Amasa J. (Amasa Junius) Parker.

Landmarks of Albany County, New York online

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Michigan and Wisconsin, the receipts from Canada having gradually
diminished. In the past ten years the business as a whole has fallen
off largely, imtil at the present time there are less than twenty large
dealers, handling from 200,000,000 to 250,000,000 feet annually. The
decline is due to changes in business methods, under which mill owners

consign directly to market, driving out the middle men. Unfavorable
discrimination in railroad freight rates, too, has had an unfavorable in-
fluence against the business.

The Board of Lumber Dealers was organized in 1863 and was incor-
porated in 1869. It has been instrumental in maintaining equitable
business principles among dealers, disseminating valuable information
and adjusting difficulties. It is entirely impracticable here to give a
detailed account of the many companies and individuals who have been
connected with this great industry in Albany. Among them have been
Whitlock & Fassett, who began in 1832, and were succeeded by Will-
iam X. Fassett; Douglas L. White cS: Co., Dalton & Kibbe, Moore &
Zimmerman, W. H. Weaver & Co. (whose business was founded in
1802 by William McEchron, J. Ordway, James Morgan, A. M. Adsit
and W. H. Weaver), Rathbun & Co. (established in 1845 by Joshua
Rathbun), Rodney Vose (began in 1853), Maltbie & Simons (succeeded
by Simons & Richards), Gratwick & Fryer, L. Thompson & Co.,
Hughson & Co., Mattoon & Robinson, J. O. Towner & Co., Arnold &
Co., J. Benedict & Son, William N. Callender, Truman D. Cameron,
J. W. Dunham & Co., Charles P. Easton & Co., Fogg, Patton & Co.,
John H. Gordon, Hand & Babbitt, Hubbell & Hill, Harvey Hunter,
John Krutz, W. C. Many & Co., T. Miles & Co., Morgan Lumber
Company, Thomas Murphy, J. R. Nangle, Charles B. Nichols, Phil-
lips & Dunscomb, H. W. Sage & Co., Saxe Bros., Robert Scott, Smith,
Craig & Co. , Henry Spawn, Staples & Van Allen, P. Van Rensselaer
& Co., Van Santford & Eaton, C. Warren, David Whitney, jr., N. R.
Wilbur & vSon, C. H. Winne and Waine & Andrews.

The manufacture of agricultural machinery has been a considerable
industry in Albany. The Wheeler & Melick Companj' was founded in
1830 and for many years were the leaders in this line of business, the
value of their annual product reaching $500,000. The agricultural
and machine works of Peter K. Dederick & Co. also carry on a large
industry, manufacturing the Dederick patent hand and power presses,
and many other kinds of apparatus for farmers' use.

The manufacture of pianos was begun in Albany in 1825 by James A.
Gray. In 1837 he took as a partner William G. Boardman, the firm
name being Boardman & Graj-. The business was successful and from
1840 to 1860 the firm was among the leading piano manufacturers of
the country. In 1877 William J. Gray, son of the founder of the busi-
ness, became a meniber of the firm. Mr. Boardman died in 1881 and

the business was continued bj' the Grays. In 1853 Marshall & Traver,
two practical workmen from the Boardman & Gray factory, began
making: pianos, and two years later were succeeded by Marshall &
Wendell. In 1882 the firm, under the title of the Marshall & Wen-
dell Manufacturing Co., was incorporated, with Henry Russell, presi-
dent; J. V. Marshall, superintendent; Harvey Wendell, manager and
treasurer, and John Loujjhren, secretary. This business is still in exist-
ence, the present officers of the company being Jacob H. Ten Eyck,
jn-esident; Thomas S. Willes, vice president ; Edward M. McKinney,
manager and treasurer, and James L. Carpenter, secretary.

William McCammon was an early manufacturer of pianos in Albany
and his instruments acquired considerable reputation. Upon his death
in 1881 the business was continued by his son, Edward McCammon,
who finally removed it to Oueonta a few years since.

While there are very many other branches of industry profitably
pursued in this city, this brief glance at some of the more prominent of
the past and present ones will suffice to show that as a manufactur-
ing center Albany is not far behind other cities of its size.


