History of Columbia County, New York
By Captain Franklin Ellis
Published by Everts & Ensign
Pages 56 to 73
Board of Supervisors -- Court-Houses and Jails -- Almshouses and Asylums.
The line of descent of the judicial system of New York can be traced backward, by those curious to do so, through colonial times of MAGNA CHARTA, and beyond into the days of the Saxon Heptarchy in England. The great instrument wrested by the barons from the king at Runnymede, A.D. 1215, was but a regathering of the rights and privileges of which John and his Norman predecessors had despoiled the order of nobles of the realm. A comparison of the charters of liberties drawn up by the colonial Assemblies of 1683 and 1691, and the bill of rights adopted by the State in 1787, with the great charter, will disclose many provisions of like import.
But the courts were first introduced into what is now the State of New York by the Dutch, at the institution of their rule in 1621, the director-general and his council being a trinity of legislative, executive, and judicial authority. In 1641-42 the "Nine Men" held a weekly court, and in 1653 the burgomasters and schepens of New Amsterdam (New York) and Fort Orange (Albany) were created, and held courts, to which the Dutch tribunal was changed on the accession of the English, in 1664. Killian Van Rensselaer held a patroon's court in his manor of Rensselaerwyck, where he dispensed justice (?) after the manner of feudal times, and practically made his tribunal a court of last resort, by rendering nugatory all rights of appeal therefrom by a pledge exacted from his tenants in advance to forego their privileges in that respect, as a condition precedent to occupancy of his estates. The director-general and council held the orphan court as their prerogative, the burgomasters being, on their creation, ex-officio orphan-masters until, on their own application, they were relieved of the burden and special orphan-masters appointed.
The first English court established in the colony was the court of assizes, created by the code known as the "Duke's Laws," promulgated by an Assembly at Hempstead, L. I., in 1665. Courts of sessions and town courts were also provided by this code, and a commission for a court of oyer and terminer for the trial of capital offenses, when the information was filed in the court of sessions more than two months before the sitting of the assizes. These courts were abolished by the Assembly of 1683, which passed an act "to settle courts of justice," under which courts of sessions, oyer and terminer, town and Justices' courts were re-established with increased jurisdiction, and a court of chancery created. The Assembly of 1691 repealed all legislation of the former Assembly, and of the governor and council, and established, as a temporary expedient, the courts of sessions, confining their jurisdiction to criminal matters; courts of common pleas, with civil jurisdiction; justices' courts in the towns; the court of chancery; and a Supreme Court of judicature. These courts were enacted in 1691, 1693, and 1695, and ceased in 1698, by limitation. The court of oyer and terminer was not continued in 1691 as a separate tribunal, but its name was retained to distinguish the criminal circuit of the Supreme Court. On the 15th of May, 1699, a governor (Earl Bellamont), and council, by an ordinance, continued the courts of the Assembly of 1691, with the exception of the court of chancery, which last, however, was revived August 28, 1701, by Lieutenant-Governor Nanfan, who declared himself the chancellor thereof; but Lord Cornbury, then governor, on the 13th of June, 1703, suspended the tribunal. On the preparation by the chief and second judges of the province of a fee-bill and code of practice for the same, Cornbury finally, Nov. 7, 1704, re-established the court, and revived the cases pending therein at the date of his suspension of it. All of the above tribunals, continued or revived by the ordinances before named, were held by that [page 57] authority alone until the English rule was abrogated by the Revolution for American independence.
The manors of Livingston and Rensselaerswyck were both granted "a court leet and court baron, to be held as often as the lords of those manors chose."
The powers and jurisdiction of the court granted to the manor of Livingston were expressed in the patent of Governor Thomas Dongan as follows:
"I, the said Thomas Dongan, have also Given and Granted, and by these Presents Doe give and Grant unto the said Robert Livingston, and to the Heires and Assignes of the said Robert Livingston, full Power and authority, at all times, and forever hereafter, in the said Lordship and Manor, one Court Leet and one Court Barron, to hold and keep at such time and times and Soe often, Yearely, as he or they shall see meet, and all fines, Issues, Ameriaments, at the said Court Leet and Court Barron, to be holden with the said Lordshipp and Manor to be Sett, forfeited, or Imposed, and Payable, or happening, at any time, to be Payable by any the Inhabitants of or within the said Lordshipp or Manor of Livingston, or the Limitts or Bounds thereof, and also all and every the Powers and authorityes hereinbefore-menconed for the holding and keeping the said Court Leet, Courtt Baron from time to time, and to award and Issue out the Customary Writts to be Issued and awarded out of the said Court Leet and Courtt Baron, to be kept by the said Robert Livingston, his Heires and Assignes forever, or theire or any of theire Stewards deputed and appointed with full and ample Power and authority to Destraine for the Rents, Services, and other Sumes of Mony, Payable by reason of the Premises, and all other Lawful Remedyes and meanes for the haveing, Possessing, Receiving, Levying, and Enjoyeing the Premissesse, and every parte and parcell of the same, and all Wastes, Estrayes, Wrecks, Deodands, Goods of felons happening and being forfeited within the said Lordshipp and Mannor, and all and every sume and Sumes of Mony to bee Paid as a Post fine upon or fines to be Levyed if any Lands, Tenements, or Hereditaments within the said Lordshipp or Mannor of Livingston, together with the advowson and Right of Patronage and all and every the Church and Churches Established or Erected or hereafter to be had Erected or Established in the said Mannor."
A court of appeals, for the correction of errors only, was established in 1691, but appeals in certain cases would lie from it to the king in privy council. It was composed of the governor and his council, who sat in the fort when convened in that capacity. The prerogative court (court of probates) was held by the governor during the colonial period by virtue of the instructions received by that official from the crown; the granting of probates being a part of the royal prerogative retained by the king. The courts of common pleas, in remote counties, were authorized to take the proof of wills, and transmit the papers for record in the office at New York. Surrogates, with limited powers, were appointed previous to 1750, also in other counties. A court of admiralty was held by the governor and council under the Dutch rule; and under the English, it was at first held by the governor's special commissions until 1678, when authority was given to appoint a judge and other officers; it eventually, however, depended from the lords of the admiralty in England.
The constitution of 1777, of New York, provided for a court for "the trial of impeachments, and the correction of errors," the same being the president of the Senate for the time being, the senators, chancellor, and judges of the Supreme Court, or a majority of them. This court remained the same under the constitution of 1821, with some change in its composition, and ceased with the adoption of the constitution of 1846.
The court of chancery was recognized by the first constitution, and a chancellor appointed for it by the governor. It was reorganized in 1788, and ceased its existence, pursuant to the constitution of 1846, on the first Monday of July, 1847.
The Supreme Court of judicature was recognized by the first constitution, as the tribunal then existed, and was reorganized in 1778, the judges being appointed by the council of appointment. The court of exchequer was a branch of the Supreme Court, the same as during the colonial period, and was reorganized in 1786, "for the better levying and accounting for fines, forfeitures, issues, and amercements, and debts due to the people of the State." It was abolished by the general repealing act of December 10, 1828. Circuit courts were established April 19, 1786, to be held by justices of the Supreme Court in the respective counties. Under the second constitution, the circuit courts were held by circuit judges, appointed by the governor, there being eight circuits in the State. The constitution of 1846 abolished the circuits as then established, and provided for the holding the circuit court by the justices of the Supreme Court.
Courts of oyer and terminer were provided by an act passed February 22, 1788, to be held by the justice of the Supreme Court at the same time with the circuit. Two or more of the judges and assistant judges of the court of common pleas, in the respective counties, were to sit in the oyer and terminer with the justice. Under the constitution of 1821 the oyer and terminer was held by the circuit judge. Any justice of the Supreme Court could, however, hold a circuit or preside at an oyer and terminer. The court of admiralty existed but a short time under the State government, the court ceasing at the adoption of the Federal Constitution in 1789; that instrument vesting admiralty jurisdiction solely n the federal courts.
The court of probates was created in 1778, by the act to "organize the government of the State," passed March 16, in that year. This act divested the governor of the powers he possessed in the colonial period in the prerogative and probate courts, and transferred them to the judge of the court of probates, except in the appointment of surrogates. In 1787 surrogates were empowered to be appointed. The judge of the court of probates held his office at New York until 1797, when an act was passed, March 10, requiring the court to be held in Albany, and the records to be removed and kept there. The court had appellate jurisdiction over the surrogates' courts, and was abolished March 21, 1823, its jurisdiction transferred to the chancellor, and its records deposited in the office of the clerk of the court of appeals in Albany.
Surrogates were appointed under the first constitution for an unlimited period by the council of appointment, and an appeal lay from their decisions to the judge of the court of probates of the State, as before stated. Under the second constitution they were appointed by the governor and Senate for four years, and appeals lay to the chancellor. Under the constitution of 1846 the office was abolished, except in counties having more than forty thousand population, in which counties surrogates may be elected, the term being first for four years, but by an amendment adopted in 1869, [page 58] the term was extended to six years. Appeals lie to the Supreme Court. In counties of less population than forty thousand, the county judge performs the duties of surrogate.
The court of common pleas was continued from the colonial period by the first constitution, and under that instrument had a large number of judges, as high as twelve being on the bench at the same time in some counties. By an act passed March 27, 1818, the office of assistant justice was abolished, and the number of judges limited to five, including the first judge. The court was continued without material change by the second constitution, and expired with that instrument in 1847.
The constitution of 1846 provided for the following courts; a court of impeachments, to take the place of the former tribunal of that nature, and composed of the president of the Senate, the senators, and judges of the court of appeals, or a majority of them. A court of appeals, organized at first with eight judges, four chosen by the people for eight-year terms, and four selected from the class of justices of the Supreme Court having the shortest time to serve. By the article in relation to the judiciary, framed by the convention of 1867-68, and adopted by the people November, 1869, the court of appeals was reorganized. In accordance with the provisions of this article, the court is now composed of a chief judge and six associate judges, "who hold their office for the term of fourteen years, from and including the first day of January after their election." The first election of judges was in the year 1870. This court has full power to correct or reverse the decisions of the Supreme Court, five judges constituting a quorum, four of whom must concur to pronounce a judgment. In case of non-concurrence, two rehearings may be had, and if the non-concurrence still obtains, the judgment of the court below stands affirmed. The clerk of the court is appointed by the court, and holds his office during its pleasure.
The Supreme Court, as it existed in 1846, was abolished, and a new one established, having general jurisdiction in law and equity. The State is divided into eight judicial districts, in each of which four justices are elected, except the first (comprising the city of New York), where there are five. The term of office, as originally established, was eight years, but the amended judiciary article provided that, on the expiration of the terms of justices then in office, their successors shall be elected for fourteen years. They are so classified that the term of one justice expires every two years. The court possesses the powers and exercises the jurisdiction of the preceding Supreme Court, court of chancery, and circuit court, consistent with the constitution of 1846, and the act concerning the judiciary, of May, 1847. The Legislature abolished, April 27, 1870, the general terms of the court then existing, and divided the State into four departments, and provided for general terms to be held in each of them. The governor designates a presiding justice and two associate justices for each department, the former holding his office during his official term, and the latter for five years, if their terms do not sooner expire. Two terms at least of the circuit court and court of oyer and terminer are held annually in each county, and as many special terms as the justices in each judicial department may deem proper. A convention, composed of the general term justices, the chief judges of the superior courts of cities, the chief judge of the court of common pleas of New York city, and of the city court of Brooklyn, appoint the times and places of holding the terms of the Supreme and circuit courts, and the oyer and terminer, which appointment continues for two years. The county clerks and clerks of the court of appeals are clerks of the Supreme Court.
THE COUNTY COURTS.
