Answers to the
Renssy Quiz

Winners' Board
John Hay (18 times)
Lynn Julian (11 times)
Tanis Kreiger (nine times)

Lois Hartnett (seven times) Arlene Taylor (seven times)
Kathleen Casey Mazzrillo (six times)
Eve Grogan (five times)
Rick Cook (four times)
Linda Wilbur (three times)
David Smith (twice) Brian Stankus (twice) Gillian Wilson (twice)
Regina Atchinson Don Birkmayer Tammy Casterlin Jeff Freeman Judy Harbold Bill Harris Henry Hughes Donald Labaj Dennis Marr Glenn Martin Carolyn Seaman Marina Yeager


January 2012

Question: What is an indenture, and what has it to do with teeth?

Answer: If you'd like to guess, please email me, Lin Van Buren.


October 2011

Question: On 5 November 2011, where in Rensselaer County, NY can you hear Vivaldi's music being played by Venetians?

Answer: Congratulations again to Tanis Kreiger, who was the first to email the correct answer to me. She knew that you could hear Venetians playing the music of the famous Venetian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) on 5 November 2011 at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy.


July 2011

Question: Which native of Troy, Rensselaer County, NY was an important 19th-century collaborator for Britain's Oxford English Dictionary?

Answer: Congratulations to Tanis Kreiger for yet another win. She knew that the answer was Fitzedward Hall.

Quoting Wikipedia, Tanis writes, “Fitzedward Hall (March 21, 1825 - February 1, 1901), American Orientalist, was born in Troy, New York." She further quotes, "Hall and the Oxford English Dictionary -- In 1869 Hall was dismissed by the India Office, which unjustly accused him of being a drunk and a foreign spy, and he was expelled from the Philological Society. He then moved to Suffolk [England], where, while leading the life of a recluse, he published more philological work.

"W. W. Skeat, an early supporter of the OED idea, persuaded him to collaborate as a reader for the project. With another US citizen, Dr.William Chester Minor, he would become one of the most important (and most obsessive) collaborators the OED Project’s director Sir James Murray (1837–1915) had, and is recognized as such in many of the prefaces to the Dictionary itself.

"His task was to read certain books looking for examples of the use of particular words, and then to send the relevant quotations to Murray’s staff. According to scholar Elizabeth Knowles, who studied the Murray-Hall correspondence in the OED archives, Hall spent 'four hours a day...on proofs' and that 'for much of the rest of the time, he was reading for vocabulary'. Once he supplied more than 200 examples of the use of the word hand and had to be told that there was no space for so many.

"Murray himself would say that `Time would fail to tell of the splendid assistance rendered to the Dictionary by Dr. Fitzedward Hall, who devotes nearly his whole day to reading the proofs...and to supplementing, correcting, and increasing the quotations taken from his own exhaustless stores. When the Dictionary is finished, no man will have contributed to its illustrative wealth so much as Fitzedward Hall. Those who know his books know the enormous wealth of quotation which he brings to bear upon every point of English literary usage; but my admiration is if possible increased when I see how he can cap and put the cope-stone on the collections of our 1,500 readers.'

"Hall was best at supplementing existing quotation collections for particular words. After his death, Murray corresponded with Hall’s son to try to find and reference the supplies of quotations his father had noted but not submitted, with unclear results. Fitzedward Hall died at Marlesford, Suffolk, on the 1st of February 1901."


April 2011

Question: What was the name of the first railway in Rensselaer County, NY, and in what year did it open?

Answer: Well, with this question, I opened up a can of worms. Yes, fellow genies, controversy comes to the Renssy Quiz! After investigation, I have decided that the winner is Tanis Kreiger. The correct answer is the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad, which was chartered on 14 April 1832 and which began running train services between Ballston Spa, in Saratoga County, NY, and Troy, in Rensselaer County, NY on 19 March 1836. Only a handful of people tried to answer this question, even though it remained on our front page for months. No one gave the correct answer, but Tanis did at least mention the correct answer in her response. She wrote, "Here’s my guess. Schenectady and Troy Railroad. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: `The Schenectady and Troy Railroad was incorporated May 21, 1836. The stock was divided into five hundred shares at one hundred dollars each. The building of the road began in 1841, and trains began running from Schenectady to Troy, New York in the fall of 1841 (21.0 miles). It was constructed by the city of Troy, the corporation issuing its bonds in the amount of $649,142.... The Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad was incorporated in April 1832. The first section ran from Cohoes [in Albany County, NY] to White Corners [in Madison County, NY] and was completed in 1834, and the first train ran on it in 1834. Service extended to Troy in 1835.'" Then, in a wording that shows that the way I had phrased the question WAS ambiguous, Tanis added, "While the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad was running trains to Troy earlier than the Schenectady and Troy Railroad, the latter was actually built by the city of Troy and therefore, I would consider it the first railroad in Rensselaer County." I had meant to ask what railway company had first run trains in Rensselaer County, rather than what company was the first to be set up in Rensselaer County, but because I didn't make that clear, and because Tanis covered all the bases, I hereby declare her to be our winner this time.


January 2011

Question: What event, important to Rensselaer County, NY, as well as elsewhere, took place on 26 October 1825?

Answer: Quite a few of you knew the answer to this question, but the first person to email the correct answer to me was Tanis Kreiger. Tanis has now chalked up six wins. The answer is the completion and the official opening of the Erie Canal. Stretching 584 km (363 miles) from the Hudson River at Troy in the east to Lake Erie in the west, this canal provided the first-ever water link to the Great Lakes that did not require portage (the carrying of cargo overland between two waterways). The Erie Canal opened up the Midwestern heartland and led directly to the widespread settlement of states and territories with shores on the Great Lakes. The canal especially facilitated the settling and subsequent statehood of Michigan, a large proportion of whose settlers went there from NY state. The Erie Canal's 36 locks lifted traffic 169 metres (565 feet). In 1918, the Erie Canal was replaced by the larger New York State Barge Canal. You can read more about the Erie Canal by clicking here.


October 2010

Question: The song "Red River Valley" was originally written about which other river?

Answer: Yet again, John Hay is our winner. He was the first of three of you to email the correct answer to me. He wrote that the song "Red River Valley" derived from a song called “In The Bright Mohawk Valley”, attributed as a “New York State ditty” written by James Kerrigan. The sheet music was first published in about 1896 in NY.


July 2010

Question: What is a paper battery, and what has it to do with Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: Congratulations to Arlene Taylor, who was the first of 11 of you to email the correct answer to me. Arlene knew that a paper battery is a battery as thin as a sheet of paper that was developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy. You can read about it and see a photograph of it here.

Thank you for your patience while I was unable to be as attentive towards this GenWeb site as I usually am. I searched for and bought a house, I moved into it, and I resided in it while it was a building site for five months. Just as the works were nearing completion, my computer gave up the ghost. I eventually got a new computer, but then I could not upload because I wasn't able to get my new FTP software set up right. Add to this work deadlines and overseas travel, and quite a few months have gone by! Things should settle down now at least for the foreseeable future.


April 2010

Question: For whom was part of Troy's Eighth Street renamed on 8 September 2005?

Answer: I'm declaring two winners this time because they both sent their answers within 30 minutes of each other. They are Lynn Julian and Rick Cook, both previous winners. Honorable mention goes to Tanis Kreiger and Arlene Taylor. My favourite response was Rick's; he wrote, "Garnet Baltimore was quite a guy. I would never have known about him if you hadn't asked about him." Thanks, Rick! Garnet Douglass Baltimore (15 April 1859-12 June 1946) of Troy, Rensselaer County, NY was indeed "quite a guy". He was the first African American to earn a bachelor's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduating in the Class of 1881. He always modestly told census takers that he was a "civil engineer", and he was that, but he was much more. He designed Troy's Prospect Park, assisted landscape architect J. C. Sidney in laying out Troy's beautiful Oakwood Cemetery, supervised the extension of Lock 5 (the "mud lock") on the Oswego Canal, acted as assistant engineer and surveyor on the Erie Canal, led a preliminary survey party for the construction of the 56-mile-long Granville & Rutland Railroad in Vermont, and participated in the design of the Shinnacock and Peconic Canal on eastern Long Island. Garnet Baltimore was born in a cottage at 162 Eighth Street in Troy, lived there all his life and died there. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, which he had helped to design. Garnet was a son of barber Peter F. BALTIMORE (c1829-1913) and his wife, Caroline NEWCOMB (born in about 1837). Both were born in NY state. This couple named their son after two distinguished Maryland-born abolitionists, Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882) and Frederick Douglass (c1818-1895). On 18 June 1891, Garnet Baltimore married Mary E. LANE at Saint Philip's Church in New York City. The bride was born in April 1863 in Good Ground, Suffolk County, Long Island, NY (which is now Hampton Bays, near the aforementioned Peconic Canal), to parents both born in Connecticut. The couple never had any children, and Mary predeceased her husband before 1930. Peter Baltimore's barbershop was called the Veranda, on First Street in Troy. This establishment was described in Peter Baltimore's obituary as "a high-class tonsorial resort" and as "a gathering place for the most prominent citizens of Troy". The conversation amongst those in the barber's chairs at the Veranda must have been fascinating, to say the least. It is this environment in which Garnet Baltimore grew up. You can read more about Garnet Baltimore by clicking here and here. Garnet Douglass Baltimore's achievements are outstanding for anyone in any era, and they are all the more remarkable considering the times in which he lived. So hats off to Garnet Douglass Baltimore - and to his remarkable father Peter Baltimore as well!


January 2010

Question: In which of these years was the population of Troy, Rensselaer County, NY the highest: 1870, 1910 or 1990?

Answer: Congratulations to John Hay, who knew that Troy's population was highest in 1910. This is John's 17th win!


November 2009

Question: What church in Rensselaer County, NY closed its doors on 31 May 2009, after 119 years?

Answer: Quite a few of you knew that the answer to this question is Saint Paul the Apostle Church in Troy. The first of many to email me with the correct answer was Tanis Kreiger, scoring her fifth win.

St Paul the Apostle Church was a Roman Catholic Church located near the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the Beman Park section of Troy, NY. This church was "clustered" with two other churches, Saint Peter's Church and Saint Patrick's Church. St Paul the Apostle Parish was established on 28 June 1890, by the Most Reverend Francis McNierney, the third Bishop of Albany. Father William O'Mahoney was named the first Pastor of the parish. He was given the privilege of selecting the parish patron; he chose Saint Paul the Apostle, the "Teacher of Nations". The cornerstone was laid with great solemnity by Bishop McNierney on 5 July 1891. The finished church was a fine Romanesque building with Byzantine touches. It was built to accommodate 450 parishioners. The stained-glass windows were designed by Meyer & Company of Munich, Germany. Mr Edward Loth, the Troy architect who designed the church, had spent many years studying in Germany and was very familiar with Munich glass. The windows of St Paul the Apostle Church are spectacular. The great bell - the largest in Rensselaer County, said to weigh about 4,000 pounds - was cast by the Meneeley Bell Foundry of West Troy (now Watervliet, Albany County, NY) during the first decade of the church's life.

The organ, a two manual and pedal instrument with 19 ranks of pipes, was built by Emmons Howard of Westfield, Massachusetts, during the first years of the 20th century. Like all organs of the time, it was a tracker. It was converted to electro-mechanical action in 1952. The centennial restoration of the organ was done by the Rosenberry and Clapper Organ Company of Valatie, Columbia County, New York. The magnificent marble in the sanctuary (high altar and wainscot) came while Father Thomas Earley was pastor during the years before the First World War. The pulpit and altar rail were added in 1934, under the third pastor, Father Walter Torpey. The chandeliers and rubber tile in the aisles date from the same redecoration. Father Earley completed the exterior staircase shortly after the First World War.

