Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Military Documents in the Grems-Doolittle Library

The library's collection of military documents, part of our historic manuscripts collection, includes military commissions, bounty and pension documentation, enlistment and discharge papers, receipts, orders, correspondence, muster rolls, notes, articles, petitions, and lists. The collection includes documents from 1690 through World War II. A complete list of documents in the collection can be found here. Scroll down to see a few highlights from this collection.

If you're interested in military history related to the Schenectady area, or want to find information about the military service of a local ancestor, we also have in our holdings books, photographs, clipping files, and documents that may be of interest to you -- stop in to the library, give us a call, or send us an email to learn more.

Mil 236 - Dutch-language note stating advice from the people of Schenectady as to what ought to be done against the French. A translation of the Dutch, made in 1980 by Ferdinand Jantzen, reads:

"Schenectady, April 9, 1690

Advice from the inhabitants of the village of Schenectady and its dependent areas concerning the common wealth of this land.

Firstly, that it is advisable to march to Canada with six hundred or more christians and as many savages as may be obtained, together with appropriate war ammunition and provisions, and this as soon as possible in order to do much damage to the enemy as possible.

If there is occasion and feasibility, six guns together with cannon balls and other materials, and hand grenades to be taken along. In order to bring this design into effect it is also very much required to have six well equipped ships for establishing the main locations, also very soon.

That it will also be necessary to erect near the lakes a (rendezvous) small fort (fortified log cabin?) for helping those who arrive (recruits?) That also at this location it is very necessary to have a small barrel with powder and three to four guns.

Advised by those from
quod attestur
Ludovicus Cobes clerk"

Mil 545 - Certification that William Childers, "a colored recruit," mustered into the Union army and was credited to the 5th Ward of the city of Schenectady. Childers served with Company F of the 26th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry. He later returned to Schenectady and worked as a hostler until his death in 1890 at the age of 49. He is buried at Vale Cemetery. His name is included on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Mil 325 - Original order to Ryer Schermerhorn to furnish garrison at Schenectady with firewood for the winter of 1700, signed and sealed by the Earl of Bellomont, Governor of the Province of New York (Richard Coote).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Schenectady's Waffle Man

George W. Sauerborn stands beside his iconic waffle wagon, ca. 1930. From Larry Hart Collection.

From around 1911 until 1935, children gathered in Schenectady's neighborhoods to chase down a horse-drawn wagon selling "cream waffles." These confections were, according to reminiscences published in the Union-Star, "light as a feather" and distinctively flavored with a hint of nutmeg. Larry Hart, in his Schenectady Gazette newspaper column "Tales of Old Dorp," wrote: "From what we hear, the waffle man must have been something like a Pied Piper, the way youngsters ran after his wagon and the magic delicacies. There were usually a dozen or so children eagerly awaiting service when the horse finally was halted. They were eager to be handed the tantalizing delicacy that was done to a turn on gas burners inside the wagon, waffles that were crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, and generously sprinkled with sugar."

George Sauerborn, standing at right, with a group of local children excited to taste his "cream waffles." From Larry Hart Collection.

The waffle wagon was operated by George W. Sauerborn of 321 Hulett Street. Sauerborn also peddled fish by wagon in Schenectady's neighborhoods; he sold fish from Wednesday through Saturday and sold freshly-made waffles on Mondays and Tuesdays. He had two separate wagons for each enterprise, each being stored in a barn on his property. He started in the fish-peddling business first, near the turn of the century, as he worked for his father's market. Around 1911, Sauerborn began selling waffles. He continued until about 1935. Sauerborn continued selling fish until 1947, when he retired.

Larry Hart wrote that a local reader called him and shared recollections of Sauerborn's "sing-song" voice that "carried like an opera singer" as he called out "Waffles baked here . . . a penny apiece here!" Local people also recalled Sauerborn's call of "Fish today!" that rang throughout city neighborhoods, particularly on Fridays.

