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Cement Works of Van Eps & Sons

Transcribed from "The Van Epps Papers: A Collection of the Reports of Percy M. Van Epps on the History of the Town of Glenville", by Percy M. Van Epps, 3rd edition, published by the Town Board of Glenville in 1998. (pgs. 170-171). The original manuscript by Percy Van Epps was published in December 1935 as part of his report "Historical Tablets and Markers of Glenville, NY (Part One)".

The last historical marker standing on the Mohawk Turnpike, in Glenville, is on the west bank of the Chaughtanoonda, a little stream that, flowing through the Wolf Hollow and along the eastern base of the Kinaquariones, joins the Mohawk but a few hundred feet from the western boundary of both our town and county. The marker stands on the exact spot where a century ago stood the cement mill of John Van Eps & Sons; an industry then unique in this part of our state and one successfully carried on for over a score of years. The tablet bears this transcription:


HERE IN 1825-1845, STOOD





John Van Eps, born in 1764, innkeeper and founder of the cement works at the Kinaquariones, was the sixth in line of direct descent from Jan Van Eps (Van Epen) a magistrate of old Schenectady and one of those slain in the massacre of 1690. On the fifth of February, 1795, John married Jannetje, daughter of Harmanus Van Vleck and at once established his home on the Mohawk Turnpike, just west of the rocky eminence of the Kinaquariones. Here for many years he kept a well-known Mohawk Valley inn where first and last many persons of no little note were entertained. Among these was Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, with his body-guard including the famous old-time fifer, Tiffany, who stopped here over night in the fall of 1813 on his triumphant journey eastward after the victory on Lake Erie. For years following this visit of Perry, a notch cut in a door-casing of the inn, marking his unusual height, was proudly pointed out. Here there were born to John and Jannetje thirteen children, ten sons and three daughters, all of whom lived to a good old age.

Two of the sons of John Van Eps, in early manhood, exploring the limestone outcrops and dolomite ledges of the Kinaquariones, but a stone's throw from their father's house, came to the conclusion that here was rock suitable for making hydraulic cement, or water-lime as it was called in these days. After a study of the process involved in its manufacture, a consultation, their father becoming interested, a quarry site was selected and opened, a kiln built for burning the quarried material and a mill erected for grinding the burnt rock as it came from the kiln. The brook was dammed to furnish power to drive the millstones, but it was then as it is today a rather unconstant stream, therefore the founders of the enterprise found that it was feasible to divert and add to its volume the water of another and somewhat larger stream flowing down the slopes of the hills, a little to the eastward. Owning the lands between the streams, a dam was thrown across this second stream at its nearest point to the Chaughtanoonda and its water led to the latter by means of a ditch or shallow canal. Thereupon the question of power was resolved.

The cement made at this little plant was of excellent quality, as the chimney-work and foundation walls of many houses in this vicinity show. In old-time houses undergoing repairs or alterations it has been found that in chimneys laid with this cement their bricks could not be separated without actually splitting them. When, sometime between 1830 and 1834, it was thought necessary to build four additional piers to support the famous old Mohawk bridge between Glenville and Schenectady, that masterpiece of wooden bridge construction, a considerable amount if indeed not all of the cement used was from this Glenville kiln and mill; and it is a matter of record that when in later years certain changes were made to these added piers, it was found that the stones could be separated only by drilling and the use of blasting powder.

Once established and in full operation, a market was found in New York City for the product of this Glenville cement works and for a time considerable quantities of the barreled cement was shipped to that place. In 1836 the cement was sold at the mill for four shillings the bushel. Barreled for shipment, it sold for about two dollars per barrel plus freightage. In the "Geology of the Third District of New York", it is stated that the Van Eps cement works were still in operation in 1842. Not long after this date, however, the establishment of large cement plants in the vicinity of Syracuse, following the enlargement of the Erie Canal, and the cheap transportation then offered, brought an end to this unique enterprise in Glenville.

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