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Amasa J. (Amasa Junius) Parker.

Landmarks of Albany County, New York online

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Shay, was later a merchant and justice of the peace at that village.

Major John Edwards, a Revolutionary soldier, at the close of the
war settled at Preston Hollow, where he spent the remainder of his
days.

In the southwestern part of the town, near Potter Hollow, Gerardus
Drake, a prominent member of the Society of Friends, settled in 1803.
This society increased in number and soon a church was founded at
Potter Hollow. John Drake, himsell an influential Quaker, came to
the same place in 1808, and lived near Gerardus, while Abrara and
Jeremiah Young and Aaron VVinne settled in the same vicinity in
1790.

Michael Brand, a German, came during the Revolution from Scho-
harie county and settled in this town on land in lot No 225, which is
now the farm of William Chapman. About 1783, at which time there
was but one dwelling in the village of Rensselaerville, John Coons, from
Columbia county, squatted on lot No. i 18, and Silas Sweet came from
West Stockbridge, Mass.. and settled abcut one mile from Rensselaer-
ville village.

In 1770 Derrick Vandyke settled upon a piece of land upon the flats
just above the village of Preston Hollow, now occupied by John Hess,
and was the first settler in the southwestern part of the town. Tradi-
tion has it that during the Revolution he was a Tory. At this time
there were five footpaths or trails used by the Schoharie Indians, the
main path beginning at Catskill and following the creek of that name
up to its source at the vlaie, and running thence to Middleburg, pass-
ing through the site of Preston Hollow. Over this route now runs the
Schoharie turnpike. This path was traversed by the Indians of the
Stockbridge and Schoharie tribes, the former tribe being in the habit
of camping for weeks on what is now Coon's meadow in Preston Hol-
low, during their fishing season in the Catskill Creek.

The most prominent stream of Rensselaerville is Catskill Creek, which
rises in Schoharie county and runs southerly through the southwestern



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portion of the town, emptjing into the Hudson at Catskill. The re-
maining streams are Eight and Ten Mile Creeks, both in the eastern
part of the town and which join just south of Medusa.

There are four villages in the town, and two hamlets.

Preston Hollow, the largest village, is situated in the Catskill valley
near the mountains of that name, in the southwestern part of the town,
on Catskill Creek, its population being about 600. The first settlers
here were Andries Huyck, on lot No 84, and Sebastian Smith, on lot
No. 66. The founder of the village was Dr. Samuel Preston, who
in 1798 erected the first frame dwelling in the village. Ofv the many
prominent early citizens and business men in the village were Micah
Humphrey, the Shays — Daniel and Daniel, jr., Alvin Devereux, father
of Hon. Horace T. Devereux, James G. Clock, David Davenport, Eben
and Benjamin White, Phineas Holmes, Robert W. Murphy, the Ricker-
sons. Dr. Bela Brewster, Lawrence Faulk, Nathaniel Rider, Melancthon
Smith, David Faulk and Samuel Coon, who are long since deceased.
Lawrence Faulk was a learned and successful attorney and counselor at
the Albany bar. His successor was his son, Norman W. Faulk, who is
still engaged in practice in this village. Preston Hollow contains two
fine churches — a Baptist and a Methodist Episcopal — and a large hotel,
the Park Hotel, of which Mr. Murphy is proprietor, a flourishing school
and a classical institute.

Medusa is a village in the southeastern corner of the town on
Ten Mile Creek, and was settled by Uriah Hall and his son Joshua
about 1783, whence the name it bore for many years of Hall's Mills.
Uriah Hall and his son took a lease from the Patroon of many lots cov-
ering the site of the village and vicinity, and erected the first grist mill
and dwelling here. Joshua Hall continued in business here until 1806,
when he was accidentally killed by a tree falling upon him, while he
was chopping wood on one of his farms.

In 1785 Joseph Hall settled upon the farm afterwards owned by
VVillett Mackey and now occupied by his son, Alex. W. Mackey, at the
east end of the village. Job Tanner was an early settler, as were Will-
iam R. Tanner, who was far many years a leading citizen, a justice of
the peace and supervisor, and Daniel Doolittle.

The village numbers about 150 inhabitants, has two churches —
Methodist and Christian, a hotel and store.



