COMMERCIAL AND FINANCIAL HISTORY OF THE COUNTY
In commercial and financial affairs Columbia county has had a varied and interesting history, especially in
relation to the former factor in its business life. The noble tide of the rolling Hudson flowing along the western
border of the county was an ever visible inspiration to the pioneers to embark in the manifold undertakings in
which facility and cheapness of transportation played an important part. The early necessity of conveying supplies
to Albany from New Amsterdam, as well as to hinderhook and other landings on the great manors along the river;
the settling in Hudson at an early day of men who were familiar with the methods and results of the whaling industry
as followed by the hardy sea faring men of the Massachusetts coast, and the facility with which crops and manufactured
articles could be shipped from the county by water, were part of the determining influences that developed large
commercial operations during the pioneer history of this region. Some of the early iron mining operations of the
country, also, as established on the Livingston manor, were a factor of some importance in shaping the commercial
tendency of business affairs in this county. If this alluring prospect was destined to decline in large part and
lose its significance in the early years of the century, it was not caused by apathy or incompetence on the part
of those engaged in it, but through the radical legislation that preceded the last war with Great Britain, the
paralyzing influence of which fell upon all commercial operations throughout the whole country.
It was a hundred years after those two adventurous Lahadie brethren, Jasper Dankers and Peter Sluyter, in 1680,
"came to anchor at hinderhook, where a certain female trader had some grain to be carried down the river,"
before the river commerce in its relations with the people of this county became of sufficient importance to find
a place in available records. But during that hundred years the bosom of the great river was flecked with many
a sail beneath which were cargoes of grain or other products of this terrritory, or coming northward goods and
provisions for the inhabitants.
The experiment early in the last century in making tar, rosin and other naval stores for the British government
by the Palatines, who were subsisted by Mr. Livingston, as before seen, was mainly a failure, but whatever was
manufactured in that line had to be transported by boat to New York and shipped thence to London. In Governor Hunter's
letter to the English Board of Trade, November 14, 1710, announcing that he had "planted the Palatines in
5 villages," notes also the fact that "ships of 15 foot draught of water can sail up as far as their
plantations." At a meeting of the commissioners in charge of the Palatines on July 4, 1711, a resolution was
adopted regarding assistance to the Palatine coopers to aid "in the making of barrels and staves fit for containing
the Tarr for Transportation." The following paragraph is from the Lord of the Manor, Mr. Livingston, to Lawrence
Smith under date of April 2, 1712, and has a bearing upon shipping and finances at that time:
"Now Sr paper money does very well at New York but will not doe among ye farmers here, for if yi offer it
'tis true they dare not deny it, but then ye must never Expect a grain of wheat afterwards from ym therefore whatever
kw doe lett it be Silver money & send me word p ferit, as soon as our Sloop comes from ye mill I send her doun
to NewYork, if there be any freight for her for ye Palatines lett it be kept till she comes. I have putt Adriaen
Mr of her for shares, who lost his sloop in ye Palatine service last fall. I shall not enlarge hoping yw will get
ye balance & send it up p ye first opportunity els am quite untwisted.
"The note of my sloopes last voyage I wil send p ye next for have it not of Mr Cast yet ye sloop not being
arrivd she delivered her last fish yesterday to Mr Bagge."
The fisheries, as noted in the above extract, were a source of revenue during a long period, the exports being
principally herring, which were dried or smoked, or pickled. This industry continued many years after the formation
of the county and immense quantities were shipped away, and the product of wheat was comparatively large in very
early times, all requiring vessels of some description on the river.
But it was not until the arrival at old Claverack Landing (now Hudson), of that remarkable combination of men from
Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with Thomas Jenkins at their head, in 1783-4, that commercial affairs, as well
as other business, received a marked impulse, the story of which can to some extent be traced in history. These
men were familiar with whaling and other shipping interests and they brought with them what were then considered
large sums of money. Their business had suffered in New England through the ravages of British privateers, and
their chief purpose in migrating hither was to found a "commercial settlement," where they would not
be molested. They found a primitive ferry plying across the river and many sloops and other craft engaged in the
various kinds of river traffic. They purchased an old wharf of Peter IIogeboom at the landing, which they immediately
improved and soon afterward it was given the name of Hudson Wharf, the same name being applied to the city.
