Isaac Banister

Reminisces Of A Life

of 75 Years


REMINISCES OF A LIFE OF SEVENTY FIVE YEARS

~ By Isaac Banister ~

Born: September 10,1803; Died: January 31, 1885


(I) Isaac Banister was born September 10, 1803 in the town of Durpark, Orange County, and State of New York. His (My) father was Elijah Banister, who married Mary King, daughter of Martin King, of German extraction. I know nothing further of him than that he was a carpenter by trade, a lover of dogs and guns and a great deer hunter. He died in Pennsylvania at the advanced age of 107 years.


My grandfather (George), the father of my father, went to Ohio soon after I was born, and there died at the age of 90 or more years of age. His wife (my grandmother) was a small woman of the Puritan stock of Connecticut. Her name was Lucy or Lucinda Barlow. She died in Orange County, New York State, at the age of 83. A strictly religious woman, she did not go with her husband, but remained with her children, of whom she had four sons and two daughters, (the latter being) the eldest and youngest. The eldest (daughter) was her first child. She married at an early age to a James Brice, a "scoth" school master, schoolteachers were then called. Brice held a commission in the British army before he left home for America. He had a large family of children, nine or ten, mostly males. He migrated to Canada with his whole family about the year 1805, and I understood he received 90 acres of land, a piece for his boys and 200 for himself and wife, as bounty for settling in that country. Since that time I have not even heard from them. The youngest sister never married.


My grandfather, George, was called an Englishman, or the son of an Englishman. There was an English family came over to the New England states about the time, one settled in Rhode Island, one in Massachusetts, and another in Connecticut. My father has told me that he never knew where his father was born. George Banister was about 40 years of age when (my father) Eljiah was born in 1779. He fought through the Revolution in the army as a scout on the frontier line and was counted a formidable foe to Britain and the Tories. The leading trait of his character was independence and self-reliance. He was kind and generous to a fault. He was, in my opinion (from what I can learn, for I never saw him as I remember of) an English aristocrat, without any estate or great learning. He was physically a full and complete man, though not fat or corpulent. His weight was about 200 pounds avoirdupois1, nearly six feet in his moccasins (they did not wear boots at that time) and was called a handsome man. He was a musician, a fiddler by profession, and woodchopper by trade. A working man in general, he never would work by the day or month, only occasionally a day for the accommodation of a neighbor. When he worked, he took a job and would do two or three days' wages in a day, or he did not want the job.


Scuffing or fighting was the principal part-time recreation. In those days it was an amusement; he never engaged in it, though he liked to see it or was on hand to see fair play. If any unfair advantage were taken by one party over the other, he would step in and part them. He loved to fight the Indians, but he would not let white men fight unless they fought fair, and when one was whipped, or owned to being whipped, the battle must stop where it was. "For," he said, "some folk don't know when they are licked and some think they're licked while they have the best of the battle. But when a man thinks he is whipped, he is, in his opinion, licked. The victor has no right to an opinion to the contrary, for the vanquished owns it." He was once present when two stout, rugged fellows were quarreling, and began to clinch in for a fight. He took one in either hand and held them apart till they settled the dispute amicably, without a blow; and they thanked him most cordially for his kindness in showing them it was a misunderstanding.


I am told he took several jobs of clearing up the forest, for the privilege of making the ashes into potash. He followed making potash as a business. I heard a farmer say of him, "He cradled 5 acres of buck-wheat for me one morning before breakfast - and didn't have a very early breakfast at that." I have said this much of his leading traits, to show that he was a leading man in his way - physically, he was an aristocrat; and morally, he was a democrat. "Liberty regulated by law, and law regulated by justice, and justice tempered with mercy, and all bound together with charity, or love of neighbor." If he had failings, which no doubt he had, I let them pass.


My father (Elijah) had three brothers younger than himself. The name of one was Wm. N., who was a large man; he had one son who was a printer and three daughters. He lived and died an inebriate; he might have been a man like another brother, David, a man of talent and ability, but whiskey robbed the country of his usefulness, and his family of his time and talents. He lived during the War of 1812-14, and came home. Instead of educating four boys and three girls, he left them without a protector; they all went out like lost sheep.


