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Kinderhook Town

Kinderhook Town Hall is located at 4 Church Street, Niverville NY 12130; phone: 518-784-2233.

Beginnings [1]

Kinderhook originated in 1614 and was named Kinderhoek, meaning children's corner. The Dutch name Kinderhoek was also applied to the major creek flowing into the Hudson. The land remained largely unsettled until about 1640. At the time the Dutch began settlements on the east side of the Hudson, only a few Mahican Indians remained at a small gathering place in what is now Valatie. By 1694, Benjamin Wadsworth reported three compact settlements; Stuyvesant Landing, Kinderhook Village, and Pompenick, east of present Valatie Village. The three major waterways in the town; Kinderhook Creek, Kline Kill, and Valatie Kill, have had much to do with the cultural and economic development of the area. These waterways served as important locations for Indian, and later, Dutch and English cultures. The earliest farms were located along the Kinderhook Creek and the Kline Kill in the 1670's.

In 1664, the English took over the Dutch colonies. In 1686, English Governor Thomas Dongen granted a charter for the Town of Kinderhook to the 31 landowners then living in the area. The town originally extended from the Hudson River to Massachusetts and was a part of Albany County. In 1786 Columbia County was formed and during the early 1800's, Kinderhook was broken apart, forming the towns of Kinderhook, Chatham, and parts of Ghent, and Stuyvesant in 1788. Kinderhook's boundaries have remained the same since 1823.

Prior to 1750, most of the population was Dutch, Mahican, and some English from Massachusetts. By 1779, Palatines and Germans had come to Kinderhook and names like Niver, Shoemaker, Best, Pockman, Shufelt, and Miller began to dominate land interests. Although half the population in the town had been born since the revolution and New Englanders now vastly outnumbered the old Dutch families, the Dutch continued to dominate town leadership until the 1820's.

Early land use in Kinderhook was restricted to the Hudson shoreline and along Kinderhook Creek. Agriculture, by both Mahicans and Dutch, developed first in the plains adjacent to the Kinderhook Creek, then spread into the Kline Kill flood plain, and finally into the central and western plain portion of the town. Later, industries developed along the shores of the Hudson River, Kinderhook Creek, and Valatie Kill. Waterpower near Valatie quickly resulted in early development of industries. Other commercial development such as marketing and trading were well developed by 1770. The area served as an important conduit to the Hudson River where goods were shipped to New York, Boston and even Europe. The coming of the railroad in the early 1800's made Niverville an important commercial hub.

Agriculture has been a prime industry in Kinderhook since the town's beginnings. Livestock and crops were the main agricultural products. River sloops regularly carried wheat to New York City for milling as early as 1670. When the waterpower of Kinderhook Creek and Valatie Kill was harnessed, saw mills, and soon after, gristmills, were developed. Up to the early 1800's, livestock and crops were still the mainstays of farming in Kinderhook. By 1850, however, many farms had introduced fruit trees, especially apples, to operations. Dairying at this time was not very important and practiced primarily for family reasons. Original architecture in Kinderhook was the Dutch style, derived from a northern European Frankish formula. This particular style is represented in the Luykas VanAlen house, the only surviving example in the town. Pre-Revolutionary dwellings survive today. The widespread public perception of the Town of Kinderhook imbues it with quintessential "Dutchness", but the surviving architecture does not support the perception. Buildings designed by Germans and New Englanders gradually became more common and these new rural complexes replaced much of the Dutch architecture.

Later, Georgian architecture developed. The David Van Schaak house and the Peter Van Ness home are prime examples. The Van Ness home was constructed after Georgian style ceased being fashionable, but was probably built in this style because of Van Ness' antifederalist leanings. Martin Van Buren purchased and altered the house to his liking.

Federal period style housing in America date from about 1786 to 1830. Surviving examples of this kind of housing are located in the rural areas of the town as well as in the villages. Greek Revival architecture replaced the Federal style after 1830. Rural Kinderhook has several surviving examples of this style of building. This particular style dominated construction through the Civil War period. The Shoemaker dwelling exemplifies an alternative form.

  1. Comprehensive Plan Study Committee, Town of Kinderhook Comprehensive Plan, August 2000; www.kinderhook-ny.gov, accessed March 2008.
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