Arthur James Weise.

The history of the city of Albany, New York : from the discovery of the great river in 1524, by Verrazzano, to the present time online

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The City of Albany,




^ . ■• ^ 1884, ^Ji




Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1881, by


In the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington



Although written two hundred and sixty years after
the occupation of the site of the city of Albany by the
first settlers, this work presents a number of facts con-
tradicting certain statements respecting that event and
others preceding it. It will be seen in the first chapter
that Henry Hudson, the English navigator, was not the
discoverer nor the first explorer of the river which now
bears his name. The Grande River, as the Hudson was
first geographically designated, was discovered in 1524 by
Giovanni da Verrazzano, who had been commissioned to
make discoveries of new countries by Francis I., king
of France. Shortly afterward it was ascended to its
navigable height by French seamen trading for furs
with the Indians living on its shores.

The title of the French to the discovered territory
was perfected by occupation. Early in the sixteenth
century they built, as it appears, two forts, one on the
island where the city of New York is, and another on
Castle Island, near the site of Albany. When the first
vessel conveying emigrants from Amsterdam, Holland,
to the country of the Grande River reached the mouth
of the noble stream, the officer of the French barque,
anchored there, not only declared the fact of the
previous possession of the attractive domain by his
countrymen but peremptorily forbade the occupation of
this part of New France by the Dutch usurpers.


Remarkable as it is true, the greater number of the
first settlers of Albany were Walloons, — French people.
Hitherto the year 1623, instead of 1624, has erroneously
been given as the date of the planting of the first colony
on the site of the city of Albany.

The peculiar prominence of Albany as the council-
place of the Indians and the English governors of the
American provinces in the colonial period; its peculiar
geographical position as the military gate-way of the
country during the Indian and French wars and during
the revolutionary struggle ; its selection as the place of the
convocation of the first provincial congress which form-
ulated a "plan of a proposed Union of the several col-
onies ;" these and many other important facts make its
history notable and attractive.

The writer regrets that his subject-matter was by
agreement limited to a certain number of pages, and that
he was compelled to condense much of it into abridged

In ending the task of writing this, the first history of
the city of Albany, I deem it a conscionable duty to
pay a friend's tribute to the memory of Joel Munsell,
deceased, the assiduous and painstaking compiler of the
"Annals of Albany" and the "Collections on the His-
tory of Albany." His unrequited industry evidently
merits a public memorial from the citizens.

It is a pleasure to remember personal courtesies.
To Henry A. Homes, LL. D., the librarian of the General
Library of the State of New York, to his assistant, George
Rogers Howell, to Stephen B. Griswold, the librarian
of the Law Library, to Berthold Fernow, keeper of
the French, Dutch, and English records in the State
Library, to W. Bayard Van Rensselaer, Theodore Town-
^end, and J. H. Van Antwerp of Albany; to Horatio Sey-


mour, LL. D., ex-governor of the State of New York,
of Deerfield, Oneida County; to Dr. T. M. Coan of New
York City; to DeWitt Clinton, librarian of the Young
Men's Association Library, and to William H. Young
of Troy; I am under many obligations for official ser-
vices and desired information,

Arthur James Weise.

Troy, N. Y.,
August 2, 1884.




Discoveries and explorations. Giovanni da Verrazzano enters the bay of
the Grande River. The French ascend the stream to its navigable
height. Henry Hudson's voyage. The French chateau on Castle
Island. Organization of the West India Company. . . I-IV


Sailing of the Walloons and Dutch freemen to New Netherland.
The site of the colony. Fort Orange. The Wilden. Van Kreicke-
beek's partisanship. The patroons. The charter of exemptions and
privileges. .......... 18-36


Kiliaen van Rensselaer. The territory of Rensselaerswyck. First set-
tlers. Leases of land. Officers of the manor. The fur trade. Shell-
money of the Indians. The patroon's instructions. . . 37-52


The call of the Rev. Joannes Megapolensis, jr. Sketch of the Mohawk
Indians. Father Jognes's captivity. Beeren Island fortified. The
church at Fort Orange. Petrus Stuyvesant's directorship. " Wooden
Leg's dogs." The burgerlijke oath. . . . . . 53-93


