A History of The City of Amsterdam, N.Y.

From the Beginning to 1908

Written by W. Max Reid, former President

of the

Amsterdam Board of Trade

East Main Street, Amsterdam, N.Y., early 20th century

Source: Official Manual of the Board of Trade
Amsterdam, New York
Organized in 1884
Containing Portraits of Officers, Constitution and By-Laws, List of Members, History, Views, Etc.
Published by Board of Trade, Amsterdam, N.Y. 1912

In 1642 Arendt Van Curler of Fort Orange made journeys into the wilderness of the Mohawk's country, and somewhat later (in 1661) induced a number of adventurous residents of Rensselaerwyck to purchase a large tract of alluvial flats on the Mohawk river at a place now known as Schenectady as a trading post with the Indians.

In the course of time other settlers penetrated the valley to the west, and in 1727 had obtained title to all of the valuable flats and "hindermost" lands east of Kayaderosseras creek at Fort Johnson. Other lands farther west were also taken up somewhat later by the settlers of Albany and Schenectady counties.

About 1720 there was an embryo settlement at Cranesville without a name, consisting of saw and grist mills and a few primitive dwellings, making use of the water-power of Adriutha and Evas-kill.

At this period the Mohawk Valley west of Schenectady was called the "Mohawk's Country," an unbroken wilderness, except an English fort, church, and parsonage at Ti-o-non-de-ro-ga, or Fort Hunter, erected in 1712. The fact that the traders wanted peltries, and the Indians guns, powder and ball, duffels, and shrouds, iron and copper tools and cooking utensils, made the whites and Indians mutually dependent, and they soon established a league both offensive and defensive which lasted more than a century and a half, and proved an impenetrable bulwark against the French and Indians of New France in their frequent raids in English territory. Intermarriages between the Indians and whites were frequent, and short-lived unions were formed without the aid of priest or potentate. In later years, these marriages were urged by no less a personage than Sir William Johnson, but did not occur, however, to any great extent.

Up to 1772 the land which is now called Montgomery county was part of the county of Albany. At that date a new county was formed which embraced all of New York province west of a line running due north from the Delaware river, through and along the eastern limits of the present counties of Montgomery, Fulton, and Hamilton to the Canadian line. This was called Tryon county [135k image] for Governor Tryon of New York state. Johnstown was designated as the county seat of this new county on May 20, 1772. Governor Tryon was so devoted to the British interests that his name became obnoxious to the patriots of the valley, and in 1784 the name of the county was changed to Montgomery, in honor of the lamented General Richard Montgomery, and comprised lands of the present counties of Fulton and Montgomery.

[Waterfall on the Little Chuctanunda, Amsterdam]

The fact that all of the flat lands along the Mohawk river were early taken up by speculators prevented early settlements being made in this vicinity, notwithstanding one of the finest series of water-power in this part of the state of New York, the Chuctununda, was roaring, seething, tumbling, and lashing its waters to foam over the ledges and precipices that constitute its rocky bed, and at last dashes itself into the Mohawk with such impetuous haste that its course is marked with white, until it is gradually lost to sight and mingles with that noble stream, "in its clear winding way to the sea."

In 1785 this stream was harnessed for commercial and industrial purposes by Albert Vedder, who built a gristmill at a point about 600 feet from its mouth. Soon afterwards a sawmill was erected, a blacksmith shp and a few primitive dwellings made their appearance, and in due time, a country store, but it was not until 1800 that a church was erected. This hamlet was called Veddersburg.

The oldest building within the boundary lines of the city of Amsterdam is the Guy Park mansion, recently the home of descendants of the late James Stewart, built in 1763. (Fort Johnson at Akin, however, antedates this building by nearly a quarter of a century, having been also erected by Sir William Johnson in 1742.)

[View on Guy Park Avenue, Amsterdam]

As I look back through the meagre documentary history of Amsterdam, as it was re-named in 1808, it does not seem that it has ever been a "boom town," but has always had a steady, healthy growth.

In 1813 the village contained a church, a schoolhouse, twenty-five dwellings, and some stores, shops, etc. and about 150 inhabitants. In 1825 the village had increased to forty-five dwellings, a scythe factory, six stores, a printing office, schoolhouse, and a church, with a population of 300 inhabitants.

