the results of research about the history of the town of Schaghticoke
December 6, 2013Posted by on
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
October 21, 2013Posted by on
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.
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.
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.
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?
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”
October 9, 2013Posted by on
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.
August 2, 2013Posted by on
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 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
July 23, 2013Posted by on
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
June 25, 2013Posted by on
Recently I visited Antietam, site of the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War, September 17, 1862, partly because I hadn’t been there, but partly because a man from Schaghticoke was wounded in the battle, died there, and was buried in the National Cemetery. I found that out from research at home, and wanted to actually find his grave.
Antietam was the battle which ended Robert E. Lee’s first attempt to invade the North. Just two days earlier, a 12,500 man Union garrison (including the 125th NYS Infantry Regiment, our local men) at Harpers Ferry had surrendered to General Stonewall Jackson, removing that threat to Lee. This encouraged him to move farther North and engage the Union Army under General McClellan in battle near Sharpsburg, Maryland. I can tell you that the Maryland countryside is lush and Sharpsburg still a pretty little town, though nearby Hagerstown has a huge outlet mall.
Nearly 100,000 men fought in the battle at Antietam, with about 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing by the end of the day. Though losses on both sides were heavy, the Union Army held the field at the end of the day, giving them a costly victory. This was the push President Lincoln needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves of the Confederacy. And this ended Lee’s invasion of the North until Gettysburg, almost a year later.
The National Park Service has done its usual fine job of explaining the battle as one drives around the fields where it occurred. The landscape is approximately what it was in 1862, a mixture of farm fields and groves of trees. The monument erected by the 104th NY Infantry after the war marks its location during the battle, and probably the location of the wounding of our local participant, John Lyons, who was in that unit. Portions of the two armies fought back and forth for a couple of long and bloody hours at the site. The field in the background of the photo was filled with ripe corn, which concealed the soldiers at first, but was soon tramped down.
Antietam was the first time in the war there had been casualties on such a large scale. The little town of Sharpsburg was overwhelmed by the dead bodies of men and horses and by the numbers of badly injured men who needed tending. The local newspaper reported afterwards that every house became a hospital for one of the 12,000 wounded. Both sides were prompted to organize to deal with tending the wounded and burying the dead in a better way after future battles. They had to accept the grim reality of this deadly war.
About 3500 men were buried in the farm fields where they died; but some bodies were never buried. Over time, bodies became exposed in shallow graves. Imagine what we would go through if the fields on either side of Route 40 in Melrose were littered with decaying bodies of men and horses, plus parts of broken artillery pieces and equipment. Finally in 1865 the state of Maryland purchased land to make a proper cemetery. Most of the Union dead were later re-interred there. The Confederate dead were supposed to be in the same cemetery, but the war was too recent and feelings too bitter, plus the impoverished South could provide no funding to help with creating the cemetery, so they were re-interred in three local cemeteries. Some men had been tagged with their names by their comrades, other identities were determined by laborious research, some remained unknown. The burials in what is now a National Cemetery are organized by state. The cemetery was completed in 1867, dedicated by President Andrew Johnson. In 1880 a 21’ tall statue of an Infantryman was added to the grounds
John Lyons was an Irish immigrant to Rensselaer County. He was born around 1830 and married to an Irishwoman named Alicia or Alice, who was born around 1836. They had two children, James, born in 1858, and John, born in 1862. Both children were born in New York, so I’ll assume the couple had arrived in the U.S. by 1858. I cannot find them in the 1860 census. However there are lots of men named John Lyons in that census!
John enlisted in Company K of the 104th NY Infantry Regiment on February 18, 1862 in Troy. He gave his age as 30. In the report of the Pittstown Town Clerk after the war, it states he was born and lived in Pittstown as a farmer, and that he was killed at Gettysburg. I think that is incorrect both in his place of birth and in where he was killed, though he probably lived in Pittstown. On his record card from New York State, it states that he was wounded in action at Antietam on September 7, 1862 and died on September 20. So he was one of the 12,000 wounded tended in makeshift hospitals all over the Sharpsburg area after the battle.
From his record card, I learned that John was interred in grave 642 at the Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, Maryland. It was very exciting to walk through the morning dew on the grass of the peaceful cemetery and find him, just where he was supposed to be, one in a rank of many similar stones in the New York section. This 21 foot statue of an infantryman is the centerpiece of the cemetery.
Alice was left a widow, with two small sons; one born after his father went off to war. She stayed in Rensselaer County. She applied for a widow’s pension on May 16, 1864. I don’t know where she was in the 1865 census, but by 1870, she was a chambermaid, living and working in the inn of Garrett Groesbeck in the village of Schaghticoke. Her son James, 12, worked in the woolen mill, and John, 7, attended school. By 1880, she and the boys were living with two other families in a house in the village. She was not working, and the boys, 22 and 18, ran a news room. She appears on a list of those receiving pensions in Schaghticoke in 1883, when she received $8.00 per month. In 1890, Alice entered John’s information in the Veterans Census.
