Schenectady Genesis, Volume II: The Creation of an American City from an Anglo-Dutch Colonial Town, ca. 1760-1800,
In 2021, the next major effort came to fruition; a sequel titled, Schenectady Genesis, Volume II: The Creation of an American City from an Anglo-Dutch Colonial Town, ca. 1760-1800. An informative sequel covering the Revolutionary War and incorporation of the city, it welcomed John F. Gearing, Esq.to be its author, edited by Chris Leonard. This 500-page sequel begins where Genesis 1 ends and continues on to 1800.
A few words from the author of Genesis II….
“Dr. Susan Staﬀa of Schenectady, New York envisioned writing a history of Schenectady that would illuminate the process by which it developed from a Dutch colonial village into an American city. To this task Dr. Staﬀa brought her considerable skills in anthropological research coupled with the methodology she developed in analyzing the history of Cairo, Egypt for her doctoral dissertation. Dr. Staﬀa published Volume I of Schenectady Genesis in 1998, covering the years 1661 to 1770, fully intending for Volume 2 to end with the granting of the city charter in 1798. Sadly, Dr. Staﬀa did not live to see her ambition realized. The organization she founded, The Colonial Schenectady Project, remained intact after her death, determined to ﬁnish her work. In due course I was selected to write Volume 2. My goal was to ﬁnish the story of Schenectady while continuing to develop the themes introduced by Dr. Staﬀa in Volume 1.
A perusal of both volumes will disclose that there is a degree of chronological overlap between the end of Volume 1 and the beginning of Volume 2. I wanted to start Volume 2 at a turning point in both America’s and Schenectady’s history. The point that suggested itself was the end of the Seven Years’ War. This war, known more commonly as “The French and Indian War” in the United States, was the last one of several wars between France and England. The war was a transformative event for England, America, and Schenectady. England gained an empire which included Canada. Schenectady, by virtue of being a staging area for troops and material for the western theatre became known to thousands of men from New York and other colonies.
With the end of hostilities both the fur trade and settlement expansion along the Mohawk River corridor were set to resume. Schenectady was to play a key role both as a hub of the fur trade and as the major commercial center for settlers living to the west. These factors being taken together it appeared reasonable to begin Volume 2 in 1760.
The “history of American history” reveals that there have been a number of schools of thought when it comes to interpreting the causes of the Revolution. Each of these approaches, Imperialist, Progressive, Neo-Whig, and Conservative provides a unique interpretation of the same set of essential facts in support of each school of thought. A more modern trend is for Revolution studies to eschew adherence to any particular school of thought. In this book I have attempted to avoid interpreting Schenectady’s history without attempting to place it in one of these “schools.” Instead, my goal is to provide information concerning the economic, political, and social characteristics of Colonial New York, and America so that Schenectady’s history, seen in context, may be better understood. The two appendices in this volume provide the background information readers may need in order to understand the workings of the colonial world of the 1700‘s, and Schenectady’s history in that context.
Volume One traced sociological aspects of Schenectady’s development focusing on both questions of socioeconomic mobility and the increasing number of non-Dutch settlers relative to the Dutch elites who had first occupied the town. The present volume seeks to extend this analysis to include increasing religious diversity and Anglicization along with Schenectady’s spectacular rise to become the center of the fur trade. It is necessary to look “outward” to trace Schenectady’s part in trade and war, but an “inward” gaze is required to understand the political and cultural dynamics on a local level. Schenectady was unique in that for 100 years it had no elective town government although it was considered a town by colonial civil and military authorities. Instead of a government, Schenectady had a body of appointed Trustees, whose duties and responsibilities were the source of a dispute that began about 1700 and continued until 1798. Much of the town’s political energy was spent on this struggle, whose primary players were two groups of Dutch elites with conflicting claims to power based on concepts of primacy.
This volume follows the development of Schenectady from 1760 to 1798, as a commercial center, an important military post, a place with a diversifying population, and tracks the growth of the administrative infrastructure required for municipal evolution, such as a fire department, police force, assessors, highway department, and a court system. In the background, the struggle over civil control continues. It is an often complex story, and while I have attempted to tell it in a scholarly manner, I have also endeavored to keep it readable, entertaining, and informative for general readers. A perusal of both volumes will disclose that there is a degree of chronological overlap between the end of Volume 1 and the beginning of Volume 2.”
