This page conforms to the XHTML standard and uses style sheets. If your browser doesn't support these, you may not see the page as designed, but all the text is still accessible to you.


Bringing the heritage of Schenectady County, New York to the world since 1996

You are here: Home » Resources » Pearson's History » Introduction

A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times
5: Introduction

Prof. Jonathan Pearson

Go back to: Pearson Sketch | ahead to: Division of Lands

[This information is from pp. 1-58 of A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times; being contributions toward a history of the lower Mohawk Valley by Jonathan Pearson, A. M. and others, edited by J. W. MacMurray, A. M., U. S. A. (Albany, NY: J. Munsell's Sons, Printers, 1883). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 P36, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

[Copies of this book are available from the Schenectady County Historical Society.]

[The original version uses assorted typographical symbols to represent footnotes. To improve legibility, the online version uses the form (page number - note number.)]

Early in the seventeenth century, North America east of the Mississippi was claimed by right of discovery by four European nations: France, England, Spain and Holland. Although for fifty years there were but few colonists sent over, the whole continent was too small to hold them in peace. Jealousies and bickerings were rife; the French crowded the English, and the English crowded the Dutch, until finally the latter disappeared altogether and the rivalry between the former continued one hundred years longer. It was as plain then as it is now, that rival nations could not exist in the Mississippi Valley.

The last great struggle for supremacy commenced on the Ohio in 1754, and ended on the plains of Abraham, in 1759. Henceforward there was but one nation between the Atlantic and the Mississippi.

The French commenced the settlement of Canada in 1603. Their object was two-fold: the conversion of the natives to the Christian faith, and trade. The missionary and the trader, therefore, went forth together visiting every tribe in the valleys of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi, and rendering to each other mutual aid and assistance.

No nation was ever more successful in winning the esteem and respect of the natives. The flexibility of the French character and the indomitable patience of their missionaries, were the secrets of their success. One nation alone resisted their influence; all their efforts to coax or to drive the Iroquois or Five Nations into an alliance or even to remain long neutral, were unavailing. They were not unwilling to receive the French religion, but they preferred English strouds and gun powder. (1-1) Their friendship was the salvation of the Province of New York. They claimed all the territory lying between the Hudson and the Maumee rivers, so that the French of Canada could never aim a blow at Albany or Schenectady without striking over the heads of the Five Nations. This celebrated confederacy, the terror of all surrounding tribes, was made up of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas, five allied tribes, who acted as one nation; herein lay their influence.

During the long contest for dominion on this continent, between the French and English, they held the balance of power, and were assiduously courted by both parties.

But after 1760, when the French influence ceased, their importance declined; rum and gun powder had diminished their numbers and the once powerful Mohawks had almost ceased to exist as a separate tribe.

During the Revolutionary war, large portions of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras favored the colonies and for safety were transferred to Schenectady (2-1), whilst most of the Onondagas, Cayugas and the Senecas, the most numerous westerly tribes, adhered to Great Britain and became an awful scourge to the frontier settlements in the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys.

At no time between 1660 and 1760 could not the English colonies by combined action have crushed the French power in Canada and driven it from the country. During that long period the English population was from fifteen to twenty times that of the French. Thus in 1690, when Schenectady was burned, the white population of Canada was but 12,000, that of the English colonies more than 200,000 or nearly eighteen to one. In 1754 the population of Canada was 80,000, and about 1,500,000 in the colonies, the ratio being nearly the same as in the other case. Yet, in spite of this disparity of numbers, the French were usually the aggressive party; they seldom waited to be attacked but boldly carried the torch and tomahawk into the enemy's country. There is hardly a valley between the Penobscot and the Mohawk that has not echoed the cries of murdered victims, the midnight work of the French and their allied savages. In 1731 they boldly advanced a hundred miles into the province of New York and at the head of Lake Champlain built a fort on Crown Point, which they held twenty-eight years in spite of protest and menace.

The apathy exhibited on the part of the colonies in view of such a dangerous encroachment as this, was amazing, and in the end cost some of the best blood and treasure of the country. It is true several attempts were made to humble the French power, but divided councils, incompetent leaders and failure of the mother country to afford promised aid, rendered these expensive expeditions disgraceful failures. The chief cause of this ill success, however, was the want of union and coöperation among the colonies. Those immediately threatened were ready to contribute more than their proportion of men and money to meet the danger, the others would do little or nothing. The New England states had early formed a confederacy for mutual support and assistance, but this association was neither long maintained nor extended beyond their borders. Each colony was an independent state, jealous of its rights and privileges; it would yield little or nothing for the common good, but sat isolated and apart from its neighbors, cherishing the selfish doctrine of colonial sovereignty and provincial rights. This spirit was favored by the mother country from fear of the formidable strength which a united people might exhibit. At the beginning of the last French war in 1754, Franklin with his accustomed forethought and practical wisdom, proffered to the colonial delegates assembled at Albany, a plan of union. It was discussed and favorably received, yet it bore no fruit until twenty years later.

The north-west passage to India was the fascinating day dream of the adventurers of the seventeenth century, and to this we owe the discovery by Hudson of the river which bears his name. This, his third voyage to America, was made in 1609 under the patronage of the Dutch East India Company. After coasting as far south as Chesapeake Bay, he returned and spent nearly a month in exploring the river to the head of navigation. This fortunate voyage gave him immortality and a new empire in the West to the Dutch nation.

By priority of discovery they claimed the coast from Cape Cod to Delaware Bay and inland north to the lake and river of Canada (St Lawrence), and west as far as the hitherto unexplored wilderness could be opened up by the trader and trapper. Trading adventures were at once fitted out from Holland for the new country, and the coast and rivers were carefully searched for peltries. Manhattan was made the chief port and headquarters of the enterprising traders and to prevent competition they procured from the States General in 1614, exclusive privileges under the name of the "United Netherland Company" and afterwards in 1621 as the "Privileged West India Company." The latter was a gigantic armed trading association, endowed with all the powers and sovereignty of an independent state. Its director resided in Amsterdam, its authority was wielded in New Netherland by a director, who was at the same time the fountain of laws, the executive head and the chief of the judiciary. In a word he was supreme autocrat; it is true he had a council but it was a mere cipher.

The sole object of this company was trade, of which it had a complete monopoly. It is true indeed, by the second section of their charter the company was bound to "advance the peopling of these fruitful and unsettled parts," and to encourage colonization, but in this they utterly failed of their duty. The greed for gain swallowed up all other interests. At length the evil became so apparent and was so forcibly presented to the notice of the directors in Amsterdam, that they were obliged to seek a remedy.

On the 7th day of June 1629, under the title of "Freedoms and Exemptions," concession was made to Patroons to plant colonies in New Netherland. Thus it was attempted to transfer to the new world, the objectionable features of the feudal system of the old. It burthened trade and agriculture with unnecessary restrictions and introduced at the same time aristocracy and slavery; it prohibited manufactures and discouraged the settlement of the country by private persons. From the haste with which the directors in Holland proceeded to avail themselves of the privilege thus granted, one might almost suspect this charter was granted for their special profit and gratification. From the head waters of the Hudson around to the Delaware, immense tracts of the best lands were at once taken up, and instead of confining themselves to the colonizing and cultivation of these lands, the Patroons engaged in trade contrary to the terms of their charter, as the directors claimed and to the ruin of the Company's interests. Hence arose quarrels between the officers and servants of the two opposing parties, and in the end the company was forced to remove the evil by purchasing back the great manors already granted, Rensselaerswyck alone excepted. The failure of the West Indian Company and Patroons to fulfill the requisitions of their charters relating to the colonization of the New Province and the encouragement of agriculture, became so apparent in 1638, as to call for the interference of the States General, and after the agitation and rejection of many projects, the directors were induced to proclaim free trade and free lands to private persons under what they conceived necessary restrictions. This measure had a happy effect in increasing immigration not only from the mother country, but also from New England and Virginia, where religious toleration was not so fully recognized in practice as in New Netherland. The population of New Netherland at the beginning of Stuyvesant's administration in 1647, is variously estimated at 1,000 to 3,000; at its close in 1664, it was about 10,000. The Dutch had held the Province fifty years and this was the result of their attempts to colonize it. Its natural advantages both for trade and agriculture, were unequalled by any like portion of the continent. The nation which had redeemed its own country from the ocean, that had conquered its freedom from the Spanish yoke and lead all the European nations in foreign trade, was just the people to found a new empire on these shores. The Dutch character was not wanting in the requisite energy, perseverance and pluck, but it was the system of government that was chiefly in fault, persevered in against protests and petitions.


In 1614 Albany was occupied as a post for the fur trade, of which Manhattan became the headquarters. Until 1630 the population of both places consisted of few more than the officers and servants of the West India Company, in which was vested the monopoly of trade. This year the Patroon of Rensselaerswyck sent over the first little company of settlers to his manor, a vast tract extending from the mouth of the Mohawk river twenty-four miles down the Hudson and twenty-four miles on each side of it, and comprising more than 700,000 acres. The lands along the river and upon the islands, were gradually leased with the usual reservations of rents, service, fowls and quarter sales. Few conveyances were made in fee. Both the foreign and domestic trade was claimed by the Patroon. Under such heavy disabilities the population increased slowly. But the proclamation of free trade and cultivation of the soil, in 1638, gave an impulse to the prosperity of the Colonie. Every man who could purchase a piece of duffels and strouds and an anker of brandy, became an Indian trader; indeed, there were almost as many traders in Beverwyck as there were men. So keen did competition run in beaver skins, that bosloopers (6-1) or runners, were employed to penetrate the wilderness west of the village and meet the natives on their way down with peltries. The population of Beverwyck at this early period cannot be exactly known; that it was small may by justly inferred from several facts. First: The church built in 1643 was thirty-four feet by nineteen feet in size, and contained but nine bancken (benches) for the worshippers, yet this house served the little community until 1656. Secondly: The number of colonists shown by the Van Rensselaer papers, as having been sent over to the Colonies up to 1646 is only 210. (6-2) It is not to be supposed that all those persons who were attracted to Beverwyck by its happy location for Indian traffic, were either tenants or servants of the Patroon, or were even under his manorial jurisdiction.

Fort Orange and the little hamlet which clustered around its walls for safety, were always claimed by the West India Company as under their exclusive authority. This claim, however, was strenuously resisted by the Patroon. Hence originated that memorable and almost bloody contest for power between those obstinate, hardheaded officials, Governor Stuyvesant and Commissioner Schlectenhorst.

The Dongan charter of 1686 however, quieted all further questions of jurisdiction; Albany became a city one mile wide on the river and thirteen and one-half (13 1/2) miles long. The land outside these limits belonged to the Colonie.

The early population of Beverwyck was changeable. After a few years spent in traffic with the Indians, some returned to Patria, some retired to New Amsterdam, whilst others passed beyond the limits of the Colonie and purchased lands at Kinderhook, Claverac, Cattskill, Niskayuna, Halvemaan [Waterford] and Schenectady.


The ancient township of Schenectady embraced a territory of 128 square miles, a portion of the Mohawk valley sixteen miles long and eight miles wide. The western half is an irregular plateau elevated 400 or 500 feet above the Mohawk, a spur of the Helderberg, passing north into Saratoga county, the eastern half is a sandy plain, whose general level is 300 or 400 feet lower. The river running through the middle of this tract in a southeasterly direction, forms the most beautiful and striking natural object in its landscape. At the westerly boundary where it enters the town, it flows through a narrow valley, whose sides though covered with foliage, are too steep for cultivation. From the hill Towereune, the valley widens gradually to Poversen and Maalwyck where the hills sink down into the great sand plain. Until the river reaches the city of Schenectady, it is a constant succession of rapids, and its general course is south-east, here it makes a great bend and flows with a deep, sluggish current north-eastward to the Aal Plaats, the eastern boundary of the town. The tributaries of the Mohawk within the town are small and unimportant streams; those at the west end flowing from the slates, are nearly or quite dry in summer, whilst those at the opposite end, fed from the sand, are constant spring brooks. On the north side of the river are the following brooks: Chucktenunda (7-1) at Towereune, and coming east in succession are Van Eps Kil, Droyberg, Verf, or color (paint) creek, called by the natives Tequatsera, Jan Mebie's Kil Creek of the lake in Scotia, Cromme Kil and Aal Plaats Kil. On the south side are Zandige Kil, the sloot, Rigel brugse Kil, Platte Kil, Poenties Kil, Willem Tellers Killetje, Zand Kil, Coehorn Kil and Symon Groots Kil. But of these streams, few are of sufficient size and constancy now to serve as motive power.

With the exception of a little limestone in the extreme western limits of the town, all the rocks found in place belong to Hudson shales and consist of alternate layers of blue slate and sandstones, some of which are used for building purposes.

In the west half this geological formation is most abundant, and the soil there is a clayey loam, underlaid with clay or hard pan. The immediate valley of the river where it breaks through the range of hills, is narrow and composed chiefly of drift of at least two elevations. The highest called the "stone flats," raised twenty to thirty feet above the water, consists of coarse gravel and bowlders [sic] and is chiefly found on the north side of the river. The opposite bank is a lower plain of sand and gravel.

The eastern half of the town has no hills worthy of the name; its general level is perhaps 100 feet above the Mohawk, and the prevailing soil is a fine sand, underlaid with clay except in the extreme easterly limits where the clay loam again prevails.

Besides this there is found in the bends and eddys of the river and upon the low islands, an alluvial deposit which is constantly enriched by the annual floods. This constitutes the widely known "Mohawk Flats," which though cultivated by the white man for more than 200 years, have lost little of their unsurpassed fertility.