The constitution of 1846 provided for the election in each of the counties of the State, except the city and county of New York, of one county judge, who should hold the county court, and should have such jurisdiction in cases arising in justices' courts and in special cases as the Legislature might provide; but should have no original civil jurisdiction, except in such special cases. The Legislature, in pursuance of these provisions, has given the county judge jurisdiction in actions of debt, assumpsit, and covenant in sums not exceeding $2000; in cases of trespass and personal injury not to exceed $500; and in replevin, $1000. The county court has also equity jurisdiction for the foreclosure of mortgages, the sale of real estate of infants, partition of lands, assignment of dower, satisfaction of judgments, whenever $75 is due on an unsatisfied execution, and the care and custody of lunatics and habitual drunkards. The new judiciary article (1869) continued this jurisdiction, and gave the courts original jurisdiction in all cases where the defendants reside in the county, and in which the damages claimed shall not exceed $1000. The term of office of the county judge, originally four years, was then extended to six years, upon the election of successors to the incumbents then in office, the new tenure beginning January 1, 1871.
COURTS OF SESSIONS.
Two justices of the peace, to be designated by law, were associated with the county judge, by the constitution of 1846, to hold courts of sessions, with such criminal jurisdiction as the Legislature shall prescribe.
Special judges are elected in counties to discharge the duties of county judge when required, by provision of the Legislature, on application of the board of supervisors.
THE MAYOR'S COURT
of the city of Hudson was established with the granting of the charter of the city in 1785, and had the jurisdiction of the courts of common pleas.
THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
of Columbia county was first opened at Claverack, Jan. 9, 1787. "The Cryer made proclamation, and the commission for the Court of Common Pleas for the County of Columbia was openly read, also one additional commission for Justice Philip Rockefeller and Justice Bishop." The coroner's commission was "openly read" also in court, after which the crier made proclamation, and the court of common pleas was opened according to law, with the following presence: Peter Van Ness, first judge; Peter Silvester, Peter R. Livingston, Henry I. Van Rensselaer, William B. Whiting, judges; Stephen Hogeboom, Samuel Ten Broeck, assistant justices.
There was no business on the docket ready, and the court [page 59] adjourned "till 10 o'clock A.M. to-morrow." On January 10 the court opened with the same judges, except Peter R. Livingston, and Isaac Goes appeared in place of Justice Ten Broeck. Jacob Radcliffe ws formally admitted as an attorney to practice before the court, being the first so admitted in this court. He was admitted on a license from the Supreme Court.
Christopher Smith, Johannes Henricus, Andries Wyants, Peter Rooh, and George Sipher appeared before the court and pledged their fealty to the sovereign State of New York, "by the grace of God free and independent," taking the oath of allegiance under the act of April 25, 1786, for the naturalization of certain persons named therein. The third day the same presence as on the first appeared and litigation began. On motion of Mr. Gilbert the court rendered judgment in favor of Janet Montgomery,* against Abraham Scott, for £42 and costs. In the case of Jonas Smith vs. John Barnard, on motion of Mr. Van Schaack, it as ordered by the court that the record on a plea of title before Abraham I. Van Alstine, Esq. be filed. A recognizance in the case of Jonas Smith vs. Michael Brannin was ordered filed. In the case of Robert Van Rensselaer vs. Johannes Vosburgh, Killian K. Van Rensselaer, attorney for the defendant, confessed judgment for £96 and costs, on which final judgment was entered. The fourth day no business was done. On the fifth day, John Bay, as attorney for Daniel Lee, confessed judgment in favor of James Roosevelt for £15 6s. and costs, and on motion of Van Rensselaer for W. E. Pratt, final judgment was entered on the same. Mr. Van Rensselaer confessed judgment for Hendrick Miller in favor for David Van Ness and Andries Heermance for £20 9s. 4d., and Radcliffe, as attorney for the plaintiffs, procured final judgment on the cognovit. Marks Platner, by his attorney, Gilbert, obtained an order of final judgment of £23 and costs against Jacobus Bessemer. On this day the formal admission to practice as attorneys before the court was entered of record of Killian K. Van Rensselaer, Peter Van Schaack, John C. Wynckoop, Myndert P. Vosburg, Edward Livingston, Elisha Pratt, E. Gilbert, Thomas Smith, Jr., John Johnson, and John Bay, and rules of practice were also adopted, of which the following is an abstract:
"Whereas, The Establishment of rules and order for the regulation of the practice of this Court is deemed highly necessary for the regulation and speedy advancement of Justice in this County of Columbia, It is therefore ordered by this Court that the following rules and orders be observed by all and every officer and minister thereof, and by all other persons in any wise concerned therein.
"1st. It is ordered by this Court that all processes that shall issue out of this Court be sealed with the seal of this Court [which has the figure of a man inscribed, with a mariner's compass in his hand, intended to represent Columbus, and has the words "County Columbia' cut round], and signed with the Clerk's name."
The 2d, 3d, and 4th rules related to the time for giving special bail; 5th, bail to be excepted to after the declaration was delivered only "de bene esse." The 6th required a copy of the declaration to be served on the defendant's attorney or his clerk in the first vacation after filing, and the 7th allowed a non pros. after the end of the second term if no declaration was filed; 8th judgment for want of plea could be entered forty days after expiration of the rule for one; 9th required an affidavit of merits in the pleas of abatement; 10th and 11th, dilatory pleas and replications to be filed in forty days after the return of writ or filing plea; 12th provided for a judgment by default or nonsuit if the rules were violated; 13th related to notices for trial, a defendant over forty miles having fourteen days, and within that distance eight days', notice; 14th and 15th related to notice of countermand of trial and pleas in ejectment; 16th provided that no person should be admitted as an attorney of the court but upon examination, and unless they had had a regular education and produced a certificate or other sufficient evidence of good moral character, and had obtained a degree and received a certificate or diploma from some college, and had served a regular clerkship with some attorney of this or the Supreme Court for at least three years; and if they had not received a collegiate education, then the time of service as clerk shall be five years. But an admission into the Supreme Court entitled all persons to a license to practice in this court without an examination. An exception was made in favor of person already entered as clerks requiring but three years' service under any circumstances. The 17th rule required a copy of the declaration to be served on the defendant's attorney, or no judgment could be had for want of a plea. It also required all rules for judgment to be entered "nisi causa sedente ostenta sit curia," and motions in arrest of judgment must be made at the same term as entered. The 18th and 19th rules related to writs of fi. fa. and ca. sa., taxation of costs, and bail; 20th provided for notice in interlocutory judgments and writs of inquiry; 21st and 22d related to defendants in custody; and 23d required non-resident plaintiffs to give security for costs.
Mr. Van Rensselaer's docket contained for this term of the court nineteen suits wherein the sheriff's return was "a cepi corpus." Mr. Bay brought twenty-four suits, and appeared for the defense in nine; Radcliffe brought two suits; Mr. Gilbert brought sixteen suits, and defended fourteen; Van Schaack had a single client, and Mr. Wynkoop had thirteen who prosecuted and one who defended. Mr. Pratt's docket had seven nonsuits.
At the May term, 1787, Judge Van Ness, Peter Silvester, Peter Livingston, Henry I. Van Rensselaer, Stephen Hogeboom, and Isaac Goes were the judges. The first jury-trial was had at this term in the case of Thomas Bightel vs. Hendrick Potts, Mr. Bay appearing for the plaintiff. The jury was composed of William Spier, John Bagley, James Elting, John Vanger, Johannes Kilts, Samuel Utley, Jr., James Van Deusen, Seth Toby, Charles McClean, Hendrick Clapper, Robert Hollenbeck, and William Hollenbeck. Eleven witnesses were sworn for the plaintiff and two for the defense. Two constables took charge of the jury when they retired to consider their verdict, which was given through Seth Toby, foreman, in favor of the plaintiff for £18 damages and sixpence costs, and judgment was entered on the same. Hezekiah L. Hosmer was admitted as an attorney on a certificate of clerkship of three years' service with Mr. Gilbert, and that Hosmer was of good moral character "as far as hath come to his, said [page 60] Gilbert's knowledge." Messrs. Bay, Van Schaack, and Addison were the committee who passed on Mr. Hosmer's merits.
Mr. Bay had the second jury-trial, which resulted in a nonsuit. In the case of Peter Van Ness vs. Hugh Chandler, the plaintiff being related to the sheriff, Henry I. Van Rensselaer and Aaron Kellogg were appointed elisors to summon the jury. Henry Van Rensselaer brought suit against the Dutch Reformed church of Claverack, and the matter was referred to James Bryant and William Powers, Esqs., and Thomas A. Hogg, merchant, to report on. Andrew Hunter was appointed guardian of Joshua Green, Simeon Wylie being his surety in the sum of £500.
At the January term, 1788, Ambrose Spencer, Martin Van Buren, and James S. Smith were admitted to the bar on certificates of clerkship. Mr. Van Buren presented the certificate of John C. Wynkoop. They were examined by Messrs. Peter Van Schaack, Edward Livingston, and K. K. Van Rensselaer. Thomas Cooper, Augustine James, and Frederick Prevost, licensed attorneys of the Supreme Court, were also admitted. At the January term, 1789, the first insolvent debtor was discharged from the importunities of his creditors, the same being Nathan Rowley, Sr., who assigned his estate to Oliver Mallery, under the bankrupt act of March 21, 1788. At this term a petition for the securing of Peter I. Gardenier's rights in the Kinderhook patent was filed, Mr. Van Buren appearing for the petitioner. The Gardenier grant was for a tract fronting thirteen hundred paces on Hudson river, measured from Hendrik de Bruyn's grant north to the south bounds of Rensselaerswyck, and running back into the woods three English miles. John S. Van Alen, John E. Van Alen and Lawrence Van Dyck were appointed commissioners to partition the estate.
COURT OF GENERAL SESSIONS.
The first term of this court was begun at Claverack, Jan. 9, 1787, the crier making due proclamation, and the commission for the court being publicly read. The following judges occupied the bench: Mr. Justice Van Ness, Justices Silvester, Livingston, Van Rensselaer, Hogeboom, Goes, Wiesner, Birdsall, Coffin, Spoor, and Van Alen. The sheriff returned the venire of the grand and petit juries, the former being served on the following persons: Jacobus Van Alen, Peter Wynckoop, Abraham Van Beuren, John J. Van Alstyne, John E. Van Alen, Gideon Hubbard, Joel Pratt, Harmon Vosburgh, Evert Vosburgh, John A. Fonda, Marks Platner, Wm. Rockefeller, Abraham Bauman, Abraham Patterson, Peter Hogeboom, Jr., Jochim Muller, Philip Frysbie, Hosea Beebe, Palmer Cady, Jesse Hollister, all of whom appeared, and were sworn as a grand inquest, the first one named being appointed foreman. Isaac Goes, Jr., and John Van Deusen also appeared, and were excused from service, and Samuel Allen and Wm. Van Ness were summoned, but defaulted.
