“On Monday afternoon as Henry Moore was driving rapidly through Wall Street in this village, his horse ran against the little daughter of Issadore Coon who was crossing the street at the crossing near the Ulster County Bank. The girl was knocked down and both the horse and wagon passed over her. She is, however, with the exception of a sprained finger, uninjured.”
— Kingston Press, April 14, 1872
That the City of Kingston celebrated its sesquicentennial Friday, May 13 seemed to irritate the publisher of this brave tabloid-sized local rag.
His aversion had nothing to do with mayor Steve Noble’s plan to commemorate the occasion at city hall “featuring a special theatrical performance by Theater on the Road, which will portray the merger debate between Kingston’s first two mayors, James G. Lindsley from Rondout and William Lounsbery from the Village of Kingston.”
Nor did it have anything to do with the musical performance planned by local representatives of the Bruderhof community, a splinter group of Anabaptists who call Ulster County home.
Rather, it seems the idea of the number itself has aggravated him. He counts starting with the construction of the stockade in 1658. “Why not celebrate 500 by having an annual countdown?” he griped. “464 years old, 465, 466. Tempus fugit. Just because the Romans had a letter for 50 don’t mean shit.”
Well. And maybe so.
The idea of a sesquicentennial is just a convenient ancient Roman excuse to take stock and throw a party. The number of years that have gone before, with all the lives they have witnessed amounts to an insult to the living, casting into monotonous relief whatever personal successes or failures have been experienced in a single lifetime.
Here originates the urge to celebrate, to obscure the defects of our ancestors, and through the commemoration of their accomplishments to take credit for their recognition.
While assemblymember Kevin Cahill was at the city hall along with mayor Steve Noble for the celebration, our own ruminations on this large anniversary will concentrate only on what newspapers accounts can reveal about the month of April 1872, when the villages of Kingston, Rondout and Wilbur resolved to combine into one city.
This here newspaper publishing company first kicked off 50 years ago (semicentennial) with the introduction of Woodstock Times. The Daily Freeman has been at it, as reported by Freeman journalist Paul Kirby last October, for a hundred years longer than that. Another sesquicentennial.
The daily Freeman was founded in 1872 and published for eight years by Horatio Fowks. “The conscientious editor was too honest to endorse the schemes of dishonest politicians, and they labored to ‘kill him off,’ reported The New York Times in 1883. “They succeeded so far as to take the Freeman from him.”
Two men with the last names Van Keuren and Gildersleeve ran what was called the Rondout Weekly at the time the villages merged. The newspaper was headquartered down off Broadway in The Strand, adjacent to the Rondout Creek.
Among the earliest, if not the very earliest, papers published in Ulster County were the Farmer’s Register and the Rising Sun, in print in 1793 and 1795 respectively.
The office from which the Ulster Gazette was issued at the time of the merger was on Wall Street, “near the site of Smith’s livery stable.” The building was also the residence of the editor, Mr. Freer.
The Plebian, started under the management of Jesse Buell, Esq., was published from the Widow Sahler’s house on Pearl Street.
Then came The Kingston Argus. The Political Reformer. The Ulster Sentinel. The Democratic Journal. The Ulster County Whig, by John G. Wallace, started in 1834 and was discontinued two years later.
The names and publishers of newspapers blur together, forgotten now except in bygone newspaper nameplates and mastheads. Two filing cabinets at the Kingston Library preserve them on microfiche.
KILLED BY A SHEEP (KINGSTON PRESS)
“The death of Mrs. Sanford of Stevensonville, Sullivan County, a few days since, occurred most peculiarly. Deceased was a widow, aged about seventy, living on a small farm. She went out of her house one day last week, saying to her daughter she would throw a little salt to her flock of sheep about the door. Not returning, soon the daughter looked for her and found her lying some 50 feet from the house apparently lifeless, with a large buck sheep standing by her. Being joined by a young lady, the daughter went to her mother’s assistance, when they were attacked by the sheep, who butted them so severely that their combined efforts were barely able to resist his assault. When rescued, Mrs. Sanford was found terribly battered about the head and chest, and she died soon after. The animal belonged to a neighbor and has never before known as vicious.”
The look of the old newspapers themselves are strikingly different than today’s. Often their first page is covered in advertisements. Insurance agencies, for instance, list their cash capital and assets on the front page, compared side by side with the competition.
