Saturday, September 4, 2010

Old World, New World

Remains of Bolognesi Winery, 2008 - Lucey Bowen

                                                Highland, New York
                                                May 20, 1938
Dear Carl, 
      The Bolognesi wine place[1] is probably what you have been looking for. I hope so. You take the Newburgh road out of Highland (9W I think) and go for two miles turning to your left and taking a dirt road that leads towards the river.  The Bolognesi family has about 200 acres of sloping land and the vineyards are in almost every available spot almost placed there it seems at random. They have formed what is called the Hudson Valley Wine Co., Inc. etc (see the two booklets).
      The Bolognesi family came to America in 1888 from their home in Bologna to make their way in the new world. For four centuries their family had made wines in Italy and they brought with them knowledge of raising grapes and a technique of making wine. The Father’s name was Alexander and the mother's name was Benilde. They named all their children with names beginning with A on account of the old man. The children are Alfred, Ada (the girl), Alphonse, Arrigo, and Aldo (the eldest and "the works” in the company — probably the eldest son business). The mother and father are dead and the children carry on their craft.
      Around them have built up an almost medieval feudal system of tenant farmers. That is they let their help have little farms on their place and the men get their living or part of it from working in the vineyards, driving trucks, pressing wine, cultivating etc.  They grow the following grapes; Iona (a famous grape in that section which was originated on Iona Island which is in the Hudson and they are especially fond of it), the Bacchus, the Catawba, the Delaware, the Concord. Also they grow a few Muscat graces to make muscatel. The arbors are about eight feet apart and they are trimmed way down in the winter and cultivated all the way from row to row in the spring and as the new shoots come out the vines are tied.
      In the fall when the picking time comes, the women in the little Italian colony (some of these people speak no English) turn out with gaily colored cloths wrapped around their heads and with smocks and aprons and pick the grapes. Among themselves they have a few parties at the time but nothing for outsiders. Most of the families are great wine drinkers and a little boy told me that his uncle dipped his bread in wine as if it were milk. They are great on cooking with wine as are the Italians but getting their wine probably free they probably do it more than they did in Italy.
      The Bolognesi wines are made with all the craft of the old world but Aldo seems to have had enough sense to install modern machinery for bottling (imported from France). The buildings are Romanesque and there is a towering campanile which overlooks all the vineyards and has a fine view on of the Hudson just below. There is a lovely old clock on the tower. The buildings have round windows; many of them, and over the doorways are bricked semi-circles. Over the chimneys kind of half cylinders cut length ways made out of bricks. They have little flower gardens here and there with stone fences and stone porticos and in one of them are fig trees. They have kept the old Early American houses on the place also and the severe white clapboard looks rather forlorn and pathetic beside the brick and stone edifices. The boys themselves built most of the buildings and did most of the work on the farm. None of them have married. Ada Bolognesi plays a kind of Lady Bountiful role going around to the huts of the peasants and looking after their welfare. One of the children around the place said we call her: "Signorina” and said the little boy "that means the boss” She showed his mother how to make cookies. She knew how to make cookies, the little boy said, but the Signorina showed her how to make better cookies. She is a famous cook, I gathered and while I was taking notes I saw a letter to someone on the desk, which went into a lot of detail about food and cooking with wine etc. But I gathered that their recipes are conventional Italian cooking they brought over from the old country. Only Aldo owns the firm. He has a sales manager name William E. Barneby who lives in Highland. He is the modern American who contacts the outside world for the little untouched world of the Bolognesi family.
      When the grapes are picked they are pressed by a giant roller, which looks like a giant rolling pin. It drops into the vats and then is run into 2500 gal tanks and then in the spring and fall it is racked off which means the ebb clear wine is run into casks and the residue removed. This residue could make a wonderful Hudson Valley brandy or Hudson Valley native spirit but they do little of that. It does make, I believe, vermouths and aperitifs by a process of rectifying or adding herbs. Then the wine is aged in the casks gradually being put into smaller casks. Some of the casks were products of our native cooperage industries in times past but others were imported from France and Germany. They feel the casks are almost as important as the grapes. They made for a while two native wines which they developed themselves called Delkadet and Questalon (according to Alfred) is dark and like a claret or Burgundy "but remember it has its own flavor" he said, and it is dry.  While Delkadet is rose and dry and is much like a light French table wine but still has a taste, which is local to the Hudson valley. After the wine is aged it is blended. They believe very much in vintage wines. For example 1928 and 1934 were excellent years and they think 37 was too but it is rather soon to tell.