St Paul the Apostle School building was erected during the last year of Father O'Mahoney's pastorate. Father Earley, his successor, began regular classes in 1916, with the Sisters of Mercy as faculty. The brick building next door (now the home of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity) became their convent. The Sisters reluctantly withdrew from the school because of a vocation shortage in 1974. A lay faculty continued until declining enrollment and rising costs dictated the closing of the school in 1977. The building is still used for parish and community meetings. For further information, you are invited to click here.


September 2009

Question: Rensselaer County, NY is a blaze of brilliant yellow hedges and bushes in springtime. An example is this beautiful hedge along the left (east) bank of the Hudson River at the village of Castleton-on-Hudson. What kind of flowers are they?

Answer: The first person of several to email me the correct answer, forsythia, was Lynn Julian, with a 10th win. Congratulations, Lynn! Forsythia bushes are widespread throughout the entire county, of course, but the village of Castleton-on-Hudson has taken an organized approach. Here is an excerpt from the May 2008 edition of the village newsletter, The Castletonian: "Forsythia Season - The first harbinger of spring here in Castleton is the beautiful forsythia bushes that bloom along Main Street. Gladys Mutterer, the originator of this idea, encourages everyone to plant one if you can so that our village can become famous for their glorious color in spring."


July 2009

Question: How old was Stephen VAN RENSSELAER III (1765-1839) when he became patroon of the Manor of Rensselaerwick?

Answer: I confess that I did not word this question very well. I was looking for the answer "five years old", as that is the age at which he inherited the patroonship. But I have to consider that "21 years old" is also correct, as that is the age at which he formally assumed the role of patroon. As no one guessed five, I'm awarding the victory to the first of a number of you who emailed the answer 21. That was, once again, Tanis Kreiger. One day later came Linda Wilbur's reply, also correct; Linda has been second several times lately, so I thought I should mention her in dispatches! Tanis works at the renowned Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, which was founded in 1824 and was named for Stephen Van Rensselaer, one of its two co-founders. The RPI website has a brief biography of him.


May 2009

Question: What did North Greenbush farmer Lee Traver find in his basement in March 2009?

Answer: This one was too easy and was a dawdle for all you who live locally and read the Albany Times Union newspaper! The first of many Capital District residents to email me the correct answer was Tanis Kreiger, who knew that Lee Traver found two books of Town of Greenbush meeting records dating from 1796 to 1802. The logical place for these records to go would be to the Town of Greenbush government; however, the Town of Greenbush ceased to exist in 1897. So Lee turned the two books over to the Town Historian of the Town of North Greenbush, which does of course still exist and which used to be part of the Town of Greenbush until 1855. I was privileged to meet North Greenbush Town Historian Jim Greenfield when I was in Rensselaer County in April. He showed me the two books, and I photographed one of them (see left). Click here to read the Times Union article about the find and to see two more photographs of the books.


March 2009

Question: Which Congressional Medal of Honor winner is buried in the village of Hoosick Falls, in the town of Hoosick, Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: The answer is Harris Smith HAWTHORN. The first person to email the correct answer this time was Arlene Taylor. Linda Wilbur, who also sent the correct answer but five days later, gave this full account of Hawthorn:

"From the US Army Medal of Honor website: HAWTHORNE, HARRIS S. Rank and organization: Corporal, Company F, 121st New York Infantry. Place and date: At Sailor's Creek, Va., 6 April 1865. Entered service at: Otsego, N. Y. Born: 1832, Salem, N. Y. Date of issue: 29 December 1894. Citation: Captured the Confederate Gen. G. W. Custis Lee.

"From the National Park System Civil War Soldiers and Sailors website: Harris S. Hawthorne. Regiment Name: 121 N. Y. Infantry. Side: Union. Company: F. Soldier's Rank In: Pvt. Soldier's Rank Out: Sergt. Film Number: M551 roll 61.

"From the Rensselaer County Cemetery Database: Surname: Hawthorn. First Names: Harris Smith. Birth Date: 29 Feb 1832. Death date: 23 Mar 1911. Age at death: 79y 23d. Wife: Adella BROWNELL. Mother: Mary SMITH. Father: William D. HAWTHORN. Buried: Maple Grove Cemetery (Old) in the town of Hoosick. Comments: Co F, 121 Reg, NYV."

Linda adds, "I find it odd that they didn’t see fit to award the CMH to Sgt. Hawthorne until 1894 [29 years after the action for which the medal was awarded]. There is a fairly new book out entitled Sailor’s Creek: Major General G. W. Custis Lee, Captured with Controversy, by Frank Everett White, Jr. The full name of this General Lee was George Washington Custis Lee, and he was Robert E. Lee’s eldest son. Thanks for posting this question ... I’ve learned quite a bit!"

You are welcome, Linda!


January 2009

Question: Which Rensselaer County daughter danced George Gershwin's An American in Paris on Broadway, 22 years before Leslie Caron danced it on film?

Answer: Congratulations to Tanis Kreiger, our winner twice in a row! She knew that the answer is "Harriet Hoctor, a ballerina, dancer, and instructor from Hoosick Falls, NY. One of four children born to Timothy Hoctor and Elizabeth Kearney on September 25, 1903. She died June 9, 1977." Hoctor first danced George Gershwin's An American in Paris in 1929. In 1931, she spent a year performing in Britain, especially on London's West End stage at the London Hippodrome, where she famously tap-danced up and down a flight of stairs. From 1932, she was a headline performer in Florenz Ziegfeld's Ziegfeld Follies in New York City. Hollywood then beckoned, and she appeared as herself in the musical films The Great Ziegfeld in 1936 and the Astaire-Rogers hit Shall We Dance in 1937. In The Great Ziegfeld, which won the Best Picture Academy Award, she repeated on film her trademark staircase tap-dance. Hoctor never married. She died 9 June 1977 in Arlington, Virginia, and was buried in Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in the village of Hoosick Falls, in the town of Hoosick, Rensselaer County, NY.


December 2008

Question: Which early 19th-century explorer of western Canada was born in the town of Hoosick, in the future Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: Tanis Kreiger is our winner this time. The answer is Simon Fraser (1776-1862), who was born to Scottish parents on 20 May 1776 in the hamlet of Mapletown, in the town of Hoosick, in what 15 years later was to become Rensselaer County, NY. During the American Revolution, Fraser's father was a British Army captain who was taken prisoner by the American forces at Saratoga and who died while in their custody. Captain Fraser's widow took their nine children (Simon was the youngest) to Canada's Quebec province. In 1805, the North West Company appointed the 29-year-old Fraser not only to explore but also to open up a trading infrastructure in Canada west of the Rocky Mountains. He founded Trout Lake Fort (later La Malice Fort, then Fort McLeod, and now McLeod Lake), in what is now northern British Columbia. This was the first settlement permanently inhabited by Europeans in Canada west of the Rockies. The Fraser River, which is the longest river in the province of British Columbia, was named for him; it flows into the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver. Also named for him are Fraser Lake, in northern British Columbia, which styles itself the "swan capital of the world" because of its resident population of over 1,000 trumpeter swans; nearby Fort Fraser; the Simon Fraser Bridge across the Fraser River in British Columbia's third-largest city, Prince George; and the acclaimed Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. Fraser married in 1820, settled in Cornwall, Ontario, fathered five sons and three daughters, and died in relative obscurity on 18 August 1862.


November 2008

Question: For whom was the former hamlet of Cooksborough, in the town of Pittstown, Rensselaer County, NY, named?

Answer: Arlene Taylor was the first to email the correct answer to this one. She knew that Cooksborough was named for Michael VanDerCook. Linda Wilbur, who set this question, writes, "Michael VanDerCook (1715-1786), a miller by trade, emigrated from New Jersey and settled on a 3,300-acre patent in the Pittstown-Schaghticoke area in May 1762. He and his wife, Cornelia VanNess VanDerCook, had eight surviving children. Soon after arriving, Michael set up a gristmill on Deepe Kill and became prosperous enough to add two additional tracts to his patent in 1764 (which then totaled 6,200 acres). During the Revolutionary War, Michael Sr. served as a member of the Committee of Correspondence for Schaghticoke. All five of the VanDerCook sons (Michael Jr., Simon, Henry, Cornelius and Isaac) served in the 14th Regiment of the Albany County Militia. It was while the sons were away with their regiment fighting Burgoyne to the north that British irregulars raided the VanDerCook property. This incident, coupled with the depreciation of Continental currency, impoverished the family. Michael, Cornelia, three of their sons and a number of other family members lie buried in the Old Cooksborough Cemetery, which is located at the convergence of Cushman, North Pole and Cookborough roads in what is now the town of Pittstown, Rensselaer County, NY. The only other existing reminder of what was once a thriving village is the old Cooksborough schoolhouse, which has been converted to a private residence."


October 2008

Question: Whose three ships were the Hopewell, the Halve Maen and the Discovery?

Answer: Linda Wilbur is on a winning streak! She was the first of many to email me the correct answer to this question. These were the ships of the English sea explorer Henry Hudson (1570-1611).

Hopewell - 1607 - On 1 May 1607, Henry Hudson set sail from Gravesend, Kent, England in the 80-tonne English ship Hopewell, his quest being to find a "northwest passage" to Asia through the Arctic Ocean. The Muscovy Company, one of a small number of corporations given English Royal Charters, financed the voyage. On 13 June 1607, he reached the eastern shore of Greenland and started northward, mapping as he went. On 20 June 1607, his expedition started out for Svalbard [islands in the Arctic Ocean now owned by Norway and now permanently inhabited], eventually reaching an island on the northern end of the group on 17 July 1607. At this point, the ship Hopewell was less than 600 nautical miles from the North Pole, but it had become clear that there was no course to go further because of the polar ice, and Hudson decided on 31 June 1607 to return to England. On the return voyage, Hudson discovered what is now known as Jan Mayen Island before reaching England at Tilbury on the river Thames on 15 September 1607.

Halve Maen - 1609 - In 1609, the Dutch East India Company was looking for an alternative passage to Asia and hired the English explorer Henry Hudson to find it. His Dutch ship the Halve Maen (Half Moon) was modest and light, carrying a crew that was more than 50% Dutch (as his contract with the Dutch East India Company required). Because Hudson did not speak Dutch, this voyage was beset with problems from the departure. His former right-hand man Robert Juet also accompanied him, but they argued constantly this time. It was this voyage during which Hudson sailed up the river that is now named for him, past Schodack in what is now Rensselaer County, NY. On his return to Amsterdam, Hudson called in at the port of Dartmouth, in southern England, where the Halve Maen was seized, and the English government proclaimed that Hudson would never again be allowed to sail for a foreign power. The photograph shown here is of the full-scale replica of the Halve Maen, which is a mobile museum that has in modern times sailed as far from the Hudson River as Lake Michigan and North Carolina.

Discovery - 1610 - In 1610, Hudson managed to get backing for yet another voyage under the English flag; this time the funding came from the Virginia Company and the British East India Company. At the helm of his new English ship, the Discovery, Hudson was accompanied by his 19-year-old eldest son John Hudson (1591-1611). The Discovery stayed to the north, reaching Iceland on 11 May 1610 and the southern tip of Greenland on 4 June 1610. Continuing west, the Discovery on 2 August 1610 entered the large bay in northern Canada that now bears Hudson's name. Hudson and his crew spent the next three months exploring Hudson Bay's eastern shore and mapping as they went. They remained in the bay too long to make their departure before the ice set in. In November 1610, the Discovery became trapped in ice, and the crew went ashore to wait out the winter. When the ice cleared in spring 1611, Hudson wanted to continue exploring, but his crew wanted to return to England. In June 1611, the crew mutinied. They set Hudson, his son and eight crew members adrift in a small open boat. The Discovery returned to Europe carrying the eight surviving mutineers out of the original 13. Henry Hudson, John Hudson and their party in the open boat were never seen again.


