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SCHENECTADY DIGITAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

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History of Schenectady County, New York (1824)

[This information is from A Gazetteer of the State of New-York, Embracing an Ample Survey and Description of Its Counties, Towns, Cities, Villages, Canals, Mountains, Lakes, Rivers, Creeks and Natural Topography. Arranged in One Series, Alphabetically: With an Appendix… by Horatio Gates Spafford, LL.D. (1824) A reprinted edition of Spafford's Gazetteer is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 Spa.]

[pp. 476-477] Schenectady County embraces the Mohawk River, and lies about 20 miles W. of Albany: bounded Northerly by Montgomery and Saratoga Counties, S. by Albany, and W. by Schoharie. Its form is singularly irregular, and its area may be about 180 square miles, or 115200 acres: situated between 42 degrees 43' and 42 degrees 58' N. lat.; and 09' E. and 20' W. Lon. from New York.

TownsPost Off.Pop.Im. land.Villages, Post Offices, &c.
DuanesburghP.T.3,51023,47414 m. W. of Schenectady; Lake Maria; Bouza Kill Falls.
GlenvilleP.T.2,51415,053Scotia V., 30 houses and stores; Mohawk turnpike.
Niskayuna 5163,058Alexander's Mills; Canal & Aqueduct, 15 1/2 m. f. Albany.
PrincetownP.T.1,0737,6457 m. W. of S.; 16 from Albany; Cherry-Valley turnpike.
Rotterdam 1,5296,317Rotterdam Flats; Erie Canal.
SchenectadyP.T.3,9393,238Schenectady City, 500 h.; Union College; Erie Canal.
Total413,03158,785 

The County of Schenectady, has the Mohawk River across the northern part, and along its northern boundary, the Mohawk turnpike westward from Albany, and the Erie Canal, connecting the Hudson with Lake Erie, through the heart of its population and business. Its principal mill-streams are the Sand Kill, and Ael Plaats Kill, or Eel place creek, besides which there are many other smaller streams, of considerable use. The soil along the river, is a rich alluvion, and on the uplands principally a light sandy loam, underlaid by clay, or clay slate, where the surface is undulated with easy acclivities, and hollow vales, remarkably well supplied with perennial springs and brooks. — Duanesburgh, and some part of Princetown, are of an entirely separate character, much more elevated, in some parts hilly, with a soil of a stiff argillaceous mold, resting on a compact and ponderous hardpan, with ledges of limestone, calcareous and siliceous sand stone, and some argillite. This County sends some waters eastward to the Hudson, some W. to Schoharie Creek, and some N. to the Mohawk. Besides the Mohawk turnpike, noticed above, Duanesburgh and Princetown have the Albany and Cherry-Valley turnpike, and the whole County has rather too many than too few common highways. The Schoharie Creek, along the W. boundary, supplies fine mill seats, particularly at the State Bridge, on the Cherry-Valley turnpike. The agriculture of this County is respectable and improving. It has a society for the promotion of agriculture and domestic manufactures, which receives $100 a year from the treasury. For historical notices, and for Union College, a flourishing Institution, of high celebrity, and for a view of the principal works, and business of this County, see Schenectady City. The City of Schenectady, the capital of County, stands on the E. side of the Mohawk, 15 1/2 miles NW. of Albany, 15 SW. of Ballston Springs, and has about 500 houses and stores, Union College, the County buildings, a bank, 2 market houses, an alms house, 4 Churches, several mills, factories, &c., and an elegant covered bridge across the Mohawk. The inhabitants are principally of Dutch origin, slow and sure in their operations, always rather behind than before their means, in enterprise, and possess great wealth. See the Township of City of Schenectady.

Statistics. This County elects 1 Member of the House of Assembly; and, with Schoharie, 1 Representative to Congress; it has Townships and Wards, 7; Post Offices, 4; Population, 13081: Ratio of increase in population, yearly, 3 per cent.: whole No. of whites, 12320; free blacks, 454; slaves, 102: foreigners not naturalized, 194: persons engaged in agriculture, 1875; in commerce, 85; in manufactures, 687: public moneys received for the support of agriculture, $100 a year; — for the support of Common Schools, $1193.49; school districts, 44; schools kept to average 9 months in 12; No. of children between 5 and 15, 2735; No. taught in the schools in 1821, 2328, exclusive, in all these school items, of the City, which has made no report: taxable property, personal, 263471; total, $1,845,850: Electors, 2476; acres of improved land, 58785; cattle, 9962; horses, 2994; sheep, 15217: yards of cloth made in families in 1821, 51507: 16 grist mills, 28 saw mills, 1 paper mill, 2 oil mills, 7 fulling mills, 6 carding machines, 2 cotton and woollen factories, 1 iron works, 2 breweries, 6 tanneries, and 2 asheries.