The first notice in the city records of a proposed water supply, other
llian wells, occurs under date of 1794. An advertisement was then
published asking for proposals for supplying the city with water
through an aqueduct from a spring "at the Five-Mile House on the
road to Albany." Xo further notice of this matter appears in the re-
cords. Two years later the Legislature passed an act to enable the
corporation to establish a water supply, but this, too, failed of accom-
lilishment. In 179T Benjamin Prescott received from Stephen ^'an
Rensselaer a grant of the Maezlandt Kill, and he laid a line of wooden
log conduits from the fountain head. For some unexplained reason
the grant must have reverted to Van Rensselaer, who, a few years
later, transferred all the rights on that stream to the water company.
The Albany Water Works Company was incorporated in 1802 with a
capital of §40,000. The first trustees were Stephen Lush, Pliilip Van
Rensselaer, and John Tayler. The work of laying iron and wooden
jiipes through the principal streets was immediately commenced, and
the' Maezlandt Kill continued to be the source of supply until 1837,
when that stream failed to meet the demands made upon it and the


Middle Brocjk was drawn upon. Within a few years both streams proved
inadequate, and in 1845 a part of the Patroon's Creek was purchased by
the company. Meanwhile in 1844 the capital of the company was
increased to $80,000, and in the same year the Albany Hydrant Company
was incorporated, with John Townsend, John K. Paige, Bradford R.
Wood, James D. Wasson, Barnum Whipple, Rufus W. Peckham, and
Peter Gansevoort, trustees. This company caused extensive investi-
gation and surveys to be made for the purpose of providing a better
water supply, but nothing further was done.

A long-existing sentiment among progressive citizens that it would
be wise for the city to own its own water works culminated in the sub-
mission of a bill to the Legislature by the corporation, which became
a law April 9, 1850. This law empowered the council to appoint a
board of five water commissioners, whose most important duty at that
time was to make the necessary investigations and report upon the
most feasible plan for establishing adequate water works for the city at
a cost not exceeding $600,000. The first water commission comprised
James Stevenson, Erastus Corning, John Townsend, John Tayler and
Robert E. Temple. The commission entered at once upon their task
and had examinations made of the Hudson River, Patroon's Creek, the
Normans Kill and the lakes on the Helderbergs. Plans were finally
devised and reported which met the approval of the coiuicil. On Au
gust 23, 1850, all the sources of water supply owned by the old com-
pany were purchased for $150,000, and most of the wooden pipes were
superseded by iron, but the old method of obtaining water by gravita-
tion was continued some years, the supply being the Maeztland Kill,
with a further source which was adopted in 1851. This was provided
by building a dam about six miles west of the city where three streams
united to form the Patroon's Creek, thus creating a body of water since
called Rensselaer Lake, covering full forty acres of land and holding
about '200,000,00(1 gallons. From this lake an egg shaped brick con-
duit four feet high and nearly four miles long, was built to Bleecker
reservoir, with a capacity of 30,000,000 gallons. In the same year two
other reservoirs were built a little east of West Albany, which took the
names of LTpperand Lower Tivoli Lakes, the upper one being for stor-
age and the lower for distribution. These received their supply from
water entering the creek east of Rensselaer Lake. From the lower
lake a 24-inch main was laid to the intersection of North Pearl and
Van Woert streets, where the water entered the distributing mains.



This was the system of water supply up to 1S75, and included iron
mains all through the city east of Bleecker reservoir.

Before the year last named, however, the demand upon the water
supply was so great, owing to growth of the city, that several water
famines occurred, and it was evident that something must be done for
relief. The Hudson River was now brought forward and discussed as a
proper source of supply, and thorough analyses and investigations were
made to determine its purity. O. F. Chandler, Ph.D., made an analysis
of the water in ] 872 and said : "I have no hesitation in recommending it
as a suitable and proper source of supply." This decision he supported
in 1885, when asked by the water commissioners if anything had taken
place since his first analysis to lead him to change his first opinion.
The plans of the water commissioners for the adoption of the river as
a source of supply were carried out in in 1875, the water being taken
from beyond the pier, carried into a well chamber six feet in diam-
eter and eighty feet deep through a copper wire screen of one hundred
meshes to the inch, and thence through a culvert below low water
mark. From this well chamber was extended a tunnel five feet in
diameter and nearly nine hundred feet long under the basin to the
pumping works, corner of Montgomery and Quackenbush streets,
where engines were established which operated pumps to force the sup-
ply into Bleecker reservoir. While this plan gave an abundant supply
to the district east of Bleecker reservoir, there were more elevated
parts of the city that received no benefit from the new arrangement.
To improve the conditions another reservoir was built in 1878 on Pros-
pect Hill with a capacity of 7,000,000 gallons, and into this water is
pumped from the Bleecker reservoir. The use of water from the Hudson
River continued to cause discussion for a number of years, many intel-
ligent persons insisting that it could not possibly be wholesome. On
November 17, 188-1, the Common Council passed a resolution recpiesting
from the water commissioners a detailed statement of their infurmation
concerning the possible sources of water supply for the city, and of
their reasons for adopting the plan of pumping water from tiie Hudson.
The board reported February 2, 1885, as follows:

