By Capt. Franklin Ellis232
This is the southeast corner town of the county, centrally distant from Hudson about eighteen miles. It is bounded north by Copake and Taghkanic, east by the towns of Mount Washington, Mass., and North East, in Dutchess county, and west by Gallatin. It is the fifth town in the county in point of size and eleventh in population; its area being twenty-six thousand nine hundred and nineteen acres, nearly four-fifths of which is improved, and a population of seventeen hundred and fifteen. In 1860 the population was seventeen hundred and twenty, in 1865 it was sixteen hundred and fifty-one, and in 1870 it was seventeen hundred and ninety-three.
The eastern boundary of the town was formerly a line running at a very oblique angle. The northern limb was a line two miles long, running in a direction a little west of south, and was simply an extension of the present boundary line between New York and Massachusetts, north of the angle near the south line of Copake. This angle was then at the end of the dividing line between Copake and Ancram. The southern limb of the angle was the present east boundary between Ancram and North East. This boundary was changed, as will be explained farther on, so that a triangular tract of land, called "Boston Corners," containing about one thousand acres, was set off from Massachusetts and annexed to Ancram; the northern limb of the angle above described becoming one side of the triangle. Subsequently, a triangular piece of land containing about one thousand acres was taken from Ancram and annexed to Copake, leaving the northern boundary a straight line as it is at present.
The surface of the town is broken and hilly. The range of the Taghkanic mountains occupies the eastern part of the northeast corner. The highest point is Monument mountain. A monument on its summit marks the boundaries of part of the town adjoining North East is occupied by a high rounded edge of land, which is an extension of "Chestnut Ridge," in Dutchess county. It is called "West Hill," "Card's Hill," "East Hill," and "Chestnut Ridge." The latter is the most correct name. In the southwest a broken range of hills runs in a generally northerly direction, terminating in a high hill east of Ancram, called "Mill Hill." The hills in the northwest are high, but rise with a very gradual slope. There is a prominent pointed hill near the centre of the town, which is called "Croven Hill." Along the course of the two principal streams in the north centre of the town, the land is flat, low, and swampy, forming a sort of vlaie, occupying several hundred acres.
There are several small lakes or ponds in the northern part of the town, the largest of which are called "Woodworth," or Lower Rhoda," "Porter," or "Miller's," and "Long" ponds. The two first named lie partly in Copake. Fish of all kinds, including bass and pickerel, are found in them. The principal streams are Roeloff Jansen's Kill and Punch brook. The former enters the town near the middle of its north boundary, and flows in a generally southwest course across the town into Gallatin. Punch brook rises in the south part, and flows north till it empties into the kill, about a mile and a half from the town line. These streams have numerous small tributaries. The waters of the ponds in this town and the south part of Copake empty into the kill. A small brook rises in the Taghkanic mountains, near Boston Corners, and flows north into Copake.
The soil of this town is generally a gravelly loam, intermixed with clay. In the southeast and east there is, however, considerable limestone soil, and in the interval bordering the kill considerable quantities of alluvial deposits. It is a productive, fertile soil, and generally easily tilled. The crops are similar to those of other towns, rye, corn, potatoes, oats and buckwheat being the principal crops. Some of the land is particularly adapted to grazing purposes, and dairying is carried on to some extent. Iron ore has been obtained at different points in the hills along the east border, and near the Taghkanic, in the north part of the town. Lead ore has also been mined at Hot Ground, near the centre.
This town is well supplied with railroads. The New York and Harlem railroad was built through this town in 1852, and entering at Boston Corners (its only station in Ancram), runs one and three-fourths miles north into Copake. The track of this road is elevated on an embankment some twenty-five feet high for a considerable distance north from this station, and on a slight curve, about half a mile north, the wind has twice blown trains from the track. These accidents occured within a few rods of the same spot; the first some eighteen or twenty years since, and the last about ten years ago. Both trains consisted of one baggage-car and two coaches each, and were running south. The engine in each case remained on the track, but the cars were lifted bodily from the rails, and rolled over and over down the bank. Some lives were lost each time and many people injured. Trains now often wait at the station for hours when one of these fierce easterly winds is blowing, till it abates sufficiently to allow them to proceed with safety. The Poughkeepsie, Hartford and Boston railroad enters the town from Pine Plains, about a mile east of the Gallatin line, and crosses it in a northeasterly direction, making a wide detour to the north to get around the end of Chestnut Ridge, and leaves the town at Boston Corners. Its length in Ancram is 8.07867 miles, and there are four stations,--Ancram Lead Mines, Halstead, Tanner's, and Boston Corners. The two intermediate stations are flag stations. Near Halstead are two wooden trestles spanning the valleys of two small streams. The smaller of these is about half a mile south, and is five hundred and twenty-five feet long and twenty-five feet high. The large one is a few rods north, and is over one thousand three hundred feet long and sixty-five feet high in its most elevated part. Work was begun on this road in 1868 (it was then called the Poughkeepsie and Eastern railroad), but trains did not begin running until Aug. 1, 1872, when the first regular train ran over the whole length of the road. The first shipment of freights from Ancram Lead Mines was eleven cans of milk sent to New York by Jacob Miller. After the usual preliminaries the town was bonded in aid of this railroad to the amount of $30,000, receiving in return three hundred shares of the capital stock. The commissioners of the town in the work of bonding were Peter P. Rossman, John M. Smith, and Backus McIntyre. The bonds were to run thirty years, bearing seven per cent interest. Subsequently the road was mortgaged, the mortgage became due, and was foreclosed, and the road was sold, so that now the town has no interest in the road, they having sold their stock at a merely nominal price, save the interest on the #30,000 in bonds.