[pp. 473-475] Schenectady, a City, and also a Post-Township, the capital of Schenectady County, situated on the Mohawk river, 15 1/2 miles NW. of Albany; bounded N. by Glenville, late the 4th ward, E. by Niskayuna, S. by Rotterdam, or the Mohawk river and the County of Albany, W. by a part of the Mohawk, which separates it from the Rotterdam Islands. Since the publication of the 1st edition of this Work, the 3d and 4th wards of this City have very properly been erected into 2 separate towns, Rotterdam and Glenville. It now comprises 2 wards, and 3238 acres of improved land. The alluvial flats are extensive and rich, and the uplands, waving in gentle swells, have pleasing diversity, the soil principally a sandy loam, underlaid by clay, or clay-slate. The Sand Kill, a small but durable mill-stream, coming from the S., unites with the Mohawk in this city, and supplies valuable mill-seats. All the streams are small, but being fed by numerous perennial springs, the site of the city is well supplied with water. There are in this town 4 grist mills, 1 of which is a very superior and extensive merchant mill, 2 saw mills, a cotton factory, 2 breweries and a distillery. The cotton factory is on the Sand Kill, half a mile SE. of the compact part of the city, and has in operation 13 to 1400 spindles, 30 water-power looms, employs about 120 persons, spins 100000 lbs. of cotton annually, and can weave 7 to 800 yards of cloth per day. There are excellent sites for hydraulic works, yet unoccupied, though within 4 miles of the city there are 20 mills and factories, now in operation. These circumstances, with the many natural and artificial advantages, such as the abundance of provisions, the healthiness of the place, and the location of the Erie Canal through the very heart of this town, deserve the notice of enterprising capitalists from abroad. The corporate property of this city was formerly vested in trustees, who held, under Letters Patent, granted in 1684. Some small portions of this property have been sold, at different times, and the residue, comprising between 16 and 17000 acres, has been lately leased, in perpetuity, to individuals, at stated rents, estimated to produce an annual income of 5000 dollars, to the city and the towns of Rotterdam and Glenville.

Population, 3939: of which number 209 are persons engaged in agriculture, 349 in manufactures, and 76 in commerce and trade: there are 91 foreigners not naturalized; 280 free blacks, and 47 slaves: taxable personal property, $190100; total, $622024: electors, 725; 3238 acres of improved land; 837 cattle, 424 horses, 634 sheep: 2637 yards of cloth made in families in 1821: no returns as to common school districts, there being a Lancaster school.

Union College, in this city, was incorporated by the Regents in 1794, and has grown up to its present greatness, from a very small beginning, which it may be interesting to notice. In 1785, a small academy, the first building in this city devoted to literary purposes, was erected by the Consistory of the Reformed Dutch church, which, after establishment of Union College, was presented to its trustees, and used as a grammar school. Liberal donations from individuals, amounting to upwards of 30000 dollars, raised a suite of edifices in the heart of the city, the principal one of which is now used as court house. In 1814, the trustees disposed of these, and purchased a site on the rising grounds, a little E. of the city population, and commenced the erection of a very extensive suite of well adapted buildings. The situation is extremely well chosen, on a commanding eminence of gentle acclivity, embracing every convenience, and an extensive view of the surrounding country. Two, only of the College edifices are yet erected, each 200 feet in length, 4 stories in height, of brick, stuccoed in imitation of 'white granite?' They stand in line, 600 feet asunder, and to complete the suite there are yet wanting 6 other buildings. This institution sustains its high celebrity, and has now, in the different classes, 234 students. It has a library of 5000 vols., a Museum, and a very excellent Philosophical and Chemical apparatus. Besides the president, there are 3 Professors, a Lecturer, 2 Tutors, and a Register.

