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.


The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Chits covered expenses for Guilderland’s poor, including for coal, boots and shoes, hospital stays, telephone messages, horse keeping, doctor’s services, and coffins.

GUILDERLAND — In the beginning days of the town of Guilderland, there was no Medicare or Medicaid for the ill, poor, or elderly.  Individuals had to rely on their neighbors or persons cited by the town as "Overseers of the Poor" to perform such duties.

Early documents also reveal that the town's "poor" residents received medical attention from doctors who lived in Guilderland, and the services of those doctors were paid by the town.  Listed as doctors who were given a $12 annual fee for attending to the sick residents were:   Thomas Helme M.D., Abram DeGraff M.D.,  George Squire M.D.,  R I Barton M.D.,  Jesse Crounse M.D. and Frederick Crounse M.D.

In addition, several residents also performed such services.   Town archives hold many receipts of the handling of those cases.

In March of 1893, Albany Hospital presented a bill for two weeks’ board at $5 a week for a Guilderland resident that included the "washing of a dozen pieces at $1.00 per dozen,” services of a special nurse, medicine, and extras.

In May of 1898, another chit was received from H.A. Vosburgh, Overseer of the Poor, for 12 weeks’ board for a child.  In that same year, in November, a bill was presented to the town for $3.50 for a coffin for Mary Bent's child. And later still, Prospect Hill Cemetery was paid $1.50 for the internment of that child.

In 1896, Mr Vosburgh presented a bill for $10.25 for 41 pounds of coal for a poor family.

Chits were turned in by "Overseers of the Poor" in 1897 for "horse keeping  $.65 and for "horse hire" in regards to Jacob Smith's mule for $1.20.

Dr. Thomas Helme turned in a receipt for professional services up to the date of Jan. 12, 1896 for $25. “Boots & Shoes” cost $4 and were purchased at M. Mandelbaum at Washington Avenue, a wholesale and retail dealer of footwear, for a needy Guilderland resident.

Many groceries were listed next to Guilderland residents’ names as the "Overseers of the Guilderland Poor" took good care of buying food for the medically ill and the needy in the town.  It was a far simpler method than today apparently.


— Photo by Mark Huggins

Feathery grain: Panels under each Gothic window at the Schoolcraft Mansion have a delicate etching.

In dealing with the Schoolhouse Mansion restoration, this historian has learned many new things about that subject and new words concerning it.

"Plinth" is this week's new word.  Webster's dictionary calls it "the slab at the base of a column or pedestal."

I call it a six- or eight-sided beautifully carved piece of wood that terminates window or door moldings at their base, enhancing the structure.   Pictures accompanying this article will attest to that.

Mark Huggins, a Guilderland town employee who has been "enhancing" the Schoolcraft House for some time, has been instrumental in designing the Gothic-style interior woodwork. He has carved about 18 plinths that adorn the windows and door moldings in the two front rooms of the house.

They are beautiful and show the house in its rightful aspect of time. Baseboards are also being installed with a Gothic-era flair, adding to the grandeur of the house.

This work is time-consuming, producing outstanding features that will bring the restoration work to a fine conclusion.

Do visit the Schoolcraft Art Fair on Saturday, June 6, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and check out the finishing plinths.

There will be artwork to view and purchase if you like, chamber music by guitarist Marcello Iaia and flutist Caitlin Ippolito to appreciate, and a cool beverage and sweets to enjoy.  See you there!

Plinths in place at the bottom of Gothic doorway moldings are among the finishing touches at the Schoolcraft Mansion. — Photo by Mark Huggins.


— Photo from Polly Schoolcraft

The Portsmouth Naval Memorial was built after World War I to commemorate members of the British Royal Navy who had no grave. Oliver J. Schoolcraft, a wireman aboard the HMS North Star, is listed on one of the memorial’s plaques: Oliver J. Schoolcraft — the son of Oliver J. Schoolcraft and the grandson of John Lawrence Schoolcraft of Guilderland — was born on Feb. 19, 1895 and died at sea on April 23, 1918, at the age of 23.

GUILDERLAND — The Schoolcraft House is coming into its own!   Many residents that attended the Holiday Event at the House in December checked out the restoration of the historic Gothic mansion. The house is becoming beautiful and usable.  Now we have another facet of its history.

A week ago, this historian received an email from Southhampton, Hampshire in England.  An email from Mrs. Polly Schoolcraft Bell, a direct descendent of Congressman John L. Schoolcraft!  She is also the great-granddaughter of Oliver J. Schoolcraft, Congressman Schoolcraft's first son.

What a surprise that was.

Polly Schoolcraft Bell and family have been searching their ancestors online and found the Altamont Enterprise story written by Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor, telling of  this historian's book called "Congressman John L. Schoolcraft...and his House."  It has become a small world through the Internet.

We were able to fill Polly Schoolcraft in on some of the history of Oliver J. Schoolcraft, her ancestor.  We will fill in readers also.

Oliver J. Schoolcraft was born in 1854 to John and Caroline Schoolcraft whose house we know in Guilderland.  Congressman John Schoolcraft died in 1860 upon returning home from a Chicago convention where Abraham Lincoln had won the presidential nomination over William Seward, Schoolcraft's best friend.

Two years later, Caroline Schoolcraft sold the house and moved to Richmond, Virginia with her three children.  She then married Dr. Joseph Gilmore Beattie.

Wedding portrait: James Bell married Polly Schoolcraft at Highcliffe castle last August. — Photo from Polly Schoolcraft


Oliver J. Schoolcraft grew up in Richmond after his mother married and became an editor of that city's paper.  He married Mattie Ould in Salem, Virginia in 1876.

The "Famous Belles" magazine profile of Mattie Ould Schoolcraft states that she sang for guests at her wedding in her father's house.  "Under the Daisies" was a melody with prophetic lyrics, a sad forecast of events to come.

Mattie died in childbirth in 1877, and the sad lyrics, "She lies through all spring and summer beneath a bed of daisies, and near sleeps the infant whose life closed her own," formed her epitaph.

Oliver, after a short attempt in the United States Navy, went to England in 1880.  After several years, he became a priest in the Church of England, married, and had five children. In his later years, he returned to the United States and died of paralysis in Lexington, Virginia in 1911 at the age of 58.

The obituary in the Virginia paper mentions that Oliver was the son of John L. Schoolcraft, of Albany N.Y., "prominent banker and man of large business interests.

Polly Schoolcraft Bell of England sent this historian the photos that accompany the article. Filling out part of the legacy of Guilderland's Gothic mansion on the Western Turnpike is of premier importance to this historian.