1897 Amasa Parker: History of Knox

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Original book is at the Berne, NY Library. Online text version is available at http://www.archive.org/stream/landmarksofalban00parker/landmarksofalban00parker_djvu.txt

LANDMARKS of Albany County, NEW YORK.





This town is situated in the northwestern corner of Albany county, is the smallest in area in the county, containing a little more than 26,000 acres, and with one exception (New Scotland) was the latest one formed. It was erected from Berne on February 28, 1822, and received its name from the celebrated Colonel Knox, of Revolutionary fame. The eastern part of the town constitutes a part of the Helderberg region, while the town as a whole consists of a high plateau, broken by a few hills, and with a northern and western inclination. The Bozen Kill forms the northeast boundary of the town, and this, together with Beaver Dam Creek in the southern part, with their tributaries, are the principal streams. A part of Thompson's Lake ex- tends into the town in the southeastern part. (See history of Berne.) The soil is principally gravel and clay, over "hardpan," and in many parts is fertile and well adapted to mixed farming. Hay is produced in large quantities and marketed at Altamont. The surface of the town was originally covered with a heavy growth of timber, principally pine, hemlock, birch, maple, ash, oak, and basswood, but this has, for most part, been cut off.

The town records of Knox were burned in 1850, rendering it impossible to give the proceedings of the first town meeting or the names of officers previous to that year. The names of the supervisors from that time to the present are given on a later page. The first of these was Malachi Whipple, an early settler and prominent citizen. At the annual town meeting of 1850 Michael Lee, Daniel Gallup, Abraham Batcher and Stephen Merselis, jr., were present as justices of the peace, and Ephraim N. Bogardus acted as clerk. For that year the following officers were elected :

Lyman Witter, supervisor; John G. Crary, town clerk; Samuel O. Schoonmsker, justice of the peace; John H. Tand, superintendent of schools; Anson Tols, collector; Gurdon Gallup and Conrad Batcher, overseers of the poor; John Posson, assessor; Jacob P. Hane, commissioner of highways; Peter Schoonmaker, Alexander Crounse and John Allen, jr., inspectors of election, district No. 1; John Finch, Bemsby Williamson and Jacob Auchempaugh, inspectors of election, district No. 2; Gilbert Gage, Joel Gage, John C. Cannady and Elisha White, constables.


At that time the house of Henry Barclay was called the Town House, and the place for holding the next town meeting. Knox was then divided into fifty-six road districts, with the following overseers of highways :

John Posson, Jacob Crounse, Hiram Thousand, Evert M. Barckley, David W. Sturges, Archibald Scott, Peter Swan, 2d, James Finch, Rodney Wilder, Philip Gifford, Jacob Truax, Henry Dutcher, William Davenport, Benjamin Lee, Matthias Barckley, Jehiel White, John F. Sternburgh, Conrad Batcher, John Bassler, Frederick Clyckman, John Oliver, Orange Beeman, Henry W. Williams, Thomas Stafford, John V. Schoonmaker, Robert Hurst, S. Flansburgh, Stephen Hungerford, Ebenezer Gallup, Alexander Crounse, Amos Crary, William Williamson, Eldridge Chesbro, George W. Stephens, John G. Gallup, Isaac N. Crary, Frederick Zeh, John T. Beebe, James Armstrong, Henry Tarpenny, David Van Auken, Cornelius Woolford, Adam Snyder, Henry F. Orelup, Joseph A. Haswell, Azor Gallup, Abraham H. Onderdonk, Edward Settle, Jacob Bronk, Jacob Kipp, Elias R. Williams,. Sylvester Allen, Israel Walker, John H. Sand, and Frederick Orelup.

Some of these names, as well as other lists which will appear, indicate the Dutch element in the populatian, through descendants of some of the earliest families of the towns. Details of the Dutch settlement, prior to the Revolution are almost entirely wanting. It is known that many of the pioneers espoused the royal cause during the Revolution and removed to Canada after the success of the American colonists, but Capt. Jacob Van Aernden's name has come down as one of the loyal Whigs of that time. The improvements made in this section prior to the Revolution consisted almost wholly of clearing part of the land for tillage and the establishment of a few mills, churches and schools. A Lutheran church was organized about 1750, and settlement had progressed considerably by that time, but the names of most of the Dutch pioneers are lost in the past.


