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Welcome to the Helderberg Hilltowns,
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Landscape at Town of Berne park on Game Farm Road
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  • Promote the study and dissemination of the history of the Helderberg Hilltowns and the genealogy of the people who live there.
  • Historic building preservation in the hamlets and countryside of the hill towns.
  • Preservation of the farmland and scenic beauty of the hill towns.
  • Promote farms and farm activities.
  • Work towards the economic development of the hill towns.
  • Encourage low impact tourism as a means of achieving the above goals.

For everyone - History, genealogy, maps, etc:

For vistors:

For hill towners:

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For more information on genealogical resources, please call John Elberfeld at 872-2082, or e-mail him at John Elberfeld.

For more information about the organization, please call me, Zenie Gladieux, at 894-8589, or e-mail at Zenie Gladieux.

Editor's note: Zenie Gladieux is the Chairwoman of the Helderberg Hilltowns Association.

Visit [1] to view the complete PowerPoint presentation giving September 25, 2010

Recent Additions

  • Harry Gibbs
Harry and sister Ethel Gibbs

Harrison Benjamin (Harry) Gibbs was born on 4 Nov 1888. His parents were Albert Gibbs (Apr. 1, 1855-Mar 4, 1897) and Eve Ann Ball (May 7, 1852- Sept. 24, 1908). Eve was a daughter of Robert Ball. Harry had four siblings; Floyd Eugene, Cortland Palmer, Anna B.,and Ethel May. They all lived in the Albert Gibbs house on one acre of the Robert Ball farm where Harry grew up. The house later became the home of Clyde L. Ball. Harry grew up on a farm and became a farmer. Harry married Vertie Clow on Mar 22, 1913. After marriage, he purchased the Hill and Dale Farm in Pleasant Valley, Town of Knox. Harrison Benjamin (Harry) Gibbs died on August 9, 1975 at Hill and Dale Farm, Knox, Albany, NY. He was buried at the Knox Cemetery, Knox, Albany, NY.

  • Adam H. Dietz, Jr.

Adam H. Dietz, Jr., b. 1746 Switzkill Valley, Beaverdam, s/o Johann Hendrich Dietz and Catharina Elizabeth Ecker, d/o Nicholas Ecker

  • Warner siblings

Children of Arthur Haswell Warner (25 Dec. 1862 - March 28, 1938) and Minnie Bell Osterhout (16 AUG 1863 - August 7, 1931):

- Ella Bell Warner Willsey (July 15, 1898 - March 28, 1938)
- Luther Christopher Warner (April 30, 1894 - March 16, 1974)
- Chester A. Warner (January 30, 1885 - May 26, 1968)
- Raymond Harvey Warner (September, 1866 - November 29, 1964)


Thanks to Katie Jean Bensen the history of West Mountain has been substantially updated.

West Mountain was first settled starting about 1790.

By the 1930s many farms had already been abandoned due to repeated cropping with buckwheat, barley and rye. Soil erosion was commonplace. Most of the farms on West Mountain were bought by the Resettlement Administration in the 1930s.
Lewis Sherman House, Lot 400; taken say 1937. No longer standing.
From collection of Nicole Pelepzuck Cross
Much of the land, up to 80% had been deforested for farming. Federal money was used to purchase the unproductive farmland for just 2 to 4 dollars per acre. The government helped to move many of the farm families to other areas. However, several farms remained in the possession of the farmers. A few of these included the William D. Wood farm, the Crosby farm, Peasley farm, and the Sherbin farm. Katie Wood, wife of William D. was approached by the Resettlement Administration during the 1930's and asked to sell her farm, to which as history tells, she answered with a solid 'No".

In the early 1940's, the Federal government granted the NYS Conservation Department a 99 year lease for what is now much of the Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area. The sum of $1.00 was the price for the lease, with three purposes stated for the land, forestry, wildlife and recreation. Over the next 20 years the total land accumulation through the Dept. of the Interior and the Division of Lands and Forests brought the total acreage to 5,478.



Berne School No. 3 was a half mile north of the Rensselaerville town line on Lot 401 on West Mountain.

