History of the Town of Schaghticoke

the results of research about the history of the town of Schaghticoke

Schaghticoke in 1824

The last post analyzed the entry for Schaghticoke in Horatio Spafford’s 1813 “Gazetteer of New York.” Mr. Spafford, strapped for money, had ambitions to write many more Gazetteers, covering a wider geographical area, but was only able to produce one other edition, another New York Gazetteer in 1824. He died in 1832 and is buried in the cemetery of the Lutheran Church in Lansingburgh, NY.
As one would expect, much of what Spafford published in 1824 was a duplicate of the 1813 edition. Things such as history and land types would be unchanged, one would think, but let’s see what had changed in the entry for Schaghticoke. To begin with, Schaghticoke was now 16 rather than 20 miles from Albany, though still 10 miles north of Troy. My GPS tells me that it’s 19 miles from Schaghticoke to Albany, though who knows where the measurements would begin or end, then or now.
Spafford caught one major change in the town…its boundaries. As he wrote, “In March of 1819 a strip of land across the S. end of this town was annexed to Lansingburgh, bounded N. by the Deepy Kill (sic), a small brook, now the line between this town and Lansingburgh, the transferred territory being as near as I can find out, about 2 miles wide.” This is true. As I have written before, I have been unable to discover why this alteration was made. It lasted until 1912, when the boundaries were restored.
Spafford paid very close attention to details, as in 1813 he consistently referred to the Hoosic River as “Hoosac creek”, but now more correctly calls it “Hoosac River.” He still mis-locates the village of Schaghticoke at the “mouth” of the Hoosac River, but has increased its size, from 15 to 25 houses. He still reports three churches, with 2 Reformed Dutch- incorrect. There were still a Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Dutch Reformed Church in town. In 1813 he described that some land was held by leases, and he repeats that statement, which I now think would be incorrect. I believe the leases of the land owned by the city of Albany were all converted to ownership by 1824. He also makes an unfortunate typographical error. The 1813 version correctly stated that European families first settled Schaghticoke in the early 18th century; the 1824 edition makes that the 16th century, very incorrect, and potentially very confusing to the reader.
As in 1813, Spafford reported the population statistics for the town. I believe he got the data from the U.S. Census of 1820. Unfortunately, the totals reported for the town are very faint in the online version, but a few of the numbers match up with the 1824 Gazetteer, hence my conclusion. The 1820 census added a bit more information, and Spafford included that: “Population 2522; 579 farmers, 8 traders, 153 mechanics; 10 foreigners; 37 free blacks, 59 slaves.” The number of farmers is actually 597 on the census, the number just transposed. The 8 “traders” were described on the census as “engaged in commerce,” which would imply storekeepers more than traders to me. The 153 mechanics were described as “engaged in manufacture,” which would include men who owned and worked in mills of different kinds. It is difficult to compare these numbers to the 1813 Gazetteer, as the town was now physically smaller. But to me the fact that the town still had a slightly higher population total in 1820 (2522 to 2492) means that it was still growing quite rapidly. Also, the drop from 94 to 59 slaves shows that gradual emancipation was still proceeding. It was to be complete in 1827.
The Schaghticoke entry continued, reporting “ taxable property $456228; 11 schools, 11 months in 12; $394.34;762;633; 475 electors, 14864 acres improved land, 2412 cattle, 546 horses, 4765 sheep; 17816 yards cloth; 3 grist mills, 6 saw mills, 2 fulling mills, 2 carding machines, 2 cotton and woolen factories. A.L.C, M.S., D.O.G., B. S.”
Let’s take a closer look at that string of numbers. I’m not sure of the source of the taxable property number- it was either the 1820 U.S. census or the 1821 N.Y.S. census, which Spafford used for the rest of this entry. Whichever, it is a huge increase over the $302,493 in the 1813 edition, despite the decrease in the size of the town. There were still 11 school houses in town, and the entry reports that students attended 11 months of 12 in the year. I find that astounding, as my previous research has shown that students mostly attended school in the winter months, and certainly never more than nine months of the year.
I looked back at the beginning of the Gazetteer to figure out the next numbers: $394.34;762;633 In 1821 the schools cost $394.34 in public money, and of 762 children in town between the ages of 5 and 15, 633 attended school sometime during the year. From the perspective of 2014, we certainly find the amount of money astonishingly small. To me it seems that the percentage of students attending school was quite high, but who knows how often they attended. Presumably the 129 students who did not attend included a few 5 and 6-year-olds whose parents didn’t want to have them start school yet, but were mostly children over 10 or 12, whose parents needed them to work, either on the farm or in mills for a wage. In my personal research I found that even in the 1870’s many boys attended school in the winter, but didn’t go back for the spring term, when they were needed on the farms. The number of electors had certainly grown a lot from the 229 in the 1813 edition, but that may reflect a change in the voting laws, allowing men with less land to vote.
Just to give a bit of perspective, the Gazetteer reported that the town of Pittstown was quite a bit larger than Schaghticoke, with 3,772 people, with 15 schools and 997 students, 30,838 acres of improved land, about twice as many cattle, horses and sheep, 23 saw mills, and 1 distillery! In 2010, Pittstown had a population of 5,735 and Schaghticoke 7,679. Of course our town is now restored to its pre-1819 borders.
The number of grist and saw mills in Schaghticoke has changed quite a bit from the 1813 Gazetteer: from 12 to 3 grist mills, and 11 to 6 saw mills. A few mills were lost with the reduction in town size, but this may reflect survival of the fittest. The other mills remained the same. I would say that the wool from the almost 5000 sheep certainly provided the raw material to the woolen mills.
As before, the initials at the end of the article are the contributors. The last three are the same as in 1813, but A.L.C. is new. There are two candidates for the A.L.C.: Allen Cornell was the Schaghticoke town clerk from 1816-1819 and Allen Conner was the Justice of the Peace beginning in 1823. Cornell seems the better choice, as he would have had access to data. As before, the M.S. was certainly Munson Smith, who was town supervisor during much of the period. The contributors seem to have given very little information to Spafford. For example, the Pittstown entry includes description of types of trees and sheep, and praise for the farmers and mill owners in the town. Spafford didn’t edit to a completely dry account. At the time it probably didn’t seem important to Mr. Smith; it’s only now that we would love to have known more about our town in its early days. Spafford’s list of contributors inspired me to research more about Munson Smith. In the following weeks, I will share the wealth of information that I was surprised to find.

Schaghticoke in 1813, according to Horatio Gates Spafford

When I began writing a newspaper column in September 2010 the idea was to work systematically and chronologically through the history of the town. I got to about 1800 and got distracted by things like the history of the churches, the industrial revolution, the biographies of industrialists, military men, and local Congressmen, the bicentennial of the War of 1812, and primarily by the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Still to come is a history of the Catholic Church and of schools in town, plus further information on the Civil War- through the whole upcoming year- and the upcoming centennial of World War I. I have done lots of research and writing about Schaghticoke in the 1800’s, and would like to try to draw a portrait of the town as it industrialized and developed in the first quarter of the century.
There are a couple of sources of information for this task: two “Gazetteers of New York” published by Horatio Gates Spafford in 1813 and 1824, and a couple of N.Y.S. Censuses: 1814, 1821, and 1825; and the federal censuses of 1800, 1810, and 1820. As with all sources, these are subject to errors. An extra problem is that, as I have noted before, the boundaries of the town changed in 1819, when the part from the Deep Kill south was taken from Schaghticoke and added to Lansingburgh. This would definitely impact the population and other statistics.
I will quote the whole passage in the 1813 Gazetteer about the town, providing commentary as I go. I have to say that my first inclination was to accept what was written as true, but of course Mr. Spafford’s work would be as subject to errors as anyone else’s. Indeed, from what I have read of him, he was a polymath or Renaissance man, trying to do everything, but without the funds. He was an inventor, geographer and writer, correspondent of Thomas Jefferson. He wanted to publish a Gazetteer for the whole country, but his finances limited him to New York State.
In the introduction, he states that he traveled to some of the more remote counties himself, and had some “Agents” collect material, but that primarily he sent questionnaires to prominent men in each county, town, and hamlet, and used their answers to write his book. Indeed, each section ends with a number of initials, presumably those of the contributors, but I can’t find a list of them in the book. Of course the quality of the material sent in would have varied greatly.
Spafford’s Gazetteer of 1813, entry for Schaghticoke*
(The asterisk sends the reader to this at the bottom of the page:) “This name, so long, crooked and hard that it puzzles every body, is said to have originated with the Mohawk Indians._ The original was Scaugh wank, a name by them applied to a sand-slide of near 200 yards elevation, extending for a considerable distance along the right bank of Hoosac creek, under an angle of about 60 degrees with the horizon. When the Dutch settled here, they added Hook to the name, now Schaghticoke Point.”
Well, this is the only place I have ever seen that talks about this a source of the name Schaghticoke. The Schaghticoke Indians were Mahicans- of the big language group of New England Indians- foes of the Mohawks, part of the Iroquois Confederacy. And I have been told that the word, which is also used by the Schaghticoke Indians near Kent, Connecticut, means something like where the waters mingle. Schaghticoke Point was the first name of the village of Schaghticoke. There is a major bend in the Hoosick River there, just before it goes over the falls, forming a point of land. But, again, according to all my research, this area wasn’t even settled until after the first bridge was put over the river at that point, about 1790. The map of the area of Dutch settlement at Schaghticoke from that time does not include that part of the river, merely noting the presence of the bridge over the river.
Spafford begins this entry:
Schaghticoke, a Post-Township, in the N.W. corner of Rensselaer County, on the E. shore of the Hudson, 10 miles N. of Troy, and 20 from Albany, bounded N. by Washington County, E. by Pittstown, S. by Lansingburgh, W. by the Hudson, or the County of Saratoga. It extends along the Hudson, 11 miles and along the line of Washington county, about 10, in a narrow strip of land formed by the course of Hoosac creek. The surface is moderately uneven, and the soil good for grain and grass. The Schaghticoke flats have long been celebrated for their richness and fertility, and the uplands have a soil of loam and some clay and sand. Hoosac creek, a large mill-stream, receives in this Town Tomhanoc creek, and these supply abundance of mill-seats.
This seems a pretty straight-forward description, interesting to me because of its emphasis on the soils. The “Schaghticoke flats” would be the area around the Knickerbacker Mansion, the first area of European settlement. I know that the soil of my farm has both sand and clay, and almost no rocks. We mostly don’t think of the Hoosic River and Tomhannock Creek in terms of their usefulness for water power for mills- but 1813 was the beginning of the industrial age in upstate New York, and it focused on sources of water power.
At the mouth of the Hoosac creek is a small village called Schaghticoke-Point, consisting of 15 houses; and here is the Post-Office, 20 miles north of Albany. It is situated in the N.W. corner of the town; and in the S. part, on the Northern turnpike, is another small village called Speigle-Town. The Northern turnpike from Lansingburgh to the N.E. part of Washington County, and another road of considerable travel to Whitehall, lead through this Town, besides many other common and very good roads.
This section confirms the small size of the new village of Schaghticoke, located where the new bridge crosses the Hoosic River. However, to me the mouth of a river is where it enters a larger body of water, and the village is certainly not at the mouth of the Hoosic, which would be where it enters the Hudson River. Spafford also calls our attention to Speigle-Town, located on the Northern Turnpike, at the junction of that turnpike with the road to Vermont, now Fogarty Road, and establishes it as the only other node of settlement in the town. I’m not sure what road he means led to Whitehall, which is in the same direction as Granville, the end of the Northern Turnpike.

