the results of research about the history of the town of Schaghticoke
July 25, 2014Posted by on
I was partly inspired to begin writing about our local men in the Civil War because Joe Sticklemyer published the letters that George Bryan wrote home to his friend Jennie Ackart describing his experiences as a soldier in the Rensselaer County Regiment, the 125th. George made me think about the impact of the experiences of being a soldier on the Schaghticoke boys who enlisted. Most of them had never been away from home, much less faced death across a battlefield. As I wrote of the battles of the 125th from September 1862 to June 1864, using George’s letters as a vivid source, I was well aware that the end was coming. I feel I got to know him so well that I genuinely mourn him. He enlisted as an aimless young man who found he had a true talent as a leader of men, and knew he couldn’t go back home and resume small town life. Of course we don’t know what could have been, as he was killed on June 16, 1864 at the start of the siege of Petersburg.
George A. Bryan enlisted in August 1862 as a private in Company K at age 23, listing his occupation as farmer. He had black eyes and hair and was 5’8” tall. He was the child of Benjamin and Ellen Bryan. George was born in 1840 in Stillwater and had two older brothers and a younger sister. Father Benjamin was a farmer, who owned his father’s farm in shares with two sisters. Through the years, Benjamin farmed on his own and with other members of his family, but his sisters seem to have been more successful than he. For example, in the 1870 census, his sister Lydia had real estate of $21,000. Benjamin and family lived in the house with her, but he listed no real estate and a personal estate of less than $2000. Their farm was on Verbeck Avenue.
Interestingly, though many children worked on their fathers’ farms, in the 1855 census, George was a teenage clerk living in the family of the Percys, who were merchants, and in the 1860 census he was a farm laborer on the farm of David Ackart. His older brothers John and Leonard had moved to Iowa and Kansas respectively. Perhaps the whole complicated family situation with their aunts in charge made the boys realize that they should strike out on their own, not counting on inheriting any land in Schaghticoke. Or perhaps the family needed the income that George got from working out, rather than on the family farm.
His superiors must have recognized George as a good soldier from the start. He was promoted to Sergeant by October of 1862, while the 125th was in internment camp in Chicago. Over that winter back in camp in Virginia, he wrote that he was studying to be an officer. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on December 11, 1862, having to move to Company D, and to 1st Lieutenant in Company F on November 18, 1863. Though George suffered a couple of sicknesses during his service, went through horrible battles, and certainly lived in primitive conditions, he wrote to Jennie late in 1863, “I would not leave the army. I like it too well. I have done working on a farm. I will not deny that I love the society of my friends and the comforts of home, but I have got used to it now.”
In his last letter, in May 1864, George wrote to Jennie, “I cannot help but think how long it will be before I am either killed or wounded. But if either you know that it will not be running away from the enemy, and you know it is glorious to die in such a cause.” It seems amazing to me that after all he had seen and been through that Bryan maintained that attitude.
Before the Union and Confederate Armies settled in for a nine month siege at Petersburg, there were several Union attempts to take the city. On June 16, the 125th attacked and suffered many casualties. The regimental history describes how “the brave Lt. George A. Bryan” was shot, “A group of officers were standing in a ravine after the first rush of the charge was over,…when Lt. Bryan fell, (shot by a Confederate sniper). He lingered about a half hour in agony and then passed from earth.” The history records extensive biographies for most of the other officers of the regiment, but Bryan had worked his way through the ranks, and was not from Troy, so perhaps the author, Chaplain Ezra Simon, just did not know him as well as many others, and said nothing else about him.
George’s body was returned home for burial in Hudsonview Cemetery in Mechanicville. Thanks to Knickerbocker historian Jon Stevens, I learned that George’s mother, Ellen, had a twin sister who married a Cromwell. They were the daughters of Rebecca Knickerbocker Bradshaw. The sister also had a son, Edward A. Cromwell, who was killed in the Civil War, at the second battle of Manassas. George and his parents are buried in the Bradshaw family plot at Hudsonview. Jon said the cemetery began as a Bradshaw family cemetery.
George’s parents Benjamin and Ellen moved to Iowa by 1880, settling near another of their sons, John, a farmer. In 1882, in an application for a pension based on George’s service, Benjamin stated that before he enlisted, his son had given them all his pay, except for a small amount for his clothes, and that he had sent home all his military pay as well. Ellen had been bedridden for several years, and had needed expensive treatments at Saratoga. Now that Benjamin was retired, he needed the support his deceased son would have provided. Indeed, they had moved in with John by 1885. Benjamin died in 1887. As for Jennie, or Clarissa Jane Ackart, the recipient of George’s letters, she never married and was a school teacher for many years. In the 1900 census she lived alone. She died at age 69 in 1903 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Were Jennie and George really more than friends? Would they have become so after the war? What would George have become if he survived the war? George’s story was repeated so many times during the Civil War: young and promising men dying in battle. Of those who survived the war, I have found that some seemed to go on as before, while others were irrevocably changed for the better or worse by their experiences. I can’t help but see the similarities in both the Vietnam vets and our new Iraq and Afghanistan vets, though the Civil War group was much, much larger.
July 7, 2014Posted by on
The Sesquicentennial of the Civil War continues. The more I research, the more I become convinced that we need to remember and honor the men who served in that conflict, the defining one for our nation. The nation and our state have done little, in my opinion, to celebrate the 150 year milestone, missing a great opportunity to introduce the lessons of the conflict to a new generation. At least I can do my part. My columns about the big spring battles of the East will run a little past the actual 150th anniversary, in May. So if you are interested in seeing reenactors and standing on the ground where the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor happened on the date 150 years later, I would suggest a trip to Virginia in May! The National Park Service has installed a new exhibit at the Chancellorsville Visitors’ Center, which covers the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. I will set the scene for our local boys, the men of the 125th and 169th NYS Volunteer Infantry Regiments.
When we left our Rensselaer County soldiers, they were dug in for the winter of 1863-1864, the men of the 125th N.Y. Infantry in Virginia, those of the 169th N.Y. on Folly Island in South Carolina. Over the winter, both regiments sent their Colonels home to Troy to recruit. The regiments were sadly depleted by death and disease. The Troy newspapers reported the presence of the recruiting parties, and ads sought men to enlist, offering bounties up to $965 for veterans of other units, and urging recruits to join their friends. The 169th even offered a bounty to people who brought recruits to enlist, $15 if the man was a new recruit, $25 if he was a veteran. The 169th recruiting party returned to the regiment by the end of March. An article about the 125th quoted a letter from a soldier of the regiment: “the regiment is small and the boys wish for speedy reinforcements in the way of recruits. So hurry up the young men from Troy…the officers of the regiment are very much liked, but the Colonel more than the rest…he is brave and cares well for his men..” Colonel Crandell and his recruiters did not return to the regiment until early May.
President Lincoln announced a further draft, seeking 200,000 more men countrywide to join the 300,000 drafted the previous summer. There has been much written about the draft, with its provision that men could buy their way out for $300 or hire a substitute. But as with the earlier draft, Rensselaer County met its quota of about 2100 men with volunteers, so that no one was actually drafted.
The Troy “Times” newspaper included many accounts of maneuverings of both the Union and Confederates over the winter, with speculation about the South- did it remain committed to rebellion or was it ready to rejoin the Union? Increasingly, articles debated what would and should happen to the Southern states and to the slaves once the Confederacy had been defeated. This certainly shows that the North fully expected to win, it was just a question of when. On the other hand, I just read a book called Lee’s Miserables by J. Tracy Power, detailing this time period for the Confederates. Much as it would seem unrealistic to us today, Southerners in general were equally confident of victory as 1864 began.
In winter and spring 1864, the “Troy Times” newspaper reported on international, national, and local news, but the emphasis was on the upcoming campaign season, as the Union and Confederate Armies and Navies prepared to resume fighting the Civil War.
The Troy paper was also full of the activities on the home front of the war. Nationally, the Sanitary and Christian Commissions had organized as volunteers to provide needed amenities to the troops and to care for the wounded. Rensselaer County had its own branches of both of those organizations. Sanitary fairs, concerts, and church socials were held in Albany and Troy during the winter to raise money for the national organizations. On the local level, there were two articles in the paper praising a Mrs. Haskell and her group from Lansingburgh who had made knitted mittens and night caps for the men of the 125th New York State Volunteers, one of the local regiments. A thank you letter from the regiment noted that the mittens warmed both the hands and, as evidence of the caring of those on the home front, the hearts of the recipients.
On February 2, 1864 the Troy “Times” reported that the 3rd Army Corps had had a grand ball at the headquarters of General Joseph Bradford Carr of Troy. He was based in a house near Brandy Station, Virginia. For the occasion he had a “dancing hall” erected behind the house, “tastefully decorated and brilliantly illuminated.” Regimental bands from Carr’s division provided the music for the affair, and ladies came from New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. The supper cost $1500, a huge amount, and the paper stated, “it cannot be better described” beyond stating the cost. The ball was part of “a new system of pleasure to beguile the tedium of camp life during the inactivity of the Army.” I question how much this relieved the boredom of the average soldier, as it seemed to be aimed at the officer corps.
George Bryan, the Lieutenant in the 125th whose letters written home to his friend Jennie in Schaghticoke have informed much of my writing about the regiment, wrote on February 22 that “there is going to be a grand military ball at our corps headquarters tonight. There is a few of our officers going to attend it. I shall not myself.” He did attend a ceremony that day honoring General George Washington on the occasion of his birthday, which he said was wonderful. The illustration is a drawing of the celebration of the 2nd Army Corps for Washington’s Birthday on February 22, 1864.
The 169th NYS Infantry Regiment, the other Rensselaer County Infantry regiment, had spent much of 1863 besieging Charleston, South Carolina from a base on Folly Island . From February 7-12, while their Colonel was recruiting in the North, the regiment marched to nearby Kiawah and Johns Island, South Carolina, burning a plantation and fighting with the Confederates based there. The purpose of the attack was to keep the Confederate soldiers there and prevent them from reinforcing Jacksonville, Florida, which had just been seized by a Union force. The Union army still was defeated at the battle of Olustee, and the 169th was then part of a force moved to reinforce those forces, camping at Jacksonville on February 23rd. At first the men were sad to leave their settled winter encampment near Charleston, but like many after them, they soon discovered the delights of Florida. They were ordered to Fortress Monroe, in Virginia, on April 20 1864, getting ready for the spring campaign season.
