Arthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) Masten.

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

. (page 4 of 30)
Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) MastenThe history of Cohoes, New York [electronic resource] from its earliest settlement to the present time → online text (page 4 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

laer, and another church edifice was built at Van Vranken s Corners.

Mr. Pitcher left in 1854, and Rev. John Dubois was called \\ ho remained until
1859. Rev. John W. Major was pastor from 1860 to 1864.

In 1864, the church of the Boght united with the church of Rensselaer and called
Rev. H. A. Raymond as pastor. He remained until 1871.

The present pastor, Rev. George I. Taylor, began his ministry Jan . 1st, 1874. The
present members of consistory are, Elders : Gerardus Clute, Douw Lansing, Jacob
Van Denberg. Deacons : Jesse Fonda, Benjamin Reamer, Wm. Lambert.



" Resolved, That it is the unanimous opinion of this Board
that it is practicable to be done, and that considering the
inconveniences the inhabitants and travelers are under at
certain seasons of the year, we conceive that it will be of
great use to have a bridge about that place and well worthy
the Legislaters consideration. Ordered, that the Clerk of
this Board enclose a Copy of this Resolution in a letter to
the Members for the County of Albany. We the Mayor,
Aldermen and Comonalty of the city of Albany do certify
and declare that we conceive that the erecting of a Bridge
below the Cahos will greatly tend for the benefit and con-
veniency of the publick & will in particular encourage the
Settlements to the Northward of the said Bridge."

The bridge was first opened for travel July 24, 1795. It
was 900 feet long, twenty-four feet wide, fifteen feet above
the bed of the river and rested on thirteen stone piers. Its cost
was $12,000. It was located several hundred feet west of the
site of the rail road bridge, the Cohoes end being a short dis
tance north of the present termination of Remsen street.
An excavation in the rock, yet visible, marks the place
where it rested upon the Waterford side. The gate house,
which was on this side of the river, was for many years
tended by Jacob Winnie, a blacksmith. The bridge was
one of the best then existing in this part of the country,
and was frequently mentioned in books of travel.

In the writings of the Count Rochefoucauld Liancourt,
from which a quotation has previously been made, it was
described as follows :

" This bridge is erected on the spot where the Cohoez
Falls appear to the greatest advantage. It is constructed
of timber and rests on stone pillars about twenty-five or
thirty feet distant from each other. The masonry is not
remarkable for solidity or neatness ; but the carpenter s
work is exceedingly well done."

An act in regard to the bridge was passed by the legis
lature, April 3, 1797, in which the rates of toll were fixed
as follows :

" To make adequate provision for keeping the bridge in


good repair, it is enacted: That from and after the first
day of June next, the following toll shall be collected from
every person crossing said bridge, viz : For every carriage
crossing the said bridge and drawn by a single horse, six
cents ; for every wheel carriage or sled crossing said bridge
and drawn by two horses, mules, or other working cattle,
the sum of eight cents ; for every carriage or sled drawn by
more than two horses, two mules, or two other working
cattle, at and after the rate of two cents for each additional
creature ; for a man and horse or mule the sum of four
cents ; for every single horse, mare, colt or mule the sum
of one cent ; for every bull, ox a cow, heifer or calf, the sum
of two cents, and for sheep and hogs, at and after the rate
of ten cents per score."

The toll house and gates were to be erected and the col
lector of tolls to be appointed by " the supervisor of the
town of Watervliet, and the supervisor of the town of
Half Moon," who were also directed to apply the surplus
money " to the clearing away and removing the rock at the
northeast corner of the said bridge, and in repairing and
amending the highways in the said counties of Albany and
Saratoga, leading to and from the said bridge."

This act was amended by the passage of an act March
30, 1*798, which appointed John Hazard of the town of
Half Moon and Peter S. Schuyler of the town of Watervliet,
as commissioners " with full power yearly and every year
hereafter, on the first Tuesday in May to sell at public ven-
due the toll of the bridge together with the toll house be
longing to the same for the term of one year then next
ensuing." By this act, also, a penalty was established of $15,
to be imposed upon any one who should break open the toll
gates, and it was declared unlawful for any one to keep a
tavern or inn at the toll house.