The troubles at Fort Orange. The dorpe Beverswyck. The tapsters'
excise. Erection of the block-house church. Persecution of the
Lutherans. The armed Mohawks. The village palisaded. The
boschloopers. Anneke Janse Bogardus's will. . . . 94-134


New Netherland coveted by the English. Its territory given to the duke
of York and Albany. Surrender of the Dutch. Governor NicoUs's
orders. The fort and village of Albany. . . . 135-152


The province regained by the Dutch. Willemstadt. Immunities granted
to the patroon. The head-church. Fort Nassau. New Netherland
surrendered to the English. ...... 153-158





The village again named Albany. Indian hostilities. Militia laws.
The Fuyck. Description of the place. The burghers. The house
of peace. ... 159-183


Manners and customs. Houses. Furniture. Occupations. Shops. Inns.

Church-going. Festival days. Funerals. Marriages. . . 184-196


Charter of the city. The municipal officers. Rules and regulations.

French invasion. Military preparations. . . . 197-215


A French project. The city to be attacked. Captain Bull's visit to Al-
bany. Jacob Leisler's usurpation. The province disturbed. The
massacre of the inhabitants of Schenectady. . . . 216-251


Indian affairs. Albany described. Land taken from the Indians. Dic-
tatorial power of royalty. The Five Nations. . . 262-269


The building of the stone-fort. Fugitive slaves. Schaihtecogue land.

Invasion of Canada. A missionary's letter. . . . 2'70-28'7


Intemperance of the Indians. The trade of the frontier. Albany's
geographical position. Another war with France. Description of
the city 288-312


The colonial congress. Military movements. The fur trade. Anglo-
mania. .......... 313-332


The city's revenues. Fire precautions. A public whipper. Character

istics of the people. Docks built. Masonic lodges. . 333-353




The revolution. The committee of superintendence and correspondence.
Albany regiments. Reading of the Declaration of Independence.
The invasion of Burgoyne. First meeting of the legislature in the
city. Washington's visit. ...... 354-385


The business of merchandizing. Stages. The opening of a theatre.
A centennial celebration. A federal procession. The city described.
Establishment of a bank. The trade of Albany. . . 386-423


The capital of the state of New York. Erection of a public building.
A large fire. A new state-house built. The first steamboat on the
Hudson. Albany in 1813. 424-457


The city's wealth and prosperity. Celebration of the opening of the Erie
canal. The Mohawk and Hudson railroad. The public schools.
The new capitol. .... ... 45S-48C


Historical summary, 487-492

Churches, 493-606

Newspapers, 506-510

Mayors, 510-511

Banks, 511-512

Changed names of streets, 512-513

Census, 514

Free and Accepted Masons 513-514

Independent Order of Odd Fellows, ..... 514

Index 515-520





On a bright day near the end of April, 1524, a num-
ber of aborigines fishing in the lower bay of New York
descried a strange object floating toward them from the
sea. Much excited by the apparition, the amazed savages
rapidly rowed to the neighboring islands to apprise the
inhabitants of the extraordinary spectacle. Hundreds of
inquisitive, fascinated faces were soon turned toward the
mysterious thing. At first a wild speculation assumed it
to be an unknown aquatic monster, then a less fanciful
one conjectured it to be a large house drifting in from
the sea. The slowly moving body was closely watched
by the wondering crowds. As it approached they saw
that it was an immense boat, filled with people and pro-
pelled by wind-expanded cloths hung before poles rising
high above its curiously shaped hull. The novel craft
having found a suitable riding-place in the spacious haven
cast her anchor in the sight of the excited natives, who,


with loud shouts of dehght, witnessed the first mooring
of a European ship in this discovered roadstead. ^

The anchored vessel was the French ship, La Dau-
phine, with a crew of fifty men, commanded by Giovanni
da Verrazzano, an experienced navigator. Having been
commissioned by Francis I., king of France, to seek a
western sea-route to India and to make discoveries of
new lands, he had sailed from the port of Dieppe late in
the year 1523. Verrazzano had descried, on the eleventh
of March, 1524, {old style,) the coast of North America,
on the thirty-fourth parallel of north latitude. He
had afterward explored the coast southwardly for fifty
leagues, and then had turned and sailed northwardly,
frequently going ashore to survey the country and to ac-
quaint himself with the habits of the friendly natives.

