The earliest documented inhabitants of Albany County (ca. 1000 C.E.) were the Algonquin tribes, most specifically, the Machican (or Mochican, but NOT Mohegan) tribe. The core area for their confederacy was in the area of present day Schodack, Albany, N.Y. which was already a center for politics & trade. From about 1300, the Machican tribe was under pressure from the Mohawks, the eastern-most nation of the Iroquois confederacy. At the time of the first European appearance, the Machican & Iroquois were in a state of warfare. (See Lee Sultzman's Iroquois and Mahican histories.)
Exploration and European Settlement
There is a tradition that French fur traders were the first Europeans to reach the Cohoes Falls, where the Mohawk & Hudson meet. 1 The next (or first) Europeans in the area were the crew of Henry Hudson's ship, the Half Moon, sailing for the Dutch East India Company. They explored the river named for Hudson and made camp south of the current city of Albany in 1609. A short-lived fort was built by 1614 and the Dutch established a fur trading post in 1624 at the site they called Fort Orange and which is now beneath the Port of Albany. The Dutch used this depot to trade with the Mochican tribes living in the area.
A large area including the present county was given the the Van Rensselaer family as a patroonship, a type of feudal landholding. Eventually, the Dutch lost the area they called New Netherlands to the English, but the system of patroonship endured into the 1800's leading to the anti-rent wars of 1839-1846. An article on the Van Rensselaers on the A Classification of American Wealth site is informative. See the links for the
VanRensselaers Other articles give biographies of several members of the Livingston family. This family came to New Netherland to make their fortunes and became commercial & political leaders in the new land.
As originally established by the English, Albany County covered a much larger area than today & included part of today's state of Vermont. See the Albany GENWEB page Formation of Albany County. The County took it's present shape in 1800.
Colonial Times & Revolution
Albany County has a long history of political involvement. Mahigan, Iroquois, French, Dutch & English, Albany County has seen many negotiating parties. The desirability of the county as a central location remained, despite the continuing changes of power. According to the Britannica, "In 1689 one of the first intercolonial conventions was held at Albany to discuss a system of mutual defense. A more significant historical gathering was the Albany Congress, which took place in 1754. This meeting paved the way for the Congress of 1765 and the Continental Congress of 1774.
Lead by such men as Philip Schuyler, the citizens of Albany played their part in the American Revolution, especially the battle of Saratoga.
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