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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result from incorporation. The following is a specimen:

" The annual tax consequent upon it is nothing in com
parison with its manifold advantages. We should then have
comfortable and convenient sidewalks and not be subjected
to the disagreeable necessity of traveling through mud,
ankle deep, or being ship-wrecked in any one of the many
ditches and puddles which are too abundant by half, or of
being brought up " all standing," as the term is, against
some stump or post placed out of line. In the event of
being incorporated, some little degree of pride would be
evinced by our law makers, and an efficient Fire Depart
ment would be organized. Send in the petitions, then ;
press them upon the attention of the legislature, and let us
have some laws by which to be governed in future, the


observance of which will tend to beautify and improve the
appearance of our growing village."

Such appeals from the editor, and the continued efforts
of the friends of incorporation seem to have had their effect.
A meeting of the electors at the hotel was called Feb. 3d,
of which notice was given in the paper as follows : " Reader,
dear reader, dear indulgent reader, in view of the past let
us do something for the future. There is to be a meeting
to-morrow evening at mine host Williams s to take into con
sideration the first steps towards getting a charter for this
village. Several worthy individuals have been missing
during this latter " thaw." Come to the meeting, and go it
strong for a charter or a line of life boats."

The following is a copy of the proceedings of this meet
ing : " Chas. A. Olmsted was appointed chairman, and
Leonard Van Dercar secretary.

" The secretary then read part of the act relating to in
corporations. John Van Santvoord, Esq., submitted the
following resolution which was adopted :

" Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting it is expedi
ent that we take the necessary steps to incorporate the
village of Cohoes.

" On motion of Egbert Egberts, Esq., that a committee of
five be appointed by the chair to take the necessary steps
for the incorporation, the chair appointed as such committee
Egbert Egberts, Wm. N. Chadwick, John Van Santvoord,
Jeremiah Clute, and Henry D. Fuller. It was moved and
adopted that the chairman, Chas. A. Olmsted, be added to
the committee, and that the committee have discretionary
power to determine on the boundary of such charter and
also to call further meeting."

The matter was then pressed rapidly forward, and the
charter was drawn up by John Van Santvoord, who had
been from the first one of the most active men in its favor.

A map of the territory to be incorporated (now on file in
the county clerk s office) was made by John P. Steenberg,
April 15th, in which the area of the village is given in
1603.22 acres. On June 5th the application for incor-

96 HISTORY or COHOES. 1848.

poration was granted by the court of sessions at Albany,
which appointed as inspectors of election, to canvass the
vote of the electors upon the measure, Chas. A. Olmsted,
Origen S. Brigham and Alfred Phelps. The election was
held on the 1st July with the following result :

In favor, 346

Against, 26


The first charter election was held at the Cohoes Hotel a
week later. The officers voted for were : five trustees,
three assessors, a treasurer, collector, clerk, and poundmaster.
The number of voters was 521. The first session of the
trustees was held Aug. 4th, in Miller & Van Santvoord s
law office on Remsen street, which was the place of meeting
until the completion of the engine house in the following

Almost the first business done by the trustees was to
take steps for the organization of a fire department. Up
to 1847 the village had enjoyed a singular exemption from
fires, but the occurrence of several disastrous conflagra
tions during that year awoke the citizens to the necessity
of being better provided for accidents of this kind. Ac
cordingly Miles White went to Albany, and on his own
responsibility borrowed from the authorities an old hand-
engine No. 6 in the Albany department which had been
discarded because unfit for use. A small amount was spent
in repairs, and the machine was brought to Cohoes, and
though by no means in good working order, was used for
some time. The only fire apparatus prior to this of which
Cohoes could boast was a small rotary hand engine called
the Excelsior No. 1, which had been purchased in 1834
or 1835 by subscriptions from a number of citizens, among
whom were Joshua R. Clarke, Oliver Hubbard and David
Wilkinson. Its insignificance may be inferred from the
fact that in a report made to the trustees on the condition


of the fire department, it was stated that " your committee
would report that they cannot find the Excelsior engine
No. 1." The machine had done good service, however, con
sidering its size and power, for a number of years, and at
one time was the means of checking a large fire in Water-
ford which threatened to consume the entire village. In
later years, however, it was treated with a contempt which
the memory of its past services should have restrained, and
was kicked about from one place to another, the plaything
of several generations of boys. 1

