Cuyler Reynolds.

Albany chronicles, a history of the city arranged chronologically, from the earliest settlement to the present time; illustrated with many historical pictures of rarity and reproductions of the Robert online

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Online LibraryCuyler ReynoldsAlbany chronicles, a history of the city arranged chronologically, from the earliest settlement to the present time; illustrated with many historical pictures of rarity and reproductions of the Robert → online text (page 1 of 67)
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I 906


Copyrighted, 1906.


Albany, N. Y.




In grateful appreciation of his life-long, painstaking labors in the
preservation of local records.

He was born at Northfield, Mass., April 13, 1808, and died at No. 59
Lodge St., Albany, on Jan. 15, 1880. Compiled "Annals of Albany,"
" Historical Collections," etc., and was publishing proprietor of the
old "Webster's Calendar or The Albany Almanac" from 1841 to
the time of his death. There is a granite stone in the Albany Rural
Cemetery to show the passerby where his body now rests from its
labors ; but he has left an imperishable monument among those he
loved and strove to please, enduring for their children's children.


This is No.S.-^6^A

This copy printed for.



The history of Albany may be described as one of age, import-
ance and interest. Upon the past the present is built, the future
building. Records enable individuals and aggregations of beings
to advance and improve, through studying motives, methods and
results, and were the people without a means of transcribing events,
or the inclination to place facts upon paper, it is doubtful whether
nations would have made advancement any greater than that of
wild tribes of the uncivilized, of aborigines who have made no
progress in a thousand years, or than the apes of the forest, it
being almost solely so because they have never recorded how they
acted or why, and received no knowledge that might have been
handed down to them if their predecessors had recorded happenings.

In its boast of age Albany has assuredly the opportunity for a
larg'e, comprehensive and exultant history, as it is the oldest
chartered city existing in the United States. In point of discovery
by civilized white men it dates back to 1540, when the French fur-
traders built their stone fort here, and although not an enduring
settlement then, it has been such since the arrival of the Dutch,
or Walloons, in Alay of 1624. As a city it has existed since Gov-
ernor Dongan granted it a Charter on July 22, 1686. At one period
it was the metropolis of this country, and ever a city of the first

But Albany's boasting of a remarkable age for an American city
might not define it, nevertheless, as a place of importance in a
world history. There are, however, besides this fact, two fields in
which it stands forth prominently, which other cities must take into
consideration to vie with it, — the first is its relation to the nation's
history; the second, its features that mark great steps or epochs in
the world's progress.

It was from the start one of the few places on the Western Hemi-
sphere sought by Europeans in the period of adventure for wealth,
as being particularly worthy of settlement (1620-1630), contempo-
raneous with the other American landmarks, — Jamestown, Man-
hattan, Plymouth and Quebec.

It was the scene of the first Congress of the Colonies, when
delegates convened in its Stadt Huis, or City Hall, on June 19,
1754, to form a unity for mutual protection against a common foe,
as the call to assemble here describes it.


DORE warfare's BRUNT.

Albany was the scene of forceful invasion time and again by the
French, who sought to possess the vast territory south of the St.
Lawrence by making armed raids down the two great Adirondack
lakes and the Hudson to Albany, as the first and chief pomt of
attack, there being few other places at the time so worthy of con-
quering. It bore the brunt of the Indians' barbaric battling, being
directly in their path and considered a border town, and valiantly
held the hordes of savages from pushing to the weaker settlements
east and south.

When it became the great question of American Liberty, of the
creation and then maintaining the stand of a new Republic, the
British made Albany their objective point of attack throughout the
Revolution, sending armies of enormous size from the westward
under General St. Leger ; from the south, a fleet by the Hudson's
course under General Howe, and from the north, 8,000 men coming
from Europe by way of Canada under General Burgoyne, — all con-
verging upon Albany, — and when General Schuyler's well-laid plans
and exhortations to the colonies to co-operate had brought about
the latter's surrender at Bemis Heights (Schuylerville, N. Y.) on
Oct. 17, 1777, the victory for American Liberty was practically
assured, for at once the Crown seriously discussed abandonment of
its American colonics and the fight was afterwards disheartening.

events marking epochs.