He continues…
There are 3 houses of worship: 2 Reformed Dutch, and a Presbyterian; and 11 school-houses- There are 12 grain mills, 11 saw mills, an oil-mill, fulling-mill, and 2 carding machines; and 2 companies are incorporated for manufacturing purposes, one for cotton and the other for linen, and their works are probably in operation at this time.
There were three churches in town at the time, but one was Dutch Reformed, one Lutheran, and one Presbyterian. The town had just been divided into eleven school districts by the new New York State school law, so that part of the entry is correct. As for eleven “grain” or grist mills, I have found there was one grist mill on the Deep Kill, at the border with the town of Pittstown; and three on the Tomhannock: one near where Route 40 crosses it, and two on Buttermilk Falls Road, one by the falls where the road crosses and another on what is now the Denison Farm. There was one on a stream north of the Hoosic River, and three at various places in the gorge of the Hoosic at the village of Schaghticoke. That adds up to eight.
Moving on to saw mills, I have found mention of one on the Deep Kill; one on a small stream emptying into the Hudson just south of Hemstreet Park; two on the Tomhannock, one near where it passes under Route 40 and one near the Denison Farm on Buttermilk Falls Road; one on the Wampanaconk near where it enters the Hoosic, up Masters Street; and one on the Hoosic at the village. That adds up to just six. I would say that saw mills can/could be very short-lived enterprises, very subject to availability of timber and to fire. They could also be seasonal, operating just in the spring, when a small stream would have enough water to run a mill. They could have missed documentation by the historians. Also, there were a keg mill and a turning mill on the Tomhannock, which could have been labelled saw mills, I suppose, as they both dealt in wood.
An oil mill processed flax seed, producing hard cakes, which were broken up for animal feed, and oil, used in both food and industry. The only oil mill I have heard of in connection with Schaghticoke was in the southern part of town- its name remains on the section of road known as “Oil Mill Hill.” The other mills Spafford mentions were at the new village of Schaghticoke. There were certainly a carding machine or two, which helped prepare raw wool for spinning, and a fulling mill, which did final processing of woolen cloth woven by hand. And Spafford implies that the cotton and linen factories were begun, but maybe not operating yet. According to what I have read, they were in operation by 1813. Spafford does not mention the machine shop, in operation as early as 1800, or a bellows factory on the Tomhannock, in operation as early as the Revolution. There was also the Farmers Manufacturing Company, which aimed to manufacture “woolen, cotton, and linen goods, … glass, and from ore, bar iron, anchors, mill-irons, steel, nail rods, hoop iron, (and other iron goods).” This enterprise did not succeed, but was in business at the time of the Gazetteer, as were several flax mills- not to make cloth but to process the flax grown, and a factory which spun thread from cotton.
So Spafford got some things right, but missed others.

He concluded:
The lands are held by different tenures, some in fee, some by permanent, and some by temporary leases. In 1810 the whole taxable property was $302,493, $32,294 of which was personal property; the whole population was 2492, including 94 slaves, and there were 229 senatorial electors. About the commencement of the 18th century some German and Dutch families settled on the rich alluvial lands of this Town, then occupied by a clan of the Mohawk Indians. M.S, D.O.G., & B.S.
Well, Spafford was correct that some Dutch families rented land beginning at the start of the 1700’s. They rented land owned by the city of Albany up until just about the time Spafford was writing his Gazetteer, when they got to buy the land. The land was occupied by Schaghticoke Indians, who were most definitely not Mohawks. I am a bit surprised that there was this confusion so close to the time when the Schaghticoke had lived here- 1750- but that may have been a function of who the men were who provided the information. There were German settlers, but they arrived at the time of the Revolution, and bought their land, for the most part.
As to the population and property data, that came directly from the U.S. census of 1810. In 1790, the population had been 1650. In 1814, the population was 2847, an increase of about 400 in just four years. The town was growing fast, to be expected with the beginning of the new nation and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The number of senatorial electors reflects that there was still a property qualification for voting in some elections.
This was the period of gradual emancipation of slaves in New York State. In 1790 there had been 143 slaves in Schaghticoke, but now some had died, and some had been emancipated. In 1790 virtually all the slave owners were descendants of the original Dutch inhabitants of town. In 1810, most of the slave owners were still those folks, most with from one to four slaves, but Nicholas Masters had four slaves, and a man named J. Fish had seven. Congressman Herman Knickerbacker had four and his brothers John and William nine and five slaves respectively. A few men listed one or two slaves and one or two free blacks in their households, including Charles Joy, who was a new mill owner from Boston.
I would love to know who those correspondents were, the M.S., D.O.G., and B.S. who provided the information about Schaghticoke to Horatio Spafford. In the 1810 census, there is one man, B. Sanford, with the intials B.S., and three with the initials D.G.- D.O Gillett actually has all three initials, plus D. Grawbarger and D. Groesbeck. The latter two would have been the descendants of very early Dutch settlers of the town, but I have never heard of Gillett or Sanford- they certainly were not prominent citizens of town. However, though he was not in the census, the M.S. was certainly Munson Smith, who was town supervisor off and on from 1807 through the 1820’s.

What’s in a Name?

This blog post was inspired by my recent reading of the Schaghticoke portion of “Spafford’s Gazetteer of New York of 1824”. I was familiar with the same gentleman’s Gazetteer of 1813, but the 1824 edition was new to me. In the course of finding it online, I discovered that the author’s full name was Horatio Gates Spafford. He was born in Vermont in 1778, just after the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga, where Horatio Gates was the commanding American General. Spafford’s parents were undoubtedly inspired by that event to name their child. In fact, Horatio also named his son, born in 1828, Horatio Gates Spafford.
In the course of my research into town history, I have found many instances of men named for famous people. Peter and Hannah Grant, the parents of local industrialist Isaac Travis Grant, named one of their many sons for their neighbor and U.S. Congressman, Herman Knickerbacker. Isaac and another brother John, named sons for another neighbor and local U.S. Congressman, Job Pierson. Isaac’s partner, Daniel Viall, named a son for Isaac. Many, many local Civil War veterans, men who were born between about 1830 and 1845, were named for Andrew Jackson, George Washington, James Knox Polk, the Marquis de Lafayette, and other prominent statesmen. The attraction of Washington’s name is obvious. Jackson, President from 1829-1837, died in 1845; Polk, President from 1845-1849, died in 1849, and Lafayette, the French aristocrat who helped in the American Revolution, did a “farewell tour” of America in 1824-1825 and died in 1834.
In the course of my twenty years as a high school teacher, I cannot remember a child named for a famous statesman or woman. One of my daughters does have friends who named their daughter Reagan, for the President. How about you? Many children are named for relatives, dead or living. I am named for my great-grandmother, whom I knew as a child. Three of my four daughters have middle names commemorating relatives or friends.
But what about naming for the famous? Does our culture do it anymore? If so, do we name for sports figures? Politicians? Hollywood stars? For our close friends? Whom would we choose and why? Google says that many people don’t name their children for famous people but rather for their children, for example, naming a daughter “Harper” because soccer star David Beckham named his daughter that. And here I would have assumed that “Harper” was for author Harper Lee!
Certainly when we named our children, we knew that their names would forever remind us of their namesakes. Do we have people in our culture that we would wish to remember through our children? Will there be an uptick in babies named “Nelson” after Mandela? That name is #560 on the list of names used in the U.S. last year. Whom would you choose…if anyone? Do we have statesmen and women worthy of emulation? It’s fun to think about.

The Poet and the Church

This was a newspaper column in late December, 2013, hence the choice of poem below. I have been dilatory in updating this blog, but busy writing and researching new things.
Back in the fall, the Melrose Methodist Church celebrated its 160th Anniversary. Thanks to a correspondent, I have more to add to the history of the Church. Christopher Phillipo directed me to the Reverend Joseph C. Booth. He was a Methodist minister, and as was typical of the sect, spent just a couple of years at each church to which he was assigned. Booth was minister at Melrose from just 1912-1913, but must have found something here which attracted him, as when he retired in 1927, it was to Avenue A.
Joseph Booth was born in Gursley, England, about 1864. He attended school there, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1893. Perhaps he had already met his future wife in England, as he married Elizabeth Ambrose, born in Cambridge, England, in 1895, shortly after she emigrated. As I said, Methodist policy was to move its ministers frequently, and move Joseph and Elizabeth did. He was a minister in Redford, near Saranac, NY in 1894, Elizabethtown from 1895-1898; Schuyler Falls from 1899-1900, Chazy from 1900-1905, Warrensburg from 1906-1908, Williamstown, Massachusetts from 1909-1911, Melrose from 1912-1913, Mayfield from 1914-1918, Waterford from 1919-1921, Troy from 1922-1924, and Brandon, Vermont from 1925-1927.
Early in their marriage, Joseph and Elizabeth had a child who died. About 1912, her father, William Ambrose, aged 69, and sister, Sarah, 42, moved in with the couple. Though Joseph and Elizabeth became U.S. citizens in 1911, William and Sarah did not. The 1930 census showed them in retirement in Melrose, owning a home worth $1800, living next door to George Strait, the Methodist minister. The Straits would have lived in what is now the Halloran Home on Avenue A. William was now 84. Elizabeth died in 1936, her obituary reporting that “she had been in ill health for about 42 years.” Shortly after, Joseph married his sister-in-law Sarah. He died in 1942 and she in 1949. All are buried in Elmwood Cemetery, their names on the same stone.
In addition to being a minister, Joseph was a poet. About 1915, The Troy “Times” began to publish his poems. Mr. Phillipo links to about 20 of them on his blog: http://doesnotevenrhyme.blogspot.com. I felt the following poem was particularly appropriate for this time of the year.
“Father Christmas!” by Rev. Joseph C. Booth (1927)

Old Father Christmas, bending ‘neath the weight
Of centuries, comes down his frozen track,
With variegated gifts piled in his pack,
The birthday of the Christ to celebrate.
In honor of this great, eventful date,
Let us, in preparation, show no lack;
Let not our heart be cold, our hands be slack,
But joyfully responsive and elate.
In harmony with God’s stupendous gift,
With self-denying efforts crown the day;
The hungry feed, financial burdens lift
And drive the pangs of poverty away;
Hail, Father Christmas, may thy coming prove
A glad memorial of redeeming love!
Melrose, N. Y.

Troy Times. December 24, 1927: 20 col 2.

Indians in the Corn Maze

I am very pleased to introduce Jeremy Moore, the author of this post. Jeremy is the son of David and Theresa Moore of Schaghticoke. He is a graduate of Hoosic Valley, where he was my Spanish student for years, has his B.A. from the University of Evansville, Indiana and his M.A. in experimental archeology from the University of Exeter in Great Britain. Take it away, Jeremy!

Most people around the area are aware that Schaghticoke was once home to Native Americans. If you didn’t know that the name Schaghticoke meant something like “where the waters mingle”, the mascots of both Stillwater and Hoosic Valley sport teams (Warriors and Indians) should have tipped you off. I am sure some of you out there are still wondering where the evidence is. Sure, your grandfather once found an arrowhead while walking through a cornfield or you have a dusty old “artifact” on a shelf in the basement or you’ve been to the Witenagemot Oak near the Knickerbocker Mansion, but is there any solid research out there that backs up what we all think is true? Well, the answer to that question may come from an unlikely source.
In the early 1990’s a housing community was proposed for land between Stillwater-Bridge Road and the Hoosic River transected by Bevis Road, now the site of the Liberty Ridge Farm. Because of its location, New York State mandated the land to be investigated for archaeological potential before construction could begin. This process was initiated by Hartgen Archeological Associates which first had to determine if any significant archaeological or historical sites were on or near the property. They determined there were 18 sites of historic or prehistoric significance within a one-mile radius, therefore field investigations were necessary.

entrance to Liberty Ridge Farm, source of the town's small archealogical collection

entrance to Liberty Ridge Farm, source of the town’s small archealogical collection


A Phase I archeological survey was conducted shortly afterward consisting of small test pits dug on a grid across the site, usually about 50 feet apart. Hartgen found five concentrations of artifacts produced by man. This meant that further archeological work, called a Phase II investigation, needed to occur, by NYS regulations.
Work continued later that year, conducted by a second firm, Greenhouse Consultants, an archaeological firm based in Atlanta with an office in New York City. They focused on the five areas of artifacts previously discovered. They dug further shovel tests, opening up larger holes, units 1 meter by 1 meter or larger, and used heavy machinery to dig large trenches and strip away topsoil. As is the case with most land in the region, the proposed construction area had been extensively farmed over the years which leaves the top foot or so of soil disturbed from decades of cultivation. This area is referred to as “plow zone” and must be removed before scientific excavation can occur, since the plow zone is too mixed up to produce any significant data. Archaeologists rely heavily on the concept of stratigraphy in the layers of soil excavated to analyze results and determine the relationship between artifacts and features uncovered.
After the survey was complete, landowners Robert and Cynthia Gifford donated the artifacts found to the Town of Schaghticoke. These boxes of artifacts and the documents which describe them have been in the Town Historian’s office since that time. Recently I analyzed them.