In 1900, she remained in the village, but now lived alone in a house that she owned. At age 62 she was running the news room. The census states that she had had two children, both living. Her sons didn’t live in Schaghticoke, but I’m not sure where they were. By the 1910 census, Alice is gone, but I don’t know when she died nor where she was buried. She did well as a single mother, I think. Most young widows would have remarried, but she did not. She took advantage of the pension she was entitled to and supplemented it with her own work and that of her sons, eventually owning her home.
I wonder if Alice ever knew where John was buried, and if she ever got to visit his grave. How ironic for us to know where he is buried, after dying in a chaotic situation after a huge battle, while not knowing were Alice lies, after living out a peaceful life in our small village. It makes me feel very good to have found John and tell you his story so that we may honor his service together.
April 12, 2013Posted by on
Most people in Schaghticoke are familiar with the Diver Library, donated to the village by Alexander and Arvilla Diver around 1940. This post is about the Divers who lived in Schaghticoke about 1800, Andrew and Eve. Eve was born in the 1740’s in Dutchess County, part of a large family which had come to the New World from what is now Germany. Andrew Diver probably immigrated to the area from Great Britain as a young man. Andrew and Eve Overocker married about 1760 in Kingston and moved to the Schaghticoke/Pittstown border area just before the Revolution. Eve’s family moved as well. There are still Overockers in the area. By 1800, Andrew was one of the ten wealthiest men in town, as was Eve’s brother, Jacob Overocker. Andrew’s wealth of over $10,000 was primarily in real estate. He and Eve had seven children.
Andrew died without a will in 1809, and Eve died just months later. They are buried in the Lutheran Cemetery at the junction of Melrose-Valley Falls Road and Northline Drive in Melrose. Since they died without wills, the estate of Andrew and Eve had to be inventoried and go through probate. One interesting insight gained in looking at the file is that neither Eve nor her eldest son Michael could write- both signed legal documents with an X.
Andrew’s widow, Eve, was named administratrix of the estate, along with her brother Martin Overocker; Jacob Yates, son of the local Revolutionary War Colonel; and James Brookins, himself an officer in the Green Mountain Boys, and now a neighbor. John and Henry Grawberger, Jr., “two competent persons,” acted as appraisers.
Settling the estate was certainly complicated by its size and by the death of Eve just a few months later. It was still not settled in September 1813, when Martin Overocker, who now had chief control of the affairs of the estate said he had a “bodily indisposition,” and was too weak to appear before the Surrogate. Apparently the heirs, the surviving children of Andrew and Eve: Andrew and Daniel Diver and Catherine Woolf, were finding that there wasn’t nearly as much cash to inherit as they thought. They charged that the estate administrators had received goods, chattels, and credits of their father in large amounts not accounted for. Martin explained that “A considerable part of the money that the heirs claim has been paid in the management of the estate and that he alone is competent to explain matters to the heirs,” but couldn’t, due to his illness. In other words, the money had been spent to keep the estate going, collect its debts, etc. over the years between Andrew’s death in 1809 and 1813. Two of the more interesting expenses of the administrators were gallons of rum, purchased for when the real estate was being divided, and quite a few trips to Canada, probably to collect money owed to Diver there.
Both the 14-page inventory and the many pages listing the disposition of the items on the inventory, as well as a list of the creditors of and the debts due by the estate are included in the probate file, now located in the archives of the Rensselaer County Historical society in Troy. The inventory seems to have been done just as the appraisers walked around the property, the fields, outbuildings, and the house itself, not really organized. The Divers definitely had had a working farm, and Andrew died in the midst of summer, with crops in the field.
The first page begins with many farm tools, from an ox chain to a new hand saw and four hay forks, but with “1 sword” in the middle of the list. The second page includes a woolen wheel, listed just before a cabbage knife, then “1 side of upper leather,” In the midst page 8, I found the most valuable item owned by the Divers, “1 Negro Wooman,” listed just after 9 Chairs worth $2.36, and an old ax, worth $.25. She was valued at $200. A second slave, also listed as a “Negro Woman,” was listed on page 5, and worth just $70. This jibes with the 1800 census, which indicates that Andrew Diver had two slaves.
Another page of the probate file records the purchase of “a pair of shoes for the black girl” for $1.75 on August 9, 1809, just after Andrew’s death. It could be that the woman valued less was either young and untrained or too old to do much work. Cornelius Lansing bought the higher valued woman from the estate for $115 in February 1810.
The inventory really illuminates the farming activity of the Divers. After the slaves, the next most valuable items were the animals and the crops, many still in the fields. Andrew had 6 swine, 1 beef cow, 1 3-year-old bull, 1 2-year-old bull, 1 2-year-old heifer, 1 1-year-old heifer, 3 milch (milk) cows, 44 sheep, 1 gelded horse, 1 young bay mare, 1 old bay mare, and 4 “calfs.” There was no poultry listed, but there were 2 bags of feathers, so I wonder if the chickens, ducks, and geese were not worth counting, or had been removed from the farm. I also wonder if the bulls were used as oxen, as there was lots of equipment for driving oxen and an ox cart listed. There were also several “slays.”
The crops included 5 ½ bushels of sowing oats, 6 bushels of sowing buckwheat, half of that in the field, 48 bushels of sowing wheat within the field, and 2 bushels of sowing rye. I assume that these grains listed as within the field needed to be harvested. There were also $40 worth of corn and $7.50 of potatoes in the field, plus 6 stacks of hay in the north field and 2 in the west field.