Its epoch-marking events were when the first American passenger
train was operated by steam between Albany and Schenectady in
the late summer of 183 1 ; when in the summer of 1829, Prof. Joseph
Henry demonstrated in the large room of the Albany Academy that
his theory of an electric telegraph was perfectly practical if it em-
ployed his wonderful discovery of the " intensity " magnet, and
when the first steamboat to ply the waters of this hemisphere, the
Clermont, made its famous and remarkably successful trip between
Albany and New York in September of 1807.

Thus we perceive students of great events mu!^t turn to Albany
for records of the first steam passenger railroad, ihe first steamboat,
and the first electric telegraph. Other records in which the world
bears an interest, when Albany's name is given place in encyclo-
pedias, add further distinction to the above. Here was celebrated
the opening of the Erie Canal, Nov. 2, 1825 ; the first settlement of
Shakers in America was located here, and its citizens have originated
ideas of practical and universal importance, such as the issuance of
weather forecasts to cities throughout the country, the recording
barometer. Many other discoveries and inventions have they added
to benefit mankind.



Some books are prepared without reason and fill no need or
demand. This one started with a demand that gave reason for
its being written. The compiler had tabulated the answers he had
freely furnished to the miscellaneous queries of citizens during an
experience of ten years, and found that they numbered more than
one thousand replies each year. A repetition of certain questions
about the cit}- showed that the most expedient course was to tabu-
late various facts once they were acquired by tedious research. The
mass of material grew, was at the disposal of but one person, per-
ishable in their form, and consequently, held in private, it was doing
a minimum of good, whereas publishing would bring about preser-
vation of hidden civic history and wide service.

It was also found that many persons bothered city officials and
their clerks, by seeking to obtain information, often believing that
they had a perfect right to expect a clerk to lay aside the work of
half a day to make a special search in order to satisfy somebody's
curiosity. While the seeker for facts might not have thought it
would require more than a minute, when addressing a query to a
department, it was not infrequent that a query would require more
than a day's time devoted to turning over the office records. Oc-
casionally the questions had an important business bearing, or the
prominence of the questioner would be of sufficient weight to decide
in favor of allowing" the matter to interfere with the city's work.
If the clerk gave but an hour each day to sucli concerns, it seriously
interrupted his routine ; on the other hand, if he refused, it boded
ill-report of that department, which was judged either unobliging
or ignorant of matters directly in its line, thougli happening fifty,
a hundred, or possibly two hundred years before. To this effect
was the message brought to bear on the compiler when appealed to
for assistance. He was practically alleviating the superfluous work
of city departments because it was known he had the material at
his command.


It was the original intention to prepare a page or two about
each Mayor, when a publication was conceived, to include statistics
connected with the office and the man, together with a summary of
his official deeds, such as would show for what acts of general
public interest he was responsible during his teriu. These acts
included the erection of schools, steamer houses, public baths, reser-
voirs and filter-plants, viaducts, opening of new streets and mani-
fold miscellaneous civic improvements. The records were searched
for these, and it resulted in the discovery that he likewise acted, by
virtue of his office, in innumerable matters, as u]Don the extending


of the public welcome or freedom of the city to notable visitors,
opening of several conventions each year, receiving- delegations,
laying of corner-stones, dedication of buildings, accepting statues,
fountains and various gifts on behalf of the city, not to mention
the frequent calls made upon him to respond for the city at im-
portant banquets.

In a word, the Mayor participated largely in the city's life,
which is the same as saying, acting conjointly with the citizens in
their life, and when it is considered that he is but the figure of. the
people, representing all of them, his acts are a part of the citizens',
and the daily record of the doings of the people is actually the
thing that is important to the citizens themselves,— the two inter-
twined so closely in interests that official civic acts are only a part
of the lives of the people and there is no need co differentiate.