4G4

Rensselaerville is a village in the northeastern part of the town, and
was founded February 22, 1788, by Samuel Jenkins, who erected at
that time the first grist mill and soon thereafter the first frame dwelling
house. He was the father of Jonathan Jenkins, who became a practic-
ing lawyer there, and grandfather of Hon. Charles M. Jenkins, a
wealthy and retired lawyer of Albany. Daniel and Josiah Conkling
were early settlers, Daniel carrying on tanning and a boot and shoe
manufactory. Asa and Philo Culver, Wheeler Watson, whose son,
Malbone Watson, became an eminent lawyer at Catskill and rose to be
county judge and Supreme Court justice, and Rufus Watson also settled
here at an early period. Other residents of the village who were prom-
inent in this locality were Arnold B. Watson, a son of Josiah Watson,
was president and main stockholder of the Unadilla Bank, Rev. Samuel
Fuller, the first pastor of the Presbyterian church here, who lived on
the farm where the late Hon. William Aley lived and died and Henry
Stone, an able lawyer and poet, was the successor to Jenkins. Still
others were Dr. Plait Wickes who studied medicine with Dr. Hyde and
became his successor dying a few years ago at a ripe old age, a man of
sterling character ; Charles L. Mulford, successor to the Daytons, and
John S. Huyck, men who became wealthy and were honored by their
fellow citizens ; Eli Hutchinson, the merchant, and Franklin Frisbie, who
died a number of years ago. Judge John Niles, who moved from Coey-
mans, and O. H. Chittenden both lawyers here, the former becoming
a county judge and the latter surrogate of Albany county, and later
Dr. Gilbert Titus, who for many years was justice of the peace. The
Episcopal church here was organized February 20, 181 1, by Rev. Sam-
uel Fuller; the Baptist in 1797 and the Presbyterian in 1793.

In the cemetery of the village stands a monument to the memory of
the many brave soldiers from this town who lost their lives in fighting
for their country, at the dedication ceremonies of which Hon. Lyman
Tremain, of Albany, delivered a masterly oration.

Potter Hollow, which was settled in 1806, is a small village of about
one hundred residents, lying in the extreme southwestern part of the
town. It has a post-ofl^ce, store, union church, and a hotel. The
founders and earliest business men were the Potters — Timothy R. and
Samuel. Potter Palmer, the well-known Chicagoan, was born and



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465

grew to manhood here, his father, Benjamin Pahner, being a farmer
and a highly respected citizen, who served many years as justice of the
peace.

Cooksburg is a hamlet having a grist mill, hotel and two drug stores,
and lies south of Preston Hollow and north of Potter Hollow, being
one mile from each.

The town organization of Reusselaerville dates back to 1791. Berne
was taken from it in 1795, and a part of Westerlo in 1815, leaving
Rensselaerville to occupy the southwest corner of what was known as
the Manor of Rensselaerwyck. The town was surveyed in 1786 and
divided into square lots of 160 acres each. It is eight and a half miles
on the south and east lines, and six on the north. The west line is
irregular and about nine miles in length. The general slope of the
land, though broken by high rid es, is south and east, the northwest
corner of the town being about the highest land between the Hudson
on the east, the Mohawk on the north and the Schoharie on the west.

A military road from Athens (then Lunenburg), Greene county,
passed through the southern part of the town, and was crossed by a
road from Beaverdam, now Berne, a little east of Andrew Asher's
house on lot 225. Another road, originally an Indian trail but used
for transporting military stores, crossed the town farther north, being
now known as the " Basic Path." These roads were, in the early days,
so covered by underbrush as to be passable only for ox teams.

The first settlers found on Ten Mile Creek what had been a Tory
camp, built of logs in wigwam style, and another on the ground now
covered b)' the Rensselaerville Pond. These settlers appear to have
built their houses on the highest point of their land, and to have traced
their paths from cabin to cabin by means of blazed trees, which tree-
marked paths were the beginning of our present roads from hilltop to
hilltop With the country now cleared of its forests these roads, with
an elevation of 1,400 or 1,500 feet above the Hudson River, give fine
views of the surrounding country.

A map of the manor of Rensselaerwyck, made for the proprietor by
J. R. Bleecker in 1767, shows no inhabitants, dwellings nor roads with-
in the limits of the present town. Bleecker says that the south line of
the manor was located by a line of marked trees, according to a survey



466

made by Edward Collins in 1735. From the map and field notes of
William Cockburn, who divided the southwestern part of the manor
into lots in 1786-7, it appears that at that time about sixty- seven emi-
grants had commenced improvements, and about fifty nine dwellings
had been erected, all prob"ably in the prevailing styles of log architec-
ture, within the limits of the present town. These were located chiefly
aioncr and near the roads designated as the Old and New roads from
Freehold to Schoharie. The Old road entered the town on lot 17, the
southeast corner of the town, and passed northwesterly through the
town. The New road entered on lot 1 1 and by a northerly course
joined the Old road on lot 224, then partly improved by Andrew Asher.
Over these roads the settlers seem to have come in from the south and
progressed mainly to the north and west.

