History of the Town of Schaghticoke

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

Tag Archives: Herman Knickerbacker

Schools in the town of Schaghticoke: founding through 1880Sylv

Over the years I have written about settlement of the town of Schaghticoke, Native Americans, early European immigrants, churches, and industry. It’s time to talk about schools.

New York State has provided monetary support for schools since it enacted its first public education law in 1795. Early records of the town of Schaghticoke note the appointment of school commissioners in 1796. They also recorded the “school aid” that was received from the state: 99 pounds in 1797, with 44 pounds from town taxes; 88 pounds in 1798 with the same 44 pounds from the town.  But Schaghticoke had been settled by European immigrants for almost 100 years at that point, and we have no real information about schools during that colonial period. Sylvester’s History of Rensselaer County assumes that there must have been earlier schools, perhaps conducted under the auspices of the Dutch Reformed Church.

I have just found two mentions of schools before 1800 so far. In the Minutes of the Albany Common Council, published in the “Collection on the History of Albany,” Vol. 1, the schoolmaster at Schaghticoke applied for a piece of woodland in 1762. The Common Council granted this as long as he remained schoolmaster and exhibited good behavior. The other mention was in the will of Andreas Weatherwax, who died in 1780.  One of the witnesses was “John Clints, schoolmaster.” Where was he a teacher?At the time there was a group of well-educated men in town as they formed the Schaghticoke Polemic Sociey, a young men’s debating society, in 1797. They met weekly and debated politics, the nature of man, religion, and other weighty matters. The group continued until at least 1820.  Its records are in the New York Historical Society, and once I get there to see them, I will tell you more about the group. We also know that Herman Knickerbocker, born in 1779, a son of privilege, was at the upper end of the range of education: he studied and became a lawyer by apprenticing in a law office in Albany.

Some 18th century immigrants into town were well educated: Ann Eliza Bleecker was a novelist; Colonel Peter Yates wrote eloquent letters to the governor; Dutch Reformed minister Lambertus DeRonde wrote and spoke English, Dutch, and Latin.   But Solomon Acker, who came to Schaghticoke in time to serve as a soldier in the 14th Albany County Militia in the Revolution, signed his pension papers in 1832 with an X, as did fellow soldier Richard Davenport, and the widow of another soldier, Anny Overocker. I know from reading the earliest wills from residents in the Rensselaer County records, (which means they are all from after 1790), that some of the relatives of the dead had lovely signatures, but some signed with an X, indicating illiteracy.  Many times, the males could sign their names, while the women used an X- perhaps indicating that boys had a greater opportunity for education than girls. Of course we don’t know how literate the men were beyond the ability to sign their names.

Thanks to a reader of my blog, Liz Doten, I know about another early education option for students from town. Her ancestor, Abigail Kenyon (1787-1831) made a sampler when she attended the Nine Partners Boarding School in 1803. This was a Quaker co-education boarding and day school, founded in 1796, the first such school in the new nation. School girls stitched samplers as sewing was an important skill for future housewives and mothers. Abigail was the child of Benjamin and Lydia Kenyon, who were local Quakers.


Sampler made by Abigail Kenyon (1787-1831). Owned by her descendant Liz Doten.

As I said in the first paragraph, NYS began to support public education in 1795. The universal public education law of 1812 established “common schools”  for all children from age 5 to 21, grades K-8. Under the law, the towns managed schools within their borders. There were two town wide positions: school commissioner and school inspector. At least in the early years, these office holders were among the elite of the town.  They included Josiah Masters, Harmon Knickerbocker, and Job Pierson, all of whom went on to become US Congressmen., and various VanVeghtens,  Knickerbockers, Yates, and Groesbecks, descendants of original settlers of the town, plus well-off and/or educated newcomers like Ezekiel Baker, who was both a doctor and a lawyer.

Troy Female Seminary, later Emma Willard School

Troy Female Seminary, later Emma Willard School

One 19th century non-public school option for girls was the Troy Female Seminary, founded in Waterford by Emma Hart Willard in 1819 and later moved to Troy. I know that the daughters of Herman Knickerbacker, Bethel Mather, prominent local farmer, and Amos Briggs, major 19th century industrialist of the village, attended the school in the 1820’s and ‘30’s. Although I also know that a couple of sons of Congressman Josiah Masters attended a private boys’ school about the same time, and that other sons of wealthy or well-educated fathers probably did as well.  I don’t know which one.

Sylvester’s History reports that the town school commissioners divided Schaghticoke into eleven districts in 1813, following the passage of the common school law the year before.  Districts 1-4 went from the northeast corner of the town, up by Hoosick, west to the Hudson River. District 4 extended south on the Hudson to where the Hoosick River entered the Hudson. District 5 was south of District 3 and east of 4, which extended south farther than No. 3.  No. 6 adjoined 5 to the east.  District 7 was along the Hudson River, and 8 south of that on the Hudson, extending to the Deep Kill. District 9 was in the southeast part of town, near Pittstown and Brunswick. No. 10 was south of the Deep Kill. District 11 began south of the Hoosick River at the “Big Falls”- presumably the falls at the village of Schaghticoke. More districts were added over time. When Lansingburgh annexed the part of the town south of the Deepkill in 1819, that part of town formed school district 3 in Lansingburgh.

The town’s extant school records begin in 1839. The pages are headed “Commissioners of Common Schools in account with the Town of Schaghticoke.”  Tables record the number of children, teacher money and library money for each district in the town, along with the name of the trustee for each district who received the funds.  The Commissioner and Inspectors of Schools were either elected or appointed by the Town Supervisor yearly. The Commissioner appointed the Trustees of the individual districts.  Of course at this point, the southern boundary of the town was the Deepkill, at Grant’s Hollow, so the records do not include Speigletown and Pleasantdale. Half of the funding for the schools came from the county, half was raised in town, from taxation based on property assessment. For example, in 1839, the town and the county each contributed about $415 to the support of the schools. There were 939 students in 17 districts. The county money was apportioned based on the number of students in each district, from $9.57 to district 13 with its 11 students to $166.90 to district 6 with its 191 students. Each district had a one-room school house, built by the residents of the district, probably through contributions of money, materials, and work on construction.

