History of the Town of Schaghticoke

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

Monthly Archives: October 2011

Life in Schaghticoke in 1790



                 It was 1790. The Revolutionary War was over, and the border dispute between New York and Vermont  was settled. Peace had arrived. The new New York State government established Schaghticoke as a town with virtually the same boundaries as now. It was within the brand new Rensselaer County, broken off from Albany County.        

               So who lived in Schaghticoke and what was life like? The 1790 Federal Census gives a bit of insight. Unfortunately it lists only the names of the heads of each household, plus the numbers of males in the household over and under 16 years of age, and all females, plus the number of slaves and free blacks. Other information comes from the two printed histories I have used throughout this series, plus a few early town records which ended up in the Lansing Papers in the NYS Archives. Schaghticoke didn’t have a town hall until 1990, so early town records are thin, to say the least.

             The population of the town was 1,650, living in 254 households, that is,  about six people per household. Just three of the households had a woman listed as the head of the household, and only one person lived alone. It would have be difficult to manage daily life alone, without help to do the heavy work of farming, cutting wood, etc. Widows and widowers either remarried or moved in with married children. By 1814, when a state census was conducted, the population was 2,847, so the town grew rapidly over the next twenty years.

           This population included 143 slaves, 9% of the population.  Slavery was quite common in the Dutch families of New Amsterdam, and with families of Dutch heritage in general.  About 11% of the households, that is 47, owned slaves. Almost all of the families with slaves had Dutch surnames.  Four families, two Knickerbockers, Lewis Viele, and Peter Yates, each owned nine slaves, the most.  Peter Yates and John Knickerbocker, Jr. had both been Colonels of the local militia regiment in the Revolutionary War, and were two of the wealthiest men in town. 40% of the slave-owning families owned only one slave. Even the Dutch Reformed Church minister, Lambertus DeRonde, owned slaves.  New York State enacted a gradual emancipation law in 1799. Every child born to slaves after July 4 of that year was free, though males had to be servants until age 25 and females to age 28. 

                The  1790 census gives no information on occupations or wealth, but we know that most people were farmers. The 1795 census records that 155 men possessed freeholds of at least 100 pounds, eight had freeholds worth between 20 and 100 pounds, and 112 rented lands worth at least 30 shillings. This information was important as there was a property qualification for voters, and those were the men who could vote.

Map of the Albany Corporation Lands at Schaghticoke, c. 1790. The Hudson River is on the left. The label "Chases Bridge" on the right marks the site of the new bridge over the Hoosic River at what is now the village of Schaghticoke.

            The tenants of the Albany Corporation Lands, like the Knickerbockers,  were farmers who paid rent to the city of Albany in wheat and fowl. People  had to work to be as self-sufficient as possible, raising food to store for winter, keeping a couple of cows, pigs, and some chickens for their own use.  Even those who had other jobs, like the Dutch Reformed minister, farmed as well. Some of the Albany tenants, like the Knickerbockers, rented more than one parcel. John Knickerbocker Jr. built his grand “mansion” just before 1790. If you haven’t visited the Knickerbocker Mansion, I hope you will soon!

            There was no village in the new  town, but there were a few concentrations of homes. In the Albany Corporation Lands, the longest settled part of town, there was a Dutch Reformed Church, the remnants of the fort, and at least a saw and grist mill. There was also a concentration of people, many of them from the Palatinate in Germany,  in what is now the Melrose area.  There was a Lutheran Church established near the intersection of Northline Drive and Valley Falls Road around 1790.   There was also a concentration of people in Cooksboro, on the border with the town of Pittstown, where Michael Cook or Vandercook  had a grist mill on the Deepkill.

            There were a few businesses in town in 1790. There were four licensed retailers listed in the town records, but  no information is  given as to what they sold. There were also eight licensed inn keepers. Jacob Lansing was granted a license in 1785 as he was “of good moral character.” In the absence of a town building, inns were used for public gatherings and as polling places.   The inns were scattered along the roads.  Lansing  lived in the southern part of town. James Masters had an inn near his home on modern Masters Street, in the north part of town, James Brookins was licensed to have an inn at his home, the current Paradise Nursery on Route 40,  and Sybrant Viele had an inn at Schaghticoke Hill, near the modern Hoosic Valley Rescue Squad, just to give a couple of other examples.  Actually, for a town of 254 families, four shops and eight inns seem like a lot!

