History of East Greenbush, New York


The town of East Greenbush is bounded on the north by the town of North Greenbush, on the south by the town of Schodack, on the east by the town of Sand Lake and on the west by the Hudson river and the village ofGreenbush. It originally composed part of the old town of Greenbush, but in 1855 it was incorporated into a separate town called Clinton. Three years later its corporate name was changed to East Greenbush.

The town was settled by tenants under Van Rensselaer about 1628 and 1629. Its earlier history is identical with that of the town of Greenbush. In 1669 a fort was erected on the Island of Papsknee, opposite the town, and upon that island some of the earliest settlements in the vicinity were made. Among the early inhabitants of the island was Cornelis Maas Van Buren, who came from Holland in the ship Rensselaerwyck. He and his wife were both buried on the island at the same time, in the year 1648. All traces of most of the earliest inhabitants have been lost or destroyed, or are so vague that nothing definite is to be gleaned from them.

Between these early days and the sixth decade of the eighteenth century there were many changes in this locality. Farms had been laid out in every part of the town, and many of the inhabitants had amassed wealth. About 1765 or 1766 Colonel Killiaen Van Rensselaer, son of Hendrick Van Rensselaer and a great-grandson of the first patroon of the colony of Rensselaerwyck, occupied a large and handsome property along the river bank in the southwest corner of the town. At that time he had been a resident there several years, just how long is not known. His first wife was Ariaentje Schuyler, a member of a prom inent Albany family. She died October 17, 1763, and he married Maria Low, daughter of Colonel John Low of New Jersey. He had five sons - Hendrick, Philip, Nicolaas, Nicolaas 2d, and Killiaen, and four daughters-Catharin a, Catarin a, Elsie and Maria. Hendrick became a colonel in the Continental army in the War of the Revolution and died September 19, 1816, aged seventy-three years. Nicolaas became a colonel in the Continental army, and died March 29, 1848 in his ninety-fifth year.

Among Colonel Killiaen Van Rensselaer's neighbors in the town of East Greenbush, then part of the town of Greenbush, was Anthony Bries, son of Hendrick de Bries. He married Catharine Yates and they had seven children-Hendrick, Johannes, Gerrit, Teunise, Christoffel, Johannes and Anthony. Other early residents were Tobias Salsbergh, Teunis (Teirntie) Van Buren, Abraham Witbeck, John Witbeck, Peter Douw, Gerrit C. Vandenburgh, Christopher J. Yates, Hansic Witbeck, Anthony Van Everen, William G. Vandenburgh, Cornelius Van Everen, John Fonda, Mr. Ostrander and Meldert Van der Poel.

One of the earliest physicians locating in East Greenbush, probably the first, was Dr. John S. Miller, who, at the age of twenty one years, came from Claverack in Columbia county in 1804. He was a successful practitioner until his death, which occurred April 12, 1854. Dr. David Elliot was born in the town and began practice about 1815. Dr. John S. Van Aistyne began practice about 1836 and Dr. Andrew C. Getty succeeded him. Dr. Jeremiah Van Rensselaer was a prominent and beloved physician from 1852.2

In the early days of the town nearly every house was a public one. Among the early tavern keepers were John G. Bishop, Edward Greene, John Huddleston, Groat Clark, James Lansing, Garret Yates, Captain John Herrick and others. The first hotel proprietor in the village of East Greenbush was Manasseh Knowlton, early in the nineteenth century. He was succeeded by James Burton, Benjamin Bradbury, Lawrence Rysdorph and others. Among the early storekeepers were James Lansing, who located in East Greenbush in 1802; Elijah Daggett and others.

At his fine residence on Prospect hill east of the village of Greenbush Edward Charles Genet, adjutant-general, minister plenipotentiary and consul-general to the United States from the Republic of France, spent the closing years of his eventful life. He was born at Versailles, France, January 8, 1765, and while in this country as a representative of France, his intense patriotism, his extreme democratic principles and his zealous devotion to the efforts to procure assistance from the United States for France in her war with England, won for him the sobriquet "Citizen" Genet. He was superseded in office at the request of President Washington and subsequently removed to Greenbush, the site of his home being now in the town of East Greenbush. He died at his home on Prospect hill July 14, 1834, and was buried near that spot.' Citizen Genet's wife was Cornelia Tappen, daughter of Governor George Clinton. Their son, Major-General Henry J. Genet, was born in 1800 and was prominent in local affairs. Besides serving in several local offices he represented Rensselaer county in the State Legislature in 1832. In the State militia he was successively promoted to the rank of major-general, succeeding General Stephen Van Rensselaer to that office at the death of the latter. General Genet died at Bergen, N. J., February 7, 1872, in his seventysecond year.

