History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Its Legends and its History
by Max Reid
New York and London G. P. Putman's Sons
The Knickerbocker Press, 1901
with illustrations from photographs by J. Arthur Maney
Chapter XVI Incidents Relating to the Early History of Amsterdam and the Mohawk Valley
|The Old Van Alstyne House Fort Renssalear, Canajoharie, 1750|
VanAlstyne House, 1999
In 1609 Henry Hudson, an Englishman, discovered the East and North rivers, the latter of which he ascended in his boat to Aurania, now Albany, and soon after sold his right privately to the Dutch West India Company. In 1614 the States-General of Holland erected a fort at Albany and called it Fort Orange. In 1663-64 the colony was subdued by the English, and became known as the colony of New York. Albany was incorporated as a city in 1686. Albany County at that time comprised all of the land north as far as Canada and all of the lands west.
At this time the present State of New York was possessed by the Iroquois and Canada by the Algonquins, the rivals of the Six Nations. Up to the burning of Schenectady in 1690 that village was the frontier settlement in the west, its neighbors being Fort Orange on the east, fifteen miles away, and Tiononderoga, a Mohawk Indian village, on the west, now Fort Hunter.
About 1710 the German Palatines and some Holland Dutch from Schenectady settled along the Mohawk River, but located in every instance except one on the south side. This exception was on Geraldus Camfort, who secured a small grant of twenty acres in what is now the town of Amsterdam, on April 22, 1703.
On November 2, 1708, the notorious Kayaderosseras Patent was given to Naning Heermanse and twelve others, conveying about 700,000 acres which included all of the land in the present town of Amsterdam east of Guy Park through Perth, Broadalbin, and part of what is now Saratoga County. This grant was evidently fraudulent, as the Mohawks were told that they were only granting enough land for one or two farms, whereas it embraced land five times greater that that of Manhattan Island. As soon as this great fraud was discovered by the Indians they protested against it and resisted every attempt to settle on it. The patentees, as soon as they discovered how furious the Indians were at the deceit that would deprive them of such a large tract of their hunting grounds, desisted from all all attempts to settle or sell any of this tract for a great number of years, hoping that in time the Indians would be driven from the valley and leave them in possession of their ill-gotten wealth.
During Sir William Johnson's residence at Fort Johnson he espoused the cause of the Indians in their desire to have this patent annulled. After a number of years he succeeded in having this grant reduced to about 23,000 acres, which embraced the land in what is now known as the town of Amsterdam, east of Guy Park, and the town of Perth. Undoubtedly the contest over this patent and the attendant hostility of the Mohawks retarded settlements in Amsterdam for more than half a century, and the fact that Sir William could not procure lands near his estate at Fort Johnson on account of the Kayaderosseras grant was probably the reason that he concluded to build the town of Johnstown on lands he owned in that vicinity, instead of in the valley.
In 1788 all of the land in Montgomery County north of the Mohawk River was called Caughnawaga. Previous to that time this district and the land on the south side was called Mohawk. In 1793 this town was divided into the towns of Caughnawaga, or Fonda, Amsterdam, Broadalbin, Mayfield, and Johnstown. In 1810 old Montgomery County was the largest county in the State, its area being at that time 1,767,680 acres.
Up to 1772, what is now Montgomery County was part of Albany County. In 1691 there were but nine counties in the State, and Albany included all north of Ulster and Dutchess. An attempts was made to divide this county in 1769, but failed. A second petition was sent to the Assembly by Sir William Johnson in 1772, and a new county was formed called Tryon county, which embraced all of the State west of a line running due north of the Delaware River through and along the eastern limits of the present counties of Montgomery, Fulton, and Hamilton to the Canadian line. It was named Tryon from the governor of the colony, and Johnstown was designated as the county seat on May 10, 1772.
Governor Tryon was so devoted to the British interests that his name became obnoxious to the patriots of the valley, and in 1784 the name of the colony was changed from Tryon to Montgomery County, and comprised lands of the present counties of Fulton and Montgomery.
In 1838 this county was again subdivided into two counties and named Montgomery and Fulton, Montgomery County being named from the patriot, General Richard Montgomery, who was killed in the attack on Quebec, December 31, 1775. He had acquired possession of Chambly, St. Johns, and Montreal, thereby becoming master of the greater part of Canada.
