Amasa J. (Amasa Junius) Parker.

Landmarks of Albany County, New York online

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([uently appointed sheriff and offered to take and support the child, but
the mother refused ; and there the matter probably ended.

The old line of stockades which enclosed the city gave the inhabitants
considerable trouble. On December 17, 1695, an order was made for re-
pairing "the City Stockadoes, which were out of repair toward the
river side, and that four hundred and fifty new Stockadoes should be
provided, to be thirteen feet long and a foot over, and that a warrant
may be directed to the assessors, to make an equal assessment thereof


upon the inhabitants, and then deliver the same to the Mayor." The
line of this stockade was on what is now vSteuben street on the north,
Hudson avenue on the south, the river on the east, and Lodge street
on the west. Later the boundaries of the stockade were much ex-

The year of 1 096 witnessed a great deal of suffering from a scarcity
of grain, particularly wheat. The crop was poor and prices became
very high so that the poor people were utterly unable to obtain it. The
thrifty Dutch merchants saw their opportunity and bought up all that
was available, for shipment to New York, where the price was about
double what they were compelled to pay in Albany, whereupon the
Common Council took a hand in the matter, as indicated in the follow-

Whereas Several persons of ye citty and county has given in a complaint to ye
Mayor and justices of the citty and county, yt there is several! persons doe goe with
money in thare hands to buy wheat, and can not have it, by reason of ye marchants
lias engrossed iri there hands, being resolved to ship it to New York; the Mayor,
aldermen, and ye justices of ye peace have resolved and agreed upon yt no raerchts
or any other persons whatsoever shall ship any corn aboard any sloop, vessel, boat
whatsoever untill such time wee have his Excell. directions in it, as they will answer
upon there utmost perill.

On July 17, 1097, the following was adopted, showing that the Dutch
city officials, in spite of their general stolidity, were not wholly in-
sensible to flattery ;

Whereas, Mr. Lieft. Oliver doth make his addresse to the Court for bedding,

since he complains that he is in great necessity for want thereof, ye gent'n of ye

Court cannot fynde that they are obliged to furnish such supplies but, in considera-
tion of his Civility, doe give as a gift ye surame of five pieces of eight.

There was an officer with the title of city porter, whose chief duty it
was to open and close the city gates. On November 23, 1097, the fol-
lowing order relative to this office was adopted:

Whereas, It is by the Mayor, Aldermen and Commonalty concluded, who have
appointed John Ratecliffe as Citty Porter, instead of Hend. Marselis, Deceased, that
he is upon all occasionable times to open and shutt ye gates of this Citty, e.specially
in ye mornings and in ye evenings at ye appointed time, as also to attend ye Church
Ringing of ye bell on all occasions, for which he is to receive yearly eight and
twenty Pieces of Eight at six shillings, and to be paid quarterly; moreover, he, ye
sd John Ratecliff, is to attend ye Burger Guards, to keep them clain, and to make
every eveing a fyre, wherefore he is to receive Three pence per Diem. Who hath
made oath to be true.

It is well known that the Dutch set a good example to the other



colonists in their treatment of the Indians, the city of Albany, for
instance, being obliged, if it required more land, to purchase it in a
fair and open trade. The same polic}^ was pursued in nearly all of their
relations with the natives, for which the settlers in after years had
much cause for thankfulness. A resolution was adopted by the Com-
mon Council May 9, 1698, pi-oviding for building an Indian House on
the hill, for the accommodation of the Indians, and on the 1st of Feb-
ruary, 1699, the Council resolved as follows:

Resolved, That one other Indian house, besides ye two heretofore resolved on in
January last, shall be built just upon ye hill going up from ye Pearl street geat
northwesterly, in or about ye middle part of said hill, where ye whole Common
Council forthwith shall appoynt ye Place, and yt ye Building and Charges thereof
shall bee in ye lyke manner as ye two houses aforesaid.

These brief records of the more important proceedings of the city
authorities down to the year 1700, quaint and primitive as some of
them are, indicate nevertheless much wisdom and a determination to
govern the little settlement in the interests of morality and for the com-
mon good. It may, here be remarked that a similar intelligent, prudent
and conservative administration of municipal affairs continued to the
close of the colonial period in 177G.