The 1840 U.S. census records the numbers of schools in town, though it differs a bit in its totals of schools and pupils. It also reports that there were only six illiterate people in the town. That seems to me to be an amazingly small number. I would have thought that some of the elderly would have been illiterate, but the six illiterates were in families with Irish surnames, indicating they were probably immigrants. By the 1850 census, when many more Irish immigrants had come to town, there were 55 illiterates. All were born in Ireland except for three English and five blacks. This indicates great success for the common school law in producing at least basic literacy in the population.

Returning to the town’s school records, they also record the names of trustees each year. Interestingly, the names vary greatly from year to year. 1839’s list is almost totally different from that in 1840. Also, one of the trustees, Nicholas Groesbeck, apparently was illiterate, signing his name with an X. Many of the names are familiar to me as prominent residents of the community, including representatives from the founding families like Groesbeck, Abraham Knickerbocker, Derick VanVeghten, and Cornelius Vandenburgh; and new and prosperous industrialists and farmers like Isaac T. Grant, founder of the mills in Grant’s Hollow; William Baucus, of Melrose, Ezra Bryan, of the Bryan District on River Road, and William Pitt Button, of Buttermilk Falls Road.

From 1845-1856, the state instituted a system where town superintendents of common schools were elected, first yearly, then biennially. The first elected superintendents were Merritt M. Wickes, Peter Wetsel, D. Bryan Baker, and Stephen Kenyon, yearly; and Henry N. Wales, Solomon VanRensselaer Miller, and Daniel Groesbeck.  In the 1850 census, Wickes is listed as a  40 year-old merchant with no wife or children; Wetsel was a fairly well-off farmer, with no wife and three children; Kenyon was a 27-year-old postmaster, living in the family of Isaac Hornbrook, a young dentist; Wales was a 42-year old lawyer with a wife and four young children; Miller was a 35-year-old farmer with a wife and one child, and Groesbeck was a 30 year old farm laborer living in the family of Jacob Fort, a wealthy farmer. Baker died in 1847 at age 25, the year after he served.  What a wide variety of backgrounds! I can’t draw any conclusions about who would run for that job or why from that list.

Every year the records include notes where individuals petitioned to have their properties transferred from one district to another. This was important, as school revenues depended on the taxes paid by residents, and of course children had to attend the school in the district where they lived. Apparently an effort was made to make the districts equal in number of children and amount of assessed valuation. Another concern was that the children be able to walk to school relatively easily.

In 1845, the records have a list of “Local Names of School Districts.”  These are clearly based on what was common knowledge at the time, but a few are rather impenetrable to us now. The list includes the town in which the school house was located, as a number were actually not in the town of Schaghticoke. District 1, called Cotrells, and District 2, called Burch’s, were in Cambridge, at the northeast part of the town. District 3, called Masters, District 4, “Valley”, and District 5, Buckley’s, were all in Schaghticoke, and evidently came down what is Masters Street toward the village of Schaghticoke. District 6, “the Point north district”, must have been at the northern edge of the village, called “Schaghticoke Point”, or “the Point.” District 7 was “Stillwater”, though listed in the town, and must have been over toward the Hudson. District 8, “Old Schaghticoke”, would have been near the Knickerbocker Mansion. District 9 was called “Borough.” I do not know that reference. District 10 was “Grants”, I’ll assume in Grant’s Hollow. District 11 was called “Hill”, presumably Schaghticoke Hill. District 12 was “Wetsels, Northern Turnpike” and listed in the town of Pittstown.  District 13 was “Powder Mills”, in Pittstown. This is confusing, as I thought the mills were still on the Tomhannock Creek in 1845. Maybe this is evidence that they had at least partially moved earlier.  District 14 was “Bryans”. The Bryans lived on River Road, near where Allen Road joins it. District 15 was “New Turnpike, Hayner”. This could refer to the northern end of the modern  New Turnpike Road, though it wasn’t in the town at the time. District 16 was “Point south”, back in the village of Schaghticoke. District 17 was “Pine woods”. I live off of Pine Woods Road in Melrose. I am surprised the name was used so early, and wonder if the large white pines in between Riley and Roe Roads are a remnant of that woods.

The rest of the list was added later, as new districts were created. District 18 was “New Tavern”, District 19 “C. Vandenburgh”, and District 20 “Devols”. I do not know those locations. District 21 was “Middle district, Point,” a third district in the village of Schaghticoke.  The very next pages in the school records describes creation of a new district, number 18, from parts of districts 9,10,and 15 in Schaghticoke and district 3 in Lansingburgh,  in the southern part of town,  and number 19, from part of district 7, in the northwest part of town.  There was quite a controversy about district 19. District 7 had only had 40 possible pupils to begin with, but the record states that because of bad roads and long distances to walk, only half the students were able to go to school. The new district would be small, but all of the children would be able to attend the closer school.   District 20 was created from parts of districts 5 and 14 in 1850.

Schoolhouse at Schaghticoke Hill.

Schoolhouse at Schaghticoke Hill.

another shot of the school at Schaghticoke Hill. In this one the cemetery next door is visible.

another shot of the school at Schaghticoke Hill. In this one the cemetery next door is visible.

In my files is a list of “Schools that became part of the Hoosic Valley Central School”, compiled by long-time teacher, the late Ann Hurley, in 1988 for the 50th anniversary of the district. Ann listed the location of the schoolhouses in each district.  District 1 schoolhouse was at the north end of School Street in the village of Schaghticoke. District 2 school was on the west side of the junction of Stillwater Bridge Road with Brown Road. District 3 school was at the south side of the junction of Master Street with Ridge Road. District 4 was in the village. District 5 school was at the south side of the junction of Hayes and Bell Roads. Mrs. Hurley’s notes for District 6 state “Dorr-Barton-Mead; brick building overgrown with trees.” The Mead farm is up Barton Road, but unlike the others, the school house does not appear on the 1877 Beers Atlas. District 7 school was on the south side of Stillwater Bridge Road, just before the intersection with Bevis Road. District 8 is now the Williams home on Pinewoods Road in Melrose. District 10 school is now a home on the north side of Mineral Springs Road. District 9 school was on the south side of Hansen Road, west of the intersection with Sliter Road. District 12 school was on the west side of Valley Falls Road, north of the junction with Madigan Road. District 14 is the brick building at the north side of the big bend in Verbeck Avenue to the west. Mrs. Hurley did not mention it, but I believe she taught in the District 9 school, which was at the intersection of River and Allen Roads. And there was a school house on the east side of Route 40 at Schaghticoke Hill, just north of the Kingsley Arms apartments.  The 1877 Beers Atlas also shows a school house on the west side of River Road, just north of the intersection of Riley Road. The school house in Speigletown is currently a dentist’s office, on the east side of Route 40, just south of the intersection with Eastover Road. It was in use as a kindergarten in the Lansingburgh School district up until 1964. Of all these schools, just three or four survive. Of course the school at the corner of Route 67 and River Road in Hemstreet Park also survives, but that is a later building and was not part of the Hoosic Valley District.

