Van Schaick Mansion

This was the home of Anthony Van Schaick, built in 1755, on a section of the "Half Moon" patent, granted to his father jointly with Philip Pieterse Schuyler on September 11th, 1665. The original Patent, confirming an Indian grant, included all the land lying between the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, and embraced the several islands at this point, which divide the "sprouts" or mouths of the Mohawk River. The site of this house is on one of these, called "havers Island" ("haver" being Dutch for "oats"). The patent also included the site of the present town of Waterford.

Philip Pieterse Schuyler transferred his interest in the Patent to Goosen Gerritsen Van Schaick in 1674. He, in turn, willed it to his wife from whom it passed to their son, Anthony. The title to this Patent was confirmed by Governor Dongan on May 31st, 1687, in consideration of an annual quit rent of one bushel of winter wheat!
Van Schaick Mansion Drawing
Van Schaick Mansion Photo
When Anthony made his will he made a reservation for the cemetery just at the side of the house, in which five generations of the Van Schaick family now lie; among them are men of distinction in their time. The first Van Schaick, Goosen Gerritsen, was a Hollander who came early to Rensselaerwyck and was a brewer at that place; he never occupied the island. Under the Van Slichtenhorst administration of the Manor in 1651, he was named one of the Magistrates and was evidently an important personage.

When the son Anthony came into possession, he had the house built, it is said, with Hollandmade brick as facings on the inside and outside of the walls, the space between being filled with brick made on the premises by his slaves. Certainly the walls are unusually heavy.

The arrangement of the house is somewhat different from most other houses of this time, but is not unique, as the Van Courtlandt Manor house at Croton-on-Hudson is built in this same manor. The first floor is, in a sense, a basement with the main or ground floor a little above this ground level and with still another floor and an attic above this. The original dining room was in a front room of the basement floor with the kitchen adjoining. Most of the baking was done, however, in a small annex.

The main floor is entered at the front through the original, horizontally divided front door, giving into a spacious hall which divides the house. On each side are two large rooms with smaller rooms at the rear. Much of the mantel in the front room at the north side is a fine example of hand carving. One of the rooms on the second floor had a small door cut through the exterior wall and over it an iron beam protruded. To this a hoist was fastened to haul up, for storage, the pelts and other merchandise handled. The door opening has now been filled with brick though its outline is readily seen in the picture. Porches have been added at the front and rear of the house and other superficial changes made, but principally it is as originally constructed.

In this house, General Schuyler turned over his command to General Gates, however, refused to accept the command of such an ill-fed, poorly clad army and John G. Van Schaick (the third generation) loaned General Schuyler $10,000 in gold for the purchase of military supplies. In return, Schuyler gave Van Schaick Continental script which he signed personally as a Continental officer. It is interesting to note that this script was never redeemed as Congress took the position that Schuyler had no authority to borrow the money. There is one of these script notes now in the possession of the owner of the house.

The following letter from General Gates to His Excellency, George Washington, is of interest:

Van Schaick Island,
August 22, 1777

Upon my arrival in this department I found the main body of the Army encamped upon Van Schaick Island which is made by the sprouts of the Mohawk River joining with the Hudson River nine miles north of Albany. A brigade under General Poor is encamped at Loudon's Ferry, on the south bank of the Mohawk River, five miles from hence: a brigade under General Lincoln had joined Gen. Stark at Bennington and a brigade under General Arnold marched the 15th inst. to join the militia of Tryon County to raise the siege of Fort Stanwick. Upon leaving Philadelphia, the prospect this way appeared very gloomy, but the severe checks the enemy have met with at Bennington and Tryon County (Oriskany) have given a more pleasing view to public affairs. Particular accounts of the signal victory gained by General Stark and the severe blow General Herkimer gave Sir John Johnson and the scalpers under his command, have been transmitted to your Excellency by General Schuyler. I anxiously expect the arrival of an express from General Arnold with an account of the total defeat of the enemy in that quarter. By my calculations he reached Fort Stanwick the day before yesterday. Colonels Livingston's and Courtland's regiments arrived yesterday and immediately joined General Poor's Division. I shall also order General Arnold, upon his return, to march to that post. I cannot sufficiently thank your Excellency for sending Colonel Morgan's corps to this army. They will be of the greatest service to it for until the late successes this way I am told the army were quite panic struck by the Indians and their Tory and Canadian assassins in Indian dressers. Horrible indeed have been the cruelties they have wantonly committed upon many of the miserable inhabitants, inasmuch as it is not fair for General Burgoyne, even if the bloody hatchet he has so barbarously used should find its way into his own head. Governor Clinton will be here today. Upon his arrival I shall consult with him and General Lincoln upon the best plan to distress, and I hope, finally defeat the enemy. I am sorry to be necessitated to acquaint your Excellency how neglectful your orders have been executed at Springfield few of the militia demanded are yet arrived, but I hear of great numbers upon the march. Your Excellency's advice in regard to Morgan's corps, etc. shall be carefully observed. My scouts and spies inform me that the enemy headquarters and main body are at Saratoga, and that lately they have been repairing the bridges between that place and Stillwater. As soon as time and circumstances will admit, I shall send your Excellency a general return of this army. I am, Sir, your Excellency's most obedient humble servant.

(Signed) Horatio Gates

His Excellency refers to General Washington.

At the time of the transfer of the command, it is said that Gates was so unpopular with the soldiers, it was necessary for Governor Clinton to come to Camp Van Schaick and order the troops to obey their newly appointed Commander. This was from August 22nd to 25th, 1777, just preceding Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga. An interesting memento of that decisive battle is one of the guns on the lawn at the side of the house. Following its capture, the gun was brought down to the Mohawk and lost overboard from the ferry in crossing. Later it was found and brought here. It is easily identified by the British coat-of-arms it bears.

The location of the Revolutionary camp was at the top of the hill, just behind the house, and it was from this place that Learned's brigade, under the command of Benedict Arnold, went to the aid of Colonel Peter Gansevoort at Fort Schuyler (Stanwick) at what is now Rome. Katrina Van Schaick must have been intensely concerned with the ultimate success or failure of this expedition for it was going to the relief of her lover. She and Colonel Gansevoort were later married in this house.

It is situated on the banks of the Hudson River on what is locally known as Van Schaick Island. The same doors, windows, trim and hand-wrought hardware are still in use. The house is built on the Dutch Colonial plan with a large center hall. An interesting feature is the main front double door of solid, hard wood with two-foot long iron hinges. This is the same door through which General Washington and other Revolutionary figures entered as guests of Colonel Van Schaick.
The mansion today is occupied by General Peter Gansevoort Chapter NSDAR (National Society Daughters of the American Revolution).

Open for tours by appointment. Phone number is 518-235-2699.