Thinking about the dark?

Thinking about how early it’s getting dark now? Before kerosene became an affordable fuel that gave a bright light—thanks to oil refining in Pennsylvania—which wasn’t until the 1860s, people experimented with many types of fuels and lamps to brighten up the evenings. 

Tallow candles, which could be made at home, were smelly and smoky. Beeswax was harder to get, but brighter. The paraffin wax candles, like we have today, came from refined crude oil, just like kerosene. But everyone used candles.

The pictures come from a wonderful demonstration of antique lighting at Hyde Hall on Otsego Lake. Since this house was built in the 1830s, about the same time as the Flint House, these were the types of lamps that the Reese family might have used. As well-off farmers, they could no doubt afford many of the more exotic and expensive items.

Most utilitarian were the lamps using lard as fuel; the more elegant—and brighter—used vegetable oils and whale oils. Argand lamps used a new type of burner, as well as the glass chimney, to provide a steadier and brighter flame.

In the 1830s burning fluid, called camphine (sometimes spelled camphene), a combination of turpentine and alcohol, was invented. It gave a bright light, but was also prone to exploding and injured people. Still, it was very popular, and a new type of lamp was invented for this fuel. These had two wicks set at an angle (like two little horns) to minimize some of the risks, and they had little metal caps to extinguish them so you didn’t have to blow them out.

The main part of camphine was alcohol that was supplied by distilleries, which kept them in business no matter how much liquor people were drinking.

In the first photo you can see the flame in the Argand lamp. A whale oil lamp, with a single wick, is just to the right of the candle.

The second photo shows the angled wicks of the camphine lamp burning on the left.

For more info try https://aoghs.org/products/camphene-to-kerosene-lamps/, or Wikipedia is always good for this kind of general information.

 

  

One Hundred Years Ago at the Village Board, July-August, 1919

One Hundred Years Ago at the Village Board, July and August, 1919

[Check out all the Ordinances passed in August!]

July 7, 1919
Village Clerk to inform property owners of sidewalks reported dangerous to get them fixed.
Joseph D. Dutcher appointed police officer.
Petition from L. S. Beebe to construct 30 feet sanitary sewer in Washington Rd. Approved with: no cost to village; after completion submit a certificate of cost and have it inspected by Superintendent of Sewers.
Resolution to amend water rates outside the corporate limits: As of Sept. 1, first 1000 cubic feet at 59 cents, after that 12 cents per 100 cubic feet. Also new charges for meters.
Payroll and bills approved.

July 14, 1919
Petition to New York State relating to special paving requirements in Sacandage Rd.

July 21, 1919
Street Committee to protect Village screening plant from the weather; not to exceed $50.
Clerk to purchase parts for the furnace at Village Hall.
Street fund financial matters.
Water Committee to purchase repair parts for fire hydrants; not to exceed $50.
Clerk to purchase 3500 2-cent stamped envelopes for Water Department; not to exceed $76.02.
Granted 2 weeks vacation: Superintendent of Water and Sewers F. F. Lamboy, Asst. Supt. of Water and Sewers C. W. Mathews, Village Clerk E. Crosby Hoyt.
Light Committee to install a 40 candlepower streetlight at Cuthbert & Wilmarth.
Payroll and bills approved.