The City of Schenectady is built on the site of a large Indian town, anciently called Con-nagh-harie-gugh-harie, literally a-great-multitude-collected-together. It was built by a band of the Mohocks, or Mohawks, and could at one time send 800 warriors into the field. In the 'olden times' of Indian traditionary memorabilia, it seems to have been — perhaps centuries before this region was known to Europeans — the headquarters of the Mohawks, before the Confederacy of the Aganuschioni, or United People, whom we call the Five Nations or Six Nations. The present name of this city was originally applied to Albany, pronounced by the Indians Schagh-nack-taa-da, signifying beyond-the-pine-plains. At a very early period of our historical knowledge of this country, the Indian settlement at this town was abandoned, (for reasons never understood by the white people,) and those Indians settled among their red brethren of the west. Was it not, that Carthage must be destroyed? A long time before the American Revolution, they had entirely abandoned it. Some time previous to 1620, 15 or 20 persons, 12 of whom came direct from Holland, and the rest from Albany, settled here, in the fur trade. They made a treaty, and lived in amity with the Indians of that region, until the wars between England and France, in which the Colonies, very unwisely, but perhaps unavoidably, took a part. On the 8th of February, 1690, the town, consisting of 63 houses and a church, was burnt to the ground, by a party of French and Indians, from Canada. The inhabitants were taken by surprise, at the dead of night, 60 were massacred, 27 carried away captive, and of those who fled to Albany, 27 lost some limbs, by the severity of the frost. In 1748, a second massacre took place, in which 70 of the inhabitants perished. On the 17th of November, 1819, this city was the scene of a dreadful conflagration, in which 170 buildings were destroyed. The total loss about $150,000, including $20,000 of insurance.

The City of Schenectady, or the site of the compact population, is on the SE. side of the Mohawk, 15 1/2 miles from Albany. The ground is level and rich, and the plain, on which the houses stand, is washed on the W. by the river, beyond which are extensive flats, under good cultivation, the prospect of which is very fine. On the E. are hills of a moderate height, and the soil a light sand. It is regularly laid out in streets and squares, extending about 1 mile by a half mile, having 20 streets, 8 of which are crossed diagonally by the Erie Canal, and having paved streets and side walks. It contains 400 dwelling houses, 100 stores, &c., 2 college edifices, a male and a female academy, 4 churches, the County buildings, a Lancaster school, and a competent number of common schools, a bank, 2 markets, and Alms house, on a superior plan, a grist mill, 2 breweries, and 3 tanneries: and the Corporation, for the first time, has, this year, 1823, furnished the city with lamps! Many of the houses are in the old Dutch style, low, not airy, with high peaked roofs, gable ends to the streets. But, much as we sneer at these obliquities of taste, their durability, compared with our modern style, is beyond all comparison the best. Many of these are a hundred years old, the walls perfectly solid and firm, and the roofs have never been reshingled. As I remarked, in the 1st edition of this Work, the best taste, in very many things, may be about half way between Dutch 'ugliness' first, and Yankee 'elegance.' With the aid of Burr, the justly celebrated architect, Schenectady has an elegant covered bridge, across the Mohawk, 997 feet in length; and it possesses as much real wealth as any of its neighbors. In early times, Schenectady, at the foot of navigation on the Mohawk, had a portage to Albany of 18 or 20 miles, now reduced to 15 1/2, and now has a free navigation, by that wonder of the age, the Erie Canal. Its inhabitants, by a change of business, corresponding with the changes of the times, have shown an enterprising intelligence, equal to their sagacity in providing the means for active enterprizes. It may not be amiss to observe, that prior to, and during the Revolutionary war, Schenectady had a very respectable grammar school, under the care of the Rev. A. Miller, in which the late Gov. Tichenor, of Vermont, and several other gentlemen, who have since attained high celebrity, acted as assistants, and in which the late John Wells, of New-York, received his early education.

