More winter activities in Scotia


Spring is almost here! But there’s time for a few more Scotia winter stories to close out the season.

The newspaper clipping of the trolley photo is not very clear, and we don’t know what newspaper it was, but you can see the rotary brushes that kept the track clear. The trolley came across the old bridge, up Schonowee, and along Mohawk to Toll St. Another route split off and went up Ballston, Wallace, Fifth, and then Vley to near the train tracks. Power came from overhead lines.

Michelle Norris, and helpers, made oral history tapes in the 1970s and 1990s with several community members. There are many great stories about Scotia, and here are some winter ones looking back at folks’ boyhoods around 1905 to 1920.

School was never cancelled, no matter the weather, so kids had to fight through the drifts and snowstorms to walk to school. (In the early 1900s the Mohawk school was right on Mohawk Ave. where the Village Parking Lot is today.)

Great fun was had by riding the 8-kid toboggan that was kept in the village equipment barn (and sometime horse barn) on Ten Broeck where the Village Hall is now, behind the firehouse. With a good push, and sometimes with the track iced down by the firemen, they would be able to slide down Ten Broeck almost to the river. There weren’t many cars in town, but the trolley did go back and forth; one kid was supposed to warn the others when it was coming so they could wait. Of course, one time that didn’t happen and the sled ran right into the cow catcher of the trolley—apparently no one was hurt, but after that the sled was kept locked up.

If there was an ice jam from an early thaw, the Mohawk backed up and flooded the islands and the low parts of the shore, and backed up into Collins Lake as well. If it froze back up quickly and stayed cold, there was great skating until March.

Horses and sleighs were raced on the river and on Collins Pond.

Another winter event was watching the men cut ice on Collins Pond. There was a big ice house (about where the upper ball fields are now) and a conveyor belt which pulled the ice up from the lake and stored it for everyone’s ice boxes—no refrigerators yet!


Winter Fun in Scotia

With some wintery weather, and a Village email about skating on Collins Pond, let’s look back at some of the winter entertainments from times past.

All excerpts are from “History Walks with Scotians”, by Frances Anderson Sloan, published in the Scotia-Glenville Journal on the dates noted.

Feb. 7, 1963

During this frost and snowbound period, we can travel a few miles by imagining ourselves journeying out from Schenectady or Scotia along the Mohawk Toll road, the Sacandaga trail or the Ballston or Saratoga path….sometime between the late seventeen hundreds and eighteen-fifty.

In winter we should be swaddled in heavy clothing snuggled down beneath the warm buffalo or beaver or other animal furs traded from the Indians, and perhaps handed down from an exchange made in grandmother’s day. In an 1874 letter to his cousin, Catharina Van Rensselaer Bonney, John Sanders wrote about the pelt his grandmother cherished and used in the cutter in winter. It had come to her from an Indian trade made by John Glen. Usually the early Indian trade was in defiance of the authorities of the West India Company. The sleigh or cutter would, of course, be open. Perhaps a hot brick or a foot warmer with live coals inside would take the chill off our feet. Crossing the ice on the Mohawk river was in many ways more pleasant than waiting for the ferry, or, after 1808, bumping over the toll bridge. Visitors to Scotia from Albany would whisk over the pine plains and the river, approaching Scotia at a point where a path had been outlined up the bank, frequently by evergreen trees or branches stuck in the snow. Not to follow the outlined approach might mean a dunking in the river through the thin ice along the edge, and the prudent always waited for the safe approach to be marked but the impatient drivers took their chances, as they do today.

[There is a wood & tin foot warmer from 1816 in the Glen-Sanders collection (of items from the mansion) at Colonial Williamsburg.]

Feb. 21, 1963

Maunsell Van Rensselaer wrote in 1888, “Scotia was the home of my great uncle Judge John Sanders who maintained the reputation for unbounded hospitality. The house [now the Glen-Sanders Mansion] was always full, and there was plenty of good cheer. In the winter they had sleighing and coasting and homemade sausages and head cheeses and buckwheat cakes, with oiley-cocks and crullas [Dutch cakes most like our donuts] and the great open fireplace filled with logs and no fear of frost.”

March 7, 1963

Snow rollers packed the snow down on the roads instead of ploughs scraping it up, so that travel in winter by cutter or sleigh was smoother and faster than summer travel through mud and ruts. Our hardy ancestors, bundled up well, as we have said, in furs and with a foot warmer of some kind, would strike out for a party at an inn in Sloansville or Schoharie. There they would sup on hot oyster stew or roast meat with plenty of hot toddy, dancethe square or round dances of the period by candlelight and the warmth of the huge fires in the fireplaces or perhaps Dr. Nott’s new contraption, a stove. Then by the light of the cold full moon the young people would glide home before dawn. The full moon on the glistening snow provided all the illumination necessary for the driver and, more importantly, the horses.

