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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Mr. Howe was appointed in the following year, when the
office was transferred to his new store on the canal bank.
The mail was carried by Wright Mallery, in later years a well-
known resident of this city, who had at that time a bakery
in West Troy. He made daily trips in this direction, visit
ing the groceries along the line of the canal, and brought
the Cohoes mail in his bread cart no heavy burden for
it consisted some days of but one or two letters. Mr. Mallery
moved here in 1834, but went to Troy on business every
day and continued to carry the mail for some time.

During 1832, the Cohoes Company was actively engaged.
The first dam was carried away by ice on January 10, and
was immediately rebuilt. During the spring, also, the first
two canals of the company, which had been commenced in
the previous year, were completed ; the contractors for the
work being Oliver C. Hubbard and Captain Andrews. The
principal one, Basin A, extended from a point in the rear
of the present Harmony Mills carpenter shop, on Mohawk
street, to a short distance north of Factory street. The
other, Basin JB, was of less importance, serving principally
to receive the water from Basin A and convey it to the
river. It is on Remsen street and forms the fourth level of
the Cohoes Company s present system. The first factory
to obtain its power from Basin A was one (now occupied
by Holsapple s bedstead factory) which was erected in the


early part of the year by E. L. Miller, a wealthy gentleman
of Charleston, S. C., who intended to engage in cotton
manufacture. At the same time he tore down the old
Heamstreet barn, on the corner of Factory and Mohawk
streets, and commenced building a commodious residence,
while directly opposite, on the east side of Mohawk street,
he erected a small wooden building afterward occupied as
a store by his nephew, Mr. Whiting, and in later years by
the post office. The mill and residence were built by Joshua
R. Clarke, and the masons employed were Elihu and John
Stevenson, for many years well known citizens, who had
come to Cohoes a few months previous.

The buildings were hardly completed, however, when
Mr. Miller fell into ill health, and changed all his plans.
He became dissatisfied with his investments here, abandoned
his idea of engaging in business, and went to New York,
leaving his property to be disposed of for what it would
bring. His house, directly after its completion, was con
verted into a hotel, which was first conducted by a man
named Fuller, who came here from Watertown, and it has
ever since been used for that purpose. It has been so al
tered and enlarged from time to time, however, that the
present City Hotel bears but little resemblance to the
original structure. In the mill, the machinery, which had
been made by Mr. Wilkinson, was set up and ready for use,
but soon after Mr. Miller s removal, it was sent to New
Jersey to be sold. Another factory was erected during this
season, by two gentlemen from New York for the purpose
of manufacturing carpets. It was situated on Mohawk
street, on the site now occupied by Gregory and Killer s
mill, and the power was obtained from Basin B.

Soon after the mill was completed it was sold to Messrs.
Roach and Jones, of West Troy. 1

1 It is said that the cause of this sudden abandonment of their enterprise by the
original proprietors was the Asiatic cholera, then alarmingly prevalent. They took


One of the most memorable buildings of the year was
St. John s church, erected by Joshua R. Clarke, which stood
on the south side of Oneida street, between Remsen and
Mohawk streets ; the structure was of wood, thirty-eight by
forty-eight feet in size. The interior was finished in the
plainest possible manner, and upon the ladies of the
parish devolved the work of adorning it with such decora
tions as their limited resources would allow. The church
bell, destined to remain in use nearly forty years, was a gift
from David Wilkinson. The entire cost of the edifice did
not exceed $1,500, of which $500 were contributed by the
Cohoes Company, who also gave the lot upon which it was
erected, the latter being a stipulation made by Mr. Wilkin
son before he consented to come here. Notwithstanding
this assistance, it was by no means easy to raise the necessary
amount, for the members of the parish were few in number
and nearly all of limited means. The work was one, how
ever, to which all were earnestly devoted and in its accom
plishment they were assisted by the cordial efforts of
almost every one in the place, without regard to theological
differences. The zeal of those who had labored so faith
fully in its behalf met with deserved success, and St. John s
church, the organization of which had been one of the first
steps towards the improvement of the village, became per
manently established. The building was consecrated on
May 12th of the following year by Bishop Onderdonk, Rev.
Mr. Whipple of Lansingburg assisting.

