HISTORY OF

SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK.

by NATHANIEL BARTLETT SYLVESTER

1878

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CHAPTER VII.

FOUNDING OF ALBANY, SCHENECTADY, AND MONTREAL, 1614-62.

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I. - ALBANY.

It has been seen that the county of Albany, of which the county of Saratoga formed a part for more than a hundred years, was erected by order of the Duke of York, the proprietor of the province, as early as the year 1683; but the city of Albany was founded by the Dutch much earlier. Of a truth it may be said that Albany is one of the oldest cities of the New World. In the year 1614, five years after the discovery of the Hudson river, and six years before the pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth Rock, the city of Albany was founded.

After Henry Hudson had discovered and explored the river that still bears his name, as far up as what is now Waterford, in the month of September, 1609, and taken possession of the country in the name of Holland, in whose interest he had sailed, a number of Dutch adventurers soon followed in his track. These navigators, however, at first made no attempt at settlement, but occupied themselves with making further discoveries along the coast and up the river, and pursuing a small trade with the Indians. The most noted of these early Dutch navigators were Adrian Block, Hendrick Corstiarnsen, and Cornelius Jacobsen May.

Early in the autumn of 1614 news of their discoveries was received in Holland, and the United Company, by which they were employed, lost no time in taking the necessary steps to secure to themselves the exclusive trade and settlement of the country thus explored. They sent deputies to the Hague, who laid before the States General a map of the new country, which was then for the first time called NEW NETHERLAND, with a report of their discoveries. In this report, notwithstanding their knowledge of the prior discovery of Henry Hudson, in 1609, only five years before, they claimed to be the first explorers of the country.

On the 11th day of October, 1614, their High Mightiness the States General of Holland made a special grant in their favor. This grant conferred upon Girrit Jacob Witsen, former burgomaster of the city of Amsterdam, and his twelve associates, ship-owners and merchants of Amsterdam, the exclusive right to "visit and navigate all the lands situate in America, between New France and Virginia, the sea-coasts of which lie between the fortieth and forty-fifth degrees of latitude, which are now named New Netherland; and to navigate, or cause to be navigated, the same for four voyages within the period of three years, to commence from the first day of January, 1615, or sooner." Having thus obtained the exclusive right to trade in the new country, they assumed the name and title of "The United New Netherland Company." Thus having the exclusive right to the country, this company took possession of the Hudson river, then called by them "De Riviere van den Vorst Mauritius," and built two forts thereon. One was built on a little island immediately below the present city of Albany, called Castle island, which island has long since become a part of the main land. The other was erected at the mouth of the stream, on what is now the Battery, in the city of New York.

The fort at Albany was begun early in the year 1615. It consisted of a trading house thirty-six feet long and twenty-six feet wide. Around this was raised a strong stockade, fifty feet square, which was encircled by a moat eighteen feet wide. It was defended by two pieces of cannon and eleven stone guns mounted on swivels. This post was garrisoned by ten or twelve men, under the command of Jacob Jacoby Elkens, who continued here four years in the employ of the company, being well liked by the Indians, whose language he soon learned.

But the right of this company expired by limitation in the year 1618. In the spring of that year the fort on Castle island was so injured by a freshet on the river that the company abandoned it and built another on the mainland farther down on a hill at the mouth of the Norman's kill. The Indian name for the Norman's kill was Ta-wa-sent-ha, "the place of the many dead." It was here on this hill, called by the Indians Troas-gan-shee, that the Dutch, in the year 1618, concluded their first formal treaty of peace and alliance with the Five Nations, by which they obtained such lasting ascendency over the fierce Indian tribes.

In 1623 the rights of this company were transferred to the West India Company, and New Netherlands was erected into a province. In that year Fort Orange was built by Adriaen Ivers, near what is now the steamboat dock of the People's line, and eighteen Dutch families built their log huts under its protecting guns and spent there the ensuing winter. From these few log huts built in the old forest of 1623 has grown the modern city of Albany.

On the 1st day of October, 1630, Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a rich diamond merchant of Amsterdam, formed the company which resulted in the settlement of the "Colonie of Rensselaerwyck," of which he became the first patroon.

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II. - SCHENECTADY.

