The Columbia Republican, September 19, 1901 pg4

The Columbia Republican, pg4

September 19, 1901


How It Was Named—Judge Cadman Interviewed.

A recent number of the “Ladies’ Home Journal” contains an article by Mary T. Patterson, entitled “How the Name of a Village Was Changed”, and we quote the same:

“On the western slope of the Berk­shire Hills is a small village which is literally painted red once in every ten or twelve years. It lies in one of the most picturesque spots of the Taconic range, within easy distance of Lenox and Great Barrington, and near neighbor to all the Canaans of Connecticut and New York.

“Twenty-five years before the war of the Revolution a certain traveling peddler, Silvanus Cunningham by name, crossed the hills, and wended his way through the valley with his wares, to spread them in tempting array before the Jenkinses and Fords, the Davises and Dotys, the Wilcoxes and Parkes of this little settlement. By some untoward happening the peddler’s cart was upset and all his tin­ware and jewelry and dry goods scat­tered along the highway. The vil­lagers rushed to his aid. They righted his cart, soothed his horse and picked up papers of needles, spools of thread and wooden spoons with interested energy.

“But when Sylvanus Cunningham took a hasty inventory of his stock he declared, in language plain and direct, that a large part of his stuff was missing, and, furthermore, he denounced the people of that village as meddlers and thieves, declaring that he thereupon named the place Pilfershire, and by that name and character it should be called in history. As Pilfershire the village was known for seventy-five years.

“Pilfershire was beautifully situated, a goodly land and an eminently respectable community, and naturally the people strongly resented the name thrust upon them by Sylvanus Cunningham.

“In 1825 the indignation, which waxed greater and louder in the gos­sip at the store, found voice in a meeting at the school house when the village fathers declared Pilfershire the malicious expression of an unjust wrath, and threw off the yoke of ignominy forever.

“The village stood nameless upon the face of the earth, while meetings were held every Friday night at the schoolhouse, presided over by the master, to decide upon an honorable name, and one suggestive of local beauty. ‘Red Rock’ was finally proposed as good with a pleasant sound and the name was looked upon with favor. The schoolmaster ventured the observation that as there were no red rocks in the region thereabouts,

‘Gray Rock,’ ‘Spring Rock’ or ‘Fern Cliff’ would be more accurate, and the Latin for any of them be most im­posing. Whereupon a shrewd-faced father suggested overcoming the question­ of color by painting a rock red, and thereby verifying the name.

“As plans developed for painting day and the christening it was furthermore agreed to place a wooden slab upon the rock which was to bear­ the name of the place and the date, that wayfaring men, though fools, should not err therein. The rock was painted a dark rich red, and the slab set in place with great ceremony and a celebration lasting the entire day. The village rejoiced in its new name, and people came for miles around to look upon the red rock that had attained instant fame.

“ ‘Painting day,’ which occurs about every dozen years, has always been the occasion of a great celebration with speeches and merry-making.

“In 1860 the wooden slab was re­placed by a pretentious marble shaft. The oldest inhabitant of Red Rock has never forgotten that greatest of ‘Painting days’ forty years ago. He points to the rock across the road where the speaker stood upon that august occasion, and adds, with a fine show of civic pride, that he sat just behind him, while “on that rock beyant, the band played ‘America.’ The marble monument is firmly riveted to the great blood red stone and bears the inscription:


“It was last painted in the summer of 1899, so that it is comparatively fresh, and the rock itself is not a particle more eternal that the satisfaction of the villagers, who believe they have painted out the stigma of a name given them over a hundred years ago by the disgruntled Silvanus Cunningham.

“Yet in spite of the ingenious Yankee notion which resulted in placing the name of Red Rock on the official map of Columbia county, New York, the old name of the quaint little village has not been entirely obliterated, for the oldest inhabitant in the lapses of memory still babbles fondly of Pilfershire and its peddler.

“When “Republican” representative showed the story to Judge Cadman[1] he was greatly interested, as he was born and spent his boyhood days within two miles of Red Rock, and in 1899 delivered an address at the 150th anniversary of the little town. After reading it, he said: “The story in the main is true. My recollection is that the peddler part is changed a little, as history does not show his wagon to have been upset, but merely a few articles missing from it. Red Rock’s experience with a name is peculiar; for years it had none, and was called “The City”; that, I think, was in the recollection of my father, William Cadman. The indignation meeting at the schoolhouse is an error, I am inclined to think. As I remember it, Ezra D. Park should have the credit of giving the place its name. He kept a school there, and it was through his efforts that it was called “Red Rock,” and under that name recognized as a postoffice. I remember Mr. Park personally; forty years ago he called at my office in Chatham, and we talked of the old village and reminisced.”

Red Rock is about five miles southeast of Chatham, which is its most convenient railroad station, and there will be many a Columbia county resident surprised to learn the fame which has come to the town.

Transcribed from The Columbia Republican, September 19, 1901 pg4

[1] Judge Cadman was my great-great-grandmother Lovisa Cadman Howes’ brother. jhc