By Capt. Franklin Ellis296
The western part of the town was covered by the great Kinderhook and other patents of that town, and was the first settled portion. Eastward were the domains of Patroon Van Rensselaer, but no special efforts were made to define his claims to the soil until many had possessed it by virtue of sovereign or "squatter" rights. A controversy in regard to the titles ensued without reaching any satisfactory results. His Majesty King George III was finally petitioned to recognize the claims of the settlers who had peacefully and unhindered settled upon these lands. The memorial was dated May 15, 1774, and prayed for the appointment of Elijah Hudson, Joseph Wood, Samuel Wheeler, Barnet Dwyer, and Isaac Mills as attorneys to treat with the royal commissioners to secure to the settlers titles for their homes. Among the signers appear the names of Joseph Hall, Sylvanus Hudson, Jacob Brockway, Stephen Finch, Benjamin North, John Roberts, Peter Goose, David Reynolds, Richard Hudson, Solomon Finch, Philip Philips, Seth Tubbs, Nathan Huntley, Joseph Pitts, Gilcox Sharp, V. V. Van Valkenburgh, David Pingley, Daniel Webster, David Root, Lawrence Van Valkenburgh, Jacobie Van Valkenburgh, Caleb Knight, Christopher Peak, Jesse Gould, Joseph English, Jabez Henry, Asahel Salmon, Reuben Burlingame, Joseph Howard, Joel Reynolds, Thomas Brown, Obdiah Wilbor, Abram Van Alstyne, Peter J. Vosburgh, David Reynolds, James Brockway, Ezekiel Thomas, John Graves, Martin Smith, and Joseph Knapp. These were also among the early settlers, and many of their descendants yet remain in town. It is probable that James Savage was selected to bear this petition to the court of St. James; but the events of the Revolution, which so quickly followed, prevented attention to the matter, and relief was not afforded until many years after, when the Legislature of the State passed what is generally called the "Canaan Act," under which many titles were secured.
As already stated, the first settlers were Hollanders who had first taken up their abode in Kinderhook, and from there came to points farther up the creek, passing through that town soon after 1700. The rich alluvial lands and Indian fields along the water courses of Chatham offered them inviting homes, and many of the younger members of the old Kinderhook families came eagerly hither. Among others were the Van Alens, Van Hoesens, Van Burens, Sons, Van Ness, Van Alstynes, Mesicks, Vosburghs, and Van Valkenburghs. Of the latter family there were four brothers,--James, Bartholomew, Lawrence and Solomon. One of the sons of James, John J., yet resides at Chatham Centre, aged ninety-six years. He lives near the spot where he was born, and is said to be the oldest living ex-assemblyman in the State. A brother resides at Plymouth, Indiana, who is more than one hundred years old. During the Revolution the settlers along Kinderhook creek were much distressed by the incursions of roving bands of Tories and their Indian allies. On one such occasion Abraham Van Ness was brutally murdered at his father's door.
At a later period than the settlements in the western part were those in the south and the east of the town, made by immigrants from Dutchess county and the New England States. Many of those in the latter section were members of the Society of Friends, whose relations with the natives here, as elsewhere, were of the most amicable nature. It is related of one of them named Wilbor that he exercised great influence over the natives, and was frequently consulted by them. His services were especially sought after to divide the presents and whisky which the Indians received from the fur-traders, and his decisions were always deemed satisfactory.
After 1750 the settlement of the town was very rapid, and embraced hundreds whose names appear in the sketches of the villages in the civil list. In 1875 the population was four thousand four hundred and ninety.
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