Grace Greylock Niles.

The Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history online

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Schaghticoke Church between 1759 and the installation of


The Family Bible of Col. Johannes Knickerbacker, 2d, printed in Holland
in 1 741. The Hand-bell was used to call the burghers of the Vale of Peace to
service at the Old Dutch Church. It is undoubtedly the first church-bell used at
the first frame church built in Hoosac Valley during Colonial Days.

the venerable Elias Van Bunschooten in 1 773. After the open-
ing of the Revolution in New York City, the Dutch Reformed
missionaries, Dominie Lambertus De Ronde and his wife,
Margareta Catharine De Sandra- De Ronde, purchased the
Johannes De Wandlaer homestead, a mile north of the Knick-
erbacker Mansion, and aided Dominie Van Bunschooten.

Colonel Knickerbacker, 2d, owned a large stafif of Negro
slaves, including Tom Mandolin, who received his surname
because of his ability to play the mandolin. Uncle Tom

Old Schaghticoke and Cambridge Districts 255

was never able to master addition and subtraction. He
was stationed at the gateway of the sheepfold by his master
to count the sheep as they were turned out to the pasture.
He began: "One, two, three," but could not go farther, and
continued to exclaim : " Massa, there goes a'nudder, a'nudder,
and a'nudder," until it was discovered that the whole flock
had departed.

Uncle Tom delighted to sit in the chimney comer with his
mandolin during the long winter evenings and entertain
the Knickerbacker boys and their friend, Washington
Irving. He recounted the Mahican legends of St. Croix,
"Weeping Rocks," and the witch stories of Kreigger Rocks
and the massacres of Schaghticoke Plains and Spook
Hollow. He was familiar with the mysterious pilgrimages
of Queen Esther and her maidens from St. Regis to the Hoo-
sacs' burial-field, and the adventures of Col. Ethan Allen
and his "Minute Men," including Ignace Kipp and John
J. Bleecker of Tomhannac.

Pittstown Patent comprised the valley of Tomhannac
Creek, south to Rensselaerwyck. It was granted on July,
23, 1 761, to six proprietors including Shepherd, Clark,
Sawyer, Schuyler, De Peyster, and Van Cortlandt. The
north line of Pittstown to-day follows the centre of Hoosac
River. Among the proprietors of Pittstown, after the first
town-meeting took place in 1789, may be named:

Augustus Van Cortlandt William Prendergast

Alexander Thompson Stephen Hunt

Benjamin Aiken Christian Fischer

Edmund Aiken Joseph Tanny

Isaac Van Hoosen Samuel Livingston

Teunis Van Derwerker Thomas Hicks

Sy brant Quackenbosch Pennel Bacon

Joshua Babcock Cornelius Wiley

Samuel Rowland Michael Van Dercook

256 The Hoosac Valley-

Michael Van Dercook built the Cooksboro Mills, James
Mallery taught the Buskirk District School, James Purdy
ran a blacksmith shop, and Samuel Osborne a shoe-shop.

Cambridge Patent at first comprised 30,000 acres in the
Owl Kill and White Creek intervales, granted on July 21,
1 761, to Isaac SaAvyer, Edmund Wells, Jacob Abraham
Lansing, Alexander Colden, William Smith, and Goldsboro
Bangor. After the first town-meeting in 1789, Philip Van
Ness's Tioshoke Manor on the north bank of Hoosac, con-
taining 4000 acres, was placed under the jurisdiction of the
town of Cambridge and later inherited by the patroon's
four daughters.

The first settlers of Cambridge included thirty Scotch-
Irish families from Coleraine in Old Berkshire, including
Col. Absalom Blair, Jeremiah Clarke, George Duncan, Capt.
George Gilmore, Maj. James Cowden, Ephraim Cowan,
David Harrow, William Clarke, John Scott, Thomas Morri-
son, and others. Each received a farm of one hundred
acres, located on the banks of the Owl Kill, if he settled upon
it within three years after the patent was granted. Maj.
James Cowden built the first log-tavern, on the site of his
"Checkered House," which still stands.