On August 29, 1735, Charles Williams and others were granted a patent for a tract of land in the town of Florida containing about 14,000 acres, which was soon after sold to Sir Peter Warren of New York, the uncle of Sir William Johnson. This tract of land extended from the Mabie Patent, at the mouth of the Schoharie or Tiononderoga Creek about six or seven miles along the bank of said creek to a point about midway between Mill Point and Burtonville, thence from that point in a straight line about eight miles long to a point on the Mohawk River below Phillips's Lock, about opposite Cranesville,and was triangular in shape. It was on this tract of land that William Johnson was located when he came to this country in 1738, at the age of twenty-three years. William Johnson was born in Warrentown, county of Downs, Ireland in the year 1715. It is said that he fell in love with a young lady in Ireland, but was prevented from marrying her by her friends. About this time his uncle, Sir Peter Warren, made him a proposition to come to American and look after his landed estate, and offer he gladly accepted. He located at what was called Warrensbush, on the easterly border of the estate and the Mohawk River. He erected a small dwelling and store at a point on the Morris or John Blood farm, about midway between the brick mansion and the house of Walter M. Major, and about one mile from Alexander and Hamilton Phillips, brothers who had located at what is now called Phillips's Lock somewhat earlier. As early as 1716, one Philip Groat, a member of one of the Dutch families that had settled at Rotterdam, made a purchase of land near Cranesville, and was probably the first white man that settled on the north side of the Mohawk, in the town of Amsterdam. From that date until after the Revolution we do not find the names of any others who settled in this vicinity, except the Sir William Johnson settlements at or near Fort Johnson--probably on account of the troubles over the Kayaderosseras grant. The grant to Philip Groat conveyed all of the lands between the creeks (about one mile) and as far north from the Mohawk as he might desire. This embraced the present site of Cranesville.
The settler saw perilous times from the very beginning. It is recorded that Philip Groat when removing hither was drowned in the Mohawk near Schenectady by breaking through the ice. He was in a sleight accompanied by a women, who was also drowned. His widow and three sons, Simon, Jacob, and Lewis, the latter being only four years old, with several domestics, made the intended settlement. They were the pioneers of Amsterdam, and were sturdy, courageous people, as evinced by the stories that are told of these early days that tried men's souls and bodies. In 1730 the Groat Brothers erected a grist mill at what is now Cranesville, said to have been the first mill of the kind erected on the north side of the Mohawk, and for a time served the settlement at German Flats, fifty miles away. The first bolting cloth was put in by John Burns, a German, in 1772.
J. R. Simms says: In the summer of 1755, two hundred troops clad in rich Highland tartans passed on their way to Fort Johnson, six miles above. Groat, observing a gate across the road had been left open by the troops, went after sundown to shut it. When returning it began to rain, and for temporary shelter he stopped under a large oak tree. While there three Indians, a father and sons, approached him. He took them to be Mohawks,and extending a hand to the oldest, greeted him in f friendly manner. The had was received and firmly held by the Indians, who claimed Groat as a prisoner. Finding them in earnest,and seeing them all armed with rifles, he surrendered.
The Indians belonged to the Owenagunga tribe. The took him to their settlement in Canada,where he was forced to run the gauntlet. He was soon after sold to a French Canadian named Louis de Snow, with whom he remained as a servant until the declaration of war between Great Britain and France, when he was claimed as a British prisoner, and for six months imprisoned in St. Frances's Way, near Montreal. He was finally liberated and returned home after an absence of four years and four months.
The manner in which the town and city of Amsterdam was named is not generally understood, or rather in speaking of the occurrence was are apt to get dates mixed.
We will have to rely upon tradition for the naming of the town, as there are no records of that event.
Tradition says that shortly after Joseph Hagaman settled at the place now called Hagaman in 1787, having made some improvements on his homestead, he began the erection of a sawmill. At that time (1788) all of the country north of the Mohawk was called the district of Caughnawaga. The scattered settlers had assembled for the purpose of raising the frame of Mr. Hagaman's sawmill. This must have been a great event to the settlers of this district, and undoubtedly the occasion called forth all the able-bodied men for miles around. Those who may have attended the "raising" of a frame for a large building forty or fifty years ago will remember the immense beams and posts and girders which were first pinned together with wooden pins and then placed in position for "raising." They will also remember that it was always expected that the owner or contractor should furnish refreshments, sometimes sandwiches, often crackers and cheese, but always whiskey or rum.
