Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Jackson Corps

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English: Andrew Jackson - 7 th President of th...

English: Andrew Jackson – 7 th President of the United States (1829-1837) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the mid-19th century, there was a proliferation of military organizations, usually politically affiliated militias. They owned armories and guns, they marched in parades and were called on during unrest. One of those was Albany’s Jackson Corps, which was formed from the Young Men’s Democratic Association in 1868 and named for General Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans. A group of Civil War veterans came up with the idea of organizing as a military company; Munsell reports that “the idea was received with enthusiasm, and pushed forward with vigor, resulting int he organization of the Albany Jackson Guards, August 13, 1868.” Among the officers, by the way, was one George W. Hoxsie, the namesake of this site.

To modern ears, having organized groups of armed men with political
affiliations sounds like something less than a good idea. But the
organization, and others like it, was held in high regard. “For a year of two the organization was known as the Jackson Guards, after which the name was changed to the Albany Jackson Corps. In political campaigns the organization formed the popular Jacksonians, and took part in all the great political demonstrations occurring during the ensuing ten years.” They also marked in just about every parade, escorted governors to inaugural ceremonies,  attended the laying of the cornerstone of the New Capitol, and were the Guard of Honor as the body of General Grant lay in state in it. When there was rioting during the railroad strike of 1877, the Jackson Corps was dispatched to guard the upper railroad bridge (the Livingston Avenue Bridge) to prevent sabotage.

As noted earlier this week, the building that had served as its armory, at 38 Beaver Street, was transformed into the Hotel Columbia, which burned along with the Second Dutch Church Building in 1892. 

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As we noted yesterday, there used to be a Second Dutch Church down on Beaver Street, along with a once-sizable burying ground. The graves were mostly moved, and the church was remodeled into a printing office after 1881, which was home to J.B. Lyons, then the official state printer, and the then-small shop of C.F. Williams. On Sept. 12, 1892, the whole thing went up in flames, taking several other buildings, burning clear through from Beaver to Hudson, and destroying several State commissions’ annual reports that had been printed and bound in Lyons’ shop.

“This building ran through from Beaver Street to Hudson Avenue and had been remodelled some years ago from the old Dutch Reformed Church to a commodious building five stories high on Hudson Avenue and two stories on Beaver Street, having a frontage on both streets of about 125 feet,” the New York Times reported. “Mr. Lyons’s establishment occupied the Beaver Street side of the building, except the northeast corner of the ground floor, which was occupied by the C.F. Williams Printing Company.”

The printers weren’t the only establishments; on the Hudson Avenue side of the building were Russell Lyman, shirt and collar manufacturer; Hughes & Simpson, paper-box manufacturers; the Albany Caramel Company; F.G. Mix, agent for the Columbus Wagon Company; W.C. Gell, umbrellas; John Ingmire, paperhanger; and H.H. Walsh, saddlery.

“The flames spread through from street to street with frightful rapidity, and in twenty minutes the whole interior of the building was a seething crater. As the heavy machinery and burning timbers fell they crushed through the lower floors, carrying tons of blazing woodwork.”

The fire spread to the back of the Hotel Columbia on Beaver Street, formerly the armory of the Jackson Corps, and on into the Hotel Fort Orange. “High above stood the old church belfry. About 2:30 o’clock there was a warning cry from the outskirts of the crowd on Hudson Avenue, and a second later the lofty wall swayed for an instant, then bulged in the middle and came crashing into the street. The warning had just given the firemen at work time to flee. Other sections of the wall followed. The debris crashed through store windows on the opposite side of the street.”

J.B. Lyons was offered the facilities of the Argus, owned by Mayor Manning, until he could get on his feet. Williams Printing continued on as well. Happily, even the Albany Caramel Company survived at least another few years.

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The Second Dutch Church

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The natural progression of the Dutch Church in Albany, as we think of it today, was from the old church at the foot of State Street to the building on North Pearl known as First Church in Albany. But there was a second Dutch Reformed congregation as Albany grew, and it built this edifice on Beaver Street, probably near the corner of Green, in 1806. The site was adjacent to the old cemetery on Beaver Street, which continued in use until the Albany Rural Cemetery was opened in 1841. At that time many of the graves were moved to the new cemetery, and the land was redeveloped. But even that early, there was a somewhat casual attitude toward the final resting places of our ancestors, as Joel Munsell noted in a news item he reprinted from 1836 in the “Annals of Albany:”

“In digging to make improvements in the north area of the Second Dutch church on Beaver street, a number of grave stones were thrown out, among which were the two following, the first being that of the second mayor of the city. . . .”

The inscriptions, if not the stones themselves (“thrown out”!!) were preserved:

“Here lies the body of John Abeel who departed this life ye 28 day of Jan’y, 1711, and in the 44 year of his age.
Dient begin van wel te leven
Uyt den Hemel was gegeven
Gingh der weer den Hemel waert
Storf maer verliet de aert.”

“Here lies the body of Jeremiah Field, deceased Oct. 16, 1762, aged 32 years.”

It was used as a church until 1881, after which it was remodeled (and perhaps joined to another building) to form a large building for the James B. Lyons printing company.