Greenhouse began work on five small sites within the project area previously identified by Hartgen Archeological Associates. Of the five sites identified, only three were investigated archaeologically because the construction plans were adjusted so sites 4 and 5 would not be disturbed. Of these three the archaeologists determined that only one was of prehistoric significance and warranted inclusion in the State and National Register of Historic places. In excavations they discovered several stone tools, fire cracked rock, prehistoric pottery and a pit, likely to have been a fire pit. The most exciting part of these discoveries are of course the tools. The presence of stone tools tells us a couple of things, first of all that there was prehistoric activity in this area of course, but more importantly the amount and type of tools can tell us what the inhabitants were doing here.
The tools discovered in this excavation include several projectile points (commonly referred to as arrowheads), a drill tip, several generic biface tools, and a large hand-axe. A biface tool is simply a tool which was worked on both sides of the stone in order to make the tool in a specific way. This tells us that the individuals at the site were likely doing specific tasks over a larger amount of time because bifacial tools require more skill and time to produce and therefore were likely to be used for specialized activities. There was also a core, a piece of chert from which small blades or drill tips were being made. The tools were also made of different types of stone.
While it is good to see bifacial tools, the more exciting items found are most definitely the projectile points. We refer to these as projectile points because they were not always just for arrows. They could have been for spears or other tools. As an archaeologist I can tell you that whenever you find a projectile point, it is exciting. Of course it is always nice to find tools of any sort, but the more exciting part is that projectile points are what we call diagnostic artifacts. This means that this artifact can tell us something specific about the culture that produced it. Unlike flint flakes or generic bifaces, projectile points have stylistic forms which vary from culture to culture. Each group of people made their points differently at different periods of time which can tell us where and when the tools were made.
The interesting part about the projectile points from this site is that there are four different types, including a Normanskill and several Levanna. The Normanskill points date from the Late Archaic period (around 3000 BC) and the Levanna to the Late Woodland period (650-1890 AD). The Normanskill point was associated with the artifact concentration noted as Site 2 and this finding was backed up by a carbon date from one of the charcoal pits of 3240 BC, while the Levanna points were found in excavations throughout the project area.
What this tells us overall is that the area was used by multiple cultures over a wide span of history. The lack of evidence of structures indicates this site was not inhabited permanently, but likely used for a hunting and fishing camp, thanks to its proximity to the river, or as a stop- over while traveling. The presence of tools like the hand axe and the drill tips tells us that the individuals using the site were doing more than just sleeping, they were likely spending some time away from home gathering materials or processing the animals and fish killed for transporting. Also, the time span extends to when Europeans began to settle the area, around 1700. This is also indicated by the large number of artifacts found in such a limited investigation. The multiple cultures represented by the different projectile points means this site was used over thousands of years by a variety of people.
So the next time you are driving down Stillwater Bridge Road, you might want to take a moment and think about the people who game our town its name and used the land to its fullest thousands of years before any of us ever set foot in the corn maze!
arrowheads

This photo shows a small sample of the artifacts found, with a pen for size. In future I plan to exhibit a larger group at the town hall, but construction of the exhibit will take a little while. In the photo, the top left projectile point is called “Normanskill” and dates from around 3000 B.C. stylistically. It was found near a charcoal pit- where there had been a fire- which dated from 3240 B.C., which confirms this date. The bottom left projectile point is a “Levanna” point stylistically, dating from the late historical era- from 650 A.D. on. Points like this were found in several places in the excavation area, and would have been used by the Schaghticoke Indians whom the first European settlers encountered in our town.
The other two items are called “biface blades,” and could date from a wide range of time. They could have been used as spear points or knives or scrapers. The one at the lower right is unfinished. Who knows why it was not done? Interesting to think about. One of the other items in the collection, but not pictured, is a core of flint, which would have been used for making blades and points, indicating manufacture on the site.
I thank Jeremy Moore for his help with all of this. As I have written the above without him- he is off touring the world- I take responsibility for any errors!

Back to the Civil War: the draft, and the 125th and 169th Regiments until the end of 1863

Though the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is over, the sesquicentennial of the Civil War continues. Just after Gettysburg, in mid- July 1863, the Federal government instituted the first ever draft. It was clear that even with all the volunteers, more men were needed for the armed forces. All men from 20 to 45 were required to enroll. This set off violent draft riots in Troy and New York City. Poor Irish immigrants resented that the wealthy could buy their way out of the draft and that their black competitors for low wage jobs couldn’t be drafted- yet the war had become a fight for their freedom.

draft wheel in the collection of the NYS Div. of Military and Naval Affairs

draft wheel in the collection of the NYS Div. of Military and Naval Affairs


Once the riots were put down, the draft proceeded without incident at the office of the Provost Marshall in Troy. From July to October of 1863, the Troy “Times” reported daily news of the draft from all over the Northeast- mostly oddities, like a dead man being drafted. As with the draft for Vietnam, men were classified. Class I included all men from 20-35 and unmarried men as old as 45. Class II included married men from 35-45. The draft only took men from Class I.
In early July 1863, the “Times” printed the forms which men could file for exemptions from the draft. Exemptions could be obtained on the basis of physical or mental disability, if a man was the only son of a widow or aged couple dependent upon him, if a man was the brother of children of 12 years or younger having no parents, or the father of motherless children 12 years of age or younger. In a family where there were two or more sons dependent on the mother or aged parents, the mother would choose which son would be exempt. No one convicted of a felony could be drafted. Men could pay $300 or hire a substitute to avoid service, the portion of the law which set off the riots.
Some unscrupulous men made quite a business of becoming substitutes, then deserting and enlisting under another name. As higher and higher bounties were paid for enlistees as the war went on and on, the unscrupulous would also enlist for the bounty, desert, and re-enlist under another name.
The list of those subject to the draft was completed on July 10. In Pittstown, there were 398 white men and 1 colored man in Class I, 145 white men in Class II. In Lansingburgh, which included the southern section of today’s Schaghticoke, class I included 635 white men and 15 colored, class II, 229 white men and 1 colored man. In Schaghticoke, evidently smaller in population than Pittstown because of its truncated size (southern border on the Deep Kill), there were 269 white men and 4 colored in Class I and 142 white men in Class II.

The draft was finally conducted beginning at the end of August for the Congressional district including Rensselaer County and southern Washington County. Only men for one town were drawn each day in the Provost Marshall’s office in Troy. When the draft was conducted for Schaghticoke on September 3, the quota was just 77 men. The “Times” reported that in a few towns, including Lansingburgh, the conscripts gathered and marched through the streets in a celebratory way, an interesting response. The newspaper began to identify the occupations of some of those drafted in Troy.
Meanwhile, drafted men began to file exemptions, which the paper also reported. In Schaghticoke, nineteen men filed notice of physical disability; four paid the $300, four were aliens, and evidently not subject to the draft. One man was the father of motherless children, one the only son of a widow, two were too young, and one a non-resident. Six were transferred to Class II, evidently newly married or aged out. Twenty men were reported “held open.” I don’t know what that means. Only 21 men were left, less than a third of those drafted. And after examining the list of men, I can only find three who actually served in the military- two in the Navy, one in the Artillery.
Apparently, the men who continued to volunteer for the military through the draft period counted toward each locality’s required total for the draft up until mid-October 1863. The “Times” eventually reported in November that enough men had volunteered in Troy so that no one in the city would have to be drafted. This was a very complicated system to be sure. Perhaps this accounting is why only three Schaghticoke men ended up serving after being drafted. I found that just a few more than that ended up serving in Pittstown. I would love to know how the draft turned out elsewhere, as having only three men enlist of 77 drafted seems a big waste of time, money, upset, and manpower to conduct the exercise.
Our local boy, George Bryan, Lieutenant in the 125th NY Infantry, wrote home to his friend Jennie Ackart on September 7, 1863, “I know you are having very exciting times in Schaghticoke about the draft,” and “I saw a paper from Troy, the list of drafted from Schaghticoke…I do not think there will be more than half of the number drafted come as they will pay the $300.” George speculated if he would pay to get out if he were home and subject to the draft, but concluded he wouldn’t have had the money. In fact, as I stated, just four men paid the $300. William H. Buckley was a fairly well-off farmer, and Chauncey Kinney a young married farmer, not well-off, but perhaps supported by his father, who lived nearby. Daniel Viall was a young carpenter with lots of family support, and Humphrey Stearnes, a 32 year old married shoemaker. From this sample, these were not the stereotypical type of person predicted to buy his way out- wealthy land or factory owners.

Apparently at the same time there was a rumor that George was going to resign his commission and come home, but he denied that vigorously to Jennie. He said, “Jennie, I often feel as though I had ought to be at home with my father and mother as they are getting to be quite old…Yet how can I be a soldier and stay at home and have others do the fighting…I am going to be where my Regiment is.”
So George and the local regiments continued to serve. The 125th NY and the men of Company K, the Schaghticoke boys, went from Gettysburg to camp at Elk Run, Virginia, just west of Washington, D.C. George and many other men were sick following Gettysburg. He had what he called “intermittent fever,” and was unable to eat for days. Somehow he survived, never being hospitalized, finally being “as well as ever” by September 1.

In the wider war, Union troops were defeated at the battle of Chickamauga, Tennessee on September 19-20. As a result, two Army Corps were moved from the Army of the Potomac in Virginia to the West, including the Washington County Regiment, the 123rd NY Infantry. General Lee sought to take advantage of this and attack, trying again to get at the city of Washington, D.C. This meant that after a hiatus, the 125th New York again was engaged in battle. Over several days in October 1863, the Union Army under Generals Meade and Warren and the Confederates under General A.P. Hill skirmished in the area around Bristoe Station, Virginia, slightly west and south of Washington.
The major engagement, called the battle of Bristoe Station, occurred on October 14. The Union Army was gradually retreating toward fortifications at Centreville, Virginia when the Confederates came upon it. Rebel General Hill ordered an attack without much thought or preparation. The Unions soldiers were all behind the railroad, well protected by its embankment, as the Confederates charged. According to the website of the Bristoe Station Battlefield, many of the same men who faced each other at Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg were facing each other again. The 125th was right in the middle of the line. George Bryan wrote to Jennie that the attacking Rebels “fell like grass before a sigh (sic).” The 125th captured 500 prisoners and a number of cannon with very little loss. They moved on after dark to the fortifications at Centreville, having won a decisive victory.

Map of the battle of Bristoe Station. The 125th is just above the word Owen in the center of the Union line

Map of the battle of Bristoe Station. The 125th is just above the word Owen in the center of the Union line


The Troy “Times” reported that the 125th had been in a battle just a day later, though it took a few days for the whole story to emerge. By October 16, a partial list of killed and wounded was printed. “hearts will beat anxiously until further tidings are received from Colonel Crandell’s noble regiment.” (Colonel Crandell had taken over the 125th after the death of Colonel Willard at Gettysburg.) The October 20 edition featured a long first-person account by the “Times” reporter in the regiment. “We whipped the rebels yesterday afternoon at Bristoe Station…the regiment made a grand charge and drove the enemy to its works.” The official report by Colonel Crandell was printed on October 28. All of this information must have been read avidly by the families of the men.
In a letter to Jennie, George Bryan reported that John Bacon of Company K had been wounded. John was eventually discharged as his wounded leg didn’t heal well enough for him to return to duty. A second Company K man, George Wolf, was also wounded. He served through the end of the war, but was thereafter reported as “permanently impaired.” Interestingly, Bryan did not mention that two men from Company K, William Carr and John Conlon, somehow had been captured during the action. They ended up at Andersonville Prison in Georgia, where they died in August and September of 1864.

