Early Settlement and Improvement of Columbia County, NY
From: Columbia County At The End of the Century
Published and edited under the
auspices of the Hudson Gazette
The Record Printing and Publishing Co.
Hudson, New York 1900


Less is definitely known or can be learned of the details of the first settlements in various parts of Columbia county territory, than in many parts of New York State. This fact is due to the remoteness of the period in which settlement began and to the peculiar conditions surrounding the advent of the pioneers. The manorial system introduced and maintained along the northern Hudson and the troubles growing out of it, were not conducive to the preservation of detailed records of the founding of communities and the establishment of institutions and industries. While the large operations of the great landholders and their methods of controlling their colonies are all found in the records, the home locations and the doings of individuais are not, Yet, from the mysteries of the past much has been gathered that cannot fail to interest the reader, and particularly the dweller in this locality.

It is probable, but not wholly certain, that the first of the sturdy, frugal and honest Hollanders who made a permanent settlement in Columbia county territory located in the region lying north and west of Stockport and Kinderhook Creeks. As far as known, and upon the presumption that land taken up is evidence of settlement, to Major Abraham Staats (or Staets) must be given credit as the first pioneer. He took out the first patent within the limits of the present county and settled at the mouth and on the north side of Stockport Creek, which stream was for more than a century known as "Major Abraham's Creek." He came from Albany in 1642 with Dominic Megapolensis, and for a time was a surgeon in charge of the fort. He was a member of the Council of 1643 and subsequently its president. He was prompt to engage in the lucrative fur trade and it is on record that in 1657 he sent to New Amsterdam 4,200 beaver skins. He was aiso owner and skipper of the schooner Claverack, sailing between Albany and New York. His wife was Catrine Jochemse, daughter of Jochem Wesselse (Wessels), and they had four sons - Abram, born 1665 and later known as Abram Staats of Claverack; Samuel, Jochem, and Jacob. The latter was surgeon to the Albany garrison, 1698 to 1708, was one of the justices of the peace, and skipper of the sloop Unity. He married a daughter of Johannes Wendell July 3, 1696, and probably was born in the old stone dwelling near the Stockport railroad station. Abraham Staats, however, had an earlier house which, according to Broadhead, was burned by the Indians in July, 1664, and his cattle and other property destroyed. Major Abraham Staats occupied his house above the mouth of the creek before the date of his first land patent, but unless he was there a number of years earlier, he cannot be given credit as the first settler on Columbia county soil, as Van der Donk, the Dutch historian? mentions Kinderhook as among the principal settlements along the river as early as 1056. This settlement was old Kinderhook Landing, and it is quite possible that settlement there dated earlier than that of Major Staats. The Kinderhook settlement is aiso mentioned in an account of a voyage up and down the Hudson in 1680 by Jasper Dankers and Peter Sluyter, who reached Kinderhook on April 21. and returning stopped there on the 30th. There they found a female trader who had grain to be carried down the river. They found there a saw mill and other improvements. "At Claverack," says the record, "sixteen miles further down the river, we took in some grain during the evening. We were here laden full of grain, which had to be brought in four miles from the country. The boors who brought it in their wagons, asked us to ride out with them to their place, which we did." On the trip they passed along a rocky ridge, the stone from which they said was "suitable for burning lime." They mention, aiso, "large, clear fountains" flowing out of the cliffs. These fountains were destined to partly supply the city of Hudson with water. The name, Claverack, was then applied to Claverack Landing (now Hudson) and aiso to the settlement of Major Staats and the whole of the region along the river between these points.

The first settler near Claverack Landing was Jan Frans Van Hoesen (before mentioned), who is believed to have located here in 1662, at the date of his purchase from the Indians, giving Hudson city about two hundred and fifty years of existence from its first settlement to the present time. Gerrit Schlichtenhorst and another, who was nicknamed "Jan the Red Head," took land adjoining Van Hoesen's and farther inland, and other Dutch farmers settled on the rich lands along Claverack Creek, as indicated by the story of the voyage from which we have just quoted. These thrifty farmers found the lands along the river and other streams very productive and "delightful and pleasant to look upon at the time when they are all green with the wheat coming up." Flax and hemp grew spontaneously, the forest trees were festooned with grape vines, the fruit of which was "as good and sweet as in Holland." Nut trees were abundant, wild plums and berries of all kinds grew in profusion, and the forests were filled with game and the river with fish. No wonder the old Dutch immigrants were pleased!

