Frances Anderson Sloan was the Village of Scotia Historian from Nov. 1959 until May 1965, when she died unexpectedly. She wrote a column twice a month for the Scotia-Glenville Journal and we have been gathering all these articles in one place as reference materials. She was diligent in her research and while new facts may have come to light since then, and there are now new ways of expressing historical concepts, her essays are still interesting and useful after these 60 years.
This year, after the big interruption of 2020, I will be “reprinting” some of these articles that relate to Glenville’s bicentennial. The town was incorporated in 1820, but the first town meeting took place in 1821; I think we can sneak this in as a bicentennial year as well.
This article discusses the Alexander Glen property, the Sacandaga Turnpike, and the beginnings of Glenville.
History Walks with Scotians
by Frances Anderson Sloan
Originally published in the Scotia-Glenville Journal
January 23, 1964
Scotia is both older and younger than her larger sister across the Mohawk River. We are familiar with the story of the founding of a home on our side of the river by Sander Leendertse Glen in 1658. In fact, he reportedly established a dwelling of sorts on the river bank as early as 1655. Schenectady celebrated the three hundredth [now 359] anniversary of Settlement in 1962. However, we incorporated as Scotia only in 1904 so that this year we celebrate sixty years [now 117] of growth as the village of Scotia.
Much happened between the two dates that affected our development. This first of three articles will deal with the story of a toll highway less familiar to us than the Western Turnpike and the separation of Glenville from Schenectady in 1820.
To quote a rather unfamiliar comment on Glen’s settlement from his “Narrative Embracing the History of Two or Three of the First Settlers and Their Families of Schenectady” by Dr. Daniel J. Toll in 1847: “Sanders Landersa [sic] Glen in 1665 obtained a patent of Richard Nichols, first English Governor of the Province of New York for the alluvial flats opposite Dorp on the north side of the Mohawk river, then counted to be fifty morgens more or less, or one hundred acres, more or less. In 1669 and 1686 he made extensive purchases of the adjoining woodlands.” (The patent for Glen’s holdings came, of course, several years after his settlement.)
“The river occupies the very site of the first dwelling because from attrition caused by annual freshets of the Mohawk river, the main shore has crumbled and washed away. It was some distance south of the present house.”
The cluster of family dwellings called by Sander Glen “Nova Scotia” or New Scotland, for his homeland was part of the village of Schenectady since he was one of the original proprietors of old Dorp. As the settlement spread into the surrounding hills it became known as Glenville. In fact a number of places were named after the family, including Glens Falls and Glen, N.Y.
The “Camp” served as assembly ground for Indian, Colonial and British and, later, American troops, as they made their way northward to fight the hostile Indians, the French in Canada, the British in Canada, or enemy troops coming thence. The path trod back and forth to Canada by these warriors was the Sacandaga. After the war of 1812, New York State was in a ferment of opening up new turnpikes, just as a few years later there was a great criss-crossing of the canal systems in our state. The Mohawk Turnpike and “Clinton’s Ditch” are familiar but the Sacandaga Turnpike was very important at the time.
The path of war could also serve as a trade highway in time of peace. Private enterprise, local communities built plank, stone or sand roads, maintained them and extracted fees from the travelers by turning the pike upright, thus permitting those who paid to pass. The “pike” or bar was stretched across the road at specified distances. Some of the highways were authorized by the state and money raised by popular subscription. In May, 1813, Abraham Oothout and James Bailey were appointed commissioners by the Legislature to open the books for subscribers to the Sacandaga Turnpike and Bridge Company. Mr. Isaac Groot bought shares of which the Scotia History Center has photostats. Subscribers paid a proportion of the cost at the beginning and succeeding amounts as the work progressed. Mr. Groot’s shares were paid in full but many subscribers failed to maintain their payments and lost their holdings.
June 15, 1814, after a certain amount had been raised, James Bailey and James Boyd were empowered to receive bills for building the turnpike. At first apparently the outlook was rosy and in 1816 the stockholders called for a payment of 10% on stock subscribed.
But matters did not progress very quickly. In April, 1820, the stockholders met at the house of “Bernard Cramer, Innkeeper in the fourth ward of Schenectady” (Cramer’s Tavern was on Ballston Road, near the junction of Mohawk Avenue) to consider what to do next. Schenectady decided to sell its interest, at least in part. In November of that year the Corporation of Schenectady decided to sell “not exceeding $7,000 in amount of Corporation, including the old gaol (jail) and lot on the corner of Union and Ferry Streets, the corporation part of the old College building and lot together with some Mohawk Bridge, Sacandaga Turnpike and Bridge Company and Schenectady water works stock if a suitable price is offered.”
Some correspondence exists indicating an attempt by Mayor Joseph Yates and partner to purchase Sacandaga Turnpike and Bridge Company for about 40% of its evaluation but research uncovered no development of this idea. The legislature was still worrying with the Sacandaga Turnpike. There the research trail seems to fade and becomes interesting speculation.
Schenectady had another problem in 1820. At that time Rotterdam was ward 3 and Glenville ward 4. The busy little Dorp had interests at variance with those of the farmers of wards 3 and 4. It was difficult to manage the fast growing community as an entity. “At a meeting of the citizens of Schenectady for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of applying to the Legislature to set off the third and fourth wards into separate towns, held December 31, 1819, John Sanders, Esq. was called to the chair and Nicholas F. Beck was appointed secretary.” This quote is from the “Cabinet” of January 6, 1820.
They were successful in their application for an act was passed by the Legislature, April 14, 1820. “Whereas the inhabitants of the city of Schenectady, by their petition to the legislature of this state, and also the Mayor, Aldermen, and commonality of said city, by their petition, under the corporate seal of the said city, have represented that from the vast extent of territory comprised in the third and fourth wards, of the said city and the diversity of interests between the inhabitants of those wards, who are generally farmers and the citizens residing in the compact of the said city, as well as from various other causes, great and increasing difficulties have been experienced in the transaction of their public concerns and in the management of their common property and have applied for a law to have the said third and fourth wards erected into separate (sic) Towns and to authorize a division of their common lands and property in the manner here in after mentioned: therefore (I) Be it enacted by the people of the State of New York represented in Senate and Assembly that from and after the first Tuesday of January next, all that tract of country—now known by the name of the third ward of the city of Schenectady shall be erected into a Town by name of Rotterdam. (II) And be it further enacted that all that tract of country contained within the limits and bounds of what is now known and called by the name of the Fourth ward of said city, shall be and hereby is separated from said city and erected into a town by the name of Glenville.”
It was necessary to hold many meetings to divide the holdings equitably, first between the corporation of the City of Schenectady and wards three and four and then between wards three and four individually. The representatives for wards 3 and 4 were appointed January 1820. The “Cabinet” quaintly reported, “At a meeting in the third ward a respectable number of very aged farmers of the third and fourth wards, Laurence Schermerhorn was appointed chairman and Aaron Van Antwerp secretary.” Seventeen meetings are recorded within the next year. Of interest is that among the items received by Glenville and Rotterdam equally January 23, 1821 were 42 ½ shares of the Sacondaga (sic) Turnpike Road.”