History of the Town of Schaghticoke

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

Tag Archives: Amos Briggs

Schaghticoke in 1840

 

 

I have been blogging about the history of Schaghticoke  since July 2011, mostly chronologically, and ,with some detours, have reached about 1840. At that point, we can see elements of our modern town, together with holdovers from its colonial past. The town had a population of 3,400, not that different from now, as the town was smaller physically. The southern border of the town was the Deep Kill, which crosses route 40 at Grant’s Hollow. The population skewed young, with 1315 people under 21 and only 129 over 60. 2% of the population, or 76 people were free blacks. 28 of them lived in fifteen families, with the rest living one or two apiece as servants in various white families. I will write about the black families later.

The town government of 1840 was similar in some ways to that of today, with a supervisor, town clerk, and town justices. But there were no town councilmen. There were a couple of election inspectors, four assessors, and a commissioner of highways, similar to today, but  there were 32 highway overseers, as men were in charge of maintenance of the road abutting their land. The town also had a couple of poundmasters, as one of the problems in town was animals getting loose and harming crops. Early town laws mandated when cattle could be “free commoners,” in other words, run free. In 1842, the law read that hogs could never be free commoners, but cattle were from May 15 to October 15. The town also had its own sealer of weights and measures and overseer of the poor, both functions done by state and county governments now. There was only one town meeting per year, versus monthly meetings and other special meetings now.

The town also had its own police force, the officers called “constables.” These men were ordinary citizens appointed to fill the positions yearly. In 1844 there were five constables. Town records through the 1840’s show various citizens applying to make new roads. The same thing happens now with a new development, but just less frequently.   There already was a lot of the road system that exists now, though the roads were dirt or plank, the main road, route 40, a toll road. The bridges over the Hoosic River, at Valley Falls and Schaghticoke, and the Hudson, at Stillwater, were privately-owned toll bridges. There was a ferry across the river at Hemstreet Park.  People traveled by horse, horse and wagon, and on foot for private transportation. Public transportation was by steamboat or canal boat on the rivers and canals, by stagecoach from town to town. Railroads had begun to be built, but hadn’t reached our town yet.

melroseschool

current photo of the Melrose School on Mineral Springs Road

The town was divided into fifteen school districts, each with a one-room schoolhouse, with a total of 840 students.  Unlike today, the town oversaw the schools, providing part of the funding, but each district had a local school superintendent. There was no public education beyond about 8th grade available in town. A few children of wealthier families were sent to private schools in Troy, Greenwich, Fort Edward,  and elsewhere, and fewer went on to college. The census states that only six people were illiterate. I wonder what the definition of illiterate was. I feel that number is definitely less than the reality, just from the wills and documents of the period I have read where people were unable to sign their names, using just an X.

grain cradle

Grain cradle of the kind patented by Isaac Grant and Daniel Viall

As today, there was just one village, then called Schaghticoke Point, grown up around the bustling mills in the gorge of the Hoosic River. There was a small settlement in Grant’s Hollow, where Isaac Grant had an agricultural machinery factory and store. It had a school house, church, and post office. There was another settlement at Schaghticoke Hill, on route 40 just south of where the Tomhannock Creek crosses. It grew up because of the grist, textile, gun powder, and keg mills on the stream, and had a school, church, blacksmith shop, and at least one small store. Where we might have auto repair shops, there were blacksmiths, who shoed horses and repaired wagons and other items made of iron. There were a number of inns, some more like bars, others more like hotels. Sometimes a home would have one room that would be a general store or a tavern. Residents of Schaghticoke had some choice of churches in 1840: Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian, Methodist, or Lutheran. The Catholic Church was founded in 1841. Outside the hamlets, the land was divided into farms, large and small. The farms were divided and bounded by all kinds of fences: stone, rail, board, with gates of all sorts.

In the 1840 federal census, 491 people worked in agriculture, 454 in manufacture and trade, and 16 in commerce. Some of those in manufacture and trade were women, but this census lists only the names of the heads of household and numbers of people in the occupations, so it is possible to tell only by inference. For example, if three people in a family worked in manufacture and there were only two males, one of the females must have been working in a mill. The same would be true for female farmers, of course.

I had always thought about 19th century Schaghticoke as an agricultural community with a little industry, but this even division of occupations proves that wasn’t so.  I have written before about the industrial revolution in Schaghticoke. Besides the mills listed in Grant’s Hollow and Schaghticoke Hill, there were textile, saw, and grist mills in the gorge of the Hoosic River at Schaghticoke, and at the falls between Schaghticoke and Valley Falls. There were also seasonal flax processing, saw, cider, and grist mills on the Tomhannock Creek and other small streams throughout the town.

The census also listed nine “learned professors and engineers” in town, and in a connection to the past, five Revolutionary War veterans. I thought it might be interesting to learn a little about those folks. I’ll begin with the Revolutionary War vets.  They were Peter Ackart, 84; Elisha Phelps, 82; Nathaniel Robinson, 82; John L. VanAntwerp, 80; and John Welch, 77.   By the way, there were only six men over 80 in the whole town, and four of them were Rev War vets.

All I can find out about John Welch is that he was the head of a household, probably including his wife, plus 1 male aged 20-29, one female aged 10-14, and three females aged 15-19. They young people are young enough to be grandchildren rather than children. As the household includes four people working in manufacturing and trade, this means that at least two of those people were women, if John was still working, if not, then three.

 

I also know very little about Elisha Phelps. His wife was Clarissa Phelps. She was a sister of Dr. Ezekiel Baker, the prominent local doctor until his death in 1836. According to Ezekiel’s probate file, they had lived in Cambridge. By the 1840 census, Clarissa had died, and Elisha was living with Freeman Baker and his family. I am not sure how Freeman was related to the many other Bakers in town, but I don’t think Elisha and Clarissa had any children, so he was probably a nephew or great-nephew. The family included 1 male under 5, 1 26-29, 1 30-39, Elisha, and 1 female under 5, two from 5-9, and 1 from 20-29. Two people worked in agriculture, probably Freeman and the other young man. There is an Elisha Phelps in the pension roll for NY for 1833, but I have not found his pension file online.

Nathaniel Robinson, 82, lived in town with just his wife, Susanna Hamblin, as of that 1840 census. However, his son Samuel, born in 1809 here in Schaghticoke, lived next door, with a large family, so at least the old people had some support.  According to his pension application, Nathaniel was born in Peekskill in 1759 and enlisted there in 1777   as a member of a Connecticut regiment of the line.  This means he was in the regular Army rather than the militia. He was a full-time soldier, while militia men were only called out as needed.  His commanding General was Anthony Wayne. Nathaniel was in the battles of Germantown, Monmouth, and Stoney Point, serving for three years. He was wounded in the leg at the battle of Monmouth, and apparently was lame for life.

I first find Nathaniel in the census for Schaghticoke in 1810, though by the evidence of Samuel’s birth in 1809, he had arrived a bit earlier. Ancestry.com family trees indicate Samuel was the youngest son of a large family. By 1819, at age 61, Nathaniel applied for a pension. He was fortunate to have the help of local resident and first judge of the county Josiah Masters. Masters added a note to the application saying, “I am personally acquainted with Nathaniel Robinson and he is very poor and in want of assistance from his country. Indeed both his revolutionary service and poverty is (sic) a matter of common notoriety in this part of the country.”  Nathaniel was awarded $8 per month, about $150 per month today. At the time, his two youngest children lived with him and wife Susan. They were Sally, aged 15 and Samuel, aged 10.

As part of the pension application, Nathaniel submitted an inventory of his possessions. He didn’t have to include his bedding and clothes as they were considered essential. He had no real estate, but had vegetables in a hired garden worth $10. He had a 12-year-old cow worth $15, three pigs worth $6, four chickens worth 50 cents, one axe, one hoe, two pails, one iron kettle, four knives, three iron spoons, one pot and a tea kettle, one basin, three bowls, two jugs, one bottle, one tumbler, one churn, one griddle, three cups and saucers, one small spinning wheel, one loom, two shuttles, one broom, two baskets, one shovel and tongs, four plates, one spider, and one iron crane. A spider is a frying pan with legs, for use over an open fire by placing it on a crane. The total value was about $50, and Nathaniel owed about $60.  The Robinsons must have led a very basic existence indeed.

spinner

perhaps Mrs Robinson made a bit of money spinning yarn.

Nathaniel died in 1843, wife Susanna the following year. They are buried in the Brookins Cemetery, on the west side of Route 40 in the Melrose part of town. I am sure they lived in that part of town. Three wives of Samuel Robinson are buried there as well. Samuel lived on in the area until his death in 1891. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

The last two Revolutionary War veterans in the 1840 census had actually been members of the local militia, the 14th Albany County. Sylvester’s “History of Rensselaer County,” published in 1880, records Peter Ackart as one of the few Revolutionary War veterans remembered by residents to that day. I find this ironic, as I have been able to find out so little about him in the public record. He was definitely born here, probably the son of another Peter Ackart. I feel he was the Peter Ackart, Jr., who was born in 1767.  He was a very young soldier, and served with his father in the 14th Albany County Militia. I have found him in the local census from 1790 until his death. As of 1803, he had real estate worth $948 and a personal estate of $157. He was a farmer, and probably lived in the area just to the north of Stillwater Bridge Road, where several Ackart families lived in the 1850’s.

This Peter married Maria Benway, a local girl, born in 1789. Their first child, David, was born in 1807. The couple went on to have seven children in total baptized at the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church, the last in 1826. At least two died young. Peter died in 1845. His tombstone is in Elmwood Cemetery. He must have been buried elsewhere first and reinterred as the cemetery opened in 1863. The 1855 census lists the families of three of his sons: David, Jacob, and John, who all lived next door to each other. Peter’s widow Maria, then 66, lived with Jacob and his family. She died in 1866 and is also in Elmwood Cemetery. So this wife of a Revolutionary War veteran survived through the Civil War. No wonder locals remembered her husband Peter as a vet of the earlier war when Sylvester wrote his history.

John Lewis VanAntwerp, 80, was the final Revolutionary War veteran listed in the 1840 census. He was also listed in Sylvester’s “History” as a known veteran. He lived with one of his sons, Peter Yates VanAntwerp.   John was born in Albany in 1760, but moved to Schaghticoke by age four. He enlisted in the local militia regiment in March, 1776, another very young soldier. He served off and on until 1780, rising in the ranks as Ensign, Corporal, and Sergeant, and according to one record, to Lieutenant. When the war started, the Colonel of the 14th Albany was John Knickerbacker, prominent local man. In 1778 John VanAntwerp married Catlyna Yates, daughter of Peter Yates, in Albany. Peter and his family had moved recently to Schaghticoke, and he became the Colonel of the 14th after John was wounded at the battle of Saratoga at the end of 1778. So John L. VanAntwerp must have been quite a guy, becoming an officer and marrying the daughter of the new Colonel before the age of 20.

