History of Petersburgh, New York


The town of Petersburgh is composed of territory originally included in Rensselaerwyck. Stephentown was formed in 1784, and as that town embraced the territory now the town of Petersburgh, the inhabitants of the latter town were under the dominion of the authorities of Stephentown. As the town was too large to be conveniently governed, a new town, named Petersburgh, was erected March 18, 1791. It was subsequently considerably reduced in size. In 1793 its boundary on the line of Berlin was changed; in 1806 other portions were cut off to enter into the new towns of Lansingburgh and Berlin, and in 1807 still more territory was cut off to form par.ts of the towns of Nassau and Grafton. Tradition says that Petersburgh was named in honor of Peter Simmons. No record of the matter is extant.

The act erecting the town of Petersburgh is contained in a general law passed by the Legislature March 18, 1791, which provided for the division of several towns in various parts of the State. The clause relating specifically to Petersburgh is the first in the act, and reads as follows:

Be it enacted . . . That from and after the first Monday in April next, all that part of the town of Stephen Town, in the county of Rensselaer, which lies north of a line to be drawn east and west from the south bounds of Peter Seamons farm, until it intersects the east and west bounds of the said town of Stephen Town, shall be, and is hereby erected into a distinct and separate town by the name of Petersburgh, and that the first town meeting of the inhabitants of Petersburgh, shall be held at the house of Hezekiah Coone in the said town; and that the next town meeting of the inhabitants of the town of Stephen Town, shall be held at the dwelling house now occupied by Joshua Gardner in said town.

Chapter 10, Laws of 1793, passed January 4, 1793, contains the following clause:
That all that part of Stephen Town to the north of the following boundary, to wit, beginning on the line that divides the aforesaid town, at the east line of Abel Lewis's farm, and to extend thence along the summit of a certain mountain, in the north part of Stephen Town, and the ranges of that summit continued easterly to the east boundary of this State, shall be, and hereby is annexed to, and shall hereafter be considered part of the town of Petersburgh.

By the general law dividing all the counties of the State into towns, passed April 7, 1801, the bounds of the town of Petersburgh were described as follows:

Southerly by Stephen town, easterly by the east bounds of this State, northerly by the north bounds of the manor of Rensselaerwyck, and westerly by a line beginning in the same north bounds at a place nine miles distant from Hudson's river, and continued from thence southerly to the northwest-corner of Stephen town.

The revised statutes of the State of New York describes the town as follows:

The town of Petersburgh shall contain all that part of the said county [Rensselaer] bounded southerly by Berlin, easterly by the east bounds of the county, northerly by the north bounds of the manor of Rensselaerwyck, and westerly by Grafton.

The town is one of the most mountainous in Rensselaer county, its surface consisting of two mountain ranges, one on either side of the Little Hoosick river. There are several peaks in the town at elevations of from 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the level of the sea: The scenery in all parts of the town is most delightful.

The earliest settlement was made in the northern part of the town near the junction of the Little Hoosick with the Hoosick river, and was known as Hoosick or Hoosac. The year 1754 saw a few settlements at this point, and though there is no proof of the fact it is extremely possible that some farmers located there even before that date. In 1767 a score or more of houses dotted this locality. Among those occupying farms there at this time were Peter Backus, Hans Backus, John Ruyter, Henry Letcher, Hans Lantman, Barent Hoag, John G. Brimmer, Jacob Best, Petrus Vosburg, Bastian Deil, Juriah Kreiger, Franz Burns, Henry Young, Schole Martes Watson and Peter Simmons. A few years later the families of John Church and Nathaniel Church; William W. Reynolds, who came from Rhode Island; Ichabod Prosser from Vermont; Joshua Thomas and Benjamin Randall, the Dayfoot brothers, Abraham and Augustus Lewis, Simeon Odell, Oliver Spencer, Stephen Card, Sylvanus Stephens, Stanton Bailey, Gideon Clark, Sterry Hewitt, Asa Maxon, David Maxon, Joseph Allen, William Hiscox, James Weaver and Thomas Phillips settled there, all before the close of the eighteenth century. Other early settlers were Hazekiah Coon, Benjamin Hanks, John Nichols, Aaron Cole, Ichabod Irish, David Hustis, William Clark. Archibald Thomas Gecrge Gardner, Laban Jones, Stephen Potter, John G. Croy and Lyman Maine.

