GEOGRAPHY AND DEMOGRAPHICS
Berne, one of the four Albany County Hilltowns, is at the west border of Albany County. The other Hilltowns are Knox, Westerlo, and Rensselaerville. The town of Berne (originally spelled "Bern") was created in 1795 from part of the Rensselaerville. In 1822 the north half of Berne was spun off to form the new Town of Knox.According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 64.8 square miles. The west town line is the border of Schoharie County, New York.
- Maps - Click the following link to view various Berne maps.
- Census records for the following years have been transcribed and posted on the Berne Historical Project site: 1790, 1800, 1840, 1850, 1855, 1860, 1865, 1865 Additional, 1905, 1915, 1925
VISITOR ATTRACTIONS AND FACILITIES
Like all of the Albany hill towns, Berne is known for its natural beauty: pastoral rural countryside, rolling hills, meandering creeks, waterfalls, forest land.
- - Berne visitor attractions and facilities including farms, farm activities, natural reserves, trails, historic buildings and cemeteries.
- - Proposals for town of Berne, farmers and businesses to enhance visitor experiences.
- - Making the Hilltowns a Tourist Destination for ideas low impact tourism.
Upcoming events are listed on the following pages:
- Upcoming events for visitors who want to know what is coming up when they "Head for the Hills."
- Upcoming Events of Special Interest to Hill Town Residents
Scoharie was settled by Palatine Refugees 1712 from what is now Germany. The earliest settlers of what is now Berne were both newer Palatine arrivals who found that the land in the Schoharie Valley was already taken, and early settlers who either could not get clear title too their land, or did not (or could not) pay the price. At that time, the wilderness land to the east in what is now Berne and Know could be had for the taking.
Without a doubt, the Ball and Dietz families were among the earliest settlers in the Helderbergs, and by 1740 were living next to each other on the flats below what is now the hamlet of Berne. This is evidenced by the marriage of three sons of Peter Ball, (whose parents were part of the 1709 – 1710 refugees brought by the British from London), to three Dietz women. Since these marriages were recorded in Schoharie, some historians believe that Peter Ball first settled in Schoharie, however there are no records to support this.
Sometime before 1757 the area surrounding what is now the hamlet of Berne was referred to as “the Beaver Dam” – after a large beaver dam on a small tributary of the Foxenkill just west of the junction of the Switzkill.
Early Settlement The earliest settlers were Palatine German refugees. Settlement began before 1750. At that time it was called Beaver Dam (also spelled Beaverdam). The settlers were actually squatters, since in the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, Berne was part of the Rensselaerwyck estate. The head of the Van Rensselaer family was the Patroon who owned all the land on which the tenants in the Hudson Valley lived, and used feudal leases to maintain control of the region. Before the Revolutionary War, the patroons acted as feudal lords, with the right to make laws.
Beaver Dam The Beaver Dam - The first chapter of Our Heritage starts: "As nearly as can be determined... it was 1750 when Jacob Weidman led a small band of settlers along an old Indian trail through the Helderbergs. Weidman, Ball, Bassler, Deitz, Hochstrasser, Knieskern, and Zeh - where or how did they meet? Probably we shall never know." The story of Weidman leading a group of first settlers is not true. This article, originally publishled in the Altamont Enterprise has more information on the early settlers of Berne.
When the first settlers arrived in the wilderness, probably before 1740, they squatted near a large beaver dam that was probably located on the Switzkill creek just before it joins the Foxenkill (Fox Creek) west of the current hamlet of Berne. Although determining the exact year is impossible, it is certain that they were squatters since all of the land in the area was then owned by the Van Rensselaer family and had been for more than a century. The settlement was referred to as Beaver Dam - also spelled Beaverdam and misspelled as Bever Dam.
- Slavery in Berne - It was generally the earliest settlers, who had settled on the best valley land, who were prosperous enough to afford them. In 1827 slavery was outlawed in New York State.
- Fisher / Wood Farm - In 1790 census for the Town of Rensselarville listed Johannes Fisher, the innkeeper who built The Johannes Fisher House, as one of the few local families to own slaves. About 1812 Fischer built a large, one-room brick building to house his three slaves, plus those of travelers staying in his inn. Conveniently located behind it is an outdoor brick beehive oven. There are slaves buried in back of the Wood Family Burying Ground. The slave quarters and oven still exist. Euretha Wolford Stapleton, former Town Historian, said this farm was a stop on the Underground Rail Road that helped run-away slaves reach their freedom farther north or in Canada.
- Anti-Rent Wars in the Hilltowns
- Berne during the Anti-Rent War
- brief histories of Berne published in various books and newspapers.
- Timeline of Berne History
- NYS Historic Markers in Berne
- Berne Census Records for 1790, 1800, 1840, 1850, 1855, 1860, 1865, 1905, 1915, and 1925 are transcribed and posted on Berne History Project web site.
BERNE MILITARY HISTORY
We are trying to create a list of men and women who served in the military. If you know someone who served, please add their name to the list. If you know more about any of them, if would be a fitting tribute to them if you would also create a biography of them.
Click the links below for information on Berne during a particular war
- Beaver Dam during the Revolutionary War
- Berne during the War of 1812
- Berne during the Civil War
- Berne during World War I
- Berne during World War II
- Berne during the Korean Conflict
- Berne during the Vietnam War
FARMS AND LOTS
- Current Farms - For a listing of current farms, farm products and farm activities go to Berne visitor attractions and facilities.
- Historic Farms
- Berne Lots - The farms are in order by Van Rensselaer Great Lot number which tells approximately (and often precisely) which grid on Beers 1866 map of Berne the farm is located. The lot numbers were assigned by Wm. Cochran when he did the first survey of the Hilltowns in 1786 and 1787.