The “Troy Times” described one small action of the 125th Regiment, the regiment with our Schaghticoke boys, which interrupted their time in camp. On February 9, 1864 the men were ordered to form up and march from winter camp, just west of Washington, D.C. in Virginia, to cross the Rapidan River at Morton’s Ford and attack the Confederates behind their earthworks. The river was four feet deep and rapid- so the men had a rough time crossing, but took the Confederates by surprise and pushed them back, taking some captives. After spending a night sleeping on the ground, cold and wet, the men recrossed the river and returned to camp. The “Times” reported that the purpose of the attack was unknown, but George Bryan, our local boy, writing home to his friend Jennie Ackart, said that the purpose was “to find out the strength of the Rebel Army in our Front.” He did not participate, he was “sorry to say,” as he was on picket duty. He added, “The Schaghticoke Company done better than ever before, there was not a man but what was in his place and eager to press in. Schaghticoke may feel proud of her Company for they are good and brave men and fear no danger.” The paper reported that at least no men in the 125th were killed or wounded. Bryan added that the cold and wet men were issued whiskey when they returned to camp, and “it caused no trouble save a few felt ‘golly’.”
At some point in the winter, George Bryan got to go home. The timing is unclear from both the dates and the content of his letters. On February 10 he wrote to Jennie, “I am sorry I could not make you a visit while at home but you know that my time was so short that I could not see half of my friends. I did not make a visit at home….I hardly saw my mother an hour.” He said his “orders were not to be trifled with,” and he didn’t dare divert to visit everyone. This seems amazing to me. He was home but didn’t have a minute to see his friends and faithful correspondent Jennie? Especially as he adds that he had a fine time on the trip back to camp. He stopped in Baltimore and visited W.M. VanSchaick, a fellow officer from Company K, who was there recovering from wounds. Plus there was a gap in his otherwise regular letters to Jennie from February 22 to May 14, 1864. I really don’t know where he was all that time.
Jennie must have written to George that she was sad not to see him and afraid she would never see him again. He reassured her on the last point, but indeed, they would not meet again. She must also have written him about girls at home he might like. George is rather coy, saying they are all fine ladies. He writes that his friend Bratt was “a foolish boy to get married, although I may yet be as foolish…” This is the only letter which indicates that either he or Jennie may have considered the other as anything more than a friend. George also asks permission to burn Jennie’s letters to him, as they were starting to take up so much room in his limited pack.
Because of the big gap in George Bryan’s letters, my sources of my information for the upcoming battles are the 125th’s Regimental History, written by Chaplain Ezra Simons after the war, and the “Troy Times”. The 125th was part of the 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac, which was reorganized during the winter. The commander of the 2nd was General Winfield Scott Hancock, known as “Hancock the Superb.” The 125th was specifically under General Barlow and Colonel Frank- for reference when looking at maps of battles. Everyone, soldier and citizen, seemed to realized that with General Ulysses S. Grant in overall command of the Union Armies that this campaign season would be different. There was tremendous confidence in Grant. His order to General Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, was “Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also.”
This spring my husband and I went to walk over the territory of the battles of the 125th in the spring of 1864 in Virginia. The overwhelming impression is that Virginia was one big battleground throughout the Civil War. With the Confederate Armies working to capture Washington, D.C. and defend Richmond, Virginia, and the Union Armies working to do the opposite, this was inevitable in retrospect. Richmond and Washington are just about 110 miles apart. We went to Fredericksburg, Virginia to begin our trip. A measure of the overlap of the fighting is that the National Park Service brochure for the area covers the battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, Chancellorsville in 1863, and the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House in May 1864. There isn’t a separate park headquarters for each battle. The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House come under the aegis of the “Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania Battlefield Park” with the headquarters at the site of the battle of Chancellorsville. The battlefields are a patchwork of modern residences and shopping malls interspersed with protected sites of battles sprinkled with granite monuments erected over the years by veterans’ groups. The National Park Service couldn’t possibly protect all of the battlefields. At this point the Wilderness is threatened by construction of a Walmart.
So at the beginning of May 1864 the 125th moved out of winter camp with the rest of the Army of the Potomac, marching from winter camp south, crossing the Rapidan River, heading for General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. The Union Armies passed over the site of the battle of Chancellorsville the year before and clashed with the Confederates in an area known as “the Wilderness,” just a few miles to the west. The area had been logged over the years for fuel for a local iron industry, so was covered with a dense tangle of second growth forest, making visibility very poor.
The first day of the Battle of the Wilderness was May 5 and the 125th did not participate. On May 6 they were on the left of the Union Line, with all but 104 men on picket duty on the very end of the line. Those men, along with soldiers from two other regiments, moved forward through the thick brush under Lt. Colonel Aaron Myer of Troy, substituting for Colonel Crandell, who was still in recruiting back home. In fierce fighting, Myer was wounded in the thigh and the Regiment had to fall back when they ran out of ammunition. 34 of the 104 had been killed. “The fighting here..was terrific..far more severe than even at Gettysburg…the firing sounded like the roaring of the ocean.” The woods caught fire and burned some of the dead and wounded. Myer died a couple of days later and was first buried on the battlefield, then reinterred back in Troy. The “Times” reported that “the medical branch of the service has greatly improved since last summer. Hospital tents and food adapted to the wounded are brought with the Army and kept near the troops.” The Army had indeed made improvements, but two civilian organizations, the Sanitary Commission and the Christian Commission had organized nationwide to provide food, clothing, and nursing to wounded soldiers.
In prior years, the Union Army paused after each major battle to regroup, but not this year with General Grant in charge. Though the Union Army had suffered 20,000 casualties and the Confederates 10,000 in the two days of the Wilderness, Grants’ generals pushed on after Lee the next day.
By May 8th, 1864 the 125th had marched a few miles south, reaching Todd’s Tavern, on the right of the Union line. They moved forward again on the 9th and crossed the Po River, marching until midnight. Sometime in the confusion of marching, digging, and fighting, five men of Company K, the Schaghticoke boys, were captured by Confederate cavalry. They were Aretus Loomis, Archibald Fisher, Andrew Doty, Stephen McPherson, and Timothy Fields. The men were sent to the notorious prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Archibald got there just a few weeks before his brother Douglas died. Douglas had been there since February. The camp was closed in the fall, as the Army of General Sherman approached, and these five, along with the other prisoners who were still well enough to be moved, were sent to the new stockade at Florence, South Carolina. Stephen was shot “on the dead line” there. . There was an elevated wooden “line” a few feet from the prison stockade. If a prisoner crossed the line, he would be shot dead by the guards. This is what happened to Stephen. The other men were exchanged December 31, 1864. Aretus, Andrew, and Timothy survived their ordeal, though Aretus had several long term health issues as a result Archibald died on the ship en route to the hospital at Annapolis after his exchange, so close to salvation. The Fisher family of Schaghticoke had five sons, four of whom enlisted in Company K of the 125th. Two, Archibald and Douglas, died as a result of imprisonment, and two, John and William, survived. John is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Schaghticoke.
On May 9, the Troy “Times” reported, “Glory, glory, a complete victory. Rebels on the run, Grant vigorously pursuing.” Both Union and Confederate officers and men immediately realized that this campaign would be different than the previous two years. Then, there would be a battle followed by several weeks of regrouping by both Armies. Under U.S. Grant, the Army of the Potomac just kept fighting. The “complete victory” was certainly an exaggeration. Both Armies were suffering horrible casualties, and Lee certainly wasn’t ready to give up.
Another innovation was that both sides began to build earthworks. As soon as they stopped, the infantryman began digging trenches and cutting down trees to form barriers to shield themselves. This became a common practice in later wars, but had not been done very much in the Civil War before this bloody year. The 125th had dug earthworks on the 8th, only to abandon them the next day. May 10 they fought the Rebels again, and again the woods caught fire, causing them to fall back. May 11 they marched all night. Chaplain Simon of the 125th said the men were exhausted from the marching, digging, and fighting.
May 12 was the decisive day of the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, which occurred just a few miles south and east of the Wilderness. The opposing Armies had been facing each other for a couple of days. Much of the Confederate Army was arrayed behind earthworks in the shape of a mule shoe- a salient- subjecting them to attack from two directions. The 125th was in the brigade of the Army of the Potomac which attacked the tip of the mule shoe, again suffering 50-60 casualties, including the death of almost all of its lieutenants. The Union Army succeeded in overcoming the Rebels, but by that point they had built another series of trenches to their rear, flattening out the shoe, so that the battle just continued on a new line. The part of the battlefield including the “mule shoe” is preserved as a National Park Service site. It was so dug up into defensive trenches of all kinds that farmers never replowed it after the war. The trenches survive until today.
The Armies fought on for a few more days until Grant moved his men on South, trying to slide around Lee to Richmond. From May 8th to the 21st, the Army of the Potomac suffered 18,400 casualties, the Army of Northern Virginia 13,000.
At that point our letter-writer George Bryan finally writes to Jennie again. On May 14 he reported the results of the battle of the Wilderness and the death of Colonel Myers. “I do not know of any of the Schaghticoke boys being killed. There is lots of wounded officers to be seen here but not many dangerously wounded. I look at them I cannot help but think how long will it be before I am either killed or wounded. But if either you know that it will not be while running away from the enemy, and you know it is glorious to die in such a cause,..” This confirms what I have read elsewhere- that officers were especially liable to wounds and death as they led their men. The men had more opportunity to stay in the trenches and keep their heads down.
By the next battle of the 125th, May 23, Colonel Crandell had returned to his regiment, which had very reduced numbers, just 130 present for duty rather than the 1000 men they began with. He brought some new recruits, who were certainly thrust into fighting with no training. Our correspondent George Bryan reported to his friend Jennie on May 31 that he had twenty men in his company, which should have had 100. He added, “we have to build earth works at night and fight during the day.”