Those proprietors were energetic, persevering men, and prompt to act for the development of their chosen location.
Stores were opened, shops established, as more fully related in the history of Hudson city, and at the beginning
of 1785, the little settlement was alive with activity. In its shipping interests it already stood second of the
ports in the State and its many vessels were profitably employed. Ship yards were established, with the kindred
industries of calkers, cordage makers, oil and candle works, sail makers, nail factories, and distilleries from
which poured the amber fluid that was considered so necessary in those days to keep the heart of the laborer glad.
A small advertisement appeared in the first number of the Gazette that possesses some interest in this connection.
It was dated April 5, 1785, and reads as follows:
"Captain Van Voert, master (about 70 tons hurthen) now lying near this place, will sail for New York as soon
as the ice will admit. For Freight or Passage apply to GORTON and FROTHINGHAM, at their Store, on the corner opposite
One of the early craft that made regular trips from the Hudson wharf was John and Peter Ten Broeck's fast sailing
sloop, Free Love, which was on the river in 1784. In 1786 there were at least twenty five seagoing vessels hailing
from Hudson; there were several good wharves, four large warehouses, and the ship yards had turned out one vessel,
the Hudson, Capt. Reuben Folger, of 300 tons. According to a number of the New York Journal printed in that year,
the place had a population of about 1,500, and "upwards of twelve hundred sleighs entered the city daily for
several days together, in February, 1786, loaded with grain of various kinds, boards, shingles, staves, hoops,
iron ware, stone for building, fire wood, and sundry articles of provisions for the market." This presents
a picture of astonishing activity and prosperity for so young a city. There were at that time seventeen persons
licensed to sell liquor. These conditions continued several years and there were at least five ship yards in operation.
On June 12, 1790, Hudson was made a port of entry and Henry Malcolm was appointed collector. Three years later
the Bank of Columbia was chartered with a capital of $160,000. Meanwhile the whaling industry was taken up by some
of the proprietors and others, but most of the sea going vessels were in early years engaged in commerce with southern
ports of the United States, and with Havana, Santo Domingo, the Windward Islands, Demerara, and Brazil.
In an account of his visit to Hudson in 1807, John Lambert, an English traveler, says: "The next morning,
November 22, we embarked on board the Experiment, a fine new sloop of one hundred and thirty tons, built expressly
for carrying passengers between Hudson and New York. The passage money was five dollars, for which the passengers
were provided during the voyage with three meals a day, including spirits; all other liquors were to be separately
paid for. Mr. Elihu Bunker, who commanded the vessel, was part owner as well as captain, and seemed to be a plain,
religious sort of man. He had more the look of a parson than sailor, and had posted a list of regulations at the
cabin door, which, if properly enforced, were well calculated to keep his passengers in good order. In truth, something
of the kind was necessary, for we had upwards of fifty passengers on board, nearly all men. Among the forbidden
articles were the plying of cards and smoking in the cabin." At that time a twin vessel, and also named Experiment,
was connected with the one just mentioned, commanded by Capt. Laban Paddock; they formed the "Experiment Line"
between Hudson and New York and made semi-weekly trips, carried no freight, and became exceedingly popular until
the opening of the steamboat service. Captains Bunker and Paddock were veteran ship masters who had retired from
ocean service for the less arduous river trade; the same was true of Capt. Reuben Folger, just mentioned, who at
one period commanded the fast sailing sloop, Sally.
The European wars early in the century and the consequent great demand for neutral vessels, with prevailing high
freight charges, caused many of Hudson's masters to engage in trans Atlantic service. This was prosperous for a
few years only. The blockade of all ports from the Elbe in Germany to Brest in France, which was established by
a British "Order in Council," May 16, 1800, was a severe blow to our commerce, In November of the same
year Napoleon declared a complete blockade against Great Britain, and the English retaliated in January, 1807,
by blockading the entire French coast. Ships attempting to trade in any of those ports were thus made subject to
capture and a number of vessels from Hudson were victims. A still heavier blow was inflicted by the memorable embargo
act of December 22, 1807, which fell upon all vessels within the jurisdiction of the United States, paralyzing
commerce and ruining all shipping interests. It is recorded that Captain Reuben Folger, then a wealthy ship owner
and merchant of Hudson, said of this act, that it was a signal for the nation to heave to under bare poles; that
the ship of state had been turned out of her course and yawed about by a luhberly helmsman, until the voyage was
ruined and the owners half broken. Before the new system of gunboats and embargoes, he said, he had always been
able to find a keg of dollars under his counter, but never afterwards. With the rapid decline of all commercial
operations, ship building of course went with it, and all the kindred industries of this county suffered from the
same causes. The oncoming war of 1812 made matters still worse here and in 1815 Hudson had so lost her prestige
in this respect that the port of entry was discontinued. An accompanying financial disaster was the failure of
the Bank of Hudson (chartered in 1808), which went down in 1819, and before the close of 1825 the population of
the city actually decreased about three hundred.
