THE VILLAGE OF KINDERHOOK
By Capt. Franklin Ellis52
The village of Kinderhook is situated on the west bank of Kinderhook creek, twelve miles north from Hudson, four miles form Kinderhook station (Niverville) on the Boston and Albany railroad, and five miles from Stuyvesant on the Hudson River railroad. Excellent highways lead to all the foregoing points, and to Albany by way of the old post-road, which here crosses the creek in its course to the northwest. From its location on this thoroughfare, as well as being on a principal road from the east to the landing, Kinderhook was in early times one of the most important business places in the county. But the railroads have diverted the trade which it formerly enjoyed, and it is now known chiefly as being the home of a large and respectable class of people whose means have permitted them to retire to this place to enjoy the refinement and culture which it affords. The village was originally built in a straggling manner along the ridge near the creek. In 1763 it contained fifteen houses and a Dutch Reformed church. The families then living in the place bore the names yet so well known and honored among the citizens of the village. They were the owners of spacious lots, where after the manner of their ancestors, they dwelt in quite contentment. This custom yet prevails, giving the village for its population (about twelve hundred souls) a very large area. The streets have, within the past sixty years, been laid out with more breadth and greater regularity, and are usually planted with trees. The grounds of the private residences are also liberally ornamented with trees and shrubbery. The houses themselves do not exhibit much architectural display, but are remarkable rather for their solid and comfortable appearance. These features have combined to give Kinderhook a place among the many handsome villages of the State.
The place has never been noted for its manufacturing interests, owing probably to the absence of water-power. Aside from the common mechanical pursuits and the manufacture of hats, one of the first notable interests was the carriage-factory belong to General Whiting. It occupied a large frame building north of the Reformed church. Many coaches were built for the southern States, and an active business was done. Subsequently a portion of the building was used as a steam grist-mill, and a saw-mill was operated by the same power, on the lot adjoining. After these had been discontinued, Eugene Hover here established a hoop-skirt and scarf-factory, about 1860, which did a large business, its sales aggregating more than one hundred thousand dollars per year. In ten years it was discontinued, and the building is now again used as a carriage-factory.
In 1846, Peter Hoes and James Chrysler erected a large steam cotton-mill in the western part of the village, which, in good times, was operated to produce twenty-eight thousand yards of plain cotton goods per week, and gave employment to eighty operators. Carpenter & Earl operated the mill last, but for the past eighty years it has been idle.
Among the first taverns within the village, within the period of recollection, was the one kept by Abraham Van Buren, the father of the President, towards the close of the last century. The house stood on the south side of the post-road, at the foot of the hill, and not very far from the creek. It was a story and a half frame, with a steep roof. The front door was in the centre of the building, with large side windows to light the hall, and which divided the part of the house allotted to travelers and that occupied by the family. Mr. Van Buren was also a small farmer, and probably did not depend upon his tavern as an exclusive means of support, although it is said that at certain seasons the business was considerable. Soon after 1800, a part of the hotel now known as the "Kinderhook House" was erected. Its present size is the result of several additions. Peter I. Lewis was an early landlord, and was followed in time by David Sinner. In 1837, David B. Strannahan was the proprietor of the house. Two years after Martin Van Buren's elevation to the presidency, in 1839, he visited a number of places in New York, among others his old home, Kinderhook. The citizens of the place tendered him a most enthusiastic reception,--the assembled concourse completely filling the space in front of the Kinderhook House. Amid the roar of cannon the President appeared on the balcony of the hotel, and in the most touching and pathetic manner thanked the people who thus honored him, and among whom he began his public career as a fence-viewer. Tryon & Granger, Asaph Wilder, and others have been hosts at this place, and for the past fifteen years it has been conducted by Wm. Bradley. Nearly opposite is another hotel. The house was erected for other purposes, and was used as a school-house by a man named Restor, who had considerable reputation as a teacher. Subsequently it contained a store, and finally, with some additions, became a tavern. Andrew Van Slyck, B. Demeyer, and many others have been its keepers.
In the neighborhood of the Van Buren tavern Abram Van Vleck had a store, some time about 1780. Afterwards his son became associated with him, and later Henry and Aaron Van Vleck were the principal tradesmen. In 1821 they had a store on the west side of Chatham street, in the house now occupied as a residence by William Weed. The corner store was afterwards built by them. John and Peter Bain succeeded the Van Vlecks, and were for many years prominent merchants. Another old store is that at present occupied by the post-office. This was erected by John Rogers, an Irishman of convivial habits, but withal a good business man. Whiting & Clark carried on an extensive business in this house, drawing custom from the country many miles around. On the site of the National bank Peter Van Buren was in trade, and was succeeded, about 1830, by Peter Hoes. Laurence Van Buren occupied what was known as the Yellow store, and Lawrence Van Dyck the Mandeville tavern building. Van Dyck & Crocker did business near the Reformed church, and Witbeck & Buffington in a building that stood where the Van Schaack law-office now is. Amos Ackley, Geid Manton, Asaph Wilder, and others were also in trade at an early day. Since 1855, John C. Sweet has been a bookseller in the place, and is the oldest merchant in trade. There are about a dozen stores, but the business transacted is light compared with that of former days.
