Arthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) Masten.

The history of Cohoes, New York [electronic resource] from its earliest settlement to the present time online

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ing, occupied by H. Thompson & Son s mill ; B. Mulcahy s
blacksmith shop, and Warner s needle factory. The mills
of the Troy M f g Co., Clifton Co., and Henry Brockway,
were seriously threatened at times but were saved by the
exertions of the firemen, who were assisted by the Ranken



1865. HISTORY OF COHOES. 181

Steamer Co. of Troy. The losses were as follows: Conliss
& Carter $7,000, Thompson & Son $3,000, H. Brockway
$1,000, B. Mulcahy $200, Warner $300.

On July 1st, the capital police law went into effect, and
was welcomed with great satisfaction as an improvement
on the system of village constables formerly in vogue.
The police district according to this law was divided into
two parts, the Albany division and the Troy division.
The latter contained six precincts, three in the city of Troy,
and the remainder in adjacent villages. The Cohoes pre
cinct embraced Cohoes, Green Island, and a part of Water-
vliet. The first members of the force in this village were:
sergeants, Wm. Buchanan, John McDermott; patrolmen,
Francis S. Staats, John Richmond, Moses Pickering, Gus-
tavus Bailey, Wm. Hastings, Jas. Delve and Michael Long.
The station house was established in Hay ward s building,
corner of Remsen and Ontario streets. 1

The Young Men s Christian Association, which for some
time had not been in a flourishing condition, was reorganized
in March, and the first officers elected in August as follows:
president, D. J. Johnston ; vice president, H. B. Silliman ;
Cor. Sec y, Wm. S. Smith; Rec. Sec y, Albert Ten Eyck ;
Treas., Jas. H. Masten. The association rented the second
story of Quackenbush s building, corner of Remsen and
Oneida streets, and fitted up a commodious reading room.

The necessity of improvements in the fire department had
been for some time felt. It was evident that the hand en
gines in possession of the village were entirely inadequate
in case of a conflagration of any size, and ever since the
burning of Hurst s Mill the matter had been frequently
agitated. The working of the Ranken steamer of Troy,
which had been present at several fires here, gave general
satisfaction, and there was a strong feeling in favor of pur
chasing a similar engine. An offer was made by the Har-



1 In May, 1866, it was removed to its present location corner St. John s alley and
Mohawk street.



182 HISTORY OF COHOES. 1865.

mony Co. to furnish a first class steamer if the other
manufacturers of the village would subscribe enough to
purchase another ; and also to furnish a house and equip
ments for one engine, without expense to the village. No
action was immediately taken on this liberal offer, and the
citizens were content for this year with the addition to the
department of a Hook & Ladder Co., the organization of
which had been for some time desired.

Prominent among the improvements of the year was the
building of a new dam by the Cohoes Co., which is one of
the finest structures of the kind in the country. Work was
commenced in June and the dam was completed in about
four months. It is of solid stone masonry, 1,443 feet in
length, and is built directly below and in connection with,
the old dam of 1840, thus acquiring additional strength.
The gate house, built of brick, and containing the head
gates, was not completed until some time later. It is 218
feet long ; the front tower is 31, and the main towers are
43 feet in height. The cost of the dam and appurtenances
was $180,000. The engineer of the work was Wm. E.
Worthen, of New York, who was assisted by D. H. Van
Auken, the present engineer of the Co., and T. G. Young-
love, its agent. The contractor was John Bridgeford, of
Albany.

Business at this time was prosperous, and several addi
tions to manufacturing interests were made. The Erie Mill
on Erie street was erected by Wm. Burton, for Messrs.
Wm. Moore and Jonathan Hiller, who commenced putting
in their machinery in the fall. This firm had during the
year been conducting the factory in the Empire Mill,
which had been established by L. W. Mansfield. The foun
dation for the Riverside Mill, on the site of one of the build
ings of Miles White s axe factory, was laid in October by
Messrs. Bogue & Wager. The Harmony Co. added largely
to their facilities by the purchase of the Strong Mill, which



1865. HISTORY OF COHOES. 183

they enlarged and remodelled at an expense of $100,000,
extending the building 30 feet at the north end, and putting
on a French roof which added a story to its height. Be
sides a number of other improvements in their property an
addition to No. 2 mill was commenced, which was com
pleted in the following year and increased the capacity of
the mill to 48,000 spindles. The Cataract of Oct. 21,
speaking of these improvements, said :

" What is true of the manufacturing interests of the place
is also applicable to our local mercantile trade and other
business. In the fifteen years of our residence in Cohoes
we do not remember a time when so much activity and evi
dent thrift was manifested. We have twice as many dry-
goods stores as we had a year ago, and all appear to be
doing a healthy and profitable trade. The same is also true
of the clothing, boot and shoe and grocery establishments
of the place."