In his pension application, John described his Revolutionary War service. He served until 1780, “employed in watching and pursuing hostile Indians at Schaghticoke and Stillwater.” He also marched to Lake George, Fort Edward, Fort Ann, and Whitehall. About October 1, 1777, he was part of a company attached and volunteered to General Gates, in Camp at Stillwater. He was there until the surrender of Burgoyne. In 1778 he guarded different forts on the northern frontier. At one point he marched to Fort Ticonderoga to look at British shipping. This matches what I have read of the experiences of quite a few other local men. They served a month to six weeks each year of the war, as needed.

John and Catlyna had a number of children. Five were baptized in the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church, starting with Alida and ending with Peter Yates in 1794. Catlyna’s father, Peter Yates, the Colonel, died in 1808. He was a wealthy man with a number of children. Catlyna received household items from his estate, plus a silver table spoon, a silver ½ pint cup, a mare, a cow, and a bushel of salt. She also received 200 acres of land in Montgomery County, and 100 pounds.  Unfortunately John does not appear in the early New York State assessment rolls, from 1799-1804. I would love to know if he used his wife’s inheritance well. What happened to the property in Montgomery County?   I feel the family lived in the area north of Stillwater Bridge Road, near the Ackarts. John was a farmer. Catlyna died in 1810, not long after her father, leaving John as a widower with several teenage children at home.

When John finally applied for a pension, in 1832, he seemed to have to go to very great lengths to prove he had been a veteran. This would seem ironic for the son-in-law of the Colonel of the Regiment. Herman Knickerbacker, son of John, former Congressman, and judge of the county, testified on his behalf, along with the pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church, Peter Ackart, and Wynant Vandenbergh, who with his father tended the ferry over the Hudson River at Stillwater during the war. Wynant said he had seen John take the ferry on many occasions while on duty during the Revolution. Despite all this support, John was dropped from the pension rolls for a couple of years.  Job Pierson, another local former Congressman and judge, helped John re-apply and obtain his pension again, in 1837, at which point he was owed $320. When John died in 1848, he left two sons, Peter and John, and two daughters, Sarah and Maria. John and Maria died by 1851, but Peter and Sarah continued to receive their father’s pension. As of the 1855 census, Peter, then 61, was a farmer with wife Mariah and five daughters. He and Sarah both died in 1860. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

So the 1840 census lets us know quite a lot about most of the oldest residents in town. We find that they were well-known in the community. The most prominent residents were ready to speak up for them and the veracity of their life stories. One of them was a destitute old man, despite living near his son, but the others were at least able to live comfortably, and all had family nearby, if they didn’t live with them.

The 1840 census also identifies eight men who were “learned professors, and engineers.”  I feel this is a euphemism for people with a college education or the equivalent. The fact of singling out these men, for they are all men, from those working in agriculture and manufacturing and trades, the other two categories, indicates how rare this was in the U.S. in 1840. At least in Schaghticoke, there were no engineers. There were three doctors, three pastors, and two lawyers. At least one lawyer, Thomas Ripley, was not included in the list- he was assigned no occupation in the census, so perhaps there was an error there. Thomas was a graduate of R.P.I. who became a U.S. Congressman a few years later. He certainly was a “learned professor.”

I will begin with the three doctors:  Ezekiel Baker, Zachariah Lyon, and Simon Newcomb.  Simon Newcomb was born in Nine Partners, near Poughkeepsie, in 1779. He had moved to Pittstown by 1800 with his parents and family.  He married Sarah Follett in 1802. They had children William, Nahum, Nomina, Wesley, David, Simon, and Sally, who died as an infant. Sarah died in 1820 and he married Hannah Stover in 1821. They had four daughters:  Sarah, Elizabeth, and twins Louisa and Mary. According to “The Genealogy of the Newcomb Family”, written in 1874, Simon lived in “upper Schaghticoke” for about eleven years. The 1840 census captured him in our town during that time, but he was back in Pittstown by 1850. That census found Samuel (sic), 70, with real estate of $3500; Hannah, 57; Eliza, 24; Louisa and Mary, 20. By 1860 they had moved to the Speigletown area, part of the town of Lansingburgh at the time. Simon made it into the 1870 census, aged 91. He had real estate worth $5000, and a personal estate of $11,500. His daughters Elizabeth and Mary lived with him. He died later that year and is buried in Tomhannock. The genealogy notes that he was healthy in body and mind right up to his death.  Several of his children lived locally, and his son Wesley also became a doctor. He was a founder of Albany Medical College and an internationally known conchologist (expert on mollusks.)

simonnewcomb

Simon Newcomb

The family genealogy describes Simon in glowing terms. As I have found with many prominent men of the era, he was active in all aspects of the life of his community: financial, political, and religious, as well as professional, as a doctor. He began his career as a teacher in the local school in Millertown at age seventeen. He joined the Methodist Church about the same time. Unlike the other doctors in the census, he studied medicine with several local doctors, rather than going to college. He apprenticed a year each with Ezekiel Baker, the uncle of the Ezekiel Baker in the 1840 census, David Doolittle, Nehemiah King, and John Hurlburt. He volunteered with the local regiment for the war of 1812, though the men  never got to fight. In addition to being a doctor, he was the first postmaster at Johnsonville, a justice of the peace for 27 years, the town supervisor in Pittstown for three years, U.S. assessor for two years, plus town clerk, commissioner of deeds, and overseer of the poor. He was described as being a stern man of firm decision, great integrity, and unpretentious dignity.

Zachariah Lyon was the second doctor in the 1840 census. He is mentioned in several 19th century histories of Rensselaer County as an early doctor in town- but without elaboration. I have pieced together his biography from census and a couple of newspaper articles. He first appears in the local census in 1830, with a family of five, including two immigrants.  Presumably the count included him, his wife, Sarah Lavinia, daughter Anna, and perhaps two servants. The 1855 census indicates he and Sarah had been in town for 27 years, which would put their arrival in 1828. That census lists Zachariah as 62 years old, born in Connecticut. Sarah, 65, was born in Vermont, as was daughter Anna, 40. She was born in Sunderland, Vermont, a small town in southwest Vermont.  This would indicate that the Lyons moved here from Vermont when Zachariah was 34, Sarah 35, and Anna 13.   All of the other censuses indicate Zachariah was born in Massachusetts.  Presumably Zachariah came to town as an experienced physician, having practiced in Vermont. Zachariah had arrived at a good time, businesswise, as the established doctor, Ezekiel Baker, was elderly, and died in 1836. In 1837, he and Baker’s nephew, another Ezekiel and doctor, were the two doctors called to examine murder victim Herman Groesbeck, to determine the cause of death, an indication that he was firmly established here.

As with Simon Newcomb, Zachariah was involved in politics. I found him as a delegate to the local Whig conventions in the 1840’s. He was the town supervisor of Schaghticoke in 1854. He was also involved with his church, as one of the founding vestrymen of the local Episcopal Church in 1846. During the Civil War, the government imposed new taxes, and these showed that Zachariah paid 12 cents in tax for four pieces of silver- presumably silverware- plus $1 each for two one-horse carriages. He paid on income of $235 in 1864. To me this indicates a comfortable but not wealthy family. The census consistently shows one household servant. At least one carriage would be necessary for his job as a doctor.

Daughter Anna appears in the census with her parents in all but one census. Sometime between 1855 and 1860, she married Embree Maxwell. He was a farmer from Saratoga County, just a couple of years older than her father. He died in 1863 and is buried near the Quaker Meeting House in the town of Saratoga, according to an article in “The Saratogian” in 1940. Anna and Embree had a child, Frank, probably about the time his father died. The 1865 census found Anna back with her parents, with Frank, aged 1 8/12.

The family was together for the last time in the 1870 census, which listed Zachariah as 78, with an estate worth $18,000, still working as a physician. Sarah was 80, Anna, 52, and Frank 6. Sarah died in 1872, and Zachariah in 1873. This left daughter Anna as his only heir. She received his house and lot plus the income from the rent of a brick store, sheds, and a yard next to his home. This indicates he had lived in the village of Schaghticoke. The Lyons are buried in Elmwood Cemetery. Frank died at age 13, and Anna died in 1892 of tuberculosis. Both are in Elmwood as well. I would love to find out where Zachariah was born, where he was educated, how they ended up in Schaghticoke, how the couple felt when their only daughter married an elderly Quaker farmer, how they felt when they finally had a grandchild.

The third doctor in the 1840 census was Ezekiel Baker. Researching him has caused me all kinds of frustration. At this point, I think that there were three men by that name in Schaghticoke in the first 35 years of the 19th century. The eldest Ezekiel was been born about 1730 in Connecticut. An ancestry.com researcher says he was here as of the 1790 census, with a family of 2 males over 16 and 3 females over 16, but moved on and died in Herkimer County in 1800. His son Ezekiel was born in 1761, and travelled with the family to Schaghticoke, but stayed on, as did his son Truman. I don’t have any way independently of that researcher to be sure of that father and son. But for sure, a man named Ezekiel Baker was in the 1790 census, and then in  the 1800 census, Ezekiel shows up with a family of one male from 10-16, 2 from 17-26, one from 27-44, one female under 10, 1 from 17-26, and one from 27-44. I’m not sure who all of those people were, as this Ezekiel and his wife Rhoda had no children. Ezekiel Baker was also one of the first school commissioners of the town, before 1800, and one of the organizers of the Homer Masonic Lodge in 1799.

The Ezekiel Baker of the 1800 census was a doctor. As of the 1803 NYS assessment, he had real estate of $1950 and a personal estate of $257. That same year, he was one of the founders of the Schaghticoke Presbyterian Church and an original trustee. This church was founded by the incoming New Englanders to town, and was THE church of the local mill owners, movers and shakers. When the church was reorganized in 1820, Ezekiel was still a trustee. He purchased pew 18 for $33. Pew purchase and rent was the way the church was financed.

Ezekiel continued to be a pillar of our community until his death in 1836. The more I look at early deeds for the town, the more land I see that he owned. For example, the 170 acres of the current Howard Gifford farm was sold by Ezekiel to Josiah Masters before 1815.Of course he continued to appear in the census. Interestingly, in 1810 and 1820, his family included one female slave. I would love to know why Ezekiel and his wife purchased a young black girl (she was from 18-26 in the 1820 census). She remained with the couple in the 1830 census, though by then, of course, she was free.

The probate file of Ezekiel listed his many heirs: his brothers Lyman, Truman, and sisters and their many children. The most important one for us is Ezekiel, a son of his brother Truman. Ezekiel stayed on in Schaghticoke. I’m sure that to avoid confusion, he was always known as Ezekiel 2nd. to differentiate him from his uncle. He was the doctor of the 1840 census. Incidentally, that census entry includes one free black woman of the age to be the same who had been his uncle’s slave.