1845 schoolhouse on Verbeck Avenue

1845 schoolhouse on Verbeck Avenue

Also in my files, I have a history of district 14, on Verbeck Avenue, written by Warren Verbeck, who owned the school house until his recent death. He stated that the first school meeting was held January 15, 1824. Peter VanAntwerp, Seth Bryan, Peter Ackert, Propwell? Curtis, and Benjamin Ketcham? were elected to the board of directors. I know that VanAntwerp, Bryan, and Ackert were farmers who lived in that part of town. I don’t know about the others.  A wooden school house was erected.  The current brick building was built for $355 around 1845.  Mr Verbeck stated that Chester Arthur taught in the original wooden building. If that is true, it must have taken a while to build the brick school, since we know he taught from 1846-1848. Several of Mr. Verbeck’s relatives served as district clerk or trustee through the 19th century. Teacher’s salaries varied from $90-$206 for 34-36 weeks of teaching. In 1919, the trustees voted to close the school. The building was used for community functions for quite a few years after that.

Returning to the story of all the schools in town, we are used to school costs constantly rising, but in 1849, the amount distributed to the schools was actually $150 lower than in 1839, dropping to just under $700, though the number of students remained unchanged at just under 950.The money jumped way up in 1850, to over $1000, with well over half the amount coming from the county. Something happened in the next couple of years to the school population as well. In 1852 there were 1375 students in 20 districts, and the total money was $1320. All but one district showed a big jump in population over 1849. Through all the years, district 6, in the village of Schaghticoke, was much larger than the others. By 1853 in had 391 pupils, and was divided into two districts. By 1874, the total number of students in town had dropped to 1165. A couple of years earlier, one Schaghticoke district was consolidated with a Pittstown district and came under the purview of Pittstown, accounting for a bit of the change. Another possible cause could be the closing of a major cotton mill during the Civil War. Numbers of children in each district varied widely, for example, from 16 in district 2 to 185 in district 16.  Beginning about 1860, the amount of money paid to the schools began to be determined in part by the average daily attendance, just as it is now. There must have been a new state-wide law.

New York State enacted the Union Free School law in 1853. Under this law, common schools could organize to create secondary schools for their students. Before that time, just a few students would have the opportunity to go beyond an elementary school education, in private schools located around the area. The 1840 U.S. Census had a column for “scholars”, presumably students in college. There were none in Schaghticoke in that year, though I know that there were well-off students who attended college, for example John T. Masters, son of Nicholas Masters, graduated from Union College in 1839. His father was also a graduate.

Twenty years later, at the end of 1874, voters from districts 1, 4, and 16, located in the village of Schaghticoke, decided to consolidate, form a new district, and build a new, graded Union school on what is now called School Street. Their sole trustees petitioned the town and county on behalf of the voters to consolidate and create the graded school. They were Sidney S. Congdon, an insurance agent; Charles Albro, a tin smith and recent arrival to town; and Michael McGrath, who ran a hotel on South Main Street, in the house at the southwest end of the bridge. There were over 400 children in the three districts, certainly plenty. The building was finished by August 1876 at a cost of $12,633. McGrath continued as a trustee, joined by Lorenzo Baker, C.C. Hill, and Abram Myers.  Baker was a clothing merchant and Hill a shirt manufacturer in the village. Myers a young farmer,  lived where Brocks do today, across Electric Lake.

According to Sylvester’s “History of Rensselaer County,” the first teachers in the new school were Misses Florence Ogden, Lizzie Gunner, Clara Richmond, and Lottie Munger, and Professor Ira H. Lawton, from 1876-1877, followed by G. W. Gillett, from 1877-1879.. An historical chart of “Schaghticoke Schools” made in 1906 adds Mary Button, Martha Calkins, Sarah Mott, Mary Ackart, Lizzie C. Smith, and Hattie Deming.  In the 1875 NYS Census, I found that Ira Lawton was a druggist in Brunswick.  So he may have begun a new career here. He was gone from Schaghticoke by 1880, and a principal of a school in Rockland County in 1910. Lizzie Gunner was the daughter of local baker Richard Gunner, and just 18 years old in 1880. Miss Munger was probably Charlotte, daughter of local market gardener Morgan Munger. George Gillett, aged 30, had moved on to teach school in Saratoga Springs by 1880. Hattie Deming was from a family in Stillwater. The others I haven’t found in the records as yet.

first Union Free School, 1876, on School Street, village of Schaghticoke. burned in 1895.

first Union Free School, 1876, on School Street, village of Schaghticoke. burned in 1895.

Unfortunately, the new school building was destroyed by fire in February 1895. A new Union Free School was swiftly completed, open for business by March 1896, at a cost of $16,400. The principal was C.W. Dunn, with teachers Misses Delia Barrows, Helen Story, Lizzie Smith, Matie Ackart, and Clara Thompson. In the 1900 census, I found Delia Barrows, 30 year old daughter of Robert and Mary, living with her parents in Canton, NY and working as a school teacher. Clara Thompson was the 27 year old daughter of Samuel and Rose Thompson of Schaghticoke. Samuel was a carpenter and Clara a teacher. They were still a family in the village in 1905. I also found Lizzie A. Smith, age 40, a vocal music teacher living in a rooming house in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1900. So again the teachers were a mixture of local and imported people, as is true today.

new Union Free School, built in just a few months from 1895-1896

new Union Free School, built in just a few months from 1895-1896

Let’s go back and look at what the schools were like for parents, students, and teachers.  Children could go to the public school from ages 4 to 21.  The 1850 census, the first to list the names of all family members, also notes if a child went to school in the past year, though it doesn’t say for how long. Most children from age 4 or 5 to about 15 attended school, though many boys were working by age 15 or 16.  Just a few attended school as old as 18 or 19. I’m sure it depended on the need of the family for income.