John F. Gearing, Esq.
This long-awaited sought-after sequel to the highly acclaimed Genesis I is now available! Genesis II contains 26 Chapters, 5 Maps, 82 Images and 2 Charts. The 500-page book on the rich history of Schenectady between 1760 and 1800 makes for an unforgettable reading. Here are but a few reviews received to-date:
“John Gearing’s exhaustive research has produced a wonderful book that will delight those readers looking for a complete picture of the American Revolution in an around Schenectady. It is also much more than just the recounting of military maneuvers, as it explores the complex agricultural and business aspects of American colonial life in the second half of the 18th century.”
– Bill Buell, Schenectady County Historian
“Historian John Gearing’s excellently researched Volume II provides the reader with a comprehensive perspective and narrative of a pivotal time in the development of Schenectady. His skill as an attorney and historian comes through in very page. It is a great addition to the understanding and knowledge of this important upstate city.”
- John Woodward, Former Schenectady County Clerk, Rotterdam Historian Emeritus
“As a resident of the Capital District I have always enjoyed a stroll through the historic Stockade district of Schenectady, and now with this book, I have a greater understanding of the Dutch homes and how they were built, what clothing the men and women wore, what they ate, and the diversity of the town. This village not only was the gateway to the west, but it was also the hub for the vibrant fur trade and a vital inland port.”
– Jack Rightmyer, Albany Times Union
“John Gearing’s engaging style weaves together a narrative of the political, commercial, and social life of Schenectady as it grew into a city. These stories connect us to our past, bringing to life the times and people who came before us. Schenectady Genesis is a valuable resource for the historic preservation community, giving further evidence to why Schenectady’s important history and unique cultural resources are worth of preservation.”
– Gloria Kishton, Chair Schenectady Heritage Foundation
“Mr. Gearing has authored a deeply compelling volume that details a most defining time in Schenectady’s history. “Schenectady’s Genesis Volume II is an absorbing and meticulously researched work that masterfully weaves together the politics. culture, and factions from which the City of of Schenectady was born. The depth and breadth of resources explored here, coupled with Mr. Gearing’s expert analysis and gift for storytelling create a work that is essential to the understanding of Schenectady.”
- Mary Zawacki, Executive Director, Schenectady County Historical Society
“On a walk through the Stockade neighborhood, historic markers and house plaques tell part of the story of Schenectady’s early village. Volume II of Schenectady Genesis fills in the blanks providing details that readers, residents and visitors who love local history will appreciate and return to as a resource.”
- Carol DelaMarter, President Emeritus, Stockade Association of Schenectady
Schenectady Genesis II tells the astonishing story of Schenectady’s growth from a frontier village into a premier colonial city. It provides a solid account of the politics and legal wrangling over land and trade, while notably covering the ity’s successful claim to the righ to self-determination. It also shows the resiliency that is core to the City of Schenectady, the same resiliency that still drives us today.”
- Gary McCarthy, Mayor of Schenectady
About the author of Genesis II, John F. Gearing,
A noted historian on Schenectady County, Mr. John Gearing received a Larry J. Hackman Research Residency Award at the New York State Archives in 2012. He researches early land records, conducts tours and assists others with research on the Schenectady Stockade Historic District, including students from the Schenectady Community College Archaeology Program.
Born and raised on the rural edges of Bristol, Connecticut, Mr. Gearing’s interest in history began at an early age when he learned that many town meetings in the 18th century were held under the bough of a nearby ancient oak tree. The tree was across from a cellar hole, all that remained of Bartholomew’s Tavern, often used by visiting Revolutionary War soldiers. John’s father would often take John on hikes to the location of an old village named Clark’s Corners, now completely lost in a dense forest. These experiences were likely the genesis of his life-long interest in history. Mr. Gearing obtained his BA from Bates College, an MS from Georgia Institute of Technology and JD from UConn School of Law. He has been in private practice in Niskayuna since moving there in 2003.
Genesis 2 is available for sale at these convenient locations:
Schenectady County Historical Society,
32 Washington Avenue,
Schenectady, NY 12305
The Open Door,
128 Jay Street,
Schenectady, NY 12305
Barnes and Nobel,
1417 Central Avenue,
Albany, NY 12205