— Photo from the Albany Institute of History and Art

Trolleys travelled under police guard on Albany's Washington Avenue in February 1921.

Nary a trace remains of the long, slim, silver tracks that once carried the olive-drab, wicker three-seated trolley cars through our neighboring city of Albany to the town line of Mckownville in Guilderland.   Those trolleys once brought businessmen to work, students to school, and shoppers to the super clothing stores at Whitneys and Myers on North Pearl Street in the heart of the Capital City.

The United Traction Company provided transportation for the city from 1890 to 1946. The operation had 93 miles of tracks with 434 trolley cars.

But there is a more historic story about the trolleys that for so long were the transportation in Albany.

“The big metal doors were shut on the car barn in North Albany and the streets were quiet on February 8, 1921,” the Albany Evening Journal story read, “when suddenly the barn doors burst open.”

The trolley leaving the barn had a police guard aboard, a strikebreaker as a motorman, and an escort of six mounted policemen. Stout steel wires encased the car’s windows.

“The street soon became black with men, women and children. Boys still in knickers, women wearing long serge skirts beneath their winter coats joined 200 men as they tried to surround the trolley,” the story went on. “Anger permeated the air as police cleared a passage. The trolley completed its first run without incident. When the second run started,  the crowd pulled down guy wires and immobilized the cars.”

This started Albany’s Great Trolley Strike.

 

— Photo from the Albany Institute of History and Art
Anger shot through the crowd when a trolley left the North Albany car barn on feb. 8, 1921.

 

On Sunday mornings, the cars were usually filled with picnickers headed for the Six Mile waterworks on Fuller Road and Lagoon Island, or with families traveling to relatives in Troy.  This came to a temporary halt when the trolley strike began.

The dispute was over salary when motormen and conductors wanted a raise to 85 cent per hour from 45 cent per hour and other employees wanted raises as well. The  UTC, owned by the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, refused these demands.

Following post-World War I inflation, the cost of labor and materials had doubled, and in some cases had gone up by 500 percent, according to management.

Dickering about wages continued and UTC officials responded by cutting back a recently negotiated 60-cent hourly wage to the former 45-cent per hour.  Idle trolleys in North Albany and North Troy car barns left Albany without public transportation.

Several enterprising automobile car owners started a “jitney service” and charged riders 10 to 25 cents to drive people across town.

A three-day riot on the streets of Albany started. Mayor James A. Watts ordered the Albany Police force to maintain order, yet violence continued in Albany and Troy as trolleys attempted to make their runs.

Trolleys were cut, switches were clogged, and cars were stoned. Policemen were assigned a 12-hour-a-day duty.  State Troopers were called in.

Near the final days, about 300 men, women, and children armed with stones and bottles gathered outside the building where newly employed UTC workers were housed. The recently retired police captain, John T. Begley, on duty at the time, recalled the thunderous sound of about 150 mounted Troopers galloping down Broadway and charging into the crowd.

People dispersed quickly. No one was injured. The Troopers stayed three days and that was the beginning of the end of the violence, but not the end of the strike.

Although violence began in smaller episodes and trolleys had no schedules, it was a long labor dispute that never came to a decisive end. Citizens urged UTC to arbitrate. Many families were without salaries.  Just a small number of the original employees were ever rehired.

By 1922, however, the city of Albany was dealing with a new problem that overshadowed the trolley strike. Motor buses were being considered that would eventually bring an end to the electric trolley in the city.

Twenty-five years after the Great Trolley Strike ended, Albany’s government authorized a renewal of bus franchises, and trolleys and their tracks started to be removed from the city. In September of 1946,  Trolley 834 made its last run through the city.

Albany residents, including this historian, lined the old trolley line, and awaited the final clang, clang of the trolley’s bell.

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An early view of the District 4 schoolhouse that still stands on Willow Street.  Built in 1847, it was the first two-room schoolhouse in town.  It became the Guilderland Town Hall in 1954, and then the New York State Troopers barracks in 1972.

The town hall in Guilderland transferred its offices from the building in this story that was on Willow Street and had, since 1847, been the first two-room schoolhouse District 4. It is one of the most historic structures in town and had been originally one room.  It is now occupied by New York State Troopers.

