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Schenectady County, New York: Its History to the Close of the Nineteenth Century
Chapter XXVII: Towns of the County

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[This information is from pp. 410-416 of Schenectady County, New York: Its History to the Close of the Nineteenth Century by Austin A. Yates (New York: New York History Co., 1902). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 Yat, and copies are also available for borrowing. Thanks to Carol Di Crosta for data entry help with this page.]

Duanesburgh is the most western town of Schenectady County, and is bounded on the north by Montgomery County, on the east by the town of Princetown, on the south by Schoharie and Albany Counties and on the west by Schoharie County. Duanesburgh has an area of about 42,000 acres. Its form is irregular, and its situation elevated from 400 to 500 feet above the level of the Hudson at Albany. Its surface consists of upland broken by the narrow valleys and gullies of small steams. Schoharie Creek forms a small portion of the western boundary and Norman's Kill flows through the south part, entering the Hudson further down at a point about two and one-half miles below Albany. the Bozen Kill, one of the branches of Norman's Kill, is a picturesque stream on which is a fall of seventy feet. Corry's Brook and Chuctanunda Creek also do their part in draining the town. The hills which border these streams are steep and in some places rocky. The soil is a stiff clay loam with some intermixture of gravel.

The products are various, but grass succeeds better than grain and the town is better adapted to pasturage than to tillage. During the late years, the principal crops cultivated have been hay, oats, potatoes, buckwheat and rye. There are no fruits grown to speak of.

Maria Pond and Featherstonhaugh Lake are two small sheets of water in the northeastern part of the town, about 250 feet above the canal. Maria Pond is about two miles in circumference and is a very beautiful lake during the summer.

The Albany & Susquehanna Railroad extends through the southern part with a station at Quaker Street.

Duanesburgh was erected into a township by patent March 13, 1765, but was first recognized as a town March 22, 1788.

The first large tracts in what is now Duanesburgh were purchased by different parties. In 1737 Timothy Bagley made a purchase and was followed in 1738 by A. P. and William Crosby, and in 1739 by Walter Butler. Jonathan Brewster purchased a tract in 1770. These included about 60,000 acres, which, with the exception of about 1,000 acres, known as Braine's Patent, came into the ownership of Hon. James Duane, either by inheritance from his father or by purchase.

Actual settlement of the town did not begin until 1765, when the town was organized and Judge Duane contracted with about twenty German families from Pennsylvania to begin a settlement. Of these, sixteen families came and located permanently. Fifteen dollars per annum for each one hundred acres, payable in gold and silver, was the price paid for the renting of these lands.

When Judge Duane withdrew from active life, he gave to the town a plot of ground ten acres in extent. This is called Center Square, and was designed as a common for the village of Duanesburgh. Two churches, a school-house, and other buildings are situated in the locality.

Hon. James Duane, from whom the town was named, was born in New York City, February 6, 1733, and was a lawyer by profession. It is, however, as a high-toned patriot in the early part of the Revolutionary struggle that he came into prominent notice. He was a member of the First Provincial Congress that met at Philadelphia in 1774, and was associated with Patrick Henry, John Adams, John Jay, Richard Henry Franklin and other Revolutionary leaders. He was again elected to Congress in 1775, but in 1776 returned home to attend the New York Congress, of which he had been chosen a member from New York City. The object of this congress was to form a state government.

In 1784 he was elected Mayor of New York City, which office he held for several years, and in March, 1789, he welcomed to that city the first Congress under the present Constitution, and General Washington, as President of the Republic. In the same year President Washington appointed him United State Judge of the District of New York, which position he held until March, 1794, when he retired and removed to Schenectady. He intended to take up his residence in Duanesburgh, where he had already erected a church, but died suddenly on the morning of February 1, 1797. He was buried under Christ's Church, Duanesburgh.

Niskayuna was formed from Watervliet, Albany County, N. Y., March 7, 1809, with a population of 681, and a part of Schenectady was annexed in 1853. Niskayuna contains 10,471 acres.