The Regiment crossed the North Anna River on May 23 on a pontoon bridge and attacked the rebels again. The North Anna battlefield is a historic site of Hanover County, Virginia, rather than the National Park Service. When I visited there, I was lucky enough to meet the local historian, who directed me to the area where the 125th would have fought, not within the park borders. They crossed the North Anna River almost precisely at this point, next to the modern road north and south. Today the river seems shallow enough to ford. After another inconclusive battle, the Army of the Potomac continued to march south and east, actually passing the Confederate capitol, Richmond, to the east, and ending up near Petersburg, Virginia, just south of Richmond. Like the Wilderness, this was also near a previous battle, this time that of Gaines Mill, part of a series of losses by Union General McClellan in his Peninsular Campaign of June 1862. On May 27 the Troy Times correspondent reported, “ I never saw the army in better spirits for all they have been marching and fighting for the last 24 days. It has every confidence in Grant and there has been scarcely any straggling. Marched 125 miles in a week. “
The 125th reached Cold Harbor, to the east of Richmond, on June 2, 1864. They quickly learned that the 169th NY, the other Rensselaer County Regiment, was relatively nearby. Where had they been? They had been in the Army of the James, commanded by General Benjamin Butler. That Army had landed on the coast of Virginia, near where the James River entered the Atlantic Ocean, just to the east of Richmond around May 1. This was land that had already been fought over in the war in the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. The 169th participated in a series of unsuccessful battles against the Confederates in May, with just a few casualties, called the Bermuda Hundred Campaign. A new tour map of the sites of the campaign, beginning at the National Park Service Headquarters in Richmond, has been produced for the 150th anniversary.
Unfortunately for its men, the 169th had reached Cold Harbor by June 1, when it participated in the first phase of that very bloody battle. On the battle map of Cold Harbor on June 1, the location of the 169th can be found near the Beulah Church. They were in the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Division of the Army of the James, under Colonel Devins. Their Colonel, John McConihe of Troy, was killed in the assault that day, shot three times, dying instantly. The mortality for Colonels in the Civil War was very high, leading as they did from the front and on horseback. The casualty total for the regiment was about 80.
Colonel McConihe’s body was returned to Troy for burial. The Troy paper reported, “ a painful gloom has been thrown over the city… he has fallen, sword in hand, bravely leading his noble comrades…”, then detailed all of the funeral preparations, including the order of the units which participated in the funeral cortege from downtown to Oakwood Cemetery, where he was buried. The body, despite being “in a poor state of conservation” lay in state at the County Courthouse. The funeral was June 8 from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Among the attendees was retired General John Wool and the Governor of New York State. McConihe has a very modest tombstone at Oakwood.
When the battle continued June 3, the Confederates were well entrenched, so that in the initial Union assault it is estimated that about 6000 Federals were killed or wounded in one hour. Thankfully for our men, neither the 125th nor the 169th were in the forefront of the battle that day. On the map of the battle for June 3, the 125th would have been at the far left of the Union line, in the reserve. The Troy “Times” reporter in the 125th stated, “From all appearances the armies here are gathering for the life and death struggle. We are to besiege the rebel works.. Our men can charge, they have done it..but we hope victory may be gained in other ways.” The men were willing to fight, but they saw very clearly the carnage that resulted from charging the entrenched foe.
The National Park Service Battlefield for Cold Harbor includes only a small section of the original site. The area is just to the northeast of the city of Richmond, and though it is not extensively built up, it is not rural like the area around the Wilderness. The Park Service ranger directed us to the area where the 125th was located during the battle, which was to the East of the park headquarters, a non-descript area near a gas station, now wooded.
After the initial fighting on June 1 and 3, the Union and Confederate Armies remained in place. The brochure from the Park Service notes that the battle of Cold Harbor showed that well-entrenched Armies were virtually “impregnable to frontal assaults,” a fact that was the story of World War I in the 20th century. A June 9 report in the “Troy Times” from the 125th, dated June 5 at Cold Harbor stated “so close are our lines to those of the enemy that a soldier might throw his hat into the works of the confederates.” There were a few casualties every day, as snipers shot careless men. The total Union casualties for Cold Harbor were about 10,000 men. So the total Union casualties from May 1 to June 12 were about 40,000 men. One can only imagine the trail of dead and wounded men scattered over Virginia from Fredericksburg to Richmond.
General Grant made one more attempt to end the war in 1864, stealthily moving his Army on June 12 to try to take the vital Confederate transportation and supply hub of Petersburg, just about 25 miles to the south. Though the Union Army had been unable to take Richmond, but if they could take Petersburg, Richmond could not last long. Unfortunately the initial Union assaults on the city were not pressed hard enough and Lee was able to get the Army of Northern Virginia into the city to defend it. The Armies settled down into a nine-month siege.
Where was the 125th in all of this? The Regimental History reported that they marched from Cold Harbor, boarded transports to cross the James River on June 12, marched and countermarched, and arrived at Petersburg in the middle of the night on June 15. On June 16, they were marched from one end of the Union line to the other, then charged the rebels in the vanguard, over hilly terrain on Shand’s farm, under Confederate fire the whole time. They lost 44 men, 14 of whom were killed, “the proportion of loss in killed was greater than in any battle in which the regiment had taken part.” Among the wounded was their Colonel Crandall, who was struck in the face by a piece of artillery shell.
“After the first rush of the charge was over,” a group of officers were conversing in a ravine when “a company of rebels brought a cross-fire to bear upon (them), and Lieutenant (George) Bryan fell. He lingered about a half hour in agony and then passed from earth.” This was George Bryan, our Schaghticoke correspondent. In his final letter to his friend Jennie Ackart, written May 31, he wrote, “I have escaped thus far, but may fall at any moment….it will not be running away from the enemy.” George is buried in Hudsonview Cemetery in Mechanicville.
On June 19, the 125th marched six miles further south, near the southernmost part of the siege at the Weldon Railroad. Skirmishing continued through the whole period. On June 22, they were part of a poorly planned and executed attack to try to cut the Weldon Railroad. The attack failed badly, with the loss of three more of the regiment’s lieutenants. The Regimental history also reports that “the hot weather combined with the poor water…tended to fill the hospital at City Point (the Union headquarters) and to send men home, either temporarily or permanently.” The 125th was again so decimated that it was recombined with a few other units under the command of its own Colonel, Levin Crandall.
Both Confederate and Union armies constructed elaborate fortified siege lines, and settled in for the long haul by the end of June. Ezra Simons in the Regimental History reports that the 4th of July was the first day the men had not heard weapons firing since the first of May. If you have ever been in southern Virginia in the summer, you can imagine the difficult time the soldiers had on both sides through the hot summer. It was dusty when it was dry and muddy when it rained, added to the unrelenting sun and humidity.
I will return to Petersburg later in the year, as the Sesquicentennial continues.
April 29, 2014Posted by on
The more I research and write about the history of the town of Schaghticoke, the more I wrestle with what is important to know….. We tend to read books about the big events: the wars, the important laws and their results, great movements, etc., and the important people: Presidents and Kings, Generals, dictators, etc. But I keep coming back to the individuals whose actions make up the events, whose support lets the important people lead. I find history at the very local level to be fascinating, and I guess the basis of this column is that I hope you do too.
Recently I wrote about the entries in the New York State Gazetteers of 1813 and 1824 for Schaghticoke, and concluded that a man named Munson Smith contributed at least some of the information to the author of the book. I decided to see if I could find out more about this man. Fortunately he had an unusual first name to go along with Smith, so he stands out. Unfortunately I can’t find out as much about him as I would like, but surprisingly, I did find out a lot.
Munson Smith was born October 7, 1775. I don’t know where and I don’t know who his parents were. I don’t believe he was born in Schaghticoke, however. While there were several Smiths in town at the time he was born, there were none in the 1790 and 1795 censuses. The first time I found Munson in local records was when he married Fannie Masters at the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church on June 18, 1800. This was the only mention of either of them in the records of that church, but Fannie’s uncle Josiah and his wife had had a child baptized there in 1798, so the Masters were at least familiar with the church. The only other choice of church in town at the time would have been the Lutheran. Shortly after, the new family was captured by the 1800 census, with a family of one male 17-26, and one female 17-26, plus one male 27-44. Who was that older man? A brother of Munson? Impossible to know.
While I don’t know where Munson came from or anything about his early life and education, I feel he must have received more than a grade school education, just from the positions he held in his life. I do know that he married into one of the most prominent families in Schaghticoke. As I have written in this space before, the Masters came from Fairfield, Connecticut in 1783: father James, plus a grown family of five children and their spouses, well-off and educated people. Fanny was born in 1782 to James Shelton and Mehitable Allen Masters. I have written a lot about James’ brothers Josiah, who went to Yale, served as a U.S. Congressman, and Nicholas, who was instrumental in founding the Schaghticoke Powder Mill. James certainly was a farmer, and probably involved in the powder mill with his brothers. In any event, he was well-off. Sadly, his wife Mehitable died at age 37, just a few months after Fanny and Munson got married in 1800. I would like to think that Munson also came from Connecticut and knew the Masters family there, explaining how he married into such a prominent family, or that perhaps he had gone to college with Josiah, but I just don’t know.
Munson threw himself into his new community and politics. In 1805 he was secretary of the group which met to organize the new Presbyterian Church and went on to be a trustee. His in-laws, the Masters, were also involved in the organization of the church. By 1807, at age 32, he was elected Supervisor of the town, serving until 1811. This election at such an early age and so soon after arriving in town also make me think that Munson was well-educated and knew the Masters before he came to town. At the time, most men served just one or two years, so this tenure was unusual. He also served from 1814-1815 and in 1824. He alternated being supervisor with Herman Knickerbacker, who served from 1805-1806, in 1813, and from 1818-22. Herman was a U.S. Congressman from 1809-1811. He was a Federalist at the time, so perhaps he and Munson, a Democratic-Republican, ran against each other for the supervisor job a couple of times. Records don’t survive to show. But the men were definitely friends despite their political differences, as will be clear later.
In addition Munson was a school commissioner and inspector in the town. In 1809, while he was Supervisor the first time, he ran as a Republican for the New York State Assembly. While he polled more votes than his Federalist opponent in Schaghticoke and Pittstown, he was defeated overall in the district. He shared his political views with his –in-laws, the Masters. He was listed as a Captain in the 86th Militia Regiment in 1810. All men were and are in the militia from age 18-45, so it is not unusual that he was in the militia, but it is that he was a Captain. I do not know if he participated in the War of 1812 at all.