We give below the number of lots upon which some improvements
had been made, from the map made by Cockburn in 1786, with the
names of the men, then called squatters, who led the attack upon the
dense forests of this wild region :

Lots5 and 6, Jeremiah Young; 7, Peter Plank; 8, Peter West; 9, Charles Edwards
11, Gershoni Stevens; 24, Hendrick Young; 25, Peter Shoemaker; 26, Peter Becker
37, William Showerman ; 43, Peter Emerick; 45, Peter Basson ; 47 and 07, John Ellis
50, Peter Miller; 60, Bastian Smith; 70, Samuel Howe; 84 and 85, Andrus Houck
88 and 89, Curtis Cleveland andjesse Pierce; 90, Abel Mudge; 92 and 102, Smith and
Johannes Hagadorn and Peter Houck; 103 and 104, Derrick Vandyke; 108, John
Pierce; 109, Sylvester Pierce; 125, Abner Tremaine; 127, Caleb Prince; 128 and 148,
Daniel Mudge; 131, Daniel Cooper ; 145, Thomas Farrington; 147, Samuel Martin
and Josiah Skinner; 149, George Van Beuren; 167, Levi Green; 168 and 187, John
Coon; 169 and 170, Jonathan Skinner; 185 and 186, Neal McFalls; 186, Thomas
Brown; 186, Adam Coon; 188 and 189, 208 and 209, Reuben Bumpis, Philemon Lee
and Hezekiah Dibble; 204, Kendrick Rhoda and Samuel Nichols; 200, Gamaliel
Palmer; 307, John Nichols; 209, Cook; 210. I'.ul.i (wok. -'T.;, Jonathan Edmonds;
224, Alanson Saxton and log meeting house ; 22."., .\[i.li us Asher and Michael Bryant ;
235, 245 and 246, Ashbel Culver; 236, 345and240, John Resegue; 237, Nathan Hatch;
327, Jonathan Crocker; 243 and 244, Widow Becker; 247, Daniel Cooper; 263, James
Borthwick; 207, Joseph Lincoln; 267, John Rancear; 261 and 381, James Broyce;
282, John Herren; 283, 303 and 304. John Hunter; 302 and 303, Samuel Ramsey;
350, George Ramsey; 351, John Connell.

The improvemants indicated on this map are small clearings, trees
enough being cut down to put up a log house.

There was some dread of Indians among the early settlers and events
showed that the fear was not unfounded. Two lads, sons of Mr. Prie,



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467

who lived in the northern part of the town, were taken prisoners by
the Indians about the time of the massacre of the Deitz family in Berne.
They had set out to go to Berne, when they were seized, marched back-
by the Basic path in sight of their father's house, and carried away and
kept prisoners by the Indians for many years. These Indians, under
Brant at this time, came down past the site of Preston Hollow and
camped on the site of Cooksburg, and thence passed on over the hills
to Blenheim and thence to Schoharie. They were followed by armed
men, who, however, were unable to overtake them.

The first town meeting of which we have any record was held in 1795 ;
Peter West was chosen supervisor, David Crocker town clerk, Benja-
min Frisbie and Peter West overseers of the poor, Ariel Murdock, Mel-
etiah Hatch and Ansel Ford commissioners of highways, L. Nathan
Spaulding, Elijah Murdock, Josiah Skinner and Apollos Moore asses-
sors, David Brown, Alexander Mackey, Noah Ellis and Joshua Doane,
constables, Alexander Mackey, David Brown, Noah Ellis and Joshua
Doane, collectors, Asa Hudson and Meletiah Hatch fence viewers, Da-
vid Crocker pound-master. In the following year there were nineteen
licenses recognized in town.

The first religious organization in Rensselaerville was that of the
Baptists in Preston Hollow, whose organization dated 1790. Elder
Winans was the first pastor.

The first Presbyterian organization in the town was in 1793, formed
by Benjamin Frisbie, Alanson Saxton and Nehemiah Lord, their place
of worship being a log house on what is known as Mount Pisgah, near
the village of Rensselaerville. The Rev. Samuel Fuller was their first
pastor, a Connecticut man of high education and a graduate of Dart-
mouth College. A meeting house was built about 1795 by a Dutch Re-
formed society in the southern part of the town on a ridge of land known
as Oak Hill ; among the early pastors of which were the Rev. Mr. Van
Zandt and Rev. Mr. Ostrander. This church stood near the present
residence of Mrs, Julia Hall, being on lot 9. The Baptist society com-
posed of those living about Rensselaerville village built their meeting
house in that part of the original town which was set off to Berne, so
that, although most of the early settlers around this village were Bap-
tists, they had no meeting house in the village until 1830. The Revs.
Beman and Crocker were among their first pastors.



