Friday, December 31, 2010

Schoharie County's Witches

We all have heard of witches, old women in Europe who cast spells on the innocent. Witches are not solely a European peculiarity. Even our Schoharie County has had witches, or rather, people who were believed to be witches. In reality, actuality, and factuality, Schoharie County has had a few.
Deadman’s Creek, now called Swart Hollow, is about three miles south of West Fulton. In the mid 1800s, there lived a woman by the name of Margaret Hemstreet, who people believed was a witch. Of course, the people had stories to back up their clams.
Mrs. Hemstreet wished to buy a pig from a man named William Swart. Now this pig was his best, being that it was his fattest, so he refused to sell it to her. A few nights later, Mr. Swart was awakened by noises in his pig-pen. When he got there, the pig was having a “fit”. Swart figured that Mrs. Hemstreet put a spell on the pig. Apparently he knew a way to calm down a pig with a spell on it, so he wrestled the pig to the ground, cut of it’s ear, and burned it. According to Mr. Swart, the pig instantly grew calm, although it’s hard to believe that a pig, whose ear had just been cut off, would be calm.
Another story surrounding Mrs. Hemstreet involves the Swart family again. William Swart was visiting the Swart household, when Mrs. Hemstreet walked up to him. “You’ll have company on your way home”, she said to his. As he walked home across a moonlit, snow laden field, a black cat came up to him. The cat played with him, and gave him company on his way home, but when he got home, the cat disappeared. The next day, he saw his tracks in the snow, but no cat prints.
One time Mrs. Hemstreet asked a woman, named Jerusha Chase for thread. Mrs. Chase, who had just left her house, didn’t want to go back inside, so she didn’t give Mrs. Hemstreet the thread she asked for. That night, Mr. Chase was awakened by Mrs. Chase turning in bed. While asleep, Mrs. Chase began shouting that Mrs. Hemstreet was dragging her to a creek, and her husband discovered that she was soaking wet. Then Jerusha began shouting, “She’s poking needles under my finger nails.” Sure enough, blood sprouted from her fingers.
Mrs. Hemstreet would never be seen outside without her trusty white cap that covered her head and ears. When she eventually did die, her neighbors found that she was still wearing her hat. As curiosity is always a factor, they wanted to remove the hat, but Mrs. Hemstreet’s husband prevented them from doing so.
A woman named Eva Boeke, who lived in Huntersville, was believed to be a witch until her death in 1870. A woman called Aunt Jane Buell, who lived in Conesville, was believed to be a “white witch”, or healer. Actually, many would consider a healer a good thing.
All the accounts that I have related have been given the benefit of the doubt, although maybe such luxuries should be bestowed upon them. Although I don’t know people’s feeling towards Mrs. Hemstreet, it is possible that people lied about being a witch simply because they didn’t like her. Also, I believe this report is appropriate with Halloween on the horizon. Happy Halloween.
County Historical Review. Schoharie County Historical Society. Schoharie, N.Y. 1992.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The History of Jefferson

