MORE TALES of NATHAN DUMOND
The following account of Nathan Hilton DuMond and of life in Delaware County in the early-middle 1800s was written by Cornelius Chester DuMond (1886-1972) in 1964. "Chet" DuMond was Nathan DuMond's son and former Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of New York.
My great-grandfather, Cornelius (King) DuMond was born in and resided in New Kingston all his life. He was called "King" because of his standing in finance & leadership in affairs. He could talk very little English and ordinarily spoke in Holland Dutch. He could not read nor write to any extent, but could do compound interest in his head.
He was evidently not too religious, as when he was asked by a visiting dominie if he had "grace," he took advantage of his difficulties with English and evaded the question by replying "No, dominie, I always use tar on my wagon."
My father, Nathan Hilton DuMond, was his grandson. Nathan was born in 1834, and died in 1917, the son of John Yaple DuMond and Priscilla Hilton.
The many incidents which my father, N. H. DuMond related to me at odd times when something recalled them to his memory, were interesting in that they illustrated conditions at the time when the scattered hamlets and farms were just emerging from those earlier times immediately following the Revolutionary War...When the Indians' menacing was past. Living was indeed crude and hard physical work was the general rule.
In 1845 my father was 11 years old and lived with his parents John Y. & Priscilla Hilton DuMond in New Kingston. The Anti-Rent war was in full swing. His parents, living on land granted outright by Livingston, the Patroon, to alleviate the distress of those burnt out of Kingston by the British, in 1777, were not directly interested as tenants. All such in southern Delaware County were called "Tories" by the "Down Renters." When the Down Renters, disguised as Indians, marched through the New Kingston settlement, father and his younger brothers stood on their porch and peeked out from behind their mother to see the "Indians" in single file go by. The Indians called out "Peek, Tory," as they passed. They were on their way to burn the Delhi jail and release many of their Down Renter friends who were imprisoned there. The troops at Delhi prevented their success.
School days were only in the winter time for anyone who was old enough to work. An incident my father recalled was when the boys killed a skunk and laid it on the school doorstep before the schoolmaster arrived. On his arrival he detailed a burying party which was all the punishment the boys received. He also told of the time some of the larger girls climbed up into the loft over the roughly plastered ceiling of the schoolroom. One made a misstep and her feet and legs came down into the schoolroom in such a way that she couldn't get loose. This made a real spectacle for that day and age when women's skirts dragged the ground.
At that period the cows on the farms gave milk only in the summer pasturage season, and usually before spring the meager supply of hay was eaten up. In the spring the cows were turned out to forage for themselves, and on the brush which was cut down so that they could eat the buds. The animals were so weak that once they lay down they couldn't get up without help. One of father's jobs was to go out in the morning, barefooted, in the frosty morning, and "tail-up" the cows. All his life he recalled how good it felt to get his bare feet on the warm spot where a cow had been lying.
After his school days in the local school he attended the Delaware Literary Institute at Franklin, N.Y. for algebra, Latin, etc. He was just of voting age and recalls that he and a schoolmate walked the 20 miles each way to New Kingston and back to cast his first vote. This is quite in contrast to the indifference to voting so often seen today.
While at Franklin he was adept at the wrestling then in vogue, which had no rules, except to get an opponent down and make him cry "enough." A new student who had been a salt water sailor and who was boastful of his prowess, had, of course, to be tried out by the students, and my father was chosen to be his first victim. The result was that father threw him so hard that he broke the sailor's leg. In due course he was summoned by the principal (I believe it was a Dr. Kerr) and expected a severe penalty. The Doctor looked at him and said, "DuMond, since earliest history it has been men who were the strongest and biggest physically who ruled and controlled society. Now we are going into a different age where it will be brains and not brawn which will rule, and I want you to remember it." My father, in thinking of the great acclaim given heavy weight prize fighters who were champions, sometimes questioned the completeness of the Doctor's prediction.
One of the incidents of his courting days he never forgot was when he went over near Bovina to see a young lady. He left just before dark and she showed him a way to go over the mountain to New Kingston. He set out for home, and soon became completely lost in the darkness of the woods. After a long walk he came to the rear of a house and decided to find out where he was. He knocked at the door and it was opened by the same girl he had left an hour before. Naturally he was much embarrassed and stammered out, "I guess I won't go home that way after all."