This Board has no prejudice in favor of the river water, or against any other source
of supply, and if it can be shown that a better source of supply exists, it will gladly
take all practicable measures within its power to secure it.

The report adds that judging by experience and by the numerous


tests made, the river is the only practicable and attainable source of

The water subject continued to be agitated and before long an addi-
tional supply was needed to meet the increasing demand of the city. In
accordance with a law of 1885, a special water commission was appointed
consisting of Samuel Hand, president; Albert Vander Veer, secretary;
Archibald McClure and Owen Golden, "to make inquiry as to the
available sources of supply of pure and wholesome water for the city,"
and if the present supply was decided to be the best available, what
method could be adopted for purifying it. On November 30, 1885,
this commission recommended to the council 1st, That the supply then
obtained from Patroon's Creek and Sand Creek by the Tivoli Lake be
gathered and transmitted to the Tivoli main, the cost of which would
not exceed $230,000. 2d, " That a contract be-made for a new supply
of 10,000,000 gallons daily, to be delivered at Quackenbush street pump-
ing station, from the flats between the Troy road and the Hudson River
north of the city, at or about in the locality of the well from which the
water has been tested, to be furnished by the patent improved gang-
well system of William B. Andrews & Bro.," the cost of thi.s improve-
ment not to exceed $450,000.

The commission further recommended in the event uf the council not
approving of this plan, an alternative as follows: A new intake at a
point in the Hudson River about 2,500 feet above the present intake,
a new main from the pumping station to Bleecker reservoir, and addi-
tional pumps, with extensive facilities for aeration and filtration, and
the abandonment of Tivoli Lake, the estimated expense of all this
being $750,000.

In their report to the council for 188(3 the water commissioners again
recommended the purchase of another and more powerful engine. At
that time the consumption of water was exceeding the capacity of the
pumps by more than twenty five per cent. Although Tivoli Lake had
been in one sense condemned, it was indispensable during 1886, as it
was furnishing about one-fourth of the city supply. The report of the
board for 1887 called for increased pumping capacity. On the 6th of
January of this year Robert L. Banks, president of the Board of Water
Commissioners, sent a communication to the water committee of the
council, stating that the commissioners recommended such action by
the council in its recommendations to the Legislature as would result
in mutual action with the conimissioner.s. That even if the driven well


project authorized by the law of 1885 should be successful, an unneces-
sary provision in the law of 1884 restrained the commissioners from
taking any progressive steps, after an engine had been contracted for
and land purchased for the completion of the plant. The commission-
ers' report for 1887 states that the engines already contracted for were
completed and installed, but that the city was under fearful risks of water
famine and destructive fire — a condition caused largely by the unnec-
essar}' provisions of the law before alluded to. The two new engines of
5,000,000 capacity, contracted for under the previous law, Were finished
in 1888.

On March 16, 1891, a special water commission consisting of Ur. Albert
Vander Veer, Hiram E. Sickels, Owen Golden and John G. Myers, report-
ed the driven well project a failure, and that in anticipation of this con-
tingency they had made investigation as to the possibility of adopting
some other source of supply at reasonable cost. They reported that the
feeling against the use of river water for drinking purposes had not abat-
ed. One portion of the city, the eastern, where the supply was from the
new reservoir, was comparatively free from typhoid and other diseases,
which were then so prevalent as to amount to an epidemic in that part
of the city south of Pearl street, which drew its supply from the river.
This commission made careful examination of two sources of supply
which alone seemed available; one, the streams and small lakes in
Rensselaer county, east of the Hudson, and the other the Normanskill
and its tributaries. On account of the great cost of adopting the first
named source, the Normanskill was strongly recommended for adoption.
The commission submitted an estimate of the cost of using this source,
and further stated that the quality of the water compared favorably
with that then being taken from the new reservoirs.