At this date a bridge was being constructed, the Erie canal was nearing completion, and a very adequate service for the traveling public had been installed by a well-constructed turnpike and a line of stages east and west. Port Jackson on the canal at this time bid fair to rival Amsterdam as a business center.

The town of Amsterdam extended east and west along the Mohawk river for about ten miles and north about five miles. Population of the town in 1810, 3,039; 1820, 3,171, taxable property about $32,000, 2,457 cattle, 765 horses, and 4,613 sheep. About 22,527 yards of cloth was made in a primitive household way, five gristmills, seventeen sawmills, two fulling mills, two cording machines, two trip hammers, two distilleries, two oil mills, and four asheries.

The first bridge across the Mohawk at Amsterdam was built in 1821; this was carried away in 1839, and another immediately erected met with a similar fate in 1842; the third, however, stood firm until 1865, when the northern span was carried away during the spring flood of that year.

In 1864, by act of legislature, the trustees of the village of Amsterdam and the town of Florida were authorized to purchase the Mohawk bridge for $25,000, of the Amsterdam Bridge Company, and thereafter to maintain the same as a free bridge.

In 1830 the village of Amsterdam was incorporated. IN 1854 it was granted a village charter which conferred greater powers on the village council, which was called "the board of trustees."

The village was also divided into two wards, the Chuctanunda creek being the boundary line between the two districts.

During and after the War of Rebellion the village increased rapidly, the growth being so great that the simple form of village government under which we had lived since 1854, was found entirely inadequate for a village of say 12,000 inhabitants, so a city charter was applied for and obtained on April 16, 1885.

In 1888 the village of Port Jackson was annexed, and on April 11, 1904, the little although important village of Rockton was added to the north boundary of the city.

I have attempted to bring the history of Amsterdam up to the present date, but I find that the few pages that have been allotted to me are entirely inadequate for the subject, so I hopeyou will not deem me remiss in my duty if I introduce a very excellent statistical paper on the manufacturing interests of the city of Amsterdam for 1907, by Isaac A. Lyon.

"Amsterdam is the eighteenth city in New York state in point of population, but is now the ninth city in the value of articles manufactured, having eighty-nine establishments, whose annual output amounts to $15,007,276, exceeding that of the hustling city of Cohoes by $1,200,000 and $1,100,000 more than the combined product of the two enterprising cities of Johnstown and Gloversville.

"Amsterdam has an area of five and one-half square miles, is supplied with a gravity system of water, having forty miles of mains in the city, sewer syste of thirty-six miles, well-paved streets, and a most excellent trolley system, giving rapid and frequent service to adjacent cities. Amsterdam has an assessed valuation of $ 10,545,500 and a tax rate of $20.22 per thousand, against $20.52 last year, a reduction of three points. Amsterdam is well cared for financially, having three national banks with combined deposits of $1,704,875, one savings bank with deposits of $4,049,134.76, having 11,222 open accounts, a gain of 1,001 for the past year.

"The United States is the greatest carpet manufacturing nation in the world, producing 80,000,000 yards a year, of which Amsterdam furnished 10,200,000. Philadelphia, which makes as much as all Great Britain, is the largest producer. Amsterdam is second, New York city is third. When the national census was taken in 1900, New York's production was within $1,000,000 of that of Amsterdam, but in the past year Amsterdam made three times as much as did New York. In the single month of June there were shipped via New York Central & Hudson River Railroad 21,344 rolls of carpets and rugs, and in the four months of June, July, August, and September, 6,136 rolls. On one day last week one carpet firm had fifty-one carloads of freight on the local railroad tracks awaiting delivery, twenty-three of which were wool.

"More machine knitted goods are turned out in the United States than in any country in the world. Philadelphia, owing to its hosiery mills, leads in this industry. In 1900 Cohoes second, and Amsterdam third, making within $800,000 as much as the second city. Possibly that gap is now closing. We cannot be positive until the government issues its report. One reason for thinking so is the enormous shipments from Amsterdam in 1906. The freight houses report that they shipped 9,720 cases in the one month of June, 1906, and 26,460 cases in the four months of June, July, August, and September.

"Amsterdam makes more brooms than any other city in the world. Its annual output is 7,500,000 brooms. The amount of broom corn received at Amsterdam freight depot in the past four months amounts to 6,600,000 pounds.