In ITOO Albany was still but a small village, two years earlier
(1098) the number of inhabitants being only 8U3, of which five families
were English, one was Scotch, and the remainder were Dutch. Many
years were to pass before there would be much change, except in
gradual growth, and when it did come it was through the introduction
of new elements into the population, and not through any desire for in-
novations on the part of the Dutch settlers, who were, as a general
rule, contented with the existing order of things, they being slow,
stolid, industrious, and usually thrifty. They cared more for the
profit of the trade they were pursuing, than for the amenities of life,
so that what are now known by the general name of public im-
provements possessed little attraction for them. What if it required a
week to make the journey down the river to New York, were there not
more weeks coming and was it not a pleasant trip? So slow was the
process or change in those early times that in 1718 the place was de-
scribed by a traveler as little else than a fortified village, with unpaved,
dirty and irregular streets. Most of the residences were situated on
the margin of the river, the lower end of State street, and on Court
street (now Broadway). A few stores were on the present Chapel


street. In the middle of State street and in Broadway were all the
public buildings — the town house, two churches, the guard house, and
the market. On the river were three docks — lower or King's dock,
middle and upper docks. The docks must have been of the most prim-
itive character and of recent construction, for the records show no
mention of them until some years later. The Common Council took the
initiatory steps towards providing suitable wharves in October, 1727,
when an ordinance was adopted requiring that the "freeholders of the
city who held lands or ground fronting on the east near or to the Hudson
river, be directed to produce their titles to the same, in order that the
Common Council may be better enabled to consider of finding out the
proper ways and means for docking and regulating of streets on the
east thereof, along the Hudson river, and that such titles be produced
in Common Council at the city Hall on the 10th day of November
next." As against this, Kalm, the Swedish traveler, from whose
writings we shall have further occasion to quote, visited Albany in
1749, and said: "The Hudson river at Albany is from twelve to
twenty feet deep ; that there is as yet no quay made for the landing of
yachts, because the people feared it would be swept away in the spring;
that the vessels come pretty near the shore and receive their cargoes
from two canoes lashed together."

The scarcity of water or its impure character occupied the attention
of the authorities at an early date, about which Kalm, from whose
writings we have already quoted, said ;

The water of several wells in this town was very cool about this time, but had a
kind of acid taste which was not very agreeable. On a nearer examination I found
an abundance of little insects in it. which were probably monoculi.

After a description of these insects he continues:

I think this water is not very wholesome for people who are not used to it, though the
inhabitants of Albany who drmk it every day say they do not feel the least incon-
venience from it. I have several times been obliged to drink water here, in which I ,
have plainly seen monoculi swimming; but I generally felt the next day something
like a pea in my throat, or as if I had a swelling there. i

The water question was under discussion in 17(iO, and on April 3d of
that year a petition was presented to the mayor and council, praying
for the right to bring water in pipes from the hills, collect it in reser-
voirs and establish pumps. After a hearing the board adopted the fol-
lowing resolution :

Resolved, That the petitioners have an instrument drawn, including their petition ;


that the Mayor will sign the same and cause the Seal of the City to be thereupon
fixed by virtue of this resolution.

It was many years later before an adequate supply of wholesome
water was provided for Albany. Wells were long used and doubtless
with evil results. Morse's Geography, published in 1796, has the fol-
lowing on the subject:

The well water in this city is e.Ntremely bad, scarcely drinkable by those not accus-
tomed to it. It oozes through a stiff blue clay and it imbibes in its passage the fine
particles common to that kind of soil. This discolors it, and when exposed any
length of time to the air it acquires a disagreeable taste. Indeed all the water
for cooking is brought from the river, and many families use it to drink. The
water in the wells is unwholesome, being full of little insects, except in size, like
those which are frequently seen in stagnated water.

The city ultimately obtained a satisfactory water supply, which is
described in later pages.

The inhabitants of the city in 1800 were obtaining their drinking-
water from wells, though something must have been accomplished
prior to that time towards a water supply for the extinguishment of
fire. In the year in which the charter was granted (1686) there was a
fire, concerning which the records have the following:

It has been found by experience that the bringing of water of the fountains from the
hill has not only been of great use to the inhabitants for water, but the only means
of ([uenching the late fire, which otherwise, by all probability, would have destroyed
the whole to\yn.

