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.
On Guilderland, Aug. 28, 1845, Edward Chesbro wrote to his brother-in-law, John, who had married his sister.
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.
This historian spoke this morning with Earl Brinkman who is the grandson of William Brinkman, one of the first historians of the town of Guilderland. Earl came to the Town Hall about seven years ago to give me picture postcards of Guilderland and Albany that had belonged to his grandfather, William.
Earl himself is now 97 years old and remembers the post cards well.
One of the Guilderland postcards was of a young women's camp headquarters in Altamont and several others were pictures taken from paintings depicting downtown Albany between 1805 and 1820 and the Dutch Church that stood until 1806 at the foot of State Street.
Mine Lot Falls, Helmes Crevice, and the Tory Cave of the Helderbergs were pictured, too. And so were State Street in Albany, an 1820 view of the Hudson River shores, and houses with "half-doors" called Dutch doors. Seventeen postcards in all.
A corner of State Street in Albany was known as "Old Elm Tree Corner" because of the tree that stood there for over 100 years, planted in 1760 by Phillip Livingston who lived in the corner house beneath its shadow. Later this house was bought by Noah Webster and for many years was the center of great activity in the printing and publishing line. In the distance at the foot of Broadway can be seen the Third Reformed Protestant Dutch Church.
The ship "Half Moon" is pictured at anchor in the Mauritius, now called the Hudson River. The postcard was produced in 1924 for Albany’s tercentenary, with the image taken from a painting depicting the site of Albany in 1609. A Dutch trading post was established in in 1624, which was the beginning of the city of Albany.
A special thank-you to the Brinkmans who have added much to the town of Guilderland and the neighboring city of Albany.
Historian’s note: In my new book, "More From The Historian's Desk," is a story on William Brinkman titled "Remembering Brinkman" on page 3. The book can be found at The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.
GUILDERLAND — Many new residents in the town of Guilderland have probably never heard of the Red Men's Wigwam, the historic building that was on the south side of Route 20, east of the Hamilton Union Church from 1850 to 1966.
Since we have just received an historic item associated with the Red Men's Wigwam, we will tell new and other residents about it.
A true Red Men's badge was brought to this historian by Greg Weir, Parks Department supervisor. It is pictured with this story. He received it from someone who apparently was associated with that group. The Guilderland town name is on the badge.
The Redmen, a fraternal group, and its auxiliary, the Degree of Pocahontas, met in the building for years. Older residents might remember the Indian garb used by the Redmen for ceremonial functions.
The building had housed many organizations through Guilderland's early days and had been the hub of the town's social activities.
Red Men's Wigwam had been a Baptist Church in 1875 and was then purchased by The Good Templars, a temperance society. It was also once a Catholic Church called St. Ambrose Church.
In the World War I I era, women of Guilderland met in the Wigwam to roll bandages and make clothes for refugees. Town organizations held their meetings in the old building, and it was used as a voting place for a short time. It was also rented out for an occasional party.
The Red Men’s fraternity can trace its origin back to 1765, and is descended from the Sons of Liberty. These were men who concealed their identities to work "underground" to establish freedom and liberty in the early Colonies. They had patterned their group after the great Iroquois Confederacy democratic governing body. In 1834, the name was changed to Improved Order of Red Men, and they kept the customs of Native Americans as their fraternity.
In the early 1950s, Red Men's Hall was condemned for public assembly.
The tiny piece of land went on Albany County rolls for back taxes. Guilderland records showed that 1966 taxes were $28.69. The building stood as a ghostly derelict until it was destroyed by fire.
The iron marker that stood on the highway telling the history of the building was demolished by a large automotive vehicle. The marker awaits restoring to tell of the Red Men’s Wigwam that had a unique history in the Town of Guilderland.
When Doctor Frederick Crounse's old barn was still up, curious people stopped by to visit it a lot!
Old barns are filled with belongings of all sorts of things, especially things that the house owner or new house owner want to get rid of: cutlery, old papers, magazines, books, household furniture, old crock pitchers, old pictures, and more.
This historian has been recently given a plastic bag filled with old pictures presumably once owned by a past owner of the Crounse house. (The house, which is in disrepair, is currently owned jointly by the town of Guilderland and the village of Altamont.)
An Altamont resident told me she had visited the barn just before it was destroyed, and that a group of old pictures were scattered all over the barn floor. She started picking them up and realized that they could be important to the history of the house. She took them home, put them in a bag, and stored them in a closet.
A few years later, they were still in her closet! So the historian of the town was called, and I am hoping the pictures are who I think they might be.
Most of the shots were taken in downtown Albany photography studios. No one had cameras then as we do now. Brown's Photography; Pearsall's Photography of 69 South Pearl Street; MacDonald’s Photography; and Robinau Photography and C.C. Schoonmaker Photograph,y both of North Pearl Street were all named on the pictures.
Five tintypes were included along with five postcards of the State Normal School, the Washington Park lakehouse, Thompson's Lake, West Point, and a "Glimpse of Western Avenue in Albany."
A picture of a young man in what looked like a War of 1812 uniform, and a hard-covered 3-by-5-inch child's book titled "Anna and the Kittens" by Mrs. L.M. Childs were included in the treasures.
The front inside page of the book is dated August 3, 1883. It says “Prize 4” and the following poem is written in pencil:
"Among the green bushes and blooming on bushes
Hi O! Hi O! Hi O!
I'll find me a treasure
To give me much pleasure
Hi O Hi O Hi O
All of these articles are in very good shape.
I took several of the tintypes to Jim Gardner at the Enterprise Print & Photo shop for development. One of them is included with this story. The beautiful dress worn by the woman identifies the financial status of the family.
None of the photos are identified. Perhaps readers can do that. I plan to meet with Marijo Dougherty of the Altamont Museum & Archives to deliver the wonderful findings there.
Baron von Steuben, known for his knowledge of military discipline, has not been widely known in the Hellebergh history annals. However, he was touted for his military skills, and he did have a great connection with Frederick Crounse, one of the town of Guilderland and Altamont's prominent ancestors.
Born in 1730, von Steuben was educated by the Jesuits and became a Prussian officer. Benjamin Franklin recommended him to George Washington as a Lieutenant General. Schooled in the armies of Frederick the Great, he brought invaluable military knowledge to the disheartened troops of Washington at Valley Forge.
On Feb. 23, 1778, von Steuben reported to Valley Forge and was put in charge of Washington's battered army encampment for training. He wrote a training manual, drilled the men hard, and whipped the army into shape. Coming without a contract or monetary promises, he waited many years after the war for Congressional recognition.
His adopted son and aide-de-camp was Colonel William North who had a mansion on Duane Lake near Duanesburgh.
While he would visit his son in the Hellebergh area, Baron von Steuben, would also call on one of the most famous German men in this area, Frederick Crounse, the man renowned then for furnishing food from Hellebergh farms for the victorious armies at Saratoga; the man who had also helped many captured Hessians to find work here and at Schoharie, and the man who had been one of the first members of the German Society of New York State founded by Baron von Steuben in 1784.
Historian's Note: This information was found in an Altamont Enterprise of July 9, 1976 written by the late Guilderland historian Arthur Gregg.