Ezekiel Baker 2nd was born in 1795 in Pittstown. He attended Williams College from 1810-1814, and was listed as M.D. in the class of 1810, though apparently he did not graduate. Perhaps he mentored with his uncle Ezekiel to become a doctor as did Simon Newcomb, another of the 1840 census doctors. According to Anderson’s “History of Rensselaer County,” he was a local doctor for fifty-one years.

Ezekiel picked up right where his uncle left off, becoming a pillar of the Presbyterian Church. He was secretary of the meeting when it reorganized in 1831, was a clerk of the trustees for many years, and first president of the Sunday School. Ezekiel was also involved in local politics, attending Whig conventions in the county. He ran for state assembly and county coroner in the 1840’s and 1850. Anderson states that he was a strong abolitionist, and that his home was a stop on the underground  railroad in the 1850’s.  And he got involved in business matters as well.  Apparently he was one of a group of investors who held the mortgage on extensive mill properties of Ephraim Congdon on the Hoosic River. Ephraim defaulted in 1834, and the investors sold the property at auction.

Ezekiel was married to Harriet Bryon Bryan of Schaghticoke. They had six sons. David Bryon Baker, born in 1821, attended both Union and William Colleges. He was a doctor, but also town clerk of Schaghticoke as a young man, in 1843-1844. I’m sure he was tapped to be his father’s successor as town physician, but he died in 1847. He was married to Jenette C., and they had two small children. One of them, Calot, lived with his grandparents for a number of years.

The Baker’s second son, Charles, was born in 1823. Charles became a general merchant, and worked for local mill owner Amos Briggs. He was in business in Schaghticoke until his death in 1896. Third son Robert was born and died in 1825. The fourth son, Lorenzo Dow, was born in 1826. Though he became a merchant like brother Charles, he was also a tailor and concentrated on selling clothing. He must have been a bit more outgoing than Charles, or maybe more successful, as he rated a biography in Anderson’s “History of Rensselaer County.” Thus I know that he attended both the Greenwich, NY, and Manchester, Vt. Seminaries- the equivalent of high school- and then went on to work in Troy for a few years. Lorenzo returned home to become a clothing merchant and tailor in the village of Schaghticoke for the rest of his life.  He was also the town clerk in 1853-54, and held various positions in the government of the new village of Hart’s Falls (Schaghticoke) after 1867, as did brother Charles. Lorenzo was very successful, building the Baker Opera House about 1875. It had retail spaces on the first floor- including his own and his brother’s- and a theater upstairs, and was located where Sammy Cohen’s is today. Unfortunately it burned in a huge fire in 1880. Lorenzo survived until 1904.

Fifth son William Henry was born in 1829. He was listed in the 1850 census for Schaghticoke with his parents, and brothers Lorenzo, and John as a merchant, age 21. By the 1855 census he was gone, probably to Racine, Wisconsin, where he was listed in the 1860 census as a bookkeeper, with wife Mary and two small sons. He died before 1866, as he was listed in his father’s will as deceased.

Youngest son, John Ezekiel, was born in 1831. Though John studied medicine at Williams College, he also attended Union Theological Seminary in 1858 and became a Presbyterian Minister. I wonder if there was pressure for John Ezekiel to become a doctor as his oldest brother David Bryan had died. If so, John evidently persisted in the career for which he felt called.  He moved to Rochester, where he was a minister and prominent member of the community, living until 1894.

Father Ezekiel lived until 1866, long enough to see the death of two of his sons, and the success of the rest. Widow Harriet survived until 1872. All of the Schaghticoke Bakers are buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Returning to the 1840 census, it also included three ministers in the list of “learned professors and engineers.” They were Hugh M. Boyd, Hawley Ransom, and J. H. Noble. I will begin with Hawley Ransom, as I know the least about him. He was born in Vermont in 1809. According to Sylvester’s “History of Rensselaer County,” he was an original member of the Troy Conference of Methodist Ministers in 1834, at which point he was serving at Schaghticoke Hill. That is the little community on Route 40 just south of where it is crossed by the Tomhannock Creek.  Hawley served as the justice of the peace in the town of Schaghticoke in 1843.He and wife Lucy moved to Northumberland in Saratoga  He must have felt quite a tie to the place, as when his first wife, Lucy, died in 1858, he had her buried in the little cemetery next to the church, even though he had moved to Northumberland in Saratoga County. The couple had stayed in Schaghticoke for a long time- at least from 1834 to 1855, as the 1855 census for Northumberland states that Hawley and Lucy had lived there for just two months. Oddly, Hawley, now 50, was listed as a shoemaker. Wife Lucy was also 50 and their two daughters, Margaret, 24, and Drucilla, 15, lived with them.

By the 1860 census for Northumberland, Lucy had died, and Hawley had remarried Catherine Strong. Hawley was again listed as a clergyman. He and Catherine, 35, lived with Abby, 20- presumably Drucilla called by a different name, and Harriet Strong, 40. She was Catherine’s sister, a milliner. The 1865 census shows the birth of a daughter, Josephine, to the couple, then 11 months old. This census lists Hawley as both farmer and minister- and this was probably the case in the censuses where he was listed as a shoemaker and farmer alone. Hawley died in 1873 and is buried in the Reynold’s Corners Cemetery in Moreau. Wife Catherine died in 1896 and is there as well.

Hugh M. Boyd was probably born in Schenectady in 1795. He graduated from Union College in 1813. He is listed in a book of the graduates of Union as a clergyman from Schenectady. As would befit a man from very Dutch-oriented Schenectady, Hugh was a Dutch Reformed minister. I don’t know where he was from 1813 to 1830, but I think he was in Saratoga as of 1830, based only on a census listing.  Hugh was the pastor at the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church from 1835-1841. During that time he and his wife Mary Dorr had two daughters. Margaret was baptized in 1835 and Martha was born in 1836 and baptized April 30, 1837. This was a time when the church, the oldest and once the largest congregation in town, was shrinking.  He did marry 23 couples during that time, including one black couple, and baptized 25 children. After he left in 1841, it was seven years until another baptism was recorded. I don’t know where Hugh went after he left Schaghticoke, but he died in 1847 at age 52 and is buried in Vale Cemetery in Schenectady.

The third minister in the 1840 census is Reverend Dr. Jonathan Harris Noble, known in the records as “J.H.”  He was the minister at the Schaghticoke Presbyterian Church from 1837-1869. He was born in Vermont in 1804, the son of Obadiah, whom I think was also a minister. Jonathan was a graduate of Williams College in 1826 and the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1829. I’m not sure where J.H. was in the years before he came to Schaghticoke, though his interment record states he was in Tinmouth, Vermont at some point,  but he arrived here as an experienced minister. This was good for the church, as it had been suffering through schism in the previous ten years. J.H. brought stability. Unlike other prominent local men, J.H. stuck to his job, not getting involved in politics. This included participating in the larger Presbyterian synod and the national home and foreign missionary societies. Mrs. Noble participated as well. I found her listed in several publications of the American Tract Society in the 1840’s, for example, which published the pamphlets used by foreign missionaries.

That 1840 census includes J.H., and his wife Octavia, plus one other female aged 30-39, probably her sister Emily, plus one female age 10-14, presumably their daughter Mary Louisa. The 1850 census shows Jonathan, then 46, with his wife Octavia Porter, 43, her sister Emily, 50, and their mother Aurora, 85. I don’t know where Mary Louisa was. She appears in the 1855 census, aged 22. She had joined her father’s church the year before.   Emily and Amanda Porter continued to live with the family.  Johnathan also appeared in the 1855 NYS census as a farmer. He had twenty improved and ten unimproved acres worth $4000. He had grown seven acres of oats, two acres of corn and ten acres of potatoes the preceding year. He had 23 fowl, one cow, and one pig. So he primarily grew what his family needed.  Mary Louisa was also left out of the 1860 census, when J.H. and Octavia lived just with a servant, and in 1865, when the church records indicate she moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Around the same time, in October 1865, the Albany Presbyterian Synod held its meeting in Schaghticoke. This must have been a real feather in J.H.’s cap. Unfortunately, his wife was ill and dying at the time. An article in the Troy “Daily Times” records that J.H. was amazing, being the good host of his fellow ministers while tending to his ill wife. Octavia is buried in Elmwood Cemetery. J.H. remarried, to a woman named Caroline, by November 1866, when she joined the Presbyterian Church.

The minutes of the Presbyterian Church session reveal that Rev. Noble proposed to resign in fall 1868. It took until the following June to find a replacement. This is reflected in the 1870 census for Schaghticoke, when J.H., now 65, and wife Caroline, 45, were living in the inn of Garrett Groesbeck, rather than in the brick manse.  But J.H.  did not retire. He went to Johnsonville by 1871. The Presbyterian Church had begun there in 1856, but I found J.H.’s name in a Presbyterian record of home missions in 1874. I’m not sure why the assignment in Johnsonville would be considered a mission, when it was already established. I did not find the Nobles in the 1880 census, but J.H. was still listed as being in Johnsonville in a newspaper article of 1882.

Sometime later, J.H. and Caroline Noble moved to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, presumably drawn by Mary Louisa living in that state, though there was a Ministers’ Home there, for retired pastors. J.H. and Caroline were living there when he wrote a letter to the local Synod, meeting in April 1896.  J.H. died later that month. He was buried from the Presbyterian Church in Schaghticoke, with seven fellow ministers taking part in the service. The 1900 census found Caroline in the Westminster Home in New Jersey. She died in 1901. Both are buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Returning to the 1840 census, there were two lawyers among the “learned professors and engineers.  I have already written extensively about one of them, Herman Knickerbacker. He is one of the most famous residents in the history of the town. Unfortunately to me, this is because he was the model for Diedrich Knickerbacker in Washington Irving’s “Knickerbocker’s History of New York.” But he was also one of the first lawyers in town, U.S. Congressman from 1809-1811, Rensselaer County judge, and local businessman and mill owner. Virtually every deed involving Schaghticoke in the first forty or so years of the 19th century has Herman’s name in it somewhere, either as the lawyer handling the deal, a witness, or judge.

The second lawyer in the census was Nelson Moshier. He was born in 1806 in Dutchess County. He married Catherine Tice of Brunswick in 1833 at Gilead Lutheran Church.  He was the Schaghticoke Town Clerk in 1841 and a school commissioner about the same time. I have found Nelson as the lawyer in probate files and wills of the era.  By 1850 the family had moved to pioneer in Michigan. According to a biography on the find-a-grave website, he practiced law there and was a circuit court judge, and the first prosecuting attorney when Isabella County, Michigan was formed.  Nelson died in 1872 and is buried in Isabella County. I would love to talk to Nelson about his motivations for moving West. It was certainly becoming more and more common at the time.