Edward W. Chesebro became the principal of the new school in 1847. Here are some of  Chesebro's comments about his pupils from a letter dated Feb. 21, 1847.

"I am still plodding on the pedagogical path....such an ignorant school, ignorant of all the first principles of elementary studies, I think never was collected together before in Christendom. I have 97 different pupils. My compensation is $1.50 per scholar for the term of 72 days and board myself." ( This would amount to about $2 a day for the graduate of the second class of the Albany Normal School).

Chesebro goes on, “They are about the most respectful scholars I have ever had, and are the best disposition of scholars yet, yet how lamentable all this ignorance, I have gratification to know they are advancing in some of their studies quite rapidly, particularly reading, grammar, arithmetic.

“This school has an average of about 70.  Since I have taught here,  I have had about 97 different pupils. The District has 166 children aged between 5 and 16 years.  I have a class of  41 in the ‘Village Reader’ — half reading one morning, and half the next. I have a class of 15 in 'Child Guide' which reads once a day;  two classes in 'First Reader' which read semi-daily, one to myself and one to my assistant.

“I have a class of 12 pupils who commenced at the foundation and have arrived at the dignity of 'reading.’  I have three classes in arithmetic, the first in 'Perkins,’  the second in 'Smith's.’  I have two classes in grammar, and three classes in geography.

“Besides these,  I have a class of  a dozen to whom I lecture upon ‘Natural  Philosophy’ two evenings a week.  The space of an hour after school Wednesday afternoon is appropriated to general exercises; that is, we have no lesson and I talk to them on geography, give them a lesson on drawing, exchange pictures, have a lesson on normal chart, singing and composition and reading.

“Wednesday the boys meet and have declamation. And so we go — a burdensome job. My assistant is Miss Rhoda Ann Jackson from Seward, Schoharie Co., who attends school as a pupil.”

Before the two-room schoolhouse was built on Willow Street, an earlier schoolhouse stood on the site, built in about 1800.  It is referred to by an earlier author, who was born two doors north on Willow Street when the town was called Dowesburg.

He was Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, son of Major Lawrence Schoolcraft,  and cousin of Congressman John L. Schoolcraft whose house on Western Avenue is now being restored by the town.

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft wrote the poem  "Iosco" that included:

 "Village schoolhouse,  youth's most dear essay

  with ruddy gleam arose besides the way,

  But waning years, and fortune's iron frown

  With slow decay have struck the mansion down;

  And where it stood, the late increasing moor

  Had scattered thistles ’round the fallen door."

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft became an explorer, geologist, discoverer of the true source of the Mississippi River, and Indian Agent for the United States territory at St. Sault Marie. He was a great authority on American Indians and wrote several books on the topic.

The story is long and full about the complete Schoolcraft family in the town of Guilderland. The key that opened the door to the school that both Henry and John Schoolcraft attended is pictured with this story.  This historian is still looking for it!

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A huge hello and thank-you to the Guilderland Transfer Station and the town’s highway department,  and to all the men, women, and friends of those departments who carried out their  super Saturday morning shredding and hazardous waste collection day. It was wonderful!

When I arrived about 9:20 a.m. at the entrance road and saw the amazing number of cars in line, I  was astonished. However, it took me only about 15 minutes to get through the line and be met by the  men who took my shredding and hazardous-waste materials from the trunk of my car with aplomb and a smile.  

The organization of that huge town effort was well thought out and, when I think of all the clean attics, basements, and garages in the town of Guilderland, I say again,  "A warm thank-you to all who took part in the  event!"

I was home by 9:45 a.m.!  I would be interested to know just how many cars and vans showed up to deliver their worth.

Controlling animals

This month, I was handed three metal dog tags dated 1951, 1953, and 1955.  They seemed a bit worn and faded.

Do dog tags have to be turned in when a dog "moves on?"  A trip to the animal shelter seems where I might get that answer.