The early history of the post-office has been imperfectly ascertained. From the department at Washington we learn that the first regular office was established July 31, 1792, and that Ashbel Ely was the postmaster. Another early official was Laurence Van Dyck. The letter-case he constructed for the office is yet preserved in Mr. Sweet's store. David Van Schaack, Laurence Van Buren, and James Lathrop have also been postmasters, and George Reynolds holds the position at present. The office does a business aggregating nearly two thousand dollars per annum, and distributes a large amount of matter daily, the number of papers per week reaching nearly a thousand. In 1869 it became a postal money-order office, and in 1877 issued orders to the amount of three thousand seven hundred and forty-eight dollars and seventy-nine cents, besides sending one hundred and eighteen registered letters.
Kinderhook is noted for its excellent and popular banks.
THE NATIONAL BANK OF KINDERHOOK
The National Bank of Kinderhook ranks first in the order of time. It was established as a State bank Jan. 1, 1839, with a capital of one hundred and ninety-five thousand dollars. It is said that the city of Hudson opposed this movement with bitter jealousy; but, nevertheless, the bank, became at once very popular, and has always retained the confidence of the business men of the northern part of the county.
The first board of directors was composed of John Bain, Teunis Harder, Peter I. Hoes, Mordecai Myers, Edward B. Pugsley, John P. Beekman, Charles Whiting, John I. Pruyn, Andrew Van Alstyne, Julius Wilcoxson, David Van Schaack, Lucas Hoes, Laurence Van Buren, Wm. H. Tobey, John J. Van Valkenburgh, Uriah Edwards, and Adam A. Hoysradt.
John P. Beekman was chosen president of the bank and held that position until 1862. He was succeeded by Christopher H. Wendover, who was president a year. Since 1863, William R. Mesick has presided over the interests of the bank.
The cashiers have been Lucas Hoes, 1839-42; Covington Guion, 1842-49; Franklin G. Guion, 1849-69; John J. Van Schaack, 1869-77; and since that period Augustus W. Wynkoop.
In 1862 the bank moved into the present building, which was erected for its use, and seems well adapted for its purposes. On the 17th of April, 1865, it became a national bank, with an increase of the capital to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which amount is yet maintained.
The present directors are John J. Van Valkenburgh,--who has been continuously on the board, and is the only one of the original directors now living,--William R. Mesick, Hugh Van Alstyne, Ephraim P. Best, Samuel Wilber, James Kingman, Barent I. Van Hoesen, Calvin L. Herrick, Peter S. Hoes, Lucas Pruyn, William J. Penoyer, Henry Van Hoesen, Abraham Harder, and Albert De Meyer.
The National Union Bank of Kinderhook commenced business as a State bank Oct. 1, 1853, with a capital of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. This was increased to two hundred thousand dollars in 1859. The bank commenced business in the corner building, owned by Charles Whiting, adjoining the present harness-store. In 1858 the bank was burglarized, sustaining a loss of nine thousand dollars. The brick building which it now occupies was then purchased and fitted up for its use, and possession was taken May 1, 1859. It affords ample and convenient accommodations for the large and increasing business of the institution. On the 29th of March, 1865, it became a national bank, and has since done business as such.
The first board of directors was composed of William H. Tobey, John J. Kittle, Adam A. Hoysradt, John Rogers, John T. Wendover, Henry J. Whiting, Francis W. Bradley, David Van Schaack, Isaac Esselstyne, Charles Whiting, James B. Laing Daniel D. Warner, Daniel S. Curtis, Ciba A. Gardenier, John Bain, Hugh Bain, Nathan Wild, Richard Graus, Henry Snyder, Samuel Hanna, and Charles L. Beale.
William H. Tobey was chosen president of the bank in 1853, and held that position until his death in May, 1878. Barent Van Alstyne, the vice-president, is now the acting president. Wm. H. Rainey has been the cashier of the bank form its organization, and to him much of the success of the bank is due.
Of the original twenty-one directors two remain members of the present board, which contains but twelve members; fifteen are deceased, and four have become disconnected.
The present directors are Barent Van Alstyne, Ciba A. Gardenier, John Rogers, Stephen H. Wendover, James Van Alstyne, Peter V. S. Pruyn, Isaac V. A. Snyder, Francis Silvester, David W. Gardenier, James Mix, Henry A. Best, and James Bain.
