History of Hudson, NY Part 2
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

This history will be put online on several pages, see bottom for list of pages

Before the close of 1785 this "commercial settlement," as the proprietors had termed it, had become a community of stirring, progressive business activity. In its shipping it already stood second among the ports of the States; ship building was being carried on by Titus Morgan, who began in 1784, and Jenkins and Gelston took up the business soon after him; numerous stores were opened; building was on the increase, and many shops in which were conducted trades and manufactures upon which the shipping interests depended, had been established. Some of the proprietors, having knowledge of farming, settled on lands in the vicinity and aided in growing the produce needed by the community. Among those engaged in business here in 1785 are found the following: Thomas Jenkins was a merchant and advertised for sale "at his store opposite the house of Ezra Reed, the best West India and New England Rum, Iron, Salt, and Dry Goods;" Greene & Mansfield were merchants in similar lines of trade; Cotton Geiston was a merchant on Main street; Shubael Worth on the northwest corner of Main and Second streets; David Lawrence, also in trade. T. R. Bowles had a general store and advertised "Dilworth's spelling books, by the Dozen or single," Bunker and Eastman were operating a tannery; Latham Bunker was a blacksmith; Jenkins and Gelston, ship builders, and Titus Morgan in the same business; Tristram & Barzillai Bunker were sail makers: John R. Bolles, "saddler, next door to Thomas Jenkins' store;" Richard Bowles, saddler; Phineas June, tailor; Dennis Macnemara, "Taylor for Ladies and Gentlemen;" J. Pritchard, "Taylor and Ladies' Habit Maker, from London;" Peter Field, watchmaker and jeweler; Thomas Worth, who announced that he had "Silk and Stuff Shoes for sale at his shop near the Market;" Gideon Tabor, boot and shoe maker; Walter Johnson, "from Newport, Baker" (corner of Front and Ferry streets); Lot Tripp, drugs and medicines; Dr. Levi Wharton, drugs and medicines (one of the two earliest physicians in the city, the other being Dr. Joseph Hamilton); Ezekiel Gilbert, the first lawyer in the city; Stoddard & Webster, printers and publishers of the first newspaper; James Robardet, "instructor in the polite accomplishment of dancing." It is known that this list, made up mainly from Mr. Miller's book, and the Gazette files, does not include nearly all of the business interests of the place at that early date.

It is one of the peculiar facts in the history of Hudson that the proprietors and settlers, within a year and a half after the first purchases of land were made by them, determined upon incorporation as a city. To accomplish this purpose a petition was presented to the Legislature, February 17, 1785, which was prepared by a committee consisting of Ezekiel Gilbert, John Thurston, Ezra Reed, and Seth Jenkins. Seth Jenkins, Ezekiel Gilbert, Henry Van Rensselaer, and John Thurston were appointed to present the matter to the Assembly with such influence as they could exercise. The act was passed on April 22, 1785, and Hudson became a city with the following boundaries:

"Beginning at the channel of the Hudson's River, in the County of Albany, directly opposite the Mouth of the Creek commonly called Major Abram's Creek; thence to and up the middle of said Creek to the place where the Claverack Creek empties into the said Major Abram's Creek; thence up along the middle of said Claverack Creek until the said Claverack Creek strikes the line of the Manor of Livingston to the East side of Hudson's River; thence into the said River One Hundred and Eighty feet below High Water Mark, and thence to the place of Beginning; keeping the same distance of One Hundred and Eighty feet all along from High Water Mark aforesaid."

This territory was diminished in area in 1833 by the formation of Stockport, and again in 1837 to its present limits by the erection of Greenport. The freemen living within these boundaries were by the act "ordained, constituted, and declared to be, from Time to Time and forever hereafter, one Body corporate and politic, in Fact and in Name, by the name of the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City of Hudson."