Other buildings erected during this year were Mr. Wil
kinson s house on the northwest corner of Oneida and
Mohawk streets, the most imposing residence the village
had yet seen, and the brick building west of the church,

it for granted that the race would soon become extinct, and that it would be use
less to make any business arrangements.

The building was in later years used for the manufacture of white lead by Mr.
Underwood, who had commenced that business in part of the Wilkinson machine


which was owned by Hugh White. The bricks used in the
construction of the latter were made by a man named
Welch and are said to have been the first made in the place,
aside from those found in the old farm houses.

The event which marks this year as one of particular im
portance in the history of the place was the establishment
by Egberts and Bailey of the first factory in which knitting
machinery was successfully run by power. 2 Mr. Egberts,
who had been keeping a store with his brother in Albany,
became interested in 1831 in the process of making knit
goods, and gave the subject considerable attention. After
inspecting the clumsy hand machines then in use, the idea
was suggested that improvements might be made by which
a knitting frame could be made to run by power. Mr. Eg
berts himself was not a practical mechanic, and could do
nothing towards perfecting any such apparatus ; but while
he was talking on the subject with Dr. Williams, his family
physician, the latter suggested that Timothy Bailey, who
was then in the employ of Alfred Cooke, a cabinet maker,
was a young man of remarkable mechanical ability, who
could accomplish almost anything he turned his hand to,
and would doubtless be able to carry out the idea if it were
possible. Mr. Bailey was accordingly consulted, and
after a careful examination of the knitting frame then

1 Bricks were afterwards made in considerable quantity by Mason Sawyer.
About 1842, Patrick Rogers, who has for some years had a monopoly of this branch
of business here, commenced operations. His brick yard was located on the
flats south of Columbia street, afterwards on Mohawk street near Columbia and
another has been of late years established on Harmony Hill.

2 "The art of knitting is said to have been invented in Scotland, but the first
machine for making knitted fabrics was the invention of Wm. Lee of England about
two centuries ago. This machine remained in nearly the same condition in which
Lee left it for almost two centuries and the first introduced into America was the
old heavy hand frame, which required the strength of a pretty strong man to ope
rate it with advantage. Immense sums of money had been expended in England
to adapt the knitting frame for operation by steam or water power, like the carpet
loom, but this achievement was left for the perseverance and skill of American in
ventors." Aiken a History of the Art of Knitting.


used, concluded that he would undertake the task, on the
understanding that Mr. Egberts was to provide the neces
sary funds. The first thing requisite was a knitting machine
on which experiments could be commenced, and as this could
not be obtained in Albany, Mr. Bailey went to Philadel
phia, arriving there April 1, 1831. After some search he
succeeded in finding a disused machine, which he purchased
for $55, and returned, prepared to commence operations at
once. Within six days after its arrival in Albany he had
the apparatus so arranged that it would knit by turning a
crank at the side, and preparations were accordingly made
for perfecting its operation. Mr. Egberts procured an upper
story in a store near the foot of State street, to which Mr.
Bailey moved his tools and machinery, and there continued
his labors. In time he succeeded in making a machine
which would make four shirt bodies, and knit thirty times
back and across per minute, by the simple revolution of a
crank, and steps were then taken to put the invention to
practical use. In the meantime, Joshua Bailey, an elder
brother of Timothy, had become interested in the machine,
and selling out his farm, came to Albany to take part in
the enterprise. In the fall of 1832, the partners came to
Cohoes, and established themselves in the lower story of
the cotton factory which was then being finished, the wheel
having been just put in when they moved into the building.
Their operations at first were of course on a very small
scale, owing to their lack of facilities. Mr. Bailey s time
was given almost altogether to making new machinery, in
which he was at first assisted by Edward Gleason, who had
been in his employ some time while engaged in the first
frame in Albany. Eight machines were made in succession
and after a time Mr. Bailey arranged machinery for carding
and spinning, the first goods having been made from yarn
bought of outside parties. Thus was laid the foundation of
that branch of industry which has since become a distin-


guishing feature of Cohoes, and to which it is largely in
debted for its present importance.