During November, several lieutenants and sergeants of the 125th transferred to become officers in the newly forming U.S. Colored Troops. One, Jacob Francis Force , was a local man. Another local, Henry Lay Bliss, transferred in March 1864. . A large percentage of black men in the North enlisted to fight in the Civil War after the publication of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The proclamation freed slaves in the Confederate states, and added ending slavery to the original focus of the war, reunification of the country. The “colored troops” were led by white officers. Veteran soldiers who were ambitious for promotion and zealously anti-slavery left their units to become these officers.
Jacob Francis Force was born in Stillwater in 1843, the son of John, a shoemaker, and Hannah Adams Force. He enlisted in Schaghticoke in Company K in August 1862 with the others, a private who gave his occupation as clerk. He had been promoted to First Sergeant by June, so must have had some talent as a soldier and leader. The Regimental History of the 125th records that he could call the roll of the 100 men of the Company from memory as its orderly sergeant. When he departed to become a lieutenant in the 22nd Regiment US Colored Troops, the men of Company K present him with a saber, belt, and gloves, in honor of his excellent service as their sergeant.
Jacob F. Force photo
Jacob was promoted to Captain by May 4, 1864. His troops were heavily involved in the battle for Richmond and the siege of Petersburg through 1864. He was wounded in September 1864 in an assault at Fort Harrison and was discharged for disability following the removal of some inches of bone from his upper left arm. This life-long disability did not prevent him from attending Albany Medical College and becoming a doctor by 1871. He had married a woman named Sarah who was from Valatie, by 1868, as by the 1870 census they had a 2-year-old son named Frank.
The Forces had moved to Minnesota by the 1875 census, when they had a second son, Charles. Jacob was a doctor in Minnesota for many years. He also lectured at the Minnesota college of Physicians and College of Pharmacy and was director of a life insurance company. Jacob was definitely involved in the Grand Army of the Republic, the association of Civil War veterans. A photo shows him standing next to the monument to the 125th Regiment at Gettysburg, probably about the time of its dedication in 1888.

Dr. Force at the 125th Monument at the battlefield at Gettysburg

Dr. Force at the 125th Monument at the battlefield at Gettysburg


In 1901, Dr. Force applied for a passport and headed for Europe. By 1912 he was a retired doctor in Pasadena, California, when he applied for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution. He lived in Pasadena until his death in 1924. His name appears on plaque 38 of the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Also during November, on the 19th, President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to dedicate the new cemetery on the site of the battle of July 1-3. I have always read, and read again in Sandy McBride’s most recent wonderful article in these pages, that at the time, what came to be known as Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” was poorly received. But the Troy “Times” newspaper printed the following report on the ceremonies on November 20, 1863.
“The address of Mr. Everett was one of his most elaborate productions. There seems to be universal disappointment that he should have confined himself so closely to history and a rehearsal of it; still his eloquent exordium and brilliant peroration compensate in great measure for apparent heaviness of historical detail.” The paper printed the closing paragraph of the two-hour speech by Edward Everett, the featured speaker of the day.
The paper went on, “President Lincoln’s address is so crisp and characteristic that we give it in full (also with indication of the applause of the crowd). There was long continued applause at the end.” An interesting contradiction to the conventional wisdom.

On the 23rd of November, the 125th Regiment, as part of the 2nd Corps in the Army of the Potomac, moved from camp near Centreville, Virginia, heading southwest, crossing the Rapidan River, aiming for General Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. This territory had been fought over at least twice already in the war, and was only a few miles from the future site of the battle of the Wilderness. The Armies ended up facing off across a stream called Mine Run. The 2nd Corps under General Warren was on the far left of the Army. Interestingly, General Joseph Bradford Carr of Troy commanded another part of the Army.
On November 28, the 125th Regiment was put on picket and skirmishing duty. Both activities were dangerous, putting the men in the closest contact with their enemies. The Regimental History of the 125th noted that their Colonel, Colonel Crandell, had the men build shelters so that no one was killed or injured. The previous regiment on duty had had to operate in an open field and suffered a number of casualties.
George Bryan wrote to his friend Jennie in letter dated December 5, that “I escaped safe although there was quite a number of shots fired at me.” The skirmish line was two hundred yards from the enemy, and the men on duty were relieved during the day. They had to leave their small earthwork shelters, about three rods (1 rod=16.5 feet) apart and run back to the regiment in the woods. “As soon as we showed any part of our body the Rebs would fire a volley at us.” Bryan, as Sergeant, had to run from post to post, so was under fire more than the others. He said he began to feel he was “fire proof.” He also reported that the 1000 man regiment was “getting very small.” Between desertions, injuries, deaths, and furloughs, it numbered just 231 men.
On November 29, the Union Army lined up to face the rebels, who had had time to entrench and build formidable earthworks. The men knew they would face stiff resistance and would suffer many casualties, but were ready to fight. At the last moment, the generals, with General Meade in command, decided the odds were too great and on the night of November 30 quietly withdrew the whole army, back across the Rapidan to winter camp around the city of Washington.
Now a major disaster befell the 125th Regiment, and especially Company K. When the Army retreated, the officer on duty, who was not from the 125th, neglected to send word to those exposed pickets. On December 3 the Troy “Times” reporter who was also in the 125th stated that it was feared that the pickets had been captured by the Confederates, but it was too early to know. Finally on December 12, the paper published a list, company by company of the forty-one pickets who had in fact been captured by the Confederates, including five from Company K. All of the captives were a privates, except for a couple of Corporals, and one Sergeant, Job Grant of Schaghticoke. The families of the soldiers reading the paper must have been in agony waiting to know. The other Schaghticoke boys were Douglas Fisher, Fred Scharp, James K. Simons, and Alexander Whyland.
Of course all 1000 of the men of the 125th had been captured by the Confederates just two weeks into their service at the fall of Harpers Ferry in September 1862. At the time, they were in a parole camp in Chicago for a couple of months, exchanged, and returned to duty. Perhaps they and their families thought something similar would happen this time. Unfortunately, the policy of both armies changed about this time. Captives had been exchanged one for one by both armies, but with the addition of the thousands of “colored” soldiers to the Union Army, the Confederates refused to treat them the same as the white captives. The Union response was to refuse to exchange captives, and the Confederates did the same. This resulted in a soaring prison population on both sides.
The Mine Run captives were first sent to Richmond’s Libby Prison and nearby Belle Island. Officers generally were held at Libby Prison through the war, and the privates and NCO’s went to Belle Island. A team of military surgeons from the Union Army inspected the prisons at the time and found the conditions beyond horrible, on to cruel. At first packages from the families were allowed, through a couple of conduits, but later not.
In early 1864 the Confederacy opened a new prison at Andersonville, Georgia, in the southwest part of the state, partly because it was a more isolated and hence secure location than Richmond, partly because theoretically there was more food available nearby. The captives of the 125th must have been among the first men transferred there in February. I will tell the rest of their sad story this summer.

sign near the location of the 125th at Mine Run

sign near the location of the 125th at Mine Run


Mine Run..the wooded slope beyond it was denuded at the time of the battle. The 125th would have had to cross the stream and go up the slope while exposed to Confederate fire

Mine Run..the wooded slope beyond it was denuded at the time of the battle. The 125th would have had to cross the stream and go up the slope while exposed to Confederate fire


Virginia is filled with preserved battlefields from both the Revolution and the Civil War. Many are National Park Service sites, some are State sites. Mine Run falls through the cracks because the battle never happened. It is little written about in accounts of the war, except of course the history of the 125th Regiment. Virginia and the National Park Service provide directions to various key locations of the Union and Confederate Armies for the days leading up to December 1. The NPS ranger at Petersburg was most helpful in providing me with information to help find the right spot. The area is quite rural and undeveloped, and not prosperous. There are a few historical markers, but a lot is left to the imagination of the visitor. My husband and I stopped at the stream, and worked to cut down all the trees in our minds, and people the heights with entrenched Confederates, the land by the creek with pickets.
The other Rensselaer County Regiment, the 169th, had a very different summer and fall. While the 125th headed to Gettysburg, they marched through Virginia to its coast- near Portsmouth- in mid-July. On August 2 they boarded a steam transport and sailed to Charleston, South Carolina.
The Union had decided that it was time to re-take the forts and city where the war began. On July 18, a direct assault on Fort Wagner had failed, resulting in many casualties. It was that battle that made dead heroes of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and many of his men in the 54th Massachusetts, a “colored” regiment. By the time the 169th arrived, the army and navy had settled into a siege. The Regiment encamped on Folly Island, just south of Charleston, and rotated in and out of manning the siege lines. Fort Wagner fell on September 7, 1863, but Charleston held out until 1865. The 169th stayed on until the end of the year. The Troy “Times” also reported on the developments- or lack of them- in the siege at Charleston, and about any illnesses or injuries of men of the regiment. In general their problem was illness from the poor living conditions, especially contaminated water, rather than injuries in battle.

With both of our local regiments in place for the winter, I will move on to other topics in this column. The information in the preceding columns is from the “Regimental History of the 125th,” George Bryan’s letters in “Friend Jennie,”, the “Troy Times”, and the newsletter of the 169th by Steve Wiezbicki, plus online records of New York State.

Isaac Travis Grant and Grant’s Hollow

I began writing a chronological history of the town of Schaghticoke some years ago. In that process, I had reached the first quarter of the 19th century, when the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War drew my attention. Moving back to the history for a bit, by about 1820, though the town certainly contained many farms, it experienced an industrial boom, with mills springing up along the Hoosic River and Tomhannock Creek, and settlements growing up around them. The earliest focus of settlement in town had been in the area of the Knickerbocker Mansion, but now there were businesses and homes around the village of Schaghticoke, known as “The Point,” and the Schaghticoke Powder Mill- at the junction of Route 40 and the Tomhannock Creek- known as “Schaghticoke Hill,” and in Speigletown- prompted by the junction of the Northern Turnpike (Route 40) and the road to the east (Fogarty Road.)
In 1819, the residents of the portion of the town of Schaghticoke, south of the Deepkill, went to the village of Lansingburgh and asked to be attached to it. A committee of the village government studied the issue and accepted their petition. As of now, I don’t know why they wanted to leave Schaghticoke- why would anyone want to leave such a great town?? Surviving town records begin in 1839, so they don’t help.
I mention the border change of the town as it affects my next topic- which was physically located on both sides of the DeepKill, and located in both Schaghticoke and Lansingburgh- making research a bit difficult.
Have you every wondered why the little community to the west of Route 40 midway between Speigletown and Melrose is called Grant’s Hollow? It is named for a very interesting man named Isaac Travis Grant, inventor and manufacturer. He exemplifies the energy of the 19th century- a local farm boy from a large family, with little education, becoming an inventor, entrepreneur, patron of local churches, political activist, and founder of a community.
Isaac was born March 13, 1808. He was the son of Peter and Hannah Banker Grant. Peter, 1779-1859 and Hannah, 1778-1850 are buried in the little cemetery on the east side of Route 40 just north of the Kingsley Arms Apartments. That area was once the thriving little community of Schaghticoke Hill, and a Methodist church was next to the cemetery. Isaac’s brother John Grant and his wife are also buried in that tiny cemetery, along with a couple more brothers: Herman K. Grant, who died 1829, aged 19, and Daniel Grant, who died 1816, aged 5. I have to add that I’m guessing that Herman’s middle name was Knickerbacker. Herman Knickerbacker, who was a US Congressman and First Judge of Rensselaer County, lived at Schaghticoke Hill. I’m betting that the Grants were his neighbors, partly because of their burial in the cemetery, partly because of their listing close to Knickerbacker on the 1840 census.