Luther, another brother, went to Ohio in 1810. He had seven or eight children. He was an industrious, sober man. All I ever heard of him was that he was a schoolteacher, and one of his sons was a Methodist preacher. Luther was a man of 5 feet 6 inches high, and rather slim build. The others were all men of a mechanical turn, and whatever they did was well done mechanically – quite superior. So much so, it was a common remark, "They can do anything they try, and they are always trying to do something that nobody else has done."


I will dismiss this subject of the character and natural abilities of my predecessors and relations with this: George Banister, my grandfather, and his four sons and two daughters, with good training and education under favorable circumstances, would have been capable of occupying a high seat in the grand business of humanity of any country in the world or any state in America or the United States. Circumstances have much to do, not all, in making men what they are. Man is a creator of circumstance in that he is in the image of God, in the bodily shape, I think. And while sorrowing over the surrounding circumstances that encompassed me in youth and early manhood, I resolved to create around me and my children and my fellow citizens, such a state of circumstance, that they must, and will be better and happier for my having thrown around them such barricades against the enemy of man, and placing in their path attractions to virtue and self-reliance, as is calculated to inspire hope and self-reliance.


My father (Elijah) had four sons namely: George, Isaac, David and Sanford, and one daughter, Phoebe. George was a bookkeeper for E. Peck & Son, an importer of tin and sheet lead, etc., in New York, who had a wire factory at Havestraw, a wealthy firm. He was a highly respected man by the firm and loved and respected by the Presbyterian Church, of which he was an active member. He was married in 1820 to Mary Howell, a daughter of John Howell of Hopewell. He died in New York in 1849, aged 49 years, of ship fever, contracted by going into an emigrant house to procure laborers for his employers for wire work at Haverstraw. He died without issue, and his property amounting to about $5,000 fell into his father's hand, which I always considered an unjust law. Now the law is altered but still I consider it unjust, and a relic of English aristocracy, which now gives the widow of a man dying intestate without children only one-half of the personal property, which he and his wife have made and saved. Whereas, they were equal partners, and if she had died without issue, the whole estate, the law says, would go to him. Then she should have the whole, or if she has a right to but one-half, then she should have the same right to will at her decease, one equal half to whom she chooses. I give this out as a prophetical that it will be the law in America in time, when justice reign over us. The most unjust law I know of is: that a rascal may put all his property into his wife's hands, and then live in his wife's palace, like a prince. And his creditors suffer for bread, whose hard earnings have been used in building that palace, and those poor men despised and scorned by the occupant of that palatial mansion. But I will dismiss this digression.


Next, I have a brother, David, who did wrong and went west, whither, I never knew. There was another brother, Sanford, who at the age of 19 married a daughter of Elihue Cary. He went to Horseheads, and followed farmery - opened his farm, had a large family, three boys and four girls, held a respectable station in society for anything I know and as I had some dispute with him in a settlement, I broke off all intercourse with him.


My sister, Phoebe, married a man by the name of Nathan H. Corwin, a highly respectable but broken merchant by whom she had two daughters. They were young ladies of superior talents; the elder held the place of Professor of Mathematics in Wells College, near Auburn, New York, and the younger graduated in Newark Normal School as teacher, and acquitted herself with high honors.


Now I come to speak of myself in the first person, dedicating my remarks to my son, James Albert (Banister).


My Dear Son James:


As you have often expressed a desire that I would write out a history of my commencement in life, and what I know of my ancestry, I have agreed to your wishes, and endeavored to comply with wishes in stating what I know of my ancestors in the foregoing. It is not much I know, and not flattering what I do know. But when I now come to speak of myself, if I speak in a manner that seems to you, bragging too much, rub it out, and couch it in language more modest and becoming for a humble mechanic, without culture of refinement and education. (I was always called a brag).


I was born in Thomsontown, in the county of what is now know as Sullivan County, a part of what is now called Orange.


The first thing I remember was running a footrace with a boy of about my age, named Bill Young. Isaac Van Nauken, a brother-in-law of O.G. Finch, in the village of Skunktown, or what was afterwards called Finchville, had been out a-gunning, and had killed a red squirrel. He laid the squirrel down at one end of the square (the square was a green plot about 20 rods long and 8 rods wide). We were to have an eyen start at one end, and run to the other end of the square where the squirrel was placed on the grass. The one that touched it first was to have the squirrel. I got the squirrel.


