The History of New York State
Book III, Chapter V

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER V.

COLUMBIA COUNTY #1

In 1609, when Hendrick Hudson and sailed his eighty-ton craft across the Atlantic and up the river which bears his name, the first accident to his ship on the river was the running of it on a flat or bar. No damage was done, the vessel was quickly floated and went on. The bar has grown larger and is still troublesome to navigators, but the interesting fact, historically, is that the city called Hudson has grown up opposite the bar, and the first exploration and description of the Columbia County was the result of this forced stop.

As county Columbia was set off from Albany on April 4, 1786. Lying on the eastern shore of the Hudson, between the counties of Rensselaer and the north and Dutchess on the south, it has an area of 688 square miles and a population on 1920 of 38,930. The Taghkanie mountains form the east border, with the adjoining hills reaching an irregular waves toward the Hudson. There are a number of small streams, running through the county and clusters of lakes add to its picturesqueness. To the early settler these streams meant not beauty but power, and some of the ancient dam locations are still being used.

With a soil as varied as its terrain, Columbia is adapted to nearly every kind of agriculture. The coarser grains and hay make up the bulk of the agricultural crops, and the greater part of these are fed to stock or milch cows. Dairying has become of marked importance. It is for its horticulture that the county is best known, for not only are apples and the larger fruit trees planted, but great quantities of the smaller fruits and berries are grown and shipped to the large city markets. Manufacturing has never been a feature of the county life in any dominant way.

Transportation has never been he problem so hard to solve as it has been in most parts of the State. The river was the first highway, one never excelled. The railroad of 1851 made for speed north and south, and the branches added during the next quarter century connected the county with all parts of the State. A ferry was one of the first of the transportation enterprises of the county, a scow. But one of the first of the Hudson council's acts was one regulating the ferry and the rates that it should charge (July 13, 1786). By this, a man, a horse, an ox, and a cow were all on the same level, and must pay is .6d. Sloops and ships of larger rig, for a draft of fifteen feet could be carried to Hudson, made irregular calls from as early as 1680, when Jasper Dankers and Peter Sluyter carried grain down the river in their vessel for a "certain female trader." Steam-boating by Columbia County owned boats, came in with the "Bolivar," in 1825, this to be followed by many steamboat companies during the next century. One oddity of the river and industrial history of Columbia is the remarkable place it held for a time in the whaling industry. The embargo of the War of 1812 ruined this as well as many commercial enterprises. But with peace, business men of Hudson and Columbia county fitted up whalers and, from 1825 to 1835, whale oil was one of the largest of the county's exports. The introduction of kerosene, however, brought an end to this novel industry.

Manufacturing started with the attempt of the Palatines to make tar and naval stores in 1710, a failure. Livingston started ironworks on his manor previous tot he Revolution, bringing ore from Connecticut. Sauthier's map of 1778 shows fifteen mills, forges and furnaces within the limits of Columbia. Wool and carding mills were next in order, and then came paper mills, the first being that at Stuyvesant Falls, erected in 1801. The latter became one of the principal industries of the county, one that has never died out.

The first settlements made in Columbia were by the Dutch, and later squatters located on the east border. Abraham Statts (or Steats) is supposed to have been the pioneer, and to have taken land and settled on the north side of Stockport Creek, in 1642. He evidently was a fur trader, who had a large trade. The first to locate at Claverack (Hudson) was Jan Frans Van Hoesen, in 1662, that being the year in which he bought from the Indians the present site of Hudson.

Am endeavor to encourage settlement was made later by the granting of great bodies of land to wealthy men, who would agree to see that it was populated. This may have helped some, although I seems rather to have stirred up strife which found an outlet in the "anti-rent" riots of 1840-50. Long before this date Robert Livingston has come into possession of the most of the land on which Columbia County now stands, July 22, 1686. In 1710, a tract of 6,000 acres was sold to the government, and upon it, at the request of the Queen of England, fugitives from the Palatinate were settled. This was the largest and most serious attempt to populate this district and can hardly be credit as a success. How, and when, the various parts of the county were founded, and by whom, can better be brought our under the history of the separate towns.