Sauerborn relied on his voice for the most part to advertise his waffles, but using a brass gong similar to the one used by the fire department as an alarm got him into trouble. This story appeared in the June 20, 1912 issue of the Schenectady Gazette. Image obtained via

George Sauerborn with his fish wagon.
From Larry Hart Collection.
Many Schenectadians tried to recreate Sauerborn's distinctive waffle recipe over the years. In 1968, several years after Sauerborn's retirement and his death in 1963, Marv Cermak included a note in his sports column for the Schenectady Gazette proclaiming that local sportsmen Bill Cain, Abe Feldman, and Frankie Kinzel were "putting up a big reward for the information leading to the whereabouts of the recipe" once used by Sauerborn. A feature in the Union-Star in 1970 incorporated letters from local readers who had made attempts to approximate Sauerborn's waffles. "I've altered the waffle recipe again and again and can't hit on it," one writes. "I'd give anything to know what he used." In the same article, Sauerborn's widow, Anna McCann Sauerborn, recalled that a man named A.J. Baker from Trenton, New Jersey, who traveled with carnivals selling waffles, shared the business idea and the recipe with Sauerborn, selling him the horse and wagon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Civil War Letter of William Caw of Scotia

This photograph of William Caw, taken ca. 1861, appeared in the Schenectady Union-Star newspaper on April 30, 1912. From Caw family file.

"It's a long story, youngster; so tell me when to quit when you get tired," said William G. Caw as he was interviewed about his Civil War service for a 1912 article that appeared in the Schenectady Union-Star newspaper. "In the fall of '61 Abram Cramer and myself made up our minds that the salvation of the country depended on us, so we took French leave of our homes at Scotia . . . we walked to a station called The Branch (now Ballston Lake) and there we took the cars, finally landing in Saratoga Springs. There we enlisted for Company H for three years, and we were sure then that the Union's fate rested in safe hands."

Caw mustered in as Corporal of Company H, 77th Regiment, New York Volunteers, on October 17, 1861, at the age of 19. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1863 and re-enlisted as a veteran in 1864. He was wounded in action at Spotsylvania, Virginia, in May of 1864. He was promoted First Sergeant, Company D, in November of 1864, and mustered in as Second Lieutenant of Company B in January of 1865. He mustered out with the rest of his company on June 27, 1865.

It was during his service as a second lieutenant that Caw wrote a letter to E.Z. Carpenter, also of the Scotia/Glenville area, while Caw's company was on provost duty in Danville, Virginia.

2 pages of letter from William Caw to E.Z. Carpenter, dated May 5, 1865 (Mil 480).

Below is a transcription of the letter in its entirety. All original spelling, capitalization, and punctuation has been maintained. The original letter is part of the military documents category of our historic manuscripts collection and is numbered Mil 480.

Danville, Va.
May 5th 1865
E.Z. Carpenter

Dear Sir

I received your Letter some time ago and as I have not had much spare time I could not answer it befor this Ult. I saw Job [likely Job Carpenter, brother of E.Z. Carpenter] as we was going through the 2nd Corps on our way to this Place. he is well but is pretty poor.

We marched from Burksville to Danville in 4 Days & 4 hours and the Distance is 100 miles. oh how we did Hopp it down, but all things must have an End and when we got to this City we was about as tired a Lot of men as you Could find. I think Gen Wright was just trying our metel in the marching line. We got in as advance Guard (that is our Brigade) we are doing Provost Duty it is Easy but we have to go on pretty often.

The Rebels did not Distroy any thing of any account, and they left an immense Quantity of Government Property. The cars were all in Runing order and we sent a Train of cars into Greensboro the Head Quarters of Johnsons Army. Col Selkirk went and awoke Gen Beauregard and the next day Beau-d took him to Johnsons Head Quarters the Rebels were Guarding the Town and the Colonel was halted by the Rebel Sentry but when the Colonel told him that he was a Yankee they Passed him by with the Remark that they had no Orders to Stop Federl Officers.

The Rebel Soldiers are more willing to give up the Ship then those men that Have Stayed at home this is an awful Secesh Place but but they are a beginning to find out that the Yanks are men & not a Parcel of Ruffians as they have bin made to beleive all along. Why some of the whit folks thought we were agoing to Kill them all. One white woman worked herself up to Such an Excitement that She gave up the Gost and was Layed under the Sod. the female Portion of this City keep mighty Dark we Very seldom See one of them on the Street, but a Negro that I was talking to the other Day Say they look at us through the Curtains. I Expect our Regiment will be ordered to New York Some time this month to get mustered out. I would like to get Home by the 4th Day of July or 1st of Augt with many Regards to you all I Remain as Ever