While little of interest occurred in the tpwn during the French and Indian wars, the War of the Revolution and the War of 1812, many of the early inhabitants took an active part in those struggles. In the War of the Revolution the Van Rensselaer family were conspicuous for their patriotism and bravery. Three of the members of that distinguished family-Killiaen, Nicolaas and Hendrick-were colonels in the American army in the War of the Revolution, and served with honor in the last French and Indian war. Isaac Mull was also a colonel in the Continental army during the Revolution. In the War of 1812 Cornelius Schermerhorn and Barney Schermerhorn were colonels. It is impossible to give other names of patriotic residents of the town during these wars, owing to the destruction of the early records or the unsatisfactory way in which they were kept.

Numerous noteworthy historical incidents occurred in the town of East Greenbush, particularly during its early days, while it was a part of the town of Greenbush. Among these were the establishment of the cantonment during the War of 1812, which will be found fully described. in the chapter dealing with Greenbush, and the famous antirent troubles, which have been treated at some length in a separate chapter in the history of the county.

A noteworthy incident in the history of the town was an occurrence during the famous anti-rent wars, when a deputy sheriff named Gregg was killed in an attempt to eject a man named Witbeck from his farm. Many of those interested in the trouble resided in East Greenbush, which was frequently the scene of actions for ejectment after Colonel Walter S. Church came into possession of the title to the numerous farms formerly held by the Van Rensselaer family.

The first annual town meeting in East Greenbush was held April 3, 1855. at the hotel of W. R. De Freest. The officers chosen at that time were the following:

Supervisor, Frederick R. Rockefeller; town clerk, William R. De Freest; assessors, Barney Hoes, David De Freest, jr., Martin D. De Freest; commiEsioner of highways, David Phillips; overseers of the poor, Adam Dings, John W. Craver; justices of the peace, Andrew L. Weatherwax, Frederick R. Rockefeller, Thomas B. Simmons, William Holsapple; superintendent of common schools, Henry J. Genet; collector, Harris N. Elliott; constables, Henry Ostrander, Frederick B: Conkey. Jacob Earing, Harris N. Elliott; inspectors of election, B. B. Kirkland, Leonard L. Rysedorph; poundmasters, John W. Craver, William R. De Freest, Peter G. Clark, besides twentyfive overseers of highways.

Probably the oldest dwelling in the town is the old Van Rensselaer mansion, commonly known as the old fort, standing a few rods south of the limits of Greenbush village on the river road. It has been held that the fort was erected as early as 1663, and that it was the Fort Carlo to which the inhabitants fled for protection at the time when the community was in a state of alarm on account of the depredations which were being committed by the Indians. However, the exact date of its erection and the name of its builder is in doubt. The date 1663 is probably too early. The style of architecture would indicate this. In the building is a stone bearing the initials "J. V. R." and the date 1740, probably standing for Johannes Van Rensselaer, who some authorities believe built an addition to the building about the date given. Some investigators think it was erected by Hendrick Van Rensselaer, who died there July 2, 1740; still others think it may have been built by Jean Baptiste Van Rensselaer, son of Killiaen and the first director of the colony. The original building consisted of two large rooms on the first floor divided by a hail. A little farther from the river, a few feet south of the fort, was another building about the same size for slaves.

In late years the building has been owned and occupied by William N. Callender. From 1887 to 1893 legislative action was attempted to secure an appropriation of money from the State for the purchase of the building, but owing to a strong spirit existing in the southern end of the county against the perpetuation of any of the colonial landmarks associated with the anti rent disturbances, the bill was defeated from year to year. The measure provided for an appropriation of $20,000, and no objection was ever made to the amount as being too great, considering the value of the property as a historical relic. The opposing forces fortified themselves with a bill providing for the purchase by the State of the Forbes manor house in North Greenbush, near Bath, with the intention of converting it into a soldiers' home. In the winter of 1895 the Society of Colonial Dames secured alease of the historic house and the prospects in 1896 seemed to be that the famous old building would be preserved for future generations by a historical society famous for its love of colonial relics.

In the War of the Rebellion East Greenbush, with a very small population, came promptly to the front with her full quota of men in response to the call for volunteers. The list is not a large one and it will be found appended entire:

George Pratt, Alford Schultz, Anson Butts, Frederick Olenhouse, James Brocksby, Michael Ostrander, George Burroughs, Abram Smith, Ge9rge England, Joseph England, Alvah V. Traver, Frederick Baker, Philip Binck.