      They are very proud of their sweet Catawba wine. It is not fortified (that is spirits added to arrest fermentation) but is naturally sweet. This result is obtained by keeping the bottles absolutely sterile. Ordinarily if brandy is not added such wine as this referments. They are proud of the fact that they do not pasteurize their wine. They point out that the residue of the grape could make am excellent spirits as the taste of the native grape is so strong and good it would be carried over. (Pasteurizing changes the taste of the wine, they said)
      They are very proud of their champagne but have been licked on it as they have been on their natives wines just mentioned by the snobbishness of the Americans for foreign wines and champagnes and brandies and vermouths etc. The Iona makes excellent champagne, as do the Delaware and Catawba. They make champagne but let it get its fizz naturally and do not artificially give it fizz. They could make a native sherry out of Delaware that would be rich and up dry but again the preference of Americans for foreign stuff. They could do a real job on it and invest in a what do you call it sherry making plant but it wouldn't pay. California spoils things with their cheap wine and poor qualities. The sherry would have a taste all its own. They have experimented with these wines and found all these things to be true. They are very honest and sincere. As Alfred said, the American people do not seem interested in how you do your work, how good your craft and technique is, but what you shout about your wine, whether it is true or not.
      They speak a great deal of the Grape Belt in the Hudson Valley. It
extends from Marlborough to Highland with a maybe a mile or two on
either end sticking out and goes in from the Hudson not more than
two miles and only on the West Bank. Why? It may be because this
section is so protected or because of special qualities of the soil
or both. But it is a very real region to them. The fruit belt goes
from Newburgh to Kingston and grapes CAN be grown in it but the
best grapes are in that belt they call the grape belt. Gleason was wet,
they say, in saying that only sweet wine can be produced on the
Hudson. Yes, sweet wines m can be produced successfully but if you
know how to do it you can also produce dry wines as good as anywhere.
In the grape belt "the big red Concord grapes are as plentiful as grass”
says Alfred. You had better check Frank Schoonmaker’s article in
the New Yorker on this outfit at the beginning of repeal.
I believe it was one of his series on wines and went into the taste
and vintage business. I didn't see it.
      Odds and ends; when the champagne is in the bottles on racks they
speak of it as in tierage. Someone showed that this grape belt
on the Hudson is the same latitude as some of the finest
vineyards of Italy. The boys dug the cellars too. 
The dean of the casks is a 2700 gal job that came from Germany.
In California one of the trouble with their wines is that they use
great square casks. Which are not nearly so good and
"can never be the same." They put out an inferior grade of
wine for price under another name but it nearly kills the old man,
Aldo. He is very proud of the wines he puts out under his own
      Do you know anything about the Geneva Agriculture Station?
The B's hope they will supplement the varieties of the Catawba and
Delaware and red grapes. This stations have already done a job on muscatel.
Note the book on New York wines mentioned in one of the pamphlets.
      The B’s are against selling wines in gallons.
They feel it does not age properly in glass unless it is in a fifth.   
      I presume you have seen The Hudson by Wallace Bruce. The book I spoke to you about is the Second Expedition of Vaughan up the Hudson in 1777 and was published in 1861. Johnston will try and find it. Be sure and save that Shawangunks booklet as I see he is asking $lO for it. He is antique guy I told you about here. ..I mean Johnston. These two pamphlets ought to give you the formal stuff about the Bolognesi outfit. I could give you some more stuff on them if I spent more time there so tell me if you want me to go back. I feel it is a good story but it would take a lot more time and palling around to get the stories that would be nice. They make The Brotherhood place look sick. Anyway, I am pretty sure that these two are the only wine places on the Hudson. Tomorrow I do Eagle's Nest, the sociological island.[2]
      Then Grahamsville where they hold their own World's Fair every year for one day. I couldn't find the Atheist cemetery in Poughkeepsie. Doctor Poucher who wrote a book on Dutchess Count cemeteries had never heard of it. However, I’11 check further.