By the time of the setting up of the county, in 1786, there were more than 1,500 taxables, there were seven civil sections of the new formed Columbia, viz.: Kinderhook, Hills Dale, Kings, Manor Livingston, Claverack, German Camp and Hudson. 

 

There are now nineteen such divisions, their names and population figures for the census of 1900, 1910 and 1920 are as follows:

Columbia County

1920

1910

1900

Ancram town

1.,015

1.137

1.238

Austerlitz town

666

811

974

Canaan town

1,085

1,167

1,307

Chatham town, including part of Chatham village

2,705

3,396

3,537

Claverack town, including Philmont village

3,747

4,114

4,416

Clermont town

667

800

812

Copake town

1,114

1,283

1,277

Gallatin town

633

720

823

Germantown town

1,424

1,649

1,686

Ghent town, including part of Chatham village

2,451

2,819

2,698

Greenport town

1,103

1,630

1,191

Hillsdale town

1,052

1,504

1,399

Hudson city

11,745

11,417

9,528

Kinderhook town, including Kinderhook and Valatie villages

2,935

2,947

3,333

Livingston town

1,339

1,620

1,707

New Lebanon town

1,133

1,378

1,556

Stockport town

1,909

2,506

2,719

Stuyvesant town

1,541

1,980

2.125

Taghkanic town

666

771

894

Total

38,930

43,658

43,211

 

Hudson City, with a third of the population of the county, has been a dominating factor in the progress of the county since its inception. It was formerly a part of the old town of Claverack, and included in the purchase of Van Hoesen from the Indians in 1662. Set up from the mother town and incorporated as a city April 22, 1785, it was the logical choice as the shiretown of the county erected a year later. As Claverack Landing, the head of ship navigation on the Hudson, it grew with great rapidity. In 1775 appointment was given as a point of entry, and its early commerce reached to Europe and the West Indies. The fish of the river, the timber of the hills, were shipped from this point, and to it came the whalers, at a later period, with their oil. AS its resources grew, and the number of boats increased on the Hudson, this because one of the important ports for all lines.

Seth and Thomas Jenkins, Cotton Gelson and the New England associates, in 1783, laid the foundations on which the prosperity of the city was built. It would take too much space to tell of these energetic New Englanders, how vigorously they set about creating a city and incorporating it, how they pushed to the limit all manner of shipping projects, including whaling, and the established of industrial operations, the most of which have lost their importance, but which made the city so important a place in the history of the Hudson Valley.

The city is wonderfully well located on the ridge which comes down to the shore of the river. Two small bodies of water, North and south bays, extend for a thousand feet inland, which together with Prospect Hill, give pleasing variety to the situation of the city. Whatever Hudson is, or was, in the way of an industrial place, it has always been a city of homes. the new charter of 1895 opened the way to an improvement of city works of which ample advantage has been taken.

Numbered among the fifty factories in Hudson are concerns making brick, furniture, machinery and castings, paper in many kinds and forms. Wood-working is carried on largely; knit goods are produced in quantities; while the manufacture of cement is probably the main industry, employing the most hands. The population as given in the census of 1920 is 11,745.

Ancram, formed from Livingston March 10, 1803, as Gallatin, changed the mane in 1814. The town was settled by the Dutch near the village of the same name, but what may be termed the permanent settlement was made by the Scotch. At one time both iron and lead were mined in the town, but the water powers on Jansen's Kill led to the founding of the village of Ancram at that place. Mining was once important, and paper making has had a place for more than a century, tissue paper being now manufactured at Ancram. Dairying is the main agricultural pursuit, outranking fruit growing. Most of the milk is bottled in local plants at Ancram Lead Mines and Boston Corners and shipped to the city.

Austerlitz, formed from Canaan, Chatham and Hillsdale march 28, 1818, is one of the hilly towns of the east border. The first settlements were made between 1745 and 1750 by Connecticut squatters. Disputes arose as to their rights, and a committee was appointed in 1757 to settle the disputes. In 1774, Nathaniel Culver and James Savage were sent to England to gain a grant of the lands for the actual settlers, but failed, as might be expected. It was not until March 22, 1791, that land titles were finally settled by an act of the Legislature. Practically all of the land in the town is under farm fence, even the hills being arable. The principal village of Spencertown.

