By Capt. Franklin Ellis209
This town lies on the east border of the county, and in the second tier of towns from the south line. It contains an area of twenty-two thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight acres, of which a little more than three-fourths are improved lands. It population was eighteen hundred and thirty-nine in 1860, seventeen hundred and thirty-eight in 1865, eighteen hundred and forty-seven, in 1870, and eighteen hundred and eighty-four in 1875. It ranks as the ninth town in the county, both in area and in population. It is bounded as follows: north by Hillsdale, east by the town of Mount Washington, in Massachusetts, south by Ancram, and west by Taghkanic. It is nearly square in form, being six miles wide, from east to west, and seven miles long, from north to south. The surface is broken by ranges of high hills, separated by valleys of varying width. The eastern border is formed by the range of the Taghkanic mountains, the highest part, called the "Alander," lying near the centre of the east part. "Pond hill," on the shore of Copake lake, is a high, rocky, and wooded eminence. "Old Tom's hill," or "Mount Tom," is an isolated rocky height lying near the centre of the town, about three-quarters of a mile north from Copake flats. To the westward of the Taghkanic mountains lies a lovely valley about two miles wide, narrowing considerably as it nears the north line of the town, and shut in on the west by high hills, gently sloping in the southwest and rising more abruptly in the north part of the town. In the extreme northwest there is another valley about two miles long, following the course of Copake creek in a southwesterly direction. The waters of the town are Copake lake, Rhoda, Robinson's, Snyder, Chrysler, Miller, or Porter, and Woodward's ponds. Copake lake is a fine sheet of water in the western part of the town north of the centre, and a small part of it lies in Taghkanic. It has an area of about six hundred acres, and is of an average depth of about twelve or fifteen feet. In some places it is thirty-six feet deep. The circumference of the lake is about nine miles. Its outlet is Copake creek, to which it is connected by an outlet a mile long. Near its western extremity lies a beautiful peninsula, which is commonly called "The Island." Whether it was an island and the connection with the mainland is artificial is not positively known. It contains some twenty acres of ground, mostly covered with a fine growth of chestnut timber, and its surface is rolling in character, presenting a delightful diversity of knolls and dells. On one of these miniature hills are seen the ruins of what was once the abode of some of the members of the Livingston family. This residence was large and commodious, and stood on a gentle elevation overlooking the lake to the southeast. It was built in 1809, and torn down after the anti-rent excitement, to prevent its being used as a place of harboring by the Indians, whom the anti-renters had induced to contest the validity of the Livingstons' title to the land. A small island lies near the southern shore nearly opposite this point. The peninsula, the island, and the "Pond hill" farm, on the south shore, are still owned by members of the Livingston family. Robinson's pond, or lake, is a smaller body of water, near the centre of the town. It is an expansion of the "Roeloff Jansen's Kill," covering about one hundred acres, and is partly artificial, a dam at its lower extremity holding back the water for use as a motive-power for the grist-mill. The other ponds are still smaller, and are all located in the southwestern part of the town. Woodward and Porter ponds lie partly in the town of Ancram. All of them, except Chrysler pond, empty their waters into the kill; that one empties into Copake creek, in Taghkanic.