After the fire on Mohawk street which is chronicled in
the first number of the Advertiser it became evident that
the village fire apparatus was greatly deficient, and a meet
ing of the citizens at the hotel was accordingly called for
the purpose of arranging for better protection. A com
mittee consisting of Luke Bemis, Egbert Egberts, Miles
White, H. D. Fuller, G. A. Slocum, L. S. Fonda, Wm. N.
Chadwick, Chas. A. Olmsted, S. F. Wilson and W. H. S.
Winans was appointed to take the necessary steps and
Luke Bemis was chosen to act as chief engineer in case of
the occurrence of a fire. The result of this meeting was
the purchase by Messrs. Fuller, Wilkinson and Olmsted of
the Cataract hand engine, and the formation of a com
pany, of which H. D. Fuller was captain. An entrance fee of
$3 was charged each member, and the proceeds were devoted
to the purchase of a hose-cart.

On August llth, 1848, it was resolved " that the corpo
rate authorities of the village of Cohoes purchase from S.
Wilkinson, G. T. Olmstead and H. D. Fuller the fire engine,
hose carriage and hose purchased by them from L. Button
& Co., and to pay to them or their order the sum of $675. "
The department was regularly organized at the meeting

1 It is said that the wheels and axles of the old engine are still in existence and
form part of a cart used in moving iron about Morrison, Colwell & Page s mill.



of Oct. 4, 1848, from the minutes of which the following
is an extract :

" Resolved, That two fire companies be organized in this
village for the extinguishment of fires, and that one of the
said companies be known and styled as the Parmelee Engine
Co., No. 2, and that the other company be styled Cataract
Engine Co., No. 3, 1 and that said companies be composed
of not more than fifty men each.

" Resolved, That the engine known as Excelsior Engine
No. 1, be placed in charge of the fire wardens to be and to
remain under their direction and control, subject to the
action of the trustees.

" On motion of Mr. Abbott, the following were appointed
members of Cataract Engine Company No. 3 :
Wm. T. Palmer, John Eastwood,

Samuel Wilkinson, S. M. Swart,

Chas. E. St. John, Jacob I. Lansing,

Henry E. Robbins, Isaac D. Ayres,

Henry L. Landon, Sherman D. Fairbank,

Julius Robbins, Thos. H. Kendrick,

Patrick H. Moore, Joseph B. Prescott,

Wm. Green, Wm. Manning,

John Van DerMark, Lucien Fitts,

Wm. Ferrell, I. F. Overpaugh,

Joseph Hahn, Wm. H. Doty,

Alexander Hay, John P. Warwick,

Joseph M. Brown, George W. Miller,

Marcus S. Deyo, Darius Parkhurst,

George Jackson, Wm. B. Barrett.

Alonzo Wilmot,

The following of Parmelee No. 2 :
Jacob J. Lansing, Malachi Ball,

Wm. L. Freeman, Alex. McCalla,

Jos. C. Kittle, A. F. Rockwell,

J. H. Johnson, Wm. Shannon,

Wm. H. Van Der Werken, John McEnerny,
Henry Hall, Jr., Herman D. Felthousen,

John A. Miller, John Van Santvoord."

Benjamin Franklin,

The Parmelee Engine Company took charge of the Albany

On petition of the company the name was in 1850 changed to No. 1.


machine, which became No. 2, in the Cohoes department,
and when this was returned in August of the following
year, the company " ran with " the old Excelsior No. 1,
chiefly for the purpose of creating a little healthful opposi
tion. Arrangements were soon after made for an engine
house. A report was submitted to the trustees Oct. 16,
that "Mr. John Hays offers to sell to the village a lot
twenty-five by thirty situated near the Methodist church
for $350," and at the next meeting the president was
authorized to purchase it. The price paid was $312, of
which $112 were paid down and bonds of $100 each, paya
ble in one and two years, executed for the balance.

The building (which is now occupied by the Campbell
Hose Company), was erected in the same year by Henry
Van Auken, the contract price being $750. Until its com
pletion the Cataract was kept in a shed belonging to
the Cohoes Company on Mohawk street on the site of Bil-
brough s Mill. A barn which stood on the east side of
Remsen street, south of Factory street, was also used for
an engine house, the Excelsior having been kept there for
some time.

