Needless to say, this bit of news piqued my curiosity, and I decided to find out more about Amos Priest. I discovered that he was an engineer. Early in his career, he was the second engineer on the Hudson River steamboat New Champion. Later on, he went to work for the Allen Paper Car Wheel Works, located in what is now Basilica Hudson.
|Smithsonian Institution|National Museum of American History|
As an adult, Priest lived in Hudson, at 236 Allen Street, but he was originally from Catskill. He grew up on Cauterskill Creek, where he learned to skate as a child. Throughout his life, Priest, "a great straightaway and fancy skater," was known for his speed and distance skating as well as for his agility as a figure skater. The local newspapers frequently reported on his ice skating feats. In 1893, he was the first that winter to skate from Hudson to Catskill and back--a journey he took regularly over the years to visit relatives who lived on Main Street. On March 4, 1904, Priest, then 58, skated from Hudson to Tarrytown--"a distance of 95 miles in nine hours and five minutes." On January 18, 1910, the Columbia Republican reported this accomplishment by Priest, who was then 64: "A week ago Sunday he skated to Catskill and back again and made pretty fast time. He can cut rings around some fancy skaters here who are much younger than he is."
But it was his journey on ice skates from Hudson to Albany, at the age of 72, that brought him the most fame. It was reported by the local papers on both sides of the river, of course, and the story was picked up by papers throughout the region: the New Berlin Gazette, the Deruyter Gleaner, the Cazenovia Republican, the Windham Journal, the Homer Republican, the Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle, and the Rochester Evening Express.
Sadly, only five months later, the Columbia Republican for August 6, 1918, reported that Priest had suffered a stroke while pruning the elm tree in front of this house.
Priest never recovered from the stroke, and a week later, his death on August 11, 1918, was reported in the Columbia Republican.
On August 16, the Catskill Recorder published his obituary.