After the Revolutionary war settlers began to come in from New England, among the very first of these being Samuel Abbott and Andrew Brown, from Connecticut, who were soon followed by from twenty to thirty others from the same State. The more prominent of the families that came prior to the town organization in 1822 were the Brown, Todd, Wlliams, Denison, Crary, Chesebrough, Gallup, Frink, Taber, Coates, Gage, Weitzel, Pinckney, Williamson, Bassler, Saddlemire, Haverly, Zimmer, Engle, Schoonmaker, Swart, Sand, Clickman, Keenholtz, and Batcher families. All through the early history of the town, as far as it is accessible, many of these names appear and some of them have been represented by descendants down to recent times. These New England settlers brought with them the habits of industry and the religious tenets of their forefathers and early established a Presbyterian church, as described further on. Amos Crary, Hiram Gage, Egbert Schoonmaker and Nathaniel Swan were operating saw mills prior to 1825, and a little later Malachi Whipple, Daniel Crary, and a Mr. Vandecar had mills, but most of these long ago passed out of existence. A small grist mill was early in operation on a little stream in the northern part of the town, but that also has disappeared, and the inhabitants now take their grain to Berne and Altamont, In quite recent years Swart & Saddlemire, Frederick Bassler, and Bemsley Williamson were operating saw mills, the mill of the latter being now in possession of his son, George J. Williamson. In 1831 Alexander Crounse moved into Knox from an adjoining town and erected a tannery on the main road through the town west of Knoxville, and for many years did a large business in manufacturing harness and upper leather. The great changes in the leather trade and the centralization of the industry elsewhere finally reduced the income of this tannery, and Mr. Crounse transferred it to his son, Eugene G. Crounse, who erected an addition for a feed mill in 1884. Still later he abandoned tanning and built a steam saw mill which went into operation in 1893.


Gideon Taber was a pioneer and one of the first shoemakers in the town. He was a native of New London, Conn., and a son of Quaker parents. On account of his non-combatant belief he went to Canada during the Revolution and for a time had command of a vessel on Lake Champlain. Upon the return of peace he came back to Knox and went about among the families as an itinerant shoemaker, according to the custom in early times. He was thrifty and subsequently established a small tannery, where he made leather for his own trade and for harness making. He was elected justice of the peace and in 1818-20 served his constituents in the Assembly. The old Taber homestead ultimately passed into the possession of his grandson, Charles Clute.

Nathan Crary began the manufacture of wooden pill boxes in Knox early in the century, supplying some of the largest pill makers in the country. The business finally passed to his son, John G. Crary, and was also taken up by others. At the present time John M. Quay and Sanford Quay are conducting the business.

Among the more prominent families who came into the town or were already settled here between about 1825 and 1850, were those of Malachi Whipple, Dr. Erastus Williams, Egbert Schoonmaker, Frederick Bassler, Potter Gage, Alexander Crounse, Charles Chesebro, David Van Auken, Perez Frink, Henry Denison, P. Witter, Isaac Barber, Daniel Chesebro, John Gallup, Wright Skinner, Dow Van Derker, Henry Williams, Cyrus Chapman, Henry Dane, Daniel Gallup, Joseph Gallup, Samuel Russell, Gurdon Gallup, and the Seaburys. Descendants of many of these are still prominent in the town.