Died in the service.-John D. P. Douw, George H. Cipperly, Chester L. Traver.

The New York Central & Hudson River railroad and the Boston & Albany railroad both pass through the town. For many years the principal highway was the Boston & Albany turnpike, constructed in 1800; the Farmer's turnpike, running parallel to and near the Hudson river, and the old post road, the oldest in the county, said to have been constructed by the English in the early days of the French and Indian wars.

The only village in the town, East Greenbush, is located south of the centre of the town, on the old Boston & Albany turnpike and less than two miles east of the Boston & Albany railroad. Its earliest inhabitants located there about 1630, or before that date, so the town is next oldest to Greenbush in point of settlement. The two churches in the town are located in the village, which in reality is but a hamlet. The post-office was established about 1845, and the first postmaster probably was William Holsapple. The inhabitants are prosperous, and many of them own farms among the best in the county.

Religious services were held in East Greenbush at an early day. The Reformed church at the village of East Greenbush was not established until 1787, but those who organized it doubtless had held services for many years previous to that time. The Rev. James Van Campen Romeyn, the first pastor, began his pastoral duties there, in connection with the church at Schodack, in February, 1788. He remained in that office until July 1, 1794, when he became the pastor of the church he had organized at Wynantskill, serving in the two churches until October, 1799, when he removed to New Jersey. His successor, the Rev. John L. Zabriskie, did not begin his labors until 1801. All the early records of this church are in the Dutch language. The first church stood on or near the site of the present one. A new church was built in 1860 and dedicated in the spring of the following year. Since then it has undergone some changes, but is still a substantial and attractive edifice.

The Methodist church at East Greenbush was organized during or prior to 1875, and was the outgrowth of missionary meetings held for many years previous to that time. The first pastor was the Rev. Joseph Zweifel, who was assigned to the church in May, 1875. The church edifice was erected soon after the founding of the society.


1855, T. A. Rockefeller; 1856-1858, J. J. Sliter; 1859-1860, T. B. Simmons; 1861- 1864, W. R. De Freest; 1865-1866, John J. Sliter; 1867-1873, William H. Sliter; 1874-1875, A. P. Traver; 1876, James A. Morris; 1877, James Murphy; 1878-1880, David Phillips; 1881-1882, George C. Moore; 1883, Henry J. Best; 1884, David Phillips; 1885-1886, Henry J. Best; 1887-1888, George P. Allen; 1889-1890, George C. Moore; 1891-1892, George P. Allen; 1893-1895, George C. Moore; 1896- -, Egbert De Freest.


1855-1856, William R. De Freest; 1857, Edward Elliot; 1858-1860, William R. De Freest; 1861-1872, Abram Miller; 1873-1895, Jacob S. Link; 1896- -, Walter B. Link.


1855, Andrew I,. Wetherwax, Frederick R. Rockefeller, Thomas B. Simmons; 1856, Thomas B. Simmons; 1857, Jacob Earing; 1858, Andrew L. Wetherwax, John B. Huddleton; 1859, Willard Lawrence; 1860, William R. De Freest; 1861, Jacob Earing, Martin D. De Freest; 1862, John Vandenburgh; 1863, Martin D. De Freest; 1864, William R. De Freest; 1865, Edward S. Sliter; 1866, John Vandenburgh; 1867, William Witbeck; 1868, William R. De Freest; 1869, Edward S. Sliter; 1870, John Vandenburgh; 1871, William Witbeck; 1872, L. P. Traver; 1873, E. S. Sliter; 1874, Thomas Davis; 1875, Samuel S. Warner; 1876, Duncan MacFarlane; 1877, Edward S. Sliter; 1878, Thomas B. Simmons; 1879, Samuel S. Warner; 1880, E. J. Genet; 1881, Edward S. Sliter; 1882, John J. Connaghty; 1883, Samuel S. Warner; 1884, Lewis P. Traver; William Rysedorph (to fill vacancy); 1885, Edward S. Sliter; 1886, Frank A. Vandenburgh; 1887, James P. Finn; 1888, Samuel S. Warner; 1889, Edward S. Sliter; 1890, Frank A. Vandenbnrgh; 1891, James P. Finn; 1892, Samuel S. Warner; 1893, Edward S. Sliter; 1894, Frank A. Vandenburgh; 1895, James D. Davis; Thomas B. Simmons (to fill vacancy); 1896, Lorenzo T.. Newkirk.

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