How we began …
The Town of Sand Lake has a rich history behind its humble beginnings of development and growth. In early 1994, a working committee began a research study into the early development and growth of the Town of Sand Lake. The aim was to trace the division of the Manor of Rensselaerwyck as it was divided into the many towns of today’s Rensselaer County.
Development of the Town of Sand Lake
The boundaries of the Town of Sand Lake, as we know them today, are the result of many divisions and subdivisions down through the years. When Henry Hudson sailed up the river that would bear his name, the land was a wilderness, occupied by a few Indians.
The Manor of Rensselaerwyck was established in 1629, when Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, a wealthy director of the Dutch West India Company, received a land grant from the West India Co, to establish a colony. This grant, which was for the establishment of a colony in the new world, included land on both sides of the Hudson River, between Berrent Island on the south and Cohoes on the north. The territory was 24 miles long and 48 miles wide broad, containing about 700,000 acres and constituted a patroonship.
The colony was under Dutch control until 1664, when the English took possession, only to lose control in 1672. In 1674, the English again regained control and was the ruling government until the Revolutionary War. Under the English, the area was known as the Province of New York and was a colony of England.
The first assembly of the Province of New York was held on October 17, 1683. To make the government more manageable, the province was divided into 12 countries. The County of Albany was on of the twelve, and was a very large area, including the Town of Albany, the manor of Rensselaerwyck and Schenectady. It extended from six miles below the City of Hudson north to Saratoga.
The Colony of New York was further divided in 1691 when a law was passed to separate the province and dependencies into shires and counties. According to this act, the County of Albany was to contain the Manor of Rensselaerwyck, Schenectady, as well as other villages and plantations.
In 1705, an Act by the General Assembly of the Province of New York was passed to give the Manor of Rensselaerwyck representation in the General Assembly. This Act provided the necessary officers to manage local affairs, permitting the freeholders of the Manor to elect yearly, a supervisor, treasurer, assessor and a collector.
On March of 1772, Albany County was divided into three counties: Albany, Tryon and Charlotte. Twelve days later, part of Albany County on the east side of the Hudson River was divided into three districts: Schaghticoke, Hoosick and East Rensselaerwyck. The East Rensselaerwyck District extended from the Massachusetts border on the east to the Hudson River on the west and from Columbia County on the south to the Schaghticoke and Hoosick Districts on the north. It encompassed that area that is today the Town of Sand Lake.
The Declaration of Independence of 1776 saw the end of British rule. The Constitution of the State of New York was adopted in Kingston in 1777. This Constitution recognized the cities of New York and Albany and the 14 countries of the State. It also provided that the State Legislature would have the power to divide the same in to such other and further counties and districts as it may appear necessary.
In 1779 the State of New York divided the Manor of Rensselaerwyck into two districts, the West District, all that part of the Manor west of the Hudson River and the East District, the portion east of the Hudson.
Each of these districts was to appoint one freeholder as a supervisor, between three and nine freeholders’ assessors, two freeholders to be collectors, two overseers of the poor, four fence viewers and one clerk. The first annual meeting of the East District of the Manor of Rensselaerwyck was to be held on the first Tuesday of May 1779, at Crailo, at the house of Rebecca Dox.
By an Act of the State Legislature on the 29th of March 1784, the East District of Rensselaerwyck was further divided into two districts, Rensselaerwyck and Stephentown. The dividing line between the two districts, started at a point on the division line of Kinderhook and Rensselaerwyck, ten miles east of the Hudson River, then northerly to a point on the division line between Rensselaerwyck and Schaghticoke, nine miles east of the Hudson River. What was to become the Town of Sand Lake that was partly Rensselaerwyck and partly Stephentown? These two districts were still a part of Albany County. The supervisors of the two districts were authorized to have the division line surveyed and marked, the cost of which would be shared equally by the two districts.
In 1788, the State Legislature reorganized New York State. Three Acts were debated and passed on the same day, March 7. The first, divvied the state into sixteen counties, one of which was Albany County. Albany County was reduced in size but still extended on both sides of the Hudson River. The second divided the counties into towns: thus the Districts of Rensselaerwyck and Stephentown became the Towns of Rensselaerwyck and Stephentown, with the same border. The third act, provided for the defraying the public and necessary expenses of each county.