In the early period of the settlement no other land was tilled, bence they were called the land, arable land, or bouwlandt, all else being denominated woodland and little valued. In addition to their fertility, these flats presented another advantage to the first settler, they were mainly free from wood and ready for the plough and seed. For ages they had been the native's corn land, whilst the adjacent forests and river furnished him with, flesh and fish.

The great sand belt wbich passes across the town from south to north was once covered with a heavy growth of pines, whilst the high lands lying north and west of it produced the usual varieties of hard woods. Nothing could have been more charming to the eye of the first white men traveling up the Mohawk to Tiononderoga (Fort Hunter), than the flats skirting the river banks, clothed in bright green of the Indian corn and other summer crops of the red man. In 1642, the kind hearted Arent Van Curler visited the Indian castles on an errand of mercy, to rescue some captive Frenchmen from the hands of the cruel Mohawks. On his return he wrote to the Patroon (Kilian Van Rensselaer) in Amsterdam, that a half day's journey from the Colonie, on the Mohawk river, there lies the most beautiful land that the eye of man ever beheld. (8-1) Who that has stood upon Niskayuna berg or Schuylerberg and looked west and north over the bouwlandt and the adjacent islands can wonder at the rapture of the enthusiastic Dutchman, or can fail to discern in his admiration, the budding of that idea which twenty years after blossomed into the settlement of which he was the leader.

The site of the village of Schenectady was admirably chosen. No other spot in the neighborhood of the bouwland offered such facilities for a village. From the eastern end of the "Great Flat" there makes out from the sandy bluff which surrounds it a low narrow spit, having upon the east, north and west sides the Mohawk river and Sand Kil. The extreme point only about 1,200 feet wide, was chosen for the site of the future city, a warm dry spot, easily fortified against an enemy and sufficiently elevated to be safe from the annual overflow of the Mohawk river. This little flat contains but 175 acres and it was the site of an earlier Indian village (9-1) whose numerous dead have been from time to time found buried along the Binné Kil. [also written Binne Kil and Binnekil.]

First Settlement of Schenectady

If we may believe tradition, Schenectady had already been occupied by the white man many years when Van Curler first visited it in 1642, in fact it has been claimed to be little if any junior to Albany.

That a few fur traders and bosloopers early roved among the Mohawks, married and raised families of half breeds cannot be denied; indeed there are respectable families in the valley to this day, whose pedigree may be traced back to these marriages. But that the white man made any permanent settlement on the Mohawk west of Albany before 1662, there is no good reason for believing, and in view of the opposition of Albany and the Colonie, improbable.

In the summer of 1661 Arent Van Curler, the leader of the first settlement, made formal application to Governor Stuyvesant for permission to settle upon the "Great Flat" lying west of Schenectady.

The following is a translation of his letter:

"Right Honorable Sir,
My Lord

When last at Manhatans I informed your honor that there were some friends and well wishers, who were well inclined with your Honor's knowledge and approbation to take possession of and till the Groote Vlachte (Great Flats) well known to your worship; whereto six or eight families are already inclined, and for which your Honor promised me a warrant authorising us to purchase said lands, but by reason of your Honor's daily occupations nothing came of it. So then your Honor promised to send it later but I am persuaded the daily cares of your Honor's government have driven it from your Honor's remembrance.

Truly the way is now open, the savages being inclined to abandon the land for a moderate price, the more so as trade is so slack and meagre. Hence it is the wish of our friends to dispatch the bearer of this, Philip Hendrickse Brouwer, to refresh your Honor's remembrance, for as much as it is high time, (if your Honor please) that the people provide themselves with hay and fodder for their beasts and like to lay out the road thither.

Please not, your Honor, distrust the people as is generally done here, by the common folks, nor doubt that one loaf will last till another be gained.

So then it will be better to provide betimes, to seize good fortune, for afterwards it may be too late. Doubtless as your Honor is likewise a lover of agriculture, your Honor will yield to the just request of the people; the money for the purchase of the aforesaid land they themselves will furnish temporarily and until it shall be otherwise ordered by your Honor.

Finally I pray your Honor to be pleased to favor the people's good intention so far as possible, and conclude by commending your Honor to God's grace with the wish for a long and happy administration, and further I remain ever


Your Honor's most humble
A. Van Curler.

The 18th June, 1661.

P. S. If your Honor falls short three or four Muds of oats as feed for your Honor's horses, please command me to supply your Honor with the same from my small store.

Your Honor's servant
A. V. Curler. (10-1)

June 23, 1661.

"The letter of Arent Van Curler being presented and read on the 18th June, containing in substance a request by him and a few other persons for the large plain situated to the back of Fort Orange toward the interior, for the purpose of cultivation, and consent to purchase the same from the original proprietors and make a settlement there, etc.; which being maturely considered, the Director General and Council resolved to consent to it; provided that the said lands on being purchased from the native proprietors be as usual transferred to the Director General and Council aforesaid as representatives of the Lords Directory of the Privileged West India Company; and that whatever the petitioners shall pay for the aforesaid lands to the original proprietors, shall in due time be returned to them, or be discounted to them against the tenths." (11-1)

Before the Governor's authority was received at Beverwyck a freshet laid the country for miles around under water. This was followed a few days after (June 26), by an inundation much greater than the first, which forced the inhabitants to quit their dwellings and fly with their cattle for safety to the woods on the adjoining hills. Incalculable damage was caused by these irruptions. The wheat and other grain were all prostrated, and had to be cut mostly for fodder, affording scarcely seed sufficient for the next spring.

This visitation necessarily caused the postponement of the purchase of the "Great Flat" until the ensuing month when the following deed was obtained from the Indian owners. (11-2)

"Compareerde voor mij Johannes La Montagne ten dienste vande Groet Wesendische Compagnie door de Gl en Racden Van Nieu Nederlant geadmitteert, Viers Directr en Commies op de fortss Orangie en Dorp Beverwy, eenige Oversten vant Maquaes Lant genaempt Cantuquo, Sanareetse, Aiadane Sodackdrasse eigenaers van een seeckere stuck Landts genaempt Op duyts de Groote Vlackten Liggende achter de fort Orangie tusschen de selve en het Maquaes Landt de welcke Verklaeren gecedeert en getransporteert te hebben gelyck sij seedeeren en transporteeren by deesen in reele en Actuelle possessie en sijgondom ten behoeve Van Sr Arent Van Corlaer Ret gemelde stuck Landts of groote Vlackten op Wildts genaemdt Schonowe (is) in syn begrip en circonferentie met syn geboomte en killen voor een seecker getal of Cargosoenen voor welck de transportanton bekennen sattisfactie van gehadt te hebben renonceerende voor nu en altyt op alle eygendom en pretensie die sij op het gemelde stuck Landts tot nutoe gehadt hebben, beloovende het te bevryden voor all pretensie die andere Wilden soude hebben konnen. Actum in de fortss Orangie den 27e July A, 1661, in presentie Van Marten Mouris en Willem Montagne daertee versocht.

dit ist merck van Cantuquo [view image original size (2K) | 36x enlarged (17K)]

The Bear.

dit ist merck van Aiadane [view image original size (2K) | 36x enlarged (12K)]

dit ist merck van Sonareetsie [view image original size (2K) | 36x enlarged (19K)]

M. Mou(ris)
William de La Montagne. (12-1)

In Keunisse van mij La Montagne
V. Dr en Commies opt fortss Orangie


Appeared before me, Johannes La Montagne in the service of the Privileged West India Company by the Director General and Council of New Netherland admitted vice-director and clerk (commies) at Fort Orange and village of Beverwyck, certain sachems of the Mohawk's land named Cantuquo, Sonareetse, Aiadane, Sodachdrasse, owners of a certain piece of land (12-2) named in Dutch the Groote Vlachte, and lying behind Fort Orange, between the same and the Mohawk's lands, who declare that they have granted, transferred, as by these presents they do grant and transfer in real and actual possession and ownership to the behoof of Mr Arent Van Corlaer, the said piece of land or Great Flat by the Indians named Schonowe, in its compass of circumference, with its woods and kils for a certain number of cargoes, for which the grantors acknowledge they have had satisfaction; renouncing henceforth and forever all ownership and pretensions, which they to said pieces of land heretofore have had and promising to free it from all pretensions which other Indians may have. Done in Fort Orange the 27th July, anno 1661, in presence of Marten Mouris and Willem Montagne hereto invited.

This is the mark X of Cantuquo,

This is the mark X of Sonareetsie,

This is the mark X of Aidane.

M. Mou(ris)
William de La Montagne,

Acknowledged before me, La Montagne
V. D., and Clerk at Fort Orange.

On the sixth day of April, 1662, Arent Van Curler again addressed the Director General and Council stating that in accordance with their resolution of the 23d June last, he and his associates had purchased and taken possession of the Great Flat behind Fort Orange and were now "engaged in constructing houses, mills and other buildings upon this plain," and that inasmuch as it was necessary to sow and cultivate these lands this season, which cannot be well done before they have been surveyed and allotted; therefore he solicits the Director General "to authorize the surveyor Jacques Cortelyou, to measure and divide the same," and for this purpose that he return with the petitioner.

On this petition the following apostil was given.

"Before the requested settlement can be formed and surveyed, the persons who are inclined to establish themselves there ought to number at least twenty families and communicate their names at the office of the secretary of the Director General and Council and furthermore to engage and promise not to trade with the savages." (13-1)

Another year passed and nothing was done towards the allotment of the lands among Van Curler's company. The inhabitants of Beverwyck and Colonie "were most anxious to retain the fur monopoly and had sufficient influence with the Director and Council to induce them to order that the settlers of Schenectady should confine themselves exclusively to agriculture and abstain from all trade with the Indians." (13-2)

On the 9th May, 1643, Governor Stuyvesant wrote to Commies La Montagne and the court of Beverwyck, that by request he had sent up the sworn surveyor Jacques Cortelyou to lay out and survey the Great Flat, but as he "was indirectly informed that some of the new settlers there had dared against his express orders dated April 6, 1662, to sell strong liquors to the savages, he commanded the aforesaid Cortelyou to measure no lands for any individual there except he has previously signed the enclosed indenture in the presence of the commies and commissaries." (14-1)


Wee landholders on the Plain called ———— promise hereby that we will not on the aforesaid Plain nor in its vicinity undertake to trade in any manner under any pretext whatsoever, with the savages either directly or indirectly under the penalty, if we or any of us violate this our solemn promise, without any opposition for the first offence of fifty beavers, the second offence, one hundred, and for the third, forfeiture of our solicited and acquired lands on the aforesaid Plain.

In witness whereof this was signed by us in Fort ———— 1663." (14-2)

Van Curler laid the above communication of the governor and Council, before the "settlers of Schanechstede" on the 18th May, and proposed they should subscribe to the annexed agreement as commended to him by Commies La Montagne and the magistrates of Beverwyck.

To this the settlers unanimously answered, declaring their willingness

"to obey the Noble West India Company and the supreme magistrates in New Netherland, with other subjects to pay all their taxes, and neither do nor attempt anything contrary to published orders and placards, fully trusting that their Honors will not treat us less kindly nor impose duties upon us other, than upon the other subjects of this Province and being fully assured that your Honors will Seriously consider, that in consequence of your resolution of date 23d June 1661 these lands were purchased out of our own pockets for the Noble Company, settled at great expence, buildings erected and the land stocked with cattle and horses; and that if these settlers be treated otherwise and worse than other subjects, then all labor would be in vain and they actually ruined, which God avert."

"We petition therefore that it may please your Honors to permit us the continued cultivation of these lands, as by letters patent you granted [Marten's island] to Jan Barentse Wemp and Jacques Cornelise [Van Slyck] without any restrictions. (14-3)

"Finally as the Surveyor is in this vicinity and has no orders to survey the land save the aforesaid agreement is subscribed, we renew our request to prevent future differences and disputes that he may be authorised to survey and allot the land among us, otherwise we shall be compelled to help ourselves as best we can."

This petition was taken into consideration by the Director General and Council on the 18th June, 1663. In their answer the petitioners are again referred to their past action, especially to that of April 6, 1662, in regard to the necessity of settlers at Schenectady confining themselves to agriculture, "because of the dangers which unavoidably must follow any trade with the Barbarians at such a distant place," reminding them that "it is not and never can be our intention to raise and foster one place and to expose another, yea, even the whole country to imminent danger." (15-2)

Renewed complaints both verbally and in writing, having been made to the Director General and Council by the inhabitants of the village of Beverwyck, with regard to the injuries and losses which might be apprehended not only to Beverwyck and Colonie Rensselaerswyck, but also to Schenectady itself, if trade with the Indians be permitted at the latter settlement, particularly at this dangerous period, — the Director and Council, on the same day took into serious consideration these complaints, and the danger of carrying merchandize six or seven [Dutch] miles into the country, on horses and wagons, for purposes of trade with the savages, by whom it ought to be expected that such goods would be attacked and plundered upon the road, as indeed had already been the case, and "even attempts made to violate the women, who went thither, as well as other insolences committed by the barbarians not only in the road but in the settlement itself."

