Fagan map, 1856 (https://www.loc.gov/item/2013593232/)
Beers map, 1866 (https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-7300-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99)
[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 , 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