The great flat upon the Mohawk river, lying seventeen miles west of "Fort Orange," as Albany was then called, was bought of the Indians by Arendt van Curler in the month of July, 1661. The deed was signed in behalf of the Mohawks by three chiefs, named Kan-tu-quo, Son-a-rut-sic, and A-ia-da-ne. In 1662 this grant was confirmed, and Van Curler and his associates "went west" from Fort Orange and settled the rich Mohawk flats, near which is now the modern city of Schenectady. Arendt van Curler was a cousin of the Van Rensselaers, and played a prominent part in the settlement of their manor. He owned a farm on the flats just above Fort Orange, and was a brewer in Beverwyck, as Albany was then called, in 1661. His influence among the Indians was unbounded. In honor of his memory the Iroquois addressed all succeeding governors of New York by his name, which they translated Corlear. He was also a great favorite of the French. On the 30th of April, 1667, the Marquis de Tracy, viceroy of New France, addressed Van Curler a letter, of which we give an extract:

"If you find it agreeable to come hither this summer, as you have caused me to hope, you will be most welcome, and entertained to the utmost of my ability, as I have a great esteem for you, though I have never seen you. Believe this truth, and that I am, sir, your affectionate and assured servant,

TRACY."

Van Curler accepted this invitation and prepared for his journey. Governor Nicoll gave him a letter to the viceroy bearing date May 20, 1667, and saying, -

''Mons'r Curler hath been importuned by divers of his friends at Quebec to give them a visit, and being ambitious to kiss your hands, he hath entreated my pass and liberty to conduct a young gentleman, M. Fontaine, who unfortunately fell into the barbarous hands of his enemies, and by means of Mons'r Curler obtained his liberty."

On the 4th of July of the same year, Jeremias Van Rensselaer wrote to Holland: "Our cousin, Arendt Van Curler, proceeds overland to Canada, having obtained leave from our general, and been invited thither by the viceroy, M. de Tracy."

Thus provided, he set out. In an evil hour, while on this journey, Van Curler attempted to cross Lake Champlain in a light bark canoe. A storm coming up, he was drowned, it is believed, near Split rock. Thus died the founder of Schenectady. Lake Champlain was often called afterwards by the French, Lake Corlear, in his honor.

It has been said that Ska-nek-ta-da was the Indian name for Albany. When the Dutch authorities formed the settlers at Fort Orange into a separate jurisdiction, it ran back from Albany seventeen miles, and included what is now the city of Schenectady, on the Mohawk. To this jurisdiction, thus reaching from the Hudson to the Mohawk, the Dutch gave the old Indian name for Albany, and called it Ska-nek-ta-da.

After the English conquest of the New Netherlands, in 1664, the jurisdiction of Schenectady was divided, and the part next the Hudson was changed to Albany. But Albany ran back from the Hudson only sixteen miles. Thus the old jurisdiction of Schenectady was left to that part lying on the Mohawk river only, and it has ever since retained the name first applied to the whole. The true Indian name for what is now Schenectady was O-no-a-la-go-na, "pained in the head."

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III. - MONTREAL.

The story of the founding of the city of Montreal is more like a religious romance of the middle ages than veritable history. The reader will not forget that the island of Montreal was the site of the ancient Iroquois village, Hochelaga, the capital of the old Forest State of that name, discovered by Jacques Cartier in the year 1535, and that when Champlain first visited the island, in 1603, the old State and its capital had alike disappeared, and its site was occupied only by a few Algonquin fishing huts.

But a newer and more brilliant destiny awaited the site of the ancient Hochelaga, the then wild island of Montreal. About the year 1636, there dwelt at La Fleche, in Anjou, a religious enthusiast deeply imbued with the mysticism of the times, whose name was Jerome Le Royer de la Dauversiere. It is related of Dauversiere by the pious historians of the period that one day while at his devotions he heard an inward voice, which he deemed a voice from heaven, commanding him to become the founder of a new order of hospital nuns, and to establish for such nuns, to be conducted by them, a hospital, or hotel dieu, on the then wild island of Montreal. It is Further related that while Dauversiere was beholding his ecstatic visions at La Fleche, a young priest of similar mystical tendencies, whose name was Jean Jacques Olier, while praying in the ancient church of St. Germain des Pres at Paris, also heard a voice from heaven, commanding him to form a society of priests, and establish them on an island called Montreal in Canada, for the propagation of the true faith. Full of his new idea, Dauversiere set out for Paris to find some means of accomplishing his object. While at Paris he visited the chateau of Meudon near by, and, on entering the gallery of the old castle, saw a young priest approaching him. It was Olier. "Neither of these two men," says an old chronicler, "had ever seen or heard of the other; yet, impelled by a kind of inspiration, they knew each other at once, even to the depths of their hearts; saluted each other by name as we read of St. Paul, the hermit, and St. Anthony, of St. Dominic, and St. Francis, and ran to embrace each other like two friends who had met after a long separation." After performing their devotions in the chapel, the two devotees walked for three hours in the park, discussing and forming their plans. Before they parted, they had resolved to found at Montreal three religious communities - one of secular priests, one of nuns to nurse the sick, and one of nuns to teach the white and red children.