September 2008

Question: For whom is the Hudson Valley Community College theatre in Troy named?

Answer: Congratulations to Linda Wilbur, our winner this time. She knew that the Hudson Valley Community College's theatre is named for Maureen Stapleton (1925-2006), the Oscar-winning actress who was born in Troy, Rensselaer County, NY. The photo at left shows the interior of the Maureen Stapleton Theatre.


August 2008

Question: Who wrote "Yankee Doodle Dandy", and where did he write this famous patriotic song?

Answer: Congratulations again to Arlene Taylor, who is our winner this time. Arlene knew that Richard Shuckburgh wrote "Yankee Doodle Dandy" at Fort Crailo. She writes, "Dr. Richard Shuckburgh, a British army physician, is generally credited with penning the 'Yankee Doodle' lyrics to mock the ragtag New England militia serving alongside the Redcoats. As the story goes, Shuckburgh wrote 'Yankee Doodle' while at Fort Crailo (shown in the photo at left) in [what is now] Rensselaer [in Rensselaer County, NY], after witnessing the sloppy drill and appearance of Connecticut troops."


July 2008

Question: What was the profession of Mary Alice FAHEY of Troy in the early 20th century?

Answer: This one was much too easy; quite a few of you knew that Mary Alice Fahey Bonter, known as "Mame Faye", was a famous Troy "madam" of the first half of the 20th century. The first person to email the correct answer was Arlene Taylor. Congratulations on your third win, Arlene!


June 2008

Question: What is the link between Rensselaer County and Adirondack, Empire, Ethan Allen, Lake Shore and Maple Leaf?

Answer: Dozens of you emailed answers to this, and nearly everyone was at least partly right, and several of you were absolutely correct. But the winner is the first person to send the correct answer, and that was Lynn Julian, who emailed three days before anyone else. Lynn is our winner this time. The correct answer is that these are all Amtrak passenger trains that call at Rensselaer-Albany Station in Rensselaer, Rensselaer County, NY. Here are the routes.

Adirondack: New York City Pennsylvania Station to Montreal, calling at New York City, NY; Yonkers, NY; Croton-on-Hudson, NY; Poughkeepsie, NY; Rhinecliff, NY; Hudson, NY; RENSSELAER, NY; Schenectady, NY; Saratoga Springs, NY; Fort Edward, NY; Whitehall, NY; Ticonderoga, NY; Port Henry, NY; Westport, NY; Port Kent, NY; Plattsburgh, NY; Rouses Point, NY, USA; Saint-Lambert, Quebec, Canada; and Montreal, Quebec.

Empire Service: New York City Penn Station to Niagara Falls, calling at New York City, NY; Yonkers, NY; Croton-on-Hudson, NY; Poughkeepsie, NY; Rhinecliff, NY; Hudson, NY; RENSSELAER, NY; Schenectady, NY; Amsterdam, NY; Utica, NY; Rome, NY; Syracuse, NY; Rochester, NY; Depew, NY; Buffalo, NY; and Niagara Falls, NY.

Ethan Allen Express: New York City Penn Station to Rutland, Vermont, calling at New York City, NY; Yonkers, NY; Croton-on-Hudson, NY; Poughkeepsie, NY; Rhinecliff, NY; Hudson, NY; RENSSELAER, NY; Schenectady, NY; Saratoga Springs, NY; Fort Edward, NY; Fairhaven, VT; and Rutland, VT.

Lake Shore Limited: Chicago to Boston and New York City, calling at Chicago, IL; South Bend, IN; Elkhart, IN; Waterloo, IN; Bryan, OH; Toledo, OH; Sandusky, OH; Elyria, OH; Cleveland, OH; Erie, PA; Depew, NY (for Buffalo, NY); Rochester, NY; Syracuse, NY; Utica, NY; Schenectady, NY; RENSSELAER, NY; then either the east branch or the south branch. The east branch calls at Pittsfield, MA; Springfield, MA; Worcester, MA; Framingham, MA; Boston Back Bay, MA; and Boston South Station, MA. The south branch calls at Croton-on-Hudson, NY; and New York City, NY Penn Station.

Maple Leaf: New York City Penn Station to Toronto, calling at New York City, NY; Yonkers, NY; Croton-on-Hudson, NY; Poughkeepsie, NY; Rhinecliff, NY; Hudson, NY; RENSSELAER, NY; Schenectady, NY; Amsterdam, NY; Utica, NY; Rome, NY; Syracuse, NY; Rochester, NY; Depew, NY; Buffalo, NY; Niagara Falls, NY, USA; Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada; Saint Catherine's, Ontario; Grimsby, Ontario; Aldershot, Ontario; Oakville, Ontario; and Toronto, Ontario.


May 2008

Question: What did Frederick Frickinger's factory manufacture in Schodack in the mid-19th century?

Answer: Quite a few of you knew that Frederick Frickinger made pianos at his factory in Schodack. The first person to hit the "send" button with the correct answer was Lynn Julian. Congratulations on your EIGHTH win, Lynn!


April 2008

Question: What do cranes' feet have to do with human genealogy?

Answer: Congratulations to Arlene Taylor, our winner this time. She knew that "crane's foot" is the literal meaning of the word pedigree, which comes from the Norman French pé de grue.


March 2008

Question: Which funambulist links Blondin and Niagara to Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: No one knew the answer to this; in fact, no one even hazarded a guess. The answer is Harry Leslie, who walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope in 1865 and who was known as "the American Blondin", after the more famous Niagara Falls tightrope walk in 1859 by the Frenchman Charles Blondin (1824-1897). Harry Leslie was born in East Troy, Rensselaer County, NY on 30 January 1837. His first show-business gig was as a tambourinist with a traveling company touring New England. In 1857, he joined the New York City company Bryant's Minstrels on Broadway and remained with them for one season as a "versatile performer". In 1860, he again joined Bryant's Minstrels and played a successful engagement of one year. In the early 1860s, he worked in the Big Apple as a pantomime artist, as a comedic dancer and as a ballet master. Then, in 1863 in Philadelphia, he walked a tightrope across the Schuylkill River, a distance of 1,400 feet at a height of 100 feet. The highlight of his performance was his plunge into the river below. He performed this feat three times a week for nine weeks! In 1864, he was stage manager at Trimble's Varieties in Pittsburgh. On 15 June 1865, Harry Leslie walked a tightrope across the Niagara River, above the Whirlpool Rapids below Niagara Falls. This feat brought him fame, and he began to walk tightropes across a number of rivers all over the USA. Reportedly, he died in an insane asylum. (By the way, a funambulist is a tightrope walker.)


February 2008

Question: Can you link "Home for the Holidays", "Moments to Remember", and "Chances Are" with Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: Congratulations to Kathleen Mazzrillo and Linda Wilbur, our joint winners this time. They both sent correct, complete answers within minutes of each other. Thank you to all the others who responded later as well. The answer is composer Robert ALLEN (1928-2000), who was born in Troy, Rensselaer County, NY.

Kathleen wrote, "From The New York Times - published October 5, 2000.
Robert Allen, 73, Whose Songs Were Sung by an Array of Stars
Robert Allen, the composer of songs that included "Chances Are," "Moments to Remember" and "Home for the Holidays," died on Sunday at his home in Quogue, N. Y. He was 73 [sic - he was 72]. The cause was colon cancer, his family said. Mr. Allen's songs were performed by Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Durante, Kate Smith, the Shirelles, the Four Lads and many other singers in the 1950s and the 1960s, and some have become pop standards. Mr. Allen was born in Troy, N. Y., and after graduating from high school in 1945, he passed up an engineering scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to become a musician. He played jazz piano in New York clubs, started writing music in 1952 and began working for television shows. He wrote "You Are Never Far Away From Me," the closing song for "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall"; "Sing Along" for Mitch Miller's series "Sing Along With Mitch"; "A Very Special Love" for CBS's "Playhouse 90"; and music for "The Archie Show." He wrote his biggest hits with the lyricist Al Stillman. They collaborated on "Chances Are" and "It's Not for Me to Say," which were major hits for Johnny Mathis, and on a series of hits for the Four Lads in the mid-1950s, including "Moments to Remember," "Enchanted Island" and "There's Only One of You." They also wrote "Home for the Holidays," which has been recorded by more than two dozen performers, including Andy Williams, the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Garth Brooks. Mr. Allen wrote the football march for Auburn College, "War Eagle"; soundtrack music for the movies "Lizzie," "Enchanted Island" and "Happy Anniversary"; and music for a Debbie Reynolds Christmas album that included "Home for the Holidays." He also wrote the music for and produced the album "Bob McGrath From Sesame Street." In 1963, he wrote the score of and produced "Three Billion Millionaires," a benefit album for the United Nations by Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Danny Kaye, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Benny and Carol Burnett. The trumpeter Shorty Rogers recorded a big-band album of Allen compositions, "Chances Are It Swings." Mr. Allen is survived by his wife, Patty K. Allen; his children Diana, Katie, Gordon and Pamela; his mother, Ruth Kreger; a sister, Judy Holmes; and three grandchildren."

Linda wrote, "The writer of the melodies for all three of these songs was Robert Allen. Allen was born in Troy on 5 February 1928. The lyricist for all three of these songs was one of Allen’s major collaborators, Al Stillman. An accompanist for Perry Como, Peter Lind Hayes and Arthur Godfrey, Robert Allen’s melodies define the pre-rock sound of the 1950s. Allen’s "Noodlin' Rag", "Sweetheart’s Holiday", "To Know You (Is to Love You)", "You Are Never Far Away", "Home For the Holidays", "My One and Only Heart", "You Alone" and "Door of Dreams" were all hits for Perry Como. Johnny Mathis made the hit parade with Allen’s "Chances Are", "It’s Not For Me to Say" and "Teacher, Teacher". The Four Lads were noted for their renditions of Allen’s "Enchanted Island", "Moments to Remember", "There’s Only One of You", "Who Needs You?" and my personal favorite, "No, Not Much". Anyone who lived through the 1950s will undoubtedly remember listening, dancing (and romancing) to the sound of Robert Allen’s wonderful tunes. Many of them are considered classics and are still receiving considerable air play. Robert Allen died in Quoque, Long Island, NY on 1 October 2000 at the age of 72."


January 2008

Question: Can you provide a link between Nuku Hiva and Lansingburgh, Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: Congratulations to Rick Cook, who was the first to send the correct response. Later correct answers came from Lynn Julian and Vina Urquhart, who deserve an "honorable mention". Nuku Hiva is the largest of the Marquesas Islands, which are part of French Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean. The American writer Herman MELVILLE (1819-1891) was a resident of Lansingburgh (now North Troy), Rensselaer County, NY at the time he wrote his first book, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life, in 1846. In this book, Melville recounted his adventures as a visitor to the valley of Tai Pi Vai on the island of Nuku Hiva. Melville spelled Tai Pi as "Typee" and Nuku Hiva as "Nukuheva", and although his time on Nuku Hiva lasted for only three weeks, it became a four-month stay in his book. The literary world is divided as to whether Typee was a work of fiction or non-fiction; many argue that Melville embellished so extensively that Typee became a work of fiction and therefore is classified as a novel. Some 42 years later, the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) also visited Nuku Hiva, in 1888.


December 2007

Question: Where might you find the phrase "in fee simple", and what does it mean?

Answer: Congratulations to Gillian Wilson on her second victory in the Renssy Quiz. Gillian knew that "in fee simple" means "absolute ownership of property with no restrictions on its transfer." A genealogist might be most likely to encounter this phrase in a deed or in a will of real property.