As a part of the charter was the following grant of land below high water mark in the Hudson River:

"Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, that Thomas Jenkins, Seth Jenkins, David Lawrence, Hezekiah Dayton, Shubael Worth, Joseph Barnard, Ezra Reed, Charles Jenkins, Benjamin Folger, Reuben Folger, William Wall, Nathaniel Greene, Samuel Mansfield, Cotton Gelston, John Thurston, William Minturn, Peleg Clark, and Titus Morgan, and each and every one of them, shall have, hold, use, occupy, possess, and enjoy all and all manner of right, title, interest, property, claim, and demand whatsoever, of, in, and to all land lying under the water and directly opposite to the tract of land so purchased by them as aforesaid from high water mark one hundred and eighty feet to the channel of the said River, in a course north fifty seven degrees west, to the sole use, benefit, and behoof of them, the said Thomas Jenkins [naming them severally as above], and to their heirs and assigns forever in severalty."

The submerged land thus granted was divided into water lots, which were amicably allotted among the grantees. The incorporation of the city was duly celebrated, the Gazette containing the following account of the proceedings:

"On Tuesday last [May 3] arrived from New York Ezekiel Gilbert, Esq., who brought with him an Act for incorporating this part of the District of Claverack, agreeable to a petition preferred by the Inhabitants, under the name of the City of Hudson. This pleasing and interesting Intelligence was announced by a Discharge of Thirteen Cannon, and a Display of Colors from the Shipping at the Wharves and on the adjacent Eminences."

Mr. Gilbert was soon afterwards presented with "one house lot on Main street, as a free donation for his essential services done the proprietors in bringing about the incorporation of the city." On the 5th of May Seth Jenkins issued a proclamation announcing the incorporation and his own appointment as mayor, and calling an election to be held on the 9th of May, at the school house, which stood on the old road near the present corner of Ferry and Partition streets. The following were then elected: Seth Jenkins, mayor; Nathaniel Greene, recorder; John Bay, clerk; Stephen Paddock, Ezra Reed, Benjamin Folger, William Mayhew, aldermen; Dirck Delemater, John Ten Broeck, Marshall Jenkins, Peter Hogeboom, jr., assistants; Thomas Jenkins, supervisor; Daniel Paddock, William Van Alstyne, Jeremiah Ten Broeck, assessors; John Gifford, Nicholas Harder, John Herrick, Abraham Elting, and John Van Hoesen, constables; Nicholas Harder, collector. The first meeting of the Council was held on the same day and John Alsop was appointed chamberlain.

With the city government thus established a place of confinement was one of the first requisites, and on the 7th of June, Nathaniel Greene, William Wall, and Marshall Jenkins were appointed a committee to build within the city limits a "Gaol thirty feet long, twenty feet wide, and one story high." On the 9th of that month the proprietors granted a lot of land for this purpose "on the northeast corner of the northernmost square on Front street." The latter street, although laid out in 1784, was not yet opened and the jail was reached from Main street by a foot path. The building was a log structure, with grates at the windows and door, but was not so secure but that the first prisoner, as tradition has it, bored his way through the walls to freedom. Abimeleek Riggs was appointed the first keeper of the jail. For other means of punishment it was resolved, on July 5, "that a Stocks and Whipping Post be made and erected near the market in this city, and that William Wall, esq., cause the same to be completed, and that he lay an account of the expenses therefor before this Board, who engage to pay for the same," The cost of these then common devices was £3 4s. 11d. They were quite frequently used, as the reader has already learned in an earlier chapter. The stocks were removed eight years later by the order of the Council, to a point "at or near the common Gaol, to be under the care and inspection of the Gaoler."

The erection of a city hall was begun in 1786, but the building was not wholly completed until 1804; it stood on the southwest corner of Fourth and Main streets, on the site of the Presbyterian church. It was a plain brick structure, two stories high, the lower one being used for public meetings, and the upper one for offices and schools. The following proceedings relating to the property took place at a meeting held May 9, 1791:

"Whereas, The proprietors of the city hall of this city offer as a gratuity the amount of their subscriptions towards the said building and the lot on which it stands to this corporation forever, on condition that the citizens will raise the sum of £400 by tax this present year for the purpose of discharging the arrearages due to individuals for advances heretofore made, and towards completing said building,-
"Voted, by a plurality of votes, that the corporations do accept the said building and land as a gratuity, and that the sum of £400 be assessed on the citizens and inhabitants of this city the present year towards accomplishing the above object."

But the building, notwithstanding this measure, was not finished until later and when it was decided to convert it into a court house, as elsewhere stated.

