The Yankee Invasion

or
New England Emigrés and the Emergence of the city of Albany
by
Stefan Bielinski


By the middle of the eighteenth century and certainly by the end of the War for Independence, the natural increase of the first European settlers of Massachusetts and its satellites was in its seventh or eighth generation. Even without substantial new immigration after the 1660s, consequently New England itself was about out of profitable farm land.

Over that first formative century, the first English settlers and their descendants had pushed the Native Peoples off of the best of their so-called land, had taken possession of and then residence on the most desirable land. In the process, the New Englanders had been transformed from religious idealists to much more secular opportunists who were and have come to be known by the derisive (or at least not wholly complimentary) term "Yankees." This study is not about all that but considers one of the outcomes of that evolutionary Americanizing process.

The story of how overflow and opportunistic New Englanders transformed early New York communities is an important part of the history of New York State in the years after the American Revolution. This transformation is particularly apparent in the city of Albany during that time as virtually every Yankee newcomer stood out as different and also brought with them new and useful skills. They were prized if not entirely welcomed in virtually every economic and social arrangement. But, the story of New Englanders in the city of Albany really begins in the earlier days of the community.

The first semi-comprehensive census of city householders taken in 1679 identified at least fifteen non-New Netherland-connected individuals among the almost 150 principal Albany property holders. At this point, only Timothy Cooper has been definitively linked to New England origins. In addition, a young Robert Livingston had been sent to Albany as an agent for a Boston merchant. An important sub-theme over the rest of the century was the process by which New England opportunists were closed out of the Albany business community. The non-New Netherland ancestry, English speaking newcomers who became actual residents would be more identified with the garrison at the English fort.

In 1756,

1790.

1800

Despite its, factual deficiencies, the classic antiquarian work entitled New England in Albany has served as a guide (starting point) to the New Englanders who came to Albany during the second half of the eighteenth century.


notes

This topic has and continues to generate much discussion, literature, and even some objective scholarship. As a student of New York history, I first read the work of Dixon Ryan Fox and David Ellis almost fifty years ago. Ellis even published an article or two on its application to the history of Albany. Shortly thereafter, I found the doctoral dissertation of my undergraduate English teacher journalist William Rowley. Each of these works made a lasting impression which begged further investigation. A few years later, I became the doctoral student of Sung Bok Kim who wrote extensively on "Yankees and Yorkers" and on Agrarian Conflicts" on the eastern side of the Hudson although he said that he had not been moved to read either of those classic tomes.
    In studying the process by which the "Dutch" settlement of Beverwyck became the town then city of Albany in New York colony and then state, I am not alone in being struck by the fact that sons of New England (most of these newcomers were young men) made a profound impression on Albany and its people.

"Yankee": A polite but still pejorative term of convenience referring to any person from New England or to any employee of the modern-day "evil empire."


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first opened: 8/10/11; last augmented/revised 1/30/14