"To prevent all which and many other mishaps, the Director General and Council order that no goods for the savages on any pretext whatsoever shall be carried thither, much less directly or indirectly bartered away, under penalty of the forfeiture of these goods and merchandize, to be applied one-half for the informer and the other for the officer of Fort Orange, or of Colonie Rensselaerswyck, by whom the prosecution shall be instituted; this end commanding their officers and court of Fort Orange and village of Beverwyck not only to have this order vigorously executed, but furthermore to visit the new settlement of Schenectady and there make an inventory of all the goods and merchandize already carried thither in violation of the act of concession of the Director General and Council of date the 6th of April, 1662, and see them removed thence within thrice twenty-four hours on penalty as before mentioned."

"Done in Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, 18th June, 1663. (16-1)

The year passed away without any adjustment of these difficulties; neither partition nor patents for the land could be had; the people felt aggrieved that the privileges of trade should be accorded to Beverwyck and not to Schenectady, but they preferred to risk their cause to the mollifying power of time.

On the 17th of April, 1664, another petition was presented to the Director General and Council by Sander Leendertse Glen, Willem Teller, and Harmen Vedder for themselves and the other inhabitants of the settlement named Schaneghstede, soliciting in substance that to prevent further dispute the surveyor might be sent up to lay out and parcel the land and house lots for every person interested. (16-2)

The apostil to this petition was, that "the Director General and Council deem it proper to prevent disputes that the land and lots mentioned in the petition should be laid out, and therefore that the surveyor shall be sent up by the first opportunity."

"20 May, 1664.

"Resumed the apostill upon the petition of those interested in the lands of Schanechstede made the 17th April; — the surveyor Jacques Cortelyou commanded to proceed from here on the first Sailing Vessel to Fort Orange to lay out the aforesaid lands in the best manner possible and for the best accommodation of those interested therein, viz.: to each man his Share. In case any dispute arise between neighbors, the aforesaid Cortelyou together with the commissary La Montagne to reconcile the parties if possible and if they cannot succeed, to send their report to the Director General and Council in New Netherland."

"Done in Fort Amsterdam." (16-3)

Thus after a delay of two years, Governor Stuyvesant came to an understanding with the settlers, and the several lots and farms were surveyed and conveyed to them by patents.

Indian Deed and First Patent for the Township

The description given in Van Curler's Indian deed of 1661 was quite indefinite and restricted the inhabitants to a comparatively small area.

At this time and even for many years later, nothing was called land except the islands and alluvial flats bordering upon the river. Within ten nears after the settlement commenced, all the tillable land was taken up and it became necessary to look for more farther west. Hence originated another negotiation with the Mohawks and the following deeds extinguishing the Indian title to the lands along the river to the present westerly limits of the county.

"On this 28th May, 1670, Kennighke and Auroensie, both sakemakers of the Maquase, acknowledge to have thankfully received the remainder of the sewant, tubs [of beer] and gunpowder, according to the tenor of the accompanying contract, and free the aforenamed buyers henceforth from all claims, and promise never more from this date to make any new action.

In witness of the truth of which we have subscribed this with our own hands by our accustomed marks at Schanechted on the date as above in presence of Robbert Sanders and Jacques Cornelise [Van Slyck] both called as interpreters hereto.

This mark [view image original size (3K) | 36x enlarged (12K)] was set by Kennighke.

This mark [view image original size (4K) | 36x enlarged (19K)] was set by Dorowingoese.

This mark [view image original size (3K) | 36x enlarged (17K)] was set by Auroensie.

Robert Sanders.

These letters [view image original size (4K) | 36x enlarged (12K)] were set by Jacques Cornelise.

In my presence, J. G. V. Marcken, Schout." (17-1)

"On this 3d day of July Ao 1672, appeared before mee John Garret Van Marken, admitted publ: nota: by the worshipful court of Albany and the Inhabitants of Schanhectade; together with a sartain Indian called Dohorywachqua and Crage, being the representative of ye foure Mohockx Castells, who declared and promised to hold firm and stable, and will cause to be held in full force and virtue all and whatsoever hee shall act or doe in ye sale of ye Lands Lying Neare The Towne of Schanhechtade Within Three Dutch Myles (18-1) in compasse on boath sides of ye River Westwards, which endes at Hinguariones [Towareoune] Where the Last Battell Was between The Mohoakx and the North Indians; Provided That Jaackes Cornelisse [Van Slyck] Shall have the first flatts or playne, — Except ye Inhabitants of Schanhechtade Will Restore unto said Jaaques Cornelisse Two Rundlets of Brandy and one hundred hand of Wampum, which being paid unto sd Jaaques The sd first Playne to Remaine to the Towne."

"Whereupon Sander Leenders Gelen being a former magistrate and John Van Eps, and Sweer Teunisse [Van Velsen] being ye present magistrates of ye sd Towne did acknowledge and declare That They Weare Agreed with ye sd Indian uppon ye purchase of ye Land for ye Summe or quantity of six hundred hands of good Wheyte Wampum (18-2), Six koats of Duffels, thirty barres of Lead and nine bagges of Powder, Which They doe promis unto ye sd Indians in two Terms, viz: The first soon as The Sachems, or any person by Them authorized shall Comme out of ye Country and Produce full Power from Theyre Inhabitants according to Theyre usuall Manner, and have Thereupon delivered unto ye sd Indian as a present for The old man in the Mohawk Country a Rundlet of brandy — To the end all Misunderstanding and Complaints May be Washt of and Removed."

"To The trew performance of The premises The sd parties have hereunto Set theire handes, and Wass Interpreted by Cornelis Viele in The Absence of Jaques Cornelisse, — In Schanhechtade, the date above written." (Signed)

"With the Markes of followeth

The Marke [view image original size (4K) | 36x enlarged (12K)] of Dohoriwachqua.

The Marke [view image original size (4K) | 36x enlarged (10K)] of Crage.

"Attested by me,

J. G. V. Marken, Notar: publ:"

(Coppy) This day the 13th of July is payd unto the Indians above mentioned in parte of ye purchaze foure hundred hands of Wampum, 30 barres of Lead 3 bagges of pouder. More for a present, 3 ankers good beere, one koatt of duffells, together with the above mentioned Rundler of Brandy."

"(Coppy Transl:) Aoo 1672 The 13th day of July, Did the underwritten Indians appeare before us and do declare that They did confirm all and whatsoever the Above written Indians by Name Tohoriowaghque and Crage in the Annexed Instrument have acted, and doo by These presents prommise, with the Last payment to give all further Assurances of the sd Land, and That They and Theyre heires Shall desist from all further Claymes and pretences whatsoever.

"In Witness whereof They have hereunto set Theyre handes, In Schanhechtade at the house of Gerritt Bancker and in the presence of Severall particular Indians The Day and Yeare Above written.

"Signed with ye following markes.

The Marke [view image original size (4K) | 36x enlarged (16K)] of Canachquo.

The Marke [view image original size (4K) | 36x enlarged (12K)] of Ocquarry.

The Marke [view image original size (4K) | 36x enlarged (16K)] Tohoriowachque.

Attested by mee,

(Signed) J. G. V. Marcke, Nota. pub.

Compared and found to agree with the prinsip: by mee.

Ludovicus Cobes, secret." (19-1)

By virtue of the foregoing conveyance from the Indian proprietors, application was then made to the Governor and Council for a patent and with what result will be seen by the following proceeding in Council.

"At a Councell Oct. 15, 1675.

Present — The Governor, The Secretary, Capt. Dyre, Mr. Philips.

Sander Leenderts Glen and Ludovicus Cobes, Schout of Schanechtade, produce (with a request from their Village) severall papers relating to an Indyan purchase &c., made Anno, 1672, somewhat before the surrender of this place to ye Dutch, and desire a Patent for ye lands three miles of each side of the River.

They desire twelve miles farther, which they pretend to have purchased and make severall other Proposalls.

In answer whereunto, It is resolved as followeth vizt.

To ye first Proposall, That they have a Patent for ye land about, and above Schanechtade, but there appearing no leave from ye Governor to buy ye same, nor a full information of the Premises, It is to be suspended for ye present, but no one else shall have a graunt for that land before them, In meantime it may Continue in Common as formerly.

The Bouweryes or farmes of Schanechtade are to pay for each of them conteyning 20 morgan and so proporçonably four Bushels of Winter Wheat pr annum as a quitt Rent.

To ye second concerning their Priviledge of Trade or handling wth ye Indyans.

The Governor's Ordrs made above to bee observed.

To ye 3d, That they may be excused ye paymt of their Burger's Packt or Excise att Albany and may bee ad."

* * * * * * *

"It is ordered that ye Magistrates of Schanechtade shall at this time have liberty to impose and levy upon ye Inhabitants there the 300th penny for to pay present debts and defray publique Charges.

To ye last request that may have a peculiar seal for their own particular affaires relating to their town,

It is likewise graunted, and that a seal shall be made and sent them by the first convenience." (20-1)

Thus the reasonable petition of the inhabitants was denied for informality and indefiniteness; first because, "leave from ye Governor to buy ye same," had not first been obtained and secondly, because "full information of the Premises" was not given. And to add to the difficulties of the case, the Mohawks were inclined to repudiate the sale of their lands or at least demand a double compensation, as shown in the following minute of a council held by the Mohawks, before the Governor.

"The Sachem spake for himself, That one Arent Van Corlaer bought all Schannectade and paid for it, but now there be some who have bought only Grasse, and pretend to the land allso; they say allso that they have bought the first flatt, but that is not so, for it belongs to Acques Cornelisse [Van Slyck], who is to have it, and none else, for he is of their [Mohawk] people and it is his inheritance; that there are writings made of a sale of land, but it was never sold, but only the grasse, tho' it may be some drunken fellows may have made some writing without their knowledge, — That they have only bought the Grasse and now are going to live upon it, but they ought to pay for the land as well as the Grasse, and that they had given some to that woman Hillah and another Leah (21-1), who have the property of it; — the others have only the Grasse; — That now he has declared this matter and desires notice may be taken of it; and says that shame shall never come upon him, or to be found in a lye." (21-2)


"That it is the custom of the Government and amongst Christians when. they sell the Grass to sell the land allso; and if they be not paid for the land they shall be, and that the people of Schannectade say that they sent Acques to purchase the land in the name of their Town, and that Acques bought in his own name; and they sent allso one Kemel to purchase it for the Towne, the Indyans told him that Acques had bought and paid some part of the payment, and they desired them to pay Acques the money back and the Towne should have it, which the Towne did and Acques was satisfied; it is the custom of this place to do justice among ourselves and if Acques have a better title than they for it, he shall have it." (21-3)

Whatever may have been the arguments used on this occasion, whether in the shape of "ankers of good beere," or a "rundler of brandy," — potent reasons ever with the Indian, — opposition ceased from this time and the Governor and Council were brought to grant the inhabitants the following much needed Patent for the ancient township, afterwards city of Schenectady.

"Thomas Dongan, Leiutenant [sic] and Governour and Vice-Admirall under his Royall Highnesse, James, Duke of Yorke, &c., of New Yorke and its Dependencyes in Amerca [sic] &c.

To all to whom these presents shall come, Sendeth Greeting, Whereas Tohorywachqua and Crage, Representatives of the four Mohake Castles, have for themselves, and Canachquo, Ocquary, and Tohoriowachque, true and Lawfull Owners of the Land within mentioned, have by their certaine Writeing, or Deed of Sale, dated the third day of July Anno Dni 1672, Given and Granted unto Sander Lendrs Glenn, John Van Epps, Sweere Teunesse, as being impowered by the Inhabitants of the Towne or Village of Schenectady and Places adjacent, a Certaine Tract or Parcell of Lands, beginning at the Maques River, by the Towne of Schenectade, and from thence Runnes Westerly on both sides up the River to a Certaine Place called by the Indians Canaquarioeny, being Reputed three Dutch Miles or twelve English Miles; and from the said Towne of Schenectade downe the River one Dutch or four English miles to a kill or creeke called the Ael Place, and from the said Maques River into the woods South Towards Albany to the Sandkill one Dutch Mile and as much on the other side of the River North, being one Dutch mile more, there being Excepted in the said Bounds all Corne and Sawmills, that now are or hereafter shall be erected Within the Bounds of the said Towne, that they be lyable to pay a perticular Quitt Rent for their Priviledges, besides what is herein sett forth, as shall hereafter be agreed for by the Inhabitants of the said Places, or owners of such Mills, with such Governour, or Governours as shall be Appointed by his Royall Highnesse: and likewise that noe Timber or Wood be Cutt but within the Bounds aforesaid, the said Excepcon being agreed upon by Myselfe as by a Certaine Writeing bearing date the 7th day of August last Past, doth more perticulerly Appeare:

Now know Yee that by virtue of the Comicon and Authority to me Given, by his Royall Highnesse James Duke of Yorke and Albany, Lord Proprietor of this Province, I have hereby Given, Granted, Ratifyed and Confirmed and by these Presents doe Give, Grant, Ratifye and confirme, unto William Teller, Ryert Schermerhorn, Sweer Teunessen, Jan Van Epps and Myndert Wemp on the Behalfe of the Inhabitants of the Towne of Schenectade and Places Adjacent aforesaid, Dependencyes thereon, there Associates, Heires, Successors and Assigns, all and Singular the before recited Tract and Tracts, Parcell and Parcells of Land, Meadow, Ground and Premises with their and every of their Appurtenancyes, together with all and Singular the Houses, Buildings, Messuages, Tenements, Heriditaments, Dams, Rivers, Runnes, Streames, Ponds, Woods, Quarryes, Fishing, Hawking and Fowling, with all Priviledges, Libertyes, and Improvements whatsoever, to the said Lands and Premisses belonging, or in any wise appertaining, or accepted, reputed, taken or known as Part, Parcell, or Member thereof, with their and every of their Appurtenances; Provided Alwayes that this shall not anywayes make null, or void a former Grant or Pattent bearing date the 30th of October last past made to Jacques Cornelisse of a Piece of Land lyeing within the Bounds heretofore menc̆oned of the Towne of Schenectade, (that is to say) the Land Lyeing and being betweene two Creekes, the one called the Stone Creeke to the Eastward, and the other the Plattè Creeke to the westward thereof, the Low Land lyeing along the River side on the South of the Maques River, and then to the north of the Land belonging to the Inhabitants of Schenectade, the same Containing Forty Morgan or Eighty acres of Land, as alsoe Forty Morgan, or Eighty Acres of Woodland or upland more, on the West side of the Plattè Creeke, adjoining to the arrable Land along the River side, which was wholly exempt by the Indian Proprietors, in the sale of this Land, as belonging to Jacques Cornelise: — To have and to hold the aforesaid Tract and Tracts, Parcell and Parcells, of Land and Premisses with their and every of their Appurtenances, unto the said William Teller, Ryert Schermerhorne, Sweer Teunessen, Jan Van Epps and Myndart Wemp on the behalfe of the Inhabitants of the Towne of Schenectade and their Associates, their Heires, Successors and Assignes, unto the propper use and behoofe of the said William Teller, Ryert Schermerhorne, Sweer Teunessen, Jan Van Eps and Myndart Wemp, their Heires, Successors, and Assignes forever, to be holden of his Royall Highnesse, his Heires and Assignes in ffree and Comon Soccage, According to the tenure of East Greenwich, in the County of Kent, in his Maties [i.e., Majesty's] Kingdome of England, Yielding and Paying therefor, Yearly and every Yeare, as a Quitt rent, for his Royall Highnesse use, unto such officer or Officers as shall be appointed to receive the same att Albany forty Bushels of Good Winter Wheat, on or before the twenty-fifth day of March.