- Dutch Barns were predominant from the mid-17th century to the early 19th century in the Colony of New Netherland. The New World Dutch Barn is unique among American farm buildings. It’s clean and logical structural system was derived from medieval European timber framing, and the availability of massive timbers from the virgin American forests allowed the barn builders to attain a scale and elegance that we still marvel at today. This was the area first settled by the Dutch and Palatine Germans, what is now northern New Jersey, and the Hudson, Mohawk, and Schoharie Valleys, and western Long Island in New York State. Hundreds of Dutch Barns still survive. Many are well known and have been studied and photographed by members of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society. The Towns of Berne and Knox are fortunate to have a number of Dutch style barns all built over two centuries ago. Whether the carpenters were Dutch, or Germans building in the Dutch style, has yet to be determined. The Dutch Barn Preservation Society has more information on historical importance of Dutch Barns.
- Deeds / Leases
FAMILY HISTORY AND STORIES
Unlike the chapters in the proposed books on family history that will be written by individual researchers, the data in this section will be entered by anyone who knows something about the family. Within each section entries are organized alphabetically. Add links to the farms where your ancestors lived, and links to the homes they lived in. Pictures are encouraged.
Families - Family history that focus on the family units that lived in the town, telling where they came from, what they did while here, when and why they left, and where they went.
- Ball, Robert and descendants - photo's courtesy of Alan Deitz
- Deitz, Fred family - photo's courtesy of Alan Deitz
- Duell, Philo family - photo's courtesy of Martin Duell at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ensminger, Burton family
- Harrower, Peter family bible
- Sellick, Peter family - photo's courtesy of Martin Duell at email@example.com
- Tubbs, Fred family - photo's courtesy of Martin Duell at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wagonheizer family bible
- Warner, Mathias family
- Zeh, Johannes family
Over the past two hundred plus years countless people have made Berne their home. One of the best part of Helderberg Hilltowns is the ability to view and enter biographies of it's citizens from the past. Please join us in expanding this section by creating a biography that is not already written or adding to one that is already posted.
- Berne Biographies - a link to biographies thus far for Berne. To view all biographies for the hilltowns click on 'Biographies' on the main menu.
Stories - Family stories and individual remembrance are treasured jewels given to our descendants. Berne stories is the treasure chest for these jewels.
Genealogy - Family genealogical charts organized by last name then first name
Family Photo Albums - organized by family surname
Berne Prominent Residents - a brief biography of prominent Berne residents
Businesses of the past - For businesses located in the hamlets, go to the individual hamlets. The New York State Business Directory and Gazetteer, 1870
- Berne Businesss in 1870
- East Berne Businesss in 1870
- West Berne Businesss in 1870
- South Berne Businesss in 1870
Hotels, Inns, Taverns, and Resorts
- The Johannes Fisher House - perhaps built as an inn before 1789 when it was the site of the meeting of the new town of Rensselaerville. Fisher operated an inn and store for farmers bringing their grain to Weidmans Gristmill. Fisher was one of the few local families to own slaves. About 1812 Fischer built a large, one-room brick building to house his three slaves, plus those of travelers staying in his inn.
- Ski Land - (ca. 1948 - ca.1965) was a small public ski-lift at the foot of Cole Hill.
Sawmills and Feedmills
- Warner's Sawmill, on Lot 564 on the bank of the Foxenkill half between Berne and East Berne, was built about 1765. The 1866 Beers map shows a Feed and Sawmill in the same location. This is just north west of the Pine Park development.
- Weidman's Gristmill
- Current farms and businesses - Berne Farms, Natural History, and Outdoor Recreation has a listing of current farms and businesses including places to get something to eat and places to sleep.
- Berne Churches - Past and present churches in the Town of Berne. Exploring their history and evolution throughout the years.
- Berne Schools - Past and present schools of Berne.
- Berne Organizations - Past and Present
- Berne Cemeteries - Listing of all family burial grounds and larger cemeteries in the Town of Berne.
HAMLETS AND COMMUNITIES
- The hamlet of Berne - the largest hamlet in the town, is located at the intersection of New York State Route 443 and New York State Route 156. Before the Post Office was located here in the latter half of the 19th century it was called "Bernville." In the 19th and first half of the 20th century it had a number of stores, up to three hotels, several blacksmith shops, a funeral home, cabinet makers, harness makers, etc.; now it almost entirely residential. The Town Hall is located here in a former hotel. The same building houses the Berne Public Library. Upstairs is the Berne Museum with "ten rooms of history" operated by the Berne Historical Society. The Post Office is next door. The Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School is at the west end of the hamlet. Here is a "report card" on the elementary and Junior-Senior High Schools.
- East Berne - a hamlet a few miles east of the hamlet of Berne has a gas station, a couple of restaurants, and a hardware store.
- Huntersland - a hamlet in the southwest part of the town, was formed circa 1797.
- Reidsville - a hamlet in the southeast part of the town bordering Westerlo.
- South Berne - a hamlet near the south town line bordering Westerlo.
- Thompsons Lake - a small community in the northeast part of the town, south of Thompsons Lake.
- Warners Lake - the lake and surrounding community in the north central part of the town near East Berne.
- West Berne - a small hamlet in the northwest corner of the Town near the west town line with Knox and the county line with Schoharie.
- West Mountain - refers to the highlands in the southwest quadrant of the town.
This section is for scenic photos and post cards of the Town. Photos of people and families should be posted on biography or family pages. Photos of the hamlets should be posted under the hamlets.
- Berne - Then and Now - images of the past compared with same place more recently.
- Various images about the town: