The Boat Builder
Nicholas Veeder was apparently a Schenectady boat builder of some
reputation in the 1790s, although there is no evidence of this fact
in the historical record of that city. Veeder, who died in 1862 at the
age of 100, is immortalized in the history of Schenectady, or more
correctly Glenville, as the last surviving veteran of the Revolutionary
War. In the early 1800s, he converted his rustic Scotia home into
a museum of war relics, known locally as the "Old Fort." He was noted
for his ability, even at an advanced age, to point out the locations
of historic sites of the Revolutionary era as no others could.
Barely old enough to enlist, at age 16, he joined the 2nd
Regiment, Albany County Militia [the Schenectady regiment], late in
1777 and during the closing years of the Revolution was dispatched
on several excursions into the middle Mohawk Valley. He was stationed
at Fort Paris [Stone Arabia] for a month in 1779, and sent on a
month-long expedition to Canajoharie and Fort Plain the following
year. This service gave him a particular knowledge of that region
and may have exposed him to batteau transport over a decade before
the 1792 expedition.
While we have no record of Veeder's transformation from
soldier to boat builder, the papers of the Western Inland Lock
Navigation Company indicate that, for Schuyler at least, Veeder
represented the logical person to fill his needs for a variety of
watercraft. On August 21st, 1792, the very first vessel commissioned
by the canal company, a "new three handed batteau," was delivered
by Veeder at the boatyard in Schenectady. In late May of 1793,
Schuyler ordered another boat, presumably a batteau, from Veeder.
Either this boat, or another, was completed in late June of that year.
In July of 1795, another batteau was needed by the navigation company
for a trip to Oswego, and again Nicholas Veeder was the builder.
Early in 1796, Schuyler required two heavy-duty
scows,27 50 feet long, for hauling
sand and lime on the Mohawk for the construction of the Rome
Canal.28 His agent was instructed
"on your return to Schenectady inquire of Mr. Veeder, a boat-builder
there..." Some difficulty was encountered finding the proper oak
planks, which would be delivered to "Mr. Nicholas Veeder." But in
mid-summer it is recorded that Veeder declined the contract to build
the scows and that no other builder could be located in Schenectady
to undertake the project.
Whether Veeder built other boats for Philip Schuyler, or for
anyone, is unrecorded. But for a few short years 200 years ago,
Nicholas Veeder occupied a position of preeminence in serving the
transportation needs of the emerging canal era.
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