By Captain Franklin Ellis17
It must not be supposed, however, that the settlement of Claverack did not begin until after 1704. It appears from the journal of two Labadist priests, who visited this section in 1780, that in the vicinity of Claverack village there were at that time fine farms and other evidences indicating early possession. But no data can be found as to the names of these "boors" (farmers), and whether they subsequently removed or remained in town. It is not improbable that some of the immigrants to New Netherlands prior to the period named above, whose names are still perpetuated in the town, may have composed the community of which these priests speak, and that some of the ancestors of the people of today were among the very first settlers.
The settlement of the town was slowly made, and even after the patroon had held out his flattering inducements to the sturdy Lowlanders was meagre in numbers. It appears from the census of 1714 that in all Claverack there were but two hundred and sixteen persons, and that nineteen of these were slaves. the large proportion of children given in the list indicates that there were many young families, whose settlements must have been comparatively recent. A few of those who lived in the town abut that period may be briefly noted.
After Hendrick Van Rensselaer had received his land, he removed to it with his family and such of his friends as he could induce to leave the older community at Albany. He was active in promoting the establishment of a church and other measures for the good of the settlers, and did not seek the full benefits of his lordly privileges. His son, John, seems to have been the first to exercise these privileges. and was known as the proprietor of the town. One of his sons, John I., succeeded to the manorial rights, and sold them out of the family. The latter was the father of Gen. Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer. The manor-house erected by this branch of the family is a mile east from Claverack village, and is at present the property of Allen S. Miller. Others of the Van Rensselaers lived where Stottsville now is, owning for many years a large tract of land in that locality. A portion of this, in Claverack, on the Union turnpike, yet belongs to Jacob F. Van Rensselaer, a lineal descendant in the sixth generation, and is the only land of the old patroon's broad domain that has never been out of the family.
About 1715 many of the Palatines and others on the Livingston manor removed to Claverack. Among these were the Conyns, who settled in the neighborhood of Humphreyville. Casparus Conyn was a captain in a provincial regiment, and warmly espoused the American cause in the Revolution. In 1766 he erected a large house in that section, which yet stands in good condition. It is a gambrel-roofed structure of brick, two and a half stories high, and is now owned by A. H. Van Rensselaer, a maternal descendant. Not far from the Conyns was the Van Dusen family, which was prominent in the early history of the town. Cornelius Van Dusen was killed by the anti-renters in 1791.
The Esselstynes came to America in 1660, and 1710 a member named Jacob settled in the central part of Claverack. One of his sons, Richard, was a major in the Continental army, and died the year peace with England was declared. Among his sons were Jacob and Cornelius. The former remained on the homestead, and was the grandfather of the present owner, Tobias Esselstyne, who is in the sixth generation of the family that has occupied this place, and which has never been in any other name. Some of the descendants of the Cornelius Esselstyne branch became prominent citizens of the county.
One branch of the numerous and well-known Miller family, in Claverack and Hudson, originated from Cornelis Stephanis Muldor, who obtained a lease of one thousand acres of land east of the village of Claverack in 1718, a large portion of which is yet in possession of his direct descendants. Four of his sons, Jeremias, Stephanis, Christophel, and Killianem, came with their father, who was an aged man, and settled in various parts of the town. From the first named have come the Judge John I. Miller branch and others living in the northern part of the town and in Ghent. Among the children of Stephanis was Cornelius S., who was a member of the committee of safety during the Revolution. His farm was south of the village of Claverack, and included the house now occupied by Jeremiah M. Race, who is a maternal descendant. This building was erected in 1767, and being a very substantial structure, the cellar was used to confine the troublesome Tories of this vicinity in 1776-79. Stephen Miller, a son of Cornelius S., was taken prisoner by the Indians in the Revolution and held by the British about six months, when he effected his escape. He afterwards lived on the present Van Wyck place. He was the ancestor of Judge Theodore Miller, Hon. John Gaul, and Henry C. Miller. The latter was sheriff of the county in 1844, and arrested "Big Thunder" at Hollowville that year. Christophel was the great-grandfather of Killian Miller, who became an attorney of distinguished note.
Another branch of the Millers came from Holland very early, and found homes in one of the lower counties of the State. Before the Revolution some of their descendants settled in the eastern part of Claverack, where their posterity have since resided, and are esteemed among the leading citizens of the town. A third family of that name traces its descent from Germany. Its descendants live in the neighborhood of Mellenville.
The Ten Broeck family is one of the most ancient in town. Samuel Ten Broeck was a son-in-law of Hendrick Van Rensselaer, and the grandfather of Adam Ten Broeck who served all through the Revolution. On the 26th of June, 1766, Cornelius Ten Broeck was killed by the anti-renters.