Thanks to the miracle of ancestry.com, I am now in contact with several descendants of Isaac Grant, one in Australia, who have filled in his family history for me. Isaac’s father Peter was the son of John and Susan Williams Grant. John’s father, James, came to the American Colonies in 1758 from Scotland, a Major in the British Army, fighting in the French and Indian Wars. According to “The Banker or Bancker Families in America,”, he was so impressed by America, that his four sons, including John, came in 1775 as soldiers in the British Army to Quebec, intending to desert and stay here. John became a Captain in the Green Mountain Boys and New Hampshire Militia during the Revolution.
Isaac’s mother, Hannah Banker, was the daughter of Adolph and Ruth Oakley Banker. Adolph also fought in the Revolution, in Dutchess County, but came to this area after the war. Again according to the Banker family genealogy of 1909, the family lived on the north side of the Tomhannock Creek on poor farms. A story told in the genealogy, which sounds rather exaggerated to me, states that Hannah “often went through the woods nearby to Johnsonville, six miles, after the cows, taking her gun with her and on the way home sometimes heard the panthers scream in the woods.” He father grew to be well off by trading horses and farms.

Despite the great genealogical information, it is still only through the tenuous data of the US Census that I can guess at the life of Isaac’s parents, Hannah and Peter. The Banker genealogy does say that Peter “was a very sociable man and was generally known in the community as “Uncle Peter,” and that Hannah was “short and very corpulent.” Turning to the documentary evidence, a Peter Grant appears on the 1800 census of Pittstown as a man under 25 with his wife and 1 female child under 10. In the 1810 census, a P. Grant is on the Schaghticoke census with a family of 4 males under 10, 1 from 26-44, 1 over 44, and two females 16-25, and 1 26-44. In the 1820 census, the only local Peter Grant is in Easton, with 6 males under 10, 2 from 10-15, 2 from 16-25, and 1 from 26-44. There were 2 females from 16-25 and 1 from 26-44. The census indicates that he was a farmer. He was still on the 1830 census in Easton, with some of those children having left home. The family included 2 males from 10-14, 1 from 15-19, 1 from 50-59, and 1 female from 5-9, 1 from 20-29, and 1 from 50-59.
By the 1840 census, the only local Peter Grant was in Schaghticoke, with just two children left at home, 1 boy aged 20-29 and one girl, aged 15-19. The census states that one person in the family was “employed in manufacture and trade.” According to my genealogical contact, the Grants had fourteen children, just three of them daughters. A census every ten years just couldn’t capture them all at once. The first child was born in 1800, the last in 1822. Isaac was named for Isaac Travis, who married his aunt Susan Grant.
The 1850 census is the first to give the names and some information about all of the people in a household. By that time, Peter and Hannah Grant were in Schaghticoke as a couple living alone, with his occupation as farmer. Hannah died in November 1850, of typhoid fever, and the 1855 census found Peter, listed as a widower born in Dutchess County, living as a boarder in the inn of Humphrey Akin. Peter died in 1859, aged 80.

tombstone of Peter Grant, father of Isaac, in the cemetery at Schaghticoke Hill

tombstone of Peter Grant, father of Isaac, in the cemetery at Schaghticoke Hill


tombstone of Hannah Grant, mother of Isaac, in the cemetery at Schaghticoke Hill

tombstone of Hannah Grant, mother of Isaac, in the cemetery at Schaghticoke Hill


There is one other hint to the childhood family of Isaac Grant. In the records of St. John’s Lutheran Church, which was located at the junction of Northline Drive and Valley Falls Road in Melrose, is the marriage of Augustus R. Grant, mechanic, and Phoebe M. Germond. They were married at the home of Widow Germond on December 6, 1838, and the witnesses were Alexander Grant, George Washington Grant, Isaac Grant, and James Germond. That record plus the tombstones of three Grant sons in the Schaghticoke Hill Cemetery gives a total of seven sons for Peter and Hannah, close to the reality. The listing of Augustus as a “mechanic” also hints that other Grants besides Isaac were involved in manufacturing. In the 19th century, a mechanic was a person working with machinery, as in mills. An amazing story in the Banker genealogy states that Isaac’s brother James was a grist mill owner in Johnsonville, who died in 1850. “He was found with his head thrust into a barrel of meal and was thought to have been killed by one of his employees whom he had offended.”

Turning to Isaac himself, the earliest mention I find of him in the newspaper is an ad in the Troy “Budget” in 1834. He stated he had taken over the factory formerly known as “Bryan & Grant,” and was now manufacturing fanning mills and cradles himself. That same year, he was listed in a group of local “Young Republicans,” meeting at the home of Colonel B.K. Bryan. I wonder if Colonel Bryan was his partner and mentor. This might partly explain how a poor farm boy was able to begin a business. Perhaps Isaac also acquired knowledge of mill operation from being around the Powder Mill, textile factory and grist mill which were located near his family home at Schaghticoke Hill. According to the Banker genealogy, Isaac did learn the fanning mill and cradle making from Bryan, but it was David Bryan. Indeed, David is on the 1840 census right next to Herman Knickerbocker at Schaghticoke Hill. The genealogy states his mill was run by “horse power,” highly unlikely as it was right on the Tomhannock where there were other mills. As for the “Colonel” part of the name, David Bryan was at least a Captain in Knickerbocker’s Regiment in the War of 1812. Certainly this is the Colonel Bryan of the newspaper article, with just a typo for the first initial.
Isaac certainly went far beyond his mentor in making agricultural machinery. First, he moved the operation south to a different stream. In 1836, he purchased 48 acres on the Deep Kill, the stream that runs through the future Grant’s Hollow, from Jonathan Wickware for $1680. The farm bordered the stream, and the description mentions the “upper side of the Bridge at the Turnpike crossing” and exempts the “land where the school house stands.” This deed gives several interesting bits of information about the area: confirmation of the continuation of the Northern Turnpike, the existence of a bridge across the stream, and the existence of the school house. It was and is located just up Mineral Springs Road on the left hand side.
In 1842, Isaac bought 7 ½ acres of land from John and Eliza Fake for the much higher price of $4000, perhaps because it fronted on the Turnpike, or perhaps because of the buildings on the property. In his Landmarks of Rensselaer County, published in 1897, George Anderson states that the factory in Grant’s Hollow as founded in 1836 by D.H. Viall, J.P. Leavens, and Ezra Banker. While the date seems correct from the deed cited above, the founder was Isaac T. Grant. Leavens and Banker worked with Grant, and Viall was his partner and successor, but, as the name would indicate, Grant was the boss.
The next mention I found of Isaac chronologically was as the recipient of US Patent 4105 in 1845, for a grain winnower. This “fan mill for cleaning grain…added an additional screen and ‘chess board’: arranged to allow a much stronger blast of wind to act on the grain at the lower part of shaking sieves. 2 operations are performed simultaneously in less than half the time required the old way.” In 1850, Isaac T. Grant and Daniel H. Viall received another patent for an improvement in grain cradles, which had the “construction of brace rods so as to fold for storage or transportation.” Viall went on to receive another patent for an improvement in grain cradles in 1861, witnessed by Isaac Grant and Alonzo Brookins. So Isaac and his partner were inventors and proprietors.
. isaac grant winnower

The 1850 US census for Schaghticoke, the first which gives family and occupational details, lists Isaac Grant as a mechanic, aged 38, with a family of four children: Malissa, 18; Bryan, 17; a student; Job P., 15, a student; and Matilda, 12, who had gone to school in the last year. This indicates that Isaac must have been married about age 20, and that his wife was deceased. Indeed, I found the grave of Peggy Maria Alexander Grant, along with that of Isaac, in the Hillside Cemetery, behind the Lutheran Church in Raymertown. She died in 1849, aged 36 years. The designation of Bryan and Job as “students” implies that they were in a secondary school, not just the local one-room school house.
Isaac was a busy man, with a factory, inventing, and four motherless children. Certainly Malissa, aged 18, must have been a big help. Also living with the family were three of Grant’s employees, George Cary, a 30-year-old teamster, Oscar Buffington, 17, and John W. Thompson, 25, mechanics, as well as Ann Bryan, a 25-year-old Irish woman, who was certainly the domestic help.
Grant’s partner Daniel H. Viall and his household are in the 1850 census for Lansingburgh. He probably lived just across the Deep Kill from Isaac. He is listed as a manufacturer, aged 32, with a wife Mary, 28; daughter Helen, 7, and sons Job, 3, and Isaac G., less than 1 year old. I have to say that I love that both Grant and Viall had sons named Job- I think named after Job Pierson, a prominent local politician, who had been a US Congressman and a neighbor of Peter and Hannah Grant at Schaghticoke Hill- and that Viall named a son Isaac G. Also in his household were six young men aged 16-25 with the occupation of “mechanic” and two Irish girls, to help in the household. Both Grant and Viall are great illustration of the development of the factory system. The proprietors provided housing for workers, a good way to monitor them while they weren’t at work.
Daniel Viall was born in 1819, died in 1905, and married Mary Elizabeth Germond, of Speigletown, in 1842. She was the daughter of Samuel Germond. Another of Samuel’s daughters had married Augustus R. Grant, Isaac’s brother. The Germond family was THE prominent family in Speigletown at the time. Daniel and Mary Viall ended up having nine children, at least three of whom died as small children, including Isaac. Daniel, Mary, and several of the children are buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Schaghticoke. Of course there are still Vialls in Schaghticoke today.

Grant isaac 1
Isaac also got his family involved in the business. His brother John appears in the 1850 census aged 34, as a mechanic, with wife Catherine, 30, and children Delia, 15; Job A., 7(another Job!); Harriet, 5; Warren, 2; and three young men with occupation “merchant.” They may have been employees at the general store which the Grants also had at Grant’s Hollow. The store housed the Post Office for “Junction,” and Isaac was the Postmaster through the 1840’s. The Post Office certainly would have brought business to the store.

In my collection, I have the day book of the store from 1851-1854. It records sales of everything from the grain cradles manufactured at I.T. Grant & Company, to brown sugar and cream of tartar, hoop iron, cloth, brandy, and shovels. The address on each page of the day book is “Junction”, which was the early name for Melrose. I’m not sure what junction this refers to- the Deep Kill stream and the Northern Turnpike? I always thought it was the Troy and Boston Railroad and the Turnpike, which crossed just north of the current heart of Melrose, but apparently not. The Railroad came through just about 1851, and was quite a bit north of the store’s location. The Northern Turnpike meandered through the little settlement of Grant’s Hollow, rather than forging straight north-south as current Route 40 does, crossing the Deep Kill on a bridge.
Getting back to Mr. Grant, it seems that his businesses prospered. In the 1855 census Isaac, now 47, is listed as a manufacturer owning a frame house worth $2000. He had remarried in 1853, to Elizabeth Stemton of Pittstown. Elizabeth was 32 years old. Son Job P. and daughter Emmalinda- the Matilda of the 1850 census- are also listed, along with a child of the new marriage, Ernest, aged 11/12. I know from other sources that the elder son, Bryan, was probably off studying to become a lawyer, and that daughter Malissa had married Dr. Henry B. Whiton, who was a regimental surgeon in the Civil War and returned to practice in Troy for many years. The household also included a servant, Ellen Murphy, who had just arrived from Ireland two years earlier, and a “laborer”, Austin Ford, aged 26, who had just arrived from England a year earlier and was illiterate. Isaac’s brother John lived next door in a frame house worth only $200, which he did not own. John and his wife had added a fourth child, a little girl named Nora.
Interestingly, in 1852, before he remarried, Isaac Grant was formally made guardian of his three oldest children. The documents state that the Malissa, Bryan, and Job were “entitled to certain property and estate” and that having a guardian named would “preserve their legal rights.” This would preserve their inheritance from their mother from their step-mother and her children. The estate amounted to about $3500, including real estate in Pittstown of six “unproductive” acres. Former Congressman Job Pierson and Levi Smith acted with Grant in this matter. An 1853 deed records the three children purchasing two acres of the farm of Hannah Alexander and Hannah Groff of Pittstown. Their mother Peggy was an Alexander before her marriage.
The 1855 NYS census includes agricultural and industrial summaries for each town. The Schaghticoke portion lists IT Grant Cradles and Fan Mills with a capital investment of $7000 in real estate and $2000 in tools and machinery. The mill had on hand about 25,000 feet of lumber worth $25,000, for use to make its products. It made 7000 grain cradles and 700 fanning mills worth $42,000 that year. The factory used steam and water power and employed thirteen men and three boys, at an average salary of $24 per month. I find it particularly interesting that the factory already was using some steam power. And sixteen employees constitute a pretty substantial business. The Lansingburgh census also reports on a farm of 85 acres that Grant and Viall had just acquired, valued at $4500, with 55 acres plowed, 15 acres of pasture, and 15 acres of meadow. This was undoubtedly nearby, just on the south side of the DeepKill, part of Lansingburgh at this point. The men were partners in industry and agriculture.

