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A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times
18: Schenectady Academy and Union College

Prof. Jonathan Pearson

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[This information is from pp. 433-435 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.)]

Schenectady academy out of which grew Union College, was commenced in 1785. Domine Romeyn, who came to the village the year before was the soul of this new enterprise. Through his influence the church was induced to erect a commodious building, and the citizens engaged to give it their patronage and furnish it with a library. After a prosperous existence of ten years, a college charter having been obtained, the Academy property was passed over into the hands of its trustees. The progress of this undertaking can be clearly traced in the minutes of the consistory. Their first official action was taken on the 21st day of February 1785, when they resolved to construct as speedily as possible with the help of the church, a house of two stories with two rooms in each story upon the lot of ground belonging to the church upon which the old guardhouse (433-1) now stands; and that upon the completion of the building three of said rooms shall be assigned for the use of the school and academy. (433-2)

Moreover on account of the great cost of the academy house to the church, it was "resolved that said church shall receive four shillings yearly from every scholar taught in said house, and if said academy or Illustre school shall become changed into a college, then the president of such college as well as the rector of said school, shall be a member of the Dutch church and minister of this church; and the said four shillings for each scholar shall be bestowed upon such poor scholars as the church shall name."

March 5, 1785. The consistory about this time were still negotiating with the town magistrates for the improvement of the common schools (triviale schoolen) of the town and for the establishment of an Illustre school or academy.

March 16, 1785. The consistory order the gathering of materials for the academy building.

March 28. It was considered expedient to build the academy, not upon the old guardhouse lot, but upon the north corner of Union and Ferry streets, on land then belonging to Johannes Pootman: — ordered that building materials shall be procured as speedily as possible, — also carpenters and masons.

April 7, 1785. The academy building being now well under way, the consistory and twenty-seven respectable citizens of the town met at Reuben Simonds' public house in Church street, to close the matter of the academy by signing articles of agreement for the management and support of said academy. (434-1)

[Woodcut: Academy Building: original size (11K) | 9x enlarged (118K)]

April 22, 1785. The consistory appoint Wm. Schermerhorn to superintend the building of the academy.

Aug. 1, 1785. Committees, both of citizens and consistory, are appointed to urge forward the academy building. (434-2)

An effort was made in 1791, to endow this school by a grant of Indian lands; and Nov. 16, Dr. Dirk Van Ingen announced to the consistory that he and others had rented 10,240 acres of land of the Oneida Indians for 21 years, on consideration that he paid after five years 100 pounds yearly to said Indians. Dr. V., offered said land to the consistory to be held for the benefit of the Schenectady church, inasmuch as said academy unincorporated could not hold real estate. At first the consistory agreed to receive the land but subsequently gave it up, finding doubtless that it could not be legally held by the church.

On the second day of April, 1793, the trustees of the academy ask that the building erected by the Dutch church be made over unto them, to which the consistory consent. And on Sept. 24, 1796, the trustees of Union College ask that the building be made over to them unconditionally, to be sold and the money put into a more commodious building; on due consideration this request was granted and the proceeds of this sale with other moneys were used in building the present Union School edifice.

[Woodcut: Union School. original size (28K) | 9x enlarged (288K)]

Notes

(433-1) After the erection of the church of 1734, that of 1715, standing at the junction of Church and State streets, was used as a fort, guard or watch house.

(433-2) Bestolen so spoedig als mogelyk met de hulpe van hun E. Gemeente, een Huys van twee Verdiepingen en twee Verbrekken in yeder Verdiepinge te Bouwen op het Lot grondt tot de Kerk behorende, daar tegenswoordigh het Oude Wachthuys staat; sullende op volvoeringe van het gebouw, drie van desselfs Vertrekken worden of gesondert tot school en Academic gebruyk.Consistory Minutes.

(434-1) This agreement is drawn up with great formality and particularity in eleven sections and is written on fifteen pages of foolscap. It was probably drawn up by Dr. Romeyn who was president of the meeting.

(434-2) A stone of an oval shape was built into the front on which were cut the names of the building committee; this stone is now in Union College Museum.

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