Col. Johannes Knickerbacker, 2d, in 1770, completed his
brick mansion in Old Schaghticoke and invited the Albany
mayor and council to a feast. He bargained with the merry
councillors for Schaghticoke Manor, containing six miles
square, and secured it for less than $1000. He agreed,
however, to entertain the successive " Gentlemen of Albany "
with "Meat, Drink, and lodging once a Year" at his "Ho-
stead" in Old Schaghticoke. Two years later, on March
24, 1772, Albany County was sub-divided into Schaghticoke
and Cambridge military districts. The former comprised
Colonel Knickerbacker' s Schaghticoke Manor and the Pitts-
town patent, and the latter, the Philip Van Ness Tioshoke














" - a












258 The Hoosac Valley

Manor; and Cambridge Patent now comprised in Cambridge,
White Creek, and Jackson townships.

The Cambridge Council of Safety sent John Younglove,
Samuel Ashton, Simeon Carel, Jeremiah Clarke, and John
Millington as delegates to the Albany council of war on
May 10, 1775, the same day that Col. Ethan Allen captured
Fort Ticonderoga.

Upon the advance of Burgoyne's British army down the
Hudson in August, 1777, the mixed tenantry of the Schaghti-
coke and Hoosac manors removed to Albany, Williamstown,
and Stockbridge. Ann Eliza Schuyler-Bleecker, in her Me-
moirs, published in 1795, records that her husband, John J.
Bleecker, was in Albany looking for quarters for his family,
when a false alarm of an advance of Burgoyne's Indian scouts
spread terror among the tenantry of the "Vale of Peace."
Mrs. Bleecker caught her babe in her arms and led her other
child five miles to " Stone Arabia," now Lansingburgh. She
remained overnight in the attic of a wealthy acquaintance ;
the children slept on blankets stretched over boards, while
she wept. Mr. Bleecker arrived at sunrise and rescued his
family and set sail on a sloop down the Hudson to Red Hook.

A band of hostile Tories and Indians held Fort Schaghti-
coke and several abandoned houses of the settlers as a
British outpost. Col. Johannes Knickerbacker's 14th N. Y.
Regiment, composed of officers and men from Dutch Hoosac
and Schaghticoke, was slow in marching to the field of action.
It is locally reported that he was fourteen days arriving at
General Gates's encampment, which he reached October 7th,
at dusk, just as the scene of the second battle of Old Sara-
toga was closing and in time only to shout exultingly to the
fleeing Britains.

Maj. Derrick Van Vechten, an officer in Colonel Knicker-
backer's 14th Regiment, was posted at Mechanicsville. He
and Samuel Acker visited Old Schaghticoke before the

Old Schaghticoke and Cambridge Districts 259

Battle of Saratoga on September 19th, to observe their
fields of grain. While standing on the hill of Yocob Yates's
farm, above the Tomhannac Bridge, the Tories and Indians
fired a volley of bullets as they retreated toward the Hudson.
Major Van Vechten fell, mortally wounded, with a bullet in
his heart, beneath the elm tree on the present road below
Reynolds Station. He shouted to Acker to take care of
himself, saying: "You cannot save me," Acker reached the
American Camp and a detachment of soldiers was sent to
bury Major Van Vechten's body.

The Tomhannac Road was also guarded by Tories, occu-
pying Abraham Viele's house below Buttermilk Falls.
Three officers on horseback advanced to Fort Schaghticoke
with messages from Generals Clinton and Howe to General
Burgoyne. They were mistaken for American scouts, and
the sharpshooters posted in the Spook Hollow ravine above
Viele's house mortally wounded one of the officers. He
expired beneath the butternut tree, still standing in front
of the Button house, now on the site of Viele's house.

After the surrender of the British in 1777, Hoosac, Pitts-
town, and Cambridge Patents were settled by Baptists and
Quakers from New England. The Dutch Reformed Church
was founded at Pittstown Centre in 1787 by deacons John
Bailey, John Van Woerdt, Jonathan Yates, and Simeon Van
Dercook; and the Tioshoke Dutch Reformed Church, located
at Buskirk Bridge, in Cambridge District, was organized,
May 2, 1792, by Dominie Samuel Smith, Patroon Philip
Van Ness, Johannes Quackenbosch, Nicholas Groesbeck,
Ludovicus Viele, Petrus Viele, and Johannes Van Buskirk.
The Presbyterian Church — a branch of the Dutch Reformed
Church at Tomhannac — was organized, March 25, 1800,
by the original deacons of the Reformed Church of Pitts-
town Centre.