[1] Now the Regent Champagne Cellars; vineyard is overgrown, buildings remain.
[2] The origin of the term “sociological island” is obscure, but may have arisen from the eugenics work of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboritory and is today, scientifically dubious. It refers to groups cut off from the surrounding culture and society, and liable to marry within the group. The stories and beliefs of these groups fascinated Bowen and Carmer, appearing in The Hudson as “Witches Leave Star Tracks” and in Bowen’s photographs of the Ramapos, Eagle’s Nesters, Pondshiners and Bushwackers.

The Story of Waltz the Murderer, and other Catskill Tales

On the Road Between Athens and Catskill, 2009 - Lucey Bowen

                                                Catskill, New York
                                                Saturday, May 14, 1938
Dear Carl,
      The story of the Waltz murder comes to you from the words of Charles Ernst whose father was the Constable who was killed.
      “In the year 873, the panic had just taken place. Times were hard. But our family was doing well. I remember everything very well even though I was only a fourteen-year-old boy. Father had been Constable in the town of Catskill for some years. Sheriffs changed frequently due to politics but Father remained at the jail as the town Constable. He made things easier for the new Sheriffs as they came in. At that time the Sheriff’s name was Coonley. As a young boy I listened to the older men talk and they paid no attention to me as they thought I didn’t know what was going on. I remember we had a fine set of ponies that I loved very much.
      “I remember that Joseph Waltz’s father, who lived on a fairly prosperous farm on the Albany Catskill road, reported to my father that there had been a robbery at his house. He said a scissor grinder by the name of Hoelcher had stayed at his house and left during the night, taking with him some blankets. About this time I heard my father mention the fact that some relatives of the Hoelchers had made inquiries about the whereabouts of this Hoelcher. He had been last seen heading toward Catskill with his equipment. Neighbors remembered that he had stopped at the Waltz farm, as was his custom several times each year when he came through Catskill. But no one reported as having seen him after he stopped at the Waltz farm. Now the Waltzes had three children, a girl who had moved to the West, a man who was working in New York and another son about twenty-one years old who was known throughout the countryside for his mischievous ways. He often times robbed schoolhouses. It was his habit to leave a candle burning between two beams and then go off and wait until the candle had burned down and set fire to the beams and burned up the school. He stole books but his interest in books as reading matter was not great. He also had robbed many houses and stolen the silver. On his father’s house he had built a stone tower in which he placed much of the silver. On this tower, it was reported, he intended to make speeches to the assembled multitude in the none-too-distant future.
      “As the investigation of the whereabouts of Hoelcher increased I remember my father learning that some of Hoelcher’s effects were found down near the creek and a sign posted on a tree nearby stated that we, a band of murderers had done away with Hoelcher, the scissors grinder. But suspicion pointed to the Waltz family. An examination of the farm and the room where Hoelcher had stayed revealed that the floor of the bedroom where he had slept had been planed. This together with the fact that Hoelcher had benn last seen on the farm and that the iron from his scissors grinding machine were found among some burned wood on the Waltz farm. Father and son Waltz were taken into custody and lodged at the Catskill jail, or the Greene County jail. Young Waltz and his father stayed at the jail for some time and were severely questioned. Finally young Waltz said he was tired of the whole business and confessed that he had gone into the bedroom of Hoelcher when he was asleep and cut open his head with an ax. He had then buried the body of the farm, burned the blood soaked blankets, planed the floorboards of the bedroom where the blood had dripped. From Hoelcher he had taken about $85 and a gold watch. I neglected that young Waltz has also robbed some churches among them the Episcopal Church. He confessed that he had placed the alleged note form the robbers out Coxsackie way himself, and it was found that the note had been ripped from a notebook found in the Waltz’s house. Father Waltz was released.
