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see also The River and the Mountains Readings in
Sullivan County History
James Eldridge Quinlan
Edited, with an Introduction,
Bibliographical Note, and Index,
by David M. Gold
Preface ----- 1
1. The First Inhabitants ----- 3
2. The First White Settlers ----- 25
3. Sullivan in the Revolution ----- 41
4. To the Nineteenth Century ----- 57
5. The New County ----- 93
6. The Transportation Revolution ----- 112
7. Politics and Public Controversies, 1832-1851 ----- 136
8. The People of Sullivan ----- 162
9. Economic Activity and Community Growth
From the 1830s to the 1860s ----- 183
10. The New York and Oswego Midland Railroad ----- 208
Bibliographical Note ----- 223
Index ----- 229
This book is dedicated to the old-timers
Izzy Gold (b. 1894)
Gertie Gold (1898-1984)
Louie Cutler (1890-1960)
Bella Cutler (b. 1895)
and to the newcomers, Pat, Marc, and Gabrielle.
Copyright ■ 1993 by David M. Gold
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Catalog Number: 93-83400
James Eldridge Quinlan
Edited by David M. Gold
Well over a century after it first appeared in print, Quinlan's History of Sullivan County remains the leading authority on the early history of Sullivan County. For this new edition of Quinlan's classic work, editor David M. Gold has selected and rearranged material from the original to present a more readable account of Sullivan's development from the days of the Delaware Indians to the construction of the New York and Oswego Midland Railroad in 1873.
JAMES ELDRIDGE QUINLAN (1818-1874) was a life- long resident of Sullivan County who owned and edited the Republican Watchman newspaper for most of the period from 1838 to 1866. In addition to the History of Sullivan County, Quinlan published Tom Quick, the Indian Slayer; and the Pioneers of Minisink and Warwarsink in 1851.
DAVID M. GOLD received his doctoral degree in history at The Ohio State University and is the author of The Shaping of Nineteenth-Century Law, as well as numerous articles on local and legal history. A Sullivan County native, he is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Paralegal Program at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, New York.
In 1872, James E. Quinlan advertised his forthcoming History of Sullivan County, "the result of nearly fifteen years of careful and patient research." He hoped for a publication date of August 1, 1872, but, due perhaps to the theft of the preface, introduction, and list of contributors from the publisher's safe, the book did not appear until 1873. One hundred and twenty years later, Quinlan has yet to be supplanted as the authority on the early history of Sullivan County.
Quinlan's opus is a typical product of its times. Professional historians would soon appear in the universities, and they would come to dominate the writing of serious history; but while Quinlan was gathering and compiling his materials, the authors of most local histories were ministers, lawyers, newspaper editors, and other educated amateurs. Quinlan himself edited the Republican Watch- man newspaper for most of the period from 1838 until 1866, when disease forced him into retirement. His History is, as the subtitle says, an account of the county's "geology, climate, aborigines, early settlement, organization; the formation of its towns, with biographi- cal sketches of prominent residents, etc, etc." Like many another town and county history of its day, the book is long on anecdotes and short on analysis. Based largely on the notes of two predeces- sors who never published their work, and on "the oral and written statements of nearly one hundred well-known residents of the county," it teems with tales of bear hunts, horse trades, and murders. It provides virtually no historical context■no discussion, for example, of the great reform crusades of the nineteenth century or the rise and fall of political parties. Even the Civil War, which ended just eight years before Quinlan's History appeared in print, is remarkable for its absence.
The book also suffers from poor organization. It includes fourteen separate town histories, arranged alphabetically, plus separate chapters on the geology, climate, and Indian background of Sullivan County and on the canal and railroads that served it. There is no overarching theme to the book, and little chronological sense.
Quinlan gathered additional material that might in some degree have redressed these problems. He first thought of including it in the History and later planned to use it in a second volume, but this material never appeared in print. Among the weightier subjects to be treated were newspaper publishing, slavery, and temperance. Quinlan's description of his anticipated discussion of slavery, however, illustrates his anecdotal and occasionally frivolous approach to history:
"Slaves and Slaveowners of Sullivan," with several amusing accounts of Africans who were held in bondage in our county, (among others, of the manner in which Samuel F. Jones plowed a newly cleared lot in Monticello, with a spiked team, composed of a negro and a yoke of oxen).
For all its faults, however, Quinlan's History is, as he had hoped, "not wholly destitute of merit." Between the tales of howling wolves and prowling panthers, the reader encounters hard facts and reasonable speculation about the early settlement, political organization, and economic development of the county. It occurred to me several years ago that, with judicious selection and re- organization, the material in Quinlan might be fashioned into a decent introduction to Sullivan County history, although one still sharply limited in time and scope. This edition of Quinlan's History is the result of that thought.
