Declaration of Peace - Its joyful reception by the Colonists - Early Settlements at Sidney Plains and along the Susquehanna - Inconveniences to which the inhabitants were obliged to submit - Ruins of an ancient Indian Fort - Sidney Plains - First Death that occurred in Sidney - Great Famine in 1787 - First grist-mill on the Susquehanna - First raft of lumber on the Susquehanna - Geographical boundaries of Sidney - Origin of the name - Oulcout Creek - Indian signification - Original land- owners - First settlements in Franklin - Information derived principally of Joshua Pine, in relation to the early settlers in Walton - Account of a duel fought in Walton - Early settlements and settlers at Deposit, Chehocton, and in the western part of the county - Dickinson's City - Hunting stories - Indians who remained after the war - Old Abraham - Canope, Ben Shanks and Haycou - Tragical murder of the former and latter.
The long looked for, and anxiously expected declaration of peace at last resounded among the hills and dales of the American Continent, and never was peace more acceptable to any country or people. The colonies had become prostrated by the extravagances, reverses, and collateral evils of a long and disastrous war, their finances had become crippled and exhausted, their credit abroad dwindled away and lost, with want and starvation staring the masses of the poorer classes in the face. That peace, too, was alike honorable as it was acceptable to the American people. They had boldly asserted their rights, maintained them with fortitude and courage, and their exertions had been ultimately crowned with success - the God of battles had graciously smiled upon down-trodden America. "for she was free."
The din of the battle is now hushed - hostilities have ceased - the remnants of the scattered families again gather together, and prepare anew to seek the homes from which they had been compelled to flee before the tomahawks of the ruthless savages, or the machinations of the more inhuman tories; but to which they now returned with feelings of security. And it shall be our task, in this and the following chapters, to narrate, as far as we have been enabled to glean, the history of the early settlements within the limits of the county.
I have been permitted by the author, to make the following extract from Johnston's History of the Susquehanna Country, (a work soon to be published) in relation to the town of Sidney.
Rev. Mr. Johnston, with an Indian guide, first explored the Susquehanna Valley, with the view of making a permanent settlement, in May, 1772. They crossed from the Mohawk to Ostego Lake, where they procured an Indian batteau or canoe, in which they descended the Susquehanna river as far as Oquago, now Windsor. During this voyage, he landed at Sidney Plains, at which place he determined to locate. He then returned to Schenectady, sought out the owners, 1 and purchased a tract of 600 acres of land, situated at the flats, one mile east of the Unadilla Forks.
Early in the following year, Mr. Johnston moved with his family, consisting of his wife, three sons, and four daughters. This was the first white family that emigrated to the Susquehanna Valley, although others speedily followed them. One can hardly conceive the inconvenience and hardship to which they must have been exposed in this remote situation, being 84 miles from a grist-mill, the nearest being on the Mohawk river, and Doctor White, of Cherry Valley, 56 miles distant, was the nearest physician. His neighbors and associates were the red men of the forest; and at Sidney Plains there was an ancient Indian Fort, which, according to the tradition of the aborigines, had been built more than five hundred summers ago; its location was on the plain west of the burying-ground, containing about three acres of land, enclosed by a mound of earth, and the whole surrounded by a ditch, provided with suitable entrances. In the early settlements it was known by the appellation of Fort Ground. There were also Indian Forts at Oxford and Green, on the Chenango river, whose existence is still preserved also by tradition.
The first death of which we find any account, in the town of Sidney, was that of a young Indian, in the year 1775, who became enamored with a beautiful young squaw of the Mohawk tribe, and who was on a visit to the Susquehanna. The Indian made his proposals of marriage, which met with a formal rejection, the fair object of his love having been previously betrothed to another. Unable to brook so sad a disappointment, the young man proceeded to Johnston Cove, where he obtained a poison, the musquash, or wild parsniproot, of which he took and ate in her presence, and survived but one short hour. He was also the first person entombed in Sidney burying-ground.
The year 1787 will long be remembered as the year of the great famine among the early settlers of the Susquehanna, and it was only through the instrumentality of General David Bates, who succeeded in procuring two boats of flour from Northumberland, Pennsylvania, that they were saved from actual starvation.
The first grist-mill on the East Branch of the Delaware was erected by Abram Fuller, in the year 1778, near Unadilla Forks; he was his own mechanic - mill wright, carpenter, and blacksmith. Judge Courtney, of Sidney, is a grandson of old Mr. Fuller.
The first raft of lumber that ever descended the Susquehanna, was run by Captain David McMasten and others, to Harrisburg, in Pennsylvania, in the year 1795.
The location of the town of Sidney is in the north-west corner of the county, and its boundaries are thus enumerated: on the north by the Susquehanna, which separates it from Otsego; on the east by Franklin; on the south by Masonville, and on the west by the town of Bainbridge, Chenengo county. It was first organized in 1801, and derived its name from Sir Sidney Smith, a British admiral, who gained much notoriety for his victories at that period. The author of this name was a school teacher, John Mandeville, who was an Englishman by birth, and who at the time resided at Sidney Plains. Masonville was formerly comprised in Sidney, and was not set off into a separate township until 1811.
Sidney comprises an excellent township of well watered and fertile land; on the north it has the winding and beautiful Susquehanna, which, in the Indian dialect signifies "Crooked River;" on the east, with its fine mill seats and water privileges, is the Oulcout, which name is also of Indian origin, and said to signify "rapid waters;" on the south-east runs Carr's creek, so called in memory of Johnny Carr, a tory, who built a saw-mill upon it at an early period. It has one flourishing village, with a number of fine dwellings, two stores, a hotel, and two churches. The population, according to the census of 1850, was 1,807.
The original land-owners were Alexander Wallace Goldsbury, Banyard, John Mason Livingston, and Lawston. The town sent six representatives to the State legislature, viz: Sluman Wattles, (1799,) Wm. Dewey, Samuel Rexford, James Hugston, J. M. Betts, Reuben Lewis, and Charles S. Rogers.
The following valuable historical information was first published in a series of articles in the "Weekly Visitor:" -
It may be proper to premise for the information of many of the present generation, that this region was included within the territory of the Five Nations - sometimes called Six Nations - inhabiting the greater part of New York, and a portion of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Their names were Mohawks, Onondagas, Senecas, Oneidas, Cayugas, and Tuscaroras, the sixth, and a small tribe that emigrated from the south, and was admitted into the confederacy, the Onondagas giving them land, and they enjoyed equal privileges with the other tribes. These tribes were also in alliance with others of Canada, Ohio, and elsewhere. There was a small number of Indians, from different places, settled on or about the Susquehanna or Delaware rivers, on lands allotted them by the Six Nations, and living under their immediate direction. The names of some of these were Nanticokes, Conoys, Tutccoes, Saponeys, Delawares, &c., &c.
Patents were granted in 1770 for the tract of country, beginning one mile west of the river Susquehanna, and thence to the west ('Mohock') branch of the Delaware, which includes the present town of Franklin, to the following named individuals, viz: Henry White, John De Berniere, Robert and John Leake (or Lake,) Jas. Clark, Chas, Babington, and August Provost.
Several of those grants were of from twenty to forty thousand acres each, and were afterwards surveyed, sub-divided and sold to different proprietors, or divided among the different heirs of the original proprietors, so that when sold to actual settlers, very little of the land was conveyed in the name of grantees. The line between Franklin and Davenport is the north line of the Henry White tract, and is upon the same that the village of Delhi is situated. The Leake (of Lake) tract occupies the central part of the town, the junction of the two branches of the Ouleout being equally distant from the north and south lines of the patent, and which are very nearly, if not quite, the north and south lines of the western part of Hamden. Franklin village is situated upon the Clark tract; the Provost, or better known as the Livingston tract, occupying the south and not far from a fourth part of the area of town. So much for the original land-marks of ownership of the soil of the town. At some future time some further observations may be made as to the manner in which most of the grants were made, and by whom.
