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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(London, 1776), which contained a map of this country,
and topographical descriptions of the parts he had visited.
In this he describes at considerable length the appearance
of the Falls, saying that he had seen them once before
when the rocks were almost entirely bare, but at this time,
June 25th, the volume of water was immense. After speak
ing of the grandeur and beauty of the sight he says :

" In other parts, where it shoots over in a sheet of water,
there is a peculiar circumstance which struck me, and which
I will endeavor to explain ; there are every now and then
violent explosions of air which burst through the surface
of the torrent, and as I considered it attentively on the
spot, I explained it as follows to myself : The air which
is contained and pent in between the rock and the arch of
the torrent must, by the violent motion of this torrent, be
heated and rarefied, and if so will of course break out in
explosions. The vapors which fly off from this Fall dis
perse themselves, and fall in heavy showers for near half a
mile round the place. These Falls the Indians call by the
expressive name Cohoes."

Gov. Pownall made a sketch of the Falls at this time,
which he took back to England, and there had it painted,
engraved and published. One of the original prints, which
are now extremely rare, is in the possession of Joseph Chad-
wick, Esq., of this city, and is remarkably well preserved.

The title of the picture is as follows : "A view of the
great Cohoes Falls on the Mohawk River. The Fall about
seventy feet, the river near a quarter of a mile broad.
Sketched on the spot by his excellency Gov. Pownall,
painted by Paul Sanby, and engraved by William Elliott,
May, 1761." A steel engraving of this print, much smaller
than the original, forms the frontispiece to this volume.
Gov. Pownall mentions another sketch of the Falls, taken
when the water was low, and published some years previous
by an English traveler named Calm, which he says was an
inferior production, and so poorly done as to give the Falls
the general appearance of a mill-dam.


The interruption to navigation before spoken of, was the
means of adding considerably to the business of Schenectady,
as appears from the following taken from the papers of the
Mass. Historical Coll., and dated 1792. "It (Schenectady)
stands upon the Mohawk River about nine miles above the
Falls called the Cohoes, but this I take to be the Indian
name for falls ; its chief business is to receive the mer
chandize from Albany and put into batteaux, to go up
the river and forward to Albany such produce of the
back country as is sent to market."

It will be observed that of the writers who have been
quoted nearly all speak of the Falls in terms of the highest
admiration. The Duke de la Rochefoucault Liancourt, an
exile of the French revolution, who visited this place in
1795, does not, however, appear to have been particularly
impressed. Concerning the Falls (which he called Xohos,
and his translator corrected to Cohoez) he said:

" But the river contains not at present sufficient water to
support the Falls. In many places the rocks are quite dry ;
but in others they afford a fine prospect. The perpendicu
lar height of the Falls may amount to about fifty feet, and
the river is about an eighth of a mile in width. But upon
the whole the view is not strikingly wild, romantic or
pleasant, though the Falls are much celebrated throughout

The following description of this neighborhood, from
Travels in the United States and Canada, 1795-97, by
Isaac Weld Jr., though giving no new observations in re
gard to the Falls, is worthy of notice as containing a refer
ence, one of the earliest on record, to the existence of a
settlement here :

" Early the next morning we set off and in about two
hours arrived at the small village of Cohoz close to which
is the remarkable Fall in the Mohawk River. * * The ap
pearance of this Fall varies very much according to the
quantity of water; when the river is full the water descends
in an unbroken sheet from one bank to the other whilst at
other times the greater part of the rocks are left uncovered.


The rocks are of a remarkable dark color and so also is the
earth in the banks which rise to a great height on either
side. There is a very pleasing view of this Cataract as you
pass over the bridge across the river, about three-quarters
of a mile lower down."

A very inferior drawing of the Falls (referred to by Moore,
see note below) was published by Mr. Weld.

In 1800, the Falls were visited by John Maude, an Eng
lishman, who writes in his journal as follows :

" Cross the Mohawk, over the bridge at the foot of the
Cohoes Falls, near which I breakfasted at Forth s tavern. l
After breakfast I visited the celebrated cataract of the
Cohoes, and strange to say, I was more pleased with it now
that I had seen Niagara, than I was five years ago when I
beheld it with disappointment."

The visit of Thomas Moore to the Falls, during 1804, has
become famous as suggesting the composition of the follow
ing poem, which is widely known and quoted.


