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Amasa J. (Amasa Junius) Parker.

Landmarks of Albany County, New York online

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and owned a farm north of Town-House Corners. This property passed
by deed from Stephen Van Rensselaer to Luykes Witbeck February 27,
1769. The latter had three sons, Abram L., Gerrit, and John; from
these have descended the families of that name. The homestead has
been occupied in recent years by John L. Witbeck, grandson of John.
The land deed before alluded to was witnessed by Lucas Van Vechten,
Nicholas Cluet, and Cornelus Wendell. The names of many others
of the early and later settlers in this town will appear as we proceed.

A conspicuous element in the development of this town are the
Shakers, who began their settlement in 1775, northwest of the center
of the town, where they leased lands of the Patroon. The settlement
was founded by Ann Lee. a native of Manchester, England, where she
was born in 1726 ; she came to America with a few followers when she
was thirty-eight years old, claiming to be directed hither by a special
revelation. Her companions in immigration were her husband, Abra-
ham Stanley, her brother William Lee, James VVhittaker, John Hock-
nell, Richard Hocknell, James Shepherd, Mary Partington, and Nancy
Lee. Arriving in this country, they sought temporary employment
wherever they could find it, at the same time planning to establish a
permanent home. For the latter purpose John Hocknell and William
Lee came into this county and arranged for their land, while the others
remained temporarily in Albany. Soon after their arrival Mother Ann
Lee separated from her husband, Abraham Stanley, on account of his
misdoings. John Hocknell returned from England with his family,
December 25, 1775, and was met in New York by Mother Ann. They
remained there until the following February and then came to their
lands in Watervliet and spent the summer in clearing portions of it and
establishing their home. They labored zealously and held their meetings
there three and a half years, when they were ready to give their testi-
mony to the world in the spring of 1780. In this year their member-



401

ship was increased and many came to tlieir meetings from a distance,
particularly from New Lebanon. Remaining non-combatants in the
then existing war, they were accused of being traitors and Mother Ann
and a number of her followers were placed in prison in Albany. The
result of this action was not what was anticipated, for it served to create
sympathy for the unoffending Shakers. Regarded as fanatics and en-
emies of the country, it was next sought to put an end to the sect by
separating Mother Ann from her followers. About the middle of
August, 1780, she was sent down the river, landed at Poughkeepsieand
imprisoned. In the following December those who had been imprisoned
at Albany were released without trial, and immediately visited Mother
Ann. Through their prompt and persistent intercession she was re-
leased about the last of December of that year, thus ending Shaker per-
secution in this State.

It was to be renewed, however, in another locality. In May, 1781,
Mother Ann and part of her followers visited Harvard, in Massachu-
setts. There the old charges were reiterated and new ones of living in
debauchery and practicing witchcraft were brought against them. The
consequences were not unlike those experienced in Albany; much
sympathy was awakened for the Shakers, their testimony was extended
and numbers joined the faith. In July, 1783, they returned westward,
v'siting the other societies. In 1784 the society suffered a great loss,
first in the death of Elder William Lee, in July, and later, on Septem-
ber 8, in the death of Mother Ann Lee. Elder James Whittaker suc-
ceeded her in the ministry and the society continued to prosper. In
the fall of 1785 the first house of worship was erected, which is still
standing. Father James (as he was called) died July 20, 1787, and was
succeeded in the ministry by Joseph Meaciiam and Lucy Wright, the
latter being the first appointed leader in the female line. Under their
ministration the people were gathered into a united body and gradually
assumed church relations with the New Lebanon Shakers, finally
uniting all their interests, spiritual and temporal.

The society now comprises four so-called families, known as the
Church family, the North family, the West family, and the South family,
numbering in all about 300 persons. The society owns about 3,000 acres
of land, which is under excellent cultivation and well stocked. The dwell-



402

ings, offices, stores, shops and farm buildings are plain, substantial
structures and well kept Water power and steam are used for manu-
facturing purposes, and all Shaker products bear a high reputation in
markets.

Their belief may be substantially epitomized as follows ; They believe
in the second coming of Christ ; that all will become heirs of Christ
when fitted by self denial ; that Jesus became the Christ at his baptism ;
in a life of consecrated celibacy; in non-interference in politics, non-
resistance and non-combativeness in war. Their moral training is
strict in every direction ; this with industry and sobriety has brought to
them a high degree of prosperity. A post-office with the name,
"Shakers," was established many years ago, and the settlement is a
place of considerable resort in summer, over the Shaker road from
Albany.