August 4, 1919
Clerk to purchase filing unit and other equipment for Mr. L. A. Bard, Village Probation Officer; not to exceed $10.48
Street Committee to purchase scoop scraper for gravel screening at $9.
George Keefer granted 2 weeks vacation, to be taken at the convenience of the Street Commissioner.
Street Committee to have one manhole and 3 catch basins added to the Sacandaga Rd. surface sewer as requested by the State Highway Dept.
William Peck, Village Street Commissioner, granted 2 weeks vacation, to be taken at the convenience of the Street Committee.
Granted a petition for the extension of the time to finish the Fourth St. sidewalk to Sept. 1.
Sewer fund financial matters.
Payroll approved.
Several Ordinances enacted:
1. An Ordinance relative to cutting into and opening the pavement of the public streets of the Village of Scotia.
It shall be unlawful to dig up or into, or tunnel under or undermine or cut, or in any way destroy the pavement of any public street. To do so requires permission of the Street Commissioner and the payment of fees; punishments are also outlined. Any person or persons violating the provisions of this ordinance shall, upon conviction, be liable to a penalty of $10-25 for each offense, and in addition to said penalty, said violation shall constitute disorderly conduct and the person violating same shall be a disorderly person. [All ordinances listed below use essentially the above wording; I’ve edited for quicker reading.]
2. An Ordinance relating to peace and good order generally, in the Village of Scotia
Any Person who disturbs the public peace and good order in the Village; or loiters on streets, street corners or other public places in the Village; or is guilty of noisy, riotous or tumultuous conduct within the Village, shall be liable to
Penalty of not more than $50 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
3. An Ordinance prohibiting malicious mischief in the Village of Scotia
Any person who shall willfully and maliciously break, mar, injure, remove or deface any building, fence, awning, sign, sign board, tree, shrubbery, or other ornamental thing in the Village; or who shall mutilate, deface or tear down any notice or hand bill lawfully posted in the Village, shall be liable to a
Penalty of not more than $50 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
4. An Ordinance prohibiting the misuse of sidewalks in the Vilage of Scotia
The riding, driving or leading of any cow, horse, or team upon any of the sidewalks within the corporation (except to cross the same) and the stopping of any team or vehicle upon or over any of the sidewalks or crosswalks is hereby prohibited and any person violating the provisions of this section shall be liable to a
Penalty of not more than $10 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
5. An Ordinance prohibiting the accumulation of snow, ice, dirt and other obstructions upon sidewalks in the Village of Scotia
It shall be unlawful for any occupant of any house or building and the owner of any vacant lot or building in the Village of Scotia to permit the sidewalks or gutters in front of the premisesowned or occupied by him, her, or it, to become in any manner obstructed by the accumulation of snow, ice and dirt thereon, and such occupant or owner shall remove the snow and ice from such sidewalk for the whole width thereof, and from the gutters for the space of twenty inches from the curb line [time and depth limits explained] and in case the snow and ice becomes so congealed that the same cannot be removed without injury to the pavement, to cause such snow and ice to be sprinkled with fineashes or sand, and also at all other times to keep such sidewalks free and clear from all dirt, filth or other obstructions and incumbrances, in order to allow and permit all persons to have the free and uninterrupted use of the same.
Street Commissioner to see to compliance and if owner does not will be reported to President of Village for action.
Penalty of not more than $25 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
Section 14 of the Village Ordinances relative to the throwing of snow and ice from the roofs of buildings in said Village and the keeping of sidewalks clear from the accumulation of snow and ice thereon is hereby repealed.
6. An Ordinance prohibiting the leaving of horses, cows or other cattle unattended in the public streets of the Village
It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to leave on the public street or public places of this Village, untied, unweighted or unattended, any horse, cow or other cattle.
Penalty of not more than $25 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
7. An Ordinance relative to the protection and preservation of shade trees in the streets and public places of the Village of Scotia
It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to remove, mutilate, cut the bark of, or in any manner injure any shade tree occupying any of the public streets, thoroughfares and public places in the Village of Scotia or to hitch a horse to such trees.
Penalty of not more than $25 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
8. An Ordinance prohibiting the making of bonfires in the public streets of the Village of Scotia
The kindling or assisting at the building or making or having of any bonfires or any other fire in any of the streets, roads, avenues, lanes or public places of this village is hereby prohibited.
Penalty of not more than $25 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
9. An Ordinance prohibiting the throwing of any foul water or other offensive matter in any of the public streets, alleys or public places in the Village of Scotia
Any person who shall deposit or throw any foul water or other offensive matter or matters that may become offensive in any of the public streets, alleys or other public places shall be liable to a
Penalty of $5 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
10. An Ordinance relative to coasting on the public streets in the Village of Scotia
It is hereby made unlawful for any person or persons to ride, slide or coast with any vehicle on runners, commonly called a sled or sleigh, in and upon any of the sidewalks, in the Village of Scotia, or in and upon any street, avenue or highway, which intersects or leads into any street, avenue or highway, in said Village, upon and along which an Electric Street Railroad is operated.
Penalty $1-$3 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
Bills approved to be paid.

