Debruce. Henry Low, the county judge and a powerful force within State politics, was the most recent of the absentee landholders who, in 1872, sold all of the vacant lots remaining of Great Lot Five to the New York Land Improvement Company, a corporation created under the laws of New York State, which included himself and his political friends at Albany. - fred
|Thursday, September 24, 1874
"Went on the hill and cut buckwheat until noon. After noon thrashed buckwheat, Robert Schriber helped me.
"Robert Schriber credit for one-half days work."
Judge Henry Reynolds Low's beginnings were of a humble nature, born and raised on his father's farm near Devine Corners in the Town of Fallsburgh. Acquiring an interest in education, Low advanced beyond the normal one-room-rural-school teachings to attend the normal school at Albany, returning home to teach and eventually begin a school academy at Monticello. While teaching at the academy, he began studying law and soon was admitted to the bar, becoming a partner in the law office of A.C. Niven of Monticello.
Low's political career began in 1855 with his election to the office of County Judge, a position he served until political ambition brought his return to Albany, being elected as a State Senator in 1861. Though highly regarded both at home and in the Senate chambers at Albany, his bid for re-election in 1863 was challenged by no other than his former, older law partner, Archibald Niven, who also was popular in local and state political circles. The final outcome of the 1863 fall election for the State Senate seat was close, with Niven receiving a slim majority of eighteen votes on the first tally. The results were challenged by Low, who questioned the validity of the election returns, throwing the issue into the hands of the Albany committee on contested elections and finally back to the same political body both men were aspiring to join. The State Senate confirmed the report from the committee, negating the final election results, where Niven was in the lead, and awarded the seat to Low. - fred
|Friday, September 25, 1874
"Finished cutting buckwheat on the hill, thrashed and cleaned up buckwheat in afternoon, had eighteen bushels.
"Robert Schriber for cash to balance hay work, $8.00
credit for one half days work.
"Grandfather and Uncle John here today."
Henry Low's position as State Senator proved advantageous for the local area for during his tenure, Low became acquainted with Dewitt Clinton Littlejohn, former mayor of the upstate Lake Ontario community of Oswego, a former assemblyman from that district and later a US congressman. Together, they initiated the proposal of building a railroad from ports along the Hudson River, through the interior portion of New York State, to the shores of Lake Ontario at Oswego. In 1866, Low introduced to the State Senate the "Town-Bonding Act" whose provision required communities along the proposed line to raise capital for the building of the railroad, and to provide the proposed railroad company a ten-year exemption on state property taxes. In this era of railroad-building mania, the bill passed easily. - fred
|Saturday, September 26, 1874
"Went on the hill and set up buckwheat until noon, bound up some corn in garden, dug a few potatoes.
"Went to depot and to Morsston, called at store, saw D H Decker. Called at D's, delivered school registers to Purvis and Morsston."
Along the banks of the Little Beaverkill, before Morsston became known as Morsston, William Bradley, a well-to-do land dealer and hide merchant, who operated a tannery at Parksville, erected a small tannery in 1849 on a portion of lands owned by Salmon Steele, purchasing the property in 1851, but immediately fell into financial ruins and lost the business to creditors. In June of 1852, Medad Morss and Henry Osborn, cousins by marriage and whose ancestors of both men resided in the upstate county of Greene during the tannery boom era in that section of the state, purchased the small plant, along with the rights for the hemlock bark from neighboring properties. After expanding the Bradley tannery, along with erecting tenement housing and a store, and when coupled with the partners' two other tanning plants at Woodbourne and Black Lake, the cousins' partnership became the largest dealers of hides in the county. Morss, residing near the Woodbourne tannery, was considered the consulting partner, while Osborn, who had previously worked as mechanic in tanneries during his younger days, was the acting and executive partner for the new plant, residing near the town of Rockland tannery. With his prominent position in the business, as well as living and working amongst the firm's employees, Osborn soon turned from popular employer to popular political leader, first as a local judge and in 1860, winning the election for the office of Town of Rockland Supervisor. - fred
|Sunday, September 27, 1874
"Went to post office and received mail, came home and read some of Jane Eyre, quite interesting. Went on the hill in the afternoon, found cattle in buckwheat, fixed fence."
The year of 1863 was an eventful year for Henry Osborn, one of the partners of the Osborn & Morss Tannery. During the war years of 1861 to 1865, an epidemic of typhoid fever spread throughout the northern states. Elizabeth Osborn, Henry's wife, came down with the dreaded disease early that spring and on May 23rd, died, being only in her thirty-ninth year of age. Three months later, heavy rains raised the water levels of the Little Beaverkill until the normally placid small creek became a surge of flood-swollen rapids, creating substantial damage to the creek-side tannery and surrounding property, and putting the partnership into financial hardship. The plant was brought back up to running order, but Osborn now set his interests in another area; running as the Democratic nominee for the office of County Clerk. Osborn was successful in being elected to this office, and early in 1864 the partnership between Morss and Osborn was dissolved, though not done in the most amicable of terms. - fred
|Monday, September 28, 1874
"Made some fence and drew load of buckwheat to Flat. cut some toggle timber."
After last week's period of heavy rain, the drought-like conditions that plagued the area have ended as the channels of small creeks and river beds became full with water. The gristmill at Westfield Flats had ceased to operate during late August and September due to the scarcity of water which was needed to turn the mill's turbines but now, with the level of the Beaverkill rising and the mill-pond filling up again, the grinding of grains have resumed.
Since the departure of Diamond Joe Reynolds to more profitable ventures out in the Midwest, the firm of Utter & Palen owned the large flouring mill and nearby tannery and prospered, seasonally grinding the local farmers' buckwheat and other grains into flour or meal, payment being either a share of the product or by bartering with the farmer. By the end of 1873, however, the Palen family, who were invested in other tanneries within the county which were now failing, conveyed their interests to the Westfield Flats' plants over to their partner, Horace Utter. With the Midland Railroad now offering cheap rail transportation, Utter began utilizing the over-sized mill building as a commercial mill and merchant feed store and continued to prospered. - fred
|Tuesday, September 29, 1874
"Worked on the hill and drew down buckwheat and threshed some. Rained in afternoon."
September 25, 1874
"Several cases of typhoid fever have made their appearance in this neighborhood, but as yet, we hear of no fatal cases."