Given under my Hand and Sealed with the Seale of the Province, at ffort James in New York, the first day of November Anno Dni 1684, and in the thirty-sixth Yeare of his maties Raigne.

Tho. Dongan."

The importance of this grant will appear from the fact that it is the source of all legal titles to lands embraced within 128 square miles of territory given subsequently to the first day of November; 1684.

The five trustees therein named, or their survivors and successors lawfully appointed, thereafter became the granters of all the public or common lands of the town. Previous to this date all lawful conveyances were in the first instance made by the Governor and Council.

Of the five original trustees, Myndert Wemp, Jan Van Eps, and Sweer Teunise Van Velsen were killed Feb. 9, 1698/9 [should be 1690] leaving only Reyer Schermerhorn and Willem Teller survivors. The latter, then an aged man residing in Albany, took but little active interest in the management of the Patent. In 1692 he removed to New York, where he died in 1700, from which time until the confirmatory Patent of 1714, Reyer Schermerhorn was sole trustee.

By the destruction of the village in 1690 and subsequent wars with the French and their Indian allies, the inhabitants of Schenectady had lost all but their lands; in consequence of which Schermerhorn petitioned the Governor in 1698 for an abatement of the quit rent due, — 40 bushels of wheat Yearly, — according to the Patent of 1684, but his request was not granted. (23-1)

Making due allowance for water, there were about 80,000 acres of land in the Patent of Schenectady, — all under the charge and management of one trustee, save the few farms which had been heretofore granted. This one man power was distasteful to the people and it was urged against Schermerhorn that he disposed of the lands belonging to the village, without rendering any account of the same; they therefore petitioned for an enlargementof their privileges by a new charter which should give them power of choosing five trustees to hold office three years, who should account to their successors for the management of their trust. To this end the following petition of date Oct. 10, 1702, was sent to the Governor and Council.

"To His Excellency Edward Lord Viscount Cornbury, her Majies Capt. General and Commander-in-Chief of the Province of New York and all the tracts and Territories of land depending thereon in America, and Vice Admirall of the same, &c., and to the Honorable Councell,

The Humble address of the Inhabitants of the Village of Schenectady in the County of Albany

How that sometime in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty-four the late Governr Thomas Dongan, being at Schenectady aforesaid, ordered ye payment of all ye quit rents then due to be made. The Inhabitants Addressed themselves to ye said late Governr to agree for the said quit Rents and to obtain a Generall Patent for the Lands Belonging to the said Village; — the said late governour bidd them appoint some Persons to agree to ye Same, Whereupon some few Persons Desyned Willlam Teller, Ryer Schermerhoorn, Sweer Teunisse, Jan Van Eps and Myndert Wemp, who agreed for said quitt Rent, and in Pursuants thereof the said Ryer Schermerhoorn without any qualification hath obtained a generall Patent dated ye first of November, 1684, to the aforementioned few Persones, their heirs and assigns forever. The said William Teller being at Schenectady sometime in June, 1700, when many Inhabitants complained of ye Grievance they suffered by ye administration of said Ryer Schermerhorn and John Wemp, whereby virtue of said Patent [they] dispose and sell the lands belonging to said Village and buy other as they then will, without Rendering any account of the same; Whereupon ye said William Teller Declared that he never knew that the Intent of the Patent was upon * * * therein mentioned and their heirs and their * * * * to hear * * * in * * * and * * * said Patent should [be] altered to the end that ye said Inhabitants may yearly have a * * * of five (?) trustees for ye said village, and since ye said Sweer Teunisen is deceased without leaving an heir and John Van Eps, Myndert Wemp and William Teller deceased and John Barentse [Baptist] Van Eps Sonn and heir of said John Van Eps refews to Administer ye said Patent, the heirs of said Teller living at New York so that the whole administration of said Patent is so managed by the said Ryer Schermerhorn and John Wemp his sonn-in-law in manner as aforesaid.

Wee the Inhabitants aforesaid doo therefore most humbly pray your Lordship and honble Council to take our Case into your serious consideration and that yee Power of said Ryer Schermerhorn and the heirs of said Three deceased may be annuld and made Void and to present a new patent Confirming the Land [and] other Priviledges as in the Present Patent is contained for ye Behoofe of the Inhabitants of said Village, — Together with an addition that yearly and every year five Persons by the Major votes of the said Inhabitants be chosen Trustees over ye said Village and be accountable of there Proceedings at the Determination of Three years, humbly Submitting to your Lordship to appoint such Persons for Trustees as aforesaid for ye first year and your humble Petitioners as in duty bounde shall ever pray, etc.

Albany the 10th of October, 1702.


As it had been charged that the first Patent granted the lands to the patentees therein named and to their heirs, successors and assigns, the second Patent given on the 17th Feb., 1702/3, in response to the foregoing petition, after reciting the Dongan Patent, conveyed the lands therein mentioned to Col. Pieter Schuyler, John Sanderse Glenn, Adam Vrooman and John Wemp, jointly or severally to be trustees for managing the trust and estate aforesaid, together with the said Ryer Schermerhorn or by themselves. Schermerhorn paid no regard to the new charter, nor to his fellow trustees but still continued to act as sole "trustee for the town in receiving the rents, issues and profits thereof, and in prosecuting suits of law in his own name only, without giving any account thereof."

All this too in spite of suspension from his office by the Governor. The secret of this stubborn persistance in the duties of his trusteeship was doubtless the fact that the first Patent of 1684, was still binding, notwithstanding the granting of a second, and also to the further fact, that in Schermerhorn as the sole survivor of the trustees therein mentioned was vested all the authority and power originally granted to said five trustees.

The fee of the land was in him, his "heirs, successors and assigns;" and could only be alienated by death or release in due form. In consequence thereof, Col. Peter Schuyler and Johannes Glen, two of the new trustees petitioned the Governor for an amended charter and were followed by the citizens asking for a yearly election of trustees and a more strict accountability to the people; whereupon the Governor granted their request in the charter of April 16, 1705, from which after reciting both the former charters of 1684 and 1703 (26-1), Schermerhorn's name as trustee is omitted.

The following petitions set forth the grievances which agitated the people and led to the granting of the third charter above mentioned, and to the suspension of Schermerhorn from his office.

"To his Excellency, Edward Viscount Cornbury, Captaine Generall and Governour in Cheife of the Province of New York and New Jersey and all the tracts of land thereon Depending in America, and Vice-Admirall of the same.

"The Humble Memoriall of the Inhabitants of the Towne of Schenectady.

May it Please your Lordship

That upon ye complaint of us the said Inhabitants made to your Excellency in Councill the twenty-first day of Aprill last [1704], of diverse abuses and unjust proceedings committed in the said towns by Ryer Schermerhorne, your Excellency was pleased to order the said Schermerhorn and one John Wemp and Thomas Williams to attend your Excellency in Councell, who accordingly appeared the twenty-fifth day of May then next following [1704], upon which day after a full hearing of all matters against the said Mr. Schermerhorne, your Lordship in Councell did think fitt to suspend the said Mr. Schermerhorne from acting further as Trustee of the said Towne and that Likewise an order should Issue to her Majesties late Attorney Generall to Draw a new Patent for the said Towne and therein to appoint Coll. Schuyler, Johannes Sanderse Glenn, Adam Vrooman, Daniel Janze [Van Antwerpen] and John Baptist Van Eps, Trustees for the said Towne for one year with power to the Inhabitants Yearly, to Choose five Trustees who should be accountable to the Sucseeding Trustees of their doings in That Trust.

Notwithstanding the said Schermerhorne in Contempt of your Lordship's suspension as aforesaid and not regarding any of the Orders so made by your Excellency in Councell as aforesaid touching the same, doth still continue to act as Trustee for the said Towne in Receiving the rents, Issues and Profits thereof and in Prosecuting suites of Law in his own name only, without giving any account thereof to the Trustees lately so appointed by your Excellency; And Particularly the said Mr. Glenn and Mr. Vrooman having for the necessary Defence of the said Towne employed persons, who have been at expense in fortifying the same, Yett by the said Mr. Schermerhorne receiving the rents and Profitts of the said Towne (which ought to be applyed toward the defraying that necessary charge), the said Mr. Glenn and Mr. Vrooman are rendered uncapable to pay the same or to pay her Majesties Quit rents [1704].

All which is humbly Submitted to your Lordships great Wisdome. (27-1)

"The humble memorial of the Inhabitants of Schenectaday.

May it please your Lordship.

The said Inhabitants of Schonectady by Virtue of Purchase from the Natives with the consent of the Goverment being seized of divers parcells of Land about the year 1684, had the same confirmed to them under a certaine quit rent by ye then Govr.

This Confirmation was made in the name of Willem Teller, Ryer Schermerhorn, Sweer Teunise, Jan Van Eps and Myndert Wemp in trust for the said Inhabitants according to their respective Interests.

The rest of ye Trustees being dead the onely Survivor, Ryer Schermerhorn has taken upon him to dispose of severall parcells of the same Lands and the Rents, Issues and profits of the same as if the same were his owne property and not a Trust as indeed it was, refuseing to be accountable to the Parties Interested.

To remedy this the Inhabitants aforesaid having made their applycacon to your Lordp By Letters Patents under the Great Seal [of date 17 Feb. 1702/3], appointed Peter Schuyler, Johannis Sanderse Glenn, Adam Vrooman, John Wemp and Ry er Schermerhorn as Trustees on the behalf of the said Inhabitants with severall powers and Authoritys, but this hath hitherto proved ineffectual.

It is their humble Request and they offer it as a means for their relief that your Lordp will please to Nominate and appoint five proper persons as Trustees for the said Inhabitants for the management of their Comon affairs with Liberty of an Annual Choice by the major vote of the said lnhabitants of five persons as Trustees in succession, who respectively may be accountable to the successive Trustees for such monies, Issues and profits, as may in Generall belong to the said Inhabitants, Which is humbly submitted to your Lordp's Great Wisdome, By your Lordps' most humble and most obedient Servants.

On behalf of the said Inhabitants.

Accompanying the above petition was a list of lands sold and leases taken by Ryer Schermerhorn, for which he is said to have given no account to the Inhabitants.

"A list of ye Lands and Income of the towneship of Schonhectady, viz:

These lands are given out. If any more wee cannott tell, nor what day Give.

These folling man [men] had last Jeare transports [deeds] for Great Rewards [of great value ?] pretending for the town Juse.

Barent Wemp, Gysbert Gerritse [Van Brakel], Isack Swits, Jan Luycasse, Jan Vrooman, Jan batist [Van Eps], and others.

What ye above mentioned persons pays Jearely wee cannot tell by reason wee nifer had none of ye peapers, nor conditions." (29-1)

Opinion of Sampson Shelton Broughton, Esqr., in regard to Ryer Schemerhorn's "mismanagement and breach of trust."

"May it please your Excellency.

In Obedience to an Order of your Excellency in Councill of the Eleventh instant to me made to consider of Ryer Schermerhorn's breach of the trust Committed to him in the Patent Granted by Coll: Dongan in the year 1684 to the towne of Schenectady, and to Report to this board what is proper to be done in the premises. I do hereby most humbly signifie to your Excellency and this board, that I have weighed and considered the said matter to me referred and do find the said Schermerhorn guilty of very great mismanagements and breach of trust upon the Patent aforesaid and of Great disregard and Contempt of your Excellency and this board and the Acts thereof and am humbly of opinion that the said Ryer Schermerhorn ought not to continue longer in the said trust but to be Discharged from the same.

And I do not upon the whole matter find that the Misdemeanor aforesaid Does render the said Ryer Schermerhorn so Criminal in Law as to subject him to a higher punishment.