The New Oxford Dictionary of English offers this definition:

fee simple - noun (pl fees simple) Law a permanent and absolute tenure of an estate in land with freedom to dispose of it at will, especially (in full fee simple absolute in possession) a freehold tenure, which is the main type of land ownership.

Compare fee tail, from the same dictionary:

fee tail - noun (pl fees tail) Law, historical a former type of tenure of an estate in land with restrictions or entailment regarding the line of heirs to whom it may be willed.


November 2007

Question: Can you link Troy, NY with the Southern Pacific Railroad?

Answer: Once again, our winner is John Hay. It took him two tries, but he still got the correct answer to me first. The answer is Charles CROCKER. Here is John's write-up of this railroad magnate. "Charles Crocker, born Troy, NY September 16, 1822 to a family of modest means, who would become president of the Southern Pacific Railroad. When Charles was 14, he moved with his family to Iowa, where he worked in saw mills, on farms and down mines before founding his own iron-forging company at the age of 25. He was drawn west in 1850 by the California Gold Rush and led an unsuccessful mining venture for two years before giving up mining to open a highly successful dry-goods store in Sacramento, CA. By 1854, he was one of the wealthiest men in town, and he formed strong business relationships with Mark HOPKINS, Collis HUNTINGTON and Leland STANFORD. They would come to be known as the “Big Four”, and they greatly prospered from various business and political ventures in California’s burgeoning economic expansion. In 1861, after hearing the compelling presentation of fellow Troy native Theodore JUDAH, a railroad engineer, the Big Four formed the Central Pacific Railroad Company. This railroad would become the western section of what would eventually be the first transcontinental railroad in the US. Crocker personally managed the construction, overcoming manpower and funding shortages by hiring Chinese immigrants. While driving his workforce to the point of exhaustion, he also set records for the laying of track, and the project actually reached completion seven years before the government-set deadline. Riding the wave of their Central Pacific Railroad success, Crocker and the others of the Big Four acquired the charter for the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1868, with Crocker ultimately becoming its president. The Southern Pacific was originally supposed to stretch from San Francisco to El Paso, Texas, but the Big Four joined the line to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1881, finally terminating in New Orleans in 1883. It is said that when the Southern Pacific’s tracks reached Tucson, AZ in 1880, a Golden Spike celebration was held, and Charles Crocker did the honors of driving the stake. Crocker went on to achieve even more success and to amass greater fortune, through land speculation (likely the cut-throat, monopolistic variety so popular among railroad-industrialists of the era) and through bank acquisitions. He was a major advocate of the large-scale irrigation projects that eventually transformed California into the large-scale fruit and vegetable producer that it now is. After a serious carriage accident in New York City in 1886, from which he never fully recovered, he died in California in 1888." John adds that while researching Charles Crocker, he "found a lot of historical reports of anti-railroad sentiments". The railroads did private land speculation along their planned routes. If a person or town didn’t agree to the low price they wanted to pay for the right-of-way, they’d simply adjust the route a bit and build a new town, thus depriving the original town not only of the income from the right-of-way sale but also of the ensuing commerce from having a rail depot. The Southern Pacific was said to be extremely ruthless...."


October 2007

Question: Can you name an actor in an American soap opera who was born in Troy, NY?

Answer: Congratulations to Kathleen Mazzrillo, who was very quick off the mark with the correct answer to this quiz question and has now won the Renssy Quiz five times. She knew that Russell TODD played Dr Jamie Frame in the soap opera Another World. He has also appeared in The Bold and the Beautiful and in The Young and the Restless. Todd was born Russell Todd Goldberg in Troy 4 March 1960 (one source says 14 March 1961). Although he is no longer acting, he is still active in show business as an agent. His Russell Todd Agency deploys camera operators to various film and television projects.


September 2007

Question: How many of the 50 US states' state governments began keeping official vital records (births, marriages and deaths) later than New York state did?

Answer: Only seven states began keeping official vital records at state level earlier than New York did, and one of those, Virginia, kept only marriage records (from 1853) and did not introduce state birth and death records until 1896, 15 years after New York state began keeping all three. Therefore, the number of states that did not introduce an official statewide scheme of birth, marriage and death records until after New York state had introduced all three was 41 if you don't count Virginia because its marriage records were earlier or 42 if you do count Virginia because its birth and death records came later. A good website for information about this is at http://www.vitalrec.com/. Here is the best league table I can come up with. It does contain a few surprises; for example, the second-oldest system is that begun by Hawaii in 1853, more than a century before the islands achieved statehood!

(1) Massachusetts 1841(11) Alaska 1890(21) Nebraska 1904(29) Oklahoma 1908(40) Louisiana 1914
(2) Hawaii 1853(12) Virginia 1896(21) Utah 1904 (32) Arizona 1909(40) Tennessee 1914
(3) Vermont 1857(13) Connecticut 1897(23) California 1905(32) Wyoming 1909(43) South Carolina 1915
(4) Michigan 1867(14) Maryland 1898(23) South Dakota 1905(34) Idaho 1911(44) Illinois 1916
(5) North Dakota 1870(15) Rhode Island 1899(25) Pennsylvania 1906(34) Kansas 1911(45) Florida 1917
(6) New Jersey 1878(16) Colorado 1900(26) Montana 1907(34) Kentucky 1911(45) West Virginia 1917
(7) Iowa 1880(16) Indiana 1900(26) Washington 1907(34) Nevada 1911(47) Georgia 1919
(8) New York 1881(16) Minnesota 1900(26) Wisconsin 1907(38) Mississippi 1912(48) New Mexico 1920
(9) Missouri 1883(19) Oregon 1903(29) Alabama 1908(39) North Carolina 1913(49) Maine 1923
(9) New Hampshire 1883(19) Texas 1903(29) Ohio 1908(40) Arkansas 1914(50) Delaware 1930

As usual, John Hay sent a thorough and complete answer, and he was closer than any of the other 12 responses. But his numerical guess, 38, wasn't right on the target, and he is already at the top of the leader board with a comfortable margin, so I've decided not to declare a winner this time. Thank you to everyone who responded.


August 2007

Question: Can you link Isaac Newton to Schodack, Rensselaer County, New York?

Answer: John Hay, our undisputed quiz king, was the first of two of you to send the correct response to this question. Here's his answer: "I believe the Isaac Newton you're referring to is the naval engineer whose passion was steamboats. His craft were used extensively on the Hudson and on the Great Lakes, and he was the founder of the People's Line of New York to Albany steamship service. He was born in Schodack on January 16, 1794." Honorable mention goes to Kathleen Mazzrillo, who responded the following day and was the only other person to give the correct answer. She wrote, "Isaac Newton was a naval architect, born in Schodack, New York, 16 January 1794, died in New York City, 22 November 1858. He built steamboats for navigation on the Hudson River and on the Great Lakes. The first anthracite coal used on a steam vessel was employed under his direction on the ship North America."


July 2007

Question: In the 1860s in Troy, what was the shared occupation of the splendidly named Clancy Vandegue and Pillsworth Vandeyse?

Answer: Congratulations to Kathleen Mazzrillo, who was the first person to email the correct answer. They were undertakers.


June 2007

Question: If you look in the New York State Births Index for a 1910 birth and find no record, what can you safely conclude about where the birth took place?

Answer: Several of you responded. Some of you gave only point (a) below, a few of you gave points (a) and (b) below, and two of you gave points (a), (b) and (c) below. But none of you gave a complete correct answer, so I'm declaring no winner for this one. The answer can be found written on Form DOH-1562, the General Information and Application for Genealogical Services of the New York State Department of Health. Most of you would have filled in this form several times when requesting copies of birth, marriage or death certificates of your ancestors. Here is the correct answer:


May 2007

Question: Where and when did the "Anti-Rent Wars" take place, and who fought against whom in them?

Answer: This quiz question remained on the website for a very long time while I was overseas, and in all that time, I received only three answers, all of them correct. Therefore, I am crediting all three as winners: John Hay and Lois Hartnett, two of our quiz regulars, and Regina Atchinson. Regina writes of the Anti-Rent Wars from the perspective of Hoags Corners, Nassau: "The tenants, mostly farmers, dressed as Indians and created havoc among the land owners. We call them Calico Indians. I live in Hoags Corners and have done a lot of research in the area." John, as usual, sent a very thorough reply and provides this link to a website about the Anti-Rent Wars. Jill Knapp has also contributed a detailed article about the Anti-Rent Wars.


April 2007

Question: Which Troy lawyer famously quoted, "To the victors belong the spoils", thereby reviving the controversial "spoils system" in American politics?

Answer: Wow, I am impressed! Four of you emailed the correct answer to me on the same day. The first, and therefore the March winner, is Gillian Wilson. Honourable mention goes to the other three, Lois Hartnett, John Hay and Lynn Julian. The answer, of course, was William Learned MARCY.


March 2007

Question: For whom did Troy's Hudson Valley Community College name its theatre?

Answer: Congratulations to Kathleen Mazzrillo, who was the first to email me with the correct answer. Hudson Valley Community College named its theatre for Troy native and Oscar-winning actress Maureen Stapleton (1925-2006), as quite a few of you knew. Sadly, Maureen Stapleton passed away on 13 March 2006 at her home in Lenox, Massachusetts. Thanks go also to Kathleen and to Tanis Kreiger, both of whom sent me obituaries of Ms Stapleton as published in Capital District newspapers. To view the obituary published in The Troy Record, click here.


February 2007

Question: Name three pottery makers who were active in Troy in the early 19th century.

Answer: Once again, John Hay is our winner. He named Orlando MONTAGUE, Sanford PERRY and Israel SEYMOUR as noted potters of Troy. And yes, in case you are wondering, Orlando Montague was indeed the husband of Hannah LORD MONTAGUE, who invented the detachable collar that would prove so important to Troy’s 19th-century textile industry and that would give the city its nickname of "Collar City". To read more about Troy's pottery district, you can click here. A group of Troy citizens is taking action to preserve the pottery district; you can read about their project by clicking here.


January 2007

Question: How much annual rent did a leaseholder with 100 acres owe to the patroon in 1800, and on what day of the year was this rent due?

Answer: Kathleen Casey Mazzrillo was our December winner. She knew that the rent was due on New Year's Day and that the rent was 10 bushels of clean merchantable wheat plus five fat hens. (There were some slight variations; some leaseholders had to do a half-day's carriage driving as well.) Congratulations, Kathleen!


December 2006

Question: Which future Rensselaer County, NY resident was served a roast pig named Louie at a diplomatic formal dinner in 1793?

Answer: Congratulations yet again to John Hay, the only person to email me with the correct answer, which was French diplomat Edwin Charles Edouard ("Citizen") Genet (1763-1834). John wrote, "The future Rensselaer resident was French Ambassador Edwin Charles `Citizen' Genet. The pig was presented at a dinner in Philadelphia. Here's an excerpt from Thomas Jefferson of the event: `At a dinner in Philadelphia, at which Governor Miffin and his friend Dallas were present, a roasted pig was introduced as the representative of the unfortunate [French King] Louis XVI. It was the joyful celebration of the anniversary of his murder. The head, being severed from the body, was carried round to each at the table, who, after putting on the liberty cap, pronounced the word "Tyrant!" and gave the head a chop with his knife.' (Memoirs of Hon. Thomas Jefferson, Progress of French Influence and French Principles in the United States, I.)."


November 2006

Question: Can you name any hymnist who was born in Lansingburgh, Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: It would appear that the correct answer to this question was "no"! Only a few of you even hazarded a guess, and no one put forward the correct name, Horatio SPAFFORD. Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-1888) was born in Lansingburgh and penned the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" in 1873, after he and his wife lost four of their daughters. Here is a biography of Horatio Spafford.


