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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chased some years since by George E. Simmons, and when
it was torn down enough material was found in it to serve
for the construction of two barns of modern style.

there in the early part of the present century. Descendants of the family, among
them Abraham F. Lansing of this city, and Dow F. Lansing of Albany, are yet
living.

1 The Ouclerkerk family do not appear to have long resided here, and in accounts
which are found in old records they are mentioned as being from the Half Moon.
Several marriages between this family and the Fondas are recorded in the middle
of the last century, which may account for the fact that the farm afterwards came
into possession of the Fonda family. The house was occupied in 1815, by Harmon
Fonda, who owned the farm together with his brother Dow I. Fonda. Their de
scendants still live in this vicinity, some of them in Watervliet.

a Dot ek Heamstreet was succeeded by Charles Heamstreet, who became one of the
principal farmers in the neighborhood. He had five sons : Richard, Albert, John,



22 HISTORY OF COHOBS. 1767.

John Lansing V on the west side of the highway, a short
distance south of the manor line. This was destroyed a
number of years ago, and the house at present occupied by
Egbert W. Lansing erected nearly on its site.

Frederick Glutens; 1 Outside of the manor, and a few rods
north of the Lansing house, 011 the brow of the hill. This
was a log house. A frame house was afterwards built by
Gerret Clute, son of the above, on the bank of the river, a
short distance above the Falls, where traces of it are still
discernible. It was destroyed during the progress of the
Cohoes Company s improvements in 1832 or thereabouts.

Frans Lansing s, Doiu Fonda s and Win. Liver se^s.
These were located at different points some distance west
of the river, and nearly on the line of the present western
boundary of the city.

Van Schaictfs House* on Van Schaick Island. This

Jacob and Philip. Richard occupied the farm known as the Gerret Witbeck
farm; and John built the small yellow house yet standing on Saratoga street,
opposite the brewery. Richard had four sons: Garret, Charles, William and
Stephen, of whom one (Charles?) is now living in Clifton Park. Albert had four
eons : Charles, Henry, Jacob and Abraham. The name is given above as it appears
on the patroon s books. It is now spelled Hemstreet.

1 John (or Johannes) J. Lansing was born in 1719, and died in 1813. He had ten
children, one of whom, Andrew (born 1760, died 1835), succeeded him in possession
of the farm. Andrew had four sons : John, Jacob, Evert and Abram, the latter of
whom (born 1790, died 1867), was a well known citizen. Two of his sons, Egbert
W., and John V. S. Lansing, are now living in Cohoes, the former occupying the
old farm.

2 Frederick Clute was the son of Walraven or Waldron Clute, who bought the
farm from Daniel Van Olinda. His grandfather, also named Frederick Clute, came
from Kingston about 1703, and settled at Niskayuna, where be bought land of
Johannes Clute.

Frederick the younger was bora 1724, and married Maria Be Ridder, Nov., 1754.
His oldest son, Gerret Clute, was born Feb. 29, 1761, and occupied the farm until the
early part of the present century. Gerret Clute had ten children, as follows : Maria,
wife of Richard Hemstreet, Getty, wife of John Hemstreet, Anna, wife of James
Ostrander, William, Kate, Matthew, Rachel, Henrietta, wife of John Johnson,

Charles, and . The oldest son William, was the father of ex-Justice Harvey

Clute now of this city.

3 Sybrant, the second son, of Capt. Goosen Gerritse Van Schaick, was born 1653,
and died about 1685. He had four children, of whom the third, Anthony, was born
in 1681, and lived in Albany, being by trade a glazier. His second son, Wessel, was



24 HISTORY OP COHOES. 1767.

house, which is the best preserved of the old buildings now
in the city, was erected in 1762, and has since been altered
but little. The only change in the front of the house is a
new porch which was built by Mr. Adams a year or two
ago. The old windows, with their heavy sashes and dimin
utive panes, and the old fashioned divided door with its
massive brass knocker and ponderous iron bar still remain.
The bricks of which the house was built were made on the
island, with the exception of a few of peculiar curved
shape, which form a sort of ridge or coping extending around
the body of the house about four feet from the ground -
those having been brought from Holland. The wooden
house now standing a few rods south of the old mansion
was built certainly over a century ago, and perhaps before
the brick building.