      Joseph Waltz remained in the prison and there was a great deal of discussion around the countryside as to whether he was insane. Some folks believed he was because of the strange things he had done. Other folks believed he had feigned insanity. Constable Ernst believed he was feigning insanity as he had put a sting up in his cell and put little paper figures on the string and said they were offerings to the Gods. My Father firmly believed that young Waltz was not insane and he made every effort to make him behave. He insisted on remaining in the cell with him. Sometimes my Father fell asleep while reading the papers on the sofa in the cell and young Hoelcher often set fire to the papers but my Father always woke up in time to put the fires out. Many times in the fail young Waltz was heard to utter threats that he would kill my Father. Many persons heard these threats and remonstrated with my Father about taking every precaution. But my Father was a fearless man. He insisted in remaining on the job and seeing that Waltz was properly taken care of.
      “The trial consisted entirely of evidence as whether Waltz was insane. Neighbors gave testimony on both sides. But in the end Waltz was sentenced to be hanged. The execution was set for May first At the Catskill Jail. Shortly after lunch on Thursday April thirtieth my Father got up from the dinner table in the Sheriff's dining room at the jail and walked into Waltz’s cell. Waltz lay into him with a bludgeon he made from folding some iron stripping for the floor. He hit Charles Ernst several times and there was a slight scuffle but almost immediately Ernst fell in a heap on the floor of the cell. Just at that moment the door bell of the Jail rang and the Sheriff or one of his children or one of the helpers got up to answer it. On his way to answer the doorbell he saw that Ernst was lying on the floor and he immediately gave the alarm. As news spread throughout the town a mob gathered at the entrance of the Jail.
      Now all the sentiment and sanity argument about Waltz vanished. The mob was out to get him now because Ernst was greatly loved in the town. The Sheriff remonstrated with the crowd but they continued to say they wanted to handle Waltz themselves. Word was sent to Albany Governor Dix sent the State Militia to Catskill and the hanging went off the next day as scheduled. My Father died a day or two after. The wounds in his head had been too much. His death threw my family into poverty as my father had lived way beyond his means. I remember the ponies were sold at auction and it nearly broke my heart. All of my brothers and myself had to go to work. I was the oldest and went to work right away in the brickyards. I later had my own butcher shop. He got nothing from the town and my father had no insurance. It was a great struggle from then on for all of us to make our way in the world. But we did and we have come out all right.” The old guy who told me this story is tall and rather handsome in a way. He has white handlebar mustaches.
      When the new County Jail was built a lady by the name of Beasley bought the old jail and turned it into an inn. It was called the Old Heidelberg. She didn't do so very well with it and sold it. The people who bought it didn't do so well either and now it is closed up. Old Man Ernst said he didn't wonder. There had been three or four hangings in it and the Lord knows what awful man had been imprisoned there. Folks around Catski11 say the place is unlucky and believe that it can never succeed.
      Around 1866 there lived in Catskill a man named Benjamin Wey. He had plenty of money and among other things he owned one of the local drug stores. He was supposedly happily married to Ellen Wey his wife. One cold winter night Ellen left the house and made for the Catskill Creek, which empties into the Hudson at Catskill. Her husband followed her through the snows by her footprints. She went out onto the ice on the Creek and went into the water a place where ice had been cut that day. With the help of some townspeople, Benjamin took her body out of the water and carried her in his arms back to his house. Some time later he married again. The second marriage was believed to be a happy one also and it lasted until Benjamin became an old man. Then one day while he and his second wife were driving across the Creek in a horse and carriage, he stopped the horses, laid aside the reins, pulled back the lap robe and got out of the carriage in the middle of the bridge. It was just over the spot where his wife had drowned herself. He jumped in and was drowned also. Folks around the town say that he had looked down onto the creek and seen Ellen. The old lady who told me this story said she remembers as a little girl looking at the old man's sad and tired face in church and wondering if perhaps too often he didn't feel the cold slender body in his arms recalling to him forever the night he carried his drowned wife back to house.