October 2006

Question: Who was the most famous grandchild of Benajah Douglas and wife Martha D. Arnold of Stephentown, Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: John Hay and Carolyn Seaman are the winners this time, as they provided the correct answer within minutes of each other. Benajah Douglas and Martha D. Arnold's most famous grandchild was the American politician, orator and debater Stephen Arnold Douglas (1813-1861). Known as the Little Giant, Stephen A. Douglas was elected to the United States Senate in 1847, as a Democrat representing Illinois. He ran unsuccessfully for US President three times. He is perhaps most famous for his presidential debates against Abraham Lincoln.


September 2006

Question: Which Troy-based company set up a branch in Seattle, Washington in 1909?

Answer: Lynn Julian was quick off the mark for this one! W. & L. E. Gurley is the correct answer. Founded in 1845, the company took the name W. & L. E. Gurley in 1852, after William Gurley and his younger brother Lewis E. Gurley. The company is still in business, as Gurley Precision Instruments, and is still located in Troy, at 514 Fulton Street. GPI makes, among other things, optical encoders.


August 2006

Question: Something a little different this time, and you might not think so at first, but there IS a Rensselaer County, NY connection for one of them. What is the link between the following women? (1) Maria Ann SHERWOOD (1799-1870) of Peasmarsh, East Sussex, England, and later of Eastwood, New South Wales, Australia; (2) Margaret Hilda ROBERTS (born in 1925 and still living) of Grantham, Lincolnshire, England; and (3) Anna Mary ROBERTSON (1860-1961) of Greenwich, Washington County, NY.

Answer: Lois Hartnett is our winner this time. Although Johy Hay and Marina Yeager had earlier successfully identified the three people, Lois was the first to identify the people AND guess the link between them: They are all famous for being grandmothers. Maria Ann SHERWOOD married Thomas SMITH in 1818, moved to a suburb of Sydney, became known as "Granny Smith" and developed the Granny Smith apple. Margaret Hilda ROBERTS married Denis THATCHER in 1950 and became British Prime Minister Margaret THATCHER in 1979, serving for an entire decade. Her son, Mark THATCHER, married Texan Diane BURGDORF and had two children, Michael THATCHER and Amanda THATCHER; Michael THATCHER was the Prime Minister's first grandchild. When he was born on 3 March 1989, Margaret THATCHER came out of 10 Downing Street and famously proclaimed to the press, "We are a grandmother." To this day, she has never lived down her presumptious use of the "royal we" in that statement. Anna Mary ROBERTSON married Thomas Salmon MOSES in 1887 and much later became famous as the painter "Grandma Moses". I did tell you that there is a link to Rensselaer County, NY: Grandma Moses resided and painted in Hoosick, Rensselaer County, NY.


July 2006

Question: What is the "sanforization" process, and who invented it?

Answer: This one was much too easy - LOTS of you sent the correct answer, but as usual, John Hay was the first, with Lois Hartnett second, Jane Smith third, Denise Joy Mullen fourth, and Gillian Wilson fifth. John wrote, "Sanford Cluett, born in Troy, NY in 1874, invented the sanforization process in 1933. He was related to the Cluetts of Troy who had dominated the detachable shirt-collar industry. Sanforization was a process that prestretched cotton and other textiles in order to prevent excessive shrinkage after washing. It allowed people to buy their actual clothing size, whereas in the past they'd buy a size larger to make up for the inevitable shrinking."


June 2006

Question: What 19th-century actor and playwright was born in Troy, Rensselaer County, NY the year before a US federal census?

Answer: We had no winners this time. The US playwright and actor James A. HERNE (1839-1901) was born James AHEARN on 1 February 1839 in Troy, Rensselaer County, NY, a son of Patrick Ahearn. Here is a short biography of him.


May 2006

Question: What Troy-born Hollywood actor stars in the 2004 film Twisted with Samuel L. Jackson?

Answer: Congratulations to John Hay, our reigning quiz king, who knew that the correct answer is Russell Wong.

Russell was born in Troy, Rensselaer County, NY on 1 March 1963, the fifth child of restaurateur William Wong and his then wife, the former Connie Van Yserloo. He appeared in the film The Joy Luck Club and in several television series, including The Monkey King.


April 2006

Question: Which artist of the Hudson River School painted wonderful landscapes of his native Poestenkill?

Answer: Five of you knew that the artist was Joseph H. Hidley, and the first of the five to send the answer to me was Lois Hartnett - congratulations, Lois! To read a sparse biography of Joseph H. Hidley (1830-1872) and to see some of his paintings, click here.


March 2006

Question: Which famous novelist resided in Lansingburgh from 1838 to 1847 (though I think he must have been away from home quite a bit)?

Answer: Yes, of course it was Herman Melville. Out of the deluge of correct answers, the first two were within minutes of each other, so I'm declaring two winners this time: John Hay and Tammy Casterlin. Now of Garner, NC but formerly of Troy, Tammy writes, "I remember seeing the historic plaque that was in place somewhere on First Avenue near the Lansingburgh branch of the post office when I was a kid." Herman Melville (1819-1891) was born in New York City but moved with his widowed mother, Maria Gansevoort Melville, and some of his siblings to Lansingburgh in 1838. The family lived at the corner of 114th Street and what is now First Avenue but was formerly River Street from 1838 until Herman's marriage to Elizabeth Shaw in 1847, after which the newlyweds set up housekeeping in New York City and Herman's mother went to live with them there. The house where the Melvilles lived in Lansingburgh is now occupied by the Lansingburgh Historical Society. Herman Melville's official residence was at this Lansingburgh house from 1838 until 1847, and it is said that he "spent his youth" at this house, and he did indeed keep returning to it between adventures. But Herman longed to see the world, and see the world he did. During the time of his "residence" at this house, Herman obtained a job as a cabin boy aboard a ship bound for Liverpool, England in 1839. On his return, he taught school to earn money for his next adventure. In 1841, Herman joined the whaling ship Acushnet and voyaged to the South Pacific. He would not return until 1844. His first two novels, written at this house in Lansingburgh, proved very popular. They were Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life, written in 1846, and Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas, written in 1847. These first novels opened doors for him in literary circles, and New York City soon beckoned.


February 2006

Question: How many bridges (road and rail) cross the Hudson River from Rensselaer County today?

Answer: We had quite a few incorrect guesses in a short space of time on this one, and I erroneously proclaimed John Hay the winner with his guess of 13 before I realised that I myself had overlooked one bridge. So I'm closing this one out without declaring a winner. There are 14 bridges (road and rail) crossing the Hudson River from Rensselaer County, NY. From north to south, they are
(1) the Stillwater Bridge (road);
(2) a rail bridge that runs under Knickerbocker Road between Locks 3 and 4 (rail);
(3) Mechanicville Bridge, also known as Howland Avenue Bridge (road);
(4) Waterford Bridge, carrying US Federal Highway 4 (road);
(5) 112th Street Bridge, also known as Cohoes-Lansingburgh Bridge (road);
(6) Collar City Bridge, fed by Hoosick Street and carrying NY State Highway 7 (road);
(7) the two-span Green Island Bridge, which links Troy to Center Island and then in a second span links Center Island to Green Island (which is not an island) in Albany County (road);
(8) Congress Street Bridge, carrying NY State Highway 2 (road);
(9) Menands Bridge, carrying NY State Highway 378 (road);
(10) the first of two Interstate 90 bridges, also called Patroon Island Bridge (road);
(11) a rail bridge via which the Lakeshore Limited and other trains from the west reach the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station (rail);
(12) Dunn Memorial Bridge, a "Spaghetti Junction" arrangement that feeds into the Empire State Plaza area of Albany (road);
(13) the second of the two Interstate 90 bridges, high above Schodack Island State Park (road); and
(14) the rail bridge immediately south of that, also high above Schodack Island State Park (rail).


January 2006

Question: Which portrait painter, of the "Hudson River School" of artists, got married at the Dutch Reformed Church in Nassau, Rensselaer County, NY in 1813?

Answer: Ammi PHILLIPS; no one even dared to guess this time! Ammi PHILLIPS (1788-1865), born in Colebrook, Connecticut, married Laura BROCKWAY on 18 March 1813 at the Dutch Reformed Church in Nassau, Rensselaer County, NY.


December 2005

Question: Why does the Best Western Rensselaer Inn on Sixth Avenue in Troy call its dining room the Union Station restaurant?

Answer: Quite a few of you knew the answer to this, but Kathleen Mazzrillo and Lois Hartnett were the first two to e-mail me with the correct response and were significantly quicker than the others, so I'm declaring two winners this time. The Rensselaer Inn's restaurant is named after the railway station that once stood on the site. On the walls of the hotel's public rooms are photographs taken of Union Station during its prime. The station was demolished in 1959.


November 2005

Question: Only one of the Mayflower passengers had been to America before that 1620 voyage. Can you name him?

Answer: Congratulations to Henry Hughes, who knew that the answer is Stephen Hopkins, the ancestor of hundreds of Rensselaer County, NY residents. Stephen Hopkins had previously sailed to Jamestown, Virginia, aboard the ill-fated ship the Sea Venture in 1609. Even though the Sea Venture was shipwrecked off Bermuda en route, the passengers rebuilt and continued to Jamestown.


October 2005

Question: Which Rensselaer County place name means "fire place"?

Answer: Congratulations again to Lois Hartnett, who was the first to send me the correct response. She knew that the town of Schodack takes its name from the Mahican word Esquatak, meaning "fire place". The "fire place" in question was a very special one; it was the place of the Council fire of the Mahican nation. In other words, it was the seat of government or the capital.


September 2005

Question: Which Rensselaer County cemetery is listed as one of the 10 most haunted in the USA?

Answer: Congratulations to Lois Hartnett; she knew that the answer is Forest Park Cemetery, also known as Forest Lawn Cemetery, in the town of Brunswick. The cemetery was founded in 1897 and is now abandoned. It has the nickname "Gateway to Hell". Thanks to Lynn Julian for setting this question. Lynn writes, "I was there with my cousins about 20 years ago in broad daylight and was scared - I can't imagine what it's like at night. It's located at the rear entrance of Troy Country Club, and some of the cemetery's property was sold to create the country club. There's a huge crumbling shell of a receiving tomb at the entrance that looks like it was bombed out, but you can see that it was magnificent when it was built. The park-like setting is now overgrown, and the original roads are merely ruts. In a web search, I found out that most of the statues are now headless, no doubt the work of vandals. I also noticed in my visit that there was a deathly, eerie silence - not even birds were chirping. Totally creepy!"


August 2005

Question: How much did a ream (500 sheets) of writing paper cost in the 1840s? (a) $7.50; (b) $3.50; or (c) $0.12?

Answer: Congratulations to Lynn Julian, who was the first to e-mail me with the correct answer, (a) $7.50. Paper was much more expensive to produce then than it is now. That's why, Lynn points out, school teachers wrote on blackboards and school pupils wrote on slates.


July 2005

Question: Which Troy-born philanthropist pumped gas in Troy in the 1930s to finance his education?

Answer: Morris Silverman, known as Marty Silverman. Two people e-mailed the correct answer, and they did so within minutes of each other, so this time, I'm declaring two winners: John Hay and Lynn Julian. Morris Silverman was born in Troy in 1912 to Polish immigrant parents. He was graduated in 1936 from Albany Union College School of Law, now Albany Law School.


June 2005

Question: Which member of a famous rock group of the 1970s was born in Troy in August 1943? Can you name the band?