The equipment to manage the animals, and to plant, harvest, and process these products was on the inventory as well. For example, there was a fanning mill to separate wheat from chaff; 14 pounds of wool yarn, wool cards, and a wool wheel, and woad for dying fabric; a meat tub; various pieces of leather; and a grind stone. There were pointers to other farm products as well: a barrel of cabbage and a cabbage knife; a sack of dried apples and iron bound hogsheads in the cider house; a flax brake, used to process flax and a bag of tow yarn(tow is the waste of linen, used to make rope; an iron bound churn; soap kettles; “tryed” tallow, ready to be made into candles and finished candles; various pieces of wood of different types, for example “redwood;” and 4 pounds of beeswax plus a straw bee hive. The Divers could have been very self-sufficient, producing their own meat, grain, fibers for knitting and weaving, honey, and other food. There were 17 baskets on the inventory- they could have been homemade as well.
Some of the items on the inventory were definitely purchased, however. There were many farm tools and household implements made of iron, from fire tongs to plows, which would have been made by blacksmiths. There were a number of hogsheads, probably made by a cooper. There was a tobacco box, whose contents would have been purchased. There were brass kettles and a copper tea kettle, plus 2 tin pails, 4 sugar boxes and 28 pounds of sugar, plus 1 bottle of spirits of turpentine, 14 pounds of bohea tea and several tea boxes, a pepper box, and 7 bushels of salt, valued at $1 per bushel. Salt would have been used to preserve food as well as for seasoning,
For what had been a large family, the Divers had little table ware, just 6 forks,6 knives, and 6 spoons of pewter, 14 “hard metal spoons,” 2 glass tumblers, one pint and one quart pewter mug, and a number of tea pots. There were several platters of earthenware, and one of pewter, plus a large earthenware bowl, and at least 6 other “boles.” I find 10 pewter plates on the inventory. None of the kitchenware was of silver. The only somewhat luxurious items I found were 5 “jappan” canisters, a looking glass, and a set of tea cups and saucers. Without any further description, it’s hard to know how fancy the tea cups and mirror were. Japanning is the treatment of either pottery or tinware with layers of heavy black laquer, heat-dried in between, so while the canisters would have been pretty, they were not made of valuable material.
Turning to the household furnishings, the Divers had a number of beds plus their mattresses and hangings, which were among the most valuable possessions of people at the time. There were lots of wool blankets and wool and linen sheets plus many pillows and pillow cases to go with the beds. There were chests of wood, and an “iron bound chest,” and my favorite item on the list, “1 rocking cradle with what is in it.” I trust that wasn’t a baby! Several tables were also on the list, unfortunately not further described. There were nine chairs and just one arm chair. There were no listings for benches or case pieces of furniture, like an armoire or a desk.
There were also a number of pieces of fabric on the inventory: 5 yards of woolen check, 1 ½ yards of flannel, 2 ½ yards of black silk, 2 ½ yards of striped cotton, 23 yards of calico. Only the wool could have been home made. Remembering Eve Diver’s wardrobe inventory, she had a number of garments of calico, plus a cloak and handkerchief of black silk. It certainly seems that lots of clothing and textile production went on in the house. The list also included a set of shoemaker’s tools.
Also on the list was Andrew Diver’s wardrobe. He had 5 pairs of trousers, 2 woolen and 3 “old;” 5 shirts, 2 linen, 1 muslin, and 2 woolen; 3 vests, one woolen and 2 “old;” 3 short coats (like suit jackets), 2 great coats(like an overcoat);and 1 “french” coat. I don’t know what that meant. Andrew had evidently made the transition from the breeches, buckled just below the knee, which men wore in the 18th century, to long trousers. The shirts probably would have been almost knee length and done double duty as night shirts. He also had 2 pairs of shoes and just one hat, plus 7 pairs of stockings and one pair leggings, 2 pairs of mittens, and one belt. He had 7 silk handkerchiefs, several black. There were also 2 “china shalls”, which must have been Eve’s. Andrew had 3 pairs of “specks”, presumably eyeglasses- which had a total value of only $.80. Besides the silk handkerchiefs, the only sign of conspicuous consumption was one pair of silver shoe buckles. And he would have needed some kind of buckles for his shoes in any case. This seems like a fairly modest wardrobe for a wealthy man.
This account only begins to look this extensive inventory. There were a few items which I found surprising, including one knapsack and one umbrella. Knapsack is a word of 16th century German origin, and its use may reflect Eve’s German ancestry. I didn’t realize how old the term was. Umbrellas at the time were generally used to shade a lady’s fair skin, rather than to keep off rain, so that was probably Eve’s possession, and another small luxury.
Andrew had one gun, not described more fully, as well as powder and shot for it. It would be surprising if he didn’t have a gun on what had been the frontier until recently. I am surprised that the Divers had no books, not even a Bible. Eve could not write, and perhaps couldn’t read either, but I would have expected at least a family Bible. Evidently there was no clock in the house, nor any pictures on the walls. There was a huge quantity of fabric and yarn, but no mention of needles for sewing or knitting. Of course the unknowns of this are the competence of the appraisers and the possibility that heirs could have removed items before the inventory was conducted.