The waters of these ponds abound in fish of all kinds, and fine bass especially are found in abundance in Rhoda pond and Copake lake. The principal streams are Roeloff Jansen's Kill, which enters the town from Hillsdale, about two miles form the State line, and runs across the town into Ancram; "Bash-Bish" creek, which, rising in Mount Washington, breaks through the mountains near Copake Iron-Works, and flows southwest into Ancram, where it unites with the kill; and a brook, which rising near Boston Corners, flows northerly and empties in Bash-Bish, near Copake Flats. The Bash-Bish gorge is a very picturesque one, and the falls at the place where the stream breaks through the last rocky barrier, on the western face of the mountain, present a very beautiful appearance. Surmounting the fall is a beetling crag, called the "Eagle's Cliff," from which one looks down on a scene of wild grandeur and beauty, not surpassed, if it is equaled, by anything in this part of the State. During the summer many visitors make this delightful spot a picnic ground, and pass the hot hours of midday within the cool recesses of the glen, refreshed by the spray-moistened air and lulled to calm reveries by the music of the miniature cataract. The glen below the falls gradually widens, and the course of the stream grows less rapid. The falls and glen, together with several hundred acres of land on the surrounding mountains, are owned by Mrs. Douglass, widow of the late Alfred Douglass, of New York, who purchased the property several years ago, and at great expense of time and money turned the rocky banks of the creek into an enchanting stretch of beautiful garden and velvety lawn, dotted here and there with rustic cottages in the Swiss style of architecture, with green-houses, carriage-houses, and barns of the same style, all combining to make it a very pleasant and beautiful summer residence. The broad interval along the Kill and Bash-Bish creeks, below Robinson's pond, has always been called "Copake Flats," and is supposed to be the location of the six hundred acres granted to Livingston under the Dongan patent of 1686, and designated therein as "Tachkanick." A fuller description of this name and its application will be found in the history of Taghkanic.
The soil of this town is largely composed of a gravelly and clayey loam, but on the hills is of a slaty character, and in the valleys of the creeks considerable quantities of alluvial deposits have formed a deep, rich soil. As a whole it is very productive, fine yields of all the various crops repaying the husbandman's labor. Wheat is not grown, but rye, corn oats, barley, buckwheat, potatoes, peas, and beans are the principal products.
This town was a part of the Livingston manor, lying at its northeastern extremity.
Iron ore is found near the foot of the Taghkanic mountains, and is mined at the iron-works and the Weed ore-bed, a fuller description of which will appear under appropriate heads in another part of this sketch.
The Rhinebeck and Connecticut railroad runs a distance of three and a quarter miles through the south part of the town. Copake Station, a half-mile south of Copake Flats, is the only station.
The early settlers of this town were almost entirely of Dutch and German ancestry, and settled along the course of the creeks or the shores of the lakes and ponds. No doubt a few of them settled here some years before the general settlement began, about 1750, but no trace of the exact dates can now be found. The Whitbecks, who settled along Copake creek, near the lake, were probably the earliest settlers. The date of their coming seems to have been previous to 1714, a map made during that year showing their residences. The Brusies also were very early settlers. They were in the south part of the town. Another family, by the name of Spoor, must have been early settlers near the centre of the town.
Daniel Toucray lived on the side of the mountain southeast of Copake Iron-Works, and was for many years a justice of the peace. He is said to have been a remarkably eccentric man in many respects. He was a firm believer in witches and witchcraft. On one occasion, it is said, he became convinced that his cattle and land had been bewitched by an old woman who had crossed his clearing, and, preparing himself, he lay in wait for her, and upon her appearance discharged a charge of fine bird-shot into her body. What effect this treatment had upon the evil spirits we know not, but Toucray was arrested, tried, convicted, and heavily fined for his remarkable prescription.
Thomas Trafford, one of the first justices of the peace in the town of Granger, was an early settler in the west part of Copake. He had two sons,--William T., lived and died in Copake; Robert, moved to Wisconsin.
John Van Deusen was one of the first settlers in the south part of the town. His son Barnard married Phoebe Hollenbeck, and took a life-ease of two hundred acres of land in the northeast part of the town, being the farm now owned by Sylvester Waldroph. His family consisted of seven sons and four daughters. They all settled in this vicinity, and some of their descendants are now living in Copake; among them are Lewis and William Van Deusen, two of Barnard Van Deusen's grandsons. Ludington Van Deusen, living near Hillsdale, is a grandson of Barnard's brother John, who lived at Copake Flats.