This was undoubtedly a notable gathering, brought there for a notable purpose: the erection of a sawmill, which was almost as necessary to the early settler as a grist mill. The one to furnish bread, and the other material for constructing dwellings of those hardy pioneers. Undoubtedly the neighbors came from all points of the compass, either on foot or horseback or in the primitive vehicles of those early days, no coach, landau, cabriolet, coupe, or hansom in the procession, however. I can imagine that Captain Emmanuel De Graft was there, and, perhaps, Lieutenant Peter Groot, proud of the wound he received at the battle of Oriskany. Also George Sheller, Peter Van Wormer, and some of the Putnams and Hansons from Tribes Hill, Fred Lepper, Wm. Kline, and some of the Swarts, Adam Sixbury, Nicholas, Isaac, Jeremiah, and Frederick DeGraff, and a number of Scotchmen from Perth and Galway. Perhaps some of the lads and lassies accompanied their elders to see the fun. No doubt the question of the division of the large district of Caughnawaga had been under discussion for some time, and the division lines practically decided upon. Naturally the question of a name for the new town that was to be, would be a proper subject for discussion, and when the name of Amsterdam was suggested and an informal vote taken, it was unanimously agreed upon.
Upon the organization of the town at the final division of Caughnawaga, in 1793, the wishes of the residents were respected, and the new town was named Amsterdam. The village at the mouth of the Chuctanunda was called Veddersburg until April 5, 1808, when at a town meeting, said to have been held in the house of James Allen, now a farmhouse owned by Stephen Sanford, being part of the Hurricana farm, the question of changing the name of the village from Veddersburg to Amsterdam was submitted to a vote, which resulted in a tie. "James Allen, being president of the meeting, had a casting vote, and out of the modest courtesy to the Dutch element, decided upon the name Amsterdam."
Most of the histories of Amsterdam place the date of this town meeting in 1804, but from the record of the town clerk in the town of Amsterdam, it would seem that the correct date is that given above. There is not record of the vote spoken of above having been taken, however. The first town meeting of the town of Amsterdam, after the division of the told town of Caughnawaga, was held at the house of Isaac Vedder, on the first Tuesday in April, 1794, at which time the following town officers were elected: Daniel Miles, supervisor; John P. Allin James Allin, Joseph Hagaman, Emmanuel DeGraff, assessors; James Allin, Emmanuel DeGraff, overseers of the poor; James Allin, Henry Kennedy, Emmanuel De Graff, commissioners of highways: Nicholas Hagaman, Adam Nave (probably Neff), constables; Albert H. Vedder, Myndert Wimple, James Allin, fence viewers; John Groot, poundmaster; James Allin, place of meeting for 1795, and a long list of overseers of highways.
Building roads seems to have been their principal work, as it is the only business that is recorded in the books of the town clerk.
Among the list of taxpayers in 1794 were : Jeremiah DeGraff, Frederick DeGraff, Isaac DeGraff, John DeGraff, John DeGraff, junior, Emmanuel DeGraff.
On the tax roll for 1794 we find that the assessment of Jacob Schuyler was 412 pounds; Daniel Miles, 429 pounds; Albert H. Vedder, 320 pounds; William Kline, 383 pounds; James Allin, 266 pounds; Frederick DeGraff, 260 pounds, John L. Groos, 220 pounds; Ahasuarus Marselis, 211 pounds; Geo. Shuler, 217 pounds; Chris Peek 252 pounds; Nicholas Brat, 207 pounds, Ezra Thayer 211 pounds.
At the town meeting held hat the house of Captain John P. Allin, on March 1, 1803, it was resolved that the town meeting for 1804 should be held at the house of Gabriel Manny at Manny's Corners. At that time the place of meeting for 1805 was changed back to the house of James Allin, where it had been held since the organization of the town in 1794. At the annual meeting in 1808 it was resolved that the next town meeting be held at the meeting house in Veddersburg. And it is probable that the vote changing the name to Amsterdam was also taken at that time (1808), as the record of s809 says: "The annual town meeting was held in the meeting house in the village of Amsterdam." After that date up to 1812, which is as far as the record extends, the annual election was held at the house of Joseph Oosterhadt on Main Street, where the store occupied by Isaac Adler now stands.