Egberts and Bailey did not occupy all of the cotton
factory until some years later, and in the meantime several
other concerns were located in the building. One of the
earliest was the machine shop of Russell Phelps, established
soon after the factory was completed. S. D. Fairbank,
afterwards a prominent citizen, came to Cohoes with Mr.
Phelps, and engaged in business with him.

Early in 1833 John Tillinghast commenced the manufac
ture of satinet warps, but did not long continue ; the late
Wm. Leckie of this city was in his employ. In the fall of
the year the first building of importance on Remsen street,
the first one north of the present Music Hall, was erected
by John Stevenson, who sold it soon afterward to Mr.
Mudge. On Mohawk street below the site of Root s Mill
the first oifice of the Cohoes Company, a small brick struc
ture, was built. During this year the company commenced
the construction of the upper canal, one and three-quarter
miles long, with a fall of eighteen feet, by which the water
from the dam was brought directly into use in the lower
levels. The work, done under direction of Chas. A. Olmsted,
Geo. Strover of Schuylerville being contractor, was com
pleted in the following year. It ran on the east side of the
Erie Canal and parallel with it, to a point a few hundred
feet above the Two Locks, near School street, where it was
taken under the canal by means of two wooden trunks
about four or five feet in diameter, and then continued in
its present course, terminating near the middle lock of the
Three Locks, in the rear of the present Harmony Mill No.
2. The water was then let into the upper end of Basin A,
being again taken under the Erie Canal by means of wooden

1 The Bailey Brothers secured lodgings for a time in the village, and afterwards
occupied different parts of the wooden block which was erected by the flrm about
1835, on the corner of White and Remsen streets. Mr. Egberts was in the habit of
driving up from Albany every day, and for some years boarded at the Cohoes Hotel.


trunks. At this point, on the site of the Harmony Mills
carpenter shop, was located the Cohoes Iron Foundry, con
ducted by John L. Wilkinson and Nathaniel Wheeler,
which for many years did a large business.

A factory for the manufacture of axes and edge tools,
established during this and the following year by Daniel
Simmons, was the foundation of a branch of business which
has since become one of the most important in Cohoes.
Mr. Simmons began life as a blacksmith and had a forge in
the lower part of the city of Albany. Here he commenced
making axes by hand for an occasional customer, using for
the cutting edges German or blister steel, which was then
supposed to be the only kind that could be successfully
welded to iron. About 1825 it was found that by the use
of refined borax as a flux, cast steel could be made to an
swer the purpose, and Mr. Simmons promptly took advan
tage of the discovery, being one of the first to put it to
practical use. His axes soon became favorably known, and
the demand for them was so increased that greater facilities
for production became necessary. Accordingly in 1826, he
removed to Berne, Albany County, where he secured a
small water power, erected rude buildings, and put up trip
hammers and other machinery. In time these accommoda
tions proved insufficient, and Mr. Simmons came to Cohoes,
where he founded the establishment, one of the earliest in
the country, which, under years of successful management,
has made the Simmons Axe familiar in all parts of the
globe. His partner for two years was Levi Silliman.- The

1 Though Mr.David Wilkinson was interested in the establishment of this foundery
and of the machine shop, the business of both was conducted by his son. Mr.
Wheeler s connection with the foundery ceased in 1844. Its subsequent proprietors
were Chas. A. Olmsted, the Cohoes Company and Fuller & Safely (1858), by whom
it was destroyed in 1867.

2 In 1848, Mr. Simmons associated with him, under the firm name of D. Simmons
& Co., Messrs. Win. H. Weed of New York and Storm A. Becker of Cohoes.
Hiram St. John, of New York, was subsequently admitted, to the partnership.
After Mr. Simmons s death in Dec. 1860, the firm of Weed, Becker & Co., was formed,
which gave place to the present company in Feb. 1874.


first building (destroyed by fire in 1875), and the office of
the present company which was built a few years later, were
erected on the foundations of the establishments of the
Cohoes Manufacturing Company.