The Baptist Church of the "Warren Society" began at

26o The Hoosac Valley

Pittstown Centre in March, 1787, being instituted by Ger-
shorm Hinckley, Benjamin Eastwood, Jared Mead, Samuel
Crandall, John Lamb, Wihiam Lamport, Jacob Miller,
Samuel Halstead, William Cuthbert, Mayhew Daggett,
Jeremiah Reynolds, Ebenezer Wilson, Nathan Jeffers, and
Thomas Martin from Rhode Island.

The Society of Friends was organized in Pittstown during
1787, and included as members the names of Abigal Lamb,
John Osborne, David Norton, Caleb Norton, Simeon Brown-
ell, and Asa Hoag. Mrs. Rose Eddy, Simeon Brownell,
Asa Hoag, and Elizabeth Lawton, wife of Joseph Lawton,
were the first speakers. The Quaker meeting-house was
built about 1800; subsequently burned and rebuilt in 18 19
by Mica j ah Hunt.

The founders of Cambridge District, after the campaign
of 1777, included Phineas Whiteside, Daniel Bratt, Nathaniel
Kenyon, Samuel Willet, and the Scotch-Irish merchants,
John Shirland, Hugh Laramouth, John Galloway, David
Burrows, Calvin Skinner, Alexander Marshall, Elihu
Gifford, the Almy, Tilton, Mayhew, Brownell, Sherman,
Stevenson, Ackley, Bowen, Webster, Green, Wier, Averill,
English, Waite, Coulter, and McVicar families.

Young Elihu Gifford once led a romantic life on board a
privateer. He aided his captain in seizing a British vessel
loaded with silver, and the money was transferred to their
privateer. This success lead them to try to seize a disguised
British ship of war, manned with seventy-four guns. In
the attempt the privateer herself was seized. Gifford was
an expert swimmer and proposed to a companion in the hold
of the British ship, to swim three miles to the Cuban shore,
after dark. They reached the shore safely and the following
morning the British ship set sail for England. Elihu Gifford
returned to his native Cambridge hills. His son, Nathan,
inherited his father's courage and headed a company of


old Schaghticoke and Cambridge Districts 261

volunteers in Eddy's "Expedition" in 1814. Elihu Gifford
and Samuel Sandford became kinsmen of the famous land-
scape artist, Sandford Gifford.

The White Creek intervale of Cambridge District was
settled by Austin Wells, a son of the original proprietor,
Edmund Wells, and several small patents were granted to
other settlers, including Lake, Van Cuyler, Wilson, Bain,
Campbell, Ashton, Embury, and Waite on the north bank
of the Walloomsac, partly in Hoosac District.

Elder William Waite and. several Rhode Island Baptists of
the "Warren Society" of Cambridge District, together with
Deacons Waldo and Goff of Hoosac District, in 1772 built
the First Baptist Church at Waite's Corners, two miles
south of Major Cowden's "Checkered House," between St.
Croix and Walloomsac hamlets. The Baptist Church' was
broken up August 16, 1777, many of the brethren joining Col.
Francis J. Van Pfister's Loyalists and fighting against their
brothers at the Tory breastworks. During February, 1779,
the church was reorganized and a new meeting-house built.
Elder William Waite was installed pastor until 1793, after
which the famous missionary, the Rev. Obed Warren, the
founder of the "Warren Society" of Baptists in America,
at Warren, R. I., in 1767, was installed pastor and retained
the office until 18 12.

During 1769, Thomas and James Ashton of England
headed a colony of Irish Methodists of the John Wesley
Society, and located at Ash Grove, two miles east of Old
Cambridge Village, in North White Creek intervale, bor-
dering Shaftsbury, New Hampshire Grants.

The military manor of Clarendon, containing 4000 acres,
drawn and purchased by Lieut. Duncan McVicar in 1 763,
was located in White Creek, N. Y., and Shaftsbury, New
Hampshire Grants. It overlapped the latter township

'Benedict, History of the Baptist Churches.