With the close of the Revolutionary war the New England element
came into the population of this town, as it did to some extent in other
parts of the county, bringing the characteristics of enterprise, activity
and thrift which have distinguished them wherever they have settled.
Public improvements were rapidly inaugurated, schools and churches
multiplied, manufactures were established and the never ceasing march
of progress began.

Although the territory of this town was not directly invaded by the
British during the war of the Revolution, it will be correctly inferred
that the inhabitants felt the most lively interest in the struggle, and
many took an active part therein. The gallant career of General Schuyler
is well known and has already been touched upon in these pages.
Among others who participated in the war were Henry Ostrom, who
was a captain of militia ; and Jacob and Gerret Lansing. So too in the
war of 1812, Watervliet furnished the required quota of men, either by
volunteer or draft. The names of the following men who took part in that
war are recorded: Andrew Chadwick, Henry Runkle, Frederick Roff,
John G. Lansing, John Van Aernum, Lansing Fonda, John Cory, David
Turner, John Steenburgh and his brother, Timothy Hodgeman, Stephen
Culver, Jeremiah and Gerret Clute, and Wynant Van Denbergh. In
the late war of the Rebellion, also, the patriotism of the town was



403

clearly demonstrated in the promptness with which response was made
to eacli of the calls of the government for volunteers, the conspicuous
features of which period have been treated in an earlier chapter.

The close of the war of the Revolution found the people of the country
ready and willing to enter upon public improvements, as well as to labor
with renewed energy for the founding of peaceful and happy homes. One
of the earliest of the large undertakings which had a marked influence
upon this immediate locality was the construction of the canal and locks
of the Northern Inland Lock and Navigation Company, chartered in
1792, which has already been described in these pages. It was a fore-
runner of the Erie Canal. What was known as the old Cherry Val'ey
Turnpike was placed in the control of a corporation through legislation
in 1798, though the road extending from Albany to Cherry Valley,
Utica and Rome, had been in use many years previous to that date.
The first act was soon repealed and in 1799 a second one was passed
chartering a corporation to improve the State road, as it was called,
from the house of John Weaver in Watervliet to Cherry Valley. The
incorporators were William North, John Taylor, Abram Ten Eyck,
Charles R. Webster, Calvin Cheeseman, Zenas Penio, Ephraim Hudson,
Joseph White, Elihu Phinney, and Thomas Machin.

In the spring of 1802 a bill passed the Legislature constituting John
Lansing, jr., Stephen Van Rensselaer, Stephen Lush, Dudley Walsh,
Garret W. Van Schaick, Daniel Hall, John Taylor, Abraham Oadthout
(Oothout) and Joseph C. Yeates, a corporation to construct a turnpike
between the cities of Albany and Schenectady ; the capital stock was
$200,000. This road was not to interfere with the old State road be-
tween these cities. It was a costly turnpike and then the best highway
in the country. For many years it was a source of profit, in face of the
fact that it cost in all about $180,000; but the building of the Erie Canal
lessened its importance and greatly curtailed the freighting by wagon.
It is stated that in 1803 there were on the line of this road twenty-eight
taverns of various kinds, to the open doors of which the old stages and
the hundreds of wagons which traveled westward and return, drew up
for refreshment.

The Troy and Schenectady Turnpike Company was incorporated



April 2, 1802, by George Tibbits, Ephraim Morgan, Abraham Oothoiit,
and their associates. This turnpike was constructed and was largely
used for travel and freight, until the canal and the railroads robbed it of
much of its usefulness.

An act incorporating the Watervliet Turnpike Company was passed
March 31, 1828. Thomas Hillhouse, Jeremiah Schuyler, Robert Dun-
lap and their associates were authorized to construct a road "from the
north boundary line of the city line of Albany to the upper ferry oppo-
site the city of Troy." This turnpike was constructed in first class
manner and became a very popular drive.

Among the plank roads of this town was that of the Watervliet
Plank Road Company, which was incorporated and the road built in
1850; it extended from Buffalo street north through Broad street (now
Broadway) to Auburn street, where it crossed the canal and thence on
to Cohoes. The road never paid dividends and was abandoned after ten
years of use.

The Albany and Mohawk Plank Road Company extended across a
part of the town of Watervliet and was built previous to 1850. It was
one of the last of those highways in the State to be abandoned, which
took place April, 1 896.