How long was the school year? Theoretically, children could go to school for nine months, as now. But children who were also working on the farm, or working in a mill, would not go that long. In records of a school in rural Guilderland, Albany County, in 1875, I found that virtually no boy over 10 attended the spring term, when farms would be busy, though their sisters did. In the Schaghticoke records, there is a note that school in district 16, with 148 students, was taught less than six months.  Beginning in 1880, the number of children from 5 to 21 years of age in each district is given, along with the average daily attendance. Shockingly to us today, though the number of children in district 1, the village consolidated district, was 548 , average daily attendance was just over 162, or just about 30%. The next year, the district had 552 children, with average daily attendance up to 225, much better. But other districts in town still had very low attendance. District 13, with just eight children, had just 2 or 3 students attend daily.

From what I have seen in various sources, during the 19th century, children went to school during the winter months, with pupils from age 4 or 5 to 18 all in the same room. All of the schools in Schaghticoke would have been like this until the construction of the Union Free School, a graded school,  in the village of Schaghticoke in 1874.The earliest teachers were young males, and sometimes had not much more education than their students. They made very little money, and lived with the family of one of their pupils. Often teaching was a job for a young man on the way to something better.  The most famous teacher in all of Schaghticoke history was Chester A. Arthur, who taught school in the Verbeck Avenue  during his winter vacations of 1846 and 1847, while he was a student at Union College in Schenectady, and the fall after he graduated in 1848, for $15 per month. Of course he went on to be President of the United States. I will write more extensively about him at another time.

Chester A. Arthur taught at the Verbeck Avenue school during vacations from Union College

Chester A. Arthur taught at the Verbeck Avenue school during vacations from Union College

Sylvester’s 1880 “History of Rensselaer County” quotes an “aged resident” Nicholas Bratt, who moved to the Masters street area in 1790 at age 12. He stated that James Mallory was his teacher, along with a woman who was “a widow who had never married.”  James Mallory was a surveyor in the county, whom I know because he made the earliest map of the village of Schaghticoke about 1825. I would that the woman could have been a spinster who was called “Mrs” as a term of respect. I had colleagues when I taught who were called “Mrs” though unmarried, partly because children were used to calling older women “Mrs.” I’m interested that Nicholas had a woman teacher at that early date.

In summer 2014, the tombstone of Abel Spalding Read was unearthed in the rebuilding of the bridge over the Hoosic River on Route 40. This prompted me to research him. He was born in Massachusetts in 1798, moved to town by 1815, and was listed as a school teacher from at least 1830 to 1850. He’s the first career teacher I know of in town, and breaks the mold of teachers as young men. I would love to know more about where he taught, and if he went beyond being the teacher in the one-room school. While there must have been at least twenty teachers in town in 1850, only Abel Read and one other, Henry Keefer, age 24, were captured by the federal census that year, further indication of the temporary nature of the profession. Henry still lived in town in 1855, when the census listed him as a student. He may have been in the mold of Arthur, attending college and teaching at the same time.

tombstone of Abel Read, part of DiFranzo's front walk. He was a teacher in town for at least twenty years.

tombstone of Abel Read, part of DiFranzo’s front walk. He was a teacher in town for at least twenty years.

According to a PBS article on schools, women began to teach by about 1840.  As the population and the demand for teachers grew, there were just not enough men teachers available. As the following quote shows, there were a couple of motivations for hiring women: “God seems to have made woman peculiarly suited to guide and develop the infant mind, and it seems…very poor policy to pay a man 20 or 22 dollars a month, for teaching children the ABCs, when a female could do the work more successfully at one third of the price.”  This is a quote from the Littleton School Committee, Littleton, Massachusetts, 1849. One of those woman teachers was Susan B. Anthony, future woman’s rights leader, who taught school in the Greenwich area as a teenager. In general, girls went from finishing school at 16 or 17 to teaching the same children a year later. They could face a room of up to 60 children of all ages and behaviors. They usually just taught for a couple of years, until marrying. In fact for many years marriage disqualified women from teaching. In the 1970’s I taught with an older woman who concealed her marriage from her supervisor for a couple of years, until it became accepted for her to be a married teacher.

students at the Melrose school, c. 1901. Just one teacher??

students at the Melrose school, c. 1901. Just one teacher??

The 1855 NYS Census lists five teachers in Schaghticoke, four female, one male, a great confirmation of the preceding paragraph.  The females were Celia Baucus, 21, who lived in the family of Michael Overocker; Mary Wilson, 20, who lived in the family of Lewis Buffett; Emily Gordon, 20, who lived with her widowed mother; and Sarah Harwood, 39, who lived in the family of Edwin Smith. I feel Sarah was a widow. The man was L.T. Hardy, born in Connecticut, who lived in Walter Groesbeck’s tavern. Five years later a L.S. Hardy, now with a wife and infant, was principal of the Union School in Brutus, Cayuga County, New York. This may be the same man. If so, Hardy had stayed in the profession, but advanced to administration.

What did children learn in the mid-19th century schoolhouse? The curriculum was very basic: reading, writing, simple arithmetic, and a bit of geography and history, plus elocution or public speaking, and morals. Most used Noah Webster’s “Blue Backed Speller,” first published in 1783, and McGuffey’s Reader, first published about 1840. Webster was interested in differentiating American from British spelling. McGuffey’s Reader includes simple stories. The goal was basic literacy, to have a populace qualified to vote. As immigrants came to town, they would be “Americanized” by the schools. As the 1800’s went on, classes in art, music, and science were added. By the time the Union Free School law was enacted in 1874, school reform was really under way. There was a recognition that students needed a much better education to succeed in an increasingly complex society. And as the 20th century approached, teachers were better educated, more and better classes were added, and school became more like something we would recognize today.

