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Punctuation and Logic of Compound Main Clauses
From Rip Van Winkle, by Washington Irving
Analysis Key

Remember that the objective of these assignments is to have the students consider the logical implications. Styles have changed, but even older texts like this one often reflect current usage.

1. The very village was altered (P) | : it was larger (PA) and more 

     populous (PA). |

This fits current usage--the colon precedes a main clause that explains the first main clause in more detail.
2. There stood the Kaatskill mountains | -- there ran the silver Hudson

     {at a distance} | -- there was every hill and dale precisely [#1] [Adv. to

      "was" as it had always been] | -- Rip was sorely perplexed (P). |

Do the first two dashes spread out the individual statements, as if Rip is taking the time to look from one to the next? The last clause, however, is different in nature. Would modern usage make that distinction by using semicolons in place of the first two dashes and a dash before "Rip"? The first three clauses describe what perplexed Rip.
3. He found the house gone [#2] {to decay} | -- the roof had fallen in, | the 

     windows *had* shattered, | and the doors *were* {off the hinges}. |

The three clauses that follow the dash explain (amplify) the first main clause. For the ellipsis, see KISS Level 3.2.1 - Ellipsis in Clauses.
4. "Oh [Inj], Brom Dutcher went off {to the army} {in the beginning} {of the 

      war}; | some say [DO he was killed (P) {at the storming} {of Stony-Point}] |

     -- others say [DO he was drowned (P) {in a squall} {at the foot} {of

      Antony's Nose}]. |

In this sentence, the semicolon and dash appear to be just the opposite of current usage. Many modern writers would use a semicolon between the "some" and "others" clauses to emphasize the contrast. 
5. His familiar haunts had disappeared. | Strange names were {over the

     doors} | -- strange faces *were* {at the windows} | -- everything was 

     strange (PA). |

The dashes in this sentence function almost like those in the second (above), separating and slowing the pace between individual but related observations.
6. He again called and whistled {after his dog} ; | he was only answered (P)

     {by the cawing} {of a flock} {of idle crows}. |

One would expect his dog to respond, so does the semicolon suggest the difference between the expectation and the reality?
7. They were dressed (P) {in quaint outlandish fashion} ; | some wore short

     doublets (DO), | others *wore* jerkins (DO), {with long knives} {in

      their belts}, | and most {of them} had enormous breeches (DO), {of 

      similar style} {with that} {of the guide's *style*}. | Their visages, too, were 

     peculiar (PA) ; | one had a large head (DO), broad face (DO), and 

     small piggish eyes (DO) ; | the face {of another} seemed to consist [#3] 

     entirely {of nose}, and was surmounted (P) {by a white sugar-loaf hat}

     set [#4] off {with a little red cock's tail}. |

The semicolon after "fashion" is following by an amplification, not by a contrast. The same is true of the semicolon after "peculiar." In both cases many modern writers would probably have used a dash.

Notes
1. "Precisely" modifies the following subordinate clause. (You will have a hard time finding this explained in most grammar textbooks.)
2. Most grammarians would consider "house" the direct object and "gone" a gerundive that modifies "house." In KISS Level 5.8 (Noun Absolutes), many people may prefer to see "house gone" as the core of a noun absolute that functions as the direct object of "found."
3. The verbal (infinitive) "to consist" functions as an adverb (of manner) to "seemed."
4. The verbal (gerundive) "set" functions as an adjective to "hat."