Montgomery County

Focus on History: Early days of Hagaman, Amsterdam

The year Joseph Hagaman founded the Montgomery County community that bears his name is traditionally

The year Joseph Hagaman founded the Montgomery County community that bears his name is traditionally cited as 1777.

However, historians Kelly Farquhar and Scott Haefner, in their book “Amsterdam,” report that Hagaman likely arrived there at the end of the American Revolution in 1783.

Hagaman was from Dutchess County and of Dutch descent. One story is that he was going to settle near the confluence of the North Chuctanunda Creek and Mohawk River, the present location of the city of Amsterdam. Leaving a load of stone to mark his claim, Hagaman went back to Dutchess County to fetch his family.

When Hagaman returned, Albert Vedder was occupying the site. Undeterred, Hagaman went up the creek several miles and bought 400 acres of land. He built a sawmill and gristmill. The settlement was known as Hagaman’s Mills.

Vedder, from a Schenectady Dutch family, served with the Tryon militia during the Revolution and was the first tenant to live in Old Fort Johnson after the war. Vedder built a sawmill and gristmill on the lower Chuctanunda Creek, a settlement called Vedder’s Mills.

In 1793, four townships were created in the area: Johnstown, Broadalbin, Mayfield and Amsterdam. In 1794, the Vedder settlement was renamed Veddersburg. In 1798, an estimated 275 people lived in the town of Amsterdam, which included the hamlets of Veddersburg and Hagaman’s Mills.

The Pawling name looms large in Hagaman. Kingston native and Revolutionary War Capt. Henry Pawling, who had been stationed in Schenectady, moved to land just north of Hagaman in the 1790s.

The 1800 census showed a thousand people in the town of Amsterdam. In 1802, a visitor to Veddersburg noted four gristmills, two sawmills, two iron mills and a forge. In 1804 or 1808, the name of the hamlet of Veddersburg was changed to Amsterdam.

Henry Pawling’s son Levi married Jane Hagaman, a daughter of Joseph Hagaman, in 1805. They had 11 children.

The 1810 census reported that 3,000 people lived in the town of Amsterdam. In 1813, the hamlet of Amsterdam had an estimated 150 people.

Joseph Hagaman died in 1817. Amsterdam became a village in 1830. Vedder was still alive in 1833, receiving a state military pension at the age of 73.

There is an old cemetery off Pawling Street, behind Cronies Restaurant, where Hagamans, Pawlings and others are buried.

In the late 1830s, William Greene of Poughkeepsie rented four buildings in Hagaman’s Mills and began making carpets. In the 1840s, Greene and a partner, John Sanford, moved their carpet-making to Amsterdam, where the industry became the main employer.

One of Levi Pawling’s sons, Henry, built the family’s first knitting mill in Hagaman in 1843. More mills followed.

Amsterdam became a city in 1885. Pawling Hall in Hagaman was built in 1891; the building still serves as a community and government center.

Hagaman became a village in 1892. A trolley line from Hagaman to Amsterdam was built in 1901.

Historical society

The Hagaman Historical Society meets regularly at Pawling Hall. The society was founded in 2002 by longtime village resident Merrill Dye. A native of Gloversville, Dye met his future wife, Anna, on a train in World War II. He was a pharmacist’s mate in the Navy, and she was a nurse from Gardner, Mass.

Merrill, Anna and daughter Elizabeth moved to Northern Boulevard in Hagaman in 1948. Dye worked as a chemist at an Amsterdam plant that served the leather-tanning industry.

He died in 2004 at the age of 96. Dye said in an interview in 2003, “I owe my longevity to having a good wife and good doctors.”

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach him at 346-6657 or at [email protected]

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