I’m sure that many readers are saying to themselves, “Where is the information about the schools when I attended them?” I know there is much more to the history of what became the Hoosic Valley Central Schools. I am stopping here for now, as I am trying to write this week-by-week history of the town chronologically, and I’m getting ahead of myself as it is. Also, I have much more work to do on the rest of the story: examining how the centralization happened, doing oral history projects with residents who attended the last one-room-schools and transitioned to the central school, etc. Some of this work was done for the 50th anniversary of the district in 1988. If YOU have photos of one-room schools and their classes, I would love to copy them. Contact me at home: 235-5813 or email historian@townofschaghticoke.org. Thanks in advance!

Sources for this series on schools include: the school records of the town of Schaghticoke, census, Sylvester’s “History of Rensselaer County,” my files, online articles on schools, county maps of 1856 and 1877.

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.

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.

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

Herman Knickerbacker: Greatest Man Ever to Live in Schaghticoke?!



             I’ve written before about the most famous family in the history of Schaghticoke, the Knickerbackers. I will say again, if you haven’t visited the KnickerbockerMansion, you must! Look at their website: www.knickmansion.com for information on upcoming events. The Knickerbackers, Dutch from Albany, were among the first few European families to settle in Schaghticoke in 1708. In the next generation, John or Johannes Knickerbacker was Colonel of the local militia regiment in the Revolutionary War. His son John was among the ten wealthiest residents of town in 1800.

             It was John’s son Herman, who knew author Washington Irving.  Irving made Knickerbacker into an iconic name, a symbol of being a New Yorker. Herman or Harman Knickerbacker or Knickerbocker was born on July 20, 1779. He was the sixth child of fourteen of John Knickerbacker, Jr. and Elizabeth Winne. Three of the children, including an earlier Herman, born in 1770, did not survive childhood. Herman had three brothers, William, John, and Abraham. Perhaps because Herman would not be the principal heir, or perhaps because he just was more ambitious or more academically inclined than his brothers, Herman studied to be a lawyer. Of course, John, a wealthy man, could afford to have his son be a student rather than go right to work. Herman was a child of privilege.

           According to one of his obituaries, Herman studied law with John V. Henry in Albany and John Bird in Troy. Both were important men.  John V. Henry was the son of a merchant in Albany. Born in 1767, he was admitted to the bar in 1791. In 1800 he became Comptroller of New York State and was later the state Attorney General. John Bird, born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1768, was a graduate of Yale, who came to Troy in 1793- very early in its history. He was a Federalist, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1799. Herman had two powerful mentors in these men.  He also became a Federalist, and jumped into politics even as he was admitted to the bar in 1803.

            As an ambitious young man, Herman leapt into many things at once. Though he lived in Schaghticoke, Herman had his own law firm in Albany, in partnership with Job Pierson. Job was a newcomer to Schaghticoke, and a graduate of WilliamsCollege.  He completed his training to become a lawyer in Herman’s office in 1815. They were partners until 1835. Knickerbacker was appointed a Captain in a new troop of cavalry in the local militia in 1801. Fellow residents Bethel Mather and John Vanderspiegel were appointed Lieutenants.  Mather lived where the M & T Bank is in Schaghticoke now, and Vanderspiegel was the founder of Speigletown, the southern section of the town of Schaghticoke. . Continuing his military career, in 1810, Herman was appointed Major in the 3rd Regiment of Cavalry.  An item in the “Troy Post” of October 15, 1816, announces the annual review of the squadron of cavalry of RensselaerCounty at Lansingburgh on October 17 at 10 o’clock in the forenoon by order of H. Knickerbacker, commandant. Herman must have been an excellent horseman.  So now Herman had a career as a lawyer and entrée into his community as a leader in the militia.

            This portrait, courtesy of the New York Historical Society, shows Herman Knickerbacker as a young man. Doesn’t he look confident?


Herman Knickerbacker as a young man. Portrait in the New York Historical Society


            Herman became a trustee of the new Presbyterian Church in Schaghticoke in 1806, soon after its founding in 1803. He was chosen at a meeting of the church’s founders at the home of Bethel Mather, with whom he was also in the militia.  Pews in the newly constructed meeting house were sold in 1820. This was how the building was financed.  Herman bought pew 35 for $35 and pew 36 for $36. A couple of other men bought two pews, but Herman’s was one of the higher monetary totals. His law partner Job Pierson also bought a pew.  Perhaps this religious involvement was somewhat politically motivated, as none of Herman’s children was baptized in the Presbyterian Church. Even two children born after the pew purchase were baptized in the old-line Dutch Reformed Church.

              Herman also entered politics. He served as Supervisor of the town of Schaghticoke for the first time from 1805-1806. He also served in 1813, from 1818-1823, and from 1825-1826.  Knickerbacker reached what turned out to be the pinnacle of his political career when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1809. He followed his mentor Bird by only eight years, and directly followed another town resident, Josiah Masters. Like them, he was a Federalist. At the time the major political issue of the day was the coming War of 1812. The Federalists opposed the war. President Thomas Jefferson and the U.S. Congress imposed an embargo on U.S. trade with Great Britain in 1807. The embargo devastated the economy, though it did encourage the development of domestic industry.

            According to an 1833 newspaper article, Herman’s maiden speech in the House was against the continuance of the Embargo. He spoke of the negative effects of the embargo on the citizens of Schaghticoke. “It is said that he painted the suffering of his constituents so pathetically, and with such a masterly hand, that he threw the House of Representatives into convulsions of laughter.”  Herman only served one term in Congress.  It seems that many people today serve for many terms in Congress, but during this period, it was common for a Congressman to serve just one term.

               After his time in Washington, Herman continued to be very active in politics. In the “Troy Post” in 1813, there was an advertisement for the “Assembly Peace Ticket”. The Federal Republicans (Federalists) of RensselaerCounty met to nominate men to run for the N.Y.S. Assembly. Bethel Mather of Schaghticoke was one of the nominees, and Herman Knickerbacker was the secretary of the group. They called for “Peace, Liberty, and Commerce.” Herman continued in this role. In 1815, with the war over, the Federalists ran a long campaign ad, listing the many debts incurred and taxes imposed by the Republican government during the war, with nothing to show for it in the peace treaty ending it, and encouraging all to vote for the Federalist ticket.

