The History of Kinderhook,
Columbia County, New York
By Capt. Franklin Ellis40
Kinderhook is one of the oldest and most important towns of the county. It is the second from the river, of the northern towns bordering on the Rensselaer county line, from Stuyvesant on the west to Chatham on the east. On its south is the town of Ghent. Originally, Kinderhook embraced the whole of Stuyvesant and parts of Chatham and Ghent, giving it more than double its present area. It now comprises twenty thousand eight hundred acres, lying very nearly in the form of a rectangle, whose length is almost double its width, and extends from north to south about eight miles.
Kinderhook signifies in the Dutch tongue "the children's corner," and is supposed to have been applied to this locality by Hendrick Hudson, in 1609, on account of the many Indian children who had assembled on one of the bluffs along the river to see his strange vessel sailing up stream. Another version says that a Swede named Scherb, living in the forks of an Indian trail in the present town of Stuyvesant, had such a numerous family of children that the name of Kinderhook was used by the Dutch traders to designate that locality. Whichever account be accepted the name was appropriately selected, for the children of Kinderhook filled up not only its own bounds, but early occupied the adjoining territory.
The surface of the town is pleasantly diversified. In the eastern part are moderate spurs of the Peterborough mountains, but whose composition permits the greater portion to be cultivated. Along the creek are alluvial flats, called meadows by the early settlers, of wonderful fertility; and westward towards the Hudson the country partakes of the nature of an elevated champaign, whose general level is occasionally interrupted by pleasant undulations. In this part of the town were extensive pine forests, and a limited portion is yet covered with that timber. Along the creeks and farther to the east the timber growths were lighter, and consisted of the common deciduous trees, with occasional clusters of pine. The soil varies from a reddish sand to a heavy clay, intermingled with loam or a gravelly clay. It is thus adapted to a variety of products, and under careful cultivation proves generally fertile. Grass is a staple product, and the common varieties of fruit yield rich returns. The town has an excellent reputation for its agricultural resources, and contains many highly-improved farms.
Kinderhook creek is the principal stream of the town. It enters from the east, and after taking the waters of the Kline Kill, which forms the southeastern boundary of the town, flows northwest to its confluence with Valatie Kill, and then has a southwesterly course into the town of Stuyvesant. No water-power is afforded in the town from Valatie southwest, but east of that point the creek forces itself through deep channels and has several falls, which have been well improved. Valatie Kill flows from the northeast through Kinderhook lake, having in the latter part of its course several rapid descents, constituting it a valuable mill stream. This power was improved at a very early day. Flowing from the eastern part of the town into Kinderhook creek, near the village of the same name, is a small stream, which has a limited power at its western end. From the northwest several small brooks drain into the Hudson. The town has several lakes in the northern part. The largest of these is on the Chatham line, being partly in that town, and was formerly known as Fish lake. The present name--Kinderhook lake--is deemed more appropriate, although, as in former days, its waters still abound with fish. It is very irregular in shape and about three miles in circumference. Being fed by Valatie Kill and numerous springs, the waters are cool and clear, and are from five to forty feet in depth. It is a beautiful sheet, and attracts many visitors during the summer months. The fine growths of timber on its shores, alternated by gentle, treeless slopes to the water's edge, or abrupt and cliff-like banks, and several handsome islands which it contains, lend additional charms to the pleasure-seeker. On a conspicuous promontory in the southern part of the lake a fine hotel has been erected for the accommodation of visitors to this locality. West from this is Round lake. This is also a fine body of water, but being of small size is not so much esteemed as the former. These streams and the vales of the town promote good drainage.
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