William Mc Kown


William Mc Kown is said to have been born in March 1762 or 1763. He then would have been the son of John Mc Kown who is said to have been born in Scotland in 1721, came to America in 1767, and to have died in Albany County in 1808.

William's wife was Catherine Spring. Between 1787 and 1797 four children were baptized by William and Catherine in the First Presbyterian Church. In 1800, his wife was listed as a new member. He was known in the church as an innkeeper.

In April 1786, his property was known as "Five Mile House" when the Albany city Council granted his petition to build a barn on his lot. In November 1787, the city government authorized repairs to the road from Albany to his house and then from his house to Schenectady.

In 1788, his second ward (Mc Gown) holdings first were valued on the city assessment. Later, he also owned a lot along Foxes Creek.

In 1790, his household was configured at the end of the census for the second ward. At that time, it was home to eight family members and one slave.

In 1794, Albany explored having water drawn from a spring at the Five Mile House and carried by aqueduct to the city. No further mention of that initiative has been uncovered.

In 1797, he was identified as an innkeeper and as a freeholder in the second ward. By that time, his inn was a landmark stop on the road to Schenectady and perhaps the westernmost anchor in a settlement of newcomer Scots that began just above the recently developed public square and dotted the road west with modest homes and farms.

In 1800, the census showed his household included nine males and three females members.

In 1800 and 1801, he was identified as a licensed tavernowner.

After that, his name drops from Albany rolls and is more closely connected to the town of Guilderland which was erected in 1803.

William "Billy" Mc Kown appears to have died in 1843. He was buried in a family plot in Guilderland. His will passed probate in Albany County in October of that year. His family were the legendary founders of the hamlet of Mc Kownville - located just west of the present city limits on Western Avenue along today's US Route 20.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of William Mc Kown has not been assigned a CAP biography number. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

A "Five Mile House" was noted as early as January 1776. In March 1786, it was to be leased for twenty years from the city council.

[ Newpaper articles by the town historians ]: "Almost 200 years ago, hungry travelers on the Great Western Turnpike sought repast at "Billy" McKown's hotel and tavern located on the land where Western Ave, meets Fuller Road in the Town of Guilderland. Today, Burger King, located on that same acre of land, dispenses food to hungry Western Turnpike travelers.

In the interim, between the old tavern and the new fast-food chain, there have been a few changes. The big, white McKown Hotel was built in 1796. It was owned and operated by William McKown, for whom the tiny hamlet of McKownville was named. McKown later became a supervisor of the Town of Guilderland.
In 1786 William McKown, a native of Scotland, petitioned for a lease of what was then known as the Five-Mile House. It was granted by the Common Council of Albany, The establishment stood, as the crow flies, five miles west of the Hudson River on the old Albany road. Having the foresight to know that this road would open up the iand to the western part of the state, shrewd Mr. McKown built a new structure to serve as a tavern and a residence. He built it in a cleared wooded area, a short distance from the Five-Mile House" (Altamont Enterprise, November 14, 1985.)

This week, there will be on exhibit several wooden water pipes, which date back about 150 years. This should be an interesting exhibit, especially to oldtimers, who can remember when many municipalities were equipping their water systems with this form of piping. The exhibit will be located in the area of the farm museum and antique farm machinery exhibit, at the south end of the Fairgrounds. These specimens of wooden water pipe were taken from the ground beside the McKownville water filtration plant in 1966.

They were part of an ingenuous water distribution system installed by William McKown between 1800 and 1820, and have been in the ground presumably more than 150 years. In 1793 William McKown, who leased a tavern called the Five Mile House on the original Schenectady Path or King's Highway, foresaw the coming of the Great Western Turnpike and purchased a large tract of land along the Kromme Kill (now called Krum-Kill), and erected a Large frame travern and hotel on the site of what is now King's Shell Station, at the end of Fuller Road on Rt. 20. Later Witbeck's Tavern, it burned in 1917.
In 1799 William McKown leased land to the Great Western Turnpike company for the road, and the tavern of "Billy" McKown became a well known stopover for settlers bound for the west and cattle drovers bound east for market. Mr. McKown erected cattle pens and stables for provide for the animals. The water conduits provided water for these installations. Some have been found as far away as Elmwood St.
At Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts (circa 1790-1830), the period in which these pipes were installed, is an exhibit of how such pipes were made by holding a straight pine log in a rigid frame and boring with a large guided | hand auger. They were apparently common to the period.
William McKown died in 1843, and his remains rest in Prospect Hill cemtery where the family was moved from the private burial plot in McKownville. From Altamont Enterprise, August 9. 1969.

So many questions about the Albany Mc Kowns and their enterprises. Next stop = Prospect Hill Cemetery!

first opened: 11/30/10