A Woman’s Belongings
By Chris Kelly
Eve’s file inventories just her clothing. I wish the inventory had been conducted by a woman, who might have given more detail, but two men, John and Henry Graberger, Jr., made the list.
This is an interesting view into a closet of a well-off farm wife of c. 1800. I have to think she had many more clothes than the average woman. Also, we think of rural women of the late 18th century making most of their clothes, but almost all of Eve’s clothing was made of silk or calico, both imported materials at the time. A few items were of linen, which could have been made in the U.S. but not in the Schaghticoke area at the time, and a few of wool, which could have been home-produced. In addition, Eve died as an elderly woman, so would have had many years to amass her wardrobe, and probably would have been relatively conservative in her dress. The list reflects 18th rather than 19th century fashion, very much what we would call “colonial costume.”
Eve had two garments of silk, the most expensive material- a short gown and a skirt. A short gown would have been the top half of a dress connected to a short skirt, which would have to be worn over a long skirt. She had four other short gowns, material not specified, plus twelve calico short gowns. Eve also had two long gowns of calico. Calico was a printed cotton fabric, so we can imagine Eve dressed in a variety of patterns. She also had one loose gown made of wool, and one of “stuff”, which was also wool. Loose gowns, as the name implies, were not fitted to the body- good for pregnant and/or chunky ladies, or for more casual dress. And she had several skirts, one black, which would certainly have gone well under all those calico short gowns, and one calico.
Women at the time wore a shift next to the skin- like a slip- and varying numbers of petticoats under the skirts of their gowns. Eve had three shifts of unspecified material and one shift of linen. She had eighteen petticoats of unspecified material, plus one of striped linen, one calico, one of wool, and one of “stuff.” One common undergarment not mentioned in the inventory is a corset, commonly worn over the shift but under the gown. I don’t know why Eve didn’t have one. Though they were becoming old-fashioned by 1810, the types of garments she wore would have called for one.
Eve would have used a separate pocket, threaded on a cord and tied around her waist, to hold her daily necessities, much like a woman’s purse today. The pocket could either be very decorative and worn on top of her petticoats and gown, or plainer, and worn under those garments, accessible through slits. Eve had ten calico pockets, providing a wealth of daily choice as she dressed.
Women wore shawls instead of sweaters to add a layer of warmth, and mantels or cloaks instead of coats in cold weather. Eve had a variety of shawls, from one described as “needlework,” presumably embroidered; to one of “chintz”, another printed cotton; one of purple, and one just described as “new.” She did have a black coat, plus a scarlet cloak, and one of black silk, plus a mantel of calico.
Eve also had a number of accessories. She had 21 handkerchiefs, mostly of muslin, but one of silk, and one black. Certainly some of those would have been large enough to be worn around the neck and tucked into the bodice of a dress, both for modesty and warmth. She also had 13 pairs of stockings, 2 knitted. She had just one pair of gloves, made of silk, plus two red ribbons. Women wore aprons both as decorations and as utilitarian garments. Eve had just two aprons, both checked. Perhaps one of the family slaves did most of the cooking.
Given the wealth of the rest of her wardrobe, I find it surprising that the inventory lists just one pair of “old” shoes and one “old” bonnet. Women wore some sort of head covering all the time- usually a mob cap of some sort indoors with a bonnet put over it for going out, and the inventory also includes ten caps.
And Eve had just three pieces of jewelry: a chain of beads, a chain of black beads, and a chain of gold beads. The gold beads had the second highest value of any item on the inventory: $7.00. The most valuable garment was the black silk cloak, worth $15. The scarlet cloak was worth $6.00.
I would love to read some inventories of the clothing of other women who died around the same time as Eve- of different economic levels. My previous reading lead me to think that most women had few changes of clothing, where Eve had quite a few. Also, most of her clothes would have been made of purchased fabric, rather than the homespun we think of for colonial era garments. But it is odd that she had just the one pair of shoes and one bonnet- perhaps she had given away some of her clothing? And no earrings? Perhaps she had given away jewelry as well? This is just one more time when we wish we could talk to those long-deceased people face-to-face.
My conclusion is that these were hard working people who lived a very basic life. Andrew, even at age 74, had planted extensive crops of a number of kinds, and kept enough animals to supply meat and wool. Eve, at 64, was busy making cloth and clothes, preparing meals, and preserving the farm produce. They lived a life without frills. I find it thought-provoking to compare their belongings with my own and those of people around me.
March 11, 2013Posted by on
In the 19th century four residents of Schaghticoke served in the U.S. House of Representatives: Josiah Masters, from 1805-1809, Herman Knickerbacker, from 1809-1811, Job Pierson, from 1831-1835, and Thomas Ripley, from 1846-1847. The biographies I wrote of Masters and Knickerbacker have already appeared in these pages and are now on the website of the town, www.townofschaghticoke.org, as well as at my blog, www.schaghticokehistory.wordpress.com. I will write about Ripley in the future. Now, Job Pierson is on center stage.