At the first actual meeting of the town of Guilderland held April 5, 1803 at "Good Hank Apple's Tap Room" in Guilderland Center, the following laws were created with regulations regarding animals:

— Resolution 1: Resolved, that it shall not be lawful for hogs to run at large beyond the enclosure of the owner;

— Resolution 2: Resolved, that stallions of the age of two years and upwards shall not be suffered to go at large beyond the enclosure of the owner, under the penalty of $5;

— Resolution 3: Resolved., that it shall be lawful for any person or persons to cut or geld any ram that may be found going at large beyond the enclosure of the owner from the 15th day of August to the last day of November, or any time within that space;

— Resolution 4: Resolved, that a bounty of $30 shall be paid by this town to any person killing a wolf running wild within said town. (The bounty on wolves was no idle  gesture, according to the late Arthur Gregg, Guilderland’s long-time town historian.  There were plenty of wolves roaming around the Helderbergs and the Pine Bush, awaiting the opportunity to clean out a farmer’s entire flock); and

 — Resolution 5: Resolved, that the compensation to Fence Viewers shall be at the rate of $1.25 for every day that they or them shall be acting in that capacity.

Nicholas V. Mynderse was the supervisor at that time.

And we all, or most of us, know where the Mynderse House was and still is, on Route 146 between Guilderland Center and Altamont.

There is no mention of laws regarding dogs or cats from that first town meeting. The animal shelter is on my list for tomorrow.

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The Enterprise — Michael Koff

The Knaggs Farm, on Route 20 in Guilderland, was the site of religious camp meetings in the mid-19th Century and is still the site of modern gatherings, according to Alice Begley, Guilderland’s town historian.

Apropos! Great! A column concerning the first class to graduate from Albany Normal School in 1845 just emerged from old yellowed files in this historian's desk. How did I miss this one for so long?

The Normal School in Albany was a new school for students who wanted to become teachers.  A letter tells of  final examinations and the number of graduates granted a “sheepskin.” The writer’s name was Edward Chesebro of Guilderland.

Chesebro was to begin seven weeks of vacation and was also preparing for a "camp meeting at the old place" somewhere near Fullers-French's Hollow. That "place" was  an old farm and house out Western Turnpike  near where the Watervliet Reservoir is today.  The house still stands.

Whole families spent an entire week there, renting one of the shanties or a tent, cooking by campfire, and attending religious services held every afternoon and evening. It was a picnic, a holiday, and a pioneer's Chautauqua with a chance to meet old and new friends, wrote the late Guilderland historian Arthur Gregg.

But the primary purpose was by no means neglected — that of “quickening their religious experience and of bringing new converts into the fold.”  The camp meeting of ancient Methodism was the principal source of their ever-increasing membership.

Another exciting feature of the vacation was that, of all locations and resorts, Principal Page, head of the Normal School, forerunner of the University at Albany, had selected the Chesebro homestead on the Normanskill as a boarding place for his children and their nurse.

Chesebro’s letter                                         

On Guilderland, Aug. 28, 1845, Edward Chesbro wrote to his brother-in-law, John, who had married his sister.

John Dearest,

We received your last a few days ago and hasten to reply. Allen [another brother] wishes me to say to you that your agency in regard to your school matter meets his entire concurrence and what time they will want him so he may make his plans to suit circumstances. He will still be obliged to rely on you for the desired information.

Business is all topsy-turvy preparing for camp meeting which starts next meeting at the old place. Everybody is going to make his fortune this time by putting up shanties. They are now clearing the ground, putting up tents, fixing up watering place etc. etc.

The Normal School terminated day before yesterday by an examination that lasted four days, and I intend  for the ensuing seven weeks prior to the next term to remain at home. There were 34 graduates at the end of the term and if I had seen fit to leave the institution I too, even I as  ignorant as I am, could have bought off their "sheepskin,”  but I would not have it under existing circumstances.

The Executive Committee say they have been very lenient in granting certificates at this time, but in the future they will require higher standard of qualifications. So I am doomed to another half year at Normal School.

Accompanying this you will find a "District School Journal " containing the catalogue with the graduates marked.

You would probably like to hear when Pa and Ma and Uncle Robert and Aunt Cataline will be to see you but I can't at this time because of the camp meeting. After that also Mr. Page's children and nurse will be spending a week or more.

I congratulate you on your respite from "Candleism.”  Respects to Polly, Charles and the children. Does Angelina want any flower seeds saved? If so, What kind?

You would probably call it news to know that Mr. Powell was married a few days since to Widow Throop from Schoharie.  Her first name was Seiby. They have commenced to keep house in his new house which Henry Carhart and John Moak built for him this summer down on his place near Harry Mains.