In February of this year, the village paper changed hands,
Alexis Ayres retiring, and his place being taken by Isaac
D. Ayres, formerly of the Troy Telegraph. It was pub
lished for the next year under the title of the Cohoes Journal.
The files during that time unfortunately cannot be obtained;
which is especially to be regretted, since the incorporation
of the village, the organization of a fire department, the
construction of water works, and other important local mat
ters doubtless furnished abundant material for interesting

The question of supplying the village with water by
means of the Cohoes Company s Canal had been agitated
during 1847. The first public movement in the matter was
in response to the following:



" The occupants of dwellings in this village are requested
to meet at the Cohoes Hotel, Wednesday Eve, next, 23d
inst., at 8 o clock, to ascertain what encouragement can be
given to the Cohoes Company for the establishment of hy
drants in the principal streets and the introduction of water
from their Summit Canal into the dwellings of those who
desire it.

Chas. A. Olmsted, L. Bemis,

Wm. P. Israel Jr., H. Howe,

Egberts & Bailey, Miles White,

J. Van Santvoord, Sam l Wilkinson,

F. W. Farnam, John D. Luffman,

O. & D. Parkhurst, H. D. Fuller.

Dated Cohoes, June 19, 1847."

The result of this and subsequent meetings was an agree
ment, prepared in September, between the citizens and the
Cohoes Company in which were stated the terms and con
ditions upon which the latter would commence operations.
This was signed by a large number of citizens. The work
was completed in 1848, and pipes were laid through the
principal streets under the direction of Col. F. S. Claxton.
The water was drawn from the Cohoes Company s upper
level, the reservoir being near the point in the canal from
which the water for Harmony Mill No. 2 is now taken.

A rail road between Albany and Cohoes had been talked
of for some years. A movement in its favor had been made
as early as 1846, but it met with some opposition, as appears
from the following remonstrance to the legislature which
was signed by a number of Cohoes citizens:

"The undersigned citizens of Cohoes in the county of
Albany respectfully remonstrate against any act authorizing
any rail road either to or through the village of Cohoes.
Our citizens are generally opposed to the project, for the
following among other reasons:

" 1st. Such a rail road is entirely unnecessary.

" 2d. The object is to divert the trade from a growing
country village to an already opulent city.


" 3d. The village is already cut up with roads and canals.

" 4th. The effect would be to depreciate the value of pro
perty in the village and vicinity.

" 5th. A rail road would be a great inconvenience to the
farming community and needlessly expose property and life.

" 6th. It is a project for the exclusive benefit of a large
city without regard to the interests or convenience to the
community in general who ride along the route of the pro
posed road. All of which is respectfully submitted.

"Cohoes, February 28, 1846."

In the following year a bill incorporating a company was
introduced, but nothing came of it.

In the winter of 1848 the Albany and Cohoes Rail
Road Company was formed, the following commissioners
being named in the bill : John Stewart and John Cramer of
Waterford ; Hugh White and Egbert Egberts of Cohoes ;
David Hamilton and Wm. N. Chadwick of Watervliet ; Jas.
Horner, C. Van Benthuysen, S. Stevens, J. L. Schoolcraft,
J. K. Paige, J. D. Wasson, Jas. Edwards, E. P. Prentice,
Archibald McClure, Theo. Olcott, Wm. Smith, Peter
Cagger, Ellis Baker, James Kidd and Stephen Van Rensse-
laer of Albany. The capital stock of the company was
$250,000 divided into shares of $50 each. After many de
lays its books were opened for subscriptions, but the stock
did not sell readily, and the company accomplished no more
than its predecessors.

A number of new buildings were erected during the year,
prominent among them being the new Methodist and Pres
byterian churches. The former was a brick building, on
Remsen street, on the site of the present church, and cost
$12,000. The Presbyterian church on Seneca street (which
has been greatly enlarged) was built by Joshua R. Clarke
at a cost of $5,500, the lot, valued at $2,000, having been
presented to the society by the Cohoes Company.

Among the additions to the business of the place was a
machine shop in which steam power was used, established


by Doncaster and Hay, on Remsen street, below Columbia,
near the site of the residence of Wm. T. Horrobin. The
firm did not continue long in business.

