A History of Oneonta from its earliest settlement to the
present time by Dudley M. Campbell. Oneonta, NY G. W.
Fairchild & Co. 1906
Transcribed & Contributed by Sandy Goodspeed
Chapter VII. STORIES OF THE OLDER INHABITANTS.
Uncle Mose was naturally comical and sarcastic. A baptismal
ceremony was taking place below the Main street bridge and an
eccentric clam peddler was being dipped. As the clergyman raised
the convert out of the water, Mose, who occupied an elevated view
of the bridge above the assembled multitude, cried out, "Dip him
again, elder, he always was a dirty old sinner!"
Bexter B. was a local exhorter of no little repute. One Sabbath
morning he was driving by General B's office seated on a buckboard
wagon. The General saluted the exhorter with the remark, "Quite a
wagon you got there, elder." The latter replied, "Just the thing to
carry the gospel over the hills."
This same exhorter was well known for his quaintness of speech
in his pulpit discourses. He was conducting services one Sabbath in
an outlying rural church. He referred to the passage of the children
of Israel through the Red sea in the following words, "The children of
Israel came up to the seashore when the waves parted, and they
went through dry-shod. Old Pharao came up with his horses and
chariot, all glittering in gold, and he said, 'if those poor devils can
through in that way, surely I, the king of Egypt, can do it too.' He
drove in , when the Almighty sent a big wave against him which
knocked the linchpin out of his old cart and down he went."
Old Betsy's C's husband had wrestled with a hard case of
typhoid fever during which he had been attended by Dr. LINDSAY.
He was on the road to recovery when Betsy had occasion one day to
leave him alone in the little log house on the hillside and make a trip
down to the village. She had left a panful of pot-liquor and bread
crumbs on the shelf. He got to the pan and could not satisfy his
appetite until he had cleaned the dish of its contents. The result of
his feasting was the closing of his mortal career. Some time after
his death Betsy went to the doctor's house, and after taking a razor
from its paper wrapping, she displayed the blade and said, "I wish I
had Lon back here again as bright as this razor. Its all I got, doctor,
to pay you with. You got him most well, doctor, and he eat that
panful of pot-liquor and bread, and died, the d---d fool!"
Old Nicholas Z. was an eccentric character. It was customary,
whenever a barn raising occurred, to have on hand a plentiful supply
of whiskey. Nicholas attended one of these neighborhood
gatherings when the jug was passed around. He preceded his swig
with a toast. Holding the jug near his mouth, he said, "De goot book
do say dis am de worst enemy of mankind, but de goot book do say
also, you must love your enemy de same as you do yourself, and
how much I do love dis!"-and down went a big draught.
One of the old root doctors was telling of the earlier treatment of
diphtheria. He said the practice had been to fasten a sponge on the
end of a wire, saturate the sponge with ammonia and thrust it down
the throat. When asked if they inserted the sponge below the larynx,
he said, "Why of course, they run it down way below the larnix."
Old John VAN said he never could eat rye bread, "but when they
began to make rye into whiskey, I could worry down a good deal of
After Old Nicholas had got into full fellowship in his church his
minister made him a pastoral visit. After dinner they took a stroll
over the farm. The minister remarked that from the appearance of
things he thought the Lord had been with him. Nicholas replied, "I
ain't seen nothing of him around here, but he may have been on the
mountain up there."
One of the old pioneers was one day hauling hay from a steep
hillside to the barn. Almost every load would tip over. A happy
thought struck him. The rear wheels of his wagon being much larger
than the front ones, to level up when loading, he but both the wheels
on the lower side. He congratulated himself upon the discovery of a
great scientific principle, but he turned to back to the barn. Both
small wheels were on the lower side, and over went the hay again.
Dr. Evans, one day observing a thick-headed fellow trying to
train a collie dog, said to him, "A man to train a dog well ought to
know more than the dog does."