Munson became Postmaster of Schaghticoke in 1812, a political appointment for sure, and served until at least 1817 in that position. He was Secretary of a meeting of Rensselaer County Republicans in 1813, convened to endorse the candidates for election, including Daniel Tompkins for Governor, and of another meeting of representative Republicans from the whole Eastern District in 1817. I feel this selection indicates both his education, his power, and that he was respected in the area. Munson was named a judge of Rensselaer County in 1815. I don’t know how long he served, but for the rest of his life he was often referred to as “Judge Smith.” He ran again and this time was elected to the N.Y.S. Assembly in 1818. At the time, it was usual for men to serve just one or two terms, then return home, not making a career of the legislature as is often done today.
Meanwhile, Munson also got involved in business. In 1810 he became one of the first directors of the new Rensselaer Woolen and Cotton Manufacturing Company, located on the falls of the Hoosic River at the new village of Schaghticoke. That was never a successful venture, so probably not a source of any income for him, but his position is further evidence of his local prominence. He also had to have had some money to invest. One wonders if the Masters were also interested in being involved through him as a son-in-law. And for at least a short time, Munson became a mill operator. In 1818 he leased the grist and saw mills from the Rensselaer Woolen and Cotton Manufacturing Company for a year. As I said, the company, which included woolen, cotton, and linen mills, was not successful. Before it was sold in 1821, various people leased sections of it. The lease entitled Munson to use of the grist and saw mills, and mill yard. He would keep the mill flume and tub wheel in order and the company would maintain the dam. Another man leased the mill the following year, so this was not a long-term commitment by Munson.
Personally this was also a busy time for Munson. He and Fannie had a daughter Caroline before 1805. I have not been able to find her birthdate. Son Edwin was born in 1805 and daughter Frances or Fanny Matilda in 1807. Mother Fannie died in 1807 at age 25, perhaps because of complications of the birth? She is buried in the Masters Cemetery. Munson remarried, and it must have been very soon thereafter, to a woman named Charity, as daughter Sarah Masters was born in 1808. I would love to know Charity’s maiden name, but I have not been able to discover it. Daughter Ann Hull was born in 1809. The 1810 U.S. Census recorded the Smith family including 1 male under 10 and 4 females under 10, plus the parents- one male aged 26-44 and one female aged 26-44, plus an older man- over 45, and one slave. So Munson pressed on in many directions in life- politics, industry, the military, government, while fathering five children in ten years, losing one wife and marrying a second. The death of Fanny did not sever his relationship with the wealthy and influential Masters family. Of course his older children were Masters grandchildren. He acted as one of the appraisers of the large estate of Josiah Masters when he died unexpectedly in 1822. And he was a life-long friend of Nicholas Masters.
The 1820 U.S. Census showed the Smith family with just one male, 16-25, presumably son Edwin; and one male 26-44, Munson; plus one female under 10, Ann; 2 females from 10-15- there should have been three- and one female from 26-44, Charity. The family also had one free colored male from 14-25, 1 free colored female from 26-44, and one female slave under 14. This was the period of gradual emancipation of slaves, which ended in 1827. Two people were engaged in commerce- Munson and Edwin. That same year Munson purchased pew 20 in the new Presbyterian Church for $35. Pew 19 was purchased by Philip and pew 21 by Ebenezer Smith. Who were they? I don’t know about Philip, but Ebenezer appears in the 1820 census for Schaghticoke as a male over 45, living with just his wife, also over 45. He was engaged in manufacturing. I was hoping to find that Ebenezer and Munson were related, but the will of Ebenezer, who died in 1841, does not mention him at all. Ebenezer’s relatives were mostly in Edgartown, on Martha’s Vineyard. Smith is a very common surname, after all.
Munson and his wives did not have their children baptized at the Presbyterian Church, according to the records, but they were born very early in the history of the church, which began in 1803, so perhaps the records just do not survive. We know from his will that he retained his pew until his death, and purchased the other two Smith pews at some point. The Presbyterian Church was certainly that of the newcomers to town, and of the manufacturers. Munson and family attended church with the Masters, the Briggs, and the Mathers. In 1830, Munson was also a subscriber to the building of the new Methodist Church in the village, a wise move for a businessman.
I do not know where or if son Edwin Smith attended school beyond the local elementary schools, but Munson’s daughters all attended the prestigious and exclusive Troy Female Seminary, now Emma Willard School. Caroline, misnamed Catherine in the book “Emma Willard and her Pupils”, attended Mrs. Willard’s first school, in Waterford, then moved to the new “seminary” in Troy. Fanny Matilda “entered the Seminary” in 1822, Ann Hull attended in 1824, and Sarah Masters in 1824 and 1825. Ann died in 1832 and is buried in the Masters Cemetery. Caroline married Lewis B. Goodsell, a merchant of Cooperstown, in 1834. He was born in 1798 in Connecticut. Did Munson know his parents already? They moved to Chicago by 1839, then to Geneva, Wisconsin. They had two sons, one named Munson. Fanny did not married and lived on in Schaghticoke until her death of tuberculosis in 1885. Sarah married Tibbits Briggs, local merchant and industrialist, in 1830. This united Munson with another prominent local family. Tibbits’ brother Amos Briggs, in partnership with Richard Hart of Troy, owned most of the village of Schaghticoke. Sarah and Tibbits also had a son named Munson.
Munson must have been very proud of and pleased with his son Edwin. He became a merchant, politician, and office holder. He followed in his father’s footsteps, serving as town supervisor from 1836-1837, and postmaster in at least 1862. He was also town clerk in 1842. I believe that Munson first married a woman named Elsie, 1806-1835, who has a tombstone in the lot with him. In 1837 he married Charlotte Buel. She was born in Medford, Massachusetts, but lived with her uncle David Buel, a very prominent attorney and judge in Troy, while attending the Troy Female Seminary (Emma Willard School), beginning in 1823. Undoubtedly, Edwin met her through one of his sisters, who attended at the same time.
He was a delegate to both the Rensselaer County Democratic Republican and Whig Conventions in 1840. Perhaps through the influence of his brother-in-law Tibbits Briggs, Edwin was one of the first vestrymen of the new Episcopal Church in the village of Schaghticoke in 1846. Tibbits was a church warden. But in 1858, he and Charlotte joined the Presbyterian Church, the church of his father and mother. They had eight children
I found an ad in the “Troy Daily Whig” in 1846, dissolving the partnership of James G. Gordon, Edwin Smith, and Horton Ensign in Schaghticoke. Gordon and Smith would continue to both cast and sell all kinds of ironwork, including ploughs and all kinds of stoves. This is the only indication I have at this point of the type of business which Edwin had, and I had never read before of any iron being cast in Schaghticoke.
Returning to father Munson, he remained active in politics and business until his death in 1842. He was one of four delegates in Rensselaer County to the district convention of Republicans in Albany in 1833. In 1835 he was one of the directors (along with Bethel Mather and Amos Briggs) of the Rensselaer and Washington McAdam Road Company, applying to the N.Y.S. Legislature for an amendment to its charter to extend the time of completion for the road. In 1839, he was a delegate to a Railroad Convention called by Richard P. Hart of Troy in Saratoga, planning how all of the Eastern counties of the state would communicate to facilitate the construction of railroads. One of their concerns was how much or little the state government should be involved in the financing of the new railroads: such a modern-sounding concern.
In the 1840 census for the village of Schaghticoke, I found Munson living next door to two other very prominent citizens, Amos Briggs and Charles B. Stratton. His family was now reduced to 1 male from 15-20- I don’t know who that would be- plus himself- one male from 60-70, wife Charity- one female from 50-60, unmarried daughter Fanny- one female from 30-40, and 1 free colored female, aged 10-24- certainly a house servant. Also in 1840, Munson met with other Democratic Republicans in town to nominate candidates, and was named a member of the central committee. The “Troy Budget” published an ad numerous times in 1840 for the Troy Insurance Company, which had had a fire in its office and wanted to reassure its clients that it was very much in business. Munson was a director of the company. This is further evidence of Munson’s prominence in the wider community- and of his sources of income.
Munson died in 1842 and is buried in the Masters Cemetery with his first wife, Fanny. I could not find her tombstone, but the cemetery is very overgrown. Son Edwin and brother-in-law Nicholas Masters, who was called “friend” in the will, were executors, with witnesses William P. Bliss, who ran the powder mill, and Merritt Wickes. Munson left one-half of his house and furniture each to his wife Charity and unmarried daughter Frances. Charity specifically had the use of their north bedroom and its furniture, and was forbidden to sell the furniture. Each was also to receive one half of the income of the house and lot occupied by Dr. J.C. Crocker, and of the building occupied by Wickes and Stratton, and Masters, Swift, and Company as a store and office, plus one-half of his share of the tolls of the Schaghticoke Bridge Company. Frances was also to receive the bond and mortgage which Munson held against John Brislaw, amounting to $400, now due. Frances and Charity also received all “wood, meat, provisions and fuel” in Munson’s possession for use of the family.
After Charity’s death, her half would go to Munson’s friend Nicholas Masters, for him to hold in trust for Munson’s daughter Caroline, married to Lewis Goodsell and living in Chicago. If Caroline happened to die before her husband, Nicholas would use the proceeds to educate her children, or if they were too old, then divide the money among the children. Lewis did die in 1852, leaving Caroline with two young sons: Munson Smith, age 16, and Henry, age 13, so presumably this provision of the will could apply. Unfortunately, I do not know when widow Charity died, nor where she is buried. I think she died before 1850, as Fanny lived alone in the village in that census, next door to Norman Briggs, another brother of her brother-in-law Tibbits. Caroline lived on until 1896.
Son Edwin and daughter Sarah, married to Tibbits Briggs, were to receive Munson’s farm “north of the village,” and “my village lot, formerly owned by Nathaniel Rounds as a grocery store- now occupied by Hugh Brown,” also the lot and building formerly of Zephaniah Russell and now a blacksmith shop on the west side of the street near the east end of the bridge.” After the death of Charity, Edwin and Sarah would also receive the income of the lot of Dr. Crocker.