Eager to learn whether the bay in which his ship was
anchored were not a part of a navigable strait through
which he might sail to Cathay, in Eastern Asia, Verraz-
zano ordered the ship's boat to be manned, and began the
first exploration of the mighty river that poured its flood
into the bay through the channel now called the Narrows.
The gazing savages, seeing the boat moving toward the
upper bay, hastened with renewed exclamations of de-
light to the nearest shores to inspect more closely the un-
known visitors. Here, partly clad with barbaric dresses
of skins, birds' feathers and decorative wampum, the
dusky-colored aborigines, with frequent signs and various
calls, manifested their friendliness toward the explorers,
who, in mid-stream, rowed by them.

Entering the upper bay of New York, described by
the delighted navigator as a most beautiful lake formed
by the descending waters of the great river, Verrazzano

1 Vide The Rev. John Heckewelder's paper concerning an Indian tradi-
tion of the first arrival of Europeans in New York Bay. Collections of the
New York Historical Society. Second series, vol, i. pp. 71-74.


perceived it to be an excellent harbor for the largest ves-
sels, and the surrounding country an attractive region
diversified by hills, in which he thought valuable min-
erals might be found. Here the inquisitive Indians
steered their canoes toward the boat, and, rowing around
and about it, gazed at the fair faces and European dress
of the strangers with the greatest curiosity and admira-
tion. Suddenly a violent gale of wind from the direc-
tion of the sea warned the circumspect navigator of his
remoteness from the Dauphine, and he ordered the boat
to be rowed to the distant ship, not a little displeased by
the sudden termination of his pleasurable exploration of
the beautiful bay.

On the return of the explorers to the ship her anchor
was weighed and the Dauphine put to sea, sailing north-
wardly as far as the fiftieth parallel of north latitude,
where she stood for France, and early in July arrived at
the port of Dieppe, From this place, Verrazzano sent a
letter to Francis I., dated on the eighth of the month,
describing the New Land ' ' never before seen by men
either in ancient or in modern times," which he had dis-
covered and explored for more than eleven hundred
miles. ^

In consequence of these discoveries, the northern part
of the continent, extending along the Atlantic Ocean from
Florida to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, was called by the
French, La Nouvelle France (New France). The valu-
able furs of the beaver, otter, marten, and other animals
of the nev/ country induced certain French capitalists,
merchants, and ship-owners to send a number of vessels
to different parts of its coast to barter with the natives

1 Parts of the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island,
and Nova Scotia had been discovered and explored by the Cabots in 149*7
and 1498. Gaspar Cortereal, in 1500 and 1501 had inspected parts of the
coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland.


for peltry. Some of these barques sailed to the beautiful
bay discovered by Verrazzano, and explored the Grande
Eiver, as the Hudson was then called, to the height of
its navigation. Here the friendly savages received the
French fur- traders with a large-hearted hospitality, which
greatly contributed to the success of the first ventures of
these speculative Europeans. To enlarge and protect the
exclusive traffic begun so advantageously with the abo-
rigines of the different villages near the confluence of
the two rivers, now known as the Mohawk and the Hud-
son, the French undertook to build, about the year 1540,
a fortified trading-house or castle on the long, low
island, lying in the little bay, on the west side of the
Grande River, near the site of the city of Albany, Unfor-
tunately before the building was completed, the island
was inundated by the flood of a great freshet. The
partly erected walls of the chateau and the environing
earthworks were so much damaged by the rushing water
tha-t they were never repaired by the French, nor was
the island any longer deemed habitable by them. These
trading ventures of the French to the Grande River, dur-
ing the sixteenth century, made them well acquainted
with the topographical features of the adjacent country.
On many of the maps of La Nouvelle France made dur-
ing this period the noble stream is plainly represented
from Sandy Hook to its navigable limits.^

The exploration of the Grande River by Henry Hudson
in 1609, was suggested to the English navigator by infor-
mation derived from published descriptions and maps of
New France. It was confidently believed by many per-
sons that in North America a navigable passage could be
found through which vessels could pass to the Indian
Ocean and sail to the Molucca or Spice Islands. Spain,

1 About one hundred and seventy-five miles from the ocean.


England, Portugal, and France, in turn, had already sent
their great sea-captains across the Atlantic to search for
such a water-way to the East. Magellan, in 1520, found
the strait which now bears his name and through it the
ships of Spain passed to the Moluccas. ^ Certain wealthy
commercial companies in the United Netherlands, in the
latter part of the sixteenth century, fitted out ships and
sent them to explore the ice-girdled ocean north of Europe
for a navigable route to Asia. These perilous enterprises
did not accomplish the purposes of the Dutch capitalists.
Still the hope of finding a sea-path to the Orient stimu-
lated other voyages of discovery in the same frigid field
of the eastern hemisphere.

