History of the Town of Schaghticoke

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

Monthly Archives: November 2011

Was Schaghticoke part of the Van Rensselaer Patroonship?

                   In my blog-by-blog history of the town, I’m about to enter the 19th century and the industrial revolution. In the last column, I discussed the construction of the Old Northern Turnpike- a good transportation network is essential to development of both industry and commercial agriculture. I need to finish up the story of the distribution of the land of the town.

This map shows the Mannor (sic) of Renslaer (sic), on both sides of the Hudson River. Schaghticoke is jjust to the north of the boundary, to the east of the River.

                One of the unique historical aspects of Albany and Rensselaer Counties is their past as parts of the VanRensselaer patroonship.    In the early 17th century, the Dutch West India Company made huge land grants to feudal lords, known as patroons, who were required to encourage settlement on their property in the new world. The settlers were their tenant farmers, subject to the governance of their lord. Rensselaerswyck, established in 1629, was the most successful of the patroonships. Covering most of current Albany and Rensselaer counties and part of Columbia and Greene counties, it survived for over 200 years. The tenant farmers had to pay yearly rent and service to the patroon. The system came apart after the Anti-Rent Wars from 1839-1845. Many people who write to me about their family history assume that Schaghticoke was part of the patroonship, but no.

                Schaghticoke was settled in its own unique way among the towns inRensslaerCounty. Some sections of town were part of different land grants, but one section, the Albany Corporation Lands or “Old Schaghticoke”, was land owned by the city of Albany and originally rented in fifty acre parcels to tenants beginning in 1707.  Over the years, these parcels were added to and rents were changed. The original rent was 37 ½ bushels of “good merchantable winter wheat” per year, due in January or February, plus two to four fowl. After about 1760, rents began to be paid at least partly in cash.  I have spoken of this land before. It was around the area of the Knickerbocker Mansion.

         Back when the City of Albany had its Tricentennial Parade in 1986, I had a float in the parade to commemorate Schaghticoke’s connection with the city. I drove the town’s old pick up truck with a couple of my children in colonial costume in the back, accompanied by land rent of the 18th century- some winter wheat, given by Mike Dellarocco, and a few chickens in a crude cage, given by Val and Pauline Kalbfliesh- they never would take them back!               

       By 1800, the city of Albany had rented all the farms it intended to. About 2,500 acres of its lands remained uninhabited. According to the minutes of the Common Council of the City of Albanyin 1801, trespassers were constantly taking timber off the unrented land. In 1802 and 1807, the City sold the vacant land in parcels of about forty acres each. Most of it was sold to people who were already tenants of the City. They were almost all of Dutch heritage, families like the Knickerbockers, the Vieles, and the VanVeghtens. Over the years, there was a lot of buying and selling of leases on the original property, but almost all within the original families who had settled the area.

                The records of the city of Albany are full of the problems they had collecting the rents. In war years, which were frequent in the 18th century, the city just didn’t expect to be paid. In other years, the tenants complained of various hardships, from poor harvest, to damage to buildings, or death of the farmer. The city often cancelled portions of rent in response.  At times the tenants paid the wheat but not the fowl. One of the most delinquent rent payers was the tenant with the greatest amount of land, John Knickerbocker. Sometimes tenants would be faithful rent payers for a while, then become delinquent. Unlike the tenants of Rensselaerswyck, the Schaghticoke tenants only owed rent, never service.

       Though the city of Albany did receive financial benefit from the rents, by 1810 the Common Council decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble. They voted to allow the Schaghticoke tenants to terminate their rents and own their land outright. John Knickerbocker, Jr. was the first tenant to take advantage of the new law. He paid $2,056 in four annual installments for his property. Rent terminations continued through the century, with some tenants still paying rent until 1875 or later.  Because Albany adopted this policy, it avoided the trouble that Rensselaerswyck had when its tenants rebelled beginning in 1839. The transition to land ownership, though long, was uneventful in Schaghticoke.

 

Bibliography:  Kloppott, Beth, “History of the Town of Schaghticoke”

                         Bielinski, Stefan, “Rensselaerswyck”, an online article

 

 

 

The Old Northern Turnpike

 

 

This map shows the route of the Northern Turnpike, with extant mile markers indicated. The map is thanks to Warren Broderick.

                In the last post, I discussed  Schaghticoke in 1790, as a town in the new State of New York and county of Rensselaer. The town soon became one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. As today, one of the keys to industrial development is good transportation. In 1790, roads were primitive or non-existent, following the path of old Indian trails. In 1799, the legislature of the State of New York established “a turnpike corporation for improving the road from the village of Lansingburgh trhough Cambridge and Salem to the house now occupied by Hezikiah Leaving in the town of Granville.” A group of men, including Cornelius Lansing, as in Lansingburgh, and Colonel James Brookins, a revolutionary war veteran newly come to town, acted as directors of the corporation. Brookins lived in the house that is now the base of Paradise Tree Service on Route 40. The turnpike followed Route 40 to Melrose, where it continued on the Melrose-Valley Falls Road, across what is now the Tomhannock Reservoir to Tomhannock, crossing the Hoosic River on the Buskirk bridge.

                The corporation financed the turnpike by selling shares of stock. Money would be earned from collecting tolls. The commissioners were empowered to develop the route as they thought  best, compensating landowners as required. In spring of 1801, the clerk of the turnpike corporation advertised in the “Lansingburgh Gazette” for contractors to build the road, indicating that about twenty of the fifty miles would be completed that summer. The road was to have a firm foundation of  “wood, stone, gravel, or any other hard substance”, and would be surfaced with gravel or pounded stone. A sampling of the tolls which the corporation could collect  every ten miles include: five cents for every 20 hogs or sheep, twelve cents for every 20 cattle, four cents for every horse and rider, and 25 cents for every four-wheeled carriage drawn by two horses. Tolls could not be collected from people going to church or from those going to or from any mill to have wheat ground into flour.

                Another provision of the law stated that “said corporation shall cause mile stones to be erected one for each and every mile of the said road…on each stone…shall be legibly marked the distance…from Lansingburgh.” There was a penalty stated for destruction of the markers. This is of great interest to us today, as two mile markers survive in Schaghticoke, one at the intersection of Route 40 and Fogarty Road in Speigletown, the second just a mile north, on the east side of Route 40 opposite the swimming pool supply store. They look like tombstones, but merely state the number of miles to Lansingburgh.

This is the turnpike mile marker on the front lawn of the apartment building at the corner of Fogarty Road and Route 40 in Speigletown.

                The mile markers offer a spur to the imagination. Just think of traversing the turnpike in the early years of the 1800’s. You might be on horseback or in a small carriage, travelling amidst a flock of sheep being driven along, or a farmer walking with a few cattle or pigs. Every ten miles, you’d have to pay another toll- though chances are you wouldn’t be travelling that far. If you were, there were inns at frequent intervals for rest and refreshment for man and beast, in Speigletown, at Grant’s Hollow, at Melrose, Schaghticoke Hill, and on to the north. There would certainly be some noise, but probably of horses neighing and wheels squeaking, rather than brakes and horns. And there would be pollution, but from manure and dust rather than car exhaust and oil. A different atmosphere on a route still used today.

                Bibliography:  Broderick, Warren of Lansingburgh, via Dr. Larry Lansing of Speigletown