On petition of Matthew Gregory and Gradus Van Schoon-
hoven, then lessees of the bridge, who set forth that as it
had been much injured by ice and water, the tolls were in
sufficient to pay for the necessary repairs, the legislature, in
an act passed April 4, 1801, authorized the commissioners


to increase the rates of toll to the requisite figure, with the
restriction that the increase should not be over 33 per
cent, or be continued more than four years.

The Cohoes Bridge Company, consisting of Samuel
Stewart, Ira Scott, John I. Close, Guert Van Schoonhoven,
Moses Scott, Henry Davis and Samuel Demarest, was in
corporated April 4, 1806, "for the purpose of rebuilding
the state bridge over the Mohawk River," it having been
severely damaged by the ice. The stock of the company was
limited to three hundred shares of twenty-five dollars each.
New rates of toll were fixed, considerably higher than those
of 1797.

The completion of the bridge was of course followed by
some little change in the life of the inhabitants. A means
of communication was furnished to parts of the adjoining
country w T hich had previously been difficult of access, and
as the amount of travel by the new route was considerable,
the hamlet doubtless assumed a slight appearance of activity.
The road, beside being generally used by the farmers in the
vicinity, became one of the main routes to the north, and in
later years was traversed by the stage coaches running from
Albany to Ballston Spa and other points. A tavern was
established in the house on the farm before described as
Gerret Witbeck s, Richard Heamstreet being proprietor.




-L HITS far in the history of Cohoes, there had been no
indications of the importance which it was destined to assume
as a manufacturing town. As at other points along the
river, several small mills had been established, but they were
comparatively unimportant, and there was little to distin
guish the place from other farming settlements in the
neighborhood. Early in the present century, however, the
advantages of this locality for manufacturing purposes were
recognized, and on a small scale the first attempt was made
to utilize them.

In 1811, the Cohoes Manufacturing Company, composed
entirely of gentlemen from Lansingburg, was incorporated,
being one of the first corporations formed under the " general
act" of that year. A tract of sixty acres on the bank of
the river, which was part of the Heamstreet farm, 1 together
with the water privilege, was secured, and land was also
purchased from Jacobus Yan Schoonhoven on the opposite
side of the river, embracing what is now known as Simmons s
Island. The property belonging to the patroon was trans
ferred to Gerret Peebles, one of the trustees of the companyj

1 This tract, known for some years as the Factory lot, and which afterward came
into possession of the Cohoes Company, comprised all that part of the Heamstreet
farm which lay east of Mohawk street, down to a point near Columbia street.
The southern limit may be described according to landmarks now in existence,
as a line extending from the Rensselaer and Saratoga rail road crossing (near
Steenberg s carriage shop) to the river, passing by Geo. Ducharme s house and the
new gas works. The annual rental was seven bushels of wheat. A new lease was
at the same time executed to Charles Heamstreet for the remainder of his farm,
145i/ a acres.


May 20. The certificate of incorporation, filed June 18 in
the office of the secretary of state, was as follows :

" This may certify that Timothy Leonard, Elijah Janes,
Garret Peebles, Calvin Barker, Elias Parmelee, Sylvanus
J. Penniman, Ebenezer W. Walbridge, John Stewart,
Joseph Fox, Jacob L. Lansing, James Adams, Elisha Janes,
John Pierce and Seth Seelye, in the village of Lansingburg
in the county of Rensselaer, and state of New York, have
associated and formed themselves into a company according
to the act entitled an act relative to Incorporations for man
ufacturing purposes, passed March 22, 1811, by the name
of * The Cohoes Manufacturing Company, for the purposes
of manufacturing Cotton, Woolen and Linen goods, making
bar-iron, Anchors, Mill Irons, nail rods, Hoop-iron and
Iron Mongery. That the Capital Stock of said company
shall be One Hundred Thousand Dollars and the number
of shares two thousand. The stock, property and concerns
of the said company shall be conducted and managed by
seven trustees, and Timothy Leonard, Calvin Barker, Gerrit
Peebles, Elias Parmelee, Elijah Janes, Ebenezer W. Wai-
bridge and Seth Seelye, shall be the Trustees to manage
the concerns of said company for the first year, commencing
on the day of the filing of this certificate in the Secretary s
office of this State. The operations of the said Company
will be carried on at Cohoesville in the town of Watervliet,
in the county of Albany and state aforesaid, on the west
Bank of the Mohawk River, a little distance southeast of
the Cohoes bridge."