Dec. 3, 1964

The river played a role in many festivities, historic and social. The Sanders and the Van Rensselaer families would come to see their Scotia relatives when winter had frozen the ground and river so that they could drive their spirited horses across the pine plains from Albany and over the ice of the river, choosing a bright moonlight night for their return….Frozen, it was the means of crossing to the Dutch Church of Schenectady without paying toll on the covered bridge.

Mar. 18, 1965

In winter the river was always a source of pleasure until the last half century. Horse races were held on the smooth ice and ice skating, with huge bonfires along the shore and, in the early nineteen hundreds, small warming huts in which to change shoes.

June 16, 1960

Scotians of the 1870s enjoyed winter tobogganing on a slide running north from the Dyke [Schonowee Ave. now] on a line dividing the Collins Farm from the Sanders.

This picture is from the 1870s.



Goodnight 2021

We can say a cozy goodnight to 2021 with one of Miss Flint’s elves, and hope for cheerier times ahead in 2022. Instead of a current photo of our grey and gloomy weather, a few fall pictures from the Flint House.

Scotia and Reeseville, Part 2

Last time I transcribed a Neil Reynolds column from 1938 about Scotia and Reeseville. This time I’m posting some Then-Now photos of the places mentioned in that column, in the order they appear. First, this view of Scotia from about 1892, taken from Riverside Ave.

You can see the spire of the First Baptist Church (now City View Church with a much shorter steeple) and next to it the school house. Houses are just beginning to be built up, so the big gap between Scotia and Reeseville is much easier to imagine than it is today. Reeseville isn’t in the picture at all. There is no “Now” picture, because the view is all houses and big trees.

Next is the house/hotel (later an apartment called the Beehive) of Jim Reese, on Mohawk between Sacandaga and N. Reynolds.

Then the Dave Reese house/hotel on the NW corner of Mohawk and N. Reynolds.

Followed by the house of “Fabe” Reese (photo 1938), now the Flint House.

So far no pictures of the original Scotia one-room school on Sacandaga have been found, but there is a 1938 picture of the coal pocket. You can see that house is still there today.

While the new school was being built in 1870, classes were held at “the Junction.” One source says that was at the old Cramer Hotel, later Slover’s Grocery, on the NW corner of Ballston and Mohawk.

That new school you can also see in the first picture of this set, next to the church—here’s a closer view of that first Mohawk School (later Colonial Ice Cream).

The article ends with a suggestion to drive through the villages of Charlton or Jonesville to see places reminiscent of the old Scotia. I checked them out and, despite the development on their outskirts, those villages have changed much less than Scotia through the years—Mr. Reynolds’ advice provides for an interesting excursion.

Next time: More about the Reese family

Scotia and Reeseville, Part 1

Fagan map, 1856 (

Beers map, 1866 (

[Neil Reynolds was Village of Scotia Historian from 1949 until 1959. He had a lifelong interest in local history and wrote many articles for the Scotia Journal in the 1930s and for the Schenectady Gazette in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.]

Scotia and Reeseville

By Neil B. Reynolds

Originally published in the Scotia Journal

Feb. 3, 1938

If, sixty years ago [1878], you had owned a house on the Mohawk Turnpike near Sacandaga Road, you would probably have had to pay, besides taxes, a quit-rent on the land to one of the Reeses. If your land were in Scotia, the payment, would, in all probability, have been to the Sanders or Collins families. This curious custom of quit-rent—which is a remnant of the payments to the lord of the manor during the Middle Ages—persisted here down to the beginning of the 20th century. In 1882, the quit-rent on the house at the corner of Mohawk and Sacandaga was three or four dollars a year.

The Reeses were then masters of their own village—Reeseville. There were three brothers: Jim, Dave, and “Fabe.” Jim Reese lived in the “white house”, now the apartment building between Sacandaga and McKinney [N. Reynolds] Street. Dave lived in the “yellow house”, now made over into the block of stores and apartments on the west corner of McKinney [N. Reynolds] Street. This building, which retains its original stair rail, is said to have once been a tavern, although not used as such in the last 60 years. Like the tavern still standing [not now in 2021] at Mohawk and Ballston, it has the floor of the third story lined with brick to deaden the jar of feet in the lodge room at the top of the house.

The third brother, “Fabe” Reese, lived on what is now the Ulrich farm [now Flint House and Village Park], at the foot of [South] Reynolds Street.

