Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The view from the parking lot

While waiting for the Daughter yesterday afternoon, I got to thinking about this house. Do you recognize it? 

Here's another view.

(True confession time: the barking German shepherd and the Beware of Dog sign prevented me from getting a really good picture)
This is one of several old Haswell homes in the Town of Bethlehem.  John Haswell and his wife (either 1st wife Mary Miller or 2nd wife Mary Haliday) and 10 children arrived from England in November 1774 and rented 300 acres from the Patroon. This is the land near the Haswell Farms development on Feura Bush Road. 
Son Henry Haswell built the house shown here about 1800. The Albany-Bethlehem Turnpike (chartered in 1804) soon ran in front of his house.  Today, busy Route 9W rumbles away out front.  Take a look at Kenwood Avenue on a modern map (go ahead, pop over to Google Maps).   Kenwood used to make a straight shot over to 9W ending up just south of this house.   Today, Kenwood ends at the Delmar By-Pass and the house sits just south of where the By-Pass connects to 9W.
For a time, the house served as a tavern for weary stage coach travelers and farmers carting their produce to Albany along the plank road.  Allison Bennett in her article Barracks-barroom on the plank road notes "the oak panelled dining room has replaced what was once the bar room of the tavern." (You can read the whole article in her book Times Remembered.) 
Sitting in the Panera parking lot, I tried to imagine the days when the local Bethlehem militia trained in the fields surrounding the house.  As early as 1812, soldiers trained here and Col. John Moore trained troops in these fields during the Mexican War in the 1840s.  The Civil War era brought military activity as well with the 16th New York Infantry and the 28th New York setting up camp here in June of 1861.  The site came to be known as Camp Morgan after NY Governor Edwin Morgan.  Read more about life in the Bethlehem encampment in Military Heritage chapter of Bethlehem Revisited written by William F. Howard.
Take a drive out to 9W and glimpse this wonderful old house and see if you can imagine the day when it was a farm surrounded by fields.
Below is the house about 1980.
(Courtesy of Lois Dillon)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Revolutionary Markers

I was down at the Cedar Hill Schoolhouse this morning and got photos of three historic markers on my way home.

What markers have you seen on your travels in Bethlehem?

This one is on Dinmore Road and recognizes Cornelius Glen, Hugh Jolly, Zimri Murdock, Francis Nicoll, James Selkirk, Richard Sill, Caleb Smith and Arie VanWie.
Interestingly, Glen, Selkirk, Sill and Smith are not on yesterday's list of Bethlehem Revolutiony War veterans from the book Bethlehem Revisited. I know that James Selkirk moved to Bethlehem after the war, maybe the others did too. They certainly ended up buried in Bethlehem.

This one is on Creble Road and commemorates Tunis Slingerland and William Winne.

This one is on Elm Avenue and honors John D. Winne.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Revolutionary Bethlehem

Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston last week got me to thinking about what Bethlehem was like during the American Revolution.

One thing to recognize is that there was no Town of Bethlehem on June 17, 1775 (that's the date of the Battle of Bunker Hill - we had a long, long walk there on Friday).   Our "address" would have been The West Manor of Rensselaerswyck which was part of Albany County. Albany County was much larger than it is today encompassing  what are now Albany, Columbia, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties and large parts of Greene and Washington counties. Plus a bit of Vermont.

The Town of Watervliet was created in 1788 and the Town of Bethlehem was created out of Watervliet in 1793.  During those revolutionary days, folks lived "on the Manor" and paid their rent to the Patroon.  Farms were concentrated near the Hudson River, the Normanskill and the Vlomankill along with the  sawmills, gristmills, coopers and blacksmiths necessary to farm life.  The First Reformed Church of Bethlehem had been established in 1763 with services conducted in Dutch and English. 

Below is a list of men from Bethlehem who served the Patriot cause during the Revolution.  It is from Bethlehem Revisited.  You might recognize some of the last names. 

Dirck Becker
Wouter Becker
Peter Boice
Frederick Britt
Patrick Callanan
George Colenburg
Andrew Conning
George Hogan
Hugh Jolly
Zimri Murdock
Francis Nicoll
David Niver
Aaron Oliver
John Oliver
Solomon Russell
John Sager
Abraham Slingerland
Tunis Slingerland
Conrad Soop
Barent Staats
Gerrit Vandenbergh
Cornelius VanDerzee
Arie Van Wie
John Van Wie
Peter Van Wie
John Winne
William Winne
Take a look around town for the historic markers that are near the final resting place of some of our veterans.  This one is for Andrew Conning, 3rd Regiment of the Albany County Militia who served under Capt.VanDerheyden. It is located on New Scotland Road at Couse Lane.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Then and Now Article

Check out the August issue of Our Towne Bethlehem for a story about the Delmar Theatre. 


Have you been bitten

by the genealogy bug?

I've been in and out of town the last week and a half - but that hasn't stopped me from thinking about Bethlehem history. 

One evening, I was in the hotel room ,exhausted, skipping through the TV channels and came upon the TLC program Who Do You Think You Are?  They take a celebrity and do some genealogy research with them. The episode I caught featured Christina Applegate and it sucked me right in with the lure of family ties through the depths of history.  Somehow, knowing where you come from informs our understanding of our selves today and perhaps our future as well. 


the show gave me a lot of giggles as well because it is very unrealistic.  I have no doubts about the accuracy of the research they did, they just made it seem so easy. The kindly archivist just hovering waiting to go search out the right death certificate and of course they find it right away.  The friendly lawyer who comes up with and then explains a series of old court cases.  So neat and easy in their folders on the table. 

The reality check is that those archivists, clerks, librarians and other keepers of the records are busy people.  I have found them all friendly and curious on your behalf, but there are a lot you to help.  Court records or birth certificates or death records don't just magically appear - there are fees involved and then someone has to go physically find them in those boxes in the archival room (one hopes at least that it is an archival room.) Maybe the index is computerized, maybe the documents have been scanned.  You just never know.  It takes time and patience and usually money but sometimes you are well rewarded.  Because when you do find that document with your great grand parents information, you feel an instant connection. 

As Town Historian, I receive many genealogy inquires about people's Bethlehem relatives.  I am happy to look through the town archive database and some of the local history books to see what I can easily find.  The Winne family seems to have a lot of descendants curious about their history.  Pieter Winne came to New Netherland (now Albany) with his family in 1650s and was a tenant in Rensselaerswyck (in what was to become the Town of Bethlehem).  Read more about him at

Once, I was contacted by three different Winne's in short period of time and was able to intoduce them to each other.  Now they had a connection to their distant cousins.  It was a nice feeling for me to be able to help them out.