The dead ever follow close on the footsteps of the living, and burial grounds must always be provided by the pioneer. Near by the site of the school house in the first district was a private burial ground located for the burial of Justus Van Hoesen and his wife, both of whom died at the same time from poisoning with arsenic, the event causing great excitement. This ground was used also by other families living at the Landing; but with the opening of a public burying ground at the head of the village, this was discontinued. A few interments were made at an early date on the hill on the north side of the city. The ground for the new burial place was given to the proprietors by Col. John Van Alen, through Daniel Paddock and Cotton Gelston, who had been instructed to select a site and called upon the colonel to learn his price for four or five acres. He generously donated the tract to be used for no other purpose than a burial ground. The first man buried there was Colonel Van Alen himself, Mrs. Folger's burial having been the first of either sex; she died about ten days before Colonel Van Alen. Further details of this ground are given in the Miller book in the Appendix to this volume,

The rapid development of Hudson became known throughout the State and doubtless influenced many to settle here who otherwise might not. A copy of the New York Journal, of 1786, mentions its increase in population and business, characterizing it as unparalleled. The article said that in the spring of 1786 the city had several fine wharves, four large warehouses, "a covered rope walk, spermaceti works, one hundred and fifty dwelling houses, shops, barns, one of the best distilleries in America, and fifteen hundred souls';" to which is added the statement that "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." Those were busy times and it is little wonder that the rapid growth of the place gave it extended reputation. Twenty five sea going vessels then hailed from Hudson, and the ship yards were busy with the construction of large vessels, some of them of three hundred tons. John McKinstry opened the first inn in the place and these others were licensed in 1786: Justus H. Van Hoesen, John Schermerhorn, Seth Tobey, Dirck Van De Ker, John Colvin, Dr. Joseph Hamilton, Cornelius Van Deusen, Nicholas Harder, William Hardyck,' John Mandevule, Russell Kellogg, Ezra Reed, John Rouse, Nicholas Van Hoesen, Henry Lyon, Nathaniel Winslow, and Justus Hardick. These public houses found adequate support through the large trade then carried on with outsiders. Benjamin Faulkins, an Englishman, established the first brewery near Titus Morgan's ship yard (on the site of the Evans brewery), and David Coope, and a man named Auchmoody, soon had others.

Some of the proprietors records have a peculiar interest from their quaintness, as well as their importance in the improvement of the place. For example, on May 15, 1784, Alexander Coffin, David Lawrence, Charles Jenkins, and Hezekiah Dayton were appointed a committee "to lay out, sell or lease to David Bunker and Redwood Easton, a convenient lot for a tan yard." The report of the committee was to the effect that they had sold a quarter of an acre near Peter Hogeboom's grist mill, with benefit of the mill stream, for $40, payable $10 per annum.

On the second of June, 1784, it was voted that a number of men should be employed "to dig on the hill in the direction of Main street, in order to open a way to the river, and procure stone for the proprietors.''

On June 28, 1787, it was "Resolved, That a right in the Water Works leading into the City be purchased on a lease of fourteen years, at 20s. a year for the use of the Prison in this City."

August 31, 1789, it was "Resolved, That the Alleys and Highways in this City be considered and they are hereby constituted Common Sewers or Water Courses, until further provisions be made in this Respect."

The following under date of July 10, 1793, shows how the Proprietors made the early public improvements:

"Resolved, That the footways of the first Square of Main Street be paved on or before Oct. 1st next, with Brick or Flat Stone ten feet broad, butted by sufficient timbers, plank or flat stones sunk edgewise, and erect posts not less than three to five feet, that each proprietor pave and erect Posts opposite their respective lots; the whole to be under direction of a committee of arrangements and inspection, and after completion subject to a committee of assessment."

On July 29, 1793, "In addition to the ordinances passed 10th July inst., Resolved, That the Committee for superintending the levelling and paving the footways of the first Square on Main Street be authorized in like manner to level, and direct the mode of paving the footways in the Second Square of the said Street, for the Guidance of such persons as choose to pave in front of their several Possessions, in the Course of the present Season, also to lay the Third Square in like manner."

