Valatie has Quite a History
By Mindy Potts Aug 2001
Webpage and Notes by Cliff Lamere 21 May 2003
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This historical article about Valatie, NY is part of series of articles 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: August 2001, pg 1
Original title: Vaaltje (Little Falls) Has Quite a History
(Introduction by Cliff Lamere)
Vaaltje (Little Falls) Has Quite a History
Incorporated in 1856, Valatie has had a much longer and richer history than one might imagine. The native Americans, the Mohicans, called the area Pachaquak, Cleared Meadow, and lived along the banks of the two waterways that we now call the Valatie Kill and the Kinderhook Creek. The water and other natural resources drew Europeans. As early as the 1650's hunters and trappers found the area to be a veritable gold mine of animals and trapped them, especially beavers, for their furs.
Robert Van Deusen, in 1710, was given a deed to hunt. He also began farming, but the area, while having very fertile soil, was not originally known for its farming. It was known for its water power. The name Valatie, in Dutch, was Vaaltje, meaning Little Falls. The water power was the lure for millers, mainly of grist- and lumber mills. Later, six large cotton mills developed, with Nathan Wild being one of the first major mill owners. In the 1820's, Valatie was known for a short time as Millville. As the mills were established, other parts of the community also grew. Stores and other businesses such as a tailor shop, a tannery, a carpenter shop, and taverns sprang up to supply the mill workers and their families with their many wants and needs. Growing quickly, by the 1820's Valatie was the earliest industrial site in the United States.
Industrial growth leads to changes, and sometimes accidents such as fire, that cause setbacks and even the complete destruction of property. One mill's destruction was so incredible that it was remembered for years. During the blizzard of 1888, a cotton mill known as both the Canoe Mill and also the Beaver Mill burned. The power of the snow meeting the power of the fire made a peculiar combination. The light from the fire permeated the blizzard so deeply that people had trouble telling what was on fire and wondered if their own houses were aflame. It was reported that as far as 2 miles away, snowflakes glowed pink. Currently there is the Beaver Cotton Mill Overlook marking the site dedicated to the owners and workers of the Valatie cotton mills.
During the expansion of the village during this industrial time, churches and schools were not overlooked. The community built two large schools and three churches; the Methodist Episcopal in 1822, St. Luke's Lutheran in 1826 and the First Presbyterian Church in 1833. This last church was designed by Ogden and Wright after a German church. Its particular architecture has been recognized and listed on the National Registry. Another house on the National Registry is the Nathan Wild house, a previous home of one of the mill owners during the prosperous 1820's. Valatie's streets still hold a number of stately houses of notable architecture as well as workers' homes.
The original incorporation of the Valatie Fire Company was in 1837. The village had not yet been incorporated, so the department went through a few political and name changes before becoming the department it is today. The village was one of the earliest places to have telegraph and telephone services.
The post office, another community need, was established in 1832. This addition brought back the name Valatie instead of Millville. The first postmaster was Dr. John Vanderpoel, a prominent citizen from a powerful local family. His mansion is now Dr. Norm Freinberg's on Main Street.
Martin H. Glynn, a son of Irish immigrants, was a newspaperman and later became owner of the Albany Times Union and then a politician. His career led him to be the first Roman Catholic governor of New York State, serving from 1913 to 1914. Martin H. Glynn worked to pass workers' compensation laws. Growing up in the strong industrial community of Valatie, Glynn saw first hand how these laws were needed to help the working class. Overseas, Glynn was a key figure mediating between the English and the Irish to try to bring them peace and helped found the Irish Republic. Valatians have remembered him by naming a school and a village square for him, and holding the largest annual Celtic festival between Albany and Durham in his honor.
Glynn Square is home to a memorial for fallen heroes, the Memorial War Garden. In World War II, Valatie sent many men to war and with 14 casualties out of the 1200 residents, Valatie had the sad distinction of having one of the highest casualty rates of that war. Contrasting the sadness of those who didn't come back, the returning veterans formed a club that even today spreads joy. As many well know, Valatie formed the first Santa Claus Club in the nation, and has been bringing gifts to the children of the village each Christmas Eve since 1946. Santa Park in the center of the village is dedicated to this special club.
Not as dramatic as being the
leading industrial site in America, but in a gentler, more harmonious way,
Valatie still stands out. The village has the youngest mayor, Jason
Natske, in the nation and has set up a 40 acre natural wildlife area, the
On July 24th, Governor Pataki visited and dedicated the preserve to be
“forever wild land.” Since its heyday of the 1820's, Valatie has become a quieter place but still a beautiful, distinctive village.
To learn more about the history of the village of Valatie, watch for the soon to be published book by Village Historian, Dom Lizzi, Valatie's Forgotten History.
[As of May 2003, the book had not yet been published.]
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