The next thing, when I was eight years old, I went to school to Mrs. Young. The schoolhouse was about one mile south of Hockin's Brook, and I had to carry my dinner in a girl's work satchel, my parents not being able to afford me a dinner basket. From here we moved to the mountain road near the Payboult's farms, about two miles southwest of Otisville. From that place the house is still standing. I went to school to Deer Park Plains. Stephen Farham taught the school. It was here my brother, George, four years older than I, went with me to school. He was a slender, puny boy, 15 years of age, and I was 11 when he was graduated as a teacher of common school. The legislature had just passed a law that two trustees and a justice of the peace should examine any applicant for schoolteacher and, if found competent, they should give him a certificate to that effect. If no justice of the peace was convenient, any Minister of the Gospel might take his place. George was examined by the said committee, and came home with his credential of competency to teach in common school. To prepare for this situation, he went to school to Henry Clark (afterwards Judge Clark). He spent three months to study English grammar. During those three months his tasks were to cut the wood at the door, make the fires, do the chores, walk 2-1/2 miles to this school, and, if he could, learn grammar. If he learned grammar in three months and got a certificate, he might go and try it. If not, he must stick to the last, for he could earn good wages at that. He did go and taught with acceptance three quarters in Durpark. Then he went to Bullville and taught several years. He afterwards married Mary Howell, daughter of John Howell, of Hopewell, a wealthy farmer. He was to me a brother beloved. He died in 1849 in the city of New York, where he had been a confidential bookkeeper for E. Peck & Son, corner of Cliff & Fulton Sts.


On one occasion, he was in the sixth story when the building fell. Two-thirds of that large store fell from top to sub-cellar and he was in the one-third part that stood. The cause of the fail was that the jackscrews used to stow away bales of cotton in the upper loft pressed the building apart so that the crop beams slipped off the long summer. The building spread above and fell with tremendous weight accumulating at each story, then went down to the sub-cellar, which was stowed with punch and other foreign wines. He escaped, unhurt; seven persons were burned in the ruins, if I remember correctly.


About this time, at the close of the war of 1812-14, the last war with Great Britain, I was 11 years old and was going to school where my brother was graduated. Not being so extremely anxious about the science of grammar, letters and figures, I turned my attention to the more materials arts, such as the manufacture of guns, swords and war implements made of shingles and strips of pine boards, for the boys to play soldier with. I was called an expert with the jackknife. I had a good run of business at equipping several regiments with them, but as that became unpopular, I turned my attention to covering bails and manufacturing Boy's Ball Clubs, which brought me no small gain.


My ambition grew wonderfully until I took occasion, in the absence of my father, to borrow his tools without his consent or my mother's knowledge (for if she had known I was using my father's tools, she would have stopped the enterprise in the beginning). My father was absent on a deer hunt. He used often to take a tramp of two or three days in the back mountain, hunting deer and bears, being more or less successful, as he was a good shot with the rifle.


I sawed off the end of a whitewood rail on the fence when I found one longer than was necessary for the fence, because I wanted seasoned timber, which was easy to work and file. Of this I made a small last. Having the last finished and pronounced as very good, I procured some light calfskin for the upper and some sole leather for the bottoms. I cut out my upper, for I only calculated for one. I fitted my upper to the last, then I fitted up my soles, and proceeded to put this and that together and finished my shoe the third day. I looked at it and pronounced it good, and very good. I was a proud boy that day! My triumph overcame my fear; I ventured to show it to my mother, expecting to get a thrashing from my father when he came home, and a sound scolding from my mother on the spot. And that would be a good thing for toughening of the hide for stripes the next day. But to my surprise, my mother was so pleased with my success she even made me still prouder. I fairly shouted for joy and my mother laughed and only smiled when she told me she would show it to my father when he came home.


When my father saw what I had done, he called me to him, and laying his hand on my head, said, "Now I know what to do with you. You can earn your bread at fitting boots and shoes, for you can beat me. I could not make as good a boot as that. Now here is leather and tools. Make a mate to it." I made a mate, but it was not equal to the first, but it passed muster (as the military phrase would be).


From that time on I was put at fitting boots and shoes and making shoes and lasts 'til I was fourteen years old. Then on the 4th of July 1817 I hoed corn for a neighbor by the name of Chas Buchannon, for which he gave me sixty-three cents, the price then of a day's work for a man. With that money, I purchased leather for a pair of fine calf shoes, the first pair of fine shoes I ever had; I made the lasts right and left. The first lasts I had not seen, but had heard of them, and had seen some shoes made in that way. My father reprimanded me for the pride and extravagance by saying in a very unpleasant way, "My boys want to be men before they are old enough." That did not set well on my empty stomach, but roused in me a spirit of independence and self-reliance that never entirely left me.


