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I thank God I was born on the banks of the Hudson! I think it an invaluable advantage to be born and brought up in the neighbour. hood of some grand and noble object of nature, a river, a lake, or a mountain. We make a friendship with it, we in a manner ally ourselves to it for life. It remains an object of our pride and affections, a rallying point to call us home again after all our wanderings. “ The things which we have learned in our childhood,” says an old writer, “ grow up with our souls, and unite themselves to it.” So it is with the scenes among which we have passed our early days; they influence the whole course of our thoughts and feelings; and I fancy I can trace much of what is good and pleasant in my own hetero. geneous compound to my early companionship with this glorious river. In the warmth of my youthful enthusiasm, I used to clothe it with moral attributes, and almost to give it a soul. I admired its frank, bold, honest character, its noble sincerity, and perfect truth. Here was no specious smiling surface covering the dangerous sand-bar or perfidious rock; but a stream deep as it was broad, and bearing with honourable faith the bark that trusted to its waves. I gloried in its simple, quiet, majestic epic flow, ever straight forward. Once, indeed, it turns aside for a moment, forced from its course by opposing mountains : but it struggles bravely through them, and immediately resumes its straightforward march. Behold, thought I, an emblem of a good man's course through life; ever simple, open, and direct; or if, overpowered by adverse circumstances, he deviate into error, it is but momentary ; he soon recovers his onward and honourable career, and continues it to the end of his pilgrimage.
Excuse this rhapsody, into which I have been betrayed by a revival of early feelings. The Hudson is, in a manner, my first and last love: and, after all my wanderings and seeming infidelities, I return to it with a heartfelt preference over all the other rivers in the world. I seem to catch new life, as I bathe in' its ample billows, and inhale the pure breezes of its hills. It is true, the romance of youth is past that once spread illusions over every scene. I can no longer picture an Arcadia in every green valley, nor a fairy land among the distant mountains, nor a peerless beauty in every villa gleaming among the trees; but though the illusions of youth have faded from the landscape, the recollections of departed years and departed pleasures shed over it the mellow charm of evening sunshine.
I have much to say about what I have seen, heard, felt, and thought, through the course of a rambling life, and some lucubrations, that have long been encumbering my portfolio, together with divers reminiscences of the venerable historian of the New Netherlands, that may not be unacceptable to those who have taken an interest in his writings, and are desirous of anything that may cast a light back upon our early history. Rest assured, that, though retired from the world, I am not disgusted with it; and that if, in my communings with it, I do not prove very wise, I trust I shall at least prove very good-natured.
About five-and-twenty miles from the ancient and renowned city of Manhattan, formerly called New-Amsterdam, and vulgarly called New York, on the eastern bank of that expansion of the Hudson, known among Dutch mariners of yore as the Tappan Zee, being, in fact, the great Mediterranean Sea of the New Netherlands, stands a little old. fashioned stone mansion, all made up of gable-ends, and as full of an. gles and corners as an old cocked hat. Though but of small dimen. sions, yet, like many small people, it is of mighty spirit, and values itself greatly on its antiquity, being one of the oldest edifices for its size, in the whole country. It claims to be an ancient seat of empire, I may rather say an empire in itself, and, like all empires, great and small, has had its grand historical epochs. In speaking of this doughty and valorous little pile, I shall call it by its usual appellation of “ The Roost ;” though that is the name given to it in modern days, since it became the abode of the white man.
Its origin, in truth, dates far back in that remote region commonly called the fabulous age, in which vulgar fact becomes mystified, and tinted up with delectable fiction. The eastern shore of the Tappan Sea was inhabited in those days by an unsophisticated race, existing in all the simplicity of nature ; that is to say, they lived by hunting and fishing, and recreated themselves occasionally with a little tomahawking and scalping. Each stream that flows down from the hills into the Hudson, had its petty sachem, who ruled over a hand's breadth of forest on either side, and had his seat of government at its mouth. The chieftain who ruled at the Roost, was not merely a great warrior, but a medicine-man, or prophet, or conjurer, for they all mean the same thing in Indian pariance. Of his fighting propensities evidences still remain, in various arrow-heads of flint, and stone battle. axes, occasionally dug up about the Roost; of his wizard powers, we have a token in a spring which wells up at the foot of the bank, on the very margin of the river, which, it is said, was gifted by him with rejuvenating powers, something like the renowned Fountain of Youth in the Floridas, so anxiously, but vainly, sought after by the veteran Ponce de Leon. This story, however, is stoutly contradicted by an old Dutch matter-of-fact tradition, which declares that the spring in question was smuggled over from Holland in a churn, by Femmetie Van Blarcom, wife of Goosen Garret Van Blarcom, one of the first settlers, and that she took it up by night, unknown to her husband, from beside their farm-house near Rotterdam ; being sure she should find no water equal to it in the new country—and she was right.