The first enterprise in which the company engaged was
the manufacture of screws ; a wing dam was built, and a
building (on the site now occupied by Weed & Becker s
axe factory) was erected soon after the incorporation.

It was the intention of the company, in purchasing so
large a tract of land, to lay it out and improve it so as to
afford sites for further manufacturing establishments which
in time could be disposed of to other parties, but no move
ment of the sort appears to have been made, and for some
years, at least, the operations of the Company were confined
to this factory. The operatives employed were mostly
from New York. Several large wooden tenements, still

1813. HISTORY or COHOES. 39

standing, (between Saratoga street and the canal) were built
for their accommodation, on the knoll at the west of the

The first superintendent employed by the company was
named Pierce, who was succeeded in 1813 by Col. Prescott.

Horatio Spafford, who was a resident of Lansingburg, and
was doubtless acquainted with his townsmen who were
engaged in this enterprise, appears to have been the first
writer to mention the wonderful facilities offered by this
locality for manufacturing purposes. In his Gazetteer of
New York State (1st ed., 1813), he said, under the head of
Half-Moon :

" The Cahoos Falls of the Mohawk, near its mouth, are
between this town and Watervliet, and will supply a vast
profusion of sites when the surrounding population shall
need extensive works. There are now mills erected upon
the upper sprout or delta of that river just at Waterford
Point where it meets the Hudson."

Under the title of Watervliet, the following appeared in
regard to Cohoes :

" About three miles N. of Gibbonsville (West Troy) there
is a bridge across the Mohawk, a short distance below the
Cahoos Falls. The roads are numerous in the interior, but
they are rather paths than highways. The Cahoos, being
the principal falls of the Mohawk, are between Watervliet
and Half Moon in Saratoga Co. The whole waters of the
Mohawk descend in one sheet at high water, about 70
feet. In the vicinity of the Cahoos is a Dutch church and
farming neighborhood commonly called the Boght. Since
the above was written, a manufactory of screws of iron for
woodwork, erected on the lower sprout of the Mohawk near
the Cahoos bridge, has got into successful operation.

Works are about to be added for drawing the wire from
which the screws are formed, when the iron will be taken in
the bar, and manufactured into screws, now made of foreign
wire. The machinery is all driven by water, and is said to
be very ingenious, the invention of a self-taught artist, Mr.
Wm. C. Penniman. Some samples of the screws which I
have seen appear to be well formed, and they are cut with


great dispatch. These works are owned by an incorporated
company with a sufficient capital, and are situated directly
opposite Lansingburg, and about two miles below Water-

It is probable that the establishment of this factory made
little difference in the general life of the hamlet. It was
situated some distance from the main road, accessible only
by a rough path through the woods (now Oneida street),
its proprietors and operatives were all strangers, and beyond
the interest naturally awakened by the first operations, the
enterprise received but slight attention from the inhabitants.

One event, however, which was of general importance,
was perhaps brought about by the accession of the families
of the factory operatives. The only school house in the
neighborhood previously, had been located at the Boght,
but another was established about this time, which was
more accessible to many of the inhabitants. The school
was first located in a building on the main road, afterwards
occupied as a residence by Israel Anthony, a shoe-maker,
and still later by Wm. Link.- The first teacher was a man
named O Neil. About the same time or soon afterward, a
school building was erected a short distance above the
Heamstreet farm house. :! Supply F. Wilson was one of
the early teachers.

About this time the manufacture of writing paper was
commenced in Gerret Clute s mill near the Falls. The
building had not been used as a grist mill for some time,
and was occupied for several years as a cloth establishment
for dressing common farmers flannel. The proprietor of
the paper mill was Elisha Sheldon, who employed a man

1 John M. King, who as a boy was employed in the screw factory, is now living in

2 Near the corner of Oneida and Mohawk streets, on the site of the residence of
M. S. Younglove.

8 On Saratoga street on the site occupied by the Red or State-yard school house.


named Ensign as his superintendent. Two wooden tene
ments were erected near the mill. ]

In 1815 or 1816, the screw factory was burned, and this
appears to have interrupted for a time the operations of the
company. A great part of the stock changed hands, most
of it coming into possession of Benjamin and Samuel De
Milt of New York, and after some delay a new building
was erected, which was occupied as a cotton factory. In
connection with it a small factory was afterward estab
lished for the manufacture of shovels and other tools
which was conducted by Collin and Jones. Few particulars
in regard to it can be obtained.