A well was sunk in Jonker (now State) street in 1695, though
whether there were others prior to 1712 is not known, but in that year
(1712) one was constructed in the First ward, about twelve yards from
the east side of the market house, and another on the north side of
Cross street. Two years later three more were added, one in each of
the three wards. In the mean time something had been accomplished
towards providing apparatus for use in extinguishing fires. An old
record of October 15, 1694, names certain fire officials called " Brant-
niasters," and continues:

It is ordered, and found very requisite yt ye Aldermen of each respective Ward
shall cause to be made two Brantleere [fire ladders] a greate one and a little one,
with yron hooks, and yt in time of one month, and cause to be brought to a ready
place in case of any occasion whatsome ever, and they to bring in their accounts.

In 1706 a primitive fire department was organized by the appoint-
ment of certain " Fyre-masters," which is described further on.

The Dongan charter conferred the right of establishing ferries across

the river between the city wards and Greenbush. A ferry had, how-
ever, been in existence since the year 1643, which is claimed by some
authorities to be the oldest established ferry in the United States.
The ferry landinj^' on the Albany side was a little north of the Beaver-
kill, which emptied into the river at what is now the termination of
Arch street; the Greenbush landing- was directly opposite. The first
ferry boat was a mere scow which was propelled with setting poles,
being, however, large enough to carry horses and wagons, while a
smaller craft was used for passengers. The first ferry-master was
Hendrick Albertsen, who also built the first ferry house on the Albany
side of the river. He was succeeded by Jacob Janse Stall, who settled
at Beverwyck in 1G30, and who held the post until 1057. At that time
and for many years after the date of the Dongan charter, no charge
was made by the authorities for the right of operating.

Owing to the slope of much of the land on which stood the early Al-
bany it is probable that the unpaved streets could be kept in much bet-
ter condition and with considerably less labor than would have been
possible upon a level. The old records contain frequent allusions to
sidewalks and to measures for promoting cleanliness in the streets, but
paving did not come until many years later. It was ordered in the
Common Council March 12, 1694, that " every householder shall make,
or cause to be made, eight foot ground before his own house, fronting
on the streets, paved with stone, under a penalty after the first of June,
of everv week, of six shillings. " This refers, of course, merely to a
paved sidewalk. In 16'.I5 the sum of ^'50 was raised by the Common
Council for thus paving sidewalks. In 1817 a number of streets were
ordered to be paved, but it is difficult to distinguish in the earlv records
Ijetween sidewalk paving and street paving.

A few of the ordinances of the Council in the early years are inter-
esting. In 1686 it was decreed that every Saturday morning each in-
habitant should clean the street in front of his dwelling and that no filth
should be thrown in the street. Only a few years after the granting of
the charter the following ordinance was passed:

Resolved, That an ordinance be issued forth that all the respectable inhabitants
within said city do severally clean the streets from the dung, dust, chips and filth
before their houses or lots in the said streets ; and that all wood and stone, except for
present building, or cooper's wood, be removed out of the said street before the 15th
of April next ensuing, on penalty of payidg for every default afterwards by them
made, the sum of six shillings to the use of the Sheriff or any Constable who shall
sue for the same. An that hereafter, if any dung, dust, chips or filth shall befound



(on any Saturday after twelve o'clock noon) lying in the said streets against the house
or lot of any person within the said city, that such person shall pay, also, for such
default and contempt, the like sum of six shillings, to be sued for as aforesaid. And
that hogs or swine belonging to any of the said inhabitants be ringed with one ring
in the nose before Saturday night next, and remain ringed from that time ; and if the
hog or swine of any person as aforesaid shall be found not ringed, the owners of such
hog or swine shall pay for every such default or neglect the sum of six shillings to
the Sheriff or Constable who shall sue for the same.