The homestead of Gerret Lansing, on the farm just north
of Frederick Clute s, though not marked on this map, was
in existence at the time. It was located near the site of the
red brick house (built by Rutger Lansing, son of Gerret, in
1790), which yet stands near the Cohoes Company s dam.

The boundaries between the different farms do not appear
to have been definitely fixed by the patroon, nor were leases
for them regularly drawn until towards the close of the last
century. This may be accounted for on the ground that as
the Van Rerisselaers were desirous of encouraging the set
tlement of their domain, no rents were at first exacted, and
owing to the vast extent of the manor, farmers were allowed
to settle in different parts of it and occupy the land for
many years before arrangements were made for the regular
collection of tithes.

The maps of the original farms in this neighborhood, as

born in 1712. He had five children. His second eon, John Gerritse, was born Oct.
23, 1748. In 1805, he had a house and store on the west side of Broadway, Albany^
He died on Van Schaick s Island, July 7, 1828. His youngest son, Henry, died at
Lansingburgh, Oct. 7, 1829, aged 33 years. The last member of the Van Schaicks to
occupy the island was the first husband of Mrs. Wm. L. Adams.

1 Gerret Rutger Lansing was the son of Rutger. After his death the farm came
itno the possession of his eon, Isaac D. F. Lansing, born 1790, died Nov. 12, 1874.



1774. HISTORY OP COHOES. 25

surveyed under direction of the patroon, are preserved in
the Van Rensselaer office. A map showing the relation of
the farm boundaries to the streets, as at present laid out,
would be of interest, but the preparation of one which would
be suitable for publication with this sketch has not seemed
feasible. The following description of the outlines of the
principal farms, with references to streets and localities
which are now familiar, giving the names of their occupants
as recorded in the patroon s books, and a sketch of the sub
sequent disposition of the property, will, it is hoped, be
sufficient to give a general idea of the way in which the
land was divided.

Commencing at the lower part of the settlement, the first
farm was one which formed part of the tract disposed of
by the patroon to Col. Schuyler, and was known in later
years as the Jacob H. Lansing farm. It extended on
the south to a line which is now the southern limit of the
city (near Cedar Grove) and had for part of its boundary
the Soult Iill (Salt Brook). Its northern limit was a line
running nearly parallel with the brook which flows east
ward through the ravine south of the residence of Samuel
Bilbrough on Main street, and is carried under Saratoga
street a short distance below its junction with Main street.
This land, the farm house on which, occupied by Henry
Lansing, has been before mentioned, had been sold by Kil-
lian Van Rensselaer to Col. Philip Schuyler, May 10, 1708,
and was held by him until 1731, when it was sold to Hen-
drick Lansing. On January 15th, 1774, "the fourteenth
year of the reign of our sovereign King George the Third"
it was sold by " Hendrick Lansing, mason or bricklayer of
the Boght, county of Albany and province of New York
unto Jacob H. Lansing, yeoman, for the consideration of
four hundred pounds, lawful money." In his possession it
remained until 1822, when it was sold to R. P. Hart, and
has been since disposed of in lots to various parties, though
some yet remains in the hands of the Hart estate.
4



26 HISTORY OF COHOES. 1794.

Next was the Jacob D. Fonda farm, bounded on the south
by the Lansing farm above described and having for its
northern limit a line which commenced at the river and ran
northwest, passing the south end of the brewery (on Sara
toga street below Newark) reaching Columbia street near
where it is crossed by the Central rail road and extending
along the old line of that street to a point near the cemetery.
The house on this farm was that which was occupied
by Cornelis Ouderkirk in 1767. The land, comprising
136 acres, was leased to Jacob D. Fonda, Dec. 16th, 1794,
for the consideration of " fifteen bushels wheat, four hens
and one day s service."

Early in the present century it was bought by Abraham
G. Lansing, who built about 1820, as a country residence,
the house afterwards occupied by Wm. N. Chadwick and
at present by Samuel Bilbrough. A large part of the farm
afterward came into possession of Messrs. Bayard Clark and
Wm. N. Chadwick, by whom it was sold to Gould & Tracy,
who disposed of it to various parties. A number of lots in
the western part of the city, beyond the Central rail road,
have remained until within a few years in possession of the
Lansing heirs.