It is about seventy years since the present town of Franklin was an unbroken wilderness, the undisturbed abode of wild beasts, except as the place of annual resort of the Aborigines in their various fishing, hunting, and predatory excursions. At that period, (1785,) and as late as 1790, their wigwams, or cabins, were standing at several places along the Ouleout ( Indian word Oleout) above and below where the west village of Franklin is situated; but the Anglo-Saxon was upon their track, and it is believed, in the summer of 1785, the first white settler, Mr. Sluman Wattles, (afterwards Justice of the Peace and a Judge of the County Court,) erected a log-cabin upon the farm mow owned by Mr. William Taylor, and near where the present dwelling stands.
Perhaps this chapter cannot be concluded more acceptably to the general reader, than by attempting a brief account of the pioneer settler, his family, and the circumstances attending their removal to their 'new' and romantic home, in the - as it was then called - western wilderness.
And here the writer begs leave to digress so far as to state, that, in this, as in most instances of the history of the early settlers, many, very many things are involved in doubt, and often in such uncertainty as to render it extremely difficult to be sure that no injustice is done to individuals, or what is of equal if not greater importance, to history, and that in this as in other instances, mistakes may and probably will occur; and while it is hoped every one will overlook any such errors, it is suggested that were individuals aware of the difficulties in the way, they would in their criticisms exercise that charity which is meet in cases where the error is only one of the head and not of the heart.
Mr. Wattles, or Judge, as he was commonly called, was born in 1752, but the place of his birth is unknown. He was of Scotch descent, and died in Sidney, Del. Co., N. Y., in 1837, aged 85 years. He resided in Lebanon, Conn., and that town, or region, was probably his native place - married there and had several children, when with his family, he removed to New Canaan, in N. Y., from there to a place upon the West Branch of the Delaware, suppose to be at, or near what is now called Bloomville, in Kortright. This was near the close of the Revolutionary war, and the place upon the Delaware where he stopped with his family, had been occupied by several Scotch families, who had made some little improvements, and there were two or three log- houses standing, into one of which Mr. W. moved his family - all being vacant, the former occupants living there during the Revolution, left or were driven away by the Indians and tories. During the two years the family remained there, the youngest daughter, Betsey, and afterwards the wife of Col. William Dewey, of Sidney, was born, (1785,) and it was the impression of Judge W., in his latter years, that she was the first white child born in the now county of Delaware, but in this he was evidently mistaken.
It appears that Mr. Wattles had contracted with one or more proprietors of the lands between the Susquehanna and Delaware to survey the same into small tracts, suitable to be sold for farms to those who might desire to settle upon the same; but whether this was before or after he came to the Delaware is unknown; probably after, and it is supposed that while engaged in this undertaking, he, from some cause, made a selection of the land upon the Ouleout, and upon which he removed his family. Previous to moving his family, he had made some improvements, as putting up a log- house, (near Mr. Taylor's,) the covering, or roof, as well as the under and upper floor of which were composed of elm bark. This is believed to have been in 1785.
The narrative of the Wattles family, and other incidents in the present number, are substantially as received from Col. Dewey and Mr. Sluman Wattles, of Sidney, one of the surviving sons of Judge W.
Col. John and Alexander Harper, after the war, bought of the Indians their right and title to a large tract of land - they sold their contract, or part of it, to a company. This company, consisting it is believed of four partners, Livingston and one or two Harpers, the others not recollected. They petitioned the State for a grant of a patent of land, and obtained it. The patent was granted to Peter Van Brugh, Livingston, and others - known as the L. patent, or better for a long time as the 'Wattle's patent' - the Judge having bought out one of the four proprietors. Judge W. superintended the survey, which was intended to be made into lots of 243 acres each. They then made a division of the lots to each - and it is thought drawn by lottery. The survey and division were then filed in the office of the Secretary of State, and each proprietor had separate deeds made out for each of their lots, called "Patent Deeds," or from the State. According to the contract, the sum of money due to the State, was to be paid at a specified time, or forfeit their grant. They depended upon one of the Harpers to pay this at the time, but it not being paid, Judge W. went to him and told him "he (H.) had ruined him, as he had been at great expense in the survey and otherwise, and he should lose the land." What to do he did not know. Fortunately the Legislature was then sitting in New York city, and thinking it might consider his situation, he went to Gov. Clinton and related the circumstances. The Governor asked him if he had the money due the State, and learning he had, said "he would assist him all he could." They went before the Legislature, or a committee: the Governor stated the situation and business of Judge W., and an act was passed, reinstating them in the contract. This is confirmed by the "patent deeds," bearing date prior to the time of the visit of Judge W. to New York.
This is probably the manner in which Judge W. became owner of the farm where he first located, instead of receiving it, as some have believed, as a certain share in consideration for his making the survey. It is also believed to explain the cause and means of his coming to the Ouleout.
It appears that after receiving their title from the State, the Indians were also to receive something more, and after his return from New York they came to get their pay. It is said that they met for the purpose of ratification of the treaty, under a large Elm tree, near Mr. Wm. Taylor's. Judge W. had made arrangements for them - that is, had furnished provisions and rum - at his house. They had a "good time," and what is worthy of note - as showing that even savages in those days, were so well acquainted with the nature and effects of intoxicating liquor, that as they began to feel merry from the effects of the rum, they gave up their knives, &tc., to Judge W. to keep so they should do no harm!! They received their money, or pay, and left - believed to be the "Delaware" tribe.
At the time of removal from the Delaware to the Ouleout, there was only an Indian path, or marked trees to direct their course. They went down the river, thence it is thought, up Planter or Walton Brook to where Deacon Bowers resides, and from there across the hill, striking the West Walton road a little distance from the present tannery. In after years the Judge and one of the surviving sons, Sluman, who was then eight or nine years of age, have often pointed out the route, in relating the circumstances. They came on horseback - at least Mrs. W. - and moved goods in those days, by packs upon horses.
It may interest all, and particularly the ladies, to hear how arrangements were made for Mrs. W. and the children - five at that time. First, a bed and such other things as could be put on, were placed upon a horse, and then Mrs. W. got upon the horse and took one child before her and one or two behind her. In this way they started through the forest. They encamped one night in the woods, arriving upon the Ouleout next day. A brother of Judge W., "Uncle John," came with them, and brought Mrs. Col. Dewey, than an infant, a considerable part of the way in his arms.
Judge W. had two brothers, John and Roger, and two sisters Sarah and ----. John settled upon the farm lately owned by Mr. Abm. Squires, at the junction of the north and south Ouleout roads. Removed to Steuben county, where he died some twenty years since - had one daughter, who married a man by the name of Goodrich, and lives in Chemung county. Roger, youngest brother, first settled upon East Handsome Brook - went to Genesee, Livingston county, and died there in 1848 - had two sons and four daughters - "a very worthy family." Sarah, married Daniel Bissell, of Unadilla, and died there - was the mother of a large family. The other sister, Caroline, (?) married Judah Bartlett, and had two children, Sluman (Deacon Bartlett) and Caroline.
The following are the names of the children of Judge W., viz: Caroline, Sluman, John, Simon, Sally, Betsey, Chandler and Nathaniel, (elder,) - of all of these, Sluman and Nathaniel alone survive - both reside in Sidney.
Sluman settled in Franklin, and it is believed once resided where Mr. Abner Loveland now lives. A large willow tree standing in the street near the house, and from which the limbs have been cut within a few years past, grew from a cane which he walked home from Philadelphia, after going "down the river" upon a raft in the spring, and stuck into the ground after his return! When a small boy, he used to be sent on horseback to Harpersfield, if not to Schoharie, "to mill" with grain and for provisions. Wolves were numerous, and used to render night hideous and often frightful, by their howling, especially to the lone residents of the forest, and those so unfortunate as to be obliged to encamp, or remain in the woods at night, as was no uncommon occurrence when upon long journeys; it being impossible to advance or recede without danger of losing the way, owing to the slight trail or paths.
Like his father, his life has been marked by vicissitudes of fortune, and notwithstanding he has attained to nearly fourscore years, and his head has already blossomed, yea, that he is fast ripening for the grave, neither these nor the condition of infirm health from the ravages of a wasting and painful disease, can conceal the fact that in his organization he has been a noble specimen of a man - one who with only ordinary advantages of education would be a leader in society, and leave his impress upon the age in which he lived.
