Civil History


Columbia County,

New York

By Capt. Franklin Ellis269


     The government of the Palatine colony by a board of commissioners, and the appointment of a master for each of the villages in 1711, shows the first establishment of local authority; but beyond that we have little account for sixty-four years.  During this period the people had the same forms of government and the same rights as those upon other portions of the Livingston manor.  It was held by the courts that, though the title to the soil had been sold by Robert Livingston, yet Germantown was, in respect to all other conditions of the original grant, a part of the manor.  The people of Germantown had a right to vote in electing a representative to the Legislative Assembly from the manor.  The lord of the manor had the power of holding a "court-leet" and a "court-baron," and of course the right to appoint officers for such courts, and the people were subject to the jurisdiction of these courts.   The power of raising money for all city, town, and county purposes was also granted in the patent, and the tenants were authorized to elect assessors for those purposes.  This government by the lord of the manor must have been the local authority in Germantown down to 1775.  In 1775 Germantown was formed as a "district."  This organization continued until the general law of 1788, when it was recognized as a town.  The records of the "district" are not preserved, and the names of officers cannot be given.  The first volume of town records is also lost, and Thomas Fingar, who was clerk of the town in 1828 and 1829, states that it was missing at that time.  The list of supervisors is obtained complete from the organization of the county, being preserved in the county records.  The books of the Germantown office are complete form 1808.

     The following notes are taken from the town records of Germantown:

     1808.--The assessors this year were Andrew Hover, William Becker, William Rockefeller.  The poormasters were Conrad Lasher and Peter Sharp.  Commissioners of Highways, William Fritzs, Henry Dick, Jacobus Kline; Constables, Jacob Fingar, Jacob A. Turk; Fenceviewers, Adam Rifenburgh, William Snyder, John B. Shultis; Poundmaster, Peter Hyser; and Roadmasters, Philip Staats, John W. Rockefeller, William Becket, John Acker, Adam Rifenburgh, Peter B. Lasher, Peter Sharp, John Hover, Roger Bissell, Philip S. Rockefeller, Adam A. Clum.  At that time, in the eleven road districts, there were assessed for highway labor one hundred and fifteen persons, of whom twelve were Rockefellers, nine Lasher, and eight Snyders.  As this road-list must include all the male inhabitants over twenty-one, or nearly all, it is a curious fact to notice that in 1711, almost one hundred years earlier, there were eleven hundred and twenty-eight person in the town.  This shows how completely the early Palatine settlers had scattered; and though a few of their family names, such as Rockefeller and Lasher, have been intimately associated with all the subsequent history of the town, yet the large majority must have gone elsewhere.

     Many notices of the birth of slaves are found about this time, and for several years later.  The following specimens are given:

"GERMANTOWN, Jan. 9th 1808.

     "I do hereby certify that a male black child was born of my negro woman, named Nan who is called or named William Jackson, on the above day.



"GERMANTOWN, Sept. 29TH, 1805.

     "We do hereby certify that a female child was born of our negro woman, a slave, named Zian.




     Similar notices are signed by William Schapmoes, Peter Sharp, and Philip Salspaugh.  In some cases the words are added, "which I do hereby abandon."  That amounted to giving freedom to the infant.

     The town-meeting of 1808 was held at the house of Simon Rockefeller.

     1809.--Annual meeting held at the house of Philip Rockefeller.  Out of seventeen town officers six were Rockefellers.  All hogs running at large, except sucking pigs, to have a suitable yoke around the neck.  The last expression shows the care in drawing the by-laws, otherwise some careless citizen might have put the yoke on some other part of the hog.  Seventy dollars was voted for support of the poor.

