Monday, July 27, 2009

In The 1620s The Poesten Kill Was Already Settled

In the 1620s, Albany was known as Gastanek; Green Island was Nehanenesick; Van Schaick Island, Quahemesicos; Cohoes was called Nachawinasick. The Minuit map, produced about 1630, showed five Mohican villages near Fort Orange. One substantial community was located at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson and was known as Monemin’s Castle, after the Mohican chief killed in battle with the Mohawk in 1626. This village was the northern limit of Killian van Rensselaer’s lands on the Hudson’s west side. It was once located on the north shore of the Mohawk, later on an island at the river’s mouth, and by 1651, Monemin’s people had moved to the north of Greenbush.

Early native people lived on the Poesten Kill’s prime farm land, rich bottom lands that the Mohican had been farming for at least six hundred years. In addition to practicing horticulture, they also fished, hunted, and gathered all types of foods, practiced skilled crafts and participated in wide ranging trade network that stretched to the Atlantic coast and the Great Lakes. The difference between the Hudson bottom lands and the plateau above are striking. Above there is in fact little level land; the soil is rocky and the climate cool. There are sometimes as many as twenty fewer frost-free days on the plateau than along the Hudson and fewer still in the mountains to the east. Except for the fertile areas along the Hudson and the section from the village of Poestenkill to the village of Eagle Mills, the banks of the Poesten Kill are relatively ill-suited for agriculture.

Image: Hudson River Valley c 1635 (north is to the right)

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Mount Ida's Early Rival, Mount Olympus

Sterling Goodenow noted the presence of “Mount Ida Falls” in his 1822 Topographical and Statistical Manual of the State of New-York. Horatio Gates Spafford’s 1824 Pocket Guide for Tourist and Traveler however, acknowledged Mount Olympus on the north side of Troy but of the Poesten Kill only noted that it was home to “Mills & c.” Mount Olympus became a regional attraction that was exploited at an early date. In 1823, W.D. Vanderheyden (by then most of the family had accepted the shortened spelling) built a large octagonal building on the highest point to accommodate sightseers and a walkway was built from the roadway below. The building included a concession that was staffed day and night and markers were installed to direct visitors to the views. The building was destroyed by fire in 1830.

Already however, some visitors were bemoaning the development on Mount Ida and beyond. A writer to the New York Commercial Advertiser in 1835 wrote that the “delightful situation” of Mount Ida had “been invaded” by houses and businesses over and below.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

de Laetsburgh, Later Known as t’Greynen Bosch (Greenbush)

Culturally, the Poesten Kill might seem to be just one of the many westward-flowing streams that drain Rensselaer County, a county dominated by waterways that divide rolling hills. On close examination however, the Poesten Kill holds a special place.

Consider the earlier outlying farm built across from Fort Orange by 1632 on the south side of Mill Creek at de Laetsburgh, later known as t’greynen bosch (Greenbush, the pine woods) and is now within the Rensselaer city limits. Like the Poesten Kill it also had mills, homes, a brewery and tavern, and a Dutch Reformed church and parsonage.

A ferry was established there and later colonial soldiers were often mustered under the protective eye of the fort across the river. The ferry continued to be controlled by the Van Rensselaer family until the nineteenth century providing easy and regular transportation between the Greenbush and Albany.

So it was that Greenbush was settled before the Poesten Kill, but with its close association to Albany by ferry, it could hardly be described as frontier; The City of Rensselaer was once known as East Albany.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rensselaer Co. Historical Society Interim Director Resigns

The Albany Times Union is reporting today that the beleaguered Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) is losing the interim executive director, Rachel Tooker, less then six months after she took the post. Members of the organization, including Renssealer County Historian Kathy Sheehan, (who also serves as the society's Registrar) touted her as the leadership necessary to steer the non-profit back to solvency. She will be moving to California where her partner has taken a museum job.

In March, RCHS sent an e-mail warning of dire consequences for the society: "What may have seemed - even ten years ago - a reasonable endowment with sustainable cash reserves has now dwindled to the point where we are no longer able to pay our bills. Without an immediate and substantial infusion of funds (upwards of $150,000), it appears that we will be required to close our doors while we work to implement a prudent fiscal strategy." No communication with members, supporters, or the press suggested Tooker would be leaving before the Times Union's report today.

According to the Times Union, "Tooker said the historical society has charted a new course that will help it correct its financial difficulties. The New York Council of Nonprofits will provide managerial leadership for the historical society."

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Hudson River Dinner Cruise with Len Tantillo

The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) will host the Times Union's 2009 Best Local Artist and Historian Len Tantillo for a dinner cruise on board the Captain JP II, leaving from Troy and sailing south to the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse. The event will take place on Sunday, July 19th, 2009 from 3 to 9PM; the cost is $85.00 per person for RCHS Members, $95.00 per person for non-menbers.

Tantillo, a noted Hudson River artist and historian, will narrate the often complex relationship that Henry Hudson had with his crew and the various Indian tribes that they encountered on their trips ashore. Scenic highlights and historic landmarks will be pointed out on the west and east side of the river including Papskanee Island in the Town of Schodack, the reputed place that Hudson dropped anchor and traded with the Mahican Indians. Guests will also be treated to a dinner buffet of salmon, roast turkey and prime rib along with a array of vegetables and desserts.

Guests will board at 3PM at the foot of State Street in Troy. Free parking is available dockside. The boat will leave promptly at 3:30 and return to the Troy dock at approximately 9PM.

To purchase tickets for the trip, please visit call (518) 272-7232, extension 12.

Photo: "A View of Troy, New York, 1847" by Len Tantillo - "This painting of Troy, New York, depicts the Hudson River city as it might have appeared in the mid 19th century. The image was based on a number of period drawings, photographs and maps from the collection of the Rensselaer County Historical Society"

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