August 18, 1919
Street fund financial matters.
An Ordinance prohibiting riding on public sidewalks with motorcycles, bicycles, or similar vehicles.
All persons are forbidden to ride a motorcycle, bicycle, tricycle, or similar vehicle on any of the public sidewalks of the Village.
Every person riding same between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise must have a light that can be seen for 200 feet, and shall give an alarm by bell, whistle, or otherwise which can be heard for 100 feet to warn pedestrians or other vehicles. They are forbidden to coast or proceed by inertia or momentum with the feet off the pedals or to carry children under 5 years of age and must observe all rules of the road in the highway law.
These rules do not apply to children under 10 or to persons unable to walk.
Penalty $5 and…the person shall be a disorderly person.
A new manhole to go in on Glen Ave. (west of Reynolds) where the road is currently open to remove roots from the sanitary sewer.
John S. Smith petitioned to construct 200 feet of sanitary sewer extending the present line in Washington Rd. Approved with: no cost to village; after completion submit a certificate of cost and have it inspected by Superintendent of Sewers.
Water Committee authorized to have the water main in Fourth St. lowered where necessary; not to exceed $100.
Payroll and bills approved.

 

Fall Open House and the Last of the Harvest

Fall Open House at the Flint House

Come by on Sunday, October 6 from 1-4 p.m. for a tour of the Flint House!

Beverly Clark, Village Historian, and Michelle Norris will be here to show you around and answer your Scotia questions.

We will be joined by Diana Carter and others from the Community Archaeology Program at Schenectady County Community College. They have completed some new explorations here in 2019 and will have pictures and items recovered during their dig for display. Find out what we’ve learned about the history of the Flint House.

The broomcorn harvest is just finishing up, and there will be some of this year’s crop to see; you can also try your hand at combing out the seeds, a necessary part of the process.

We are also getting ready for the Glenville Bicentennial in 2020. There will be some items—like a piece of the tug-of-war rope—from the Sesquicentennial in 1970 on display, and we welcome your memories and your ideas for how to celebrate next year.

The last of the broomcorn ready to cut:

Next Step in the Broomcorn Harvest

Once the tops—called the brush or the hurl—are cut from the stalks, the seeds need to be combed out. In the early days, and with a small crop like this, an actual comb does the job. There were machines invented to use for large production, called seed scrapers. After the seeds are gone, you can see the fibers that will make up the broom. When fresh they have a green color, which was very desirable; often sulphur was used to keep or enhance the green.

 

Broomcorn Harvest Time

Broomcorn Harvest Time 

This year I made a sheaf that we can use for the Glenville Bicentennial next year. Just imagine a whole field of stalks this tall—and we know the Reese family grew over 200 acres of it in the mid-1800s. The rest are bent over, or tabled, to be cut next week.

From the Clippings Collection 3

Coming across this photo from 1973-74 suggested a pleasant summer walk to see what happened to the plaques when the bridge was renovated in 2012-13. I found them rather subtly placed on the south side of the bridge.

One Hundred Years Ago at the Village Board, May-June, 1919

One Hundred Years Ago at the Village Board, May-June, 1919

May 5
Hearing on Second St. sidewalk petition opened. There were no speakers; hearing closed. Previous petition granted for a cement sidewalk on the north side of Second St. between Root and Sacandaga, 4 feet in width and 3 feet from the curb, in accordance with all Village regulations about sidewalks. To be constructed at the expense of the property owners and completed by July 1, 1919.
The Street Committee has requested a gravel loading and screening outfit with 4 compartments of 20-ton capacity plus motors, not to exceed $1150. President authorized to purchase it.
Petition from the owners of more than half the properties on Fourth St., between Huston and Sacandaga, for cement sidewalk on both sides. The whole expense will be assessed to the adjoining land. Hearing to be held May 19.
Street Committee and Village Engineer to determine the method and probable cost of draining First St.; the cost of an additional catch basin at Hawk & Mohawk; and repairs of the catch basin at Mohawk & Ballston.
Street Committee to do grading on Fourth St. in the next 2 weeks to determine how much needs to be done and the cost.
Street Committee to provide a suitable guard rail to protect the approaches to the bridge at the Collins Lake outlet.
Building Committee to take the buildings removed from the sewer disposal plant and reconstruct on village property at the water tower, by day work not to exceed $250.
Payroll and bills approved.