         Transportation in town was difficult.  There were a few dirt roads, based on Indian trails. The northern road went from Lansingburgh to Cambridge, via what is now Valley Falls Road. There were no bridges across the Hudson, and there were just two ferries, at Stillwater and Pleasantdale. There may have been small settlements in both locations. The Lansings, as in Lansingburgh, ran the ferry to Half Moon, probably as early as the Revolution. The Vandenberghs ran the ferry at Stillwater from an early date. The Svateks’ house just north of Stillwater Bridge Road on River Road, with 1732 on its roof, was the ferryman’s house.

            The first bridge was constructed across the Hoosic River at what is now the village of Schaghticoke about 1790 by a newcomer, Daniel Chase. A few entrepeneurs recognized the great potential water power of the falls in the Hoosic River at that location, but up until the bridge, there were few or no buildings in the area. Once the bridge was built, the industrial revolution came to Schaghticoke, with various textile factories springing up there  on the Hoosic right after 1800. At first the community was known as Schaghticoke Point.       

            The town of Schaghticoke was organized by the state in 1788, with the first town meeting held in April 1789 at the house of John Carpenter. “House” is a synonym for “inn”, so the first and subsequent town meetings were held in bars! There is no record given of how the first town officers were chosen, but there would not have been universal suffrage. Men had  to own a certain amount of land to vote. They met together at the local inn to cast their ballots. The first town supervisor was Jacob A. Lansing, also the ferry operator and inn keeper. Town officers were divided between old Dutch families and newcomers, with Silas Wickes as town clerk, and old residents Nicholas Groesbeck, Abraham Viele, as assessors along with newcomers  Jacob Yates, Zephaniah Russell, and Martin Weatherwax. There were also three overseers of the poor, three commissioners for roads, three constables, one collector, 14 pathmasters, three fence viewers, and one poundmaster.  In general, residents would be responsible for maintaining the section of road- or path- which bordered their property. Fences were important to keep animals from destroying crops.

An early town law fined those who did not cut Canada thistles before they went to seed. The thistles were an early example of an invasive species that could create lots of problems in pastures.


            For many years there was just one town meeting per year, versus at least one formal meeting per month now. At the 1791 meeting, 80 pounds was appropriated for town expenses. In 1793, 30 pounds was voted to support the poor. In 1795, the town erected three pounds (the other meaning of the word) around town for confinement of loose animals caught by the poundmaster. In 1804 a resolution called for all farmers to cut the Canada thistles on their farms before they went to seed or be fined $5. Half the fine would go toward maintenance of the poor and half to the person who informed on the guilty party. Canada thistles were very invasive.

               In 1796, school commissioners were appointed for the first time. They were Nicholas Masters, Harman I. Groesbeck, Silas Goodrich, Peter W. Groesbeck, and John Crabb. In 1797, the commissioners certified the amounts of money due to the town for school purposes: 99 pounds from the state and 44 pounds to be raised by taxes in the town. School aid for the next year was cut to 88 pounds. At this point, I know nothing more about  the schools than that- but at least this indicates that the town had responsibility for organizing them.

           From the start, the town government had some of the same functions as today: road maintenance, control of animals, land assessment, and tax collection, along with responsibilty for the poor, which is handled at the county level today, and for schools, which is managed separately.

                With peace, many newcomers were coming to town. Many New England soldiers had returned home after the Revolutionary War to what seemed to be few opportunities. They migrated westward, both farmers and those seeking water power for factory sites. Schaghticoke looked good to both groups. In future posts I will examine the changes they brought to the town.

Bibliography:  Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schagticoke, 1980.

                       Lansing Papers, NYS Archives.

                         1790 Federal Census for Schaghticoke.

                         Sylvester, Nathan, History of Rensselaer County,1880.



Native Americans Abandon Schaghticoke


           I wrote about this topic in August- but somehow missed adding the final chapter. At last, here it is. It is one of the most controversial parts, in a way. Every once in a while, someone writes to tell me of Native Americans who continued to live in town, or who returned periodically to conduct ceremonies in one part of town or another. This is difficult to document, though certainly not impossible. But here is what is known.               

