Knox Town Government

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From the booklet, Booklet Knox, New York Sesquicentennial, 1822-1972

Town Government

The New England forefathers brought their traditional form of government to the Town of Knox. The town was the unit responsible for collecting taxes, holding elections, establishing and supervising schools, and maintaining highways. All records of the Town of Knox, from its formation to 1850, were destroyed by fire, and the first recorded bylaws appear in Tenney and Howell's History of Albany County. The first meeting was held at the home of Henry Barkley, which today is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Amsler. (1972)

At that time Knox was divided into three assessment districts. Overseers of the poor were appointed and directed to report to the town meeting thereafter the number of the poor to be maintained, the cost of their maintenance, and to estimate the cost for the ensuing year.

Article 6 of the bylaws stated that "no horses shall go at large; no cattle, sheep or swine shall go at large and the penalty on them shall be, when found going at large and secured in any pen or yard or any premises, the owner or owners therof shall pay to the person or persons taking them up the following sum — For every stallion two years old, four dollars; for every cow, ox, steer, bull or calf, fifty cents; for every sheep, two cents per head; for every swine, six cents per head and for every boar two months old or older, two dollars." Half the money collected went to the person who "captured" the loose animals and the other half went to the poor. Stock could not be impounded for more than 48 hours, and owners of impounded animals had to be notified within 24 hours of the trespass.

Fence viewers apparently were appointed by the town to supervise the building and repair of fences that enclosed fields which were, evidently, the common property of the town. It was the duty of the fence viewer to see that every man worked for an equal length of time each year on these "pales," as the fences were called, or paid his share for the work of others. Fence viewers were required to examine fences on private lands, too, noting breaks and ordering repairs where necessary. According to legend, if cattle broke through a defective fence, causing damage, the fence owner had to stand the loss, but if cattle broke through a sound fence then the owner of the cattle would be required to pay. The bylaws stipulated that partition fences for lands, gardens, orchards, and meadows should be five feet high. Fence viewers were alloted seventy-five cents for each day of service. Town offices, which were elective, consisted of Supervisor, Town Clerk, Justice of Peace, Collector, Assesser, Commissioners of Highways, election inspectors and overseers of the poor. Tenney and Howell's History of Albany County contains the civil list for 1851-1854 and for 1868-1872. The Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of Albany County for each year since its inception, contain the names of Knox's town officials.

At the present time, Supervisor, Councilmen, Commissioner of Highways, Town Clerk, Tax Collector, and Justice of Peace are the elective offices. The Town Board appoints assessors for a six-year term. New positions appointed by the Town Board this year are: Registrar of Vital Statistics and Civil Defense Director.

At the present time, one of the town government's chief responsibilities is the maintenance of town roads, and the purchase and maintenance of machinery. Years ago, men could pay their highway tax by working on the roads. Now, however, men are employed by town and county.

During the past ten years, a vast improvement in the condition of town and county roads has been achieved. According to Alva Ostrander, Supervisor, the town plans to complete Seabury Road this year and has scheduled the repair of Lewis, Becker, Church, and West Road over the next five years. Within the last eighteen months, the town has purchased four motor trucks, a road grader, and snow removal equipment.

The Town Board has also appointed seven members to a committee charged with the responsibility for developing a comprehensive land-use plan. It has also undertaken a study of the water supply. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month in the Knox Fire House.

1t is hoped that eventually the Town of Knox will have a town hall although no definite plans in that direction have yet been undertaken.

The Town of Knox civil list for 1972 is as follows: Supervisor, Alva Ostrander; Town Justice, Joseph Landauer and Robert Whipple; Councilmen, George Gaige and Elmer Becker; Town Clerk, Bernard White; Superintendent of Highways, Alfred Shager; Tax Collector, Barbara Martin; Assesser, Walter Coulter; Assist. Assesser, Reneta Przysiecki; Building Inspector, Herbert Wilford; Registrar of Vital Statistics, Elizabeth Stevens, and Civil Defense Director, Fred Oettinger.