About the year 1820, the first church building within
the present limits of Cohoes was erected. It was a small
wooden structure, located above the north line of the
Charles Heam street farm, near what is now the north
west corner of Mohawk and White streets. But little
can be ascertained in regard to the history of the
church. It was of the Methodist denomination, and
was organized mainly through the efforts of the different
Heamstreet families. The services were conducted by
Jacob Heamstreet and a man named Whipple of Lansing-
burg, as exhorters, but there is no record that a clergy
man was ever regularly settled. The building was only
used about two years, when disputes of some sort arose
and the services were abandoned. It remained for some time
unoccupied, and was afterward converted into a dwelling
house. Directly in front of this church was located the
ninth mile stone from Albany. The eighth mile stone was
near Jacob H. Lansing s house.

The construction of the Erie and Champlain Canals, which
was begun in 1817, and completed, at least in this vicinity,
in 1823, was the first event to cause a noticeable change in

1 The mill was destroyed about 1832, when the improvements of the Cohoes Com
pany were in progress.



the character of the place. It may well be imagined that
the equanimity of its quiet Dutch inhabitants was seriously
disturbed by the projection of these improvements, and that
they regarded the invasion of their domains with a disfavor
which no awards of land damages could remove. Every
farm was traversed by one or both of the canals. Both
passed directly in front of the residence of Abram G. Lan
sing, marring the lawn which extended from the house to
the river, and destroying much of the beauty of his country
place while the next farm on the north, belonging to
Charles Heamstreet, was damaged almost as greatly. The
front yard of the farm house was cut off by the Champlain
Canal, leaving no means of access to the highway, except by a
bridge which was built a short distance above the house, and
soon afterward Mr. Heamstreet disposed of the farm, and
moved away, his reason being, it is said, disgust at this
mutilation of his property. The other farmers, whose lands
were all more or less injured, appear to have been more
resigned to the innovation, though it was doubtless equally

The junction of the Erie and Champlain Canals (located
near the site of the stables of the Troy and Cohoes Horse
Rail Road Company on Saratoga street north of the dyke],
gave this locality some little importance in the early
days of canal navigation. On the occasion of the canal
celebration Oct. 8th, 1823, the Dewitt Clinton, the first
boat to pass from the Erie Canal into the Hudson, was here
met by the joint committee of the common council and
citizens of Albany, who escorted to that city the passengers,
consisting of Gov. Yates, the canal commissioners, and other
prominent officials. It was at this point that the slight ac
tivity in the place, which followed the regular opening of
navigation, was chiefly manifested. The construction of
the canals brought to Cohoes quite a number of new in
habitants, some of whom came during the progress of the
work and others soon after its completion. Houses were


built, and canal groceries, stables, and similar concerns es
tablished at different points. The most important of these
were at the junction, at which place the principal settlers
were Messrs. Crowner, Waterman and Phelps. The house
of Mr. Waterman, who was the first justice of the peace
in the neighborhood, was situated on the hill just south of
the ravine at the northwest of the junction, and those of
Crowner and Phelp*s were by the canal north of the site of
the horse rail road stables. Among other families which
came to Cohoes about this time were those of Messrs. Henry
En Earl, Flannigan, Beecher, Wolcott and Herkimer.

The boats at this time only ran during the day and there
was consequently a demand for lodgings for the boatmen
and stabling for their horses, which was the means of
supporting several small taverns ; of these the most im
portant was the one which had been established by Richard
Heamstreet, and was then kept by Andrews. Another was
located in the old Ouderkirk or Fonda farm-house, which

was kept by Dyer and afterward by Williams.