So now I’ve written about some of the more prominent people in town. How about the others? Let me turn to the nine black families.  New York State’s gradual abolition of slavery had ended in 1829.  While there were 343 blacks in Schaghticoke in 1790, by 1820 there were 66 slaves and 30 free blacks, and by 1830 there were just 52 free blacks. The total of 76 in the 1840 census is actually a bit of an uptick. In a few cases, freed slaves stayed on in the families where they had been owned. For example, the elder Dr. Ezekiel Baker had had one female slave in 1820 and had one freed black female in 1830.

The nine black families in the 1840 census amounted to just over a third of the blacks in town. Interestingly, none is listed with an occupation, though they certainly all worked! As you will see, in most cases I was unable to find out much, if anything, about the families. This is partly because they were often illiterate, they were not taxed, and were not active in politics.  They also moved a lot, and lived in poor circumstances. They just weren’t much in the public record. The heads of household of these black families were Thomas Mando, Prince Jackson, Peter Williams, Thomas Robins, Peter Baker, James Hornbeck, James Franklin, Stephen Calvin, and Joseph Winney.

I do know a bit about one of the families.  There is a legend that Thomas Mando, who was listed in the census as over 55, with a female over 55 and one male under 10 in his family, may have been “Thomas Mandolin”, a former slave of the Knickerbacker family. He got his surname because he played the mandolin.  What is true is that he and his wife had also been a family in the 1830 census, right after the final abolition of slavery. At that point they had four children living with them.  It is possible that the young boy in the 1840 census was a grandchild. The couple was still in the 1850 census: Thomas, 83, and wife Hannah, 60. Thomas still listed his occupation as laborer, and they had a black girl named Margaret Fonda, 8, living with them.   One of their sons, also Thomas, and his wife Catherine and family were still in town as well. Their youngest child, Albert, then 4, became a composer and orchestra leader in New York City. I do not know where the elder Thomas Mando and his wife are buried, but the younger Thomas, wife Catherine (Katie), and several children, including Albert, are in the Methodist Cemetery at Schaghticoke Hill.

mando illo (1)

Prince Jackson and his wife were also in both the 1830 and 1840 census. In 1830, he was between 24-36 years old and she, 10-24.  In 1840 they were both listed as between 35-55 years old. In 1830, there was a second black Jackson family, that of Richard, with a family of four, but he was gone by 1840. And Prince and wife were also gone by 1850. Prince is a fairly common name for slaves, as was Jackson, so there were a half dozen men with that name in the New York area in 1850. I don’t think any of them was our Prince. So I will have to leave his story there.

Peter Williams is another black man who also appeared in the 1830 census. At that time, his family consisted of him, age 24-36, his wife, age 10-24, and a son under 10. The 1840 census listing is similar, with one male 24-36, one female 10-24, but this time one female under 10. There are definitely some issues with the accuracy of their ages. The Williams stayed on in town, and the 1850 census lists them as Peter, 45, a laborer born in New York, illiterate; his wife, Diana, just 23, also born in New York; and their son John, 3. This clearly was a second wife for Peter. That census also included Harriet Williams, a black girl aged 16, who worked for the family of Ormon Doty, and Nancy Williams, a black woman aged 27, who worked for the family of John Groesbeck. They could have been daughters of Peter. Nancy was still working for the Groesbecks as of the 1855 census, though her age was then listed as 41. She was born in Rensselaer County.

I did find that Peter and Diana moved to Waterford by 1860. Peter, now 55, and Diana, 28, had a daughter Sarah, 9.  Peter was a laborer, with a personal estate of $15. But I could not find them after that. It seems like a number of children passed in and out of the census listing for the couple. It is so difficult and frustrating to trace these people, handicapped by their race and their illiteracy, when we would love to know the whole story.

Thomas Robins was the last black man who appeared in both the 1830 and 1840 census. In 1830 his family included two males under 10, and one 36-54- that was Thomas- plus one female under 10, one from 10-23, one from 24-35, and one from 36-54. One of the older women was certainly his wife, but there must have been another woman who was neither child nor wife, plus perhaps three children. By the 1840 census, the family was reduced to just Thomas and his wife, both listed as over 55.

There is quite a twist by the 1850 census, when there was a Peter J. Robbins, a black man aged 35, working as a laborer on the Kenyon farm. Peter stayed on in town and served in the Civil War, returning by the 1865 census, when he was now listed as a 55 -year -old laborer, with a wife and young son. Peter could certainly have been one of the sons of Thomas. I cannot find Thomas and his wife for sure elsewhere in the 1850 census, as there are several couples with Thomas Robins as the head of household of the correct age in New York State.

Peter Baker was another black man with a family in the 1840 census, though not in 1830.  He was aged 24-35, and had a wife in the same age range, plus one daughter under 10. I feel this family had left town by 1850 and moved to Lansingburgh. In that census there was a Peter, aged 35, with wife Susan, aged 33, and daughter Mary, aged 14. I could not find them in the 1860 census, but in the 1865 NYS census, they were in the 1st Ward of Troy. Peter was a coachman, who had been married three times. His wife was now Sarah, aged 43, listed as a mulatto, while Peter was black. She was born in Maryland, and this was her second marriage. Interestingly, a 40-year-old  black man named Ebenezer Williams, a barber aged 40, lived with them. Could he have been another son of Peter Williams, our previous subject?? And another black family which had lived in Schaghticoke, the Hornbecks, lived next door. Unfortunately, I can’t find Peter past 1865.

James Holenbeck or Hornbeck, also black, had a family of four in the 1840 census. He was from 24-35 years of age, his wife the same age range, plus one son and one daughter under 10. There are graves in the old Methodist Cemetery at Schaghticoke Hill- the same cemetery where the Mandos are buried- for Emeline, died May 8, 1847 age 7; and Henry, died May 12, 1847, age 18, both children of James and Susan Hornbeck. What a tragedy for the family. I feel that they moved to Troy soon after.  Though I have not been able to find him in the 1850 or 1860 census, a James Hornbeck is in the Troy City Directory from 1857 on, listed as a porter who lived at 38 Fulton Street. The August 20, 1856 issue of the Troy “Daily Times” reported that James Hornbeck assisted the chairman of a “meeting of colored persons” at the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in Troy. The meeting discussed propositions for blacks to get to right to vote, among other issues, reporting on a larger convention held recently in Seneca Falls.

There is  also a Joseph Hornbeck in both the 1850 and 1855 Schaghticoke censuses. In the former he was a 12-year-old black boy, who lived in the family of Nathan Overocker. In the latter, he was a laborer in the family of William Brown. He could have been a son of James.  As I mentioned above, I did find James Hornbeck and his family living next door to Peter Baker in Troy in the 1865 census. James, 65-years-old, was a laborer. He had a wife, Susan, age 64, born in Rhode Island, who had had eight children. A black couple, Thomas Moore, 26, born in New Jersey, and Rebecca Moore, 27, born in Saratoga, lived with them.

By the 1870 Troy directory, James had died. Mrs. James Hornbeck lived at 119 Church Street. A Joseph Hornbeck lived in Troy as well. This listing for Mrs James is interesting as an obituary in two local newspapers reported the death of Susan Hornbeck in 1864. A post on the webpage of the Lansingburgh Historical Society quotes:  “A centennarian with ten years to spare, died at Lansingburgh yesterday. Susan Hornbeck, better known as “Aunt Susan,” was her name. She had attained the age of one hundred and ten years. The deceased was a colored woman—born a slave in Saugerties [Ulster County], and held by the family of John Brown in Lansingburgh for many years—only being released when New York became a Free State.”Schenectady Daily Evening Star and Times. April 9, 1864: 3 col 2.
Albany Morning Express. April 11, 1864: 3 col 3.

James Franklin and his family also lived in town in 1840. James, aged 24-36, and his wife, aged 24-36, had two daughters, one under 10, one aged from 10-14. He was still here in the 1850 census: James, aged 40, a laborer born in New York, with wife Betsey, aged 28. If the ages are correct, this could be a different wife. What happened to the children? I have been unable to find James after this date.

I have been unable to discover anything more than their listing about two of the black families in the 1840 census. Stephen Calvin, a black man aged 36-55, and his wife, the same age, also lived in Schaghticoke as a family in 1840. The last black family in the 1840 census was that of Joseph Winney. Joseph was from 24-35 years old. He and his wife, the same age, had three small sons, under 10 years of age.

Unfortunately this census doesn’t indicate foreign born citizens, which would have been helpful to fill out this story of life in Schaghticoke in 1840. I know that the population of foreign born increased rapidly during this period, mostly due to an influx of mill workers and of Irish immigrants. There were enough Irish Catholics here for the Albany diocese to begin a church in 1841.

Now that I’ve discussed some of the individual families in town, I’d like to move on to discuss how people lived. Beyond generalities, I will use inventories of their estates from probate files to try to figure that out.  The problem with this method is that inventories can be more or less complete, but I can’t think of a better way.  In 1840 as now, there would be quite a range of prosperity. Earlier in this article, I gave the inventory of Revolutionary War veteran Nathaniel Robinson, whom we would hope was at the poorest end of the range. He owned no land, possessing just a few animals, a few dishes, and a few cooking utensils. Tellingly, his wife had a spinning wheel and a loom. She could process her own wool and make fabric, either for home use or to sell, impossible to know from the information given. The Robinsons certainly lived simply, cooking their food in the now old-fashioned way, over a fire outdoors or in a fireplace, getting water from a well, lighting with a candle or oil or grease lamp. They grew their own food as much as possible, and lived a simple life with no books, pictures on the wall, curtains at the windows, or rugs on the floor.

At the other end of the scale, was Munson Smith, a prominent local businessman and mill owner, who died in 1842. I have written of him before- it’s on my blog at www.schaghticokehistory.wordpress.com. Using the inventory of his estate in his probate file, we can intuit that the Smiths lived in a carpeted home, with curtains at some of the windows and inside shutters on others. A lot of the furniture was mahogany, with matching chairs at the dining table. They had large sets of matching dishes (39 plates in one set!!), with specialized dishes for gravy, custard, fruit, and other foods. While there was some plain glassware, some was cut glass, and they had specialized wine glasses. Some of the silverware had ivory handles, some was silver.

astral lamp

astral lamp

Several bedrooms were furnished with maple, mahogany, and cherry beds, small tables, chairs, and dressers, with a mirror on each wall, and lots of bed linens of different types. This was in the pre-bathroom era, so there were several wash bowl and pitcher sets, for washing in the bedrooms. While there were fireplaces, the rooms were also heated with cast iron stoves, probably set into the fireplaces and using their flues.  There were candles on the mantelpieces, but they also had the latest Astral lamp. There were also several clocks. The inventory lists the kitchen stove, plus pots and pans of brass, tin, and iron.  The kitchen range with a cook top was a relatively recent advance over open hearth cooking. It may have been either coal or wood burning.

Munson’s office was either in or attached to his house. It contained office furniture, plus a bedroom, furnished, and his library of about 60 volumes. This was a substantial library for the time.  Munson’s wearing apparel is not itemized in the inventory, but was valued at $21. This doesn’t seem like much, but considering that the kitchen stove was worth $12, it is quite a lot.