Above the Fonda farm was that of Charles Hearnstreet,
the northern boundary of which was very irregular. A
portion of it ran nearly parallel with White street as at
present laid out ; commencing at a point on Mohawk street
in rear of the school house now built on the corner of White
and Mohawk streets, it ran westward until it reached Sargent
street, near the site of Bogue s block. This was the boundary
of the middle portion of the farm. On both sides, however,
it extended much further to the north. On the right, com
mencing at White street, the line ran up Mohawk street
almost to Oneida, when it turned to the northeast, strik
ing the river a few rods west of the present rail road bridge.

* These farms were granted from thepatroon on perpetual leases.



1794. HISTORY OF COHOES. 27

On the other (western side) the line, commencing at Sargent
street, ran north until it reached a point near Lock 14, and
then ran west about to the location of the bridge over the
Central rail road, at Johnston avenue. This farm, which
originally comprised 205 J acres, was leased to Charles
Heamstreet, April 15, 1*793, for the annual rent of "twenty-
seven bushels of wheat, four fat fowls and a day s service
with carriage and horses."

It was sold in part in 1822, for $8,5 00 to R. P. Hart, with
whom Ebenezer Wiswall, Philip Schuyler and Jno. P.
Cushman afterward held a joint interest, and by them was
disposed of to various parties. One section, embracing the
land near White street, was for some time in possession of
Hugh White.

North of the Heamstreet farm was one comprising seventy-
three acres which was leased in January, 1794, to Gerrit
Witbeck, concerning whose residence nothing has been
ascertained. The annual rental was "three bushels and
three pecks of wheat, four fat fowls, and one day s service
with carriage and horses." The boundary of this farm ran
about northeast along by the present Erie Canal, until it
reached a point near Harmony Mill No. 2, when it turned
to the east and followed the Diepe gat, or Diepe-gat
Kit, 1 which emptied into the river a short distance below
Harmony Mill No. 3. The lease of this farm was assigned
to Lucas G. Witbeck, in 1801. It soon afterward came
into the possession of the Heamstreet family and was
assigned to Derek Heamstreet, in 1802. The farm was
occupied for a number of years by Richard Heamstreet,
whose house was situated on Mohawk street between
Oneida and Factory streets, on the site now occupied by

1 This Diepe gat or deep cut which has since been so completely filled in and
covered that all traces of it have been obliterated, was a rocky gorge, so dark and
gloomy that it was the terror of the children of the neighborhood. The brook
which flowed through it was called by them SpooJc Ml and the bridge which
crossed it became known among the farmers as the Spook s bridge.



28 HISTORY OF COHOES. 1813.

the south part of Witbeck s block. It was sold by the
sheriff to Ebenezer Wiswall, Oct. 2, 1819, and was pur.
chased from him by Canvass White, March 17, 1824, from
whose hands it passed into the possession of the Cohoes
Company.

The next farm was that of Andrew Lansing, comprising
211 acres, which was leased to him March 24th, 1813, at
an annual rent of eighteen bushels of wheat, with the usual
consideration of fowls and service. It was bounded on the
north by the manor line, or present Boght road, and on
the south by the lines of the Witbeck and Heamstreet
farms. A large portion of this farm, comprising much of
the land now occupied by the Harmony Company, was sold
to the Cohoes Company by Mr. Lansing in 1831 ; and other
parts of it are still in possession of the family The eastern
boundary of this farm was the old road, which ran nearly
the same as the present Mohawk street. The strip between
the road and the river, extending from the Diepe gat to
the Falls, remained in possession of the patroon, until it
was sold to the Cohoes Company in 1836. 2

The eastern limits of these five farms, with the exception
in the case of Andrew Lansing s just mentioned, was the
river. Their western boundaries were irregular and as they
extended in most cases beyond the limits which now mark
the thickly settled portions of the city, need not be particu
larly described. Taking the Gerret Witbeck lot as part of
the Ileamstreet farm (as it was in effect for many years), it
may be said that all the farms extended at least as far west
as the present Cohoes Cemetery, while those of Andrew



1 This building was destroyed by fire February 13, 1858, having been for some
time unoccupied.

2 It is said that this strip was offered, in the early part of the century, to Evert
Lansing, and his brother, if they would pay the back rent upon it, but as they de
clined to do so it was kept by the Van Rensselaers and on the formation of the
Cohoes Company, was transferred by Stephen Van Rensselaer, as part payment for
his stock.