In the mean time an important change was made in the ferry facilities of the city. One of the very early acts of
the Hudson Common Council (July 13, 1780) was to appoint Benjamin Folger, Thomas Jenkins, and Ezra Reed a "committee
for regulating the ferries within the limits and liberties of this city, and to rent the said ferries." This
plural designation refers to the Athens ferry and the South or Hollenbeck ferry which crossed to near Catskill;
the latter was first rented to John B. Hollenbeck, who in 1788 was also granted a tavern license, paying two pounds
ten shillings for both privileges. An inefficient "gunwaled boat" was in use on the Athens ferry until
1789, when two larger boats of similar build but double ended, were put in service. The ferryman was required to
make regular trips from sunrise to sunset, unless stopped by stress of weather, making a fifteen minute stop at
Lunenburgh, where he announced his arrival by blowing a horn or shell. His rates for ferriage were as follows:
For every single person, except sucking child 1s. 6d.
any number more than one, each 6d.
every Man and horse, ox, cow 1s. 6d.
every loaded wagon or cart 2s. 6d.
every barrel of rum, molasses, or sugar 6d.
every bushel of wheat or other grain 1d.
If the ferrymen was compelled to go "round the flatts," on account of low water, he was allowed fifty
per cent. addition to these rates, and if a trip was made half an hour before sunrise or after sunset, he could
double his rates. These boats were fitted with mast and sail, which were of great assistance when wind and tide
were opposed to progress There were occasions, rare of course, when most of a day would be consumed in getting
across the river on those old scows. An early measure for improvement of ferry facilities was that of February,
1803, when the Common Council appointed a committee to consult with the people on the opposite side of the river
"respecting a Caunall through the middle Ground." On May 7 of that year a resolution was adopted "that
Mr. Power (John Power, father of Capt. George H. Power of Hudson.) be a committee to superintend the cutting a
cannall through the flatt, agreeable to the proposition of Timothy Bunker, for which said Bunker is to pay one
half the expense." On June 9, 1804, the Council adopted a resolution "that the Recorder and Mr. Power
be a committee to agree with Timothy Bunker for making half of the Canal or Channel through the Middle Ground,
agreeable to the act of the Legislature, passed 7th of April last." Notwithstanding all of this preliminary
action and the performance of some actual labor the improvement was not vigorously pushed until the horse boat
began running in 1816. At that time a lottery was authorized by the Legislature for the purpose of raising funds,
and the Council appointed Oliver Wiswall, Judah Paddock, and Robert Jenkins a committee to superintend the work,
and it was finished and opened for the passage of boats in the following year. The horse boat which was put on
the ferry in 1816 was built by William Johnson and cost $6,000. It comprised two hulls placed a short distance
apart, with a deck built across both, and a paddle wheel working between them. In a round house built in the center
of the boat nine horses traveled in a circle giving motion to the wheel. The day that this boat was put in service
was enthusiastically celebrated by the people of the city, although on her trial trip around the middle ground
(the canal not being finished), she collided with another vessel. Mayor Jenkins and other dignitaries were on board.
Horse boats were used on this ferry until 1850 as related in the history of Hudson herein.