Interior of the Berne schoolhouse 3 along with the teacher, John Pelepzuck, Jr. and Josie.
Picture from the collection of Nichole Pelepzuck Cross


Due to the location of this school so close to the Renssesselaerville - Berne town line, this school was jointly operated by the Towns of Rensselaerville and Berne.

It would be a careful but educated guess to say that the school started sometime between 1795 and the very early 1800's. Being situated on lot 401a it is safe to say the land was donated by John Crosby and John Crosby Jr. who occupied lot 401 in the year 1795 to the mid 1850's. Even though the Town of Berne was set off from Rensselaerville in 1795 it seems this school continued to be referred to as a Berne and Rensselaerville District even into the last years of its operation. Students from both townships attended this school well into the 1930's.

This school had many district numbers and names over many decades it was in operation. In addition to being the Berne school No. 3, it was also the Rensselaerville District School No. 23. (In 1816 this school was known as # 12 Berne.)

The school also bore other names such as Peasley School for the Peasley family living nearby. Blanche H. Peasley was the Enumerator in the early 30's and Wallace A. Peasley the Trustee in 1936. It was also called the Baptist Church School due to it's proximity to the early Baptist Church, and West Mountain School on it's insurance policy.[1]. The label "West Mountain School" as referred to in the History of the Town of Rensselaerville, People made it Happen Here, by way of an insurance policy is believed to be inaccurate and referencing not this school but another that existed close to the town line, District #19.

Mis-numbered on the 1866 Beers map of Berne.

In 1933 this school was District #3 Town of Berne and Rensselaerville, Supervisory District #2. with Blanche Peasley as the Enumerator. This information was taken from the original school census of 1933.

The school was disolved on July 15, 1944. Falling down in 1976, the building is now gone.

From School Census August 30, 1933:

District no. Three Town of Berne and Rensselaerville. Supervisory district no. Two Albany County, J. Edward Smith District Superintendent. Trustee Herman Malin of Rensselaerville. Enumerator Blanche H. Peasley. Rensselaerville. According to this school Census / register all students in the district, from birth to 18 were enumerated. They are as follows: Theodore Apanasowich, Henry Malin, Richard Malin, John Pelepzuck Jr. Josephine Stephanawitz, Elizabeth Salzer, Joseph Salzer, Richard Weidman, George Pelikan Jr.

West Mountain School

Unknown West Mountain School

Can anyone identify this West Mountain School near Rensselaerville? According to the note on the back, at the time it was taken it was abandoned and soon to be torn down for as part of the land project that eventually became Partridge Run State Wildlife Management Area.

Notice to Choose Fence Viewer

Letter concerning a fence dispute. Contributed by Nichole Pelepzuk Cross.

Letter concerning a fence dispute.
Contributed by Nichole Pelepzuk Cross.

Notice to Choose Fence Viewer.
Town Law section 363 ante P 639
To John Pelepzuck Persuant to section 363 of the Town Law you are hereby required to choose within eight days after service of this notice a fence viewer to act with Avery Zimmer a fence viewer I have chosen in determining the dispute which has arisen between us concerning the division fence between our lands; and if you fail to do I shall choose both of said fence viewers as authorized by law.

Dated this 18th day of May 1937

Wallace A Peasley


  1. People Made It Happen Here, History of the Town of Rensselaerville ca. 1788-1950, Published 1977


Memorial Day, Andersonville

Hill towns during the Civil War

Even though it was not a battleground, the Civil War had a devastating effect on the hill towns. Perhaps over half of the men from the Hilltowns that enlisted either died, went missing and were presumed dead, or were permanently disabled in the war. The only monument to the dead is in the Rensselaerville Cemetery where on July 4, 1867, a 17-foot marble Civil War monument was dedicated to the 29 soldiers from the Town of Rensselaerville who died in the Civil War.

For story of how the men of each of the Hilltowns served their country during the Civil War, click on the links below.

[ Rensselaerville ][ Berne ][ Knox ][ Westerlo ]

Civil War Memorial Project

The year 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Several hundred Hilltown men served in the Union Army with a casualty rate of maybe 25% killed or injured. It had an big impact on the Towns and their families. We are writing biographies on each soldier. These biographies will part of Civil War Memorial Project that will be published on this site. The Memorial will be in three parts:

  • The events leading up to the war with emphasis on why the men in upstate NY seemed compelled to join the army of Father Abraham.
  • The history of the units and their battles.
  • Biographies of the Hilltown men: Thanks to many people, especially Betty Fink and Pam Molle, a list of Hilltown men in the Civil War is complete, and biographies have been started for each of them. Right now some of the biographies consist of just the basic facts gleaned from Civil War Records.