April 17, 1794, "Resolved, That Peter Rand be a committee to erect a Common Sewer of Stone in the Sloap between Samuel Gamage's and Nicholas Hathaway's House in Main Street,"

The following appears under date of May 12, 1794: "By the citizens at their Annual meeting it was voted by a plurality of votes, that the sum of Three Hundred Pounds be raised by Tax on the Inhabitants of the City for the contingent expenses thereof the current year. Also at this time Two Hundred and Twenty Pounds (£220) was taxed to be raised for the purpose of repairing the Streets and Roads."

And the following in the same direction,:

April 25, 1795, "Resolved, That the Mayor be authorized and requested to agree with some suitable person or persons to repair the roads to Claverack Bridge, and also the roads in the Northern and Southern wards."

"That Peter Rand and Paul Dakin be authorized and requested to agree with some person to repair the Roads from the Market northerly to the top of the hill above James Nixon's tan works, and to procure stone for a common sewer, at the north end of Front street."

In connection with educational affairs it was voted on April 19, 1785, that a lot fifty by one hundred and twenty feet on Diamond street should be granted to any person or persons who would build a school house, not less than forty feet by twenty four, said persons not to receive more than nine per cent. on the cost of the building for the use of it, and to have the power to sell it to the corporation at large, for their own use, whenever they had opportunity to do so, and that it should continue to be used for a school house for every description and denomination of people then settled or which should thereafter settle here. A building was accordingly erected on that street and was subsequently removed to Chapel street, where it stood until recent years. Joseph Marshall opened a school therein soon after it was completed, which he announced would be taught from 5 to 7 o'clock p. m., each day, for the instruction of "Misses" in the common branches. On June 19, 1785, a committee was appointed to conclude upon a plan for a proprietors' school house on Market square.

On the 9th of March, 1795, it was voted "that the certain piece of land, known by the name of Parade, or Mall, in front of Main street, and on the banks fronting the river, should be granted to the Common Council forever, as a public walk or Mall, and for no other purpose whatever." This "Mall" remained unimproved many years, except that a building for supplying refreshments was erected; it was octagon in form, a saloon on the lower floor and a covered balcony around the upper part, from which fine views were obtained. The building was known as the Round House, and the locality, previous to its improvement in 1834, was called Round House Hill; at that time it was renamed Parade Hill. Further notes on the proceedings of the proprietors will be found in the Appendix.

In early years almost every respectable merchant sold liquor, for which purpose licenses were issued. The following men and firms were so licensed in 1787: Gorton & Frothingham, Cotton Gelston, Joseph Barnard & Co., Thomas Jenkins & Co., Teunis A. Slingerlandt, Greene & Mansfield, Alexander Coffin, John Thurston, Gano & Wall, William G. Hubbell, Seth Jenkins, Benjamin Folger, Reuben Folger, Worth & Dayton, Stephen Paddock & Son, Dayton & Chase, and David Lawrence. Here we have, probably, most of the leading merchants of the place and among them were several high city officials and respected citizens.

The tax list as it was assessed for the year 1787 shows a valuation of nearly £24,000, and is reproduced here more for the value of its list of taxpayers than as showing anything near the real value of property, which of course it did not, as assessments were made upon a basis of low valuation, the same as now. The list was certified to by Jacob Davis, Jonathan Becraft, and Isaac Northrop, and includes all assessments of £200 or more:





Howard Allen


Robert Hallenbeck


John Alsop


Matthias Hallenbeck


William Ashley


John Hathaway


Estate of Joseph Barnard


Estate of Casper Huyck


Jacob Bunt


Thomas Jenkins


Jonathan Becraft


T. Jenkins & Sons


David Coffin


Estate of Seth Jenkins


Alexander Coffin


Marshall Jenkins


William Coventry


M. Jenkins & Son


Claudius I. Delamater


Charles Jenkins


Dirck Delamater


Robert Jenkins & Co


George Decker


Estate of Lemuel Jenkins


James Elting


Russell Kellogg


Hezekiah Dayton


David Lawrence


Reuben Folger


James M. Moklar


Nathaniel Greene


Captain Reuben Macy


Giles Frary


James Nixon


Cotton Gelston


Josiah Olcott


Jacob Harder, Jr


John Plass


John F. Hardick


Stephen Paddock


Adam Haydorn


Thomas Power


Peter Hogeboom


Ezra Reed


James Hyatt


Jeremiah Ten Broeck


William Hallenbeck


Estate of John Ten Broeck


Seth Toby


Tobias Van Deusen


Estate of Justus H. Van Heosen


William Van Rensselaer


Adam Van Alen


Ephraim Whitaker


Peter Van Hoesen


Shubael Worth


Henry I. Van Rensselaer


Samuel Ward


William Van Rensselaer




Another and more important assessors' list will be found in the Miller book in the Appendix.