     1810.--The eleven roadmasters chosen were John Staats, Frederick Rockefeller, John Harder, Jr., George Snyder, John Hover, William Schapmoes, Marks Lasher, Henry Dick, Henry I. Miller, Philip Salspaugh, William Chapman, Jr.  The fence-viewers were William Snyder, Henry I. Miller, Adam Rifenburgh.   Seventy-five dollars were voted for the poor; and Peter Snyder was exonerated form the payment of the interest on his note, formerly given to the poormaster.  The town-meetings seem to have been held alternately at the houses of Simon Rockefeller and Philip Rockefeller during several years.

     1811.--List of all the freeholders in Germantown to serve as jurors for the county of Columbia:  William S. Snyder, John W. Rockefeller, William Snyder, yeomen; John Saulspaugh, Jr., carpenter; Noah Shepard, Henry Ashley, farmers; Joseph F. Lodewick, mason; Philip S. Rockefeller, Peter H. Miller, John Kline, Jacob A. Turk, Jacobus Kline, farmers; Christian Happy, carpenter; William Schapmoes, William Chapman, Jr., John Blass, farmers; Frederick Rockefeller, blacksmith; Andrew Hover, farmer; Henry Rockefeller, merchant; John Rockefeller, physician; George Rockefeller, Conrad I. Lasher, Peter Lasher, William Rockefeller, Philip W. Rockefeller, John Harder, Jr., Henry I. Miller, Peter I. Harder, Philip P. Clum, farmers; John Acker, ferryman; Herman Rockefeller, farmer; John Fuhr, shoemaker; Philip C. Lasher, William Becker, William Fritz, Philip Fritz, farmers; Jacob D. Barringer, carpenter; Philip Staats, Jr., shoemaker; Benjamin Hover, Conrad C. Lasher, Jacob Lasher, Elias Fingar, Jacob C. Fingar, farmers; Peter D. Rockefeller, blacksmith; Frederick Warringer, John Staats, Jacob Philip, Henry Dick, farmers.  By appointment, Frederick Rockefeller, supervisor; Simon Rockefeller, town clerk; Jacob D. Barringer and Peter Sharp, assessors.

     1812.--One hundred dollars voted for the support of the poor.  At the election for senator, held April 28, 29, and 30, Edward P. Livingston received sixty-two votes and Martin Van Buren six votes.  The future President was unable to beat the Livingstons.  At the same election Zebulon R. Shepherd received eighty-six votes for Congress and Hosea Moffit eighty-six, two representatives being chosen from the district.

     1824.--Four hundred dollars was voted for the support of the poor.  The inspectors and commissioners of common schools were voted seventy-five cents a day for their services.

     1826.--The assessment-roll for this year was made by Samuel Snyder, Bastian C. Lasher, and Henry Dick, Jr., assessors.  It contains the names of one hundred and fifty-three tax payers.  Twenty-two were "Lashers," or about one-seventh of the whole.  Even the Rockefellers failed to muster more than fourteen, the Lasher family outnumbering them by eight.  The following were assessed for $1000 or over:  widow of Henry Ashley, $1050; Thomas N. Brodhead, $2500; William Chapman, $4500; Adam P. Clum, $1280; Adam Clum, $1320; Henry Dick, $6900; George Deninger, $1200; Philip Fritz, $3840; Conrad Fingar, $3500; Elias H. Fingar, $1150; John I. Harder, $2340; John Harder, Jr., $2950; Jeremiah Hover, $2660; John Hover, $9200; Andrew Hover, $5300; Jacobus Kline, $2000; Peter Kline, $1650; Peter B. Lasher, $7500; Garret H. Lasher, $1250; Walter Lasher, $2520; David Lasher, $2075; George C. Lasher, $3565; Marks Lasher, $4250; Jacob Lasher, $5030; Conrad C. Lasher, $2750; Bastian C. Lasher, $3850; John Lasher, $1050; Abraham I. Moore, $2570; David Moore, $1470; John Moore, $3070; Peter H. Miller, $3695; Allen Nash, $2275; Peter M. Blass, $4520; Wilhelmus Philip, $3590; Simon R. Rockefeller, $6930; George Rockefeller, $3520; Henry Rockefeller, $7420; Peter D. Rockefeller, $2675; the widow of Philip Rouse, $1375; Philip I. Rockefeller, $4800; John W. Rockefeller, $2425; Rev. John Rudy, $1000; John Staats, $5875; William and Samuel Snyder, $5000; Peter Sharp, $6560; Peter Snyder, $1850; Philip I. Salspaugh, $3000; John B. Shultis, $2450; George B. Shultis, $2750; estate of Philip Salspaugh, $1250; Cornelius Toby, $1725; Seth Ten Broeck, $5450; Wessel Van Orden, $1300.