Brevity has been an aim of the compiler. To gain this end he
has sacrificed all opportunity to achieve renown by employing the
usual fine phraseology of the historian. He has sought to make
the statements clear, transcribing them in a manner to tell as much
as possible Avithin small compass. This has made the sentences an
abrupt series of phrases. The book has thus become, in reality,
an index to the city's past, and serves its purpose as a means to
point to the date of an event, which being found herein, the seeker
for full information may repair with facility to the newspaper file
and read there all particulars. Alany a person has been obliged
to devote a week to the tiresome task of turning pages of news-
papers and attempting to read cursorily each article's heading.
With an approximate date in mind, these pages may be scanned
most rapidly.


If it had not been certain that this book could be made more
accurate, more comprehensive in scope and contents, and more
up-to-date by a score of years than anything in the line of local
history ever produced, its writing would not have been attempted.
Above all else it sought accuracy at the expenditure of considerable
time, because seeking verification and weighing one authority
against another is a laborious undertaking that too many writers

It is safely estimating it to assert that some three hundred state-
ments in other works have been condemned by discovery of their
error, and now printed Avith a due regard for the truth. Consulta-
tion of the works of historians of renown, while preparing this
volume, has proved that even the best may be detected making
blunders, and so while it is hoped that this publication is an im-
provement, it would be honest to style it simply that, an improve-
ment upon others, and put forth no claims to absolute perfection.


Thanks are due to Arnold J. F. van Laer, Esq., New York State
Archivist, for his courteous and vahied co-operation along these
lines that seek for accuracy. He has disproved statements regard-
ing the Dutch settlement of New York made by prominent histor-
ians, and the changes he has suggested and which were made in
this work were agreed to because he was able to cite as his author-
ity the original documents that are possessed by the State Library
and directly under his control. This acknowledgment, however,
does not commit him as sponsor for all that is printed herein about
' the Dutch ; but it places credit where it belongs lor from fifty to
one hundred betterments regarding dates, names, proper transla-
tions and the like.


In no other department of literature is the writer so non-plussed
as he prosecutes his work, as in preparing a history of early times,
when he discovers that the matter of correctly spelling names of
persons and places confronts him. The spelling of the early Dutch
settlers hereabouts was notorious. This promiscuous spelling of
their names could be straightened out by reference to their signa-
tures if it were the way others wrote their names for them that
confused ; but nearly every inhabitant wrote his name in several
styles of spelling. The handwritten records in the City Hall tower,
centuries old, have been examined closely, and numbers of auto-
graph letters brought to bear in the effort to untangle.

The pnme puzzler of them all was an Albany Mayor, the fourth.
It is more definite to mention him by number than by what he
was called. When he was Mayor of Albany he was addressed and
wrote his own name Dirk or Dirck Wessels, while the name of his
own son, sitting as Alderman in his father's board, was written
Wessel Ten Broeck. Jacob Leisler the insurrectionist (who wrote
his name Leysler before coming to America) wrote it Vessel then
Broke, while Washington Irving called him Dirk Ten Breeches.
But the real difficulty, as one looks over a row of histories, is not
whether it was " Dirk " or " Dirck," nor yet whether it should be
written " ten " or " Ten ;" but to pick out the right one from
" Wessel," •' Wessell," " Wessels," " Wessells " or " Wesselse."

In the preparation of this book, the signature at the end of a
man's will was accepted as standard, for in his absence to testify,
by his decease, the court gave oi^cial recognizance to the form ap-
pearing there. But strange as it may seem, one could not be free
to accept such spelling as found printed in a book at the end of a
published will, for typographical error might destroy the force.
Also the writing may not appear the same to two persons. I cite
the case of G. W. Schuyler's "Colonial New York," where (Vol.


ii, p. 329) he states : " To land contracts, deeds, and to his will,
he wrote his name in full ' Dirk Wesselse ten Broeck ;' the ' ten '
always with a small ' t '." This will is on file v/ith the Clerk of
the Court of Appeals. It was written by himself, in Dutch, dated
Feb. 4, 1715; he died Sept. 18, 1717, and the will adniited on Feb.
6, 1 71 8. The compiler examined it and was convinced that the
signature is not as affirmed above, (' Dirk') ; but reads Dirck Wes-
selse ten Broeck, and such is the form followed on the monument
to his memory at his ancient " Bouwerie," at Clermont. N. Y.
This example is an illustration of the pains taken throughout this