The rest of the estate was to be divided equally among the children. At the end of the will, Munson notes that Charity could only receive her share of the bridge tolls if she forgave Nicholas Masters the $500 promissory note she held against him. This indicates that Charity must have had some income of her own. One wonders if this provision was suggested to Munson by Nicholas, who was probably present when he made his will in June 1842. Munson also gave one of his pews (Numbers 19, 20, and 21) in the Presbyterian Church to son Edwin, one to Charity, who must reserve a place for Frances, and asked that the third be sold. At the time of his death, Munson’s friend Nicholas Masters and fellow businessman Amos Briggs were both trustees of the church.
The frustrating part of this will is that we don’t find out how much money Munson had! It’s the “residue” of the estate. But from a historical point of view, we learn that he was a partner in the bridge company, along with at least Amos Briggs- I already knew that- , that he owned not only his own home, but also a farm and four other lots with commercial buildings in the village: the Doctor’s home and office, the store and office of Wickes, etc., a blacksmith shop, and the grocery store. Dr. Crocker must not have stayed long in town- he does not appear in the 1850 census. I don’t believe that Wickes and Stratton was a long-lived firm. While both Merrit Wickes and Charles Stratton were listed as “merchants” in the 1850 census for Schaghticoke, Wickes was a farmer by 1855. Masters and Swift was the Powder Mill. Perhaps it had a separate office in the village, away from the manufacturing activity. Nicholas Masters was in partnership with Wyatt Smith. Both men were very close to Munson. Hugh Brown was an Irish butcher. There is no John Brislaw in the census, but there is John Brisland, a tailor. The will gives us a small snapshot of the vibrant businesses in the full-service village of Schaghticoke in 1840: store, business office, butcher, grocery, tailor, doctor, blacksmith- just from these few sentences.
The other part of the will is the probate file, which includes an inventory of his estate, made by Ira Gifford, a wealthy farmer, and Wyatt Smith, powder company executive. The inventory of nine pages reveals the Victorian home of a well-off family, with household furnishings of all sorts. The most expensive items on the list are “1 mantle Time Piece and Shade” valued at $25, a “carpet in north room” valued at $30, and a “Brussels carpet”, valued at $25. The home was carpeted throughout, including the stairs, and the furnishings included mahogany chairs, a “claw foot mahogany table,” a maple bedstead, a cherry stand, a settee and cushion, a sofa, sideboard, rocking chair, 12 cane-bottom chairs, a bureau (what my grandmother called a dresser), and several looking glasses. We learn that the house was heated with stoves, as the inventory includes six; and that the windows had inside shutters.
There were several lamps listed, including an “astral lamp and mat.” An astral lamp was “an Argand lamp so constructed that no interruption of the light upon the table is made by the flattened ring-shaped reservoir containing the oil.” The lamp burned whale or some sort of vegetable oil. So this was a house lit by lamps, not candles. There were many types of dishes, including 29 green and purple edged plates, plus specialized dishes and utensils such as a gravy boat, fruit dishes, custard cups, a cake dish, a dozen cut glass tumblers, cut glass wine and champagne glasses, ivory handled silverware, silver spoons of all sorts, breakfast dishes, and a Brittania coffee pot. There are two types of Brittania, one is silver, the other an alloy of tin, similar to pewter. I’m not sure which this would have been.
Other insights into the Smiths’ lives may come from the gilt spittoon- did Munson chew tobacco or was that for visitors-, traveling trunk- indicative of business or vacation travel-, 10 wine bottles- they were certainly not tee totallers-, and the “kitchen bedstead” -was that as part of a sick room? Or where the servant slept, handy to tend the fire? The list also included Munson’s pew in the Presbyterian Church, valued at $26, and 2 shares in the Schaghticoke Point Library Association worth $2.50. The latter is the first I have ever heard of a library in town. Munson’s wearing apparel was valued at just $21, and not itemized.
In the barn were a barouche, valued at $150 and a “pleasure double sleigh,” valued at $32. According to Wikipedia, a barouche was “a four-wheeled, shallow vehicle with two double seats, so that the sitters on the front seat faced those on the back seat. It had a soft collapsible half-hood folding like a bellows over the back seat and a high outside box seat in front for the driver. The entire carriage was suspended on C springs. It was drawn by a pair of high-quality horses and was used principally for leisure driving in the summer.” This means the Smiths were driven by a coachman. The barn contained basic tools, like a pitchfork and an axe, plus a gun, “a fowling piece,” valued at $3. In the midst of the list was an old map of the U.S., worth 50 cents.
Munson had an office, though it’s not clear if it was in the house, the barn, or a separate building. The furnishings are indicated as belonging in the office, which also included a library with 5 volumes of “Burrows Reports,” 4 of Blackstone, and one of the laws of New York, among other business-related books. Sir James Burrows was an 18th century legal reporter in England, who wrote “Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Kings Bench, a foundation work in the law. Sir William Blackstone wrote “Commentaries on the Laws of England” from 1765-1769, another foundation work of the American legal system. I’m not sure if this indicates that Munson was in fact educated as a lawyer, or is a consequence of his service as a judge. Whichever, he certainly took his jobs related to the law seriously.
Later in the inventory, the rest of his library is listed. It is varied, including an 8-volume history of England, a book of Martyrs, a 2-volume history of the U.S. by Pitkin, 2 volumes of Newton Prophecies, and 3 volumes of Malte- Brun Geography, in sheets. I did not realize that Sir Isaac Newton did a lot of interpretation of the Bible, which resulted in publications after his death. Conrad Malte-Brun published a geography of the U.S. in 1827. Munson also had two books of true adventure: the narrative of Schoolcraft’s travels through the Northwest U.S. in 1820, published in Albany, plus that of Captain Riley, who was shipwrecked off Morocco in 1815 and traveled across Africa with his crew. His narrative was called “Sufferings in Africa,” published in 1817.
On the financial side, Munson was owed about $6,000. Most of that was due from Herman Knickerbacker, a great guy but a lousy businessman. Munson, and Herman’s former law partner Job Pierson held the mortgage on his house. Munson’s half of that was $2253. Herman died in 1855, and the property was foreclosed upon. He also owed Munson about $2000 otherwise. Munson also had 20 shares in stock in the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad Company, valued at $2000, and 4 shares in the stock of the Schaghticoke Point Bridge Company, valued at $2400. The bridge across the Hoosic River was a toll bridge.
At the end of the inventory, the appraisers set apart “sundries ..for use of widow.” These included a dining table, 6 silver place settings, 6 gilt-edged cups and saucers, a Brittania tea pot, 6 mahogany chairs, a tin tea canister, two stoves- one in the kitchen, and one Franklin stove-. fire place tools, a water pail, a coffee mill, plus 1 Quarto Bible (indicating it was about a foot tall), 2 volumes of Locke’s essays, and LaFayette’s memoirs. If these were favorite books of Charity Smith, she was an intellectual. In his “Essays,” John Locke, 17th century British philosopher wrote of his philosophy of mind and thought. And the LaFayette was a new book. The Marquis de Lafayette, famous for his help to the American army in the Revolution, died in 1834, and his memoirs were published in English in 1837.
Three of Munson’s children, Edwin, Fanny, and Sarah, continued on in Schaghticoke. As I wrote earlier, Edwin followed in his father’s footsteps as businessman and politician. The 1850 census shows Edwin and wife Charlotte with children Ann H., 8; Charlotte B., 7; Elizabeth, 5; Lucretia, 4; and Ester, 2. By 1855, Ester is called Nancy, and the family has added son Edwin N., then 2. In each census, they had an Irishwoman in the family as a servant. In 1855, Sarah Harwood, a 39-year-old teacher, lived with the family. The 1860 census listed Edwin as a 55-year-old merchant, with no personal or real estate listed. Wife Charlotte, 49, had a personal estate of $500 and real estate of $600. Daughters Ann, 19; Charlotte, 17; Margaret E. (Elizabeth?), 15; and Lucretia, 13, were still at home. One source I found said they had eight children, but the census is too infrequent to reveal the truth. That is found in Smith plot at Elmwood Cemetery. It contains tombstones with no dates for “Little Eddie,”, “Little Nannie,” and “Baby Lucy,” plus Edwin E., who died in 1846 at age 6. So there were two Eddies, one who died even younger than six, and the 2-year-old Eddie of the 1855 census. The plot also includes M. Elizabeth, 1843-1910. This accounts for five of the Smith children. The LDS records also includes a Miss Chloe Smith, 1804-1851 in the plot. Who was she?
Edwin Sr., died in 1863. The 1870 census found Charlotte Smith, Edwin’s widow, living at the corner of River and Pinewoods Road, with an estate of $1200. Daughters Charlotte, a 26-year-old music teacher; and Lizzie, a 24-year-old school teacher, lived with her, as did her sister-in-law, Fannie, age 63, with an estate of $9000. According to the Presbyterian Church records and her tombstone, Charlotte, Sr., died in 1874. The 1880 census found aunt Fannie as the head of the household, in the village of Schaghticoke, with nieces Charlotte and Lizzie, still unmarried, and still teaching. Fannie died in 1885, and is in the family plot in Elmwood.
Sarah, who married Tibbits Briggs, was the other local daughter of Munson. Tibbits’ older brother Amos, was the wealthiest man in town for part of the 19th century, before dying impoverished. Amos helped Tibbits invest in and begin a couple of textile mills, but the ventures eventually ended in failure. The 1850 census showed that aspect of Tibbits’ career, as it listed him, at age 48, as a manufacturer with an estate of $4000. The family included wife Sarah, 42, two daughters, and the same school teacher who lived with Edwin and family five years later. By the 1855 census, Tibbits was a merchant. His family included daughters Sarah, 22; Fanny, 18; and son Munson, 16, a clerk. The 1860 census found the family living in the village of Schaghticoke, next door to his brother Pardon. Pardon was a cotton manufacturer and Tibbits a linen thread manufacturer. Children Sarah and Munson still lived at home. Munson registered for the Civil War draft in 1863, but did not serve.
By 1865, Munson Briggs was out on his own, a 26-year-old linen manufacturer, with wife Emma, 26, and daughter Emma, 1 3/12 years old. Tibbits and wife Sarah now lived alone, he still listed with an estate of $6000, with an occupation of manufacturer. By 1870 Tibbits was again a flax manufacturer, with an estate of $14,500, and unmarried daughter Sarah, now 38, lived with him and wife Sarah, but Munson was now merely a worker in the woolen mill, and he and his family shared a house with another family. As of the 1880 census, Munson and Emma were still in the village of Schaghticoke. He was an overseer in the new linen mill. Three of their children lived with them: Emma, 16; Howard M., 11, and baby Norman, 4. At some point, daughter Sarah married James G. Stafford.