     1827.--It was resolved that two dollars and fifty cents be raised to pay for a chest to keep the books and papers belonging to the town.  This is doubtless the venerable old chest now kept over the blacksmith-shop in Germantown village.  It was also resolved that a house lately erected by Simon Smith, in the cove, near Philip Rouse, be removed, if it can be legally done.

     1828.--The sum voted for the poor was two hundred dollars, just half of the amount voted in 1824.

     1829.--Road district No. 3 is described as "beginning at the Reverend Rudy's school-house.

     1830.--Only forty dollars raised for the support of the poor.

     1840.--It was "voted that taxes which had been received for dogs should be returned to those who have paid it."  Good for the owners of dogs, though a trifling defiance of State authority, perhaps.

     1845.--The town-meeting was held at the house of Garret Lasher.

     1852.--A bounty was offered of six cents for each crow killed in Germantown.  The town being small, it was probably but little trouble for the crows to fly around it.

     1853.--The act annexing a portion of Clermont to Germantown was passed by the Legislature, March, 2, 1858.  The descriptive clause is as follows:  "All that part of the town of Clermont in the County of Columbia lying northerly of the south line of the town of Germantown, in said County, to be extended easterly to the Roeloff Jansen's Kill, so as to embrace all the territory lying Northerly of said extended line, from the Hudson river to the Roeloff Jansen Kill, shall be and is hereby taken from the town of Clermont and annexed to and constitute a part of the town of Germantown."

     1865.--The annual meeting provided for electing path-masters by ballot; so unusual anywhere else in the State that we copy the resolution:

     "Resolved, That every person allowed by law to vote for Town officers shall be allowed to deposit one ballot in a certain box, endorsed Highways, and said ballot shall be canvassed by the Inspectors.  Every ballot shall have but one person's name on, and shall designate the District he votes for ; and all ballots with more than one name on shall be rejected; and the person having the highest number of votes shall be declared elected in their respective Road Districts."

     1866.--The building of a dock upon the Hudson river being regarded as a matter of public importance application was made to the Legislature for a special act granting authority for raising the necessary funds.  This was passed at the session of 1866.  On the 23d of February of the same year a resolution to raise five thousand dollars was submitted to the voters and adopted,--one hundred and twenty-six to seventy-five.  The work was undertaken the same season and completed,--the commissioners of highways having also obtained a deed from the State to the necessary land under water.  Under date of Jan. 25, 1867, the board of town auditors certify that the work has been completed "in a manner entirely satisfactory to the residents of the town;" that the town appropriation of five thousand dollars was expended, together with about eleven hundred dollars voluntarily contributed for the purpose.  Furthermore, the board authorized the payment of additional expenses incurred to the amount of five hundred and thirty-three dollars and twenty-eight cents.  This dock is just west of North Germantown village, and is a convenient addition to the shipping facilities of the town.  It extends nearly twenty rods into the river; steamboats call; produce is shipped from that point; business interests are growing up; and there are many private residences, finely situated on the highlands, back from the river in and around North Germantown.  Unlike most experiments of towns, bonding for railroads and public improvements, this has proved a direct pecuniary gain.  The town rents the dock to the highest bidder, receiving now a rental of eleven hundred dollars a year.  This is certainly a good income on an investment of less than seven thousand dollars.

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