The first wife of Judge Wattles was a native of Lebanon, Connecticut; her maiden name was McCall. She was the cousin of Ephraim McCall, the father of the present deacons, Ira and Elihu. Little is known of her, further than that she faithfully shared the toils and privations of her husband, and such burdens as would necessarily fall upon the mother of a large family under such circumstances, and who succeeded in giving such a direction to the minds of her children as to render them an honor to their parents, an ornament to society, and a blessing to the world. The fruits of her labors alone are conclusive evidence that she must have been at least, in character and life, a devoted and christian mother, whose works still "rise up and call her blessed."
A few incidents in her life have been preserved. After the removal of the family to their home upon the Ouleout, it was about six months before she again saw the face of a white woman. At that time a family was moving past, and she went out to see them, "so as to again see a white woman." She used often to relate the circumstance in after years.
Previous mention has been made of the visit and business of Judge W. to New York. Whether this was the first year after he came is uncertain; but it was very soon, as he found it very difficult for him to leave, as he had no one to do any thing in his absence but his son Sluman, then quite a small boy. He however made the best provision for his family that he could, and left for New York, expecting to be gone but a short time: this was in December. While there he took the small-pox, and did not recover from it and complete his business, so as to return to his family, until about the first of May following.
About the year 1800, Judge W. sold his farm to Aaron Dewey, Esq., of Westfield, Mass., with the view of "going west," and removed his family some two miles above Unadilla, until prepared to go. While there, Mrs. W. took the small-pox, as did all of her family except her husband. She and her son, Chandler, died with it in 1802. Her age was 52. To prevent contagion, she was buried at night in a lone place near where she died, and without any monument to mark the place of her rest - which to this day remains unknown. Subsequently Judge W. married again, and (what is quite unusual for a man of his age who had become reduced in his property,) he acquired a handsome competency before his death. His remains were deposited in the grave-yard near where he died, and a respectable marble tombstone has been erected to his memory.
For a length of time before the organization of the town of Franklin, Judge W. was one, if not the only acting justice of the peace, in this portion of the then town of Harpersfield; and at the first town meeting ordered by the legislature "to be held at the house of Sluman Wattles," in April, 1793, for the organization of the town of Franklin, he was elected Supervisor, and was often chosen to that and other offices of trust in after years.
After the organization of the county of Delaware in 1797, he also held the office of county judge.
During the active period of a long life, though much engaged in public and private business, his integrity was seldom called in question; and his public duties requiring so much of his time and attention, that he could hardly be expected to amass property except by unfair means, and his failing to do so, and having been at time in reduced circumstances, a fair inference is, that in his day there may have been such a thing as an individual being too honest to be rich!
For a long period he was the local agent of different proprietors of wild lands in this region, and no doubt his sympathy for, and the lenity of his disposition towards actual settlers upon the same, who were commonly poor, may have been, and was one, if not the chief cause of the serious pecuniary embarrassments and losses which he afterwards suffered.
As a pioneer settler, and one who for long a time occupied a conspicuous position in the public business and political affairs of this town and region, the life and character of Sluman Wattles are deserving the careful attention of every resident of the town - his own and early history of our town being most deeply and intimately interwoven.
He was in many respects a remarkable man - kind-hearted and benevolent - a popular man - an ingenious man - emphatically a man for the times - a genuine specimen of a backwoodsman, or one who in case of necessity could turn his head and hands to almost anything - from the business of a cobbler (which an old resident has informed the writer "he took up himself, being and ingenious man,") or when in his seat upon the judge's bench - in all stations, at all times and in all places, he was "at home" - in action believing that
For the following information the author is indebted to Joshua Pine, and others, of Walton:
In the year 1784, Platt Townsend, a surgeon in the army of the Revolution, contracted with Mr. Walton, the owner of a large tract of land, granted by letters- patent in 1770. The country had been recently explored and boundaries fixed, extending from the Cooquago, or West Branch of the Delaware river, to near the Susquehanna, and containing several thousand acres. Those persons who had been sent out with the surveyors to spy out and examine the land, had returned with a most favorable report. They stated that the flats or bottom lands, where now stands the village of Walton, were, they should judge, about four miles wide and comparatively free from timber of heavy growth, and indeed nothing, excepting now and then perhaps a thorn-bush; also, that they thought it would be dangerous to build within at least two miles of the river, on account of the annual inundations of its banks, similar, indeed, to the far-famed inundations of the Nile.
Based upon these high-colored descriptions, given of this seemingly El Dorado of the Delaware, a river supposed at least to be navigable for sloops, an effort was made, which proved partially successful, to organize a company to emigrate and form a colony or settlement upon the patent. Those who had property, converted it into money as fast as they could, even though at a sacrifice, being desirous of being among the first that moved, in order to secure a choice location upon the patent, while others, more prudent perhaps, chose to send on persons to make a more careful examination, the result of which was that out of a company of about thirty persons, only four or five families concluded to remove; These had all suffered by the war, and were consequently peculiarly calculated to become the hardy pioneers of a new soil, having become accustomed to hardships and privations during that ordeal that "tried men's souls."
They were principally natives of Long Island, but some of them had resided in Westchester county previous to the Revolution, during which they had been driven from place to place; but at the ratification of the treaty of peace with Great Britain, they returned and gathered up the fragments of their fortunes, and assembled the scattered members of their families, and many of them houseless and homeless, prepared to emigrate to new sections of the country.
We shall not, in this place attempt to follow the miniature colony through all their preliminary arrangements, however replete they may be with interest to the reader, or dwell upon their varied hopes and fears. The parting of friends, and the final adieus are exchanged - they arrive in New York, and take passage on board of an Esopus sloop, which weighed anchor from the foot of Peck Slip, and were soon, with a favorable wind, rapidly making sail up the Hudson.
They left New York about the first of March, 1785, rounded the battery just as the luminous orb of day was sinking behind the western hills; the last glimpse they caught of the great metropolis, as it gradually receded from their view, was in the soft twilight that proceeded the darkness of night, and they all retired to commune with their own thoughts. With the indulgence of the reader. we will glance for a moment into the cabin to which the party repaired, and indulge in an impertinent glimpse at these brave men, the "avant couriers" of the future prosperity of a large section of Delaware county.
On the right hand bench sat Doctor Townsend, apparently buried in a deep reverie, leaning slightly forward, with a neatly-wrought cane in his hand, which he held suspended, gently tapping the floor, as if to keep time with his wandering thoughts. His looks bespoke an active, an energetic business man, which he was, and just in the meridian of life; he was accompanied by one of his sons, Isaac, the other, William, having previously gone up to Poughkeepsie to collect some money, and was to rejoin them at Marbletown. Opposite him sat Joshua Pine, whose care-worn countenance would have indicated him as the patriarch of the little party: he had been Captain of a Company of Guides in the American army, and had discharged his arduous duties with honor and courage; his family consisted of his wife and two daughters, Hannah and Deborah. Robert North, wife, and infant son, Benjamin; William Furman, wife and two children, twenty-one souls in all, composed the party. They were safely landed at Swart's landing, or Kingston point, and going ashore, took refuge in an old dilapidated warehouse, without windows or fire to shelter them from the cold and rain. They proceeded to Marbletown, where they procured a home for their wives and children; while the men went forward to grapple with the forest and prepare a place for their reception, and the land for planting corn. This journey was performed in March, and part of the way on snow shoes, amidst many privations and difficulties.
At Pepacton they procured a guide by the name of Joseph White, and by whose aid they marked a road over the Colchester mountain, very near where the present road is laid; this road they afterward cut out and succeeded in getting their wagons across. From the overhanging summit of these mountains they caught the first view of the promised land. On the north and west side it appeared to be one dense mass of pines of gigantic growth, and as they descended the mountain and wound down the valley, grove after grove of these huge trees opened to their view, which drew forth from the party many an exclamation of wonder and amazement. At the base of Pine-hill, and near where now stands the beautiful mansion of White Griswold, Esq., they found and immediately took possession of a small hut, in which they deposited their provisions and goods, and made themselves as comfortable as the circumstances would admit of, and far happier than they had been since they left New York. This hut had been built the year before by some men from Neversink, who had come up to cut timber for masts and spars; they had cut over about one acre, on what is familiarly known as Pine-hill, slid the timber into the river and formed it into rafts, without even the assistance of a team. But little of the lumber, however, ever reached the market - as the rafts, not being suitably constructed, were stove to pieces and lodged along the banks of the Delaware far below, and one large spar lay where it had lodged on an island, about nine miles below Walton, from which fact raftsmen gave it the appellation of Long Mast Island, which name it retains to the present day.