Very rarely are there illustrations. Often a poem is printed, and a story next to it, something along the lines of a survival tale. A ship sinks and a passenger is forced to swim through the freezing water to safety. A wedding party is pursued through the dark forest by a pack of wolves.
Because the ink from the hand press had to dry first so the rag could be stacked or mailed, the inside pages are printed earlier in the layout process.
Following is a sampling of the events of the week when Kingston incorporated, deemed notable enough to print inside the Rondout Weekly:
– There is a great complaint in the village about the scarcity of water. A great many cisterns are dry and many wells are getting very low.
– A large ham hanging in front of the store of J. O. Swart on Wall Street, was stolen on Saturday Evening by some sneak thief.
– Lent has begun and penitence is the duty of the hour. This season should be a time of thought for all who owe the printer.
– From the number of dogs and their feline friends which range hereabouts night and day, we fancy there is a good opening for a sausage shop.
– “Boot” Van Steenburgh, well known in this vicinity, is now a resident of Saugerties, and the subject of his orations is a war with England, which he warmly advocates.
– The Hudson River ice harvest is nearly closed, about every ice house is filled with good thick ice, thus setting at rest all fears in relation to the short crop.
The newspapers were full of tinctures and tonics, restoratives and cures for fever and ague, resolvents, and blood purifiers for beauty.
– Dr. John Murphy, of Honesdale, has furnished the following recipe for the treatment of spotted fever, which he claims efficacious. Three table-spoonful of white vinegar, three table-spoonful of water, half a table-spoonful of Norway tar. Apply to the temples and eyelids morning and evening.
Spotted fever was spread by ticks and fleas and the disease struck fear into families of Kingston. It was not understood well at the time. We now call it typhus.
Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparillian Resolvent is ubiquitous.
SLEEPY HOLLOW MURDERER (Kingston Press)
Buck Hout, the Sleepy Hollow Murderer, was executed at White Plains, Westchester County, last Friday. He was tried twice, on one indictment, after committing two murders and nearly a third. Jealously towards his wife (one of the victims), was the cause; he said he would do the same thing again under similar circumstances, yet his “spiritual advisers” fixed him up alright on the stool of repentance.
The newspapers of the 1800s are unapologetically partisan. All topics are fair game. Throughout the month of April are to be read criticisms.
Mormonism: “Their founder, Jo. Smith, was an ignorant loafer and a charlatan, his successor is a shrewd and unscrupulous imposter and his revelations confirming the institution of polygamy are a horrible nuisance.”
Hairstyles: “Effeminate men have long considered it the thing to part the hair of their heads in the middle, while, on the other hand, dashing young women given to masculine ways, delight to appear with short, curly hair parted at the side.”
Masturbation: “A lecture to young men on the Nature, Treatment, Radical Cure of spematorrhea or Seminal Weakness, Involuntary Emissions, Sexual Debility and Impediments to Marriage generally; Nervousness, Consumption, Epilepsy and Fits resulting from Self Abuse &c. Just published in a sealed envelope. 6 cents.”
Like the regular switching of the north and south poles on the planet, the political platforms of Republicans and Democrats stood reversed. The party of Lincoln and abolition was Republican. All Democrats were roundly abused as pro-slavery creatures of Tammany Hall.
And so we are firmly set in the past in 1872. Newspaper publishers then, like now, were trying to make an honest dollar by spreading the public word.
Everyone seems to know that the wise purchase of coal-rich lands in eastern Pennsylvania by brothers Maurice and William Wurts set in motion the future of Rondout and Kingston. The donkeys which plodded along the 108 miles of the D&H Canal were often led by children. The supply of orphans from down the Hudson in New York City was ever replenishing.
For the manly work that children could not be trusted with, there were marginalized adults, mostly Irish and German immigrants. Cement, bricks and transportation were other main industries in the Rondout, and manufacturing was increasing in importance.
The Rondout, being on the water, had all the action and most of the population. Kingston, or Wiltwyck, was still populated in large part by god-fearing Dutch farmers.