I have not been able to locate the house of Isaac Vedder, spoken of as being the place of the first election of officers for the town of Amsterdam. The only Vedder houses that I have been able to find is one that was occupied by Volkert Vedder as laid down on the old map of 1807, and stood where the residence of Mrs. W. K. Greene now stands, and the old Harmonus Vedder house that formerly stood on the site of the present residence of Mr. Lauren Kellogg.
The latter Vedder house was known as the Cornelius Miller house,which now stands on the west side of William Street, where it was moved about twenty years ago.
|The Old Academy, Formerly a Stage House Called "Globe Hotel," Amsterdam, NY.|
On a map made in 1807, we find two Vedder houses. One occupied by Harmon Vedder, standing where the dwelling house of Lauren Kellogg now stands, which I have mentioned before. Residents of Amsterdam will remember this house as the old Cornelius Miller house, which was within a few years, removed to the west side of William Street, and is now known as No. 12. The other house was, in 1807, owned and occupied by Volkert Vedder, and stood where the residence of Mrs. W. K. Greene now stands. This house now stands on the north side of Greene Street, and is known as Nos. 7 and 9, and belongs to the heirs of the late Mrs. James Bell. In one of these houses, probably the Cor. Miller house, the first election in the town of Amsterdam was held. The election for 1795 was held at the house of James Allen. (Typist 1999 note: The name Allen appears as Allin. The variations are in the book.)
At what time previous to the above date the Allen house was built we are unable to state, probably not many years. It was in existence, however, in 1793. It was evidently built for a public house, and kept as such for a good many years. James Allen conveyed it to his son-in-law, William Davis. Davis conveyed it to Alfred Birch, who occupied it until 1851, when he conveyed to Alex. Scott, who conveyed to John Chalmers, who conveyed to Stephen Sanford, who now owns it.
Another old house is the Gabriel Manny, junior, house on East Main street, about on-quarter of a mile from Elk Street For a number of years this house was occupied by a Mrs. Ellsworth and subsequently by George Ross.
It was formerly one of the numerous stage houses that were so frequently seen along the Mohawk turnpike, from 1795 to 1840. There were two Gabriel Mannys, the senior living at Manny's Corners and the junior on the Mohawk turnpike.
Mr. Stephen Sanford is fortunate in being the owner of two of the oldest houses in Amsterdam,--the old James Allen house on the Hurricana farm and the Thomas house on the Round View farm.
The Thomas house was probably erected by Henry Thomas in 1797, as Mr. Sanford is in possession of a brick taken from one of the chimneys bearing that date.
This house and the Allen house are in excellent condition,and considering their "run of a century" and over, present a very sturdy appearance, owing to the heavy timbers used in their construction.
The Thomas, or, as it is sometimes called, the Reid house, at Round View, often attracts the attention of passersby because it does not seem to be on a line with anything, unless it might be with the north and south pole.
This is accounted for by the fact that the old public road ran along what is now the rear of the house,which was formerly the front, as can plainly be seen by examining the rear door to the main hall. This door and casing is quite ornamental, and, with its quaint side lights, reveals the antiquity of the building.
In those days there was no roadway on the south bank of the creek by Green Hill Cemetery.
Persons who are in the habit of passing Round View have noticed a triangular piece of land leading from near the barn and coming to a point at a stone wall on lands of Samuel Clizbe. The north fence of this lot was the north side of the old road which ran between the barn and the house, through the meadow and across the present road, and, with a sharp turn, back into the field and through the center of the half moon woods and across the flats now covered by the water of Kellogg dam, passed the old stone oil mill and entered the grounds of the present Green Hill Cemetery, by what is now the upper entrance opposite the old yellow house on the bank of the creek, thence, following an easy grade up over the hill, the road came out at the present main carriage entrance to the cemetery, and so on down Church Street.
This road was ordered straightened as it is at present, and the width ordered four rods wide, December 14, 1809, the highway commissioners being David Shepard, Samuel Jones, and Duncan Stewart, It is thought that the dug-way between Sanford's dam and the Green Hill Cemetery was constructed a little later.
The house at Round View farm was built in 1797 by Henry Thomas, and known as Henry Thomas's store,w ho probably conveyed the same in 1798 to William Thomas, who conveyed it to William Helling, January 14, 1806; Helling conveyed to William Reid, February 3, 1824; William Reid conveyed to Jane Dingman, who conveyed to William K. Greene, Greene to Richard Pierce, Pierce to R. H. Johnson, Johnson to Stephen Sanford, the present owner.