      The Salisbury family around Catskill trace their ancestors to Anne Boleyn. They have a painting in their house, which they say is a Hans Holbein portrait of Anne Boleyn. Folks say that many years ago when people had slaves that the Salisburys had a slave girl who was very beautiful. She fell in love with a man on a neighboring farm and ran away. One of the Salisbury boys followed her and captured her. He strapped her to his horse, some say he tied her and let the horse drag her. Then suddenly the horse got away and the girl and horse went over a cliff and were dashed to pieces. The Salisbury boy was sentenced to be hanged for her murder but the magistrate did not set the date and turned Salisbury loose but decreed that he must wear a noose around his neck until the date of the execution when it should be set. But the date of the execution was never set. And it is recorded that many folks used to see an old man around Catskill a black tiny silken rope around his neck fixed like a noose. He is said to have worn this until his death and he lived to a ripe old age. For references see Catskill Mountains and the Regions Around by Rev Ch. Rockwell, 1873 page 148 also Historical Collection of the State of New York by Barber and Howe page 187, 188.
      I met a girl in the office of the old Catskill Packet (published under another name now but said to be the oldest consecutively published paper in the country. She sent me up to see her family. Their name is Riley and their Mother was an Abeel.  One of the Abeels married an Indian Princess named Cornplant. She wonders if Chief Cornplanter (her kids gave her the book) is a descendent. She has a booklet called The Abeels and Allied Families, which tell something about it. They want to drive over to see him. The Abeels are one of the very old families around Catskill. They have one of the finest of the old bobsleds, which used to be used quite a lot around the country by people. They slid down the hill toward the Creek and on to the bridge. People cou1d slide from both ends of the town and meet on the bridge. They told me that at Catskill Henrick Hudson stopped and was fed roast dog by the Indians. There is another lover's leap at Catskill only it is called Hop-o-Nose and an Indian maiden leaped to her death off of it because she was disappointed in love, Schoharie, they said, there is still an association for Catching Horse Thieves. At Pot Cheese Rock folks often report that they see standing there an old white horse, which, years ago, drowned, in the quick sand. Murderer's Creek empties into the Hudson at Athens and at the time of the Revolution Sally Hamilton was murdered there and two soldiers were blamed for it. At Broom Stick Hill folks report they have seen an old Witch riding a broomstick flying past it. I ran into an old poster dated Albany Dec 23, 1833 and advertised coaches "ALBANY & CATSKILL. During the Suspension of Steam Boat Navigation the subscribers (for the better accommodation of passengers between Albany and Hudson and Catskill) will run a daily of coaches between said cities (Sundays excepted) leaving Catskill every day at 7am and Hudson at 8am and arriving at Albany at 12 noon. The proprietors have taken the utmost care in procuring the most comfortable coaches, fast riding teams, and sober and obliging drivers E.S. Johnson, agent."
      J.B. Hall was a copperhead and editor of the Recorder around 1883. He wrote such inflammatory editorials that he was once shot at and thereafter he wrote his editorial with a loaded shotgun beside his desk. In a history called Dear Old Greene County I noticed this: "Next to the great Hudson Fulton Celebration, the greatest celebration every held in Green County was that of the Old Home Week, Oct. 4 to 7 1908 In Catskill. The ball was set rolling on Sunday with services in the several churches. There was a church parade one half mile long." Catskill gave a $4000 contribution toward the Hudson Fulton Celebration.
      The calling of our government Uncle Sam originated in Catskill. Several brothers Uncle Nathan Wilson, Uncle Jonathan and Uncle Sam operated a meatpacking house or slaughterhouse. They Hived in the house in which Martin van Buren was married to Hannah Hoes in 1797 from 1817 t© 22• Either on the Catskill or Troy meat packing house some way asked what US stood for as he noticed it on the boxes of meat being sent to the arm in the war of 1812. Someone said that stands for Uncle Sam. And from there the phrase came to be used all over. I think it is inter­esting that Uncle Sam had a Brother Jonathan which was also used to refer to the US for a time.
      I was told by a Catskill physician of a sociological island called the Bushwhackers who lived in Columbia County back of Hudson near Taconic. They made wicker baskets and there were about 200 of them and they were mostly wiped out by the influenza epidemic. One or two of the group did all the dealing with the outside world and went into town with their wares and sold them. This doctor had helped deliver a baby for one of the women. Katherine Newlin Burt is supposed to have written some stuff on them. A young lawyer told me that he had seen pasted on some books in the courthouse the rule etc. for an anti-dueling society formed around 1800. He thinks it was part of a movement after the Burr-Hamilton duel. The Catskill patent is as if someone drew three arcs of a circle. This lawyer's brother, a dentist, has the hobby of photographing scenes mentioned in the Drums.[1]