On December 38, 1891, the same commission submitted a report on
the Normanskill, giving its flow, degree of purity, and suggesting meth-
ods for using it, adding, that by measurements and examinations made,
" we are the more firmly convinced that the Normanskill will furnish a
city supply amply sufficient and of good quality, and that a resort to it is
the best, the most practical, if not the only practical, solution of the
problem, how to give the city of Albany a better supply of water.
Various expert opinions were secured as to the excellence of this water
late in that year and early in 1892; but on January 16, 1892, the water
committee of the council reported to that body that the project recom-

mended by the special commission ought not to receive their sanction,
and therefore reported adversely upon the project.

The Board of Water Commissioners appointed in May, 1893, report-
ed to the council December 5, 1892, that one promising source of water
supply had been overlooked, which was Kinderhook Creek, which has its
source in a number of streams rising in the mountainous district along
the boundary of Massachusetts and New York. The commissioners
submitted plans for the adoption of this source and estimates indicat-
ing that it could be made available for the sum of $1,600,000. The
water was examined by experts and pronounced superior. On Decem-
18, 1893, Frederic P. Stearns, consulting engineer of Boston, reported
to Hon. Elnathan Sweet, president of the water commissioners, that
the Kinderhook Creek water was of excellent quality for all purposes,
and that a supply from it would cost about $72,000 less annually than
a supply from the Hudson, if properly filtered.

Two of the pumps, before alluded to, and ordered from Milwaukee
are at the present time in use, and all other plans for a better water
supply were abandoned up to the present year, 1897, when there is a
bill before the legislature authorizing the city to expend $500,000 for
an elaborate filtration system for the present supply. In 1896 a new
building for the water works on Montgomery street was erected. Will-
iam H. Weaver is now president of the board and George I. Bailey,


Something has already been written of the fact that Albany made
some effort towards protection from fire as early as 1094-, through a
body called Brant-masters, who used brantleere (fire ladders) and hooks.
In December, 1706, the city had a primitive fire department, whose
members were called " fyre-masters. " In that year the records show
that William Hogan, Anthony Coster, William Jacobse, Joh'^ Claese,
Jan Evertse, and Jacobus Schuyler were appointed to that position for
one year; they were to examine chimneys, and " where they find chim-
neys extraordinary foule, to fine ye owner in ye summe of three shil-
lings." These fyre-masters were continued many years, and in 1726 cer-
tain fines were imposed upon any person refusing to serve in that office.
At a council meeting, November 24, 1730, it was ordered that "hooks
and ladders be made with all speed and kept within convenient places
within the city for avoiding the peril of fire."



No engine was owned in the city until February, 1733, when steps
were taken resulting in purchasing "the Richard Newsham engine,
fifth size, with six feet suction pipe and forty feet leather hose pipe."
This engine was soon received in the city with great rejoicing and con-
stituted the only means of extinguishing fires for many years. The
engine was kept in a shed on what is now the corner of Beaver and
South Pearl streets. The second engine (probably) was purchased in
England by Harmse Gansevoort in 1703, for $397.50, and in 1792 another
engine was in use in the city which was a superior machine for that
period. At that time the engine house was at the northwest corner of
the old English church on State street. On January 26, 1801, the Hand
Barrow company was organized with the following officers: Garrett
Bogart, superintendent; John Cuyler, sub-superintendent.

The engine companies constituting the old fire department were or-
ganized as follows: No. 1, Januarys, 1801; No. 2, January 15, 1801;
No. 4, July 1, 1805; No. 5, February 1, 1807; No. 0, June 25, 1810;
No. 7, November 11, 1811; No. 8, December 13, 1813; No. 9, October
24, 1814; No. 10, March 13, 1815; No. 11, January 6, 1840; No. 12,
May 22, 1843; No. 13, October 1, 1855; No. 15, April 16, 1866. '

Hose Company No. 1 was organized, October 1, 1838; Engine No. 1
was reorganized into a hose company, November 13, 1854, known as
Hos.e No. 2; Hose Company No. 3 was organized October 1, 1855; En-
gine No. 4 was reorganized into Hose Company No. 4, November 13,
1854. On July 9, 1810, men were detailed from other companies to
serve as Hook and Ladder Company No. 1. On April 13, 1813, Hook
and Ladder Company No. 1 was regularly organized, and on January
28, 1813, Hook and Ladder Company No. 2 was organized.

