Leaving Catskill dock, the Prospect Park Hotel looks down upon us from a commanding point on the west bank, while north of this can be seen Cole’s Grove, where Thomas Cole, the artist, lived, who painted the well-known series, the Voyage of Life. On the east side is Rodger’s Island, where it is said the last battle was fought between the Mahican and Mohawk; and it is narrated that “as the old king of the Mahican was dying, after the conflict, he commanded his regalia to be taken off and his successor put into the kingship while his eyes were yet clear to behold him. Over forty years had he worn it, from the time he received it in London from Queen Anne. He asked him to kneel at his couch, and, putting his withered hand across his brow, placed the feathery crown upon his head, and gave him the silver-mounted tomahawksymbols of power to rule and power to execute. Then, looking up to the heavens, he said, as if in despair for his race, ‘The hills are our pillows, and the broad plains to the west our hunting-grounds; our brothers are called into the bright wigwam of the Everlasting, and our bones lie upon the fields of many battles; but the wisdom of the dead is given to the living.’”
On the east bank of the Hudson, above this historic island, is the residence of Frederick E. Church, whose glowing canvas has linked the Niagara with the Hudson. It commands a wide view of the Berkshire Hills to the eastward, and westward to the Catskills. The hill above Rodgers’ Island, on the east bank, is known as Mount Merino, one of the first places to which Merino sheep were brought in this country.
Hudson, 115 miles from New York, was founded in the year 1784, by thirty persons from Providence, R. I., and incorporated as a city in 1785. The city is situated on a sloping promontory, bounded by the North and South Bays. Its main streets, Warren, Union and Allen, run east and west a little more than a mile in length, crossed by Front Street, First, Second, Third, etc. Main Street reaches from Promenade Park to Prospect Hill. The park is on the bluff just above the steamboat landing; we believe this city is the only one on the Hudson that has a promenade ground overlooking the river. It commands a fine view of the Catskill Mountains, Mount Merino, and miles of the river scenery. The city has always enjoyed the reputation of hospitality. It is the western terminus of the Hudson and Chatham division of the Boston & Albany Railroad, and also of the Kinderhook & Hudson Railway.
From an old-time English history we read that Hudson grew more rapidly than any other town in America except Baltimore. Standing at the head of ship navigation it would naturally have become a great port had it not been for the railway and the steamboat which made New York the emporium not only of the Hudson, but also of the continent.
Hudson had also a good sprinkling of Nantucket blood, and visitors from that quaint old town recognize in portico, stoop and window a familiar architecture.
Columbia Springs, an old-time resort with pleasant grove and white sulphur water, is four miles northeast of Hudson. Its medicinal qualities are attested by scores of physicians, and by hundreds who have been benefited and cured. The drive is pleasant and the return can be made through
Claverack and Hillsdale
Claverack, three and a half miles east of Hudson, a restful old-fashioned village situated at the crossing of the Old Post Road and the Columbia turnpike and county seat of Columbia in Knickerbocker days. The court house on its well-shaded street was for many years the home of the late Peter Hoffman. The Dutch Reformed Church, built of bricks brought from Holland, wears on its brow wrinkles of antiquity, emphasized by the date 1767 on its walls. It is said that General Washington encamped here, but there is no historical data to confirm the tradition. Claverack Falls is well worth a visit, which can easily be made in an afternoon stroll. Copake Lake, to the southeast, can be reached by a drive of about twelve miles, a fine sheet of water ten miles in circumference, with a picturesque island connected to the main land by a causeway. Forty years ago a romantic ruin of a stone mansion still stood on this island, where the writer, when a boy, used to wander around the deserted rooms looking for ghosts, but the walls were torn down July 4, 1866, as the place was frequented every summer by a remnant of the old Stockbridge tribe. The neighbors thought the best way of getting rid of the “noble red men” was to burn up the hive. The mansion was built by a Miss Livingston, but she soon exchanged her island home for Florence and the classic associations of Italy. Bash-Bish, one mile from Copake Station on the Harlem Railroad, one of the most romantic glens in our country, has been visited and eulogized by Henry Ward Beecher, Bayard Taylor and many distinguished writers and travelers. Soon after leaving Copake Station a beautiful carriage road, but extremely narrow, strikes the left bank of this mountain stream, and for a long distance follows its rocky channel. On the right a thickly wooded hill rises abruptly more than a thousand feeta perfect wall of foliage from base to summit. A mile brings one to the lower falls; the upper falls are about a quarter of a mile farther up the gorge. The height of the falls, with the rapids between, is about 300 feet above the little rustic bridge at the foot of the lower falls. The glen between is a place of wild beauty, with rocks and huge boulders “in random ruin piled.”
Hillsdale Village has a beautiful location and affords a good central point for visiting Mount Everett, with its wide prospect (altitude 2,624 feet), Copake Lake six miles to the west, Bash-Bish Falls six miles south, and Po-ka-no five miles to the northeast, sometimes known as White’s Hill. The Po-ka-no, Columbia County’s noblest outlook, 1,713 feet, commands the Hudson Valley for eighty miles; and the owner says that he saw the fireworks from there the night of the Newburgh centennial in 1883. From the summit can be seen “Monument Mountain” and the Green Mountains of Vermont. At its base glides the “Green River Creek,” which flows into the Housatonic near Great Barrington. From this point the drive can be continued to North Egremont, South Egremont, Great Barrington and Monument Mountain. Before the days of railroads the Columbia turnpike was the great trade artery of the city of Hudson. It was interesting to hear William Cullen Bryant recount his experiences in driving from his home in Great Barrington over the well-known highway on his way to New York. The Housatonic and Harlem Railroads tapped its life and have left many a sleepy village along the route, once astir in staging days. The stone for Girard College was drawn from Massachusetts quarries over this route and shipped to Philadelphia from Hudson. The Lebanon Valley, in the northeastern part of the county, is considered one of the most beautiful in the State, and said by Sir Henry Vincent, the English orator, to resemble the far-famed valley of Llangollen, in Wales. The Wy-a-mon-ack Creek flows through the valley, joining its waters with the Kinderhook. Quechee Lake is near at hand, where Miss Warner was born, author of “Queechee” and the “Wide Wide World.”
Lindenwald, a solid and substantial residence, home of President Martin Van Buren, where he died in 1862, is two miles from the pleasant village of Kinderhook. Columbia County just missed the proud distinction of rearing two presidents, as Samuel J. Tilden was born in the town of Lebanon. Elisha Williams, John Van Buren and many others have given luster to her legal annals.