William Link removed from Rhinebeck to Copake about 1785, with a family of five children. He leased about two hundred and fifty acres in the west part of the town, about a mile south of Copake lake. His family consisted of fifteen children, eight of whom were boys. Four of the children settled in Copake, three of them in other parts of this county, and eight of them removed to central and western New York. Joseph Link, the eleventh child, is still living, at the age of eighty, on the homestead, the soil of which he purchased in 1830.
In the spring of 1753 the captain of a Dutch vessel advertised that his vessel would make an excursion on Whit-sunday. Among those enticed to take the trip were Peter Rhoda, Peter Swart, Abraham Decker, Jacob Haner, and William Dinehart. The latter was from near Heidelberg, in Baden, Germany. The excursion was taken according to promise, and a grand feast was spread for the delectation of the excursionists, after partaking of which, dancing and music whiled away the time. Liquors were furnished in great abundance, and the merry company soon became oblivious to all external surroundings. When they began to get sober they awoke to the realization of the fact that they were bound to take a longer "excursion" than they had bargained for. The captain told them they were bound for New York, and at that port they were landed in the fall, after a long passage. Not being able to pay their passage, the captain, according to the laws and customs of the time, apprenticed them to the highest bidder for a length of time sufficient to pay his claim. The men were all apprenticed to Livingston and brought to the furnace at Ancram, where they served the term of their apprenticeship, four and one-half years, to pay seven pounds passage-money. At the expiration of their term of service Livingston offered them the choice of any unoccupied farm on the manor which they might select, and which he promised to lease to them upon favorable terms. They all accepted his offer. Jacob Haner selected a farm in Taghkanick. Wm. Dinehart chose a farm on the north shore of Copake lake, west of the outlet. He married, and reared a family of ten children, six of them boys. His grandson, Killian A. Smith, lives in Taghkanic, near the place once owned by Dinehart. One of Dinehart's sons, William, Jr., settled in the west part of Copake, and his only son, John W. Dinehart, is now living at West Copake. A daughter, Mrs. Hannah Link, is also living in Copake.
Peter Rhoda selected a farm on the south shore of the Rhoda pond, which was named after him. He had two sons,--Peter, Jr., and David. the former settled in Ghent. The latter lived and died in Copake, and had a family of several children, all of whom went west.
Peter Swart settled on the farm now owned by John Stickles.
Abraham Decker chose the present Benjamin B. Miller farm, and lived on it for many years.
Nicholas Robison settled at the foot of the pond which was named after him, and built a mill there at a very early day. Some of his descendants still live in this town and the adjoining town of Hillsdale.
Previous to the Revolution, George Niver, a native of Germany, came to America and settled on the farm in the southwestern part of Copake which is now occupied by Palmer and George Niver, two of his grandsons. His children were John, Michael, and Henry, and three or four daughters, all by his first wife, and George, Philip, and Frederick, by his second wife. John and Michael went to Kinderhook. Henry settled on the farm on which David and George Niver now live. George, Jr., and Philip divided the homestead and lived on it. Frederick removed to Claverack. George R. Niver, a son of George, Jr., Philip, Jr., a son, and Silas, a grandson, descendants of Philip Niver, all live in Copake.
Christopher Niver, a brother of George, also came to Copake at the same time, but in a short time was taken sick and died, leaving two sons, Michael and Christian. Michael went to what is now Livingston, and upon attaining his majority settled permanently there. Christian went to live with his uncle George. He subsequently married Polly Ruyter, and settled on the place now occupied by Derby Miller. He afterwards went to Bain's Corners--now called Craryville--and settled on the farm now occupied by his son Norman. Of his family of eight children, Henry and Norman Niver, Mrs. Charity Miller, Mrs. Hannah Shufelt, and Mrs. Catharine Bain are still living in Copake. The others are dead.
