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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public in general to be considered, "A meeting of our
citizens, to be held at the Cohoes Hotel," was invariably
called, as the first proceeding.

Among the improvements of the proprietors was the
establishment of a regular mail stage, running between
Waterford and Albany and making one round trip daily.
The first public conveyance had been started about three
years before by John Brown (a brother of Thos. V. Brown,
now residing in this city) ; it was a vehicle of the simplest
kind, and far from comfortable, being merely an ordinary
box wagon, with an oil cloth top. Mr. Brown sold out to
the Messrs. Fuller, who put on the road a new coach, of the
kind we now call old-fashioned stage coach, but then re
garded as a model of elegance and comfort.

There were few changes of importance during this year
in the business interests of the place. Messrs. Hawes &
Baker sold out their veneering and sawing mill to Levi
Silliman, the former partner of Daniel Simmons, and com
menced the manufacture of stoves, which they continued
for some years, the only Cohoes firm, it is said, ever engaged
in that business. Their castings were at first made in the
Cohoes foundery, and afterwards in West Troy and Green

Among the private residences built were those of Heze-
kiah Howe and Wm. J. McAlpine, both under direction of

1 For many years the only places in town at which liquor was sold (except the
canal groceries) were the hotel and Van Der Werken s grocery on the corner of
Oneida and Mohawk streets. The latter establishment was a well known resort
in the earlier days of Cohoes. It was originally kept by Jacob Van Der Werken,
and afterward by his son, John B., known to the citizens respectively as Yaupy,
and John Yaupy, both of whom were prominent in local affairs . The property on
this corner came into the possession of Jacob Van Der Werken about sixty years
ago and remained in possession of his family until quite recently, part having been
bought by John Larkins in 1864, and a lot. in the rear of the old grocery by Wm.
Triebel, in 1865.


Joshua R. Clarke. The former, on the south-west corner
of Seneca and Mohawk streets, now occupied by Dr. Moore,
has since been considerably altered ; the house of Mr.
Me Alpine (who was engineer of this division of the canal),
on the opposite side of the street, is now occupied by W.
N. Chadwick, and is one of the best preserved of the older
residences of Cohoes. The valuation of land in the village,
at this time, as appears from a memorandum in the patroon s
office, was $1,000 per acre.

An important evidence of the growth of the village was
the establishment of new churches. The Reformed Dutch
church had been organized in November of the previous
year, with the following members, of whom only the last
two are now living : Nicolas Lighthall, Rosetta Lighthall,
James Safely, Janet Safely, John Schoonmaker, Gitty
Schoonmaker, Abram Weidman, Elizabeth Weidman, John
Van Der Werken, Daniel Simmons, William Renwick,
Isabella Renwick.

The corner stone of the first church, which stood on the
same site as the one now in use, was laid on Sept. 4, 1838,
by Hon. Tunis Van Vechten, mayor of Albany. A hymn
was sung, composed for the occasion by Rev. Wm. Lock-
head, first pastor of the church, and prayers were offered by
Rev. Drs. Yates of Schenectady and Yermilyea, then of the
North Dutch church, Albany.

In 1839 the Methodist church was organized by Rev. E.
Crawford, under direction of Rev. Chas. Sherman. The
original members were twenty in number, among them being
Jas. Hemstreet and wife, Joseph Mudge and wife, Mrs.
Timothy Bailey, James Shannon, Jonas Simmons, Sr., and
wife, Baltheus Simmons, Mrs. Fuller, Joseph Gould, Sr.,
and wife, Wm. Dodge and wife, Silas Owen, Sr., Gideon
Longley and Mr. Rhodes. The first services were held in
the school house on Oneida street, in which the Episcopal
church had been organized.


In May of the same year, the first Baptist church was
organized, and the Rev. John Duncan ordained as pastor,
the sermon of ordination being preached by Rev. I. West-
cott, of Stillwater. These services were held in Harmony
Mill, No. 1, and the church as then constituted consisted
of twenty-four members, of whom Thomas Lansing is the
sole survivor. Among them were Josiah H. Beach and
wife, Alanson Cook and wife, Ebenezer Bartlett, wife and
four children, Mr. and Mrs. Castleton, Peter Link, Rebecca
Steenberg and Mrs. Duncan. The first deacons were
Ebenezer Bartlett and Alanson Cook. For nearly a year
the meetings were held in a boarding house, on the West
Harmony, and afterwards in a building on Mohawk street,
below Oneida, recently occupied by Peter Smith.

