John Howes' House at Mt. Pleasant by Eberle

John Howes' House, Mt. Pleasant

From a Photograph by John A. Eberle

August 27, 1905

Uncle George and the Cigar Box Fiddle

While searching old newspapers for hints to my family history around Mt. Pleasant (aka Fog Hill), and looking for information about the Red Rock and Mt. Pleasant Telephone Co. I came across these cool stories, one about Amos Jackson, and another about my dad's kid brother George. I had never heard of Amos Jackson. And I never heard about Uncle George's fiddling either.

Dad mentioned one time playing banjo with his mom at the Show Boat in New Lebanon NY. I'm now thinking their little ensamble could have included Uncle George as well as "Pop" Sweet who grew up in the Fog Hill area, married my dad's Aunt Margaret Coxon (front row, right, in this picture) and went on to make a name for himself as a fiddler and caller. I'm guessing they all might have played together at times but I haven't tried to research that yet.


Receives $50 Offered by Times-Union—Was Born in Town of Chatham and Has Played Violin 65 Years—Pupil of Prof. Ed. Lee.

Amos Jackson of Ghent, 77, winner of the Times Union old time fiddler’s contest in Albany Tuesday evening, has played the violin since he was twelve years old. He now holds the title of champion fiddler in the Albany area.

He was born in the town of Chatham and says that one night he heard a man playing a violin, was pleased with the music and decided to learn to play. His mother was opposed to the idea because, she said, she believed it would interfere with his education "and," remarked Amos "She was right; it did."

A man named Horace Halsey who lived in the community called Piersonville[1], near Chatham, gave him a violin. He started taking lessons from Professor Edward Lee, an old-time musician who lived in Hudson and who became better known as a violin player and orchestra leader than any other man in Columbia county before or since. He also took lessons of Emil Percelt, an Albany man who was a widely known teacher at that time. During these years Jackson lived near Red Rock, a small village in the town of Canaan.

When he was fourteen years old he played for his first dance which was held in the kitchen in the home of Oscar Vandenburg[2] who lived in Piersonville. From 8:30 in the evening until 2:00 o’clock in the morning he played alone and was highly complimented at the conclusion of the dance.

For his services he received seventy-five cents, his supper and a pair of socks.

He made rapid progress with his lessons and in a comparatively brief time his services were in wide demand. Prof. Lee was so favorably impressed by his playing that he frequently used him in his orchestra in various parts of Columbia county and in adjoining counties.

Jackson finally organized his own orchestra, a member of which was Archie Brown of Albany, a well known cornet player. Another member was Joseph Marone of Albany a harp player of unusual ability. He and Jackson composed the entire orchestra at hundreds of dances in various sections.

Although Jackson is a colored man, none of the Columbia county musicians drew the color line and he was always welcome in any orchestra because of his ability and pleasing personality.

His fame spread beyond the confines of the county and he frequently played in Pittsfield, Great Barrington and Sheffield, Mass., and Canaan Conn.

Every Saturday evening for twenty-six years he has played the violin for dances in Odd Fellows Hall on Beaver street in Albany where the Symphonic dancing class meets. Here he plays both the modern and old- time music. He says he learned to play jazz because it was necessary and not because he liked it. He prefers the old-fashioned selections.

He says that although he has not kept an accurate account, he has earned thousands of dollars with his violin.

For many years he was a resident of Chatham where he was employed as delivery clerk by W. H. Ten Broeck, grocer, and later by the late Charles Hawley in a hardware store. After Mr. Hawley sold the business, Jackson moved to Albany and resided there until a few years ago when he came to Ghent[3].

The violin he played in the contest was loaned by Orville Ferris at Kline Kill, near Chatham. Its age is not known although is considerably more than 150 years old and is valued at $500.

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, Thursday, Feb. 25, 1926

[1] Piersonville is the neighborhood around the intersection of Columbia Co. Rt. 9 and Ten Broeck Road.