I’ve been trying to find an inventory of a less wealthy person who was not a farmer to contrast with Munson Smith. This is not easy to do. I did find that of Henry Thompson, who died in town in 1845. He left a widow and five children, two under 21. His widow Sarah stated his “goods and chattels” were not worth more than $250.  Henry left one cow and one swine,  and there was some basic  agricultural material,  a scythe, a straw cutter, a potato hook, a plough There was one horse, two wagons, two “cutters”- sleighs, a saddle and harness of different kinds. This would have provided transportation for the family and his business. He also had the tools of a carpenter: a cross cut saw, grindstone, six planes, an adze, chains, a square, five moulding tools, a set of framing chisels, a hammer, a broad axe, a circular saw, a smooth plane and gauge, plus some wood: two sets of boat plans, a lot of birch planks, and another lot of planks. Was he a carpenter who built boats?

Henry’s widow retained a wagon, two stands, a rag carpet, a bureau, a table, six chairs, and a looking glass as her widow’s portion. The rest of the household furniture consisted of just four beds with their bedding, two stoves, cooking utensils not detailed, one table, six chairs, six knives and forks plus other crockery, one spinning wheel, and library and school books. I’m glad to see the books, as the rest of the furnishings seem basic to say the most.

I did find widow Sarah in the 1850 census for Pittstown. She was 47 years old, born in New York, and had real estate worth $600. In her household were her sons Peter, a 20 -year-old carpenter, Isaac, 10, and Bryan, 6, and a Michael Thompson, 43, born in Ireland, who was a laborer- perhaps her brother-in-law. So I think Henry was a carpenter, and probably an Irish immigrant, who died when his youngest child was just one. She had moved, but not far, and had a place to live.

Let’s look at the probate file of John Baucus, who died in 1832 at 59. He was a farmer who lived near the current town hall. He and his family attended the Lutheran Church, and he is buried in the cemetery at the junction of Melrose-Valley Falls Road and North Line Drive.   In the 1830 census for Schaghticoke, John, age 50-59, had a wife the same age plus one son from 10-14, two from 15-19, one from 20-29, and two daughters from 10-14.  The inventory of his estate gives us insight into a prosperous farm of the period. He had nine horses, seven cows, four young cattle, four calves, and a pair of oxen, plus 50 sheep, 15 pigs, 18 hogs, and one boar, 13 geese, and some chickens. At that time, there was a woolen mill in the village of Schaghticoke, a market for the wool.

Turning to farm equipment, John had  five ploughs, a fanning mill,  two ox carts,  three sleighs, an ox sled, three wagons of different kinds, two drags, five pitch forks, two dung forks, four rakes, a patent rake, a stone boat (for moving stones), four hoes, some shovels, and other miscellaneous tools. John also left large quantities of hay, stored in several different barns, 500 bushels of corn, 300 bushels of wheat, “a lot of oats in the barrack,” potatoes “in the hole” and 100 other bushels of potatoes and 15 bushels of buckwheat. A barrack is a temporary barn structure. I feel that potatoes were stored in a hole constructed for that purpose, like a root cellar.

Plowing-hard work 1830

plowing at the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown

John’s widow was allowed to keep items apart from probate that were essential for herself and her “infant children” to live. There were five children in this category. She kept ten of the sheep, one cow and four pigs, plus the only household furnishings included in the inventory. There were kitchen utensils- pots, a brass kettle, a frying pan- plus two stoves, 25 chairs, six tables, and four looking glasses. There were seven beds, 30 blankets, 15 pairs of sheets, and 15 pairs of pillow cases, plus two sets of curtains, two carpets, four other window curtains,  eight table cloths, one stand (small table), a wooden clock,  and a bureau (dresser). This seems like plenty of chairs, mirrors, and bedding, but too little clothes storage, although there were two chests and two cupboards- but they might have been for food or dish storage.

Mrs. Baucus had two sets of dishes, one fine, one every day, two sets of knives and forks, two decanters, six tumblers, and 15 wine glasses. A stove for cooking is not mentioned, though there is a furnace. I am not sure what was meant by that- certainly not what we would think of as a source of central heat. It could have been a stove for heating flat irons.   The only lighting implements on the list are three candle sticks, though there could have been various kinds of oil lamps. There were also a churn and a wash tub. The inclusion of a loom, two big and one small- spinning wheels-  plus 35 yards of yarn, 44 yards of cloth, and eight pounds of rolls (probably the rolags from which yarn would be spun), suggest household manufacture from the fleeces of those sheep. The family also had two Bibles and twenty other books. To us this would seem like a pretty short list of household goods for a family of eight compared to the extensive inventory of farm equipment, the harvest, and animals, but it was a different time.

Elijah Bryan was another farmer in town. He died in 1842 aged 79. His wife had died the previous year. They lived south of Hemstreet Park, probably near where they are buried in a little cemetery near the junction of River and Pinewoods Roads.  While his inventory presumably reflects that of a couple mostly retired from farming, it does reveal how they lived. And there is a pretty good list of Elijah’s wardrobe. He had nine cotton shirts, four woolen shirts,  three pairs of linen trousers, a pair of pantaloons,  three pairs of woolen drawers (boxers), vests, one coat, a cloak, 15 pairs of stockings, two pairs of boots and one pair of shoes, two hats, two walking canes, and one silk handkerchief. I am not sure of the difference between trousers and pantaloons. This seems like lots of stockings and not enough handkerchiefs. Of course we can’t know the accuracy of an inventory from 150 years ago, and it does lists two separate lots of “old clothes,” which might balance things out.

As to the contents of the house, the inventory includes only candles as the source of light. There are several bee hives and lots of honey on the list, so it’s no surprise that the candles were of beeswax.  There was one stove for heating and one for cooking. Most of the cooking and dining utensils were not described in detail, but there were 15 blue plates and six silver teaspoons. Likewise, most of the furniture was not described, except for one cherry table. There were six fancy chairs and six “flag bottom” chairs, plus 12 old chairs. Elijah and Eunice had one looking glass, a Bible, and “a lot of books”, valued at 12 cents. This is “lot” as in a group, not many. There was the equipment for taking care of the clothing- a clothes basket, clothes horse (drying rack), wash tub,  and irons, plus food storage- baskets and barrels, kegs,  stone pots (stoneware), firkins, casks,  and boxes. The house was carpeted to some extent, but it’s hard to tell how much as the list has “1 carpet the largest,” valued at $2.00 and “1 carpet the smallest,” valued at $3.25.

Flag-Bottom-Chair

flag-bottom chair

The bedding in the house reflected the house when Elijah and Eunice’s children were home: several bedsteads, three feather beds, four straw ticks (alternative mattress, not as comfortable as feathers), plus 30 linen sheets, 17 woolen sheets, and 1 cotton sheet. I think Eunice must have enjoyed textiles, as the inventory includes a number of “coverlids”: two carpets, two blue and white, two red and white, and one black and white, plus three quilts and three comforters.

The couple had just one horse and one heifer, and, interestingly, “one half of a 1 horse wagon.” Perhaps the wagon was shared with a son or daughter? There were just a few tools: a hoe and a bog hoe, a scythe, a cross cut saw, and an axe. As I said, they must have been mostly retired from farming, so perhaps there were more animals a few years earlier. Certainly Mrs Bryan must have had some chickens.

 

Next let’s look at the inventory of Eliphel Gifford, widow of Caleb.  She died in 1838 and is buried in St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Melrose.  Caleb died in 1817, so she had been on her own for a long time. She had two cows, a boar and 12 sows, ten chickens- identified as “dunghill fowl”, and a pair of geese- kind of a basic set of animals for daily use. There was hay and corn to feed them. She had some potatoes, vinegar, “a lot of pork in the barrel,” apples, and “a lot of lard,” plus equipment to store and process food: stone jars, baskets, 13 milk pans, pails, iron pots, tubs, hogsheads, a cheese press- needed for making cheese,  and three flour barrels.  She had “a lot of soap”- indicating she made her own, as probably most farm wives did. Eliphel also had both a parlour stove, “one premium stove No. 3”, and a cookstove, plus lots of wood already cut. These stoves place her in the modern world- heating and cooking with stoves, rather than fireplaces.  Her bakeware was made of tin, brass, and iron. She had five wooden bowls and two sugar boxes. There was no detailing of any special dishes or silverware, no mirror, no clock, no carpets, and just three books- a Bible and two others.

We hope her children had already taken the furniture they wanted by the time the inventory was taken, as the furniture consisted of just one rocking chair, one stand, one table, one cot, one bedstead, one set of homemade curtains,  and one lantern. There were no other lighting devices on the list.  There were four cotton sheets, four pillow cases, two calico quilts, one comforter, and two flannel sheets. There was a separate listing of a bed and bedding, valued at $15, the highest valued items on the list outside the livestock.

The appraisers made a list of the “wearing apparel of the dead:” five gowns, three short gowns, three petticoats, two check aprons, three pairs linen stockings, two pairs woolen stockings, nine handkerchiefs, a “bandbox hood ,” five caps, one pair of stays (a form of girdle/bra), one woolen shawl, one velvet cloak, five chemises, and one white cotton chemise. Again, one hopes her children had taken some of her clothes, as there are no shoes on this list, and some very old-fashioned garments- a set of stays, and chemises- which were like today’s slips with sleeves. The short gowns and petticoats would go together, the petticoats being outerwear and not underwear like today. Those are 18th century terms, however. It is possible that Eliphel, as an elderly lady, preferred to wear old fashioned clothes.  I do not know what a “bandbox hood” might be, though there were 18th century hoods with interior hoops that might be stored in a bandbox- what we might call a hat box.

 

The inventory of the estate of Alexander A. Miller, who died at age 27 in 1826, also lists his wearing apparel. This young man, who left a widow and small daughter, was a non-commissioned officer in the local infantry regiment in the New York State Militia. It seems from the inventory that he was a farmer, though it also lists a set of blacksmith tools.  Except for a wagon, the most valuable thing in his estate was a cloak worth $40. His uniform cloak with epaulette was worth $20. He also had a sword, sash, and military hat, plus a feather- probably for the hat. He owned four pairs of pantaloons, three broadcloth coats, and a blue surtout coat (also called a frock coat, probably knee length), an old black silk vest, an old hat, two pairs of old shoes, and another cloak, this one worth $12, also seven shirts and six cravats (like ties), a pair of gloves and a pair of mittens, five pairs of socks and one pair of suspenders. Tantalizingly, he also owned a bass viol worth $8. He also had a silver watch, and two pocket books (like a wallet).