To finish the story, Tibbits Briggs died of tuberculosis in September 1874, just a few months after his brother Amos, and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, and Sarah Masters Smith Briggs died in New York City in 1890 at the home of one of her daughters. Munson Briggs’s wife Emma died in 1884 at age 45 of consumption, and he died of lung disease at the Marshall Infirmary in Troy in 1897, at age 58. Both are buried in Elmwood Cemetery. The interment records state that they lived in Lansingburgh at the time of their deaths. This means that Munson would have been left with an 8-year-old son when Emma died.
I would love to know if my conclusions about the life of Munson Smith are close to fact in any way. I feel he came here with an education, perhaps as a lawyer, from New England. He may have been from Connecticut like the Masters, allowing him an entrée to that family and qualifying him for marriage to a daughter of the family. Though his wife died young, he maintained his connection with the family through his life. He sent his daughters to the area’s most prestigious girls’ school. Through the marriage of his daughter Sarah, he also became aligned with a second very influential family in town, the Briggs. He was involved in all aspects of his community, quickly elected Supervisor of the town, then going on to County and State offices and offices in political parties; joining the militia; supporting its churches; investing in its industries; lending money to its most famous citizen, Herman Knickerbacker. He lived in a modern home, updated with the latest conveniences, and owned at least four other lots with businesses in the village of Schaghticoke, along with a farm and shares in the local toll bridge and the speculative Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad. He remained enmeshed in it all right up to his death.
Federal censuses for Schaghticoke: 1790-1900; NYS censuses: 1855, 1865
Sylvester, Nathaniel; “History of Rensselaer County,” 1880.
Rensselaer County probate files: in Rensselaer County Historical Society
Rensselaer County wills- in County Courthouse
“Troy Daily Whig” Nov 17, 1835; Aug 1839, July 1840; Sept 1840; 1846; 1855
“Troy Budget” June 20, 1834,March 20, 1840, April 1840
“Albany Argus” 1817, 1833, Dec. 27, 1835, May 15, 1830, April 1813
“Emma Willard and her Pupils”
Schaghticoke cemetery records; records of the Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed churches
Anderson, George, “Landmarks of Rensselaer County” , 1897
April 7, 2014Posted by on
The last post analyzed the entry for Schaghticoke in Horatio Spafford’s 1813 “Gazetteer of New York.” Mr. Spafford, strapped for money, had ambitions to write many more Gazetteers, covering a wider geographical area, but was only able to produce one other edition, another New York Gazetteer in 1824. He died in 1832 and is buried in the cemetery of the Lutheran Church in Lansingburgh, NY.
As one would expect, much of what Spafford published in 1824 was a duplicate of the 1813 edition. Things such as history and land types would be unchanged, one would think, but let’s see what had changed in the entry for Schaghticoke. To begin with, Schaghticoke was now 16 rather than 20 miles from Albany, though still 10 miles north of Troy. My GPS tells me that it’s 19 miles from Schaghticoke to Albany, though who knows where the measurements would begin or end, then or now.
Spafford caught one major change in the town…its boundaries. As he wrote, “In March of 1819 a strip of land across the S. end of this town was annexed to Lansingburgh, bounded N. by the Deepy Kill (sic), a small brook, now the line between this town and Lansingburgh, the transferred territory being as near as I can find out, about 2 miles wide.” This is true. As I have written before, I have been unable to discover why this alteration was made. It lasted until 1912, when the boundaries were restored.
Spafford paid very close attention to details, as in 1813 he consistently referred to the Hoosic River as “Hoosac creek”, but now more correctly calls it “Hoosac River.” He still mis-locates the village of Schaghticoke at the “mouth” of the Hoosac River, but has increased its size, from 15 to 25 houses. He still reports three churches, with 2 Reformed Dutch- incorrect. There were still a Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Dutch Reformed Church in town. In 1813 he described that some land was held by leases, and he repeats that statement, which I now think would be incorrect. I believe the leases of the land owned by the city of Albany were all converted to ownership by 1824. He also makes an unfortunate typographical error. The 1813 version correctly stated that European families first settled Schaghticoke in the early 18th century; the 1824 edition makes that the 16th century, very incorrect, and potentially very confusing to the reader.
As in 1813, Spafford reported the population statistics for the town. I believe he got the data from the U.S. Census of 1820. Unfortunately, the totals reported for the town are very faint in the online version, but a few of the numbers match up with the 1824 Gazetteer, hence my conclusion. The 1820 census added a bit more information, and Spafford included that: “Population 2522; 579 farmers, 8 traders, 153 mechanics; 10 foreigners; 37 free blacks, 59 slaves.” The number of farmers is actually 597 on the census, the number just transposed. The 8 “traders” were described on the census as “engaged in commerce,” which would imply storekeepers more than traders to me. The 153 mechanics were described as “engaged in manufacture,” which would include men who owned and worked in mills of different kinds. It is difficult to compare these numbers to the 1813 Gazetteer, as the town was now physically smaller. But to me the fact that the town still had a slightly higher population total in 1820 (2522 to 2492) means that it was still growing quite rapidly. Also, the drop from 94 to 59 slaves shows that gradual emancipation was still proceeding. It was to be complete in 1827.
The Schaghticoke entry continued, reporting “ taxable property $456228; 11 schools, 11 months in 12; $394.34;762;633; 475 electors, 14864 acres improved land, 2412 cattle, 546 horses, 4765 sheep; 17816 yards cloth; 3 grist mills, 6 saw mills, 2 fulling mills, 2 carding machines, 2 cotton and woolen factories. A.L.C, M.S., D.O.G., B. S.”
Let’s take a closer look at that string of numbers. I’m not sure of the source of the taxable property number- it was either the 1820 U.S. census or the 1821 N.Y.S. census, which Spafford used for the rest of this entry. Whichever, it is a huge increase over the $302,493 in the 1813 edition, despite the decrease in the size of the town. There were still 11 school houses in town, and the entry reports that students attended 11 months of 12 in the year. I find that astounding, as my previous research has shown that students mostly attended school in the winter months, and certainly never more than nine months of the year.
I looked back at the beginning of the Gazetteer to figure out the next numbers: $394.34;762;633 In 1821 the schools cost $394.34 in public money, and of 762 children in town between the ages of 5 and 15, 633 attended school sometime during the year. From the perspective of 2014, we certainly find the amount of money astonishingly small. To me it seems that the percentage of students attending school was quite high, but who knows how often they attended. Presumably the 129 students who did not attend included a few 5 and 6-year-olds whose parents didn’t want to have them start school yet, but were mostly children over 10 or 12, whose parents needed them to work, either on the farm or in mills for a wage. In my personal research I found that even in the 1870’s many boys attended school in the winter, but didn’t go back for the spring term, when they were needed on the farms. The number of electors had certainly grown a lot from the 229 in the 1813 edition, but that may reflect a change in the voting laws, allowing men with less land to vote.
Just to give a bit of perspective, the Gazetteer reported that the town of Pittstown was quite a bit larger than Schaghticoke, with 3,772 people, with 15 schools and 997 students, 30,838 acres of improved land, about twice as many cattle, horses and sheep, 23 saw mills, and 1 distillery! In 2010, Pittstown had a population of 5,735 and Schaghticoke 7,679. Of course our town is now restored to its pre-1819 borders.
The number of grist and saw mills in Schaghticoke has changed quite a bit from the 1813 Gazetteer: from 12 to 3 grist mills, and 11 to 6 saw mills. A few mills were lost with the reduction in town size, but this may reflect survival of the fittest. The other mills remained the same. I would say that the wool from the almost 5000 sheep certainly provided the raw material to the woolen mills.
As before, the initials at the end of the article are the contributors. The last three are the same as in 1813, but A.L.C. is new. There are two candidates for the A.L.C.: Allen Cornell was the Schaghticoke town clerk from 1816-1819 and Allen Conner was the Justice of the Peace beginning in 1823. Cornell seems the better choice, as he would have had access to data. As before, the M.S. was certainly Munson Smith, who was town supervisor during much of the period. The contributors seem to have given very little information to Spafford. For example, the Pittstown entry includes description of types of trees and sheep, and praise for the farmers and mill owners in the town. Spafford didn’t edit to a completely dry account. At the time it probably didn’t seem important to Mr. Smith; it’s only now that we would love to have known more about our town in its early days. Spafford’s list of contributors inspired me to research more about Munson Smith. In the following weeks, I will share the wealth of information that I was surprised to find.
April 7, 2014Posted by on
When I began writing a newspaper column in September 2010 the idea was to work systematically and chronologically through the history of the town. I got to about 1800 and got distracted by things like the history of the churches, the industrial revolution, the biographies of industrialists, military men, and local Congressmen, the bicentennial of the War of 1812, and primarily by the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Still to come is a history of the Catholic Church and of schools in town, plus further information on the Civil War- through the whole upcoming year- and the upcoming centennial of World War I. I have done lots of research and writing about Schaghticoke in the 1800’s, and would like to try to draw a portrait of the town as it industrialized and developed in the first quarter of the century.
There are a couple of sources of information for this task: two “Gazetteers of New York” published by Horatio Gates Spafford in 1813 and 1824, and a couple of N.Y.S. Censuses: 1814, 1821, and 1825; and the federal censuses of 1800, 1810, and 1820. As with all sources, these are subject to errors. An extra problem is that, as I have noted before, the boundaries of the town changed in 1819, when the part from the Deep Kill south was taken from Schaghticoke and added to Lansingburgh. This would definitely impact the population and other statistics.
I will quote the whole passage in the 1813 Gazetteer about the town, providing commentary as I go. I have to say that my first inclination was to accept what was written as true, but of course Mr. Spafford’s work would be as subject to errors as anyone else’s. Indeed, from what I have read of him, he was a polymath or Renaissance man, trying to do everything, but without the funds. He was an inventor, geographer and writer, correspondent of Thomas Jefferson. He wanted to publish a Gazetteer for the whole country, but his finances limited him to New York State.
