Friday, December 25, 2009




Proposals on the Albany Hilltowns web site to encourage folks to visit the hill towns as a means to preserve the farmlands and the scenic beauty, and at the same time boosting the local economy, are the subject of The Altamont Enterprise  Feature Story for the week of December 24, 2009. Barb Husek tells me the front page article in weekly the Altamont Enterprise, by Zack Simone, also includes several nice photographs, and that the editor wrote a "glowing editorial" about our efforts. (Barb's words. My copy won't arrive here in Oaxaca, Mexico for another week.)


This Christmas season Albany Hilltowns is celebrating its first anniversary! It was only a year ago that the first few pages of my site went online. There are now 2063 pages, "and growing daily." The main page is viewed over 1000 times a month, and that rate is also increasing steadily.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

HEAD FOR THE HILLS - Economic benefits from visitors

High Point Road in Partridge Run WMA
Charles Sloger, Oct. 2008

Here is a link to more of Charles Sloger's incredibly beautiful photos.

The purpose of this Albany Hilltowns has been broadened from history and genealogy to include the following:

  • Historic building preservation
  • Farmland preservation
  • Boost the hill towns economy

A primary means to accomplish these goals is to make people aware of the beauty of the Albany County hill towns, thus giving them reasons to visit the hill towns. Visitors spend money, thus supporting farmers and other local businessmen and their employees. This will encourage historic building and farmland preservation.

Giving visitors as many reasons as possible to "Head to the Hills - The Albany Hilltowns" is one way to make progress towards those goals.


Economic benefits from visitors

Not all visitors to the hill towns are hikers and leaf peepers; or at least they don't have to be.

The secret to separating visitors from their money painlessly, is to offer them something they want to buy. Head for the Hills - The Albany Hilltowns has suggestions for farm activities that could make visitors want to spend more of their time and more of their money in the hill towns.

One of the suggestions is to have a central Hilltowns Farmers Market every weekend at a different town park pavilion.

Let's imagine that a couple from below the hills decides to attend the Farmers Market on Saturday; then they decide since they are going, why not make in a mini-vacation weekend.

Saturday morning they go to the Farmers Market and stock up on a week's worth of fruits and vegetables. While there they buy some of Bob Rowe's alpaca head-wear and scarves for gifts. They also buy a couple of dozen fresh eggs and a free range chicken from the stand of Frantzen's Scenic Acres, some antiques, and crafts made by "Sister Sue."

Time for lunch at Jersey's in East Berne, then an afternoon's hike in the Burke Wildlife Management Area in Knox. They enjoy dinner at Maple Inn, (but then so does everyone who eats there!).

They spend the night at Ralph and Jan Miller's in one of their spare rooms. Since the Miller's are renting rooms by the night or week on an occasional basis in a bedroom in their own home, they meet the criteria to call their home a Guest House.

The next morning our couple eats breakfast at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. This is followed by a Sunday Drive in the Partridge Run WMA; then by lunch at the Palmer House.

They leave for home Sunday afternoon with full bellies, a trunk full of goodies bought in the hill towns, empty pockets, and smiles on their faces.

What have they left behind? Not pollution and litter!

They have left behind their money! And not just for sales tax at the MobilMart; rather they have transferred two or three hundred dollars from their pockets to the pockets of farmers and other business persons, the guest house owner, restaurants owners, and waitpersons in the hill towns.

They also took home lots of pictures and fond memories. They are anxious to tell their friends about the wonderful weekend they had, and suggest that the following weekend their friends "Head for the Hills."

And with a Hilltowns Farmers Market every weekend in a different town on a rotating basis, it would not be just one couple deciding to spend the weekend in the hill towns, it would be a dozen or two every weekend.

Where is the harm in that?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The Albany hill towns are known for their natural beauty: pastoral rural country side, rolling hills, meandering creeks, waterfalls, forest land.

There are now separate pages for each of hill towns.

Monday, November 30, 2009


I spent more of the day updating the main page of the Albany Hilltowns wiki site, and this page suggesting ways to increase the number of visitors to the hill towns, to remove the offending phrases "Tourists" and "Tourism." I had no idea they would give so many people bad connotations of the hill towns being turned into a Woodstock with tour buses, pollution, and congestion. Calm down folks! 