By the united efforts of Olier and Dauversiere, an association was formed, called the Society of Notre Dame de Montreal, and a colony projected. The island was purchased of its owners, the successors of the hundred associates of Quebec, and erected into a seigneurie by the king, henceforth to be called Villemarie de Montreal, and consecrated to the Holy Family. But it was necessary to have a soldier governor to place in charge of the colony, and for this purpose the associates of Montreal selected Paul de Chomeday, Sieur de Maisonneuve, a devout and valiant gentleman, who had already seen much military service. It was thought necessary that some discreet woman should embark with them as their nurse and housekeeper. For this purpose they selected Mademoiselle Jeanne Mance, a religious devotee, who was born of a noble family of Nogent-Le-Roi. She was filled with zeal for the new mission. In it she thought she had found her destiny. The ocean, the solitude, the wilderness, the Iroquois, did not deter her from her high purpose, and this delicate and refined woman at once, with enthusiastic devotion, east her frail life upon the rock of desolation to christianize a strange land, and to soothe with her gentle influence the wildness of barbarous men.

At length in the summer of 1641 the ships set sail, with Maisonneuve and his forty men and Mademoiselle Mance and three other women on board. But they reached Quebec too late in the autumn to think of ascending to Montreal that season. While passing the long tedious winter at Quebec, the members of the new company were treated with much coldness by Governor Montmagny, who saw a rival governor in Maisonneuve. Early in May, 1642, they embarked for their new home, having gained an unexpected recruit in the person of Madame de Peltrie, another pious lady, who had also cast her fortunes in the wilderness, but it was not until 1653 that the gentle Marguerite of Bourgeoys came to bless the young colony with her presence. All was seeming peace as they paddled their canoes along near the banks of the stream, decked in the budding beauties of the opening springtide, - but behind every leafy thicket and rocky island lurked a danger and a terror, the fierce Iroquois on the war-path.

On the 18th of May they arrived at the wild island of Montreal, and landed on the very site chosen for a city by Champlain thirty-one years before. Montmagny was with them to deliver the island in behalf of the company of the hundred associates to Maisonneuve, the agent of the associates of Montreal, and Father Vimont, the superior of the Jesuit missions in Canada, was there in spiritual charge of the young colony. Maisonneuve and his followers sprang ashore, and falling on their knees, all devoutly joined their voices in the songs of thanksgiving.

Near by where they landed was a rivulet bordered by a meadow, beyond which rose the ancient forest like a band of iron. The early flowers of spring were blooming in the young grass of the meadow, and the woods were filled with singing birds. A simple altar was raised on a pleasant spot not far from the shore. The ladies decorated it with flowers. Then the whole band gathered before the shrine. Father Vimont stood before the altar, clad in the rich vestments of his office. The Host was raised aloft, while they all kneeled in reverent silence. When the solemn rite was over, the priest turned to the little band and said, "You are a grain of mustard-seed that will rise and brow till its branches overshadow the earth. You are few, but your work is the work of God. His smile is on you, and your children shall fill the land."

As the day waned and the twilight came on, the darkened meadow, bereft of its flowers, became radiant with twinkling fire-flies. Mademoiselle Mance, Madame de la Peltrie, aided by her servant, Charlotte Barre, caught the fire-flies, and, tying them with threads into shining festoons, hung them before the altar where the Host remained exposed. Then the men lighted their camp-fires, posted their sentries, and pitched their tents, and all lay down to rest. "It was the birth-night of Montreal." {Parkman's Jesuits in North America, p. 209, and Charlevoix's History of New France, translated by John G. Shea.}

Old Indian Ho-che-la-ga was no more. A new race had come to people the wilderness, and unfurl the banner of the Cross on the great river of the Thousand Isles.

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