In order to be understood in those later days, I must explain some of the habits and customs of that age of my country's history. Shoemakers and tailors kept no shops as a general thing. They had a room in their house where they kept their tools and did some small jobs. Their principal work was done in the farmer's houses; fall and spring the farmers would get their leather from the tanners, who tanned their hides and calf skins on shares and gave half the leather. As a rule, they had no money to buy the hides with. The farmers spun their own wool and flax, and the woolen cloth was taken to the mill and frilled3 for men's and women's wear, as the wants required. Then the tailor or the shoemaker was called to come on a set day to do up the boots and shoes or the boys' and men's coats and pants, and to cut out the clothes for the smaller children. This was called (technically) “cat whipping.” The tailor as well as the shoemaker that traveled around to do their work in this was called a “cat whipper.” Allow me here to explain more fully how this name came into general use. I think it was by Divine Injunction, the same as John Baptist was named when they asked his father. He said, "His name is John because God made him John.” So the cat whipper came into the world in this wise: as the cord-weaver was running off his cord from the ball, the young cat would catch the ball to play with, and to no small annoyance of the son of Christian, who in his unpleasant mood, would set his trap on the poor innocent kitten, who happened to think this was next to chasing a real mouse. “You got as I have” is:


"All nature is but art unknown to Thee,


All chance direction which thou canasta not see,


It is no chance to call the swine a hog,


It would be wrong to call a sow a dog"'


Two years I followed cat whipping, as proud a young man as ever carried a kit of tools on his back. I had been persuading my father for two years to go to some village, hire a shop, put me in the shop and let me work, let him collect the pay, and let me act as general superintendent. He promised to do it, but he was a penurious man and a hard master; that drove me to think of going out on my own hook. He told me one day at evening, (when he came home, after leaving me at picking stones and building a stone fence), that I had made but a poor show of a day's work for a boy 16 years old. He said to me, "You must earn your own living." I said then in my inmost, "It shan't cost you much more, hereafter, to bring me up; I will bring myself up, or I'll go down alone.”


The fall after I was 16, I went. 1 did not run away clandestinely. I told my mother I was going and she gave me an extra clean shirt. I took my kit of tools. All the money I had in my pocket was a pistole, a Spanish piece of silver worth 18 pence. I went to Sullivan County, about a good day's journey from where I lived. My father lived in the town of Wallkill, Orange County, New York. His little farm of 36-3/4 acres was on the line of Minisink Township, now Wa-wa-yanda. I went first to the barron Sullivan County, to an Irish settlement three miles west of Rome Mamakutiny Hollow, now Wortsborough.


I whipped the cat three months on the barrons, then I engaged to work for a merchant in Rome, John Dorannce by name. I hired his shop on a three-months' contract and then started a shop on my own hook. I hired a shop at $10 a year, boarded at James Pines' entertainment house, or Quaker Hotel. He had one son, a drunkard and laborer on the turnpike; one son, Isaac, about my age who attended the house and stables; and two daughters older. James Pines, and Sarah, his wife, were fair types of English country farmers. He thought ale was one of the necessaries of life, as much as tea, coffee, pork and potatoes, or bread. The one of his sons had been made a drunkard by its moderate use, the same as a calf becomes an ox, time makes an egg a cock… (The narrative ends in mid-sentence.)


PAGE TWO


I am told he took several jobs of clearing up the forest, for the privilege of making the ashes into potash. He followed making potash as a business. I heard a farmer say of him, "He cradled 5 acres of buck-wheat for me one morning before breakfast - and didn't have a very early breakfast at that." I have said this much of his leading traits, to show that he was a leading man in his way - physically, he was an aristocrat; and morally, he was a democrat. "Liberty regulated by law, and law regulated by justice, and justice tempered with mercy, and all bound together with charity, or love of neighbor." It he had failings, which no doubt he had, I let them pass.


My father (Elijah) had three brothers younger than himself. The name of one was Wm. N., who was a large man; he had one son who was a printer and three daughters. He lived and died an inebriate; he might have been a man like another brother, David, a man of talent and ability, but whiskey robbed the country of his usefulness, and his family of his time and talents. He lived during the War of 1812-14, and came home. lnstead of educating four boys and three girls, he left them without a protector; they all went out like lost sheep.


