Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883

Volume II, Page 288-292.--Further Mention of Early Merchants.--In the first volume, mention was made of the early merchants of then western New York, and we were prepared to name several of the most successful soon after the war, in the same connection. The memoranda which failed of insertion there, will we trust, be no less welcome here. The first of this class remembered, was William Beekman,* who located near the "Martin Van Alstine Ferry," a mile east of Canajoharie, where, for a time, he was associated in business with George Best.

*Mr. Beekman was born on the ocean when his father's family was emigrating from Holland to the vicinity of Albany, and settling in Schoharie county, just before its organization in 1795, he was appointed first judge of the common please bench, a position he held and creditably filled for about 40 years. He died November 26, 1845, aged 78 years.

He located here, as believed, about the year 1788, and at the end of a few years became a pioneer merchant in Sharon, N.Y. After Judge Beekman had been in business a few years at Canajoharie, where he established a good reputation, he went to the Little Lakes (now Warren), to marry Joanna, a daughter of Nicholas Lowe. He called on Rev. Christian Diedrich Pick, or Peek, as written by his family, to tie the knot, who took with him Peter Young and William Seeber, Esquires, to witness the ceremony. After the bird was caged, Beekman asked the Dominie what he must pay him. "Well," said the good man, "it is a pretty muddy time," and extending an open palm, he added, "you can put in until the hand closes." One, two, three silver dollars rested in the palm, and the groom paused to notice the effect; the muscles began slightly to move, and the fall of the fourth dollar caused the fingers to twitch and contract a little, but it was not until the fifth dollar dropped on the palm that the joints relaxed and the fingers closed around the lucre. The Dominie and his guests returned the same day, without the groom. The Dominie was a fast rider, and the party on arriving at Seeber's residence in"Seeber's Lane," were literally covered with soil. Esq. Young then resided where the late H. E. Williams erected his beautiful mansion, at Fort Plain.

About the time Beekman left, Barent Roseboom and brothers, John and Abram, occupied a store on the east side of the creek in Canajoharie, not far from the stone dwelling erected by the late Thos. B. Mitchell. After a time, Philip Van Alstine became the sole partner of Barent Roseboom, and they transferred their business to the old Beekman stand near the ferry. Not far from 1790, the Kane brothers came to Canajoharie and established themselves in the mercantile business, opening their first store in the old Van Alstine stone dwelling, still standing on the east side of the creek. This dwelling was erected about the middle of the last century.

This house Revolutionary men have assured me, was palisaded in the war as Fort Rensselaer, a name which Gen. Van Rensselaer of the Claverack militia in his tardy pursuit of the enemy in 1790, gave to Fort Plain; at least in writing from that fort he dated his dispatches at Fort Rensselaer, for some motive.

The Kane Firm as Known, was John Kane & Brothers.-- There were seven of these brothers, but it is supposed all were not interested in the store. Their names were John, Charles, Elias, Oliver, Elisha, James and Archibald, of whom only John, James and Archibald are now remembered as merchants. At the end of a year or two, they erected not far from Van Alstine's ferry, a stone dwelling with an arched roof covered with lead, and near it a store and several small warehouses. The house, or the most of it, is still standing, although the roof has lost its lead and taken on a hip. They continued to trade in this place until about 1805 or 1806, and became celebrated through the entire Mohawk Valley, as the heaviest dealers in it. Much of their business between Canajoharie and Schenectada, was done in river boats, for the accommodation of which they cut a canal across the flats to the river.

Archibald Kane kept two good horses, which he usually drove tandem. Some of the customers of the Kanes are remembered as characterizing them as sharpers, taking advantage of their more ignorant patrons; but whether there was any just cause for doubting their integrity cannot now be told, they do not seem to have established so unblemished a reputation in their trade as did Sir William Johnson two generations, or Maj. Jelles Fonda, one generation earlier. The period when the Rosebooms and Kanes were in trade, was a very dissolute one; gambling, horse racing, card playing and rum drinking permeating nearly all of the better classes of society; and this sad condition of things growing in a great degree out of the war for independence, continued for nearly a generation after its close. Indeed, so deeply had this blight rooted, that numerous churches were affected by intemperance, not a few clergymen falling into this great vortex of moral turpitude.