I changed the name of the new Facebook group promoting tourism to Head for the Hills - The Albany Hilltowns. Again I removed the phrases "Tourists" and "Tourism." You do not have to be a member of Facebook to view the site and read the discussions.


Sunday, November 29, 2009


Waterfall on Fox Creek
Nov. 2009, Charles Sloger


I have spent most of the last few days updating the main page of Albany Hilltowns wiki site. I have broadened the purpose of the site from history and genealogy to include the preservation of historic buildings, farmland preservation and the encouragement of low impact tourism to benefit the local economy. Barb Husek suggested a possible theme "Head to the Hilltowns." 

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Partridge Run State Wildlife Management Area

  • This is photo of High Point Road in Partridge Run Wildlife Mgt. area near Berne in Albany County, New York, taken by Charles Sloger, Oct. 2008. Here is a link to more of his incredibly beautiful photos.
  • Eco-tourism. Getting tourists to come to the hill towns for the beauty of the countryside: hiking, biking, caving, visiting old cemeteries, trails to historic ruins, taking pictures, admiring our historic hamlets. It is a low impact way to help the local economy and encourage preservation of farmlands, scenery, historic homes and hamlets. Tourists need guest houses, B & B's, campgrounds, and picnic sites. Tour maps! To further that end I have created a new Albany Hilltowns Ecotourism Facebook Group. You don't need to belong to Facebook to check out the group. While there, click on the Wall tab. If you support our goals, we would love to have you join us.
  • Partidge Run is one of several Berne Natural History areas open to the public in for hiking, photography, picnicking, etc.
  • I have also updated the list of Knox Natural History areas.

Monday, November 23, 2009


A few days ago I added a page on the Albany Hilltowns site on Knox natural history. I did not realize Knox had so much to offer! In continuing my thinking as to how the hill towns could increase tourism, I got to thinking that Knox could tout itself as a destination for locals to come for the weekend and hike the many beautiful preserves. I am going to add a link to the Natural History page with suggestions as to where out of town visitors could find something to eat or buy groceries. They could camp at the Thompsons Lake Campground. Eventually someone could open a guest house or B&B.

I wonder if it is possible to start linking some of the Knox preserves together, then linking them with the Thacher Park trail system and with the Christman Sanctuary in Duanesburg.

I suggest that the town of Berne consider a trail from the top of Cole Hill at the Long Trail and down the hill somewhere and along the tree line on the east side of the Cole Hill valley, across the Fox Creek at the bridge on Cole Hill Road and up the old Camp Orinsekwa Lane and along the west side of Warners Lake and on to some of the land preserves in Knox. Along the lake it might be used by bicyclists and runners as well as hikers.

The Long Trail should also have a connection to the Hyack preserve in Rensselaervlle.

Searching the Internet I found that there seems to be quite a lot of interest in hiking in the hill towns, but that it is not easy for hikers to find the trails. Maps are either non-existent or mis-leading.

Helder-hiking blog

Local Hikes

Partridge Run

There should be a few more trail shelters. It would be nice if there were a small campground somewhere near Partridge Run, perhaps privately run. A guest house might be useful, and a place to buy supplies.

I am sending this to a variety of people, since different people have different experiences, outlooks, and expertise.

Is there a local group that is interested in building trails? How did the Long Trail get built? Would the people who built it be interested in helping expand side trails?

This is outside by area of expertise, but something I have an a peripheral interest in because of my interest in preserving open land in the hill towns.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Photo of Catskills from the town of Rensselaerville, by Barbara Husek  

I encourage all of the members of this group to also join the Rensselaerville Farmland Protection Facebook group. If Rensselerville can protect its farmlands, all of the hilltowns should be. A wonderful goal. 

I recommend The Golden Age of Homespun written in 1956 by Jared Van Wagenen, Jr. who was born in Schoharie. It is a true description of how rural upstate New York farmers cleared the land, built their log cabins, and lived up to the days of the Civil War. A fascinating read.   

