The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Papers from the 1800s shed light on Guilderland’s past.


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 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 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!


The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Standing up for history: Bill Bennett, left, and Bill Donato stand on wither said of the 1803 gravestone marking the grave of Christopher Dunn.

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.


The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

The history of Guilderland’s roads is recorded in elegant handwriting. The document at left lays out the road through Guilderland Center that is now Route 146, according to Town Historian Alice Begley. The document with the seal, at center, is an 1873 indenture between Guilderland and Albany, signed by Albany’s mayor, Geo. H. Thacher. The 1812 notice over that verifies the road that runs by the “tavern house now occupied by the Widow Eve Apple” — currently the site of the Appel Inn. And, finally, the 1868 document with the engraved county seal and 2-cent postage stamp says that the Guilderland highway commissioners paid “Two thousand dollars in full on contract for building new road in said town.”

It is interesting to think that, back in time, the town of Guilderland didn't have defined roads.  In fact, in 1812, the recently named commissioners of the town highway department were just beginning the plan to turn horse-and-carriage ruts from farmhouse to farmhouse into more navigable roads.

A. Grote and David Ogsbury were the new "subscriber commissioners" of the highway department in and for the town of Guilderland organized in 1803.

The accompanying form certifies "that we have layed [sic] out a Public Highway from a point on the northerly side of the Schoharie Road opposite the Tavern House now occupied by the widow Eve Apple and from thence on a course South Eighty degrees East Eighty chains to the public highway leading from Barent Myderse to French And Campbells Mills near a house owned by French Campbell now occupied by Charles VanOstrander agreeable to the request of the hereunto annexed petition we also direct that the same be recorded — Guilderland the 29th Day of December 1812."

Those directions were recording what we know today as Route 146.

Again in 1833, an old yellowed document in town files records this: "We the undersigned being inhabitants of the Town of Guilderland, and owners or occupants of the land through which the saim [sic] rout or privet road here unto answer, doth set forth and describe, that we have hereby bind ourselves, our heirs forever hereafter, that this shall be for the proper use of a privet road to all those who may choose to use it as such, and further that our signatures here unto shall forever hereafter shall preclude the saim owners or occupants there of, their heirs from all further clame [sic] for damages for saim road.  Whereunto we have interchangeably set our hand this 4th Day of March in 1833." 

This document was signed by Henry Lanehart and Wm. Merrifield.   Witnesses were Elizah Chesbro and Simon Lanehart.

In addition, on Nov. 18, 1818, a notice by Mathew Y. Chesebro written to Highway Commissioners Garret Ostrander, John Moak, and Peter Crounse for an application for a "Private road to be laid out for my use commencing at the Eastern gate porte on the course North 68 de East 60, from Elm Tree in MJ Chesebro's field thence North to the lands of Able French and along lands which belong to OL Davis to the Great Western Turnpike.”

The turnpike had been finished in 1799. The paper was signed by Crounse and Ostrander.

A more notable "Indenture" dated Oct. 15, 1870 signed by the City of Albany's Mayor George H. Thacher and sealed with a very large green stamp to the town of Guilderland "assigns forever" all that plot of ground beginning at a point at or near the center of the public highway from McKowns Hotel to west Albany which point bears north 18 degrees, east 41 links from a marked white pine tree on the south side of said road, runs from said point as the magnetic needle pointed A.D. 1872 north 48 degrees 30 minutes east 19.70."

These directions go on and on until at last the indenture reads "from the northeast corner of burying ground to a point near the center of the road commonly called Washington Ave."

It ends up mentioning William Fuller’s Farm, and stating that the "object of this conveyance being to vest the title of said described property for highway purposes & no other."

This, of course, is the property along Fuller Road conjoining with Washington Avenue.

It amazes this historian to read that this piece of land in Guilderland, which once housed and fed William Fuller’s horses and other animals, now holds a huge and growing group of modern buildings that house SUNY Poly.

