Monday, August 31, 2009

The English Takeover and New Settlers

Farmer-trader-craftsmen dominated the people who settled along the Poesten Kill, and later, the poorer soils and cooler climate on the plateau above. After 1640 the company monopoly on the fur trade was reduced and settlers were allowed to participate provided they gave about half their profits to the Patroon. The settlement and trade increased so by 1641 the patroon thought it necessary to authorize his officers to take action against farmers who were hiring carpenters and other craftsman who were not the estate’s employees. By then the lines were blurred between tenet farmer, trader, and the increasing number of craftspeople setting up outside Fort Orange.

By the time of the English takeover of New Netherland Sweer Theunissen van Velson was in a sense an absentee landlord of the Poesten Bowery (farm) which then included both sides of the Poesten Kill south to the Wynants Kill; it ranged from the Poesten Mill near the base of the plateau on the bowery’s east side (today, Hill Street) to the Hudson River. Van Velson secured his leased rights by getting a patent from Richard Nicolls, the English Governor of the Province of New York. About the same time, van Velson leased the section to the south of the Poesten Kill, known then as Lubberde’s landt, from Johanna de Laet Ebbingh. She was Johan de Laet’s daughter, who had inherited a tenth of the Rensselaerswyck estate - “excepting the lord’s right” - in 1674 and only recently married Jeronimus Ebbingh.

In 1707 the Van Woggelum bowery was conveyed to Dirck Van der Heyden, who was then taking over the best lands along the Hudson (he bought Schuyler’s farm in 1720). Van der Heyden speculated on land leases throughout the area, notably in 1717 when he pulled from the hat of Albany’s mayor one of eight farms that were leased at Schaghticoke. Before it took the name Troy, the community along the Poesten Kill bottom lands was known as Vanderheyden and stretched from the Poesten Kill north to the Piscawan Kill.

The Van der Heyden family in Rensselaerswyck was born of the marriage of Jacob Tyssen and Anna Hals who settled in Beverwyck outside the walls of the Fort Orange, while the community was still in Dutch hands. Their son was Dirck Van der Heyden.

The land from Division Street to Grand, known to history as the “middle farm,” was held by Jacob D. Van der Heyden. Jacob D. lived in a wooden house at the southeast corner of Ferry and River streets (at what is now a Russell Sage dorm). Later, he built a new brick mansion at southwest corner of Grand Division Street (now Grand Street) and Eighth Street; it was destroyed by the great fire of May 10, 1862. From Grand Division to the Piscawan Kill was the “upper farm” owned by Jacob I. Van der Heyden. His farm house, a small brick building built in 1756, stood at what would now be 548 River Street, north of Hoosick Street on the east side at what is now Vanderhyden Street. It was latter connected to the Seton Day Home and in the 1970s was torn down – it’s now paved over and the only part of a hand wrought iron fence stands on River Street.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Early Dutch Farms on The Poesten Kill

What the earliest farms on the Poesten Kill looked like is only conjecture at this point as there has been virtually no archeology aimed at the Dutch period along the kill. Two similar farms in the East Manor have been found and excavated however, but neither may reflect the kind of buildings that the English carpenter Thomas Chambers built on the Poesten Kill.

The Van Buren Site was discovered in 1973 by Art Johnson in what was once Greenbush. It was located where Indian people had also lived and was a large site that including several buildings over the years. More recently Shirley Dunn has suggested that the farm was occupied by Symon Walichsen in 1637 and later by Edward Pels and Juriaen Bestval who arrived there in 1649. A second farm found in Greenbush was that of Teunis Dirckse van Vechten who lived there from 1639 until his death in 1685. His farm suggests the kinds of activities that might have also occurred on the Poesten Kill. Van Vechten was a farmer, trader, part owner of a brewery (he grew a lot of oats), and he owned half of the yacht Het Zeepaert (The Seahorse) in 1651.

Chambers and Wemp owned the land only in the sense that they had the rights to it – these agreements would today be considered leases although they were in many ways treated as sales. It makes for a somewhat confusing history of local land transfers, especially considering that what is now Troy was the northern border of Van Renssealer’s manor, and that the English took over New Netherland in 1664.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Poesten Kill, Now Available For Purchase

The first detailed history of the Poesten Kill from the Petersburg Mountains to the Hudson River is now available at Amazon.,com. I hope you'll enjoy the book and check in here to comment.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Thomas Chambers, First To Settle The Poesten Kill

The earliest settler on the Poesten Kill was Thomas Chambers. The Chambers farm was positioned for commercial success in part because it was ideally situated to serve as an intercept point for the furs of Mohican traders as they made their way from the eastern and northern woodlands toward the river and along the Hudson to Albany. Also, with no streams capable of supplying enough water for sawing wood and milling grain in Albany, these operations were mostly located on the east side of the Hudson. Chambers was given the right to build a saw mill on the Poesten Kill if there was opportunity and he desired to; he apparently did not. Eventually however, a number of dams were built all along the Poesten Kill to divert water along open sluices to turn water wheels and drive millstones and early lumber saws. For a sense of the long history of life along the Poesten Kill, consider that large scale industrial harnessing of the Poesten Kill didn’t begin until the late 1790s – nearly 150 years later.

Chambers ran into conflict with his Mohican neighbors. Regardless of the cause of the conflict, the Mohican challenge to Thomas Chambers’ farm had the desired effect, and in January 1651 the officers of the colony made the effort to purchase the Wynants Kill from the Indians. It was described as a “certain creek situated south of the farm of Thomas Chambers and north of Monamin’s Castle [which by then had moved north of Greenbush], with the surrounding wood and adjoining land and the jurisdiction thereof, to the castle, obliquely opposite the house of Broer Cornelis.” This was the farm between the Poesten and Wynants kills and it secured the farm Chambers was running while extending European land opportunities south.

Image: Thomas Chambers moved to the Espous where he built the Manor of Foxhall and is commonly understood to be Kingston’s first settler. Chambers died childless in 1694 and left the manor to his stepson, Abraham Van Gaasbeek, later Abraham Gaasbeek Chambers.

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