Pierson was born in either Bridgehampton or East Hampton, in SuffolkCounty on Long Island, in 1791. One of his ancestors, Henry, was one of the original settlers of Southhampton. He was undoubtedly named for his great-grandfather named Job, who was born in 1697 and had just died in 1788. The family was well-off, and Job received a fine education. According to an article by a descendant in “NY Genealogy”, Pierson returned frequently to the home farm on Long Island. According to his obituary, he was “fitted for college” …by Dr. Lyman Beecher, father of Henry Ward Beecher, who was a preacher in Bridgehampton. He entered WilliamsCollege in Massachusetts as a sophomore, graduating in 1811. He studied law briefly with attorney William Williams in Salem, Washington County, and then with Herman Knickerbacker in Albany and Schaghticoke. He became Knickerbacker’s partner and began to practice law in 1815.
Also in 1815 he married Clarissa Taintor Bulkeley of Williamstown. She was a descendant of the founders of Concord, Massachusetts. Evidently they settled near Pierson’s patron Knickerbocker, as the little family is in the 1820 census of Schaghticoke. A newspaper article from 1833 describes Herman Knickerbocker and his home and factory on the Tomhannock Creek in some detail, but also states, “On the opposite side of the creek, surrounded by lofty pines, locust, and other ornamental trees, stands the residence of the Hon. Job Pierson, member of congress for the county of Rensselaer.”
Job followed his mentor in community and political involvement. When the Presbyterian Church sold pews to raise money to build its meeting house in 1820, Herman bought two pews and Job one, for $31. Neither man had any children baptized there- so perhaps their support was more symbolic than anything else. Pierson also joined Bethel Mather and William B. Slocum to donate land for the church when the building was moved into the village of Schaghticoke in 1827.
Interestingly, Pierson and his senior partner Knickerbacker were political opponents for the first fifteen years of their long friendship. Knickerbacker was a Federalist, and Pierson a Democratic Republican. The Federalist Party of Knickerbacker lost influence with the election of James Madison after the War of 1812, and Knickerbocker eventually joined Pierson as a Democratic Republicans, and supporter of Andrew Jackson. Meanwhile, Pierson, the longtime Jeffersonian Democrat, was appointed District Attorney of Rensselaer County in 1824 and served until his election to Congress as a Jacksonian in 1831. His obituary states, “the county never had an abler or more efficient public prosecutor. He always had his cases prepared, he never allowed himself to be ‘taken by surprise’, and the prisoner against whom he appeared had to be ‘doubly bound’ in honesty to escape conviction.”
In 1830 Pierson was elected to the US Congress by a large majority, and re-elected by an even larger majority in 1832. While in Congress, his obituary notes, Pierson “seldom spoke, but when he did speak it was with effect….General Jackson had not a more thorough supporter of his administration.”
In September of 1831, an article in the “Troy Sentinel” was “a call to prevent repeal of tariffs to protect farmers, mechanics, and manufacturers of RensselaerCounty”. It announced a meeting to be held at the court house in Troy to appoint delegates to a convention in New York City, and was signed by many men in the county, including Herman Knickerbacker, Bethel Mather, Abraham Knickerbacker, and Job Pierson, all of Schaghticoke.
While he was in Washington, D.C. from 1831-1835, Job Pierson wrote eloquent letters home to his wife in Schaghticoke. Fortunately for scholars, some 350 of these letters were collected in two volumes and are now in the Library of Congress. Others of his papers are in the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan. According to the comments of the librarians at the Library of Congress, Pierson, “with no political experience on the national level, and little on the local, knew he had much to learn. He was not lacking in confidence, however…One of his early observations was that a ‘great proportion’ of his fellow congressmen did nothing, and would ‘do nothing during the whole session’.”
Pierson came into contact with President Andrew Jackson many times while he served in Congress, “mostly while escorting visiting constituents who wished to meet the President.” He was happy to find that Jackson was not the backwoods hick he had been led to expect, but well-spoken and distinguished, with “the finest eye” he had ever seen. Pierson also went to dinner at the White House on several occasions, and wrote letters to his wife describing the occasions. One dinner was a “he-party” for thirty members of congress. The “old fellow”, Jackson, “was in good humor,” and the wine “flowed like torrents.” Even tee-totallers felt compelled to imbibe, and everyone became “as giddy as schoolboys.”
Pierson wrote to his wife about all of the political issues of the day, but also frequently asked about his children. He worried about them as they were away at school- the commentary from the Library doesn’t specify which ones- , and also about the constant fear of severe illness, financial problems, and the difficulties created for his wife by his absence. He wrote, “women should always be sunshine & flowers. Tears may flow at times-but only for the purpose of bedewing their garlands or moistening them like genial showers. They should not know the price of wheat or the difference in the quality of wood-all such matters should be provided and regulated by the other sex & I regret exceedingly that I am not at home to relieve you of all these burthens and quiet your wounded feelings.”
The Piersons had five children, all born at Schaghticoke: Sarah Jerusha (1816-1866), who married Philip Titus Heartt in 1839; Samuel Dayton (1819-1850), Job (1824-1896), who married Rachel Smith, Mary Bulkeley (1825-1851), who married Oscar Winship; and John Bulkeley (1828-1885), who married first Mary Lockwood, then Harriet VanSchoonhoven after Mary died.
