THE MOUNTAINS LOOK DOWN
A HISTORY OF CHICHESTER,
A COMPANY TOWN IN THE CATSKILLS
by Reginald R. Bennett
Introduction by Howard Frank Mosher
From Chapter VI--The Boss and the Villagers:
"William Oscar Schwarzwaelder owned the Chichester factory buildings, the store, about fifty houses, various other buildings, including a church, a million feet of hardwood lumber, and eight thousand acres of mountain and valley land. He was the unquestioned leader of the village and to a considerable extent, even outside the pale of the factory, its boss.
He was a graduate of Mount Pleasant Military Academy at Ossining-on -Hudson and of New York University. He had also spent several years in Prussian universities. By nature and training he was an aristocrat whose aristocracy was frequently shaded with autocracy, but he was shrewd enough, when occasion demanded, to substitute effective diplomacy for autocratic method.
The Boss dressed immaculate, his attire blending with his personality rather than enhancing it. He had the erect carriage of an army officer together with a military man's meticulous manner of doing things. His husky voice, with its even tempo, was penetrating and compelling. He would have been, probably, an outstanding, a remarkable, person in any situation, in any group. In Chichester he was without question the Boss.
In 1898 he was elected trustee of the school district, and postmaster. W.O. never paid much attention to his post office, leaving the entire handling of it to an assistant, but he took a genuine interest in his school. His school records, consisting of salary payments to teachers, supply purchases and so on, were made carefully in his own handwriting, which was excellent. At the end of each term he gave prizes to the pupils for attendance and scholastic attainment. He also took an active part in church work, teaching a Bible class, and contributing generously to the minister's salary.
In his dealings with his customers he was shrewd, honest, prompt, and truthful. His motto was 'Quality, service, and fair treatment,' and he consistently lived up to the spirit of it as well as the letter. To his way of thinking it was good business to practice such a policy.
Schwarzwaelder gave his employees steady work and a never failing paycheck. The wages, considering the times and the local cost of living, were probably fair. They were never generous. He was, however, in no sense a harsh taskmaster. On the job, men were supposed to keep working, but they were not required to work too fast or too hard, although some of them, through habit or nature, were inclined to do so. On the other hand, some tended to loaf at every opportunity. The majority were steady, honest workers, exactly what he wanted."
Welcome to Chichester, for the better part of a century, a flourishing company woodworking town in the Catskills and the setting of Reginald Bennett's wonderfully entertaining anecdotal history, The Mountains Look Down. From its origin in 1863, as a tiny mountain hamlet with a water-powered chair factory, to its heyday in the early 1900s as a manufacturer of some of the finest office furniture in America, Chichester and its residents were uniquely shaped by the Catskills, which Reginald Bennett knew inside out. A beautifully written story abounding with portraits of three generations of Chichester woodworkers, hunters, fly fisherman, ginseng gatherers, storytellers, beekeepers, evangelists, moonshiners, and barnburners, The Mountains Look Down is at once a superb regional history and an unforgettable evocation of a way of life whose like will not be seen again, in the Catskill Mountains or elsewhere.
Featured in the April 1999 issue of Hudson Valley Magazine.
Reginal R. Bennett was a lifelong resident of Chichester and nearby Phoenicia. He was a renowned educator, trout fisherman, town-team baseball pitcher, and storyteller. The local Reginald R. Bennett Elementary School was named for him, to honor his many contributions to the central Catskill Mountains.
Howard Frank Mosher was born in the Catskills and lived part of his boyhood in Chichester. He is the author of a memoir, North Country, and six novels, including the forthcoming The Fall of the Year.
143 pages, illustrated, 6 x 9
$15.00 paperback--A Purple Mountain Press original
Copyright © 1999 Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.