Luther, another brother, went to Ohio in 1810. He had seven or eight children. He was an industrious, sober man. All I ever heard of him was that he was a schoolteacher, and one of his sons was a Methodist preacher. Luther was a man of 5 feet 6 inches high, and rather slim build. The others were all men of a mechanical turn, and whatever they did was well done mechanically – quite superior. So much so, it was a common remark, "They can dc anything they try, and they are always trying to do something that nobody else has done."


1 will dismiss this subject of the character and natural abilities of my predecessors and relations with this: George Banister, my grandfather, and his four sons and two daughters, with good training and education under favorable circumstances, would have been capable of occupying a high seat in the grand business of humanity of any country in the world or any state in America or the United States. Circumstances have much to do, not all, in making men what they are. Man is a creator of circumstance in that he is in the image of God, in the bodily shape, I think. And while sorrowing over the surrounding circumstances that encompassed me in youth and early manhood, I resolved to create around me and my children and my fellow citizens, such a state of circumstance, that they must, and will be better and happier for my having thrown around them such barricades against the enemy of man, and placing in their path attractions to virtue and self-reliance, as is calculated to inspire hope and self-reliance.


My father (Elijah) had four sons namely: George, Isaac, David and Sanford, and one daughter, Phoebe. George was a bookkeeper for E. Peck & Son, an importer of tin and sheet lead, etc., in New York, who had a wire factory at Havestraw, a wealthy firm. He was a highly respected man by the firm and loved and respected by the Presbyterian Church, of which he was an active member. He was married in 1820 to Mary Howell, a daughter of John Howell of Hopewell He died in New York in 1849, aged 49 years, of ship fever, contracted by going into an emigrant house to procure laborers for his employers for wire work at Haverstraw. He died without issue, and his property amounting to about $5,000 fell into his father's hand, which I always considered an unjust law. Now the law is altered but still I consider it unjust, and a relic of English aristocracy, which now gives the widow of a man dying intestate without children only one-half of the personal property, which he and his wife have made and saved. Whereas, they were equal partners, and if she had died without issue, the whole estate, the law says, would go to him. Then she should have the whole, or if she has a right to but one-half, then she should have the same right to will at her decease, one equal half to whom she chooses. I give this out as a prophetical that it will be the law in America in time, when

justice reign over us. The most unjust law I know of is: that a rascal may put all his property into his wife's hands, and then live in his wife's palace, like a prince. And his creditors suffer for bread, whose hard earnings have been used in building that palace, and those poor men despised and scorned by the occupant of that palatial mansion. But I will dismiss this digression.


PAGE THREE


Next, I have a brother, David, who did wrong and went west, whither, I never knew. There was another brother, Sanford, who at the age of 19 married a daughter of Elihue Cary. He went to Horseheads, and followed farmery - opened his farm, had a large family, three boys and four girls, held a respectable station in society for anything I know and as I had some dispute with him in a settlement, I broke off all intercourse with him.


My sister, Phoebe, married a man by the name of Nathan H. Corwin, a highly respectable but broken merchant by whom she had two daughters. They were young ladies of superior talents; the elder held the place of Professor of Mathematics in Wells College, near Auburn, New York, and the younger graduated in Newark Normal School as teacher, and acquitted herself with high honors.


Now I come to speak of myself in the first person, dedicating my remarks to my son, James Albert (Banister).


My Dear Son James:


As you have often expressed a desire that I would write out a history of my commencement in life, and what I know of my ancestry, I have agreed to your wishes, and endeavored to comply with wishes in stating what I know of my ancestors in the foregoing. It is not much I know, and not flattering what I do know. But when I now come to speak of myself, if I speak in a manner that seems to you, bragging too much, rub it out, and couch it in language more modest and becoming for a humble mechanic, without culture of refinement and education. (I was always called a brag).


I was born in Thomsontown, in the county of what is now know as Sullivan County, a part of what is now called Orange.


The first thing I remember was running a footrace with a boy of about my age, named Bill Young. Isaac Van Nauken, a brother-in-law of O.G. Finch, in the village of Skunktown, or what was afterwards called Finchville, had been out a-gunning, and had killed a red squirrel. He laid the squirrel down at one end of the square (the square was a green plot about 20 rods long and 8 rods wide). We were to have an eyen start at one end, and run to the other end of the square where the squirrel was placed on the grass. The one that touched it first was to have the squirrel. I got the squirrel.