The Philip family also came from Germantown. It comprised four brothers, George, William, Henry, and David, from whom have descended those bearing that name. (page 236) George was a captain in the American army in the Revolution, and was a commissary of subsistence.
The Hortons came from England, and became connected with the Philips by marriage. Michael Horton also held a commission in the American army. and was at the Saratoga engagement.
The Hogebooms were early and important members of the Claverack settlement, and were the descendants of Killian Hogeboom, who came from Holland some time after 1712, bringing his son Jeremiah, who was born that year, with him. Another son, Johannes, was born in Claverack, and was the ancestor of the Hogebooms who removed to Ghent. Jeremiah Hogeboom was the colonel of a provincial regiment in 1772, and the father of Captain Stephen Hogeboom, who was the grandfather of James Watson Webb. A son of Stephen's, Killian, was in charge of the post-office station in Claverack after the Revolution. Peter, another son of Jeremiah, became a well-known citizen of Hudson. Cornelius, a son of Johannes Hogeboom, and cousin of the last named, was one of the first sheriffs of the county, and was killed while in the discharge of his duty, Oct. 22, 1791. His son, John C., became one of the most prominent men of the State, and was the father of Judge Henry Hogeboom, one of the foremost jurists of the country.
The Mesick family deserves a place in the connection, as one of the oldest and best known. Peter Mesick held a lieutenant's commission from Cadwellader Colden, dated 1762, and also served as a an officer in the Revolution. The distinguished Van Ness, Storm, Sagendorph, Vanderpoel, Ostrander, Jacobie, and Harder families were among the early settlers in the northern part of the town, and their successive generations have always ranked among the foremost citizens of Claverack and the surrounding towns. Farther south and on the flats of the Claverack, the Herdick, Van De Carr, Delameter, and Van Hoesen families settled. the latter is now known as the Mosely place and the house which stands on it was erected soon after 1700. Near by lived Judah Paddock, in a house which ranks with the Van Hoesen house in age and general architecture. This became the property of Robert Morris some time before 1800, and is now the property of William Jordan. A son of Morris, Robert H., became a distinguished attorney and mayor of New York city. The grandfather of the latter was Richard Morris, who came to Claverack in 1776, settling on the Waldo farm. The Morris family was very noted in those times, and, having espoused the American cause, was obliged to flee from their home in New York city. The state of the country is shown from the following rare letter of Richard Morris to his "Excellency George Clinton, Esq., att Albany":
"My Good Sir,--When I heard you was going to Alby. I flattered myself a Little that my Cottage might possibly Entertain you one night, which would have given infinite pleasure both to Mrs. Morris and myself. I am sett down upon a farm about two miles north of the town of Claverack, but I think too near the river, not being above half a mile from it, where, if it is possible in your return, I must begg to see you. I would sett out in the morning to pay my respects to you at Albany, but I am really afraid to leave my House at night for fear of those Rascally tory Robbers that are Rambling about the country. I have had a very bad opinion of our Affairs to the North, and had some thoughts of sending some of my things south again, but when I heard you was moving North, I was Determined to wait till I heard your sentiments and Advice in the matter. Mrs. Morris joins me in our best Respects to Mrs. Clinton when you see her, and be Assured, my Good Sir, among you many friends none is more Really please with the Honble Testimony your Country bears for you than your Affe. Hum. Servt., Rd. Morris.
"If I cannot see you, do Lett me have the pleasure of Hearing from you.
"Direct to the Care of Henry Ludlow, Jr., at Claverack."
It is related of Richard Morris that when the news of the treaty of peace with England came, he procured a barrel of tar and made a bonfire of it on the adjoining hill. It is also reported that Robert Morris had a cannon, which he was accustomed to fire off on this hill on Independence day, and that this circumstance gave it the name of "Mount Bob." The Ludlows came from New York about the same time as the Morrises, and settled at Claverack village, where some of the descendants yet live. In the southern part of the town, Christopher Hagadorn, John Anderson, Frederick Prosseus, and Johannes Rossman settled before 1750, and in some instances the descendants of these names yet possess the land of their firs ancestors.
Among others residing in Claverack prior to 1776 were the Hess, Williams, Webb, Martin, Race, Spoor, Ham, Plass, Whitbeck, Melius, Gardner, Monell, and Vosburgh families, most of whom have representatives in the fourth and fifth generations yet living in town, and are closely identified with its interests.
The names of many other early citizens appear in the published muster-roll of Colonel Jeremiah Hogeboom's regiment of militia, in 1772, which was composed largely of men residing in Claverack, in the civil list, and in the histories of the churches. They are here omitted to avoid repetition, and it is believed that these and the forgoing embrace all who came prior to the Revolution. As they number several hundred, the possibility of an extended personal notice is unavoidably precluded.
The population of the town in 1875 was 3817. Of this number 2044 were females, and 352 had a foreign birth.