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Special thanks this Veterans Day to Rich Hungerford, who for the past month has done a tremendous job in gathering and posting information on 20th C. veterans from the Hilltowns on this site!

Big SKY in New York. I took this looking towards the Catskills. Not too far from home. Eric Chamberlain 

  • Eric says: "I took this looking towards the Catskills. Not too far from home." Eric is one of our newest and most enthusiastic participant in this site. For more of his beautiful photos click on "Helderberg Landscapes." Eric has also contributed and number of photos to "Then and Now."    


How about making Albany Hilltowns a tourist destination! Like Rensselaerville, every hamlet could have a designated historic district. Within each historic district there could be an antique store or two, a bed and breakfast, a country cafe. People from the city, down state, and yes, even The Big Apple, would want to come to the Albany Hilltowns for a getaway weekend and make the tour. It would make the hilltowns more than just bedroom communities. We could have have special hilltown weekends. We could be make the hilltowns like Vermont. Revive the resorts. Make the hillltowns a tourist destination once again. Trade on our heritage, on our old buildings. It would require the towns working together. Can they do this? I think they can.
There are a couple of things that could be done immediately without waiting for the towns to act:
  • Creation of a Hilltowns Tourist Association to promote tourism in the Hilltowns. Members would be the local restaurant owners, farmers markets, vineyard, llama farm, etc. Someone would have to contact all possible members and call a meeting to move this idea forward.
  • Inventory historic buildings in the Hilltowns starting with the individual hamlets. We would need a volunteer for each hamlet. There could also be historic districts elsewhere along Helderberg Trail where there are small concentrations of historic homes. And elsewhere with towns. This would help preserve the rural look we all love.
Once they see scenes like the one below, they will be coming back for more!


"Then and Now" is proving to be very popular. Not only are people looking at the pictures, but there are even a few people contributing pictures. Soon I will split this page up so there is a separate page for each town. Here are more "Then" photos that might be suitable of accompanying "Now" photos. In some cases the buildings are gone, but in which case a "Now" photo of the site makes a strong statement about the loss of our heritage.


I just uploaded an interesting story sent to me by Marty Duell on his memories of life on West Mountain in the 1950's.
"After I got out of the Air force in early 1960”s I went back to Leona and Cliff’s. Then they had water and electric. They were all setting on the floor and the table and chairs were gone! What happened I asked?" ...

  • Capital District Genealogical Society

The Capital District Genealogical Society will meet at Saturday Nov 21, 2009, 2 P.M. to 4 P.M. At the Colonie Town Library, 629 Albany-Shaker Road, Loudonville. The computer group will meet at 1 P.M. with tips on using your computer for genealogical research. The topic for the 2pm meeting will be Cemetery Restoration. The meeting is free and open to the public.

  • Albany-Schoharie Plank Road

Albany-Schoharie Plank Road operated from 1850-1867. It ran from Schoharie east through the town of Wright and the town of Knox and Guilderland, reaching the Western Turnpike. Here is a link to a personal recollection of a young boy seeing a regiment from Schoharie camping in Altamont on their way to Albany, then on to Gettysburg. Wives, mothers, children accompanied them to Albany to see them off and many never returned.


AMVETS vehicle in Memorial Day Parade

AMVETS vehicle in Memorial Day Parade

" Antique Motor Vehicle" page has still not found anyone to help identify any of these vehicles.


Albany County Hilltowns History and Genealogy Facebook group, is a sister site to Please join us.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


  • Altamont Enterprise, May 2, 1998; Laura Westfall, Wright town historian:
''The Albany-Schoharie Plank Road company was incorporated [in 1849] with $70,000 in capital stock. Stocks were sold for $25 each. Road work was started in 1850. The road ran from Schoharie; east through the town of Wright and the town of Knox and Guilderland, reaching the Western Turnpike. The two mile branch running to Central Bridge made a total of 26 miles. The original cost was about $1,800 per mile.

''To construct the road, six 4 x 4 hemlock sills were laid end to end and planks were lain crosswise. No nails were used. The edges of the road were left uneven to enable the wagons to pull to pass. The road was ten foot wide with an improved dirt road along the side. With no wood preservatives in use, the wood soon became rotten and had to be replaced about every five years, each time at a higher price. Timber was readily available from landowners along the way, thus cutting down on the cost of transporting lumber. Toll gates were located every five miles. There were five toll gates on this road.

