REMINISCENCES OF SARATOGA AND BALLSTON.

WILLIAM L. STONE.

1880.

----------------------------------------

CHAPTER XXI.

Queer People. - Angeline Tubbs, Tom Camel, Madame Jumel, etc.

---------------------------------------

'A turban girds her brow,

Whence, all untrammelled, her dark, thin hair

Streams fitfully upon the storm-beat front;

Her eye at rest, pale fire in its black orb

Innocuous sleeps - but roused, Jove's thunder-cloud

Enkindles not so fiercely."

ANON.

----------

"It is a good thing to laugh at, at any rate; and if a straw can tickle a man, it is an instrument of pleasure." - DRYDEN.

--------------------

IT would be passing strange if Saratoga should not have known, during its existence, many curious characters. Nearly every hamlet in Europe and America has had, at one time or another, a few singular beings who have furnished the frame-work of various romances. The most celebrated novelists, indeed, have not hesitated to draw from these sources much of their inspiration - Scott and Dickens, Irving and Hawthorne, using this element to very great advantage, especially in the romances of "Waverley," "Barnaby Rudge," "Bracebridge Hall," and "The House of the Seven Gables."

In short sketches like these, we can but glance at a few of the most remarkable of them, and that, too, in the most cursory manner. To mention even the numerous characters that have flitted across the scene would fill more space than is at my disposal. I can, therefore, only jot down a very few that have come under my personal observation. Doubtless, however, this will revive the minds of the older residents numerous anecdotes, the mere remembrance of which will afford many pleasurable thoughts of "ye olden time," and if I succeed in this, my chapter, defective as it otherwise may be, will not have been written in vain.

I pass by, then, such people as "Dick McLease"; "Primus Budd," the sexton of the old Bethesda Chapel, and his dog; "Black Sam," with his wonderful span of horses; "Crazy Jimmy"; "Johnny Cox"; "Tommy Lloyd," and his rhymes; "Belcher," and his rattlesnakes; "Gingerbread Frank," and the efforts of the villagers to dig him out of the well; "Sam Hill," the old basket-maker, whose portrait, by a German artist, now adorns the Grand Union; "Crazy Susan," with her person decked out in gaudy-colored ribbons; and Welland, who was finally drowned in the Battenkill, and come to the most remarkable character of them all,

--------------------

Angeline Tubbs .

--------------------

Just north of the village of Saratoga Springs rises a bald promontory of rock - called "Mount Vista" - the gray masses of which impend frowningly over a deep glen beneath. Near the base of the mountain at this point, and within the ravine, in a lonely and wretched hovel, lived, a few years since, a female of mysterious and uncertain character - by name Angeline Tubbs. Surrounded by a numerous brood of cats - her sole companions - she led a solitary life at home, and was considered a vagrant abroad - subsisting in part by mendicity, and in part by laying small contributions upon those simple-hearted and prurient rustic maidens who wished to peep far enough into futurity to learn something of their future husbands. Sometimes she had been discovered by those traversing the mountains attempting to draw a portion of her precarious living by trapping, and sometimes the disappearance of a turkey or fowl from the premises of a farm-house was charged to her agency instead of Sir Reynard's. Her lonely and uninviting habitation, however, was avoided by the good people in the region round about, as though it had been the seat of the plague, or the tabernacle of Azazel. Her general appearance was as peculiar as her habits of life were erratic and unusual. Indeed, her whole life and character had ever been shrouded in a dark cloud of mystery. She had been a resident of this vicinity for many, many years, and simple-minded people did not scruple to declare her little better than a sorceress, who practised incantations and held familiar converse with the spirits of darkness. At the period of which we are writing she was probably ninety years old, erect in her form, and elastic in her movements. Her features were sharp, sallow, and wrinkled; her nose high and hooked, like the beak of an eagle, while her sunken, coal-black eyes, whenever crossed in her purposes, or otherwise angered, flashed with the piercing and terrible glances of the basilisk. For more than sixty years she had lived within a short distance from Saratoga. Sometimes she was in the village, practising as a fortune-teller, by way of paying for supplies of food, which from fear would never have been denied her; but for the most part, her time was occupied in wandering about the woods, and among the hills - climbing from crag to crag over the rocks, and traversing the glens and ravines of the neighboring highlands. Many were the wild and startling tales - especially in the early settlement of the village - told of Angeline in the neighborhood which it would not be edifying to repeat. Had she been mistress of the whirlwind, she could not have been more delighted with storms. She had been seen, her form erect and with extended arms, standing upon the verge of fearful precipices, in the midst of the most awful tempests, conversing, as it were, with unseen spirits, her long, matted hair streaming in the wind, while the thunder was riving the rocks beneath her feet, and the red lightning encircling her as with a winding-sheet of flame.