What is now Broadway in West Troy was originally a turnpike road
and was called the Whitehall Turnpike, and also the Northern Turn-
pike. It was an important thorougiifare and one of the early post
routes.

Manufacturing operations in this town, outside of those described in
the history of West Troy (now Watervliet city), Green Island and
Cohoes, have not been very important. In the early years of settle-
ment saw mills were numerous and several small grist mills" were erect-
ed. Many of these have passed away. The Shakers had a grist mill
and a saw mill very early in the century. Caldwell, Frazier & Co. had
a factory and a Mr. Muir a cloth works on Mill Creek as early as 1803.
The Lansings had a saw mill on Lisha's Kill. Other grist and saw
mills were built at an early period on Town Creek near its junction with
the Mohawk. On the same stream, near Watervliet Center, a woolen
factory was established and operated by the Waterburys. Truman G.
Younglove built in 1866 a large brick straw board mill just below the



405

Cohoes Company's dam and near the city line. There were situated
also lime and cement kilns and the Lansing grist mill. The lime
and cement works were started in 1869 by the Capitol Lime and
Cement Company, composed of Truman G. Younglove, George Stew-
art, and David T. Lamb, of VVaterford, and Henry Dunsback, of
Crescent. Tlie grist mill was originally owned by Gerrit Lansing and
later by L D. F. Lansing.

The oldest settled hamlet in this town is Boght (or Groesbeck's Cor-
ners) in the northeastern corner in the bend of the Mohawk, from
which it takes its Dutch name. This locality and the vicinity of the
Aqueduct were settled by Van Den Bergh, Van De Mark, Fonda,
Clute, Van Vranken and Lansing families in the early years, and later
by William Groesbeck, the Simons, Godfrey, Roff, Dunsback and Runkel
families. North of the Boght is the aqueduct, where a post office of
that name is located, and farther north is the Dunsback Ferry across
tlie Mohawk. John Van De Mark kept an early tavern here. There
is little business at these points.

Town House Corners (known in later years as Van Vranken's and
still later and down to the present time as Latham's Corners) is a hamlet
at the crossing of the Loudonville road and the Troy and Schenectady
turnpike, six miles north of Albany. This neighborhood was early
settled by Van Den Bergh, Witbeck, Van Olinda, Van Vranken. Oothout,
and Markle families. Early taverns were kept by Joseph Yearsley and
Myndert Van Denbergh. Dr. Jonas Wade settled here in 1806 and
was a successful physician and useful citizen many years.

Watervliet Center is a small hamlet, with post-office by that name,
in the north central part of the town, on the Troy and Schenectady
turnpike, two miles north of the Shaker settlement. There has for
many years been a small mercantile business here and a few shops.
The vicinity was early settled by the Witbeck, Orlop, Van Vranken, Groat,
Fero, Fraley, Sickles, and Fort families, the latter at Fort's Ferry.
Later comers were the Chamberlains, Gallagers, Weatherwa.x, Cragiers,
and Lewis Morris; the latter came about 1835, built a hotel, a store
and several shops of which he was proprietor. The woolen factory of
Henry Waterbury, before mentioned, was near here on the Town Creek,
and on the same stream near Fort's Ferry were the Shaker mills.



Lisha's Kill is a post-office and hamlet in the northwestern corner of the
town, on the Albany and Schenectady turnpike, nine miles from Albany.
The first settler here was Jacob Lansing, from whom are descended
many families of that name. Another settler here was John V. A.
Lansing, who came in 1792, and has many descendants in this vicinity.
Others were the Van Benthuysen, Ostrom, Van Zandt, Groat, Bulson,
Campbell, and Stanford families. Charles Stanford kept a tavern
on the turnpike as early as 1803, and was an enterprising and useful
citizen, and father of Ex- Senator Stanford of California. The post-ofifice
was established about 1 830, with Lewis Morris postmaster ; he also kept
a store. Jacob Morris succeeded him and was followed in 1848 by
Peter Lansing, who held the ofifice nearly forty years. Mr. Lansing
was long a successful merchant.

Nevvtonville is a post-office and hamlet on the Loudon road four
miles north of Albany. The post-ofifice was established here in 1850
and the place called Newton's Corners, in honor of John M. Newton,
who settled here about 1 840, built a dwelling and afterwards a store
in which he conducted a successful business. John Holmes was the
first postmaster and held the office for more than thirty years. John
H. Kemp was a later merchant, and here was established the wagon
manufactory of James Brewster ; he settled first at Ireland's Corners,
farther south, and removed to Newtonville in 1876, when the firm was
James Brewster & Son. Later it was James Brewster's Sons (James C.
and William H.)