           The Schaghticoke Indians  were content, as the 18th century began.  The colony of New York had built them a fort for their protection. But the city of Albany purchased two tracts of land at Schaghticoke: in 1699, a six-mile square parcel from Hendrick VanRensselaer and in 1707, from the Indians, a two-mile wide area adjacent to the first. They paid the Schaghticokes “ 2 blankets, 12 duffel coats, 20 shirts, 2 guns, 12 pounds powder, 36 pounds lead, 8 gallons rum, 2 casks beer, 2 rolls tobacco, 10 gallons medera (sic) wine, and some pipes, plus yearly for the next ten years, 1 blanket, 1 shirt, 1 pair stockings, 1 lapp?, 1 keg of rum, 3 pounds powder, 6 pounds lead, 12 pounds tobacco.”  The Indians were given twelve acres of lowland to cultivate, which was to be fenced off at the expense of the city. It is ironic that while one of the major problems the Indians had was abuse of alcohol, so much was included in the payment for the land.

                The first eight Dutch families arrived in 1710. I wrote about them in other posts. The number of Schaghticokes living in the village at this time is not certain, but what is certain is that their lives were not improved by the arrival of their new  neighbors. With the addition of Dutch settlers, the Indians  were not as needed as warriors and protectors from the incursions of the French and Indians. Sometimes their loyalty to the English was questioned. The Indian commissioners still did not want the Schaghticokes to communicate with their relatives in Canada, but they continued to do so.

                At a conference with the Indian commissioners in 1714, the Schaghticokes complained that the “whites” were not content with the land they had, but were trying to get all of the land away from the Indians. At first the city of Albany complied with the deed and kept the twelve acres fenced, and even plowed it for the Schaghticokes. But that land was supposed to support perhaps several hundred people.  The local hunting became increasingly difficult as the area became more settled. The Indians became more and more impoverished. In 1714, the Indians asked for more land, next to what they already had on the north side of the Hoosic River.  Not only did they not get more land, but Albany began adding some of the land they already had to new leases to Europeans, “if the Indians have no occasion for the said land.”  (Apparently no one consulted the Indians about their need for the land.) Schaghticokes began to leave their village and join their relatives in Canada. In 1723 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs sent for some of the Indians who had left to ask them to explain why they left. They replied that “the Christians who are settled near them have encroached upon their land and confined them to a barren spot which will not maintain them.” In 1728 they complained that what corn they had planted was stolen from them.  Other Schaghticokes may have joined relatives on Lake Champlain, or gone to the Schoharie Valley Mohawks, or the Christian Indian settlement in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

                The Schaghticokes protested for the last time to the Indian Commissioners in 1754, stating that they felt the white people were living all over their lands, even that which they had never purchased. The Commissioners were not sympathetic. The last of the Schaghticokes departed for the St. Lawrence Valley, merging with the St. Francis and Abenaki groups that August. They were assisted by a French officer at Crown Point, who gave them a boat to cross Lake champlain.  There are a couple of reports from 1756 and 1762 that Schaghticoke Indians were in the groups of French Indian allies fighting in the French and Indian War against their former allies. Who can blame them?  It’s possible that a few Schaghticokes remained here into the 1760’s.

                I must note that there is a Schaghticoke Indian reservation in Kent, Connecticut, not far from here. I have never been able to find any connection between the Indians here and those in Connecticut, except that they were all  in the large language group of  Algonquian Indians.


Bibliography: This includes the books used for all of the posts on Native Americans.


Church, Benjamin, Diary of King Philip’s War, 1675-1676, reprinted 1975.

Dunn, Shirley, The Mohicans and their Land, and The Mohican World, 1994.

Kloppott, Beth, The History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1981.

Niles, Grace Greylock, The Hoosac Valley, its Legends and its History,1912.

Richter, Daniel K. and James H. Merrell, Beyond the Covenant Chain, 1987.

Ruttenber, E.M. Indian Tribes of Hudson’s River to 1700 and 1700-1850, reprinted 1992.

Colonel Peter Yates, “an honest and conscientious man”

The tombstone of Colonel Peter Yates, who died in 1807, in the Yates Cemetery in Schaghticoke

I have thought a lot lately about  how many people there are who were extremely important to the development of the  town of Schaghticoke, but are now completely forgotten and/or unknown. For me, Colonel Peter Yates was one of these people until very recently. I knew he had been the second Colonel of the 14th Albany County Militia, our regiment in the American Revolution, and that he is buried in a hard-to-get-to cemetery on River Road, but not much else. I have found that Yates was a remarkable man who made a great contribution to our town.