In traversing the country and the village, she uniformly wore a red cloak with a hood; a handkerchief, in imitation of a turban, was bound upon her head, over which she brought the hood in foul weather. Indeed, from her appearance and occupation it was fortunate for herself that she lived more than a century after the tragedies enacted by our Puritan ancestors at Salem.

I have said that at the period of which I write she was without doubt fully ninety years of age. It was rarely that she could be persuaded to come out of her gibbering moods save to tell a fortune; but, occasionally, to the late Mrs. Washington Putnam, to whom she was always more communicative than to others - owing, doubtless, to the kindness with which that lady always treated her - she would detail glimpses of her past history. Mrs. Putnam was always of the opinion that Angeline's statement to the effect that she was a girl of fifteen at the time of Burgoyne's surrender was true. Other circumstances, moreover, which I have not the space to mention in detail, convinced me also that her story was correct. For example, she has narrated to me anecdotes connected with that campaign which a person of her ignorance would have found it impossible to obtain otherwise than from personal observation and remembrance. Old residents of the town, likewise, who first knew her as early as 1820, inform me that she seemed as old and wrinkled at that time as when she died in 1865. The truth regarding her early history is very difficult to obtain. The late Dr. Steel, however, who knew more of it than any other, was wont to say that he had been informed by early settlers that in her youth she had been a girl of surpassing beauty. Having, however, in early life been seduced under promise of marriage, she had been cast off and thrown "like a loathsome weed away," when, becoming crazed, she had ever afterwards led a wandering life; and this, probably, is the truth. {During the late civil war, a number of Angeline's photographs were struck off and sold for the benefit of herself to the soldiers.}

Connected with Angeline are a number of anecdotes, the first that occurs to me being the manner in which "Bloomerism" was "squelched" through her agency. When that mania first broke out in Saratoga, some young ladies dressed her up in that costume, in which she paraded up and down the street, and in the hotels. The effect of this was that the entire Bloomer movement was brought into just ridicule; and, so far as Saratoga was concerned, was ended for ever.

I well remember, also, a scene which happened in 1850 while a "camp-meeting" was holding in the "Patrick Neighborhood." To appreciate the anecdote, it should be stated that the late Judge -------, one of Saratoga's most respected and estimable citizens - was never blessed with a child of either sex - a fact which was universally known.

During the camp-meeting, I happened into a tent where several "elders" were on their knees in prayer. As the custom was, some one would exclaim, "God bless so and so," when the "elders," without pausing, would make the person thus mentioned the subject of prayer. Within this tent were Angeline Tubbs, Mrs. Dr. Rush, and Madame Jumel. Just as I entered, some one called in a loud voice, "God bless Judge -------'s daughter!" Whereupon the elders - who being from a distance had no suspicion but that the Judge's daughter was a veritable personage - prayed for some fifteen minutes for "Judge -------'s daughter!" Nor was the fraud discovered until the same wicked wag exclaimed, "God bless Angeline Tubbs and Madame Jumel" - when, amid the laughter of the "uncircumcised," Angeline and Madame Jumel rushed out of the tent, and the meeting broke up in confusion.

--------------------

Tom Camel and Madame Jumel .

--------------------

But perhaps, of the male genus, none have excited more notice of a certain kind than a colored man by the name of "Tom Camel." This person was decidedly an original genius. Like Yorick, a fellow "of infinite jest," and withal of great shrewdness in some respects, he yet, at times, was, in his simplicity, a perfect specimen of the Southern negro. It is related of a certain Canadian miller, that on being elected to the provincial legislature, he sought to better the condition of his craft by declaring that the miller's toll (one-tenth) was so small that no one could manage to live upon it. He therefore proposed a law - which remains to this day - making the toll one twelfth! Of a similar nature was Tom's idea of money; for when, on a certain occasion, he was asked to pay a bill of one dollar, he indignantly exclaimed, "A dollar I will not give; but I have no objection to pay ten shillings!"