Reeseville, if judged by the number of its streets, was fully as important as Scotia. The Mohawk Turnpike–by this time swept clear of all toll gates and a free road—was the thread along which the houses of the hamlet were strung. Center Street, to give it its modern name, was a lane with two or three houses, and extended a few rods up the hill. Sacandaga Road was a through highway, as it is now, but it ran out into open country before the top of the hill was reached. North Street [now James] extended from the end of Center to intersect Sacandaga. [South] Reynolds Street was the farm lane leading to the Hook Farm (or Hoek, as it was spelled on the earliest maps.)

If Scotia had the two churches, Reeseville long could boast the only school. It stood on the west side of Sacandaga Road, halfway up the hill, about opposite the coal pocket [2021’s Precision Auto Repair]. A few residents of present Scotia can remember going to school there. Many somewhat younger can remember going in later years to dances and parties in the one-room building. At the end, before it was abandoned to social purposes, it housed as many as 80 pupils—a very tight squeeze. Its last teacher, Miss Root, must have had her hands full. For a time, while the new school on Mohawk Avenue was being built, she held her classes in the tavern at “the Junction,” and she continued to teach in the much more spacious building—of two rooms this time—which is incorporated in the Colonial Ice Cream plant.

Of the next-to-last phase of this school, hundreds of Scotians can speak from experience. But the school began as a two-room building, with one classroom above the other. There were two staircases, one on each side, separated for boys and girls. Presently the school was doubled in size to accommodate four rooms. Finally it expanded again—this time to eight rooms—with a central stairway, an office for the Principal over the entrance, and a not-too-musical bell in the belfry. (Does anyone know what became of that bell? Almost every Hallowe’en someone broke in and got in a few good pulls on the bell rope before being chased away.) But all this was later; for some years two rooms were adequate to take care of the Scotia and Reeseville children.

If Schenectady had not been so close, and if Edison had not bought the McQueen works in 1886, Scotia and Reeseville might still be two separate hamlets, separated by a stretch of cornfield. Plenty of nearby towns have stood still during the past half century. As a matter of fact, probably the best way to visualize how our village looked in the late seventies and early eighties [that would be 1870s and 80s] is to visit either Charlton or Jonesville. Each of these is built on a single long street. Each has been consistently avoided by the new through highways. And to walk from end to end of either of these two towns is to travel about the same distance as from Sanders’ to Reese’s, and to pass about as many houses as stretched along Mohawk avenue before Scotia began to grow.

But in certain respects, Scotia differed from Charlton and Jonesville—differed more then than it does now. Scotia had a number of thriving manufacturing industries. And these industries will provide material for another journey back into the last generation.

In Part 2, more info and pictures about the places mentioned in this article

In Part 3, more about the Reese family

Some Notes on the Teddy Building

Newcomers to Scotia might be surprised to see the building that stood on Mohawk Ave. where the CVS store/parking lot is now. Others may remember, fondly or not, the many other businesses that were there in later years.



By the 1990s the building was in pretty poor shape and while I don’t have the exact date it was taken down, it was replaced by a Revco Drug Store in the summer of 1996.

In the files I found an edition of the Scotia News from 1907 which advertises both the new building and its owner, Max Schmidt. (Also in the clip are some fun facts about what a great place Scotia is to live.)





You can find other articles online and on Facebook about the building, but these clips give us a little more about its origin.

I still haven’t found out why it’s called the Teddy Building. You can see in the clippings it’s referred to as the Schmidt Block.

It’s also referred to as the Schmidt Block in a book about Scotia from 1914, a combination of promoting Scotia and a village directory listing residents and businesses. That book also tells us that Max, in addition to tailoring, ran a pool hall in the building, and that he and his family lived there.

One of my projects this past year has been digitizing and transcribing oral history tapes made in the 1960s, 70s, and 90s. Several residents in the 1970s mentioned the building, but always referred to it as the Schmidt Block.

Checking the 1905 and 1910 censuses, Max did have a son, Everett, but Teddy is not a typical nickname for that. Maybe another relative? Teddy Roosevelt was President in 1907, but is it likely the building was named after a famous person?

It may always be a mystery—but if you know why it is the Teddy Building, please get in touch! (



Elephants in Scotia

In 1979, for Scotia’s 75th anniversary celebration, the Schenectady Gazette published a special supplement full of articles about Scotia and its history. Included is this item:

This bridge, Scotia’s first, was built in 1808 (and was about to be replaced by an iron bridge in 1874) and ran from Washington Ave. in Schenectady to Washington Ave. in Scotia, and the village was reached by traveling along the Dyke, now Schonowee Ave.

The first picture shows the bridge from a distance, where the entrance does seem a little ominous; the second is a closer view that shows its construction more clearly. The tracks along the Dyke are trolley tracks, which also cross the bridge.

Happy 117th Scotia! plus Glenville in 1820

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
Scotia-Glenville 1820

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.”