Another business enterprise was the establishment of the
veneering and sawing mill of Hawes and Baker which was
built near the junction of Remsen and Mohawk streets on
the site at present occupied by the Star Knitting Company.
The concern had been started in the preceding year, in an
upper story of Mr. Wilkinson s machine shop, by Hawes and
Goodwin, the latter of whom was one of the pioneers in the
business of sawing veneers. His interest was bought by
John Baker.

Among the private residences erected during the year
was that of Joshua R. Clarke, on the corner of Mohawk
street and Cataract alley, now occupied by H. S. Bogue.

During the next few years but little progress seems to
have been made. The increase of population was slight,
and there were but few additions to the business of the
place, as appears from the following account of the village
and its manufactures published in 1836 :

" The property of the Cohoes Company, of which the vil
lage is part, at the mouths of the Mohawk, includes the
Falls and the banks on both sides of the river, and extends
within a few rods of the junction of the Erie and Champlain
Canals. The property around the Falls has, from the first
settlement of the country, been in the Van Rensselaer family
who, with a just regard to its future value, had refused to
part with it. The great hydraulic power here was first de
veloped by Mr. Canvass White, during the progress of the
Erie Canal ; at whose instance it was arranged with Peter
Remsen & Co., of New York, and Mr. Van Rensselaer to
commence its improvement on a large scale ; a liberal
charter was obtained from the state in 1826, authorizing
the investment of $250,000 and subsequently of half a mil
lion. By an independent canal, nearly two miles long, sup
plied with water by a dam in the river, half a mile above
the Falls where the stream is three hundred yards wide, un-


connected with the state works, the company are enabled
to avail themselves of the whole water of the river, yielding
power for mills as durable and constant as the rocks and
the stream. The entire head and fall thus gained is one
hundred and twenty feet, permitting the use of the water
under six successive falls of from eighteen to twenty-three
feet above the level of the state dam, below which it may
be used under a head of eleven feet, and maybe carried on
these levels to almost any point on the company s estate.
The minimum supply of water is one thousand cubic feet,
the second, competent to drive from three to four millions
of cotton spindles. The upper canal, excavated for a great
part of its course in the slate rock, passes from the dam on
the east side of the Erie Canal and thence by a tunnel under
that canal to the west side. The advantages of this position
for manufactures are unquestionably the greatest in the
state. By the Erie Canal and the North River it communi
cates directly with the great marts on the Hudson and with
the ocean, by that canal with the interior of the state and
the lakes and the Great West; and by the Champlain
Canal with the northern portion of the state and the basin
of the St. Lawrence ; obtaining readily from the south all
that may be required from abroad, and from the west and
north a never-failing supply of provisions, lumber and iron,
upon the cheapest terms The village now con
tains one factory for cotton and woolen machinery, one for
edge tools, one for cotton, linen and woolen hosiery made
on newly invented looms, a mill driving turning lathes, an
iron foundry, a carpet factory, an Episcopal church, two
hotels, three stores, many shops of various kinds on the
canals, and sixty dwellings, whose number is rapidly in
creasing." Gordon s Gazetteer of New York.



1837TO 1847.

two comparatively uneventful years, an impor
tant addition which was made to its business interests gave
an impetus to the activity of the place. In 1837, the Har
mony Manufacturing Company, composed of New York
capitalists, commenced the erection of a large cotton factory
on Harmony Hill, the germ of the immense establishment
which is now foremost among the manufacturing concerns
of Cohoes. The company had been incorporated under
the general act, in the previous year, by the following
stockholders : Peter Harmony, Henry Punnett, Peter Rem-
sen, Francis Olmsted, H. J. Wyckoff, P. H. Schenck &
Co., James Stevenson, Joseph D. Constant, William Sin
clair, Van Wyck Wickes, Eliphalet Wickes, LeBron &
Ives, Teunis Van Yechten, Joab Houghton, Charles O.
Handy, Francis Griffin, Jacob H. Ten Eyck, Illis Winne,
Jr., Hugh White, Henry Dudley, Stephen Van Rensselaer,
Jr., and Benjamin Knower. The capital was $100,000 which
was increased in 1839, to $150,000. The building (which
is now standing immediately south of No. 1 mill, of which
it forms a part according to the present arrangement of the
company), was erected by Joshua R. Clarke and was com
pleted in the following year. A report made in August
of that year by Peter Schenck and Hugh White, the
building committee, described it as follows :