On another occasion, also, when he was engaged by the late William B. White to saw a branch off a tree, "Tom" gravely seated himself on the limb, and sawed away on it, between himself and the trunk - and so continued until the limb falling, and "Tom" with it, some fifteen feet to the ground, brought the sawyer to a more correct understanding of the theory of trimming trees!

The greatest and most historic occasion, however, in which "Tom" figured was in 1849, during one of the visits of Madame Jumel to this village. Madame Jumel, whose criminal intimacy with Aaron Burr had brought her into contempt (those were the days when free-love doctrines were estimated at their true value), was then staying at the United States, and she endeavored by a magnificent equipage to dazzle the understanding, and thus atone for her disgraceful dismissal from the ranks of Diana. It was therefore determined to administer her a lesson.

Accordingly, one afternoon, when her carriage, with a numerous retinue of outriders, drew up in front of the United States to take her to the lake, lo! just as she drove off, another equipage appeared directly following her. This carriage was driven by Smith Brill, in full livery, and behind, in a huge clothes-basket for a seat, sat Caleb Adams, also full rigged in footman's dress - while plainly visible within the open carriage, and dressed up in woman's clothes, sat "Tom" Camel, representing the veritable mistress of Aaron Burr! It was the custom of Madame Jumel, before going out of the village, to drive slowly through Broadway, that the unsophisticated inhabitants might have a proper sense of their own insignificance; and before it was discovered, Madame's carriage, followed by her counterfeit in "double," had paraded the entire length of the street - "Tom" Camel meanwhile fanning himself with a large fan, and bowing and courtesying to the crowds which had now gathered on every side! When the trick was at last discovered, Madame Jumel by turns threatened, and pleaded, and offered bribes. But "Brill" and "Tom" were inexorable; and the two equipages actually went out to the lake and back in the same order. It is my impression that owing to this exhibition, Madame Jumel made this her last visit to the Springs, but of this I am not certain.

We cannot close this chapter without an allusion to one who, in former times, was one of Saratoga's great celebrities. We refer to

--------------------

Lord Wilson .

--------------------

He visits Saratoga now but seldom; but we may, in imagination, easily put ourselves back to the days of yore, and fancy that Lord Wilson, having received permission from Mr. William H. McCaffrey, the genial host of the American, is not holding forth, according to his wont, on the steps of that house to its guests. This personage - whom for the habitués of Saratoga not to know is to "argue themselves unknown - is possessed of the idea that the Atlantic Ocean can be bridged, and Saratoga made capital of the world! Armed with maps and charts, he has been for the last ten years prepared to demonstrate the feasibility of these plans to whoever will listen. His voice is good; the bandanna which surrounds his neck unusually clean; and the brass buttons on his velvet short-clothes highly polished. His articulation is distinct, but it runs on like the unwinding of a clock; and, like it, soon comes to an abrupt, dead stop. Another great advantage he possesses is this: he talks exactly as well upon one subject as another; and, until he runs down, can discuss canals and caucuses, banks and pauperism, "reconstructions," and his own pet projects, with the greatest care imaginable, and in the most statesmanlike manner. An adventure, moreover, occurred to our "Lord" during the recent Civil War, which, as far as I have noticed, has never appeared in any newspaper or even "History of the late Rebellion." Chancing to be in Washington, just previous to the second battle of Bull Run, he somehow got into the Confederate lines, and was taken prisoner by one of their pickets. Finding the maps and charts upon his person, they thought they had obtained a great prize, and hastened with him to headquarters. Upon his beginning, however, straightway to explain to General Lee and his staff the feasibility of bridging the Atlantic they soon discovered their mistake; and telling him that the "Atlantic could wait till the end of the war," sent him safely back into the Union lines.

----------------------------------------

NEXT --- HOME

Transcribed from the original text and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 2/8/00.

Please provide me with any feedback you may have or any supplementary information concerning the contents. wcarr1@nycap.rr.com


Back to Saratoga County GenWeb


Copyright ©1999,2000 Bill Carr and Heritage Hunters of Saratoga County

All Rights Reserved.