The Vandebogart family were among the earliest settlers in the neighborhood of Copake Flats. Their homestead was at the west side of the first three corners west of the flats, on the place now occupied by Homer Miller. Here the first settler, who was the great-grandfather of the present generation, built his house, a portion of the frame of which is still in use as a part of the present building. He had a son Philip, who was the grandfather of the two cousins who are the present representatives of the family. One of these, Wesley Vandebogart, is the proprietor of the "Peter Miller" hotel at Copake Flats, and the other, Ward Vandebogart, is a merchant at the same place.
John Langdon was a native of Quaker Hill, Dutchess county, and served in the French war of 1754-59. During his term of service he was at one time stationed at Fort Stanwix, and was there attacked with the smallpox, and becoming convalescent was discharged. He then returned home, and a few years after, probably about 1765, came to Copake and settled upon the farm now occupied by James E. Miller, a little north of Copake Iron-Works. The farm had been occupied previously, but had been cultivated in a very rude, primitive, and superficial manner. His first plowing was done with a yoke of oxen and three horses, all attached to one plow, and the furrows turned in the rich soil were deep and wide. The neighbors all ridiculed this style of cultivation, but when the harvest came were compelled to acknowledge its superiority. John Langdon's family consisted of fourteen children. All of the sons, with one exception, who removed to Salisbury, Conn., lived and died in Copake. The last surviving child, a daughter died in Copake about a year ago.
Casparus Lampman, a Hollander by birth, emigrated to this country a little while before the breaking out of the Revolution. He was accompanied by his son Peter, who soon after his arrival here married Margaret Cook, and leasing a farm of two hundred and seventy-two acres in the northwest part of this town, settled down and tilled the soil. Peter's family consisted of two sons, Caspar and John, and four daughters. The sons, after their father's death, divided the homestead, and continued to live on it till their deaths. John C. Lampman now lives on the part that the old house stood upon, and Walter Lampman occupies the other part. They are grandsons of Peter Lampman.
William Williams was a native of Wales, who, coming to this country before the breaking out of the last French war, enlisted in the colonial service, and marched with Bradock's ill-fated army to attack Fort Duquesne. He never returned, and is supposed to have been killed at the bloody defeat suffered by Braddock's forces. He was accompanied to this country by his two sons, Aaron and William, then young men. William went to Schoharie county, and settled there. Aaron married a sister of Peter Lampman, and leased and cleared a new farm a little east of Copake lake. It is now the Pells farm. He built a small log house about four rods southeast of the present residence, and in this, with but one room and a loft, with no floor but the ground, they reared a family of fourteen children. Their names were William, Elizabeth, Casparus, David, Peter, Nelly, Cornelius, Henry, Lanah, Clara, Hannah, and John. The sons all lived in Copake. Cornelius lived on the farm now occupied by Sylvester Vosburgh, in the east part of the town. His children were Elizabeth, John C., Aaron, Mary, Rhoda, Clavin, Lewis, Moncrief, Seymour, and Clara. Three of these children are still living,--Mrs. Mary Shultis, in Illinois; Mrs. Rhoda Decker, in Millerton, N. Y.; and Seymour Williams, in Wisconsin. John C. has four children living in the county,--Clara Williams, in Glenco Mills; Mrs. Eliza Trafford, in Hillsdale; and John and Sylvester I. Williams, in Copake.
Cornelius Conklin removed to this town from the vicinity of Fishkill, Dutchess Co., about 1770. He leased a farm of two hundred and twenty-five acres, on the north shore of Copake lake. His children were named John, Jacob, Elias, Jeremiah, Abraham, James, Lavinia, Polly, and Katy. All of them except James removed to other parts of this State. He remained on the homestead, and married Martha Covert, who still survives him, at the age of eighty-five years, and lives on the homestead with her son, Jacob I. Oakley. Another son, Calvin Oakley, lives in Taghkanic.