Connected with this was a large barn (burned a few years
since) which stood on the flats between the canal and the
river, and furnished accommodations for a number of canal
teams. On the hill was the Cohoes House owned by the
Van Der Marks, who had leased the southwest portion of
the Clute farm. This was located near the bridge which
crosses the present Erie Canal by the Boght road. 1

With the exception of some alterations made three years
since, near the old junction, the course of the Champlain
Canal, near Cohoes, has remained as originally laid out.
The old Erie Canal ran north from the junction, passing over
the ground now occupied by Main street, and the third and
second levels of the Cohoes Company s canals. Above the
Falls it ran in a north westerly direction, being at the west of

1 This was torn down in 1875. In later years it was called the Old House atHome^
and was kept by Geo. Bray.


the present location of the Cohoes Company s upper level.
Within the space now included between the northern and
southern boundaries of the city were nineteen locks, fol
lowing each other in rapid succession. Two of these were
below the junction, and seven between the junction and the
road to Watervliet, now Columbia street. The next one was
located near what is now White street, and the old lock
house (on the east side of Main street), is still standing ;
three more were situated near the site now occupied by the
jute mill (formerly paper mill) on Mohawk street, and two
others occupied the ground near where the pump house now
stands. Between the Three Locks and the Two Locks, near
the site of the Harmony Mills, was a large basin, capable of
holding thirty or forty boats, which at night was often
filled. A canal grocery, owned by Oliver C. Hubbard, was,
about 1828, located on one of the Two Locks. The
last locks, four in number, were near the present northern
boundary of the city.

These locks were an object of great dislike to travelers
and boatmen, whose progress was seriously impeded by
them in busy seasons when boats were numerous. To avoid
wasting the time which would have been employed in the
tedious journey from Albany to the upper locks, a line of

stage coaches was established by Allen, a few years

after the opening of the canals, which connected with the
packets just above the locks. These coaches, on some days
five or six in number, came up from Albany every morning
bringing westward bound passengers and returned at night
with those who had come in from the opposite direction.
The horses were stabled during the day at the Van Der
Mark tavern.

In Spafford s Canal Guide, published 1824 and 1825, the
following objects of interest in Cohoes at that time were
mentioned :

" Between Albany and Schenectady, twenty-eight and a


half miles, a day is employed, there being so many locks to
pass ; but every person is well compensated for the time
and expense of at least one trip, passing twenty-seven locks,
two aqueducts, and an interesting variety of natural

Miles from Albany.

8 Juncta, or the junction where the Erie receives the
Champlain Canal by a navigable feeder from the Mohawk,
below which there is a basin and 2 locks, Nos. 3 and 4,
2 of the Nine Locks. No. 3 to 11, in about half a mile rise
78 feet. Here are two locks the commencement of a
double set now building of the white marble of West-
chester Co.

r. from Juncta by Champlain Canal to Waterford, 2 miles.

1. A. G. Lansing s at lock No. 6.

9 Lock No. 12, rise 8 feet.

9i The Three Locks, Nos. 13, 14 and 15, rise 26 ft., opposite

Gahoos Bridge.
9* The Two Locks, Nos. 16 and 17 rise 18 ft., Nos. 13, 14,

15, 16, the 4 Marble Locks.

10 Deep cutting, 26 ft., 40 rods, transition argillite
r. Cahoos Falls, perpendicular descent 78 ft.

10i r. Paper Mill on Mohawk River.

10J The Four Locks, Nos. 18, 19, 20, 21, rise 32 ft.

r. Wing dam, and grist saw and plaster mill. l "

The points mentioned on the Champlain Canal were
Whiting s factory, - the cotton factory and the dam,
the latter of which is thus described. "2 m. Dam, Mohawk
River, 7 ft. pond 1600 ft. wide, back water 53 rods, navi
gation through the pond, guard locks, feeder for Erie

In the second edition of Spafford s Gazetteer, published

1824, the place was described as follows :

1 The plaster mill, belonging to the Lansing family, had not been long in opera
tion. It was located in an addition which was built at the south of the original
saw and irrist mills. The building was used a few years later for the manufacture
of coarse wrapping paper.

2 This was the mill which had been conducted by John Heamstreet. It came into
the possession of the Whitings of Troy, and was used some years as a candle factory.
The frame of the mill remained standing as late as 1837. The house occupied by
the Whitings, and in later years known as the Alcombrack house, is still standing,
near the site of the old mill.


Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) MastenThe history of Cohoes, New York [electronic resource] from its earliest settlement to the present time → online text (page 4 of 30)