Probably no village in the Union has possessed a greater array of talent in the learned professions than Kinderhook. Here have lived, and practiced law and medicine, men whose names have become co-extensive with the fame of our common country, and who have given those professions in this place a prestige that will always attach to them.
As near as can be determined from the imperfect data in our possession, Peter Silvester was a counselor at Kinderhook about 1760, and was probably the first to engage regularly in the practice of law. In 1766 he had an office in Albany, although his family continued to reside at Kinderhook, where, in 1767, was born Francis Silvester, who, twenty-five years later, and until his death, in 1845, was known as one of the most eminent lawyers of Kinderhook. It was in Mr. Silvester's office that Martin Van Buren began his law studies, and others who became distinguished jurists were here under his instruction. A grandson, also named Francis Silvester, is at present an honored and successful attorney at Kinderhook.
Peter Van Schaack was born in Kinderhook in 1747. When nineteen years old he studied law with Peter Silvester at Albany, and subsequently became a leading lawyer in New York city. In 1755 he removed to Kinderhook, and afterwards visited England to continue the study of the law. On his return to America he found a large practice awaiting him, but was obliged by his failing eyesight to relinquish the greater portion of it. In 1792 he was obliged to employ an amanuensis, and thereafter his labors were principally directed to the instruction of his law-students, who embraced the sons of some of the most distinguished lawyers of that day, among others the sons of Rufus King, James Kent, Ambrose Spencer, and Theodore Sedgewick. It is estimated that one hundred young men served their law clerkships under him. Mr. Van Schaack was a man of profound knowledge, and was the first native of the county to receive a college education. He died at Kinderhook in September, 1832.
David Van Schaack was also widely known as a Kinderhook lawyer until his death in 1872.
Martin Van Buren was born in the unpretentious tavern of Abraham Van Buren, in the lower part of Kinderhook, in 1782, and left the academy in this place in 1796 to commence the study of law with Francis Silvester. He completed his studies in the office of Wm. P. Van Ness, of New York city, and in 1803 commenced the practice of his profession in Kinderhook, remaining until 1808, when he removed to Hudson. His political career and public services are elsewhere noted.
James Vanderpoel, son of Isaac Vanderpoel, and oldest brother of John and Aaron Vanderpoel, was born at Kinderhook in 1787. He commenced the study of law with Francis Silvester in 1804, and practiced at Kinderhook from 1808 until 1832, when he removed to Albany. He enjoyed a very enviable reputation as a lawyer. His brother Aaron was born in 1799, and studied law in his office, being admitted to the bar in 1820. He counseled at Kinderhook until 1739.
John H. Reynolds, Julius Wilcoxson, and Wm. H. Tobey were for many years contemporary attorneys of more than ordinary merit. The latter died in May, 1878, having been in practice at Kinderhook more than forty years. Other lawyers of note in the place were Barent Gardenier, Myndert Vosburgh, Abraham A. Van Buren, James I. Van Alen, Francis Pruyn, George Van Santvoord, and Charles L. Beale. Of those born in old Kinderhook, who became eminent in the law, Cornelius P. Van Ness, son of Peter Van Ness, born at Lindenwald in 1782, deserves foremost mention; B. F. Butler, son of Colonel Medad Butler, born in 1795, a student of Martin Van Buren in 1811, also became very prominent; and Peter L. Van Alen, who removed to Georgia about the close of the last century, was an attorney of unusually brilliant attainments. Besides Francis Silvester, already mentioned, G. S. Collier and William H. Atwood are lawyers at Kinderhook. The latter occupies the old Van Schaack office, having been located here since 1872, and is a rising young attorney.
Although not as numerous as the legal fraternity, the medical profession has had men of equal eminence at Kinderhook. One of the first was Dr. John I. Beekman, who was born July 4, 1761, and died in 1791. Dr. Henry Van Dyck came next as a successful practitioner. Dr. William Barthrop, an Englishman, came some time after 1800, and remained until his death in 1838, aged seventy-three years. Dr. John P. Beekman, a son of the first-named physician, was in practice about twenty years, discontinuing in 1834. He was born in Kinderhook in 1788, and died there in 1861. Dr. Andrew Van Dyck was a well-known physician from 1822 to 1843. Dr. John M. Pruyn was in practice from 1835 on, and died in 1856, nearly sixty years of age. Dr. Daniel Sargent was his contemporary until his removal to Hudson. Dr. Lucas Pruyn was born June 14, 1812, admitted to practice in 1834, and since 1842 has followed his profession at Kinderhook. Dr. P. V. S. Pruyn has been established here since 1863; and Dr. Jame Green, a homoeopathist, came to Kinderhook in 1875.
The Rough Notes, a lively weekly journal, is published at Kinderhook, by C. W. Davis. A full account of this paper and village journalism is found in the chapter on the press of the county.
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