An exploration of the Arctic Ocean, north of Novaya
Zemlya, it was thought would result in the discovery of
an open polar passage to Northern Asia, where a naviga-
ble channel could be found by which vessels might sail
southward into the interior of the continent. For the
purpose of learning whether this conjecture were true
the speculative managers of the Dutch East India Com-
pany engaged Henry Hudson to command a vessel to be
manned and equipped for the undertaking. ^ He set sail
from Amsterdam, with a crew of twenty men, Dutch
and English, on the twenty-fifth of March, 1609, {old
style,) in the yacht, De Halve Maen, (The Half Moon,)
of forty lasts or about eighty tons burden. Leaving the

1 Vide The discoveries of America to the year 1.525. By Arthur James
Weise. New York, 1884. G. P. Putnam's Sons.

2 Hudson was unacquainted with the Dutch language, and he therefore
employed Jodocus Hondius, a learned Hollander, to act as his interpreter in
his conferences with the directors of the East India Company. Hondius as-
sisted him in making the following contract with the Amsterdam chamber,
to which instrument he and Hondius signed their names :

"On this eighth of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand six
hundred and nine, the directors of the East India Company of the chamber
of Amsterdam, of the ten years' reckoning, of the one part, and Mr. Henry
Hudson, Englishman, assisted by Jodocus Hondius, of the other part, have





Texel, the English navigator steered northwardly, and,
after doubling North Cape on the coast of Norway, stood
for Novaya Zenilya. On this last course Hudson encount-
ered a barrier of ice which compelled him to relinquish
the purpose he had in view. Unwilling to return to Hol-
land without making an attempt to reach India by sail-
agreed in manner following, to wit : That the said directors shall in the
first place equip a small vessel or yacht of about thirty lasts [about sixty tons]
burden, with which, well provided with men, provisions and other necessa-
ries, the aforenamed Hudson shall, about the first of April, sail, in order to
search for a passage by the north, around by the north side of Novaya Zemlya,
and shall continue thus along that parallel until he shall be able to sail south-
ward to the latitude of sixty degrees. He shall obtain as much knowledge
of the lands as can be done without any considerable loss of time, and if it
be possible return immediately, in order to make a faithful report and rela-
tion of his voyage to the directors, and to deliver over his journals, log-books
and charts, together with an account of every thing whatsoever which shall
happen to him during the voyage, without keeping any thing back ; for
which said voyage the directors shall pay to the said Hudson, as well as for
his outfit for the said voyage as for the support of his wife and children, the
sum of eight hundred guilders ; [about three hundred and twenty dollars ;]
and, in case (which God prevent) he do not come back or arrive here-
abouts within a year, the directors shall further pay to his wife two hundred
guilders in cash ; and thereupon they shall not be further liable to him or
his heirs, unless he shall either afterward or within the year arrive and have
found the passage good and suitable for the company to use ; in which case
the directors will reward the aforenamed Hudson for his dangers, trouble,
and knowledge in their discretion, with which the before-mentioned Hudson
is content. And in case the directors think proper to prosecute and con-
tinue the same voyage, it is stipulated and agreed with the aforenamed
Hudson, that he shall make his residence in this country with his wife and
children, and shall enter into the employment of no other than the company,
and this at the discretion of the directors, who also promise to make him
satisfied and content for such further service in all justice and equity. All
without fraud or evil intent.

" In witness of the truth, two contracts are made hereof, of the same
tenor, and are subscribed by both parties and also by Jodocus Hondius, as
interpreter and witness,

" Dated as above. " Dirk van Os.

"J. Poppe.
"Henry Hudson.