Turning to the business side of the inventory, Alexander had five cows and one calf, seven old sheep and six lambs, eight shoats (young pigs) in the pen, 216 fowls, one mare and her colt. He had fifty loads of manure, ¾ ton of hay, 40 bushels of rye, a lot of potatoes in the ground, lots of wood and coal. The most interesting part of the inventory may be that Alexander had been in charge for the past two years of the “committee of the lunatic” which took care of George Miller, a lunatic. George evidently had an estate to pay for his care, but the estate hadn’t reimbursed Alexander for about $650 he had spent. This is a very large sum for the time. After a lot of research, I’ve concluded that George was Alexander’s father.  Alexander’s untimely death must have caused even more than the usual grief and chaos. He left a young widow and child, plus the problem of who would take care of his mentally ill father. I’m sure he also left friends and family sad at the death of such a promising young father, citizen, musician, and farmer.

So what can we conclude about life in Schaghticoke in 1840 from this admittedly limited sample? Farm families were as self-sufficient as possible. Inventories show equipment to process and store food, make candles, soap and other basics. Most farms had a variety of animals.  Some women processed their own wool and flax at home.  At the least they made their own clothes. Most families had stoves for cooking and heating, having advanced from fireplaces.  Wealthier families had a few special pieces of furniture and glassware or dishes- for example a cherry table or a few silver spoons. Some of this material may have been heirlooms passed down in the family. While people had small wardrobes by our standards, they owned a few more clothes than families fifty years earlier. Most people had a mirror or two, perhaps a clock, and at least a few books. As to farm tools, most were basic- ploughs, wagons, drags, shovels, etc., but a few new items appeared: a fanning mill, for example. Men had blacksmith and logging tools. Farmers grew the feed for their animals and grain to grind for flour. Some farmers specialized, for example growing sheep for the local woolen mills or lots of poultry, presumably for the local market as well.

 

Bibliography

 

Anderson, “History of Rensselaer County”

Baucus, John, probate file, Rensselaer County Historical Society

Bryan, Elijah, probate file, Rensselaer County Historical Society

Find-a-Grave.com

Gifford, Eliphel, probate file, Rensselaer County Historical Society

Miller, Alexander, probate file

Newcomb, John Bearse Genealogy of the Newcomb Family, Elgin, Ill, 1874.

Probate files Isaac Tallmadge 158; Henry P.Strunk 137

Robinson, Nathaniel, Revolutionary War pension application

Schaghticoke cemetery records

Smith, Munson, probate file. In the archives, Rensselaer County Historical Society

Transcript of the Records of the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church, 1903.

Troy  “Daily Whig”, Oct 3, 1837, Oct 15, 1851, June 15, 1860, Feb 9, 1844, Sept. 1848

Troy “Daily Times”- article on Presbyterian Synod in 1865, mention of Noble in 1882, obit 1896,  Aug 20, 1856, Sept 30, 1851, May 5, 1854

Union College, “A General Catalogue of the Officers, Graduates, and students of Union College,

1795-1868, pub. Munsell, Albany, 1868.

Williams College; General Catalogue of the Non-Graduates, 1920.

Williams College; General Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Williams College, 1910.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schaghticoke Point: 19th Century Boomtown

I have been working on the contents of what follows for several months. It has been hard to make the decision to publish, as I feel I will find more information. But I could work on it forever! I know I have shared information before on the industrial revolution in Schaghticoke, beginning about 1800, but I don’t feel I have emphasized it enough- and, as you will see, I have a lot more to say. To prepare for this I visited two great museums: the National Park at Lowell, Massachusetts,(www.nps.gov/lowe/) and Hanford Mills Museum at East Meredith, NY (www.hanfordmills.org). I wanted to really understand the operation of mills, from water to finished products, and both places let the visitor see that in action. I recommend both places to you. Hanford Mills is near Oneonta, very accessible to us. Lowell is filled with textile mills and the canals and machinery needed to operate them. Hanford Mills has a grist and saw mill plus several other wood working machines which operate off the same water wheel, or with a steam boiler.

Hanford Mills, East Meredith, NY

Hanford Mills, East Meredith, NY

In the past I have written about the industrial revolution in the town of Schaghticoke. Now I think it’s hard for us to imagine the gorge of the Hoosic River at the village of Schaghticoke filled with mills of various kinds, the village populated with mill workers, who lived, worked, and shopped in their village. I would like to return to that topic, to try to describe what the mills were like, and imagine the work of the citizens of the village. The Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy owns boxes and boxes of the papers of Richard Hart, whose home on Second Street the society occupies. Richard was a busy entrepreneur in the early 19th century, and one of his major projects was to purchase and operate the mills at Schaghticoke Point, now the village of Schaghticoke. His local partner was Amos Briggs, an immigrant to Schaghticoke from Rhode Island. In the future I plan to write much more about Amos, but for now I’ll stick to the mills. The Hart Papers cover a wide range of activities at the mills. I will draw on inventories made of several mills as Hart was planning to purchase them, leases of various mills, record books covering extensive repairs to a mill in 1824, and a census of area mills Hart made in 1831, as well as a great children’s book by David Macaulay called “Mill,” a book on water power by Louis C. Hunter, and material from the National Park at the textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts. While there were other kinds of mills at Schaghticoke Point- including a grist and saw mill at least- this article will focus on the new textile mills.
For centuries, yarn and cloth were made by hand, no matter the natural fiber: flax- linen, cotton, or wool. The fiber needed to be harvested, whether from plant or animal, cleaned and processed, spun into yarn, woven into cloth, then the cloth needed to be “finished” to be durable. There was often also a step to dye the yarn after the spinning or weaving as well. The wool fulling process involved beating and cleaning the cloth in water to make it denser, “teasing” it, originally with the seed pods of the teasel plant to raise the pile, and trimming off loose threads. The fulling was the first part of the process to be mechanized, and was done by water-powered mills as early as the middle ages. A fulling mill was one of the first at Schaghticoke, probably shortly after the first bridge was put across the river c. 1792.
The next steps of the cloth making process to be mechanized were the spinning and carding. Again, the power was provided by water. Carding, the combing of fibers to straighten them out, could be done more easily in bulk than spinning., and was mechanized by the mid-1700’s in England. Samuel Slater built the first spinning mill in the United States in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 1793. This technology spread like wildfire through the Northeast, with inventors vying to get patents on new improvements. The goal was to be able to spin more fiber at once- have more and more spindles on one machine- to make the process faster. There were two types of spinning machines in use: The spinning mule used a two part process to spin fiber into thread or yarn: first the roving (the unspun fiber in loose ropes from the carding machine) was spun, then wound up on a pool. The throstle did the same process in one action- drawing out the roving, twisting it and winding it on a spool. A throstle is a song bird. The bird-like singing or humming of the machine at work gave it its name. The mills at Schaghticoke had both kinds of spinning devices, as well as carding machines.
throstle
The chance for profit in the new mechanization of the textile business led budding entrepreneurs to fan out from the East Coast, seeking out good sites for water power as the 19th century began. The over -100 foot drop in the Hoosic River at Schaghticoke was a magnet for these men. One of the earliest to build a textile mill here was Benjamin Joy, from Boston. Benjamin, born in 1757, was a merchant with many business interests and the first U.S. consul to Calcutta, nominated by President George Washington in 1794. While he probably visited Schaghticoke, his brother Charles was Benjamin’s agent, who ran the mills. Charles was in Schaghticoke by 1795, when he married Elizabeth Chase, who may have been the daughter of Daniel Chase, builder of the first bridge across the Hoosic in 1792. The couple lived here until about 1820. Charles was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Church in 1803, and served as a trustee until 1820. Interestingly, in the 1820 census, Charles was not listed as employed in manufacturing, but rather as a farmer. One Joy Mill processed flax, another cotton, and the Rensselaer Cotton and Woolen Mill, with local owners, later the Farmers’ Manufacturing Company, dealt with both cotton and wool, as the name implies, from about the same time. I found an ad in the ‘Troy Post” for 1819 for “patent seine twine of a perfect lay…with all other kinds of twine..” at Samuel Conant & Company in Troy. The twine was made at the linen factory of Charles Joy at Schaghticoke Point, and “known to be of superior quality.”

The falls of the Hoosic attracted entrepreneurs like the Joys. The mills they built attracted workers and engineers, first to build the mills, then to design and use the machinery inside them. I have written before of Oliver Barrett, born in Hudson Falls in 1783, who filed a patent from Schaghticoke in 1811 for a machine for making cotton roving. Carding machines produced loose tubes of fiber called roving, which would then be spun, so Oliver was working on the carding process. To succeed, factories needed to use the latest equipment, making the textile process as efficient as possible. So from the earliest years of the Industrial Revolution, Schaghticoke was on the cutting edge.

The last part of the textile process to be mechanized was the weaving. For some years, the other parts would be done in the mill, with the yarn sent out to be woven in area homes, and the fabric returned to the mill for mechanical finishing such as fulling. Or if the whole process was done in the mill, the weaving would be on hand operated mills. A genealogy of the local Banker family reports on a man named James Verity, born on Long Island in 1786. He learned to weave in the traditional way, through apprenticeship with a Quaker weaver in Nine Partners, near Poughkeepsie, from age fourteen to 21. At that point, 1807, he came to Schaghticoke Point, where he wove in the cotton mill. After his 1812 marriage to Eunice Banker, he continued to weave, but at his home, on a farm south of Melrose.

spinning frame at Lowell

spinning frame at Lowell


The first power loom in the U.S. was built at Lowell, Massachusetts in 1813. Looms would be added to the mills as soon as possible, as this would vastly speed up the manufacture of cloth. An 1831 census of area mills reported that the Joy Linen Mill had “28 duck looms propelled by hand.” So in that case, though the weaving was still not mechanized, the weavers were centralized in the mill. This would certainly give the mill owner greater control of the finished fabric and of the worker. I think that various combinations of hand and power looms were used through the 1830’s.
mechanized loom at Lowell

mechanized loom at Lowell


Building a mill involved buying both land and water rights. In general, riparian (having to do with rivers) law gives landowners ownership of an adjacent stream or river if it is not navigable. If it is navigable, the river is public property. The Hoosic certainly was not navigable at Schaghticoke!
The 100 foot water fall at Schaghticoke had lots of potential, but no mill and water wheel combination could accommodate more than about a 20 foot fall, so it needed to be harnessed. We see how it is controlled by the dam to this day, though now the water is used to power a hydroelectric facility. At a time when construction was done by hand and horse, without concrete and steel, dams needed to be constructed, along with a raceway or flume, which delivered water to the water wheel and took it away, and probably a mill pond, for storage of water: all aiming to maintain a constant flow to the mill. The flume could be carved in a stone stream bed, like that of the Hoosic at Schaghticoke, built of stones, or even elevated and built of wood. The type of water wheel would have to be chosen, designed and built. There were a number of types: flutter, undershot, overshot, breast, and tub. All would have to have a container to operate in, either a pit excavated in the riverbank or a tub made of wood.
this mill was at Lowell, but the mills at Schaghticoke were probably similar

