History Alive

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:46

    Trip to Mombasha What an observant Citizen noted in a Three- Mile Tramp On the morning of the 10th last, a day which for the season of the year was all "that we could ask or think", in company with Major Cyrenius Webb, I went on a trip from Monroe Village to the Mombasha Mountains. Although the distance does not exceed three miles there are many points of local historic interest along the route. The first is the site on which stood the dwelling in which old Claudius Smith, the Tory and cow boy of the Ramapo, at one time lived, on the land of Mr. Clarence S. Knight. It is on the south side of Mill Street, about 10 rods west from the junction of that street with South Main Street, near the arch bridge. At that time, the land on which Monroe Village Stands was covered with a dense thicket of scrub-oaks. George Clinton in his field notes of the survey of the Cheesecock patent designates the lands of this locality as "the barreus." Although Claudius' house was very near the "Stage Road" as it was then and is still called, yet the thick growth of scrub-oaks made it a very safe place to hide in time of danger. About a quarter of a mile farther south on the west side of the stage road is a field on Mr. Knight's farm, the second one from his dwelling, on which a detachment of the old revolutionary army camped in the time of the war. The field still goes by the name of the "camp lot." A little farther on is still standing, the old stone school house, which is probably, the first school house built in District No. 1 in this town, although it may have been preceded by a log structure. A few rods further on, on the exact spot of the entrance gate to the Carpenter farm was built school house No.2. This site was long ago abandoned and the old building is now doing duty as a barn on the old Gregory farm now owned by James Smith. I know of nothing very remarkable about this old school house except it was here the your modest correspondent imbibed the three R's and other accomplishments of a common school educations and was there polished off with more than an occasional outward application of the "birch." Of the many excellent teachers of that old school my memory recalls most vividly one who stood preeminent among them all. I refer to the Rev. John Jay Thompson. As a teacher he could not be excelled; as a man noble, pure, upright, unselfish, living only for the good of others. He was the perfect type of a Christian gentleman and taught five days a week, preaching in the Presbyterian Church on Sundays. In the minds and hearts of the few old pupils who are among the living sweet memories of him still linger. He was the father of Mrs. Mary T. Knight, of Monroe, NY, and Mr. B.W. Thompson of Minneapolis Minn. About three-quarters of a mile farther south is Upper Village. This was once a rival of Monroe. Besides a goodly number of private dwellings it contained stores, blacksmith shops, a hotel and other places of business, but these latter are all gone and it is now simply an agricultural hamlet. The hotel was the house now owned and occupied by Mrs. M.E. Fitzgerald. This noted hostelry was at different times presided over by Brewster Tuthill, Isaac VanDuzer, Peter Bull, Daniel Vail, Sylvester Gregory, Hophni Smith, Horace Hall and others whose names I cannot learn. Brewster Tuthill at one time lived in Blooming Grove. During this period a young man who called himself Morgan Rattler came there. His prepossessing appearance, excellent demeanor, genial and courteous manners made him a general favorite and soon won him a good social position in that community. As suddenly as he appeared, this dashing young man one fine day as suddenly disappeared with the beautiful wife of Brewster Tuthill. To that staid old Puritanical community this event was startling in the extreme. The older residents of the place will still tell you of the sensation and shock it produced at the time. One poetically inclined wrote up the incident in verse and had it published n perhaps in the Independent Republican of that day. I believe the unfaithful wife returned, but Morgan Rattler was never heard of afterwards. Elections and town meetings were often held at this hotel and many were the questions outside the ballot box that were settled in blood at these town meetings between the athletes of Upper Clove ( Monroe), Lower Clove (Woodbury) and Monroe Works (Tuxedo). Then it was an exceedingly tame town meeting when less than three or four of these contests occurred. The next historic spot we passed is the old tenement house on the farm of Mrs. Elizabeth Gignoux. In revolutionary times this was occupied by Henry Reynolds, a fighting Quaker who came to Monroe in 1777 from Westchester County, after having been burned out at the latter place by the British. His intense patriotism and ardent efforts in behalf of the cause of liberty and independence made him an object of hatred by the Tories and especially to the Claudius Smith gang whose leader he had helped to bring to the gallows. Claudius and several of his gang were hung at Goshen Jan. 22, 1779. Some time after this five or