AUSTERLITZ, COLUMBIA COUNTY, NEW YORK
By Capt. Franklin Ellis96
There are but two post-offices in this town. The first is located at Spencertown, which is a village of about two hundred inhabitants, and contains about forty dwellings, two stores, two hotels (one nearly used up), a shoe-shop, two churches (Presbyterian and Methodist Episcopal), a school-house, a large academy, two grist-mills, and a wagon and blacksmith-shop. It is pleasantly situated in the valley of the Punsit creek, its main street running nearly parallel with the course of that stream, and is surrounded on all sides by gently-rolling hills. It is a pleasant place in which to spend a few of the hot summer months, and numerous boarders from the cities come here for that purpose. The first inn kept here stood at the junction of the two roads leading south from the village, and was known as "Scott's Tavern." It was kept by Colonel Matthew Scott. A few years since it was destroyed. It had been used for a dwelling for several years previous. The famous Elisha Williams once practiced law at this place. The building used for his office is still standing and is now used as a dwelling.
The first attempt to produce a machine to take the place of the mowers' scythe was made by a resident of this village, Matthew Beale. His invention consisted of a machine similar in principle to the present mowing-machines; but the knives, instead of being V-shaped, were straight, and cut square against the stalk instead of with the drawing-cut they now have. Several of these machines were made, and worked well with the exception that the knives soon grew dull and had to be sharpened, necessitating frequent stops. It was, however, a long stride in the right direction, and deserves the honor of being called the first forerunner of an invention that has been so successfully perfected and is of so great utility to mankind.
The second post-office is located at the village of Austerlitz, near the east centre of the town. This village is a rather straggling settlement lying along the Green river, and contains two churches (Congregational and Christian), two stores, one hotel, one wagon and blacksmith-shop, one saw and shingle-mill, and twenty-three dwellings. Its population is about one hundred and ten. The village is pleasantly located at the head of the famous Green river valley, and many scenes of natural beauty and fine points of observation are within easy riding or walking distance. There was formerly an academy of select school kept here for several years. The building stood about ten years, and was then destroyed by fire.
The village of Austerlitz was formerly called "Upper Green River;" but that name is now given to a little hamlet lying near the Hillsdale line, a mile north of "Green river" (formerly known as the "Lower Hollow"), in that town. Upper Green River contains one store, one saw and shingle-mill, one grist-mill, and half a dozen dwellings widely scattered. "Punsit" is a name applied to the southwestern part of the town. The derivation of the word is not known. A neighboring locality is also known as "Clipper Bush." In the northeast corner of the town is a locality known as "Fog Hill." It is said to have derived this name from the tendency of fogs to settle there at the close of a storm, and the appearance of a fog there is received as an indication of coming fair weather. Another version is that it was formerly the residence of a very quarrelsome family, who were said to be "continually in a fog," and that for this reason it was christened "Fog Hill."