The name of this town is derived from the term Nis-ti-go-wo-ne or Co-nis-ti-glo-no, the name by which it is known on the old maps. When the first white settlers arrived in the town, this place was occupied by a tribe of Indians known as Conistigione.

Niskayuna lies on the Mohawk in the eastern part of the county. Its surface is mostly upland, terminating in steep bluffs upon the river valley. The intervales are very rich and productive. A strip of land about a mile west, extending back from the summits of the bluffs, has a hard clay soil, and a considerable portion of it is swampy and unfit for cultivation. Farther south the soil is sandy.

Tradition has preserved a few of the following names of the chiefs of the Connestigiune tribe who inhabited this section of the country: Ron-warrigh-woh-go-wa, (signifying in English, the great fault finder or grumbler), Ka-na-da-rokh-go-wa, (signifying a great eater), Ro-ya-na, (a chief), As-sa-ve-go, (big knife), and A-voon-ta-go-wa, (big tree). Of these, the first made the greatest objection to alienating lands to the whites and in each deed he was careful to have a covenant inserted by which the rights of hunting and fishing were preserved to them. It was a common saying of his that "after the whites had taken possession of our lands, they will make Kaut-sore (literally spoon-food or soup) of our bodies." Yet he was on the most friendly terms with the whites and was never backward in extending to them his powerful influence and personal aid during their expedition against the Canadians in the French War. He took great delight in instructing the boys of the settlers in the arts of war and was constantly complaining that the government did not prosecute the war against the French with sufficient vigor. The council fire of the Connestigiune band was held about a mile south of the village.

In 1687, Niskayuna was visited by a spy from the Adirondack tribe, which was an ally of the French. Hunger drove him to the house of a Dutchman by the name of Van Brakle, where he devoured an enormous quantity of the food set before him, which happened to be pork and peas. Although his movements had been made with unusual caution, the eagle eye of the "Grumbler" detected him. He waylaid him on leaving the house of his entertainer and after a short conflict, killed him. Having severed the head of the corpse from the body, he repaired to the house of Van Brakle and threw the head into the window, exclaiming to the owner: "Behold the head of your pea eater."

The first settlers of this town were an independent class of Hollanders who located outside the manor line to avoid the conflicting exactions of the patrons and the trading government of the New Netherlands. It was settled at about the same time as was Schenectady.

Among the early settlers were the Clutes, Van Vrankens, Vedders, Groots, Tymersons, Consauls, Pearses, Van Brookhovens, Claas, Jansen and Kriegers.

From an old document it appears that Harmon Vedder obtained a patent for some land here in 1664.

Captain Martin Kriegier, who was the first burgomaster of New Amsterdam, finally settled in Niskayuna, on the banks of the Mohawk, "where the Indians carry their canoes across the stones." In this retired and romantic spot, this brave soldier and just magistrate died in the year 1712.

Glenville was named after Sanders Leenderste Glen, the original patentee. It was formed from the fourth ward of Schenectady, April 14, 1820, and is the only town in the county north of the Mohawk River. The country around Scotia was granted in 1665 to Glen, a native of Scotland, who moved to Holland in 1645, on account of religious persecution, and from there migrated to the New Netherlands.

The greater part of the surface of the town is covered with a thick deposit of drift which consists principally of clay, with some outcrop of slate with hard pan in the sourthern and western parts and loam in the eastern. Generally, the underlying rock is the shale of the Hudson River group, which crops out in the valleys and the bottom of the rivers.

The central and western parts are occupied by rugged and wooded hills rising abruptly from the valley of the river to a height of three hundred feet. The eastern part of the town is nearly level. The Mohawk intervales have been devoted to the culture of broom corn and are very fertile.

The principal streams are: Crabskill, Chaugh-ta-noon-da, Alphlaata and Jan Wemp's Creeks and Verf Kill. Sander's Lake in Scotia is about a mile in circumference.

