Captain Samuel Schuyler
by
Stefan Bielinski


According to his tombstone, Samuel Schuyler was born on October 20, 1781. The story of his formative years is unknown. But we expect it is related to that of early Albany's foremost founding family. By 1805, this Samuel Schuyler had married Mary Martin/Mortin - a mullatto woman, and their son Richard March Schuyler was baptized in the Albany Dutch Church. Over the next twenty years, ten more children were born to these Albany parents.

By that time, Samuel Schuyler had begun to find work along the Albany waterfront. In 1809, he was one of a number of Afro Albanian men who were assessed as laborers along Quay Street. Within a few years, he was running his own boat. As time passed, he gained local repute as a towboat operator and was widely known as "Captain" Samuel Schuyler.

Samuel Schuyler's address from the 1815 City DirectoryBy 1813, Samuel Schuyler's home was at 204 South Pearl Street. By that time, he also began to acquire additional real estate in a budding Afro Albanian neighborhood in the city's South End. By 1815, Schuyler's holdings included several lots along South Pearl Street between Bassett and Schuyler Streets. Over the next twenty years, his family holdings expanded east including dozens of lots that gave the Schuylers control of a two-block area that ran from South Pearl Street toward the waterfront.

By the 1830s, Captain Samuel Schuyler had been joined by his sons. By mid-decade, Samuel Schuyler & Company, a flour and feed store located at Bassett and Franklin Streets, was advertizing in the city directory. His sons would build the Schuyler Towboat Company into a successful Albany business. Making the transition from sail to steam, the Schuylers also operated a coalyard on their South End property.

Captain Samuel Schuyler died in May 1842. His will provided that his widow Mary have use of the entire estate ("chiefly real estate in the city of Albany") during her lifetime and then would be shared equally by his five adult and three minor children. An impressive monument to him was erected by his children on one of the most prominent vistas overlooking the Hudson at Albany Rural Cemetery.

Patriarch of a prominent Afro-Albanian family, Captain Samuel Schuyler was perhaps Albany's first significant African-ancestry businessmen. More on his life will appear on these pages.


notes

The life of Captain Samuel Schuyler is CAP biography number 8492. At this point, our thoughts regarding his origins are speculative. However, the most informed source on Samuel Schuyler is "Christoph's Schuyler Genealogy." See volume II, part 2, pp. 169-71 for family information. An article on him was published in 2001. Because they all were born after 1800, none of Samuel and Mary Schuyler's eleven documented children qualify for inclusion in the CAP study population.

top of Schuyler monumentSteve and Staren Bielinski in front of the Samuel Schuyler monument at Albany Rural Cemetery in May 2000. The monument is the centerpiece of a Schuyler family plot that includes members of three generations of the Albany family. Photo by Nick Klapp in the Graphics Archive of the CASHP.

Initially, the South End was a term used to describe the flood plain "pastures" located south of Lydius Street, east of South Pearl, and bordered by the southern boundary of the city that had been deeded from the Dutch Church to the city in 1815. Today, the term is much more encompassing - covering both sides of South Pearl Street. We offer a public program on the settlement of the South End!



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first posted: 11/00