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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

A History of Schenectady During the Revolution:
Chapter IV: The Schenectady Committee of Safety (1) and the First Militia Companies

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[This information is from pp. 17-22 of A History of Schenectady During the Revolution by Willis T. Hanson, Jr. (Brattleboro, VT: E. L. Hildreth & Co., 1916). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 H25, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

The First Provincial Congress, a Whig body, called because the Loyalist assembly had refused to approve the acts of Congress, was the first revolutionary body in New York. Immediately this body assumed all governing powers and to it was intrusted the enforcement of the Articles of Association signed by the Continental Congress on October 20, 1774.

The necessity of further localizing the execution of orders given by the Provincial Congress soon called into being county, and under them district, committees.

Although a Committee of Correspondence representing Albany County was organized in November, (2) 1774, it does not appear that any unusual activities engaged the attention of this body until May of the following year, when in view of the various accounts that were received "of the extraordinary commotions both in the Province of Massachusetts and at New York," (3) it was felt "indispensably necessary" that the sense of the townspeople be taken as to what line of conduct should be pursued at that critical juncture.

Under the direction of a subcommittee a meeting of the citizens was therefore called, and at this meeting, held on the afternoon of May 1, the following questions were placed before the people:

Are you willing to co-operate with our Brethren in New York, and the several Colonies on the Continent in their opposition to the Ministerial Plan now prosecuting against us?

Are you willing to appoint Persons to be (conjointly with others to be appointed by the several Districts in this County) a Committee of Safety, Protection and Correspondence with full power to Transact all such matters as they shall conceive may tend to the weal of the American Cause?

Following an affirmative decision on the questions at issue, the meeting at once proceeded to elect their Committee of Safety.

The matter of district committees seems to have been taken up almost immediately, and on May (4) 6 a meeting of the "freeholders and Inhabitants of the Township of Schenectady" was held, and as members of a committee to represent their district were selected the following: (5)

Reinier Mynderse, James Wilson, Hugh Mitchell, Henry Glen, Harmanus Wendell, John Sanders, Abraham Oothout, Tobias Ten Eyck, John Roseboom, Christopher Yates.

The committee chosen met for organization on the ninth, at the home (6) of William White. Christopher Yates was elected chairman of the Board and Hugh Mitchell, clerk. John Sanders and Tobias Ten Eyck immediately refused to serve and their places were later (7) filled by the election of Cornelius Cuyler and Jacobus Teller.

The Schenectady Committee, organized as a subcommittee of that of Albany County, (8) regularly sent delegates (9) to its conferences. Soon it became the principal (10) organ of local government with duties wide and important, for not only were its members to attend to the raising of such troops and funds as should be required from the district, all details of military organization and later the regulation of prices to be charged for commodities, but they were also required to seize and secure all who were believed to hold sentiments unfriendly to the cause of the Colonies and, until the appointment of the Commissioners for the Detecting and Defeating of Conspiracies, (11) to act as judges in cases of the trials of Persons charged with treason against the State. All expenses incurred by the Committee were chargeable to the County Committee, and membership in subsequent organizations was determined as in the first by popular election, — the elections being held at intervals of six months and the chairman and clerk in each case selected by the Committee itself.

It is interesting to note that the activities of the Schenectady Committee were not confined to internal affairs alone. Much sympathy seems to have been evinced for their friends in New England, and in August (1775) Cornelius Cuyler was appointed to receive donation wheat for the poor of Boston, while by December 18, 73 pounds N. Y. C. had been raised for their relief. It is interesting to note, too, the petty annoyances to which, during the early period of the war, members of the Committee were subjected by those politically opposed. There were constantly being brought before the Board at this time those who had spoken disparagingly of certain of its members, and on one occasion there was ordered to appear one George Ramsey who was strongly suspected of having been concerned in putting tar and feathers on several of their doors the night before.

On May 24 the first measures looking toward the defense of the township were taken, for at the meeting of the Committee of Safety on that day it was voted (12) to purchase three hundred and thirty-eight pounds of powder, then in the possession of Daniel Campbell and stored in Albany, at three shillings per pound, and to immediately post "advertisements" in the most public places calling a meeting of the inhabitants on the twenty-seventh for the purpose of informing the Board how they were provided with arms and ammunition.

At the public meeting on the twenty-seventh it was unanimously agreed to accept a resolution passed by the Committee the day previous, calling for the raising of three companies of minute men, (13) two in the town and one in the Westina (14) — each company to consist of one captain, two lieutenants, four sergeants, three corporals, a drum, and fifty privates, and the meeting further requested that the Committee appoint the officers for these companies.

The Committee consented to act upon the request of the meeting and the following selection was at once made:

First Company

Second Company

Third Company

Notes

  1. These committees were quite as frequently known as Committees of Correspondence.
  2. A meeting, probably the first, was held on November 23.
  3. The Records of the Albany Committee of Safety. These records may be further cited as the source of subsequent matter in this chapter pertinent to the Albany Committee.
  4. The Records of the Schenectady Committee of Safety. The minutes covering the period from the first meeting until May 27, 1776, are to be found in the American Historian and Quarterly Genealogical Record, Vol. I, Nos. 1-4. These minutes form the source from which much of the material covering this period has been obtained.
    The American Historian and Quarterly Genealogical Record, "edited by the Historical Society" and published by Mr. E. Z. Carpenter under a Schenectady imprint, is now practically unknown. Indirectly, from the publisher, the writer has learned the history of this little magazine. There was no "Historical Society" as indicated on the title-page of the publication and Mr. Carpenter had no associates in the enterprise. He was sole editor, proprietor and printer, setting his own type and using a hand press which he still has. The numbers were given to friends as printed, and but seventy-five copies of each were issued.
  5. The revolutionary records of these men and of those residents of the Schenectady District subsequently referred to will be found in the Appendix.
  6. Where now stands the house known as No. 9 North Church Street. Subsequent meetings of the Committee were for some time held here.
  7. At a public meeting held on May 27.
  8. In Albany County eighteen districts elected one hundred and fifty-four members of the County Committee. Alexander Clarence Flick.
  9. The entire Schenectady Board attended the first meeting of the Albany Committee held after its organization. At subsequent meetings two members generally constituted the representation.
  10. While these bodies acted quite independently in minor matters, there was always a marked respect shown for orders or suggestions from higher authorities and matters of major importance were referred to them.
  11. Much detailed information regarding these boards may be found in the Introduction to the minutes of the Commissioners for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies in the State of New York, and in Loyalism in New York.
  12. This action was taken for fear "of the evil Consequences that [might] attend [its] falling in the hands of [their] Enemys." A subsequent resolution of the Committee appointed John Post and John G. Lansing custodians of this powder and empowered them to sell it to any of the inhabitants of the township at a price of "3s. 9d. per pound, 3s. 10d. by the half pound, 4s. by the quarter." No powder was, however, to be disposed of outside the district without an order from the Committee.
  13. Under the militia law of July 18, 1775, it was designated that one fourth part of the militia of every county was to consist of minute men who were "to be ready on the shortest Notice to march to any Place when their Assistance [was] required for the Defense of their own or a neighboring Colony."
  14. The Westina (Woestyne), or the Wilderness, seems to have applied alike to the land on the north side of the Mohawk now known as Glenville and to the land lying opposite on the south side now known as Rotterdam.

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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

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