By Captain Franklin Ellis403
The original land titles and patents covering the soil of the town are treated at length in another part of this book. They are, briefly, an Indian purchase, made July 12, 1683 by Robert Livingston, of two thousand acres of land along the Hudson and Roeloff Jansen's Kill, confirmed by a patent, granted by Governor Thomas Dongan, Nov. 4, 1684. A second Indian purchase, by the same party, of three hundred acres of meadow-land in Taghkanic, Aug. 10, 1685, for which a patent was issued Aug. 27, 1685. And last, a grant to Robert Livingston, by Governor Thomas Dongan, July 22, 1686, of all the remaining and adjoining lands of what was afterwards constituted the manor of Livingston,--the entire tract (including the two purchases and first patents) containing about one hundred and sixty thousand two hundred and forty acres. It will be seen that the greater portion of this land was never acquired by virtue of an Indian title, but was bestowed upon Livingston by a direct patent from the provincial government. This was made the basis of subsequent claims, which resulted in the long and unhappy controversies between the lords of the manor and the then tenants, and led to several sanguinary conflicts. These struggles and the final disposition of the matter are considered elsewhere, and are here omitted to avoid repetition.
On the 26th of October, 1694, Robert Livingston conveyed to Derick Wessels Ten Broeck six hundred acres of land lying on the Hudson, and twelve hundred acres on both sides of the Roeloff Jansen Kill, east of the present village of Clermont; and on the 29th of September, 1710, he sold six thousand aces along the Hudson to Queen Anne, for the use of the Palatines. The remainder of the extensive domain was conveyed by Livingston to his children, and entailed upon them and their successive heirs by the name of Livingston. The grant was settled by tenants holding life-leases. In 1715 the royal government confirmed the grants of the province, and erected the whole into a lordship, under the name of the "Manor of Livingston" and bestowed the usual court and baronial privileges of that day upon the manor. Robert Livingston thus became the first lord of the manor, with power to constitute a court-baron and appoint officers thereof, and after 1716 his tenants were empowered to elect a member from the manor in the Assembly of the province. The Livingston family enjoyed the privileges of their lordship until the Revolution broke the entail, the successive lords being Robert, the grantee, Philip, his son, and Robert, Jr., son of the second lord.
Robert Livingston was born at Ancram, Scotland, Dec. 13, 1654. His father, John Livingston, was a clergyman of more than ordinary ability, who was obliged to flee from Scotland on account of the religious persecution which prevailed when Robert was about twelve years of age. He took up his abode at Rotterdam, Holland, where his son applied himself to the acquisition of the Dutch language, receiving at the same time a thorough education from his father. In 1674, Robert came to America, and although but twenty years old, was at once given a position in the council at Albany. He soon after became secretary of Indian affairs, a position which he filled nearly fifty years. The knowledge he there acquired aided him in his business operations, and accounts for the success which attended his speculations in real estate. Having been deposed from his offices by the opposition government, he was re-instated in 1705, after a most venturesome trip to England, suffering, among other privations shipwreck upon an unfriendly coast. He contracted with the government to subsist the Palatines, who settled on a portion of his grant, amassing from this and other sources considerable wealth, which he employed to advance the interest of his vast estate. In 1699 he erected a manor-house in Livingston near where is the present railroad station, but did not himself reside there until 1711. The original house stood there more than one hundred years, but now its site can hardly be traced. Nothing but a pile of rubbish marks its former place.
In 1715, having secured a lordship for his manor, Mr. Livingston endeavored to secure a representation in the Provincial Assembly, a privilege which he obtained in 1716. From this period until 1726 he represented the manor as a delegate, and served as speaker of the Assembly from 1718 till 1725. He retired to private life in 1726, and two years later died on the manor, and was buried in the vault under the church at Linlithgo, which he erected in 1721.
Robert Livingston, the first lord of the manor, was shrewd, persistent, and very acquisitive, his zeal in this direction leading him sometimes to adopt questionable methods to advance his interests. He always exerted himself to obtain riches, and strove continually to promote his family interests.
He was married July 9, 1679, to Alida Schuyler, widow of the Rev. Nicholas Van Rensselaer, by whom he had nine children, five of whom grew to mature years,--Philip, Robert, Gilbert, Margaret, and Joanna.