On November 13, 1662, Van Slyck's Island was granted to Jacques Van Slyck and later a new grant was made to Jacques Cornelise and Jan Barentse Wemp.

Hoffman's Ferry was established about 1790 by Harmanus Vedder and called Vedder's Ferry until 1835, when it was bought by John Hoffman, from whom it took its present name.

Among the first settlers were the Glens, Sanderses, Veiles, Van Eppses, Ostrands, Tolls, Barhydts, Browns, Johnsons and Carpenters.

The village of West Glenville is situated ten miles from Schenectady. It is in the northeast part of the town. East Glenville contains a Methodist Episcopal church and lodge of Good Templars.

High Mills is situated in the northeastern part of the town. At this place the town built a fine iron bridge across the Alplaat Creek.

The village of Scotia lies between the Mohawk River and Sander's Lake and is about one-half mile from Schenectady. Reesville was a suburb of Scotia, but the two places have grown together and are now known only as Scotia. Scotia, the ancient name of Scotland, was the name given by its first settler. This village commences at a point nearly opposite the eastern extremity of the city and extends westward about two miles along the north side of the Mohawk.

On November 3, 1665, the first patent was granted by Governor Richard Niccols to Sanders Leendertse Glen.

Princetown was formed March 20, 1798 from a portion of the patent of Schenectady, and from lands originally patented to George Ingoldsby and Aaron Bradt in 1737. This was subsequently sold to William Corry, who formed a settlement which was long known as Corry's Bush. Afterwards Corry sold his interest to John Duncan. The town itself was named after John Prince of Schenectady, who was in the Assembly as a member from Albany County. Its surface consists of a broken upland gently descending towards the southeast, with a stiff argillaceous mould resting on a compact of ponderous hard-pan, with ledges of limestone, calcereous and silicious sandstone argillite.

The streams are Norman's Kill in the south, Platt's Kill in the center, and Zantzee Kill in the northwest. Upon this stream is a cascade sixty feet high, and from this point to the Mohawk are numerous falls and cascades.

The town contains 15,450 acres, and is an oblong square, ten and one-half miles long north and south, by two and one-half miles wide. It is located about seven miles northwest of Schenectady and sixteen miles from Albany. It lies between the towns of Duanesburgh on the south and Rotterdam on the north, and is a little west from the center of the county.

Kelly's Station is a small hamlet in the southeast corner of the town, eight miles south from Schenenctady and three miles east from Duanesburgh's four corners. Giffords is a small hamlet about three miles northeast of Kelly's Station. Rynex Corners is eight miles west of Schenectady and on the line of the towns of Rotterdam and Princetown.

Rotterdam was formed from Schenectady on April 14, 1820, and was formerly the Third Ward. Another part of the city was annexed in 1853, and a part taken from the town and added to the city in 1865.

The town contains 24,422 1/2 acres, and lies near the center of the county upon the south bank of the Mohawk. The surface consists of a broken hilly region in the northwest, a level intervale extending from the center towards the south, and a high plain on the east. Part of the soil upon the west hills is a tough clay underlaid by shale. The central valley or plain, five miles in extent, was named by the Dutch bouwlandts or farm lands. The soil is a deep alluvial. The east plateau is sandy and has formerly been regarded as barren, but of late years has shown itself adapted for orchards and especially for small fruits.

In the summer of 1661, Arant Van Curler, leader of the first settlement, made applications to Governor Stuyvesant for permission to settle upon the great flats lying west of Schenectady.

Broom corn was first introduced into this town by the Shakers of Watervliet and Niskayuna, and is now one of the most extensive products of the soil. Mr. Martin De Forrest of Schenectady says he well remembers the first piece of broom corn planted in Rotterdam, near the city of Schenectady by the Shakers from Watervliet. It attracted much attention and its peculiar adaption to this alluvial soil soon brought it into general adaption to this alluvial soil soon brought it into general cultivation. Mr. Sanders Van Eps, then an extensive farmer in Rotterdam, was one of the first to raise it in large quantities and to manufacture it into brooms.

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