While it was in possession of Mrs. Dingman it was remodeled by changing the stairs in the main hall and by changing the front of the house to the south.
Below this house on the south side of the road next below the Jay Reid farmhouse is a building which I am inclined to believe was erected before 1794, and was the residence of Elisha Arnold, the father of Benedict Arnold and father-in-law of William Reid, both well known business men between 1806 and 1830.
William Reid was born at Speddock, in the parish of Holywood, and county of Dumfries, Scotland, November 12, 1779. Sailed from Greenrock, June 1, 1802, and arrived in the port of New York August 8th of the same year, and came immediately to Amsterdam, by sloop to Albany, on foot to Schenectady, and by bateau up the Mohawk River. He soon opened a school "on the rocks" at Rockton, where he taught for four year. In 1806 he married the daughter of Elisha Arnold, and a little later, in connection with his brother-in-law, Benedict Arnold, kept a general store on Main Street. (Typist 1999 note: There were many Benedict Arnolds. The famous traitor died in 1801, so the Benedict Arnold mentioned here cannot be the same one.)
Contemporary with the above named persons, at 1806, we find the names of Osias Bronson, the grandfather of James Bronson, who moved here in 1802, Timothy Downs, Daniel Miles, Tulluck, E. E. DeGraff, Barnes, Bedder, DeForest, Blade, Roseboom, Waters, Thomas, and Esmond, Matthew Bovee, and others.
The house now known as the Voorhees mansion was built by Garret Roseboom the latter part of the last century, and was one of the numerous stage or road houses scattered along the Mohawk Turnpike in the early part of the last century. This quaint old building, both in its exterior and interior, bears the impress of antiquity. I lately called upon the two surviving members of the family, Messrs. Stephen and George Voorhees, and was most cordially received by those hale and hearty good fellows.
At first I felt like sympathizing with "Steve" in his nearly lifelong affliction, but when I noticed how ready the younger brother was to use his eyes for the comfort and pleasure of the other, I was conscious that at home, at least, he did not feel the loss of his sight as when abroad.
This old building, with its exterior of sever simplicity, is a landmark that cannot fail to attract the attention of passersby.
Architecturally, it cannot be called beautiful, but there are very few of our old residents who would care to have it marred by an attempt to modernize the structure. I think it was James G. Blaine who said that he did not like those changes that make an old building Queen Anne in front and May Ann behind.
Approaching the place from Market Street, we first see the substantial stone wall and iron gate that is so familiar to all the young boys and the old boys of the last century. How many of the old boys that have grown up in our city can say that they have never played on the top of this wall and under the shade of those venerable maples? Many of both sexes have pleasant memories of it as a trysting place in the moonlight in days gone by. I think it is remembered equally with "the old pine tree at the end of the walk" on East Main Street, which stood where the parsonage of St. Mary's now stands.
The front of the mansion is practically the same as then built, the only change noticeable is in the wing at the east end, where the tall pillars which formerly reached to the roof and formed a high, narrow portico have been replaced by a two-story piazza. The house as seen from the street, with its plain white walls and antique doors and windows, would never be mistaken for a modern structure. The severely plain front door with it old fashioned iron door knocker representing the hooded head of an Egyptian princess, the latticed storm door of the wing, the stone flagging branching from the gate to reach the two doors, are the same as when I first saw them in my childhood, but I miss the four plain white pillars in front of the wing that succumbed to the hand of time, and were replaced by the structure spoken of above.
As we pass the front door we enter at once into a side, long hall with broad stairs at the end, with the usual slim balusters and hand rail of polished mahogany grown dark with age. The room on the west side was formerly used as a parlor, and the woodwork of the doors and casing and the mantle over the deep fireplace show the ornamental molding and carving that we so often find in houses built a century ago.
On the east side of the hall is a large square room lighted by two windows in front. This room was the hotel office and barroom when the house was used as a road house in the early part of the last century and called the Roseboom House. Scattered among the modern pieces of furniture in this room are several pieces of dark mahogany or rosewood that are unique in their well-preserved antiquity.