"Jodocus Hondius,

" witness."
Vide Henry Hudson in Holland. By Henry C. Murphy. The Hague,
1859. pp. 34-36.


ing in a different direction, he gave his officers and crew
the choice of two proposals :

"The first was to go to the coast of America at the
fortieth degree of latitude, mostly incited to this by
letters and maps which a certain Captain Smith had sent
him from Virginia, and in which he showed him a sea
by which he might circumnavigate their southern colony
[in Virginia] from the north, and from there pass into a
western sea. The other proposal was to seek the pas-
sage by Davis's Strait." ^

Hudson's men preferred to make the first voyage,
partly influenced by what had been suggested in the
communications of Captain John Smith, and partly by a
desire to avoid the lower temperature of the more north-
ern region of the continent. The so-called Western Sea,
which it was thought Hudson could reach by sailing-
through some unexploi-ed passage extending to it from
the Grrande River, is exhibited on the map of America
made by Michael Locke, the English cartographer, in
1582. ^ On this fan- shaped chart it is designated Mare de
Verrazana 1524 (Sea of Verrazzano 1524). North of it
the Gi'ande River is represented as an outlet of the St.
Lawrence River. ^

The Half Moon, having taken on board a supply of
fresh water at the Faroe Islands, sailed westward toward

1 Belgische ofte Nederlandsche oorlogen ende geschiedenissen begin-
nende van 't jaer 1595 tot 1611, mede vervatende enighe gebueren handel-
inghe. Beschreven door Emanuel van Meteren. Gedruckt op Schotlant
buyten Danswyck by Hermes van Loven. 1611. boek xxx. fol. 32*7.

3 Locke's map, dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney, was used by Richard
Hakluyt, the English collector and publisher of voyages and travels, to illus-
trate his work entitled : Divers voyages touching the discouerie of America.
London, 1582. Vidf The discoveries of America to the year 1525. By Ar-
thur James Weise. New York, 1884. G. P. Putnam's Sons.

3 As late as the year 1625, the Dutch explorers of the Grande River were
ignorant of its course beyond the height of its navigation. Joannes de Laet,
the Dutch historian, remarks : "Judging from appearances, this river ex-
tends to the great river St. Lawrence, or Canada, for our skippers assure us


Newfoundland. On the third of July the yacht came
among some French vessels taking cod on the fishing
banks. Sailing southward, the explorers approached the
peninsula of Virginia, ' ' in latitude 37° 45', " says Van
Meteren, the Dutch historian, writing two years after the
voyage. ' ' They then held their course along the coast
until they reached, in latitude 40° 45', a good entrance
between two headlands. Here they discovered and
entered, on the twelfth of September [1609, old style,'] as
beautiful a river as could be found, very wide and deep,
with good anchorage along both shores. They ascended
it with their large vessel as high as 42° 40', and went
still higher with the ship's boat.^ At the mouth of
the river they found the natives brave and warlike, but
beyond, up to the highest point of the stream, friendly
and hospitable, having great numbers of skins and furs,
as those of martens and foxes, and many other commodi-
ties, birds, fruits, and even white and blue grapes. They
treated these people civilly and brought away a little of
whatever they found among them.*'

When the Half Moon, on the warm afternoon of the
nineteenth of September, cast her anchor and swung with
the tide, near the site of the city of Albany, the observ-
ing Indians, well aware from their intercourse of nearly
a century with the seamen of France what would be
most acceptable to the officers and men on the strange

that the natives come to the fort [Fort Orange, the site of Albany] from that
river, and from Quebec and Tadoussac." — Nieuwe Wereldt ofte beschrijvinghe
van West Indien. Door Joannes de Laet. Tot Leyden, 1625. boek iii. cap.
ix. Vide Coll. N. Y. Hist. Soc. Second series, vol. i. p. 399.

1 The Dudley Observatory in the city of Albany, about three-fourths of a
mile north of the Capitol, is in -1:2° 39' 50" north latitude, and in 3° 15' 26"
east longitude from Washington ; and in 73° 44' 49" west longitude from

2 Belgische ofte Nederlantsche oorlogen ende geschiedenissen beginnen
de van 't jaer 1595 tot 1611. boek xxx. fol. 32*7. Vide Henry Hudson in Hol-
land by Henry C. Murphy. Appendix, pp. 62-65.


Online LibraryArthur James WeiseThe history of the city of Albany, New York : from the discovery of the great river in 1524, by Verrazzano, to the present time → online text (page 1 of 41)