six of Claudius' followers, determined on avenging his death, made an attack on Reynolds's house, bent on murder and rapine. They found the doors and windows so well barred that they attempted an entrance by way of the chimney. As they were going down a feather bed was thrown upon the fire. Suffocation, or a hasty retreat were their only alternatives, they chose the latter. After the war he moved to Sullivan County. His children numbered over a dozen. Plebe, our heroine, married Jeremiah Drake, Polly married Dr Blake Wales, and others were the heads of some of the leading families of Sullivan County. At the junction of the stage and Mombasha roads is the site of an old log house to which the Major called my attention. It was once the residence of Joe Hall, one of Mombasha's most famous fisherman. About seventy years ago Joe's last fishing ended most unfortunately; he fell in the pond and was drowned. When the neighbors carried his body home and informed his good wife of what had happened she remarked that "Joe had been afishing a good many times but hadn't never got drowned before". About forty rods further on is the site of the first school house, a log structure, erected in Dist. No3. This was the seat of learning from which the Major graduated. His remembrance is vivid and he spoke most feelingly of a fine old Irish gentleman and scholar, William Stewart, who once taught there. Mr. Stewart, who was a very successful teacher, taught in many other sections in this county. At the foot of the hill a short distance from the old school house site is Davenport Hollow. To true Monroe fishermen bound for old Mombasha this is a sacred spot. Here under the grateful shade of lordly oaks, they perform a ceremonial which is believed by hem propitiates the god who presides over fishermen's luck. The ceremony consists in passing from hand to hand a small receptacle containing an exceedingly exhilarating fluid, which as each one receives he, raises to his lips and as he does so utters the words "Here's Luck." After reaching the pond, upon catching the first fish the ceremony is again observed, but never repeated until the first fish is caught unless by some unregerate one who does not understand the fisherman's ritual. Once upon a time a party of which Uncle John Goff, a noted hotel keeper of Monroe, was one went out for a day's sport. Uncle John was the keeper of the precious fluid. It wasn't a good day of fishing. The hours wore on; no fish was caught. The boat's crew began to grow restless. Overtures were made to Uncle John to break the rule. He refused. Signs of mutiny began to appear, still he was obdurate. Almost 12 o'clock, no fish, the mutiny was at its height, still he held out. They had resolved to throw him overboard and were about to execute their wicked purpose when suddenly someone had a bite and pulled in a fish. Uncle John then allowed the usual ceremonial and in less than a twinkling peace was restored and harmony reigned. After leaving Davenport Hollow, we soon reached the Major's home. We stopped there long enough to partake of an excellent dinner which Aunt Jerusha, the major's good wife, had prepared for us. The Major lives on a part of a tract of land, which belongs to his grandfather, Charles Webb. Charles and James Webb were sons of Samuel Webb who was killed by the Indians near Goshen in August 1758. He was a very large man, seven feet in stature. He had a brother who was 6 feet 9 inches in height. James and Charles, above mentioned came to Monroe, Feb 12 1798. James located on the west shore and Charles on the east shore of Mombasha Lake. Each bought a tract of 300 acres. Charles built a saw mill on the Mombasha stream about 80 rods below the current dam. Relics of the old dam may still be seen. It will probably in a few years be reconstructed to furnish power for electric lights for the Mombasha village, a rapidly growing place. There is a movement on foot to reopen the old highway which ran past the old mill. It was laid out by the town about 100 years ago but has been closed over 60 years. The Mombasha and Tuxedo people are pushing it, as it will give them a beautiful picture drive along the lake. As it is a route that will not soon, if ever, be used strictly for business travel, it will probably be a long time before the taxpayers of Monroe will think it necessary to tax themselves $2000. or $3000. for these people, unless they are willing to put up a good part of what Charlie Barton used to call the "collatis"(collateral). After giving the route of this old road thorough inspection we turned our steps toward the mica mine near here, which is now being worked by parties who call themselves the Mombasha Mining Company. They have struck some very good specimens of mica and are very sanguine that it is going to be a grand success. If it is, Klondike will be eclipsed as a money making place. From here we returned to the Major's home, which is but a short distance from the mine. After our long tramp, the Major who is in his eightieth year, seemed as fresh and sprightly as at the start, but the "party of the second part" was quite "tuckered out" Monroe N.Y. Dec 18th 1897 Homo (homosapian)