There followed a number of changes of county boarders and the establishment of new towns in a relative short time. On February 7, 1791, Rensselaer County was established. The Towns of Easton and Cambridge in Albany County were annexed to Washington Co., The remaining part of Albany County east of the Hudson River was divided from Albany County and named Rensselaer County. In the same year the Towns of Troy and Petersburg were established, annexing the northern portion of the Towns of Rensselaerwyck and Stephentown. Then on April 10, 1792, the Town of Greenbush was established by dividing the Town of Rensselaerwyck in two parts. About 2/3 of what was later to become Sand Lake was in Greenbush, the remainder in Stephentown.
The three towns of Stephentown, Schodack and Petersburg were divided to form five towns on March 21, 1806, establishing the new towns of Berlin and Philipstown. Philipstown was later name Nassau. The remaining portion of the Town of Rensselaerwyck was renamed Schodack, thus ended the name Rensselaerwyck.
The Town of Sand Lake
By an act of the legislature on March 21, 1812, the towns of Greenbush and Berlin were divided to form three towns; Greenbush, the new town of Sand Lake and Berlin. This division took effect on March 1, 1813, so the true birthday of the Town of Sand Lake is March 1, 1813. The first town meeting was held at the dwelling house of Thomas Thompson, the brother of Calvin Thompson, who became the first Supervisor.
The first officers of the Town of Sand Lake were:
Supervisor: Calvin Thompson
Town Clerk: David E. Gregory
Assessors: Lawrence Van Alstyne, John Clint and Ezra Newton
Commissioners of Highways: John Stevens, John North and Jacob Boyce
Overseers of the Poor: Stephen Gregory and Lewis Bullock
Collector: Jonathan Ford and Henry Lord
School Commissioners: Aretus Lyman, Joel Bristol and Ellis Forster
What happened along the border of Greenbush and Sand Lake is not certain, but in 1843, a very short Act of Legislature simply stated “All that part of the Town of Sand Lake in the County of Rensselaer, on which the dwelling house of Andrew L. Weatherwax now stands, shall be annexed to, and form a part of, the Town of Greenbush.”
On March 2, 1848, the Town of Sand Lake was divided into two towns, Sand Lake and Poestenkill. This final division created the Town of Sand Lakes boundaries as we know them today. On Monday proceeding the first Tuesday in April 1848 the first meeting of the newly formed Town was held at the house of Calvin Sliter.
The counties were governed by a Board of Supervisors. Each town would elect a Supervisor to represent its citizens on the County Board of Supervisors. This board had the power to collect taxes and distribute monies to the towns.
Initially, the towns had little power. In the year 1901, town government in the State assumed more definitive form. The State Legislature established a system of judiciary. Provision was made for the assessment and collection of taxes. The settlement and relief of the poor; the regulation of highways; establishing the power of town meetings; and defining the duties of town officers. Town meetings were held in private homes and Inns, with an annual meeting once a year. It was not until 1972 when the former Presbyterian Church was obtained and transformed into the Town Hall, that a regular meeting hall became available.
County government was the primary form of local control. Each town elected a supervisor to represent the town at the meetings of the County Board Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors was the legislative body for the making of law and ordinances for the county, and the raising of monies to cover the cost of operation. These monies were distributed to each town in accordance to needs.
In 1964, the State Legislature enacted the Municipal Home Rule Law, greatly extending the powers of each town. As a result, Rensselaer County in 1968 revised its form of government. The Board of Supervisors was dissolved. In its place, a County Executive and a County Legislature was formed.
Until this time, the Town of Sand Lake was governed by a Supervisor, four Justices of the Peace with voting rights and a Town Clerk. With the change, the town legislature was made up of a Supervisor, and four councilmen as voting members. A town clerk and two justices were also elective positions. The office of justice of the peace was changed to town justice.
Sand Lake Town History: Bob Moore
Phone: 674-2026 ext. 20
Wednesday – 10AM to 2PM
Thursday – 11AM to 3PM
There is more information at the Sand Lake Historical Society website http://sandlakehistory.org