With all the work on the Glenmont Roundabout project, I am back to thinking about street names. What is a feura bush? Is life particularly jolly on Jolley Road, or extra brightly lit on Beacon Road? And what is a glen-mont anyway?
One spoke on the wheel of the new traffic circle is Glenmont Road. Sometimes I catch myself calling it Glenmont Hill Road. It goes east, down the proverbial hill, to River Road and to what is historically the hamlet of Glenmont. Glenmont takes its name from the old Hurlbut estate. Judge Hurlbut’s mansion was at the top of a hill (the mont or mount) with a beautiful view east towards the river valley (the glen) and, so inspired, he named the place Glenmont on the Hudson.
Another spoke of the new roundabout is Route 9W, parts of which were once known as the Stone Road. South of the roundabout, it was the South Bethlehem Plank Road, incorporated in 1851. The tollgate was about where the gas station is now. Mrs. Babcock, the first tollgate keeper, collected the toll, for example, six cents for a carriage drawn by two horses and twelve cents for a four-horse coach. Also, it was literally paved in planks of wood, a system that did not last and the surface was soon covered with other materials including crushed stone.
The last spoke is Feura Bush Road. Sometimes, you’ll see this as one word on old maps, Feurabush. Think of this as the road to the hamlet of Feura Bush, now in the town of New Scotland, but in the town of Bethlehem until 1832. Back then it was known as Jerusalem. But what is a feura bush anyway? A 1914 article on Albany County place names defines it thus:
FEURABUSH, Hamlet. Dutch: vurenbosch (pronounced vurrebosch), fir-bush, or woods …now known as Jerusalem, the name Feurabush being attached to the railroad station.
A look at Google adds the translation “pine forest” to vurenbosch. Former Bethlehem Historian Allison Bennett wrote that Feura Bush means “fire bush” which is also a possibility. Google Translate says vuur in Dutch is fire in English. But Bennet concluded with “no one seems to know exactly how the little village received this name.” Personally, I like the idea of a pine forest, but maybe the fire is the red and gold foliage of autumn?
Other local roads in Glenmont include Beacon Road. Did you know there was an actual beacon on Beacon Road? It was installed by the United States Lighthouse Service about 1929. One might think the Lighthouse Service would focus on watery aids to navigation, but in 1926 an airway division was established.
The Glenmont light beacon was installed to guide planes on the New York to Montreal airway during a time when visual navigation was used. A lighted beacon was essential for night flying. Such dependence on the visual would lessen as radio navigation came into play. About the same time as the Glenmont airway beacon was installed, a pilot named Jimmy Doolittle made the first successful flight using only instrumentation to take off, set course and safely land his plane. While the exact date of when the Glenmont beacon was de-commissioned is not known, an article entitled The Evolution of Airway Lights and Electronic Navigation Aids (centennialofflight.net) states that “the last airway light beacon from the system begun in the 1920s was shut down in 1973.”
The Beacon Road roadway itself is found on maps as early as the 1850s and likely developed from the lane that connected the Schoonmaker farm to what we know as Route 9W. John Schoonmaker, Jr leased approximately 143 acres here from the Patroon in 1792. Just to the north, Jacobus Schoonmaker leased 224 in 1806. One of their descendants built the stately brick home (circa 1840) which still stands on modern-day Wemple Road near its intersection with Beacon Road.
One can think of Wemple Road, like Feura Bush Road, more in the way of the road to Wemple. And Wemple, the old hamlet and station on the West Shore Railroad, is, of course, named after the Wemple family. The family homestead was on Wemple Road near where the railroad tracks cross. John Gilbert Wemple (1831-1911) was particularly well known. He was elected Bethlehem’s supervisor in 1875-76 and served as sheriff of Albany County from 1877-1883.
Bender Road is named after the family of Christian and Elizabeth Bender. Christian (1732-1808) served under Col. Phillip Schuyler in the 3rd regiment of the Albany County Militia during the American Revolution. After the war, he leased 300 acres in the vicinity of modern Bender Road. He and Elizabeth (the former Elizabeth Cramer, 1739-1806) raised a family of nine children on their homestead and there are many Bender descendants around today.
Hugh Jolley (1721-1804) arrived here from Scotland in 1772. He was also Revolutionary War veteran. He and his wife Eleanor are buried at the Nicoll – Sill cemetery in the Cedar Hill section of town. Jolley Road originated as the lane to the Jolley family’s Crystal Farm. It is unclear whether this is Hugh and Eleanor’s farm or one founded by his son Hugh, or Hugh’s son Henry. The dates line up for it to be Henry’s farm as the 1851 Pease map has the location as “Heirs to H. Jolley”. By the 1866 map and onward, it is clearly the farm of Samuel Jolley and his wife Caroline Rosekrans. Samuel (1833-1917) is Hugh and Eleanor’s great grandson who, according to his obituary, was born, raised and died at Glenmont.
|A 1928 stamp showing an airway beacon.|
|The beacon on Beacon Road is marked on this 1953 U.S.G.S topographic map.|
In the 1940s, the roof of the old Security Supply building on Maple Avenue in Selkirk had a giant arrow directing pilots to Albany.
The Wemple Station on the West
Flashes and Dashes
October is the last month of regularly scheduled Sunday openings at the Cedar Hill Schoolhouse Museum, home of the Bethlehem Historical Association. Be sure to stop by to learn more local history! BHA has also resumed in person lectures on the third Thursday of the month. On October 21 at 2 pm, David Hochfelder will talk about the Telegraph and 98 Acres in Albany.
And October is New York State History Month. Stop by the Bethlehem Public Library for a look at my exhibit called Historic Bethlehem (with dogs and horses.) It is up until the 31st.