[pp. 148-149] Duanesburgh, A Post-Township in the SW. extremity of Schenectady County; bounded N. by Florida, in Montgomery County, E. by Princetown, S. by Albany and Schoharie Counties, W. by Schoharie and Montgomery Counties. Its form is irregular; the area about equal to 8 miles square. Duanesburgh was first erected in 1788, then in Albany County, and named in honor of the late Judge Duane, an early inhabitant, and a liberal benefactor. The situation is elevated, the surface moderately uneven, or hilly, the soil principally a strong loam, well watered. The Norman's kill, or creek, which enters the Hudson 2 1/2 miles below Albany, rises in Duanesburgh; as does the Bouzakill, or Mad Creek, one of its branches, on which is a perpendicular fall of 70 feet, on the grounds of Gen. North. The products of this town are various, but grass succeeds better than grain, as its elevated and uneven surface would indicate, being about 4 to 500 feet above the level of the Hudson at Albany. In this town are, a handsome Episcopal church, built at the expense of the late Judge Duane; a Scotch Cameronian, a Baptist, and a Friends' meeting-house; and 17 common school-houses. The inhabitants are principally agriculturalists, with the usual tradesmen; the mills, not numerous, are on the borders of the town. Lake Maria, a beautiful sheet of water, 2 miles in circumference, near the NE. corner of Duanesburgh, and on the height of land, is most charmingly situated in the grounds of Featherston-Park, and abounds with small fish. On the margin of the Lake, is the elegant residence of G. W. Featherstonhaugh, Esq., on an eminence of about 500 feet above the waters of the Hudson. This is one of the most commanding prospects in the State, comprising a view of near 100 miles around the compass. The outlet of this Lake, Chuctenunda Creek, in its course to the Mohawk, drives the machinery of about 20 mills. The Post Office is kept on the Cherry-Valley turnpike, 20 miles WNW. of Albany. Population, 3510: 648 persons engaged in agriculture, 142 in manufactures, and 4 in commerce: 47 foreigners not naturalized: 2 slaves; 21 free blacks: taxable property, $419,147; 592 electors, 23,474 acres of improved land; 3722 cattle, 992 horses, 6681 sheep: 24,602 yards of cloth made in families in 1821: 5 grist mills, 13 saw mills, 3 fulling mills, 3 carding machines, 1 iron works and 1 ashery: school districts, 17; schools kept 9 months in 12; public monies, $484.89; 1,117 children between 5 and 15; 1,096 attended school in 1821. The Friends hold a quarterly and monthly meeting in this town. The P. O. is kept in a hamlet, called the Village of Duanesburgh. The centre of this town is 12 miles from Schenectady.

[pp. 198] Glenville, a Post-Township of Schenectady County, on the N. side of the Mohawk River, 5 miles NW. of Schenectady, bounded N. by Saratoga County, E. by Halfmoon in Saratoga Co., S. by the Mohawk or Schenectady, W. by Amsterdam in Montgomery County. This town was formerly the 4th ward of the city of Schenectady, and was erected into a separate town or township by act of the Legislature in 1820. The soil in general, is a light sandy loam, of a good quality. It has the Mohawk turnpike, along the N. side of that river, and lies directly opposite the city of Schenectady. This town, with Rotterdam and Schenectady, have an annual income of about 5,000 dollars per annum from the ground rents of the common-lands granted to the old city, for which see Schenectady. Its name is in honor of the Glen family, early and large proprietors. Scotia, a hamlet of some 20 or 30 houses and stores, a quarter of a mile NW. of the city, is 'the only place yet named a village.' By an act of Congress of 1822, a new mail route is extended northward from Schenectady through Glenville, now made a post-town; and a new P.O. is also formed on this route on the W. line of Galway, called W. Galway Post-Office. Glenville has 3 churches, and 9 school houses; schools kept 9 months in 12; 714 children between 5 and 15; 611 received instruction in the schools in 1821; public moneys received that year, $326.07: taxable property, $333,737; population, 2514: 435 farmers, 107 mechanics, 4 traders: 25 foreigners not naturalized: 12 slaves; 55 free blacks: 488 electors; 15053 acres of improved land; 2379 cattle, 656 horses, 3508 sheep: 11503 yards of cloth made in families in 1821: 2 grist mills, 6 saw mills, 1 fulling mill, 1 carding machine, and 1 ashery. There is a small Lake, or Pond, in this town, of about 1 mile in circumference, in sight from Union College, a pretty little sheet of water, well stocked with fish.

[pp. 337] Nestigione Patent, is now in the SE. corner of Halfmoon, at Clifton Park, and was granted in 1708, to 7 Dutchmen, of whom one was Johannes Fort. This name, and Connestigione, another old Patent, granted in 1697, to Peter Hendrix De Haas, are the origin of Niskayuna, the name of a Township, and of an extensive tract on both sides of the Mohawk, still in use among the old fashioned Dutch and their descendants. The latter was S. of the Cahoos Falls, and probably within the present township of Watervliet.