Cornelius Vosburgh came to this country from Holland, about 1760, and settled in the northern part of Copake, on the farm now occupied by his grandson, Egbert Vosburgh. He built his first house on the rise of ground about twenty-five rods north of the present residence. The old well was covered up, but still remained in existence until within a few years, when it caved in and was then filled up. His family consisted of four sons and four daughters. At his death the farm, consisting of five hundred and fifty acres, was appointed among them. Cornelius, Jr., was twice married, first to Susan Lampman, by whom he had five children, and second to Catharine Whitbeck, by whom he had eleven. Of these James lives in Ancram, Sylvester and Egbert in Copake, three are dead, and the rest are living at different places in the west.
Other early settlers were the Pulvers, Frederick Van Tassel, Jacob Hagerman, and Dederick Snyder, in the north part of the town, and Jacob Decker and Thomas Spade in the western part.
This town was formed from Taghkanic March 26, 1824, comprising the eastern half of that town, and was named Copake, after the lake of that name, which lies almost wholly within its borders. The derivation of this title is wrapped in mystery. It is generally supposed to be of Indian origin, and to refer to some peculiarity of the lake. The first meeting of the electors of the new town to complete the organization of the town by the election of officers to conduct its business was held at the house of Catharine Williams. The following is a copy of the record of this first town-meeting:
"RECORD OF COPAKE, 1824.
"At the first Town-meeting, held at the house of Catharine Williams, in the Town of Copake, on the fist tuesday in April, 1824,
"Voted to raise Eight hundred Dollars for the Support of the poor the ensuing year.
"To raise one hundred and fifty Dollars for the support of Bridges.
"To continue the Bye-Laws this year that were in force in Taghkanic last year, Viz.:
(Copied form the Record of Taghkanic).
"Enacted by the freeholders and inhabitants of the Town of Taghkanic, April 6, 1819.
"That no Ram Shall be allowed to run at large after the 10th day of September until the 10th day of November following.
"And if any person or persons shall suffer his, her, or ther Ram or Rams to run at large between the said 10th day of September and the said 10th day of November he, she, or they shall forfeit the sum of Five Dollars to the person or persons aggrieved, to be recovered, with costs of suit, in any Court in the County of Columbia having cognizance thereof, in like manner as other damages are sued for, recovered, and collected. And further, that no Boar Shall be allowed to run at large after three months old under the same penalties as Rams.
"Voted, to elect two constables.
"Voted, To elect one collector, and to allow him three per cent. on the Tax for collecting.
"And the following persons were elected to the following offices respectively, Viz.: William Murray, Supervisor; William Elliott, Town Clerk; Caspaurus P. Lampman, Cornelius Vosburgh, Gideon Sheldon, Assessors; William Groat, George Niver, Jr., Jacob Snyder, Commissioners of Highways; David Langdon, Jacob Shafer, Overseers of the Poor; John Langdon, Jr., Augustus Reed, James Knickerbacker, Commissioners of Schools; George I. Rossman, Collector; William W. Turner, Evert Whitbeck, Constables; Isaac Oakely, Harvey Mallory, Fence-Viewers; Frederick Van Tassel, Pound-Master.
"Justices of the peace and Inspectors of Election.
"Recorded by me,
"Wm. Elliott, Town Clerk."
The town has always been in favor of licensing the sale of intoxicating liquors. The first board of excise of the town (1824) granted licenses to Peter Vandebogart, Peter Sturges, Elisha Wilcox, John Parson, and Catharine Williams, all of whom were innkeepers. The present year there are four licensed hotels in the town.
The Commissioners of excise elected since the act of 1874 went into operation have been as follows, viz.: 1875, Cornelius Whitbeck, Walter Lampman, Peter G. Kisselbrack; 1876, Norman Niver, Porter Vandebogart; 1877, Freelin Vandeusen; 1878, Benjamin B. Miller. The latter was appointed, the vote being a tie.
At the second town-meeting, the citizens passed a law that every person who allowed Canada thistles to go to seed, either upon his land or upon the roadside adjoining his land, should pay a fine of $3 for the benefit of the poor fund.