1740. HISTORY OF COHOES. 29

Lansing and Jacob Fonda were still deeper. The farms
lying to the west of those above described, were, according
to the patroon s maps, as follows : West of Andrew Lan
sing were the farms of Peter and Henry Fero, and Peter
Lieverse ; west of Charles Heamstreet and Jacob D. Fonda
was the farm of Douw A. Fonda ; and west of Jacob H.
Lansing was a farm occupied at different times by branches
of the Lansing and Fonda families. The Lieverse and Fonda
farm houses have been before mentioned.

But little is to be said concerning the lands outside of the
manor, which are now within the city limits, as they have
been occupied as farm lands until within a few years. The
Clute farm, lately known as Mrs. Miller s, situated just above
the manor line and extending on the west to the present
Erie Canal, remained for the greater part in possession of
the family until some years ago. A portion of it in the
southwest corner was, however, leased to the Van Der
Mark family early in the present century, and other parts
near the river were afterward sold to the Cohoes Company.

Nearly all of the Lansing farm, just north of Clute s, still
remains the property of the heirs of I. D. F. Lansing, although
part has been sold to the Cohoes Company.

Van Schaick s Island, comprising about 320 acres, re
mained the property of the family until it came into the
possession of Wm. L. Adams, the present owner, about forty
years since.

These farms of course furnished the principal employment
of their occupants, but some of the inhabitants were also
engaged, in a small way, in other business. The Lansing
family, as early as 1740, were the owners of a saw mill,
located a short distance north of the present site of the
Cohoes Straw Board Mill, near the Cohoes Company s
dam. A grist mill was afterwards built, just south of the
saw mill, and the two establishments were run in partner
ship by Gerret aad Rutger Lansing for many years. On



30 HISTOKY OF COHOES. 1794.

the Clute farm a grist mill was also erected, which was
located a short distance above the Falls. The establishment
of a mill of some sort, evidently contemplated when the
deed of the farm was drawn, may have transpired soon after
the sale, but there is no record of its existence until the
time of Gerret Clute, who remained for some time the
proprietor. Another grist mill, which was afterwards
converted into a carding mill, was located on the Heam-
street farm, on the flats just opposite Simmons s Island.
It was originally conducted by Charles Heamstreet and
afterwards by his son Albert. 1 The power for each of these
mills was furnished by means of a wing dam extending some
yards into the river, that of the Heamstreet mill being built
out to a large rock in the channel which is still a prominent
feature of that locality.

It will be seen that the early inhabitants of Cohoes were
in comfortable circumstances. All were possessed of large
and productive farms on which substantial and comfortable
houses had been erected, and some in addition had their
mills, which were probably well patronized by their neighbors
of the Boght and other parts of Watervliet.

They were fair types of the thrifty and prosperous Dutch
farmers who were the early settlers of this portion of the
state, and the features of their social life were similar to
those which existed throughout this neighborhood and have
been often described. Among the customs which prevailed
here as in other Dutch settlements was slave-holding,
and from the extent of the negro burial places of which
traces remain on the Heamstreet, Lansing and other farms,
it is evident that each family possessed quite a number.

The following document from among the papers of the
Clute family will be of interest in this connection :

" Know all men by these presents that I, Isaac J. Fonda

1 The lease of the mill privilege was granted by the patroon to Charles Heam-
Btreet Dec. 22, 1794, at an annual rental of $12.50.



1793. HISTORY OF COHOES. 31

of the Bought in the town of Watervleet County of Albany
and State of New York for and in consideration of the sum
of twenty pounds of lawful Money of the State afore
mentioned to me in hand paid by Gerret Clute of said place
County and state above mentioned at or before the sealing
and delivery of these presents the Receipt Whereof I the
said Isaac J. Fonda do hereby acknowledge have granted
bargained and sold and by these presents do grant bargain
and sell unto the said Gerret Clute his Executors, Adminis
trators and Asigns a Negro Boy Named Ben or Benjamin
to have and to hold the said Negro Boy to the said Gerret
Clute His executors administrators forever and I the said
Isaac J. Fonda for myself my heirs executors and
Administrators and Assigns against the said Isaac J. Fonda,
my Heirs Executors and Administrators and against all
and every other person and persons whatsoever shall and
will warrant and forever defend by these presents the said
Negro I the said Isaac J. Fonda have put the said Gerret
Clute in full possession of at the sealing and delivery of
these presents. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my
hand and seal this day of June in the year of Our Lord
one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three.

"N. B. The date of the month and the word three at the
bottom or in the last line of the presents were interlined
and altered before the sealing and delivery of the said
presents.