Pieter or Peter Yates was born in Albany in 1727. He was the youngest son in a large family. His father, Christoffel was a blacksmith, son of an earlier Albany blacksmith. Not much is known about his early life, but Pieter was also a blacksmith, and lived in a house in the 3rd Ward.  He married Sara VanAlstyne in 1749. They had seven children by 1767: Jacob, Christopher,  Abraham, Maria, Cathalina, Pieterje,and Anatie.  According to a brief biography by Stefan Bielinski, Pieter “performed services for the city government.” He also signed the constitution of the Albany Sons of Liberty in 1766, establishing himself as a patriot.

Pieter’s elder brother, Abraham, became a prominent citizen of Albany.  He was a lawyer who became an alderman, and sheriff. During the Revolutionary War he was chairman of the Albany Committee of Correspondence. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress at the end of the war, and ended his career as mayor of Albany from 1790 to his death in 1796. I mention this to show that Pieter had great political connections.

map of the Albany Corporation Lands, c. 1790. Peter Yates lived on the Hudson River, at the southern border of this region, though his name is not recorded.

Sometime during the 1770’s, Pieter Yates and his family moved to Schaghticoke.   In Schaghticoke, Yates became a farmer, and a wealthy one at that.   He rented land within the Albany Corporation Lands. These were lands purchased by the City of Albany and rented to tenant farmers, including the Knickerbockers and other Dutch from Albany. Partly because of the location of Yates’ tombstone, we know his land was at the southern border of the lands, now on River Road just north of where Pinewoods Road meets it. I don’t know why, but his name doesn’t appear on the c. 1790 map of those lands. In his will, however, Yates notes that his heirs will have to pay the rent, bushels of wheat, to Albany yearly, so he definitely rented. According to Pat Booth of Mechanicville, the Anderson home on River Road was Yates’ home. She says it is somewhat disguised by its large screened in front porch, but that when entered through the Dutch front door, at the rear of the home, it retains a lot of its original features. What a beautiful view Yates and his family had from that height over the Hudson River.

To continue chronologically, Yates became Colonel of the 14th Albany County Militia following the battle of Saratoga, in the fall of 1777, when John Knickerbocker gave up the position.  He continued in that role until at least 1782. It’s very interesting that the first mention of Yates in his new town of Schaghticoke is as he takes over from the town’s most prominent citizen, John Knickerbocker, in probably the most important position in town, militia colonel. This says a lot about the character and presence of  Yates. I also find it interesting that he and his wife moved at such an uncertain time, with the war going on, leaving a comfortable existence in the city for the frontier, and in middle age.  I have found a mention of a Captain Peter Yates in the 2nd NY Regiment in 1775 and 1776, so perhaps Yates got his leadership experience there. Yates’ eldest son, Jacob, moved to Schaghticoke too.  He joined the 14th Albany County Militia before his father did, but he became a Lieutenant and then a Captain after his father became Colonel.

We know from  the Pension Papers of men who served that  the 14th Albany was called out every summer during the war, mostly to help patrol the border and work on construction projects in places like Fort Edward. Yates would have been instrumental in leading those efforts. In 1780, he acted as president of a court martial of men from two other regiments who had been “delinquent”.  We know that because in 1795 the New York State Legislature voted to compensate Yates for expenses he had incurred during the trial. The men, who were found guilty, should have paid the expenses, but the area where they lived was claimed by the state of Vermont, and the fines proved impossible to collect.

Probably the most difficult time of the war for Yates was during the second half of 1781, when Schaghticoke was embroiled in the controversy over the border of Vermont. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he received a letter from Governor Chittenden of Vermont, chastising him for daring to call out his  New York State militia men in the area the Governor felt was really part of Vermont.  The Governor wrote, “ I must earnestly request you to desist exercising your power ..for I assure you, Sir, the Consequences will be inconvenient.”  Yates eloquently replied, “ As an Inhabitant and a Military Officer in the State of New York to whom honor and the obligation of an Oath is sacred, I hold it my indispensable duty to Obey the orders I received….Whatever the consequences may attend my non-Compliance…, I mean to do my duty as an honest and conscientious man, and I leave it to God and Congress to decide…” In the end, there were no shots fired when Yates’ militia men faced off with the insurgents from Vermont. Yates’ superior, General Gansevoort, took charge, relieving Yates of having to make the decision to have to fight his countrymen.  The history of the whole United States could have been quite different if Yates had either complied with the Governor of Vermont, or even joined the Vermont insurgents, or if he had ordered his militia men to open fire on the Vermonters.