Wh: is most humbly submitted to your Excellency's better Judgment by My Lord

Your Excellcys Most obedient, humble servant

Sa: Sh: Broughton"

18 May 1704 (29-2)

On the 25 of May, 1714, Schermerhorn appeared before the Governor and Council "and after a full hearing of all matters" against him, was suspended from "acting further as Trustee of the said Towne." But as he continued obstinate, disregarding the demand of the new Trustees for an accounting to them of his official acts, they commenced a suit against him in the court of chancery.

The following is the substance of their complaint:

"1705 July 5
Will Sharpas

Complaint of Peter Schuyler, John Sanderse Glen, Adam Vrooman, Daniel Johnson [Daniel Janse Van Antwerpen] and John Baptist Van Eps, trustees of the town of Schenectady.


Ryer Schermerhorn.

Whereas Col. Dongan, Governor &c., being at Schenectady, the inhabitants petitioned for a General Grant or Patent in behalf and name of the freeholders and for the settlement of the quit-rents, which they were to pay, Col. Dongan directed the Inhabitants to appoint some persons from their number to agree with him for said rents & Patent: said inhabitants appointed Wm. Teller, Ryer Schermerhorn, Sweer Tunisse, John Van Eps, and Myndert Wemp for that purpose.

Wm. Teller, Sweer Teunisse, Jno. Van Eps, & myndert Wemp deputed Ryer Schermerhorn to solicit & obtain the Patent for the freeholders. — The inhabitants advanced money to pay fees & charges, which was delivered into the hands of R. Schermerhorn who employed said monies in obtaining a Patent for R. Schermerhorn, Wm. Teller, Sweer Teunissen, Jno Baptist Van Eps & Myndert Wemp & their heirs and assigns forever, — and hath detained said patent in his custody with out acquainting the other corporators with the purport of the same. About five years since Sweer Teunissen, Myndert Wemp & John Van Eps being dead, Wm. Teller declared that he never knew that said Patent was to the Corporators & their heirs & that it was contrary to the intent of the inhabitants.

Teller is since deceased and Ryer Schermerhorn the only surviving Trustee has combined with John Wemp, Barent Wemp, John Glen, Godeit [Gerrit] Symonse [Veeder], John ffroman [Vrooman], Claas Van Patten & others & does sell and give away the lands of said Patent, and cut down & carry away the timber from said lands & refuses to give the inhabitants any account of his doings.

The complainants therefore petition the Court to call Ryer Schermerhorn to account. (30-1)

(Signed) B. Cosens."

The year following the trustees commenced another suit in the same court, to wit, on the 13th of June, 1706, of which the following is the notice in the clerk's office.

"Petition of Peter Schuyler, John Sanderse Glen, Adam Vrooman, Daniel Johnson [Daniel Janse Van Antwerpen,] and John Baptist Van Eps, Trustees of Schenectady,


Symon Groot, Jr., Syas Swart and Jonathan Stevens.

Charges that the defendants have taken possession of lands belonging to the freeholders of the town of Schenectady pretending to deeds of conveyance, or releases for the same, but refuse to show any evidence of their title. Prays that said defendants may be cited before the Court of Chancery to show their titles to said lands if they have any.

(Signed) B. Cosens." (31-1)

Filed June 13, 1706.

The complaint of Col. Schuyler and others against Schermerhorn as above given, was dated July 5, 1705; for the purpose of commencing a counter suit in the same court, he and his friends executed a power of attorney, July 28, to Jacob Reynier and Abraham Gouverneur of New York, to file a bill "against such persons and according to such instructions as you or either of you shall have from us."

The following copy of said power is chiefly interesting now, as showing the respectable and numerous following which Schermerhorn had in his contest with the new trustees.

"To Jacob Reynier, Esq., and Abraham Gouverneur, Gent: of the Citty of New York.

New York, ss:

Wee the subscribers Inhabitants and freeholders of The Town of Schoneghtade in the County of Albany do for and on behalf of ourselves and the Rest of Our Township hereby make, ordain, Constitute and appoint you the said Jacob Reynier, Esqr, and Abraham Gouverneur, Gent: our Lawful, Attorneys and Sollicitors for us and In our Names at our Suits and To the use of the said Township to file a bill In the Chancery Court of This Province against Such persons and according To such Instructions as You or Either of You Shall have from us or Some of us, and To Prosecute the Same with all Vigour and Effect and to Retain Councell and in all other things to Act and Do what shall seem Necessary to you or Either of You for the Carrying On of the said Suit and for your, or Either of Your so doing this Shall be To You or Either of You a Sufficient Warrant.

Given under our hands and Seals this 28th day of July in the year of our Lord 1705, and in the fourth Year of the Reign of Queen Anna over England, etc.

Sealed and Delivered in the Presence of

Schermerhorn's suit against the new trustees, probably commenced after the date of the above power, for the "joint plea and Demurrer of John Sanderse Glen, Adam Vrooman, Daniel Johnson [Daniel Janse Van Antwerp] and John Baptist Van Eps, [trustees], defendants to the bill of complaint of Ryer Schermerhorn, John Wemp, Barent Wemp, John Glen, Gerrit Simonse, John Vrooman and Claas Van Petten," was entered in the court of chancery Nov. 13, 1705.

Of the several suits at law heretofore or subsequently commenced by the contending parties down to the deasaid Ryert Schermerhorn his heirs or assigns shall * * execute such conveyance and assurance in the law for the vesting of all the hereinbefore mentioned * * lands * * and all the right, title and interest thereunto hereby conveyed or mentioned or intended to be conveyed to the said Willem Appel, unto the said Ryert Schermerhorn, Jan Wemp, Johannes Teller, Arent Bratt and Barent Wemp * * their heirs and assigns forever, to the intent the same may be held and enjoyed according to the true intent and meaning of the said letters Patent by the said Thomas Dongan."

On the 25th and 26th of October, said Appel by lease and release reconveyed said land to Ryer Schermerhorn and his said four associates for the purposes above mentioned. (35-2)

And to confirm the above conveyance, the fourth and last Patent was granted by Governor Hunter on the 14th November, 1714. (35-3)

The patents of 1684 and 1714, are substantially the same, the grant of the township in both cases being made to Ryer Schermerhorn and his associates, their heirs, successors and assigns, "on behalf of the Inhabitants of the Towne of Schenectada." In neither case was any provision made to fill vacancies caused by death or otherwise; hence the same difficulties were sure to arise again. As Reyer Schermerhorn managed the common lands, from 1700 to 1714 as the sole surviving patentee under the Patent of 1684, so did Arent Bratt from 1749 to 1765, under the Patent of 1714. With the exception however, of a feeble move made in 1715, by the trustees elected under the charter of 1705, to prosecute Schermerhorn and his associates, "for not yielding up all bonds, deeds, writings, books, etc., belonging to said town and especially to prosecute them for cancelling a conveyance that belonged, one-half to said town and the other half to the Dutch Church" (36-1) it is believed that the patentees were not disturbed in their management of the common lands for thirty years.

But as early as 1744, Jan Wemp and Arent Bratt then being the only surviving patentees, many of the inhabitants became dissatisfied with their management of the common lands, and proposed that they should render an account thereof to the freeholders, as set forth in the following paper.

"Articles of agreement to be proposed to Mr. Jan Wimp and Arent Bratt as trustees of Schenectady, to set the same before a part of the community for their approbation, the same having been approved of by those, who have been asked, that some persons out of the commonalty may be appointed to negociate with the trustees about the following articles. Be it known therefore by these presents that we underwritten inhabitants of the Village of Schenectady in the County of Albany have made, constituted and appointed as we do hereby make, constitute and appoint as our attorneys Wouter Vrooman, Nicholaas Groot, Sander Lansin, Abraham Gelen and Isaack trueck, to act for us in our names and for our use to negociate in respect to the following articles with the trustees of the Village of Schenectady, Jan Wemp and Arent Bratt and as they therein agree and concur, whether to lighten some articles which are found to heavy and impracticable, or to establish others, which are found good and needful, we hereby pledge and bind ourselves to abide thereby.

In witness whereof we have hereunder written our names this third of April in the year 1744.

In the first place it is desired that you Mr. Arent Bratt shall give a clear statement of all the lands granted out of the property of the village, which your honor, your married children or other heirs [kindred] now possess, and how and at what price they were at first granted, and that your honor, said children and heirs shall be obligated to give therefor to the church a proper actual quit-rent in wheat or money, and that therefor new and duplicate indentures be made, and which indentures to whomsoever given, to have the form first given by the trustees and be signed over by you, your heirs and assigns to the church.

In the second place, that under or as under oath a neat and full list be given by you, Jan Wemp and Arent bratt, of all the lands hitherto conveyed away and of the rents set thereupon at first, also you shall give up what money you as trustees have in till.

Thirdly, that all the indentures made prior to 1716 and assigned to the church in 1716 but not yet delivered over, so far as they be in your power and hands be immediately and truly delivered up.

Fourthly, that you shall bind yourselves, your heirs and assigns, to make over to the church all indentures made subsequent to 1716 until now and in the future to be made and all the rents imposed or to be imposed thereon.

Fifth, our desire is that all single indentures be changed to double ones.

Sixth, that you Jan Wemp and Arent Brat shall bind yourselves, your heirs and assigns always to act and deliver in the future with the ruling Consistory in respect to the conveyance of lands, so that the greatest profit be made, that they be made known by advertisement on the church door and offered to the highest bidder or others, that you may be wholly relieved of all further trouble and disquietude in future, and that you make the church wholly and altogether your assigns and sign over as trustees to the corporation Lchurch] all your right, — but if this last clause of the article does not please you, then that the first part stand, and that you will please to bind yourselves, your heirs and assigns, in future to appoint a proper bookkeeper by whom the books shall be kept of all lands conveyed and to be conveyed, the bounds, lines, courses, length of lines of the same, contents in morgens or acres so that in time a map may be made thereof, likewise of the quit-rents standing thereon and its commencement, that it always may appear; also a careful account of what cash you now have and what in future from time to time shall be received and Disbursed by you, whereof you, your heirs and assigns shall make and give a yearly statement to the ruling consistory; — also shall all outstanding debts be collected in, if need be, — money or lands, that a careful statement thereof be given; likewise if we come to an agreement shall the writings thereof to be made be recorded so that they shall always stand.

Of the five patentees named in the deed and Patent of 1714, only two remained at the date of the above proposal, to wit, Arent Bratt and Jan Wemp.

Reyer Schermerhorn died Feb. 19, 1719; Barent Wemp son of Myndert Wemp, one of the patentees named in the Dongan Patent of 1684, probably died next. Johannes Teller, son of Willem Teller, also one of the Dongan patentees, died May 28, 1725, and Jan Wemp, grandson of Myndert and son-in-law of Reyer Schermerhorn, died Oct. 14, 1749, leaving Arent Bratt sole surviving patentee. He was nephew of Schermerhorn's wife and lived until April, 1765.

What answer Bratt and Wemp made to this proposition of the freeholders, is not known, though it was probably substantially complied with, save the entire transfer of the common lands to the church. In 1750 complaints were made however, both by citizens and the church, of Bratt's acting alone as patentee and giving no account of his trusteeship, to which he answered April 6, 1750, that "the church had had the income of all lands leased to 1744, and he was willing to convey and guarantee to said church that he was likewise willing yearly to give an account of his stewardship to the freeholders of the town if they would appoint a place and persons to make such investigations." (38-1)

Hitherto a portion of the freeholders had chiefly complained of one man acting alone as trustee, first in the case of Ryer Schermerhorn from 1700 to 1714, and now again in the case of Arent Bratt after 1749. In 1750, however, began a new contest and upon entirely new grounds.

Jan, son and heir of Reyer Schermerhorn, "set up the pretense that all those who were inhabitants and freeholders of Schenectady at the date of Dongan's Patent were equally entitled to all the common lands included therein as tenants in common fee." This claim, of course led to questions of law, and a judicial interpretation of the Dongan and Hunter's Patents. As the English law of primogeniture was in force in the colony, if Schermerhorn's claim could be substantiated, those only who descended from the first settlers in the line of the eldest son, would be eligible to receive shares of these common lands, which at this time amounted probably to 50,000 to 60,000 acres. It was claimed that only twenty-seven persons at most, were then living who were legal heirs of the first free holders, and entitled to take the common lands. Jan Schermerhorn died in 1752, before he had fairly warmed up to the contest and before any legal proceedings were had in the matter.

His eldest son and heir, Reyer, inherited both his estate, his claim and all the energy of character, business tact and stubborn perseverance of his forefathers.

From the year 1754 to the year of his death in 1795, more than forty years, he applied all his energies in courts, before legislatures and governors, to obtain a favorable decision of this question and finally died without any determination whatever, bequeathing the continuance and maintenance of the suit to his children, upon the penalty of disinheritance.

All further litigation however was buried in his grave upon the Schuylenberg.

In 1755 Reyer Schermerhorn the second, commenced his suit in chancery against Arent Bratt, patentee, and others, for his share in the common lands in right of his grandfather Reyer. His attorney and councilor was William Smith of New York, a prominent lawyer of the province, with whom was associated subsequently his son Thomas Smith.

On the 21st of July 1758, the joint and several answers of Bratt and his associates to Schermerhorn's complaint, were filed in the office of the court of chancery.

The suit made but little progress however, up to the time of Bratt's death which occurred in April, 1765.

