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Oak Orchard

The First Settlers of Verona

Early farm
To further obscure the history of early settlement at this place, recall General Schuyler's request in 1802, just five years after the 1797 observation of the house of the Frenchman. Schuyler called for a new house to be built at Oak Orchard for his workmen "...as there are no inhabitants in the vicinity, where they could be accommodated." The suggestion is clear that by the Autumn of 1802, all traces of the De Wardenou occupation of Oak Orchard had been erased, with the exception of the tiny burial in a cradle soon to be unearthed.

Apparently the winter of 1802 saw the carpenter Ambrose Jones and his family living at the new Company house at Oak Orchard, with he spending his working hours in cutting timber for the new lock.

By May of 1803, however, there is a hint of a pending turn of events. Schuyler writes to his agent in Rome:

"If the house at Oak Orchard should be uninhabited I apprehend it may be much injured and perhaps exposed to conflagration, if fire should be left in it, by careless or malignant boatmen. I beg you therefore, to place some discreet person in it, if none is already there, and if none can be obtained without a moderate pecuniary compensation, to agree for that."18

Within a couple weeks, however, Huntington reports a solution: "There is a tenant in the house at Oak Orchard that will take good care of it & pay some rent..."19

Frontier homestead

The construction season of 1803 passed without any evidence of work at the proposed Oak Orchard lock. We do not know all the subtleties of the negotiations between General Schuyler and the Directors of the WILNC, meeting in New York. But by the end of November of that year the handwriting was clearly on the wall; the lock would never be built.

"...the improvements in Wood Creek, at & below Oak Orchard, would undoubtedly be of very great advantage, yet I am apprehensive the Directors will not undertake to prosecute them next season. They seem inclined to confine the operations to the renewal of the three locks at the Little Falls, and improving the navigation of the Mohawk. Huntington is expected here daily. When he arrives, I will endeavor to have a meeting of the Directors, and possibly he may make such statements to them, respecting the navigation of Wood Creek, as to induce them to undertake the locks, etc. at the Oak Orchard."20 (1803)

Whatever transpired during the winter of 1803/04, whether the negative economic impacts of the other WILNC construction efforts on Wood Creek and below on the Mohawk, or the political impact of Schuyler's failing health leading to his death in November of 1804, nothing more was ever done by way of navigation improvement at Oak Orchard.

We cannot say what became of the lock tender's house or of its tenant. Perhaps it was the forerunner of the farm house that presently stands on this property. Perhaps it was abandoned and decayed away, eventually to be overrun by the burying ground that now occupies the height of ground.

 

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