|Troy's One Hundred Years 1789-1889:
Troy from the Very Beginning
In 1786, the site of the city of Troy was the seat of five or more farms,
crossed by roads intersecting a highway running north and south, near the river.
At the time, Albany (named a city in 1686), Poughkeepsie (founded in 1735),
Lansingburgh (laid out in 1771) and Hudson (incorporated in 1785) were all
comparatively populous places. When, three years later, the small body of settlers
at Troy publicly advertised their confidence of its becoming "at no very distant
period as famous for its trade and navigation as many of the first town" [Albany],
this boldly-advanced expectation may have been regarded by the inhabitants of the
older settlements on the Hudson as highly presumptuous and improbable of realization.
However, in a short time, creditable evidences of the enterprise and growth of the place began to be noted by observant travelers. One, seeing the advantageous situation of the village at the head of navigation, declared that it would be not only "a serious thorn in the side of New City (Lansingburgh), but also, in the issue, a fatal rival."
Another, cognizant of the success attending the business ventures of its emulous merchants, remarked that those of Albany viewed "this growing prosperity of their neighbors with an evil eye" and considered it as "an encroachment upon their native rights." Another, discovering in 1807 the extensive trade which "Troy had opened with the new settlements to the northward, through the states of New York and Vermont, as far as Canada," observed that "in another twenty years, it promises to rival the old established city of Albany."
These initial forecasts of the "ultimate ascendancy" of Troy became more significant as the village gradually expanded its area and enlarged its trade. The public spirit and local undertakings of its people began to be commended as exemplary and highly laudable. A distinguished metropolitan journalist, visiting the city in 1835, wrote: "Troy has been a pattern for all other places in respect to its industry and enterprise. Lansingburgh, four miles above, had attained almost to its present size when the first building was erected in Troy, and Albany, six miles below [and across the river], had been in existence one hundred and eighty years. And yet Troy, far outstripping the former in a very short time, is now rapidly advancing on the latter."
A popular English novelist, passing through Troy and Albany in 1837, and noting the difference in the growth of the two cities, could not forbear remarking the successful competition of the Trojans. "We have a singular proof, not only of the rapidity with which cities rise in America but also of how superior energy will overcome every disadvantage. Little more than twenty years ago, Albany stood by itself a large and prosperous city without a rival, but its population was chiefly Dutch. The Yankees from the eastern states came down and settled at Troy, not five miles distant, in opposition to them . It would be supposed that Albany could have crushed this city in its birth, but it could not, and Troy is now a beautiful city, with a population of 20,000 souls, and divides the commerce with Albany, from which most of the eastern trade has been ravished."
What, it here may be questioned, was a distinctive characteristic of the founders of Troy? The answer may be clothed in the pertinent words of the Hon. John Woodworth, who began residing in the village in 1791. "There was at that early day, and what distinguished Troy in all its progress, and was so conducive to its prosperity, a concert of action, a concentration of sentiment and united efforts on all questions relating to the interests of the village. To all these, political questions held a secondary place." This element of concord also manifested itself in the undertakings of their immediate successors.
In 1835, a similar observation was made by another witness of the sprit of co-operation which quickened their efforts to increase the mercantile and manufacturing advantages of the city. "They know and feel their interests are identified with those of the city, and in whatever way the latter is benefited, they readily perceive their own general advantage. The fruits of this policy and the entire unanimity with which they act in regard to all matters of profit and loss are at this time most evident in the flourishing condition of the town."
The later consequences of this notable emulousness of the people of Troy in making the place an important center of trade and commerce are discoverable not only in the wide fame now specializing in the distribution of the productions of the manufactories of the city in all parts of the world, but also in the growing solicitude of the present inhabitants that a still greater renown may crown the industrial activity of its future people. Whatever incentives may induce them to further the interests of the city in the next hundred years, none will probably stimulate them more than the success which attended the vigorous enterprise and the concerted action of their early predecessors. They, no doubt, will be honored for projecting and accomplishing improvements that will better their own condition, beautify the city, and enlarge its industries, making Troy the most populous, attractive, and important city on the Hudson.