With his decease passed away the last of the five patentees named in the Patent of 1714, after a long service of fifty-one years. To provide for his successors in the management of the common lands, he made and executed a will on the 11th of March, preceding his death, in which he named twenty-three persons to whom he made over these lands,

"in trust to and for the only use benefit and behoof of themselves and the other freeholders and inhabitance of the said township of Schenectady their heirs and assigns forever, also I give, devise and bequeath unto the said Harmanus Brat, Jacobus Van Slyck, John Sanders, Nicholas Van Petten, Isaac Vrooman, Jacob Swits, Isaac Swits, Jacob Vrooman, Frederick Van Petten, Nicholas Groot, Reyer Wemple, Tobyas Ten Eyck, Samuel A. Brat, Nicolas Van Der Volge, Abraham Wimple, Abraham Mabie, Jacobus Mynderse, John Babtist Van Eps, Gerrit A. Lansing, Harme Van Slyck, Peter Mabie, Isaac S. Swits and Abraham Fonda, the patent of the above recited tract of land, or of the said township of Schenectady and all other papers writings, books and proceedings relating to the same, and all bills, bounds [bond] notes and all sums of money due or which shall became due forever hereafter for rents on lands conveyed by me or any other patentees in trust for said township; and also all my right, title interest, claim and demand which I have as surviving patentee in trust for the said township, and it is my will and express order that the said Harmanus Brat, Jacobus Van Slyck * * * and Abraham Fonda or the survivor or survivors of them pay or cause to be paid out of the towns money now due to me or which shall hereafter be due by rents of land which I have herein above given to them, or by sale of any part of the above recited tract of land all cost and charges which may arise in and by defending the cause which has been and still is depending in the court of Chancery * at the suit or complaint of Reyer Schermerhorn against me * * and several others." (40-1)

Soon after Bratt's death Schermerhorn presented the following petition to the Lieut. Governor.

"To his excellency Cadwallader Colden Esq. His Majesty's Lieutenant Governor of the Province of New York, &ca &ca &ca.

The Petition of the Subscribers Humbly Sheweth.

That your Excellency's Petitioners are more than one half Proper Owners and Propriters in a Patent Granted by Thomas Duncan [Dongan] Esqr

Dated the first Day of November one thousand six hundred and Eighty-four, and Whereas Ryer Schermerhorn Esq. one of the Petitioners has Commenced a suit againts Mr. Arent Bratt and others Since the year one Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty five and is Still Depending in Chancery to the Great Hurt and Determent of the Petitioners, we now therefore beg your Honour Sincerly to take this into your Serious Consideration and Pray that a Division of the said Patent may be made that Each of us may have his Just and Equal Chare and your Excellency's Petitioners will Ever Pray.

This petition producing no effect, in 1767 more than half of all the proprietors joined him in carrying on a new suit in chancery against the twenty-three new trustees mentioned in Arent Bratt's will; and four years after, to wit, in 1771, it being still pending, Schermerhorn and his party first gave notice of their intention to apply to the legislature for relief, of which the following paper is a copy. —

"Feb. 5, 1771.

"The following notification of the intention of the Parties therein named to apply to the Legislature of this Province for leave to Bring in a Bill for the purposes therein mentioned and the affidavit presented therewith and now Sworn to before his Excellency in Council being read, were ordered to be Entered in the Minutes.

"Publick Notice is hereby given to all whom it may concern that the subscribers being Freeholders and Inhabitants in and having Rights respectively to Shares in the Common Lands of the Township of Sehenectady do intend to apply to the Legislature of the Colony of New York for a Bill.

"First to authorize Commissioners to hear and determine in a Summary way without process of Law whether the said Common Lands shall be divided or not.

Secondly, In case such Partition shall by such Commissioners be determined to be made, then to Authorize and empower them to make, execute and complete the same among such Persons, in such manner and with such Powers, appointments, directions, provisoes, Savings, exceptions restrictions and Limitations, as shall be directed, appointed and enacted by the Legislature of this Colony in and by the said Act.

Thirdly, That in case the said Partition shall take effect all Rents and Service, that have been reserved by any Grant or Grants made by the former Trustees of the said Township, or either of them to any person or persons for any of the said Common Lands shall thenceforth and forever thereafter cease and be extinguished.

"John Littel of the Township of Schenectady in the County of Albany of full age being duly Sworn on the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God, deposeth and saith that he the Deponent assisted by the within named Ryer Schermerhorn did affix notices in Writing, exactly corresponding with each other and of which the aforegoing is a true copy, at all the Several Churches and Public Places of Worship in the said Township on three Sundays successively that is to say on Sunday the twentieth day of the month of January last, and on the two next succeeding Sundays; — that the said notices were so fixed upon the said three Sundays in the following manner, that is to say, one on the Door of the only place of Entrance of the Episcopal Church; — one other of the said Notices on the Door of the only place of entrance of the English Presbyterian Place of Worship; and one other of the said Notices on the Door of the Main Entrance into the Dutch Church, each of which Doors opened inwards; — That the new Presbyterian Church being as yet unfinished and therefore not as yet used for Divine Service, and having no Door, the said Notice therein affixed was placed against the Wall within the said Church; — that the said Notices so affixed for three Sundays successively were so affixed at the said Several places where Divine Service was held just before Divine Service began in them respectively and in some of them continued till after the Commencement of Divine Service, and in another of them till the Service was over; — That Divine Service was held on the said three Sundays successively at all the said several places, except the unfinished Presbyterian Church aforesaid; — That at the several times when the said Notices were so affixed they were read more or less at the different Places where they were so affixed by a Variety of different Persons, Inhabitants of the said Town and resorting to the said Places of Worship; — That most of the said Notices were taken down soon after they were fixed up, but by whom this Deponent knows not; — That this was the Reason for fixing up new Notices on every of the said three successive Sundays; That this Deponent is neither directly nor indirectly interested in the Common Lands of the Township of Schenectady and further saith not.

John Littel."

"Sworn this 25 day
of February, 1771.
Before his Lordship
in Council

Gol: Banyar D: Coul" (43-1)

The next step in the controversy was an attempt to compromise in accordance with "the recommendation of the honorable general assembly as well as for the love of peace and unity," and in the progress of this compromise the following paper was addressed by Schermerhorn and his friends to the committee appointed for this purpose by the trustees.


"We received your proposals and tho' we can by no means doubt of your Intention to settle, yet can not help observing that whenever a Controversy is intended to be settled, the partys can neither server themselves, nor can their setting forth Title, Trust, Pretentious, and frivelous allegations be any means to forward it because if need be such matters comes more properly before the Gentlemen to be appointed who will Judge of the facts as they appear;

"Whatever advice you may have on these heads you certainly do not imagine such can in any wise add to the merit of your Claim, or have any weight with us, nor our not answering you thereon, will in any shape lessen ours.

"From the Recommendation of the Honorable Genl. Assembly, as well as for the love of peace and unity we could apprehend no other than that a few of you with an equal number of us was to have met and used our mutual endeavors to settle the points in dispute, but on the contrary, at meeting, find that not the Case, as one of your four men said to be Impowered, was not of the number called Trustees; reasons could be given for this impropriety; however it being our earnest desire and real intention to come to an amicable settlement will avoid every thing that can be thought to have the least tendency to the Contrary and come to the point, vizt:

"We agree to Confirm by an Act of the Legislature, or otherwise all Grants of Arent Bradt and his predecessors not exceeding one hundred and fifty Acres to each person to the time an Injunction from the Court of Chancery was served on him, according to the List he then gave in on Oath, except such Lands as the Proprietors have in possession, which shall be a part of their share;

"And further, that no poor person may in any wise suffer by or thro' any Act to be done or Committed by us or either of us, agree that every such poor person or persons or let them be poor or rich who may be now in possession of Lands without a deed or deeds and not Comprehended in the aforesaid Sworn List, that such person or persons shall have their said possessions confirmed to them in like manner as the others, who may have imperfect Deeds &c., providing the same of each person do not exceed one hundred Acres and will likewise come into and agree to any other matter or thing that can possibly be proposed to us for the good of the poor.

"We also agree that a tract not exceeding ten thousand acres remain in Common for the Use of the Inhabitants for ever, in such a part or parcells as may be Judged most proper for that purpose;

"Should our aforesaid proposals be objected, We consent and agree that a Law pass mutually to Impower Two, four or Six indifferent persons and the sd Two, four or six to nominate a 3d, 5th or 7th, and a majority them be authorised finally to determine and end the whole Controversy without being Subject to any Regulation, Proviso, or Restriction and to have as much of their proceedings framed into a Law as they Judge requisite to render the same Compleat and Effectual.

"And lastly if we cannot mutually agree on the nomination the three, five or seven persons as above mentd that then the Hoñble Genl. Assembly be requested to nominate them.


Having seen your power and tho' not so perfect as it shou'd, We nevertheless give these our said proposals, which we will abide by, providing your said power be made Compleat.


"To his Excellency William Tryon Esquire, Captain General and Governor in Cheif in and over the Province of New York and the territories depending thereon in America, Chancellor and Vice-Admiral of the Same in Council.

"The Petition of Ryer Schermerhorn, John Glen and Peter Van Benthuysen in behalf of themselves, and Tunis Van Vleck, Claas De Graff, Philip Van Petten, Hendrick Brower Jr., Peter Clement, Peter Mabie, John B. Van Eps Junior, Harme Vedder, Henry Glen, John Teller, Cornelius Glen, Jacobus Van Eps, Abraham Truax, Myndert Van Gysling, Tunis Potman, Helmes Veader, Freeman Schermerhorn, John S. Vrooman, Daniel De Graaf, William Teller, Jacobus Teller, Jacob Schermerhorn, Nicholas Velin, Simon Vedder, John Schermerhorn, John Cuyler Jr., Abraham C. Cuyler, Jacob Cuyler and Barent Ten Eyck, the major part of the Proprietors of the township of Schenectady.

"Most humbly Showeth

That the honorable Thomas Dungan [Dongan] late lieutenant Governor of this Province of New York in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and eighty-four, did grant a Patent to William Teller, Ryer Schermerhorn, Sware Teunise, John Baptist Van Eps and Myndert Wemple for the township of Schenectady in trust for themselves and for the rest of the freeholders of the inhabitants of Schenectady; — that Sware Teunise, John Baptist Van Eps and Myndert Wemple were killed by the Indians in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and ninety, and that the said William Teller died in the year of our Lord one thousand Six hundred and ninety-nine; — that in the year of our Lord one thousand and Seven hundred and fourteen, the said Ryer Schermerhorn the Patentee took John Wemple, Johannis Teller, arent Bradt and Barent Wemple to assistance as trustees, and that after the decease of the said Ryer Schermerhorn, the said Johannis Teller, Barent Wemple, Arent Brat and John Wemple have disposed of great part of the said township and granted considerable tracts thereof to each other and their relations without the advice, consent or approbation of any of the other Proprietors, or ever accounting for any part of the monies, which arose therefrom and at the same time refused to grant or give any part of the said lands to the other Proprietors, —

that Ryer Schermerhorn your Petitioner in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty-four did request Arent Brat (then surviving trustee) to grant him such part of the said township which he claimed as heir at law to his grandfather Ryer Schermerhorn the Patentee and such other part or shares as he had purchased from other Proprietors, but that the said Arent Bradt refused to give or grant him any Part thereof: Whereupon said Petitioner Ryer Schermerhorn in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty-five did commence a suit in Chancery against the said Arent Bradt in order to recover his just portion in the said township; and in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and sixty-seven more than one-half of all the Proprietors of the said township joined the said Ryer Schermerhorn in carrying on the said suit in Chancery, which has been attended with such great expense (and having no prospect of its decision), that many of your Petitioners are already reduced to great Extremity for want of means wherewith to sustain themselves and families in the said town of Schenectady, Whereas if they could get their just Portion ascertained and have the possession thereof, your Petitioners might get an honest Livelyhood by clearing and cultivating the same; — and that your Petitioners know of no other ways to acquire their shares of the said township except an Act of your Excellency the honorable Council and General Assembly be passed for that purpose, since the said Arent Bratt has appointed twenty-three persons of the best circumstances in the said township (tho' half of them are no Proprietors) to act as trustees after his decease, to whom the said Arent Bradt has made over the remainder of all the said lands, Also all the Bonds, Notes and Money, which had arisen from the said township and gave directions to the said trustees to lay it out in defending the before mentioned Chancery suit, which your Petitioners have the misfortune to find the last mentioned trustees are determined to comply with and to use every other means in their power to keep your suffering petitioners out of their property. —

"And the honorable House of Representatives at their last session (upon the Prayer of your Petitioners that a bill might be passed to appoint Commissioners to settle the controversy) did resolve that the prayer of your Petitioners should be postponed till the next sessions and recommended both parties to come to an amicable settlement during the recess thereof and that on failure of a Settlement, both Parties Should attend within ten days after the next meeting of the honorable house after the first day of May then next that the house might proceed thereon; — And your Petitioners during the Recess of the honorable House of Representatives have been very anxious on their part to come to an amicable determination with the Partys in opposition of this tedious dispute, but all their endeavours have proved unsuccessful, tho' your petitioners were resolved to take up with any reasonable Proposals to end so expensive a contention.

"Your Petitioners therefore most humbly pray that if in case the honorable house of Representatives should bring in any bill relative to the Premises that your Excellency will be pleased to assent to the same and your Petitioners as in duty bound shall ever pray.

Fourth day of
January, 1774.

"Petition of the trustees of Schenectady in opposition to the foregoing petition of Ryer Schermerhorn and others.