Gilbert, the youngest son, became a resident of Poughkeepsie, and was the grandfather of the celebrated divine, the Rev. John H. Livingston.
To Robert, the second son, the lord of the manor bequeathed, Feb. 10, 1722, all that part of the manor lying south of the Roeloff Jansen Kill, except the land belonging to the Palatines and other parties named in the will of that date. This afterwards became Clermont, and the subsequent history of that branch of the family is given in that connection.
Philip, the oldest son, became the second lord of the manor. His children were Robert, Peter Van Brugh, John, Philip, Henry, William, Sarah, Alida, and Catherine.
Philip, the fourth son of Lord Philip, became a distinguished merchant in New York city; was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and a devoted patriot.
The sixth son, William, became the governor of New Jersey, and held that position during the Revolution, to the good of the American cause. He was the father of Brockholst Livingston, who became chief-justice of the United States.
One of the daughters of the second lord of the manor married John Van Rensselaer, the proprietor of Claverack. Philip Livingston never resided at the manor-house, but had his home in Albany and New York city. He succeeded his father in many of the offices he held, and became a member of the council in 1725. He died in 1749, and was thereafter inhumed in the family vault at Linlithgo.
His eldest son, Robert, born Dec. 25, 1708, became the last lord of the manor on his father's death, and continued until the Revolution. His children were Peter R., Walter, Robert C., John, Henry, Mary, Mrs. James Duane, Alida, Mrs. Valentine Gardiner, Catherine, and Mrs. John Patterson. Peter R. became a merchant in New York city, but met with such heavy losses that he was obliged to retire from business. Returning to the manor, he commenced the building of "The Hermitage" some time during the Revolution. It was begun on a magnificent scale, the plan embracing a hall forty feet square, on the sides of which were spacious rooms and grand entrance-ways. After having carried up the walls to the height of one story, a roof was place over the structure, and it yet remains in that condition. The historian, William Smith, was a brother-in-law of Peter R. Livingston, and, while on a visit to his home, wrote a portion of the history of New York in one of those quaint rooms. By the terms of Robert Livingston's will, executed May 31, 1784, the greater portion fo the manor which would naturally have fallen to Peter R., his oldest son, was devised to the latter's children. The oldest of these was Robert Thong, who inherited the old manor-house, and it was he who erected the present manor-house. His only child, a daughter, married Alexander Croft, the father of the present occupant of this property, which has passed into the hands of the seventh generation of the Livingston family. Excepting the fine natural location of this house, there is nothing to distinguish it from an ordinary farm-house.
Walter Tryon, another son of Peter R., erected the Joseph Miller house, and in the later years of his life lived on the Ten Broeck place in Clermont. His brother, Moncrief, was a prominent citizen of the town, and lived on the present McIntyre place on the Highland turnpike. A fourth son of Peter R. was James S., whose homestead was east of the Blue store, the property now occupied by two of his daughters, Mrs. Johnson and Miss Cornelia Livingston. The latter is the owner of the original Robert Livingston Bible, which was printed in London in 1683, and contains the first family records in Dutch. The house these ladies occupy antedates the Revolution, and is remarkable for its quaint construction.
In the same will, before alluded to, the last lord of the manor devised his land lying east of the post-road to his four other sons, Walter, Robert C., Henry, and John, each receiving about twenty-eight thousand acres, the several lots being located from north to south, along the post-road, in the order named. Each also received a portion of the domain west of that thoroughfare. On an elevation, between the Kleina and Roeloff Jansen Kills, Walter Livingston erected a noteworthy mansion before the Revolution. It is a massive building, sixty feet square, several stories high, with a square roof and dormer windows. One of the daughters of Walter married Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat; and after he husband's death, in 1815, came with her three children to reside at this place. Here she afterwards married Charles Augustus Dale, and Englishman of expensive habits and great fondness for horses. It is related of him that on one occasion he drove a team of thoroughbreds from New York city to this place, on a wager that he could make faster time than the steamboat, accomplishing the feat between sunrise and sunset. He won the wager, although at the sacrifice of one of his horses. One of Mrs. Fulton's daughters married Robert Ludlow, of Claverack. The Walter Livingston home, which was widely known as "Teviotdale," is now in the possession of Christian Cooper, a former servant of the family, who served in the War of 1812. He is ninety-four years old, but still remembers distinctly the events of his youthful days. The mansion is in a state of decay, and retains but little of its former beauty.