The Rhinebeck and Connecticut railroad follows the course of the Roeloff Jansen's Kill through the town, and passing through Copake in a semicircle, re-enters Ancram at the Weed ore-bed, and runs parallel with the N. Y. & H. R. R., to Boston corners, where it joins the P. H. & B. R. R., and both use the same track from that place to Millerton. This road has 7.44 miles of track in this town, and two stations,--Ancram and Boston Corners. It was built to Ancram (the most important station between the termini of the road) during the summer of 1874, and trains ran regularly to that point. Work was also carried on on the rest of the road during the fall and winter of 1874-75, with the expectation of opening the road its entire length early in the spring. A heavy freshet, however, carried off several bridges, and the road was not finally opened till about the 1st of May, 1875.
Ancram was formerly a part of the Livingston manor, though for many years considerable trouble existed between the authorities of Massachusetts and New York regarding the lands, they not being able to agree upon the boundary line between the two colonies. Owing to this state of affairs those who lived on the lands were often put to much trouble and inconvenience, and even sometimes placed in peril by the efforts of the rival governments to eject and dispossess them. At one time the New England Company, acting under the authority of the lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts, came with a large force and carried off a large number of captives. The following letter, found in the "Documentary History of New York," vol. iii, page 473, addressed to Robert Livingston, Jr., explains this, and shows what a marked contrast there is between the present peaceable possession and the turbulence and disorder that then existed:
"MANOR LIVINGSTON, MAY 6, 1775.
"On Monday Mr. Connor went to Warn the People to Assist on Theusday Morning at Taghkanick, and as he Arrived to Anchoram about Sun Down, he Was Informed that there Was a proclamation from ye Leiutenant-Governour of Boston Nailed upon Dirck Spoor Door, and Mr. Conner being Uneasie to know what Was Meant by the proclamation being put up there, he Went to Dirck Spoor's, and When they seen him Coming towards the house they took it of and Locked it up in on of their Chest. But Mr. Conner Insisted Upon Seeing the paper that was Nailed to the Door, and After Some Dispitte Got it out of the Chest, Which is Now Inclosed and sent to You for Your Better Information, and as Mr. Connor was in Comeing Whome he Came by Anchoram, Where he Stayed till Ten O'clock at Night; he Likewise ordered the people of Anchoram to keep together in one house, and to be Sure to Make Deffence, But in Steed of Deffending Themselves the fled after a Base Mannor, and Made No Resistance at all.
"Inclosed you have the Number of Men Which Were taken this Morning out of Anchoram by the New England Company, and your Servt., Jacob Knight, Who Was among them, and call'd out to the New England People to ty the Anchoram, and as Mr. Connor Informed me that the New England Sheriff Come up to Mr. Decker and Shook hands With him, and said he Would not take him, and Mr. Decker never offered to make any Resistance and all against him, and its said they are to Come and take Mr. Conner and the Rest of the Anchoram People, and We are Going there Now With a Company of men to Assist him as far as We Can.
"I am hond. Sr., your most
"Obedient & faithfull Servt.,
"THE NUMBER TAKE FROM ANCHORAM."
"James Elliott, the Clarke; Neil Macarthur, Founder; Hugh MacCay, Filler; Jacob Showers, Founder; Samuel Herris, Do.; Charles MacCarthur, Morris When, Angus MacDuffey.
"the number took there were
"Robert Noble, Thomas Whitney, Jacob Spoor, Cornelius Spoor, Andries Reese, Jonathan Derby, Francis Balviel, a Soldr belonging to Albany Garrison, Ebenezer Pain, John Van Gelden, an Indian, Joseph Van Gelden, an Do., Jacob Kneight, Mr. Livingston' Servant, 103 ye Whole Number."
It is said in some works heretofore published that the town was first settled by the Dutch in the vicinity of Ancram village. This may be true; there were, no doubt, some settlers of that nationality among the earliest inhabitants, but no general settlement was made till the Scotch people settled in the central part of the town, and gave it a name by which it is known to this day; i.e., "Scotchtown." Some settlers also came in from the eastern States, and occupied the valley between the Taghkanic mountains and Chestnut ridge and other lands in the eastern part of the town. We are unable to give anything like a full history of these hardy pioneers who ventured into the wilderness to create homes for their families. There were still some Indians in this section when the white settlers came, and they always maintained friendly relations with them. The last of them was the family of "Old Indian Joe." He died before 1790, but some members of his family survived him and remained in the vicinity for several years.