Besides running the factory and store at Junction, Isaac Grant branched out into other businesses. In the 1857 Troy City Directory, Grant with partner Daniel Viall and MM Nutting had an agricultural implements business at 355 River Street. The business, which was a “wire cloth and agricultural implement warehouse,” had a fire in March, 1859, but the $2000 loss was covered by insurance. This business listing continued until the 1862 directory. In 1858 Isaac also ran a three-story frame tavern on the east side of Main Street in the village of Schaghticoke.
Grant also got involved in his community. In 1844, he and several others purchased a strip of property near St. John’s Lutheran Church at the junction of Valley Falls Road and North Line Drive. They erected a shed for parking the wagons of parishioners during services at the Church. In 1848, he was one of the judges of two and three-year-old horses at the NYS Agricultural Society Fair. In 1850, he and former Congressman Job Pierson were delegates from Rensselaer County to the NYS Democratic Convention. He filled that role again in 1859. Either Grant was dissatisfied with the Lutheran Church or wanted to worship closer to home, or perhaps his second wife was not a Lutheran, because in 1853, he donated $100, the largest single amount given, and his partner Daniel Viall $50, towards erecting a new Methodist Church “ near the Junction Post Office.” Grant and his wife Elizabeth also gave the land for the building, probably next to his house on what is now Mineral Springs Road. This is the church that was later moved and added to another building to form the current Melrose Methodist Church.
The 1860 US Census confirms the prosperity of Grant and Viall. In the Lansingburgh section, I found Isaac Grant and Daniel Viall living next door to each other. Isaac Grant, 52, an agricultural implements manufacturer, had real estate of $27,000, and a personal estate of $5000. His wife Elizabeth, 37, had a personal estate of $2000. Just the two children of this second marriage lived at home: Ernest was 5 and Camille 4 years of age. Living in the home were Sidney Ransom, 17, a clerk and salesman, and John Robinson, 22, a farm laborer. Daniel Viall, 42, had an occupation listed as “agricultural implements”. He had real estate worth $13,000 and a personal estate of $4000. The family included wife Mary, 35; children Job, 1; Frank, 7; and Mary E., 3; plus Jane Snyder, a 20-year old domestic servant; Christopher Darrow, a 14-year-old apprentice machinist; and William Rose, a 19-year-old farm laborer. William’s parents, farmers, lived next door. This level of prosperity didn’t extend to Isaac’s brother John, now 44, who was listed as a machinist with just $300 in personal property. His family included son Job, now 17; Mary, 15; Warren, 12; Nora, 10; Inez, 5; and Stella, 3.
I also found Bryan, Isaac’s eldest son, living in the village of Schaghticoke in 1860. He was a 26-year-old lawyer worth $600, with a wife, Edith M, 24, worth $500, and an Irish domestic servant, Sarah Docerty, age 25. According to “The Bancker Genealogy,” Bryan went to R.P.I. from 1852-1854, then was a law student with the firm of Pierson, Beech, and Smith- this would be Job Pierson, for whom Isaac’s son Job was named. He was admitted to the bar and practiced in Schaghticoke for a couple of years. Edith, his first wife, was Edith Naylor of Greenwich.

The story of Grant and Viall takes a dark turn in the 1860’s. The 1865 census for Lansingburgh lists Daniel Viall, manufacturer, with an estate of only $1200, considerably less than in 1860. The mill is listed with capital invested of $21,000 up from $7000 in 1855, but with output of 230 fan mills worth $5120 and 3200 grain cradles worth $6123, down from total sales of $42000 ten years earlier. In this census, the raw materials on hand are detailed: 16,100 feet of oak worth $400, 19,000 feet of ash worth $570, 23,000 feet of “white wood” worth $920, 5,380 feet of bass worth $134, 600 feet maple worth $18, other “wood” worth $100. There were also 4170 pounds of cast iron worth $365. The mill employed about the same number of men as earlier: 12 men and 2 boys, now making $45.50 per month.
The 1865 census for the Grant family reveals some kind of cataclysmic event. Wife Elizabeth is the head of family in a frame house worth only $600. Isaac, now 57, is listed after her, still as a manufacturer, but with the word “asylum”, crossed out, next to his name. What happened? Clearly, he was not capable of managing the household, much less the business. Isaac had had a mental breakdown. He died October 17, 1868. An obituary in the Troy “Times” reported “born to the pursuits of a farmer, he was among the first in this section of the state to enter largely into the manufacture of agricultural implements, and for many years was the head of a large manufacturing concern….He was a man of great energy of character and remarkable for his business enterprise. In politics Mr. Grant was a Democrat and in the Presidential campaign four years ago his feelings became warmly enlisted. The excitement appeared too much even for his apparently robust and hardy constitution. It either developed or implanted a disease from which he never recovered. In November 1864 it was found necessary by his friends to restrain him and he was conveyed to Utica the same winter, having previously spent some months at the Marshall Infirmary.” Utica was the site of the state insane asylum, and the Marshall Infirmary was the local version. How interesting that politics was seen as the source of his mental illness.
His widow Elizabeth and their son Earnest died in 1875. All, plus first wife Peggy, are buried in the Hillside Cemetery behind the Lutheran Church in Raymertown. Isaac actually has two grave stones, one with each wife. I don’t know where he is buried.
According to a website of Civil War soldiers in Ohio, Isaac’s eldest son Bryan, whom we last saw as a lawyer in the village of Schaghticoke in 1860, went to Ohio and became a lieutenant in an Ohio Civil War regiment in 1862. He somehow didn’t go to war, reason not known. He moved to New Jersey in 1870 and worked for Gold and Stock Telegraph Company, “taking charge of the distribution of European commercial and financial news to the business world.” After the death of his first wife, he married again, and was living in East Orange, New Jersey with his son in 1910.
Second son Job Pierson Grant, aged 25, is listed in the 1860 census for Lansingburgh in the family of David Viele as a merchant with a personal estate of 1860. He registered for the draft in 1863 as a “married manufacturer”, but was not drafted. By the 1870 census he was in Troy, with no occupation listed, with wife Elizabeth and daughter Minnie, age 6. So neither Bryan nor Job had joined the family business.

Isaac’s brother John also had a tragic end. I noticed that he and his wife Catherine were both buried in the cemetery at Schaghticoke Hill, having died the same day: January 14, 1862. John was 45, Catherine 41. This led me to look in the “Lansingburgh Daily Gazette” newspaper for the next day. Here is what I found: “Railroad Accident. A sad accident occurred on the Troy and Boston Railroad near Buskirk’s Bridge Tuesday a.m., which resulted in the death of two persons, Mr. and Mrs. John B. Grant, who resided at the “Junction”, Schaghticoke. The deceased were riding in a carriage on the way to the funeral of a deceased friend and were crossing the Railroad track when the engine struck the wagon with great force, sending its occupants high in the air, demolishing the vehicle into fragments. . ..Mrs. Grant was killed instantly and Mr. Grant was terribly cut about the head and died in a few hours. Both the deceased were admired and respected by their friends and neighbors, and their sad, untimely fate is regretted by all. Mr. Grant…was employed as the superintendent of the large manufacturing establishment of his brother, Mr. IT Grant, at the”Junction.” The deceased has a family of five children.”
Son Job A., aged 17, had four little sisters to care for. However, he enlisted in the 125th Regiment New York Volunteers, Company K, in August of that year, and went off to war. In the Civil War records, Job is described as a mechanic, 5’8” tall, with blue eyes and light hair. On December 1, 1863, he was captured by the Confederates at Mine Run, Virginia. He died of dysentery in Andersonville Prison on July 24, 1864.
All of the other children seemed to have lived good lives after being orphaned by their parents and guardian. Brother Warren went to Columbia County, where he married and lived until 1914. The girls all ended up in New York City. Mary married a lawyer, John Vincent, who became a District Attorney. Nora married William Connel, a merchant, and Stella, Charles Williams, a dry goods merchant.
Happily, the Grant Fan Mill and Cradle Company continued on under the direction of partner Daniel Viall, and new partners J.P. Leavens, J.S. Walling, and E. Banker. In the 1870 Rensselaer County Directory, it advertised “Grant’s patent fan mills and grain cradles, and dealers in dry goods, groceries, hardware, and agricultural implements.”
About the same time, I found the account of an event in the newspaper where the little community of “Junction” was already being called “Grant’s Hollow.” The 1876 “Beer’s Atlas” has the heading “Grant’s Hollow” in its list of merchants, manufacturers, and farmers, with the only listing as the “Rensselaer Agricultural Works”. It states: “Grant Fan Mill and Cradle Company, (successor to IT Grant and Son), manufacturers of “Grant’s patent fan mills and grain cradles…We have taken over one hundred Best Premiums in the US. Railroad and Express Station, Melrose, on the Troy and Boston Railroad, care of Grant & Viall. D. H. Viall. J. P. Leavens. E. B. Banker.” The 1877 map in Beers Atlas shows the factory on the both sides of the Deep Kill. D.H. Viall is the major property owner on the north side, with his residence just east of where the road crossed the stream. The Store House is labeled J.P.Leavens, and is on the south side of the stream, just east of the road.