The compiler has taken particular pains to become personally
acquainted with the scenes of almost all the places of importance
mentioned in this book. It was to enable him to write understand-
ingly of events with which Albanians were connected that trans-
pired at such places as Bemis Heights, Schuylerville and Stillwater;
Ticonderoga, Fort George, Bloody Pond, Schenectady, etc., that he
made special journeys. In taking up each period of history it is
essential to place oneself as nearly in touch with the event as it
is possible to do by abundant reading and then by acquaintance
with the scene itself. One must be carried back in mind to those
days long past while writing of them, to be able to judge of the
importance of the characters living then and of the occurrence.
The reader may wonder why the death of a certain individual is
stated ; but taking the whole story of the book it will be found
that he had important bearing on some previous occasion, which
act his death-mention completes.

It is advisable to speak here of the reason for including any
events that occurred outside of the city limits. In the first place,
it seemed to rob Albany of a large part of its best history if the
line were drawn so far as a record, at the city boundary. If a great
general or artist had spent most of his life here but latterly lived
and died elsewhere, it was deemed proper to make the entry as
extensive as though he breathed his last in this city. If General
Schuyler burned blockhouses and impeded Burgoyne near Lake
George, if Gen. Abraham Ten Broeck (the 28th ]\Iayor) led his
command to Bemis Fleights and fought valiantly there, or if Gen.
Peter Gansevoort held Fort Stanwix during the bloodiest, bitterest
conflict of the Revolution, and if Peter Townsend ( great-grand-
father of Mayor Franklin Townsend) had constructed at his iron
foundry the mammoth chain that reached across the Hudson at
West Point to keep British ships away from Albany, the acts of
this nature deserved record equally as much as though the entire


event transpired within gunshot of the City Hal!. On this ])rinci-
ple, such matters happening remote from here, without an Albanian
as participant, but with direct bearing upon Albany, as when Wash-
ington prevented Howe from proceeding up the river to storm
Albany, require a position in local history that the picture may not be
incomplete and as explaining what the resultant acts were here.
One cannot read a history with understanding if the why and
wherefore are omitted.


The condensation by the writer of this book of the important
facts with local bearing as contained in twelve thousand pages
may be reversed by those who wish to gain the details by consulting
the list of books purposely perused in writing this one. They are
the sources of information, aside from unpublished documents con-
sulted. The acknowledgment made here that the waiter, in the
nature of events drew his information from the records or writings
of others likewise makes it clear that he vouches for the authen-
ticity of no other incidents entered in this volume than those
coming directly to his personal knowledge, covered by a period
of the last two or three decades. However, he has been careful to
verify, and has consulted such works as were commonly considered

It may truthfully be said that only one history of the city has
ever been written, and that by a Trojan, a seeker for accuracy who
spared no pains, Arthur James Weise, whose " History of Albany "
(1885) is a most comprehensive volume and one to be relied upon,
for statement of fact and the accompanying dates.

But to follow the city's events more closely, to be certain of
the facts, to gain the details and to be entertained by the quaintness
of it all, for the writer evidently allowed himself to be carried back
in mind to the periods of his yearly ' records, one must pore over
the faithfully-executed, ten plain volumes of Joel Munsell's "Annals
of Albany," — unappreciated, possibly, at the time they were printed
by him ; but highly prized now, as is the way of the world. He
devoted days and nights that the people of coming generations might
learn without trouble to themselves all about the city's past. In
this act he made himself one of the city's greatest philanthropists.
Besides these books, there are his four large volumes of " Collec-
tions," and other of his works. It may appear to those familiar
with the "Annals." that this book bears a resemblance to his pro-
duction in scope and a little in its arrangement, for one diary must
be like another that deals with similar material ; but it is impossible
that there was the slightest intent or that the compiler of this book
was in any way influenced by the "Annals," for he started this


book early in 1904 and never read a page of Munsell's "Annals"
until, as a library record shows, he drew out the books but three
months previous to the completion of this book, and had made
nearly all of it before he checked the "Annals " for such items that
might have been omitted.