''The Albany-Schoharie Plank Road was extended through Warnerville, Richmondville, Summit and on to Charlotteville. The plank roads faded from the scene when Albany to Central Bridge Railroad became operational in 1863, providing much faster service than horse-powered vehicles. In May, 1866 the road lying east of Gallupville was abandoned. In April, 1867, the corporation was dissolved and the roadway was given to the towns.
  •  The Old Albany and Schoharie Plank Road
    The Old Albany and Schoharie Plank Road is a detailed history of the road written by Miss Mary Gregg of Altamont in 1932 for her graduation essay topic. Thoroughly researched, it has fascinating facts as well as many reminiscences by then elderly folk who remembered the road in its hay day. Especially riveting is the story of the night the 134th Reg. of N. Y. S. Volunteers camped over night near the Keenholts Hotel in Knoweresville, (now Altamont) when they marched down the plank road from Schoharie enroute to Albany and Gettysburg. Here is a brief excerpt from her essay as printed in the Altamont Enterprise, August 12, 1932:

    "Webb" Whipple, who as a little boy lived in old Knowersville, states, "that on the 22nd day of Sept. 1862 I was down at Cold Spring near the Bozenkill gathering butternuts where you kids do today. Suddenly I heard a sound of music and hurrying up to the old plank road saw the soldiers from Schoharie coming over the hill. There were about 80 less than their full 1000 for a regiment. With them were their ambulance and commissary trains. Behind followed riding in every conceivable conveyance their women folks and children. In the fields about Knowersville they camped for the night. Everyone in the neighborhood depleted his larder to feed the Schoharie soldiers. As dark came on they simply rolled up in blankets all over the fields as the weather was quite warm. I can remember how my mother's heart went out to the women and children who had come thus far to be with their loved ones and now were crying and sobbing. Some of the men were stoic. Quite a few got drunk and eight men deserted. In the morning they marched down the plank road to Albany and from there by boat to New York. The tears of the women at old Knowersville were indeed prophetic and the fields of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Missionary Ridge ran red with the blood of their husbands and fathers."

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Here is a map of the ax factory remains and remains of other mills in the hamlet of Berne in 1975, and the site of other early mills. It is from Our Heritage. I have no idea what evidence there is now of the axe factory and early mills. You can see the beginning of the old road to Knox going through Fox Creek Park. There was once a mill building that spanned the creek. That may be a possible site for a reproduction King Post Truss Bridge that could be used as a pedestrian bridge to link the north and south banks of the Foxenkill. My thought was that the ruins on the north side (if any) would be accessible from the park. If there are no ruins, then concrete corner posts could be put in place to show the size and location of the various buildings.

Perhaps a grant could be sought to help pay costs.

A couple of knowledgeable people have expressed interest in working a mill project.


I just started an antique motor vehicle page on Albany Hilltowns wiki site, and posted 26 old cars, trucks, buses, and a tractor. Any antique vehicle buffs out there who can identify them? I hope people will add more of the same, but only with antique vehicles that are in the Hilltowns. Here is a preview:

  •  Dr. Deitz's new car

    The car pictured above was owned by Dr. Wallace E. Deitz (1856-1928) who lived in the hamlet of Berne. A current image of the house in the hamlet of Berne is posted on the Then and Now page. With him is his third wife, Theodora E. Ball (1866-1920) whom he married in 1899. Don't you just love her hat? And notice the two dogs at their feet. His new car is a ...
  •  Gallup Car

    Homer Gallup and wife in their 19?? Model? Ford.

    Wood Car

    Warren and Bernice Wood in their new ....

Friday, October 16, 2009


I have added at least 4 new sets of Then and Now photos to (see main page for link). I now need more old photos to add. My goal is to someday have an inventory of all historic homes in the Town of Berne with the complete history an...d photos of each one. Someday I would like to see a plaque on each home giving the name of the family who had it built and the approximate date of construction.

Photo is of Dr. Dietz and his wife. Can anyone identify the year, make and model of the car?