illustration of Grant's MIll

illustration of Grant’s MIll

At the same time, DH Viall is listed in the Troy City Directory as part of “Nutting, Hull, and Company, agricultural rooms at 357 and 359 River Street, house at Junction on the Troy and Boston Railroad.” Two other men, JBS Maltby, who made “wire cloth, screens, and etc.” and Halbert D. Hull, “hardware” were involved in the business, which sounds like a conglomerate to sell tools to farmers. It only lasted for a couple of years.
By 1875, Daniel Viall was listed as half of “Grant and Viall, scrap iron dealers, dock above the steamboat landing”. Most interestingly, the Grant was Germon H. Grant. This partnership only lasted a couple of years as well. I think that Germon may have been a son of Augustus R. Grant, one of Isaac Grant’s brothers. He had married Phoebe Germond in 1838. Daniel Viall was married to Phoebe’s sister, Mary. In the 1850 census, I found A.B. Grant, grocer, in Troy, with P.M. Grant, his wife, and son German (sic) H. age 8. In the 1870 Troy directory, Augustus was an iron dealer at 269 River Street with German as a clerk there. Germon or German evidently wasn’t settled on being an iron dealer, as in the 1871 directory, he and partner G.N. Rhodes were selling hats, caps, and furs at 5 Museum Building. One wonders at D.H. Viall’s feelings at being in partnership with a young man who was his own nephew, and the nephew of his old partner Isaac. And one wonders why it didn’t work out.
Evidently, Daniel Viall had retired from or left the business by 1880. He is listed in that census as age 60 with no occupation, and with just wife Mary, and youngest son Charles, 16, who “works on the farm.” As I said earlier, they had had nine children, but at least three died as toddlers, two in 1852. Son Job, born in 1845, married Alida Baucus, daughter of a local farmer. He is listed in the 1870 Rensselaer County Directory as a partner of Abel Thomas. They were “general dealers in stoves, tin, copper, sheet iron, hardware, and agricultural implements” in Thompson’s Building on Main Street in Hart’s Falls (the village of Schaghticoke.) Son Franklin, born in 1852, married Nancy Banker in 1874 in Grant’s Hollow, but I cannot find him in the census after that. He died in 1917 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery. Son Charles is listed in the 1905 census as a “mail route agent,” with a wife and two children.
In the 1900 Schaghticoke census, Daniel lived as a boarder in the home of Hannah and Martha Rose, with the occupation, at age 80, of “day laborer.” More happily, by the 1905 census, Daniel Viall and his son Job, both widowers were living with Job’s daughter Jennie Winton, evidently a widow, aged 32, on Main Street in the village of Schaghticoke. Daniel, age 85, died that year. Job, age 58, was still a “general merchant.” He was still running the business twenty years later, when he lived with another daughter, Jennie, and her husband Edward Pinkham, a telegraph operator. Job died in 1933.
I have not found out anything about Daniel Viall’s partners Ezra Banker and J.S. Walling. Partner Josephus Peck Leavens was a local boy, born in 1815 or 1816. Lois Hartnett recently sent me a letter. Her home was the Leavens Homestead, and a note with the deed stated that “for a number of years (Josephus) had been one of the proprietors of the well- known Grant Fan Mill and Cradle Company”. Leavens married Rebekah Jane Germond, of that prominent Speigletown family, in 1837. Their son Josephus was born in 1837. In the 1865 census he was still at home, occupation farmer. He married Mary Wheeler in 1868. In the 1880 census they are listed with three children. Josephus’ occupation is given as “storekeeper,” perhaps indicating that he had also entered the business, perhaps managing the retail side. Daniel Viall and his family lived next door. Mary died in 1883 and Josephus married Evaline Brewster in 1885. I know that he had six children from the two marriages, but have not found any further trace of him.
As far as I know, the Grant Fan Mill and Cradle Co., or Rensselaer Agricultural Works stayed in business throughout the 19th century. I have found a number of newspaper articles that record the final step in its history in 1895. Several newspapers reported its re-incorporation as the Grant Ferris Company “by Albert.E. Powers and N.B. Powers of Lansingburgh and F.H. Ferris of Melrose.” J.A. Powers of the Glens Falls Electric Railway Company was a stockholder. The “Batavia Daily News” of January 8 reported “there has been a novel company incorporated, called the Grant Ferris Company…besides the prosaic intention of manufacturing agricultural implements it proposed to run country stores in various states of the union and even in foreign countries. The capital is fixed at $50,000 and the principal office is to be at Melrose.” The “Glens Falls Morning Star” added that the company “will manufacture the well-known Ferris seed drill and Grant fan or separator for threshing machines, coffee mills, etc.” And the “Utica Observer” reported the company “will conduct a general store in Melrose.” This is the same business model the company had used since 1836, with the addition of the Ferris seed drill.
Albert E. and Nathaniel B. Powers were the owners of a very successful oil cloth factory in Lansingburg. Their father and mother William and Deborah began the business in 1817, adding a paint and oil business and an oil refinery. Albert and Nathaniel joined as partners in the 1840’s, and ran the business with their mother after their father’s death in 1852. An article in a book entitled, “America’s Successful Men of Affairs,” published in 1896, reports that they were “interested” in the Ferris Seeder Company. Fred H.Ferris was a local man, born in 1869, who got into the machinery business in a similar way to Isaac Grant, beginning as a farmer, moving on to invention and manufacturing.
“Landmarks of Rensselaer County” by George Anderson reports that the Grant Ferris Company became the property of Albert E. Powers and burned in 1895. Apparently the idea of a chain of international general stores didn’t come to fruition. I would guess that the fire ended lots of plans. But the company moved to Green Island and continued. Rensselaer County inventor John G. Snyder developed a combined oat and rye thresher for the company. It also branched out into marine engines. I find it interesting that it maintained the name Grant, and wonder if anyone connected with the company knew anything about Isaac. A brochure put out by the company, quoted to me by Jim Ferris, descendant of Fred, reported that Grant Ferris was a descendant of the Grant Company, founded in 1822. 1822 was surely an exaggeration. From all I have written, I’m sure you can tell that I have found his story to be a fascinating one, full of “what ifs”- what if Isaac and his brother had lived longer? What if one of their sons had gone in to the business? What happened that Daniel Viall, also an inventor, didn’t stay on with the company through his own long life? What if the Grant-Ferris Company hadn’t burned in 1895?

Bibliography:

Newspaper articles: http://www.fultonhistory.com
Probate records, Rensselaer County Historical Society: Job, Melissa, Bryan Grant guardianship papers
US Patent Office papers: Viall and Grant patent applications
Beers Atlas 1876
“The Cultivator” 1845, illustration of fanning mill
Records of St. John’s Lutheran Church
US census: 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1880, 1900
NYS Census: 1855, 1865, 1905
Troy City directories: 1870, 1875
Anderson, George “Landmarks of Rensselaer County” 1897
Elmwood Cemetery records, Schaghticoke
NY Civil War Muster roll records for Job A Grant
Civil War Draft Registration records NARA: Job P Grant
Roster of Ohio Soldiers Vol. 8 p. 263- Bryant Grant- web page of Ohio researcher
“Lansingburgh Daily Gazette”: Oct 22, 1868, Jan 16, 1862
Hillside Cemetery, Raymertown, records
Schaghticoke Hill Methodist Cemetery records
1870 Rensselaer County directory
Records of Melrose Methodist Church
“The Leavens Name” 1903 by Philo French Leavens
Ancestry.com family tree for Isaac Travis Grant
Hart Papers, Rensselaer County Historical Society
Rensselaer County deeds, book 37, 56, 57, 59,61,90
Records of Lansingburgh: “Marriages in School District 1, year ending 1854”

160th Anniversary of the Melrose Methodist Church

Many of the religious establishments in the town of Schaghticoke were and are located in the village of Schaghticoke. I have already written about several that were located outside the village: the very first, the Dutch Reformed Church, was in Old Schaghticoke. St. John’s Lutheran Church was in two locations in what is now the Melrose area of town, before joining with Grace Lutheran Church at the south end of Speigletown. There was another Lutheran Church at the junction of River Road and Allen Road for some years in the middle of the 19th century. There was a Methodist Church at Schaghticoke Hill, once a sizeable settlement just south of where the Tomhannock Creek crosses Route 40. According to Anderson’s Landmarks of Rensselaer County, that church began as a Sunday school in 1790, and was part of the Pittstown circuit of the Methodist Church until 1863. Then its history joins that of the church I will discuss now, the one in the Melrose part of town.
Again according to Anderson, the Methodist church in Melrose began in Grant’s Hollow about 1853. It was part of a circuit which included the church in Raymertown. In 1863, the church began to share pastors with the Methodist Church at Schaghticoke Hill. The original trustees were John D. Perry, Jr., Oliver H. Perry, Frederick S. Cole, and Daniel H. Viall. Mr. Viall co- owned Grain Cradle and Fanning Mills and a general store on the Deepkill, the stream that runs through Grant’s Hollow. Isaac Grant and his wife gave land to the society and a church was erected on Mineral Springs Road for $600. He and his wife had also supported the Lutheran Church. Mr. Grant was the founder of the Cradle Factory, and the source of the name of the Hollow. As for the other trustees, all three were young married farmers who had moved out of the area by 1870: Oliver Hazard Perry to Ohio, Frederick S. Cole to Iowa, and John Perry to parts unknown.

In 1882, a Presbyterian Church at Melrose was organized by Adam Hayner, Alexander Reid, T. Newton Wilson, George Sinsabaugh, and C.C. Schoonmaker. Mr. Wilson gave the land where the church was built the same year, at the corner of Route 40 and what was then Depot Street, and is now Church Street. The train depot was at the foot of the street. The church was part of the Presbytery of Troy. As for the other men, Adam Hayner was a 55 year old area farmer, and the other men owned the property surrounding the church site: G.W. Sinsabaugh owned the inn at the bottom of Church Street, now the Hegarty home, C.C. Schoonmaker had the property where the Esquire Pharmacy was for many years, and Alexander Reid had the land behind and next to the church.
From 1905 to 1906, the Methodist and Presbyterian churches united, literally. The Methodist church purchased the Presbyterian, and moved the Methodist building from Mineral Springs Road to Church Street. The front section of the current building was the original Presbyterian Church, the back, the original Methodist Church. The Methodists also acquired what is now the Halloran home on Avenue A for use as the parsonage. According to research by George Somnitz, the home was given to the Methodists by a Mr. Bullard, who had built it as a summer home. The Hallorans bought the home in 1972. The Methodists bought a new organ, a “great two manual Johnson organ…having a width of eighteen feet and being twenty feet high.” A contemporary newspaper article notes that “through the splendid endeavours of the leading spirits in this church the entire property …was purchased or placed here…at an expense of about $10,000.” At the time, the church was lit with acetylene gas. The first pastor of this new combination was Reverend W.W. Brunk. He was 35 years old, with a wife, Addie, and two small children.

Over the years, the church has been modernized, with purchase of a new organ in 1964, and completion of a chime system in 1980. The Methodist section is used for Sunday School and church suppers. The basement kitchen and upstairs dining area are connected by a handy dumb waiter. From 1958 to 2001, the church shared a pastor with the Valley Falls Methodist Church. The church was independent, with a part-time pastor from 2001-2005, then united with Pittstown from 2005-2008, then Waterford from 2008-2011, now with Mechanicville, with pastor Jennie Deyo.

Schaghticoke: an early tech valley?

Well, I’ve been having a great time writing about Schaghticoke in the Civil War. I may be a little obsessed, in fact. But there is so much more to write about our local history. I started out writing a history of the town, bit by bit, in September 2010. I had only reached the early 19th century in the basic history of the town when the 150th anniversary of the Civil War intervened. Though I have been doing extensive research on all our Civil War veterans and have in fact written hundreds of pages that you haven’t read yet, I’ve also been continuing to delve into the basic history of the town. One area that I thought I knew well was the early industrial history of the town, but I’ve found there was much more to learn.
As I have written before, New Englanders moved into Schaghticoke after the Revolutionary War. Some sought unsettled farm land. But others were seeking waterfalls, source of power for mills. Textile mill technology was developing rapidly, not unlike the computer/technology revolution of the last 25 years. The first power spindles for fiber were made in the US about 1790, and by 1810 had spread all over the East. The first power loom was made in the US in 1814, but spread equally rapidly. The design of the first power spindles and looms were essentially stolen from Great Britain, but US inventors worked hard to improve them and patent their own designs.
In Schaghticoke, the first bridge went over the Hoosic River at the village of Schaghticoke in 1792, and there was a textile mill- just finishing already woven cloth- right away. Other mills followed in 1810, 1811, and 1814- a village sprouted. And the mills drew not just investors, but also inventors. I recently discovered a young man named Oliver Barrett. He was born in Hudson Falls about 1783, the son of a Revolutionary War veteran. By 1808 he had filed for his first U.S. patent, on a fanning mill for grain and clover seed. This would separate wheat from chaff.
But Oliver moved on to a center of textile innovation- Schaghticoke- and filed a patent here in 1811 for a machine for roving cotton: a spinner. This would take carded cotton and spin it into thread automatically, doing the work of many hand spinners, much faster. The machine would process wool “fine enough for broadcloths, or sufficiently coarse for carpeting and rose blankets – and cotton may be spun fine enough for domestic purposes.” A child of twelve or fourteen could be taught its use in two or three days and it was “not liable to be put out of repair- and may be built with any number of spindles.” This machine was so innovative that former President Thomas Jefferson wrote to Oliver, seeking to purchase one of his machines.
In 1812, Oliver patented a machine for felting cloth- part of finishing woolen cloth- in Troy, but then he moved on to Ohio, where he died in 1818, aged 35. A descendant feels he went there because of mills as well, but we don’t and won’t know why he moved. I wish we knew more about this man, who seemed to epitomize the pioneering spirit and inventiveness of the new industrial revolution. I do not know what Oliver’s machine looked like- but this illustration is of an early “spinning jenny.”

this spinning jenny is probably more primitive than the machinery patented by Oliver Barrett

this spinning jenny is probably more primitive than the machinery patented by Oliver Barrett