The grand jury retired for deliberation under charge of Gilbert Turner and John Best, constables, and on the third day of the term presented to the court their first indictment, the same being against Jacob Haithaway; and on the fourth day the jury brought in six more presentments,---one for grand larceny, one for misdemeanor, two for assault and battery, one for forcible entry, and one for deceit,---and were discharged. The indictment for deceit was against one John McLean, who, on his arraignment at the bar of the court, pleaded guilty, and was ordered into custody. Subsequently the clerk of the court (he being at that time the prosecutor, district attorneys not yet having been provided for) moved the court for the sentence of McLean, and he was ordered again brought to bar, whereupon the sheriff informed the court that the prisoner had escaped. That officer was allowed until the next term to recover his prisoner and produce him in court. Five recognizances were taken to the next term, and five like bonds were discharged. The two assault and battery cases were disposed of by pleas of guilty and a fine of ten shillings and costs on each defendant, and commitments until the same were paid. At the May sessions the case of misdemeanor was tried, and the defendant convicted and fined five pounds and costs, and committed until the sum was paid. The grand jury at this term found four indictments,---one for riot and assault, one for exorbitance and breach of the Sabbath, one for forgery, and one for assault and battery. The latter was against John B. Schuyler, who moved in propria persona to quash the indictment, making two objections, and being overruled by the court on both points, pleaded guilty, and threw himself on the mercy of the court. After consulting Ezekiel Gilbert, that attorney took the conduct of the case, and moved the court for leave to withdraw the plea of guilty for precipitancy in pleading, and the haste of the court to overrule the objections interposed when there was good law to show the indictments were bad. The court allowed the motion on condition that the attorney "would pin himself down to the two objections the prisoner himself made on his first motion to quash the indictment," which were, first, that the caption of the indictment recited the "town of Claverack, and the body of it the district" of Claverack; and second, that it appeared from the indictment that the assault had been committed in the county of Albany. The court further stipulated that in case the attorney brought no law deemed sufficient by the court to sustain the objections, then the plea of guilty should "remain and stand good." Schuyler was recognized to the next sessions in forty pounds, with Wm. Cantine as his security in twenty pounds; and finding at that term that eleven judges on the bench were too heavy a match for one defendant and a single attorney, he pleaded guilty, and was fined twenty shillings and costs.
The indictment found against McLean for deceit was brought on his forgery of a guaranty of Daniel Penfield for the payment for certain goods, to the amount of "five pounds eight shillings and fourpence."
The indictment for exorbitant charging and Sabbath-breaking was found against a constable of Hudson, who charged an excessive fee on an execution against one Cherck Vielee, on which he, the constable, had taken the horses of said Vielee on a Sunday.
An indictment brought from Albany, where it was found in 1782, recites the character of its subject in these words: "Being a person of ill-name and fame and dishonest conversation, and not intending to get his living by truth and honest labor, but compassing and devising how he might [page 61] unlawfully obtain and get into his possession the monies of the honest subjects of the State for the maintenance of his unthrifty living, did present a certain forged and false tax, or assessment list, for military rates, and drew eight shillings thereon fraudulently," etc.
Under the act of April 20, 1787, the general sessions appointed at the September term of that year highway commissioners for the several towns of the county, and at the same term indicted the Claverack bridge, in which the presentment recited "that from the time whereof the memory of man is not to the contrary there was, and yet is, a common and ancient public highway, or road, leading southeast from the Court-house in Claverack to the town of Livingston," etc. In January, 1788, the highway commissioners of Claverack and Hudson were ordered to take the bridge away before the first day of the next sessions, on pain of contempt. At the May sessions, Thomas Merritt, blacksmith, and Stephen Atwater, gentleman, were recognized to the next oyer and terminer, at which court the blacksmith was fined forty shillings and the "gentleman" ten shillings for assaults.
Isaac Decker and his surety were respited till the next sessions, in a bastardy case, to await results.
In May, 1789, the sheriff protested against the insecurity of the jail, and it was indicted for insufficiency (?). In January, 1790, William Doran was indicted and pleaded guilty on a charge of horse-stealing, and was sentenced to receive twenty-one lashes on his naked back, to stand committed till the costs were paid, and to leave the country on his release from imprisonment. At the May sessions James Ley was indicted for larceny, pleaded not guilty, was tried and convicted, and sentenced to receive "thirty-nine stripes on his naked back, which was immediately executed." Mr. Van Rensselaer appeared at this sessions as public prosecutor. At the May sessions, 1793, Benoni Hunter was presented under sixteen separate indictments for petit larceny, and one for horse-stealing. His great weakness seemed to be an extreme partiality for mutton, eight indictments being found against him for sheep-stealing. He gathered unto himself from his neighbors a complete outfit for an agricultural life, to wit: a heifer, flour, rye, wheat, fowls, and a coulter, and then a saddle and some buckles, to all of which takings he pleaded not guilty, and put himself upon the country for trial. His peers found him truthful in regard to the horse and six of the sheep, but said he was mistaken as to the rest, and found him guilty. For the two sheep he paid fines of "two pound ten each;" the heifer cost him thirty-nine lashes on his bare back; the flour, rye, wheat, fowls, and coulter cost him fifty shillings each; and the buckles proved expensive and painful ornaments, representing thirty-nine strips. He was also indicted for poisoning a colt, and found guilty; but judgment was arrested, because poisoning was not an offense at either common law or under the statute.
Seven recognizances were estreated to the court of exehequer in January, 1794. At the November sessions, 1795, Robert Dawson was indicted for forgery, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to six months in the county jail and to stand one day, between ten o'clock A.M. and one o'clock P.M., in the pillory. At the January sessions, 1798, the first sentence to the penitentiary was pronounced, the prisoner, for grand larceny, being sentenced to the institution for two years, and to remain in the county jail until the prison was finished.
In 1797 the pounds, shillings, and pence of royalty give place to the dollars and cents of democracy.
At the May sessions, 1802, Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer, as attorney for Elizabeth Kells, filed papers of manumission of "Nan," a female slave of said Elizabeth, under the act of April 8, 1801, and the former mistress was released from any liability for her former slave's future support.
In 1803, Thomas Osterhoudt, a slave, confessed to a crime which the court certified could be properly punished only by transportation out of the State, and sentenced him to be so transported within thirty days by his master, or in default the slave should be imprisoned three years.
In 1805, Nero, a slave, was convicted of petit larceny, and his master allowed a certificate to transport him from the State to a clime where the people were less fastidious as to rights of property, or where black flesh and blood commanded a quid pro quo in the market.
In January, 1806, the jail limits of the new jail in Hudson were laid off, and included an area of 130,660 square feet. The limits included a line from "Stoddard's corner, on Third street, to the east line of Lot 9, between Fifth and Sixth streets; from Hathaway's corner, on opposite side of Warren street, to east line of Lot 7; the court-house lot, jail, and market grounds; the lots of Samuel Stockings, Nathaniel Greene, James Vanderbergh, Squire Allen, Christopher Hoxie, Samuel Gamage, Obdiah Newcomb, Seth Morton, Daniel Collar, Widow Burke, John Light Body Silvanus, William Whiting, Joshua Toby, Widow Hussey, that was, John Bennetts," and divers crossing connecting streets. The courts were first held in the court-house in Hudson, at the January sessions, 1806.
THE OYER AND TERMINER AND GENERAL JAIL DELIVERY OF COLUMBIA COUNTY.
The first term of this court was held at Claverack, and was begun March 25, 1788, with the following presence: Robert Yates, "Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature for the State of New York;" Peter Van Ness, Peter R. Livingston, and Henry I. Van Rensselaer, "Justices of Oyer and Terminer and general gaol delivery for the Columbia County." Proclamation was made for silence, and the court was opened, and proclamation was made for "all justices, coroners, and other officers who have any inquisitions or recognizances whereby the people are concerned" to present them to the court for adjudication. The sheriff returned a venire of grand jurors, who were sworn and charged by the court, and retired to consider of their presentments. On the third day after the term the jury returned three indictments into court for horse-stealing, and the fourth day returned four more,---two for the like offense as the first ones, one for stealing a cow, and one for petit larceny. On the fifth day of the term, John Davis was tried for and convicted of horse-stealing by a jury from Westchester county. Jacobus Krelenbergh was tried by a [page 62] Columbia county jury for a like offense, and convicted the same day; and on the sixth day Philip Jansen was tried for a similar theft, the verdict of the jury being "not guilty as to stealing a gelding of a black color, but guilty of stealing on of a bay color." The same day the grand jury returned three other indictments,---one for misdemeanor, one for theft of a bee-hive, and one against "Peter, a male slave, the property of Gerard D. Cook," for a theft of leather. The cow-stealer was convicted; the bee-hive thief gave bail to the next oyer and terminer, at which term a swarm of witnesses was likely to appear. Two indictments against Cornelius Chatterton were tried, resulting in verdicts of "not guilty." On the 2d of April, 1788, Jacobus Krelenbergh, Philip Jansen, and John Davis, convicted of horse-stealing, were brought to bar for judgment. "And it being demanded of them severally what they had to say why judgment should not pass against them respectively, according to law, they severally nothing said other than what they respectively before had said. Thereupon it is considered and adjudged by the court now here that the said prisoners be severally, for the felonies whereof they are severally convicted, taken from hence to the place from whence they came, and from thence to the place of execution, and that they there be severally hanged by the neck until they shall be respectively dead. Ordered that the above sentence be executed on the 30th day of May next, between the hours of ten and twelve of the clock in the forenoon of the same day, and that the sheriff of Columbia County cause execution to be done accordingly." This execution took place in accordance with the sentence pronounced. Peter, the slave, received "thirty-nine lashes on his bare back, from the waist upwards, at the public whipping-post," and the cow-stealer was treated to a like infliction.
At the second oyer and terminer, in March, 1789, the bee-hive thief was again held to bail to the next term, thus experiencing what to him at least were the sweets of the law's delay. Notwithstanding the severe sentence of the horse-thieves at the first oyer and terminer, there were found five indictments for stealing, one for burglary, and three for assault and battery at this term. At the third term, held June, 1789, eight defaulting jurors were fined forty shillings each, of whom four were farmers, three esquires, and one "a gentleman." Hon. John Sloss Hobart held the term. The bee-hive man was tried, and by the surplus of honey in the tongue of his counsel, or the lack of sting in the jury, was found not guilty. At the December oyer and terminer, 1789, Henry McKinney and Timothy Jackson were indicted and tried for, and convicted of, robbery, and sentenced, December 5, to be hanged December 18. Lawrence McDermod, prosecuting witness, received eleven pounds thirteen shillings for prosecuting the above prisoners to execution, Johannes J. Muller and Elizabeth Muller being the other witnesses for the State. Justice Yates presided, with Peter Van Ness, Peter Silvester, Peter R. Livingston, and Israel Spencer associates, at the trial of the robbers.
In July, 1791, Peleg White, alias William Williams, was convicted on two indictments for larceny, and sentenced to receive thirty-nine lashes on that day (Saturday), thirty-nine more on Monday following, and thirty-nine more on the next Saturday, at the public whipping-post. "Guss," a negro, indicted for a rape at the May sessions, 1791, was tried in the oyer and terminer, and convicted and sentenced to be hanged August 26. At this term Coroner Peter Bishop returned an inquisition on the body of James Robertson, killed by the accidental discharge of a gun in the hands of Mathew Van Deusen, while pigeon-shooting. At the December oyer and terminer Thomas Southward, Jonathan Arnold, John West, Abel Hackett, Ebenezer Hatch, Robert Boze, John Boze, John Rodman, Joseph Tickner, and Jacob Virgil were indicted for the murder of Cornelius Hogeboom, sheriff of Columbia county. The first named, Southward, was indicted, as the principal, in the first degree, and the others, as accessories, in the second degree. These persons were tried at the February term of the court, 1792, and discharged, the verdict of the jury being "We find the prisoners at the bar not guilty, and that he did not fly for it." Andrew Klaw, Jacob Montgomery, and Gerrit Rowen were sworn as triers to try the jurors as to impartiality or favor. Judge John Lansing, of the Supreme Court, William B. Whiting, Adgate, Peter Van Schaack, Philip Frisbie, Israel Spencer, David Pratt, and Peter R. Livingston were the judges.
At the October term, 1795, Justice Yates, and Greene and Silvester, judges, presiding, Jessap Darling, who was indicted at the May sessions for forgery, was tried and convicted, and sentenced to be hanged December 18, "within two miles of the court-house in Claverack, on or near the road leading to Kinderhook." John Thompson, convicted also of burglary, was arraigned for sentence of death, but judgment was arrested, and the case taken under advisement. At the next oyer and terminer, held September, 1796, Thompson was sentenced to be hanged November 10 following, Judge Lansing pronouncing the sentence. At the same term Samuel Freeborn, a slave, was convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to confinement for seven years "in the State prison to be built in Albany county, and till the same be ready" was to be confined in the county jail.