Henry W., a son of Walter Livingston removed to the northern part of the town, where, some time before 1800, he erected, upon a beautiful eminence, commanding a view of the country many miles around, a residence whose extensive proportions and beauty have not been excelled in the county. It was long known as the "The Widow Mary's Place." A grandson, Henry W., living south of Johnstown, is the only member of this branch of the family left in the town. He is also a maternal descendant of Count de Grace, the companion of Lafayette, and equally distinguished for his service in the American cause in the Revolution.
Robert C. Livingston became a merchant in New York city and Jamaica, and was never much identified with the county. It is said that the letter C was added to his name form the circumstance of his having attended Cambridge University, and there being so many Roberts in the different families, this one was distinguished by being called Cambridge Robert.
John Livingston settled a little south of Johnstown, which was named after him, building the mansion which was afterwards the home of Philip L. Hoffman, the grandfather of the ex-governor, and at a later period became the home of General Henry Livingston, a brother of John. General Livingston rendered efficient service in the Revolution. He died unmarried at this place, in 1823. After John Livingston had sold his property to Mr. Hoffman he moved to Oak Hill, where a grandson, Herman T., still resides, one of the few surviving members of this once large and powerful family.
The settlement of the manor began soon after the last grant was made, in 1686, but for many years was slow and unimportant. In 1714 there were but three houses in the present town of Livingston,--the manor-house, and Whitbeck's and Brusie's, in the neighborhood of Glenco mills. The list of freeholders in 1720 contains among others the names of Killian Wirme, Claas Brusie, Nicholas Whitbeck, Coenradt Ham, Conradt Schureman, Johannes Pulver, Bastian Spickerman, Nicholas Smith, Johannes Rossman, Hanse Jurie Proper, Junie Decker, Jacob Stever, and Fitz Mezigh, as living in the northern part of the manor.
In the roll of the Independent Company, mustered at the manor-house, Nov. 30, 1715, may be found the names of some who doubtless resided in the present town of Livingston and in the histories of the Reformed and Lutheran churches appear others prominent in the town at a later day. In 1790 there lived in the town, besides the Livingstons, the following families: in the northwestern part and north of Johnstown, Crawford, Benham, McLean, Tator, Shults, Decker, Ten Eyck, Rice, Morrison, Shaver, Kallor, Patrie, McKinstry, Herder, Rockefeller, Spickerman, Covert, J. Best, Pulver, Stevers, Stahl, Ham, Rowe, Gardner, Silvernail, William Melius, P Smith, P. Baringer, Haver, J. Melius, Bates, A. Fonda, Jager, Tiel, Ham, C. and J. Rossman. South of Johnstown and north of the Blue store were J. Lane, William Hare, J. Hover, P. L. Hoffman, C. Van De Bogart, J. Fingar, Shirts, Coons, Coop, Messrs. Megley, Rockefeller, Barringer, Huddleston, J. Volandt, Cole, Minckler, Blatner, Harme, Best, Erehmebergh, and Osterhout. From the Blue store southward to Elizaville were Frier, Rowe, Best, Hood, Shaver, Feller, Swarts, Blatner, and others, many of whom have descendants occupying the land they then lived on. Of the foregoing, Peter Benham was a physician of large practice at Oak Hill and the surrounding country. He always visited his patients on foot and having once been induced ot ride, declared it the most fearfully experience he ever had in his life. Colonel John McKinstry was a Revolutionary veteran, and was a captain at the battle of the Cedars, as has been mentioned. He was a very brave man and highly respected. John Best was also a captain in the American army, and had settled in Livingston in 1760. Samuel S. Myers, an early settler, was one of the first mail-carriers; and Allen Myers served in the War of 1812. Conrad Patrie was a soldier of the Revolution, and was one of a number of that name who were very early settlers. At a later period the principal inhabitants of the town are shown in the list of road districts, given on another page. In 1875 the population of the town was 1969.