" It appears by accurate accounts kept of expenditures
that the cotton mill which is of very stout brick walls and
slated roofs, four stories in height, one hundred and sixty-
five feet long and fifty feet wide, with wheel houses at each
end of the building of two stories, about thirty-nine and
twenty-five feet each, with the flumes, water wheels, driving
pullies, etc., etc., has cost the sum of about $60,000 Aug. 1,


1838. That the sum of $12,000 or thereabouts, will be re
quired to finish the Cotton House, put up steam boiler and
pipes for heating, two forcing pumps, hose, etc., and com
plete the tail race, with other small items that appertain to
factory (not machinery)."

At the same time the company erected beyond the canal
three brick tenements for the use of their operatives, con
taining each two stories and a basement, at the average
cost of $3,000, and arranged for completing another in the
following year.

In the same report it was stated that the saw mill, which
had cost $6,000, had been kept in constant employ and at a
profit on the investment though it would require $4,000 to
purchase timber to make it a profitable concern. The man
agers had at this time three thousand spindles in the mill
and were on the point of commencing operations. They
had contracted with the Matteawan Company for the pur
chase of six thousand spindles, but the cost of the building
was so much more than had been anticipated, that the com
pany were prevailed upon to alter the contract, and furnished
only five thousand, all of which were in operation in the
following spring.

In this year were made the first preparations for the en
largement of the Erie Canal, and the changing of its course
through the village.

It was the intention of the Cohoes Company to continue
their first canal, running it further west, around the base
of Prospect Hill in about the direction now taken by the
Erie Canal, but the appropriation by the state of this land
as the site for its improvements, made this impossible. The
company of course sought compensation at once, and an
arrangement for exchange was made, as set forth in the
following act of the legislature, passed May 16, 1837.

" The canal board are authorized in this discretion to
grant and convey to the Cohoes Company so much of the
present Erie Canal (except the stone of which the locks and
bridge abutments are constructed) as may be abandoned


after the completion of the enlarged Erie Canal in satisfac
tion of the damages sustained by the said company by
reason of the enlargement and alteration of the line of the
present Erie Canal. Such grant shall be made upon such
conditions and under such restrictions and reservations as
the said board may deem proper."

The establishment of a large factory, and the commence
ment of work on the canal improvement brought here a
number of new inhabitants, adding largely of course, to the
business activity of the place, and making necessary a
number of local improvements.

A change in the proprietorship of the Cohoes Hotel, during
1838, established, on a sound basis, an institution which for
many years after played a prominent part in the history of
the village. The first proprietor had been succeeded in a
short time by Willard Jenks (known by the nick-name of
Quid), who was followed by Messrs. Alby and Lyons.
This firm had no better success than its predecessors, and was
sold out by the sheriff. Up to this time, it is said, no rent
had been paid for the building, the owners of which were
so well satisfied in having it occupied as a hotel, that they
asked no further remuneration an instance of remarkable
public spirit. After the failure of Alby and Lyons the
property came into possession of Henry D. Fuller, who
moved here from Waterford, and was afterwards joined by
his brother, Edward W. Fuller. 1 Under the new manage
ment the hotel was greatly improved, and became one of
the most important local institutions. For a number of
years all the public entertainments and exhibitions were
held in its dining room ; the elections took place there at
various times, and it was the scene of all the public meet
ings for different purposes which were held until some time
after the incorporation of the village. If an improvement

1 The subsequent proprietors have been Jacob Anthony, 1843-18, Robert
Williams, 1848, A. C. Bentley, 1S48-5U, Wm. Schoutcn, 1850-51, J. R. Wilkins,
ia51-57, A. Van Der Mark, 1857-60. O?cnr O Finney, 1860-65, Hulet Lake. 1865-70,
City Hotel, Geo. Z. Dockstader, 1871-76, M. L. Crocker.


was to be suggested, or a remonstrance to be made, or
money to be raised, or any matter of importance to the

Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) MastenThe history of Cohoes, New York [electronic resource] from its earliest settlement to the present time → online text (page 6 of 30)