           Herman served one term in the New York State Legislature in 1816, winning by a considerable margin over his Republican foe.  There was a controversy over seating one of the legislators of the opposite party in a disputed election.  Herman participated in a walk-out with other Federalists over the affair, saying “it was our duty; when we perceived that reason and argument were impotent to withstand the lust for office and the madness of faction.”  This sounds like something that could happen today!

          Knickerbacker ran for the NYS Senate in 1819 and 1822, but by then the Federalist party was losing sway, and in fact disappearing. He lost to the Republican candidate each time. Meanwhile he was serving as Supervisor of the town of Schaghticoke. In 1828, Knickerbocker changed his politics and became a Democrat and supporter of Andrew Jackson.  According to his obituary, he carried with him “a large majority of the Federalists in his town” as he did. The obituary adds that “he was a great admirer of the late DeWitt Clinton and enjoyed the confidence and friendship of that eminent statesman.” In 1828 he was also named First Judge of Rensselaer County, a position he held for the rest of his life. He was referred to thereafter as “Judge Knickerbacker.”

             Throughout, he was an active attorney, farmer, and industrialist.  Basically every early 19th century deed or will of a person in Schaghticoke which I have examined has Herman’s name in it somewhere- either as a creditor or a lawyer.   For example, while examining the probate papers of Andrew Diver, a well-off local man who died in 1809, I found that Herman Knickerbacker was the attorney. When Josiah Masters, the local man who had served in Congress just before Herman, died in 1822, Knickerbacker was the administrator of the estate. I have found two deeds where bankrupt people sold their land to Knickerbacker and partners, unable to pay back loans to them. They would have to sell the land to recoup their loans.  In 1828 William and Olive Slocum of Schaghticoke sold all their real and personal estate to Herman and a couple of others to satisfy their debts. Knickerbacker had endorsed several of Slocum’s promissory notes, which Slocum was now unable to pay, and had been awarded a judgment of about $5000 in Supreme Court.

       When the Rensselaer County Agricultural Society was founded in 1819, Herman was chosen the first Vice President, illustrating his involvement both in agriculture and politics.  In census listings, Herman listed his occupation as “farmer.”

         In 1811, Knickerbacker became the President of the Farmers Manufacturing Company, incorporated at Schaghticoke Point (the village of Schaghticoke)  to make “woolen, cotton and linen goods, and for making glass and from ore bar-iron, anchors, mill irons, steel, nail, rods, hoop iron, and ironmongery, sheet lead, shot, white lead, and red lead.” The trustees were Jonathan Mosher, Aaron Bemus, Ebenezer Deval, Harmon Groesbeck, and Joel Tallmadge. Richard P. Hart took over as President by 1819, and it became part of his huge mill holdings in the gorge of the HoosicRiver.  It was one of the earliest industrial ventures trying to take advantage of the power of the HoosicRiver, and Herman got in at the start. Perhaps it was a case of the investors wanting a prominent person as President, and Herman, just finishing a term as U.S. Congressman, would have been that. But as will be seen later, Herman had other mill ventures.

         Herman’s father, John, died in 1827. He left 1,166 acres around the KnickerbockerMansion, divided into three farms. William, the eldest son, had the first choice, and sons John and Abraham inherited the other two. Abraham ended up with the 332 acre home farm and the mansion.  Herman inherited “Gailord’s land”, and the rights to a mill that his grandfather had had.  An 1826 codicil left Herman a farm that had belonged to James VanAntwerp. One of these pieces of land may have been where he actually lived on the Tomahannock Creek. Law partner Job Pierson lived nearby.

         Besides his involvement in beginning a mill on the Hoosic River, Herman constructed mills himself, located near his home on the Tomahannock Creek, just to the east of where it crosses Route 40. An 1833 newspaper article reports that Knickerbacker “resides about a mile south of the village at the Point, on a singularly wild and romantic spot, upon the bank of Tomahnnock Creek. His ample brick mansion Knickerbacker embosomed in a grove, which he planted with his own hands, forty years ago. ..Below his mansion, Judge K has a number of mills, and likewise a Satinet Manufactory, all his own. He oversees these works himself, and likewise cultivates several extensive and very rich and beautiful farms.” (Satinet was an imitation satin, made of cotton.) To develop the mills, he would have had to construct a dam and its associated water courses. An 1839 deed records Herman selling some land on the Tomhannock to a principal in the Powder Mill. It discusses water rights, noting that Herman gave the buyer the right to use 1/3 of the water from HIS dam, and that he, Knickerbacker, was responsible for maintaining the dam.

         So you can see that Knickerbacker was involved in all aspects of his community, and indeed his county and state.  But he was also a very busy and involved family man. He married his first wife, Arietta Lansing in 1801. She was a daughter of Abraham Lansing and Else VanRensselaer of Albany. Thus Herman married into two of the most prominent Albany families. They had five children before her death in 1814. They had four children baptized in the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church: Abraham Lansing, born in 1802, with godparents Abraham and Elsie Lansing Jr.; Elizabeth Maria, born in 1805; Catharine, born 1808; and Rebecca, born in 1813. The 1810 census of Schaghticoke  lists H. Knickerbacker with a family of 2 males, 3 females, and 4 slaves.

            Arietta died in April 1814. Herman married  Rachel Wendell in December. He needed a mother for those five small children.  Rachel was the daughter of John H. Wendell and Catherine VanBenthuysen of Albany. Wendell had been an officer in the Revolution, called “General” in later life, though he had not really achieved that rank. He was a prominent attorney who served in the N.Y.S. Assembly and as Albany County surrogate, treasurer, and justice of the peace. I find it interesting that Herman again married a girl from a well-known Albany family rather than from Schaghticoke. Herman would assuredly have known a fellow member of the bar in Albany.  He and Rachel had five more children. Daughter Arietta was born in November 1815. Cathalina Wendell, born in 1817 had her grandfather Wendell as godfather. Daughter Maria VanVeghten was born in 1819, son John in 1821, and daughter Rachel Jane in 1822. All were baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church in Schaghticoke. Now there were three sons and seven daughters.