In June, 1797, Justice Morgan Lewis (subsequently governor of the State) presiding, David McCracken, indicted for forgery, was tried and convicted, and sentenced to confinement for life in the State's prison in New York city, and until the same was completed to be confined in the Washington county jail. Ambrose Spencer ws attorney-general, and J. Rutsen Van Rensselaer and Elisha Williams defended the prisoner.
In 1798 the first indictment for passing counterfeit money was found, and Nathan Kent, the prisoner, was convicted, and sentenced to State's prison for life. The June oyer and terminer 1799, was held by Justice (afterwards Chancellor) Kent. D. D. Tompkins, afterwards governor of New York, held the July oyer and terminer, 1806, and sentenced Ben, a negro slave, who was convicted of a rape, and Dan Beathew, convicted of burglary, to imprisonment for life. Cæsar Johnson, a black man, was transported for felony, in 1808. Daniel Burr, for sodomy, was sentenced to imprisonment for life, in 1810. In October, 1812, John Prosser, for arson, was sentence to a life [page 63] imprisonment, and three accomplices received a sentence of fourteen years' confinement.
At the September oyer and terminer, 1817, Margaret Houghtaling, alias Peggy Densmore, was indicted and tried for the murder of a child, of which she was convicted, and sentenced to be hanged Oct. 17 following, and was executed. The next execution was that of Joseph Brown, alias Joseph Barney, indicted Jan. 15, 1868, for the murder of Angeline Stewart, alias Angie Brown, of Canaan, by burning her to death in a house which he set fire to. He was tried in April, before Judge Rufus W. Peckham, Supreme Court justice, and James E. Christie and George S. Snyder, justices of sessions, and convicted, and sentenced to be hanged May 30, and was accordingly executed. Hon. Jonas Platt, a justice of the Supreme Court, and L. M. Goes, R. I. Goes, and H. Dayton, commissioners of oyer and terminer, tried Margaret Houghtaling.
Smith A. Boughton ("Big Thunder") and Mortimer C. Belding ("Little Thunder") were indicted, February, 1845, for taking from the sheriff of Columbia county, on the 11th of December, 1844, certain distress warrants on the Livingston grants, and for such offense Boughton was tried at the March oyer and terminer. The trial began March 20, and the jury returned into court March 30, unable to agree upon a verdict, and were discharged. Fourteen witnesses were sworn for the people and thirty-one for the defense. The indictment charged riot, conspiracy, and robbery. Hon. Amasa J. Parker, circuit judge, and Peck, Holdridge, Martin, Wilcoxson, and Clyde, judges, held the trial. Boughton was again brought to trial in September, 1845, before Judge Edmonds, as circuit judge, and and associates as before. John Van Buren, attorney-general of New York, conducted the prosecution, assisted by Theodore Miller, district attorney. James Storm and Ambrose L. Jordan defended the prisoner. The jurors were Peter Gardenier, farmer, Kinderhook; Bartlett V. Clark, merchant, Chatham; Elisha Fingar, farmer, Germantown; Benson Simpson, merchant, Hillsdale; Richard Van Alstyne, mechanic, Chatham; Philander S. Gifford, farmer, Chatham; William A. Case, farmer, Chatham; Abraham Van Dyck, farmer, Stuyvesant; Jeremiah Manton, farmer, Stuyvesant; Abraham Raymond, inn-keeper, Ghent; and Philip Mickle, farmer, Chatham. Forty witnesses were sworn for the people, and forty-nine for the defense. The suit was called Sept. 3, and the time from and including that day to the 17th, also inclusive, was occupied in impaneling a jury, but four of the regular panel being accepted. The first witness, Sheriff Henry C. Miller, on whom the outrage was committed, was sworn on the 17th, and the testimony was closed on the 26th. Mr. Jordan commenced summing up for the defense on the evening of the 26th, and closed at five o'clock on the evening of the 27th. The attorney-general opened for the people at half-past six o'clock P.M. on the 27th, and concluded at a quarter past four o'clock on Monday evening, the 29th. Judge Edmonds occupied three hours in charging the jury who retired, under charge of four constables, at half-past eight P.M. on the 29th, and returned into court at half-past eight A. M. on the 30th, and reported their inability to agree, and were sent back. At half-past eleven A.M. they came into court again, and returned a verdict of guilty. Boughton was sentenced to State's prison for life, but was pardoned by Governor Young, after a brief confinement. During the progress of the trial the attorney-general, Mr. Van Buren, and Mr. Jordan, attorney for the defense, indulged in a passage at arms, which resulted in the execution of the following order of the court:
"Sept. 4, 9 o'clock, A.M. -- Ambrose L. Jordan and John Van Buren having been severally guilty of disorderly and contemptuous behavior during the sitting of this court, within the immediate view and presence, and directly tending to interrupt its proceedings and to impair the respect due its authority, it is ordered that the said Ambrose L. Jordan and John Van Buren be imprisoned in the county jail of the County of Columbia for the space of twenty-four hours."
At the March term, 1846, five indictments against as many different person were presented for appearing armed and disguised. These and seven other similar ones were no. pros'd. in September, 1846, including the one against Belding.
At the April oyer and terminer, 1824, there was a general time of felicity. The grand jury had no business, and filed a congratulatory report with the board of supervisors on the good morals of the county, praised the jailer, and condemned the roof of the jail, and commended the alms-house and city Bridewell of Hudson. Daniel Smith was the foreman, and Charles Esselstyne the clerk, of the grand inquest.
THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COLUMBIA COUNTY
was first held , for civil business, June 30, 1823, Hon. Samuel R. Betts, circuit judge, presiding.
THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK
held a special term in Hudson for the first time, beginning July 7, 1847, for equity business, Hon. Amasa J. Parker presiding.
The first judgment entered up in the courts of the county was by confession, Oct. 30, 1786. Previous to the first term of the court, so far as appears of record, there were judgments entered by confession amounting to £685 1s. 8d., and numbered thirteen in all; two of them entered by John Bay, three by K. K. Van Rensselaer, two by E. Gilbert, three by E. Pratt, and three by J. C. Wynckoop. The first one was in favor of Thomas Thompson, and against Jonathan Holcomb, for the amount of £32 damages and £3 14s. costs. The costs in the whole number of judgments amounted to £46 1d.
THE COUNTY COURT OF COLUMBIA COUNTY
held its first session in the fall of 1847, Judge John T. Hogeboom presiding,--the common please having been abolished from and after the first Monday of July, 1847.
THE SURROGATE'S COURT.
The first session of the surrogate was begun at Claverack, April 18, 1787, Killian K. Van Rensselaer being the first surrogate of the county. Petitions for letters of administration on the estate of Sarah Van Hoesen, of Claverack, deceased, were filed, and letters were granted May 2 to [page 64] Cornelius Van Hoesen, of Coxsackie district, Albany county. Bonds in the sum of one thousand pounds, New York currency, were given, with Justice Van Hoesen, of Hudson, and Lawrence Fonda, of Claverack, as sureties. The letters are dated "in the eleventh year of freedom and Independence," and run in the name of "the People of the State of New York, by the grace of God free and independent." The bond was conditioned for the returning of an inventory to the court of probates of New York, and the report of the administration to be examined and approved by that court. In August, 1787, the condition of the bond of Angus McDonald, as administrator of the estate of Rodolphus Dingman, of Claverack district, was for the return of the inventory to the surrogate court of Columbia county, but the final report was to be made to the court of probates. In 1802 administrators were under the full jurisdiction of the surrogate, all reports being returned to and approved by him, and wills probated also by him.
The first will that appears of record in the surrogate's office is that of Lucas Goes, registered Jan. 21, 1804. It makes specific bequests to relatives, and gives a negro boy, "Dick," then sixteen years old, to the testator's wife, while she lives, and then he was to be sold to "a good master" to serve until he was forty years of age, when he was to be free. The money the boy Dick brought by his sale was to go to two devisees named. The testator manumitted his slave Harr and his wife. The bulk of the estate was devised to sisters and brothers and their children. The executors were a brother of the testator, John Goes, Jr., and his nephews, Jacobus L. and James I Van Alen. The will was dated August 21, 1803, and witnessed by Myndert P. Vosburgh, John Pennoyer, and Lucretia Vosburgh, who testified to the due execution of the will, and the competency of the testator to make the same, before W. W. Van Ness, surrogate, Jan. 13, 1804. On the same day letters testamentary were granted to the executors named in the will.
The second will was probated Jan. 27, 1804, the same being that of Zachariah Standish, a physician, who thus announced his faith in his ante-mortem statement: "Principally, and first of all, I give my soul into the hands of Almighty God, who gave it, and my body to the earth, to be buried in decent Christian burial, at the direction of my executors, nothing doubting but at the general judgment I shall receive the same again by the power of God."
Andries Shirts, inn-keeper in Livingston, devised two negro women slaves to his wife and daughter, for their use during life, and on the death of the devisees the slaves to be free. Their own decease may have enfranchised them sooner. An old lady gave a son a pair of "old calico curtains which she earned while living with him," and the remainder of her property to her daughter, with whom she was living at the time of her death.
The will of Johan Silbernagel, written in the Dutch language, was proven and recorded June 4, 1805. Its caption was as follows: "Diess ist mein wille und testament, und ich habe es bey volkomen Beweert seyn in Deutsche Sprache in Jahr nach Christee Gebert, ein thousand acht hundert and fienf, den achten tag Appriels."
Letters of guardianship were granted the Nathan Gillett, guardian of Nathan Gillett, Jr., son of Elizabeth Gillett of Chatham, Sept. 24, 1808, by Martin Van Buren, surrogate, under the act of 1802 "authorizing surrogates to appoint guardians for infants." This was the first appointment by the surrogate in the county. The general sessions had appointed before. The first assignment of dower was made, also by Mr. Van Buren, the same year, the same being that of Christina, widow of Hendrik Scheelt, deceased, of Claverack. John J. Mesick, Harman Sagandorph, and John I. Miller were the commissioners.
In 1801, October 16, the first petition for the sale of real estate of a decedent to pay debts was filed, the same being in the estate of John C. Miller, Jr., intestate. The order of sale was granted December 6, under the act of March 27, 1802, "conferring additional powers on surrogates," and was made by W. W. Van Ness, surrogate.
THE MAYOR'S COURT OF HUDSON.
This tribunal, though local, was nevertheless for many years an important one in the county, and as such deserves a notice in this connection. It was instituted with the charter of the city, in 1785, and had civil jurisdiction only. For the past thirty-years its chief business has been the naturalization of aliens. Justices' courts and the police court now take its place in its former jurisdiction. The court, prior to 1854, for a time was held by three justices. In the latter year the first police justice was elected, but since then the office has been an appointive one. The court when first established was held by the mayor, recorder, and aldermen, or any three of them, of whom the mayor must be one.
The court opened for the first time, June 7, 1785, with the following presence: Seth Jenkins, Esquire, mayor; Nathaniel Green, recorder; and Ezra Reed, William Mayhew, Benjamin Folger, aldermen. There being no business, the court adjourned till the first Tuesday in July. At the July term there were nine cases on the docket, John Bay and Ezekiel Gilbert being the attorneys in attendance. Orders in each case were entered for pleas in ten days, or, in default, judgment would be entered for want of same, with one exception, in which the plaintiff was ruled to give security for costs. Andrew Mayfield Carshore was naturalized in pursuance of the act of the Legislature to that effect. At the August term two cases had the same order for pleas: one fieri facias was returned by the marshal, who had seized thereon certain real estate, including the dwelling-house, store-house, shed, and brewery of John I. A. Moder, the writ being issued in favor of Cotton Gelston. A writ of venditioni exponas was ordered out on the same.