Aunt Laviana Chapman wants me to send her "hopping" compliments to you all and her "hopping" love to little Susan.

Yours etc. etc.

Edward W.  Chesebro

“Candleism”  was the term for the transition from candles to oil.

Widow Throop  was the widow of Washington Throop of Schoharie who operated the Throop Drugstore there. That family operated the famous Throop Drugstore for 136 years. The drugstore was removed to the Albany Pharmacy College and reconstructed for future generations with fixtures, patent medicines, and drawers filled with materia medica of  more than 100 years ago.

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Apropos! Great! A column concerning the first class to graduate from Albany Normal School in 1845 just emerged from old yellowed files in this historian's desk. How did I miss this one for so long?

The Normal School in Albany was a new school for students who wanted to become teachers.  A letter tells of  final examinations and the number of graduates granted a “sheepskin.” The writer’s name was Edward Chesebro of Guilderland.

Chesebro was to begin seven weeks of vacation and was also preparing for a "camp meeting at the old place" somewhere near Fullers-French's Hollow. That "place" was  an old farm and house out Western Turnpike  near where the Watervliet Reservoir is today.  The house still stands.

Whole families spent an entire week there, renting one of the shanties or a tent, cooking by campfire, and attending religious services held every afternoon and evening. It was a picnic, a holiday, and a pioneer's Chautauqua with a chance to meet old and new friends, wrote the late Guilderland historian Arthur Gregg.

But the primary purpose was by no means neglected — that of “quickening their religious experience and of bringing new converts into the fold.”  The camp meeting of ancient Methodism was the principal source of their ever-increasing membership.

Another exciting feature of the vacation was that, of all locations and resorts, Principal Page, head of the Normal School, forerunner of the University at Albany, had selected the Chesebro homestead on the Normanskill as a boarding place for his children and their nurse.

Chesebro’s letter                                         

On Guilderland, Aug. 28, 1845, Edward Chesbro wrote to his brother-in-law, John, who had married his sister.

John Dearest,

We received your last a few days ago and hasten to reply. Allen [another brother] wishes me to say to you that your agency in regard to your school matter meets his entire concurrence and what time they will want him so he may make his plans to suit circumstances. He will still be obliged to rely on you for the desired information.

Business is all topsy-turvy preparing for camp meeting which starts next meeting at the old place. Everybody is going to make his fortune this time by putting up shanties. They are now clearing the ground, putting up tents, fixing up watering place etc. etc.

The Normal School terminated day before yesterday by an examination that lasted four days, and I intend  for the ensuing seven weeks prior to the next term to remain at home. There were 34 graduates at the end of the term and if I had seen fit to leave the institution I too, even I as  ignorant as I am, could have bought off their "sheepskin,”  but I would not have it under existing circumstances.

The Executive Committee say they have been very lenient in granting certificates at this time, but in the future they will require higher standard of qualifications. So I am doomed to another half year at Normal School.

Accompanying this you will find a "District School Journal " containing the catalogue with the graduates marked.

You would probably like to hear when Pa and Ma and Uncle Robert and Aunt Cataline will be to see you but I can't at this time because of the camp meeting. After that also Mr. Page's children and nurse will be spending a week or more.

I congratulate you on your respite from "Candleism.”  Respects to Polly, Charles and the children. Does Angelina want any flower seeds saved? If so, What kind?

You would probably call it news to know that Mr. Powell was married a few days since to Widow Throop from Schoharie.  Her first name was Seiby. They have commenced to keep house in his new house which Henry Carhart and John Moak built for him this summer down on his place near Harry Mains.

Aunt Laviana Chapman wants me to send her "hopping" compliments to you all and her "hopping" love to little Susan.

Yours etc. etc.

Edward W.  Chesebro

“Candleism”  was the term for the transition from candles to oil.

Widow Throop  was the widow of Washington Throop of Schoharie who operated the Throop Drugstore there. That family operated the famous Throop Drugstore for 136 years. The drugstore was removed to the Albany Pharmacy College and reconstructed for future generations with fixtures, patent medicines, and drawers filled with materia medica of  more than 100 years ago.

 

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