Wm Caw
Lieut Co B Batt.n 77th
NYS Vols

Drawing of Caw, a builder and sheriff,
that appeared in Just For Fun, a collection
of caricatures of prominent Schenectady
men that was published ca. 1910.
After the war ended, Caw returned to Scotia and began work as a carpenter, builder, and contractor. He moved to Schenectady and became one of the largest building contractors in the city; he was responsible for the supervision of the building of the Van Curler Opera House, the Union Street school at the corner of Union and College Streets, the original Wallace Company building, and the Scotia Baptist Church, among many others. Caw also served as assessor for the city in 1894 and served as sheriff of Schenectady County from 1896-1898. He was also active in the Horsfall Post of the G.A.R., the Schenectady Building Loan and Savings Organization, St. George's masonic lodge, the Mohawk Club, and the Emmanuel Baptist Church. He died on April 20, 1919, at the age of 76. He is buried in Vale Cemetery.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"This Map is Made With 'Artistic License,' Pop!"

Pictorial Map of Schenectady, N.Y. and Union College, 1931.

We see a lot of interesting documents in the library's collections, and some of them are just plain fun! The library recently received a map entitled Pictorial Map of Schenectady, N.Y. and Union College, copyrighted 1931 by J.D. Barstow. The map, in five colors, depicts Schenectady with warmth and detail. Prominent businesses, public buildings, and other features are highlighted, and humorous cartoon images are peppered throughout.

This detail shows the Stockade neighborhood, part of downtown, and the Mohawk River.

This depiction of an exchange on Watt Street
captures the playful nature of the cartoons
included on the map.
A bit of research provided some more information about the map and its creator. An article in the July 15, 1931 Schenectady Gazette announces that the map was on view in one of the display windows at the Barney Company department store on State Street. Copies of the map were for sale and were promoted as guides to the city.

The map was drawn by James D. Barstow, a commercial artist and cartoonist for the General Electric Company. Born in Peekskill, Barstow attended the Pratt Institute. After serving in World War I, he worked as a surveyor for New York State and as an artist for a catalog company. He came to Schenectady in 1923 to work for General Electric. He wrote and drew the "Hopeless Hector" industrial safety comic strip that appeared in the GE Works News, as well a comic strip titled "G.E. Josie" syndicated to GE office employees.

Union College is depicted in this detail. Notice the puzzled cows encountering a student in the pasture.
Fun and games in Central Park.

Along the bank of the Mohawk River: "This map is made with 'artistic license,' pop!" -- "You say you forgot your fishing license, son?"

Fairgrounds in the upper Union Street area.
In addition to his work for General Electric, Barstow was known as a cartoonist and watercolor painter in the area. His work was exhibited at the Schenectady Museum and at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse. He also drew caricatures at local schools, fairs, and hobby shows, and gave talks on cartooning at the Schenectady Museum, schools, fraternal organizations, veterans' organizations, church groups. He also offered art lessons for children at local day camps, through the local Boys Club, and from his home.
Barstow was the first industrial cartoonist to gain membership in the National Cartoonist Society of America. He was cited for his work in creating cartoons promoting the sale of war and savings bonds and three times received awards from the Freedom Foundation for his work. Barstow died in February 1960.

The General Electric Company, featuring a gigantic monitor-top refrigerator, radio announcers, and tennis players.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Schenectady County Church Records

St. Luke's Church in Schenectady. The Grems-Doolittle Library has records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths in St. Luke's Church from 1916-2002. Photograph from the Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

The Grems-Doolittle Library has copies of church records - including records of births/baptisms, marriages, deaths/burials, and church membership - from a number of churches in Schenectady County. Such records are extremely helpful to genealogists in substantiating family connections, and provide important biographical information for those interested more broadly in local history. These records are especially useful in tracing the lives of people who lived in the area before 1880-1881, when New York State first required records documenting births, marriages, and deaths.

Page from the baptismal register of Woestina Reformed Church in Rotterdam. These records, like most of the church records in our collection, are transcribed and indexed.

There is a quick-reference guide to Schenectady County church records available in our library. This guide at a glance includes information about the city or town, denomination, church name, and the date ranges for various types of records associated with each church. This guide to Schenectady County church records at a glance can be found here.

Records from German Lutheran Church, 1800s.
If you're not sure what church records to check in looking for ancestors, our staff and volunteers can help you. Also, if we do not have church records available for a congregation you are looking for, we may be able to provide you with a referral to locate those records. We also have church histories, clipping files, and other resources regarding local churches if you are looking for more information about the ethnic community or neighborhood the church was associated with.  

In addition to church records for Schenectady County, the Library also has holdings of church records for other counties in New York State. Stop by, give us a call, or send an email to ask about our holdings for other counties you might be interested in!