One side of the class list, wherein Peter Yates called for the men listed on the reverse to provide “one of their number, equipt for the field” to him at Saratoga in 1782.


We know that Yates was still busy as militia Colonel as late as May 1, 1782, when he signed an order  requiring one of the 26 men of the “class” or group listed to report, “equipt for the field” to Saratoga. The men were members of his militia regiment in Schaghticoke, and they needed to choose one of their number to serve in the regular army, and deliver him equipped to do so.

Yates served his country, but he also prospered as a farmer. By 1800, he was one of the ten wealthiest men in town, with real estate of $4700 and a personal estate of $1096. In the 1790 census, he is listed with nine slaves, a tie for most slaves owned in town that year.  Fortunately he left a will, and an extensive inventory of his property. His wife Sara VanAlstyne died in 1793. Yates remarried in 1796. In his will of 1807  he notes that he made provision for “my present wife” after his death when they married- a prenuptial agreement!- but he does not name her, and she is not buried in the cemetery with him.

the tombstone of Sarah Yates, first wife of Peter Yates, who died in 1793.

Yates and his family also participated in the local church, the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed. Peter and his wife Sarah appear as godparents  twice in the records, the first time in March 1774 when daughter Pietertje and her husband Derick VanVechten had their son Peter baptised, and then when son Jacob and his wife Elizabeth had daughter Sarah baptised in 1779.  Jacob had  married Elizabeth VanDenbergh there on June 20, 1776. I was hoping the marriage of Peter to his second wife would be there as well, but it is not- perhaps an indication that she was from elsewhere.

Peter Yates died in 1807 at age 80. In his will, Yates left  nine farms or large pieces of property, divided among his three sons, three living daughters, and children of his deceased daughter.  Two hundred acres purchased in Canajoharie in 1787 went to his son Christopher, who went there to live.  His Schaghticoke farm went to his son Jacob, except for thirty acres and his new house. Son Christopher also got the farm Peter had bought from Nicholas Bratt, where son Abraham was living,  plus 200 acres more of woodland. Son Abraham got to continue to live on the farm. Yates gave the farm where son-in-law Richard or Derick VanVechten and daughter Pieterje lived to his three sons, but the VanVechtens got to stay on there. Daughter Catharina, married to John VanAntwerp,  got 212 acres in Mayfield in Montgomery County. Daughter Annatie, married to Philip Vandenburgh, got half of a farm, 90 acres, in Saratoga in “Shenondehowa alias Clifton Park”; and grandson Henry (son of Abraham) 150 acres of wild lands in Montgomery County. Pieterje also got “one island” located in the Hudson near his home, where she could cut fencing material for her lifetime. Yates also provided for the children of his deceased daughter, Maria Groesbeck:  Maria Ingersoll, and Catalina and Catherine Jacox. They each  received 250 pounds outright, and he admonished his sons to give them money as well.

One interesting provision of the will was that Yates’ sons were ordered to secure all of his accounts and writings as soon as he died, “to be carefully put together and not to give any person the libery of handling any of these papers….my writings must be locked up in my wagon chest.” Son Jacob would take charge of the chest, and upon his death it was to go to one of his sons, “and not to his daughters.” Wouldn’t we love to know what was in that chest!?

Son Jacob was the main executor of the estate, and apparently didn’t do a great job. Peter specifically noted in his will that if any of his heirs complained about its provisions, they would not receive their inheritance.  After Jacob died in 1832, the heirs petitioned the Surrogate’s Court, claiming that he had failed to divide Peter Yates’ personal possessions among them, as specified in the will.  I guess the provision against complaints wouldn’t apply if the provisions of the will just weren’t followed. Why Jacob  didn’t do his job isn’t clear,as the inventory of the estate was made in 1807, at Yates’ death, with what each heir was to get clearly specified.

Each child got also received a variety of his or her father’s  personal possessions. Christopher got Windsor chairs, an umbrella, a pair of gold sleeve button, a silver tankard worth $50, $50 in cash, and a close stool- this would be an adult potty chair- looking like a regular wooden arm chair, but with space for a chamber pot underneath.  Son Jacob got more Windsor chairs, a desk, five pictures, one sugar tong, six tablespoons, and $50 in cash. Abraham got considerably more, including six fiddle back chairs, a pair of brass andirons, a silver watch, six tablespoons, and $170 in cash. He and Jacob each got half of a wagon. Hopefully they were good at sharing.