" Gia era in loco ove s udia 1 rimbombo.
Deil acqua . . . " Dante.

From rise of morn till set of sun

I have seen the mighty Mohawk run,

And as I marked the woods of pine

Along his mirror darkly shine,

Like tall and gloomy forms that pass

Before the wizard s midnight glass :

And as I viewed the hurrying pace

With which he ran his turbid race,

Rushing, alike uutir d and wild,

Through shades that frowned and flowers that smiled,

Flying by every green recess

1 1 have been unable to ascertain positively the locality of this tavern . There
was an inn kept by a man named Ford, just this side of Gibbonsville (now West
Troy), and on the north side of the river were settled several families of Forts, one
at Fort s Ferry, another at the Halve Maan,

a " There is a dreary and savage character in the country immediately about these
Falls, which is more in harmony with the wilclness of such a scene, than the culti
vated lands in the neighborhood of Niagara. See the drawing of them in Mr. Weld s
book. According to him the perpendicular height of the Conos Falls is fifty feet,
but the Marquis de Chastellux makes it seventy-six. The fine rainbow which is
continually forming and dissolving as the spray rises with the light of the sun, is
perhaps the moat interesting beauty which these wonderful cataracts exhibit."


That woo d him to its calm caress,

Yet, sometimes turning with the wind,

As if to leave one look behind !

Oh ! I have thought, and thinking sigh d

How like to thee, thou restless tide !

May be the lot, the life of him,

Who roams along thy water s brim !

Through what alternate shades of woe,

And flowers of joy my path may go !

How many a humble, still retreat

May rise to court my weary feet,

While still pursuing, still unblest,

I wander on, nor dare to rest !

But urgent as the doom that calls

Thy water to its destined falls,

I see the world s bewildering force

Hurry my heart s devoted course

From lapse to lapse, till life be done,

And the last current cease to run !

Oh, may my falls be bright as thine !

May heaven s forgiving rainbow shine

Upon the mist that circles me,

As soft, as now it hangs o er thee !

It has been stated, but with what authority I cannot say,
that the house occupied by Moore during his stay here, was
afterward owned by G. M. Cropsey, arid was standing until
recently at Northside. In relation to this, the following,
published in the Albany Evening Journal in 1859, will be
of interest: " About the 5th of June, 1839, Moore received
a letter from some person, a resident of the village of Cohoes,
which so attracted his notice that he spoke of it to Daniel
Webster, whom, on the 9th of June, he met at dinner.
The point in the letter of interest now is that the writer
claimed to have identified and visited the cottage occupied
by Moore when at Cohoes, and the walk near the Falls fre
quented by him." In a letter from Moore to his mother,
written from Saratoga, July 10th, 1804, is the following
reference to his visit.

" Two or three days ago I was to see the Coho Falls on
the Mohawk River, and was truly gratified. The immense
fall of the river over a natural dam of thirty or forty feet
high, its roar among the rocks, and the illuminated mist of


spray which rises from its foam, were to me objects all new,
beautiful, and impressive. I never can forget the scenery
of this country, and if it had but any endearing associations
of the heart (to diffuse that charm over it, without which
the fairest features of nature are but faintly interesting), I
should regret very keenly that I cannot renew often the
enjoyment of its beauties. But it has none such for me,
and I defy the barbarous natives to forge one chain of at
tachment for any heart, that has ever felt the sweets of
delicacy, or refinement. I believe I must except the icomen
from this denunciation ; they are certainly flowers of every
climate and here waste their sweetness most deplorably." 1

Among the latest descriptions of the Falls in which new
points of interest are touched upon, is that of Timothy
Dwight, president of Yale College, who was in the habit
of making annual tours through this neighborhood. Wri
ting in 181 1, he said : " The river was low, but I was better
pleased with the appearance of the cataract than at any
time heretofore. The face of the precipice was sensibly
worn since 1802, and presented more and bolder varieties
to the view than at that time. A great deal of the precipice
was naked."

When, with the progress of the present century, the lines
of travel in this country became extended, Niagara and
other cataracts by their superior grandeur rendered the
Cohoes Falls less an object of interest, and the number of
tourists thither decreased. To visitors in this neighborhood
of later years, other features of the place have seemed more
important, and the Falls, once the sole attraction, have re
ceived but passing mention.