Expensive houses rise up on top of the hills, their residents living atop a conveyance entrepot with many churches, brothels and storefronts. With supplies of every kind coming up the river from New York and with coal coming down the creek, Rondout was an attractive hub indeed. Viewing Rondout’s economic success with no small amount of jealousy, uptowners sought discussions about union. An act to incorporate the City of Kingston passed March 29, 1872
“The first crossing of the Rosendale railway bridge will take place on Saturday next, between the hours of 12pm and 2 pm, two engines and trains, empty, will cross and return, after which the two trains will be filled with passengers and again cross and return. Excursion trains will be run over the road and a grand celebration, the particulars of which have not been furnished us, will take place at Rosendale.”
This story was printed in the Rondout Freeman the same month that the villages of Rondout and Kingston merged, April 1872.
When the sun set, the world was still in darkness. There was nothing but candles, torches and oil lanterns to keep the darkness at bay. For the wealthy, glass and crystal chandeliers refracted and amplified the candlelight .
HOUSE AND BARN BURNED (KINGSTON PRESS)
“The dwelling house and barn belonging to the Souser family in the town of Kingston, about four miles from this city, on the road leading from the sawkill bridge to plattekill, were destroyed by fire on Saturday afternoon last, while most of the family were at church. The fire was first discovered in the roof of the dwelling house and supposed to have caught fire by sparks from the chimney.”
The beginning of the electric age, when Thomas Edison flipped the switch to his power station on Pearl Street in downtown Manhattan, was still a decade away.
Telegrams had been around for public use since 1844.
After much discussion, revision, argument and compromise, a charter was sent to Albany, where John T. Hoffman, 23rd governor of New York State, signed it. The telegraph machine was used to arrange a celebration at Schwallbach’s.
To E.E. Brigham, Director Kingston Village:
“May God bless the new city. Our bells will ring at 7pm. Our board will meet yours at Schwallbachs at 7pm.”
This in the Rondout Freeman:
“The arrangements proposed in these dispatches were carried out, and at 7 o’clock in the evening, precisely, every fire, church, steamboat and factory bell in the city struck up, and for an hour kept merry time, while the thunder of the six pounder field piece, stationed back of John O’Reilly’s, a detachment of the old 20th, woke the echoes of the surrounding hills as charge after charge was fired in quick succession.”
On the Vleightburg a huge bonfire threw a bright light over that portion of the city in its immediate neighborhood, the intense darkness of the night making its brilliance more perceptible. The streets were filled with rejoicing people, and the new city was the theme of universal conversation.
At seven o’clock the Roundout board of trustees met at the mansion house and soon after started for Schwalbach’s, where the Kingston directors met them. A general handshaking took place.
“The two boards then adjourned to the inner room, where Mister O’Reilly (director of Rondout), approaching Mr. Brigham (supervisor of Kingston), grasped him by the hand and expressed the wish that the union of the two villages might be harmonious and the city’s career one of prosperity and thrift. Mr. Brigham reported in an appropriate manner, when the two embraced each other cordially, thus, in figure, completing the union. The scene moved the beholders almost to tears.
“Mr. T.R. Westbrook, (U.S. Representative from the State of New York) was called for and made a little speech, dwelling on the historical fame of Kingston, the admirable location of the new city, its unequaled advantages regarding manufacturing and other facilities, the certainty of its greatness as a railroad and commercial center and wound up with the hope that the new center had entered upon a new era of prosperity and trusted that old time animosities were forever forgotten.”
ELECTION RESULTS (KINGSTON PRESS)
The annual elections for town officers (from supervisor down) took place in this county on Tuesday of this week. The republicans have done exceedingly well under all the adverse circumstances — the day was one of the most unpleasant experienced in these parts during the whole of the past Winter.
The result is, James G. Lindsley, Republican is elected Supervisor by 32 majority.
Polls from the Rondout Freeman show Lindsley’s 1835 to Cyrenius Brill’s 1803. Lindsley did better in the Rondout, 1098 to 805, Brill better in Kingston, 998 to 737.
The newly combined city had a population of as much as 18,000 at the time, or so it was claimed. The early 1870s had seen coal production shipped along the D&H Canal peak. The waterways would run side by side with the railroad for a time before steam locomotives utterly shattered their relevance. Portland cement would prove more popular than Rosendale cement. The furnaces of the brick kilns would cool finally. And the significance of the Rondout as a raw-materials entrepôt would never recover.