The only opposing factor to the advance of successful agriculture was the prevailing mania that was everywhere present in this region to take a hand in the profitable fur trade. A large number of the settlers south of Rensselaerwyck came over with more or less means and were unable to resist the temptation to neglect their lands for the immediate gain that could be obtained through traffic with the Indians. This trade bore a strong resemblance to the speculative eras of more modern times, except that it was far more sure in its returns.

Among the ships arriving here between about the years 1660 and 1665 were those mentioned below, on board of which were immigrants in large numbers. Those mentioned are believed to have settled on Columbia territory and were, of course, among the earliest of the pioneers. The list follows: In ship Brown Fish, June, 1658, Evert Luycas, wife and daughter. In the ship Moesman, April, 1659, Gillis Mandeville. In the Faith, February, 1659, Jannetje Tennis Van Ysselstein. In the Gilded Otter, April, 1660, Gerrit Aartsen Van Beuren, Gerrit Cornelissen Van Beuren-both named as "agriculturists." In the Beaver, May, 1661, Peter Marcelis Van Beest, wife, four children, and two servants; Aert Pietersen Buys Van Beest, wife, and son; Frans Jacobsen Van Beest, wife, and two children; Widow Geertje Cornelis Van Beest and six children; Widow Adrientje Cornelis Van Beest and daughter; Goossen Jansen Van Noort Van Beest; Hendrick Dries Van Beest; Neeltje Jans Van Beest; and Geertring Teunissen Van Beest. In the Fox, August, 1662, Dirck Storm, wife, and six children, from the mayory of Bosch. In the Purmerland Church, October, 1662, Ferdinandus de Mulder. In the Spotted Cow, April, 1663, Marytje Theunis Van Beest. In the Concord, April, 1664, Claes Melius, wife, two children, and servant.

Gerrit Teunissen, whose name has already appeared, was an early settler of Kinderhook, and had been prominent in Albany in previous years. He accompanied Killian Van Rensselaer to Connecticut in 1689 to convey the thanks of the Albany Convention to the Connecticut authorities for military aid against a threatened attack by the French and Indians on the northern New York frontier. The troops sent by Connecticut left Hartford July 14, 1690, under guidance of Robert Livingston, and after a week of hard marching through the wilderness, reached Kinderhook on the 21st. That was doubtless the first body of armed men that ever marched across Columbia county soil. They were met at Kinderhook by officers from the Albany garrison and were escorted to that post.

Settlement in the southern parts of this county on the Livingston grants were about half a century later than those in the northern and eastern parts. As late as 1702 the Earl of Bellamont wrote the Lords of Trade that Mr. Livingston had on his great territory "four or five cottagers, I am told; men that live in vassalage under him and.work for him, and are too poor to be farmers, having not wherewithal to buy cattle to stock a farm." It will be remembered that this date was seventeen years after Livingston's first occupancy of the land; moreover, there was not much further advancement made in the succeeding decade. This unpromising condition of his colony may have been an important factor in inducing Mr. Livingston to open his lands to the body of German refugees (Palatines), to whom Queen Anne purposed offering a home in America. The first of the Palatines to the number of about fifty arrived in New York in 1708 and were settled in Ulster county on the west side of the Hudson. The second immigration took place in June, 1710, and during the succeeding month many more arrived. Part or all of these were temporarily provided for by the government on Governor's Island or elsewhere. A survey of land was made along the Mohawk River, with the purpose of locating the Palatines thereon, it being planned by the government that they should be employed in the manufacture of tar, rosin, turpentine and other much needed naval stores. Scarcity of pine timber in that region changed this plan and the governor wrote the Lords of Trade July 24, 1710: "E am in terms with some who have lands on the Hudson's river fitt for that purpose, which I intend to view next week in company with Dr. Bridges, who is now with me, and gives me good Encouragement." This was the first definite step leading to the location of the Palatines in Columbia county. On the 3d of October following another letter from the governor said: "I have been obliged to purchase a Tract of Land on Hudson's River from Mr. Levingston, consisting of 6,000 acres, as your Lordships will observe from this imperfect draught of it, for £100 of this country money, that is, £266 English, for the planting of the great division of the Palatines. It has these advantages besides the goodness of the Soile, that it is adjacent to the Pine, which by the conveyance we are Intitaled to, and a place where Ships of 50 feet water may go without difficulty."

The conveyance to the queen of this 6,000 acres was dated September 9, 1710, and covered lands identical with the present town of Germantown, excepting a small tract that has in recent years been annexed to Clermont. On this tract were located four settlements, known collectively as the "East Camp," the settlements being named Annsberg (from Queen Anne); Haysbury (from Lady Hay, wife of Governor Hunter); Hunterstown (from the governor himself); and Queensbury (in further honor of the queen). The so called "West Camp" was composed of a smaller body of Palatines, who were settled on a tract about a mile in length on the west side of the river.

