Monday, September 28, 2009

Other Early Settlements Along The Upper Hudson

Between the more formidable island of Papscanee (previously spelled Papsickene, now a peninsula nature preserve) and where the Hoosac River meets the Hudson, more than a dozen streams flow into the Hudson. Only at the Poesten Kill was there enough farmland, room to grow, and sufficient water-power for the earliest industries.

An early outlying farm built across the Hudson River from Fort Orange was built by 1632 on the south side of Mill Creek at de Laetsburgh, later known as t’greynen bosch (Greenbush, the pine woods) and now within the Rensselaer city limits. Like the Poesten Kill it also had mills, homes, a brewery and tavern, and even 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.

South of Fort Orange, on the Hudson's west side, flooding and terrain restricted development of farms and the Normanskill was insufficient as a source of power.

Four miles north of Fort Orange on the Hudson’s west side the Patroon established a farm once called de Vlackte (the Flatts, home of the Patroon’s agent Arent van Curler), later known as West Troy and today Watervliet. The farm was considerably closer to the fort than those on the Poesten Kill and much more connected to life there, but lacked water power.

Photo: The Hudson River Valley c 1635

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Early Warfare: King William and Queen Anne's Wars

In the 1680s and 1690s the latest in a long string of European wars broke out. The War of the Grand Alliance, also known as King Williams War (1688-1697), pitted France against England, the Netherlands, and Austria and quickly and naturally spilled over to a bitter conflict of raids and counter-raids which mostly took place between New France and frontier settlements of eastern New York and western Massachusetts. Each employed their Indian allies to fight on their behalf and to guide their small armies to their respective enemies. In 1689 the Count Louis de Baude Frontenac, who had been governor of Canada during 1672-82, arrived in New France with orders from Louis XIV to attack the Iroquois and their allies in eastern New York and New England. The French launched a number of raids attacking the large outposts and surrounding settlers at Schenectady, Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, Fort Loyal (now Portland, Maine) and the villages of the Oneidas, Onondagas, and Mohawks. In 1690, Poesten Kill landholder Sweer Theunissen van Velson and his wife Maritie Myndertse (Jan Wemp’s widow) were killed in the attack on Schenectady, as was Jan Wemp’s son Myndert.

European conflict in the northern frontier of New York was renewed with the War of the Spanish Succession (Queen Anne’s War, 1701-1713) that pitted England, the Netherlands, Austria, and this time also the Holy Roman Empire, against the French. Once again the paths leading to the upper Hudson (notably along the Hoosic) saw raiding parties moving back and forth between New France, New York, and New England. One notable raid that was widely reported at this time was the February 1704 attack on Deerfield in nearby western Massachusetts. Another was the attack on the Kittle family of Schaghticoke in 1711.

Photo: Len Tantillo's Depiction of Schenectady in about 1690.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Settler Fears of Indian Conflict on The Upper Hudson

Noted local historical archeologist David R. Starbuck has said that the interconnected routes from the Richelieu River at the north end of Lake Champlain to Albany has the highest density of military sites in North America in the 1700s. The large military encampments that attended the big campaigns of that era were among the largest cities in America, albeit for short intervals. Considering the conflicts between the colonial Dutch, French, and British subjects and various Indian communities who utilized the same route, we might also extend that idea. It’s likely that the great northern route, the great warpath, the great northern war trail, and its connected communities and strategic sites have the highest density of military conflict sites in North America in the 1600s as well. It was along this route that scattered attacks by the French and their Indian allies (mostly Algonquin, Abenaki, Huron, and Christianized Iroquois) were made on the settlers along the Hudson and tributaries like the Poesten Kill.

No palisade is known to have built at Troy, however, and according to Janny Venema, a wall around Beverwijck (outside Fort Orange) served to allay the fears of the village’s residents, but also restricted their movement outside its gates. Villagers were prohibited from leaving the palisade to meet with the Indians outside in 1660, and in 1662 posts were set up outside the community beyond which no Bevewijck residents was allowed to go. “Waiting at the post for Indians coming from the west had become a way to take a chance on luck and speculation,” Venema writes, “the defense separated the worlds of settlers and Indians, but the west [and we might add here the north at the Poesten Kill] remained an area of attraction for the colonists… a way to circumvent the rules.” Settlers used the trail to Schenectady (established in 1661, the year before Wemp secured his patent there) for illegal trade. “Despite the prohibition on trade with the Indians” Venema writes “settlers carried goods and merchandise on wagons and horseback six or seven miles inland in order to barter with the Indians… but this journey would become increasingly dangerous; and by the summer of 1664, few people dared to travel the [Mohawk] trail anymore.” Those on the Hudson’s east side at the Poesten Kill were freer to come and go as they pleased. Out of sight of local officials they could more easily participate in the trade, but also were more exposed when depredations did occur.

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