There are many old cars and trucks posted on the Albany Hilltowns site. To view them all, click on Transportation in the left hand column of the site AH site. I would like a volunteer to identify the cars and year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


  • I sent out  4 ancestor reports Tuesday using the Hilltowns Genealogy at Berne Historical Project. One was 21 pages, one 33, one was 40 and one was 77 or so. UPDATE: Wednesday I did a 183 page ancestor report going back 18 generations to 15 Century Holland.
  • Albany Hilltowns history and genealogy facebook group has grown from 200 a couple of weeks ago to 215.
  • Albany Hilltowns wiki project main page has gone from 10.000 views a couple of weeks ago to over 10,500 views. That was started last December.
  • Rich Hungerford is adding 20th C. veterans. Anyone with a hilltown veteran ancestor is welcome to help or just add their name and hopefully a biography.

My icon photo is not really me as some people think, it is actually Daniel Barkman. He just looks like me.

Monday, October 12, 2009


While trying to help Barbara Thompson find information on her ancestor, Edwin L. Filkins, I did a Google search and surprisingly found something shocking that she had not known; and it was on the Albany Hilltowns wiki site. Russ Tallman, Albany Hilltowns Master of the Web, had posted the 1889 diary of his ancestor, Salem M. Tallman. In it was this entry:

"Fri. Mar 8, 1889 - Squalley and snow flies. Our folks drawed a few logs and sat around - thy fetched in two lambs in eve. MR. GEORGE FILKINS was shot in his side by his Brother EDWIN L. FILKINS."

This may explain why later that year Edwin's wife divorced him and married another man.

Sort of makes one want to search on an ancestors name. It inspired me to update all of the Hilltown sites.

Tallman Family Register of Family of Jonathan Tallman & Caroline Bouton

Thursday, October 8, 2009


The Village of Rensselaerville, photo from People Made It Happen Here
  •  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Rensselaerville Historic Society has started a pilot project to scan their genealogy and land records and put them on line at the Albany Hilltown wiki site. Janet Haseley, Senior Researcher for the RHS, is having the first book of their genealogy files photocopied at the town office; the copies will be mailed to volunteers who will scan them and upload the images to the Albany Hilltowns site. The photocopies will be mailed back to the Historical Society and kept in a separate building as a backup to the original files. Volunteers should contact Janet directly at <> giving her your snail mail address. She will provide instructions for scanning. I will be posting instructions for posting.
  • I have gotten two donations so far for the RHS pilot project to help cover hardware costs. The donors are being made Sponsors of the Albany Hilltowns wiki site, and a link is being put up to their genealogy and history web sites. 
  • If the RHS pilot records project is a success, it will become a long term project. Our next goal will be to develop a pilot records project for each of the Hilltowns Historical Societies. We are also looking for ways to raise funds to help them with costs associated with a records project and to find volunteers to help them. The wonderful thing is that volunteers don't have to be local.

Monday, October 5, 2009


  • The Rensselaerville Historical Society has 52 “Genealogy books”, 12 “Cemetery books”, and 7 “Deeds and Leases books” that are available to researchers at the old Grist Mill in Rensselaerviller during the warmer months. At their last monthly meeting I submitted a proposal that they scan these handwritten records and post them on the Albany Hilltowns site. They have agreed to have a Rensselaerville Pilot Scanning Project this winter to see how much time it takes, and how the results look on line. The Society currently has an old desk top PC at the Grist Mill that does not have the capacity to store the scanned files, so they need to buy a new one or upgrade the one they have. They also need a laptop computer. A scanner has already been donated. Please contact me if you can contribute hardware, or hard cash.

photo by Allen Deitz 2005 

photo by Allen Deitz 2005

  • Knox is having their monthly meeting Tuesday, October 6. We should all support our local Historical Societies
  • The Berne Historical Society annual meeting was held Tuesday, Sept. 28. Ralph Miller, Historian, Town of Berne, was elected President. His wife, Jan Miller, is the new Secretary. At this time I do not have the names of the other officers.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


While doing research for an upcoming book on the Hilltowns particpation in the Civil War, I find that with the start of the war there was tremendous enthusiasm in Albany, and especially in Berne. In the first year Berne contributed from their taxes more than two thirds of the amount raised in Albany County. In the second year they contributed almost half. What was there that caused the folks of Berne to be such strong supporters of the Civil War? Any suggestions?

