Daniel Mazeau and Aaron Gore, archaeologists with Beverwyck Archaeology, recently completed field investigations and research for the Yates house and property in Glenville, Schenectady County, NY, once home to the family of Joseph Yates (1707-1748). Yates was the grandfather of Joseph Christopher Yates (1768-1837), a lawyer, politician, statesman, founding trustee of Union College and longtime Schenectady Mayor who also served as the 7th Governor of New York in 1823-1824.
The only Governor of New York to have been born in Schenectady County, Joseph C. Yates is the namesake of Yates County and the town of Yates. He was born in 1768 in Schenectady, then in the Province of New York, Yates began his rise to prominence as an attorney after the American Revolution.
In 1798 he was appointed mayor of Schenectady and served twelve successive one-year terms. In 1805 he was elected as a New York State Senator and three years later a State Supreme Court justice, before serving as Governor. (He was preceded and succeeded by DeWitt Clinton.)
Yates served also as a founding Trustee of Union College, which was established in 1795 and also served as President of the Schenectady Savings Bank.
According to the Encyclopedia of New York:
“A presidential elector for De Witt Clinton in 1812, Yates refused to run for governor against Clinton in 1817. Shifting toward Clinton’s Bucktail Republican opposition in 1821, Yates supported revision of the 1777 Constitution; he appeared comfortable with the constitutional convention’s elimination of the Council of Appointment and Council of Revision. Nominated for governor by an 1822 Bucktail caucus, he won easily. Yates subsequently incurred opposition by failing initially to endorse the popular election of presidential electors under a state law, by recommending two anti-Bucktails to the supreme court, and because he was obliged to settle disputed nominations of justices of the peace.
“When the Bucktails rejected him as their gubernatorial candidate in 1824, Yates called a special session to pass an electoral law, but it failed. The People’s Party successfully backed De Witt Clinton, and Yates retired to Schenectady. He served as a presidential elector for Andrew Jackson in 1828 and presided over a meeting called in 1832 to protest the rejection of Martin Van Buren’s nomination as minister to Great Britain. Yates’s last years were spent in retirement, disturbed, according to James Kent, by a ward’s charges that he had behaved fraudulently as a guardian.”
His residence in Schenectady, during the period when he served as governor, still survives on Front Street near the Mohawk River, in the city’s Stockade Historic District.
The excavations at his grandfather’s Glenville farmhouse, conducted in 2019 and 2020, provided information on when the house was built, activities occurring on-site, and a variety of other topics. Mazeau and Gore will discuss their findings at the Schenectady County Historical Society on Saturday, April 15th.
Tickets are $8, free for Historical Society members. The Schenectady County Historical Society is located at 32 Washington Avenue, in Schenectady. For more information visit their website.
Illustrations, from above: Joseph Yates farm house in Glenville NY; and a portrait of Joseph C. Yates as Governor by John Vanderlyn, who painted eminent political figures as George Washington, Aaron Burr, James Monroe, George Clinton, Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor (courtesy City of New York).
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