When Doctor Frederick Crounse's old barn was still up, curious people stopped by to visit it a lot!
Old barns are filled with belongings of all sorts of things, especially things that the house owner or new house owner want to get rid of: cutlery, old papers, magazines, books, household furniture, old crock pitchers, old pictures, and more.
This historian has been recently given a plastic bag filled with old pictures presumably once owned by a past owner of the Crounse house. (The house, which is in disrepair, is currently owned jointly by the town of Guilderland and the village of Altamont.)
An Altamont resident told me she had visited the barn just before it was destroyed, and that a group of old pictures were scattered all over the barn floor. She started picking them up and realized that they could be important to the history of the house. She took them home, put them in a bag, and stored them in a closet.
A few years later, they were still in her closet! So the historian of the town was called, and I am hoping the pictures are who I think they might be.
Most of the shots were taken in downtown Albany photography studios. No one had cameras then as we do now. Brown's Photography; Pearsall's Photography of 69 South Pearl Street; MacDonald’s Photography; and Robinau Photography and C.C. Schoonmaker Photograph,y both of North Pearl Street were all named on the pictures.
Five tintypes were included along with five postcards of the State Normal School, the Washington Park lakehouse, Thompson's Lake, West Point, and a "Glimpse of Western Avenue in Albany."
A picture of a young man in what looked like a War of 1812 uniform, and a hard-covered 3-by-5-inch child's book titled "Anna and the Kittens" by Mrs. L.M. Childs were included in the treasures.
The front inside page of the book is dated August 3, 1883. It says “Prize 4” and the following poem is written in pencil:
"Among the green bushes and blooming on bushes
Hi O! Hi O! Hi O!
I'll find me a treasure
To give me much pleasure
Hi O Hi O Hi O
All of these articles are in very good shape.
I took several of the tintypes to Jim Gardner at the Enterprise Print & Photo shop for development. One of them is included with this story. The beautiful dress worn by the woman identifies the financial status of the family.
None of the photos are identified. Perhaps readers can do that. I plan to meet with Marijo Dougherty of the Altamont Museum & Archives to deliver the wonderful findings there.
Baron von Steuben, known for his knowledge of military discipline, has not been widely known in the Hellebergh history annals. However, he was touted for his military skills, and he did have a great connection with Frederick Crounse, one of the town of Guilderland and Altamont's prominent ancestors.
Born in 1730, von Steuben was educated by the Jesuits and became a Prussian officer. Benjamin Franklin recommended him to George Washington as a Lieutenant General. Schooled in the armies of Frederick the Great, he brought invaluable military knowledge to the disheartened troops of Washington at Valley Forge.
On Feb. 23, 1778, von Steuben reported to Valley Forge and was put in charge of Washington's battered army encampment for training. He wrote a training manual, drilled the men hard, and whipped the army into shape. Coming without a contract or monetary promises, he waited many years after the war for Congressional recognition.
His adopted son and aide-de-camp was Colonel William North who had a mansion on Duane Lake near Duanesburgh.
While he would visit his son in the Hellebergh area, Baron von Steuben, would also call on one of the most famous German men in this area, Frederick Crounse, the man renowned then for furnishing food from Hellebergh farms for the victorious armies at Saratoga; the man who had also helped many captured Hessians to find work here and at Schoharie, and the man who had been one of the first members of the German Society of New York State founded by Baron von Steuben in 1784.
Historian's Note: This information was found in an Altamont Enterprise of July 9, 1976 written by the late Guilderland historian Arthur Gregg.
More historic yellowed papers keep finding their way to this historian's desk to keep her busy in the snowless winter we are having. Aged documents, much different than the 2016 modern computerized tax forms, reveal the lifestyle of early Guilderland officers and residents before the multi-group operations of government of today.
Evert Van Aernum “Solemnly and Sincerely swore that in all things in the best of knowledge and ability,” he would “faithfully and impartially execute and perform the Trust imposed” on him as an overseer of the highways of the town in April 1812.
Previously, on Dec. 23, 1809, the same Evert Van Aernum had called a special town meeting at the home of Henry Apple for the purpose of electing a new town clerk since the former town clerk had removed himself out of town and county. Eleven town officials — with the last names of Sharp, Featherly, Clark, Van Patten, Wergann, Ogsbury, Jacobson, Bogardus, Apple, Combs, and McGinn — voted to make Peter Van Patten the new town clerk that year.
In 1868, in Knowersville, which is what Altamont was then called, Supervisor Hiram Griggs authorized paying Ambrose Saddlemire $40 for services as a qualified teacher in District 1 of Guilderland from Dec. 2, 1867 to January 1868.
In November 16, 1892, W.B. Mynderse, the town clerk, filed an act to prevent the spread of a disease known as the “black knot” in plum, cherry, and other trees. “I hereby appoint Loring W. Osborn, Joseph Roe, and William Brinkman as Commissioners to carry out the provisions of said act in the Town of Guilderland, Albany County, given under my name on November 1892. Howard Foster, Supervisor.
At a meeting of Guilderland’s supervisor and clerk on March 3, 1810, for the purpose of making out a jury list for the town, they accordingly report that the following persons are qualified to serve as jurors since last year: Jeremiah VanAuken, Matthias Hallenbeck, Henry W. Stern, Wihelmas Becker, Jacob Phele, Thomas Olsaver, Adam I. Syver, John Van Waggoner, Frederick Wormer, Noah Wood, Samuel Carmull, Andrew Ostrander, Andrew Scrafford, and Markus Sytle.