The census taken this year showed a population of 8,795,
a decrease of 5 since 1860. The falling off was accounted
for by the census enumerators by the fact that among the
ignorant classes a great fear of the draft existed, and many
persons, supposing the census to be a new enrollment,
refused to give any information concerning their families.
The same trouble was found in other places, the population
in Albany being reported as 2000 less than it was in 1860.
The Albanians did not wish their city to show a retrograde
movement, and took measures for procuring another census.
Their example was followed in Cohoes ; a subscription
paper was circulated to procure the necessary funds and
a second enumeration was made by Sheffield Hayward, who
reported the population as 9,765, the number of families
being 1,826. In the government census the capital employed
in manufacturing operations in the place was stated to bo
$2,840,900, and the number of operatives employed, 2,729.



184 HISTORY OF COHOES. 1866.



X.

1866 TO 1869.

_L HE prosperous condition of business of every kind,
described in the Cataract in the latter part of 1865, con
tinued with but slight interruption for the next few years.
There were many important additions to the manufacturing
establishments of the place, bringing new inhabitants and
stimulating every branch of trade. Building was extended
in all directions, and blocks of stores and handsome resi
dences appeared in localities which had formerly been con
sidered almost outside of the village.

The early part of 1866 was marked by few local events
of importance. On the night of Jan. 10th, the stables of
the Troy & Cohoes Horse Rail Road Co., near the junction,
were burned at a loss of $18,000. The fire originated in
the office, and spread throughout the building in a very
few minutes, so that before any aid could be received from
the fire department, it was completely destroyed, together
with all of its contents. Thirty-one horses, seven cars, and
a large quantity of hay and feed were burned.

A suit brought by the village against the company to
compel them to conform their track to the grade of Mohawk
street, and to pave the same, which had been some time
pending, was decided this month in favor of the plaintiffs.
The following comment was made by the Cataract :

" This is an important decision not only because it vindi
cates the action of the trustees, but it reestablishes the
grades at the points of variation, greatly improves Howard
street, compels the company to pave their road from White
street to the old junction, reimburses the village for the
expenses to which it has been subjected in sinking the gas
and water pipes, and cutting down Howard street, and in
sures it against action on the part of adjacent land owners."

The second newspaper established in Cohoes the Co-



1866. HISTORY OF COHOES. 185

hoes Democrat made its first appearance Jan. 2 7th . It was
a weekly sheet, about the size of the Cataract, and was
owned and conducted by Michael Monahon, who had for
twelve years been foreman in that office. It was evident
that Cohoes was not yet ready to support two newspapers,
for after a brief and troubled existence of four months the
publication of the Democrat was discontinued.

In the latter part of May, ground was broken by the
Harmony Co. for the erection of a new cotton factory, Mill
No. 3, on the east side of Mohawk street, opposite their first
building. While excavations for the foundation were being
made, a few months later, the skeleton of a mastodon was
discovered, an event which awakened great interest here,
and caused Cohoes to be for some time quite prominently
before the public. The foundation of the mill for nearly
its entire length is laid upon a bed of slate rock. At the
north end of the building it was found that the layer of
rock was thin and rested upon a large bed of peat ; with a
view to the removal of this, a small section was excavated
to a depth of about sixty feet, and in so doing numerous
relics of earlier ages were exhumed.