The town of Jefferson was first inhabited in 1793, by people from New England. The spirit of then inhabited the town, still, when the text was written. This spirit put forth an interest in education, and the use of “advantages derived”.
In January of 1803, people petitioned the Legislature to officially declare Jefferson a town. On February 12, the Legislature did just that. On March 1st, the town elected it’s first officials, with Stephen Judd being included in five of them, them being, Assessor, Overseer of the Poor, Commissioner of the Highways, Fence Viewer, and Path Master.
Several years later, another village named Jefferson in New York, made an effort to change it’s name because of mailing problems. Afterwards, the town’s name was changed to Watkins.
The first school teacher in Jefferson was Herman Hickok. He founded the Jefferson Academy in 1812. Shares of the school were sold at $25 a piece, with Stephen Judd owning the most at 12. Those who owned shares had a vote in electing a board of directors. He also gave land for the academy to be built on. While construction continued, there was not enough revenue to complete the structure. To raise the money, Jefferson asked the town of Schoharie for the money. Schoharie obliged, and 44 people gave money, at a total of $216.50. People who donated were future Governor William Bouck, Peter Vroman, Adam Vroman and Heman Hickok, if I may assume to have some relation to Herman. Also, the list given spells Adam and Peter Vroman, “Vrooman”.
The building was finally erected in 1822, at forty-five square feet, with a height of three stories. It cost approximately four thousand dollars to build. Although started under firm footing, the building had troubles. Long times would elapse between school sessions, and it did not get needed repairs.
In the will of Stephen Judd, who died on June 8, 1821, it stated that the property was to be used as a school, so long as the academy was used for “school purposes”. Joshua H. Judd, Stephen’s great-nephew, demanded the property be returned to the Judds, on the grounds that the agreement of the continuation of “school purposes” was broken. He won the case. In it’s stead was a “Union School”, formed in 1878.
Two tanneries were in existence in Jefferson, both of which were founded in 1816, and both of which faded from existence in about 1846. There was a Presbyterian Church in Jefferson, which was founded in about 1809, but the book does not give an exact date.
The Judd family had a huge impact on Jefferson. As previously mentioned, the Judds helped raise, and, eventually, tear down the Jefferson Academy. Stephen Judd held huge lots of land, and had an inn, and his brother, Freeman, was a preacher. Also mentioned is a story that states that Daniel Judd was beheaded by Indians in the Revolution, and his was carried to Canada on a pole.
There were another three churches in Jefferson, all of which were Methodist. The Methodist Episcopal Church of West Jefferson was organized first, and services were held at private houses until 1816. The First Methodist Village Episcopal Church of Jefferson Village was organized in 1819, and was included in a circuit of 13 towns. The West Kill Methodist Church was organized in 1816, but became the First Methodist Village Episcopal Church of Jefferson Village, in 1819.
A skirmish was held upon Jefferson, and was a loss to patriots. As the book states, “This skirmish was the only one which occurred during the war that was disgraceful...within the borders of our County.” Jefferson also sent men to fight in the Civil War.
The book also lists justices of Jefferson, from 1803 to 1882. Mentioned are Stephen Judd, in 1804, and Heman Hickok, who served eight years in a row.
I don’t understand why Jefferson was founded in the very late 1700s, when Schoharie was founded so long before. I mean, can you imagine Jefferson was settled ten years after the Revolution.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Western Schoharie County History

One can easily derive Summit’s name by looking around the county, for the county has many summits. Mount Wharton stands a little to the west of the town, where the clouds embrace it, given it’s height. Mt. Wharton got it’s name from it’s owner, J. B. Wharton. Upon this mountain presides a “sheet of water”. The book goes out of it’s way to note the beauty of this entity.
Seymour Boughton was a resident of Summit, who moved there from Charlotteville. Boughton was the youngest of nineteen, yes nineteen, children, and, at about the turn of the 18th century, he moved with his father to Charlotteville. In Charlotteville, he built the Van Buren house, which was used as a tavern. Boughton framed and painted his house by himself, to which his neighbors thought that he was “bent on wasting his property”. The tavern was the first framed house in town. Mr. Boughton died on June 11, 1872.
According to legend, the lake in Summit was named Utasayantho. A story that surrounds the lake concerns an unwed Indian squaw. This squaw gave birth to a child upon the bank of the lake. Chiefs of the tribe consulted with each other, then threw the child into the lake. For a long time, the lake was called “Jack’s lake”, but as time progressed, it was given the appropriate name of “Summit Lake”. Interestingly, it is said that Johnson and Brant stopped at the lake in 1780, relaxed, and even did some fishing.
Summit was settled after the Revolution. People who settled here were mainly from the Hudson river counties, and the “eastern States”. A man by the name of Levi Ives owned a distillery in Summit. This establishment was nationally famous, for many people from around the country ordered liquor from Ives.
To the west of Summit is a valley by the name of Charlotte. In the valley flows the Charlotte river. Along the stream there was an ancient Indian path. Along this path, POWs of the Revolution walked, on their way to Canada. Four miles south of the valley lived a man named Service. Although being neutral, in many cases, he was accused of being disloyal to the Whig cause. An order for his arrest was given, and a patriot party went to get him. Upon arriving, they put forth a letter, which they said proved his “disloyalty to the Continental cause”. He refused to go, and threw an ax at the patriots and ran. He was shot whilst he ran. One of the men who killed Service was Tim Murphy.
The book says “nothing of importance occurred in this part” until a school was built in 1850. The school was built for 300 children. In 1852, additions were built, and the school was then able to hold over 500 students. In 1867, the school burned down.
The first church in the valley was the First Baptist Church. The book lists church officials of the First Baptist. Other churches in the area were: the Second Baptist Church, the Reformed Church of Eminence, the Methodist Episcopal Church of Summit, the Free Methodist Church of Charlotteville, the Lutheran Church of Summit, and the Lutheran Church of Beard’s Hollow.
Lying in what is now Richmondville, was Beard’s Hollow. It was founded in 1794 by Killian Ritter. In 1800 there was a business which revolved around the manufacture of grindstones. Another hamlet was Lutheranville, which was called also “Tar Hollow”. During the Anti-rent wars, it is believed, that a deputy sheriff was “treated to a good coat of tar and feathers”. Another little hamlet that existed was “Dutch Hill”, which received it’s name because of the nationality of people who resided there. In 1851, it was renamed Eminence. The first town meeting of Summit was held in March of 1820.
Can you imagine a mountain named after you, like Mr. Wharton’s? Imagine three hundred years from now, a mother points and tells her son with an air of excitement, “Look, there’s Mount Laraway.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The History of Fulton and West Middleburgh