Among the leading citizens of later days are Henry Barckley, Elisha White, John C. Cannady, Joel and Gilbert Gage, Jacob Auchampaugh, Bemsley Williamson, John Finch, John Allen, jr., Peter Schoonmaker, Alexander Crounse, John G. Crary, Charles G. Frink, Denison Crary, Jacob P. Hane, John Posson, Conrad Batcher, Gurdon Gallup, Anson Tols, John H. Hane, Samuel O. Schoonmaker, Lyman Witter, Frederick Orelup, John H. Sand, Israel Walker, Sylvester Allen, Elias K. Williams, Jacob Kip, Jacob Bronk, Edward Settle, Abram H. Onderdonk, Azer Gallup, Joseph A. Haswell, Henry F. Orelup, Adam Snyder, Cornelius Woolford, James Armstrong, Henry Tarpanny, John T. Beebe, Frederick Zeh, Isaac N. Crary, John G. Gallup, George W. Stephens, William Williamson, Eldridge Chesebro, Amos Crary, Ebenezer Gallup, Stephen Hungerford, Robert Hurst, S. Flansburgh, Thomas Stafford, John V. Schoonmaker, Henry W. Williams, Orange Beeman, John Bassler, Frederick Clyckman, Matthias Brackley, Jehial White, Conrad Batcher, John F. Sternburgh, John Posson, Jacob Crounse, Evert M. Barckley, Hiram Thousand, James Finch, Peter Swan, 2d, Archibald Scott, David W. Sturges, Rodney Wilder, Philip Gififord, Benjamin Lee, Henry Dutcher, Jacob Truax and William Davenport.


The comparatively modern history of Knox contains very little of impoitance in incident or progress aside from the peaceful advance in agricultural methods, improvement in schools, roads, bridges, etc. In the war of the Rebellion, from her somewhat remote situation, the town responded patriotically to the calls of the government for volunteers. As early as September, 1862, the electors authorized their supervisor to borrow $1,800 to be paid in a bounty of $100 to each volunteer of the quota of the town under one of the early calls for troops. This action was succeeded later by equally prompt and generous proceedings. Seventy seven volunteers went from the town to fight in the battles of the Union, many of them members of the most prominent families, and of these many never came back to receive the honors that awaited them.

It is a tradition that previous to the beginning of the present century there were two primitive schools taught in log school houses in Knox. One of these probably stood on the site of Knoxville, and the other near West Township. It is possible that there were others of which all traces are lost. The town was divided into districts long before it was separated from Berne, the number of these being twelve in 1860, thirteen in 1880 and at the present time again twelve with a school house in each. Knox, Guilderland, Colonie and Green Island form the third school commissioner district of the county.

The Knoxville Academy was organized under the State laws about 1830, by Gurdon, Gardiner, and John Gallup, Dr. Elisha Williams, Jesse Tyler, and perhaps others. A suitable building was erected and in common with many other similar institutions that were founded in early years in small villages, enjoyed for many years a large patronage. Its teachers were as good as could be obtained and many of its students went out to occupy distinguished positions in life. While this academy has kept up its corporate existente down to the present time, it has not been in active operation since soon after 1880. The opinion has been entertained that the success of this old institution for a long period acted to the disadvantage of the district schools, retarding their advancement.


Several professional men of considerable prominence have had their residence in Knox. Dr. Erastus Williams, long a leading citizen, was the first resident physician and had a large practice during the first third of the century. Dr. Moses Brownell was his contemporary and successor, and Drs. John Van Allen, Zeh, Sigsby, Johnson, and others came in later years. Azor Tabor, born in 1799, and who died in 1858, was the only lawyer who ever practiced in this town.

Knoxville, with post-office named Knox, is a hamlet in the central part of the town, where in past years a small mercantile business has been conducted, and the few shops necessary for the convenience of the inhabitants are kept. I. W. Chesebrough was a former merchant here, who sold out some eight years ago to Elam Williams, who is still in business and is now also postmaster. Henry Barckley was a merchant from about 1848, and was succeeded by his son, E. L. Barckley, now county treasurer. There is no hotel in the place or in the town.

West Township is a post-office and small hamlet in the eastern part of the town, where a grocery is kept by Willis W. Witter. James Finch is postmaster, but besides this there is no other business of any account. There is a station with the name of the town in the extreme north part on the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad.