On the walls are two well-executed oil paintings of interest, one of which represents a very pretty woman of perhaps twenty-five years in the short waist and scant skirt in vogue in those early days. This is Mrs. Betsy Voorhees, the wife of Dr. Samuel Voorhees. The other painting is a portrait of an older woman,and is a very well-executed likeness of Mrs. Reynolds, whose maiden name was Bartlett, and the mother of Mrs. Samuel Voorhees and Marcus T. Reynolds. The little cap that adorns the head is beautiful in its quaint simplicity.
The Voorhees family, which includes the Amsterdam and the Florida branches, are descendants of Steven Coerte Van Voorhees, born in 1600 at Hess, Holland, and came to this country "from before" the village in April, 1660, and settled at Flatlands, L. I.
The meaning in English of the Holland name Van Voorhees, is "from before the Hees"' "Van" meaning "from," "Voor" meaning "before" or in front of, and Hees being a small village about five miles from Ruinen, Holland, which contained in 1600 nine houses and about fifty inhabitants.
Dr. Samuel Voorhees was a man of great individuality, and is remembered as a man of ability in his profession. His appearance in his later years was such as to attract attention. A spare man of medium height and a slight bend forward when walking, snow-white hair and whiskers, which he wore in a long fringe around the edge of the jaw, his short, quick steps, and the ever present cane was a familiar sight on Main Street for a great many years. He died November 1, 1870. This brief account of the Voorhees family would not be complete if I failed to mention another member of the family--Mrs. Betsey Voorhees. She was a sister of the well known lawyer, Marcus T. Reynolds, and was a woman of great intelligence and marked force of character, who kept in advance of all projects of reform advocated by her coworkers, Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Mrs. Bloomer. She died February 8, 1858.
Mr. Stephen R. Voorhees informs me that John V. Henry, at one time a prominent man in the village of Amsterdam, and also owner of Guy Park in 1805, was brother-in-law of Commodore Charles Wilkes of the American navy. John V. Henry had a son who was named for the commodore and called Wilkes Henry. He was a schoolmate of Stephen Voorhees in the old red schoolhouse that formerly stood where the East Main Street brick schoolhouse now stands, and which was burned in the great fire of the summer of 1856.
Wilkes Henry when a young man went on a voyage with his uncle, the commodore, in the exploring expedition of 1838-42, at which time they visited the Feejee Islands. Young Henry asked leave to go ashore with a boat crew. Permission being granted, they rowed for the shore, disappeared, and were never heard from again. It was always supposed that they were captured by the savages and roasted and eaten.
It is said, however, that in later years the Feejees preferred the flesh of a nice plump female savage to a white man, as they found the flesh of a white man insipid, and having the flavor of tobacco.
This reminds me of the questions of a young irrepressible who had been told a story of a missionary having been eaten by a cannibal. "Papa," he says, "will the missionary go to heaven?" "Yes," said the father. After a pause the boy says, "Pa, will the cannibal go to heaven?" "No, of course not," says the father. "Pa," says the boy, "how can the missionary go to heaven if the cannibal don't?"
In the year 1826 General Lafayette passed through Port Jackson on the Erie canal on his way to the western portion of the State. It was not known that he was on the packet until it was near at hand, consequently no organized reception was made in his honor. However, about fifty of the residents hurried over in time to see him, but were so overawed at his presence that no one made an effort to speak to him. Among those who were present was Mrs. Samuel Voorhees, who transmitted to him a pair of fine worsted stocking knitted by herself of one hundred stitches to the needs. Afterwards Mr. Voorhees received a letter from Lafayette acknowledging their receipt and expressing thanks for the gift. Today this letter is one of the most valued possessions of the Voorhees family. They are also in possession of six mahogany chairs formerly the property of Sir W. Johnson.
Ozias Brownson (Bronson) came to Amsterdam in 1802, and later became a tenant on a farm belonging to Dr. Samuel Voorhees, who at that time lived in Amsterdam. Somewhat later George W. J. Bronson, the son of Ozias, married a daughter of Garret Roseboom, the builder of the Voorhees mansion. Anthony Roseboom, a brother of Mrs. George Bronson, was born in this house, and is still living in Fultonville at the age of Ninety-five years.
Mr. George Bronson and his bride went to housekeeping in the "old yellow Voorhees house," which formerly stood on the north side of Main Street, near the site of the Yund block.
Ozias Browson subsequently brought a farm west of the village and built a farmhouse, which was afterwards burned to the ground. Our people have known this place as the Forbes farm, which is now owned by St. Mary's Church and used as a cemetery.