Passing south on the plank road one reaches the hamlet that was form-
erly called Ireland's Corners, from Elias H. Ireland, who obtained lands
in 1832 from Mr. Van Rensselaer. The name of this pretty village was
changed to Loudonville in 1871, with post office of the same name, in
honor of Lord Loudon. It is believed that this road was used prior to
the Revolution. Jonathan Seeley Ireland, father of Elias H,, had settled
in this vicinity prior to 1832 ; he was a Methodist preacher. Charles T.
Ireland and John Ruby were also early settlers Dr. Peter B. Noxen
located here soon after Elias H. Ireland and practiced during the re-
mainder of his life. Mr. Ireland conducted a hotel and carried on a
mercantile business in which he was successful. He died in 1870. The
post office was established about 1850, with P^Iins H. Ireland, postmaster.



Loudonville is now one of the most attractive suburbs of Albany and
many fine residences have been built by persons whose business is in
the city.

What is now known as West Albany was formerly called Spencer-
ville. It is a point of considerable manufacturing importance lying
north of Patroon's Creek and just west of the city line. It has long
been the site of extensive shops of the New York Central Railroad, and
also of extensive stock yards. The stock business was commenced here
about 1847 by William Wolford and a Mr. Gallup, on Washington avenue
who transferred their business to the Troy road at the old Bull's Head.
Later it v as removed to what is now the end of Central avenue and
carried on by Hunter & Gallup. About i860 the business was removed
to West Albany where extensive buildings and sheds were erected.
Allerton, Dutcher & Moore were for some years proprietors of the
yards, but in November, 1868, they transferred their business to East-
man Brothers. The post-office here was established in September, 1862,
with Joseph Mather, postmaster The business transacted here has
decreased in recent years.

Between Albany and Troy is the railroad station called Menand's,
from Louis Menand, who established his present large horticultural gar-
dens and green houses here in 1842. The Schuyler, Ten Eyck, Gor-
way. Glen, Jermain and Hillhouse families were among the early settlers
in this vicinity. The grounds originally intended for the State fair are
situated at this point. It is now a thickly settled district, many fine
residences having been erected.

Churches in the Town of Watervliet {now Colonic.) вАФ For many years
in the early settlement in this town the Reformed Dutch church was the
only organized religious body. In 1642 Rev. Johannes Megapolensis
came to Albany and labored in this region. For seventy- five years
this faith was the ruling one in this colony, and for 140 years services
were conducted in the language of Holland. In 1716 the first Epis-
copal church west of the Hudson River was established, which was fol-
lowed by the fi'st Presbyterian church in 176 1 or 1762 The New
York Charter of Liberties contained the following : "No person pro-
fessing faith in God by Jesus Christ shall at any time be in any ways
disquieted or questioned for any difference of opinion." There is the



408

very foundation stone of freedom of religious thought and belief. The
Dutch company was bound to give churches local government ; officers
were to be appointed by the directors and council and were invested
with religious privileges, as shown by the following: " No other relig-
ion was to be publicly tolerated, save that taught and exercised by the
authority of the Reformed church in the United Provinces." Member-
ship in the churches was largely controlled by ministers, and civil and
religious obedience was exacted from all. The Dutch and the English
colonists contended for religious liberty. Churches were slow to
organize in districts at all remote from Albany, for reasons that are ap
parent in the slow progress of settlement, and the poverty and ever
present necessities of the pioneers, and the disturbed condition of the
country through many long years. They met for worship, but gen-
erally in private dwellings, and the interchange of religious experience
and thought at such meetings had to suffice.

The organization of the Reformed churches in Watervliet took place
before it was constituted a town, and thpse of other denominations soon
followed. The Boght Reformed Dutch church in the northeastern part
of the town was organized at a very early period. A petition signed
by forty-two persons was presented to the Classis of Albany Feb-
ruary 22, 1784, and the organization was effected April 14 of that year.
It is probable that the Niskayuna church was organized about 1760,
but soon after the organization of the congregation at the Boght the
two congregations were under one pastorate. The first Consistory
of the Boght cliurch were David Fero and Isaac Fonda, elders ; Abram
A. Fonda and Gerrit I. Lansing, deacons. Rev. E. Westerlo, of Al-
bany, was in charge of this church for some time, and in 1790 Rev.
John Demarest assumed the pastorate of the two churches. The rec-
ords during his ministry are written in Dutch. He closed his labors in
1803 at which time the connection between tlie two churches ceased.
Changes in the pastorate were somewhat frequent after that. In 1806
measures were adopted for the erection of a new church building, which
was completed in the following year. It stood on the road which now
forms the western boundary of Cohoes. This was used until 1847,
when the present church was erected. The land on which the parson-
age was built had been given to the church a hundred years earlier.