This post originated from use of a new online archive, http://www.foundersonline.com, which includes the papers of the early Presidents of the US, searchable. It is amazing to me first that Thomas Jefferson was interested in improvements in fiber processing, and second that he knew about and corresponded with a young man from this area. I had thought of New England as the hotbed of textile innovation, but apparently upstate New York was as well!
Bibliography: http://www.foundersonline.com- papers of Thomas Jefferson

The Schaghticoke Boys at the Battle of Gettysburg: The 150th Anniversary

monument at Gettysburg marking the high water mark of the Confederacy- including the 125th

monument at Gettysburg marking the high water mark of the Confederacy- including the 125th

July 1-3, 1862- 150 years ago-, the Union and Confederate Armies clashed in and around the small city of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Even people who know nothing about the Civil War know of the battle of Gettysburg. For those of us in upstate New York, this is the closest Civil War battlefield, which lets us know that it marks the farthest north the Confederate armies reached in the war, or as they call it at Gettysburg, “the high water mark of the Confederacy.” Gettysburg is about 350 miles from Schaghticoke, about 225 miles south of Binghamton, NY.
At the beginning of the summer of 1863, the Confederacy was in trouble. The Union Armies were growing and putting more and more pressure on Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capitol. In the West, the Union Army of the Tennessee under General Ulysses S. Grant had Vicksburg, Mississippi under siege. If Vicksburg fell, the Mississippi River would belong to the Union, and Confederate communications with the western part of its territory would be ended. It was increasingly difficult to supply the Confederate Armies, with the South having been fought over so many times. The solution of General Robert E. Lee to this dilemma was to invade the North. He had been stopped in his previous effort, in September 1862, at Antietam, Maryland, but set out again, heading for Pennsylvania. Lee and his Army had success at the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia on May 3, 1863. He moved on. He also hoped that continued success would bring the aid of Great Britain.
This time the invasion was halted at Gettysburg, where the Union Army of the Potomac with 90,000 men under General George Gordon Meade defeated 70,000 Confederates under Lee over the first three days of July. 11,000 men, about 5,500 on each side, died over the three days. On July 4, Vicksburg fell. The two losses sealed the eventual defeat of the Confederacy, though the bloody war would go on for almost two more years.
That’s the big picture, but let’s makes it more local. The Rensselaer County Regiment, the 125th NY Infantry Regiment, fought at the battle of Gettysburg. About 500 of its men were involved, with losses of 26 killed, 104 wounded, and 9 missing, about ¼ of its number. The 100 men of Company K of the 125th were almost all from Schaghticoke and Pittstown.
The 125th had spent the winter and spring in camp at Centreville, Virginia, being trained, but also suffering some boredom. The “Troy Times” newspaper reporter, Henry Wheeler, had reported a spirited baseball game between men of the 125th and an artillery battery from Pennsylvania on April 29. Then he reported that at the end of June, the 125th had marched from Centreville, crossing the Potomac River on a pontoon bridge, plodding all night into Maryland, reaching Monocacy Junction Maryland on June 28. They marched 50 miles in 4 days, 3 of the days in the rain. Then on June 29, they marched to Uniontown, Maryland, 33 miles in one day, also in the rain. They rested on June 30, and stragglers had a chance to catch up. We know now that the long march occurred as the Union Generals finally figured out where the Confederates were headed and sent its Army to meet them.

Col. George Willard, killed on July 2 at Gettysburg

Col. George Willard, killed on July 2 at Gettysburg


On the first day of the battle, they were still arriving at the field, but the 125th was in place in Gettysburg on July 2, the bands playing as they deployed near Cemetery Hill. They watched the fighting at Little Round Top and the Peach Orchard all that day from behind a stone wall, finally going into action at 7 p.m., as the sun was setting. The Union Army was being pushed back and had to be stopped or the battle would be lost. They charged General Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade, driving it back in fierce fighting. Their Colonel, George Lamb Willard, was killed in the assault, along with 100 others, in just a half an hour.
map from the NPS showing the location of the 125th at the time of Pickett's Charge

map from the NPS showing the location of the 125th at the time of Pickett’s Charge


On July 3, they were back behind their stone wall. They suffered through several hours of an artillery barrage by the Confederates before Pickett’s Charge at 1:30 p.m. Fortunately, the Confederate artillery was aimed a bit long, and the cannon shot and shells landed beyond them. When the barrage ceased, they watched as Pickett’s Charge, the valiant attack of 12,500 Confederate infantry over a mile toward entrenched Union positions, came toward them, opening fire when ordered. A few of the Confederates made it to the wall, but they were quickly killed, and the survivors retreated with 50% casualties. The battle was over. The 125th was located just a few yards from the grove of trees that was the focal point of the charge, and is labeled today as “the High Water Mark of the Confederacy.”
July 4 it rained on the dead and wounded. People at home knew that there had been a great battle by that time, and must have been very anxious about their soldier relatives. The “Troy Times” reported on July 11 that Company K, mostly made up of men from Schaghticoke, had lost Lafayette Travis, killed, and Lt. Lee Churchill, Sgt. WW VanSchaack, Corporal McMurray, Morgan Wood, C. White, J. Mabb, WN Tice, George Kelsey, HL Bliss, CJ Crandall, J. Conlon, JK Simons, W. Fisher wounded, and AJ and CJ Doty, missing. This is not a terribly accurate list, as I will explain later. In addition, the “Troy Times” reporter, who was a soldier, and not just a reporter with the troops, had a foot shot off in the battle. The intrepid young man was already reporting again by July 8.
We are fortunate to have both the account of the “Troy Times” reporter of the battle and that of our own Lt. George Bryan, of Schaghticoke, who wrote home about the battle to his friend Jennie Ackart. The reporter wrote, “How well, nobly, and bravely the men fought. …they pressed forward to wipe out forever the name of Harpers Ferry.” The 125th had traveled from Troy to the front in September 1862, just in time to surrender with 10,000 other Union troops, when they were surrounded by General Stonewall Jackson’s Army at Harpers Ferry. Though the surrender was not their fault in the slightest, it had earned them a reputation as cowards, which they now erased forever.

Lt. George Bryan of Schaghticoke described his experiences in the battle of Gettysburg in letters home

Lt. George Bryan of Schaghticoke described his experiences in the battle of Gettysburg in letters home


George Bryan wrote of his own experiences at Gettysburg, “I was in the sharpest of the fight but did not get a scratch. There were men killed on all sides of me…I do not see how I escaped unharmed…I was no coward, I would sooner be killed than be called a coward. ..after the fight, the dead and wounded lay very thick, so thick that you had to be careful not to walk on them.” Of the artillery barrage preceding Pickett’s Charge, he wrote, “…It was like one loud peal of thunder. Pieces of iron filled the air like hailstones.” Then on the night of July 3, after the battle was over, “I laid down to sleep, but it was impossible to sleep. Just over the fence…was hundreds of wounded…some praying, some cursing, others groaning and dying.” For two days, he and his men were sent out to go over the battlefield, and pick up weapons left behind. Then they marched away,..”there was such a stench that it was hard to stay near the field…the ground was still covered with dead men and horses, and destroyed cannons, old guns and broken wagons.” This was the baptism by fire for the 125th- none of the men had known how they would react in battle; now they knew.
Monument to the 125th on the battlefield at Gettysburg

Monument to the 125th on the battlefield at Gettysburg


George also wrote of men he knew who were killed or wounded. My own research has found that Sgt. William VanSchaack, a 42-year old family man from the village was severely wounded. He never went back to the 125th, but did serve in the Veterans Reserve Corps, made up of men who had been ill or wounded and were well enough to guard Washington, D.C., but not to go back to regular duty. He was able to practice his trade as a sign, carriage and ornamental painter while in Baltimore, before coming home. However, he was disabled by his wound, and died in 1885.
Morgan L. Wood, the 22-year old 4th Corporal, was wounded as well. He was also a painter, apprentice to and only son of carriage painter William Wood. Morgan died of his wounds on July 21 in a hospital in Newark, New Jersey. His body was transported home for burial in Elmwood Cemetery.
One of George Bryan’s good friends, Chauncey Crandall, was also wounded. He was 19 years old, son of a farmer from town. Chauncey had been ill for some time in fall and winter of 1862, but recovered. After the battle, George reported that he had been wounded in the shoulder and “lay out in the rain all night. He was quite weak and exhausted. I did not think it was dangerous. I went to see him…” But George had to march on with the regiment, leaving Chauncey in a makeshift hospital He died July 9, and is buried in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg in Section A, site 90. This is the cemetery dedicated in November of 1863, where President Lincoln gave his now famous “Address.” Why his parents did not have his body transported home, we do not know.
monument in the Gettysburg National Cemetery marking the spot where Lincoln spoke

monument in the Gettysburg National Cemetery marking the spot where Lincoln spoke

New York Monument at the Gettysburg National Cemetery

New York Monument at the Gettysburg National Cemetery


chauncey crandall tombstone
James E. Mabb was a 34-year old farmer with a family. His military record card reports he was “sick” as of July 2, but he certainly was wounded. Years later he reported that he had been wounded in the shoulder and leg. He survived the war, though somewhat disabled, and lived until at least 1900.
John McMurry was an Irish immigrant who lived in Pittstown just before the war. He was 18, and a good soldier, who was promoted to Corporal just before Gettysburg. He was wounded in the battle and lost an arm. He recovered at the hospital at Fort Schuyler in New York harbor, and was discharged from the service in December. John lived on his pension for the rest of his life. He married, but had no children, participated in the Veterans Association of the 125th, and lived until at least 1900.
William Tice was 25 years old when he enlisted in the 125th. He had worked both as a farmer and a cooper before the war. He had gone absent without leave in winter of 1862, but returned to duty in the spring of 1863. He was wounded at Gettysburg, but returned to duty, only to be wounded again in August of 1864. He recovered again, and made it through the rest of the war. He came back to Schaghticoke and made kegs for the Schaghticoke Powder Company for a while. He moved to Michigan, where his parents already lived, and stayed there the rest of his life. He was active in the Grand Army of the Republic- the big association of veterans- and survived until about 1890.
Lafayette Travis was a wagon maker from the area, who enlisted in the 125th at age 23. He was killed on July 3 – probably during Pickett’s Charge. His body was returned home and is buried in the Millertown Cemetery in Pittstown.
Chauncey White was also killed at the battle of Gettysburg. He was a farm laborer born in Stillwater, who worked at farms all around the area before he enlisted in the 125th at age 27. He also was absent without leave for the winter of 1862, but returned to duty in April. He was married to a woman named Malissa Myers from Schaghticoke, and they had two small children. She thought he had died at the battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862- so maybe he didn’t go home when he was AWOL? I’m sad to say I don’t know where Chauncey was buried, though the National Cemetery at Gettysburg includes the graves of many “unknowns.” Atwater Lohnes, another local man, who was in the 104th NY Infantry, was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg and died there in August. I did not find where he was buried either.
The biggest loss for the 125th NY Infantry Regiment was its Colonel. George Lamb Willard was killed in the attack on the evening of July 2. His body was immediately returned to Troy and he was buried from his father-in-law’s home, 57 2nd Street, (now the Rensselaer County Historical Society) on July 9. He is in Oakwood Cemetery.
the author of the blog at the 125th monument on the battlefield at Gettysburg

the author of the blog at the 125th monument on the battlefield at Gettysburg


The Battlefield at Gettysburg is well worth a visit. There is a gorgeous museum and the battlefield is filled with beautiful monuments. The National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation offer many specialized tours. If you like crowds, go this summer. If not, it will be there whenever you are ready to go. You can stand on the exact spot where the Schaghticoke boys of the 125th stood, peering across the field as Pickett’s men advanced, and put yourself in their place as they experienced a pivotal battle of the Civil War.

Bibliography:
Sticklemyer, Joe, “Friend Jennie”
NY Monument Commission, “New York at Gettysburg”
Clark, Champ, “Gettysburg”
“Troy Times”, articles from June-July 1863
Ancestry.com: NYS Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts
Federal Census: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890. 1900. 1910. 1920
NYS Census: 1855, 1865
Cemetery records of Rensselaer County

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