1 Memoirs, Journal and Correspondence of Thomas Moore, Edited by the Et. Eon.
Lord John Kussett, M.P., vol. i, London, 1853.




J_ HE greater part of the land on which the city of Cohoes
now stands was originally in the Manor of Rensselaerswyck,
and was purchased from the Indians in 1630. A charter of
privileges and exemptions had been granted in the preceding
year, for the encouragement of patroons to settle colonies,
and Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, a pearl merchant in Amster
dam, and a director of the Dutch West India Company, was
one of those who availed themselves of its advantages.

A.t different times during the next seven years the agents
of this gentleman purchased for him tracts of land in this
vicinity, until his domain extended twenty-four miles along
the Hudson River, and twenty-four miles on each side of
the river, east and west, embracing the land which now
composes the counties of Albany, Rensselaer, and part of
Columbia. The northern boundary of this manor was on
the line of the Cohoes Falls, running along what was after
ward known as Cohoes Lane and still later as the BogJit
Road and Manor Avenue. The land north of this manor
line, which is now within the city limits, was given by the
Indians to Illetie or Hilletie (Alice), the wife of Pieter
Danielse Van Olinde. She was the daughter of Cornelis
Antonissen Van Slyck, and was a half-breed, her mother
being a Mohawk woman. She acted for many years as in-
terpretess for the province, and as such was frequently
mentioned in the journals of D ankers and Sluyter, before
quoted. The Mohawk sachems gave her, in 1667, the Great
Island at Niskayuna, and also land at Willow Flat, below
Port Jackson and at the Boght, in Watervliet. l

The islands at the mouth of the Mohawk, which were in

1 The land northwest of the city, which was settled at an early day by the Van
Denberg and other families, was originally included in a patent granted to Peter
endrickse De Haas in 1697.


early years a favorite resort of the Indians one of their
strong holds, Moenimines Castle, being situated on Haver
Island came into possession of Capt. Goosen Gerritse
Van Schaick, brewer, of Albany. In 1664, he, together
with Philip Pieterse Schuyler, was granted permission to
purchase the Halve Maan from the Indians " to prevent
those of Connecticut purchasing it." This grant, commonly
known as the Van Schaick or Half -Moon patent, included
the present village of Waterford, and part of Half -Moon.
Its name is derived from the crescent shape of the land
lying between the Hudson and the Mohawk at that point. 1

Under the terms of the charter it became the duty of
Mr. Van Rensselaer to encourage the settlement of the tract
of which he was possessor, and in 1630, and succeeding
years, numbers of colonists came over from Holland and
were provided with good farms and comfortable homes in
Fort Orange (Albany) and vicinity. The first settlers in
the neighborhood of Cohoes belonged to or were descended
from those families and were located on the Halve Maan^
at Waterford, or on the Mohawk Flats near Niskayuna
then called Nestigione or Gonistigione.

Of the land which is now within the limits of the city,
Cohoes Island, afterwards known as Van Schaick s and
Adams Island, appears to have been the part first placed
under cultivation. This, together with Haver Island (Haver
being the Dutch for oats), which adjoins it on the north, was
occupied at an early day, and references to them in the
old records are frequent. Capt. Van Schaick, the original
owner, died about 1676, and some of his property was dis
posed of by his widow, as appears from the following and
other deeds among the early records of Albany county:

" Appeared before me Robert Livingston, secretary etc.,
and in presence of the after named witnesses, Annetie Lie-

i This tract, it will be seen, was of considerable size, and as many of the farmers
living in this vicinity were described in the old records merely as living at the Halve
Maan, it leads to some difficulty in preserving the identity of the different families.
Waterford was taken off from the original township in 1816, and Clifton Park in 1828.


vens widow of Goose Gerritse Van Schaick deceased, of
the one side, and Jan Jacobse Van Noortstrant of the other
side, who declared that they had in amity and friendship
made a bargain with each other for the sale of a piece of
land lying to the north of the fourth branch or fork [Spruyt]
of the Mohawk River above the colony Rensselaerswyck,
being a part of a parcel of land called the foreland of the
Half Moon, and by the Indians Mathahenaach, together
with about two morgens of cleared land lying on the island
which lies directly over against the aforesaid parcel of land,
commonly called Haver [Oats] Island, . . . for which two
parcels of land Jan Jacobse Van Noortstrant promises to
deliver the sum of sixty and six whole beavers, to be paid
in wheat, oats, or other grain, cattle, work, etc., at market
prices. . . . Thus done in Albany the 26th of June, 1677,
in presence of Mr. Gerrit Banker and Harme Rutgers as
witnesses hereto invited."