         At a time when public education was just becoming established, and many girls received little or no education, Herman aspired to more for his daughters.   Four of his daughters by first wife Arietta attended the Troy Female Seminary, now EmmaWillard School. Elizabeth attended Emma Willard’s first school in Waterford in 1820. Emma Willard was a pioneer in education for women.  Elsie attended her Troy Seminary in 1822, Catharine in 1824-1825, and Rebecca in 1828. Arietta, a daughter of Herman and second wife Rachel, attended from 1830-1832.

Herman Knickerbacker sent his daughters to be educated by Emma Hart Willard at her groundbreaking school in Troy.

        The 1820 census lists Herman with a family of 1 male between 16 and 18, 1 between 16 and 26, 4 females under 10, 3 from 10-15, and 1 female slave from 26-44 years of age.  Just a note on slaves: Slavery was gradually abolished in New YorkState, beginning in 1799. Blacks born after that date would be free after a certain number of years, with all to be free in 1827. A second note:  Herman may have lived in a house near his brothers at this point, as they all appear on the same page of the census.

       Herman’s second wife died in 1823.  He married a third time on July 20, 1826, to Mary Delia Buel, at her church in Troy. She was the daughter of attorney David Buel and Rachel McNeil of Troy. Mary Delia was born in Litchfield, Conn., the seventh child of her parents. They had moved to the new city of Troy in 1798. Interestingly, one of Mary’s sisters was the second wife of Herman’s mentor, John Bird. Again, Herman would have known his father-in-law before the marriage through the bar association.

       In the 1830 census, Herman had a family of 1 male under 5, 1 20-29, 1 30-39; 2 females under 5, 2 from 5-9, 1 from 15-19, 3 from 20-29, and 1 from 30-39. He was 51, his wife in her 30’s. Herman and Mary had four children of their own, two boys and two girls: Sarah Bird, Charlotte, David, born 1833, and Herman. I don’t know where they were baptized. Herman and Mary’s daughters also attended the Troy Seminary:  Sarah Bird from 1841-1844 and Charlotte Buel from 1846-1848. Sarah continued there as an assistant after graduation and until her marriage. Herman had a total of fourteen children. Eleven survived childhood, just three of them boys: Abraham, the eldest child, born in 1802, and David Buel, and Herman, children of his third wife. David and Herman had uncles younger than they were, children of Abraham.

       Herman continued to live in a houseful of young people. In the 1840 census, he had a family of 2 males from 5-9, 1male 15-19, 1male 20-29, and 1 female under 5, 1 female 10-14, 1 female 15-19, and 1 female 30-39. By 1850, this activity was winding down. The 1850 census lists “Harman” a farmer aged 73, with an estate of $6,000, his wife Mary B., age 53, daughter Charlotte, age 18, and two servants, Ann Hopkins, age 30, who was Irish, and Eve Wolf, age 50. The other children were all off on their own.

       So far, I have given a purely factual recitation of the career of Herman Knickerbacker.  It is wonderful to know so much about a 19th century figure, but even more amazingly, we can also fill out the personality of this man.  Washington Irving was one of the major American authors of the 19th century. He found inspiration in Herman Knickerbacker.  In his Life and Letters, Irving gave a good summary of Herman’s life. He described him as “living hospitably, and filling various stations: a judge, a farmer, a miller, a manufacturer, a politician.” Irving is said to have introduced Knickerbacker (in Washington as a U.S. Congressman in 1807-1809) to President Madison facetiously as “my cousin Diedrich Knickerbocker, the great historian of New York.” Irving visited him several times at his home at Schaghticoke Hill. All of this clearly shows that Herman was Irving’s inspiration for the character of Diedrich Knickerbocker, the fictional author of Irving’s satirical “History of New York,” and that Herman was known not just for his accomplishments, but also for his hospitality.  His obituary in an Albany newspaper stated, he is “remembered rather as a companionable man than as a scholar or statesman.” The Troy “Times” obituary added that he was “noted for his keen wit, his original humor, which made him a favorite in social circles even in his old age.”

Portrait of Washington Irving by John Wesley Jarvis, 1809. He used Herman Knickerbacker as his inspiration for Diedrich Knickerbocker.


Illustration of Diedrich Knickerbocker from Washington Irving’s satirical “History of New York,”


         An 1833 newspaper article describes a tour by the paper’s correspondent around the Saratoga area. He reports, “I have recently returned from a very pleasant visit to Schaghticoke, where I had the happiness of dining with the Prince of that Palatinate, Gen. H. Knickerbacker, in his own hospitable castle. He is a merry sovereign….The Prince has long been celebrated for his hospitality, his humor, and his amusing eccentricities.”  Scribner’s Dictionary of American Biography reports that at his estate in Schaghticoke, “he lived so perfectly the part of the ‘lord of the manor,’ dispensed hospitality with so lavish a hand, and showed himself as liberal in his charities that he became widely known as the ‘Prince of Schaghticoke.’” 

         Herman’s official Congressional Biography also notes his hospitality and generosity.  However, none of the sources mention that Herman was involved in a large number of business and legal affairs in his community. As I noted earlier, basically every will or deed I have looked at from about 1810 to 1830 includes Herman in some way. He was the lawyer, the administrator of the estate, the lender of money, the partner of others in some legal wheeling and dealing. Knickerbacker’s influence may also be seen in the fact that his neighbors Hannah and Peter Grant named a son born in 1810 Herman Knickerbacker Grant.

        I found several 19th century newspaper articles where people had written to ask about the source of the term “Knickerbocker” to refer to a New Yorker. All traced it to Herman Knickerbacker via Washington Irving, though none cited any sources for their information. An 1876 article said that Herman was a practical joker. Once when entertaining the mayor and council of Troy, he pretended he had forgotten the date, and was overheard asking the cook how they could make one chicken stretch to such a huge number of guests, just before “the dining room doors opened on a most sumptuous repast.” This story came from an article written by General Ebgert L. Viele for “Harper’s Magazine” in the same year, titled “The Knickerbockers of New York Two Centuries Ago.” Viele’s mother was a Knickerbacker. An 1890 article stated that Herman was “a man of wit as well as fortune, and extremely fond of practical jokes.”

