Montgomery County

Focus on History: A haunted road in Amsterdam

The haunting of Widow Susan Road in the town of Amsterdam is described in Renee Mallet’s book, “Ghos

The haunting of Widow Susan Road in the town of Amsterdam is described in Renee Mallet’s book, “Ghosts of New York’s Capital District.” The road runs from Chapman Drive, the old Route 5, to Route 67.

Mallet wrote, “Most of the witnesses report seeing a lady in an old-fashioned white dress, walking along Widow Susan Road, sometimes crying but always searching for something.” Mallet said many sightings are near the four cemeteries near the road.

According to relatives, Susan Thomas, born in 1821, married Harmanus DeGraff in 1838. They lived at the bottom of the road on the east side, today’s Chapman Drive. DeGraff died around 1848, leaving Susan with the farm and several children.

Susan and a daughter eventually moved to Michigan, where the widow died in 1892. Susan is said to be buried next to her daughter Susanna in Green Hill Cemetery on Church Street in the city of Amsterdam.

Mallet wrote that Harmanus DeGraff might have been buried in a family cemetery near what is now Widow Susan Road. By the time the widow died, the family cemetery was well on its way to ruin, according to Mallet.

Mallet wrote, “The spirit of Susan DeGraff would have been extremely confused when she found herself interred in Green Hill Cemetery, rather than a plot next to her husband in the family cemetery she must have been expecting.”

Mathias memories

California transplant Fred Wojcicki has memories of growing up in Amsterdam’s Polish neighborhoods from his birth in 1926 to 1963. Wojcicki moved to California in 1963 and held positions with Standard Brands Paint Company until retiring in 1989.

Wojcicki wrote, “I was born in a rented flat on Hibbard Street owned by the mother of D.P. Wojcicki, a cousin to our family, but I always called him Uncle Paul.” Paul operated a Hibbard Street insurance agency. The building where the Wojcickis lived on Hibbard Street was demolished and the location became site of the Iwanski Funeral Home.

The Wojcickis moved to 20 Mathias Ave. when Fred was 1 year old in 1927. Fred served with the U.S. Navy Seabees in World War II, and his older brother Joseph was killed during the war in Saint-Lô, France.

According to Robert Going’s book, “Honor Roll,” on Amsterdam casualties of World War II, Pfc. Joseph Wojcicki arrived in France during the Normandy invasion in June 1944 and died July 18 after being seriously wounded in battle. He was 31 and had been a weaver at Mohawk Mills before his departure for the Army.

Fred Wojcicki also recalled that his brother worked at the elaborate Italian Gardens in Broadalbin, originally created by summer resident Katherine Husted but owned in the 1930s by Amsterdam button maker Arthur Chalmers.

Wojcicki said that neighbors on Mathias Avenue included John Gomulka, who became Amsterdam mayor; Andy Celmer, who became police chief; Harry and Victoria VanDerbeck, operators of a popular coffee shop; Jacob Bush, a police detective; and Gene Dylong, a football star at Amsterdam High who eventfully bought the Wojcicki family home.

Ridged paper clips

Clarence Collette founded the Collette Manufacturing Co. in 1907, taking over the abandoned Clizbe Avenue School in Amsterdam. Collette’s is long gone, and their main building today has been renovated for offices.

Collette’s began by making “Mendets,” bolt-like contraptions to plug holes in pots and pans.

Before he died in 2007, former Amsterdam City Historian James Marks found that Clarence Collette was the inventor who improved the paper clip by putting ridges or nicks in the clips so that they would hold paper sheets more securely.

A 1932 City Directory reported that Collette’s made Mendets, paper clips, sporting goods and novelties.

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