Van Schaick s Island, however, remained in possession of
the family, who, though not residing there, appear to have
rented it to different parties living in the vicinity. Thus,
Guert Hendrickse Van Schoonhoven, spoken of as belong
ing at the Halve Maan in 1675, had a farm on the island
in 1681, as did also Harmon Lieviense or Lieverse, while
Roeloff Gerritse Van Der Werken was an occupant of it in

The first settlement on this side of the river was some
what later, though the exact date cannot be ascertained,
and was made in the neighborhood of the Boght at the
northwest of the city. 2

1 A beaver skin was worth about eight guilders or $3.20 in our currency.

2 "Boght, het boght, is a locality situated within the town of Watervliet. Spaf-
ford, in his Gazetteer, saya this word means a cove or bay. This is wrong. The
Dutch Dictionary tells us the signification is a bend or turn, so this place. It was
settled by branches of the Fort and Fonda families at a very early period ; we re
gret that we have not been able to ascertain the precise time. Exploring and
hunting parties from Albany for many years after its settlement made the Boght
as well as Niskayuna and Schenectady places of frequent resort. Those Albanians
too, dealt in contraband goods, and carried on a trade in furs with the Mohawks
at Schenectady contrary to the ordinance of the common council of Albany, and
passed through this place and Niskayuna on their way to Schenectady to avoid
suspicion." Prof. Pearson.



During the first half of the eighteenth century the land
adjoining the river which now forms the principal part of
the city, and a tract near its western boundaries, about a
mile from the river, was settled by several families of Lan
sings, and the families of Heamstreet (Heemstraat or Yon
Heemstraaten), Ouderkirk, Liverse (Lieverse or Lievense),
Fonda and Clute ; of whom the Lansings appear to have
come from Albany, and the others from Niskayuna or the
Half Moon.

The date at which that part of the land which was within
the manor was first occupied cannot be definitely ascertained c
for as it was under the jurisdiction of the patroon, no public
record was made of leases or conveyances to farmers.
Deeds are in existence, however, of the lands north of the
manor line which belonged to the Van Olinde family, show
ing the dates at which they were sold to other parties, and
it is probable that all the families above named settled here
about the same time. Among the earliest of these transfers
was one of a woodland lot of over one hundred acres situated
just north of the manor line which was sold by Daniel Van
Olinde, eldest son of Pieter and Illetie Van Olinde, to
Walran Glut or Clute.

The following is an abstract of the deed :

" THIS INDENTURE, made and Concluded on the four and
Twentieth day of November in the Seventh Yeare of The
Reign of our Sovereing Lord George. By the Grace of
God of Great Britain franc and Ireland KING defender of
The faith, etc., and In the year of our Lord, one Thousand
Seven hundred and Twenty by and Between Daniel Van
Olinde of the County of Albany in the province of New Yorke
Yeornan of the one part, and Walran Clut of the same
county of the other part WITNESSETH THAT HE THE SAID
Daniell Van Olinde, for and In consideration of fourty Two
pounds of currant Lawfull money of New Yorke to him In
hand paid Before the Ensealing and Delivery of This pre
sents the Receipt Whereof he The Said Daniel Van Olinde


Doth hereby acknowledge and him Self therewith full
Satisfied and Contented and Thereof and of every part and
parcell Thereof Doth fully and absolutely Exonerate and
Discharge The Said Walran Glut his heirs executors
administrators and assigns By These presents hath Granted
Released and Confirmed . . Bargained and sold . . .
and doth hereby sell unto the Said Walran Clute his heirs
and assigns for Ever All That Certain Tract or Pacall of
Wood Land Scituate Lying and Being within the county
off Albany aforesaid on The South Side of The Mohaks or
Schaneghtendy River between Cahoos and Canastojoind
[Conistigione or Niskayuna] is Bounded, etc. One The
East End Thereof by the Great fall caled the Cahoos afore
said and on the West Running along The Line of the
manner of Renselaers Wick Till you come by a Kill which
is called the boghts Kly Kuyll or Kly Kill by the land of
one Hendrik Rider which land is also (illegible) * *
transported by the aforesaid Danell Van Olinde Into him
The Said Hendrik Rider, and so along that Said Land Till
you come again upon The Aforesaid Kly Kill and Then
along The Said Kill Till you come To The River aforesaid
and So along The Said River To The Cahoos where first
begon provided alwais and for Ever hereafter that he
The said Walran Glut and his heirs and assigns Shall Leave
one wagon road along the river for The Use of The Neigh
bourhood, It is further agreed by