262 The Hoosac Valley

granted to the Rhode Islanders by Gov. Benning Went worth
in 1 761.

The Irish Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterian pro-
prietors of Shaftsbury founded not only their churches but
their republican government, and Lieutenant McVicar was
forced to sail for Scotland in 1770 and relinquish his baronial
estate, east of the Twenty-Mile Line. Philip Embury, an
Episcopal clergyman, became impressed with the zeal of
the followers of John Wesley. He preached the first Metho-
dist sermon in this country at the Old John Street Church
in New York City in 1766. The White Creek Wesleyans
held meetings in Ash Grove, near Ashton's home, until the
Ash Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, the second in
America, was organized in 1770. The Rev, Philip Embury
was installed first pastor. He died at Salem, N. Y., and is
known as the founder of the Methodist Episcopal Church in
America. ' His grave in the Ash Grove burial-field is marked
by a memorial monument to-day. The Ash Grove Metho-
dist Church was the first church organized in Washington
County. Later, in 1793, the Scotch-Irish followers of John
Calvin founded the Presbyterian Church at Cambridge
Village, although their "Old White Meeting-house" was not
dedicated until many years later.

After the advent of the Rhode Island Baptists, several
Quakers from New Bedford, Mass., arrived about 1784.
The Quaker Church of Cambridge was founded by Isaac
and John Wood; Jonathan, Amos, Abraham, and Stephen
Hoag; John and Philip Allen — cousins of Col. Ethan Allen;
Jonathan Russey; Samuel, Joseph, and Allen Mosher;
James Carpenter, Benjamin and Nathan Nichols; Micah
Cavell, Micah and James Hunt; John Soule, John Wing,
Cornelius Devol, David Norton, Seth Chase, and the Baker,
Hart, Tabor, Cornell, Kintch, and Potter families. The

' Johnston, Washington County History, p. 259.

Old Schaghticoke and Cambridge Districts 263

meeting-house of the Society of Friends was built half a
mile west of White Creek hamlet, on land leased of Edward
Aiken for an annual quit-rent of one pepper-com. The
first and second churches were destroyed by fire — the latter
in 1875.

Schaghticoke township began in the centre of Hudson
River at the northwest comer of Rensselaer County, thence
ran east to the middle of Hoosac River; thence down the
river to Viele's or Toll's Bridge, a direct course to Michael
Van Dercook's grist-mill at Cooksboro; westerly along the
bounds of Lansingburgh to the centre of Hudson River, and
thence northerly to the place of beginning.

The founders of Schaghticoke included the grandsons of
the Knickerbacker Dutch tenantry, and several English
and Scotch-Irish Pilgrims from New England. Thomas
Lounsbury from Westchester County, N. Y., purchased
second division lots 2 and 3 of the Great Lot 41 on Hoosac
Patent in 1778 for $9000. His farm was a quarter of a
mile in width, running westerly on the Stillwater Road,
extending two miles north of the "Big Eddy," of Hart's
Falls. Lounsbury 's "Big Eddy" mill-lot was later owned
by Johannes P. Hansen and Aaron B. Hinman, now the site
of Schaghticoke Point. The village of Hart's Falls was first
settled by John Hart, John L Fort, Jacob Corbin, John
Searles, William Bacus, John S. Mosher, David Bryan,
John Banker, Patrick Fitzgerald, Frederick Romp, John
and Augustus Downs, Daniel Elst, Garret Wenant, Rite
Piner, Lewis Van Antwerp, David Browning, Sybrant Viele,
George Wetsel, and Jacob Overock.

The First Presbyterian Church was founded by Thomas
Lounsbury and other members of the Calvin Society, on
Schaghticoke Hill Road, south of Hart's Falls in 1805.
Later the church was moved to Hart's Falls, where several
inns, mills, and stores centred. About the same time Schagh-

264 The Hoosac Valley

ticoke Hill hamlet, two miles south of Hart's Falls, con-
tained Roger's Inn, Peter Hurly's blacksmith shop, Hiram
Buel's shoe-shop, Peter Yates's store, George Burton's twine-
mill, Harwood's powder-keg mill, and Herman Jansen
Knickerbacker's grist-mill and saw-mill, known as James
Ryan's mills to-day. Two miles below, near Buttermilk
Falls on the Tomhannac and above Abram Viele's Inn, stood
a bellows' -mill; and in the Bryan District, on the Hudson
terrace, stood a grain-cradle and fanning-mill shop.