t



409

Eight acres were donated to the society and the Patroon afterwards
gave twenty-five acres on the south side of the manor hne ; this land
was sold in later years. The building of the new church at the Boght
caused disagreement over the site and as a consequence twenty-two
members were dismissed ; they organized the Church of Rensselaer
in the same year and built a house of worship at Van Vranken's Cor-
ners. Anniversary exercises were held commemorating the centennial
of tiie Boght church on April 12, 1884. The following list of the per-
sons constituting the original church is appended for its value in show-
ing who were residents of this locality at that early date:

Francis Lansing, Gerrit, Evart, Mans, Wyuant, Peter, Petras, Cornelius C, Cor-
nelius 3d and Nicholas C. Van Denbergli, Gerrit Wendell, Luycas Witbeck, Jacob
Van Olinda, Johannes Lansing, Rutgers Lansing, Johannes Clute, Isaac Fonda,
Isaac H. Fonda, Timothy Hutton, Henry Fero, Christian Fero, David Fero, Jacob
I. Lansing, Dirck Heenistraat, Charles Heemstraat, Isaac Ouderkerk. Andrew On-
derkcrk, Johannes Fonda, Gerrit Clute, Isaac J. Fonda, Francis Cramer, Heudrick
Wendell, Abiam A. Fonda, Noah Gillet, Gerrit I. Lansing, Abraham H. Lansing,
Jacob Lansing, Dirck Clute, Hendrick Fonda, Jacob D. Fonda, Abraham L. Wit-
beck, Abraham Onderkerk.

The first officers of the Rensselaer church, before named, were Mar-
tin Van Olinda, E. J. Lansing and A. W. Van Denbergh, elders;
Obadiah Van Denbergh, Nicholas V. V. Van Denbergh, and Henry
Van Alstine, deacons.

The people in the Lisha's Kill neighborhood in the northwestern part of
the town attended the old Niskayuna church for many years and until
about 1850. At that time the old church was sadly out of repair, and
when the question arose of expending a considerable sum of money to
place it again in good condition the inhabitants at Lisha's Kill disap-
proved, and on November 16, 1852, application was made to the Classis
of Schenectady by forty-eight members of the old church for the priv-
ilege of forming the Reformed Dutch Church of Lisha's Kill. The
organization was efifected December 5 of that year at the school house
in district No. 8, and Abraham V. P. Lansing and Jeremiah Ketchum
were chosen elders ; and Joseph Consaul and Cornelius Lansing, deacons.
In the next year (1853) a brick church was erected, and in 1859 a
parsonage was built. In 1868 an addition of fifteen feet was made to
the length of the building.



410

The Baptist church at Newtonville resulted from missionary work
performed by R. M. Pease just before i860. In that year John M.
Newton, a generous citizen of Newtonville, donated a piece of land for
the church and on it a brick edifice was built. The society went out of
existence in 1869 and the property was sold.

Records of the beginning of the Congregational Society and Church
of Watervliet bear date of May, 1859. The first trustees were Van
Huren Lockrow, John Frost, Peter Steers, James Cramer, Daniel P.
Sigourney, and Henry Woolley ; Rev. James G. Cordell was the first
pastor. A church was erected which was burned May 25, 1865, but
immediately rebuilt. On December 20 of that year a resolution was
adopted "that the society assume the name of the Presbyterian Society
of Pine Grove." On February 5, 1867, the church was accepted by the
Presbytery of Albany and named " The Pine Grove Presbyterian Church
of Watervliet," and on March 29 it was thus organized by Rev. William
H. Carr, who was its pastor for a time. The elders were Van Buren
Lockrow and Daniel P. Sigourney. The church has at intervals been
without a regular pastor.

Intimately. associated with the religious institutions of this town is the
Home for Aged Men, situated just north of the city line on the Van
Rensselaer boulevard. The founding of this benevolent institution was



Online LibraryAmasa J. (Amasa Junius) ParkerLandmarks of Albany County, New York → online text (page 41 of 138)