The Saratoga County History Center has announce the publication of Off the Northway (Saratoga County History Center, 2022), a compilation of 83 articles written by longtime local journalist Stephen Williams, who retired after a 42-year career at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY. [Read more…] about Off the Northway: A New Book by Journalist Stephen Williams
A Brief History of the Mohawk River
Imagine the Mohawk River flowing with more force than Niagara Falls. Around 22,000 years ago, that’s exactly how it was. During the last ice age, the Laurentide Glacier began to melt, forming a large lake atop the glacier. As the glacier receded north, it opened access to the Mohawk River, which for thousands of years had been buried beneath the two-mile thick block of ice. Suddenly, all that lake water had somewhere to go.
The deluge of water that was released was so great that it carved an entirely new riverbed. It was so great in fact, that geologists gave the river a new name; the Iromohawk. Water rushed down the valley, carving away the cliffs of Clifton Park, the gorge at Cohoes, and the channel at Rexford. The river also curved back onto itself, creating the bend around Schenectady that the Mohawk follows today. [Read more…] about A Brief History of the Mohawk River
Schenectady Black History & Barber John Wendell
In the early 19th century, Schenectady played host to a distinctly American process through which hundreds of Black people gained their freedom. Although Schenectady County had a small enclave of free African Americans into the late colonial period, the overwhelming majority of Black Schenectadians were enslaved.
As New York State legislation gradually abolished the institution of slavery by 1827, many Black Schenectadians had to confront a new reality in which they were legally independent, but by no means legally equal.
One of these people was John Wendell [Jr.] whose birth remains shrouded in mystery. [Read more…] about Schenectady Black History & Barber John Wendell
Capital Region Segment of the NYS Birding Trail Opens
The Capital Region segment of the NYS Birding Trail is now open and is the sixth region to be completed. The region includes 29 sites on a mix of public and private lands throughout five counties. [Read more…] about Capital Region Segment of the NYS Birding Trail Opens
Fallen Game Wardens of New York State
Thirty-two-year-old John Woodruff of Scotia, New York was a rugged outdoorsman and a crack shot with a firearm, so it was no surprise to those who knew him when he left his job at the real estate office of J.A. Lindsley on State Street in Schenectady to join New York’s Game Protector force. The prospect of an exciting career as a Game Protector was something that appealed to many men who sought to make a living in the outdoors.
John Woodruff’s goal was achieved when he was appointed by New York State Conservation Commissioner George D. Pratt on November 1st, 1919, having finished first on the competitive civil service exam. Had John Woodruff known how short-lived his career would be, and the fate that was about to befall him, he may have had misgivings about the road he had chosen to travel. In April 1921, after missing for a year and a half, the mysterious fate of Game Protector John Woodruff would culminate with the discovery of his remains buried in the bed of Rotterdam Creek in Schenectady County. [Read more…] about Fallen Game Wardens of New York State
Stephen Van Rensselaer III: The Last Patroon
Stephen Van Rensselaer III (1764-1839), was orphaned at the age of ten. His father had died when he was five and his mother remarried Reverend Eilardus Westerlo, minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany. She died five years later and Stephen was raised by Abraham Ten Broeck (later Brigadier General) and his wife (Stephen’s aunt) Elizabeth Van Rensselaer.
Stephen attended the John Water’s School in Albany, grammar school in Elizabeth Town, New Jersey and Classical School in Kingston. He then attended college at Princeton, but withdrew to Harvard because of the dangers in Northern New Jersey during the Revolutionary War. In 1776, Stephen’s grandfather Philip Livingston (who had married Ten Broeck’s sister Christina) had signed the Declaration of Independence. [Read more…] about Stephen Van Rensselaer III: The Last Patroon
Simeon DeWitt: America’s Surveyor General
Tjerck Claeszen DeWitt immigrated to New Amsterdam (now New York City) from Grootholt in Zunterlant in 1656. Grootholt means Great Wood and Zunterland was probably located on the southern border of East Friesland, a German territory on the North Sea only ten miles from the most northerly province of the Netherlands.
By 1657, Tjerck DeWitt married Barber (Barbara) Andrieszen (also Andriessen) in the New Amsterdam Dutch Church and moved to Beverwyck (now Albany). While in Beverwyck, he purchased a house. At this time Albany contained 342 houses and about 1,000 residents, about 600 of whom were members of the Dutch Church. [Read more…] about Simeon DeWitt: America’s Surveyor General
Robert Yates, John Lansing & The Constitution
Robert Yates (1738-1801) was born in Schenectady. His parents were Joseph and Maria Yates. He received a classical education in the city of New York and later studied law in the Albany law firm of William Livingston, who was later a signer of the U.S. Constitution.
Yates was admitted to the New York bar in 1760 and thereafter resided in Albany. From 1771 to 1775, Yates was on the Albany Board of Aldermen and considered himself a member of the Radical Whigs, a party carried over from England that had a reputation for strong opposition to corruption and the protection of liberty. [Read more…] about Robert Yates, John Lansing & The Constitution
New Documentary Celebrate Schenectady Black History
In Celebration of Black History Month, the Schenectady County Historical Society has released A History Erased: Rediscovering Black Schenectady, a new documentary exploring the history of Black people in Schenectady.
A History Erased: Rediscovering Black Schenectady is produced by SCHS and investigates the missing story of Schenectady’s 19th century Black population. From the beginning, Schenectady’s African American population was a small and marginalized community. This documentary looks at what happened to Black Schenectadians over the course of the 1800s; how they responded to the end of slavery, to industrialization, and to ongoing racial concerns; why the small community nearly vanished; and the marks it left on Schenectady’s culture and society. [Read more…] about New Documentary Celebrate Schenectady Black History
The Volunteers Behind the Adirondack Research Library
Many organizations introduce their work with the words “were it not for the volunteers, we could not…” That can be justifiably said of the Adirondack Research Library (ARL), formerly part of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AfPA). [Read more…] about The Volunteers Behind the Adirondack Research Library