After having spent the summer in making the necessary arrangements for their families, they returned in the latter part of autumn to conduct their families to their new homes.
The second journey of our pioneer settlers with their families and substance, could it all be written with each night's encampment, and incidents by the way, would form an interesting page in this history; but we can only note a few particulars. On leaving Marbletown they followed up the Esopus creek to Shandaken, where they made a short halt to cut out a wagon-road over Pine-hill. This accomplished, the young men went on in advance, marking and mending the road down the East Branch to Pepacton. At this place canoes were procured to transport goods and part of the company down to the forks of the Delaware, and up the West Branch to the place of settlement. The remainder of the party opened a road over Colchester mountain, and brought over the wagons and horses, and pitched their tents at the foot of Pine-hill, in full view of the river. The Norths and Furmans lived in their tents till September.
Mrs. Robert North, who lived to a good old age, often spoke of this journey as not only very interesting in itself, but by way of rebuking the pride of the present generation. She said she came all the way from Marbletown on horseback, with her bed and all her furniture lashed on behind her, and her son Benjamin in her arms before her. She often boasted that she was the first woman that ever made a foot- print on the soil of Walton. It was seventy years ago this month of June, that these five families commenced the settlement; they had penetrated the wilderness about eight miles, and there were only a few scattered families within the circle of that distance, and of these none could give them aid. For flour and meal, the nearest places they could be procured was at Mohawk, Cherry Valley, Schoharie, and Marbletown, and all except the latter conveyed on horseback over Indian trails. Boards and plank, for building, were made by splitting free rifted pine, and smoothing them with the axe and knife. For want of nails, the gimlet and wood pegs were used, but industry, courage and perseverance over came all obstacles, and the colony sustained themselves, and were soon prepared to aid those who followed after.
Among those who came before 1790, with their families, we may mention Alverson, from Nova Scotia; the Goslins, Storckten's relatives of the Norths from Long Island, who settled over the river on the Hardenburgh patent, then Ulster county; next Beers, Bradley, and Wakeman, followed on down the river on the same patent; Goodrich, Johnson, Hyde, Eells, Seymour and others, who settled on the Provost or Livingston patent; accessions were annually made to the colony, chiefly from Connecticut. Nor must we omit to mention the inducement offered by Mr. Walton to the first settlers, for growth and increase of the colony. A lot of land was offered for the first-born male child, on condition that he should be named William Walton. The prize was won by Mrs. Robert North, but she had set her heart upon calling him Samuel, and in those days a lot of land could not alter a woman's wish. To pursue the history of Samuel: he was educated in Albany, and was elected clerk of the Assembly, in which capacity he acquitted himself with great efficiency, and we believe he was reelected under Governor Lewis; he soon after died of consumption.
We have no certain dates by which to mark the exact progress of improvement made by first settlers. Saw-mills were erected at a very early day, and the manufacture of pine lumber for the Philadelphia market, became the main business by which the inhabitants obtained their support and maintained credit abroad, while the raising of flax and manufacture of linen formed the chief occupation of the women. It is said to have been quite common to take a spinning-wheel with them on making an afternoon visit; and the amount of linen made by some of them seems almost incredible.
Fish and game where plenty. Shad were, if reports were true, near Pine-hill, in quite large numbers; and trout, those delicious fish, the river is said to have been full of them - we being a regular disciple of Isaac Walton, it fairly makes our mouth water to think of them; the women would go out with a pole and line, and in a few minutes catch enough for tea or breakfast; and to use their own expression, some of them would make a pan full. Those were indeed the days of women's rights, when they were allowed to catch fish and manufacture their own clothes; and we should like to be transported back to those good old times, were it only for a day or two, just to breakfast on those delicious trout, dine on samp-porridge and sup on choice bits of dried elk meat. Of wild animal, panthers, bears, and wolves, elk and deer, were plenty. Of beaver, otter, and marten, there were a few left, and they gave occasion for a few Indians to linger about the Delaware for the purpose of trapping. Thirteen elk were seen one day fording the river, near the village of Walton, and as they were all adorned with horns five or six feet long, we may well suppose it was a sight worth seeing.
The first grist-mill in the town of Walton was built in 1793, by Captain Samuel Johnson and Michael Goodrich; its location was near or on the site of the mill at present owned by Abram Silliman. of that town. The millstones for this mill, (said to have been the first imported into the county,) were brought from Kingston on the snow, as far as Benjamin Barlow's, in Stamford, from which place to Walton there was then no road, and they were compelled to leave the stones until the river opened in the spring, when stones were lifted upon two canoes, which were placed side by side and lashed firmly together. In this manner they were floated to within two miles of their destination. This mill, as stated above, was erected in 1793, and a year or two afterward, Daniel Robison built another mill at the place at present occupied by Moses Wakeman, in the "Den."
Robert North built the first frame house erected in the town-of Walton; the boards and timber (there being no saw-mill in the town,) were floated down the river on a raft, from Paine's mill at Hobart.
The first wedding which occured in the town, took place in 1790; the parties were Bartram Olmstead and Savory Goodrich, daughter of Michael Goodrich, spoken of above. The ceremony was performed by Dr. Townsend2
The following anecdote was related by several early settlers of that time: -
A man by the name of Burroughs, residing somewhere in the vicinity of Walton, had been out upon a hunting excursion, and returned with a quarter of venison, which he hung in an unfinished apartment of the house. In the night Mrs. Burroughs, who happened to be left alone, her husband being absent on business, was aroused by a strange noise in that part of the house in which the venison was hanging; she arose and proceeded cautiously to open the door which led to the apartment, when she perceived the dim outlines of some animal, in the act of devouring the saddle of vension. With a coolness worthy of eulogy among the other sex, she stepped back, and taking her husband's rifle, with deliberate aim she put a ball through the animal, which proved fatal. In the morning she examined her prize , and found it to be a panther of hugh dimensions.
The manuscript of the following amusing anecdote was kindly furnished by White Griswold, Esq., an aged and highly respected citizen of Walton. It was, so far as I have been enabled to learn, the only adventure in duelling to be recorded in the annals of the county, which I trust will prove a sufficient apology for its insertion. He says:
"The principal hero of the following narrative was Benjamin Tanner, teacher of a district school, two and a half miles from the village of Walton, about fifty years since. Tanner is described by those who knew him, as in bodily shape exceedingly tall, lank, and sharp-featured, and of a very jealous and excitable disposition. He was, indeed, one of those peculiar characters that idle and designing persons love to annoy and play tricks upon. Being in the village one day, he fell in with a number of his acquaintances, who, as the sequel illustrates, were notorious alike for the shrewd tricks and meddlesome dispositions. While in their company, Tanner expressed a desire to join the masons, which movement was at that time exceedingly popular. The persons to whom he addressed himself were all freemasons, (of which he was aware,) and had a lodge in the same district in which he was teaching. This lodge was then in a flourishing condition, a majority of its members being amongst the most respectable citizens of that vicinity.
"The idea flashed upon the minds of the party that they might enjoy some fun at the schoolmaster's expense; he was accordingly informed that a branch of the lodge existed in the village, and that a meeting should be called that evening to initiate him.
"Frederick Hocty, one of the leading actors of the farce, was at the time a merchant of the village, and had a room in his house, in which himself and companions frequently met to carry on their frolics. These meetings had already come into notoriety, as the 'Croppy Lodge,' from the circumstance of its members having shaved the heads of some of their subjects very closely, contrary to the custom of other lodges, who usually wore it rather long.