"To the Honble Representatives of the Colony of New York in General assembly convened.

The Petition of the Subscribers, Trustees of the Township of Skinnectady in behalf of themselves and the other Inhabitants of the said Township.

"Humbly Sheweth

That your Petitioners have been served with a copy of a petition signed by Ryer Schermerhorn, Johannes Glen Jr, and Peter Van Benthuysen in behalf of them selves and other persons therein named presented to the Honble House [Jan. 4 1774] setting forth that a grant was obtained by Wm Teller, Ryer Schermerhorn, Sware Teunise, John Baptist Van Eps and myndert Wemple, from Govr Dongan Dated in they [sic] year 1684, for the township of Schinectady, in trust for the rest of the freeholders of the Inhabitants of Schinectady, which fact your petitioners do not deny but do say in answer thereto that the said Trustees Nominated in the said Grant did dispose of the town lands by their deeds as Trustees at a low rent reserved to the use of the said town: — that Ryer Schermerhorne in the said grant named was Grandfather to Ryer Schermerhorn the petitioner and that he was the only surviving trustee for fourteen or fifteen years, during all which time he Granted to the Inhabitants by his deeds such tracts of Lands within the said town as they applyed for, — that Ryer Schermerhorne one of the subscribing petitioners now holds lands to very considerable value in virtue of such deeds from the Trustees; — that John Glen Jr another of the subscribing Petitioners has lately sold lands held by such Deeds to the value of at least one thousand pounds: — that the greatest part of the persons named in the said Petition in Whose behalf the said Petition is presented have not any right Whatever to any of the unappropriated town's lands as descendants from the original freeholders or by other ways or means whatsoever: — that the disposal of the town lands has uninterruptedly from the date of the Patent from Governor Dongan in 1684 to this day been in the Trustees only, which right has been always exercised and acknowledged by the town untill the year 1755, when Ryer Schermerhorne one of the said Petitioners commenced a suit in Chancery against Arent Bradt at the time the only surviving Trustee; — that the Chancellor at the Instance of the said Ryer Schermerhorne Issued an Injunction, prohibiting the said Arent Bradt from granting any of the town lands untill the determination of the said suit, notwithstanding which the said Ryer Schermerhorne and the said John Glen Jr have taken in and inclosed large tracts of the said town lands and now have the same in possession; — that your petitioners are very anxious to have the suit now depending in Chancery determined with all possible speed and that your Petitioners are informed by their Councill that the delay is owing to the said Ryer Schermerhorne and not to them; — that your Petitioners Verily believe the application to this House now made by the said Ryer Schermerhorne and his adherents proceeds from a consciousness that the suit in Chancery will be Determined against them; that the great Grievance complained of by the said Petitioners that they are prevented from cultivating the Common lands is Intirely occasioned by the Injunction procured by the said Ryer Schermerhorne and his adherents as aforesaid that if the Injunction is taken off your Petitioners will proceed to grant the town lands as has always been accustomed and to the contrary of which not a single Instance can be produced from the beginning of time to this day.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray the Honble House not to stop the ordinary course of the law, but to leave the suit commenced by the said Schermerhorne to the determination of the Court where he thought proper to commence it and that the Honble House will dismiss the Petition of the said Ryer Schermerhorne and his adherents, and your Petitioners as in duty bound shall ever pray." (48-1)

At or about the time of the foregoing petition in 1774, the following — "Case between the Trustees of the town of Schenectady and Ryer Schermerhorn" was laid before the Colonial Legislature.

"The settlement of the town of Schenectady was begun about the year 1658 [1662], while this province was under the government of the States-General. The original settlers intending to frame a regular township, made a purchase of lands for that purpose from the native Indians, and laid out a town plat,and divided it into lots of about 200 ft. square Amsterdam wood measure, and to each lot in the town plat was annexed one lot or farm of about 24 or 25 morgens, each morgen containing about 2 acres, another lot for a garden, about 1 acre, and a third lot for pasture of about 5 acres.

"After this division, they procured patents, or ground briefs for their respective lots.

"Soon after the first settlement of the said town, the inhabitants and freeholders, for maintaining good order and advancing their settlement, began the election of five Trustees then called Commissaries. These Commissionaries took cognizance of Small Causes arising within the limits of the town.

"They also purchased lands for the use of the freeholders and inhabitants of the town, and part of their business and powers was to sell and dispose of the common lands belonging to the town, which they did, as well to strangers as to the original Settlers. Their acts were deemed by the inhahitants to be legal and binding, and their Sales of the Common land valid.

"Upon the Surrender of this Province to the Crown of England, the inhabitants of Schenectady procured from the Duke's Governors confirmations for the lands they then held in Severalty; but they still continued the custom of annually choosing Commissaries, who exercised the like powers as the Commissaries bad done in the Dutch time, until the 1st of November, 1684, when Governor Dongan, by patent under the great seal of this province granted to William Teller, Ryer Schermerhorn, Sweer Teunise, Jan Van Epps, and Myndert Wemp, a tract of lands including not only all the lands the inhabitants of Schenectady held in severalty but also a large additional tract before purchased of the Indians for the use of the town, to hold the same to 'the said William Teller, Ryer Schermerborn, Sweer Teunise, Jan Van Epps, and Myndert Wemp, on the behalf of the inhabitants of the town of Schenectady, and their associates, their heirs, successors and assigns, unto the proper use and behoof of the said William Teller, Ryer Schermerhorn, Sweer Teunise, Jan Van Epps and Myndert Wemp, their heirs, successors and assigns forever.'

"The Inhabitants of Schenectady, at the date of this Patent consisted of upwards of fifty persons, and the patent was procured not only to obtain a confirmation of the lands they then held by particular patents, but also a continuation of the powers of their Commissaries, as the same had been before used.

"Why the town was not properly incorporated is unknown, but the inhabitants antiently conceived that the true intent and design of this patent, was to enable the grantees or trustees therein named to sell their Common lands in the manner, which had been before used by the Commissaries, either to the freeholders and inhabitants of the town, or to such Strangers as might be inclined to purchase and Settle among them; and accordingly, soon after the Date of the patent, the trustees proceeded to grant parcels of the land included in the said pato the said Ryer Schermerhorn, Jan Wemp, Johannes Teller, Arent Bradt and Barent Wemp in fee.

"King George the First, by his letters patent under the great seal of this province, bearing date the 6th day of November in the first year of his reign [1714] granted and confirmed the premises aforesaid to the said Ryer 5chermerhorn, Jan Wemp, Johannes Teller, Arent Bradt and Barent Wemp, their heirs and assigns forever to hold to them, 'their heirs and assigns forever, in trust, nevertheless, to and for the only use, benefit and behoof of themselves and the other inhabitants and freeholders of the said town of Schenectady their heirs and assigns forever.'

"After obtaining the second letters patent the trustees named therein proceeded in granting the common lands in the same manner as their predecessors had done until the year 1755. So that the greatest part of the estates in the township of Schenectady now depend upon the conveyances from the trustees.

"None of the inhabitants of Schenectady ever, till lately, pretended to have any estate in the common lands belonging to the town, nor are there any instances, unless of a very late date, of any of them, except the trustees conveying or devising any of the said common lands, or any interest therein.

"But supposing the trustees held the individual land for the common benefit of the town and the inhabitants, as well strangers as the original settlers, their descendants have from the first settlement of the town to the present day, indiscriminately claimed and enjoyed the privilege of cutting their necessary timber and firewood on the said common lands, a privilege without which many families in the said town would be reduced to great extremities.

"About the [year] 1750, Jan Schermerhorn, the petitioner's father, first set up the pretence that all those who were inhabitants and freeholders of Schenectady at the date of Dongan's Patent, were equally entitled to all the common lands, included therein as tenants in common fee. And in 1754, the petitioner after his father's death, upon the same pretence, purchased of the heirs of three of the original settlers, their right in the common lands belonging to the town; but from the trifling consideration he paid, there is reason to believe the grantors themselves did not suppose they were entitled to the rights they pretended to sell; for two of them sold for six pounds each of the third for ten, and the lands claimed by the petitioner in virtue of each of these conveyances were then worth at least fifteen hundred pounds.

"In 1755, Ryer Schermerhorn, the petitioner, pretending that there were but twenty-five freeholders and inhabitants in Schenectady at the date of Dongan's Patent; and that they were equally entitled to the undivided lands as tenants in common, and claiming one share as heir to his grandfather, the three shares he had purchased as aforesaid, and one-sixth of a share by the will of Catalyntie Andriese De Vos, filed a bill in Chancery against Arent Bradt, then the surviving trustee, and several others, to compel an acknowledgment of his claim, and a conveyance from Bradt of the lands he claimed and obtained an injunction, which prevented Bradt from making any more sales of the common lands. The defendants answered the bill, but no further proceedings were had in that cause.

"On the 11th of March, 1765, Arent Bradt made his will, and devised the premises in question to twenty-three trustees in fee; to hold to them and their heirs and assigns forever in trust to and for the only use, benefit and hehoof of themselves and the other freeholders and inhabitants of the said township of Schenectady, their heirs and assigns forever.

"In 1767, soon after the death of Arent Bradt, the said Ryer Schermerhorn filed a bill in Chancery against all the trustees named in his will and a great number of other persons. This bill admits there were twenty-seven freeholders and inhabitants in Schenectady at the date of Dongan's patent and prays a partition among those entitled under them. All the trustees except three and some of the other defendants filed their answer in April, 1768. Since which no further proceedings have been had in that cause.

"The trustees are willing and desirous of having the cause determined by the court in which the petitioner thought proper to bring it, and they suppose he now declines that judicature, from a consciousness that equity is against him; for as the courts of justice in this province have always shown a great indulgence to the infancy of time, for the preservation of justice and private tranquility, the trustees conceive the petitioner cannot expect to prevail in opposing a usage begun by all their ancestors and invariably continued for nearly a century; especially as the construction now insisted upon by the petitioner is not only repugnant to the constant sense of the inhabitants and freeholders of Schenectady, but will be necessarily productive of the ruin of the greatest part of the inhabitants and throw the whole township into confusion.

"For the petitioner claims to have the common lands divided into twenty-seven shares, of which he himself claims four and one-sixth, and the inhabitants of said township now consists of about four hundred freeholders and a division upon the petitioner's plan must be made only among about twenty persons, and none of the rest of the freeholders or inhabitants will have any shares, although they always considered themselves as equally entitled with the heirs of the original settlers, to the benefit of the common lands in virtue of their purchases, and have in consequence of such presumption been at great expense in building and other improvements." (52-1)

When New York at the close of the revolution ceased to be a province of the British empire, many laws and legal customs of the mother country became obsolete; among which was the law of primogeniture. Up to this time Ryer Schermerhorn and his friends acting under said law, claimed that the common lands belonged of right to the eldest sons and heirs of the first settlers or to their assigns, only from twenty-five to thirty of whom were then living in the township. But with the change of laws, the number of the claimants to the common lands was greatly increased. It is said that in 1797 there were nearly 500 families in the township, descendants from the first settlers, who claimed in right of law that these lands belonged to them or their assigns and not to those interlopers who bad become citizens long subsequent to their forefathers.

And as a recognition of rights they claimed that these lands should be leased to them on durable leases and at a nominal rent of from 50cts. to $7.50 per 100 acres.

These claims and demands of the "descendants" exasperated the other and later settlers, and led to protests and petitions, to the appointment of committees of conference, to consultations with legal authorities and to various reports and plans of compromise.

One of the most elaborate and well digested plans for the management of the common lands was that of 1793, offered by a committee appointed at a town meeting held Oct. 1, 1792, a "respectable number of the inhabitants being present."

This committee consisted of, John Van Petten, John Glen, Andrew Van Patten, John Sanders, Albert A. Vedder, and Abraham Oothout, and made their report Jan. 28, 1793. Among other things they recommended:

"1. That the inhabitants of the township choose seven freeholders to whom the present trustees of the common lands shall render an account of their acts during their term of office.

"2. That the present trustees shall nominate seven freeholders to whom said trustees shall resign their trust of the common lands, etc.

"3. That the freeholders of the town shall yearly appoint seven other freeholders to audit the accounts of the seven trustees last above mentioned.

"4. When the trustees last above elected shall be reduced to three, that said remaining trustees shall assign their trust to seven other freeholders nominated by the inhabitants.

"5. That the male inhabitants who have resided in the town before the year 1760 and their descendants of full age, shall be the electors of said new trustees and so on in succession.

"6. That the income of the public property shall be expended as said trustees and ten other freeholders appointed yearly may order.

"7. That a certain tract of land on the north and south sides of the river and in the westerly bounds of the township shall be set apart for commons.

"8. That the highest price for land shall be forty shillings, and the lowest eight shillings per acre, the highest price for land leases shall be 10 pounds, the lowest 4 pounds, the hundred acres." Then follow a code of rules and by-laws.