The town-meetings are usually held at Copake Flats, but occasionally at Copake Iron-Works, and at Craryville. Previous to 1866, it was divided into two districts, the north and west part forming the first district, with the polling-place located at Craryville, and the east and south part forming the second district, with the polling-place at Copake Flats.
There are four post-offices in the town, located in small villages and hamlets.
The first of these is "Copake Iron-Works," located at the village bearing the same name. This village has attained its present size in a growth of thirty-three years, and is a direct result of the establishing of the iron-works at this place. In 1845 there was not a dwelling-house in the place. Two old shanties, hardly fit for use as barns, were the only buildings. The growth of the village has been such that it now numbers about forty dwellings, has two stores, one hotel, a depot, two churches,--Protestant Episcopal and Roman Catholic,--the Copake Iron-Works, and about two hundred inhabitants. It is a station on the New York and Harlem railroad, one hundred and four miles from New York, and twenty-three miles south of Chatham.
The second, Copake Post-office, is located two miles southwest of Copake Iron-Works, at Copake Flats. This village is very pleasantly situated a little southeast of the centre of the town, on the level ground that formed Livingston's purchase, called Taghkanic. Before the village attained any size the locality was called "the Copake Flats," and this cognomen has clung to it through all the stages of growth. Located on the principal thoroughfare of the county from north to south, it offered a fine stand for an inn, and the water-power, a short distance north, caused a mill to be built there at an early day. The growth of the village has never been rapid, but it has rather been regarded as a quiet, pleasant place of residence, and has attracted the farmers of the vicinity who desired to retire from active business. The buildings are generally of a very good class, and the citizens manifest a commendable public spirit in beautifying their grounds with flowers and shrubbery.
William Murray was an early merchant at this place, and Nicholas Robison was the first miller. Among the earliest settlers were Francis Brusie, Nicholas Brusie, Cornelius Brusie, Wilhelmus Viele, and a family of Millers. Peter Miller was an early innkeeper, and one of the hotels still bears his name. At present the village consists of two hotels, two stores, a carriage-shop, three blacksmith-shops, a Methodist church, a shoe-shop, a tin-shop, a harness-shop, a school-house, and about thirty dwellings. Near the village is located the Copake trotting-course, which is a mile-track, and was first opened in 1856 by Hoffman Sweet and Lee Chamberlain. The land was leased of Daniel L. Williams. At present the course is under the control of E. Halstead.
The third post-office is located at West Copake, in the southwest part of the town. This place is a small hamlet, containing half a dozen houses, a summer hotel, and a store and post-office. At this place, which was formerly call "Anderson's Corners," is located the splendid residence of Henry Astor, which was built in 1875, and is a much more elegant, imposing, and costly building than is very often seen in such a rural section. The fourth and last of these post-offices is located at Craryville, in the northwest corner of the town. This place was first settled by Jacob Hagerman, who owned nearly, if not quite, all the land on which the village is situated. It was formerly called "Bain's Corners," after Peter Bain,--a son of Abraham Bain, and grandson of Peter Bain, who was an early settler in Taghkanic,--who kept the hotel and owned considerable property in the place. About 1870 the Bain property was sold to Peter Crary, and the name of the place was changed to "Craryville." It is a small village, pleasantly located in the valley of the Copake creek, and contains about eighty inhabitants. It has about fifteen dwellings, two stores, one hotel, two wagon and blacksmith-shops, a shoe-shop, and railroad depot. It is a station on the New York and Harlem railroad, 111 miles north from New York, and 16 miles south from Chatham. The post-office was formerly called "North Copake."
In the northeast part of town, one an a half miles south from Hillsdale, is a little hamlet called the "Black Grocery." It contains a store, wagon and blacksmith-shop, and two or three dwellings. Near by the New York and Harlem railroad crosses the Roeloff Jansen's Kill, on a long, covered bridge, at a considerable height.
The manufacturing interests of this town are limited in number. The principal one, and which ranks well with similar enterprises elsewhere is the Copake Iron-works.