The next thing, when I was eight years old, I went to school to Mrs. Young. The schoolhouse was about one mile south of Hockin's Brook, and I had to carry my dinner in a girl's work satchel, my parents not being able to afford me a dinner basket. From here we moved to the mountain road near the Payboult's farms, about two miles southwest of Otisville. From that place the house is still standing. I went to school to Deer Park Plains. Stephen Farham taught the school It was here my brother, George, four years older than I, went with me to school.


He was a slender, puny boy, 15 years of age, and I was 11 when he was graduated as a teacher of common school. The legislature had just passed a law that two trustees and a justice of the peace should examine any applicant for schoolteacher and. if found competent, they should give him a certificate to that effect. If no justice of the peace was convenient, any Minister of the Gospel might take his place. George was examined by the said committee, and came home with his credential of competency to teach in common school. To prepare for this situation, he went to school to Henry Clark (afterwards Judge Clark). He spent three months to study English grammar. During those three months his tasks were to cut the wood at the door, make the fires, do the chores, walk 2-1/2 miles to this school, and, if he could, learn grammar. If he learned grammar in three months and got a certificate, he might go and try it. If not, he must stick to the last, for he could earn good wages at that. He did go and taught with acceptance three quarters in Durpark. Then he went to Bullville and taught several years. He afterwards married Mary Howell, daughter of John Howell, of Hopewell, a wealthy farmer. He was to me a brother beloved. He died in 1849 in the city of New York, where he had been a confidential bookkeeper for E. Peck & Son, corner of Cliff & Fulton Sts.


On one occasion, he was in the sixth story when the building fell. Two-thirds of that large store fell from top to sub-cellar and he was in the one-third part that stood. The cause of the fail was that the jackscrews used to stow away bales of cotton in the upper loft pressed the building apart so that the crop beams slipped off the long summer (?). The building spread above and fell with tremendous weight accumulating at each story, then went down to the sub-cellar which was stowed with punch and other foreign wines. He escaped, unhurt; seven persons were burned in the ruins, if I remember correctly.


About this time, at the close of the war of 1812-14, the last war with Great Britain, I was 11 years old and was going to school where my brother was graduated. Not being so extremely anxious about the science of grammar, letters and figures, I turned my attention to the more materials arts, such as the manufacture of guns, swords and war implements made of shingles and strips of pine boards, for the boys to play soldier with. I was called an expert with the jackknife. I had a good run of business at equipping several regiments with them, but as that became unpopular, I turned my attention to covering bails and manufacturing Boy's Ball Cluhs, which brought me no small gain.


My ambition grew wonderfully until I took occasion, in the absence of my father, to borrow his tools without his consent or my mother's knowledge (for if she had known I was using my father's tools, she would have stopped the enterprise in the beginning). My father was absent on a deer hunt. He used often to take a tramp of two or three days in the back mountain, hunting deer and bears, being more or less successful, as he was a good shot with the rifle.


I sawed off the end of a whitewood rail on the fence when I found one longer than was necessary for the fence, because I wanted seasoned timber, which was easy to work and file. Of this I made a small last. Having the last finished and pronounced as very good, I procured some light calfskin for the upper and some sole leather for the bottoms. I cut out my upper, for I only calculated for one. I fitted my upper to the last, then I fitted up my soles, and proceeded to put this and that together and finished my shoe the third day. I looked at it and pronounced it good, and very good. I was a proud boy that day! My triumph overcame my fear; I ventured to show it to my mother, expecting to get a thrashing from my father when he came home, and a sound scolding from my mother on the spot. And that would be a good thing for toughening of the hide for stripes the next day. But to my surprise, my mother was so pleased with my success she even made me still prouder. I fairly shouted for joy and my mother laughed and only smiled when she told me she would show it to my father when he came home.


When my father saw what I had done, he called me to him, and laying his hand on my head, said, "Now I know what to do with you. You can earn your bread at fitting boots and shoes, for you can beat me. I could not make as good a boot as that. Now here is leather and tools. Make a mate to it." I made a mate, but it was not equal to the first, but it passed muster (as the military phrase would be).