Answer: Richard Halligan of Blood, Sweat and Tears. Congratulations to John Hay, who yet again was the first to e-mail the correct answer. Born in Troy, Rensselaer County, NY on 29 August 1943, Dick Halligan was one of the eight founder members of BS&T, which was formed in 1967 in New York City. Halligan sang vocals and played the trombone in the original line-up. Later, he switched to keyboards. A versatile instrumentalist, he also played the flute. He left the band in 1972 and formed the Dick Halligan Quartet in Los Angeles in the same year. Drifting from rock into jazz, Halligan continued performing in the jazz arena. He has also enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a composer and arranger for motion pictures (example: The Owl and the Pussycat, 1970, starring Barbra Streisand and George Segal), television, the recording industry and commercials. He won a Grammy in 1969 for "Variations on a Theme by Eric Satie". For pictures of Dick Halligan and other members of BS&T, click here.


May 2005

Question: Whom did Troy widow Caroline Carmichael McIntosh (1813-1881) marry on 10 February 1858?

Answer: Millard Fillmore (1800-1874), the 13th President of the USA (1850-1853). Congratulations to John Hay, who sent the first of over 100 correct responses! John also sent the following information about Caroline Carmichael McIntosh Fillmore: "She was born to Temperance and Charles Carmichael on 21 October 1813 in Morristown, NJ, and she had an older brother born in about 1808. She was married to Ezekiel McIntosh in Hunterdon, NJ in November 1832 at the tender age of 19, but I know of no children from their union." Caroline C. Fillmore appears in the 1880 US Census of Buffalo, Erie County, NY, on page 27A, as head of a household comprising only herself and two female Canadian servants. She was age "70", birthplace NJ, both parents born in NJ, occupation "Keeping House". Both Millard Fillmore and his wife Caroline Carmichael McIntosh Fillmore are buried in Buffalo. To view a letter written by former President Millard Fillmore in Buffalo to an unnamed female of Rensselaer County on 19 May 1860, click here.


April 2005

Question: Where in Rensselaer County, NY did the celebrated French soldier and statesman Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (1757-1834), of US Revolutionary War fame, plant a tree in the 1820s?

Answer: At 7 Church Street in the village of Nassau. At the time, this location was the home of Major-General John Ellis Wool.

It is said that Lafayette planted this tree in 1820, but it is uncertain that Lafayette visited the US in 1820, whereas it is documented that he visited the US in 1824-1825 and that during that trip, he did indeed visit Rensselaer County.

Thank you to the several of you who sent guesses, but there were no winners this time.


March 2005

Question: What creek in Rensselaer County, NY takes its name from a massacre in 1634?

Answer: The Moordenerskill in Schodack. "Moordener", or in modern Dutch "moordenaar", means "murderer". Congratulations to Dennis Marr, who was the first person to e-mail me with the correct answer. John Hay, who contributed the question, tells us that Native Americans killed nine Dutch settlers - seven men and two women - on the banks of this creek and then dumped their bodies over the falls.


February 2005

Question: Not counting the Adirondacks and the Catskills, what is the highest peak in New York state?

Answer: The correct answer is the 2,818-foot Berlin Mountain, in the town of Berlin, Rensselaer County, NY. Thanks to John Hay for submitting this question, as well as the July quiz question and another brain teaser for the future. Several of you responded to the June 2004 question with the names of mountains, but no one guessed the correct answer. Mount Marcy is the highest peak in New York state and, at 5,344 feet (1,629 metres), is higher than Berlin Mountain; but Mount Marcy is part of the Adirondacks, and since the question said NOT counting the Adirondacks, Mount Marcy doesn't qualify. The highest point in the Helderbergs, near Albany, Albany Co, NY, is "almost 2,000 feet", so Berlin Mountain is higher.


January 2005

Question: What was the biggest news event in Troy on 28 March 1913?

Answer: Congratulations again to John Hay, who was the first of three people to e-mail the correct response. Yes, it was a flood that left a number of Troy streets under two feet of water. Click here for details and a photograph. Arlene Taylor and "Jilly" also answered correctly.


December 2004

Question: What is the link between the islands of Texel and Novaya Zemlya and the Hudson River off the village of Castleton-on-Hudson, in the town of Schodack, in Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: Congratulations to Eve Grogan, who gave the only correct response. Eve knew that the 1609 third voyage of discovery of the English explorer Henry Hudson (1565?-1611?) aboard the ship Half Moon began when the 73-tonne ship sailed with the tide from the island of Texel, travelled to Novaya Zemlya and then sailed up the river now known as the Hudson as far as what is now Rensselaer County, NY.

Texel. The North Sea coast of the European mainland is sheltered behind a row of long, thin islands known as the Frisian Islands. These islands stretch from the west coast of Denmark, southward to the northwest coast of Germany and on to the coast of the Netherlands. They are divided into the North Frisian Islands (corresponding generally to the Danish part), the East Frisian Islands (corresponding mainly to the German part) and the West Frisian Islands (corresponding mainly to the Dutch part). The largest of the West Frisian Islands and the westernmost of all the Frisian Islands is the 161-square-kilometre island of Texel, off the coast of the Dutch province of North Holland. It is separated from the North Holland mainland by a narrow sound called the Marsdiep. The Marsdiep and the other sounds that lie between the Frisian Islands and the mainland were too shallow even in the 17th century for ocean-going vessels, so the ports of embarkation were, by necessity, on the seaward sides of the Frisian Islands, most importantly, Texel.

It is from Texel that Captain Henry Hudson and his crew of about 20 mostly Dutch and English seamen embarked aboard the Half Moon in May 1609, on the third of Hudson's four voyages of discovery, employed this time by the Dutch East India Company and, it is suggested (but not proven), tasked with finding the elusive "Northwest Passage" - a route around the northern side of the land mass of the Americas to the Orient. Many sought this passage in vain, both before and after Henry Hudson.

Novaya Zemlya. The Half Moon travelled first to the Arctic, to the island of Novaya Zemlya, which Hudson had visited previously, during his second voyage. The idea seems to have been to pick up where he had left off in his quest to cut through the arctic ice mass to find that much-sought-after passage to the Far East. Novaya Zemlya, lying in the Arctic Ocean off the northwestern coast of Russia and now part of the modern Russian Federation, must have been an awfully cold, barren, bitter place in 1609. The crew of the Half Moon mutinied and forced Hudson to turn the ship towards more southerly climes. The ship sailed west and south, exploring the eastern coast of what is now Canada, then travelling down along what was later the US's New England states, proceeding past the landmark of Cape Cod, and arriving at what is now New York City.

Castleton-on-Hudson. There, Captain Hudson took the ship inland, up the river that would later bear his name, as far as the tides would allow, to the northern end of the estuary portion of the river. Records survive of this part of his voyage and of the Native Americans whom Hudson and his crew met and whose friendly hospitality this little band of Europeans uneasily enjoyed. Women smoked tobacco in copper pipes, and there were "goodly stores" of foodstocks and so forth. It is believed that the place of this hospitality was at what is now the village of Castleton-on-Hudson, in the town of Schodack (the name Schodack derives from the word Esquatak, meaning "fire place of the nation", that is, it was the seat of government of the Mahican nation, whose elders made their governmental decisions while seated around that most central and significant of fires).

Encarta Encyclopaedia says, "Nothing is known of Hudson's life before 1607." But that isn't quite true. Scholars have made efforts to find out his origins, and while they do not always agree with each other's conclusions, there are some conclusions that can be drawn. One Henry Hudson was born 12 September 1575 in Hoddersdon, Hertfordshire, but he may have been too young to be Henry Hudson the explorer. The navigator probably was a relative (may have been a son or grandson) of an older Henry Hudson who was involved with the London-based Muscovy Company, which sponsored the explorer Henry Hudson's first two voyages. THE Henry Hudson was married to an extraordinary woman named Katherine (maiden surname unknown so far), who took a very proactive approach to the matter of trying to find her missing husband after he was cast adrift in 1611 in a small craft in what is now Hudson Bay in Canada, in yet another mutiny, during his fourth and last voyage of discovery, never to be seen again. Katherine Hudson is testimony to the fact that what we in the 21st century call "girl power" DID exist in some individuals even in the early 17th century. Left in poverty at the time of her husband's disappearance, she sought - and received - her own commission to travel to India and purchase and trade in indigo, and this endeavour made her a wealthy woman.

You can read more about Henry Hudson, his wife Katherine, their children and their exploits online; one of the most thorough websites on this subject can be reached by clicking here. (See below, under March 2004, as well.)

Oh, and what about that elusive "Northwest Passage" - did anyone ever find it? Yes, eventually. Sir John Franklin's expedition in the 1840s nearly found it before disappearing in the attempt, and those sent to find them during the 1850s did find it. But it was not until the 20th century that anyone ever travelled its entire length! Norwegian Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) finally became the first ever to transit it, in 1903-1906, in a small sloop called the Gjöa. And the "Northwest Passage" never did and never will live up to the hopes and dreams of those across the centuries who searched for it, those who paid for expeditions to find it and those who gave their lives to discover a "road to riches" across the Arctic to the Far East.


November 2004

Question: In law, what is the difference between an "heir" and an "heir-at-law"?

Answer: Congratulations to our two winners, John Hay and Arlene Taylor! They knew that an heir-at-law is a person legally entitled to inherit a share of the property of someone who dies intestate, by virtue of his or her relationship to that intestate, whereas an heir is anyone - whether blood-related or not - who is entitled by the terms of a will to inherit all or part of the estate of the testator. One individual, then, can be both an heir and an heir-at-law, or can be an heir only, or can be an heir-at-law only, depending on the circumstances.


October 2004

Question: You are searching an old Dutch churchbook for the baptism of your ancestor HELEN. Which of these forenames could mean "Helen"? (a) Leentje; (b) Geertruy; (c) Magdalena; (d) Lana. (Hint: There may be more than one correct answer.)

Answer: There were no takers at all on this one! The correct answer was all of them except "Geertruy", which is Dutch for "Gertrude".


September 2004

Question: An Academy Award-winning actress was born in Troy, NY on 21 June 1925. Can you name her?

Answer: Congratulations to Brian Stankus, who was the first person to e-mail me the correct answer. The actress is Maureen STAPLETON. Daughter of John P. STAPLETON and Irene WALSH, Lois Maureen Stapleton grew up on First Street in Troy before heading downstream to the Big Apple and the bright lights of Broadway. Her many theatrical successes included the Tennessee Williams play The Rose Tattoo in 1951 and the Neil Simon play The Gingerbread Lady in 1971, for both of which she won Tony awards. Hollywood beckoned, and her long and distinguished film career included four Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress: Lonelyhearts in 1958, Airport in 1970, Interiors in 1978 and Reds in 1981. For the Warren Beatty epic Reds, she won the Oscar. Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy dedicated the Maureen Stapleton Theater in her honor. She published her autobiography, A Hell of a Life, in 1995. Maureen Stapleton (1925-2006) died of chronic lung disease on 13 March 2006 at her home in Lenox, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. She was 80.


August 2004

Question: Which of these cities is furthest north? (a) Milan; (b) Troy (the one in NY, of course); (c) Istanbul; (d) Detroit.

Answer: That's twice in a row for John Hay, who knew that Milan was the most northerly of the four cities.


July 2004

Question: Located 3/4 of a mile east of Sand Lake is a chalybeate spring. What is a chalybeate spring?

Answer: We had only two correct responses to this one. The first was from John Hay, who answered that a chalybeate spring is an iron-rich spring whose waters are said to have rejuvenating properties. Congratulations, John! The word chalybeate, pronounced "ka-LIB-ee-at", comes from the Greek khalups, meaning steel. It has been in the English language since the mid-17th century and refers to natural mineral springs containing iron salts. The idea that certain natural spring waters had curative powers dates from ancient times, but the practice entered its golden age in the 18th and 19th centuries with the rise of the fashionable spa resorts of Europe, including Bath and Harrogate, in England; Baden-Baden, in Germany; Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad in German), then in Bohemia; Vichy, in France; and, of course, Spa, in Belgium, which gave its name to the generic word for these resorts. Well-known American spas are Saratoga Springs, in Saratoga Co, NY, and Warm Springs, in Georgia.