The first church organization in this town was of the Lutheran faith and was organized before 1750, in which year the first church and school house was built. Rev. Nicholas Sommer, the enthusiastic pioneer in this region, had already preached to congregations for about five years, after having taken up under the church patent law a farm of forty-two acres. The first building was about twenty feet square and served its purpose many years. In August, 1810, another lot was purchased, and in the succeeding fall the old building was moved upon it and remodeled. In the spring of 1828 the old church was demolished and a new frame structure erected and partly enclosed, but the church officers, some of whom were Lutheran and some Reformed in belief becoming involved in a dispute, resigned and the society was broken up. In December, 1829, a number of the former members, with others, met and reorganized and chartered the Zion's Lutheran and Reformed church of the Helderberg and the church building was soon completed. In 1839 dissentions again arose and the Reformed members withdrew and built the church at Secor's. On October 13, 1839, Rev. Adam Crounse, more fully organized Zion's Lutheran church at Knox, with fifty-one members. In 1850 the present church was erected, while the parsonage was built about 1868. Rev. Henry Moeller preached to the old congregation from 1790 to 1800, and Rev. Adam Crounse, who performed so much successful and unselfish pastoral work in this section, was preacher from 1830 to 1844, in connection with Berne and Guilderland.


The Reformed church of Knox had its origin in the Presbyterian church which was formed in 1825. Services had been irregularly held for some years previous, under the auspices of the settlers from New England. In 1825 Rev. J. Judson Buck was called and was soon installed over the congregation here and also Hamilton Union congregation. At that time there were fifty-five members in this congregation. The elders were Erastus Williams, Isaac Barber, P. Witter, and Henry Denison. Mr. Buck remained steadily with the church about three years and for two years after that probably acted with the congregation in church affairs. No regular pastor was employed as his successor, but several preached occasionally, and the society languished. The Dutch Reformed settlement was increasing in the town and the subject of reorganizing under that faith was freely discussed. This was finally done and the church was received into the Classis of Albany September 20, 1842, with the name of the First Reformed Dutch church of Knox. Thirty-one members of the former congregation were dismissed to form the new one, and the following consistory were chosen : Daniel Chesebro, Joseph Gallup, Gurdon Gallup, Henry Williams, jr., John Van Allen, Michael P. Cavart, Charles Clute and John Possom. Henry Williams was chosen treasurer and John Van Allen, clerk. This reorganization was affected under the ministry of Rev. Joseph Kneiskern. The original house of worship was a plain wooden building, and stood a little below the present church, which was built forty years ago.


There are three Methodist Episcopal churches in Knox, but their records are so incomplete that little of their history is known. It is probable that Rev. William Brown was the first Methodist preacher in the town. He is buried in the little plot formerly used, and the record on the headstone says he was born in October 24, 1758, and died April 25, 1834. His wife was Mary Chesebro. In early days the church at Knox village was connected with those of Berne, Reidsville, Middleburgh (Schoharie county) and Schoharie, to form the Berne circuit. Among the first members of this town were Joseph Hunting, F. Dominic, Levi Van Auken, and Christopher Chesebro. The first house of worship stood about a mile east of Knox village, and was taken down when the present one in the village was erected in 1851. Another church was built at about the same time at West Township. The third one was erected in 1841 in the eastern part of the town.

A Baptist church known as the Church of Berne previous to 1825 was organized early in the century. In 1812, when Rev. N. H. Ripley was pastor, it had a membership of 105. Soon after this date the congregation was without a regular preacher for twelve years, when Rev. Samuel Hare was called and preached eight years, up to 1832. During the pastorate of Rev. S. G. Tower, which began in 1850, a frame church was built at West Township. The society was fairly prosperous until about 1878, when it began to decline and was soon reduced to very few members. It finally became extinct as far as holding services is concerned.

Following is a list of the supervisors of Knox from 1850 to the present time, with the years of their election :

1851, Lyman Witter; 1852-53, Stephen Merselis, jr.; 1854-55, Henry Barckley; 1856-57, John Keenholtz; 1858-59, Samuel Gallup; 1860-62, Samuel Warm; 1863, John Keenholtz; 1864-65, Ira Van Auken; 1866-72, Peter Schoonmaker; 1873-74, Hiram Gage; 1875-77, J. M. Chesebro; 1878, William J. Haverly; 1879-81, I. W. Chesebro; 1882, William J. Haverly; 1883-85, Charles G. Frink ; 1885-87, Edward L. Barckley, 1888-90, Sanford Quay; 1891-93, William J. Haverly; 1893-95, Sanford Quay.

Please refer to the original document as the transcription may contain errors (please correct those you find!)