The photo is of Reuben L. Weidman who was in the 15th Cavalry during the Civil War. He was born in Berne, enlisted in the Town of Wright and was buried in Westerlo. That is what I mean by the Hilltowns are interconnected. We are all family.


Thursday, October 1, 2009


The Knox Historical Society will sponsor a "drive-in-yourself" Dutch barn tour on Saturday, October 10th. It begins at the Saddlemire Homestead in Knox (Rt. 156) where tour information can be obtained. It is free; (donations accepted at the Saddlemire Homestead - formerly the Knox Museum), and the homestead will be open from 11 am to 3 pm.  Directions are provided at the Saddlemire Homestead so if people cannot do it all that day, then another day. However, the Shultes barn will be open only on that day. The first stop will be the William Shultes Barn in West Berne. The Shultes barn was built about 1800-1810 for William Shultes, born 1762, son of Mathias Shultes, one of the earliest settlers of Berne. It has many of the original Dutch Barn features, and the current owners, Pam and Ken Malcolm, keep it in museum like condition. There will be road-side viewing of other barns. The Highlands Restaurant will offer a 20% discount to participants who show them their tour information. The tour ends at Schoolhouse #5 (restored by the Kiwanis) with refreshments over at Thatcher Park area.

The Dutch Barn Preservation Society has more information on historical importance of Dutch Barns. 

The tour was planned by my cousin and good friend Allan Deitz. Earlier this year he planned a similar tour of Dutch Barns in Guilderland that was very successful. He has also done a survey of Dutch Barns in Berne.

Two other Dutch Barns that Al has researched are:

 The photo to the right is the Mathias Shultes Barn. It was taken 2005 by Allan Deitz.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


One of the many projects that I am pushing for is the collection of the names of the men and women who served in various wars. I was wondering how we could do that. Rich Hungerford came up with the idea of searching the Altamont Enterprise archives, which are on line. Another great newspaper archives is Fulton History which has the archives dozens of upstate New York newspapers.

On line newspaper archives are invaluable to librarians, historians and family researchers. They are a wonderful source for researching local history, such as the who served in what wars, the history of a local organization, such as a library, grange, church or fire department.

If someone wants to write a biography of a grandparent or great grandparent, just search on their name. In fact each article mentioning their name came be copied and pasted into a digital scrapbook on a person or event. Then that could be used as a source for writing a biography.

Librarians need to accept the fact that not all sources are in books.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


< Berne Falls; Photo by Charles Sloger

I have started a new series of images to show the beauty of the Hilltowns that I am posting on I only had time to add landscape photos from a few friends and family whose photos are posted on the Internet. I hope others who have photos showing the beauty of the Hilltowns will add them themselves. When we get enough images we will make a separate page for each town. Maybe some day we will have enough to make a coffee table book!

 Fall Foliage; photo by Jeremy Rue 


Albany Hilltowns has history, genealogy, and photos

Friday, September 25, 2009


Knox Cave is located near Knox in Albany County, N. Y. It is one of the largest caverns in New York State with many high passages and other natural beauties. It was used in Dutch Colonial times as a refuge by Indian war parties. It was open commercially from 1933 to 1958. It is now owned by the Northeastern Cave Conservancy and is a permit is required to visit it.

John Elberfeld has done a magnificent job of posting pictures, postcards, and articles about Knox Cave. One of the articles he posted, Knox Cave, 40th Anniversary of death of Mrs. Robinson, brought back fond memories. As a boy I went on the commercial tour a number of times. Me and my siblings skated at the Roller Rink many times. Then in my college years I got into spelunking and made a number of trips beyound the Gunbarrel, a very long, narrow, tight passage. Once I led my brother Ralph and his wife Jan on a tour. If I recall correctly, she was a few months pregnant. Got stuck in there for a while. Whew! Great memories. Thanks, John!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I have spent the last couple of days working on "Then and Now" pictures for Most of the "Then" pictures I have been putting up recently come from the excellent collection of the Berne Historical Society. Most of the "Now" pictures I have taken from Google Earth. What an amazing resource that is.