Among the licensed inn-keepers of Schaghticoke between
1789 and 1804 may be named Jesse Buffett, who ran the
American House at Hart's Falls; Benjamin Holt, Abram
Viele, Garret Winne, Simon Toll, John Story, Jacob Over-
ock, David Bryan, John Travice, Jared Esbill, Caleb Gifford,
Moses Canfield, Ephraim Lyon, Isaac Bull, Samuel Storms,
James Brooking, Nathaniel Rusco, and James Lightbody.

The Albany Legislature passed an act in 1 802 requiring all
slave owners to appear before a justice and record illegitimate
births of children born among their Negro slaves. In
Schaghticoke, Cornelius Buskirk certified that his slave,
named Gin, had a female child, born August 19, 1798, named
Sarah Frances; Nicholas Groesbeck, Joseph Talmage, Peter
Yates, John Knickerbacker, Winslow Paige, Lewis Viele,
Bethel Mather, William Groesbeck, Levennus Van Denburg,
John Crabb, and Jacob Sipperly all made similar records
until the abolition of slavery in 1827. Another record in
1804 was that the Canada thistle was a pest in Schaghticoke
fields and each land owner was fined $5.00 if he failed to
destroy those weeds.

The Thomas Lounsbury burial-field was dedicated for the
use of the poor on Stillwater Road, near Schaghticoke
Village, in 1797. The oldest marked grave was that of
"Michael Klein, son of Joseph and Elizabeth Klein, born
September 29, 1774, and died March 21, 1797, aged 22

Old Schaghticoke and Cambridge Districts 265

years." The cemetery was locally known as the "Klein
Grave Yard," until the stone was removed a few years
ago. The tombstone of the founder is located in the
centre of the yard:



Thomas Lounsbury

Who departed this life

I2th May, 1813

In 77 th Year of

His Age.

The first town-meeting of Pittstown was held at the Still
Tavern, near the Dutch Reformed Church, in Centre-of-the
! Town, during April, 1789. The licensed inn-keepers included
Peter Doty of the Brick Tavern, Daniel Carpenter and
Colonel Reed at Pittstown Centre; the latter inn is known
as the Union House to-day. Finney's Tavern Stand on the
Herman farm proved a rallying place for the volunteers
joining Gen. Gilbert Eddy's "Expedition" against the
British at Plattsburgh, on Lake Champlain in 18 14. Wads-
worth's Tavern of Boyntonville, Aiken's Inn, and Fish's
Tavern were considered the famous hostelries before the
Battle of Bennington. Gifford's Tavern at Valley Falls
won a reputation for its festivities during the War of 18 12,
I at which time Mordecai Lotteridge was its proprietor.

The first town-meeting of Cambridge was held at Ishmael
I Gardner's Inn, at Waite's Corners, during March, 1789,
I and thereafter at Archibald McVicar's Inn, known later
'1 as Waite's Tavern. Maj. James Cowden's famous "Check-
' ered House," painted with red and white checkers, was the
!( leading tavern in Cambridge Valley during the Revolution,
It was converted into a private residence a few years ago.

Among the first physicians of Cambridge may be men-
tioned Dr. John Williams, Dr. Jonathan Dorr of Dorr's


The Hoosac Valley

Corners, Dr. Post of Post's Comers, Dr. Morris of Buskirk
Bridge, and his son, Dr. Philip Van Ness Morris — a class-
mate of William Cullen Bryant and Samuel J. Mills, Jr.,
at Williams College in 1 809-1810. John Pope Putnam, son
of Peter Schuyler Putnam of Williamstown, was a grandson
of the famous Gen. Israel Putnam. He, also, graduated from

■■HHi^Hi^wifW'mimnnii J I

The Checkered House, built by Major James Cowden during the Revolution,
after the introduction of red and white paint.