On January 1st, 1849, the village paper came into the
possession of Chauncey Stow, Horace B. Silliman and Stephen
C. Miller, who conducted the business under the firm name
of C. Stow & Co., until March, when, on retirement of Mr.
Stow, the firm became Silliman & Miller. Messrs. Stow
& Co. changed the name of the paper to that which it
now bears, The Cohoes Cataract, and made several altera
tions in its arrangement. On the first page, between the
words " Cohoes " and " Cataract " appeared a woodcut of
the Falls, with the motto underneath, " Goes sparkling,
dashing, foaming on." The editorial column on the second
page was embellished by another cut, representing the in
terior of the sanctum, in which three very jovial looking
gentlemen (supposed to be the editors) were seen sitting at
a table, which was covered with writing materials. The
columns on the same page, devoted to news items, editorial
notes, etc., were headed with titles appropriate to the
name of the paper, such as Cataract Foam, Floating
Straws and Drift- Wood.

There appear to have been few local events of importance
during the year, and the editors were indebted to the streets
and sidewalks for many an item. Complaints in regard to
their bad condition with humorous or sarcastic comments,
and appeals to the authorities to have railings erected in
dangerous localities, were a prominent feature of the paper.

With the labor of perfecting the organization of the
village government the trustees had found time during 1848,
to do but little, except the establishment of a fire depart
ment, towards accomplishing those results which the editor
of the Advertiser had hoped would follow incorporation.
In the succeeding year, however, they were able to devote
more attention to general improvements. M. McKernan


was appointed engineer, and under his direction grades were
established for streets and sidewalks throughout the village.

A number of streets were opened and declared public
highways according to his surveys, among them Remsen,
Pine and White streets and Trojan, Rock, and Cataract

The following list of moneys necessary to meet the ex
penses of the village for the year, which was voted for at
the electors meeting, in March, affords an interesting con
trast to the city budgets of the present time :

1. "For the second installment of the purchase

moneys of the Engine Lot, $100 oO

2. For 1 year s interest on the village bonds given

for the balance unpaid on the Engine Lot, 14 00

3. For furnishing and painting Engine house, 200 00

4. For furnishing Engine house and Trustees

Room with stoves, pipe and furniture, 75 00

5. For the hire of barn for safe keeping of Engine

No. 3, 20 00

6. For paying expenses of the Fire Department,... 75 00

7. For an additional hose cart, 40 00

8. For the completing the establishment of grades

for sidewalks, 100 00

9. For the expenses of laying cross walks, 100 00

10. For the compensation of the village assessors

for the next year, 25 00

11. For the compensation of the village clerk for

the next year, 50 00

12. For the compensation of the street commis

sioners for the next year, 50 00

13. For printing, 75 00

14. For books and stationery, 10 00

15. For paying the expenses of the annual meeting

for 1849, and of special meetings, 25 00

16. For a fund for paying the expenses of enforc

ing the laws and other contingent expenses, 50 00

17. For the annual rent of water for fire hydrants, 25 00

18. For the fund for the compensation of the

collector at 4 per centum for the next year, 44 00
And which said several sums in the whole amount to ten
hundred and ninety (1,090) dollars."


The prevalence of the cholera during the summer caused
some uneasiness, and several precautionary measures were
taken by the trustees. The first Board of Health, appointed
June llth, in accordance with a proclamation by the go
vernor, was as follows: Egbert Egberts, Francis S. Claxton,
Miles White, Chas A. Olmsted, Samuel H. Foster; Health
Officer, Wm. F. Carter, M.D.

On July llth, the knitting factory of Timothy Bailey
(now Holsapple s bedstead factory) was burned, the two
upper stories being completely destroyed. The fire, which
was one of the most disastrous that had yet visited Cohoes,
was spoken of in the Cataract as follows :

" It is supposed to have been caused by spontaneous com
bustion of the wool and cotton. . . The building was owned
by Mr. Haggerty of New York, and was insured sufficiently
to cover the loss. Mr. Bailey s loss upon the machinery is
estimated to exceed $5,000. How much stock was lost we
did not ascertain. He was fully insured on all losses, but
no insurance can compensate to him for the loss by suspen
sion of his business at this most pressing season of the year
when he was running night and day to meet his orders.
The loss falls upon one of our most worthy citizens who has
the heartfelt sympathy of all. And it is moreover a great
calamity to our village, throwing out of employment nearly
two hundred persons, whose main support was derived from
this establishment."