Another ordinance forbade driving- through the streets faster than a
walk, under penalty of three shillings. In writing of the streets of Al-
bany in 1749, Kalmsaid:

The streets are broad and some of them are paved. In some parts they are lined
with trees: the long streets are almost parallel to the river, and the others intersect
them at right angles. The street which goes between the two churches is five times
broader than the others, and serves as a market place. The streets upon the whole,
are very dirty, because the people have their cattle in them during the summer

On the early maps of Beverwyck only a few streets are mentioned,
but in early conveyances the following- names appear.- Broad wa\' was
called Cow, de Breede (or Broad), Lower Hondlaers, and Brewers
street; Hudson avenue was Spanish street; Green south of Beaver was
Esplanade or Plain street ; north of Beaver it was the Voddemart, or
Rag market, and Cheapside; Chapel was Berg street; State was Jon-
kers street, and South Pearl was De Klyne street. After the charter
of 1(180 the city was' divided into three wards, the first of which em-
braced all that part of the city south of Exchange and State streets;
the second the territory north of State and west of James streets; the
third the portion north of State and Exchange streets and east of James
street. When State street was laid out it was made of unusual width
for those times, to accommodate the old Dutch church which stood in
its center. The map of 1792 shows it 149 feet wide at Pearl street
and gradually increasing in width until it is 158 feet at Lodge street,
'but from Broadway to the river it was very narrow as it is to this
day. This broad street ascending straight up the hill has been an
impressive one froin the first. Spafford's Gazetteer, 1813, describes it
as a grand avenue in the heart of the city, " where, its opulence is to be
di.splayed, where taste shall vie with taste, architect with architect, age
with age, in perpetual succession." It was an unpaved avenue until

Perhaps the best description of Albany in about the middle of that


century is from the entertaining pen of Mrs. Grant, in her delightful
Memoirs of an American Lady (1704), as follows:

The City of Albany stretched along the banks of the Hudson. One very
wide and broad street lay parallel to the river, the intermediate space be-
tween it and the shore being occupied by gardens. A small but steep
hill rose above the center of the town, on which stood a fort, intended (but very ill
adapted) for the of the place and of the neighboring country. From the foot
of this hill another street was built, sloping pretty rapidly down till it joined the one be-
forementioned.thatranalongthe river. This street was still wider than the other. It
wasonlvpaved on eachside.themiddle being occupied by public edifices. These con-
sisted of a Market-place or Guard-house, a Town Hall, and the English and Dutch
churches. The English Church, belonging to the Episcopal persuasion, and in the dio-
cese of the Bishop of London, stood at the foot of the hill at the upper end of the street.
The Dutch Church was situated at the bottom of the descent, where the street ter-
minated. Two irregular streets, not so broad, but equally long, ran parallel to
those, and a few even ones opened between them. The town, in proportion to its
population, occupied a great space of ground. The city, in short, was a kind of
-semi-rural establishment. Every house had its garden, well, and a little green be-
hind. Before every door a tree was planted, rendered interesting by being coeval
with some beloved member of the family. Many of these trees were of prodigious
size and extraordinary beauty, but without regularity, every one planting the kind
that best pleased him. or which he thought would afford the most agreeable shade to
the open portico at his door, which was surrounded by seats and ascended by a few
steps. It was in these that each domestic group was seated in summer evenings to
enjoy the balmy twilight or the serenely clear moonlight.

This picture of rural simplicity has, however, a reverse side of busi-
ness activity that was not so carefully noticed by Mrs. Grant. The
business advantages of the place were attracting residents quite rapid-
ly, the population of the county in 1723 having reached 6,501, which
had increased in 1731 to 8,703, and was in 1790 3,506 in the city alone.

The Common Council on July 31, 1753, made an order that the pave-
ment between the houses of Jacob Lansing and David Schuyler in the
Third ward, be raised, so that the water that came down from the hill
between those houses " may vent itself through the lane or street, and
so down to the river."

In 1754 the council fixed the following rates of ferriage across the

For every person, if single 3 coppers

if more than one _. 2 coppers

head of cattle _ , 9 coppers

cwt. of beaver or skins 4 coppers

The ferrv-masters were directed to run their boats from sunrise to

eight o'clock in the evening. At this time the ferry was in charge of
Barnardiis Bradt and Johannes Ten Broeck, who had paid the city ^5 for
its use and privilege. 'From that date until 1786 the ferrymen were
Harmes Gansevoort, Philip John Schuyler, John Courtney, John Brom-
ley, Thomas Lotridge, Dirck Hansen and Baltus Van Benthuysen. At
stated times the council advertised that the right of ferriage would be
sold to the highest bidder, a course that could be profitably adopted by
the authorities in granting franchises in modern times and which has
been followed in some cities in recent years. From 1754 to 1786 the
amount paid for the ferry privilege ranged from ^"5 to ^130. In the
last named year a new ferry house forty by fifty feet in size was built
by Baltus Van Benthuysen, and the city corporation issued the follow-
ing schedule of rates:

Man or horse, ox or cow 9d.