The first town meeting was held April 5, 1791, at the residence of Hezekiah Coon. The officers then elected were:

Moderator, Hezekiah Coon; supervisor, Jonas Odell; town clerk, John Greene; assessors, Benjamin Hanks, Randall Spencer and John Nichols; commissioners Abel Russel, Luke Greene and Matthew Randall; poormasters, David Randall and Hezekiah Coon.

It is believed that the first tavern in the town was maintained at North Petersburgh by Cornelius Letcher. Soon afterward another was built by Hezekiah Coon on the property known in later years as the Adelbert Moses place. A short distance north of Coon's inn another was kept by John Woodburn.

Probably the earliest physician in Petersburgh was Dr. Maxon, who located in town about the year 1794 or 1795. Five or six years later Dr. Ebenezer Robinson began to practice. He subsequently kept a store at Berlin. Dr. Hiram Moses came to Petersburgh in the fall of 1825 and entered upon a practice which extended over several towns in Rensselaer county and in Vermont and Massachusetts. Dr. Hull was also an early practitioner. Among the early lawyers were Michael W. Van Avery, James Van Avery and Joseph D. White.

During the last and greatest French and Indian War the inhabitants of Petersburgh were called upon on several occasions to take precautions against an attack by the Indians. The following incident is related in connection with this period:

On the fifteenth of June, 1754, Mr. John G. Brimmer was at work in the field with his sons, Jeremiah, Godfrey and John, when Indian blankets were discovered. This agreed with previous suspicious indications. Mr. Brimmer immediately started for the house, telling his sons to unharness the horses and follow him. Before they could comply with their father's request, two Indians were discovered coming towards them. The boys immediately grasped their guns, and just as Jeremiah was getting on the horse, one of the Indians fired at him and he fell dead. Godfrey seeing his brother fall ran and hid behind a brush fence. While concealed he saw the Indians looking for him. He drew up his gun to fire, but a leaf falling upon the sight he changed his position and was discovered by the Indians. He and one of the Indians then stepped out and fired deliberately at each other without effect. The discharge was so simultaneous, that thinking the Indian had not fired, and that he would immediately do so, Godfrey dropped the butt of his gun on the ground, placed one hand over the muzzle and extended the other in token of surrender. The Indians came to him, one of them grasped him by the collar and passed around him three times with one finger within his shirt.collar, then laid his hand upon his head, signifying,- "You are my prisoner." The Indians took John prisoner also. The plucky boy often picked up stones and threw at the Indians as they were leading him through the river, at which the savages laughed in admiration of his grit. The prisoners were taken to St. Johns, Canada, where about 300 Indians formed a circle around them and ordered them to sing. They refused, and were ordered the third time, but they still declared they could not sing. The Indians being exasperated were about to strike, when Godfrey discovered in the crowd an Indian who had partaken of the hospitality of his father's house. He spoke to the Indian, who recognized him, and interfered to save the prisoners from torture. They remained at St. Johns for six weeks, and were then sold to the French, by whom they were treated as slaves. After a servitude of more than five years, they secured their freedom upon the surrender of Quebec to the English in 1759. They immediately started for Albany, and at Lake George were taken by the British and thrown into prison They were soon released through the influence of Mr. Van Rensselaer, and made their way to Albany. They there learned that their parents had moved to Rhinebeck, and had heard nothing from them since their capture. The family afterwards went back to the Hoosick valley. Mr. Hezekiah Coon remembers John as living in Petersburgh, and heard him talk of the capture.

Petersburgh was sparsely settled at the beginning of the War of the Revolution, and the number of men it sent to engage in that struggle therefore was not large. Among those who did serve in that war, however, were James Weaver, Lyman Maine, Ichabod Prosser, Gideon Clark, Sterry Hewitt and Arnold Worden.

In the war of 1812 Petersburgh furnished her share of soldiers. As far as can be learned from existing records these were the following:

Captain Aaron Worthington, Captain William Coon, Captain Raper Andrus, Gardner Maine, Lewis Hewitt, John S. Brimmer, Amasa Lamphere, Sanford Hewitt, Peter Church, Silas W. White, Benjamin B. Randall, JosephusJones, William Miner, Benjamin Babcock, Thomas Randall, Justus Nolton, Nathan Nolton, Benjamin Weaver, Cornelius Henning, John Henning, Oliver Buddington, Isaac B. Maine, George Hakes, Luther Clark, Charles Grogan, Christopher Armsbury, Spicer Chesebro.