George Washington Slept Here

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John Glen HouseIn fact, he did. This historic marker from Schenectady’s Stockade tells you just where, too: the northeast bedroom, on the second floor. The “History of the County of Schenectady, N.Y.” tells us that:

“The ‘Father of Our Country’ visited Schenectady at three different times. The first occasion was soon after the revolutionary war, in the interest of the defence of the frontier. He was the guest of John Glen, who was then quartermaster of the department. The second occasion was by invitation of the citizens of Schenectady. He, in company with Gen. Philip Schuyler, rode in a carriage from Albany, on June 30, 1782. He was received with great honor by the civil and military authorities, and a public dinner given him at a hotel then situated on the south corner of State and Water streets, one of the houses spared in the great fire of 1690. It was kept at the time by Robert Clinch, formerly a drum-major under Gen. Braddock, and well known to Gen. Washington. The principal citizens of the place dined with him . . . .”

“The third visit was in 1786, when Washington made a tour with Gov. George Clinton, Gen. Hand, and many other officers as far west as Fort Stanwix. In passing through Schenectady, he stopped at the same hotel as on his former visit.”

Humble beginnings

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Albany’s first Erastus Corning was only mayor for four years, not the 40-odd years his namesake great grandson would serve. He could be forgiven, one supposes, since he was busy founding and running the Albany State Bank, The Rensselaer Iron Works, the Utica and Schenectady Railroad, the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, some other banks and insurance companies, and, eventually, the New York Central Railroad. He was also a Regent of the University, a State Senator, a United States Congressman, a land speculator (Corning, New York, was among the lands he speculated in), and probably a whole lot more.

Erastus Corning, Mayor of Albany.

Erastus Corning, Mayor of Albany. Photograph by Matthew Brady (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But he started out in the hardware business. In this listing from the American Advertising Directory for 1831, Erastus Corning & Co. is listed at 389 S. Market Street as manufacturers of “Cut Nails, Hoop and Band Iron, Spike and Nail Rods, Horse Shoe Shapes, &c.; Dealers in Hardware, Saddlery, Cutlery, Dutch Bolting Cloths, Mill Irons, Bar Iron, Steel, &c.” South Market Street was the stretch of what is now Broadway below State, running through The Pastures.

I’m not sure of the relation of nearby merchant Edward Corning. There is a thorough Corning family genealogy here.

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North River Engine & Boiler Works

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In 1858, steam was king. In order to make steam, you needed a boiler. To make something move with steam, you needed an engine. John Punshon’s North River Engine and Boiler Works made engines and boilers at 16 and 17 Quay Street, which is one of the streets that sort of still exists but is mostly just part of the I-787 ramp system now.

H.W. Churchill, Engraver

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From the 1858 Albany City Directory, an interesting advertisement for H.W. Churchill, Wood Engraver. And stove engraver. Creator of views of buildings, animals, fowls (perhaps the original Hoxsie?), and this thing, which appears to be some kind of dog with a beard.

Churchill also published a “Guide through the Albany Rural Cemetery,” apparently.

Help Save Bannerman’s Castle

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2009 Bannerman Castle hudson riverHoxsie takes a rare step outside the Albany area, but only
because he was asked. There’s an effort afoot to get funding to preserve
Bannerman’s Castle, one of the most-recognized and least-understood landmarks
of the entire Hudson River. If you’ve ever taken the extremely scenic Amtrak
ride along the river and wondered why there’s a castle in the river, the answer
goes back to Francis Bannerman.

According to the highly specific genealogical volume “Scots
and Scots’ Descendants,” the Bannerman family were a proud clan that claimed
their surname from Bannockburn, “where an ancestor rescued the clan pennant,
whereupon Bruce cut off the streamer from the Royal ensign and conferred upon
him the honour of ‘bannerman.'” The eldest son in each generation was named
Frank, making things very simple (or impossible) for future researchers.
Francis V brought him family to the United States in 1854, settling in
Brooklyn. Francis VI left school at 10, when his father went to the Civil War
in 1861. In addition to working in a law office and selling newspapers, young
Frank dragged the river with a grapple for bits of chain and rope which he sold
to junk dealers. His father returned from war disabled, and became a dealer in
his son’s collected materials, and this business grew into a ship chandlery.

In 1872, Francis VI started a new business, buying up at
auction useful weapons and war materiel that were being auctioned for their
scrap value. He started sending out an illustrated catalog for collectors, and
also started converting rifles into fowling pieces for frontiersmen and Quaker
guns for boys’ brigades and military schools. His business grew with stores in
New York City, where he fitted out many regiments for the Spanish-American War.
At the conclusion of that bit of military theater, he bought up more than 90
percent of the captured war material and a little island in the Hudson
Highlands called Pollopel’s Island. (Spell it how you like.) The name was
changed to Bannerman’s Island, and here he erected arsenals “patterned after
the Scottish baronial castles.” The island became his summer home, and he
directed the creation of an incredible castle, reportedly seeing to every

In 1905, he bought 501 Broadway from the trustees of the
Metropolitan Museum, who “greatly reduced the price in recognition o fhis
maintenance of a Free Public War Museum.” There were seven stories of museum
and salesroom, containing weapons both ancient and modern. His terms were cash:
“Even the Standard Oil Company in purchasing had to send check with order.”

Bannerman became an acknowledged expert on weapons as well
as perhaps the world’s largest dealer in them; the author of his biographical sketch
wanted it known that Bannerman “has consistently refused to sell to
revolutionists, or to minors or irresponsible persons.” He was also called “a
great lover of boys,” which had a distinctly different ring in a more innocent
age, or at least one in which the boys were heavily armed.

Until recently, the name “Bannermans Island
Arsenal” could be clearly seen along the eastern wall, but significant portions
of the structure have collapsed in recent years.  You can help support the stabilization and
restoration of this incredible historic structure by voting in the Chase
Community Giving process,
or on Facebook.

If you’re not familiar with it, there’s a pool of pictures
of Bannerman’s Castle on Flickr.


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