The Frontiersmen of New York by Jeptha R. Simms, Albany, NY, 1883
Note from Jim Morrison: Zachariah Keyes supplied testimony for J.C. Smith on how Smith and Willet met at his public house.
Page 484. Anecdotes
of Zachariah Keyes—Here
are several incidents that should have gone in the first volume, in connection
with the large wagon transport, that were accidentally omitted there,
which I think the reader will be pleased to find here. The most eccentric
inn-keeper on the Western Turnpike, was “Zach” Keyes, as familiarly
called, in the time of large covered wagons of whom several pleasing anecdotes
are told. About the year 1817, a Cayuga county merchant went to Albany
on horseback and from thence to New York on a sloop to purchase goods. Steamboats
were then running, but as the fare was from five to seven dollars on them,
and only two dollars on sloops, the latter were still much patronized. Returning
to Albany he there expected to meet teams after his goods; and with finances
low he left the city, hoping to meet his expected teams or some acquaintance
to put him in funds. Toward night he called at several taverns and
made known his condition, but found no one who cared to entertain a stranger
unable to cancel his bill in the morning. He resolved to change his
tactics, and much fatigued he halted at the house of Keyes, about 40 miles
from Albany, making no allusion to his assets. Mine host with the
suavity and politeness of a Frenchman catered to his liberal calls for
the best the house afforded.
In the morning the stranger mounted his horse to resume his journey, and as he drew up the reins, Zach, in his most affable manner, said to him: “Sir, ;I think you have forgotten something?” “No, nothing at all!” replied the stranger, clapping his hand upon a portmanteau, “Sir,” continued the host, “I think you must have forgotten to pay your bill!” “No,” said the traveler emphatically, “I have not forgotten to pay it, but sir, the honest truth is, there is every farthing I have in my pocket!” saying which, he exhibited four solitary coppers. “What may I call your name sir?” demanded Zach with an excited bow. “My name is ____, I am a merchant, reside at _____, Cayuga county, have been to New York to buy goods, my expenses thus far have exceeded my expectation; I left Albany supposing I should meet teams going after my goods, and from the drivers obtain some money.”
Keyes then asked the stranger to dismount and enter the house. Once more in the bar-office, Zach enquired how much money his guest would need to take him home. “Five dollars,” was the reply, “less the amount of your own bill.” As he received the needful from the confiding landlord, he said: “Such a day you may expect the money by mail.’ He once more vaulted into the saddle, was bowed from the door, and was soon out of sight. In due time a letter arrived for the Sharon landlord from his western customer, containing a ten dollar bank note, from which he was directed to cancel his own claim, and retain the balance as a fund for travelers circumstanced as he had been when last at his house. Zach Keyes liked a good practical joke, and as this incident was highly relished, it afforded him an additional yarn to spin on proper occasions.
--From Judge Tiffany, Henry Butler, and others.
A Peep at the Goat.—When Zach Keyes was keeping tavern in Sharon, a Masonic Lodge held its meeting in a ballroom on the second floor of his house; of which lodge he was a prominent member. Over the ballroom was an opening for ventilation, and when the lodge was in session, Stephen, a son of the landlord, of 16 summer, essayed to get over the unfloored timbers of the garret, to see from this hole the proverbial goat; when a misstep let him through the plastering into the lodge room, landing him near his mortified father. Without any ceremony or delay the parent seized his inquisitive boy and cast him neck and heels out of the open window upon the ground; certainly a wise young man if he had nto seen just what he expected to see—for he had learned better how to estimate the strength of lathing, and gained a surer knowledge of his own specific gravity.—John Crownse, a former neighbor of Keyes.
Novel Courtship and Marriage of the Innkeeper Keyes.—About the year 1825, the eccentric Zach Keyes being a widower went to Cherry Valley on horseback; and riding up to the public house then kept by the widow of Thomas Whitaker—a plump and rosy widow—he requested her called to the door. As she appeared with a smile and invited him indoors, he said nay, “I have some business with Esq. Hudson, which shall detain me two hours. I have concluded to marry again, and have thought of you for a wife, and”—
“Pray dismount and come in, Mr. Keyes!” said the charming widow. “No,” said the horseman, “I cannot go in, but if you think favorably of marrying me, you can let me know it on my return.” Her sweetest smile could not win him from the horse, and he rode away.
Returning at the specified time, cupid’s candidate again halted at the widow’s door, who reappeared with bewitching allurements; but the suitor excused himself from her pressing invitations to enter the dwelling, as he desired to know her determination. She was much excited, but at once concluding the event was registered above, and it was folly to war with fate, she blushed and whispered through her smiling tears—“I have concluded to marry you!” He then told her that on a certain day she should with her friends, come to his house, where he would have all things ready for their nuptials, and thus contravene village gossip.
In the absence of a desired clergyman, Keyes secured the services of a Baptist minister residing on the hill above him, and at the appointed time the guests were assembled. The Elder on foot put in his appearance, wearing a Scotch plaid mantle and a straw hat. As he entered the room the eccentric groom thus addressed him: “Now Dominie, if you have any praying to do, please defer it for rainy days and Sundays, but proceed and marry me to Mrs. Whitaker, as soon as the Lord will let you.” As may be supposed, there was no delay in tying the knot after such an episode; and when done, a friend placed in the palm of the Elder, a fee of five silver dollars—casting rather a carnal look upon which, the good man slipped them into his vest pocket. He was tendered a glass of wine which he refused, and after wishing the married couple much happiness, he proceeded directly home. Hawk-eyed people are not uncommon guests at weddings, and one of this kind from a window saw the Dominie take from his pocket, look at and replace the filthy lucre so easily obtained, half a dozen times in going to the old Myndert place, distant from the inn about 20 rods. Somel Coelebs sill in search of a wife may inquire if this couple lived happily? Of course they did, for when was a match ever recorded in Heaven, that did not prove a happy one. –Thomas Machin and John Crownse.