The list of residents of Petersburgh who served in the War of the Rebellion is a long one. Those who died in the service, as far as can be learned from existing records, were:
George N. Parks, Henry Bass, Harvey H. Odell, Washington Brimmcr, David Cruikshank, Stanton Wilcox, Lyman Brimmer, Edward Ready, Eugene Davis, Porter E. Jones, James A. Maine, Clark W. Hall, Thomas H. D. McGregor, Adelbert Peckham, Charles F. Manchester, Coonradt Holmes, Silas E. Sweet, L. W. Thurber, L. E. Odell, Thomas Carter, Henry R. Green, Wellington W. Whipple, John A. Dean, Edwin H. Brock, Horace R. Merrihew, Columbus Steward, Darius M. Brimmer, Andrew McDermott, Clark L. Brown, Benjamin Landau, Bartholomew Carmody, F. Reynolds, Manser G. Phillips.

As far as can be learned the first public action in regard to schools in Petersburgh was taken in 1796, when John Greene, Mansur Greene and William W. Reynolds were elected school commissioners. A new school system was organized under the law of 1812-13; the first commissioners chosen were Ichabod Randall, William Coon and John Bowles, and the first inspectors were Ebenezer Robinson, Paul Maxon, jr., and Asa Stiliman. The school system changed again in 1843, when the office of town superintendent was created. The first incumbent in that office in Petersburgh was Almond E. Reynolds, who was chosen in 1844. The first school house in the town was located opposite the Methodist church in Petersburgh. Later on a log school house was erected at "Dayfoot Hollow," and also one near Frazer's bridge.

The principal village of Petersburgh bears the same name as the town. It formerly was known both as Petersburgh and South Petersburgh, and originally called Rensselaer Mills. It is located on the banks of the Little Hoosick river and on the Lebanon Springs railroad. Probably the earliest store in the southern part of the town was kept by Jonas Odell before the year 1800. Mrs. Randall also established a store there soon after. The first hotel was kept by Joseph Sanborn and owned by Noyes D. W. Reynolds. U. P. Babcock was another early landlord. The post-office was established in 1822 and the first postmaster probably was Major-General Aaron Worthington. Hezekiah Coon served in the office after him.

Petersburgh has always been the leading industrial village of the town. A shirt factory was maintained there for many years. In the early part of the present century a carriage factory was established by Paul Stiliman, and long before the Revolution a saw mill did a thriving business there. George and Asa Gardner were early in trade there, running a general store, as was also Eben C. Reynolds. Squire Allen opened a grocery store as early as 1825.

The principal industry of the residents of the town of Petersburgh is farming, but in the village of Petersburgh there are to-day several manufacturing establishments which furnish employment to a number of persons.

The shirt factory of Frank Reynolds furnishes employment to twentyfive hands. It was started over Mr. Reynolds's store in 1870. June 28, 1895, the store was destroyed by fire and the factory was removed to a grist mill owned by Mr. Reynolds, where it now is located.

The shirt manufactory of Kellyer & Reynolds was started in 1871 under the firm name of Kellyer, Reynolds & Sweet. In 1874 Mr. Sweet retired from the firm to conduct a general store and the firm continued to the present. In 1896 Mr. Kellyer died. The firm employs but little help in the factory but has a list of employés numbering about 400, who do the work at their homes.

The Petersburgh Co-operative Laundry company is an organization formed by young men, residents of the village. The village authorities constructed the laundry building and presented it to the company. The principal work done is for Kellyer & Reynolds, and the laundry turns out about 300 dozen shirts a week. The officers of the company are: President, B. B. Maxon; secretary, D. H. Hull; treasurer, Charles L. Shafer; directors, E. C. Herring, E. W. Gifford, N. H. Niles, E. Dano and A. Goodermote.

North Petersburgh is at the north end of the town on the railroad and the Little Hoosick river. It was settled before Petersburgh and is in the tract originally known as Hosac. The earliest settlers doubtless located there as early as 1745, possibly before that. Among them were Barnardus Bratt, to whom reference has been made in the history of Hoosick, who built the first saw mill and grist mill at this point; Hans Creiger, Peter Voss, and families named Breese, Ouderkirk, Fonda, Vanderrick, Bovie, Huyck, Brimmer, Kott and Roberts. - Bastian Deil was also an early settler. The old Lutheran church of early times was just north of the village. - Among the early physicians was Dr. Bannister. David Russell of Salem built the old grist mill which originally was conducted by Nathan Hakes, and which was abandoned about 1825. Among the first tavern-keepers of the village were men named Lewis and Dyer.

