The Van Tassel Family, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Washington Irving
Washington Irving's Neighbors.
I was at Fort Plain station, on the New York Central Railroad, when I met a respectable-looking man, who, with his wife and child, like myself, were waiting for the train. He told me that he had come in from Cooperstown, where he resided for two years, and was now on his way back to where he had formerly lived-Tarrytown. "Tarrytown?" said I. "That is where Ichabod Crane kept school." "That must have been before I went there to live," he replied. "But," said I, "did you never hear of Ichabod Crane's keeping school at Tarrytown?" No; said he never had. "Well," I said, "I must correct myself. It was not at Tarrytown, but Sleepy Hollow, where the school was." Said he, "I know where that is, well enough. It is just back of Tarrytown. I know where the school-house is, and knew the school-masters and school-ma'ams, and often did work for them at my shop. I knew every house and who lived in it all through there. If any man by the name of Ichabod Crane had kept school there, I could not help knowing it."
"Well," said I, "do you know old Baltus Van Tassell?" Yes, he knew him very well; that is, he presumed it was the one I meant, as there was only one old Mr. Van Tassell there. "But," said he, "he doesn't live in Sleepy Hollow now. He has sold his farm and bought a small place on the border of Tarrytown village." "What sort of a man is he?" I inquired. "Oh!" said he, "he is as fine and jovial an old fellow as you ever saw; fond of stories and full of jokes." "Is he a man of property?" said I. "Yes, he said; "he was quite independent, always paid cash for everything he bought, and since he sold his farm had money to lend." I told him that Mr. Van Tassell had a daughter named Katrina, and asked if he knew her. He said that Mr. Van Tassell had two daughters, who were married and lived away from Sleepy Hollow. He had seen them both when at home on visits with their children; but did not know whether the name of either was Katrina Van Tassell, nor did he know whom they married.
I said that Ichabod Crane courted Katrina Van Tassell, but that she jilted him and married a man named Brom Bones. He remarked that Bones was not a Dutch name. I said that he was probably a Connecticut Yankee, a hired man of some of the Dutch farmers. I told him of the quilting frolic and dance at Mr. Van Tassell's, and the piles of good things-oleycocks, crullers and cakes of all kinds-that Katrina had made with her own hands. How they passed them around with the apples and cider, while Mr. Van Tassell was circulating freely among the company, urging the guests to partake heartily and to be sure to enjoy themselves. He said this sounded very natural; that he had been out to Sleepy Hollow to such gatherings frequently among the Dutch farmers.
I mentioned that Ichabod Crane boarded with Hans Van Riper. He said this
must be a mistake, as there was no such family in Sleepy Hollow. I inquired
if there might not have been at the time of my story. He thought not. That the
Dutch were not like the Yankees, who would sell out whenever they could make
anything of it. The Dutch farmers in Sleepy Hollow had kept on dividing their
farms among their children for so many years that the lots had become very small,
and it was like a continuous village all through there. That I might depend
upon it that if there was ever a family there by the name of Van Riper some
of them would be found there now.
I began to feel that I had gone quite far enough, and that our conversation must be turned in some other direction. I said that what I had been telling him was one of Washington Irving's stories, and that, although founded mainly on fact, was not intended as a strict and accurate account. "Oh!" said he, "I know Mr. Irving well. He lives only three miles from Tarrytown, and is there almost every day in the week. He used to have work done at my shop. He has a beautiful place, and a good many stylish people from the city come out to see him." Said I: "Did you know that he was a great author?" "Yes." Said he; "I have heard it said that he has written a great many books, and that he made his money in that way." "And yet," said I, "did you never read one of them or know what they were?" "No," he replied, "I don't think I ever heard the name of any book that he wrote."-L. L. Dutcher, in N.Y. Independent.
Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) April 19, 1876.
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