Altamont Enterprise 1889 article

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Altamont Enterprise 13 Jul 1889

History of Bern

Its Elements of Strength.


We have spoken in other papers of some of the builders of the town of Berne. We now place beside them in the gallery of our thought, the name and life of Peter Ball. In the old homestead upon the farm which for generations had been in possession of the family, the subject of this sketch first saw the light of day, on February 1st, 1798. It was in this old house, the ruins of which may yet be seen, where our friend grew to vigorous manhood, inheriting the sterling traits and manly independence of his ancestry. In course of time this structure gave place to the one which now stands at the western end of the village. It was here where the battle was fought so desperately in the years of what is known as the anti-rent war. This was the rallying point for those engaged in this struggle for liberty, and it is said that the musket-balls of the enemy are still imbedded in the timbers of this structure. Mr. Ball was the central figure in a contest which lasted for well-nigh half a century; the champion of anti-rent, and the determined opponent of the claims imposed by a system of feudal tenure. From the opening of manhood even down to old age he carried the injured rights of his constituents upon his heart, and sought by legitimate means to have the lights of the people honored. To do this it cost him much, even all he had; but no one looking back from this point of time, can question his motives or the integrity of his purpose. In the heat of the struggle he was often sadly misjudged by those who were less ardent in the cause, but amid all the reverses of fortune, he never once lost hope. Through his constant agitation of the subject and by appeals in the several courts of the state, many of the rights of those engaged in the struggle were conceded. The patroon, through fear of finally losing his claim, disposed of a number of his estates to those who were submissive for a very small consideration, and at last transferred all his interests in the town to a party for half the actual value. Still the agitation went on until the 2nd party sold to a 3rd for less than half of what it cost them. Thus through the persistent efforts of Peter Ball, many gained what they anxiously sought for with but little sacrifice, while nearly the whole town became the property of a speculator. The writer is indebted to Amos W. Ball [his son] of Kinderhook, N. Y., for the facts which underlie this history and which may be authenticated by diaries in his possession.

With the transfer of the property to other hands came the forcible ejectment of the principal actors in the struggle. On Friday, February 17th, 1860, the sheriff and his posse, some fourteen or fifteen in number, armed with clubs, pistols and handcuffs to find any that might be found to oppose, suddenly came upon the peaceable dwelling of Peter Ball. Himself and wife, George, his son, a sick daughter and their servant were forced from their comfortable home on one of the coldest days of the winter and in the face of a furious snow storm. This work continued for five days, when the house and buildings were stripped of all that was moveable. For three days, the household furniture, the wearing apparel and the many mementoes that had accumulated from childhood, were scattered upon the public highway, while some of the goods were destroyed and one animal was killed. The sight of all this, aroused both the indignation and the sympathy of the people, so that on the 25th of this month, great numbers came from far and near and placed the family and their belongings again into the buildings. On that day there was great rejoicing and a large land-owners meeting was held in the village which was addressed by some of the foremost men of the town. Resolutions were passed commending Peter Ball for standing out so bravely and also that no more rent be paid. Possession of the farm was held from this time until August 1st, 1865, when the enemy appeared again to take the land, the personal property and all, as was claimed, for the cost that had accrued in the litigation. Other parties, at this time, were put in possession of the place, while the family [members] were distributed among their sons in the village. After being out of possession for about two months, George, the son, contracted for the return of the farm for a home for his father and mother, and on Oct. 9th, 1865, again obtained possession. On Oct. 12th George was taken sick, and died on the 26th. This was a sad blow for the family as he was the only son that remained at home and upon whom the whole management of the farm depended." But divine providence had returned the younger son, Jerome, from the war and he volunteered to take the place of his deceased brother. The family remained unmolested until 1874 when they were ejected for the last time, and no effort was made after that to obtain possession of the farm. Worn down through the infirmities of advancing age, but with a still brave and hopeful heart, Mr. Ball retired from the field of conflict and for two years afterward made his home with his son William in the village of Berne. At the close of this period of time he went to Cohoes and spent the balance of his life with his son Jerome. Here his physical powers gradually waned and sight failed him, so that he could no longer enjoy, as he was wont, the objects and scenes which buoyed him up in life. On the 28th of August 1883, at the age of 86 he sweetly fell asleep. His funeral took place in the Reformed church of Berne on the 30th instant amid a large concourse of people, and his body was laid to rest in the Pine Grove Cemetery [now called the Beaverdam Cemetery] of his native town, among a host of pious ancestry.