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History of Schenectady County, New York (1848)

[This information is from pp. 357-360 of A Geographical History of the State of New York: Embracing Its History, Government, Physical Features, Climate, Geology, Mineralogy, Botany, Zoology, Education, Internal Improvements, &c with a Separate Map of Each County, the Whole Forming a Complete History of the State by J. H. Mather and L. P. Brockett, M.D. (Utica: H. H. Hawley & Co., 1848). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 M42.]


Square miles: 186, Population: 16,630, Organized: 1809, Valuation: 1845, $2,739,421

[Crude map of Schenectady County in 1848]

Map Key

  1. Schenectady (1684)
  2. Princeton (1798)
  3. Duanesburgh (1801)
  4. Neskayuna (1809)
  5. Glenville (1820)
  6. Rotterdam (1820)

Boundaries. North by Montgomery and Saratoga; East by Saratoga; South by Albany and Schoharie; and West by Schoharie counties.

Surface. The surface of Schenectady County is agreeably diversified with hills, plains and valleys. Flint hill extends through a part of the southern section, and a spur of the Kayaderosseras range passes through the town of Glenville, nearly to Schenectady. On the banks of the rivers are extensive flats.

Rivers. The Mohawk, Schoharie Kill and Norman's Kill are the principal streams.

Lakes. Lake Maria is a small body of water in Duanesburgh.

Canals. The Erie Canal crosses the Mohawk near the eastern line of the county, and passes along the south west bank of that river.

Railroads. It has four lines of railroads, the Mohawk and Hudson, Troy, Saratoga and Utica Railroads, all centering in the city of Schenectady.

Climate. The climate of this county is mild and salubrious, but subject to considerable extremes of temperature.

Geology and Minerals. The Hudson River group, consisting of grits and shales, or slaty rocks, is the prevailing surface rock of this county. The Utica slate makes its appearance in the neighborhood of Glenville. The whole county is overlaid by clay and gravel, to the depth of from fifty to one hundred feet.

Bog iron ore occurs near the line of Albany County. There are several localities of calcareous spar, one of which resembles arragonite. Quartz crystals and common jasper are also found in the county.

Soil and Vegetable Productions. The soil is various. The extensive alluvial tracts along the Mohawk and other streams, are exceedingly fertile. The hills and plains are either a light sandy or clay loam, less fertile, and sometimes barren.

Pine and Oak are the principal forest trees.

Pursuits. Agriculture is the leading pursuit of the inhabitants. Wheat and barley are extensively raised. The rearing of cattle occupies some attention.

Manufacturers are quite limited. Flour, cotton goods, iron and leather are the principal articles.

Commerce. By means of its canal and railroads this county enjoys ample facilities for the transportation of its produce.

Staple Productions. Oats, potatoes, corn, barley, rye, buckwheat, wheat, butter and cheese.

Schools. This county had in 1846, seventy-five common schools, with 3614 pupils. They were taught an average period of eight months, at an expense of $4960. The district libraries numbered 7115 volumes.

There were two select schools, with twenty two scholars; an academy with 108 pupils, and a college, with eleven professors and 242 students.

Religious Denominations. Dutch Reformed, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Universalists, Roman Catholics and Friends. The whole number of churches is twenty four, of clergymen, thirty-four.

History. This county was one of the first settled in the state. Previous to the year 1620 several Dutch traders established themselves here, to traffic with the Indians for furs.

The first grant of lands was made in 1661, to Arendt Van Corlaer and others, on condition that they purchased the soil from the natives. The deed was obtained in 1672, and signed by four Mohawk chiefs. It comprised a part of the present city of Schenectady.

In November, 1665, Governor Nichols granted to Mr. Alexander Lindsay Glen, a Scotch gentleman of ancient and noble descent, a tract lying on the Mohawk, and comprising most of the present town of Glenville. Mr. Glen resided for a number of years in Albany and Schenectady, and in 1690 removed to his patent, where, in 1713, he erected a country seat, which he named Scotia, and which is still standing.

According to tradition, Neskayuna was settled in 1640. A patent for land in this town was granted to Harmon Vedder, in 1664.

On the eighth of February, 1690, the village of Schenectady, then containing sixty-three houses and a church, was burned, and sixty-three of its inhabitants murdered, twenty-seven carried captive, and others perished, from the severity of the season, in the attempt to escape.

The marauders who thus rushed upon the sleeping and defenseless inhabitants, like wolves upon the sheep fold, were a party of 200 Frenchmen and about fifty Indians, from Canada, who had nearly perished from hunger and cold in their murderous expedition.

Having plundered and destroyed the village, they commenced their return, but were pursued by the Albany militia and the Indians friendly to the English, and twenty-five of their number killed.

In 1748, the Canadian Indians made another hostile incursion into the county, and killed a Mr. Daniel Toll, who had gone about three miles from Schenectady, in search of some stray horses. On receiving intelligence of his murder, about sixty young men, from Schenectady, started in quest of the enemy. They were soon surprised by a party of Indians in ambush, and more than half their number were killed. The remainder succeeded in reaching a house near by, where they kept the enemy at bay, till the Schenectady Militia came to their aid, when the Indians fled and returned to Canada. Thirty-two young men, of the best families of Schenectady, fell in this affray.

The county was, with few exceptions, settled by the Dutch, and remained a part of Albany County until 1809.

Cities and Villages. Schenectady city, the seat of justice for the county, is situated on the south branch of the Mohawk river, fifteen miles northwest of Albany. As has been already stated, it was founded at a very early period. Previous to the construction of the Erie Canal, it was a place of very considerable business, as goods intended for the western trade were shipped upon the Mohawk at this place. After the completion of the canal, most of this trade was transferred to Albany; but the numerous railroads which now center here, have given it a new impulse, and its business and population have materially increased within a few years past.

The city has some manufactories — the principal are flour, paper, cotton goods, iron, leather, tobacco, malt liquors, &c. Population 6,555.

Union College, which is located here, was founded in 1795, and received its name from the fact that its founders were members of different religious denominations. It has a corps of eleven professors, and three principal edifices, two of brick and one of stone. Its apparatus is very complete, and its library large and valuable. It is amply endowed, and has property to the amount of $450,000. Attached to the college building is a tract of land, 250 acres in extent, a part of which is laid out in walks and pleasure grounds. Its situation is highly picturesque.

Rotterdam is a small manufacturing village, in the town of the same name.

Duanesburgh is a village of some importance.

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