"The 'Croppy Lodge,' together with our hero assembled at the appointed hour, and in due form fastened the doors; when, professing the utmost solemnity, as members of that ancient and venerable fraternity, the meeting was opened. After the preliminary forms were over, Tanner was called forward and several questions propounded to him, in relation to his obligations to the society of which he was about to be honored with a membership. His answers being satisfactory, a vote was taken of the members, which was unanimous, that he be admitted after passing through the rites and ceremonies required of all the member at their initiation, and which they then proceeded to administer.
"Poor Tanner was requested to strip himself stark-naked, and march around the altar in the centre of the room, accompanied by vocal music from the members and the mystic signs of the order. And lastly, a hot gridiron, which was in readiness for the purpose, was brought into the room, with which he was branded. These ceremonies over, the W. Master of the lodge declared the brother a free and accepted mason.
"Whether Tanner suspected any imposition at the time is unknown, but it was said he never betrayed any distrust to his tormentors during the whole performance, and that at its close they had a most jolly time, drinking each other's health and beautifying the glories of masonry, in which Tanner took the lead. Thus the matter ended for the evening.
"A few days subsequent to the above occurrence, (during which Tanner had discovered the cheat which had been practiced upon him,) Elnathan Goodrich, who had been one of the party at the initiation, meeting with his new brother, cordially reached out his hand, saying "How do you do, brother Croppy?' This was too much for the already excited schoolmaster to brook, and he immediately sent a challenge to Goodrich, to meet and settle the affront according to the 'code of honor,' which challenge was accepted."
The meeting of the parties, accompanied by their seconds, took place in the field belonging to Isaac Townsend, about a mile above the village of Walton. The field was at the time but partially cleared. It will now attract the attention of the traveler as a spot of surpassing beauty.
"The pistols were presented to the combatants, who exchanged the first shots without effect. At the second discharge, Goodrich threw up his pistol, gave a shriek of agony, and fell heavily to the ground, appearing to be mortally wounded. Tanner immediately left the field, apparently unnoticed, as they were all gathered around the dying man. Reaching his boarding place3 in great agitation, he requested the woman in much haste to give him his clothes, saying 'that he must leave the country as soon as soon as possible, having shot Mr. Goodrich in a duel.' He took his bundle of clothes, and crossing the river, disappeared in the wood, on the opposite side; since which time he has not been heard from, and if living, still doubtless carries the impression of having shot a man in a duel."
By a previous arrangement between Goodrich and the seconds, Tanner's pistol was only loaded with powder, while Goodrich's, to render the deception still more complete, was loaded with a ball, which, for effect, he shot in a tree near by where his opponent was standing. Of course his appearing to be wounded was only a pretension.
The field where the duel was fought, has since, in commemoration of the event, received the memorable name of "Hoboken Lot," which name it still retains.
Many of the pioneers who emigrated to the western sections of Delaware county, came by the way of Minisink, which as we have stated in a previous chapter, was one of the earliest settlements in the State. From Minisink the settlements rapidly spread up the valley of the Delaware, each new comer overreaching the location of his neighbor. In 1783, Abram Rusk came up the river with his goods on a flat-boat, and located a short distance above Equinock, in Pennsylvania; and about the same period William Parks took up Equinock Island. The succeeding year, (1784) Ezekiel Samson came up the river and pitched his tent a short distance below Chehocton Cove, and immediately afterward Richard Jones removed with his family to Chehocton Point.
In 1786, Squire Whitaker also came up the river, and settled at the place where George Debar now lives, about one and a half mile below the rail-road crossing at Chehocton, 4 and Richard Jones, Travis and Sands, settled in the vicinity the same year. In 1787, Conrad Edict, a single man, came into the settlement and partook of the hospitalities of Squire Whitaker, whose daughter he shortly after married. At the wedding the bride appeared in a linsey-woolsey short-gown, and the bridegroom in a new suit of "tow-cloth shirt and trousers."
Although Mr. Edict, at the time of his removal to the settlements on the Delaware, was barely twenty-six years of age, his previous history was woven in the struggles of the Revolution, and his character had been stamped by usefulness to his country's cause. He was born of German parents, on German Flats, in the then county of Albany, September 15th, 1763. At the early age of sixteen years, he enlisted in the service of his country in a company of rangers, and served nine months. He then enlisted in the service of the militia of the State of New York for three years, in which he remained until the close of the war. He was in the battles of Ariskany, Stone, Arabia, Johnstown, and East Canada Creek, where the notorious Colonel Butler was killed, and in many other skirmishes with the Indians and tories. His last expedition was to Oswego, on Lake Ontario, in the dead of winter, in which great numbers of the party died of hunger and cold. He afterward removed from Chehocton and settled at Deposit, where he lived for more that half a century, until his death.
In 1786 Jesse Dickinson came up from Philadelphia to locate himself on a tract of land which he had purchased of Colonel Bradstreet, and which tract contains the present village of Cannonsville. This tract, as well as much of the adjoining land, was quickly covered by a growth of stately pines. And so captivated was the owner with his new purchase, that he conceived the bold project of building a city, which, in his ideal vision, contained "stately edifices and lofty spires," and which was to immortalize his own name by styling it " Dickinson City." Having become enamored with his new project, he returned to Philadelphia to procure men and building material, which was conveyed to the place of destination in Durham boats. He caused a tract of land of sufficient size to be surveyed and laid off into streets and lots, and immediately commenced improvements thereon. He erected a large three-story grist-mill on Trout creek,5 near where it empties into the Delaware; on the side next the creek, were rows of tackles projecting out over the water, for the purpose of unloading boats which should run between the two cities, Philadelphia and Dickinson. He also built near by, a building for a hotel, in which was a large arched room, styled the "City Hall," and in which public meetings were actually held for many years. He also opened an avenue from Trout creek to the river, and on either side built a high board fence.
Dickinson failed in business, and returned to Philadelphia in 1795, but for many years thereafter, and until recently, the place retained the name of "Dickinson City." John, a brother of Jesse Dickinson, was also an early settler on a creek near by, which, after him, took the name of Johnny's Brook.
It is a fact worthy of note, that Jesse Dickinson run the first raft of lumber that descended the West Branch of the Delaware.
In 1796, Wait Cannon removed from Connecticut, and renewed the purchase of a part of the tract formerly owned by Dickinson, where he resided until his death, which took place in 1803 or 1804, and after whom the place took its present name of Cannonsville. The widow of Wait Cannon afterward married a cousin of the former husband, by the name of Benjamin, the father of our present efficient county-clerk, Benjamin Cannon, Esq.
Before the erection of Dickinson's mill, the settlers were obliged to go to Minisink, distant nearly one hundred miles, to get their grain ground. The river was for many years the only highway, and people and produce were conveyed up and down the same on "Durham boats," or batteaux.
Passing in chronological order, from year to year, we note that in 1790, Martin Hulse came from Goshen, Orange county and settled at Deposit. He was the grandson of the brave General Herkimer, whose lamented death is recorded by Campbell, in his narrative of the battle of Oriskany. The place upon which he settled is at present occupied by his grandson, Marshal R. Hulse, Esq., near Deposit village, which place was then and for many years afterward, known as the Cook House. 6 His brother Joseph came in the same year, and took up the lot on which the present village is principally built, but after examining the lot, he concluded to abandon his contract, and the same year returned to Orange county.
In 1813, Henry Drinkert caused the village to be surveyed, and sold lots (as appears from an old record of the matter, which has fallen under our observation,) to the amount of $844, and which lots have since increased in value over five hundred per cent.; and the succeeding year, Silas Crandall, William Wheeler and William Butler, purchased lot No. 43, of the Evans patent, adjoining the above, and caused it to be laid off into lots, which they offered for sale upon reasonable terms, to those disposed to build upon the same.
Among the many inconveniences to which the early settlers were obliged to submit, was their great distance from mechanics and tradesmen, being compelled to endure a journey to Minisink, to purchase even the smallest article of merchandise. The journey usually employed a week. The first merchants in Deposit were Captain Conrad Edict and Captain John Parker; the next store was owned and occupied by Henry M. Gregory and Abel Down, (afterward of Colchester;) and the third was owned by Silas Crandall and Peter Butts, as the firm of "Crandall & Butts.' This latter store is still standing; it is owned and occupied by M. R. Hulse, Esq., near the Deposit bridge.