At the September term the first jury trial was had, the jurors being Titus Morgan, Reuben Folger, Peter Fields, Shubael Worth, Dan Paddock, William Tunnicliffe, Cotton Gelston, Silas Bunker, William Hardick, Nathaniel Porter, and Elihu Bunker. Thirteen witnesses were sworn for the plaintiff, Thomas Denton, and five for the defendant, Jacob Barnard. The jury gave the plaintiff twenty-four pounds damages and sixpence costs, and judgment nisi was entered on the verdict, Mr. Bay appearing for the plaintiff.
At the December term, Ambrose Spencer and H. L. [page 65] Hosmer were admitted to practice in the court. A seal bearing the device of an anchor, with the legend "Hudson Mayor's court Seal," was adopted as the seal of the court. David Van Schaack and Herman Pruyn took the oath of allegiance to New York, Sept. 5, 1786, and also James Brebner. K. K. Van Rensselaer was admitted as an attorney of the court at this term.
In March, 1787, rules of admission to practice in the court were adopted, requiring of the applicant a certificate of three years' clerkship in the office of some attorney of the State, and also of good moral character.
The courts of justice which exercise jurisdiction over the people of Columbia county, within the bounds of the federal and State constitutions, at the present time are as follows:
THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES.
Morrison R. Waite, Ohio, chief-justice, appointed 1874; Nathan Clifford, Portland, Maine, associate justice, 1858; Ward Hunt, Utica, N. Y., associate justice, 1873; Wm. Strong, Philadelphia, Penn., associated Justice, 1870; Joseph P. Bradley, Newark, N. J., associate justice, 1870; Noah H. Swayne, Columbus, Ohio, associate justice, 1862; John M. Harlan, Kentucky, associate justice, 1877; Samuel F. Miller, Keokuk, Iowa, associate Justice, 1862; Stephen J. Field San Francisco, Cal., associate justice, 1863; D. Wesley Middleton, of Washington, clerk; William T. Otto, of Indiana, reporter; John G. Nicolay, of Illinois, marshal. The court holds one general term at Washington, D. C., commencing on the second Monday in October.
UNITED STATES COURT OF CLAIMS.
Charles D. Drake, Missouri, chief-justice, commissioned Dec. 12, 1870; Edward A. Loring, Massachusetts, associate justice, commissioned May 6, 1858; Ebenezer Peck, Illinois, associate justice, commissioned May 10, 1863; Charles C. Nott, New York, associate justice, commissioned Feb. 22, 1865; W. A. Richardson, associate justice, Massachusetts, commissioned June 2, 1874; Archibald Hopkins, chief clerk, Massachusetts.
THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES,
for the second circuit (including New York, Vermont, and Connecticut).---Judges: Ward Hunt, associate justice, circuit judge, and the district judge. Terms of this court are held for the northern district of New York (including Columbia county) at Albany, second Tuesday in October; Canandaigua, third Tuesday in June; also adjourned term, for civil business only, at Albany, third Tuesday in January, and at Utica, third Tuesday in March. Chalres Mason, clerk northern division, office at Utica.
THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES,
for the northern district of New York.---William J. Wallace, district judge, Syracuse; Richard Crowley, district attorney, Lockport; Winfield Robbins, clerk, Buffalo; Isaac F. Quimby, marshal, Rochester. The terms of the court are held as follows: Albany, third Tuesday in January; Utica, third Tuesday in March; Rochester, second Tuesday in May; Buffalo, third Tuesday in August; Auburn, third Tuesday in November. Special terms are held by appointment at Oswego, Plattsburgh, or Watertown; and a special session in admiralty at Buffalo, on Tuesday of each week.
THE COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK.
Sanford E. Church, Albion, chief judge; term expires Dec. 31, 1884. Associate judges: William F. Allen, Oswego, term expires Dec. 31, 1878; Charles A. Rapallo, New York city, term expires Dec. 31, 1884; Charles Andrews, Syracuse, term expires Dec. 31, 1884; Charles J. Folger, Geneva, term expires Dec. 31, 1884; Theodore Miller, Hudson, term expires Dec. 31, 1886; Robert Earl, Herkimer, term expires Dec. 31, 1890. Edwin O. Perrin, clerk, Jamaica; F. Stanton Perrin, deputy clerk, Albany, Hiram E. Sickels, reporter Albany; Amos Dodge, crier, Albany; Andrew J. Chester, attendant, Albany; Jeremiah Cooper, attendant, Lenox.
THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK.
The general terms of the third judicial department, consisting of the third, fourth, and sixth judicial districts, holden by Wm. L. Learned, Albany, presiding justice; and Augustus Bockes, Saratoga Springs, and Douglas Boardman, Ithaca, associate justices.
THE CIRCUIT COURTS, COURTS OF OYER AND TERMINER, AND SPECIAL TERMS OF THE SUPREME COURT,
held in Columbia county, in the third judicial district, comprising the counties of Albany, Columbia, Green, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster.---Judges: Theodore Miller, Hudson, term expires Dec. 31, 1884; Charles Ingalls, Troy, term expires Dec. 31, 1885; Wm. L. Learned, Albany, term expires Dec. 31, 1884; Theodore R. Westbrook, Kingston, term expires Dec. 31, 1887.
THE COUNTY COURT.
Hon. Hugh W. McClellan, county judge, term expires Dec. 31, 1883; Philip Rockefeller, justice sessions, term expires Dec. 31, 1878; Henry P. Van Hoesen, justice sessions, term expires Dec. 31, 1878; Levi F. Longley, clerk, term expires Dec. 31, 1879; John B. Longley, district attorney, term expires Dec. 31, 1880; H. M. Hanor, sheriff, term expires Dec. 31, 1879.
Isaac N. Collier, surrogate; term expires Dec. 31, 1883.
THE MAYOR'S COURT OF HUDSON.
the police court of that city, and the several justices of the peace in the towns of the county
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.
The board of supervisors, as the fiscal manager of the county, has come down from the "good old colony times, [page 66] when the people lived under the king," and dates its beginning in an act of the Colonial Assembly of New York, passed in April, 1691.† By this act it was provided that the freeholders of the colony should elect two assessors and one supervisor in their respective towns; the former to assess and establish the rates on each freeholder and inhabitant, and deliver the list to the supervisor, who took it up to a general meeting of the supervisors of the county, who ordered the same collected by the constables or collectors of the several towns. The supervisors, as a board, also elected a county treasurer, who received and disbursed the funds for county charges. This act was repealed Oct. 18, 1701, and courts of general or special sessions, held by the justices of the peace of the county, or any five of them, were created, to make the necessary levies of taxes and audit claims, and certify the same to two assessors and a collector in each town for collection pro rata. This court also appointed the county treasurer. On June 10, 1703, the supervisors were restored again and put in charge of the strong box of the treasury, and the courts of sessions relieved of the care of the financial interests of the county, and the supervisors required to meet as a board at the county town, annually, on the first Tuesday in October, and at such other times as they might deem proper for the transaction of their business. The board received back again, also the power of appointment of county treasurer, who was allowed a sixpence on the pound for his fees, the collectors getting ninepence for their fees of collection. The system of the supervisors has been continued under the several constitutions of the State to the present time.
The first book of minutes of the board of supervisors of the county of Columbia is still in good preservation. The proceedings of the board at the first meeting are recorded as follows:
"In pursuance of an act of the State of New York entitled 'an Act to divide the County of Albany into Two Counties,' passed the fourth day of April, 1786, the supervisors for the county of Columbia met at the house of Gabriel Esselstyne, in Claverack, and were duly qualified, on the first Tuesday in June, 1786 (June 6, 1786). Members present: John Livingston, Manor Livingston; Cornelius Van Schaack, Kinderhook; Peter Wiessmer, Claverack; William Powers, Kings; James Bryan, Hillsdale; John Kortz, German Camp; Thomas Jenkins, Hudson.
"The board nominated John Livingston their moderator. The board the proceeded to elect a county treasurer and clerk to the supervisors, when Walter Vrooman Wemple was elected to the two offices. the board then adjourned till to-morrow morning at eight o'clock.
"The supervisors met pursuant to adjournment. All the members as yesterday, except Mr. Wiessmer, present. the board then proceeded to divide the quotas among the several districts, as follows:
|Kinderhook. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||241||4,820|
|Hillsdale. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||125||2,500|
|Kings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||179||3,580|
|Manor Livingston. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||544||10,880|
|Claverack. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||162||3,240|
|German Camp. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||48||960|
|Hudson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||162||3,240|
"The board resolved that fifteen hundred pounds (with the additional sum of nine pence in the pound for collecting) shall be raised towards building the county court-house and gaol (£1500).
" The treasurer's bond for the performance of his office is deposited in the hands of Mr. Livingston.
|"Vou. No. 1.---The board agreed to allow Cornelius Fonda for his attendance as messenger this setting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||£0 08 00|
|"Vou. No. 2.---the board allowed Gab. Esselstyne for his bill of expenses. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||2 15 00|
|£3 03 00|
"The board then adjourned till the 21st July next, at ten o'clock A.M."
On July 21 the board met pursuant to adjournment, the full board being present, except Mr. Livingston. Mr. Van Schaack was elected moderator pro tem. The following town account were allowed:
|Kinderhook.---------||Election expenses, 1785-86 . . . . . . . . . . . .||33||5||6|
|Pauper relief. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||38||18||3|
|Lands and damages for roads. . . . . . . . . .||28||3||6|
|Highway commissioners . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||13||16||0|
|Supervisor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||2||16||0|
|German Camp.---||Elections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||5||10||0|
|Supervisor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||1||4||0|
|Livingston Manor||Elections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||10||10||0|
|Pauper relief . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||5||8||0|
|Claverack.-----------||Elections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||10||10||0|
|Commissioners of highways . . . . . . . . . . .||8||10||0|
|Supervisor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||2||16||0|
|Dr. W. V. Wemple. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||9||1||0|
|Kings District.------||Pauper relief . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||49||17||1|
|Assessors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||12||15||0|
|Supervisor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||2||16||0|
|Roads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||54||17||0|
|Hillsdale District.-||Roads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||17||7||9|
|Sundries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||12||4||3|
|Assessors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||14||7||6|
|Elections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||12||15||6|
|Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||360||6||4|
The apportionment of taxes for the year 1786 was as follows:
|Kinderhook. . . . . . . . .||269||15||0||116||18||9||386||13||9|
|Hillsdale. . . . . . . . . . .||140||0||0||67||15||0||207||15||0|
|Kings. . . . . . . . . . . . .||200||10||0||120||5||7||320||15||7|
|Livingston Manor. . . .||609||0||0||17||16||0||626||16||0|
|Claverack. . . . . . . . . .||181||5||0||30||17||0||212||2||0|
|German Camp. . . . . .||53||15||0||6||14||0||60||9||0|
|Hudson. . . . . . . . . . . .||181||5||0||0||0||0||181||5||0|
On Sept. 5, 1786, the supervisors met to divide a quota of £2300, under the act of April 29 of that year, the full board being present, except Messrs. Livingston and Powers. Mr. Jenkins moved to reduce the quota of Hudson, but the board refused to do so, and Mr. Jenkins entered his protest against the action. The quotas of the sever towns were fixed as follows:
|Kinderhook. . . . . .||379||8|
|Kings. . . . . . . . . . .||281||16|
|Claverack. . . . . . .||255||0|
|Hudson. . . . . . . . .||255||0|
|Hillsdale. . . . . . . .||196||16|
|Manor Livingston. .||856||8|
|German Camp. . . .||75||12|
On Jan. 23, 1787, the board met again, the members all present except Mr. Powers. The trustees for erecting the court-house and jail asked for the remaining £500 allowed for the public buildings by the Legislature April 19, 1786, [page 67] and the same was voted accordingly, the apportionment being as follows: Kinderhook, £83; Hillsdale, £43; Kings, £61; Livingston, £186; Claverack, £55; Hudson, £55; German Camp, £17.