In 1796, a bridge having been built across the Schoharie, a turnpike was opened from Canajoharie to Albany on the south side of the Mohawk River and, with its extensions, called the Great Western Turnpike.
In order to accommodate the tide of emigration up the Mohawk Valley (the "gate" to the west) efforts were made to improve the thoroughfares, especially from Schenectady to Utica, and on April 4, 1800, a charter for the construction of the Mohawk Turnpike was granted. In 1802 or 1803 Seth Wetmore and Levi Norton came from Litchfield, Conn., and interested themselves in the turnpike enterprise. They, with Ozias Brownson, Hewitt Hill, and three others, formed the first board of directors.
The turnpike was not constructed so much for stages as for transporting the immense quantities of merchandise and produce to and fro from Albany to Utica and Oswego and subsequently to Buffalo and the great West. The wagons used were ponderous vehicles drawn by four and sometimes six and eight horses, and must have resembled the "prairie schooners" of the West, with their canvas covers. To accommodate this great traffic, houses were built along the turnpike, and those already built were utilized for road houses, as they were called, for the accommodation of man and beast. These were equipped with a bar, a few beds, and large sheds.
The farmers in those days would drive their own teams and take along provisions for themselves and their horses, and by paying a sixpence for a bed and buying a quart of whiskey would find a place under the shed for their teams.
The stages were large Concord coaches, swung on leather thoroughbraces, with room for six passengers inside and as many more outside, with six or eight horses and a change of teams at every important state house, and, as the road improved in later years, it is said to have been a stirring sight to see the experienced driver arrive at a hotel, with horses on a gallop, his long whip cracking over their heads,while his helper blew his horn with a toot, toot, toot, which was a signal for all the idle men and boys to gather to see the stage come in, which was the supreme event of the day. The following extract from Mr. Thurlow Weed's autobiography give an interesting account of a stage journey on the Mohawk turnpike in 1824. After speaking of his journey from Rochester, he says: Nothing of special interest until we reach Sprakers, a well-known town that neither stages nor vehicles of any description were ever known to pass.
Of Mr. Spraker, senior, innumerable anecdotes were told. He was a man without education, but possessed strong good sense, considerable conversational powers and much natural humor. Most of the stories told about him are so Joe-Millerish that I will repeat but one of them. On one occasion he had a misunderstanding with a neighbor, which provoked both to say hard things of one another. Mr. Spraker having received a verbal hot shot from his antagonist, reflected a few moments, and replied, "Ferguson, dare vas worse men in hell dan you," adding after a pause, with a growl, "but dey was chained." At Canajoharie a tall handsome man, with graceful manners, is added to our list of passengers. This is Hon. Alfred Conklin, who, in 1820, was elected to Congress from this district. In passing Conynes hotel, the fate of a young lady, "who loved not wisely but too well," with an exciting trial for breach of promise, etc., would be related. Still farther east we stopped at Failing's tavern to water.
Going some miles father east, we came in sight of a building on the west side of the Mohawk River, and near its brink, the peculiar architecture of which attracts attention. This was formerly Charles Kane's store, or rather the store of the Kane Brothers, five of whom were distinguished merchants of the forepart of the present century. Here Com. Charles Morris, who, in 1812, distinguished himself on board the United States frigate Constitution (he was Lieut. Morris at that time, and was wounded in the engagement), in her engagement with the British frigate Guerriere, passed his boyhood.
The next points of attraction were of much historic interest. Sir William and Guy Johnson built spacious and showy mansions a few miles west of the village of Amsterdam, long before the revolution, in passing which interested anecdotes relating to the English baronet's connection with the Indians were remembered. A few miles west of Sir William Johnson's, old stagers would look for an addition to our number of passengers in the person of Daniel Cady, a very eminent lawyer, who resided at Johnstown, and for more than fifty years was constantly passing to and from Albany. At Amsterdam, Marcus T. Reynolds, then a rising young lawyer of that village, often took seat in the stage, and was a most conpanionable traveler.
Simms speaks of the following tavern keepers along the Mohawk River: On Tribes Hill, Kline, Putman, Wilson; Guy Park, James McGorck; Amsterdam, Col. William Shuler; Cranesville, Crane; below, Lewis Groat, Swart, and others.
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