The first school established in Deposit was in 1794, in which a few urchins were instilled in the rudiments of a common education, by Hugh Compton. The school-house is said to have been constructed of slabs, in the most uncouth manner.
Charles Knapp, Esq., an estimable friend and a highly respectable citizen of Deposit, has favored us with the following incidents. He says: -
The following authentic accounts are extracted from the Cabinet of Natural History, and will convey a good idea of the manners and habits of some of the wild animals in the middle States. Both these events transpired in Delaware county.
On the day of the present hunt, I was joined by a very particular friend and a great huntsman, and we took with us, for our day's sport, nine dogs, and two men to assist, leading the dogs. Five of these animals were experienced and well broken, but the other four were young, and about, for the first time, to range the forest after a bear.
It may, perhaps, be worthy of remark, for the information of those who know but little of these animals, that old bears seldom tree, to clear themselves of dogs, if there is any possibility of escape without it; and when necessity compels them to this course, they will, on the approach of a human creature, in despite of every obstacle which may oppose, descend to the ground and take to flight; young bears, however, will climb trees immediately, and often suffer hunters to approach beneath them and shoot them. Knowing the present animal to be an old and formidable antagonist, and judging from the noise of the dogs that he was in a tree, my companion thought it most advisable to destroy him at once, lest he should kill more of our dogs, as by this time he had killed one and disabled two others; he accordingly approached with much caution, until within about eighty yards of the tree in which the bear had taken refuge, when, with much deliberation he fired at his head, and being a first-rate shot, I felt confident that the animal would have fallen dead; but to our great surprise the shot did not take effect, owing to the ball having struck and glanced from a small dead limb, which was immediately in front of the bear's head, but completely unnoticed by my friend. At the report of his rifle, the bear descended backwards for about ten feet, then doubled himself in the form of a hoop and fell to the ground.
It is well known among hunters, that should an old bear be surprised on a tree, he will never descend by sliding down, but like this bear, roll himself up and fall, sometimes from a most astonishing height, even forty or fifty feet; in which case he always alights on his rump, and when on the side of a hill, will roll like a hoop to the bottom. I have, in several instances, shot them after such falls, and found the extent of injury received, was a few slight bruises near the root of the tail. Experienced dogs are well aware of this stratagem of the bear, and so soon as he lets go his hold, they will run from under the tree to avoid his fall. This plan, also, the bear adopts to clear himself of dogs, as he knows that should he descend the tree gradually, he must encounter a host of enemies the moment he reaches the ground. In the present instance the dogs knew the character of their antagonist, and run so far from under the tree, that the bear had recovered from his fall and ran three hundred yards, ere they could overtake him.
The battle now began to rage most furiously, we were alarmed for the fate of our dogs, and endeavored to shoot him, but found it impossible to do so, without endangering some of the dogs. He then laid on his back, and would frequently drag some of the dogs to him, in order to squeeze them to death, but being broad across the chest, failed to effect his purpose. This the old dogs knew well, and the moment he would seize them, they would close in with his breast and slip out backwards from him.
Our presence excited the dogs to fight with the utmost ferocity and exeeding courage, for half an hour, but the bear was an overmatch for them, and we were fearful that he would bite them in pieces, and escape at last without our being able to get a ball in him. Amongst our dogs was a favorite old one, we called "Drive," and without exception, the best dog to hunt, I ever saw, and withal the most courageous. He had been our companion in toil and pleasure for several years, and his encounters with wild animals were so numerous, that often has been the time we have carried him from the field of battle helpless and mangled, for miles to our houses; but always, on recovering, he was anxious to engage in deadly strife with any monster of the forest. This old dog, in the present battle, had seized the bear by the back of the neck with so firm a hold as to disable him, in some measure, from injuring the other dogs. This bear, however, endeavored to rid himself of "Drive" in every possible way, but to no effect; thinking now it would be a good opportunity to dispatch him, I resolved to try the virtue of my hunting-knife, and approached him with a view of stabbing him; but the bear immediately broke away from the dogs, and then threw himself on his back again, and when in this position, I set my rifle against a tree, and attempted to make the fatal stroke. The bear anticipated my intention, and met my blow with a stroke of his paw, with so much force as to knock the knife from my hand to the distance of thirty feet, and then arose and made a bold push at me, but I showed him a light pair of heels, and being again seized by the dogs, he was deterred from any further pursuit.
We then thought of other means, and commenced cutting large clubs; but whilst engaged at this, the bear, disrelishing his new enemies, cleared himself of the dogs, which were so disabled by this time that they could scarcely fight any more, and made off at full speed: I seized my rifle, and just as he was springing over an old hemlock log I fired at him, and being afraid of shooting the dogs, I shot too high, and only cut him across the rump, as he pitched over the log. This put him to a stand, and he ascended a tree, to the height of about forty feet, when I approached and shot him through the heart.
The following is a part of an account given of a wolf, which was run down by some hunters who resided in the village of Deposit, in Delaware county, New York. This animal had lost three toes from one of his feet, and on this account was called the "three-legged wolf." He was particularly famous for his depredations among the sheep, and had been frequently pursued, but from his great sagacity had hitherto escaped. No less that forty-five persons had originally started in the chase on the present occasion, but it was now the third day and two only had sufficient perseverance to continue the pursuit.
By this time, it was fairly light - we were at the spot where we had left the wolf the night previous, and we had not proceeded more that three hundred yards up the hill, before we found his bed. This he had left of his own accord, and walked to the top of a hill, which was about half a mile distant, and then took to another road which led direct to Walton, and continued till he came close to Judge Pine's farm, a distance of fifteen miles, where he had a few weeks previous killed so many sheep, and there, at the foot of another hill, he had reposed the remainder of the night. We soon aroused him, and he took directly up the hill, which was exceedingly steep, but up which we clambered with slow progress until we had gained the top. We had walked fifteen miles, and as I was first on the summit of the hill, I looked down, and saw W______ about thirty yards from me. The wolf kept his course on the brow of that hill for three miles, and the left it, and crossed the road which leads from Walton to Franklin, on the Susquehanna;; here I stopped and waited for my companion; W - was immediately by my side. The wood before us was open for six miles, and gradually ascending, but not so much as to prevent our taking rapid strides; as I neared the top, I waited for W______ to come up. "Now," says W______ , "if the wolf keeps this course, we will have a regular descent of nine miles."
I then started at full speed, guarding always against jumping into holes, in which case, probably, my legs would have been broken, until I came within two miles of the foot of the hill, when I saw the rascal about three hundred yards ahead, and he saw me at the same time. We now had it as hard as we could lay to, and I saw that I gained on him but slowly, and being within one hundred and seventy-five yards of me, I fired just as he was quartering on me, but he kept his course and rose a high mountain before us.. I reloaded and proceeded and found that he had dropped in the snow so often as to evince the greatest fatigue, and nothing but his very life stimulated him on. On this mountain were many wind-falls, and other difficult places, almost impassable for man; and had we been in pursuit of any other animal beside the "three-legged wolf," the number of difficulties at this time, would have disheartened us; but we were intent on victory, and our infatuation blinded our difficulties, and made us callous to suffering.
Our antagonist kept his course on this hill for seven miles, but it being covered with underbrush we could not gain on him; the sun was gliding behind the western hills, and the wolf having so much start of us, we concluded to look out for quarters for the night; we accordingly ascended a high point on the mountain and in a valley, two miles distant, we saw a house, whither we proceeded, and were immediately recognized by a young man, an inmate of the dwelling: he inquired of us, what brought us there in our hunting-dress, and with our rifles? We told him we "were after the three-legged wolf." "Ah!" says he, "I know him well. I hope you will not leave him here, for only three weeks since, he killed eleven sheep in one night for us, and last winter he killed eighteen others for us" has he not lost a part of his fore-foot" We told him we were satisfied he knew him, as that was his description, and that we should never give him up until we had destroyed him, unless a snow should fall so as to obliterate his track. This was fifty-two miles from our homes in a direct line, and I have no doubt we had run that lay sixty miles, as we were then near Delhi, in the upper part of the county.