At the May meeting 1787, Clermont sent its first supervisor to the board, Samuel Ten Broeck. The board canvassed the returns of the election for members of the Assembly under the act of Feb. 13, 1786. A vote was passed to allow assessors and supervisors six shillings per day for services. The first State tax was levied at the September session of the board, amounting to £2400 ($6000), distributed to the several towns as follows: Manor Livingston, £637; Kings, £294; Claverack, £288; Clermont, £181; Kinderhook, £435; Hillsdale, £205; Hudson, £288; German Camp, £72.
The total county tax was £157 13s. 10d., of which Clermont's quota was £12. The town taxes amounted to £712 4s., Clermont paying £23 9s. Collectors were required to return their bad debts within ten days of September 4, or be held accountable for the same, under act of April 29, 1786.
On May 29, 1788, the board met to canvass the returns of the election for members of Assembly and for delegates to the convention to act upon the federal constitution, and also to divide £600 to be raised for court-house purposes, under act of March 14, 1788. In June £1250 additional were raised to complete the court-house and jail. On the 13th of this month a settlement with the trustees of the court-house was had, and on their report £600 only were ordered paid for the completion of the buildings; but the next board, in May, 1789, voted £600 more to complete the same. Among the contingent expenses allowed by this board, was a charge of eight shillings by the public executioner for whipping a negro by order of the court.
An amount of £7520 12s. 3d. was found due Albany county from Columbia county as arrearages on tax lists from 1778 to 1785, which amount was divided among the towns according to the quota they were then placed in. Fifty pounds additional for the jail were appropriated.
In 1793 a settlement was made with the treasurer for the six years preceding, and a balance of £100 10s. 11d. found in his hands, the rest of the funds for the entire term being properly and correctly accounted for. He had, besides this, advanced on the taxes of 1789 £169 10s. 3d., which was ordered paid back to him. Two days "extra ordinary" were added to the accounts of supervisors of Canaan, Hillsdale, Kinderhook, Clermont, and Germantown, on account of the distance from the county-seat.
In 1795 the first public-school moneys were distributed to the inhabitants of the county, and were as follows, with the number of taxable inhabitants:
|Livingston. . . . . .||853||302||12||0|
|Hillsdale. . . . . . .||630||223||9||0|
|Canaan. . . . . . . .||549||194||17||0|
|Claverack. . . . . .||449||159||6||0|
|Hudson. . . . . . . .||411||145||18||0|
|Kinderhook. . . . .||387||134||16||0|
|Chatham. . . . . . .||321||114||1||0|
|Clermont. . . . . . .||175||62||1||6|
|Germantown. . . .||100||35||12||0|
|Total. . . . . . . .||3875||1372||12||6|
James Savage, the first supervisor of Chatham, came on the board this year, the taxes of the town being for its own needs £130 4s. 4d., and for county purposes £30 16s. 6d. The amount of money raised by the county for school purposes was just one-half the amount received from the State, to wit, £686 6s. In 1798 the currency was changed from the New York to the federal currency, dollars and cents taking the place of the pounds, shillings, and pence of the colony. The school tax this year equaled the amount received from the State, $1412.12. Andrew M. Carshore succeeded to the clerkship of the board on the death of Dr. Wemple.
In 1803 two new towns sent their representatives to the board,----Granger, now Taghkanic, Henry Avery, supervisor; and Gallatin, now Ancram, Nicholas Kline, supervisor. Granger had 343 taxable inhabitants, and paid taxes as follows: county, $98.30; town, $351.90. Gallatin had 369 taxables, and paid county taxes, $102.96, and town taxes $237.62. The total tax of the county for county purposes was $1730.63, and there were 4370 taxables in its limits. In 1805 the Kinderhook farmers began a systematic warfare on the crows, and offered a "fo'pence ha'penny" for the head of every thief of that family.
In 1806 the board met in the new court-house in Hudson. In 1807, "Guss," a free black man, had been fined for a misdemeanor and committed to jail until the fine and costs were paid; but the term of imprisonment, owing to the impecuniosity of "Guss," bidding fair to be of an indefinite duration, the supervisors, as the cheaper method, paid the fine and costs and thus save his board. The military tax against non-combatants, the Quakers, of three dollars per poll, was levied for the first time in 1807, there being four polls. The next year the number of polls increased as well as the amount of tax, there being twenty-five of the former at four dollars.
In 1810 the mayor's room in the court-house was rented for a school-room to Peter Mills, for the winter of 1810-11.
In 1813 the first equalization of assessments of real estate was effected as follows: from Hudson, Claverack, and Kinderhook, 25 per cent. of the assessors' returns was deducted; from Chatham, 33-1/3 per cent.; from Hillsdale, 12-1/2 per cent.; and from Granger, 50 per cent. To Germantown 100 per cent was added; to Livingston and Canaan 25 per cent.; and to Gallatin and Clermont 50 per cent.
In 1818, Ghent and Austerlitz were first represented on the board, the former by Tobias L. Hogeboom, supervisor, and the latter by Jonathan C. Olmstead, supervisor.
The first assessment of Ghent, for the year 1818, and the tax-list for that year, were as follows: 25,471 acres at $22=$560,362; equalized, $915,631; personal property, $30,774; total assessment, $946,405. State tax, $946.400; county tax, $473.44; town tax, $1285.05; collector's fees, $162.29; total, $2867.18.
Austerlitz's first assessment was thus taxed: 22,051 acres, at $12=$264,612; equalized, $432,376; personal property, $10,715; total, $443,091. State tax, $443.09; county tax, $221.66; town tax, $786.76; fees, $87.09; total, $1538.60.
[page 68] In 1819, New Lebanon sent John King, its first supervisor, to the board, its first assessment and taxation as a separate town being as follows: 19,737 acres, $367,692; equalized, $267,436; personal property, $10,549; total, $277,985. State tax, $277.98; county tax, $207.29; town tax, $1267.54; fees, $105.16; total list, $1857.97.
In 1821, David Dunbar was appointed sealer of weights and measures, and $80 appropriated for standards.
In 1823, Stuyvesant came to the county legislature in the person of P. I. Vosburgh, her first supervisor. The assessment and taxation of the new town were as follows: real estate, $464,583; equalized, $239,160; personal property, $52,750; total, $291,910. State tax, $291.91; county tax, $249.13; town tax $937.59; fees, $64.55; total list, $1543.18.
In 1824, Copake entered the board, William Murray being the first supervisor of the town. The assessment for the year was as follows: real estate, $387,197; equalized, $199,068; personal property, $20,190; total, $219,258; State tax, $109.63; county tax, $148.79; town tax, $1500.64; fees, $55.34; total list, $1814.40.
In 1827 the movement for a county poor-farm and almshouse began, the details which will be found elsewhere in this chapter.
In 1831 grand and petit jurors were first paid for service in the courts, $1500 being raised for the purpose.
In 1833, Stockport came in first to the board, George Chittenden being the supervisor. Its lands were assessed at $29 per acre, there being 6543 acres returned. Its real estate was assessed at $348,864, and equalized at $189,747; personal property, $82,588; total, $272.335. County tax, $556.76; town tax, $787.45; fees, $72.74; total list, $1416.45. $83 for schools and $500 for highways were raised.
In 1835 the tax on the Hudson Whaling Co., for 1834, was refunded, $251.44.
In 1836 the first sheep damages were allowed by the board, $297.37.
In 1837, Greenport sent her first supervisor to the board, the same being Hugh McClellan. Its assessment and taxation were as follows: 11,165 acres at $18 per acre. Real estate assessment, $307,980, equalized at $200,970; personal property, $72,300; total $273,270. County tax, $614.28; town tax, $590.76; fees, $66.39; total, $1271.43. 34 dogs.
In 1847 the board divided the county into two Assembly districts, pursuant to law, and recommended that the Legislature be petitioned to abolish the office of superintendent of schools, declared the offices of county judge and surrogate separate, and recommended the election of a special county judge and special surrogate.
In 1851 there were appropriated for the inmates of the poor-house $132 for tobacco and snuff, besides the tobacco raised on the farm. The committee thought the amount extravagant and the articles useless, and if the practice of such allowances must be continued $50 per annum was ample.
In 1852 the clerk was rather poetical in his records, as the entry of an adjournment at the regular session seems to testify: "The committees spent some time in the examination of accounts; when the evening shades were about to prevail, an adjournment was had till morning."
The list of members of the board of supervisors is given in the civil list of the county.
The first court-house erected in Columbia county was at Claverack. It cost about $9000 (£3600 New York currency), and was built in 1786-88. It is now the mansion of Peter Hoffman. It remained the court-house until 1806, at which time a building was provided in Hudson, the county-seat having been removed to that city in 1805. Killian K. Van Rensselaer, the first surrogate, opened his office at the house of Dr. Joseph Mullins, in Claverack village. The deed of the site for the court-house at Claverack was executed by Gabriel Esselstyne, June 7, 1786, and conveyed the site to John Livingston, William Powers, Cornelius Van Schaack, James Bryant, Peter Weismer, Thos. Jenkins, and Johannes Kirtz, they being the board of supervisors of the county. The consideration was £20, and the deed was made under the act of organization of the county, April 4, 1786, which located the county-seat at or near the old church at Claverack. The premises were described as follows: "Beginning at a certain point on a course S. 52o E. distant 2 chains 18 links from the northeasterly corner of the now dwelling-house of said Gabriel Esselstyne, running from said point or beginning N. 44o E. 4 chains, then S. 50o E. 1 chain 71 links, then S. 44o W. 4 chains to the old church, then N. 50o W. 1 chain 71 links to the beginning." This deed was indorsed with receipts and "livery and seizin made and given," signed "Thomas Williams, Jun., Walter V. Wemple."
Probably the most intensely interesting scene ever witnessed within the walls of the old court-house at Claverack was that of the trial of Harry Croswell, of Hudson, for libel. In the year 1803 the Hudson Balance newspaper made a violent attack on President Jefferson, for which offense the editor, Mr. Croswell, was indicted for libel by the grand jury of Columbia county. The case was tried before Chief-Justice Lewis, at the February term (1804) of the Supreme Court, and was the occasion of the greatest public excitement, as well from the importance of the question at issue as on account of the high position and preeminent ability of the counsel employed. It was argued by Ambrose Spencer, attorney-general, on the part of the people, and for the defendant by William W. Van Ness, ------Harrison, and Alexander Hamilton. A correspondent of the New York Evening Post, describing the scenes of the trial, after giving an account of the plea of Attorney-General Spencer for the prosecution, and the effort of Van Ness for the defendant, continued: "After all came the great, the powerful Hamilton. No language can convey an adequate idea of the astonishing powers evinced by him. The audience was numerous, and, although composed of those not used to the melting mood, the effect produced on them was electric! . . .As a correct argument for a lawyer it was very imposing; as a profound commentary upon the science and practice of government it has never been surpassed." The court, however, instructed the jury that the only question for them to decide was whether the alleged [page 69] language had been published by Mr. Crowell, and that the question of libel was to be decided wholly by the court; and so, notwithstanding the brilliant defense, the case resulted adversely to the defendant. Five months after this, the brilliant Hamilton fell by the pistol of Aaron Burr.
As a specimen of some of the amenities of those days, we note an advertisement of Peter B. Ten Broeck, wherein he branded the surrogate Van Rensselaer as "a coward, pussillanimous, and destitute of truth." The surrogate replied in terms no less emphatic and explicit, but nothing more came of the affair.
COURT-HOUSE AND JAILS.
In 1805, after much earnest and persistent opposition, the county-seat was removed from Claverack to the city of Hudson, the common council transferring the city hall to the county for a court-house, and voting also the sum of $2000 and a lot of land for the erection of a new jail, which latter was ready for the reception of prisoners in October of that year. It was the same building which is now occupied by the Hudson Gazette and Daily Register. The room which is now the business office of the editor and proprietor, Mr. Williams, is the same in which Margaret Houghtaling was confined after conviction of the crime of child-murder, and from which she was led out to execution on the 17th of October, 1817.