Just to give a bit more information on the children, in the 1860 census, Sarah and her husband lived in Richmond, NY. He was an importer, and the couple obviously lived abroad for some years. They had eight children, one of whom had been born in Scotland, and one in Germany. The family included a governess, a cook and a servant. Samuel graduated from Williams in 1840, became a lawyer, and died in 1850. Job graduated from Williams in 1842, and became a prominent Presbyterian clergyman in Michigan. In retirement, he contributed thousands of entries to the New Oxford English Dictionary. John lived in Troy, and in the 1880 census, his occupation was listed as bank president. Mary’s husband Oscar Winship was a West Point graduate, who served in the Mexican War, then afterwards in the Southwest, controlling Native Americans. He died young.
Returning to Job and his letters home from Washington, D.C., a frequent topic was the sometimes chaotic congressional boarding houses where he lived. He reported that an unnamed senator had seduced a “handsome chamber-maid” and the other boarders, angry that he had monopolized her company, imported “some 4 or 5 girls from a house of ill-fame…who came there every night.” Pierson visited all around the city, and occasionally attended the theatre, walking out on a performance of “Macbeth” that he was not enjoying.
Pierson served two terms in Congress, but was not reelected for a third term in 1834. Andrew Jackson’s removal of government deposits from the Bank of the United States had created bad economic conditions in Schaghticoke, but Pierson remained firm in his support of his President. The “Albany Evening Journal” of November 3, 1834 reported that RensselaerCounty elected its entire Whig ticket. Judge Hunt had only a 33 vote majority over Job Pierson. Pierson served the last few months of his term, until March 4, 1835, as a lame duck. He wrote to his wife, “I shall shake the dust from my feet against the prison door of this City (Washington, D.C.) & and quite it I hope forever.” Pierson was concurrently running for Supervisor of the town of Schaghticoke, and the “Journal” of April 8, 1835, reported that Amos Briggs, industrialist, was elected supervisor over Job Pierson, “the Regency candidate.” The latter implies, I guess, that Pierson was the protégé of the old guard, like Herman Knickerbacker, though that wasn’t true. Briggs was a recent immigrant from Rhode Island.
However, Job was not unemployed when his term in Congress ended on March 4, 1835. According to the “Schenectady Cabinet” of March 25, 1835, Governor Marcy nominated him for Surrogate Judge in RensselaerCounty. “Mr. P. seems to be the special favorite of his party in Rensselaer. He has held the office of District Attorney for nine years, was twice elected to Congress, and has now been nominated by the Governor and will doubtless be confirmed by the Senate (as Surrogate.)” He served until 1840, after which time he went into practice as an attorney in Troy. I have found his name connected with his mentor, Herman Knickerbacker, in several land deals, and he helped to settle his estate when Herman died intestate in 1855. I believe that the Piersons moved to Troy when Job returned from his time in Washington, DC. They lived on WashingtonPark, the private park in the city of Troy.
Though he didn’t return to elective office, Job continued to be involved in politics and government. He was appointed in 1846 by the New York State Legislature to be one of the commissioners locating the route of the New York and Erie Railroad. He was a delegate to various State political conventions, and to the Democratic National Conventions of 1848, 1852, and 1856. The “Buffalo Daily Courier” of September 3, 1850 reported that “That sturdy old democrat and large hearted gentleman, Job Pierson, will represent the city of Troy at the State Convention.” His obituary adds, “He was an unswerving Democrat. He possessed a national reputation and influence. He was a prominent member of the conventions that nominated Cass, Pierce, and Buchanan for the presidency.”
Job was a respected and influential man in the county. Isaac T. Grant, who had a prosperous factory making agricultural machinery on the DeepKill in the 1840’s, served at a couple of State Political conventions with Pierson. He named his son, born 1836, after Job. Job Pierson Grant also became a manufacturer. Grant’s brother John and his partner Daniel Viall also had sons named Job. Grant placed an ad advertising his new “Patent Fan Mill”, made at Junction (Melrose) in the 1845 “The Cultivator”, a New York State Agricultural Magazine. The ad included endorsements by area farmers, then by Job Pierson, who honestly stated, “I know little of the utility of the fan-mill above described….but I am personally acquainted with almost every one of the above subscribers, and have no hesitation in saying that the most implicit confidence may be reposed in all they certify.” A further endorsement is by W.L. Marcy, NYS Governor, who certifies that he knows Pierson is a “highly respectable man (formerly member of Congress)”.
Pierson died in Troy on April 9, 1860 and is buried in OakwoodCemetery. Unlike his mentor Knickerbacker, Pierson left a will, which left his property to his widow and four surviving children, Job, John B., Sarah J. Heartt of Staten Island, and Mary B. Winship, of Troy. Mrs. Pierson died in 1865. The beautiful plot at Oakwood includes all of his children and their spouses.
I have quoted several times from his extensive obituary in the Troy “Times”. It further states, “As a Lawyer he had few superiors, as a man his integrity was manifest in all his acts, as a citizen he was universally esteemed……He despised trickery, and he loathed hypocrisy. He was frank and truthful…He made the cause of his client his own. He addressed the common sense of juries; simplifying the most abstruse points…He enjoyed a large and lucrative practice. He loved home and its endearing associations. He enjoyed the society of his friends. He was devotedly loved in return. We shall all miss the true old man, the eminent lawyer, the excellent citizen.”