I have doubled the number of pictures and arranged them by town. I have gone about as far as I can go from Oaxaca, Mexico. If more pictures are to be added, it will take local folks to do it. I hope there is interest in this project, otherwise it will go no further.

Most of the photos I have added are of Berne because that is what I have access to.

There have been a large number of photos of Rensselaerville added by Will Osterhout from the collection of the Rensselaerville Historical Society. Anyone with the knowledge of the town could use Google Earth and produce some "Now" photos to go with what Will has posted. This can be done from your own home anywhere in the world.

I am thinking this would also be a great idea for a book! If you want to see your house or photo in a book, we welcome your submissions.

Monday, September 21, 2009


It has been less than 10 months since I started Albany Hilltowns and I am so pleased with the progress! Especially with the Civil War book project (see main page).  Although there is much remaining to be done on it, I think we can at the same time work on other projects.

Veterans Day will soon be here. With that in mind, I took a look at what we have posted on the site about our Hilltown veterans, and am disappointed that there is so little. We have the names of folks in Berne and Knox in WWII who served in the military, and that is about it.

We need to begin gathering the names of the Hilltown men and women who served in other wars and conflicts. And these lists are just the beginning. For each name we need a biography that tells about their military service and their lives before and after.

I have created pages to gather names of service personnel in WWI and II in each of the Hilltowns, and will add pages for other wars and conflicts. But that is as far as I can go by myself.

Thanks to my sister Marilyn Nardollio and Joanne Lauster we have over 3000 obituaries of people in the Hilltowns Genealogy posted on the Berne Historical Project site at Most obituaries of folks who served in the military make mention of the basic facts of their military career. Volunteers could go through the obituaries, and not only list veterans on the Albany Hilltown site, but also copy the obituary as the first step toward creating biographies.

I can't ask our present volunteers to take on this task, as they are already busy. We need some fresh blood, so to speak. If there is anyone in our group with an interest in preserving the memories of our Hilltown ancestors who were vertrans, and who has the time, please contact me so we can begin this large task.

As with all of our projects, everyone will do what they can at their own pace with no pressure of deadlines. We just plod along until hopefully another project is finished.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Today we welcome our 200th member to the Albany Hilltowns History and Genealogy Facebook Group, Jerry Gilligan, from Austin, Texas. This has been within less than 10 months. I wish we had a prize to give him, but we don't have any money, since we have no source of income. Oh, well, I am sure he will understand.
I spent most of the day posting many "Then and Now" series of images by using old photographs for the "Then" picture, and a Google Earth image for the "Now." The Google Earth images are not very clear, and it is difficult to get them to appear to have been taken from the same spot as the "Then" photo. Still, my motto is, "It is better than nothing."

When we get a few more images I will split this page up so there is a separate page for each town. I am thinking this would also be a great idea for a book! If you want to see your house or photo in a book, we welcome your submissions.

Check it out!

Images above right are "Then and Now" of Northrup's Garage, East Berne.

Friday, September 18, 2009


We have a few very active volunteers adding old photos and articles to I have just done an extensive update of our main page to highlight some of our new projects, one of which in "Then and Now" photos of buildings in the Hilltowns. Thanks to Marty Duel for posting the first set of photos.

We also have completed the inventory of the hundreds of men from the four Hilltowns: Berne, Knox, Westerlo and Rensselaerville, that served in the Union Army during the Civil War. While we have begun biographies for each of them, much remains to be done if we are to meet our deadline of 2011 for a book on the Hilltown men in the CW and their families. Help is needed and appreciated. If any of you have Hilltown ancestors, we would invite you to visit our site and contribute to it.
Three weeks ago on I posted images of Wm. Cockburn's 1787 survey map of the Western Manor of Stephen Van Rensselaer III. Since then I did an extensive rearrangement of the images and updated the key to the images so they were more readable. I also rearranged the order of the images so they are in the same order as the key. And I made separate maps for Knox and Berne. I have started to annotate the map of Berne to make it easier to understand. See images 3, 7 and 11 to see where I am headed. I have also started an index for Berne and Knox. The index was already done for Rensselarville, and hardly anyone lived in Westerlo. (must be the same is true today, at least I am not aware of anyone there who is interested in the history of the town.)

