Little Columbiaville and Its Big History
By Mindy Potts Apr 2002
Webpage and Notes by Cliff Lamere 6 Jun 2003
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This historical article about Columbiaville, Columbia Co., NY is part of series written by Mindy Potts for publication in the monthly newspaper "OK Times & The Hudson River Sampler", Northern Columbia County Edition. Published in Stuyvesant, Columbia Co., NY, the newspaper also distributes a Southern Columbia County and Northern Dutchess County edition. The text and title of the original article may have been slightly revised for this webpage so that they would be more meaningful to a geographically diverse audience.
Original publication: April 2002, pg 3
Original title: Quiet,
Little Columbiaville and Its Big History
(Introduction by Cliff Lamere)
Quiet, Little Columbiaville and Its Big History
In the smallest town in our county, Stockport, is the village of Columbiaville. Located just off Route 9 on County Route 22, the actual village of Columbiaville has changed relatively little through its history.
As with many other communities in our county, in the early days, Columbiaville made use of the natural resources. The Stockport Creek empties directly into the Hudson, and sloops were able to make their way up to the first waterfall on the creek. Such a large creek, with additional power from waterfalls, made an excellent source of waterpower for running mills. Not only could people manufacture in Columbiaville, but they could also import and export easily to and from New York City because of its proximity to the Hudson River.
When the railroads came to the area around 1850, the people of Columbiaville banded together to create and maintain the Stockport Drawbridge Company. The railroad drawbridge furthered Columbiaville's importing and exporting by rail, while still allowing the creek to be navigated by the boats.
Columbiaville was known as a manufacturing area. The largest business was a cotton mill established in 1809. It was called the Columbia Manufacturing Society, managed by James Wild. Wild extended the cotton business, and Columbiaville grew to have two cotton mills and a store also run by James Wild.
Located at the junction of routes 9 and 9J, Smithville was a center for businesses. Smithville, a portion of what we now call Columbiaville, was named for the Smiths, a prominent local family who owned a fruit shed and a super-phosphate fertilizer factory. The Smith Family, influenced by the unique designs of Orson Fowler, an architect from Fishkill, also built an octagon house which is still standing today and is visible from Route 9.
A member of this family, Rachel Smith, known as "Aunt Rachel" was a member of a group of spiritualists who met regularly to hold seances. She was reported to have supernatural powers and could read minds. She was also a very good story teller and was very well liked. Aunt Rachel lived a long life, and upon her death in 1875, according to her family, she became a congenial spirit. She would not terrify the living. She would rock her old chair by the stove or playfully yank out pillows from sleeping peoples' heads. After her death, Aunt Rachel's nephew also died from Typhoid fever. His wife, also ill, was too sick to be told. Upon her recovery, a relative went to break the news, but the woman stopped him before he could speak, saying, "You don't have to tell me. I know everything. You see, Aunt Rachel was here."
In the Little Nutten Hook area, northern Columbiaville, there was a large brickyard, Empire Brick Supply Company, begun in the late 1800's and lasting as late as 1940's. Some of the remnants of the brick sheds and workers' homes can still be seen today. The brickyard will be remembered for another reason, other than the manufacture of bricks. It is the site of the "Battle of Stockport." It began in June of 1900 with many of the workers at the brickyard becoming ill with what they called "Cuban Itch." A doctor from Coxackie rowed across the river and diagnosed the ailment as Small Pox and at that point the State Board of Health quarantined the entire brickyard and ordered the remaining workers to be vaccinated. But the workers who had not contracted the disease feared its spread and fled to nearby villages. The Sheriff called in the National Guard in Hudson to patrol for the workers, and by June 17th most of them had been accounted for. This was the first maneuver for the National Guard in Hudson and citizens labeled its engagement as "The Battle of Stockport."
Surprisingly, there was also a large seminary located in Columbiaville. It was incorporated in 1837 and was reported to have 200 students in attendance. However, the school was not able to thrive due to lack of funds, and closed its doors shortly after its incorporation.
Columibaville Airways, in the 1930's, was the site for spectacular air shows with barnstorming and daredevil acts. As many as 2000 spectators would gather along the airstrip to watch the shows.
Agriculture was also an important part of Columbiaville's commerce. The hills near the Hudson were sunny and fertile, and near the mouth of the Stockport Creek there were large vineyards that harvested over 100 tons of grapes annually. Produce such as the grapes, and also apples from local orchards, were shipped to New York City via Alvord's Dock. The produce that wasn't shipped was stored in fruit sheds locally using ice from ponds and the river.
Along with manufacturing, the ability to import and export was also a key element to the development of Columbiaville. The waterways were a natural way to move products, but the railroad, when it came through, was also important. The Hudson River Railroad stopped at Stockport Station, located at the end of County Route 22. It was used to transport passengers, freight and mail. Rail travel was not as importatnt after the invention of the automobile, and Stockport Station had fallen into disrepair in recent times. The buildings are now gone, but the land has seen some improvement lately. A group of concerned community members has been working to clean up the area where the station was. The spot affords a lovely view of the river and is also adjacent to the Staats House, a stone house built by Colonel Abram Staats between 1654 and 1664. Considering Henry Hudson first made his way this far up the river in 1609, a house that old is quite a distinctive building.
Today there is a wealth of small businesses in Columbiaville. Nothing the size of the brickyard and the mills employing hundreds of families, but respectable businesses which keep the commerce alive. This quiet setting of Columbiaville is home to an interesting past.
Visitors since 9 Nov 2003
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