John Strever came from Germany and settled on a farm near Ancram Lead Mines, the present residence of Jacob Miller. He had four sons and two daughters, all of whom married and settled in this and Dutchess counties. Jacob, the second son, married Maria Hoysradt, a daughter of another early settler, and leased a farm near Ancram. One of his children--Mrs. Maria Knickerbocker--is now living in the western part of Copake at the advanced age of ninety-one years.
Zaccheus Owen came to Ancram from New England, and settled on a place a little east of Boston Corners. The date of his settlement was probably about 1760. He was succeeded on the place by his son Charles, and he by his son Hermon. The place is now divided into two farms, occupied by John Silvernail and Archibald McIntyre. The latter occupies the homestead, and his house stands nearly on the site of the first one. Peter Owen, a great-grandson of Zaccheus, is living in Ancram, aged seventy-nine years.
William Lott first settled the place occupied by Harmon Johnson, and known as "the Eggleston farm." He sold to Mark Kryne.
Next north of Lott, David Eggleston settled. the place is now occupied by Charles Roberts.
Hans Adam Miller was a German emigrant who settled, about 1760-65, on a farm on the west side of Chestnut ridge, about a mile from Boston corners. The place is now owned by Anson and Homer Vosburgh. His family, consisting of three sons and six daughters, were all born on that place. Their descendants, by the names of Miller, McArthur, and Wilkinson, are still among the residents of this county. One son--named John--married, and took a lease of the farm now occupied by his son, Benjamin I. Miller, about 1800. By some error of the clerk who transcribed the lease it was made for the unusually long term of nine hundred and ninety-nine years. The proprietor of the manor was very anxious to rectify the error when he found out what it was, but as he had refused "to correct mistakes" before he knew what the mistake was, Miller kept the lease, saying, that if it was good enough for Livingston, it was good enough for him. Benjamin I. Miller still has this remarkable lease in his possession, though the land has since been purchased and conveyed by deed.
Hans Adam Miller had two brothers, Benjamin and Matthias, who came to America with him, and settled in Ancram and Copake; Benjamin on the place now occupied by Mrs. Miller, near Miller's pond, and Matthias on the place now occupied by Mrs. Lampman, half a mile southwest of the Weed ore-bed. Benjamin B. Miller, living near Copake Flats, is a grandson of Benjamin B. Miller, living near Copake Flats, is a grandson of Benjamin Miller. John McArthur was a son of Neil McArthur, one of the first settlers. He had seven children. One of them, Mrs. Betsey Barlow, is living in Rochester. Peter McArthur, a great-grandson of Neil, and son of Charles, is now living in Copake, two miles south of Copake Flats.
Henry and David Wentworth, and a family named Steward, were early settlers near Ancram village, and Isaac Williams was for a long time agent of Livingston, in charge of the iron-works there.
Jacob Kiefer, on the W. H. Tripp place; John Tweedy, on the John M. Williams place; Reuben McArthur, on the Elias Austin place; Arthur McArthur, on the Sally McArthur place; two Burches, on the Jesse and Elias Reynolds place; John W. Pulver, on the William W. Tanner place; Martin Miller, on the John M. Smith place; and John Woodward, near the Woodward pond, were among the first settlers in their respective localities.
Among the other earlier settlers were Isaac Rogers, Duncan McArthur, Archibald and Duncan McIntyre, and families named Thompson, Fritts, Tanner, McDonald, Belcher, and Brandt.
This town was formed from Livingston, March 19, 1803, as Gallatin, and its name was changed to Ancram, March 25, 1814. Gallatin was taken off in 1830, and Boston Corners annexed April 13, 1857. Its first name was given it in honor of Hon. Albert Gallatin, and the present one after Ancram in Scotland, which was the native place of the Livingston family.
The following is a copy of the record of the first town meeting:
"Town of Gallatin, April 5, 1803, Made choice of Ebenezer Kingman, clerk; Nicholas Klyne, supervisor; Henry Hufman, Esq., Jacob I. Strivel, Thomas Lumas, assessors; Rubin McCarter, Henry A. Hoisrod, Silas Davis, commissioners; Allen Sheldon, collector; Christephor Shults, Henry Huffman, overseers of the poor; Peter Marks, Aaron Sheldon, Daniel Palmer, constables; George Row, Hans Peter Shoemaker, John Bates, fence-viewers; Isaac Williams, poundmaster.
"$150 for the use of the poor, to be Raised by Vote of the Town.
"Fences, 4½ feet High
"No Ram to Run at large from the first of September until the first of November, Under the forfeiture of such Ram."