Daughter Pieterje got a looking glass, a bed and its clothes, a bedstead, one two-year old colt, fifty saw logs, three silver spoons, and $50 in cash.  A bed was what we would call a mattress. Feather beds  and their coverings were regularly the most valuable items in inventories at this time.  Daughter Catalina got six highbacked chairs, another bed and bedding, three pewter dishes, one silver ½ pint cup, one mare, one milk cow, and $50 in cash.  The children of deceased daughter Maria Groesbeck got very little, including one straw bed, one blanket, two candlesticks, and $50 in cash. Daughter Annatie got another looking glass, another bed, eight cups and saucers, six blue plates, and $50 in cash. Each heir got a bushel of salt, valued at 67 and ½ cents.

The  inventory divided the farm animals and tools among the three sons. Jacob and Abraham shared five horses, four sleighs, blacksmith and carpenter tools, eleven cows, four oxen, fifteen pigs, 19 sheep, three wagons, plows, harness, and a fanning mill. Christopher got “one long Holland gun” worth $12, a variety of other tools, two swords, worth $42, and the harvested crops- wheat, rye, oats, corn, flax, and hay.

A separate sheet distributed the slaves:  Christopher got Tom, worth $275; Jacob got Jack, $275, and Fanny, $190. Abraham got Dave, $275 and Pegg, $205. Petertje got Ann, $140, and Catalina got Bob, $125. An addendum to the inventory lists items that had been overlooked, including “a Negro boy named Sam”, worth $50. The will listed another Negro boy named Daffron, who was to go to Abraham. The slaves were by far the most valuable “belongings” in the estate.

Peter Yates’ will also set aside two acres of land from his farm “for my burial yard at the place where my first wife is buried…at Schaghticoke…to remain for a burial yard for my family forever.” This cemetery is located behind the Anderson farm on River Road, next to a gravel bank. It contains about 90 known burials, 22 of them with the surname Yates. The earliest is Peter’s wife Sarah, in 1793. The latest is Maria Yates Conklin, who died in 1874. Yates’ son Jacob and family are also buried there.

Peter Yates seems to me to be an example of a quintessencial American. Born in modest means, he elevated himself to be one of the wealthiest men in town. He was an outspoken patriot, who served his country in difficult times for many years. Moving to a new place in middle age, he thrust himself into the thick of service. He took chances- investing in land in several counties- and it paid off. He tried hard to provide for his children after his death. I would love to know if any of his possessions survive.


Bibliography:  Will and probate records of Peter Yates

Public Papers of Gov. George Clinton, pub. New York State

Records of the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church

Pension papers of Jacob Yates

Class list, in archive of the town of Schaghticoke

Cemetery records, in the collection of the town historian of Schaghticoke

Bielinski, Stefan, online biography of Peter Yates

Miller, Richard, Patroons of Modernization,  1986.

Booth, Pat, letter 4/2011.




Palatine Immigrants to Schaghticoke: Andreas Weatherwax


Many Palatines died in the voyage across the Atlantic.

     The first immigrants to Schaghticoke in recorded history were the Native American refugees of King Philip’s War, who  settled near the “Council Tree” in 1676.   They were followed by the intrepid Dutch farmers who took up the    first leases from the city of Albany and settled next to the Schaghticokes. The next group of immigrants were Palatines, from what is now Germany, who arrived around the time of the Revolutionary War and settled in what is now the Melrose section of town.

                By the early 1700’s, the common people of Germany had suffered through many years of war. Their homes and lands had been devastated and many innocent civilians  had been killed during military campaigns by the Swedish, French, and Spanish during the preceding century.  The British government mounted a publicity campaign, seeking hard-working settlers for its colonies in the New World. A book, called “The Golden Book,” circulated around rural Germany. It extolled the virtues of the New World, painting it as a new Eden. The new governor of New York, Governor Hunter, was interested in forming colonies of workers to produce “naval stores,” hemp, tar, and pitch, so condoned this false advertising. The land may have been Eden, but the life was not going to be easy for these immigrants, who came not as independent settlers, but as indentured servants.

        In December 1709, hundreds of Palatine families left their homes in response, travelling first to Rotterdam, then London. Finally in April of 1710, eleven ships set sail for New York. After so much time on ships, there were many deaths due to disease, and once the immigrants arrived, they were quaratined on Governor’s Island in New York, where even more died. That winter Governor Hunter settled some of the survivors on 6000 acres of land purchased by his Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Robert Livington, on the east side of the Hudson River, near current Kingston. Conditions were terrible, and the land not suited to producing  naval stores.  After years of  upset and wrangling, the Palatines were released from their indentured servitude. Many moved on to other places in New York and other colonies.