In the introduction, he states that he traveled to some of the more remote counties himself, and had some “Agents” collect material, but that primarily he sent questionnaires to prominent men in each county, town, and hamlet, and used their answers to write his book. Indeed, each section ends with a number of initials, presumably those of the contributors, but I can’t find a list of them in the book. Of course the quality of the material sent in would have varied greatly.
Spafford’s Gazetteer of 1813, entry for Schaghticoke*
(The asterisk sends the reader to this at the bottom of the page:) “This name, so long, crooked and hard that it puzzles every body, is said to have originated with the Mohawk Indians._ The original was Scaugh wank, a name by them applied to a sand-slide of near 200 yards elevation, extending for a considerable distance along the right bank of Hoosac creek, under an angle of about 60 degrees with the horizon. When the Dutch settled here, they added Hook to the name, now Schaghticoke Point.”
Well, this is the only place I have ever seen that talks about this a source of the name Schaghticoke. The Schaghticoke Indians were Mahicans- of the big language group of New England Indians- foes of the Mohawks, part of the Iroquois Confederacy. And I have been told that the word, which is also used by the Schaghticoke Indians near Kent, Connecticut, means something like where the waters mingle. Schaghticoke Point was the first name of the village of Schaghticoke. There is a major bend in the Hoosick River there, just before it goes over the falls, forming a point of land. But, again, according to all my research, this area wasn’t even settled until after the first bridge was put over the river at that point, about 1790. The map of the area of Dutch settlement at Schaghticoke from that time does not include that part of the river, merely noting the presence of the bridge over the river.
Spafford begins this entry:
Schaghticoke, a Post-Township, in the N.W. corner of Rensselaer County, on the E. shore of the Hudson, 10 miles N. of Troy, and 20 from Albany, bounded N. by Washington County, E. by Pittstown, S. by Lansingburgh, W. by the Hudson, or the County of Saratoga. It extends along the Hudson, 11 miles and along the line of Washington county, about 10, in a narrow strip of land formed by the course of Hoosac creek. The surface is moderately uneven, and the soil good for grain and grass. The Schaghticoke flats have long been celebrated for their richness and fertility, and the uplands have a soil of loam and some clay and sand. Hoosac creek, a large mill-stream, receives in this Town Tomhanoc creek, and these supply abundance of mill-seats.
This seems a pretty straight-forward description, interesting to me because of its emphasis on the soils. The “Schaghticoke flats” would be the area around the Knickerbacker Mansion, the first area of European settlement. I know that the soil of my farm has both sand and clay, and almost no rocks. We mostly don’t think of the Hoosic River and Tomhannock Creek in terms of their usefulness for water power for mills- but 1813 was the beginning of the industrial age in upstate New York, and it focused on sources of water power.
At the mouth of the Hoosac creek is a small village called Schaghticoke-Point, consisting of 15 houses; and here is the Post-Office, 20 miles north of Albany. It is situated in the N.W. corner of the town; and in the S. part, on the Northern turnpike, is another small village called Speigle-Town. The Northern turnpike from Lansingburgh to the N.E. part of Washington County, and another road of considerable travel to Whitehall, lead through this Town, besides many other common and very good roads.
This section confirms the small size of the new village of Schaghticoke, located where the new bridge crosses the Hoosic River. However, to me the mouth of a river is where it enters a larger body of water, and the village is certainly not at the mouth of the Hoosic, which would be where it enters the Hudson River. Spafford also calls our attention to Speigle-Town, located on the Northern Turnpike, at the junction of that turnpike with the road to Vermont, now Fogarty Road, and establishes it as the only other node of settlement in the town. I’m not sure what road he means led to Whitehall, which is in the same direction as Granville, the end of the Northern Turnpike.
There are 3 houses of worship: 2 Reformed Dutch, and a Presbyterian; and 11 school-houses- There are 12 grain mills, 11 saw mills, an oil-mill, fulling-mill, and 2 carding machines; and 2 companies are incorporated for manufacturing purposes, one for cotton and the other for linen, and their works are probably in operation at this time.
There were three churches in town at the time, but one was Dutch Reformed, one Lutheran, and one Presbyterian. The town had just been divided into eleven school districts by the new New York State school law, so that part of the entry is correct. As for eleven “grain” or grist mills, I have found there was one grist mill on the Deep Kill, at the border with the town of Pittstown; and three on the Tomhannock: one near where Route 40 crosses it, and two on Buttermilk Falls Road, one by the falls where the road crosses and another on what is now the Denison Farm. There was one on a stream north of the Hoosic River, and three at various places in the gorge of the Hoosic at the village of Schaghticoke. That adds up to eight.
Moving on to saw mills, I have found mention of one on the Deep Kill; one on a small stream emptying into the Hudson just south of Hemstreet Park; two on the Tomhannock, one near where it passes under Route 40 and one near the Denison Farm on Buttermilk Falls Road; one on the Wampanaconk near where it enters the Hoosic, up Masters Street; and one on the Hoosic at the village. That adds up to just six. I would say that saw mills can/could be very short-lived enterprises, very subject to availability of timber and to fire. They could also be seasonal, operating just in the spring, when a small stream would have enough water to run a mill. They could have missed documentation by the historians. Also, there were a keg mill and a turning mill on the Tomhannock, which could have been labelled saw mills, I suppose, as they both dealt in wood.
An oil mill processed flax seed, producing hard cakes, which were broken up for animal feed, and oil, used in both food and industry. The only oil mill I have heard of in connection with Schaghticoke was in the southern part of town- its name remains on the section of road known as “Oil Mill Hill.” The other mills Spafford mentions were at the new village of Schaghticoke. There were certainly a carding machine or two, which helped prepare raw wool for spinning, and a fulling mill, which did final processing of woolen cloth woven by hand. And Spafford implies that the cotton and linen factories were begun, but maybe not operating yet. According to what I have read, they were in operation by 1813. Spafford does not mention the machine shop, in operation as early as 1800, or a bellows factory on the Tomhannock, in operation as early as the Revolution. There was also the Farmers Manufacturing Company, which aimed to manufacture “woolen, cotton, and linen goods, … glass, and from ore, bar iron, anchors, mill-irons, steel, nail rods, hoop iron, (and other iron goods).” This enterprise did not succeed, but was in business at the time of the Gazetteer, as were several flax mills- not to make cloth but to process the flax grown, and a factory which spun thread from cotton.
So Spafford got some things right, but missed others.
The lands are held by different tenures, some in fee, some by permanent, and some by temporary leases. In 1810 the whole taxable property was $302,493, $32,294 of which was personal property; the whole population was 2492, including 94 slaves, and there were 229 senatorial electors. About the commencement of the 18th century some German and Dutch families settled on the rich alluvial lands of this Town, then occupied by a clan of the Mohawk Indians. M.S, D.O.G., & B.S.
Well, Spafford was correct that some Dutch families rented land beginning at the start of the 1700’s. They rented land owned by the city of Albany up until just about the time Spafford was writing his Gazetteer, when they got to buy the land. The land was occupied by Schaghticoke Indians, who were most definitely not Mohawks. I am a bit surprised that there was this confusion so close to the time when the Schaghticoke had lived here- 1750- but that may have been a function of who the men were who provided the information. There were German settlers, but they arrived at the time of the Revolution, and bought their land, for the most part.
As to the population and property data, that came directly from the U.S. census of 1810. In 1790, the population had been 1650. In 1814, the population was 2847, an increase of about 400 in just four years. The town was growing fast, to be expected with the beginning of the new nation and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The number of senatorial electors reflects that there was still a property qualification for voting in some elections.
This was the period of gradual emancipation of slaves in New York State. In 1790 there had been 143 slaves in Schaghticoke, but now some had died, and some had been emancipated. In 1790 virtually all the slave owners were descendants of the original Dutch inhabitants of town. In 1810, most of the slave owners were still those folks, most with from one to four slaves, but Nicholas Masters had four slaves, and a man named J. Fish had seven. Congressman Herman Knickerbacker had four and his brothers John and William nine and five slaves respectively. A few men listed one or two slaves and one or two free blacks in their households, including Charles Joy, who was a new mill owner from Boston.
I would love to know who those correspondents were, the M.S., D.O.G., and B.S. who provided the information about Schaghticoke to Horatio Spafford. In the 1810 census, there is one man, B. Sanford, with the intials B.S., and three with the initials D.G.- D.O Gillett actually has all three initials, plus D. Grawbarger and D. Groesbeck. The latter two would have been the descendants of very early Dutch settlers of the town, but I have never heard of Gillett or Sanford- they certainly were not prominent citizens of town. However, though he was not in the census, the M.S. was certainly Munson Smith, who was town supervisor off and on from 1807 through the 1820’s.
April 7, 2014Posted by on
This blog post was inspired by my recent reading of the Schaghticoke portion of “Spafford’s Gazetteer of New York of 1824”. I was familiar with the same gentleman’s Gazetteer of 1813, but the 1824 edition was new to me. In the course of finding it online, I discovered that the author’s full name was Horatio Gates Spafford. He was born in Vermont in 1778, just after the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga, where Horatio Gates was the commanding American General. Spafford’s parents were undoubtedly inspired by that event to name their child. In fact, Horatio also named his son, born in 1828, Horatio Gates Spafford.
In the course of my research into town history, I have found many instances of men named for famous people. Peter and Hannah Grant, the parents of local industrialist Isaac Travis Grant, named one of their many sons for their neighbor and U.S. Congressman, Herman Knickerbacker. Isaac and another brother John, named sons for another neighbor and local U.S. Congressman, Job Pierson. Isaac’s partner, Daniel Viall, named a son for Isaac. Many, many local Civil War veterans, men who were born between about 1830 and 1845, were named for Andrew Jackson, George Washington, James Knox Polk, the Marquis de Lafayette, and other prominent statesmen. The attraction of Washington’s name is obvious. Jackson, President from 1829-1837, died in 1845; Polk, President from 1845-1849, died in 1849, and Lafayette, the French aristocrat who helped in the American Revolution, did a “farewell tour” of America in 1824-1825 and died in 1834.
In the course of my twenty years as a high school teacher, I cannot remember a child named for a famous statesman or woman. One of my daughters does have friends who named their daughter Reagan, for the President. How about you? Many children are named for relatives, dead or living. I am named for my great-grandmother, whom I knew as a child. Three of my four daughters have middle names commemorating relatives or friends.