Until the time when it was decided to remove the county-seat to Hudson the old city hall had remained in an unfinished condition, its upper story being divided into "chambers," as they were called, which were used as school-rooms and for other purposes, while the ground floor, originally intended as a meeting-hall, had been degraded to inferior uses, and was then, or had recently been, occupied as a warehouse for the storage of hay and other coarse merchandise. When the building was completed, to be used as a court-house, it was remodeled, and its original arrangement reversed, to bring the hall, or court-room, into the upper story, and this was used not only by several of the religious societies as a place of worship, but for nearly all public gatherings, until after the completion of the present court-house, when it was vacated by the county and sold to the Presbyterian society.
At a special meeting of the board of supervisors, held in Hudson, at the house of Philo Nichols, May 14, 1805, $1000 was appointed towards building the new jail, and a committee appointed to sell the old court-house jail and lot at Claverack for $2000; but the property was sold to St. Paul's church of Claverack for $1500, subject to the dower of the wife of Gabriel Esselstyne. This sum was also appropriated to the erection of the new jail.
Dr. Geo. Monell, of Claverack, and James Hyatt, of Hudson, supervisors, were the building committee on the new court-house and jail at Hudson. The original cost of the jail was about $5000, as paid by the county. In 1809, $300 was expended for new cells and $200 for repairs, and every year to the time the building was abandoned by the county sums varying form $100 to $500 were appropriated for repairs on the court-house and jail. In 1816 a movement was inaugurated for a thorough repair of the court-house or for building a new one, as deemed most expedient, and also to build a new fire-proof clerk's office, but it failed. This year the Baptist society was given the privilege of occupying the larger court-house for worship on Sunday.
In 1820 another movement was made on the board of supervisors for a petition to the Legislature for authority to levy a tax for building a fire-proof clerk's office, but nothing came of it. In 1822 the movement was successful, the board signing a petition to the Legislature for leave to levy a tax of $1000 to build such an office, and the act was passed the same year. In 1823 the board resolved to build during that year, and a committee on plans and specifications was appointed, the same being Supervisors Bay, Dakin, Poucher, Jno. P. Beekman, and Van Deusen. The city was granted permission to erect an addition to the building for a city clerk's office, and the building was to be located on the east end of the court-house square, with its gable-end on Warren street. The building was accordingly erected, and in 1826 a portion of it was rebuilt to make it secure and dry. In 1829 the judges of the common pleas called the attention of the supervisors to the miserable condition of the court-house and jail, and an appropriation of $75 was made for repairs.
In 1833 a movement for a new court-house and jail was inaugurated, a committee being appointed on plans, cost of buildings, the amount of contributions Hudson would make towards the same, and their location. This committee was composed of Supervisors, Mellen, Pratt, and Sanders, who reported, December 12, that the common council of Hudson offered to take the old county buildings and lots, at $7000, and appropriate $3000 towards new buildings, and procure warranty deeds for four acres, situate at the southerly termination of Fourth street, for $1000, and guarantee the title to the county, provided the lot could be obtained, reserving to the corporation the same privileges as in the old building. The board accepted the proposition, and agreed to proceed with the erection of the buildings at the next meeting if the council procured the deed for the lot. At a special meeting, called Jan. 8, 1834, resolutions based on the fulfillment of the proposition, or rather the security for its fulfillment, were passed to petition the Legislature for authority to raise $8000, by loan, to build a court-house, to be paid in four equal annual payments. John Sanders, James Mellen, and Lucas Hoes were the committee in charge of the matter of the petition, and Sanders, Mellen, and Pulver were a committee on conveyances between the corporation of Hudson and the county, and also to receive plans and specifications and proposals for the erection of the building. They were authorized to contract for its erection at a total cost not exceeding $18,000. At a meeting on Feb. 17, 1834, the question was raised as to the passage of the foregoing resolution for contracting for the erection of the building, but the board decided by vote that the same "did pass," and the action of the committee in advertising for proposals was sanctioned. Deeds were passed between the county and the city for the respective property of each, and the guarantees required of the city and the citizens of Hudson for the payment of the sum of $10,000 were accepted by the board of supervisors. The plan of the building reported by the committee was adopted, as "the most economical, and properly answering the purposes of [page 70] the County." The building committee was appointed consisting of John P. Mesick, John W. Edmonds, and James Mellen, who were given full authority to contract for the erection of the building, and to modify plans if they deemed necessary, but not to such an extent as to involve a total cost of more than $19,500. Application was made to the Legislature for leave to raise an additional sum of $2500, and to borrow the same in advance of taxation for its payment, from any source available, preference being made for such loan from the public-school fund. The action of the board relative to the erection of new public buildings was not accomplished without strong opposition. Out of this opposition a movement was begun looking to the erection of a new county from the southern towns of Columbia and northern towns of Dutchess county, which movement was discountenanced by the board of supervisors, and the members of the Assembly from Columbia county were requested to oppose any attempt to divide the county.
In 1833 the Legislature gave the requisite authority to the supervisors to erect the proposed public buildings, and Messrs. Mesick, Mellen, Edmonds, Van Valkenburgh, and Henry C. Miller were appointed commissioners under the act to superintend their erection. On the 20th of December, the commissioners advertised for proposals for the construction of a main or centre building 48 feet front and 59 feet to the rear, with portico and pediment across the whole front 13 feet wide at the base, with six fluted columns, and two wings 34 feet by 44 feet. The east wing to be built for a jail, and the west for a clerk's office, common council room, and jury rooms. The front of the whole building to be of Stockbridge marble, and the other parts of blue mountain limestone, the same being according to the plans of an architect named Rector. Three proposals were received,---one of $24,000, complete, by Addison Alger; one for $22,200 including $1439 for sundry specified items, by Reuben G. Jared and Richard Macy and Samuel Gifford; and one from Burch, King & Waterman, for $20,735.52, from which certain specified items of furnishing were deducted, an alteration in plans effected, and the contract closed with the last-named firm, at $19,810.52.
At the completion of the building the commissioners submitted an elaborate report of its cost, which was stated to be $26,211.51, including site of the building, and commissioners' salaries, a barn, wood-house, fence, and side-walks. Mr. Miller, in his "sketches of Hudson," puts the cost of the building at about $35,000. This amount may, and probably does, include subsequent appropriations for painting and finishing, and new work in the jail.
The building is two stories in height, being sixty feet from the ground to the peak, and is surmounted by a dome.
In 1853, at the annual meeting of the supervisors, their committee made an elaborate report, condemning the jail as totally inadequate to comply with the law and the wants of the county, and recommending the erection of a new jail on the Auburn plan. That committee was Peter Poucher, H. W. Reynolds, Daniel Reed, John Miller, and J. H. Overhiser. A new committee, consisting of Messrs. Farrell, Rhoda, and Fulton, was appointed to consult with the county judge and district attorney in relation to the necessary steps to be taken to make the jail conform to the statute on prisons; $1431.95 was appropriated for repairs; and a communication from the superintendent of county buildings was received, stating that the estimate of the committee on the county jail was extravagant, and that $10,000 was ample to build a jail on the plan proposed by them, and that the old one could be reconstructed for $3000. This communication was not received with the most friendly feelings by some of the board, and a resolution was offered censuring the superintendent for volunteering advice on matters foreign to his province, but it was tabled. A contract was made with the Albany penitentiary to hold the prisoners of Columbia county, which has continued for several years.
The county judge, Hon. J. C. Newkirk, filed his opinion as to the necessary steps to be taken by the supervisors to comply with the law on prisons, and the committee thereupon reported in favor of building a new jail, the cost not to exceed $10,000, but their report was tabled.
In 1856 the supervisors voted to purchase from the city the council-room in the court-house for $1500, and fit it up for the county clerk's use. The room was accordingly bought, and converted into a vault for the storing of the records, and for a recording-room, $900 being expended in the repairs and remodeling. A fire-proof was also constructed in the building. In 1867 a committee appointed for the purpose reported plans for a new jail, 40 feet by 50 feet, but nothing came of the movement. In 1872 another committee was appointed on the subject of a new jail and the conversion of he old one into a surrogate's office, but no new building was projected, $2000 being appropriated for repairs and improvements on the old one.
At this time a controversy arose between the country (sic) and city members of the board of supervisors respecting the rights of the city to confine the city's prisoners convicted by the police court in the county jail. An elaborate report was made by Supervisor Sherman Van Ness, of Hudson, showing that the city became vested with such right by the original agreement to furnish a court-house, a lot for a jail, and make a contribution of $2000 towards the erection of the latter. In that agreement the city reserved the right to confine its prisoners in the county jail, and to hold the mayor's courts and council-meetings in the court-house, and when the new building was erected the same right was reserved in it by the city by the terms of the compact then made between the board of supervisors and the common council of Hudson. The controversy was finally amicably adjusted to the satisfaction of all parties.
In 1874 a committee's report in favor of the erection of a new jail secured no favorable action. A similar report met the same fate in 1875, and the jail still remains undisturbed. It has been repaired from time to time, and remodeled to make it conform more nearly to the requirements of the statute concerning prisons, but it is neither adequate to the needs of the county, nor commensurate with its wealth, intelligence, and humanity.
The public buildings are beautifully located on the verge of a bluff overlooking the South bay and the majestic river. The park in front, formerly known as Washington, but now as Court-House square, is covered with wide-arching elms and flanked by handsome residences. From the dome there are [page 71] grand and charming views of the Catskills in the west, and of the blue Berkshire hills, which bound the eastern horizon; and, altogether, the surroundings of the Columbia county court-house are exceedingly beautiful and pleasing.
It may interest the curious to know how much money has been expended by way of repairs and improvements on the two court-houses and jails in Hudson, and at much pains we have been enabled to state the amounts very nearly correctly, having compiled the same from the proceedings of the board of supervisors from year to year. On the first court-house and jail in Hudson, from 1806 to the building of the present one in 1835, the sum of $5450 was paid for repairs and improvements. On the second court-house and jail, from 1837 to date (1878), there has been paid the sum of $18,000 for such purposes.
ALMSHOUSE AND POOR-FARM.
The first compulsory charity within the limits of the present Empire State was that which the act of the Colonial Assembly of April, 1691, provided for, whereby the towns of the colony were required to support their own poor, and whereby, also, safeguards were thrown around the system, to prevent imposition upon the authorities. The Assembly of 1683 may have also provided for such support, and so, also, may have the Dutch burghers before that, but the first laws we find recorded on the subject are those reported in Bradford's edition of the colonial Laws from 1691 to 1773, published in London, which gives the first act as passed in April of the former year.
The Legislature in 1778 provided for the support of the poor by towns and cities, and later on for the building of poor-houses by towns and counties. Previous to the adoption of the poor-house system by Columbia county each town in the county supported its own poor, the county supporting such as were chargeable to no town, for lack of residence; and the records of the board of supervisors show annual appropriations in many of the towns for that purpose of from $50 upwards.
Prior also to such adoption, the county poor were sold to the lowest bidder who would contract for their support, as, indeed, were the town poor also. In 1826 there were nineteen paupers chargeable to the county, who were cared for in the different towns. In October, 1827, the following action was had by the board of supervisors relative to a poor-house and farm:
That it is necessary and proper that a County poor-house be established
for the use of the County of Columbia, and that all the poor of the
different towns, and the paupers, be sent to the same, the expenses for
their support to be paid by the County; and that the money be raised the
same as the contingent expenses are now raised. And be it further
"Resolved, That it shall be the duty of each Supervisor to submit the forgoing resolution to the respective electors of their towns at their next town-meeting, and take the sense of the voters thereon, and return the same at the next annual meeting of the board of Supervisors."
