This original of this map is in the NYS Archives in Albany. The houses are painted in water color, with smoke coming from the chimneys, and are labeled with the name of the occupant. The map is dated c. 1790 because it shows a bridge over the Hoosic River. The first bridge was built in 1792.
As we look around our beautiful town now, it is hard to imagine it as an almost trailless wilderness, populated by a few hundred Native Americans and white settlers. That was Schaghticoke in 1710. Travel was mostly by water, up theHudsonto theHoosicRiver, then inland as far as navigable. There was an Indian trail roughly following the course of Route 67 from the Hudson east toward what is now Route 40. There was a small concentration of dwellings around where theKnickerbockerMansionis now, near the oak tree that had been planted by the Governor of New York as a symbol of the peace between the Colony of New York and the Mahican refugees fromNew England. The Mahicans were there as a buffer between the city ofAlbanyand the French and their Indian allies inCanada. This was an important job. What is now the Capital District was a dangerous area in which to live. The walled city ofSchenectadyhad been attacked and burned in February 1690, with 60 citizens killed, 27 taken prisoner.Albanyhad been the original target.
Despite the danger, in 1708 the city ofAlbanydecided to lease the land it had purchased in Schaghticoke, called the Albany Corporation Lands. The leases would bring in revenue to the city, ease crowding within the city limits, and add some loyal Dutch settlers to back up the Schaghticoke Indians in their role as defenders ofAlbany. Each farm was about fifty acres of lowland, along theHoosicRiveror Tomhannock Creek,and ten acres of upland. Each lessee needed to pay fifteen pounds up front and a rent of “two skeple of merchantable winter wheat” for every two acres “forever.” Rent sometimes included fowl as well. The first rent was due in 1714, the farms had to be improved within three years or be forfeited, and no rent was due if war broke out between the English and the French. Twenty men applied for the farms. After a few substitutions, the first tenants were Daniel Ketelhuyn, Dirck VanVechten, Martin Dellemont, Johannis DeWandelaer, Barent Gerritse, Johannis Knickerbacker, Corset Vedder, Wouter Quackenbos, Jr.,and Lewis Viele. Symon Danielse was able to buy 50 acres from the city in 1710. These men were all of Dutch heritage. Even thoughNew Yorkhad been an English colony since 1664, the city ofAlbanywas still a Dutch city.
These first new tenants arrived in Schaghticoke in 1709. They had to clear their land, build some sort of home, and plant wheat and other crops. This was slow work. Along with the hard work of building for themselves, the new settlers still founded the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church in 1714, probably first in a log building near the intersection of Route 67 and Knickerbocker Road. It was the earliest place of worship north ofAlbany. The only other non-residential buildings in the area would have been the fort, first built at the request of the Indians in 1701, and a grist and saw mill.
Rudy Van Veghten, a descendant of one of the first families to settle, pointed out to me a petition of Johannes Knickerbocker and Dirck VanVeghten on January 8, 1709 to the Common Council in Albany to establish a saw mill and grist mill on “themacks kill” (Tomhannock Creek) at Schaghticoke.They were allowed to purchase two parcels of land from the city of Albany to do this. These mills may have been on what is now the Denison Farm on Buttermilk Falls road, apparently the first grist mill north of Albany.
The city of Albanyauctioned seven more farms in 1714- though not sold outright but as leases. Even though more farms were leased over the years, by 1760 there were still only about 40 people holding leases to land in the Albany Corporation Lands. The records of the city ofAlbanyinclude data on the number of bushels of wheat due and paid in rent from 1724 to 1779. In 1724 the tenants paid 330.4 bushels of wheat. Over the years, the tenants bought and sold various leases. Some, like the Knickerbockers, acquired large estates, some sublet parts of their land to other farmers.
In the next post, I will relate the tale of Schaghticoke’s Indian Massacre.
Bibliography: Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1981.
Sylvester, Nathaniel, History of Rensselaer County, 1880.