The wizard sachem had a great passion for discussing territorial questions, and settling boundary lines; this kept him in continual feud with the neighbouring sachems, each of whom stood up stoutly for his hand-breadth of territory; so that there is not a petty stream nor ragged hill in the neighbourhood, that has not been the subject of long talks and hard battles. The sachem, however, as has been observed, was a medicine-man as well as warrior, and vindicated his claims by arts as well as arms; so that, by dint of a little hard fighting here, and hocus.pocus there, he managed to extend his boundary. line from field to field, and stream to stream, until he found himself
in legitimate possession of that region of hills and valleys, bright fountains and limpid brooks, locked in by the mazy windings of the Neperan and the Pocantico.
This last-mentioned stream, or rather the valley through which it flows, was the most difficult of all his acquisitions.
It lay half way to the stronghold of the redoubtable sachem of Sing-Sing, and was claimed by him as an integral part of his domains. Many were the sharp conflicts between the rival chieftains for the sovereignty of this valley, and many the ambuscades, surprisals, and deadly onslaughts, that took place among its fastnesses, of which it grieves me much that I cannot furnish the details, for the gratification of those gentle, but bloody-minded readers of both sexes, who delight in the romance of the tomahawk and scalping-knife. Suffice it to say, that the wizard chieftain was at length victorious, though his victory is attributed, in Indian tradition, to a great medicine, or charm, by which he laid the sachem of Sing-Sing and his warriors asleep among the rocks and re. cesses of the valley, where they remain asleep to the present day, with their bows and war-clubs beside them. This was the origin of that potent and drowsy spell which still prevails over the valley of the Pocantico, and which has gained it the well-merited appellation of Sleepy Hollow. Often, in secluded and quiet parts of that valley, where the stream is overhung by dark woods and rocks, the ploughman, on some calm and sunny day, as he shouts to his oxen, is sur. prised at hearing faint shouts from the hill sides in reply; being, it is said, the spell-bound warriors, who half start from their rocky couches, and grasp their weapons, but sink to sleep again.
The conquest of the Pocantico was the last triumph of the wizard sachem. Notwithstanding all his medicine and charms, he fell in battle, in attempting to extend his boundary line to the east, so as to take in the little wild valley of the Sprain, and his grave is still shown, near the banks of that pastoral stream. He left, however, a great empire to his successors, extending along the Tappan Zee, from Yonkers quite to Sleepy Hollow; all which delectable region, if every one had his right, would still acknowledge allegiance to the lord of the Roost—whoever he might be.t
The wizard sachem was succeeded by a line of chiefs, of whom nothing remarkable remains on record. The last who makes any
As every one may not recognise these boundaries by their original Indian names, it may be well to observe, that the Neperan is that beautiful stream vulgarly called the Saw-Mill River, which, after winding gracefully for many miles through a lovely valley, shrouded by groves, and dotted by Dutch farm-houses, empties itself into the Hudson, at the ancient dorp of Yonkers. The Pocantico is that hitherto nameless brook, that, rising among woody hills, winds in many a wizard maze through the sequestered haunts of Sleepy Hollow. We owe it to the indefatigable researches of Mr. Knickerbocker, that those beautiful streams are rescued from modern common place, and reinvested with their ancient Indian names. The correctness of the venerable historian may be ascertained, by reference to the records of the original Indian grants to the Herr Frederick Philipsen, preserved in the county clerk's office at White Plains.
+ In recording the contest for the sovereignty of Sleepy Hollow, I have called one sachem by the modern name of his castle or strong-hold, viz, Sing-Sing. This, I would observe, for the sake of historical exactness, is a corruption of the old Indian name 0-sin-sing, or rather 0-sin-song ; that is to say, a place where any thing may be had for a song-a great recommendation for a market town. The modern and melodious alteration of the name to Sing-Sing, is said to have been made in compliment to an eminent Methodist singing master, who first introduced into the neighbourhood the art of singing through the nose.