Canaan, set up as King's District March 24, 1772, retained the title until March 7, 1788. The town is rather rugged and hilly, with a number of fine streams which formerly were valued for their water power. It is supposed that there were settlers in the town as early as 1750, but as far as is known, William Warner, of Connecticut, who came in 1764, and shortly after set up a tavern, was the pioneer of the town. Canaan, in 1776, held a meeting for the appointment of delegates to the Provincial Congress, whom they sent with instructions to encourage a Declaration of Independence. Canaan Corners is the largest of the several villages off the town,. Others are: Canaan Center, Canaan, Flat and Red Rock.

Chatham, formed from Canaan and Kinderhook March 7, 1795, is situated in a broad and fertile valley. Agriculture has reached a high place, and the town ranks among the first in Columbia. The pioneers were, almost without exception, Hollanders, who probably were on the spot in 1725. A quarter of a century later a group of Quakers arrived, and in 1758 a set of Connecticut folks settled at what they called New Concord. By 1795 there were 380 voters in the town. The district was formerly a live industrial section, but at present has few manufacturing concerns. Chatham, a thriving village of 3,000, is the industrial and business center of this region. Besides it factories the railroad repair shops add to its prosperity. The village was incorporated February 15, 1869. Of the other settlement in the town, Old Chatham dates farthest back; Maiden Bridge owes its origin to paper mills; Chatham Center, North and East Chatham and Rayville complete the list.

Claverack a district March 24, 1772,, the name being a corrupted form of the Dutch for clover field. It became a town on March 7, 1778, after losing much of its area to form Hillsdale in 1782, and Hudson in 1785. When came the first settler, and from whence, is now known. Two Labidist priests, writing in 1680, mentioned the "fine farms" under cultivation near the village of Claverack. The fine farms still are extant after nearly two centuries and a half of use, and produce today finer crops of fruits, grains and vegetables than they did of old. The proximity of Hudson City has retarded the growth of other places in this district. The principal villages are; Claverack, formerly a great grain market; Philmont, incorporated in 1891; Mellenville, one of the older hamlets; Martindale and Hollowville.

Clermont, formed from Livingston Manor March 12, 1787, lies on the Hudson in the southwest corner of the county. The first settlement was made by German tenants. The town is connected with Robert Livingston, the statesman of the Revolution and first chancellor of the State, who had his residence here. His estate, called Clermont, was destroyed by the British, but was rebuilt as Idele in 1783. The principal village of the section is Clermont.

Copake, taken from Taghkanie March 26, 1824, lies among the hills of the same name on the eastern border of the county. General settlement of the district began about 1750, but there were pioneers before that, as a map of 1717 shows several farms marked on it. The name Whitbeck seems to be associated with the pioneers. At one time an "iron town," its interests now are strictly agricultural. The principal villages are; Copake, Copake Iron Works, West Copake, Caryville and Weedmines.

Gallatin, formed from Ancram March 27, 1830, was originally a part of Livingston Manor and settled at an early date by Hollanders and Germans. The hilly character of the town and its remoteness from the main highways has made its settlement and growth rather slow. The main village is Gallatinville. Snyderville is almost as important. Suydam and Elizaville are small hamlets.

Ghent, formed from Chatham, Claverack and Kinderhook April 3, 1818, is one of the interior agricultural towns. Traditions has it that this was one of the few places cultivated by the Indians and that the first settlements were made near these aboriginal clearings in 1735 by the Germans. The main hamlets are: Ghent, Pulvers and Omi.

Greenport, formed from Hudson City May 13, 1`837, was the last created in Columbia. The history of the town is that of Claverack and Hudson and its settlement was coeval with the settlement of them. Its lovely site on the Hudson has always seen an attraction, which today holds the visitor as it did the pioneer. The proximity of Hudson has prevented the growth of any place that might be called a village.