The steamboat traffic on the river, as far as relates to Columbia county ownership of boats, began with the running
of the Bolivar to New York; but this boat was not long in that service, beginning about 1825. What became the New
York and Hudson Steamboat Company was the direct successor of the firm established in 1818 by Capt. Judah Paddock,
to do a general freighting business between those two cities. Only sailing vessels were then in use, but the undertaking
was profitable. Captain Paddock died in 1823 and the principal management of the business passed to Captain John
Power whose experience on the river in different capacities dated from about 1805. He was the senior member of
the firm of Power, Livingston & Co. (Moncrief Livingston, Peter Ostrander, and a Mr. Bingham), who were actively
engaged in truffle during the war of 1812 Captain Power was father of George H. and William H. Power, and was an
enterprising and reputable citizen, and son of Thomas Power, one of the Hudson pioneers. At the time he came into
active management of the later firm, Samuel Coleman was its principal owner, and seven years after Captain Paddock's
death, the business was merged in that of the Hudson Tow boat Company. The Hudson Tow boat Company was organized
in 1830, with Captain Power agent and manager, in which position he continued to 1836. The Rural Repository of
June 4, 1831, has the following notice of this company:
"A tow boat company has been formed for the purpose of carrying the produce of the country to New York, and
merchandise from thence to this city and country. The company own a powerful steamboat, and two barges of three
hundred tons each, fitted up in good style for passengers as well as freight. These boats alternately leave Hudson
and New York once a week, and perform the distance of one hundred and thirty miles in fourteen hours."
The first boat owned by the company was the Legislator, which was advertised in 1833 to make tri-weekly trips to
New York, and that Barge No. 1, Capt. Peter G. Coffin, and Barge No. 2, Capt. John T. Haviland, jr., would make
weekly trips in her tow; and that "the barges will at all times be open for the accommodation of boarders
in New York, as heretofore." Barges of the character mentioned were first employed here for transportation
purposes before the formation of the tow boat company, by a company consisting of Samuel Plumb, Oliver Wiswall,
Abner Hammond, and Rufus Reed, whose barges were built on the South Bay at Hudson. They were about 300 tons and
were towed by the Albany and New York steamboats, The Hudson Tow boat Company purchased the barges of this firm
and they retired from business.
It is worthy of note that the first coal burned in boats on this line was about the year 1835, and that the first
furnace and blower adapted for the use of this fuel on steamboats was invented by Daniel Dunbar, of Hudson. In
1836 the business of the tow boat company passed to Jeremiah Bame, who renamed it the Hudson and New York Daily
Transportation Line, running in 1837, Barges No. 1, Capt. Henry Hiller; No. 2, Capt. John T. Haviland; No. 3, Capt.
E. D. Newbery, with steamboats, Legislator, Capt. Thomas P. Newbery, and General Jackson, Capt. Peter G. Coffin.
The last named boat did no towing, and the Legislator towed one barge down on Tuesday and one on Friday, and brought
two up on Saturday. Two other steamboats were running from Hudson in that year (1836), the Rockland, Capt. William
Allen, which was advertised by Mr. Bame to make daily trips between Hudson and Albany, and the Westchester, owned
by H. & G. McDougal, which ran regularly to New York.
The successors of Mr. Bame in that business were Haviland, Clark & Co., who continued from about 1842 to
1850. A little before the close of the Civil war Haviland, Clark & Co., and another firm, L. R. Mellen &
Co., sold their interests to Power, Bogardus & Co. They built the steamer Berkshire and supplied it with the
machinery previously used in the South America. This boat was started in the spring and early in the summer she
caught fire when near Hyde Park and burned, with a loss of thirty six lives. Captain Power was on board and when
the fire was discovered, ordered the pilot to run the boat ashore, beaching her in about four feet of water.
The firm of Power, Bogardus & Co., dissolved soon after the close of the war, the property passing to the senior
member. After he took possession he built a new warehouse on the dock and covered it with sheet iron, as a protection
against fire; this building is still standing. He enlarged his shipping facilities by locating his warehouse nearer
to the water, saving by that means in the carrying of freight after it was unloaded. Captain Power subsequently
associated with himself the firm of Reed & Powell, of Coxsackie, the organization owning the Redfield and the
Nuhpa, a new boat. The company was reorganized and incorporated January 12, 1872, with a capital of $150,000. George
B. Fairfield was president. In 1874 the line was leased to David M. Hamilton and Reed & Powell of Coxsackie
and was operated under the style of the New York and Hudson Steamboat Line, with the Redfield and Nuhpa running
on opposite days. Both the firms of Hamilton & Smith and Reed & Powell owned stock in this line, while
the company of which Captain Power was at the head owned the dock property and the brick stores at that point.