[pp. 359-360]Niskayuna, a small Township in the E. angle of Schenectady County, 12 miles NW. of Albany; bounded N. by the Mohawk, or the County of Saratoga, E. and S. by Albany County, W. by Schenectady. It is a small Town, and offers very little for detail. The centre of this town, always meant, in stating distances, is 6 miles from Schenectady, the County Town. The land is pretty good along the river, but there is much of it that is of an indifferent quality, the soil a very light sand. The Schenectady and Troy turnpikes extends E. and W. across this town; and the Ballston turnpike N. and S., the latter crossing the Mohawk at Alexander's Mills, or Bridge, 4 miles below Schenectady, 15 1/2 from Albany. At this Bridge, by far the most remarkable place in the Town, is a low rolling-dam across the river, and several mills; and the Erie Canal, having coursed along the S. side of the Mohawk from Rome to this spot, here first crosses that river, and by an Aqueduct of 748 feet in length, raised 25 feet above the river. Immediately after crossing, there are 3 locks, each of 7 feet descent, in Halfmoon, of Saratoga County. These various works, with about as good a road as any, from Albany to the Springs, will induce a good deal of travel this way. The name of this Town is of Indian origin, the original of which, in the Mohawk dialect, was Con-nes-ti-gu-ne, signifying a-field-covered-with-corn. The Village, or Settlement of the people called Shakers, improperly called Niskayuna, is in the Town of Watervliet. There is, however, a hamlet called Niskayuna, with a Church, and some few scattered dwellings, near the river. There ought to be a Post Office, at Alexander's Mills, and probably will be, in a short time. Population, 516: free blacks, 15; slaves, 10: taxable property, $99451; 110 electors, 3058 acres of improved land; 575 cattle, 164 horses, 913 sheep: 3193 yards of cloth, made in families, in 1821; schools, 4; 2 grist mills, and 3 saw mills.

[pp. 428] Princetown, a Post-Township of Schenectady County, 7 miles W. of Schenectady, and 20 NW. of Albany; bounded N. by Montgomery County, E. by Schenectady, S. by Albany County, W. by Duanesburgh. Its extent N. and S. is near 10 miles, and 2 to 6 in width. Norman's kill, which rises in Duanesburgh, runs several miles across the S. end of this town; and there are some small streamlets in the N. that run into the Mohawk. The lands are of various qualities, and the surface is very much diversified, but it offers little to demand minute detail. The Post Office is on the Cherry-Valley turnpike, 16 miles from Albany, and 7 from Schenectady. There are 7 school-houses, in which schools are kept 9 months in 12. Population, 1073: 7 free blacks; 2 slaves: taxable property, $133361; electors, 189; 7645 acres of improved land; 1138 cattle, 346 horses, 1537 sheep: 4459 yards of cloth: 1 saw mill. The hills of this town, command a fine view of the Valley of the Hudson, and of the ridges of arable lands in the E. part of Columbia County. The traveller, or tourist, fond of extensive views of this sort, speckled with forests and farms, and a pleasing diversity, would be gratified with some prospects from the hills near Netterville's, on the Cherry-Valley turnpike. Better views may be had, farther W. and more remote from the road, and much better, even in Duanesburgh, but remote from this road.

[pp. 451] Rotterdam, a Township of Schenectady County, on the S. side of the Mohawk river, bounded N. by Glenville, or the Mohawk river, E. by Schenectady, S. by Albany County, W. by Princetown, and Florida of Montgomery County. Its centre is 4 miles SW. of Schenectady. This Town was formerly the 3d ward of the city of Schenectady, and in 1810 had 1005 inhabitants. Its area is near 2000 acres, principally the first quality of land, and its flats along the river, are very extensive and rich. Through these flats flows the Erie Canal, and the old Dutch proprietors complain of it, as 'cutting them all up!' It is a very good Township of land, and enjoys a considerable income, in common with Schenectady and Glenville, from the rental of the lands, belonging, by charter, to the City, for which see Schenectady. This Rotterdam has low flats of rich alluvion, a population almost exclusively of Dutch origin, old Dutch buildings, and a Canal navigation, all so much in the true Netherland character, that the people may by-and-by almost fancy themselves in old Holland. There are 2 houses for public worship, and 7 school houses: schools kept 8 months in 12; public monies, $211.50: 433 children between 5 and 15; and 273 received instruction in the schools in 1821. There are 4 grist mills, 4 saw mills, 2 oil mills, 3 fulling mills, 2 carding machines, a sattinet factory, and a paper mill, which manufactures paper of a very superior excellence. Population, 1529: 29 slaves; 78 free blacks: taxable property, $238760; electors, 374; 6317 acres of improved land; 1311 cattle, 412 horses, 1944 sheep: 5113 yards of cloth made in 1821. There are 9 Islands in the Mohawk, belonging to this town, separated from the main by a small arm of that stream, called by the Dutch Binnekill, in English, Middle Creek. These Islands are in a high state of cultivation, and comprise from 2 or 3 to 20, 50 and 120 acres each. There is an oil mill in this town, on the plan and construction proposed by Smeaton, in the New Edinburgh Encyclopedia, highly approved, and a very great improvement. This town has 3 Locks, on the Erie Canal.

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