Germantown, created a district April 1, 1775, was not organized as a town until March 7, 1775, was not organized as a town until March 7, 1788. It lies on the Hudson in the southern part of the county, and is one of the most productive of the fruit and berry sections. Germantown and North Germantown are the two hamlets and rural centers. The Palatines came to this region in 1710, under the patronage of Queen Anne, and in less than a year there were 1,178 residents of the town, located it, or near, four villages known as Queensbury, Annsberg, Haysburgh and Hunterstown.

Hillsdale, organized from a part of Claverack March 26, 1782, as a district, made a town March 7, 1788, is one of the most picturesque of the Columbia towns, with its hills and narrow valleys. There is a soil of great variety, but farming is of the general sort, with dairying as the specialty. The town is supposed to have been settled before 1750, but as with many of the other towns of Columbia, there are no records extant of the earliest periods. The five hamlets or postoffices of the town are: Hillsdale, Harlemville, Hillside, North Hillsdale and Green River.

Kinderhook, formed as an original district March 22, 1772, and as a town March 17, 1788. Lost much of its area to set up Chatham, 1795; Ghent, 1881, and Stuyvesant, in 1823. It has a surface hilly, but not abrupt in its descents, arable in almost all of the town. Kinderhook Lake, in the northeast part, is a thing of beauty and a joy to the early settlers for the water power furnished by its outlet. Kinderhook is rich historically as has already been hinted. Immigrants from Sweden and Holland came here as early as 1650. Names of a few who were already farming are given in a list of 1687. Kinderhook village, on the stream of the same title, while now a quiet rural place, was once one of the livest villages in the county. Lindenwald was the home of President Van Buren and the scene of some of Washington Irving's literary works. Valatie once had large cotton mills and Niverville like industries.

Livingston, granted as a manor July 22, 1686, formed as a district March 24, 1772, was organized as a town March 7, 1788. It borders the Hudson. Much of the land in the town was sold by the man after whom the town was named to the English authorities as a place on which to settle the palatines in 1710. The water power of the kills were early utilized, and Livingston caused to be erected many mills to supply the settlers with Grist, flour and lumber. The principal villages are: Livingston, (Johnstown), Blue Store, Glencoe Mills and Union Corners.

New Lebanon, in the extreme northeastern corner of the county among the Taghkanie mountains, was formed from Canaan April 21, 1818. The hilliness of the region prevented its settlement until the more promising sections had been occupied. The pioneer of New Lebanon was John Wadhams, who came about 1860. There were a number who located in the region a little later than this date, mostly from New England. Lebanon mineral springs, near the village of that name, seems to have been the attraction which drew the first of the settlers. In addition to the village mentioned are the hamlets New Lebanon, New Lebanon Center, West Lebanon and Mount Lebanon.

Stockport, formed from Hudson, Ghent and Stuyvesant April 30, 1833, is located on the river and has more small swift flowing streams than most of the other towns. These streams, with their water powers, were the earliest colonized, first by the Dutch, as early as 1657, and by the English years later. Mills were erected even before there was grist to grind, these to change for other uses as a demand was created. The weaving of woolens and the making of paper was practiced in Stockport as early as any other place along the Hudson. Stottville, the largest of the villages, still has for its principal industry, a factory making woolen cloth. And Stockport, the second in size, manufactures paper. Columbiaville and Rossman specializes in knot goods and paper.

Stuyvesant, formed from Kinderhook April 21, 1823, is the northwest corner town. It was settled by the Dutch prior to 1650, and there was a saw mill in operation in 1665. What is claimed as the first paper mill in the county was started by Pitman and Edmonds, in 1801, at the upper falls. The principal village is Stuyvesant Falls. Stuyvesant Landing was once an important stop for the Freight boats of the river. Coxsackie landing is a ferry terminus.

Taghkanic, formed from Livingston, as Granger, March 19, 1803, is a hilly interior town, with the Taghkanic Creek as its principal stream. The first settlements were made by the Ditch and Germans, shortly after 1700. A plot of 600 acres, known as Taghkanic, as purchased by Robert Livingston in 1685. The main villages are Taghkanic and West Taghkanic, the latter being probably the more important.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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