On the 10th of August the Presbyterian church was
established under direction of Rev. Mr. Chamberlin, with
the following members : Levi Silliman, Mrs. Clarissa Silli-
man, Timothy Bailey, Joshua Bailey, Joshua Bailey, Jr.,
Mrs. Almira Bailey, Augustus J. Goif, Asahel Goff, Mrs.
Lucy Goff, Mrs. Melinda Goodsell, Maltby Howell, Mrs.
Mary Howell, Mrs. Eliza Ann Tremain and Miss Fanny A.
Hamilton. Of these, only one, Mrs. Clarissa Silliman,
is now living in Cohoes, and only three are living elsewhere.
Levi Silliman and Timothy Bailey were chosen to be the
first elders of the church, and Maltby Howell was chosen
as deacon. The church was organized in the house of Levi
Silliman, in the northern half of the house now occupied by
H. B. Silliman, on Saratoga street. That part of the house
was not then finished as a dwelling, and could easily ac
commodate the infant church. The society then worshiped
for a time in the building erected for a carpet factory which
stood on the site of Gregory & Killer s mill. The first
church, a small wooden structure, was erected in the fol
lowing year, on the northeast corner of Remsen and
Factory streets. The building, which has since been used


for a variety of purposes, is still standing, one door east of
the corner, and is now used as a second-hand store.

In 1840, also, the Baptist church, was built on Remsen
street opposite the Presbyterian church, on the site now
occupied by J. H. Parsons & Co. s mill. The building^
the cost of which was $521, was afterwards moved to
Canvass street opposite the Catholic church, and is now
used as a dwelling.

In January 1839 the Cohoes Company s dam had been
severely damaged by a freshet, which washed away about
three hundred feet of the structure. The work of rebuild
ing it was completed during this year at a cost of $40,000,
Oliver C. Hubbard being one of the contractors. The new
dam was of timber, filled in with stone and concrete masonry,
1500 feet long and nine feet high.

The commercial depression from which the whole country
suffered about this time was severely felt in Cohoes and
between 1840 and 1842 the place made slight progress.
Business of every kind was very dull, and many of the man
ufacturing establishments suspended operations. During
this period the enlarged Erie Canal and the Troy and
Schenectady Rail Road were in process of construction, and
these alone kept the village from utter stagnation. The
presence of numbers of men who were engaged upon them
gave the neighborhood at times some little air of activity,
and made brisk a few branches of business.

By this time quite a number of buildings had been erected
on Remsen street ; most of them were dwellings, however,
and there was yet no indication that it would ever become
a favorite location for business, the universal supposition
being that as the village increased, Mohawk street, to which
business was then confined, would continue to be the prin
cipal thoroughfare.

In 1841 the first Methodist church, which stood on the
west side of the street near the site of the present Clifton
mill, was completed and was dedicated by Bishop Peck.


The building was of wood, cost $550, and had a seating
capacity of two hundred. The principal buildings on the
street at this time, aside from, the three churches, and the fac
tories which were near its intersection with Mohawk street,
may be briefly mentioned. Between Factory and Oneida
streets was the dwelling of Mr. Mudge, before mentioned ;
between Seneca and Ontario streets, on the west side, that
of Thos. Hitchens, 1 a contractor on the enlarged canal ; on
the site of Adams s block was a row of tenements which had
been erected a few years before by Oliver C. Hubbard ; at
the northeast corner of Remsen and White streets was the
block of tenements owned by Egberts & Bailey ; on the
southeast corner the residence of Jno. P. Steenberg, and on
the southwest corner that of Jacob I. Lansing, south of which
was a small house owned by Samuel Cook ; between White
and Howard streets, on the east side were the residences of
John Judge (now Mrs. FitzPatrick s) Henry Rockfellow, Mrs.
Doyle and Jas. Shannon, and on the northwest corner of
Howard and Remsen streets was that of Chas. O Brien*
Below Howard street, in the region long known as Cork
Hill, the buildings were unimportant, most of them being
shanties built and occupied by the laborers on the canal.
On the corner of Remsen and Columbia streets, however,
was a building of some size, owned by Patrick Judge.