During the campaign of 1844 the Whigs were raising a pole on
Main street near Grove, when John EVANS, who prided himself on
his smart tricks, came along on a horse with a bag of cornmeal from
the mill. He yelled out a derisive remark regarding his political
opponents, at the same time tossing the bag of meal over his
shoulder with the string end to the rear, and started his horse at a
brisk gallop. The bag string broke, and his course along Main street
was traceable. He made all possible haste to get away from the
shouts of the crowd, and reached home without any grist.
An eccentric old-time character was Hugh HOUGHTAILING, who
traded his wife for a shot-gun, and who afterwards found consolation
in the fact that the gun was not a worse "kicker" than his wife had
An old gentleman by the name of MOON, and his son, both of
whom had imbibed too freely of intoxicants, were met one day by Dr.
LINDSAY, who remarked that he never before seen the old moon
and the new moon both full at the same time.
Samuel B. BEACH, who had been a clerk in the general post-
office at Washington most of his lifetime, came to Oneonta to reside
and took rooms at the old Susquehanna house. He brought a load
of nicely split, long wood of David ALGER because it looked so
good. A few days afterwards, he said to Alger, "If I had another
load I could pull all h--l out." I was green popular wood.
The Rev. Mr. W. was particular to insist on final ed of words.
He closed one of his sermons in the following words: "I tell you, my
brethren and sisters, that in this world man is very liable to be
deceiv-ed and most woefully suck-ed in."
At a former period in Oneonta, there were at least three medical
practitioners who styled themselves M. D.'s by virtue of a diploma
they had bought from a peddler at the price of $5.00 each. On the
proof of a will at Delhi they were called as expert witnesses. They
furnished the lawyers in the case an opportunity to give them a good
roasting; the other witnesses were exhorters or quack preachers.
The Rev. Mr. B---, heretofore referred to, was asked the question,
"What conversation took place between you and the deceased?" In
a very solemn tone he replied, "I said, 'sister GREGORY, you are
about to go on a long journey. Are you all packed up.'"
Of one of the quack physicians, Dr. BOYCE, regular physician,
related the following incident: "Dr. REYNOLDS wanted to go into
partnership with me in the practice of medicine. I said, 'Dr. you are
a very good man, that is to say, but you are most wofully deficient
in lore, that is to say.'" When relating this conversation, Dr. Boyce's
manner was very dramatic.
One of the principal men of this region fifty years ago was Peter
BRINK, who frequently entertained his neighbors by giving dances,
or "breakdowns," as he called them. Pete fiddled and furnished the
music and "called off." The spring of 1857 was made memorable by
a great snowstorm, which set in on April 14, and continued with
brief let-ups for a week. The ground was covered throughout the
upper Susquehanna country with an average depth of four feet of
snow. Forage for stock became very scarce. Hay was sold at $40
a ton and rye straw at two shillings a bundle. It was a difficult
matter to get either of these necessities, even at such prices. After
the highways had been made passable, old Pete hit upon a happy
way of getting a supply of forage for his stock. He announced that
he would give one of his popular entertainments, and that each man
that attended should bring a bundle of straw instead of paying the
usual fee or two shillings. When the night of the dance came around
Pete had thoroughly rosined the bow and was vigorously scraping
away when the first comer knocked at the door, a bundle of straw
under one arm and a "gal" under the other. He showed his bundle,
saying, "Here, Pete, is your straw." Pete had built a large pen of
fence rails to receive the straw. As each male guest produced his
bundle at the door Pete shouted "all right, put it in the pen." Pete
was doing his best, having in thought the big stock of straw that
would greet his eyes in the morning. His calls of "lemonade all and
"sassafras across the floor" were prompt and vigorous. The night
wore away. So did the two gallons of whiskey and one quart of
molasses. After the last dancer had gone, Pete went out to his straw
pen. There he saw only one bundle of straw. After the first, each
succeeding guest had taken the same bundle and presented it at the
door. Verily, the jig was up!