The "Round Top" came to be a favorite place of resort for card playing for the elite of this part of the valley at that time, and its night scenes of dissipation were of constant occurrence. Although rivals of the Kanes in trade, Roseboom and his partner were often inmates of the Kane dwelling on the occasions referred to. Petty quarrels at the gaming table were usually amicably adjusted, but one originating here would not down at the bidding of reason. The gamesters were playing high, when Henry F. Cox became indebted to Archibald Kane in sum of $100. Kane became the debtor of Roseboom for the same amount, and proposed to the latter, that he should look to Cox for his pay,which he refused to do. Kane and Cox were warm personal friends, and professing to be grossly insulted, the former in a passion, and some cutting things, which were effectively hurled back. Prior to this there had been some little difficulty between Van Alstine, Roseboom's partner and Kane, at which time the latter had manifested intolerance. Of this Roseboom was aware, and he replied to some ephitet the expression: "Mr. Kane, you have not got my partner to deal with now; I will give you all the satisfaction you want!"* A formal challenge was given by Kane and accepted by Roseboom for a pistol arbitrament of their difficulties.

The Duel.-- On the morning of April 18, 1901, after a light fall of snow, in a small pine grove on the hill west of the Round Top, the parties met, trooper's pistols in hand, to settle their late feud. As regards the friends of the belligerents present, I may observe that three old gentleman, who were boys of that period, whom I interviewed on the same day in 1896, named the following as seconds of the parties: Col. Abram N. Van Alstine, whose father, Nicholas Van Alstine, was at the table when the quarrel originated, named Henry F. Cox as one. Goshen P. Van Alstine, a son of Rosebooms' partner, named Cox as one and George Ten Eyck, the miller of his father, as the other. Herman I. Ehle, who saw the tracks of the combatants in the snow a few hours after the duel, named Doctor Douglass, a physician then residing below the village, and H. F. Yates. The prevailing belief is that Cox was the second of Kane, and it is probable that Doctor Douglass was the other. Dr. Joshua Webster+ was there as surgeon for Kane, and Dr. Joseph White acted as such for Roseboom. They were stationed 20 paces apart, and at the signal to fire, (Barent) Roseboom did so, and the pistol of his antagonist fell from his hand undischarged, and his arm dropped palsied by his side, it having received a bad flesh wound. He had previously lost his left hand, and was now, for a time, rendered quite helpless. The seconds interceded and the "brave" men were again reconciled, the party adjourning to the Kane dwelling, as tradition has it, to end the serious farce in a new game of cards. Thus ended an event which gave rise, for a period, to a world of gossip in Central New York.

*Meeting the venerable James Kane in Albany, in the autumn of 1845, he said I had in my History of Schoharie County, etc., done his brother injustice by stating that he gave the challenge. He said Roseboom gave the challenge. The version given above, which Peter G. Webster, Esq., had from his father, gives the key to this matter, viz: that although the formal written challenge came from Kane, yet the implied challenge of Roseboom compelled the written one from Kane. On leaving Canajoharie the Kane brothers became effectually scattered. James the bookkeeper of the firm, who was much respected in Albany, died there about 1847, an octogenarian.

+Dr. Webster, then a young man, came from Scarborough, Maine, with his profession and his integrity, to seek his fortune in the Mohawk Valley, He married Catharine, a daughter of Joseph Wagner, who was a son of Lieut. Col. Peter Wagner of the Revolution; the wife of the former having been a daughter of John Abeel, the Indian trader. He became a resident of Fort Plain village in its infancy, and lived to see it attain to a handsome growth through his generous aid. He was long a prominent citizen, filling many important positions in society being President of the Fort Plain bank at the time of his death,which occurred at the age of 78, in 1849.

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