The Troy and Schenectady Rail Road, built by the city
of Troy, was completed in 1842. It was the first rail road
which at all affected the interests of Cohoes people, though
not the first in the vicinity, for the one from Saratoga to
Troy, passing over Adams s Island, had been constructed
in 1835. Judging from the opposition which was after
wards manifested when a second road (the Albany and
Cohoes ) was proposed, we may conclude that this enter
prise met with little approval, especially from those older

1 The building is now owned by Jno. Orelup. It was enlarged and converted
into a store in 1870.


inhabitants whose land was called into requisition. At
all events there is no record that the completion of the road
was hailed with particular satisfaction, or celebrated by
any unusual demonstration on the part of the citizens gene
rally, though they at once proceeded to avail themselves
of its advantages.

During this year the manufacture of bedsteads, which
has since always been an important branch of Cohoes in
dustry, was commenced by Orson Parkhurst. 1 His factory
was located in a small building which had been used by
Egberts and Bailey as a dye house, and was situated be
tween their mill and that of Hawes and Baker. The power
was obtained from a waste weir. All the work of the es
tablishment was done by two men, and the quarters were
so restricted that there was no room for the planing machine,
which Mr. Parkhurst was compelled to place in the Wil
kinson machine shop.

Another new enterprise was a flouring mill established
by Messrs. Slocum & Granger in the carpet factory building,
which they enlarged and remodelled for the purpose. 2

The winter of 1842-43 was one of great severity. An
unusual depth of snow covered the ground for many months
and remarkably cold weather continued until the spring
was well advanced the date at which the Hudson River
was opened, April 13, being the latest on record. An ac
curate account of the weather in Cohoes was kept by Post
master Howe, from which, as containing several interesting
local allusions, extracts are given below :

" March l^ith. Snow fell this day about ten inches and is
two feet six inches deep on the level at least in the vicinity
of Cohoes. The mercury has several times during this
month thus far fallen down to zero.

" ISth. Road impassible for sleighs from Cohoes to Troy

1 The firm afterwards became O . & D. Parkhurst, and later, Parkhursts & Fullers.

2 The building burned a few years later and the lot remained vacant until the
building of Smith, Gregory & Co. s mill.


on account of snow drifts. The mail was brought from Troy
on horseback in the forenoon of this day was forwarded in
sleigh in the afternoon to Albany. Snow three feet deep
on the level.

" 23d. Snow continued falling all day, high winds and
cold. Roads impassible in many places. The mail stage
worked its way down to West Troy and Albany in the
afternoon. On the return left stage at West Troy and the
driver and passengers returned thence on horseback.

" 24^. Col. F. Lansing and others from his neighborhood
made out to reach Cohoes this day by shovelling their way.
Snow on the level between three and four feet deep, and
continued cold as in February.

" April 4th. Many of the roads near Cohoes yet impassible.

\lth. Snow is nearly melted away in Mohawk street.
Town meeting this day at Yearsley s. Some went with
sleighs, some with wagons and many on foot. The road
is blocked with snow for two and three and some places
four feet deep.

" I4:th. This is the most extraordinary season on record;
the long continuance of winter weather (from the middle of
November to the middle of April) and the depths of snow
still lying not only in the country but in our streets, are

The enlarged Erie Canal, which under the direction of
different contractors had occupied five years in construction,
was finally completed in 1843, and it then became possible
to increase the manufacturing facilities of the place. Deeds
were duly executed, conveying the Cohoes Company s land
to the state and the abandoned canal to the company, and
the latter at once commenced operations. That part of the
canal which ran east of the Harmony Mill, between the
Two Locks and the Three Locks, became the second
level, in the system of the Cohoes Company, and may now
be described as extending from just below the pump-house
to the jute mill. The level of the Erie Canal between the
Three Locks and the One Lock (White street) became
the third of the present system, having been united with
the old Basin A, at a point near Factory street, and
the level now extends from above the Strong Mill to the


rear of the Clifton Mill. The remainder of the canal bed,
from the latter point to the junction, became by degrees
filled up, and some years later became a highway under the
name of Canal street.