this mill was at Lowell, but the mills at Schaghticoke were probably similar

With a number of mills being built on the Hoosic at Schaghticoke, there was intense and careful negotiation over the design and placement of the dams, wheels, and flumes. The amount of water power was limited, and all would want and need their share. Riparian law mandated that the owner of the mill would have to return the same amount of water to the river as he took out to power his mill. Deeds included very specific provisions about rights-of-way, repair of dams, and amount of water ensured to each owner or tenant. Without water, the mill couldn’t operate.
I am sure you are thinking, “Wait, what about spring floods, summer droughts, and winter freezing?” Waterpower was variable and unreliable. Some of this could be controlled by the construction of mill ponds, where water could be contained, stockpiled, so to speak, and released in a controlled manner. But there would be times when the water was totally frozen, and times when it was just too high to be controlled. Dams and flumes were easily damaged and needed frequent repair. A careless owner could create problems for not only himself, but his neighbors, including nearby farmers whose land could be flooded.
Textile mill buildings would have to be built to accommodate all of the machinery. This resulted in long and narrow buildings of multiple stories. Various belts and gears would transfer the water power from the water wheel to the various machines. The power train was long and narrow. The mills needed to have many windows, allowing use of as much natural light as possible to illuminate the work spaces. Mills could be and were heated by wood stoves and lit by oil lamps, but cloth fibers are very flammable, and the owners did all they could to minimize the risk of fire.
By 1825 or so, the cloth making process ended up with these steps, with some variation depending on the kind of fiber:
1. The fiber needed to be cleaned. For wool, this would mean washing, for flax “retting” or soaking in water, and removal of the outer husk of the plant. Both wool and flax were produced locally. Cotton, of course, had to be imported from the South. It arrived in huge bales, weighing up to 500 pounds. The bales needed to be picked apart. This could be done manually, or by a picker machine. Often this process was done in a separate building as the cotton would be at its most flammable as wispy fibers.
2. The fibers were straightened through carding, by a machine, which would produce a light, fluffy, thin mat. This would go through a drawing frame to be given a slight twist, then to a speeder, which would turn it into roving. Roving is an unspun, fragile narrow rope.
3. The roving was spun on either a mule or throstle of a number of spinners, ending up on a spool. Some of the yarn was spun to be the warp, some the weft on a loom. The yarn might now have to be dressed with a starch before weaving.
4. Now the yarn would be woven into all kinds of cloth. In Schaghticoke, the flax was also twisted into ropes, from shoe laces on up. Yarn could also be dyed.
5. Finally, the cloth would be “finished.” This depended on the content. Wool would be fulled, and stretched on tenters (long wooden frames and the source of keeping someone on “tenterhooks”); cotton could be “sized,” or glazed. Fabric could also be dyed.

The mills employed men, women, and children. According to the website of the National Park at Lowell, Massachusetts, one man could run a picker, and one could run ten carding machines. One woman could run a dressing frame, one every two speeders, one a drawing frame, one per spinner, and one weaver for two looms. Children were often employed as doffers, who would remove the full spindles, ducking under and around the machines as they operated. There would be one manager for about thirty employees, and one machinist per fifty machines, to keep them in working order. The mills would be noisy, the air filled with fiber. Before the advent of ear plugs, longtime workers would certainly suffer from deafness. Some of the processing involved noxious chemicals like bleach and oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid). In winter, the rooms would be cold, despite the use of stoves, and certainly smoky and smelly from the burning wood, and the oil lamps in use in the short winter days. Clothing and body parts could easily get caught in any of the machines.
During the 19th century, many mill workers lived in housing provided by their employers and shopped at least in part at stores they ran. This could be a mutually beneficial arrangement, as workers knew they would have a decent place to live and employers knew their workers could get to work easily and had some control over them when they were not at work. The owners didn’t want workers to come to work drunk, for example. New villages grew up around the mills, as men and women left farms to work at what they hoped would be better jobs. For women this was a first opportunity at employment outside the home. Children as young as six or seven worked at least part-time in the mill, but if the mills were running, the work day could be 12-16 hours for all, six days a week. Some owners did not employ young children, and others made sure they went to school as well as work. As the mills were often not operating in the winter, there would be time for school then.
Let’s turn to the real mills at Schaghticoke… Richard Hart of Troy did a census of mostly cotton mills in the Rensselaer/Washington County area in 1831. I think he was assessing possible competitors as he and Amos Briggs bought up all the mills in the gorge of the Hoosic River at Schaghticoke. Whatever the purpose, it gives us a rare and early snapshot of the industry at the time. The mill operators filled out the census forms themselves. There were two linen mills in the survey, both of them at Schaghticoke. The Joy Mill, built in 1809, produced 2500 bolts of sail duck, 15,000 pounds of shoe thread, and 40,000 yards of bagging each year. Sail duck would be used for the sails on ships, bagging would be made into linen bags, which were used for storing many, many commodities in pre-plastic days. To make this product, the mill used 50 cords of wood, 200 gallons of oil, 3000 pounds of potash for bleaching, 500 pounds of oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid), and 1500 pounds of “foreign bleaching salts.” Imagine the toxic pollution of the river from the latter items. The mill had 175 people living on the premises. This number would include workers and their families, as workers were housed on the property of the mill.

The second flax mill, Tibbits Briggs & Company, used 10,000 pounds of flax and 65,000 pounds of flax and hemp tow (tow is coarser outer part of flax, used to make cording and rope) per year, and made 65,000 yards of bagging, 25,000 pounds of shoe thread, and 10,000 yards of carpet warp per year. The warp would be set on a loom to weave carpets. It had fifty employees. Tibbits was the brother of Hart’s partner, Amos Briggs.
There were four cotton mills in Schaghticoke. The Joy Cotton Mill, built in 1812, had 750 spindles and throstles and 18 looms, and made 149,700 yards of cotton shirting each year. It used 40,500 pounds of cotton, 500 pounds of starch, 25 cords of wood, and 100 gallons of oil each year. Of course the cotton was all imported from the South. The mill employed six men, who made $4.50 per week, and 22 women, who made $1.60. Two or three of the employees were under 12. Sixty people lived on the premises, however.
The Ephraim Congdon Mill, built in 1820, had 432 throstles and 20 shirting looms, which used 40,000 pounds of cotton per year and made 125,000 yards of #18 yarn per year. It must have made shirting too, but that was not reported. The factory used 3000 pounds of flour for sizing the fabric each year. It employed eight men and twenty women, though 40 persons lived on the premises. An article in the “Troy Budget” in February 1834 reported the mill would be auctioned- presumably because it was bankrupt- the next month. The Star Manufacturing Company, managed by Amos Briggs, was built in 1818. It had 720 spindles and 16 looms. It used 32,000 pounds of cotton per year and made 10,000 yards of cloth, with a work force of ten males and 32 females. Sixty-five people lived on the premises. When modern residents speak of “the Star Hole” in the Hoosic River, they are referring to this mill, though I’m sure not one person knows any of its history.
The Farmers Manufacturing Company was leased by Richard Hart and Amos Briggs in 1821, and purchased by them the following year. They bought the water rights and the factory for $6,000. The brick factory had lots of cotton machinery: one picker, to the east of the partition on the first floor, six carding machines, one threader, one drawing frame, 32 power looms to the west of the partition, and two dressing machines. They also had use of 32 spinning frames, 4 mule frames, 4 stretcher frames, 8 drawing frames, 8 roping frames, and 12 winding heads, some of which was outdated machinery. They were located on the 3rd and 4th floors. There was machinery to operate a woolen mill as well, but they didn’t plan to use that. The property also included a brick store and four large and two small houses, plus room for gardens for the workers. Under the lease agreement, Amos would manage the day-to-day operations of the mill, and regulate the water, making sure to keep the grist mill well-supplied; Richard would purchase the cotton. He worked with a cotton broker in New York City, rather than buying the cotton directly from plantations in the South.

Richard P. Hart

Richard P. Hart


poster of cotton mill, from Lowell. The cotton was picked over on the first floor, ginned, and carded. It was spun on the second and third floors, and woven on the fourth floor. Note the waterwheel at the bottom center.

poster of cotton mill, from Lowell. The cotton was picked over on the first floor, ginned, and carded. It was spun on the second and third floors, and woven on the fourth floor. Note the waterwheel at the bottom center.

This established the relationship that would exist between Briggs and Hart for the next 20 years. In 1825 Amos Briggs, the hands-on manager of the mill, modernized and rebuilt the cotton mill of the Farmers Company. Richard Hart, the money man, bought a new speeder and drawing frame, and there was lots of repair of the dam and flume, with new gates installed, plus removal of the old and construction of a new tub wheel. Some of this involved digging in the rock of the river bed. The factory itself was replastered, a new brick chimney built, a bell added, the garret (attic) windows rebuilt and painted. Over a couple of months, seventy different men were employed for from a couple of days to several weeks in the renovations. Part of their wages was a tot of rum or whiskey each day. The bell would mark the beginning and end of the work day.
By the time of the 1831 census, the Farmers Factory was much bigger than its rivals. It had 2,976 spindles, mules and throstles, with 981 looms. It made 750,000 yards of cloth per year from 172,818 pounds of cotton. It used 5000 pounds of starch, 35 barrels of flour, 85 cords of wood, 1000 bushels of coal and 650 gallons of oil per year. The factory employed twenty men at $7 per week, 35 boys at $1.50 per week, fifty women at $2.50 per week, 55 girls at $1.37 per week, and twenty children at 87.5 cents per week. The children got to go to school for three months per year. I don’t know the definition of “boy” and “girl” versus “children”. As late as 1870 children as young as six worked in the mills. Five hundred people lived in mill housing on the premises.
The 1831 census included another cotton mill. Giles Slocum & Company had just been built in 1831. It had 1000 spindles, mules, and throstles and forty looms. It made 250,000 yards of cotton per year and employed fourteen males and forty females, none under twelve years of age. I assumed it was in the gorge of the Hoosic as well, but finally discovered it was on the Schaghticoke side of the Hoosic at Valley Falls. The 1856 and 1858 Rensselaer County maps show it on the north side of the river, just upstream from the bridge.
This all adds up to about 400 men, women and children working in the mills, with over 800 people living in worker housing of these mills in the area of the village of Schaghticoke Point in 1830, where there had been no village twenty years earlier. (The population of the village was 600 in 2010, by the way.) This certainly changes the way I think of the village as I drive through it today, when there’s barely a place to work, and certainly no factory at all. Was this mill census accurate?
Let’s look at the 1820, 1830 and 1840 federal censuses. Unfortunately the 1830 census lists only the names of heads of households, plus numbers of males and females of various ages in each family, plus separate columns for free blacks of various ages and one column for aliens, with no detail about occupations at all. There were 3024 people in the whole town of Schaghticoke, living in 454 families. The village is not separated out, but there are just a few of the 34 pages of the census which include almost all of the 151 aliens in town, about 2% of the population. I think we may assume that the aliens mostly lived in the village, where they worked in the mills. There were 18 families composed totally of non-native people, where there had been only one in 1820. This means that most of the mill workers were natives of the U.S. We don’t know how many had come to Schaghticoke from other states, drawn by the mills, though a number certainly had. The ones I have examined came from New England. But there had been an influx of aliens too, mostly from Great Britain and Ireland.
But is it reasonable to think that of a townwide population of about 3000, about 400 people worked in the mills and 800 lived in mill housing? That’s 13% of the population as workers and 27% in the housing. In the 1820 census 600 of the 2500 residents had been farmers, or about ¼, 153 had been in manufacturing, or 16%. In both cases, this includes just the actual farmers or manufacturers, not their families. We know that the mills were built between 1820 and 1830, so it’s reasonable to think that the number of mill workers would have grown a lot. The overall population increase of the whole town from 1820 to 1830 was 8%, from 2522 to 3024 people. The 1840 census does indicate that over 425 people in town worked in manufacturing and trades. It does include women and children. So while the mill census may be somewhat exaggerated, it is not impossible.
Even if the mill census does inflate the numbers somewhat, the fact was that there was a new village at Schaghticoke, which had grown up in about twenty years. The residents would need the necessities of life available close by, with transportation so limited. Unlike the farmers, they weren’t growing most of their own food. Along with the rapid growth of mills, there must have been a real boom in the construction industry, plus need for stores of all kinds, medical care, schools, transportation, and churches. There must have been a tremendous air of excitement in the town.

