Columbia County

New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis16




Pages 234-235

    Claverack was one of the original divisions of the county. It was formed as a district March 14, 1772, and at that time constituted the lower part of Albany county, embracing all the territory lying south of Kinderhook and King's district, and north of the manor of Livingston, which was then in Dutchess County.  In 1782, Hillsdale was set off on the east, and in 1785 all the territory lying west of Claverack creek was taken from it to form the city of Hudson.  It thus became an interior division, a little south of the centre of the county.  On the 7th of March 1788, Claverack was erected as a town, and in 1818 it was reduced to its present area, thirty thousand two hundred and twenty-four acres, by the formation of the town of Ghent.

    Claverack (Claw'-ve-rack) is a Dutch term, signifying literally a clover reach or field (Dutch, racken), and was applied to this country by the discoverer of the Hudson and his followers, on account of the presence of the indigenous white clover which covered the comparatively bare land so as to resemble fields.  Others suppose that the name was suggested by the fancied resemblance to trefoil of these bare places, or bluffs of land, in sight of the river.  From the nature of the country at that time, the former is the more probable reason for the name.  Along the streams were extensive glades but sparsely timbered by copses of thorn-apple and other wild fruit shrubbery, and much of the land was altogether bare, or used by the Indians for the cultivation of maize.  Beyond Claverack creek, in the eastern and southern parts of the town, the surface has greater diversity, appearing in the form of hills of moderate height and extensive intervals.  The general surface is elevated and sufficiently undulated to afford good natural drainage.  The natural features of the town present a very pleasing aspect, and the many fine surroundings constitute it one of the most attractive regions of the State.

    The principal streams are Claverack creek and its tributaries.  The former enters the town from the north, near its centre, and has a southwesterly course to its junction with Copake creek, on the western boundary of the town; thence it flows northward to the Kinderhook, in the town of Stockport.  Both streams have low banks, bordered by extensive flats, which are subject to the overflow from spring freshets, and but little water-power is afforded.  Eastern creak is the main tributary of Claverack creek.  It is an impetuous mountain-stream, rising in the Taghkanic range in Hillsdale and flows west through the northeastern part of the town.  Its descent from the foot-hills at Philmont is characterized by several cataracts of great height and surprising beauty.  Nothing but a greater volume of water is required to distinguish them as being among the grandest water-falls in the country.  Near the centre of the town, flowing westward, is another good mill-stream, and in the southern part are several large brooks, the principal one of which flows into Copake creak near its union with the Claverack.  Hoffman's pond is near the southeast corner of the town.  It has an area of about seventy-five acres, and is in places very deep.  Its eastern banks are high and rocky, but on the west and south the lake has a dry and gravelly beach, beyond which are fertile lands.  The waters of the pond are discharged into Copake creek by means of a small outlet.

    Along these streams are alluvial flats, easily cultivated, and of surpassing fertility, the luxuriance of their products being excelled by no other part of the county.  The soil of the uplands is not so fertile, but, with skillful cultivation, yields rich returns.  In the western part of the town it is somewhat clayey, which adapts that section best for grass, but in other portions it varies from an argillaceous loam to a gravelly or a clear loam, and produces the common cereals and the hardier varieties of fruit in great abundance.

    Claverack was comprised in the purchase made by Killian Van Rensselaer in 1730, and until 1704 was subject to the general conditions of the Rensselaerwyck.  That year the patroon conveyed to his brother Hendrick a large tract of land in the southern part of his manor, called by the Indians Pot Koke, and which in the Dutch language was described as Claverack.  It comprised all of the original division known by that name, and is said to have included on hundred and seventy thousand acres.  This territory was erected into the lower manor of Rensselaerwyck, to distinguish it from the old manor, by John Van Rensselaer, a son of Hendrick, who was known as the first proprietor of Claverack.  Settlements were invited, and perpetual (page 235) leases were given for the land thus occupied.  In consequence of the vagueness of the Massachusetts boundary line, squatters from that State took possession of a portion of the tract.  At a later day some of the tenants or leaseholders became disaffected, and serious disturbances resulted.  These troubles, and the conditions pertaining thereto, are treated at length in the general history of the county.