An important addition this year to the business of the
place was a second axe and edge tool factory, established
in February by Messrs. White, Olmstead & Co. The
firm erected a small building at the head of Remsen street,
on the site of Griffins sash factory, and also rented a
portion of the Wilkinson machine shop. At first but six
or eight men were employed, but the business increased
rapidly, and in later years the concern was one of the
foremost in the place. The senior partner, Miles White,
had been for some time in the employ of Daniel Simmons
as traveling agent, and besides a knowledge of the business
had gained an extensive acquaintance among dealers.

One of the first firms to take advantage of the improve
ments of the Cohoes Company was Egberts & Bailey,
who commenced the erection of the mill on Ontario street
(since greatly enlarged) which is now occupied by the Troy
Manufacturing Company. For the first eight or nine years
the operations of this firm had been limited ; the machinery
was not entirely perfected, and it was some time before
sufficient could be constructed to enable the production of
goods to any amount. A carefully detailed history of their
business during this time, showing the discouragements
which attended the establishment and growth of what is
now so important a branch of our manufactures, would be
invaluable. At this date, however, the preparation of such
a sketch is almost impossible, and of the accounts which
have been published at different times many have been
found to be so incorrect that they are not worthy of quota
tion. An outline of the history is all that can be satisfac
torily obtained. The following published in the Bennington
JBanner in Nov. 1870, though inaccurate in some particulars,
may be of interest:


" Twenty-five years ago, the writer, after going through
as much circumlocution and full as many assurances as are
required to work one s way into a Masonic Lodge, visited
the knitting room of Messrs. Egberts & Bailey at Cohoes,
N. Y., who were then the most extensive arid successful and
almost the exclusive machinery knitters in this country.
Their machinery was an improvement on any then in use
and was not patented. They preferred keeping it so secret
that the monopoly which they enjoyed, would be, as it
proved to be, more profitable and surer to bring them a
fortune than to run the risks of improvements, infringements
and impositions which then, as now, were sure to follow
the public exposure of specifications and explanations neces
sary to be made in procuring letters patent. They em
ployed only the most reliable workmen, kept their doors
constantly fastened with spring locks, and allowed no man
in their knitting room without first putting him under the
most sacred obligations to divulge nothing which they
might learn or find within those mystic walls. One Gen.
Geo. S. Bradford ran the Cohoes mill by contract for two
years, it being a stipulation in the contract that lie should
not enter the knitting room, and he did not until a defection
on the part of the foreman made it necessary that some
man should take charge in there. Timothy Bailey who was
the inventor of the machinery then used, and the foreman
Van Dwyer who had always run it, were the only persons
who knew anything about it, and although they had come
to have much confidence in Gen. Bradford s knowledge and
management of machinery, the company could hardly sup
pose that he could run a set of knitters which he had never
seen, and which were of an entirely different style, and far
more complicated than the frames since in use, and turn out
the usual and necessary quantity of goods. The sequel
proved, as all who have since known the general would ex
pect, that he did run it most successfully, and turned out,
not only an excess over the usual amount of goods, but a
much improved article. For many years this Cohoes mill
was the only knitting mill of importance in the country,
and was claimed to be the only one in the world where all
the knitting of shirts and drawers was done by machinery."
The following is from an address delivered in 1866 before
the National Association of knit goods manufacturers by
Hon. C. H. Adams, then president of that body :


" I can remember, among the recollections of my boyish
days, when the principle of knitting by power was first suc
cessfully applied in this country. It was first attained in
1832, although nothing of importance was accomplished
until 1841. In those days the inventor and manufacturer,
now one of our honorary members, was wont to wander
through the streets of New York, urging the merchants to
permit him to leave a sample of goods for sale. The whole
production of that time did not exceed $40,000, now we
estimate our production at half as many millions."

For some years, although the production of the mill was
so slight, it could not all be disposed of in the New York
market, so part of it was sold in small lots to Troy and
Albany merchants and among the country stores in the
vicinity. In Troy, it is said, Mr. Bailey would go from one
dry-goods dealer to another, carrying packages of shirts
and drawers and taking in return for their sale orders pay
able in goods, and with these the female operatives in the
mill were paid.