The next change was the purchase of the line from Hamilton & Smith and Reed & Powell, the organization
taking the name of the Catskill and New York Steamboat Company, as it now exists; the business is managed for the
owners by an organization of which W. H. Traver is president; George H. Power, vice president; Louis Wolfe, secretary
and treasurer; William J. Hughes, James Stead, George M. Snyder, and William Brownell, directors. The boats in
use are the Onteora, Icaaterskill, City of Hudson, and the McManus, all running to New York.
Besides the old Legislator and other boats before named, there have been in service the Columbia, built by Jeremiah
Bame, began service in June, 1841, making her first trip to New York in eight and a quarter hours; the Fairfield,
by Hubbel, Clark & Co.; this boat was charged with causing the great fire of 1844 from sparks from her smoke
stacks; the Oregon, owned by Haviland, Clark & Co., sunk in a collision in the fall of 1862; the Knickerbocker,
lost while in government service during the war; the South America (before mentioned), and the Connecticut, both
of which went into government service; the Berkshire, burned, and part of her hull was used in building the Nuhpa.
The Catskill and Albany Steamboat Company was in transportation business with sloops during many of the early years
and prior to 1838, about which time Capt. William Allen established the first steamboat service in connection with
its business. He continued to operate it until 1842, when he sold to Capt. James Burns. In 1844 Burns sold to Capt.
Peter G. Coffin, and two years later it passed to Coffin, Holmes & Co. In 1858 a new firm under the style of
Power, Holmes & Co. was formed and existed until 1860. From that day until 1863 Power, Martin & Co. owned
the line when a stock company was organized with $80,000 and took the property. The corporators, who were also
the first directors, were George H. Power and Stephen L. Magoun, of Hudson; Milton Martin, of Claverack; John P.
Acker, of Stuyvesant; and Henry Lansing, of Albany. The boats used by this company at different periods were the
Advocate, the Hope, the Shepherd Knapp, the Peter G. Coffin, and the City of Hudson; the latter was built in 1862.
Daily trips were made from Catskill to Albany and return, landing at the various points between.
The stock of this company finally passed to possession of John W. French, under whose management the business was
conducted for a time. It was then sold to a New York organization and continued until the boat City of Hudson was
burned at her dock in Catskill and several propellers had been tried on the line, when it was abandoned.
Capt. George H. Power built the steamboat Isabella in 1883 for the Catskill and Hudson line, beginning the business
alone. He soon afterwards organized the Catskill and Hudson Steamboat Company, with a capital of $15,000. Captain
Power is president; and William J. Hughes, of Catskill, secretary and treasurer. The Hodson and Athens ferry also
has Veen under control of Captain Power since 1880, and is leased by a company of which he is president, and Ruluff
Neefus, secretary and treasurer.
The steamboat Osiniug began running from Catskill to Albany in 1900, going up one day and returning the next, stopping
During about ten years after the whaling industry, as well as other commercial pursuits, had received its death
blow through the operation of the blockades, the embargo act and the war of 1812-15, no whaling vessels of any
account sailed from Hudson; but there were men in the city who had not entirely abandoned hope in regard to a revival
of the business after the depression caused by the war had been overcome. The great whaling fleets of New Bedford,
Mass., and Nantucket were known to be bringing home from the fishing grounds immense cargoes of oil and bone, for
which prices were realized that enriched the ship owners and masters. If such conditions existed there, why should
not the industry be taken up from Hudson and successfully followed, said those enterprising citizens. Other points
along the river, also, were taking the same view, and whalers were fitted out at Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, which
made profitable voyages. Finally, in 1829, an association of Hudson citizens was formed for the purpose of reviving
and prosecuting the whaling industry. The whole city and county were hopeful for the success of the undertaking,
for it was seen that much depended upon it. One of the local newspapers said of it: "Why may we not hope to
rival those eastern cities which the whale fishery has built up? We possess equal advantages, equal enterprise.
. . . Under present circumstances the hope is entertained that Hudson will again flourish as in its infant days."