  • 1787 survey map gives and interpretation of the overall 1787 map (needs to be revised).
  • 1787 map of Knox has images of the Knox section of the northern half of the map
  • 1787 map of Berne has images of the Berne section of the northern half of the map
  • 1787 map of Westerlo has images of Westerlo and eastern third of Rensselaerville
  • 1787 map of Rensselaerville has images of the western two thirds of Rensselaerville

From Nancy J Curran:

--32nd Annual Rensselaerswijck Seminar Oct 2 and 3 in Albany New York


Russell Shorto, noted author, will speak on “Oh, Henry: What Has the Hudson Year Wrought?” at the opening reception of the 32nd Annual Rensselaerswijck Seminar, Thursday, Oct. 1, at 5:30 p.m. at the NYS Museum, Albany. Admission is free.

Oct. 2 and 3 the Rensselaerswijck Seminar, “Kiliaen van Rensselaer’s Colonie: The Beginning of European Settlement of the Upper Hudson,” will be in the New York State Museum’s Carole Huxley Theatre. Registration is at 9 a.m. both days.

Genealogy and history will be twin themes in the analysis of the history of the Van Rensselaers, both from the aspect of their place in history and the succeeding generations of the family.

Click here for more information about the seminar.

Early morning mist on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Photos courtesy of my High School classmate Charles Sloger, who still hangs around Berne. Yes, that is Berne, by the dawn's early light. I never get up that early myself, but am glad he did.

Here are more of his photos:


The year 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Several hundred Hilltown men served in the Union Army with a casualty rate of maybe 25% killed or injured. It had an big impact on the Towns and their families. We are writing biographies on each soldier. Information from the biographies will be used to produce a book on the lives and families of Civil War veterans. Publication is targeted for 2011.

The book will be in three parts:
  • The events leading up to the war with emphasis on why the men in upstate NY seemed compelled to join the army of Father Abraham.
  • The history of the units and their battles.
  • Biographies of the Hilltown men. Individual biographies could be authored by family researchers.
Thanks to many people, especially Betty Fink and Pam Molle, a list of Hilltown men in the Civil War is complete, and biographies have been started for each of them. Right now some of the biographies consist of just the basic facts gleaned from Civil War Records.

Help Needed

We need one or more volunteers for each of the towns to flesh out the biographies. If you see something below you think you might be interested in, contact me before beginning so I can coordinate who is doing what and prevent duplication.

  • One of the sources would be the Hilltowns Genealogy posted on the Berne Historical Project web site. This can be done by anyone familiar with how to update biographies in this project. It is not difficult and I can help you learn.
  • If the men lived until the latter part of the 19th C. or longer, I would like on line newspaper archives, such as the Altamont Enterprise, or Albany papers posted on the Fulton History] site, searched for additional information, such as obituaries.
  • We also need someone with access to census data, such as that posted on and other sites, to add census information for the Civil War men.
  • Family researchers are asked to write or contribute information on their ancestors who served. We need copies of photos, letters written home from the soldiers, death notices, pension requests, military papers, medals, pictures of tombstones, family stories, etc.
  • An article needs to be written about each of the units in which Hilltown men served including the history of the unit and the major battles in which the unit fought.
  • A list of Hilltown men by unit is needed for the appendix. It should also have a summary of each one's fate (KIA, wounded, captured, died in prison, died as a result of wounds, life-time disability, unrelated death, unknown). All of the information for this assignment is in the biographies as currently written.
  • We need someone to take photos of the headstones of Civil War veterans to add to their biographies so we will have them available for our book. This should be done by cemetery. Volunteer to do a cemetery and I will try to get you a list of the CW men buried there.
The book editor will be Michael Grant Hait Jr.. Michael lives in the Washington DC area and has access to the National Archives; he is currently writing a book on Civil War soldiers and is experienced with an on-demand publishing.

Go to our Civil War pages to see what information we have collected so far.