The first discoveries, made in the middle of September,
were decayed stumps and limbs of trees which lay imbedded
in the rich loam ; a week later, near the bottom of the bed,
the jaw-bone of the mastodon was unearthed. The event
was described as follows in the Cataract, Sept. 29 :

" Assuredly there are more things in heaven and earth than
are dreamed of in our philosophy ! Those who, during the
present generation, have trod the earth of Cohoes have never
taken into their wildest imaginings the strange things that
were concealed beneath the surface. But the late excava
tions made by the Harmony Co., have brought to light the
fact that a huge mastodon once dwelt where our village
now stands, in an age that has been followed by the
mightiest convulsions and upheavals. Fifty feet below the
surface the jaw of this monster has been found, and has
created in our village such a sensation as few events ever
excited. . . . The jaw is somewhat decayed and flaky but the
24



186 HISTORY OF COHOES. 1866.

teeth are in excellent preservation ; the length of each jaw
bone is thirty-two inches ; the breadth across the jaw at
the broadest point twenty inches and the extreme depth
about twelve inches. On one side is a single tooth four
inches in length and two and a half in width, and on the
other two teeth one of which is six and a half inches long,
the other four, and each uniform in width and shape with
its neighbor opposite. The holes or cavities for the dental
nerves are from an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. . . .
The excavation has revealed other wonders, little less re
markable. Vast volumes of oak wood, so tender that it can
be cut and removed with a shovel, are intermingled with the
peat. This wood when exposed to the sun or fire until
thoroughly dried, becomes as hard as if it had never de
cayed. On each side of the peat bed so far as traced, are
perpendicular rocks into which huge semi-circular cavities,
deep and smooth, have been worn by the action of water.
There is but one solution of this mystery. The cavity of
rock where the deposit of peat now rests, was once the bed
of a stream running diagonally across the line of the street
and towards the Mohawk. As the peat was covered deeply
with slate rock, it is evident that the stream had a sub
terranean channel and outlet at this place, though perhaps
an open river above. In this wonderful revelation there is
a vast field for speculation both for the geologist and the
zoologist."

Further discoveries were made from time to time within
the next few weeks ; the skull, tusk, leg-bones, ribs and
enough other bones of the animal to make the skeleton
nearly complete were found, most of them in a pot-hole
distant some sixty feet from the one in which the jaw
bone was buried. 1 The remains of numerous beaver dams
were also brought to light, containing logs and pieces of
wood, cut with great precision and neatness by the teeth of
their builders. The bones were kept for some time at the
office of the Harmony Mills, where they were visited by
hundreds of persons, among whom were Profs. Marsh of
Yale college, Hall of Albany and a number of other scien-



1 Iu the following March, while making excavations on the outside of the mill
several bones of the fore-leg were found in a pot hole fifty feet south of that point.



1866. HISTORY OF COHOES. 187

tific men. They were also placed on exhibition in Troy, at
the county fair and in Harmony Hall.

Several theories were advanced to account for the burial
of the bones in the peat bed in such a manner the one sup
ported by the highest authority being that they were thus
disposed by the action of moving water or ice. In the
former case it maybe supposed that the body of the animal
had floated down the stream, gradually decomposing, while
fragments were from time to time detached, and what re
mained was deposited in the hole where the bulk of the
skeleton was found ; in the latter, the theory was, that the
remains were imbedded in a glacier from the melting edge
of which they were dropped, and preserved, first by a cover
ing of water in the depression, and afterward by an accumu
lation of mud, marl or peaty matter ; that there may have
been similar remains deposited in the gravel, but that the
percolating water had entirely or for the most part de
stroyed them. At a discussion of the matter held by the
national academy of science at Hartford, it was stated that
" the facts brought out in connection with the Cohoes mas
todon forever set at rest the commonly received opinion
that the mastodon bones usually found in the marshes are
the remains of those animals who visit these places for food
and drink."

Several offers were received by the Harmony Co. from
public institutions for the purchase of the remains, and it
was thought at one time that they would be sold and the
proceeds given to the Union Sunday School. It was finally
decided, however, to present them to the state. The legis
lature voted an appropriation of $2,000 for completing the
search for the bones, and mounting the skeleton, and passed
a joint resolution tendering thanks to Mr. Wild and the
Harmony Go. for their generosity. In the following year
the skeleton was placed in position in the State Cabinet of
Natural History, at Albany.

