Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2003 Issue

The Dutch Dominie of the Catskills<br>By David Murdoch

Dutch1

The Dutch Dominie of the Catskills... published in 1861


In reading “The Dutch Dominie of the Catskills...,” a work of fiction first printed in 1861, I encountered an interesting account of the Revolutionary War era in the Catskill mountain region. I also encountered a very harsh presentation of Blacks. I then sought to learn more about the writer, the Rev. David Murdoch, to try to understand if his presentation of Blacks was motivated by honest feelings or deep prejudice. What I uncovered is a complex weave of circumstantial evidence that is included here for those who may wish to pursue this inquiry to its last word. Clearly, the true feelings and motivations are not easily discerned for even a hundred years later both the church he pastored and the church he then helped found continued to argue over these very issues.

The suggested sequence of reading is this.
  1. The Dutch Dominie of the Catskills – a review and commentary (this piece)
  2. The Doctrine of Caiaphas by Rev. David Murdoch. This is his account of his nine and a half years as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Elmira (1851-1861);
  3. The obituary of Rev. Murdoch as published in the Elmira Gazette, July, 1861;
  4. Two obituaries of Tracy Beadle, the man who opposed Rev. Murdoch;
  5. Excerpts from various local documents that cast some additional light.

I issue you a fair warning. This is a complex issue. Much of the writing is very well executed. In total, but not including the book I first review, these pieces run to more than 21,000 words. The full text of the book will be posted if there is an interest to do so.

The Dutch Dominie of the Catskills; Or, The Times of The "Bloody Brandt,” covers a brief period during the Revolutionary War – the fall of 1778, in the Catskill Mountain region of upstate New York. It is a work of historical fiction right from the get-go and yet manages to convey an historical honesty that is convincing. This book is written by the Rev. David Murdoch and first published in 1861 before being reprinted in 1865 under the altered title: The Royalist’s Daughter and the Rebels or, the Dutch Dominie of the Catskills. A Tale of the Revolution. It is really a series of interconnected stories of the local population, the Indians, their relationship to the British and the life and drama of that time. It is not that the events are entirely true but that they seem real. This account sensitively portrays the Dutch, is reasonably even handed with the Indians and very harsh on the Blacks. The most surprising and important element in the book is its casual assumption of slaves as less than human. Neither do I recall any Blacks in this book that are not slaves.

I have concluded that the Rev. Dr. Murdoch was certainly an intellectually gifted and conservative man who was incapable of applying varnish. He preferred the natural wood. I therefore believe his account of life, at the time of Revolution, is what he believed it to have been. And while his description of the Black experience at that time is by no stretch the theme of this book, it is a compelling picture of 18th century racial views and a cautionary tale for racial relations today.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> C.F. Payne, <i>Micawber—Imitating Norman Rockwell's "Triple self-portrait,"</i> acrylic, watercolor & colored pencil, 2002. Sold June 2021 for $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Jane Russell, archive of letters written during a whaling voyage, 1840s. Sold July 2021 for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Guild of Women Binders, exhibition binding of A.F. Pollard’s <i>Henry VIII,</i> London, 1902. Sold July 2021 for $12,350.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Robert Frost, <i>Collected Poems,</i> author’s presentation copy, signed, with entirety of <i>Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening</i> inscribed, NY, 1930. Sold June 2021 for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> James Joyce, <i>Ulysses,</i> deluxe limited issue, signed, London, 1936. Sold June 2021 for $21,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Mercator [family], <i>[World and Continents],</i> 5 double-page maps, Amsterdam, c. 1633. Sold June 2021 for $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Schlegel, <i>New York, Taken from Central Park,</i> hand-finished color-tinted lithograph, 1874. Sold June 2021 for $11,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolaus Copernicus, <i>De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium,</i> second edition, Basel, 1566. Sold April 2021 for $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Book of Hours, Use of Utrecht, illuminated manuscript, c. 1435-45. Sold April 2021 for $60,000.
  • <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>& Works on Paper<br>30th September 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Bible, English. The Holy Bible, Second Folio edition, the "Great She Bible", engraved More-Speed 1611 map of Canaan, Robert Barker, 1613-11. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Galilei (Galileo). <i>Opere,</i> 2 vol., first collected edition, Bologna, Heirs of Dozza for Carlo Manolessi, 1656-1655. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Venetian choirbook.- Single leaf from a 13th century Venetian antiphonal, with large decorated initial, manuscript on vellum, Venice, [c.1260]. £6,000 to £8,000.
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    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Petrarca (Francesco). <i>Rerum vulrgarium fragmenta,</i> decorated manuscript on paper, Italy, [second half of the 15th century]. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> New York School of abstract expressionists.- Abbott (Mary Lee). [Sketch book of original artwork], [New York], 1945. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Contemporary colouring.- Nitzschewitz (Hermannus). <i>Novum beatae Mariaevirginis psalterium,</i> Zinna, Press of the Cistercian Monastery, 1493. £4,000 to £6,000.
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    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Shakespeare source book.- Montemayor (Jorge de). Diana of George of Montemayor: translated out of Spanish into English by Bartholomew Yong, first edition in English, B[ishop]., 1598. £6,000 to £8,000.
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    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Power and the Glory,</i> first edition, 1940. £6,000 to £8,000.
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    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Crowley (Aleister). View of the Tyrrhenian Sea, probably from the hill behind the abbey of Thelema, Cefalù, Sicily, charcoal, [1921]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Fleming (Ian). <i>Casino Royale,</i> first edition, 1953. £12,000 to £18,000.
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    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Athanasius. <i>Illustrium Virorum Opuscula,</i> Paris, 1500. $4,000 to $6,000.
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    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b><br>S. Bonaventure. <i>Commentarius in Secundum Librum Sententiarum Petri Lombardi,</i> Venice, 1477. $2,000 to $4,000.
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    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Scotus, Duns. <i>Quaestiones in Quattuor Libros Sententiarum,</i> 1476-1477. $2,000 to $4,000.
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    <center><b>iGavel Auctions<br>Antiquarian and Other Books<br>September 14 – October 12</b>
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $2,000 to $3,000.
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