Subsequently the following action was had:
"Resolved, That the clerk copy the petition on the subject of a county poor-house which has been presented, and transmit the same to our representatives in the Assembly, and at the same time inform them that the same was adopted with but one dissenting voice, and that he was in favor of the principle contained in the resolution, but could not vote for the same without consulting his constituents."
At the annual meeting of the supervisors in 1828, a petition was adopted for presentation to the Legislature for the passage of an act for authority to erect a county poor-house, and to send agents to Albany to procure the passage of such act. Messrs. Bushnell and Stebbins were appointed such agents. At this time there were fifty-one paupers chargeable to the county.
On October 16 a committee was appointed to ascertain a suitable site for such poor-house, and to devise a plan for the same, and ascertain the expense and plan of government of similar institutions, and report at the next meeting of the board. The committee was Messrs. Bramhall, Patrie, Shafer, Tobey, and Power.
On November 12 "the committee reported propositions received for a site, and a new committee was appointed to receive proposals for site, and to view and inspect the several farms offered." This committee was Power, Jordan, and Patrie. Five thousand dollars were appropriated and levied for the purchase of a site and towards the erection of a building.
On December 11 the committee reported on several propositions received for the sale of farms for a poor-house site, and the board being unable to agree, went in a body to view certain of the said farms the same day, but adjourned without purchasing. They met again Jan. 6, 1829, and appointed Messrs. Bramhall, Patrie, Van Buren, Power, and Shafer a committee with full power to purchase a farm, contract for a suitable building, and employ a person to take charge of it, with full power in the premises to do all things necessary to execute their commission.
On February 9 this committee reported that they had contracted with John C. Hogeboom for a farm, containing about two hundred acres, at forty-five dollars per acre; but proceedings in chancery were pending which involved the title to the farm, and the committee were thus prevented from consummating the contract "with the unanimity the subject required," and consequently the committee reported the matter to the board and resigned their office. The board discharged the committee, and thereupon Mr. Hogeboom appeared before the board and "satisfied the members that no apprehension need be had as to his title;" whereupon the board confirmed the contract with him, and Mr. Hogeboom delivered a warranty-deed for the farm, and received $1000 in part payment therefor, and a certificate for $7997.19 for the balance, due Feb. 15, 1830, with interest at seven per cent. Barnabas Waterman was authorized to expend $2000 in making the necessary alterations and additions to the house on the premises for a poor-house; and a committee, consisting of Messrs. Lawrence, Bain, and Van Buren, was appointed, and authorized to employ a keeper of the county poor-house, at a salary not exceeding $400, and to purchase furniture, farming utensils, and stock, and give notice to the several towns when the house was ready for the reception of inmates, the whole expenditures being limited to $2000.
In 1829 three superintendents of the poor were elected for one year, viz.: Gayer Gardner, of Hudson; Roswell B. Frisbie, of Canaan; and Isaac Mills, of Chatham. The superintendents and a committee were authorized to proceed forthwith to examine and report what alterations were necessary to be made in the poor-house, the number and [page 72] kind of stoves necessary, and to report a plan of an additional building, if one was deemed necessary, with estimates of cost. It was found that an additional building would be necessary, of the same height as the one then standing on the premises, sixty feet long, and that $1500 would be required to build it. The Legislature was again invoked for authority to borrow $5000 (and levy a tax to pay the same) to pay balance on the farm and put up the additional building. Jacob House was engaged as the keeper of the poor-house.
In 1830, a committee appointed to visit the poor-house reported everything satisfactorily managed; the paupers were clean and comfortably fed and clothed, and, what pleased them more than all else, they found "a mistress' school attended by small children, under good discipline and improvement, and which they think merits their applause." Farm products were as good as could have been expected from the season; "a handsome lot of hogs and beef cattle" were being fed, and "a handsome fallow to put in a winter crop of about fifty bushels was in good order; good fences and some improvements had been made in clearing up, and guarding against the overflow of a stream on the premises; and the committee (seven in number), from what they saw, came to the conclusion that the farm was prudently managed." They recommend the erection of a "mad-house," at a cost of $150, and the sinking of a new well.
In 1829, $5000 was appropriated for part payment of the balance on the farm; and in 1830, $5350 was appropriated to pay the balance due on the farm, and for the repairs and improvements made thereon, making the sum of $11,350, as the total cost to that date.
In 1832 the boards of health of the various towns expended $2179.77 for the prevention of the Asiatic cholera, hospitals being established in Ghent and Stuyvesant. A committee visited the poor-house unawares, but found no cause of complaint in its management.
In 1831 the number of superintendents was increased to five, and in 1834 reduced again to three, against the protest of the county judges. In this last-named year the superintendents were authorized to erect a work-house, and make an inclosure for the same. They were also instructed to get one hundred young mulberry-trees, and a quantity of mulberry-seed, for the purpose of the cultivation of the silkworm and the making of silk, and in 1835 more mulberry-trees were ordered.
In 1850 the distinction between town and county poor restored. In the amount expended for outside relief this year ($4109.21) there was a sum of $60 for high-priced liquors, mostly brandy, at $3 per gallon. Four hundred and ninety-eight paupers were cared for, the inmates in the poor-house averaging two hundred and nineteen during the year. There was on pauper to every twenty-six inhabitants in some of the towns.
On July 2, 1857, the poor-house was totally destroyed by fire, and only the sum of $1573 was received as insurance. On July 14 the board of supervisors voted to build at a cost of $10,000, and Messrs. Lippett, Carpenter, Pulver, Van de Carr, and Miller were appointed a committee on plans. Subsequently $9000 was added to the appropriation. Philip Rockefeller, Jacob Conklin, and P. E. Van Alstyne, the superintendents of the poor, were instructed to act with the committee of the board in the erection of a new poor-house, and a contract with Welch & Lamb was entered for the erection of the same for $15,493, and sanctioned by the board. The superintendents then assumed, or attempted to assume, control of the work, but the board of supervisors resisted, and taking the question into the courts gained their point and gave the management to the building committee. The entire cost of the new building ready for occupancy was $21,215.55, and it was finished early in 1858.
In 1870 the barns on the poor-farm were burned, and rebuilt at a cost of about $5000; $998 was received as insurance.
In 1875 an insane asylum was built, in connection with the poor-house, at a cost of $5000, which is constructed in accordance with the modern ideas of convenience, health, and wholesome curative discipline necessary for such institutions. Movements are at the present time inaugurated to place the management of the asylum on a basis at once creditable and conducive to the comfort and possible recovery of the unfortunates confined within its walls.
The poor-house, and its accompanying buildings, and the asylum are a credit to the county, and the spirit of liberality and humanity with which they are managed speaks loudly for the charity and benevolence of the people who contribute to its maintenance and support.
The amount paid for the relief of the poor, inside and outside the poor-house, since its establishment to the present time, as well as the amount paid for such relief prior to the erection of such poor-house, is, approximately, as follows: From 1786 to 1812, both years inclusive, the amounts paid by the towns and county was about $50,000, the large part being paid by the towns. From 1813 to 1828 the towns paid $132,250, and the county $17,019. From the establishment of the poor-house system in 1829 to 1849 the amount paid for relief was $167,084, exclusive of the amount paid for salaries of superintendents of the poor-house. From 1850 to the present date, including the appropriations for 1878, the amount paid for relief in the poor-house, including the products sold and consumed on the farm, was $331,921. During the same period a sum of $107,559 was expended by the several towns of the county, exclusive of Hudson city, for the relief of town poor. The appropriations of the city, since 1850, have been from $2000 to $5000 annually for poor support. To these amounts paid by the county must be added the following appropriations for other charities made since 1850: for the State charities, $47,920; for the orphan asylum, about $15,000. From these amounts deduct the amounts reported as the products of the county farm since 1832, ----about $75,000,---and the grand aggregate paid by the people of Columbia county for charity's sake amounts to the large sum of $800,000, besides the amount of Hudson's contributions, which have been at least $100,000 more.
The last report of the superintendents of the poor-house makes the following exhibit: The total expenditures were $12,415.89; 722 persons were relieved; 149 were remaining in the house Nov. 1, 1877; 128 had been discharged during the year; 20 died; 425 were transient; 56,975 [page 73] days of board had been furnished at a cost per week of $1.54. The number of days' board chargeable to each town in the county was as follows:
|Ancram. . . . . . . . . .||2,192||Greenport. . . . . . . . . .||903|
|Austerlitz. . . . . . . . .||1,577||Hillsdale. . . . . . . . . . . .||2,778|
|Canaan. . . . . . . . . .||1,446||Hudson. . . . . . . . . . . . .||15,657|
|Chatham. . . . . . . . .||3,720||Kinderhook. . . . . . . . .||2,803|
|Claverack. . . . . . . .||4,249||Livingston. . . . . . . . . .||1,266|
|Clermont. . . . . . . . .||1,065||New Lebanon. . . . . . .||1,793|
|Copake. . . . . . . . . .||2,341||Stockport. . . . . . . . . . .||1,582|
|Gallatin. . . . . . . . . .||1,114||Stuyvesant. . . . . . . . . .||1,098|
|Germantown. . . . . .||1,435||Taghkanic. . . . . . . . . .||1,412|
|Ghent. . . . . . . . . . .||8,116||Transient. . . . . . . . . . .||425|
The stock, tools, and produce remaining on hand were inventoried at $4072.
THE HUDSON ORPHAN ASYLUM.
The Hudson Orphan and Relief Association was formed in October, 1843. A house was rented for $100 per annum, and a home opened under the charge and direction of a board of lady managers, and the same building occupied until 1847, in which year a building was erected by subscription; an addition was made to it in 1853, the whole building costing $6000. A lot, seventy-five feet by one hundred and twenty feet, was donated to the association by Abner Hammond. The home was maintained, up to 1850, solely by private enterprise. In that year and for three succeeding years the association received a share of the public charity fund of the State. The board of supervisors also, in 1852-53, appropriated $100. The institution was incorporated in 1846, with Aaron C. Macy, Carey Murdock, Robert McKinstry, Elihu Gifford, and Cyrus Curtiss as trustees.
There were 31 children in the house Jan. 1, 1850; 34 were received during the year, 10 were provided with homes, and 8 were taken by friends or relatives. From 1850 to 1853, 79 children had been provided with good homes, and 45 were in the home in October of the latter year. The receipts for the years 1850-52 were $4421, and the disbursements for the same time were $3918, leaving a balance of about $200 after paying the indebtedness on the building. On this showing by the managers, the board of supervisors appropriated $1000 to the asylum in 1853. In 1854 the same amount was appropriated by the supervisors, the other receipts being $1372.35, and the disbursements $2667.21. The receipts in 1856 were $3051.64, and disbursements $2210.12, and a permanent fund had been accumulated amount to $4564.69. In 1859 the fund had increased to $6183.09, and the receipts equaled the disbursements. In 1870 the receipts were $6504.10, and expenses $4869.10; in 1872, income $5382.16, expenses $4861.80; 1874, income $6145.71, expenses $5817.93; 1875, income $6599.53, expenses, $6399.60; 1876, income $6519.27, expenses $6386.58.
The children of inmates of the county almshouse have been, since 1853, maintained in the asylum, the supervisors paying for their support at the average cost of maintenance of the children by the institution. The law now requires that such children shall be supported outside the poor-houses of the several counties.
This excellent charity owed its existence, and for several years almost its entire maintenance, to the liberality and indefatigable efforts of one noble woman, ---Mrs. Robert McKinstry. Early and late, in season and out of season, and through discouragements of many kinds, she resolutely worked at her self-imposed task; and her unceasing devotion to the interests of the asylum only ceased when she passed to her reward. It is to her memory a monument more enduring than granite, and more beautiful than the costliest sculpture
*Widow of General Richard Montgomery.
†Bradford's Ed. Colonial Laws.
‡$4088.75; $900.79; $4989.54.