But what about naming for the famous? Does our culture do it anymore? If so, do we name for sports figures? Politicians? Hollywood stars? For our close friends? Whom would we choose and why? Google says that many people don’t name their children for famous people but rather for their children, for example, naming a daughter “Harper” because soccer star David Beckham named his daughter that. And here I would have assumed that “Harper” was for author Harper Lee!
Certainly when we named our children, we knew that their names would forever remind us of their namesakes. Do we have people in our culture that we would wish to remember through our children? Will there be an uptick in babies named “Nelson” after Mandela? That name is #560 on the list of names used in the U.S. last year. Whom would you choose…if anyone? Do we have statesmen and women worthy of emulation? It’s fun to think about.
April 7, 2014Posted by on
This was a newspaper column in late December, 2013, hence the choice of poem below. I have been dilatory in updating this blog, but busy writing and researching new things.
Back in the fall, the Melrose Methodist Church celebrated its 160th Anniversary. Thanks to a correspondent, I have more to add to the history of the Church. Christopher Phillipo directed me to the Reverend Joseph C. Booth. He was a Methodist minister, and as was typical of the sect, spent just a couple of years at each church to which he was assigned. Booth was minister at Melrose from just 1912-1913, but must have found something here which attracted him, as when he retired in 1927, it was to Avenue A.
Joseph Booth was born in Gursley, England, about 1864. He attended school there, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1893. Perhaps he had already met his future wife in England, as he married Elizabeth Ambrose, born in Cambridge, England, in 1895, shortly after she emigrated. As I said, Methodist policy was to move its ministers frequently, and move Joseph and Elizabeth did. He was a minister in Redford, near Saranac, NY in 1894, Elizabethtown from 1895-1898; Schuyler Falls from 1899-1900, Chazy from 1900-1905, Warrensburg from 1906-1908, Williamstown, Massachusetts from 1909-1911, Melrose from 1912-1913, Mayfield from 1914-1918, Waterford from 1919-1921, Troy from 1922-1924, and Brandon, Vermont from 1925-1927.
Early in their marriage, Joseph and Elizabeth had a child who died. About 1912, her father, William Ambrose, aged 69, and sister, Sarah, 42, moved in with the couple. Though Joseph and Elizabeth became U.S. citizens in 1911, William and Sarah did not. The 1930 census showed them in retirement in Melrose, owning a home worth $1800, living next door to George Strait, the Methodist minister. The Straits would have lived in what is now the Halloran Home on Avenue A. William was now 84. Elizabeth died in 1936, her obituary reporting that “she had been in ill health for about 42 years.” Shortly after, Joseph married his sister-in-law Sarah. He died in 1942 and she in 1949. All are buried in Elmwood Cemetery, their names on the same stone.
In addition to being a minister, Joseph was a poet. About 1915, The Troy “Times” began to publish his poems. Mr. Phillipo links to about 20 of them on his blog: http://doesnotevenrhyme.blogspot.com. I felt the following poem was particularly appropriate for this time of the year.
“Father Christmas!” by Rev. Joseph C. Booth (1927)
Old Father Christmas, bending ‘neath the weight
Of centuries, comes down his frozen track,
With variegated gifts piled in his pack,
The birthday of the Christ to celebrate.
In honor of this great, eventful date,
Let us, in preparation, show no lack;
Let not our heart be cold, our hands be slack,
But joyfully responsive and elate.
In harmony with God’s stupendous gift,
With self-denying efforts crown the day;
The hungry feed, financial burdens lift
And drive the pangs of poverty away;
Hail, Father Christmas, may thy coming prove
A glad memorial of redeeming love!
Melrose, N. Y.
Troy Times. December 24, 1927: 20 col 2.
December 31, 2013Posted by on
I am very pleased to introduce Jeremy Moore, the author of this post. Jeremy is the son of David and Theresa Moore of Schaghticoke. He is a graduate of Hoosic Valley, where he was my Spanish student for years, has his B.A. from the University of Evansville, Indiana and his M.A. in experimental archeology from the University of Exeter in Great Britain. Take it away, Jeremy!
Most people around the area are aware that Schaghticoke was once home to Native Americans. If you didn’t know that the name Schaghticoke meant something like “where the waters mingle”, the mascots of both Stillwater and Hoosic Valley sport teams (Warriors and Indians) should have tipped you off. I am sure some of you out there are still wondering where the evidence is. Sure, your grandfather once found an arrowhead while walking through a cornfield or you have a dusty old “artifact” on a shelf in the basement or you’ve been to the Witenagemot Oak near the Knickerbocker Mansion, but is there any solid research out there that backs up what we all think is true? Well, the answer to that question may come from an unlikely source.
In the early 1990’s a housing community was proposed for land between Stillwater-Bridge Road and the Hoosic River transected by Bevis Road, now the site of the Liberty Ridge Farm. Because of its location, New York State mandated the land to be investigated for archaeological potential before construction could begin. This process was initiated by Hartgen Archeological Associates which first had to determine if any significant archaeological or historical sites were on or near the property. They determined there were 18 sites of historic or prehistoric significance within a one-mile radius, therefore field investigations were necessary.
A Phase I archeological survey was conducted shortly afterward consisting of small test pits dug on a grid across the site, usually about 50 feet apart. Hartgen found five concentrations of artifacts produced by man. This meant that further archeological work, called a Phase II investigation, needed to occur, by NYS regulations.
Work continued later that year, conducted by a second firm, Greenhouse Consultants, an archaeological firm based in Atlanta with an office in New York City. They focused on the five areas of artifacts previously discovered. They dug further shovel tests, opening up larger holes, units 1 meter by 1 meter or larger, and used heavy machinery to dig large trenches and strip away topsoil. As is the case with most land in the region, the proposed construction area had been extensively farmed over the years which leaves the top foot or so of soil disturbed from decades of cultivation. This area is referred to as “plow zone” and must be removed before scientific excavation can occur, since the plow zone is too mixed up to produce any significant data. Archaeologists rely heavily on the concept of stratigraphy in the layers of soil excavated to analyze results and determine the relationship between artifacts and features uncovered.
After the survey was complete, landowners Robert and Cynthia Gifford donated the artifacts found to the Town of Schaghticoke. These boxes of artifacts and the documents which describe them have been in the Town Historian’s office since that time. Recently I analyzed them.
Greenhouse began work on five small sites within the project area previously identified by Hartgen Archeological Associates. Of the five sites identified, only three were investigated archaeologically because the construction plans were adjusted so sites 4 and 5 would not be disturbed. Of these three the archaeologists determined that only one was of prehistoric significance and warranted inclusion in the State and National Register of Historic places. In excavations they discovered several stone tools, fire cracked rock, prehistoric pottery and a pit, likely to have been a fire pit. The most exciting part of these discoveries are of course the tools. The presence of stone tools tells us a couple of things, first of all that there was prehistoric activity in this area of course, but more importantly the amount and type of tools can tell us what the inhabitants were doing here.
The tools discovered in this excavation include several projectile points (commonly referred to as arrowheads), a drill tip, several generic biface tools, and a large hand-axe. A biface tool is simply a tool which was worked on both sides of the stone in order to make the tool in a specific way. This tells us that the individuals at the site were likely doing specific tasks over a larger amount of time because bifacial tools require more skill and time to produce and therefore were likely to be used for specialized activities. There was also a core, a piece of chert from which small blades or drill tips were being made. The tools were also made of different types of stone.
While it is good to see bifacial tools, the more exciting items found are most definitely the projectile points. We refer to these as projectile points because they were not always just for arrows. They could have been for spears or other tools. As an archaeologist I can tell you that whenever you find a projectile point, it is exciting. Of course it is always nice to find tools of any sort, but the more exciting part is that projectile points are what we call diagnostic artifacts. This means that this artifact can tell us something specific about the culture that produced it. Unlike flint flakes or generic bifaces, projectile points have stylistic forms which vary from culture to culture. Each group of people made their points differently at different periods of time which can tell us where and when the tools were made.
The interesting part about the projectile points from this site is that there are four different types, including a Normanskill and several Levanna. The Normanskill points date from the Late Archaic period (around 3000 BC) and the Levanna to the Late Woodland period (650-1890 AD). The Normanskill point was associated with the artifact concentration noted as Site 2 and this finding was backed up by a carbon date from one of the charcoal pits of 3240 BC, while the Levanna points were found in excavations throughout the project area.
What this tells us overall is that the area was used by multiple cultures over a wide span of history. The lack of evidence of structures indicates this site was not inhabited permanently, but likely used for a hunting and fishing camp, thanks to its proximity to the river, or as a stop- over while traveling. The presence of tools like the hand axe and the drill tips tells us that the individuals using the site were doing more than just sleeping, they were likely spending some time away from home gathering materials or processing the animals and fish killed for transporting. Also, the time span extends to when Europeans began to settle the area, around 1700. This is also indicated by the large number of artifacts found in such a limited investigation. The multiple cultures represented by the different projectile points means this site was used over thousands of years by a variety of people.
So the next time you are driving down Stillwater Bridge Road, you might want to take a moment and think about the people who game our town its name and used the land to its fullest thousands of years before any of us ever set foot in the corn maze!
This photo shows a small sample of the artifacts found, with a pen for size. In future I plan to exhibit a larger group at the town hall, but construction of the exhibit will take a little while. In the photo, the top left projectile point is called “Normanskill” and dates from around 3000 B.C. stylistically. It was found near a charcoal pit- where there had been a fire- which dated from 3240 B.C., which confirms this date. The bottom left projectile point is a “Levanna” point stylistically, dating from the late historical era- from 650 A.D. on. Points like this were found in several places in the excavation area, and would have been used by the Schaghticoke Indians whom the first European settlers encountered in our town.
The other two items are called “biface blades,” and could date from a wide range of time. They could have been used as spear points or knives or scrapers. The one at the lower right is unfinished. Who knows why it was not done? Interesting to think about. One of the other items in the collection, but not pictured, is a core of flint, which would have been used for making blades and points, indicating manufacture on the site.
I thank Jeremy Moore for his help with all of this. As I have written the above without him- he is off touring the world- I take responsibility for any errors!
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”