468

The present meeting house of the Methodists was built in Rensselaer-
ville in 1839 They also have a church in Preston Hollow and one in
Medusa. The Quakers, who were very numerous in early times, have
nearly disappeared from the town; they formerly had three meeting
houses in or near the town, of which the one located at Potter Hollow
has been reconstructed as a union church.

In 1802 the Schoharie Turnpike Company was incorporated, whose
road passed through the village of Preston Hollow in the southern part
of the town, while in 1805 the Albany and Delaware Turnpike Com-
pany was incorporated to build a road from Albany to Brink's Mills
which runs through Rensselaerville village.

Supervisors oi the town of Rensselaerville have been : 1795, Peter West; 1818,
Asa Calvard; 1819-21, Eli Hutchinson; 1822-23, 1833-33, Nathaniel Rider; 1824,
IsaacGardner; 1835, Joshua Gardner; 1836-37, Wheeler Watson; 1838-29, 1840, Joseph
Connor; 1830-31, John Niles; 1833-35, Charles L. Mulford; 1830, James Reid ; 1837,
SamuelNiles; 1838-39, Lewis M. Dayton; 1841-43, Benjamin E. Mackej'; 1843,
James G. Clark; 1844, Shadrach R. Potter; 1845-46. Valentine Treadwell ; 1847-48,
Stephen M. Hallenbeck; 1849-50, 1853, 1854, William Aley; 1851, Daniel A. Mackey;
1853, Benjamin F. Sayre; 1855-57, Norman A. Ford; 1858-59, Andrew Felter;
1800-61, James E. Mackey; 1802-67, George H. Laraway; 1868-70, William Mc-
Givney; 1871-72, William R. Tanner; 1873^75, Horace T. Devereux; 1876-80, Albert
T.Moore; 1881-83, H. Sayre; 1884-87, 1893, Jacob B. Norwood; 1888-93, Lewis
Kenyon; 1894-95, G. M. Hallenbeck; 1890, Abram S. Coon, term two years.

Of the many who have or are now worthily representing their native
town, we may record the names of Mortimer M. Jackson, judge of the
Supreme Court of Wisconsin ; Addison C. Niles, judge of the .Su-
preme Court of California ; Rufus W. Peckham, judge of the Court of
Appeals, New York ; Malbonc Watson, judge of the Supreme Court ;
James Lamoreux, Robert W. Murphy, judges of Albany county; Mar-
cellus Weston, judge of Montgomery county ; Hiram Gardner, judge of
Niagara county; Horace T Devereux, Valentine Treadwell, Stephen
M. Hallenbeck, Almeron S. Cornell, William Aley, Robert B. Watson,
Henry Jenkins, J. W. and L. H. Babcock, members of the New York
Assembly. In addition to the above we should add Judge Joseph J.
Bradley of the Supreme Court of the United States, who was born in
that part of the original town which was set ofif as Berne ; Judge A.
Melvin Osborne of the Supreme Court of New York; and Judge
Lyman Tremain, attorney-general of New York, who was born just over



469

the town line in Durham. Mr. Potter Palmer, of Chicago, and Arnold
R. Watson, of Unadilla, now deceased, were natives of this town.
Norman W. Faulk, of Preston Hollow, a lawyer, who read law in tlie
office of Daniel S Dickinson and with Peckham & Co. at Albany, was
admitted to practice in 1852, and went to Hastings, Mich., where he
practiced his profession and became a leader at the bar, and being for
a number of years judge of the Recorder's Court. He was born at
Preston Hollow, where he now resides, enjoying a practice in this ami
adjoining counties.

The following list of occupants and actual first tenants in the town
under Van Rensselaer, the Patroon, with lots and leases, are of interest.
The names in italics indicates those who were occupants before the
manorial survey and allotments were made. It will be noticed that
the oldest leases were of lots 54, 94 and 134, made September 10, 1787,
but the date of the lease does not in every case indicate when the oc-
cupancy commenced, as this, in most cases, was many years before the
lease was taken.

Lot No. 1 , which is the southwesL corner of Albany county, was occupied by Elisha
Bates; no lease found; 3, Josiah Morris, July 12, 1796; 3, Nathan Smith, June, 1788;
4, Stephen Bolles, July 6, 1791; 5, Jeremiah Young and John Wafen, July 18, 1803;
6, Jeremiah Voting and Peter Plavk, July 14, 1788; 7, Peter Plank (grist mill),
March, 1793; 8, Peter West, August 29, 1794; 9, Charles £'



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