        Herman died January 30, 1855 in Williamsburgh, New York City, at the home of his daughter Sarah Bird Knickerbacker and her husband Reverend Samuel Haskins.  His wife Mary had died at Sarah’s home just a few weeks earlier, on December 6, 1854. His obituary notes that he suffered paralysis soon after his wife’s death and “gradually failed” up to the date of his death. Sarah herself died later that same year in Saratoga, where she had gone for her health. While Mary was buried in OakwoodCemetery, where there was already a Buel family plot, Herman was interred in the KnickerbackerCemetery, across the street from the Mansion, next to his first two wives. There has been some speculation that a rift between the couple may have been responsible for this separation, but given that the couple was cared for in the same child’s home until death, I feel this is unlikely. Perhaps finances were more the reason, or perhaps Mary’s relatives thought she should be with her own family, rather than in a row with Herman’s first two wives.


       A lengthy obituary for Herman appeared in the Troy “Times” on February 2, 1855. There were few obituaries in the newspaper in that era, so this was a sign of Herman’s importance. And the obituary could not have been more laudatory.  The Rensselaer County Bar Association held a special meeting to mourn Knickerbacker. Long-time law partner Job Pierson chaired the meeting and began by saying that for the first twenty years of their partnership, he and Herman had been political opponents, “yet never during that time did we ever entertain personally an unkind feeling the one to the other. During all his life time never had, indeed could not have had a personal enemy.  His kindness was his only fault.” Others went on to note he was “an honorable and honest man in all the walks of life.” General Viele said “a more benevolent and philanthropic could scarce ever beamed upon oppressed and struggling humanity.” The paper added that “the quaint stories and laughable anecdotes of which the Judge is the hero are almost innumerable.”  The bar association voted to wear mourning badges in his honor for thirty days.

        Ironically for a lawyer and judge, Herman died without a will.  But there is a probate file connected with sorting out his estate. The file notes that Herman died with eleven grown children and no widow.  David and Herman, sons by Herman’s third wife, were administrators of the estate, along with Clarence Buel, who may have been a brother-in-law, and M.C. VanBuskirk.

       It does seem that Herman Knickerbacker was a generous man, perhaps too generous. Former law partner Job Pierson stated in his funeral speech that “it was his misfortune through life to risk his credit for his friends until at length …at the close of life he was robbed of that affluence which ….had enabled him to entertain his friends with princely magnificence.” The Surrogate placed notices in the local papers calling any creditors to come forward. Herman’s estate was inventoried and its contents had to be sold at a public auction and a private sale in February 1855, so that expenses of the estate could be paid. The public sale brought $620. The real estate brought $2,350. Funeral expenses were about $110, including $40 for a modest tombstone, paid to grandson John Hale Knickerbocker; $27.50 for a mahogany coffin; and $7 to Reverend Roberts, who officiated at the funeral. Son David received $507 to cover his expenses, and the attorney got $90.  Old law partner Job Pierson received about $110, from an old dispute, and physician Ezekiel Baker, $55.

       A closer examination of the inventory shows a library of about 150 volumes, including biographies of famous people, such as Jefferson and Washington, 17 volumes of Shakespeare, and an 8-volume history of England. The most valuable piece of furniture was a marble mantle clock valued at $10.  Possible proof of the entertaining Knickerbacker did is seen in the total of 83 chairs of different types in the inventory! How many chairs do you have in your house?

        I would love to see the “old Dutch Clock” listed, worth $2, or the several “pictures” and “paintings,” or the mahogany cradle worth $3.  Was that clock a family heirloom? There was also a teapot, sugar, and creamer valued at $20, the largest single sum on the list, and a wide variety of other household belongings. There was little in the way of farm implements, and no farm products (except for a ton of hay) or animals. Evidently that had been sold or given away earlier. There were several vehicles: a lumber wagon, two cutters (sleighs), and one “covered carriage” valued at $15. All in all, this seems a paltry estate for such a prominent man. It also seems sad that there wasn’t a will, where there could have been personal bequests to his many children. Perhaps he took care of that in life, giving mementos and financing to his children as they grew up and moved away.

       Let me add a note on a couple of Herman’s sons.  Abraham, born in 1802, is listed in the 1850 census as a farmer with an estate of $15,000. He and his (second) wife Mary had two sons living at home. John Hale, age 21, was listed as a student, and son Henry, 17, as a farmer. Mother-in-law Mary Hale lived in the home, along with one Irish farm hand, one black laborer, and two Irish serving girls. Jon Stevens of Easton, the absolute expert on Knickerbockers, says that Abraham had also been involved with his father in manufacturing.

       Herman’s son David Buel, born in 1833 and older than nephew John Hale, attended TrinityCollege in Hartford, Connecticut, then the General Theological Seminary in New York City. Perhaps he was at school when his father died in 1855. The next year, David went to the new town of Minneapolis, Minnesota, population 300, as a missionary. He remained there for 27 years, and then became the 3rd Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Indiana. He died in 1894.

      Looking back,  though Herman lived a full life, and was a credit to his community, his much greater legacy is as the inspiration for Washington Irving’s Diedrich Knickerbocker, and as the source for the use of “Knickerbocker” as a symbol of a New Yorker.


Bibliography for the whole series:

“Annals of Albany, 1850-1856” p. 316.

Bielinski, Stefan, biography of John V. Henry and John Wendell online

Congressional Biography, online

Scribner’s Dictionary of American Biography, online

“Troy Post” articles: April 13, 20, 1813; Apr 18, 1815

“Goshen Patriot”, Apr 6, 1819

“Geneva Gazette”, Feb 28, 1816

“Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment of NYS” 1801

“Albany Evening Journal” Apr 30, 1833

“NY Sun”, Feb 9, 1908

“St. Lawrence Plain Dealer”, Nov 30, 1876


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

Records of the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed and PresbyterianChurches

Website of the Knickerbocker Historical Society

Various census records for Schaghticoke

Probate records in Rensselaer County Historical Society

“Troy Times” Feb 2, 1855

Cemetery records, town of Schaghticoke

Deeds with Herman Knickerbocker as grantor/grantee: Rensselaer County Courthouse annex