The Palatines began at once to occupy the Livingston lands, and on the 13th of November the governor contracted with Livingston to supply them with bread and beer, to be delivered at the manor house, at the rate of six pence per diem for adults and four pence for children. The number thus provided for in the ensuing winter was 2,209, of whom 1,952 were on the Livingston tract. Dissatisfaction soon arose. The Palatines objected from the first to removal from their proposed location in Schoharie, where they expected a small piece of land for each family, thus depriving them of an element of independence in their exile. They were grateful to their queen, but looked with present dislike and future foreboding upon those placed over them in their new home relations. History charges a large share of the cause of this dissatisfaction and its results upon Livingston. A letter from Lord Clarendon to Lord Dartmouth written in March, 1711, was especially bitter upon the Patroon, condemning his subsistence charges as exorbitant and faise and his operations as wholly selfish. A letter from Governor Hunter, written in the following October, is in the same strain. It is proper to state that these charges are not fully sustained.

On the 1st of May, 1711, the whole number of Palatines on the Livingston tract was 1,178, and they were in almost open mutiny. They would not work longer at tar making and were determined to remove to Schoharie. In this emergency the governor ordered a lieutenant and sixty soldiers to meet him at the manor house. This display of power completely overawed the helpless Germans, and they brought in their arms from both sides of the river, sued for pardon for their transgressions and again went to work.' This page of history, important as it is in a local sense, is not very pleasant reading. The benevolence of the good queen seems to have not followed her subjects across the ocean. During the summer of 1711 an order was issued for about three hundred of the Palatines to take the field in the expedition against Canada, under General Nicholson. When they returned they found their families destitute and some of them without the bare necessities of life. The manufacture of naval stores that summer had been very unsatisfactory, and in the following spring the old regulations and more stringent new ones were rigidly enforced by the governor; one of these was to the effect that a lieutenant and thirty soldiers should be ordered from Albany to the manor, "there to be posted in such manner and at such places for the better carrying on the work as Mr. Jacket' shall think proper, and that tents be provided them." The rations of bread and beer were reduced in quantity, as the governor found it "absolutely necessary to make the Expence for the Palatins as little as possible." These measures failed, however, as it was right that they should. "Tarr Work," as it is spoken of in the records, was not a success. Previous to this time the Palatines had been warned and threatened against leaving their settlements, and the people of neighboring regions were commanded not to harbor any that might escape. Now, contrary to this regulation, and at the approach of winter, the governor notified the tar-makers that they better seek employment from farmers in this and the province of New Jersey. This heartless abandonment of these poor people left them helpless; there was no employment to be had; the authorities knew it. The poor immigrants were at last, and to avoid starvation, forced to seek relief from the Indians. About fifty families cleared a track through the forest to Schoharie, where they were permitted to settle by the Indians and given such assistance as was possible. This course angered the governor, but his threats were powerless to prevent the exodus and by the close of March, 1713, the greater part of the Palatines found their way across the mountains and joined their brethren. This ended tar-making in America for the royal navy.

Governor Hunter wrote the secretary of the Board of Trade, July 26, 1720, that "Such of the people as were sober and industrious, remain on the lands where I settled them at first, and which I was obliged to purchase for them on Hudson's River for the Ends proposed by those who sent them, viz., the Manufacture of Naval Stores. These are well enabled to subsist themselves; the rest have been wanderers." The truth is that about fifty families remained on the Livingston tract and were reasonably prosperous farmers.

In August, 1724, there were about seventy families on the tract, and sixty heads of families signed their names as being desirous of remaining there; the other ten declined to remain as permanent settlers. There was made under date of June 11, 1720, "A List of the Ffreeholders of the City and County of Albany," by order of Court, and directed to Gerrit Van Schaick, high sheriff, which contained the following names of persons then resident within the limits of the present Columbia county. There were at the time no freeholders on Livingston manor, while the eastern part of the county and north of the manor was still a wilderness. Following is the list:

"Kenderhook and part Manner Livingston, viz.: Jochim Von Valkenburgh, Esaac Fausburgh, Caspar Rouse, Peter Van Men, Lamert Huyck, Burger Huyck, Johannis Huyck, Derrick Gardineer, Peter Van Slyck, John Gardineer, Evert Wielder, Derrick Goes, Peter Fausburgh, Peter Van Buren, Jno. Goes, Mattias Goes, Luykus Van Alen, Jacobus Van Alen, Evert Van Alen, Johannis Vandeusen, Cornelis Schermerhorn, Johannis Van Alen, Gerrit Dingmans, Bartlemeus Van Valkenburgh, Thomas Van Alstine, Coonrodt Burgaert, Stephanis Van Alen, John Burgaert, Abram Van Alstine, Lawrence Van Schauk, Juries Klaime, Guisbert Scherp, Lawrence Scherp, Hendrick Clawed, Lamert Valkenburgh, Melgert Vanderpoel, Lenerd Conine.