June 2004

Question: What holiday will our Canadian cousins be celebrating on Monday, 13 October 2003?

Answer: Congratulations to Lynn Julian, who knew that the second Monday in October is Thanksgiving Day in Canada.


May 2004

Question: How many of Rensselaer County's cities, towns and villages adjoin the HUDSON RIVER? Can you name them all?

Answer: Congratulations to Brian Stankus, who was the first of several of you to email the correct answer. Seven have Hudson River frontage. From north to south, they are the town of Schaghticoke, the city of Troy, the town of North Greenbush, the city of Rensselaer, the town of East Greenbush, the town of Schodack, and the village of Castleton-on-Hudson.


April 2004

Question: What MUSICAL INSTRUMENT was manufactured in Schodack and Nassau from 1837 to 1928 at factories owned by Frickinger, Gorgen, Grubb and Kosegarten?

Answer: Congratulations to Lynn Julian, our newest Quizz Whizz (that's three victories in a row for Lynn!), who was very quick off the mark to e-mail me several days ago with the correct answer. The answer is indeed pianos! You can read about Rensselaer County's piano-making industry at this interesting website.


March 2004

Question: A four-parter this time: Whose ship was the HALF MOON, what was his nationality, what flag did this ship sail under when she visited what is now Rensselaer County, and what year was this voyage?

Answer: Congratulations to Lynn Julian, who knew that the Half Moon was the ship of Henry Hudson, an English explorer who was sailing under the Dutch flag when he visited what is now Rensselaer County, NY in 1609. Henry Hudson (c1565-1611?), during his third voyage of discovery, sailed in the employ of the Dutch East India Company in 1609 in the 73-metric-tonne ship De Halve Maen (the Half Moon) with a crew of 18 or 20 men who were mixed Dutch and English. He sailed from the Dutch island of Texel, in the Frisian Islands. He went first to Novaya Zemlya (two large uninhabited islands in the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of Siberian Russia), but bitter weather caused suffering, and his crew mutinied, so he set his course to a more southerly route. He entered New York Harbor in September 1609 and spent the next month sailing up the now Hudson River to near Albany, a distance of 150 miles. Before the end of 1609, he and his ship were in England, where the government seized the ship and forced Hudson from that time onwards to serve only the English government. Further reading about Henry Hudson sheds some light on this man, about whose early life almost nothing was known until very recently. Hudson kept an account of his travels. In an entry dated 18 September 1609, he wrote of a shore excursion at a place which is claimed by several counties on the banks of the Hudson River, and the description fits what is now the village of Castleton-on-Hudson, in the town of Schodack, better than most. Hudson wrote: "Our men went on Land there, and saw great store of Men, Women and Children, who gave them Tabacco at their coming on Land. So they went up into the Woods, and saw great store of goodly Oakes and some Currants. For one of them came aboord and brought some dryed, and gave me some, which were sweet and good. This day many of the people came aboord, some in Mantles of Feathers, and some in Skinnes of divers sorts of good Furres. Some women also came to us with Hempe. They had red Copper Tabacco pipes, and other things of Copper they did weare about their neckes. At night they went on Land againe, so wee rode very quiet, but durst not trust them." Hudson gave the Natives knives and beads in return, 15 years before the Dutch purchase of Manhattan Island. Hudson called the river the "River of Mountains", although the Native Americans, with whom the skipper and crew met, called it Muhheakunnuk ("great waters constantly in motion"). Another interesting website is that of the Replica Ship of the Half Moon; you can take a virtual tour of the ship and read all about it and its activities in 2003.


February 2004

Question: What contribution did the town of GRAFTON, Rensselaer Co, NY make to the uniforms of the US Army during the American Civil War?

Answer: Congratulations to Eve Grogan, one of our regular quiz buffs, and to Lynn Julian, a first-time winner. They knew that a factory in Grafton, Rensselaer County, NY produced the "Prussian blue" dye that made the US Army's blue uniforms BLUE! The chemical name for Prussian blue is ferric ferrocyanide, chemical formula Fe4[Fe(CN6]3. It is a deep blue amorphous solid pigment used in paints and dyes. Prussian blue had another important industrial use in Rensselaer County in the 19th century: as a "bluing" in the laundry industry, to counteract the yellowing tendency of white fabrics that are washed repeatedly in water that is high in ferrous salts. Prussian blue was developed in the 18th century in the kingdom of Prussia, the forerunner of Germany, hence its name. It was discovered in 1704 or 1705 in Berlin by a colorist named Diesbach, who chanced upon it by accident. Prussian blue, the world's first synthetic dye, was launched onto the global market in 1710.


January 2004

Question: On Tuesday, 18 August 1807, people standing on the riverbank in Schodack would have been able to witness WHICH HISTORICAL EVENT?

Answer: Congratulations to the seven of you who knew that people standing on the riverbank in Schodack on 18 August 1807 could have seen Robert Fulton's steamboat the Clermont as it approached Albany during its historic voyage up the Hudson River from New York City. Eve Grogan was the first to e-mail the correct answer, but Don T. Birkmayer provided the following interesting account of the event: "The initial sailing of Robert Fulton and Chancellor Livingston's first steamboat, the Clermont. Dubbed as "Fulton's Folly", this was a trip for invited guests only and was the beginning of commercial steam navigation on the Hudson River. Most agree that the vessel's proper name was North River Steamboat of Clermont, although some other versions persist. Following this inaugural run, its first commercial sailing from New York City to Albany began on September 4, 1807."

The American inventor and engineer Robert Fulton (1765-1815), originally from Pennsylvania, started out as a painter in London but soon turned his attention to inventing. He created a submarine, the Nautilus, which he demonstrated in France at Rouen; the Nautilus, with Fulton himself aboard, descended to a depth of 7.6 metres (25 feet) in the River Seine. Fulton's Nautilus was by no means the world's first submarine; that honour falls to a leather-covered wooden rowing boat built by the Dutch inventor Cornelis Drebbel, working in England, and it had made its descent on the Thames in London in the 1620s.

Fulton's Nautilus was not the commercial success he had hoped it would be, so he turned his attention to steamboat design. Here, too, Fulton would not be the first; his fellow American John Fitch (1743-1798) had built a boat propelled by steam power in September 1786 on the Delaware River (thanks to Renssy Quiz responder Jim Loudon, who knew about Fitch's steamboat). Fitch then built two more, larger steamboats and put them into commercial service on the Delaware. So not only did Fitch invent the first steamboat, but also Fitch is credited with the first commercial steamboat enterprise. However, Fitch's steamboats were not precipitous in the way that Fulton's would be. Fulton, still working in France in 1802, attracted the attention of the US statesman and diplomat Robert R. Livingston (1746-1813), of the famous New York state land-owning family, who had helped to draft the US Declaration of Independence. In 1801, Livingston became US Ambassador to France and arrived in Paris. During his three-year stint in Paris, Livingston would negotiate the famous Louisiana Purchase - and would become the financier and partner of Robert Fulton in his steamboat venture. Fulton demonstrated his first steamboat in Paris on the River Seine. Livingston was impressed and set about obtaining the concession for steamboat transport on the Hudson River, on condition that he could put into operation a steamboat capable of a speed of 4 miles per hour. Fulton left France for New York to create the vessel to fulfill this requirement.

That vessel was the 45-metre (150-foot) Clermont. On Monday, 17 August 1807, the Clermont left New York City and sailed up the Hudson River, its destination being Albany. The Clermont made the 150-mile trip in 32 hours, at an average speed of 4.7 miles per hour, thereby securing the Livingston concession. The voyage had attracted a great deal of attention, not all of it good - many, as Don pointed out, dubbed the ship "Fulton's Folly". But the Clermont made the trip to Albany in 32 hours, whereas the sailing vessels of the day often took four days - and it did so while the world watched to see if it would succeed or fail. Fulton's Clermont was not the first steamboat; it wasn't even the first commercial steamship enterprise. But it WAS the vessel that, right there in the river that flows past our county, led the entire maritime world into the Age of Steam.


December 2003

Question: What maker built what is believed to be the largest extant and intact 19th-century PIPE ORGAN in an American concert hall, where is the hall located, where was the instrument first installed and (the challenging part of the question) what source of energy originally produced its wind pressure?

Answer: This one is a bit tricky, so please bear with me. David Smith of New Rochelle, NY sent me this question and suggested that I run it as the next Renssy Quiz, and I did. David did not at the time tell me the answer, however. Later, I tried numerous times to contact David (David, I hope you are all right!), without success. This question attracted NO guesses for a very long time. Then one person guessed, and more recently a second person guessed. The two answers given were not the same. I would prefer for David to tell us which one is right, but since he is not available, I'll have to do my best. I believe that the following submission by Jeff Freeman is the correct answer: "The Yonkers firm J. S. and C. S. Odell built the organ. It is located in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. It was first installed in the mansion of millionaire William Belden. Water power was used to produce the wind pressure." You can see photographs of this organ and of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, renowned for its acoustics, by clicking here. This organ was built in 1882 and was moved from the Belden mansion to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in 1890. It is described on this website as "the nation’s largest nineteenth-century concert organ in original condition."

The other guess involved an organ built by the Richard M. Ferris company in 1847 for the Calvary Episcopal church in Manhattan, New York City; sometime after 1885, this organ was moved to Round Lake, NY; this organ ran on a Ross Water Engine. Round Lake, NY is in Saratoga Co, NY. Construction of the Round Lake Auditorium began in 1885, and the organ was installed in it after that. This organ would have no connection to Rensselaer Co NY, having been installed in New York Co (Manhattan) and in Saratoga Co only. If you're interested in this organ, you can read about it here. The claim to fame of this organ is not that it is the largest but that it is the oldest.

Undoubtedly, both of these organs would be fascinating to see - and even more wonderful to hear, though I'm not sure that either of them is ever played nowadays. If you find out otherwise, do please let us know!


November 2003

Question: Hi again, BASEBALL Fans! One third of the most famous DOUBLE-PLAY trio in history was born in Troy in 1881. Was he (a) Tinker, (b) Evers or (c) Chance?

Answer: He was Johnny EVERS, as Rick Cook knew. Chicago Cubs second-baseman John Joseph Evers (1881-1947) of Troy, Rensselaer County, NY is immortalized in the "Tinker to Evers to Chance" double-play combination for the Cubs, along with shortstop Joe Tinker (1880-1948) of Kansas and first-baseman Frank Chance (1877-1924) of California. The trio helped the Cubs to two World Series championships in 1907 and 1908. Evers was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946. Rick adds that Evers used to have a sporting-goods store in Troy. Evers died on 28 March 1947 in Albany and is buried in Saint Mary's Cemetery in Troy. Apparently, the correct pronunciation of his surname rhymed with "beavers" and not with "severs", although he became so well known by the latter pronunciation that he eventually gave in to it.


October 2003

Question: Hi, BASEBALL Fans! One of the greatest RELIEF PITCHERs of all time was born in Stephentown in 1928. Who was he?

Answer: Well done, David Smith of New Rochelle, who knew that this pitching legend was Elroy Face, also known as Roy Face. Famous for his "forkball", this three-time National League All-Star worked his magic mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates and helped the Bucs to a World Series championship in 1960. (Thanks to Tina Ordone for supplying this question! For Tina's Elroy Face page, click here.)


September 2003

Question: Six NY STATE CENSUSES for Rensselaer Co, NY survive; can you name all six years?

