The State Museum, State Library and State Archives are temporarily Closed.

One Family's Struggle to Maintain its Priveleged Heritage at Van Schaick Island, Cohoes, New York: 1760-1852

TitleOne Family's Struggle to Maintain its Priveleged Heritage at Van Schaick Island, Cohoes, New York: 1760-1852
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsLucas, MT, O'Connell, K, Winchell-Sweeney, S
JournalThe Bulletin and Journal of the New York State Archaeological Society
Volume133
Pagination17-35
ISSN1046-2368
Abstract

Van Schaick Mansion, located on Van Schaick Island in Cohoes, New York, was constructed sometime during the 1750s and was the homestead of the Van Schaick family until the 1830s. The Van Schaickfamily tenure on the island between 1760 and 1852 is interpreted as a series of crises that interrupted periods of relative stability. During this time the family enjoyed the privileged life of landlords drawing off rents from the large Half Moon patent taken from the Mahican/Mohican Indians in 1664, as well as other acquired properties. Several deaths between 1815 and 1830, and the Van Schaick hold on the island as a central home place, began to crumble as the fifth generation cashed out on the island homestead. Enslaved Africans served the Van Schaick, tending to the maintenance of the house, garden, and grounds. There were no people of color living on the island by 1830 as the labor force was shifted to white wage laborers. Primary historical documentation, coupled with archaeological data recovered by the New York State Museum in 2017 and 2018, illustrates the Van Schaick family's conception of the island as a home place and base for their privileged position, and also how the lives of the African-Americans who lived in the house are entirely muted in this primary record.