From that time on I was put at fitting boots and shoes and making shoes and lasts till I was fourteen years old. Then on the 4th of July 1817 I hoed corn for a neighbor by the name of Chas' Buchannon, for which he gave me sixty-three cents, the price then of a day's work for a man. With that money I purchased leather for a pair of fine calf shoes, the first pair of fine shoes I ever had; I made the lasts right and left. The first lasts I had not seen, but had heard of them, and had seen some shoes made in that way. My father reprimanded me for the pride and extravagance by saying in a very unpleasant way, "My boys want to be men before they are old enough." That did not set well on my empty stomach, but roused in me a spirit of independence and self-reliance that never entirely left me.


In order to be understood in those later days, I must explain some of the habits and customs of that age of my country's history. Shoemakers and tailors kept no shops as a general thing. They had a room in their house where they kept their tools and did some small jobs. Their principal work was done in the farmer's houses; fall and spring the farmers would get their leather from the tanners, who tanned their hides and calf skins on shares and gave half the leather. As a rule, they had no money to buy the hides with. The farmers spun their own wool and flax, and the woolen cloth was taken to the mill and frilled* for men's and women's wear, as the wants required. Then the tailor or the shoemaker was called to come on a set day to do up the boots and shoes or the boys' and men's coats and pants, and to cut out the clothes for the smaller children. This was called (technically) cat whipping. The tailor as well as the shoemaker that traveled around to do their work in this was called a cat whipper. Allow me here to explain more fully how this name came into general use. I think it was by Divine Injunction, the same as John Baptist was named when they asked his father. He said, "His name is John because God made him John.” So the cat-whipper came into the world in this wise: as the cord-weaver was running off his cord from the ball, the young cat would catch the ball to play with, and to no small annoyance of the son of Christian, who in his unpleasant mood, would set his trap on the poor innocent kitten, who happened to think this was next to chasing a real mouse. 'You got as I have' is:


"All nature is but art unknown to Thee,


All chance direction which thou canasta not see,


It is no chance to call the swine a hog,


It would be wrong to call a sow a dog"'


Two years I followed cat-whipping, as proud a young man as ever carried a kit of tools on his back. I had been persuading my father for two years to go to some village, hire a shop, put me in the shop and let me work, let him collect the pay, and let me act as general superintendent. He promised to do it, but he was a penurious man and a hard master; that drove me to think of going out on my own hook. He told me one day at evening, (when he came home, after leaving me at picking stones and building a stone fence), that I had made but a poor show of a day's work for a boy 16 years old. He said to me, "You must earn your own living." I said then in my inmost, "It shan't cost you much more, hereafter, to bring me up; I will bring myself up, or I'll go down alone.”


The fall after I was 16, I went. 1 did not run away clandestinely. I told my mother I was going and she gave me an extra clean shirt. I took my kit of tools. All the money I had in my pocket was a pistole, a Spanish piece of silver worth 18 pence. I went to Sullivan County, about a good day's journey from where I lived. My father lived in the town of Wallkill, Orange County, New York. His little farm of 36-3/4 acres was on the line of Minisink Township, now Wa-wa-yanda. I went first to the barron Sullivan County, to an Irish settlement three miles west of Rome Mamakutiny Hollow, now Wortsborough.


I whipped the cat three months on the barrons then I engaged to work for a merchant in Rome, John Dorannce by name. I hired his shop on a three-months' contract and then started a shop on my own hook. I hired a shop at $10 a year, boarded at James Pines' entertainment house, or Quaker Hotel. He had one son, a drunkard and laborer on the turnpike; one son Isaac, about my age who attended the house and stables; and two daughters older. James Pines, and Sarah, his wife, were fair types of English country farmers. He thought ale was one of the necessaries of life, as much as tea, coffee, pork and potatoes, or bread. The one of his sons had been made a drunkard by its moderate use, the same as a calf becomes an ox, time makes an egg a cock… (The narrative ends in mid-sentence.)


- From transcribed documents provided by Arthur W. Banister, great-grandson of Isaac Banister.


* New Jersey state documents for Essex County list the age of Isaac Banister at death as seventy-seven.


1. Avoirdupois is a system of measuring weight based on the fact that sixteen ounces are in a pound. The metric system is based on grams, and the avoirdupois system is based on pounds.


2. Last. A foot-shaped form, usually made of wood, from which shoemakers construct a shoe. A last that most closely resembles the contours of the foot results in a shoe with superior fit, style and comfort.


3. Frill. A projection, as of hair, feathers, bone, or cartilage, about the neck of an animal.