Turning to another part of the 1831 census, where did the raw material for the mills come from? It’s hard for me to imagine the logistics of importing 300,000 pounds of cotton to Schaghticoke in a year, in the era before railroads. Cotton was packed into bales that weighed 500 pounds and measured about 56 x 48 x 30”. Presumably they came up the Hudson River by boat, probably to Troy, then by horse and wagon to town.

cotton bale

cotton bale


Flour was also needed for sizing the cotton. I know that there was a grist mill along with the cotton mills on the Hoosic, plus another grist mill on the Tomhannock Creek at Schaghticoke Hill. Did local farmers produce enough wheat to be ground into the flour needed for these mills to finish the cotton, plus the flour needed for domestic consumption? I don’t know.
The two linen mills required raw flax. I know that some flax was grown locally, especially in Pittstown. Was it enough for the linen mills? I know that some flax was imported from Ireland in the 1840’s, along with what was grown locally, but I don’t know about 1830. And of course the woolen mill needed raw wool. Farmers did raise sheep locally, as they do now, but I don’t know if they were able to provide all the wool needed for local mills.
By about 1840 Amos Briggs of Schaghticoke and Richard Hart of Troy owned all of the mills in the gorge of the Hoosic River, an early monopoly. It was quite a conglomerate- with cotton, linen, and woolen mills, plus a grist mill, a farm ( located on Verbeck Avenue, where West Wind Farm is today), a mill store, and mill housing, plus a number of other lots in the village, which were rented for stores and housing. In the future I will look at these two men in more detail. It’s clear there is much more to learn about these mills and the village.
Bibliography:
Hart Papers and probate files at the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy
Sylvester’s “History of Rensselaer County”, 1880
U.S. and NYS Census for Schaghticoke: 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1855, 1860
Spafford’s “Gazetteer of NYS”, 1813 and 1824
MacCauley, David, “Mill”, 1983.
Trips to National Park at Lowell, Mass., and Hanford Mills Museum, East Meredith, NY
http://www.fultonhistory.com- newspaper articles

Munson Smith: Discovery of an Important Man in Schaghticoke

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.
munsonsmith2

astral lamp
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.

illustration from "Sufferings in Africa"

illustration from “Sufferings in Africa”


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.

Bibliography:
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

Bethel Mather: New Englanders immigrate to Schaghticoke

 

                      In previous posts, I’ve discussed immigrants to Schaghticoke. First came the Native American refugees, invited to settle in Schaghticoke following King Phillip’s War in New England from 1675-1676. The first European immigrants to Schaghticoke were Dutch settlers from Albany, who rented land in the vicinity of today’s KnickerbockerMansion, the Albany Corporation Lands. Around the time of the Revolution, some of the Palatine Germans who had first settled in the Poughkeepsie area moved on to Schaghticoke, settling in what is now the Melrose part of town. Following the Revolution, the next big group moved in.  They were people fromNew England. Some were farmers who found New England becoming congested and sought new land; others were budding industrialists, who sought sources of power for factories on the rivers of New York. Here the attraction was the  large water fall on the Hoosic Riverin Schaghticoke.

               One of these incomers was Bethel Mather. He was born inTorrington,Connecticutin 1771.  At some point he moved to Amenia inDutchess County. He married Huldah Smith there in July 1794.  Their first three children were born there: Aurelia in 1795, Charles in 1796, and Montgomery in 1797. In 1796, they bought 47 acres in Schaghticoke from Isaac Hart for 184 pounds. This plot, which had been part of the Hoosic Patent, was located to the northeast of the intersection of the road to Easton and the road toValleyFalls. Presumably they moved once they had built a house. Mather bought 49 more acres in 1827, for $2,210.  On the map of 1856, his house is labeled right where the M&T Bank is now, at the junction of Routes 40 and 67.

          Bethel went beyond  farming and invested in industrial property.  In 1803 he purchased 81 acres on the HoosicRiver, which he sold in 1815, reserving ½ of a “mine” on the bank of the river. I don’t know what type of mine that was.  About the same time he bought 34 more acres on the river from Charles Joy, agent for early mill owner Benjamin Joy.  Mather, Joy, John Knickerbocker, and two others built the second bridge over the Hoosic Riverat Schaghticoke in 1799.  They were authorized to collect tolls from those using it, as long as they maintained it properly. If they didn’t, ownership would revert to New York State.

          The year before Mather died, the 1860 census recorded this data about his farm: he had 145 improved acres, 25 unimproved, worth $13,600. He had implements worth $200, six horses, two cows, nine oxen, 24 sheep, 450 bushels of rye, 150 of corn, 100 of oats, 500 of potatoes, and 40 of buckwheat. He had $200 worth of production in his orchard, and produced 500 pounds of butter that year.

         Mather was also a good citizen of his town. In 1803 he was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Church. The first building was erected on his property, near the junction of Route 67 and Geary Road. He also gave the lot for the church when it was moved down near the river to its current location in 1820. Mather bought a pew in 1820 for $49, one of the higher purchase prices, and served as a trustee until 1836. His wife, Huldah, was one of the first members of the church, and his daughter Ann Eliza was among the first babies baptised in the church.

       Mather also served his town and county in the militia. In 1801 a new cavalry troop was formed with Herman Knickerbocker as Captain, John Vanderspiegel (as in Speigletown) as 1st Lieutenant, and Bethel Mather as the 2nd Lieutenant. By 1804 he was in the artillery. He was first a Major, then a Lieutenant Colonel in the State Militia in about 1815. He seems to have gone by the title “Colonel” for the rest of his life.  In the deed for St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, the property is defined by its proximity to “Colonel Mather’s Four Corners.”

                Mather was elected a representative to the NewYork State Assembly in 1813.  The War of 1812 was in progress, and Mather was a peace candidate. The war seriously interfered with trade and commerce. The “Troy Post” of April 1813 reports that Bethel Mather was nominated to run for assembly at the Rensselaer County convention of the Federal Republican Delegates.  Herman Knickerbocker, another prominent Schaghticoke resident, was the secretary of the convention. Their slogan was “Peace,Liberty, and Commerce”.  An article in the “Troy Sentinel” in September 1813, was a “call to prevent the repeal of tariffs, to protect farmers, mechanics, and manufacturers of Rensselaer County.” It reported on a meeting at the courthouse in Troy to appoint delegates to a convention in New York City. Among those signing this call was Bethel Mather, along with Herman Knickerbocker.  Mather served only one term in the Assembly, which was rather common at the time. He did keep a hand in local government, serving as a school commissioner for the town of Schaghticoke.

            Mather was also a founder of the Rensselaer County Agricultural Society in 1834, helping to write its constitution and serving as a vice-president. He was also a member of the Homer Lodge of the Masons. When Judge Josiah Masters died in 1822, Mather was one of two men who did the inventory of his considerable belongings. In the auction that followed, Mather bought 90 sheep, a boar, a heifer, a hive of bees, a barrel of pork, a plow, some iron, and the flax, wheat, and oats in the barn. All of this indicates his prominence  and involvement in the town.

           Bethel Mather and his wife Huldah had fourteen children, twelve of whom were baptised in the Presbyterian Church. As I said earlier, the oldest, Aurelia, was born before they moved to Schaghticoke, in 1795. The youngest, Lydia Jane, was baptized in 1832. Five of the girls attended Emma Willard’s Troy Female Seminary. Two, Ann Eliza, born in 1800, and Harriet, born 1803,studied with Mrs. Willard in 1819, before she moved her school to Troy. Harriet continued her studies in Troy. Very few girls from Schaghticoke had this opportunity for what was a very advanced education for girls at the time.  Ann Eliza married a Rhode Island immigrant to Schaghticoke, Amos Briggs, in 1824. Briggs, a mill owner, was for a time the wealthiest man in town. Harriet married Ephraim Congdon, another early mill and hotel owner.

 

         The oldest of Mather’s sons, Montgomery, born in 1797, must have died before 1815, as he wasn’t baptised at the local church. Another son, Derick Lansing, was a doctor who died at age 24 in 1851. A third son, Henry Platt, died in 1821 at age 12, and a fourth, Sidney Smith, died in 1834 at age 29. Huldah Mather died in 1858, and Bethel in 1861. At that point, just six of their children survived. The only surviving son, Charles, lived in Berlin,Wisconsin. Aurelia lived in Steuben County,New York.  Maria, born in 1798 lived in Delevan,Wisconsin. Daughters Ann Eliza Briggs, Harriet Congdon, Caroline Morgan, and Lydia Hawley all lived locally. An 1847 will left son Charles $700, and each daughter $250, but that was without accounting for sale of the property. Surely each received substantially more in the end.

         Bethel Mather was certainly a valuable member of the community of Schaghticoke, contributing economically, politically,   and socially to its development in the 19th century.  He was involved in the development of scientific agriculture, participated in politics, served in the local militia, and supported the Presbyterian Church. He (or maybe his wife) believed in the education of women, and through the marriage of his daughter Eliza Ann, he became allied with the wealthiest industrialist in town.

Bibliography:

 Military Minutes of the Council of Appt of the State of NY 1783-1821Compiled by Hugh Hastings, NYS Historian

                       Vol 2 1901

Bethel Mather’s will

Rens. Cty deed books

Josiah Masters’ will

Records of the Schaghticoke Presbyterian Church

Emma Willard and her Pupils, ed. By Mrs AW Fairbanks, 1898.

Sylvester’s History of Rensselaer County, 1880.

“Troy Post”, 1813.

“Troy Sentinel”, 1831.

1860 census