Answer: Congratulations to Bill Harris, who was the first of nine people to e-mail me the correct answer. He knew that the six years are 1855, 1865, 1875, 1905, 1915, and 1925.


August 2003

Question: Which future US PRESIDENT once taught school in Schaghticoke, Rensselaer Co, NY?

Answer: Congratulations to David Smith of New Rochelle, NY! David knew that it was Chester A. Arthur (1830-1886), the 21st President of the USA (1881-1885). David wrote, "The family of my mother, born Elva Mae Hills, lived in Newtonville, [Albany Co] NY ... in the John M. Newton house for many years. Chester Arthur's father was a Baptist minister and pastor in Newtonville." President Arthur's father was Elder William Arthur.


July 2003

Question: What is a NUNCUPATIVE WILL? Can it be valid?

Answer: Congratulations to Vesta Hvit, who knew that a nuncupative will is a spoken will. A nuncupative will is often made on a deathbed or by soldiers mortally wounded in battle. Yes, it can be probated in court like any other will, on the testimony of witnesses who make depositions about the circumstances and about the testator's words.


June 2003

Question: President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) died in Washington, DC, and was buried in Springfield, IL. Did the LINCOLN FUNERAL TRAIN pass through Rensselaer County, NY?

Answer: It most certainly did, as Mary Beth Dingman, Glenn Martin, H. Newman, Lucy Stoner and Keith Watson all knew. Glenn Martin was first to e-mail. The passage of the Lincoln funeral train through Rensselaer County was an occasion which all would remember for life, in much the way that those of us who were alive at the time can recall exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first learned of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or the bombing of Pearl Harbor. By 1865, many railway lines existed in the USA, and it would have been possible for President Lincoln's funeral train to take a much more direct route from Washington or Baltimore to Springfield. But instead, it was routed on a wide arc far to the north of a direct route, in order to allow as many Americans as possible to see the funeral train of their assassinated President. It was a media event, at a time when there was no television or radio. This was a chance for the American populace to feel that they themselves were not mere onlookers but actual participants in a momentous, albeit sad, event. In 1865, newspapers could receive their news from Washington by telegraph, write it up, print it and distribute it to the local community in a matter of hours, so the people of Rensselaer County did know in advance that this funeral train would be coming. Maryland-born Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) fatally shot Abraham Lincoln in the head while the President was watching the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater in Washington on the night of 14 April 1865. The stricken President died the following day, 15 April 1865, in Washington. He was to be buried in Springfield, IL, which, although not his birthplace, had been his home for most of his adult life. The President's body was taken in solemn horse-drawn procession to Washington's Baltimore and Ohio Station on the morning of Wednesday, 21 April and was transferred onto a train that had his photograph on the front. This train departed from Washington at 8:00 am. It travelled to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Albany, passing through many smaller towns on the way. At major cities, his remains were taken in horse-drawn cortege to important venues where he lay in state for several hours. Great crowds filed past in all these cities. On Tuesday, 25 April 1865, President Lincoln's funeral train departed from New York City's Hudson River Railway Depot shortly after 4:00 pm. It travelled northward up the east bank of the Hudson River, through Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Columbia Counties until it entered Rensselaer County, NY, at approximately 10:00 pm. The train passed through SCHODACK, CASTLETON and GREENBUSH/EAST ALBANY [now the city of Rensselaer]; the time of the train's arrival at Greenbush/East Albany was recorded as "10:55 pm". At this point, the train was exactly opposite its next stop, Albany, only it was on the wrong side of the Hudson River. It continued to travel northward in order to reach the rail bridge to carry it across the river. It next passed through a station referred to as "Rail Factory"; this may be correct, because the iron factory at this location certainly did make rails by the millions, but it was an earlier product, nails, that gave this part of South Troy its name, and I believe that this station was probably called "NAIL FACTORY". The train continued northward to the main station of TROY. It then used the rail bridge between Troy and Cohoes to cross the Hudson River. On the west side of the river, the train travelled more or less southward, through Cohoes and West Troy to Albany, where it arrived after 11:00 pm. At Albany, the coffin was taken to State House, where the President lay in state throughout the night and the following morning. Throngs of people somberly filed past the coffin at State House before the rail journey resumed up the Mohawk Valley towards Buffalo and other points west. Large crowds gathered all along this circuitous route, and newspaper accounts show that the same was true at Schodack, Castleton, Greenbush/East Albany, Nail Factory and Troy. People stood beside the railway line in darkened silence to pay their last respects; many took their children, in the hope that they would remember this moment of history. You can read more about Abraham Lincoln's funeral train by clicking here and here.


May 2003

Question: Kiliaen Van Rensselaer (c1585-1643) was the first PATROON of the Manor of Rensselaerwyck and owned much of what is now Rensselaer County, NY. Where did he live?

Answer: Congratulations to Judy Harbold, who knew that Kiliaen Van Rensselaer was a pearl merchant who lived and died in Amsterdam. He himself never went to America, nor did his immediate successor, his son Johannes Van Rensselaer (1625-c1663), the second patroon. The third patroon, who was a son of the first and a brother of the second, was Jeremias Van Rensselaer (1632-1674), and he was the first to go to America. He lived on the Rensselaerwyck Manor and died there. His successor, the fourth patroon, was his eldest son, Kiliaen Van Rensselaer (1663-1719), who was the first patroon to be born in America. To read a well-researched history of this family, click here.


April 2003

Question: You have worked hard to find the exact location of the farm your ancestor owned in Rensselaer County in 1855, and you discover three large old sugar MAPLE TREES on it. Could these be the very trees your g-g-g-grandfather tapped in 1855?

Answer: Yes, indeed, they could be the same trees. Sugar maples live to be some 250 years old, so these trees may have been well stricken in years even when Great-Great-Great-Grandpa sugared them off in 1855. Congratulations to Marina Yeager, who was the only person who responded to this one - she knew that the answer is "yes". Refined white granulated cane sugar such as we buy in supermarkets these days is a relatively recent innovation, unknown to our 19th-century ancestors on both sides of the Atlantic. They used to chip chunks of sugar off a sugarloaf to sweeten their tea, and even that was an innovation. In New York state, New England and eastern Canada, the staple source of sweetness for any use was the maple syrup got from three species of maple tree. I've found a website that is highly informative about all this; it's based in Montreal, but it's quite relevant to the way of life of our own ancestors in Rensselaer Co NY, so I hope you enjoy it!


March 2003

Question: You've found your ancestors in Troy City Directories living in WEST TROY from 1848 to 1863. Why can't you find them in Rensselaer County censuses of 1850, 1855 and 1860?

Answer: Because West Troy was not in Rensselaer Co NY; it was across the Hudson River in Albany Co NY. There were close ties between West Troy and Troy - close enough for Troy City Directories to include three Albany Co NY locations in a separate section: West Troy, Green Island and Cohoes. Nevertheless, if you want to find residents of these places in censuses, you have to look in Albany Co NY census records. Congratulations to Donald G. Labaj of Berea, OH, who was the first person to e-mail me with the correct answer.


February 2003

Question: There is today only one remaining COVERED BRIDGE in Rensselaer County. What body of water does it cross? What town is it in?

Answer: Congratulations to Rick Cook, who was the first person to e-mail me with the correct answer. The covered bridge crosses the Hoosic River. Its southern end is just north of the hamlet of Buskirk, in the northwestern corner of the town of Hoosick, Rensselaer County, NY. Its northern end is in the town of Cambridge, Washington County, NY. The road which this covered bridge carries across the Hoosic River is called County Highway 103 when it's in Rensselaer County and is called County Highway 59 when it's in Washington County. Rick Cook writes that the fine is $25.00 if you drive over the bridge at a speed faster than a walk, and he adds that the bridge is "closed at this time" (30 May 2003). Thanks for the update, Rick! Here is a link to a photo of this covered bridge, along with a bit of its history. Here is another view of Buskirk's Bridge.


January 2003

Question: What did HANNA LORD MONTAGUE invent in Troy in 1827 that 90% of all American men wore in the 19th century?

Answer: Congratulations to Eve Grogan, who was the first of several people to e-mail me with the correct answer: the DETACHABLE COLLAR. Hannah LORD MONTAGUE, daughter of William A. LORD and wife of Orlando MONTAGUE, invented the detachable shirt collar in 1827 at her home at 139 Third Street in Troy. You can read all about the invention and about the industry that arose from it in an article by Don Rittner, a local writer who does much to bring Rensselaer County's past to life and who kindly shares his work with us. Thanks, Don!


December 2002

Question: On 23 December 1823, The Troy Sentinel newspaper of our county was the first-ever publication to print a now-very-FAMOUS POEM. What was this poem?

Answer: "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas", which is often called by its first line, " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas". OK, this one was a bit too easy; congratulations to the 27 of you who e-mailed me with the correct answer! The first correct answer to arrive was from Eve Grogan.

The poem was first published anonymously, a practice which invariably gives rise to disagreements as to who really wrote the work. The poem is almost universally attributed to Clement Clark Moore (1779-1863) of New York City, who does not appear to have any genealogical links to Rensselaer County, NY. Moore later claimed to have written it on Christmas Eve 1822 as a Christmas present for his six children. He did eventually publish the poem under his own name, in 1844.

Moore, who was 43 when he wrote the poem, had grown up in a world of scholarly sophistication. He was the only son of Benjamin Moore, a Protestant Episcopal bishop who had risen to become President of Columbia College (now Columbia University) in New York City. Great things were expected of the only son of such a man. The lighthearted poem he wrote for the amusement of his children did not seem to him worthy of publication under the name of a man of his background. However, his wife, the former Catharine Elizabeth Taylor, disagreed with this view. It is said that it was she who submitted the poem to The Troy Sentinel for publication the following Christmas season. She respected his wish not to put his name to it, but she recognised the poem's appeal, and generations of American children ever since have her - and the Editor of The Troy Sentinel - to thank for putting this now-classic poem into the public domain.

Some sources argue that the poem was written by Henry Livingston Jr. not later than 1808. But Livingston, who died some time before 1822, had not published the poem. A privately owned book in which Livingston's version of the poem is said to have been included, date uncertain, is said to have been destroyed in a house fire in Wisconsin at an uncertain time. The "evidence" presented for Livingston's having penned the poem is that three men and one woman from New York City recalled, after the 1823 publication of the poem in The Troy Sentinel, that the four of them, when still children, had been read this same poem at a date not later than 1808 by poet Livingston himself. In the absence of any proof that Livingston wrote it, most scholars continue to attribute the poem to Moore.

In any case, the first-ever publication of this poem was indeed in column 5 of page 3 of the Tuesday, 23 December 1823 edition of The Troy Sentinel. An original of this newspaper, showing the poem, is owned by the Troy Public Library. Every year during the Christmas season, the original is on display to the public for free in a glass case.

The Troy Public Library also sells exact facsimiles of this edition of The Troy Sentinel for a small fee to earn money for the library. These facsimiles make excellent Christmas gifts for anyone with an interest in history, not only because the poem is shown but also because all four pages are reproduced, with their public notices and their news of the independence war in Greece and their Foggy Bottom report during the James Monroe administration and their announcement that a brush-making industry was being launched in Troy and their advertisements for the latest thing in carriages.

If you would be interested in purchasing some of these facsimiles and at the same time supporting the Troy Public Library, you may contact the library directly. I'm not sure how to judge the demand, and if it is great enough, I'd like to be able to alert the library so that they can print more facsimiles in good time to ship them to you well in advance of Christmas. So, if you could e-mail me, too, I'll make sure they are given good warning. Here's a link to their website, and here's their e-mail address. You may telephone them on (518) 274-7071 or fax them on (518) 271-9154, or you may snail-mail them at this address:

Troy Public Library
100 Second Street
Troy, NY 12180



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