[1] Carmer’s Listen For A Lonesome Drum, treating all of New York except the Hudson was published in 1936.

The Multifaceted Mr. Bigelow

Poultney Bigelow's and his wife's graves in 2009 - Lucey Bowen

                                                Friday, May 13, 1938
Dear Carl,
      I stopped to see Poultney Bigelow.[1] He lives in a curious old Victorian House near the river and has a nice view. He says he made the terrace out of the blue stone left down on the wharf. His Grandfather made his fortune in blue stone. Old Asa Bigelow had a quarry and shipped the stone down the Hudson. His son was John who became Ambassador to France and Poultney was brought up most in Europe and roomed with the Kaiser. He has written a few books none of which I understand are any  good. He has statues of many of his friends including the Kaiser adorning the driveway, which leads around his house. He also has shells sticking up here and there along the drive their noses pointed to the heavens and painted white and blue.
      He remembers that his father said he was a young boy when Lafayette came up the Hudson and stopped at Livingston Manor. There was much festivity, which his Father could see across the river. His Grandfather rowed across and shook hands with Lafayette. Poultney said that Washington had held Washington Irving in his arms when he was a baby and that Washington Irving had held him (Poultney) in his arms when he was a baby. "That makes an apostolic succession, does it not ?" he said.
      He is a nut on people doing things for themselves, making their own things and going mm back to the old days when people made their own clothes and food etc and there have been times when he tried this very much at his place. His first wife was screwy and I believe left him. His second wife was an Englishwoman and managed to make him conform more or less. When she died he had a villager make a long basket and for a long time he kept the basket in the garden where he could see his wife out of the window. They say he finally buried her in the garden. You could kid the hell of him. Why not do a profile of him as an example of Hudson River Valley screwiness for the New Yorker and than put it in the book as a chapter. He talked along at random and it was hard to pin him down. He claims that Washington was visiting his father’s place when he wrote Rip Van Winkle and that he never saw the Catskill etc. where it is all supposed to have happened until years later. He is nuts about Bancroft’s History of the United States. He said in the old days people RR and the fact that there is no place to land have made it almost impossible to do it these days and it is a great tragedy that you can’t swim in the river any more since the sewers and ships make the water so dirty. He said people worked blue stone on shares and that a man could work five or six hours and get a goodly sum for what he quarried. A dollar a day was good pay. Their place used to be about 1500 acres and old Asa also had a gristmill. The people in the great estates are mostly gone he said. What are left have a terrible time with taxes and the fact that their places get robbed by men who walk the tracks and many of them had had to fence off their places from the tracks thus cutting themselves off more from the river. He talked along about the large number of firkins of butter shipped down to New York. The hemlocks have all been ripped from the forests and the bark ripped off for tanning and then just left there.

[1] The marvelously eccentric Poultney Bigelow was a world traveler and prolific writer.

Cornie Hardenbergh and his Sheep Story

2010 Sheep in Saugerties, NY- Lucey Bowen

                                                    Friday, May 13, 1938
Dear Carl,
      I went out to Stone Ridge to see the famous Hardenbergh sheep flock and talked to Cornelius M. Hardenbergh who is a direct descendent of the great family that had such a large patent at one time. He says that most of the Hudson Valley farmers have given up their sheep growing, I mean raising, because you can’t get anything for sheep these days. Sometimes he cuts the wool and when a Jewish peddler comes around he sells his wool to him. Another reason it is difficult to raise sheep is that the wild dogs along the Hudson are so bad. They come from miles around especially the collies and the police dogs and kill the sheep. Sometimes a sheep dog will guard his flock and then go off by night for miles and miles and kill the sheep in other flocks. Just for the hell of it. They have found wool in their mouths from other sheep in neighboring flocks. Corny Hardenbergh said one winter a strange thing happened. He was delivering a sheep of her lamb and she was having trouble so he decided to let the lamb go and save the sheep. Then he discovered that she was trying to deliver a lamb that had eight legs and two bodies and one head. He had already it killed it however and now he wishes he had killed the mother and saved that strange lamb as it would have been something to see. Most of the farmers along the Hudson raise Shropshires.