One of the amusing results of the discovery of the mas-



188 HISTORY OF COHOES. 1866.

todon was the publication at different times of letters in
several newspapers from active correspondents who had
ascertained by talking with old inhabitants, that the skeleton
was a humbug. The following, published in the Rutland
Herald, in April, 1870, is a specimen of these productions,
though more circumstantial than most of them :

" There is another sell in Albany, quite equal to the Cardiff
giant but not got up expressly for the occasion. I mean the
Cohoes mastodon, so called, now on exhibition in the Geolo
gical rooms in this city. It will be recollected that in 1866,
as a party at Cohoes were digging to secure a reliable place as
a foundation for a factory, the workmen struck upon the
bones of a large animal, which some of the savans declared
to be those of a mastodon, but all were not agreed upon this
name. Henry M. Gaine, a geologist of Saratoga, wrote
two or three articles for the newspapers in which he asserted
that the teeth of this fossil were not those of the extinct
mastodon. But he was ridiculed for expressing such senti
ments and the term mastodon was applied to the skeleton
of the animal when it was set up for exhibition. It seems
a great pity to take away this name, for with it departs the
great antiquity of these bones, and with it the finely wrought
theory of their having been taken from that huge pot hole
of peat by an immense glacier, that separated the different
animal parts, and deposited them in many different places.
But we will tell a story related to us by Mr. Win. J. Brad
ley, of Ballston, N. Y., a respected and truthful citizen of
that place, aged sixty-four years. He says he peddled tin
for Wm. J. Benedict, of Schenectady, for two or three
years, and for several years he followed a caravan June,
Titus, and Angevine s. It was his custom to travel from
place to place in the night and sell his wares each day at
auction near the tent of the caravan. In the fall of 1833,
he was going from Schenectady to Troy, following the ele
phant, which in those days was taken from place to place in
the night to escape observation and when near what is
now Cohoes, but which then had only a house or two, he
found that the elephant had fallen dead in the road. The
keeper had sawed off the tusks and was cutting the body
into pieces that it might be drawn out of the road. This
was no small job, for the elephant was one of the largest
ever exhibited in this country. Mr. Bradley had a nice span
of Canadian ponies on his peddler s cart. He took them off,



1866. HISTORY OF COHOES. 189

and assisted by Aaron Ackley, then of Troy, who led one
of the frightened horses while Mr. B. led the other, they
drew the body off by piece meal, and dropped it into a bog
hole some six or eight rods distant, the identical one, as
Mr. B. thinks, in which this so called mastodon was found."
An important addition to the public buildings of the place
was the new St. Bernard s church, which had been in pro
gress since 1863, and was this fall completed. The church,
the style of which is Romanesque, is 160 by 80 feet. It has
nine rows of aisles and a transept with eight rows of pews,
and will seat 1,400 persons on the floor. There is an end
gallery capable of accommodating 500 children, and a gal
lery for the choir. The sanctuary is semi-circular, forty
feet wide by twenty-six deep. The altar is of white and
gold, the white being composed of marble and scagliola ;
under the altar is the entombment, full size, in alto relievo.
Around the base of the sanctuary is an arcade, twelve feet
in height, the space above which is occupied by handsome
frescoes, done by John Hild, a native of Munich ; among
them are copies of Vandyke s Descent from the Cross,
Raphael s Assumption, and other well known paintings.
The windows, which are of stained glass, are each memorial
gifts and were contributed by the following : Jno. W. Har
rington, Richard Powers and children, Patrick Gugerty,
Cornelius O Leary, Michael Ivory, Wm. Healey, Dr. W. F.
Carter, Mrs. Peter Manton ; iron works, cotton mills,
woolen mills and citizens of Cohoes, one each. The cost of
the church with the lot was about $106,000. It was opened
Oct. 14th, with a grand sacred concert, under direction of
Dr. Guy of Troy, and was dedicated on Sunday Nov. 3.
The ceremonies of consecration were performed by Bishop
John J. Conroy of Albany who afterwards celebrated high
mass. The sermon was preached by Rev. Jno. Loughlin,
Bishop of Brooklyn. Some twenty clergymen from differ
ent points were also present who assisted in the exercises.
The services, which commenced at 10 A.M. and lasted four
hours, were attended by about three thousand people.



190 HlSTOKY OF COHOES. 1866.

Several new firms commenced business during the year.
The Riverside Mill, a brick building 50 by 100 feet and five
stories high, owned by Bogue & Wager, was completed
early in the season. The capacity of the mill is eight sets but
only six were at first run. About the same time the Erie
Mill, which had been built the preceding year, commenced
operations. In August the Hurst property, consisting of
the mill and adjoining tenements, was sold to Lyman Ben
nett of Troy, for $27,000, and the Star Knitting Co., with
a capital of $50,000, was organized. The first officers were:
R. H. Thurman, president, Lyman Bennett, O. G. Clark,
Harvey Smith, R. H. Thurman, trustees. The Mohawk
Mill, Samuel Bilb rough proprietor, which had before man
ufactured cotton yarns and cloths, was during this year
fitted up in part with knitting machinery.