On September 7, 1799, Elisha Pitkin was given authority "to erect a suitable market house on the Gaol Square on the north side of Warren street and to occupy the same for ten years." A part of the necessary funds for this project had already been subscribed and the remainder was to be supplied by Mr. Pitkin, in consideration of his ten year lease. This market house was not finished until a few years later and was known as the upper or Fourth street market. This building is still standing and is occupied for its original purpose.

A somewhat curious ordinance was adopted "to prevent froestalling," as it was termed. It provided that "no person residing within the corporation of this city shall purchase any turkeys, geese, fowls, ducks, or any kind of poultry in order to sell them again;" the penalty for violation was five dollars for each offense. Consumers of provisions were also protected by what was called a weekly "assize of bread," which was published, establishing the number of ounces to be contained in the six penny and the shilling loaves. Every baker was compelled to stamp the initials of his name on each loaf in a "distinct manner, that it may be distinguished after the bread is baked." The inspector of bread was commanded, in case of finding any bread lighter than the prescribed weight, to "immediately send such bread to the Poorhouse for the use of the Poor of this city."

From a proceeding of April, 1801, it would seem that some of the inhabitants were getting a little unruly, for Justus Van Hoesen, Cornelius Tobey, and Thomas Frothingham were appointed "a committee to superintend the execution of the law against Sabbath-breaking;" and James Van De Burgh was ordered, within four days, to "remove the Billiard Table out of his possession."

In the year 1793 the postoffice in Hudson was established with Cotton Gelston, who was also the first merchant, as postmaster. The office was kept in the upper part of a small two story wooden building between Second and Third streets. Previous to that time mail for Hudson came to Claverack village. Mr. Gelston was postmaster until Thomas Jefferson became president, when he was succeeded by Alexander Coffin. The city was made a port of entry in 1790, with Dr. Joseph Hamilton and Isaac Dayton in the service of the government, and commercial interests and kindred trades were increasing at a treuendous rate. There were many men of good judgment who, at that period, predicted that Hudson would become the second city in size and importance in the State. In 1793 the Bank of Columbia was organized with a capital of $160,000, the incorporating act dated March 6. The first directors were Thomas Jenkins, Seth Jenkins, Duncan Ingraham, Stephen Paddock, John Thurston, Justus H. Van Hoesen, David Lawrence, Cotton Gelston, William H. Ludlow, William Cantine, Walter V. Wemple, Peter Van Ness, and John Livingston. Thomas Jenkins was chosen president, and James Nixon, cashier. The bank began business in a house on Main street near Front, in which Prosper Hosmer afterwards had a tailor shop; later it was moved to the second story of a building on the corner of Warren and Second streets, and again to 116 Warren street, where a building was erected for the purpose, while its last location was in the brick building now occupied by the Hudson River National Bank, shown in the accompanying engraving. This first bank was exceedingly prosperous during several years, but later its business declined. Thomas Jenkins died in 1808 and it was charged that the affairs of the bank were not so well cared for from that date. It was also charged that politics had an influence in the management while Elisha Williams was in the office of president, having succeeded Mr. Jenkins. Jacob R. Van Rensselaer, Judge William W. Van Ness, and others were concerned in this matter, and when the charge was made public through the press, an Assembly committee was appointed to investigate it, with a view to impeaching Judge Van Ness. The investigation revealed an unusual and risky connection with the Bank of America, in New York, through the instrumentality of Mr. Williams, but vindicated Judge Van Ness. The bank continued its existence thirty six years, when it failed in 1829, inflicting deplorable losses upon many persons and causing widespread depression.

Hudson History

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

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