“Spirit of the Times”, Batavia, NY Oct 26, 1852
“Corrector”, Sag Harbor, NY Nov 4, 1840
“Observer”, Madison, NY Dec 11, 1852
“Evening Journal”, Albany, NY 1850, Dec 5, 1834, Nov 3, 1834, Apr 8, 1835, Mar 22, 1834, Nov 12, 1831
“Evening Star and Times”, Schenectady, NY April 15, 1869
“Daily Observer”, Utica, NY May 9, 1848
“Free Press”, Auburn, Sept 29, 1830
“Democrat”, Penn Yann, Nov 2, 1852
“Republican Watchman”, Monticello Mar 2, 1847, 1844
“Daily Courier”, Buffalo, Sept 3, 1850
“Cabinet”, Schenectady, Mar 25, 1835, Sept 1859
“Morning Herald”, Utica, Apr 9, 1860
“Evening Post”, NY Dec 4, 1832, Aug 17, 1853
“Times” Troy, Apr 10, 1860
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Pierson Collection: MSS61531
Pierson Family Papers, Bentley History Library, U of Michigan
Pierson, Lizzie Benedict, Pierson Genealogy, digitized by Google, Albany, 1878
Census: US 1820
Biographical Directory of the American Congress, US Govnt 1971
“The Cultivator”, 1845 p 295
February 1, 2013Posted by on
In earlier columns, I have written about about the histories of the Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, and Presbyterian Churches in the town of Schaghticoke. The Dutch Reformed Church was the first in town, founded around 1715. The Presbyterian was the first church in the new village of Schaghticoke, founded in 1803. It was followed by the Methodist Church in 1820. According to a history of the church written by Mrs. C. H. Edwards in 1952, the first Methodist meeting was held in the Travis Tavern in the year 1820. Meetings were held in private homes for a few years. The first church was in a small building, behind the current car wash in the village of Schaghticoke. It had been a blacksmith shop. After its official incorporation in 1831, the congregation outgrew the site, and built a new church in 1834 at the corner of 5th and East Streets. According to Sylvester’s History of Rensselaer County, it was built by a Mr. Mann, whose father built the first Presbyterian Church in 1803. Among the 40 or so subscribers to the building fund were “many benevolent citizens not Methodists, but willing to help in any religious work or public improvement.” This church was only used for about twenty years. In 1852 a lot was purchased on Main Street, where the car wash is now, from Amos Briggs and Betsey Hart for $250. A new church was erected at a cost of $3,300. At this time, the congregation split from the one at Schaghticoke Hill, just down Route 40, where there was also a church building.
The records of the church now extant date from 1864. In that year, the church applied to be separate from the other “charges” (churches) in its circuit, at Schaghticoke Hill and “Junction” (Melrose). This implies that one minister would have ridden circuit, serving the several churches, but that the Schaghticoke church felt it could support a full-time minister on its own. This first minister was W.H. Hughes, whose records are full of praise for God and the generous members of his congregation. There were 68 full members and 16 probationers. Member Bloomfield Usher and his wife Asenath Ann donated a lot for a parsonage the next year, and a parsonage was erected at a cost of about $2500. It was later used as the Presbyterian Manse after the union with that church. Mr. Usher and two other members each gave $300 toward the parsonage, with donations from about 30 other people, and the proceeds from attendance at three lectures adding up to $1808. $200 more was earned from selling the church at Crandall’s Corners. That is the intersection to the north on Route 40 where one turns to go to Borden’s Apple Orchard. So within just a few years, the church spent over $5000 on new buildings, and became an independent entity. Despite this promising start, from 1869-1872 “the church flourished but poorly, and at least once the prospect of its existence seemed doubtful.” It went back to sharing a pastor, this time with the Valley Falls church, which was much larger. The loyalty of several members and the appointment of a couple of more charismatic pastors improved the situation, and the church went back to having its own pastor. In general, the pastors stayed about two years each after that, and the records fluctuate between joy at the revival of interest in the church and concern that financial obligations are not being met. Periodically, pastors were shared with either Valley Falls or Schaghticoke Hill. In 1877 the congregation “engaged in a Murphy Temperance Reform, which was a complete success.” In 1888, the first females appeared in the list of stewards of the church, “sisters Baker and Ackart.” The church was completely remodeled in 1892.
As with the Presbyterian Church, there were societies or committees within the church for specific purposes: the Willing Workers, the Ladies Aid, and the Epworth and Literary Leagues, the Temperance, Tract, Missions, and Freedmen committees. Of course there was also a Sunday School and a choir. In 1893, the Epworth League had 48 members and a Junior League conducted by Miss Olmstead, Miss Tarbell, and Mrs Baldwin. “They have instructed in catechism and in scripture, and Mrs. Baldwin has introduced a drill with dumb bells, a pleasing and healthful exercise which pleases the children very much.”
Also like the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist church was damaged by the periodic explosions at the Powder Mill in Valley Falls. In 1904 the windows in the auditorium were repaired “by a Boston expert at the expense of the Powder Company,” and a new “Belgium lamp” was purchased to be used “in place of the lamp thrown down and damaged by the last powder mill explosion.” In 1913 “matters” were settled with the Powder Company for $200, but it was suggested retaining a lawyer if there were future damages to obtain a better settlement. In 1923, Pastor Jenkins reported damages to the parsonage by the Powder Mill explosion.