These recommendations were never carried into effect. In 1795, the old Board of Trustees appointed under Arent Bratt's will, had been in power thirty years, many had passed away, the others had become aged, and it seemed proper and desirable that new blood should be infused into this body; therefore, on the 13th January, 1795, the following persons then seized in fee of the common lands, "as surviving trustees of the town in virtue of the Patent, 1714, and certain mesne conveyances and devises," to wit: Abraham Fonda, Harmanus Bratt, Isaac Vrooman, Nicholas Van Petten, Nicholaas Van der Volgen, Jacobus Myndertse, Samuel Bradt and Abraham Wemple, associated with themselves as trustees, Nicholaas Veeder, Gerret S. Veeeder, Jr., Abraham Oothout, John Sanders and John Glen, by conveying said Patent to Michael Tyms, who reconveyed the same to the above named persons as trustees. And on the 15th day of March, 1798, certain of the above said trustees by reason of age resigned their trust and a new board was appointed in their room; to accomplish which the trustees then in power conveyed the Patent to Joseph Mynderse and he reconveyed the same to Abraham Wemple, Nicholas Veeder, Gerrit S. Veeder, Jr., John Glen, John Sanders, Abraham Oothout, Abraham Swits, Andries Van Petton [Van Petten], Jellis J. Fonda, Rykert Schermerhorn and Adam S. Vrooman as new trustees, who executed a bond in the penal sum of 5,000 pounds to the retiring trustees for the faithful performance of the duties of their office. These last mentioned trustees held and managed the common lands until 1798, when their powers ceased, being merged by the first charter of the city of Schenectady in the mayor, aldermen and commonalty.

In furtherance of a compromise or settlement of the disputes in relation to the public lands, the inhabitants appointed a committee in 1795 to take legal counsel on the subject. This committee consisted of Andries Van Petten, Jelles Fonda and Maus Schermerhorn, who obtained the following opinion:

"Having considered the several questions stated to us by the Committee appointed by the Inhabitants of the town of Schenectady as to the measures most advisable to be pursued for the settlement of their present controversies and the future regulation and benefit of the concerns of the said Town we are of opinion.

First, that it will be extremely difficult; if not impracticable by any Voluntary arrangement to effect the above purpose; —

Secondly, That it will be expedient to Solicit the Interposition of the Legislature by Petition for the attainment of the objects which the parties have mutually in view.

Thirdly, That the most advisable mode of prosecuting this Petition wil be for the Persons who were the Inhabitants in 1714 and their Legal Representatives to appoint by Power of attorney a committee consisting of five or six persons, who shall be authorized to confer with a similar committee of the Trustees and jointly with them to form a plan for the future government and management of the affairs of the town, for setting apart a certain proportion of the Lands as commons and for the disposition of the remainder.

Albany, August 6, 1795."

In accordance with the above opinion, the Board of Trustees recommended to the committee of the inhabitants to obtain a "proper power from said Inhabitants to transact the business of the town in a more perfect manner," which being done the trustees appointed out of their number, Abraham Swits, Jellis J. Fonda, Andries Van Petten, Adam S. Vrooman, Rykert Schermerhorn and Maus Schermerhorn, to act in connection with the committee of the inhabitants in "bringing the business of the common lands to a speedy settlement." And on the 10th of August, (1795), this committee reported to the Trustees that "there was a great prospect of a reconciliation of all disputes subsisting between the Inhabitants and Trustees," and asking for further time. (55-1)

The acts and minutes of the Board of Trustees from time to time, show quite clearly that they considered the common lands to belong to the descendants of those who were inhabitants of the township in 1684, the date of the Dongan Patent, or at least in 1714, the date of the confirmation of the same.

The Trustees were all of this character, and a yearly meeting of such descendants was held to appoint a committee of their number to audit the accounts of the Trustees.

The other inhabitants were incensed that they had no voice in the disposal of these lands, and on the 10th April, 1797, sent a petition to the Trustees, that a committee from their number might be heard on this subject. — This was signed by:

On the other hand on the 24th of the same month, a committee of the "Descendants" made and published the following reports:

"The committee of the Descendants or legal Representatives of the Persons who were inhabitants of the Township of Schenectady in the year 1684, being the time when the Patent of said township was granted or the year 1714, when the above Patent was confirmed — Report that they have examined the state of the Business belonging to the Trustees of Schenectady Patent and find that they have sold 8097 acres of land, being part of said Patent, engaged 941 1/4 acres of land to different persons, and 600 acres of land applied for; — that it appears from the accounts rendered, that there is the sum of 10,593 pounds for Union College, Market House and other requisites expended and a balance consisting of obligations to the amount of £4,680-6-5 remaining in their hands. The Committee report that in their opinion five trustees, who shall have arrived at the age of twenty-five years, from among the descendants should be elected annually by the male descendants, who are arrived at the age of twenty-one years, on the second Tuesday of June of every year, whose duty it shall be to render and account yearly and every year of their proceedings to their successors in office, or to any of the descendants who shall wish to have access and examine the same; and to have the deposit, care, trust and management of the Patent, lands, Books, Papers, Monies, Accounts, and other things belonging to the Trustees; and that the Trustees when elected, or before they enter on the execution of their office shall severally take and subscribe an oath before some justice of the peace in the town of Schenectady that they will well and faithfully perform the trust reposed in them. * * * The committee state, that there are nearly five hundred of the descendants' families residing on said patent and from a calculation about forty thousand acres of land unappropriated.

Therefore Resolved as the sense of the Committee * * * that it be recommended to the Trustees to lease the lands * * * for a durable term to the descendants or their legal Representatives for a sum not exceeding three pounds nor less than fifty cents annually per hundred acres, regarding to every descendant's family or legal Representative, a proportion agreeable to equity, quality and local circumstances."

"Given under our hands the twenty-fourth day of April, 1797.

On the 9th Sept., 1797, the board of trustees appointed a committee to consult Abraham Van Vechten, Peter Yates and Joseph C. Yates, in relation to a plan of "settlement with the inhabitants concerning the Common lands."

Finally on March 26, 1798 (56-2), an act was passed by the Legislature with the assent and desire, not only of the other inhabitants of the township of Schenectady, but also of the surviving trustees, by which all their powers and duties in relation to the common lands were conferred upon the mayor, aldermen and commonalty of Schenectady. And to adjust all claims against said trustees, the Legislature passed an act the same day appointing a commission consisting of Zephaniah Platt, Peter Cantine and Derick Lane, who finally determined said claims and closed their accounts on the 10th Aug., 1798.

Even after this final transfer of the common lands to the corporation there was a party who doubted its legality, contending for the resumption and management of them by the old trustees, then surviving.

Others while reluctantly acquiescing in the transfer of these lands to the city authorities, objected to their being sold off as fast as the inhabitants demanded, and contended they should be held for the purpose of supplying the citizens with fuel and timber. (57-1) Finally in 1810 (?) the election of aldermen turned on this question; the whole city, then bounded by the ancient limits of the Patent was canvassed by active partisans of both parties and after a close and heated contest it was decided that the common lands should be sold.


(1-1) Champlain, with a few of his men accompanied by a large number of Algonquins, met and defeated a body of Mohawks near Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The Algonquins were an inferior and subject race, but the discharge of French muskets with the accompanying flash, report, and death by invisible bullets, carried terror to the Mohawks and they were nearly destroyed by an enemy for whom they had hitherto only felt contempt. When the Dutch, the declared enemy of the French, came into the Mohawk country from the south, offering fire arms and vengeance against the French and Algonquins, they secured the firm and abiding friendship of the Six Nations. — Jesuit Relations; Champlain's Acct.; Parkman, etc. M'M.]

(2-1) Mr. Nicholas Veeder has seen "2,000 or 3,000 Indians in the Poor Pasture when Schuyler made a treaty with them."

The Mohawks went to Canada and half of the Oneidas, in the Revolutionary war, the other half fought for us. They camped in the Pines on "Albany Hill," near McChesneys. After the war was over the rest of the Oneidas came back from Canada to claim their lands.

The Indian houses at Schenectady were made of bark, they were here about three years.

The Mohawks before the Revolution were plenty; could be seen in the roads in parties of fifteen or twenty; made splint brooms and baskets. The town was full of them on New Years day — Nic: Veeder.

Has seen the Onondaga tribe, 600 in number, marching thro' Niskayuna street to Albany as prisoners of war, they having been in the King's service. — N. V.

(6-1) Woods runners. Couriers du bois in Canada. — M'M.]

(6-2) O'Callaghan's History N. N.

(7-1) This Mohawk word signifies Stone houses, overhanging rocks affording shelter. Several streams and localities have this name.

(8-1) Daer leyt qualyck een halven daegh Van den Colonie op de Maquaas Kil, dat Schoonste landt dat men met oogen bezien mach. — O'Callaghan's Hist. N. N., I., 335, 456.

(9-1) A tradition that it was a former seat or capital of the Mohawks.

(10-1) Albany Records, xix. 109.

(11-1) Albany Records, xix. 180.

(11-2) O'Callaghan's Hist. N. N., II. 438.

(12-1) Deeds, II, 542.

(12-2) [The ancient Mohawk village which stood at this place, was called Connocharieguharie or as Benson writes it Oronowaragouhre, in allusion to the vast piles of flood wood which were left every spring on the flats. The term origoniwoutt, appears to have been applied, at a later period, to the village at the same place; perhaps the site was a little varied in its particular location, and perhaps both names were applied at the same time to the place, being different modes of describing the position of the village. When the Dutch obtained a patent embracing the site in 1661, from Gov. Stuyvesant, the Indian name of the Vlachte or flats was mentioned therein, and it does not appear from any author, that Schenectady — the original Mohawk name for Albany — was applied to it till after the first surrender of the colony to England, four years after the date of the patent." — Schoolcraft, Notes on the Iroquois.

Van Curler in 1643, designated it as "dat Schoonste landt" that the eyes of man ever beheld.

"This Shoonechtendeel is 24 miles west from Albany." — Danker & Sluyter's Journal [i.e., Jasper Danker and Peter Sluyter, Journal of a Voyage to New York], 1680.

Query — Did D & S. derive their name from Schoon = beautiful, achten = esteemed, valued, deel = portion of land (or del = a valley)? or was it only a coincidence? M'M.]

(13-1) Albany Records, xxi. 137.

(13-2) O'Callaghan's History N. N., II. 441.

(14-1) Albany Records, xx. 350.

(14-2) Albany Records, xx. 351.

(14-3) Patent of date Nov. 12, 1662.

(15-1) Albany Records, xx. 376.

(15-2) Albany Records, xxi. 139.

(16-1) Albany Records, xxi. 135.

(16-2) Albany Records, xxii. 169.

(16-3) Albany Records, xxii. 169.

(17-1) See original in Dutch in my possession.

(18-1) [A Dutch myl was 3.6394 (commonly called 4) English miles.]

(18-2) A hand of wampum was valued at 4 guilders, Albany Annals, II, 8.

(19-1) Land Papers, I, 47.

(20-1) Council Minutes, III. 2nd part, p. 59.

(21-1) Hilletie a half breed, sister of Acques Cornelise Van Slyck, married Peter Danielse Van Olinda the First Settler; the land given her by the Mohawks was the "Willow Flat" below Port Jackson and the Great Island at Niskayuna. Leah, probably her sister, married first Claes Willemse Van Coppernol and secondly Jonathan Stevens. She owned a portion of the " Willow Flat" with her sister Hilletie.

(21-2) Council Minutes, V, 11.

(21-3) Council Minutes, V, 12.

(23-1) Land Papers, II, 271.

(25-1) The skin of parchment on which this petition was written is badly worn and defaced. It is deposited in the New York State Library at Albany.

(26-1) See charter of April 16, 1705.

(27-1) Colonial Mss., I, 52.

(28-1) Read in Council 21st April, 1704: Warrant to the Attorney General, 23d May, 1704. Land Papers III. 186.

(29-1) Land papers, III, 186.

(29-2) Land Papers, III, 186.

(30-1) See Complaint in the office of the Court of Appeals.

(31-1) In office of Court of Appeals.

(33-1) Dutch church papers.

(33-2) Assembly Journal, I, 251-2.

(34-1) Names rarely met with in records relating to Schenectady.

(35-1) Deeds, V, 351.

(35-2) Deeds, VI, 281, 282, 286, 288.

(35-3) Patents, Sec. State's office. Land Papers, VI, 94, 97.

(36-1) Dutch church papers.

(38-1) Dutch church papers.

(40-1) Will recorded in Surrogate's office of Albany County, Jan. 20, 1795.

(43-1) Council Minutes, XXVI. 210.

(48-1) Toll Papers.

(52-1) Schenectady Directory, 1857-8, p. 142.

(55-1) Minutes of the Board of Trustees.

(55-2) Min. Bd. Trustees.

(56-1) Minutes Board Trustees.

(56-2) See the first city charter.

(57-1) [The following facsimile of permit to cut wood, and citizens affidavit, show how jealously the citizens held to this privilege.

hereby permitted to cut and carry away, for
from the Common Lands of the city of Schenectady,
Provided that ———— in all things compl ———— with the Law, "To prevent waste of Timber and Fire-Wood on the Common Lands of the city of Schenectady, and for other purposes, passed December 25th, 1813." — This permit, however, to be in force for eight days only. — Dated ———— day of 181—
do swear in presence of Almighty God that I will in all things during the continuance of the permit granted by the Mayor of the city of Schenectady, dated ———— day of ———— to cut
comply with the law to prevent waste of timber and fire-wood on the common lands of the city of Schenectady, and for other purposes, passed the 25th December, 1813, that the application which I now make to cut
when the same are cut, I intend for my own use, and I will not directly or indirectly suffer the same to be removed without the bounds of the said city, under any pretence whatsoever.

From date it appears that the lands were not disposed of in 1810. M'M.]

Go to top of page | back to: Pearson Sketch | ahead to: Division of Lands

You are here: Home » Resources » Pearson's History » Introduction updated March 30, 2015

Copyright 2015 Schenectady Digital History Archive — a service of the Schenectady County Public Library