A calf or hog 2 coppers

A sheep or lamb . . . . : 3 coppers

For every wagon, or two horses with its loading, provided the same re-
mains on the wag-on 3 shillings

For every cart or wagon drawn by four horses or oxen, with or without

loading. . . ! 3 shillings

And 6d. for every ox or horse above that number

For every chaise or chair or horse __. Is. 6d.

For every full chest or trunk 4 coppers

For every empty chest or trunk 3 coppers

For every barrel rum, sugar, molasses, full barrel _. 4 coppers

Articles of agreement were entered into November 15, 1768, between
the city corporation and Stephen Van Rensselaer, under which the
latter agreed that within three months of the granting to him by the
Crown of letters patent giving him exclusive ferry privileges over the
Hudson between Bears' Island and Cohoes, he would grant to the city
the exclusive ferry privileges "from the mouth of a certain creek, com-
monly known as De Vysele Kill, on the south of the city limits, to
lands of H. Van Schack ; with one acre of ground, to be taken by said
Corporation in such position as it shall think most convenient to them,
joining to and on the north bounds of John Van Rensselaer." Two
years later (1770) the ferry to Greenbush was leased to Thomas Lott-
ridge for three years at /[W a year, he to make a dock fourteen feet

At a meeting of the Common Council held July 10, 1756, the follow-
ing important resolution was adopted :

2 9 (J

Resolved, That the Clerk draw a deed to the Minister, Church Wardens and
Vestrymen of St. Peter's Church, in the City of Albany, for them and their suc-
cessors, in trust forever, for a piece of ground for a burial place, lying upon the hill
adjoining the fort, agreeable to a map made by John R. Bleecker, and that the Mayor
execute a deed, and cause the City Seal to be thereupon affixed in behalf of the

It has been stated herein that by the Dongan charter the title to all
the land within the city corporation was vested in the inayor, recorder,
aldermen and Coinmon Council. Under their right to sell, which was
thus conferred, a great many transfers were made in early years, some
of which are of historical importance. The first deed executed by the
city corporation is dated November 1, 1687, the year after the charter.
It conveyed land to Dr. Godfredius Dellius, pastor of the Dutch church.
On account of its early date and its quaint wording we quote the con-
veying clause :

To All Christian People to whom these presents Shall Come, the Mayor, Alder-
men, and Commonalty of ye Citty of Albany Send Greeting in our Lord God Ever-
lasting. Know ye that for and in consideration of ye sum of three hundred an ninty
pounds currant money of this province to them in hand paid, at and before ye en-
sealing and delivery hereof, by Doctor Godfredius Dellius, Minister of ye Reformed
Nether Dutch Congregational Dutch Church, Albany, a certain piece or parcel of
land commonly called or known by ye name of Pasture, Situate, lying and being to
ye Southward of ye said Citty, near ye place where ye Fort Stood, and extending
along Hudson River till it comes over against ye most northerly point of ye island,
commonly called, Marston Gerrittsen's Island; havmg to ye east Hudson River, to
Ye south ye manor of Renslarewck, to ye west of highway leading to ye Towne, Ve
pasture lots in ye occupation of Martin or Marston Geritsen, and the pasture lot in
ye occupation of Casper Jacobs, to the north of ye several pasture lots in ye occupa-
tion of Robert Sanders, Myndert Harmons, and Evert Wendell, and ye Several
Garden lots in ye tenure and Occupation of Killian Van Rensselaer and Abraham
Staats. Together with All and Singular ye profits, commodities and appurtenances
whatsoever to ye said Pasthur Piece or Parcel of land and Premises, or any part or

Online LibraryAmasa J. (Amasa Junius) ParkerLandmarks of Albany County, New York → online text (page 29 of 138)