In time, however, as Egberts & Bailey s goods grew
into favor, the increased demand made such efforts as these
unnecessary, and their business became established on a
sound basis. When the building of the mill was com
menced it was in a prosperous condition ; the dullness of
1840 and 1844, had on the passage of the protective tariff
act been succeeded by great activity, and during the pre
vious year the firm had cleared $22,000. The mill was the
first in the village, and it is said, in this country, erected
especially for knitting purposes. The building, which was
of brick, was originally one hundred and twenty-four by
forty-five feet, and three stories high. Four sets of ma
chinery were put in operation at first, and two more after
ward added when the seaming room was completed
a brick building twenty-five by seventy feet and two
and a half stories high, extending to the corner of
Ontario and Remsen streets. 1 The builder of the mill was

This was converted into a store by F. E. Pennock in 1859.


Joshua R. Clarke, and the wheelwright Jacob I. Lansing.
Soon after it was finished the partnership was dissolved,
Timothy Bailey remaining in the Miller building, while Mr.
Egberts and Joshua Bailey took possession of the new mill.
When this factory was erected, the Cohoes Company made
use of the ravine at Ontario street, before mentioned, as a
water-course ; and the first bridge over it on Remsen street)
a slight wooden structure, was built. The only means of
crossing it before had been by two planks stretched side by
side from one bank to the other.

In 1844 was built the sawing and veneering mill of Wm.
Burton & Co., who for many years were among the most
prominent firms of Cohoes. For some time previous Mr.
Burton had been in business with John M. Tremain, their
establishment being located in an upper story of the Wilkin
son machine shop. In this year he bought Mr. Tremain s
interest, and also the machinery and fixtures of Levi Silli-
man, who had succeeded Hawes & Baker, thus securing a
monopoly in Cohoes of that branch of manufacture. The
building (now occupied as a knitting mill by Thompson &
Horrocks), was of brick and stone, thirty by sixty feet, and
had three stories including the basement. An upper story
was occupied by Parkhurst s bedstead factory.

From this time there is nothing of importance to be re
corded until the year 1846, which was one of marked growth
in the business interests of the place. Among the most
important accessions were two establishments for the manu
facture of cotton cloth, the largest one being the Ogden
Mills. The Ogden Mill, No. 1, the foundations of which
had been laid in 1844, was completed in the following year.
It was of brick, two hundred and six by fifty-one feet, and
had three stories and a basement. Directly north of this
was the No. 2 mill built in 1846, which was two hundred

1 Tremain s predecessor in that building was an Englishman named Mills who had
commenced the sawing business about 1835.


and fourteen by fifty-two feet and three stories high. These
buildings have since been united. The two brick blocks
across the canal west of the mills, were built at the same
time for the accommodation of the operatives. The pro
prietors were Messrs. Tenney & Cowles, of Boston, whose
agent in Cohoes was Luke Bemis.

The Strong Mill, situated near Mohawk street at the head
of the Cohoes Company s third level, was built in the latter
part of the year, by Win. X. Chndwick. The machinery
was not put in until the following season. The build
ing was of brick, eighty-three by forty-three feet, and
had three stories and a basement. South of the mill, on
Mohawk street, were erected three wooden tenements.
Both of these mills were built by John B. Colgrove,
then one of the principal carpenters of the place. With
their completion, cotton manufacture took the foremost
rank among the industries of Cohoes. The capacity of the
Harmony Manufacturing Company s mills had been in
creased in 1844. The president s report for 1846, contained
the following account of their transactions :

" The amount of goods made during the past year are
53,045 cuts of print cloths, averaging thirty-two yards each,
containing 1,692,125 yards, showing an increase over the
products of the preceding year of 5,400 cuts or 172,400 yards
of cloth. 723 bales, containing 338,786 Ibs. of cotton have
been used during the past year."

In the spring of the year the Cohoes Worsted Company
was incorporated, with a capital of $50,000, and commenced
the manufacture of carpet and lace yarns in the building
(on the site of the Star Mill) which had been erected by
Hawes and Baker. Since this mill was vacated by Levi
Silliman it had been occupied by Mr. Roy of West Troy
as a butt factory, and by Alex. Rogers as a woolen mill,

1 In February, 1847, a joint stock company was formed of which the trustees were

Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) MastenThe history of Cohoes, New York [electronic resource] from its earliest settlement to the present time → online text (page 7 of 30)