By Capt. Franklin Ellis 225
Ham' Mills are located on Copake creek, in the western part of the town of Taghkanic, on the Hudson and Salisbury turnpike, and about midway between West Taghkanic and Glenco mills.
About 1825, William Gardner came to this location and built a carding-mill, which was subsequently used as a fulling-mill and grist-mill, and was known as "Gardner's Mills."
In 1850, Peter P. Ham, a practical mechanic and mill-wright, purchased the premises, and two years later built the present grist and flouring-mill, which is a two-story building, thirty-two by forty-two feet, and has a capacity of twenty-five barrels of flour per day. This mill is now used chiefly for general custom work.
In 1868, Mr. Ham erected a three-story building, thirty-two by thirty-six feet, for a flouring-mill, and used it as such for some time, but in 1872 this building was converted into a hub-factory and general wood-working shop, furnished with a full complement of the most approved and appropriate machinery. In this mill are made annually from three thousand to four thousand sets of carriage and wagon-hubs, of all styles and sizes. These hubs are made of the best red-elm timber, large quantities of which are purchased yearly from farmers in this vicinity, and the annual product amounts to about $10,000.
In 1877, Mr. Ham erected another building, twenty-two by eighty feet, for a saw-mill, and immediately put in an improved mill, with a forty-eight-inch circular saw. This mill has a capacity of four thousand feet per day, and does a large amount of sawing of every description.
Mr. Ham also has a cider-mill on the premises, which makes from eight hundred to one thousand barrels of cider per year.
The power to run this extensive machinery is furnished by three iron turbine water-wheels, having an aggregate of eighty-five horse-power.
Mr. Ham is an ingenious mechanic, and an industrious and skillful workman, and richly deserves the extensive patronage with which his business enterprise is favored far and near.
This town was the scene of much violent excitement during the anti-rent troubles of 1844, and although no actual conflict of arms occurred, for a long time the people were so greatly stirred up that such an event seemed imminent. In the month of November a meeting was held, at which the "Taghkanic Mutual Association" was formed. John I. Johnson, president; James M. Strever, George I. Rossman, Peter Poucher, Samuel A. Tanner, and George I. Finkle, vice-presidents; Philip B. Miller, treasurer; Anthony Poucher, recording secretary; and John Bain and James M. Strever, executive committee, were the officers of the association. The meetings were held principally at the house of James Yager, at Taghkanic, and the members generally appeared in fantastic disguises, made of bright-colored calico, with their faces painted in Indian style or screened by hideous masks.
After the killing of W. H. Rifenburgh, at a meeting at Smoky Hollow, in Claverack, wiser counsel began to prevail, and hot blood was cooled by the appreciation of the true tendencies of the movement. The association was abandoned, and the opponents of the rent system adopted other and better means to accomplish their aims.
It was during this time of turmoil that the destruction of buildings by fire and the killing of animals by shot or poison marked the bitter feelings engendered by the mischievous harangues to which the anti-renters were treated by the demagogue speakers. The buildings on the Livingston property at New Forge were several times unsuccessfully fired, and two stacks of hay in near proximity were burned to ashes. A large barn owned by Lapham & Miller, of West Taghkanic, was burned, and an unsuccessful attempt was made on the barn of Mr. Stephen Ham, about a mile east of West Taghkanic. Two attempts were made to burn the buildings of Robert H. Bush, who had in some manner incurred the bitter hatred of the reckless incendiaries; and at one of these times a guard was stationed to watch the house-door while the fire was being started, with instructions to shoot down whoever appeared to put a stop to the nefarious operations. No one appeared, however, and the infernal machine which they depended upon to set the fire going became smothered by its own smoke.
The incendiaries employed to do this work were Alexander Decker and Perez Allen. Allen, upon their being arrested, turned State's evidence, and was released. Decker was put upon "jail limits," and suddenly disappeared. It is generally believed that he was spirited away by person connected with the anti-renters, against whom he was able to give damaging evidence, and that he was foully murdered to insure his silence. The Finkle family were the most conspicuous among the anti-renters of this section. Joseph W. Finkle and his sons were very troublesome, and had numerous conflicts with the officers of the law who were sent to serve legal processes upon them. In these encounters they invariably came off victorious, secured and burned the papers, and in some cases caused the officers to beat a precipitate retreat and pursued them for some miles. At one time the sheriff's posse, composed of a force of New York city roughs, who were employed for the express purpose of conquering these hitherto invincible Finkles, came to the house and were admitted to the room where the family was. As soon as the business of the visitors became known a fierce fight began, and in a short space of time the New Yorkers were whipped and put to flight. Three of the young Finkles were afterwards convicted of perjury, and sentenced to Sing Sing prison. During their imprisonment the father died, and was buried in the Lyall cemetery in the town of Copake. On the unpretending monument that marks his resting-place is the following inscription:
"In memory of Joseph W. Finkle, died Sept. 7, 1849, aged 76 years, 11 months, & 16 days, whose death was caused through perpetual grief by the false imprisonment of three of his sons, Peter Finkle, Calvin Finkle, John I. Finkle, who ware all three falsely condemned & sentenced for a term of years to Singsing prison, in order to quail thare noble spirits, blight their patriotic zeal, constrain them to renounce thare honest integrity of honesty, & submit to oppression, frauds, & fudal sistoms."