The first church which existed in Petersburgh left no records of its career. It was located at North Petersburgh and was a Lutheran church. The congregation worshipped in a log house afterward used as a school house, located east of North Petersburgh. When the church was started a-nd by whom or how long a career it had is not known. It ceased to exist some time during the eighteenth century, and possibly many years before the year 1800.

The First Methodist Episcopal church of Petersburgh was built in 1821, the pastor at that time being the Rev. John Nixon. Previous to that time however there was an organization of Methodists which held meetings in a building situated in the "Hollow" and owned by Joshua Lamb. The first preacher this society had was the Rev. Mr. Mitchell, an itinerant from the South who preached in Berlin and supplied in Petersburgh in 1811. rphe early promoters of the church were Jabez Y. Lewis, Job W. Madison, Justus Hakes, a-nd the Rev. Zebulon Lewis, and it was mainly through their efforts that the church was erected. In 1892 the edifice was wholly remodeled. The present pastor is the Rev. Arthur Davies. From this church is supplied the clergyman for the M. E. church at North Petersburgh, which waS built in 1821. In this latter church about ftfty years ago preached the eccentric and once famous Lorenzo Dow.

The Baptist church of Petersburgh was constituted May 12, 1828, though the society was incorporated several years earlier-July 20, 1822. The first pastors of whom there - is any record were Nathan Lewis and J. D. Rogers, both of whom are down as serving the society in 1832. Amos Fuller and Daniel Brimmer were the first deacons. The house of worship was erected in 1828 and remodeled in 1878.

The Christian church of Petersburgh, which ceased to exist in 1895, was erected in 1850, but the society was not incorporated until September 10, 1855. The first pastor was the Rev. J. Dexter. The last preacher to occupy the pulpit in the church was the Rev. John McLaughlin, who is now in charge of a church at Red Rock, Columbia county.


1791-1792, Jonas Odell; 1793-1794, Caleb Wentley; 1795-1796, Randall Spencer; 1797-1798, Abel Lewis; 1799-1800, George Gardner; 1801-1803, William W. Reynolds; 1804-1805, John Reeve; 1806-1807, George Gardner; 1808-1810, Asa Stillman; 1811-1813, Silas Maxon; 1814-1815, Joseph Case, jr.; 1816-1818, Thomas Reynolds; 1819-1820, Aaron Worthington; 1821-1822, Ebenezer Robinson; 1823-1826, Aaron Worthington; 1827-1831, Parley Reynolds; 1832-1833, Joshua Randall,. jr.; 1834, Parley Reynolds; 1835-1836, Stephen Reynolds, jr.: 1837-1838, Parley Reynolds; 1839-1840, Aaron Worthington; 1841-1842, Noel J. Reynolds; 1843-1844, Aaron F. Worthington; 1845-1846, David G. Maxon; 1847-1848, William W. Reynolds; 1849-1850, Noyes H. W. Reynolds; 1851, Joseph Case; 1852-1853, Eben C. Reynolds; 1854-1855, 0: D. Thurber; 1856-1857, William W. Reynolds; 1858- 1859, Aaron F. Worthington.; 1860-1861, David G. Maxon; 1862-1863, Lucius E. Green; 1864, Horace W. Wells; 1865-1867, Lucius E. Green; 1868-1869, William H. Crandall4 .1870-1872, W. T. Reynolds; 1873-1874. John F. Tuft; 1875, Stephen H. Eldred; 1876, William T. Reynolds; 1877, Lucius E. Green; 1878-1880, Silas E. Reynolds; 1881-1882, William T. Reynolds; 1883-1885, H. E. Stewart; 1886-1887, William H. Crandall; 1888, A. Jay Taylor; 1889-1891, Frank E. Reynolds; 1892-1895, Frank Welch;' 1896- -, C. W. Reynolds.