" Present at the sealing and delivery Bought June Re
ceived of Mr. Gerrit Clute twenty pounds, In full for a
Negro bought by the said Gerrit Clute, received by me." l

It is probable that until the revolution there was but
little interruption to the quiet monotony of the life in this
farming hamlet. The neighboring settlements being diffi
cult of access, communication with them was limited to
market days, and the inhabitants, busied from day to day
with the duties of their farms or mills, were little affected
by the course of events in the outside world. With the
outbreak of war, however, this peaceful routine was dis
turbed. A number of men from this vicinity joined the



1 The number of slaves in Watervliet, in 1810, was 128. All slaves in the state
were emancipated in 1827.



32 HISTOEY or COHOES. 1784.

companies which were raised in adjoining towns, 1 and this,
together with the proximity of the place to the scene of
many of the important events of the war, must have
caused the inhabitants to regard the progress of the struggle
with the deepest interest. The main road to the north, on
this side of the river, passed over the islands at the mouth of
the Mohawk, since the sprouts could be forded more easily
than the main stream, and traces of it still remain on Adams s
Island. Over this road many of the troops marched during
the campaigns in this vicinity. The islands were occupied
from July to October, 1777, by a force of from 4,000 to
6,000 men, stationed there by Gen. Gates, after the retreat
of his army from the neighborhood of Lake Champlain.
The men remained there during the operations near Saratoga
and Stillwater, for the purpose of covering the rear of the
American army and securing a position to fall back upon
in case Burgoyne should compel a retreat. It is said that
the Van Schaick house was used for the headquarters of
the officers during the occupation. Fortifications were
erected on Haver Island, remains of which are still visible.
In 1784, the first church in the vicinity was established.
The Reformed Dutch church of the Boght, said to have
been the first north of Albany, was organized by the
Classis of Albany, on the petition of forty-two members of
the Dutch church of that city, presented February 22. The
original church building, which stood on the road running
north and south at the present western limits of the city,
was doubtless erected some time before the organization of
the church. The first elders were David Fero and Isaac
Fonda, and the first deacons were Abraham D. Fonda and
Gerret I. Lansing. The first pastor called was the Rev.
John Demarest who began his ministry in 1790, taking
charge of the Boght church in connection with that at Nis-

1 Among them were Gerret Clute, and members of the Lansing and Fonda fami
lies, but no complete list of their names can be obtained.



1795. HISTORY OF COHOES. 33

kayuna. He preached in Dutch, and all the records of the
church during his ministry were kept in that language. The
membership of the church in 1791 was 121. Rutger Lan
sing became one of the deacons in 1789, and Gerret R.
Lansing was a deacon in 1794. This church was for many
years the only one attended by the inhabitants of Cohoes,
and had an important part in the early history of the place. 1
In 1795 the first bridge across the Mohawk at Cohoes
was erected. The increase in the number of inhabitants in
the Half Moon and this vicinity had made the necessity of
a bridge at this point for some time apparent, and as early
as January, 1771, the following resolution in regard to it
was passed by the common council of Albany :



1 The following sketch of its history since 1800, which, together with the above
facts, has been kindly furnished by the present pastor, will be of interest.

Mr. Deraarest closed his ministry in 1803.

In 1805, the Rev. Dr. J. Bassett was called who remained until 1811.

In the beginning of his ministry a subscription was circulated for the purchase
and erection of a stove in the church. The stove was placed upon an elevated
platform in order that it might heat the church more effectually. In the ministry
of Dr. Bassett the services and the church records began to be in the English lan
guage.

In 1807, a new church building was erected.

Rev. Robert Brouk became pastor in 1814. He ministered also to the church of
Washington and Gibbonsville, now the South Reformed church of West Troy. Mr.
Bronk resigned his charges in 1823.

In 1824, Rev. John B. Steele, of Waterford, became pastor and continued until
1833.

Rev. Cornelius Bogardus was pastor from 1833 to 1838.

Rev. William Pitcher became pastor in 1840. During his ministry, it was pro
posed to build a new church, and after much discussion with reference to the site,
the present church was erected on the parsonage ground in 1847. At this time
twenty-two members left the church and were organized as the Church of Rensse-



Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) MastenThe history of Cohoes, New York [electronic resource] from its earliest settlement to the present time → online text (page 3 of 30)