NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. IV, No. 3, Autumn 1948
DOWN ULSTER WAY
Agnes Scott Smith
ULSTER COUNTY was one of the three regions in the state to be settled first. Consequently, it is rich in folklore,
with tales that date well beyond the era of the
American Revolution. And the choice offered the collector is
wide—yarns of Indians and witches, peculiar customs and deeds of
fun, quick thinking and heroism.
The Indians, of course, hold an important place in the annals,
both written and oral, of Ulster County. Certain of these incidents
are secure in everyone’s memory because they have been written
into the local histories. Such is the story of Peter Short and Peter
Miller of Woodstock, carried off to Canada and finally released
through the intervention of a brave whom Short had once
befriended at his home in Bearsville. But other yarns still remain
to be told, two of which have been handed down in my mother’s
family. Both happened to the family of Christian Myer, one of the
early settlers, whose Dutch stone house still stands on the old
King’s Highway near Saugerties.
One time the Indians, who found it easy to carry on marauding
expeditions against the settlers of Saugerties and slip quickly
and safely back into the security of the great pine and hemlock
forests and deep ravines of the Catskills, were on the warpath.
They were attacking outlying farms, looting, burning, and killing.
On this particular day, Mrs. Myer, with her young baby, was
alone at home. Looking across the clearing, she discovered several Indians sneaking up to the house. To oppose them was folly and
it was too late to flee. As the mother looked around her wildly,
wondering where she might hide the precious baby, her eye fell
upon a large hogshead half filled with live-goose feathers. Clutching
the child, the mother had just time to lower herself carefully
into the hogshead of feathers and pull them over her. Placing her
hand over the baby's face to keep the feathers from smothering it,
she nursed the child to keep it quiet. The minutes must have
ticked by slowly indeed as she listened to the Indians prowling
about the house. But finding no one they finally went away, and
the mother and her baby emerged from the big barrel little
worse for their harrowing experience.
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