March 6, 1843, the council passed a law regulating the duties of chief
engineer and fixed his salary at $600 per annum. On the 27th of No-
vember, 1848, a law was passed which entirely reorganized the depart-
ment. It was also ordered that no wooden building should thereafter
be erected in any part of Albany east of Lark street.

Hand engines only were used in the city until July 13, 1863, when
the council authorized the purchase of a steam fire engine, to be locat-
ed on Capitol Hill at the house of No. 4, the cost not to exceed $3,500.
On the 4th of April, 1864, a company was organized for this engine,
with thirty members, and J. C. Cuyler was made foreman, William Mix,
jr., first assistant, William J. Shankland, second assistant, and Edward
Leslie, clerk. During the fall of the same year two other steamers

were purchased, the Putnam and the Thomas Kearney. The effective
service rendered by these engines soon produced a change in public
sentiment, and in 1807, on the application of the council, the Legislature
passed a law authorizing the council to reorganize the department to
use steam engines, and to make appointments based upon merit by
which certain tenure of office was assured the appointees, thereby in-
suring effective service. The council's action was taken March Kl,
1867, and the law was passed by a vote of 13 in the affirmative to i
negative. On April 15, 1867, the council appointed the following com-
missioners under the law: George Cuyler, Lansing Pruyn, Thomas
Kearney, M. V. B. Winne, J. C. Cuyler, the last named being appointed

Section four of the law of 18G7 conferred upon the commissioners
the entire control and management of the department, and immedi-
ately upon their appointment they took the necessary steps to initiate
the work of reorganization. The old department consisted of eighteen
companies, with a complement of between seven hundred and fifty
and eight hundred men, three steamers, seven hand engines, six hose
carriages and two hook and ladder trucks. It was in a demoralized
condition, and utterly inadequate for the purposes of its organization.
The introduction of steamers in 1864 tended to impair the efficiency of
the hand service, and the hand engines were virtually retired. Al-
though the membership of the department numbered upwards of eight
hundred, the attendance at fires seldom exceeded two hundred. The
spirit of the old volunteer system, in former times so thorough and
effective, was broken, and while there were some few who were prompt
in the discharge of their duties as firemen, the majority absented them-
selves from fires. The law reorganizing the department reduced the
number of companies to seven, and the entire working force to one
hundred and fifty officers and men. It provided for five steamers and
two hook and ladder trucks. There were but three steamers in the
department and none of them was in perfect working order. To re-
duce the force under the circumstances would have been unwise, and
have left the property of the citizens unprotected. The commissioners,
therefore, immediately ordered a steamer from the Amoskeag works,
which was delivered in June, 1867. It was at once put in service, in
charge of a new company, to be known as Steamer Company No. 4, and
on the 1st day of July, 1867, several of the old organizations were relieved
from duty. The steamer Putnam was subsequently removed to Arbor

Hill, to the house formerly occupied by Hose 9, and a new company or-
ganized for it, and known as Steamer No. 2. The McQuade steamer was
placed on Washington avenue, though it was temporarily located in a
barn on Willett street near State street, until necessary alterations could
be made to the house of Engine 5. A new company was also organized
for it, known as Steamer No. 1. The Kearney steamer was allowed
to remain in its old location, and was placed in charge of a new com-
pany, known as Steamer No. 3. Subsequently the commissioners or-
dered a second Amoskeag steamer, which was completed and deliv-
ered in the city in August, 1867. As soon as it had been accepted, it
was temporarily located in the house formerly occupied by Engine 8, on
Madison avenue. A company was organized for it, known as Steamer
No. 5. This steamer was afterwards removed to the house formerly
occupied by Engine 11, on South Pearl street, when the necessary alter-
ations were completed. Before the 1st day of September, 18G7, all
of the old companies were relieved from duty, excepting Engine com-
pany 13, the commissioners deeming it unwise to discharge them from
service until another steamer could be procured, to be located in the

Online LibraryAmasa J. (Amasa Junius) ParkerLandmarks of Albany County, New York → online text (page 39 of 138)