Wednesday, April 19, 2017


  My family, the Montgomery Osterhouts are isolationists. We grew up in a world of Voegelins, Crabtrees, Broas, Suydams, Snyders, and Badaluccos. There were other Osterhouts in town, but we didn't hang with them. Since my Great Grandparents Andrew and Elsie Decker were divorced in 1915, we didn't have much love for the Osterhouts, outside of our tiny orbit. So when I started writing this book, I had no idea how vast and numerous the kin were on the "O" side. Now that the weather has cleared, my research has shifted from the virtual to the actual. If I drive a couple of hours in any direction I can stand on old Osterhout property, granted, bought or stolen in three states. Last week I journeyed along the Susquehanna to the Wyoming Historical Society in Tunkhannock, Pa. to check out that branch and Monday found me in the basement of the old Hurley church facing a table filled with genealogists. I peeked in and they all turned their heads at once, eyes aglow. The only thing missing was the hooded robes and secret handshakes. When I mentioned the name Osterhout they straightened in their thrones, smiled and nodded knowingly. "Welcome my son. What kept you?"
    Turns out you can't toss a spent pack of Newports out the car window without hitting an Osterhout in Sullivan and Ulster Counties. Within three days I had met two complete strangers with grandmothers who were both Osterhouts. The friendly woman in the church basement told me her grandmother was Maude Osterhout. MY grandmother was Maude Miller Osterhout. A man working on his tractor on the Rider farm in Accord told me his grandmother was Sarah Osterhout. The Osterhout homestead, just up the road, built in 1703, remained in the family until 1946. The house is still there, recently purchased and remodeled by "city people." They fucked it up bad. I bought a hand drawn copy of our family tree in Hurley to help me with my research. It looks like a Jackson Pollack drawing....and only covers the kin into the 19th century! There are no lack of Osterhouts to follow.
   I started my story of "O" in the 1650's and will hopefully try to wrap it up by the 1840's. No promises. These were active years for the family. Scalping, kidnappings, murders, and war are commonplace as this bunch breeds,  farms and tries to stay out of jail. Two are calico Indians on trial for the murder of Sheriff Osman Steele and others will become pioneer lawmen and even mormons following Joseph Smith to Missouri. The internet frontier that allows me to make all these family connections on my wall, that's beginning to look like something out of Homeland, can be a friend as well as an enemy. Last night it bit me good.

   The Dutch aborigine I started with back in the fall was named Gysbert Osterhout. There was already a chapter in an old book written by Rev. Charles Rockwell in 1867, that gave me an overview of this "bateaux man" and soldier from Kaaterskill. His attitudes and colorful exploits weren't murderous but they were questionable and not too inclusive of his Native American neighbors. I thought I could work with him, see where he led me. Eight months later I realize he's a saint compared to one of our more infamous cousins. With material provided by the Ulster Genealogical Society I began to follow the matrilineal line of the Accord Osterhouts, and to my surprise and dismay opened the door to one Tom Quick "Indian Slayer," blood drenched, scalping knife in hand.
    I was more than familiar with this serial killer. James E. Quinlan, the 19th century Monticello newspaper man had written a book devoted to his bloodthirsty exploits. Within this book was a chapter on Jacob Osterhout's ordeal, so it already sat on my shelf. Now, with the help of this dense genealogy report I found two Osterhout females married to Quick men and a third, Kryn Osterhout, married to a Decker/Quick woman. Tom was their nephew and our cousin. We are so connected and interbred with the Quicks and Deckers it's a wonder we all don't have tails and seven nipples. This is the risk you run when you open the Osterhout family bible. I won't bore you with who begat who, but I am confident the secret societies would concur, we are direct kin. We are connected through blood to a man whose Milford, Pa. statue was literally torn down in protest by Native Americans in 1997. Tom Quick's bones are still interred in Milford, but the statue thannkfully never returned. There's a historical marker on Rt. 209, not far from the Osterhout farmstead. It reads: "TOM QUICK FARM- Home of Tom Quick, bought from Harmon Hekun, Indian 1676, Quick was killed by Indians and his son slew many a red man in revenge." That's only the half of it.            


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