We were treated with great hospitality by this family, whose name was Wilson, and every thing was done to make us and our dogs comfortable, that could be devised. After drinking some tea, and eating but little, we found that sleep was more desirable than anything else, and we retired to rest. Our dogs did not reach the house for some time after our arrival, and then they were in a wretched condition; but the family exercised great humanity towards them, especially the children, who had taken them into the parlor, and were rubbing them with dry napkins. When we arose, we found a repast prepared for us, with some dough-nuts to eat through the day. This generally, was our daily food, and for drink, we could catch up a handful of snow, not allowing ourselves sufficient time to quench our thirst at a brook.
Before light we started, and tracked our way up the mountain; and I can confidently say, I never felt better than at that time; my spirits were buoyant, and I trod with lighter footstep that any day previous; this was the fourth day of our hunt. I asked Capt. W______ how he felt; he said, "I feel well; victory to-day; to-day the wolf must die." But we felt keenly for our dogs, for although they had been so well used, yet they could not move a step, scarcely, without crying; and thus they continued yelping till they had followed us some miles. We would have left them at the farm-house, but they howled so terribly, we were obliged to let them follow us.
About light we got on the wolf-track again, and within three hundred yards, found he had lain down, but had risen again in the night, voluntarily, and walked not more that ten yards, before he made another bed in the snow. It was evident his time was drawing to a close, for in the last bed he had laid until we surprised him in the morning. His former plan was, after we had ceased chasing him, to run a few hundred yards, then lie down for half the night, and rising again, travel off fifteen or twenty miles into the neighborhood of his depredations, and then rest preparatory to the next night's havoc among the sheep; but now it was pretty certain that we had tired him too much to waste any time after sheep, and that he did not possess power to travel much farther.
When we aroused him this time, he led right off from home but we cared not whither he went, so long as he left a track for us to follow him; but this mountain was covered with underbrush, and he appeared to be well acquainted with every inch of ground he ran over, therefore, we could not push him to the extent we desired; this he was well aware of, and he would choose the most dense and difficult part of the wood; but he omitted it now, making his usual circuits about the wind-falls, as he had no time to spare, and could not continue his course direct. We followed him with renewed speed for about seven miles, when he left the mountain and directed his course across a valley six miles, to another mountain. Through this valley was clear open wood, and we pressed him so hard that he began to lengthen his jumps, and made no more beds in the snow, until he reached the above mountain, where he had opportunities again to rest, as the side on which he ran was so perpendicular that we made but slow progress. We found that he would drop himself to rest every five minutes, and just keeping so far ahead as to keep out of our sight, although we were confident he saw us continually. On arriving at the top of the mountain, we found he had made a start for a thicket, on the same mountain, before we could overtake him; but the course he was going was a gradual descent for about fifteen miles, until it terminated at the foot of another mountain, which was in that range, called Pine Hill, on the head waters of the West Branch of Delaware River.
I started off at full speed down this side of the mountain, making long jumps; I never felt better, and with ease to myself, I could run a mile in five minutes; my limbs felt invigorated, and my speed was superior to any of the former days. I continued so for nearly thirteen miles, and then came within sight of the wolf. He was then but two hundred yards in advance of me, and he had yet two miles farther to go before he could reach the mountain, and this through open wood. He used every effort to quicken his pace, but in spite of his exertions I gained on him. I had run but a mile since I got sight of him, and when I was within forty yards of him, he looked behind at me, and seeing no possible chance of escaping, dropped his tail between his legs and stopped; I ran within twenty yards, and shot a ball immediately through his body, - he fell and rose again, - crack went Captain W.'s rifle, and down he dropped dead. In a moment my foot was on his neck, but we were at a loss to express our joy. We were in the midst of an extensive forest, and we knew not where; we charged our rifles, and gave four rounds in commemoration of the four days' chase. Our difficulties were not yet at an end, for we were determined to take him home; we accordingly took a small stick, and twisting one end, fastened it to his upper jaw, and while one carried the rifles, the other dragged him on the snow.
It appeared, on examining the wolf, that I had struck him on the flank the day previous, when I fired at him, to about the depth of the gall, cutting the flesh, but not so as to retard his progress. We continued dragging him, and followed down a small branch, which we were convinced would lead us to the Delaware or Susquehanna. After proceeding about eight miles, we came to a farm-house occupied by a Mr. Sawyer; he soon recognised us, and seeing us dragging a wolf, asked if we had the "three legged wolf?" and when we answered in the affirmative, says he, "I will hold a day of rejoicing, for I have but few sheep left from last winter, as he then killed nine, and eight of them were my best ewes, and I suppose he came here for more mutton. Tell me, " continued he, "what I can do for you and it shall be done." We asked him if he would take us in his sleigh towards home, or until we could find some one of our neighbors who would take us the balance of the way. We were then eighty miles from the village of Deposit, in a direct line, and he without hesitation agreed to do so.
The number of persons assembled at Walton, out of curiosity, to see the result of the chase, was about one hundred, as every farmer appeared to be deeply interested in the destruction of this wolf; and making a calculation, we found the number of persons assembled there alone, had sheep destroyed by him to the amount of one thousand dollars. When, therefore, they saw our success, it appeared as though they could not do too much for us; they escorted us home with fifteen sleighs, a distance of thirty miles, and our fame resounded through the whole country.
There were but few Indians remaining along the Delaware as late as 1784, having principally emigrated to the hunting-grounds of the Susquehanna, or still farther to the west.
There was an aged scion of the Tuscarora tribe, however, who remained for a number of years in the vicinity of Deposit, by the name of "Old Abram" His hut was on the bank of the river, between the village and the present residence of Benj. Whitaker, near by a large cold spring, which raftsmen to this day call "Old Abram's Spring."
Among those who remained on the hunting-grounds of the Delaware, were Canope, whose tragical end I am about to relate, and Huycon, or Ben Shanks. The following account of the transaction, is taken from the Republican Watchman, of Sullivan county.
Previous to the war, they had been frequently at Minisink, particularly Canope, who was a fine specimen of his race, and had been highly esteemed by his white neighbours.
Ben Shanks, it is said, was the tallest Indian ever seen on the Delaware, and probably from this circumstance received his name. During hostilities, they had taken an active part in favor of King George, and had accompanied several of the ruthless expeditions of the tories and savages against the whigs of Warwarsing and Minisink.
Huycon, as has already been shown, was bold, crafty, and cunning; and, on one occasion, had penetrated Warwarsing, and nearly succeeded in taking prisoner Colonel Jansen, a noted patriot. Shanks was distinguished for his barbarous murders, and was very obnoxious to the whigs, on account of the part he had taken in the murder of John Mack, and the two young ladies who were killed on the Shawangunk.
At the time the circumstances detailed below occurred, the few white families who had located themselves in Cochecton previous to the war, had returned, and again lived on their farms. Some of them were old acquaintances of Canope and Huycon. The Indians stopped on their way down to renew the friendly relations which had existed previous to the late troubles. One of the men they called to see was Joseph Ross, who lived near the mouth of the Calicoon, and some of whose descendants still reside in Cochecton. Ross appears to have been an honest and humane man, and now that hostilities had ceased, felt no longer unfriendly to the Indians, notwithstanding their cruelties during the war. He advised Canope and Shanks to go no farther, and told them it was dangerous to go below, as there were some desperate characters there - Tom Quick among the number, - who would rejoice in an opportunity to kill them: Mr. Josiah Parks gave them the same advice.
The two chiefs were experienced and brave warriors, however, and knew not what fear was. They had lurked about the houses of the whigs when war existed, and they imagined it would now be cowardly to turn back through fear. Saying that it was "peace time," and that they did not think the whites would hurt them, they went to the ponds in the vicinity of Handsome Eddy, where they fished and hunted, but carefully avoided the settlers and others. While they were thus engaged, they were discovered by a man named Ben or Benjamin Haines, who lived at the Eddy. He professed to be friendly, and told them if they would go with him to the river they might make his house their home. They declined at first, but he promised to protect them, and finally they were induced to accompany him.