One cannot avoid Dr. Edward B. O'Callaghan's " Documentary
History of New York," (4 volumes; 4,317 pp.; Weed, Parsons &
Co., 1849) in writing- about Albany, for it is cited in every history
written about this state, and if one does not obtain the facts direct
they are absorbed through any work consulted.

"A History of Albany and Schenectady Counties," George Rogers
Howell and Jonathan Tenney, editors, (997 pp., 1886) has aimed
to cover every department in which citizens take interest, and is
a work of great convenience. Some objection is made to the
form of index and the various writers who participated in the
text were not always accurate. Parts may be followed, but not
the volume in its entirety.

"Colonial New York," by the late George W. Schuyler (2 vols.,
1,408 pp., Scribner's, 1885) is not only carefully written and enter-
taining; but it is largely about Albany and its people before the
state was formed. For the compiler of an untried new work to
praise a book that is so favorably known would be presumptuous or
unnecessary recommendation.

" Early Settlers of Albany County," by Prof. Jonathan Pearson
of Schenectady, is a work that every citizen of means who takes
pride in his city secures if he can afford the luxury of out-of-print
volumes ; but despite its prominence the antiquarians of recent day
discredit its statement in parts. They claim that they have found
earlier records that its author did not have access to in his re-

"A History of St. Peter's Church," by Rev. Joseph Hooper, M. A.,
(The Brandow Printing Co., Albany, 556 pp., 1900) presents much
material throwing light upon eiarly times at Albany. It shows
clearly that it was written with great pains, and the details of any
subject discussed, — fort, church, street or individual — are replete
and evidently the result of drawing records from musty retreats
into public notice.

" Centennial Celebrations," by Allen C. Beach, (Weed. Parsons &
Co., 459 pp., 1879) contains much that has a bearing on the more
important of local matters, a book that is widely and worthily

"A Godchild of Washington," by Mrs. Katharine Schuyler Bax-
ter. (F. Tennyson Neely, New York, 651 pp., 1897) presents a
mass of new material from old letters, while the familiar incidents
are written in a style fascinating to the antiquarian. Unfortunately


the printers did not do full justice in the spelling of names; but
their blunders are too glaring to be dangerous.

'"A Life of General Philip Schuyler," by Bayard Tuckerman,
(Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 277 pp., 1903) places the reader
in touch with the stirring incidents of the Revolutionary campaign
as enacted here or affecting this city. Every citizen taking pride
in the great men of Albany's past should read it, and become
enthusiastic that Albanians played so important a part in national

■ " Letters and Journals of jMadam Riedesel," translated ably by
William L. Stone of Saratoga in 1867, and published by Joel Mun-
sell, is a work of absorbing interest because the writing is the
graphic description of an eye-witness of Revoltitionary scenes that
transpired either in this city or near here.

" The Ten Broeck Family Genealogy," by Miss Emma Ten
Broeck Runk, now residing at Lambertville, N. J., (De Vinne
Press, 277 pp., 1897) is devoted in the main to this city's history
although styled a genealogy.

"Novum Belgium: an Account of New Netherland in 1643-4,
by Rev. Father Isaac Jogues," with notes by John Gilmary Shea,
(privately printed in 1862) is a faithful record of this place at this
early time, told in the words of the persecuted missionary.

" The Sexagenary," printed by Joel Munsell and the authorship
traced to John P. Becker of Revolutionary days although he gave
scarcely a cine to his identity, is valuable as the story of an observ-
ant witness of the fight for liberty along the upper Hudson.

"A Story of Old Saratoga," by Rev. John Henry Brando w, (The
Brandow Printing Co., Albany, 396 pp., with maps, 1900) is com-
prehensive in its narrative of Burgoyne's invasion and surrender,

Online LibraryCuyler ReynoldsAlbany chronicles, a history of the city arranged chronologically, from the earliest settlement to the present time; illustrated with many historical pictures of rarity and reproductions of the Robert → online text (page 1 of 67)