May 19
Street Commissioner shall grade Fourth St. as much as possible with village teams and laborers, not to exceed $500.
Outlet to catch basin at Mohawk & Ballston to be repaired.
New catch basin and manhole to be constructed on Mohawk Ave. surface sewer at or near the corner of Hawk St., not to exceed $250.
Hearing on Fourth St. sidewalk; no opposition, four persons spoke in favor. Petition granted; to be 4.5 feet wide, 3 feet from curb, follow all other Village regulations, and be completed by August 1.
Discussion of Street Fund financial items.
Letter from the University of the State of New York relative to wooden shelves in the Village vault in the cellar of Village Hall; referred to the Building Committee.
Pay George Plantz for completing painting the Village water tower.
Building Committee to expend an additional $150 for reconstructing and painting the buildings on water tower property.
W. W. Miller and the sewer committee recommends digging and backfilling of ditches for the sewer in Wallace, Fifth, and Fourth streets be let by contract. President to enter into a contract with Joseph Rondazzo for the work.
Great Western Gateway—a bill approving its erection has been signed by the governor and is now a law.
Read a notice from the State Board of Tax Commissioners, Village Attorney to follow up.
Payroll and bills approved.

June 2
Schenectady Co-operative Realty Co. requested reimbursement for the sewer they constructed in Glen Ave.
Residents of Vley Rd. presented a petition signed by 45 persons to ask that cinders be removed from the street. There was “considerable discussion.” Cinders will be removed, not to exceed $100.
Street Commissioner to sprinkle Glen Ave. and other streets as he is able and keep sprinklers busy until further notice, and hire an extra team for this purpose.
The Light Committee is authorized to purchase 25 signs for use on corners of main streets.
The Building Committee will dispose of part of a building now at the water tower property at the best price obtainable.
Financial matters about borrowing money.
The Sewer Committee will construct 188 feet of sanitary sewer in Reynolds St., from Glen Ave. south to the property of F.R. Lindsey, as long as it doesn’t exceed the appropriation of $900.
President to purchase a new sign at the entrance to the village at the Mohawk River Bridge [now the end of Schonowee Ave.] at a cost not to exceed $24.60. The Light Committee to put up a new 40 C.P. street lamp over the sign and to move the present 80 C.P. light near that place and put it also over the sign, using a 40 C.P. bulb so the total light is still 80 C.P.
Payroll and bills approved.

June 16
The tax levy for 1919 is $1.80 per $100 of value, for a total of $42, 469.06.
Report from the Village Treasurer about the overdue street assessments, entered in the minutes and will be added to the tax levy.
Street bond business discussed.
Clerk to purchase 24 each of curb cocks and curb boxes, not to exceed $75. [This controls the water into a building, so it can be shut off in an emergency.]
Street Committee to purchase 16 signs announcing the Village Parking Ordinance, not to exceed $37.50.
Street Committee to have door and runway at the rear of Village Hall changed to give the horses a safe means of entrance and exit, $100.
Street Committee to dispose of old road scraper at the best price obtainable.
Frank E. Haselo appointed Village Policeman for the year ending Mar. 22, 1920; he will receive certificate after he qualifies.
Payroll and bills approved.

From the Clippings Collection 2

[Neil B. Reynolds was the Scotia Historian from 1946-1959. He wrote columns that appeared in the Scotia Journal. He also published articles in the Schenectady Gazette, collected in the book Raw materials of history chosen from sources in the Schenectady County Historical Society: essays related to historic Schenectady and Scotia published in the Schenectady Gazette 1959-1972 by Neil B. Reynolds ; edited by Elizabeth K. Joyce. It is available at the Schenectady County Public Library.]

Transcription of this article is below the photo.

Streets, Roads, and Paths in Scotia
Neil B. Reynolds in The Scotia Journal, March 23, 1939

If the residents of Sunnyside Road ever encounter ghosts in their back yards they will probably not be the ghosts of Mohawk Indians or pioneer Dutchmen. They are much more likely to be the ghosts of horses and cows. For this sandy tract was long a sort of animal Tyburn—the place of execution and burial of aged and ailing cattle.

Cows fall sick; horses break their legs and have to be destroyed. And with close to a hundred cattle in the big Sanders barn, and more in the Collins and Wilson barns on Ballston Avenue, executions were frequent. Nor was too much trouble taken with burying the carcasses, for there was a steady cash market for old bones. There was brisk competition among the boys of Scotia for the skeletons—so brisk that they did not always wait for wind and weather to do their full work. And fastidious villagers preferred to keep to windward of the youthful scavengers as they dragged their loot to the boneyard. Not too savory a beginning for what was to become Scotia’s most select residential street!