The minutes of the Quarterly Conferences over the years reveal constant need for fund raising, repair to the church or parsonage, efforts of the Sunday School or one of the organizations, generous donations of time and/or money by members, arrival and departure of ministers, organists, and sextons. The 1906 minutes give this list of the sexton’s duties: sweep, dust, clean the kitchen, mow the lawn, sweep the walks and steps, shovel the same, keep lamps filled and lit and put out, their wicks trimmed as needed, build fires as needed, tend fires, ring the bell, adjust ventilation at meetings, maintain decorum around the church, undo any extra decorations for services. In case of an event at the church where admission was charged, the sexton would get an extra dollar. For this, the sexton, this time Delbert Seymour, would receive $100 per year. In the 1905 census, Delbert Seymour, a 25-year-old who lived with his grandmother Cinthia Knickerbocker, was listed as owning a blacksmith shop. So being sexton was by no means his full-time job.
Apparently in 1931, the church property at Schaghticoke Hill was sold. In 1932, the pastorate began to be shared with Melrose and in 1950 with Valley Falls again. After much discussion, the church joined with the Presbyterian Church across the street in 1960, leaving its building. The new church’s name was the Presbyterian United Church. The former Methodist Parsonage was used for the minister. That home, almost opposite the Schag-a-Val diner on Main Street, was sold a few years ago. The Methodist Church building was sold to the “Schaghticoke Sun” newspaper, with the proceeds to be used for improvements to the Presbyterian Church building. A newspaper article in the “Sun” in 1961 reported that “the (church) building is under reconstruction to make room downstairs for the workshop of the “Schaghticoke Sun. Upstairs the Hoosic Valley Fife and Drum Corps are remodeling the rooms to be used as their headquarters. They will use these rooms as a meeting hall and also for their weekly drills.” The church burned in 1980, and is now the site of a gas station and car wash. Unfortunately, most of the only surviving back issues of the “Sun”, dating to about 1885, were lost in the fire.
As with the Presbyterian Church, we can enjoy learning about the ins and outs of an active community congregation thanks to preservation of at least some of its records. If you would like to read more, my transcription of the records is online at http://www.townofschaghticoke.org, Click on History at the left side of the page.
January 8, 2013Posted by on
New Year’s Resolutions
By Chris Kelly
Okay, I admit it; I have an addiction…. to Ancestry.com. Last year I finally broke down and purchased a membership. I have used it for researching my own family tree, but I primarily use it to research people who lived in the town of Schaghticoke.
So, I guess New Year’s is a time to resolve to try to break addictions, but instead I will resolve to continue to pry into the lives of people who lived in our town in the past. The history of our country was made by primarily by the small actions of individuals, and the more I can find out about them, the deeper our knowledge about the town and its development.
For the past months, I have been trying to find out all I can about the men from Schaghticoke who fought in the U.S. Civil War. Ancestry.com digitized the original record cards kept by New York State on all of the men who served in its regiments, and the pension cards created by the U.S. government for all those who applied- soldiers and their widows. Using those documents plus some others, I have been able to find out quite a lot about some of the men. And sometimes what I find is not about the Civil War at all, but so revelatory about either the people or their society.
I’ll just give a couple of examples. First is one that really doesn’t relate to Schaghticoke, but is so much fun… I was trying to find out about a man named Patrick Joice, who showed up in the 1865 census in Schaghticoke. I looked at a Joice family in the city of Troy in 1860, trying to find where Patrick had come from. As I scanned the handwritten census page, I noticed that the occupation of a number of women in the “family” above the Joices on the list was….prostitute! Amazingly, the “head of household”, William Hunter, a 54 year old Irishman, had “keeps house of prostitution” as his occupation. Eight women, ranging in age from 17 to 16, had prostitute as their occupation. The house, which was listed in the 1860 Troy directory as a saloon, was at the corner of Liberty and Hill Street in Troy, a rough part of town. Doing some research, I found that prostitution didn’t become illegal until well in to the 20th century.
Just one more example… I researched a man named Edward Pinkham, who died in Schaghticoke in 1905. He was in a New Hampshire Regiment during the Civil War, after which his family moved to Schaghticoke, where his father James was superintendent of the woolen factory. The first surprise in researching him was to find a full-length photo of him as a young lieutenant in the war online. The second surprise was that though I knew that the family was in Schaghticoke from about 1870 through the mid-20th century, I found that Edward and his younger brother Herbert went to Abilene, Kansas, about 1878, to open a grocery store. Abilene would have been on the frontier at that time. Wild Bill Hickock was Marshall of the rowdy town in 1871. I’m not sure what happened, but though they were in Abilene in 1880, the Pinkham brothers were back in Schaghticoke by the time of Herbert’s untimely death at age 29 in 1881. That foray to the Wild West certainly gives a new dimension to our thoughts about the Pinkham family.
So, look for more detailed information about the ordinary people of our town, Schaghticoke, in my columns over the course of the New Year. And Happy New Year to you all!