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Amsterdam had its own Benedict Arnold

Saturday, September 7, 2013
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Amsterdam’s Benedict Arnold died March 3, 1849, and likely was buried at a cemetery on Market Hill, according to research done by historian Christopher Philippo.

The growing village encroached on that burial ground and Arnold’s remains and others were moved to Green Hill Cemetery on Church Street after it was created in 1858.

Also buried at Green Hill is Arnold’s grandson, Lt. Benedict Arnold Leonard, killed in 1864 in his 12th Civil War battle.

Arnold Avenue and the former Arnold Avenue School were named in honor of the good Benedict Arnold and his family.

Not the traitor

Amsterdam’s Benedict Arnold was not the Revolutionary War hero of the battle of Saratoga who later became a turncoat. General Arnold was regarded as a hero until his plans to betray the fort at West Point were found out on Sept. 23, 1780.

The man who became Amsterdam’s Benedict Arnold was born less than two weeks later, Oct. 5 of that year. It seems that “Benedict” was a traditional name in the family.

One source reports the younger Arnold was born in Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County, while others list his birthplace as Florida, just south of Amsterdam, or Amsterdam itself.

Arnold married Mary Bovee in 1806 and by 1808 was operating a store at Main and Bridge Streets in Amsterdam.

Arnold was a cavalry officer in the War of 1812, later attaining the rank of captain. He was supervisor of the town of Amsterdam from 1813 to 1816 when he was elected to the New York state Assembly. He was a member of Congress from 1829 to 1831 during the administration of President Andrew Jackson, although he was politically opposed to Jackson.

Arnold was one of the founders of the Amsterdam Aqueduct Company in 1829. The company laid pipes to bring water to thirsty citizens.

He was among those who campaigned to incorporate Amsterdam as a village and was the second president of the Village Board in 1832. He served again as town of Amsterdam supervisor and, in 1844, was one of the organizers of the Fonda Fair. He owned a distillery whose vats were purchased the year he died for what became Kelloggs and Miller, a linseed oil manufacturer.

Arnold’s two-story Market Street home was a landmark later torn down for construction of the Blood Building.

Today, the site is occupied by a hotel.

What's wrong with Amsterdam

In 1946, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a contest called “What I Don’t Like About Amsterdam.”

The city’s carpet mill economy was still thriving. However, the Chamber wanted to identify problems. The 850 entries were submitted anonymously. A numbering system enabled the Chamber to award cash prizes to anonymous winners.

Charles H. Schenck, Chamber executive secretary, said lack of recreation facilities, condition of the streets, garbage collection, hotel accommodations, transportation, theatrical facilities and sale of alcoholic beverages were the most frequent complaints.

“We are quick to criticize those who make an honest effort to do something,” wrote the first-prize winner. “Misguided leadership has done a lot to put nationalism above civic responsibility and has tended to build up group interest with selfish motives. We are all Americans and we should work together.”

The second-place essay called for Sunday evening services in the churches and an end to competition among veterans groups. The writer proposed the city buy sidewalk snow plows and dedicate the planned athletic fields near the Lynch School as a World War II memorial.

The third-place finisher suggested a waste disposal system so that sewage would no longer be dumped into the Mohawk River. The writer also called for beautification of the riverfront.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 346-6657 or bobcudmore@yahoo.com.

 
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