1791-1796, John Greene; 1797-1798, George Gardner; 1799, Randall Spencer; 1800- 1805, William Clark; 1806-1807, Asa Stillman; 1808-1810, John Bowles; 1811-1813, Russell Wilkinson; 1814-1815, Ichabod Randall; 1816, Asa Stiliman; 1817-1821, Benjamin Clark; 1822-1825, John W. Reynolds; 1826-1829, Benjamin Clark; 1830- 1834, Benjamin B. Randall; 1835-1837, Squire Allen; 1838-1839, Daniel C. Morey; 1840-1841, Benjamin Weaver; 1842-1844, Isaac B. Maine; 1845-1847, Seth Worthington; 1848-1852, Robert Reynolds; 1853-1854, Hiram Moses, jr.; 1855, Robert Reynolds; 1856, Jeremiah Allen, jr.; 1857, Silas W. Waite; 1858-1859, Jeremiah Allen, jr.; 1860-1861, Thomas L. Nichols; 1862, Aaron F. Worthington; 1863, HezekiahCoon; 1864, Hiram Moses, jr.; 1865, Silas W. Waite; 1866, Billings B. Hewitt; 1867, David G.- Maxon; 1868-1869, Hiram Moses, jr.; 1870-18 2, C. W. Reynolds; 1873- 1874, Hezekiah Coon; 1875-1876, Edson J. Allen; 1877, Robert Reynolds; 1878-1882, Hezekiah Coon; 1883-1884, Edson J. Allen; 1885-1886, A. Jay Taylor; 1887, F. G. Green; 1888, Jeremiah Allen; 1889-1891, Hezekiah Coon; 1892-1893, A. J. Teift; 1894, H. J. Moses; 1895,Fred D. Nichols; 1896, C. H. Maxon.

1 Prank Welch died during the last year of his term and his place was fifled by his son, Frank Welch, jr.


Isaac Saunders, sworn in February 25, 1823; Thomas Reynolds, sworn in February 25, 1823; Joseph Case, sworn in- September 30, 1823; Isaac Saunders, sworn in January 1, 1828; Nathan Nolton, sworn in January 2, 1828; Elihu P. Powers, sworn in January 5, 1828; John Henning, sworn in January 15, 1828; John Henning, sworn in January 1, 1829; Nathan Nolton, sworn in January 5, 1830. Elected at annual town meetings: 1830, Elihu P. Powers; 1831, isaac Saunders; 1832, Sanford Hewitt; 1833, Nathan Nolton; 1834, Alonzo H. Eldred; 1835, Benjamin B. Randall; 1836, Sanford Hewitt; 1837, Nathan Nolton; 1838, Alonzo H. Eldred; 1839, Nathan G. Green; 1840, Orlando D. Thurber; 1841, Nathan Nolton; 1842, Daniel M. Brimmer; 1843, Simeon Worden; 1844, Tarrant D. Cutler; 1845, Nathan Nolton, Ziba H. Scriven; 1846, Elihu P. Powers; 1847, Simeon Worden; 1848, Elijah S. Randall; 1849, Hezekiab Coon, Simeon Worden; 1850, James H. Eldred; 1851, Darwin D. Maxon; 1852, Giles S. Odell; 1853. Hezekiah Coon; 1854, Elihu P. Powers; 1855, Silas C. Eldred; 1856, Justus Nolton; 1857, Giles S. Odell; 1858, Daniel M. Brimmer; 1859, Silas C. Eldred; 1860, Samuel J. Phillips; 1861, Giles S. Odell, Robert Reymonds; 1862, Andrew G. Coomer; 1863, James H. Eldred; 1864, Jared A. Wells; 1865, James F. Greenman; 1866, Henry Lee Maxon; 1867, James H. Eldred; 1868, John H. Bonesteel; 1869, Edwin R. Clark, George E. Powell; 1870, George E. Powell; 1871, citizens are unable to give the name; 1872, D. Richmond Webster; 1873, Edwin R. Clark, Silas E. Reymonds; 1874. George E. Powell, W. B. Odell; 1875, Henry G. Brimmer; 1876, David Allen, D. Richmond Webster; 1877, Orlando D. Thurber, Silas E. Reymonds; 1878, George B. Powell; 1879. Eugene Brimmer, William H. Randall; 1880, Ebenezer Stevens; 1881, A. F. Babcock; 1882, W. H. Randall; 1883, Eugene Brimmer; 1884, George B. Powell; 1885, Reuben Waite; 1886, Myron E. Clark; 1887, Eugene Brimmer; 1888, George B. Powell; 1889, Henry Goodermote; 1890, Jeremiah Allen; 1891, F. B. Green; 18c2, George B. Powell; 1893, Frank G. Green; 1894, William H. Crandall; 1895, Henry Goodermote; 1896, George E. Powell.

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