The editor for the Civil War Memorial Project is now Betty Fink. It is now a work in progress.


We need one or more volunteers for each of the towns to flesh out the biographies. If you see something below you think you might be interested in, contact me before beginning so I can coordinate who is doing what and prevent duplication.

  • One of the sources would be the Hilltowns Genealogy posted on the Berne Historical Project web site. This can be done by anyone familiar with how to update biographies in this project. It is not difficult and I can help you learn.
  • If the men lived until the latter part of the 19th C. or longer, I would like on line newspaper archives, such as the Altamont Enterprise, or Albany papers posted on the Fulton History] site, searched for additional information, such as obituaries.
  • We also need someone with access to census data, such as that posted on and other sites, to add census information for the Civil War men.
  • Family researchers are asked to write or contribute information on their ancestors who served. We need copies of photos, letters written home from the soldiers, death notices, pension requests, military papers, medals, pictures of tombstones, family stories, etc.
  • We need someone to take photos of the headstones of Civil War veterans to add to their biographies so we will have them available for our book. This should be done by cemetery. Volunteer to do a cemetery and I will try to get you a list of the CW men buried there.


One of the many projects that I am pushing is the collection of the names of the men and women who served in various wars. I was wondering how we could do that. Rich Hungerford came up with the idea of searching the Altamont Enterprise archives which are on line. Another great newspaper archives is Fulton History site which has the archives of dozens of upstate New York newspapers.

On line newspaper archives are invaluable to librarians, historians and family researchers. They are a wonderful source for researching local history, such as the who served in what wars, the history of a local organization, such as a library, grange, church or fire department.

If someone wants to write a biography of a grandparent or great grandparent, just search on their name. In fact each article mentioning their name came be copied and pasted into a digital scrapbook on a person or event. Then that could be used as a source for writing a biography.


  • Someone to add Van Rensselaer Lot numbers to each of the towns pages. This is a very simple task that takes no special computer skills. Let me know if you can do this and I will tell you how.
  • A volunteer with knowledge and an interest in Westerlo to participate in this site and post articles. There is a book on the history of Westerlo, that if we can get permission, it would be great to have some of the items from it posted here. It would also be very nice to have someone scan old photos and documents from the collection of Westerlo Historical Society. There is also a wonderful compilation of cemetery records done a number of years ago by then town historian Thurman Bishop, Jr. For starters, his description of the cemeteries and their location should be added to the site. He also listed veterans who are buried in Westerlo cemeteries. These veterans should be listed on the Westerlo pages. We need someone to take photos of the headstones of Civil War veterans to add to their biographies so we will have them available for our book.

Helderberg Hilltowns companion sites

  • Helderberg Hilltowns - a blog to keep people up to date on the latest activities and postings on this site. It is an alternative for folks who do not want to join Facebook.
  • Helderberg Hilltowns - A Facebook group is for folks interested in:
- History of the hill towns of western Albany County and the people who lived there.
- Historic building preservation in the hamlets and countryside of the hill towns.
- Preservation of the farmland and scenic beauty.
- Promoting farms and farm a place for discussions this site and to keep informed of new developments on this site.
You don't have to be a member of FaceBook to visit the site and see what is happening. It is safe to visit.
  • Head for the Hills - the Helderberg Hilltowns - a Facebook group dedicated to encouraging folks to visit the four Albany hill towns. You don't have to be a member of FaceBook to visit the site and see where we are headed.
  • Berne Historical Project ( - Berne Historical Project site is about the history of the town of Berne. It has church, cemetery, and transcribed census records; transcribed bible; military history; biographies and stories; early maps; etc. It also has the Hilltowns Genealogy (formerly the Berne Families Genealogy), which has the genealogy of most all of the early families who settled in Berne and Knox plus a large number of Westerlo and Rensselaerville Families. It is frequently updated.