A portion of Fulton was once owned by the Vromans, called Vromansland, and was purchased for one hundred gallons of rum and a few blankets. Adam Vroman’s father, Hendrick, was killed in the Schenectady massacre of 1690. Adam was born in Holland, in 1649, and had three wives, who begat 13 children. The book lists the children.
The Palatines and Vromans did not trust each other. When the Palatines saw the land that Vroman had bought, they realized that Vroman had cheated the Indians out of almost one thousand acres. The Palatines, Indians, and Vromans argued over the land until Adam Vroman repurchased it in 1726.
In 1753, a “fort” was built in Vromansland. This action was taken in preparation of a conflict with the French, and the order to build the fort was given by Sir William Johnson.
In the Revolution, Peter Vroman fought alongside the patriots as a Colonel. He also represented the Schoharie district at the “Provincial Convention”, which elected delegates to the Continental Congress. He also served as a delegate to the Council of Safety.
The Swart family were decedents of people from Holland. The first Swarts in the country were Frederick and Teunis Cornelius. One Swart became a judge.
The Cryslers settled in our county around the year 1750. When the Revolution erupted, they sided with the Crown, and the book states many times that they are a “stain upon our history”. During the Revolution, Crysler fled to Canada with other Tories.
In 1777, upper, middle, and lower forts were built. The strongest of these was the upper fort, which stood near Fultonham.
The book tells of the Vroman massacre in which many Vromans and servants were either killed or brought to Canada. This rendition includes the story of the Indians sparing the Vroman baby because of it’s laughter. Also, many of those killed had their scalps hung near those captured. These prisoners were traded for other prisoners in Canada and walked home from Saratoga after being gone for a year.
The Bouck family came to Fulton via the Palatine immigration, the first Bouck being William Bouck. In 1780, William was taken prisoner by Indians. He and other servants were rescued by patriots. William C. Bouck was born in 1786, and started school in 1795. Bouck was in the state legislature and was Governor for two years, and is the only Governor from our county. Bouck also attended the state constitutional convention and died in 1859, at 73.
The book gives a list of inhabitants of Fulton in 1788. Among the names are Bouck, Crysler, Vroman, and Swart.
This chapter also states that Tim Murphy was nothing but a kind-hearted person and a patriot. Murphy’s family moved here from Ireland. At 16, Murphy joined the patriots as a rifleman. It was Tim Murphy that killed General Fraser in the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. Murphy was dispatched to the Schoharie valley to help turn back expected invasions.
Mr. Murphy had many great feats, including defending the Middle Fort. His first wife was Marganet Feek. Murphy died in 1818 and was buried at his farm.
In the hills of Fulton was Petersburgh. Once having timber covering the land, hemlock took it’s stead when the timber was depleted. The hemlock was used as normal timber would be used.
Breakabeen’s “correct” name is “Brakabeen”, which was named by the Germans. One of the early settlers of Breakabeen was the Keysers. During the Revolution, three houses stood in Breakabeen, one of which was the Keyser residence. A man named Michael Borst came to Fulton in 1815 and built a tannery near the bridge; the tannery was later replaced by a foundry around 1850.
Fultonham was the place of a Palatine dorf and the Upper Fort. One of the first families were the Laraways. The book also mentions a man by the name of Charles Watson, which begs the question, is this who Watsonville is named after?
West Fulton was, for a long time, known as Byrneville, or Sapbush Hollow. The name was changed to West Fulton thanks to the post office. Michael Byrne built a church in the town for the Dutch Reformed.
Polly Hollow, or West Middleburgh, is also talked about. During the Civil War, two soldiers deserted and Union troops came to get them. The Polly Hollow militia fired on the Union force until they retreated.
Under the Supervisors of Fulton, names of interest that came up are Vroman, Watson, and Bouck. Fulton’s boundaries were formed in 1828.
The book tells of Crysler’s despicable actions. One must wonder what was going on in his mind.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One thing Obama got right so far

As you might know, gluten is bad. Obama doesn't like gluten. I rest my case.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