      Johan Henrich Wiederwachs (Weatherwax), his wife, and six children were one of the Palatine families. By the time they arrived in “East Camp,” near Kingston,  only Johan Henrich and his two oldest children were alive. Johan Andreas was born circa 1701 in Hoog-Duytsland, Germany,  and Catherina, was born circa 1704.  Johan Senior remarried immediately. It was rare for a widow or widower to remain single. Life was just too hard for one parent to manage everything.   Johan Henrich and his son Johan Andreas became naturalized citizens in 1715. They moved to Dutchess County about 1720, and John Henrich died soon after.

         Johan Andreas,  the son, was known as Andreas. He  married a fellow immigrant, Barbara Lesser, in 1724 in Kingston. He and his wife had eight children. After her death in 1739, Andreas married again.  He and his second wife, Johanna Edeli, lived on in the Rhinebeck area until about 1767, and had ten children.  At that point, Andreas and at least some of his family moved to Schaghticoke. To me this seems quite a step for a 65-year old man, although almost all of his children were old enough either to have farms of their own or to help their parents with their own farm.  From the information I have, it seems that Andreas’ sons Johan, Bastian, Andries (Andrew), Alexander, David, Petrus (Peter),  Jacob, and Martinus (Martin), with their wives, all moved with their father.

        We know from early maps that Andreas bought property on what is now Calhoun Drive. He and other Palatine immigrants purchased land outside the Albany Corporation Lands. That land, all around the current Knickerbocker Mansion,  had been kept within the original Dutch families, or other settlers from Albany for the most part. And it was still only rented, not owned. Other early families in town with German surnames were the Bonesteels, Overockers, Stovers, Grawbergers, Wetsels,  and Lohnes. Schaghticoke records at the time of the Revolution include Michael and Wendell Overocker, and Peter and Johannes Weatherwax (Waderwaaxt), both sons of Andreas. Alexander, David, Martin, and Peter Weatherwax were all on the list of soldiers in the 14th Albany County Militia.

This "class list" of 1782 includes two of the children of Andreas Weatherwax, called to outfit one of their number for service at Saratoga by Colonel Peter Yates.

             Andreas and his wife attended the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church until the new Lutheran Church started around 1777. By that time enough Palatines had arrived in the area of Schaghticoke and Brunswick to warrant their own, Lutheran, church. Besides the difference in the religious practices of the two churches, the Palatines would certainly have been more comfortable in a church where services were conducted in German rather than Dutch.

          Andreas died in 1784. In his will, he stated he was a farmer in “Tamhanick”, which was apparently applied more broadly than now.  Andreas’ will lists his own farm of 235 acres, and bequests of  farms of 231 acres to son Hannes,  280 acres to son David, 269 acres to son Peter,  220 acres to son Jacob, and 104 acres to daughters Barbara and Elisabeth. I don’t know if Elisabeth and her husband  lived in the area or not. These farms were all in the Calhoun Drive area and to the east, in what is now Pittstown.  Another plot of 800 acres “adjoining Rensselaerswyck on the Hoosick Road” was to be sold to pay off the remaining debt on the other farms. The 1790 census for Schaghticoke includes Andrew and John Weatherwax, living next to each other, and brother Martin near by. Brother Peter and his family lived near a long list of Overockers. The 1790 Pittstown census includes the others: Barbara, who lived with just one other female, and David and his family, next door to each other, with Alexander and his family, who owned one slave, near by.


          The life of Andreas Weatherwax  is an early illustration of the fulfillment of the promise of the new land, America. He arrived in the colony of New York as one of the few survivors of a horrific Atlantic crossing and a hard landing in the new world.  Released from indentured servitude, he became a farmer in Dutchess County. A widower with a large family, he remarried, doubled the size of his family and moved with many of them to the frontier in his old age.  He seized the opportunity to buy hundreds of acres of land.  Surviving the tumult of the American Revolution, he left that land to his many surviving children, who continued on in their new community.  Andreas had come a long way from his impoverished beginnings in Germany.



Genealogical file on the Weatherwax Family, including a transcription of Andreas Weatherwax’s will

Cemetery and church records

1790 census

NY in the Revolution as colony and state