[2] From the below article the Oscar Vandenburg home would most likely have been the home north of the Piersonville school house. I'm not sure but I think my mother's Cousin Maida Goodrich lived there in the 'thirties and taught at the Piersonville school. Later it was home to Bob Mabey and his young family and, later still, Ron Eighenbrodt and his family lived there. However, the D. G. Beers Atlas of Columbia County N. Y. of 1873 shows the Vandeburg home across the road from the school house. This was the house where my Uncle George (Bill) Goodrich lived in the late '40s early '50 when he built his cabinet shop next door, later to become my residence and cabinet shop in the '70s and '80s.

[3] Somewhere (I can't find it now) I saw a reference to Amos Jackson spending his twilight years at the Alms House in Ghent.


Although Hindered by Many Obstacles, George Coxon of Fog Hill is Determined to Learn to Fiddle.

Reading the article in last weeks Courier about Amos Jackson, an old time fiddler, and the few lines "Music Has its Charms" about George Coxon, he being a young acquaintance of mine, brings to my mind a few interesting things in regard to this young man.

George, who is but sixteen years old lives on a farm on Mt. Pleasant[1] more commonly known as "Fog Hill" or "Huckleberry Mt." not far from Red Rock one of the highest, driest and most inaccessible places this side of the Himalayas. He is a grandson of John Howes who formerly lived on this farm.

George is a young man of exceptional musical talents. His musical education started a short time ago when he got possession of a mandolin. After playing it by ear for a while he began to think about taking lessons but how could he take lessons when there was no mandolin instructor within commuting distance.

As a result George began to think ahout violins but as violins don’t grow on huckleberry bushes he endeavored to make one from a cigar box, in this he was quite successful but then, how could one fiddle without a bow so after rummaging around in the attic he finally came across an old bow which once belonged to his great uncle[2] but with age had lost the horse hair so George procured a lock of hair from "Old Dobbin's Tail" which he used to complete the bow.

In sawing on this cigar box instrument he soon became quite proficient but as a baby can’t creep all its life he soon outgrew this musical sawhorse and by this time was what some would call "fiddle crazy" He played so earnestly and stuck to it so faithfully that his father bought him a real violin. He at once began taking lessons of Chauncey Smith, violin instructor and orchestra leader of State Line, Mass[3].

George tells me that after a heavy snow it is almost impossible to travel in that section without the aid of snowshoes, skiis or wings, therefore, he says, he occasionally misses a lesson.

George loves to listen to other musicians and from them has learned several old-time dance pieces which he delights in playing.

He recently displayed his musical ability for the first time in public by contributing a few selections at the dances held in the Piersonville school house.

The interesting part of this is that this school house is next to the former Oscar Vanderburg place where Amos Jackson first displayed his talent at the age of fourteen years.

Who knows but what George when an old man, may play in some contest and win a prize or, like Mollie Dunham, may fiddle for some future industrial magnate such as Henry Ford?

X. Y. Z.

Transcribed from: The Courier, Thurs., March 4, 1926

[1] Apparently this area around Barrett Pond was more widely known as Mt. Pleasant back in the day. I had never heard it called that until I started researching John Howes and the Fog Hill area Dad always spoke so fondly of. Barrett Pond was known in my time as Fog Hill Pond and now I've also found it called John Howes' Pond on occassion. John's farm was the old Barrett place and is now part of the Beebe Hill State Forest. I think my grandparents James and Iva Howes Coxon and children Jack and George moved in with her father shortly after her mother, Great Grandma Adelaide Howes, died in October 1912. And so it would seem Dad and Uncle George, and later their sisters Jennie and Florence, grew up there; something I never knew!

[2] Who was this great uncle?

[3] State Line Mass., which lies along I-90 just over the State line, is about 4 miles over the hill from John Howes' farm.


Frank C. Osmers of Haworth, N. J., was a week end guest at James Coxon's.

George Coxon went on skiis to State Line Saturday to take his violin lesson.

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, 1926, Fog Hill column (sorry, I don't have the exact date. jhc)