Williams College in 1809 and later became a jurist. He
married Elizabeth, daughter of Dr. Dorr, and was located
at Dorr's Comers in Cambridge until his death in 1867.

Union Academy of White Creek hamlet in Cambridge
was founded in 18 10. It was a two-story building, sur-
mounted by a belfry, and the school was opened by Prof.
Isaiah Y. Johnson. Among the distinguished students may
be named George N. Briggs, son of the blacksmith, William
Briggs of Briggs's Corners, Cambridge ; and Hiland Hall of
Bennington. Briggs later studied law at Lanesboro, Mass.,

Old Schaghticoke and Cambridge Districts 267

and was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1856; and
' Hiland Hall studied law and later became Governor of
Vermont. He was the author of The Early History of
Vermont. Other famous pupils included the subsequent
Senator Joel Talmage, Judge Daniel Talmage, Judge Olin,
Gideon Hard, John McDonald, and Gilbert Morgan. The
I Old Academy is at present doing duty as a tenement house.
I The Cambridge Washington Academy of Cambridge
■Village was organized, July 25, 1814, and opened by Prof.
j David Chazel, a gentleman of French origin. It flourished
for fifty-eight years, closing for want of funds in 1873. The
population of Cambridge in 1790 was 4987. The celebra-
tion of Peace, after the close of hostilities with England in

1 81 5, was heralded in White Creek by a procession of the
veterans of 1777, headed by the centurion, Zebulon Allen,
bearing the American Stars and Stripes.

The town of Cambridge was sub-divided into the towns
of White Creek and Jackson. The first town-meeting of
White Creek was held at Jaques Johnson's Inn in April,

1 8 16. Daniel P. Carpenter was chosen postmaster in 1822.
Albany County was sub-divided into Rensselaer and Wash-
ington counties in 1791. Cambridge town came under the
jurisdiction of the latter, and Schaghticoke, Pittstown, and
Hoosac towns under the jurisdiction of the former county.
Col. Johannes Knickerbacker, 2d, in 1792, was elected a
member of the State Legislature from Rensselaer County,
an office which he filled until his death in 1802 at the age
of seventy-nine years. He left four sons and several daugh-

[' ters. Johannes Knickerbacker, 3d, was commissioned colo-

ii nel of the State militia during the War of 18 12, and became

' a member of the Albany Legislature ; William Knickerbacker

built the colonial mansion half a mile east of the "Ho-

stead," and was commissioned colonel of the Schaghticoke

militia during General Training and " Nigger- Whipper " of

268 The Hoosac Valley

Schaghticoke slaves until 1827. He died in 1848, two year
before the death of the Knickerbacker slave, Tom Mandolin
The annual feasts of the "Albany Gentlemen" continuec
until after the death of Col. Johannes Knickerbacker, 26.
After the death of Col. Johannes Knickerbacker, 3d, th(
"Hostead" descended to his brother, Abraham Knicker
backer, whose portrait still hangs on the parlor wall
Herman Jansen Knickerbacker, fourth son of Colone
Knickerbacker, 2d, built his mansion on the north banl
of the Tomhannac Creek, at Schaghticoke Hill. He becam(
host of the mayor and the council of Troy after it was chart
ered, February 7, 1791, as an offset for the festivities hclc
at the Old Mansion. On one occasion, when the Troy Gcni
tlemen arrived, their host pretended to have forgotten th(
day appointed. He assured his famished guests that h(
was wholly unprepared to receive them. Enjoyment of th(
joke followed after the dining-room doors were thrown oper
upon a sumptuous repast. The festivities at the "Ho
stead" were of a more dignified character. The guests were
ushered to the parlor by a staff of slaves and their carriages
driven to the cathedral-like bams. Colonel Knickerbacker
2d, and his son, Herman Jansen Knickerbacker, according
to the late Hiram Button, owned the first two coaches anc
sleighs in Schaghticoke. Herman Jansen Knickerbackei
married three helpmeets, each of whom brought him a for-
tune to meet his social extravagances. During President
Madison's office, he was Judge of Rensselaer County anc
Congressman at Washington. His genial and humorous
manner, characteristic of the Nederlanders, won him the life-
long friendship of Washington Irving, and he is mentionec

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