This Haines, as the result will prove, was a dastardly wretch. He was as barbarous as a savage, but did not possess a single trait which partially redeems the Indian character. The murders of Quick may shock us; but the mean treachery of Haines can elicit no other feeling than abhorrence and contempt.
While the Indians were at his house, Haines pretended that it was necessary for him to go to Minisink after rum and ammunition. The real object of his journey was to see Tom, and induce him to go to the Eddy and murder his guests. It is said, that he wished to get possession of the furs which the Indians had brought with them, and which were of considerable value. He found the old Indian-slayer, who was yet wild with rage, on account of having been robbed of his skins, at the cabin on the Lackawaxen. Tom readily listened to Haines, and agreed to kill the savages, provided he could get any one to help him, for he thought it not advisable to cope with Huycon and Canope alone, as it was well known they were each nearly equal to him in cunning and bravery.
Among Tom's friends was a man named Cobe Chambers, or Shimer, who had formerly lived in Shawangunk, and who was an acquaintance of the two young ladies who had been so barbarously slain by Shanks and his party. It is not too much to suppose he was a lover of one of them, or a near relative, as he readily agreed to assist Tom in killing the guests of Haines, although, as the event proved, he was unused to scenes of blood. If this were not so, why should he, who had never before engaged in any affair in which the life of an Indian was involved, now, in a time of profound peace, engage in an attempt to destroy two of the hated race, and one of whom was regarded with so much abhorrence, because he had shed the blood of two innocent and inoffensive girls?
After conferring with Tom, Haines returned home, with the understanding that the Indian-slayer should follow in a day or two, and bring Shimer with him. Haines found Canope and his companion still at his cabin when he returned. Quick and Shimer reached the Eddy a day or two after Haines got there. They found the latter and the Indians in the cabin waiting for their morning meal to be cooked by the "woman of the house." Ben professed to be surprised at their coming, and greeted Tom as an old acquantaince. but gave him a fictitious name, so that the Indians, who had never seen him before, would not know who he was. After inquiring where they were going, &c., he invited them to eat breakfast with him, which after a little urging, they agreed to do.
While Ben's wife was "putting the dishes on the table," he filled a bowl with water, and taking it out of doors, put it on a stump a rod or two from the house. He then returned and told the Indians to wash themselves. They went out of doors for that purpose, and Haines had a brief opportunity to confer with Tom and Shimer. He told them that he would get the savages to go with him to the "fishing- rocks," to catch fish, and that the opportunity to shoot them from that place would be good, as there was a convenient clump of bushes close by, from which to fire. Tom expressed his satisfaction with what Haines had said - the Indians came back into to the house, and all sat down and ate a hearty breakfast. Tom and Haines seemed to be perfectly at ease all the time, as if nothing more than usual was on their minds, while Cobe appeared to be somewhat disconcerted.
After breakfast, the new comers apparently renewed their journey up the river. They were soon in ambush, however, near the place where Ben said he would entice his proteges. It was not long after, that Huycon, Canope, and Haines, and a little son of the latter, came" to the rocks," and began to fish. Before Tom and his companion fired, it occurred to Haines that his son might be injured in the affray, and he ordered him to go home. Something in the manner of Haines caused the Indians to suspect his fidelity; but he quickly quieted their suspicions, and they then continued to fish as before. Canope, having broken his hook, and none of the party being in possession of one to give him, laid down on the rocks near Shanks, with his head resting upon his hand and elbow. This was considered a favorable opportunity by Tom and Shimer, and they "took aim." Cobe, who was not used to such business, was greatly exited, and Tom declared after-wards, that his (Cobe's) hand trembled so, that he heard the barrel of his gun rattle against the log on which it rested.
They fired: Tom's ball passed through the hand and lower part of the head of Canope, wounding him dangerously. Shimer, as might have been safely predicted, did not hit Shanks. The wounded man ran to Haines and claimed the protection which had been promised; but instead of granting it, the wretch seized a pine-knot, shouting, " Tink! tink! how you used to kill the white folks. 'Pent! 'pent! I'll send your soul to hell in a moment!" and then dispatched him by beating him on the brain.
Even Tom, familiar as he was with scenes of blood, was shocked at the perfidy of Haines. He came up as the latter was dealing out his blows, and exclaimed, "D-- n a man who will promise an Indian protection and then knock him on the head!"
Shanks, when he heard the report of the guns, jumped into the river, and pretended to be wounded and drowning, until the current had carried him down stream a short distance, to a place where the bank was covered with bushes. Here he scrambled on the shore, and ran off limping, hallooing, and groaning as if in great agony. The ruse did not deceive Tom, however; who, finding that Shanks was travelling pretty fast for a man who was apparently so badly wounded, started in pursuit, loading his rifle as he went, and soon got sufficiently near to fire. At the moment he snapped his gun, Shanks looked back, and as Tom shot, fell. The Indian afterwards said that he dodged at the flash of his gun. Be this as it may, Tom did not hit him. A ball- hole was afterwards found through his blanket, but whether made by Cobe or Tom could not be ascertained.
After the last discharge of the gun, Huycon took to his heels in earnest; and Tom found that his shanks were neither active nor long enough to overtake him. He returned to the "rocks," saying, " if ever legs did service, it was them."
Two weeks had elapsed since the Indian chiefs passed through Cochecton, when Shanks returned alone, "damning the Yankees for killing Canope," and swearing that they should suffer for what they had done. He was first seen at a house a short distance from Cochecton bridge, where he stopped to rest and get something to eat. While he was there, Mrs. Drake, whose father-in-law and first and second husbands were killed by savages and tories, came into the house. Almost immediately after seeing the savage she fainted, so great was her dread of those who had slain so many of her near and dear friends. He was next seen by Mr. Joseph Ross, who invited him to tarry a while at his house; but he refused to come near Ross at first, the bad faith of Haines having caused him to suspect every pale-face. He finally consented, however to stay with Mr. Ross a short time. He was kindly treated by Mr. R. and his neighbors.
While here, his conduct afforded much amusement to the juvenile members of the family. Mr. Ross and his "hands,"were hoeing corn, and every time they went to their work, Shanks accompanied them. As soon as he got to the field he selected the highest ground in it, and, after glancing rapidly and suspiciously over the surrounding country, he seated himself a la Turque, among the waving and rustling corn, where he remained out of sight fifteen or twenty minutes. He would then get upon the tip of his toes, " stretch his neck" upwards as far as possible, look around, as if expecting to see Tom, and then squat upon his haunches again. As long as he remained in the field he acted in this way. The boys could compare him to nothing but a rather vigilant and somewhat alarmed turkeycock. After remaining a day or two, he continued his journey homeward, to relate another great wrong committed by the white man. He left Ross, breathing threats of vengeance, and was ferried across the Delaware, at Equinunk, by Mr. Parks, who has already been mentioned.
The death of Canope was regretted by most of the frontier settlers, for many reasons. His murder was brought about by the blackest treachery, and in violation of a solemn treaty of peace, the strict observance of which was necessary to their safety. Nothing could justify the murder. It was known that others beside Tom were engaged in the transaction, and there was good ground for fear that the Indians would avenge his death, and in doing so, not discriminate between the bloody perpetrators of the outrage, and those who would have sheltered him from harm.
The Indians made a formal complaint to the government against Shimer, Haines, and Quick; but it does not appear that the offenders were apprehended, or that any attempt was made to punish them. After waiting a reasonable time, the savages did what was quite natural on their part: they fell upon a couple of white men in the vicinity of Fort Pitt, and murdered them. A gentleman named Skinner, whose ancestors settled at Cushetunk nearly one hundred years ago, and whose possessions were extensive during the early days of the settlement of Cochecton, styles the murdered men "Uncle Ross and Cousin Cyrus." By this we are given to understand that the vengeance of the Indians fell upon men who had never treated the natives unkindly.
After this event, the fears of the pioneers gradually wore away; and finally they continued to fish, and hunt, and cultivate their lands without apprehension.