figure in history, is the one who ruled here at the time of the discovery of the country by the white man. This sachem is said to have been a renowned trencherman, who maintained almost as potent a sway by dint of good feeding, as his warlike predecessor had done by hard fighting. He diligently cultivated the growth of oysters along the aquatic borders of his territories, and founded those great oyster beds which yet exist along the shores of the Tappan Sea. Did any dispute occur between him and a neighbouring sachem, he invited him, and all his principal sages and fighting men, to a solemn banquet, and seldom failed of feeding them into terms. Enormous heaps of oyster-shells, which encumber the lofty banks of the river, remain as monuments of his gastronomical victories; and have been occasionally adduced, through mistake, by amateur geologists from town, as additional proofs of the deluge. Modern investigators, who are making such indefatigable researches into our early history, have even affirmed that this sachem was the very individual on whom Master Hendrick Hudson, and his mate Robert Juet, made that sage and astounding experiment, so gravely recorded by the latter in his narrative of the voyage :-"Our master and his mate determined to try some of the cheefe men of the country, whether they had any treacherie in them. So they took them down into the cabin, and gave them so much wine und aqua vitæ, that they were all very merrie ; one of them had his wife with him, which sate so modestly as any of our countrywomen would do in a strange place. In the end, one of them was drunke ; and that was strange to them, for they could not tell how to take it."*
How far Master Hendrick Hudson and his worthy mate carried their experiment with the sachem's wife, is not recorded, neither does the curious Robert Juet make any mention of the after-consequences of this grand moral test ; tradition, however, affirms that the sachen, on landing, gave his modest spouse a hearty rib-roasting, according to the connubial discipline of the aboriginals; it farther affirms, that he remained a hard drinker to the day of his death, trading away all his lands, acre by acre, for aqua vitæ ; by which means the Roost and all its domains, from Yonkers to Sleepy Hollow, came, in the regu. lar course of trade, and, by right of purchase, into the possession of the Dutchmen.
Never has a territorial right, in these new countries, been more legitimately and tradefully established; yet, I grieve to say, the worthy government of the New Netherlands was not suffered to enjoy this grand acquisition unmolested; for, in the year 1654, the losel Yankees of Connecticut,--those swapping, bargaining, squatting enemies of the Manhattoes, made a daring inroad into this neighbourhood, and founded a colony called Westchester, or, as the ancient Dutch records term it, Vest Dorp, in the right of one Thomas Pell, who pretended to have purchased the whole surrounding country of the Indians ; and stood ready to argue their claims before any tribunal of Christendom.
This happened during the chivalrous reign of Peter Stuyvesant, and it roused the ire of that gunpowder old hero ; who, without waiting to discuss claims and titles, pounced at once upon the nest of nefarious squatters, and carried off twenty-five of them in chains to the Manhattoes ; nor did he stay his hand, nor give rest to his wooden
* See Juet's Journal, Purchas Pilgrim.
leg, until he had driven every Yankee back into the bounds of Connecticut, or obliged him to acknowledge allegiance to their High Mightinesses. He then established certain out-posts, far in the Ind.an country, to keep an eye over these debatable lands : one of these border holds was the Roost, being accessible from New Amsterdam by water, and easily kept supplied. The Yankees, however, had too great a hankering after this delectable region to give it up entirely. Some remained, and swore allegiance to the Manhattoes; but, while they kept this open semblance of fealty, they went to work secretly and vigorously to intermarry and multiply, and, by these nefarious means, artfully propagated themselves into possession of a wide tract of those open arable parts of Westchester county, lying along the Sound, where their descendants may be found at the present day; while the moun. tainous regions along the Hudson, with the valleys of the Neperan and the Pocantico, are tenaciously held by the lineal descendants of the Copperheads.
[The chronicle of the venerable Diedrich here goes on to relate how that, shortly after the abovementioned events, the whole province of the New Netherlands was subjugated by the British ; how that Wolfert Acker, one of the wrangling councillors of Peter Stuyvesant, retired in dudgeon to this fastness in the wilderness, determining to enjoy "lust in rust” for the remainder of his days, whence the place first received its name of Wolfert's Roost. As these and sundry other mat. ters have been laid before the public in a preceding article, I shall pass them over, and resume the chronicle where it treats of matters not hitherto recorded.]
Like many men who retire from a worrying world, says Diedrich Knickerbocker, to enjoy quiet in the country, Wolfert Acker soon found himself up to the ears in trouble. He had a termagant wife at home, and there was what is profanely called “the deuce to pay” abroad. The recent irruption of the Yankees into the bounds of the New Netherlands, had left behind it a doleful pestilence, such as is apt to follow the steps of invading armies. This was the deadly plague of witchcraft, which had long been prevalent to the eastward. The malady broke out at Vest Dorp, and threatened to spread throughout the
The Dutch burghers along the Hudson, from Yonkers to Sleepy Hollow, hastened to nail horse shoes to their doors, which have ever been found of sovereign virtue to iepel this awful visitation. This is the origin of the horse.shoes which may still be seen nailed to the doors of barns and farm-houses, in various parts of this sage and soberthoughted region.
The evil, however, bore hard upon the Roost; partly, perhaps, from its having in old times been subject to supernatural influences, during the sway of the wizard sachem; but it has always, in fact, been considered a fated mansion. The unlucky Wolfert had no rest day nor night. When the weather was quiet all over the country, the wind would howl and whistle round his roof; witches would ride and whirl upon his weather.cocks, and scream down his chimneys.
His cows gave bloody milk, and his horses broke bounds, and scampered into the woods. There were not wanting evil tongues to whisper that Wolfert's termagant wife had some tampering with the enemy; and that she even attended a witches' Sabbath in Sleepy Hollow; nay, a neighbour, who