A couple years after I became Greene County Historian, I got a call from Ray Beecher’s niece, Kathy Beecher, about some old newspapers that she had received in the mail from Pilar G. Dexter. Ray Beecher preceded me as Greene County Historian. Mr. Dexter was unaware of Ray’s passing and thought the material should go to the Historical Society which is where it ended up. Enclosed in Mr. Dexter’s mailing were four copies of the weekly “The Coxsackie Union” from August, 1905 — specifically the 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th. The masthead says “The Coxsackie Union.” The paper was established in 1851.
Each of the old newspapers runs only four pages, but the type size for the news items is small compared to today’s papers. The Daily Mail and The Mountain Eagle use a six column layout per page and these older papers ran seven with the two on left reserved for ads. Also, unlike today’s newspapers, these old papers used the front page for world, national and human interest stories. No local news was contained there.
Some of the front page news was strangely bizarre — almost like today’s National Inquirer. For instance, the Aug. 18 edition featured a story titled: “NINE HUSBANDS FOR ONE WOMAN.” The story proceeds as follows: “Louisville, Ky – The best cook and prettiest woman in Taylor County is Mrs. Ayres, who, although but 35 years old, has been married nine times and never been divorced.” The story goes on to explain what happened to the first eight husbands, but includes too much detail for today’s brief column. Suffice it to say, although they all died, no foul play is suggested. Another story on Aug. 4 reported “SEVEN-YEAR- OLD BOY IS AN OPIUM FIEND.” This story deals with a boy being successfully treated in a St. Louis hospital for addiction to the drug.
On page 2 of these newspapers there is also more general information for the reader, but we get to the local news. Some interesting information from Aug. 4, 1905 such as: “Hotel Kaaterskill is crowded; The prospective crop of huckleberries on Round Top, Cairo, has failed, owing to the drought; Freehold has street lamps, and the local want Greenville to show a little enterprise in the same direction; Tannersville gasoline engine fails to bring up the water supply, and the people are in more trouble than ever.” In addition page 2 contains news about the doings of people from surrounding hamlets with titles like; “Climax Chatterings; New Baltimore Station Nibs; Result Ripplings; Grapeville Gleanings; Medway Musings; Medusa Munchings; Athens Affairs; and Lime Street Legends.” Page 2 is also about half full of advertisements. For instance Sbarboro’s on Reed Street in Coxsackie announced that: ‘We are making a special drive to close out the remainder of our summer goods.” Sbarboro’s still operated on Reed Street as a little luncheonette up to a few years ago.
The Aug. 18 edition contained this: “The Kaaterskill Paving Brick Co. of Catskill has sold 16,000,000 paving brick to Tampa, Fla., which will take the company’s output for more than a year. The contract was secured only by the closest competition.”
The Aug. 25 edition contained this news: “At East Windham, a rig driven by Martin Smith having a number of passengers was run into by an automobile and thrown down an embankment. Two ladies had their arms broken, Mr. Smith sustained a sprained ankle and other members of the party were injured. Such recklessness is what brings automobiling into disrepute, and there ought to be some means to shut such people away from harming others.”
Similarly, page 3 contains more local news and ads. For instance on Aug. 4 it was reported: “A New York boarder died at Butler’s place, Urlton (Earlton), this week Monday, and John Frank shipped the body to the city.” Also: “Farmers be on the lookout for bogus veterinary surgeons who are traveling through the country claiming to be agents for the State, examining cattle for tuberculosis. These men are swindlers.” And, how would you like this reported about you? “Postmaster Worden has had a hard tussle with inflammation of the bowels, but is on duty again.” In the ad section S. H. Van Dyck is advertising women’s Radcliffe high top shoes for $2.50. The ad says: “The kind of shoes you would expect to pay $3.50 for. Also, Church’s Hardware Store is advertising a universal bread mixer for $2.
Page 4 contains more ads, legal notices and some other tidbits. An ad that took up one quarter a page in all four newspapers shows us how times have changed in Greene County over the last 100 plus years. The ad was placed by Crawford & Crawford of Albany and reads as follows: “BOARDING HOUSES, If there is any little thing you want in a hurry, send to us for it. We furnish everything. Beds, Bedding, Chairs, Tables, Carpets, Couches, Rugs, Matting, Dishes, Cutlery, Silverware, Kitchen Utensils, STOVES! OIL CLOTH! In short, we furnish Houses Complete, from cellar to garret. All grades from the cheapest that is made to the best that you will buy.” Also on the same page a small ad placed by realtor Harrie McK. Curtis of Coxsackie which says he has property for sale in all parts of the village ranging in price from $500 to $4,000.
I once had a boss who was fond of saying: “this is a world I am unfamiliar with” when he heard of something he had not heard of before. While many of us may have heard things similar to events reported in those old 1905 newspapers, they represent a world we are very unfamiliar with in the 21st century. Much has changed in 115 years.