This company sent out its first vessel in June, 1830, the Alexander Mansfield, Captain Bennett. It is difficult
at the present day to realize the degree of solicitude that centered in that voyage and the anxious hopes that
prevailed for its success. At the end of nine months, on March 27, 1831, the returning whaler dropped her anchor
in front of the city, and her home coming was celebrated by the whole populace. She was received, according to
the published prints, "under the discharge of cannon, and amidst the acclamations of the citizens and sailors,"
although it was the Sabbath day. When the cargo was announced the wildest enthusiasm prevailed, for it consisted
of 2,020 barrels of right whale oil, 180 barrels of sperm, and 14,000 pounds of whalebone. This was the largest
quantity brought in by any whaler in the United States in that year. No wonder the people were joyful! The Mansfield
was again ready for sea within two months and on June 20 sailed for the South Atlantic; her first voyage was to
the Brazilian fishing grounds. Captain Bennett had been placed in command of the Meteor, a new and larger ship,
which sailed for the same destination a few days later, and the command of the Mansfield was given to Capt. Francis
Neil, promoted from first mate. Each of these vessels carried four boats and thirty men, and most of the crew of
the Mansfield were young men from Hudson. She returned in about eight months with 2,200 barrels of oil and 19,000
pounds of bone. The Meteor returned April 23, 1832, with almost precisely the same amount of oil and bone. Not
long after this one of the Hudson whalers brought in a cargo of sperm oil worth $80,000, the most valuable ever
brought into this port.
The company that started out in this industry was incorporated April 30, 1833, as the Hudson Whaling Company, with
Laban Paddock, president; the capital was $300,000. The successful voyages mentioned resulted, as would be expected,
in other men engaging in the business and finally fourteen square rigged vessels were owned here, their names and
masters as follows:
Ship Alexander Mansfield
Captain John Drury.
The names of the captains as above given were those who were in command from 1.834 to 1838, excepting Captain Drury,
who commanded the Splendid in 1845. It is believed now that only eleven of these vessels were engaged exclusively
in whaling, and it is known that the Martha (which was sold at auction in September, 1837, at Bontwell's City Hotel),
made a voyage and possibly more than one from New York to Holland in 1833. The Captain Gardner mentioned was one
of the very first to engage in whaling from Hudson, beginning in 1785, and he was still following the same adventurous
pursuit in 1837, and possibly later, On the 19th of March, 1836, his vessel brought in 1,900 barrels of sperm oil.
That was a halcyon period for Hudson. But the great change was approaching and by the year 1845 the last voyages
for the monsters of the deep were sailed and the profitable industry was of the past. This was caused, not by any
want of enterprise or success on the part of the men engaged in the business, but by the well known natural changes
which provided cheaper substitutes for sperm oil and whalebone, combined with the scarcity of whales on the fishing
grounds. One of the important factors in the decline of the industry was the universal adoption of kerosene and
its products, for light and lubrication purposes. From that time forward the men of Hudson were compelled to turn
their energies into other business channels, the story of which is found in later chapters.
In purely financial affairs the institutions of Hudson and other parts of the county have been remarkably successful
as a whole. The tendency at all times has been towards conservatism and prudence, a fact that has, with few exceptions,
carried the community safely through the several crises of financial stress, and kept the people free from the
effects of heavy failures to cripple their business efforts.
At the close of the war of 1812-15 the whole country was in a condition of poverty. Trade of all kinds was broken
up, specie was almost unobtainable, banks were without credit, and general depression prevailed. This was especially
true in all localities that had previously depended upon commercial and shipping interests for their prosperity,
like the city of Hudson, and the distress existing there was reflected to all other nearby points in the county.
The Bank of Columbia, which has been mentioned, was the first in the county, and was incorporated March 6, 1793.
It was the third bank chartered in this State, and had a prosperous career during many years, as fully detailed
in the later chapters on the city of Hudson, but failed in 1829. The loss was heavy, a number of individuals suffering
largely, and general financial depression was felt for a time throughout the county.
The Bank of Hudson was organized in 1808, with John C. Hogeboom, president, and G. A. Worth, cashier. This unfortunate
institution began its career at a time when the effects of the embargo before noticed was just beginning to he
felt, as a forerunner of the still more depressing period of the war. The institution weathered the crisis until
1819, when it failed, but with less general disaster than accompanied that of the Bank of Columbia ten years later.