The failure of Alden, Frink & Weston with liabilities of
nearly $500,000, in the latter part of October, caused great
excitement in business circles. The firm was one of the
most prominent in the place, being largely interested in two
knitting mills, the Ten Eyck Axe M f g Co., and other con
cerns. Though most of the indebtedness was out of town
a number of citizens lost heavily, and the failure was severely
felt throughout the village. Aside from this, the year was
one of fair prosperity for Cohoes business men, and the gene
ral activity of the place was increased. A number of build
ings were erected, among them many residences. The
Harmony Co. made preparations for the erection of a hun
dred tenements, made necessary by the number of opera
tives who were expected to arrive when work was com
menced in the new mill. In the published statistics of the
company for 1866, it was stated that their mills had during
the year consumed 7,427 bales of cotton, manufacturing
therefrom 23,135,652 yards of cloth, equal to 13,145i miles.

The close of the year was marked by a storm of wind arid
enow, of greater severity than any with which Cohoes had



1867. HISTORY OF COHOES. 191

been visited, it was said, since 1836. Travel by rail road
and street car was interrupted for three days, and there
was no means of communication with the outside world
from Thursday until Saturday night, when the mail was
brought in a sleigh from near West Troy, where the train
from Albany was snowed in.

In the early part of 1867 the iron bridge across the Erie
Canal near White street, the contracts for which had been
let in 1865, was completed. It was a very desirable improve
ment, affording access to the lands west of the Erie
Canal, which the owners, Daniel McElwain and Judge Mann
of Troy, improved and laid out in building lots, and this
locality is now one of the most creditable portions of the
city. The construction of the bridge had long been desired
by our citizens, and was authorized by the legislature as
early as 1859, but had been delayed from time to time by
the state authorities, and it was finally procured mainly
through the efforts of Mr. McElwain. The opening of
Ontario street from its present western terminus to the
Erie Canal, which would make the approach to that portion
of the city much more convenient, was soon afterward pro
posed and the matter has been subsequently agitated seve
ral times.

A number of business changes occurred in 1867, occa
sioned by the failure of Alden, Frink & Weston. The
machinery which had belonged to them was sold : that in
the Watervliet Mill to A. J. Root for $42,000 and that in
the Halcyon Mill to Hugh Ranken of Troy for $16,500.
The latter gentleman organized the Ranken Knitting Co.,
with a capital of $50,000, which commenced business Jan.
16th, the officers being as follows: Hugh Ranken, president ;



1 This improvement was talked of by the commt n council in 1873, and the cost
was reported at $20,000. It was deemed inexpedient to take action in the matter
at the time, and little has been done concerning it until the present year. A peti
tion from property owners on the street urging its opening, was presented to the
common council, Dec. 4.



192 HISTORY OF COHOES. 1867.

Giles B. Kellogg, secretary ; Henry S. Ranken, treasurer.
The other principal stockholders were Gen. John E. Wool,
Wm. Barton, G. P. Cozzens, Geo. B. Smith, D. M. Ranken,
Win. J. Ranken, all from Troy. The Atlantic Mill was
purchased by Geo. Warhurst, who retired from his partner
ship with Jos. Chadwick. Messrs. J. H. Parsons & Co.
moved into the Watervliet Mill, and their old quarters in
the Egberts & Bailey or Fowler Mill were occupied by
L. Greenman, who moved from the building in which A. J.
Griffin is located. Among the new buildings of the year
was the iron foundery and machine shop on Canvass, Court-
land and Van Rensselaer streets, erected by Fuller & Safely,
whose old foundery on Mohawk street had been purchased
the previous year by the Harmony Co. The machine shop
is 100 by 50 feet and five stories high and the foundery 120
by 60 feet, one story high, both buildings being of brick. 1
Several other concerns were located in the building the
nut manufactory of Geo. & Thomas Brooks, the knitting
needle factory of Henry Dawson both of which had been
established in the old foundery, and the Magnolia Tape



Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) MastenThe history of Cohoes, New York [electronic resource] from its earliest settlement to the present time → online text (page 16 of 30)