This street is, and yet is not, one of the early Glenville highways. There has been a road running east toward the Alplaus and Vischer’s Ferry for probably considerably more than a century. But up until the time the Mynderse family bought the land back of the Reformed Church, the road turned off Ballston Avenue just beyond the cemetery, about where the Mynderse gateway is today. Bevis Street is its continuation to Vley Road. And this original road skirted the edge of the high bank overlooking Sanders Lake [now Collins Lake] and the Mohawk flats. Not until about 1900 was the road shifted to the north to make room for building sites between it and the lake bank.

Street planning was not a strong point with the early real estate speculators who plotted streets and laid out building lots in Scotia. There is a disconcerting jog where Second Street intersects Huston Street; another where First crosses Vley Road; Fifth Street and Holmes Street fail to make connections at Sacandaga; and where the streets south of Glen Avenue cross Reynolds Street, they are all offset. Division Street puts a kink in the streets between Glen and Charles, and Lark Street has trouble finding its way across Holmes.

A glance at an old property map would explain most of the inconsistencies. Each area was plotted by a different speculator. He bought a field or part of a farm and laid out streets so as to get the maximum number of lots to sell. And he paid little or no attention to how his streets would match with those of an adjoining plot. In one case, Charles Street, only by cutting crosslots did the two ends of the street make connection at all.

For years Catherine Street and James Street were dead-end. Starting out as westward extensions of Scotia, they found themselves blocked by the backyards of Center Street, which belonged to Reeseville. And it was not until a few years ago, long after the name of Reeseville was forgotten, that the last of these old barriers between the two hamlets was broken down by the extension of James Street.

Scotia’s growth, at times, has resembled that of a boom town. The lots on Glen Avenue between Ten Broeck and Ballston were sold at an auction, which opened on Thanksgiving Day, 1890. A picture taken a little later shows a single half-finished house standing alone in the open, with cornfields all around, and the Van Huysen house, on the corner of Mohawk and Ten Broeck, just completed and the most westerly building in Scotia. Other auctions were held, often with the extra inducements of barbecues and band concerts. Yet when Wyman, who had bought part of the Reese farm east of Reynolds Street, cut it up into building lots and offered it for sale, people called him crazy.

The irregularity of Scotia’s streets, if they confuse strangers, still add a touch of the picturesque. But if some of the short-cuts used by the children of 25 years ago had developed into permanent streets, Scotia’s street map would now have been as wayward as Boston’s.

What follows is the route traveled by the writer on his way to the Lincoln School, then newly built among the goldenrod fields and sandburs on Fifth Street: Two-thirds of the way up Sanders Avenue from Ballston, diagonally across vacant lots to Ten Broeck, up this past the Fire Station, across lots where the Ten Broeck Apartments stand, as far as the dead end of James Street, diagonally across several fields to the corner of Center and Catherine, through the grounds of the High School (now Junior High), leap-frog over a range boiler set in the ground on Second Street, in icy weather a long standing slide down the hill to Third Street, and then straight as the crow flies over vacant lots to the door of the School. This path was worn deep and pounded hard as an Indian trail, and the long-suffering soul who lived along it had to endure the noise-equivalent of an Indian raid four times a day. [Kids went home for lunch every day.]

If some archaeologist of the future should discover in Scotia a trail of hard-packed earth, and scattered on both sides of it a fringe of marbles, beads, buttons, “jacks,” pennies, and rusted pocket knives, he might be excused for thinking he had found an Iroquois trail and fragments of the trade goods with which the whites bartered for beaver pelts. But it would be only the trail of a generation of Scotia school children, marked with the losses from a hundred pockets and pencil boxes.

[The Lincoln School we have today was built in the early 1950s; the Lincoln School Mr. Reynolds talks about above was built in 1910 and then torn down in the late 1970s and replaced with today’s Holyrood House.]

Photo of the Beers Atlas, 1866, Town of Glenville, showing the division between Scotia and Reeseville. Many versions of this map are available online.

Photo of 1902 map showing the dead-ends at James and Catharine Streets and the Old Ferry road (dotted) above the lake. Versions of this map are at the Schenectady County Historical Society and at the Schenectady County Public Library.

One view of Scotia in its early years as a suburb. Again, many versions of this photo are available from many sources.

The old Lincoln School, beginning of a series of photos of its demolition in the late 1970s.