Quinlan's original, not including advertisements, runs to 700 pages. I have omitted a great deal, including entire chapters on the geology and climate of Sullivan, an appendix listing government officials and statistics from 1865 on the production of sole leather, and most of Quinlan's anecdotes. Those who wonder what they might be missing in the way of the latter might consider the following passage from Quinlan's history of the Town of Thompson:
In June, 1830, John Lord visited his brother's family near Denniston's ford, and while on the road got very wet from a sudden shower of rain. He exchanged his wet garments for dry, spent a pleasant evening in company with his friends, went to bed at the usual time, and on the succeeding morning was apparently in good health; but was somewhat disturbed by a remarkable dream he had during the night, in which he imagined that he was sick; that his legs swelled to a large size, and burst open and mortified; that the flesh dropped from them, and that he died. His dream was a prevision of what actually took place. Soon after he related it to our informant, and the other members of his household, he was taken sick, and all he had dreamed really occurred.
We have no more faith in dreams than we have in witchcraft, and would not admit the above paragraph, if our informant was not, during all his life, of unquestioned intelligence and truthful- ness. The circumstance is remarkable as a strange coincidence for which human wisdom can furnish no satisfactory explanation.
Alson Lord, when a young man, had an encounter with a bear in the woods near his father's residence. He was felling trees with a companion, when he heard his dog barking in an unusual manner. He proposed to the person who was with him, that they should ascertain what the dog was after, and said he believed it was a bear; but the man was a coward, and refused to go. Lord then went alone. The dog was at the foot of a tree in a dense thicket. Lord did not see the bear until he had nearly reached the foot of the tree, when he discovered it about twelve feet from the ground. He went boldly forward until the animal suddenly curled itself into a ball-like shape, and tumbled down within reach of the ax he carried. Lord instantly dealt it a stunning blow, which laid it out apparently dead. He was fortunate in doing so, as, if had waited a second or two, the beast would have been on its haunches, when it would have been impossible to hit it. All old hunters know that bears are the most expert boxers in the world, and that they will knock an ax or club from the hands of a man so quick that no one can see how it is done; after which, if the beast is exasperated, it will be on its assailant in an instant.
Mr. Lord shouted that he had killed the bear, when the timid fellow came to him readily, and the two proceeded to haul it out of the thicket. While they were doing so, the black brute began to exhibit signs of life. A few more blows of the ax, however, made it quite safe to handle it, and the creature was got out of the woods without further trouble, except the labor of carrying it.
When you have read one or two of these stories, you have read them all. However much truth there may be to them■in some cases, it is but a short step from Quinlan's supposedly factual accounts to Stephen Crane's tall-tale Sullivan County Sketches■ their repetition would add little to our knowledge of Sullivan's past.
I have excluded many of Quinlan's biographical sketches, but have presented information on some of Sullivan's most prominent figures, as well as on others less well-known but whose lives shed light on the county's religious, political, or economic history or the daily life of its people.
One of the major problems with Quinlan's History is its lack of cohesion. With the book's fourteen separate town histories ■Cocheton and the then-new Town of Delaware are treated together■no overall picture of the county emerges. I have rearranged the material in Quinlan to present a more or less chronological account of county history as a whole.
I have kept editorial instrusions to a minimum. Ellipses have been omitted, partly because they would have made little sense in view of the wholesale rearrangement of material, and partly because their frequency, even within otherwise intact passages, would have been disconcerting. Rough transitions resulting from the reorganization have been allowed to stand except where the sense of the text would have been lost. With the exceptions noted below, all language that does not come directly from Quinlan is enclosed in brackets, and even there I have generally tried to adhere to Quinlan's style. The only other additions are the population and assessment chart on page 104, extrapolated from figures given by Quinlan; the italicized introduction to Chapter 8, again based on Quinlan's information; and the italicized headings in Chapter 9, without which the transitions (or lack of them) would have been too jarring.
Many, although not all, of Quinlan's footnotes have been included to give some idea of the types of materials on which the author relied. Some of the footnotes here that are more than mere citations to sources come from material in the main body of the original text.
My aim was to reorganize Quinlan's History, not rewrite it. Except for the inevitable errors in transcription, which I hope are few, the peculiarities and inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are Quinlan's own.
Various individuals in recent years have proposed writing a new history of Sullivan County. It is sorely needed. Until someone actually accomplishes the task, however, this edition of Quinlan's History may serve as a useful and accessible introduction.
David M. Gold
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