Rensselaerville

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The Village of Rensselaerville, photo from People Made It Happen Here

Rensselaerville, the earliest of the four Albany County, NY Hilltowns is on the south border of Albany County. The other Hilltowns are Berne, Knox, and Westerlo.

GEOGRAPHY AND DEMOGRAPHICS

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 61.9 square miles.

The south town line is the border of Greene County, and the west town line is the border of Schoharie County. The north line is the border of Berne. The east line is the border of Westerlo. The population was 1,915 at the 2000 census.

Maps

VISITOR ATTRACTIONS AND FACILITIES

The Albany hill towns are known for their natural beauty: pastoral rural countryside, rolling hills, meandering creeks, waterfalls, forest land.

UPCOMING EVENTS

upcoming events are listed on the following pages:

HISTORY

Rensselaerville was once part of the Rensselaerwyck estate and is named after Kiliaen Van Rensselaer. The town was settled around 1785.

Rensselaerville was created from part of the Town of Watervliet in 1790. At that time it included all of what are now the Towns of Berne, Knox, and Westerlo. In 1795 the northern part of the town was lost to create the new Town of Berne. Additional territory was lost from the eastern part of the town upon the formation of the Town of Westerlo in 1815.

Early Settlement - The Dutch Colony of Rensselaerwyck was founded in 1629. The land became English in 1664 but was still controlled by a single person, the Lord of the Manor. As late as 1767 no one was recorded as having settled in the future village of Rensselaerville.

Settlers first came to Rensselaerville during the Revolution. The first settler was Henry Van Dyke. Settlers followed from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Dutchess County in New York about 1788 including Samuel Jenkins, Melatiah Hatch, Nathanial Hatch, Joseph Woodford, Thomas Brown, Joel Culver, Jonathan Crocker, Ashbel Culver and others. They built log cabins and remained in warm weather and in the winter returned east. These settlers were very poor. For the first year or two there was no horses owned within a mile of the village, and they had to carry their sugar 20 or 30 miles on their backs, exchange it for corn and return the same way.[1].

A survey in 1787 found 67 settlers in the region. A description of that time referred to ‘‘the terrific forests [of] overshadowing hemlock [that] had not then (1793) been felled’’ and to ‘‘mountain sides . . . covered with dense thickets of somber-looking hemlocks’’ (People Made It Happen Here, 1977, p.45).

In the late 1700s the land throughout the region was rapidly cleared for farming. Sawmills and tanneries proliferated.

GENEALOGY

- RHS Genealogy Files

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.

FARMS

  • Historic Farms - The historic farms are in order by Van Rensselaer Great Lot number which tells approximately (and often precisely) which grid on Beers 1866 map the farm is located. Click here an explanation of the 1866 Beers map.

The Rensselaerville Lot Numbers were assigned by Wm. Cockburn when he made his 1787 survey map of the Hilltowns. It is based on a grid a half mile across. This made the typical lot 1/4 square mile (160 acres). The number of the grid is the same as the number of the lot for vacant land. The lots of the squatters who were already there at the time of the survey are irregular in shape and cross grid boundaries.

The purpose of this site is to tell the story of each farm from the first homesteader to the present. Pictures may be used provided you have authority to post them.

HISTORIC HOMES

Tell the story of each historic home, when it was built, who lived there, additions, remodeling. Organized by Lot number. Pictures may be used provided you have authority to post them.

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.
-Tallman,
  • Biographies - Over the past two hundred plus years countless people have made Rensselaerville 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. Here is a link to more Rensselaerville Biographies. To view all biographies for the hilltowns click on 'Biographies' on the main menu.
  • Stories - Family stories organized by last name
  • Genealogy of many early Rensselaerville families can be found in the Hilltowns Genealogy posted on the Berne Historical Project site. Here are additional genealogical charts organized by last name then first name:
  • Family Photo Albums
  • Prominent Residents

BUSINESSES

  • Current Businesses - Rensselaerville visitor attractions and facilities has a listing of current farms and businesses including places to get something to eat and places to sleep.
  • Historic Businesses - This section will have the history of each business beginning from its establishment, through various ownerships and name changes. Pictures may be used provided you have authority to post them. The below businesses were in the Town of Rensselaerville. There were many more businesses in the hamlets. Those businesses are listed in their respective hamlet sections.
- Rice General Store
- Rensselaerville Grist Mill
- Rensselaerville sawmill
- E & J Polishing and Plating Co.
- Felter's Foundry
- Fritch & Tiffany Foundry
- Heart of the Pine
- Ice House Crafts
- Rensselaerville Creamery
- Wildove's General Store

CHURCHES

  • Churches of the Past
- Baptist Church of Rensselaerville
- Friend's Meeting House at Potter Hollow
- Rensselaerville Presbyterian Church
  • Current Churches
- Baptist Church of Preston Hollow
- Methodist Church of Preston Hollow
- Potter Hollow Union Church
- Trinity Episcopal Church
- United Church of Christ

SCHOOLS

Most of the early histories of District schools in the Town of Rensselaerville are lost in their years. They were, for the most part, simple one room structures sometimes with a seperate "necessary building" School #16 in the hamlet of Rensselaerville and School #14 in Preston Hollow were the only multi room buildings. Common school education began in 1795 with the State Legislature voting 1590 pounds to be divided among the several towns in Albany County.[1]

Rensselaerville District Schools - A listing of the 24 district schools in the town, their location and history if known.

ORGANIZATIONS

  • Current Organizations:
- Rensselaerville Historical Society. - Information on their research collection.
- Rensselaerville Farmland Protection Facebook Group mission is to advocate for the preservation of agricultural soils and farmlands in the Helderberg hill towns with initial focus on the Town of Rensselaerville, to protect the rural character of the area, to offer educational programs to the public, and to actively support regional agricultural enterprises…”
  • Past Organizations:

CEMETERIES

An inventory of Rensselaerville Cemeteries compiled by the late Larry Jackson lists 13 cemeteries and family burial grounds in the Town of Rensselaerville

HAMLETS

The "official" hamlets are Cooksburg, Medusa, Potter Hollow, Preston Hollow, and Rensselaerville.

PHOTO GALLERY

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.

EXTERNAL LINKS

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 People Made It Happen Here, History of the Town of Rensselaerville ca. 1788-1950, Published 1977