I'm sure Mayor Thacher didn't foresee that in his wildest dreams.

The town of Guilderland's archives has reams of antique information on the town that captures untold pictures of yesteryear. This historian remembers William Fuller’s riding stable!




The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

In the mail from Oklahoma, Guilderland historian Alice Begley received, among other treasures, a rose rock, at lower left, a natural crystal of barite and sand; according to Cherokee legend, the crystal was formed by the blood and tears of a young Cherokee woman on the Trail of Tears, a forced relocation following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

A very interesting message from a telephone correspondent near Kiowa, Oklahoma caught this historian's attention this week with a call from that state. A 45-minute conversation was filled with surprising connections of Guilderland and Kiowa.

Sherrill Wilkins, born in California, has lived in Oklahoma for about 25 years and is married to a Chickasaw Indian.  She notes that Oklahoma was "Indian Territory" before statehood in 1907. 

Sherrill is a former schoolteacher. She has no computer service in her home because the nearest hookup for service is 30 miles away.  She is seven-and-a-half miles from the nearest store, called a "Double Quick" like a 7-11 store here.

A pharmacy is 26 miles away.  Medicines are obtained by mail.   Their house and her husband's father's land total 250 acres.

Sherrill says proudly that an Indian family with children will not have to pay for college.   Many other benefits are available.  There are food benefits in the grocery store, and fuel for heating a home is free.  She said tribal members’ needs are met by the tribe

Our conversation covered names of early Kiowa residents like Veeder and Grote and Lainhart, which belong in both Kiowa and Guilderland history.   It is known that long ago Indians sometimes took the family name of English soldiers who had befriended them.

This historian informed Mrs. Wilkins of the Mohican Indians that lived near the Waldehaus Creek at Dunnsville in Guilderland.  Those Mohican Indians did the job of weaving basketry around demi-john bottles made in the glassworks factory in our town.

She also now knows that our town park has the Indian name of "Tawasentha," meaning "Hill of the Dead," and that Red Man's Wigwam on Route 20, an important  building in Guilderland's history, is now gone.

There is an Indian Cemetery near Sherrill Wilkins’s country home.  She has promised to climb a few fences to get pictures of the place.  She also mentioned the huge casino gambling places in the state that are owned by Indian tribes.

Four days after I first talked by phone to Sherrill Wilkins, a large white envelope from Oklahoma arrived in the mail; it held a July 2015 issue of the Chickasaw Times, the official publication of the Chickasaw Nation.

Front-page stories told of the Chickasaw Nation's 2015 Hall of Fame Ceremony to be held July 21, and another front-page story and picture revealed that a new van was to be used to deliver preventative health-care services to young Chickasaws in small-town and rural areas.

The 20-page large-size newspaper carried community and society news of the area. The paper wrote of how a Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Force had helped rescue eight people in a flooding incident in Pickett, Oklahoma.

The inside pages were filled with pictures of Chickasaw graduates from many local high schools and colleges, a remembrance of a Chickasaw Woman Aviatrix, agendas of the Chickasaw Nation Tribal Legislation, and a story about Chickasaw quarterback Bruce Petty who had been drafted by the New York Jets filled.  Petty had led his Baylor University Bears team to a conference championship last year.

An Indian arrowhead, a roserock from their soil, and pictures of Indian burial grounds were included in the mailing.  In addition, a book titled "Oklahoma Indian Country Guide: One State — Many Nations,” told about the 39 Indian Tribal Nations.

A handmade "dream catcher" was enclosed.  The legend tells that the air is filled with both good and bad dreams.  The good dreams will pass through the center hole to the sleeper while the bad dreams are trapped in the web and perish with the light of day. I do hope it works!

A great breath of history washed over the conversations with my new Oklahoma friend. I will  tell her of the Veeders and Grotes and Lainharts of Guilderland.

I hope to share more with you.