History of Sharon Springs

Sharon was part of Tryon County from 1772-1784. Tryon was renamed Montgomery on April 2, 1784. On February 16, 1791, part of Carlisle, Seward, and Sharon formed the town of “New Dorlach”. When our county was formed, Sharon was annexed, and it’s boundaries were defined in 1797.
All the immigration stopped during the Revolution, but afterwards people started to go to Sharon. Peter Sommers kept the first store in the town, but went to Canada during the Revolution, and never returned. William Beekman was the first judge in the Court of Common Pleas, which he held until 1833. Beekman was also elected to the Senate in 1799, 1800, 1801, and 1802. He also built a mansion west of Beekman’s Corners, and died on November 26, 1845.
Many of the Indians and Germans remained loyal to the Crown during the Revolution. In 1777, some people answered the call of the Crown. On July 10, 1781, the battle of Sharon took place, in which Colonel Willett of Fort Stanwix battled a man named Dockstader, a Mohawk Tory. Although Dockstader commanded over 400 Indians and Tories, and Willett commanded under 300, the patriots took only five losses, while Dockstader took over 70. After the war, a few people petitioned the legislature to be compensated for things lost during the war.
At Moak’s Hollow, the Mynderts and other people were captured by a band of Indians and Tories. Mrs. Myndert was allowed to go, but the rest were taken to Niagara. They were still held after the war, but escaped by digging under their prison’s wall. William Kneiskern, who was taken to Rebel Island, escaped by binding three brandy casks together, and floating to America.
Previous to the Revolution, many of the settlers were well-to-do people, but the Revolution left them in poverty. By 1800, most, if not all, of the town was occupied. In 1793, the “Great Western Turnpike” ran through Sharon, and the thoroughfares that ran through the town gave a major business boost.
Beekman’s Corners was a booming town in the first quarter of the 1800s. This is where Judge Beekman lived. Dr. Sylvanus Palmer, whose pen-name was Peter Paradox, called Governor Bouck, soon after he was elected, a “Sour Kraut”. Peter A. Hilton built a brick mansion and storehouse in Beekman’s Corners.
Peter, Martin, Mathias, and Jacob Engle settled in Sharon in 1798. Peter built a grist-mill in 1810. Inside Sharon was the hamlet of Leesville, where it’s post office was located, and was where the town’s main business took place. Located in Leesville were three hotels, two stores, a tannery, and a blacksmith.
The springs of Sharon were highly acclaimed, for they were believed to hold disease curing abilities. Indians used them, in fact, long before the whites came. Provisions for accommodating settlers were started around 1825, by David Eldredge, who started to take in boarders, and added rooms upon his home to provide room for extra travelers. A major boarding home was constructed by a company from New York City, and afterwards, many more hotels were built by various people and companies. The book lists the minerals found in the springs.
Christian Myndert was the first to settle in Sharon, whose farm was purchased by Tinas Pynneo. Another name for Sharon is Moak’s Hollow. Some of the first settlers in Sharon were the Loucks, the Davenports, and the Klings, who still remain in the county. It’s amazing that the book devotes a big section to local graves.
It’s too bad that Sharon never became a big city. People have their theories why this never happened, but mine is that it didn’t happen because of the smells.

Intrigue in the Tennessee State House

 It was bad.

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Our Local Government

The Court of “Common Pleas” was used from the colonial period, as time progressed. Under our state’s first Constitution, the number of judges, and “assistant” judges, was allowed to greatly vary from county to county. Also, assistant judges were appointed. In 1818, an act was passed which abolished assistant judges and limited the number of judges per county to five.
The New York Constitution of 1846 made it so that nearly all offices were elected by the people. In place of assistant judges, two justices of the peace were associated with the county’s judges. Among other offices elected by the public are: county clerks, county treasurers, sheriff, in their second term and on, attorneys, and most public service positions. The book gives a list of those who occupied different offices.
And amazingly, people from our county have held high and prestigious positions. Among this exclusive club is William C. Bouck, the only person from our county to become Governor, Abraham Keyser, who became the state’s treasurer, and fourteen senators. Peter S. Danforth was a Supreme Court Justice, and John F. Hazleton was consular to Italy.
The book also tells of people who practiced law in Schoharie County, some of which were alive when the text was written, but are presumably dead now. The book lists 39 people. Amazingly, one of those who practiced law professionally was Ralph Brewster, whose descendants landed at Plymouth from the Mayflower. Also, Peter Danforth is named. Right after that, his son, George, was also named. Apparently the elder Danforth had much influence on George.
It’s amazing that our county, our little county, has had a Governor, a Supreme Court Judge, and a consular to Italy. Our county has had immense political power, but hopefully it will soon be over-shadowed when someone from our county becomes President.