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New York - Columbia County

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by Gil Leach

The land that is now Columbia County was involved in some very early history. Henry Hudson, on September 17, 1609 came ashore to visit and eat with the Indians at about the place where the Kinderhook Creek runs into the Hudson. By 1612 a lively trade was established with the Indians, and that continued on a regular basis.The Dutch settlers in the region were able to maintain peace between the Mohawks and the Mohicans for 20 years after Hudson's first voyage.

Prior to the establishment of counties in 1683 by Governor Dongan, governmental services were obtained in New Amsterdam (New York) and Fort Orange (Albany). With the establishment of the Counties, services became available at the various County Seats. But New York and Albany continued to be used for these services by some families well into the 18th century. Researchers looking for Probate and Deed records should also check these locations for early records.

The County Seat for Columbia was originally at Claverack, but was moved to Hudson in 1805. The county is 35 miles north to south and 18 miles east to west. Its center is about 125 miles north of New York City and 30 miles southeast of Albany.

Settlement in Columbia began soon after the establishment of Fort Nassau by the Dutch in 1614. The Village of Valatie claims establishment in 1618, though this settlement was probably not continuous. Fort Orange and New Amsterdam were established in 1624. Traders and travellers between these points on the Hudson River frequently stopped along the shores of Columbia. Small settlements sprang up to provide aid and goods to these ships. The regions around Claverack were purchased from the Indians in 1649, and Kinderhook in 1667. Typically, settlement occurred earlier than the purchase, and the granting of the Patents after the purchase. These two areas grew with primarily Dutch settlers and a few other Europeans with them, notably German and English. In 1664, the English took over New Netherland and renamed it the Province of New York. New Amsterdam was renamed New York and Fort Orange was renamed Albany. With this change came many more English settlers to provide the government and to settle the land.

One of the most significant early settlements was in 1710, when about 1200 German Palatines were brought to Livingston Manor. This location was then part of Dutchess County, and is now the town of Germantown. They were brought as indentured servants by England's Queen Anne and New York's Governor Hunter to make tar from the pine trees in the Catskill Mountains. About an equal number were settled on the west bank of the Hudson. Sweeden had a world monopoly on tar for Naval Stores, and it was important for England to be able to make their own. The project failed, however, and in October, 1712, the Palatines were set free of their indentures, but given none of the land promised at the start. About two thirds of the new settlers went to other locations including Albany, Schoharie, New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But, about one third remained in the area and many descendants populate the Columbia and Dutchess region today.

Early settlement of Columbia was primarily along the Hudson River, the best means of transportation at the time. Gradually, the settlement moved eastward to take advantage of the land. It was not until about 1730 that migration to Columbia came from the east. By 1750 the need for additional land had forced migration into New York from Connecticut and Massachusetts in spite of the rugged mountainous terrain. These new immigrants to Columbia were predominantly English with a significant Quaker community among them. By the time Columbia was established as a county, the Revolution had ended. After that point, the population and immigration trends were similar to the rest of America. Dutch immigration had ended abruptly after the English took over New York. Germans and some other Europeans continued to come to America to join earlier immigrants and take advantage of the promise that the New World held.

The western third of Columbia County is relatively flat with excellent farm land, a use that continues today. The center third of the county has a range of hills and mountains, and to the east exists a wide valley. Along the Massachusetts border there is a sharp mountain range containing the highest peaks in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Population centers in Columbia County continue today along the earliest travel routes and settlement areas. To travel through this predominantly rural county one would see little change from the early settlement era.

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From what or whom did the name of each county originate? Click here to find out.

County Date
Parent County County
Albany 1683 original county Albany
Allegany 1806 Genesee Belmont
Bronx 1914 New York Bronx
Broome 1806 Tioga Binghamton
Cattaraugus 1808 Genesee Little Valley
Cayuga 1799 Onondaga Auburn
Charlotte 1772 Albany renamed Washington in 1784
Chautauqua 1808 Genesee Mayville
Chemung 1798 Tioga Elmira
Chenango 1798 Herkimer, Tioga Norwich
Clinton 1788 Washington Plattsburgh
Columbia 1786 Albany Hudson
Cortland 1808 Onondoga Cortland
Delaware 1797 Ulster, Otsego Delhi
Dutchess 1683 original county Poughkeepsie
Erie 1821 Niagara Buffalo
Essex 1799 Clinton Elizabethtown
Franklin 1808 Clinton Malone
Fulton 1838 Montgomery Johnstown
Genesee 1802 Ontario Batavia
Greene 1800 Ulster, Albany Catskill
Hamilton 1816 Montgomery Lake Pleasant
Herkimer 1791 Montgomery Herkimer
Jefferson 1805 Oneida Watertown
1683 Original county Brooklyn
Lewis 1805 Oneida Lowville
Livingston 1821 Genesee, Ontario Geneseo
Madison 1806 Chenango Wampsville
Monroe 1821 Genesee, Ontario Rochester
Montgomery 1772 Albany (as Tryon to 1784) Fonda
Nassau 1899 Queens Mineola
New York City
1683 Original county New York
Niagara 1808 Genesee Lockport
Oneida 1798 Herkimer Utica
Onondaga 1794 Herkimer Syracuse
Ontario 1789 Montgomery Canandaigua
Orange 1683 Original county Goshen
Orleans 1824 Genesee Albion
Oswego 1816 Oneida, Onondaga Oswego, Pulaski
Otsego 1791 Montgomery Cooperstown
Putnam 1812 Dutchess Carmel
Queens 1683 Original county Jamaica
Rensselaer 1791 Albany Troy
Staten Island
1683 Original county St. George
Rockland 1798 Orange New City
St. Lawrence 1802 Clinton, Herkimer, Montgomery Canton
Saratoga 1791 Albany Ballston Spa
Schenectady 1809 Albany Schenectady
Schoharie 1795 Albany, Ostego Schoharie
Schuyler 1854 Tompkins, Steuben, Chemung Watkins Glen
Seneca 1804 Cayuga Ovid, Waterloo
Steuben 1796 Ontario Bath
Suffolk 1683 Original county Riverhead
Sullivan 1809 Ulster Monticello
Tioga 1791 Montgomery Owego
Tompkins 1817 Cayuga, Seneca Ithaca
Tryon 1772 Albany (renamed Montgomery 1784)
Ulster 1683 Original county Kingston
Warren 1813 Washington Lake George
Washington 1772 Albany (see Charlotte) Hudson Falls
Wayne 1823 Ontario, Seneca Lyons
Westchester 1683 Original county White Plains
Wyoming 1841 Genesee Warsaw
Yates 1823 Ontario, Steuben Penn Yan

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