"In the north part of the Mannor of Livingston: Robert Livingston, Esq., Peter Colle, Killian Winne, Jan Emmerick Plees, Hans Sihans, Claes Bruise, Jonat. Rees, Coonrodt Ham, Coonradt Schureman, Johannis Pulver, Bastian Spikerman, Nicolas Smith, Baltis Anspah, Jno. Win Simon, Hans Jurie Prooper, Abram Luyke, Broer Decker, June Decker, Nicolas Witbeck, Johannis Uldrigh, Pfitz Muzigh, Coonrod Kelder, David Hooper, Gabriell Broose, Solomoh Schutt, Jacob Stover, Johanis Roseman, Nicos. Styker.

"In Claverack: Tobias Tenbroeck, Cornelis Mulder, Cornilis Esselstine, Jeremias Mulder, Derrick Hogoboom, Cornelis Hnyck, Isaac Vandusen, Jno. Hoose, George Sidnem, Richard Moor, John Hardyck, Hendr. Van Saisbergen, Jacob Van Hoosem, Kasper Van Hoosem, Jan Van Hoosem, Samuel Ten Broeck, Peter Hogoboom, Rob. Van Deusen, Casper Conine, Frank Hardyke, Johannis Van Hoosem, John Bout, Wm Halenbeck, Johannis Coole, John Rees, Wm. Rees, Johannis Scherp, Andnies Rees, Ghondia Lamafire, Hendrick Whitbeck, June Fretts, Hendrick Lodowick, Jacob Eswin, June Jan, Cloud Lamatere."

On June 13, 1724, Jacob S. Scherb, Christoffel Hagendorn, and Jacob Schumacker, made a petition in behalf of themselves and other Palatines, that letters patent issue to them for the Palatine tract. The matter was referred to a committee of the Council who reported to the governor at a meeting held August 27 of that year, that they had considered it and were "of the opinion that your Excellency may grant to Jacob Sharpe, Johannes Heiner, Johannus Kolman, and Christophel Hagendorn, their heirs and assigns, six thousand acres," etc. The grant was made to sixty three families, with forty acres for a glebe for the use of a Palatine minister, who was aiso to teach a school. The lands were to be divided among the actual possessors as far as they were improved, while the unimproved land was to go to all the inhabitants, share and share alike. A system of quit-rents was established, but the title became absolute after a few years. Following is a list of the sixty heads of families willing to remain on the tract in 1724: Jacob Scherb, Christoffel Hagendorn, Jacob Schumacker, Christian Haver, Pfilibs Bernert, Peter Stobelbein, Johannes Bias, Peter Pfilibs, Necklas Laux, Johannes Kollman, Johannes Shuck, Peter Ham, William Hagendorn, Olrig Winiger, Johan Peter Lauer, David Kissler, Paulus Dirk, Bernhard Schmed, Killian Minckler, Henry Hoffman, Herman Betzer, Hanna Man Salibach, Peter Lamp Man, Jacob Berjer, Peter Hagendorn, Christ. Diedrig, Pfilibs Finikel, Nicklas Hes, Johannes Hoemier, Christian Muhiers Wittib, Pfilibs Scheffer, Andres Domes; Christian Dethrig, Olrig Jacobi, Samuel Muchier, Henrig Bar-del, Henrig Hauerdorn, Bernent Zicheris, Priedrig Raug, Will Hanbuch, Johannes Leuck, Bastian Lesche, Henrig Winder, Johannes Dat, Samuel Kun, Henrig Stals Wittib, Jones Schenekels, Johannes Henrig Conrad, Joery Muchler, Adam Hoff, David Schantzen Wittib, Joreg Muchler, Anna Cathri Ockelbe, Joery Schoertz, Johannes Schoffer, Olrig Bernat, Andries Bartel, Johannes Klein, Hans Peter Philip, and Johannes Heener.

The following are reported as unwilling to remain: Adolf Dirk, Conrad Wist, Michael Brack, Jacob Zerbin, Hans Wernershoffer, Nicklass Minsel, Johannes Schneiders Wittib, Nicklass Schmidt, Henrig Schneider, Peter Heusser.

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