According to his monument at Albany Rural Cemetery, Samuel Schuyler was born in 1781. Although part African-American, he may have also been a descendant of Philip Schuyler, one of Albany’s most prominent families.
In 1805 he received a manumission from Dirck Schuyler (who is thought to be his white father).
By 1805, he married Mary Martin-Morin listed an Albany directories as a “Mullatto woman” and their son Richard March Schuyler was born and baptized in the Dutch Church. By 1825, Samuel and Mary had ten more children.
Samuel supported the family by working along the Albany waterfront at Quay Street and, by about 1810, he operated his own sail vessel hauling produce, including lumber, south to the city of New York. He had come to be known as “Captain” Schuyler.
In 1812, his son, Samuel, Jr. was born. By 1813, Samuel Sr. owned his home at 204 South Pearl Street and began to acquire surrounding properties in a growing Black neighborhood in Albany’s South End. By 1815, he owned several lots between Bassett and Schuyler Streets and over the next 20 years his holdings spread east to control most of a two-block area from South Pearl Street to the waterfront.
By the 1830s, Captain Schuyler had been joined in business by his sons and by 1835, Samuel Schuyler & Company opened a flour and feed store located at Bassett and Franklin Streets and advertised in the City Directory. The Schuylers also operated a coal yard in the South End. In the 1830s, Samuel Schuyler also continued his shipping business adding newer paddle-wheeled steam-powered towboats.
By the time Samuel Schuyler died in May, 1842, he had been Albany’s first wealthy African-Amrican businessman. Samuel Schuyler and other family members are buried in lot 66, section 59 at Albany Rural Cemetery.
His son, also known as Captain Samuel Schuyler, succeeded him and renamed the shipping company the Schuyler Steam Towboat Company. Samuel Jr. operated the steam towboats America, Syracuse, Connecticut, Niagara, Belle, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jacob Leonard, Carrie, G.E. Winants, Robert T. Banks, Ontario and Pontiac. Most of them were among the largest towboats of the period. All except the Pontiac were side-wheel steamboats. The Pontiac was a newer model steamboat with a screw propeller.
Captain Samuel Schuyler’s towboats towed packs of as many as 50 canal boats at a time to the city of New York and back. Schuyler’s company was the second largest towboat company to the Albany & Canal Line (A&C Line) owned by J.J. Austin and then when the A&C Line closed, Schuyler was second to the Cornell Line.
In 1891, seventy-nine year old Captain Samuel Schuyler, Jr. retired and the Schuyler Steam Towboat Company closed. It was said that competition from the railroads and also from the newer screw-propeller towboats made it hard for Schuyler’s older and larger paddle-wheeled boats to compete.
At the time the company closed, The New York Times reported that it was the oldest towboat line on the Hudson River. Samuel Jr. was listed as president and his son, James B. Schuyler, was vice president. They had a New York office at 15 South Street. The Beverwyck Towing Company, also an Albany company, continued the Schuyler operation in 1892 with several of the same boats.
From 1848-1894, Samuel Jr. lived at 2 Ash Grove Place, one of Albany’s most picturesque residences crowned by a large belvedere that provided a 180-degree view of the city and river. Samuel Jr. died in 1894 and is buried in lot 33, section 32 at Albany Rural Cemetery with other family members, near Erastus Corning and Philip Schuyler.
Illustrations, from above: Captain Samuel Schuyler’s towboat America in a ca. 1852 painting by James Bard (courtesy the Hudson Maritime Museum); Samuel Schuyler’s 1805 manumission from Dirck Schulyer; Samuel Schuyler, listed as a skipper, in the 1813 Albany directory (courtesy The People of Colonial Albany); The elder Captain Samuel Schuyler’s monument at Albany Rural Cemetery (courtesy Friends of Albany History); and Samuel Schuyler’s house at Ash Grove and Trinity Place in Albany (Google Street View).