Fire companies from Waterford and Troy were in attend
ance, and excellent service was done by the Cataract engine
of which it was said, " she has in this one instance well re
paid her cost and the members of her company deserve the
thanks of our citizens generally." Some of the machinery
was saved, and with this Mr. Bailey removed in the following
month to Ballston, where he established a mill. Another
fire, in November, destroyed part of the building in the
rear of the Van Rensselaer House, which had been erected
for a factory by II. C. Billings.

"The building was occupied fora number of different
purposes, having a Bat Factory, a Sash & Blind Factory


in one end, and the large Saloon of the Van Rensselaer
House in the other. The fire originated in the Bat Factory
which was entirely consumed. The end containing the Saloon
was saved. The Cataract Engine was on hand in good
season and did nobly. The two force pumps in the Ogden
Mills also threw a large quantity of water."

The saloon or ball room, referred to, was in the southern
part of the building, and was entered by a passage from
the dining room in the second story of the hotel. Under
the ball room was a bowling alley. The cotton bat and
sash and blind factories were in the north end of the build
ing, and were owned, the former by Nicholas Coyle, and
the latter by Overpaugh and Childs, who had moved from
the Wilkinson machine shop the machinery formerly used
by Loveland and Palmer, whom they succeeded.

A new business establishment of the year was B. R.
Peck s Sash and Blind Factory, located in the Baldwin
machine shop building, corner of Ontario and Remsen
streets, occupying half of one floor. In later years as the
business increased, Mr. Peck took possession of the entire
main part of the building. l

In September a strike occurred in the Ogden Mills, which
caused considerable excitement. The cause was a fifteen per
cent reduction of wages. The agent, Mr. Chas. A. Olmsted,
advertised at once for outside help, which was procured,
and work resumed after a stoppage of three weeks. The Co.
hoes Worsted Company earlier in the same year had trouble
with their operatives, and a public meeting of workingmen
was called which condemned their action in most emphatic
terms. Among their employes was Michael McKernon,
who ran for surveyor-general on the workingmen s state
ticket of that year. Other Cohoes workingmen, among

i The firm of Peck & Van Der Mark was formed in 1856, to which A . J. Goffe
was subsequently admmitted, but retired in 1859. The business was disposed of in
1861 to Messrs. Falardo and DeVilliers, who conducted at until the buieding changed
ahnds and was converted into a knitting mill.



them Wm. Manning, H. E. Higley and Joseph M. Brown,
were prominent in that campaign, the last two named being
on the state central committee.

The plank road fever was then at its height in this vicinity
and a company was formed in which several Cohoes parties
was interested, to build a road from here to West Troy.
It was completed during the fall.

At different times during the year, local items on " Im
provements " showed that the growth of the place was con
siderable. The following is from the Cataract of May 26 :

"There are at present thirty or forty buildings going up,
besides numerous other improvements. Somebody had
better begin to think about a bill to make Cohoes a city
if we don t hold on a little we shall be big enough for two
before the next session."

Among the most important buildings erected were the
block of Egberts & Bailey, on the west side of Remsen
street, north of Cataract alley, and the block on Mohawk
street south of Ontario, which was built by F. S. Claxton,
and is now owned by W. T. Dodge.

Among the matters of public importance during 1850>
was a movement to change the school arrangements of the
village, which were then under control of the town
authorities. The village was divided into three districts, in
each of which scholars of all ages arid degrees of advance
ment were taught in the same building, and by the same
teachers. The change proposed was to constitute the village
one school district, which was to be divided into five wards.
From each of these two trustees whose term of office was
two years, were to be elected, under whose supervision the
schools were to be properly graded, and by whom their
affairs were to be managed. At a meeting held February
5th, to take action upon the matter, " A committee was
appointed to draft a bill in conformity with the plan, and
to circulate petitions for the passage of the same by the
legislature. The committee nominated was : H. B. Silliman
and J. M. Brown, from District No. 5 ; Wm. Manning and


Henry Van Auken from District No. 15 ; John McGill and
Henry Howarth, from District No. 19. On motion, John
Van Santvoord, Henry D. Fuller and Patrick Judge were
added to the committee." The original plan met with some
opposition ; at a meeting held the next week, a remon
strance was presented by Mr. Gary, signed by one hundred

Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Haynesworth) MastenThe history of Cohoes, New York [electronic resource] from its earliest settlement to the present time → online text (page 9 of 30)