Amsterdam has two steel spring works, one of them the largest in the United States, making 5,000 tons of springs a year.

Amsterdam's linseed oil mill uses annually about 1,025,000 bushels of flaxseed, which in value amounts to $1,340,000, producing 19,000 tons of cake and meal worth $525,000, and 2,400,000 gallons of oil woth $975,000; also selling in cleaned and ground flaxseed about 25,000 bushels worth $39,000, with an annual pay-roll of $55,000.

"The retail trade of Amsterdam has been the largest of any year in its history, exceeding by fifteen per cent. that of last year. The freight house is, however, the best barometer of our business activity. The freight handled last year exceeded by over ten per cent that of any other year. The amount was more than 600,000,000 pounds, an average of 2,000,000 pounds every working day of the year.

"It is figured Amsterdam's population increased 1,000 in the past twelve months, and now amounts to 26,000.

"To sum up our report in a few words, we would state: -

"Amsterdam has the largest pearl button factory in the world.

"Amsterdam has the largest steel spring works in the United States.

"Amsterdam is the first city in the world in the manufacture of brooms.

"Amsterdam is the third in the manufacture of knitted goods.

"Amsterdam is the ninth city in the state in the value of its products."

Amsterdam is the product of the nineteenth century, as the centenary of the naming of the little hamlet transpires on April 5, 1908.

A map made in 1807 shows a village of three streets only, named respectively Forge (Church) street, Pleasant (Market) street, and Main street. Another map made in 1826 shows the same number of streets, with the addition of one other, named Bridge street. This was probably opened in 1821, that being the date of the erection of the first bridge across the Mohawk at this place.

After a century of steady growth, Amsterdam has developed into a city of 26,000 inhabitants, with a well-ordered government and of immense industrial importance; with twenty-three churches, two hospitals, a Children's Home and a Home for Elderly Women, and eleven public schools, including a high school building of large proportions; also sectarian schools connected with each of four Roman Catholic churches. Land has also been secured by the United States government for a new post-office.

As early as 1805 a circulating library was established, and although small, was deemed of adequate size for the population of the town. At the present time the Amsterdam free library is installed in a handsome (Carnegie) building, with 10,000 volumes, and a free reading room, with about sixty leading periodicals.

A fluorishing Historical Society, with a home in old Fort Johnson, within which has been installed the celebrated Richmond collection of aboriginal relics, has been very fortunate in having patrons of ample means. The building was given to the society by Major-General J. Watts De Peyster, while the Richmond collection and the endowment of the building came from Hon. Stephen Sanford, a member of the society.

The Amsterdam Board of Trade was organized in 1884, with 100 members, representing the industrial, commercial, educational, literary, and professional interests of the city, whose influence is unbounded when the city's welfare is at stake, and on this, its twenty-fourth anniversary, is as strong as at any period of its strenuous existence.

[The above article on the city of Amsterdam was written by W. Max Reid, for a long time president of the Amsterdam Board of Trade, and a prominent writer on historical matters of the Mohawk valley.]


In the death of W. Max Reid, the Trade of the City of Amsterdam loses its first president, who uninterruptedly held that position for seventeen years with both dignity and honor. As one of its originators, he labored indefatigably for its success. Under his direction its aims and purposes were kept clearly in view, and earnestly upheld. His ideals were kept clearly in view, quiet in manner, unassuming, yet firm in his convictions. He was as churchman, as trustee of the Y.M.C.A., as secretary of the board of trustees of Green Hill Cemetery association, as one courageous in the expression of his opinions, most courteous in manner, allowing others that which he asked for himself. He was a patriot, a philanthropist, and an upbuilder. The Board will ever cherish his memory, and will always do well to follow his example. His activities were varied. As president of the Board of Trade, of the founders of and most earnest workers for the Amsterdam City Hospital, as one of the advisory board of the Children's Home, as curator of the Montgomery County Historical Society, as historian, he served faithfully and well, and always for the uplift and benefit of his fellow man. With these things in mind, therefore be it

      Resolved, That while we deeply deplore our loss, yet we rejoice at having been in close contact with such a life.

      Resolved, That we extend sincere sympathy to those most dear to him.

      Resolved, That these resolutions be spread upon our book of minutes, published in our loca papers, and a copy sent his family.

            L.L. DEAN
            D.B. VAN AKEN
            JAMES T. SUGDEN

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