and between the Said Daniel Van Olinde and Walran Glut
for theire Self and there heirs for ever that he the Said
Clute has free Liberty to build one or more Saw Mills or
Grind Mills and To Ly Dams provided that in Case The
aforesaid Walran Clute his heirs or assigns Shall come to
buld a Saw mill and Saw Loggs out of the right of him
the said Daniel his heirs and assigns that Then and In such
case he the said Walran Clute his heirs and assigns shall
pay to him the said Daniel his heirs and assigns ten Boards
yearly and Every year forever, and In case a Grind Mill
That Then and In such case he the said Walran Glut and
his heirs and assigns shall forever grind for Daniel Van
Olinde and his heirs and assigns, for one famaly that Shall
Life upon the Land where the said Daniel nowLifes on ...

IN WITNESS WHEKEOF THE parties To These presents


Indenture have Tnterchangeabley put their hands and Seald
The Day and Year first above writting

Signed tSeald and Delivered

In the presence of

Mynders Schuyler Justice

John De Peyster

Evert Wendell.

The farm directly north of this, embracing about two
hundred acres, was sold by Daniel Van Olinde to Gerret
Lansing in May, 1740. The dates of these transfers and
other facts in regard to the matter which are accessible,
afford fair evidence that the first general settlement of the
place was made between 1725 and 1750.

It is almost impossible to obtain in detail an accurate ac
count of the early inhabitants ; in most cases there is
nothing to show the date at which their farms were cleared
or their houses built, and with one or two exceptions but
few facts can be given in regard to their family history.
Under these circumstances the history of Cohoes, while it
was but a farming community, must necessarily be incom
plete. From records in existence, however, it is possible
to identify the different farm houses, some of which still
remain, and to give the boundaries of the principal farms as
they were held by the original settlers.

In a map of the manor of Rensselaerswyck made for the
patroon by John R. Bleeker, surveyor, in 1767, the follow
ing houses appear on the land now included within the city
limits, most of them near the river, and the main road, now
Saratoga street:

Henry Lansing s^ opposite the upper end of Green Island.
This house, situated a short distance below the Old Junc
tion near the canal, is now occupied by Lucius Alexander.
It has been altered and enlarged from time to time, and
the original building is still in good condition. *

1 The property of Henry or Hendrik Lansing was afterwards sold to Jacob H.
Lansing who occupied the farm-house for many years. William Lansing, his son,
occupied the house on the opposite side of the road, and it is said, kept a tavern


Lansing s, on the opposite (west) side of the road from
the above and a little to the south. This house is said to
have been burned, but at what date is not known.

Cornells Ouderker&s, 1 opposite the lower end of Van
Schaick s Island. This house was last occupied by a family
named Conaughty, after having been for some years occu
pied as a tavern. It stood on the west bank of the Cham-
plain Canal, a short distance below Tighes brewery near
Newark street, and was torn down in 1865.

Derek Heamstreet s^ 1 a few rods north of Ouderkerk s.
Part of this building, located between the canal and the
river, directly east of the brewery, still remains, and is now
in possession of John P. "Weber. It was partially destroyed
by fire, Dec. 2, 1868. The lower part of the building re
mains the same as before, but the Dutch gable roof was
burned, and replaced by the flat roof now seen. This, like
all the other old farm houses in the neighborhood, was built
to last, and none of its material was light or flimsy. The
old barn, which stood near the house, was a most massive
structure. It was built throughout of the heaviest and best
selected timber ; the flooring was of five inch plank hewn
by hand, and the roof was covered with four feet cedar
shingles, secured by wrought nails. The building was pur

Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) MastenThe history of Cohoes, New York [electronic resource] from its earliest settlement to the present time → online text (page 2 of 30)