He told also of one of his friends who was more bashful than usual who called on his girl one winter night. He had a new overcoat of which he was very proud and evidently wanted his girl to be sure to notice it. They sat by the fireplace in silence for awhile and finally he said "God, it's cold. I wish I was home in bed with my new overcoat on." How the conversation went from then on he didn't say.
My father soon finished at Franklin and started teaching. In those days a part of the teacher's pay consisted of "boarding around" or living for a week each with the various parents of his scholars. The school teacher was expected to have talents many times far beyond his ability. My father at one place was called on to cut the hair of one of the half-grown boys in the family. The parents refused to take "no" for an answer, but insisted to such a length that finally he took the shears and started in to cut. After going over about half the boy's head, he looked at him critically and burst out in a fit of laughter in spite of himself. The mother was so outraged that she took a chair and sat with her feet in a corner of the room for the rest of the evening. Probably that was the only privacy she could get in a one-room cabin.
The winter school was attended by many boys or young men in their twenties and in many cases the teacher couldn't maintain any order if the boys (often as old as he) decided they could "outwrestle" him. At one of his schools the boys confronted him and wanted to try him out. In the crisis he had to think and act fast, so he seized the two biggest by their throats and cracked their heads together, and the fight was quickly over. One of the few things I ever heard my father boast of was the strength of his arms when he was in his early manhood, so the story is quite probable.
I have also heard him tell how he could lay a ten foot pole on the ground, jump the length of it, then turn and jump back again. That is pretty good for a standing jump in any company.
During the summer he occasionally hired out to a turkey buyer who was driving a flock of turkeys down the plank road to Kingston, and so to the N. Y. City market. The turkeys would drive just like cattle, and were followed by the drovers with their team and wagon carrying their provisions and shelled corn for the birds. As darkness began to fall, the drovers could tell that the turkeys were soon going to leave the road and roost in the trees nearby. They fed them lightly and soon the turkeys were invisible to anyone going along the road. The drovers would go on to the next tavern, being careful not to let anyone know what their business was or someone would have raided the flock. Early, before daylight, they would be back where the turkeys roosted and scatter corn on the road. This soon gathered the turkeys together and being well-fed they had no objection to continuing their journey down the road.
I recall my father telling an incident about "Old Man Baker" who was one of the neighbors in New Kingston. In those days irreverence was frowned on by the best people and that may be why my father remembered it. It seems that Baker opened a swinging gate one windy day and when he wasn't looking, the wind slammed the gate against him and knocked him down. He flew into a rage and slammed the gate open again, saying "God, wind, do you think you're enough for Old Baker?" Maybe even in those days people asked themselves "How dumb can you get?"
When the Ulster and Delaware railroad was built, it was finished up over Pine Hill into the East branch of the Delaware watershed in 1871. For years it had been the custom for all stage coach passengers to walk up the hill and so lighten the burden for the teams. On one of the very early trips, my father tells how he and the other passengers got off the train and walked up the hill as usual. The train waited at the top, where they all boarded it again to continue their journey. I assume that they soon found out that the weight of the passengers didn't mean much to the engine and discontinued the practice.
My father and his brother Cornelius J. DuMond were the first of the family, to my knowledge, to leave Delaware County for the City and its environs. My uncle became a well known physician in New York City. As a doctor's apprentice he took a needle from a strangling boy's throat and so became locally famous before getting his license to practice medicine.
My father went to Mamaroneck, N. Y. to teach the one room school then adequate for that village. Conditions were still primitive from our standpoint. When father and his first wife made the journey, they stayed overnight with a former neighbor who lived part way to the new job. They had to share the only bed in the house, which I trust was big enough for four people, and also the knife which was the host's and the only one the family possessed. Each fall, for some time, the folks in Delaware County sent the young couple a barrel of buckwheat flour and a barrel of buttermilk, without which it was considered impossible to make good pancakes.
From Mamaroneck my father was called to North Tarrytown where he served as principal of the Union School for the following 24 years.
I have jotted down these incidents, not because they have any real value to anyone, but that they do to a small extent give a picture of life in the early middle of the 19th century in upstate rural New York.
C. C. DuMond, Sr. -1964-