Persons not qualified were listed as: John Vine, Henry Van Wormer, James Shard, Garit G. Van Zant, William Wagoner, John Douglas, John Sharp, Phillip Sharp, Matthew Van Drubuch, David Wormer, Loyal Dave Runor, Thomas Mesich, Christian Scafford, and Ludwick Featherly.
“We the Supervisor and Town Clerk do certify that the above is a free list of the persons Qualified and disqualified in the Town of Guilderland to perform as Jurors since the previous year. Given under our hand this 3rd day of March 1810,” reads the document signed by Supervisor Conrad Crounse, Assessor Henry Shaver, and Town Clerk Peter Van Patten.
This historian believes that persons were not qualified as a juror for reasons such as not being a landowner or a homeowner, for having been a juror in a previous year, or for not being a valid town resident.
All of the above official acts were handwritten on special papers. There were no typewritten or computer-written papers. And no secretary to write them.
With the Christmas season and all its tinsel, lights, and greenery upon us, the mail also brings letters sometimes like gifts – like the following letter that this historian hopes will turn into a gift of sorts.
The letter from Barbara Havey begins, "Hi Alice, I am great-great-granddaughter of Caroline Cornellia and Dr. Beattie. (Caroline was Congressman Schoolcraft's wife). My grandfather inherited a painting that I believe may have been a part of the Schoolcraft collection. It subsequently passed to my mother and now to me.
“I am most anxious to try to identify the artist. I will be ordering your book and, next time I'm up your way, I plan on visiting Guilderland. I live in Florida now, but grew up in Yonkers. Any info you could tell me about the painting would be greatly appreciated....."
This historian wonders if the painting is one that John Schoolcraft bought in Europe and brought home to Guilderland. The writer tells me that the painting is "a neoclassical style Italian looking landscape with castles in the background.” It measures about 56 by 42 inches.
This historian is anxious to see the painting to try to identify it with Congresssman John Schoolcraft who built the Schoolcraft House on Guilderland’s Great Western turnpike, now Route 20.
Another letter arrived from Chris Philippo of Glenmont after he read my column on restoring of the Dunn cemetery on Bill Bennett's property in Dunnsville. Abigal Gaskin's burial stone was the only female stone in the Dunn cemetery. Abigal was the daughter of Charles Dunn.
Chris Philippo surmised that Abigal Gaskin was married to the postmaster John Gaskin and quoted from a list of “animals exhibited at the Fair...by John Gaskin of Guilderland — a superior stud horse. (At the Albany Cattle Fair Daily Albany Argus.) November 6th 1833."
He also referred to this: “Catalogues stating pedigrees will be ready on the day before and on the day of the sale, which may be had by application...at John Gaskin's, innkeeper in the Town of Guilderland."
Another letter from Barbara Havey about her painting was on my desk at Town Hall Tuesday morning, Dec. 15. Barbara sent a picture of the painting she inherited from the Schoolcraft relatives.
The painting is dark and as yet I am unable to identify it or the artist who painted it. But I do believe it is from the Schoolcraft ancestry.
Barbara also reveals that it came from "Mr. Schoolcraft's estate in 1860. That is the year he died. Caroline Schoolcraft married Dr. Beattie about two years after Schoolcraft died. He became ill at the Republican Convention when Abraham Lincoln was nominated for President.
Caroline moved to Richmond, Virginia and took the paintings with her. She outlived her daughter, who was Barbara Havey's great-grandmother, Agnes Jennings Beattie Stuart. The paintings passed to her grandchildren, including Barbara's grandfather, Robert McAllister Stuart, born in 1903.
The frame had been cut to fit a wall in 1965 in Yonkers, New York. The history of the painting passed along with it is that it was done by an artist who also painted a portrait of George Washington for the White House. We are both working on that and will let you know!
Bill Donato has restored the cemetery Bill Bennett uncovered on land he purchased in Dunnsville.
The old wrought-iron fence with its beautiful decorative pieces on the holding posts are in place. They were most-likely made in the iron foundry on Foundry Road in Guilderland almost two centuries ago.
Six headstones, once cracked and fallen over, are now repaired with braces; they stand slim and tall. They tell of the Dunn family of that era whose name tags the area on Route 20 in town.
Christopher Dunn, head of the family, was born in 1763 and died in 1830 at age 67. He operated a tavern on the corner of the Great Western Turnpike and Route 397 called the Grange.
Other stones tell of John Dunn, who died in 1803 at age 35 years; James Dunn, who died in 1813 at 43 years; Richard Dunn, the son of John, who died in 1822 at 20 years; and James Dunn, the son of Christopher, who died in 1829 at 33 years.
The sixth stone marks the grave of Abigail (née Dunn) who died in 1825 at the age of 36. She had married John Gaskin and she is the only female we noted who was buried in the Dunn cemetery.
On her lovely decorated stone is a poem that reads:
She cometh forth like a flower
and is cut down
She fleeith like a dandelion
and continuith not!
Abigail's stone is the only one carved with flowers and ribbons.
More research needs to be completed on the Dunn cemetery. For instance, although Christopher had a son, there is now grave to mark the son’s mother as Abigail is the only female noted.
Bill Donato of Altamont receives the credit for restoring the historic cemetery on Bennett's acres. He is to be applauded for saving that important piece of Guilderland's history.
Donato has been busy with in his retirement years, documenting cemetery stones and putting them on the Internet for those trying to find their ancestors. Anyone who has more information on the Dunn family history is welcome to call this historian at 518-456-3032.