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


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 go 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 it."

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 been.

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!

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