These are the only two banks that have met with failure in this county. The other Hudson banks, which are described
later on, were the Hudson River Bank, chartered in 1830, and became the present National Hudson River Bank in 1865;
the Farmers' National Bank, first organized in 1839 as the Farmers' Bank of Hodson, and changed to its national
character in 1865; the First National Bank of Hudson, organized March 25, 1864; and the Hudson City Savings Institution,
chartered April 4, 1850. All of these staunch financial institutions have been prosperous, dealing liberally with
the community, and conferring great benefits to the business interests of the county.
Meanwhile some of the villages in the county felt the need of better financial accommodations, and banks were established
to meet the demand. A State bank was organized in Kinderhook in 18:39, with a capital of $195,000; in April, 1865,
it became the National Bank of Kinderh ook and is still conducting a large business. What is now the National Union
Bank of Kinderhook began business as a State bank in 1853 with a capital of $150,000, which was increased $50,000
in 1859; it became a national bank in March, 1865, and is still in existence.
The village of Chatham in course of its history found it needed local banking facilities, and accordingly the Columbia
Bank was organized in 1859 with a capital of $100,000. In June, 1867, it closed its business as a State institution
and became a private bank conducted by William A. Trowbridge & Co. It failed in June, 1873 On the first of
March, 1875, the State Bank of Chatham Village was established with a cash capital of $50,000, which has always
received the confidence of the public and carried on a prosperous business.
Biographical matter concerning many persons who have been connected with banking, financial, and commercial undertakings
will be found in the history of the City of Hudson and in Volume II of this work.
Recovery from the depressing financial conditions consequent upon the war of 1812 was not as rapid in this county
as in many other localties, chiefly on account of the temporary destruction of all commercial operations; but with
returning confidence among business men,a greater volume of currency, and enlarging agricultural operations, something
of the old time prosperity was at length restored This, with the revival of whaling, placed the people of the county
in a position to pass through the severe crisis of 1837-8 with far less suffering than fell upon many other communities.
The prime cause of that memorable panic rested in the very financial foundation of the government as developed
in the policy of President Jackson and in antagonism to that policy by the United States Bank and its connections.
While the tide of speculation was rising banks multiplied in various parts of the country and their managers, who
had thus become able to control large resources in the depreciated currency, engaged heavily in real estate and
other speculative operations, indulged extravagantly in living beyond their means, thus aiding in turning the heads
of their more conservative neighbors. Prices of lands were greatly inflated, money, such as it was, was plenty,
easily obtainable and as readily spent, while securities in the form of notes and mortgages passed current in heavy
volume. Usurious rates of interest were common, money commanding from three to five per cent a month, with a large
demand even at those rates. This apparent anomaly was created by the fact that many persons were led into borrowing
money at the enormous rates in the hope that with the funds thus obtained they could realize large profits. Upon
the subject of actual gains by the mere transfer of land titles from hand to hand, and always at greatly enhanced
prices, men otherwise sane seemed to have gone mad. Many tracts of land in various parts of this State changed
hands at prices that have never since been reached, and this in some cases in the immediate suburbs of cities.
The inevitable crash was precipitated by President Jackson's "specie circular," which required all payments
for public lands, that had been eagerly located in the west, to be made in specie, and the withdrawal of deposits
from the United States Bank. All values dropped more rapidly then they had risen and a general suspension of specie
payment by banks followed. It is a gratifying fact that the tide of speculation did not reach the altitude in this
county that it did in many places, and the consequent distress was correspondingly less. No bank failed in the
county, and few actual business failures took place here as a direct result of the panic, but there was a general
stringency that continued some years.
What has been said of this period of financial trouble applies with equal force to the general revulsion caused
by over production and speculation in 1857, when the whole country was enveloped in business depression and ruin
and loss followed. This period soon came to an end and all commercial and business affairs were made secondary
to the subject of the oncoming Civil war. In more recent years, although the county has, of course, suffered in
common with other parts of the country during the two or three periods of stringency in money affairs, the financial
condition of the county has been, in the main, encouraging and satisfactory. Good judgment as to investments, prudent
foresight and reasonable conservatism have actuated capitalists and directors of institutions and large industries,
producing stability and confidence in the whole business fabric. The immense war debt, as has been seen, was generously
created and has been loyally paid, and manufactures and agricultural operations have been extended and encouraged
in many parts of the county.