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images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past
images from the Esperance, Central Brdige, Sloansville past

History of Esperance

Village of Esperance * Sloansville * Central Bridge
* Kniskern's Dorf

Village of Esperance

The earliest settler near the Village was Jean Grantier who purchased land near the future bridge site in the Town of Duanesburg in 1774 from James Duane. Others by the name of Merkle had also purchased land further south adjoining Grantier. New York State passed a law in 1792 that included building a bridge over the Schoharie Creek. William North one of the Road commissioners for the Western District of the State was involved in its construction. Harmonous Ten Eyck inherited the Ten Eyck Patent which had been purchased by Jacob H. Ten Eyck in 1769. The Ten Eyck Patent included most of the present Village of Esperance. With the building of the State Road Ten Eyck had some building lots laid out and began to sell them on a quit rent basis.

The area began to be called State Bridge after the completion of the first "State Bridge" in 1793. Five years later an unparalleled freshet washed out this and other bridges on the Schoharie Creek. The Ten Eyck lots were selling slowly although John Burt had purchased land for the building of the Phoenix Hotel around the time of the flood. A temporary bridge was built and some other lots were sold including Major Edward Cumpstons home and store locations. Mill sites along the Schoharie were quickly being grabbed up. One early mill was Swords Mill as the Burtonville Road is referred to as "the road to Swords Mill" in the early 1800's.

After the death of Jean Grantier and the settling of the Estate of James Duane, William North had the funds and opportunity to form his own settlement. He purchased the Village of Schoharie Bridge as the Post Office went by that name in 1806 and advertised the opportunity for land. He purchased the Grantier farm and sought to have mills built on land bordering the Creek. He also gave the village the name Esperance which is the French name for "Hope". Legend has it that his daughter Mary suggested the name. However, North was very familiar with the French language as his friend and commander the Baron von Steuben communicated in French.

In 1809 a Paper Mill was built in the Village near the Bridge as speculation grew that this was a magnificent site for businesses dependent upon water and water power. Major Edward Cumpston was the treasurer of the "Schoharie Paper Manufactory" and shares were sold throughout the area. By 1850 there were three paper mills operating along the Schoharie in the Town of Esperance. Carding, cloth dressing mills, Grist and saw mills were also built. Furnaces and forges were built and stone was quarried at an early date. In 1812 Theodore Burr completed the 300-foot long wooden covered bridge that spanned the Schoharie as part of the Great Western Turnpike, a toll road organized in 1798-99. As the westward migration grew tremendous numbers of travelers passed through Town. Over $700.00 a month in tolls were collected at the bridge, which were paid in pennies.

In the 1790's Johnathan Hare turned his farmhouse into a tavern to cater to the road crew building the Turnpike. Other farmers began to take in travelers and their horses and flocks on their way to Albany to market. Hotels and Stores were built so that in the Village by 1830 there were five Hotels serving the traveler. The Phoenix near the Bridge, Calvin Wrights where the Methodist Church now Stands, Feathers House most recently called the Elm, Pecks Tavern where the La Fountains now live on Church and Main Street and the Bulls Head Tavern which is the next to last house on the north as you leave the Village.

The Village was the first in the County to incorporate in 1818 so that a fire department and village government could be established. The growth of the village accelerated until the Erie Canal opened and took much of the heavy freight off the Turnpike. While farmers still drove farm animals to market and stagecoach routes grew the Village stagnated. When the Railroad, the Albany & Susquehanna opened in 1863 the traffic on the Turnpike again suffered and the Directors of the Great Western Turnpike Company started to sell the road including the Bridge at Esperance. A depot was built on the Esperance Station Road north east of the Village. This allowed for the shipment of large amounts of hay, milk, cheese and butter. The first shipment on this road was from B.F. Wood's store east of the Village. During the construction of the road bluestone was discovered and later on the opposite side of the valley William H. Conover and other farmers found this stone near the surface and quarried it to quite an extent from approximately 1884 until the late 1920's on Conover Road near the Town line. The railroad must have spurred the economy somewhat as in the year 1868 a large 3 story stone grist and saw mill was erected by Haines & Isham, Undertaker Frederick Happe built a new home and the Methodist Church was moved and enlarged that year. Small shops sewing nightgowns and baseballs depended on the Railroad to supply materials from the large factories where the piece work came from and was returned to when finished. School Children took the train to Cobleskill to go to high school. Another notable time was in 1893 when a huge knitting mill was constructed complete with a sprinkler system on the Duanesburg end of the bridge, it was suppose to employ over 100 people. Edward Clark anticipating the renewed interest started a newspaper called the Esperance Star. The knitting mill and the Esperance Star were both, unfortunately short lived.

The coming of the automobile changed the market for local goods and the movement of the population to the cities brought about decline in the rural countryside. The 1930's while a boon to the restaurant and tourist home industry lead to the removal of the covered bridge, the old grist mill, and Simpson's cabinet shop, the old stone academy building was also gone by now and the depot at the station closed. The coming of the N.Y.S. Thruway closed the tourist homes and took the immense automobile traffic off route 20 once the main road leading to the west. A continued business decline followed. By the mid 1970's only one general store was left, the barbershop closed and the old Grantier Mill building was removed, the telephone office with operators was replaced by a building on Steuben St. without any operators. The River Side Garage Chevrolet Dealership sold its last car.

Today the Village has several small businesses including a used bookstore, photography studio and an insurance company, ice cream parlor, print shops, auto parts and repair shops, Eastman's Cheese House as well as two active Churches and an Elks Lodge. The Village has a park, fire department, post office and the Town Office Building. While the business climate declined the residential areas grew. Many of the old large homes have been made into multiple family units. In 1950 Rex Rockwell laid out a new street called Rockwell Drive that was later changed to Lord North Dr. Several new homes were also constructed on Charleston St. In 1963 Edward Feuz opened a new street called Feuz Terrace in 1972 about 45 acres on Burtonville road was annexed by the Village. Later Lakeview and Grandview streets were built increasing opportunity for growth.

Hamlet of Sloansville

According to Roscoe the first settler at Sloansville was John Joseph Van Valkenburg a Dutchman in 1756 or 60. It is more likely that John settled around 1765 when he married Magdalena Brown as he was baptized in Schoharie in 1745. According to Roscoe at the time of the Revolutionary War he saw the destruction done by Brant in 1780 and joined the patriot cause. His half brother Jochum was killed in 1781 at a battle near Summit Lake. John later lived in Sharon after the war and was buried there in 1815. During the October 1780 raid of the Valley by Johnson and Brant the settlement of Kniskern's Dorf suffered greatly by the torch and the Tories and Indians after destroying much of the Valley feasted on a domesticated deer on the Sidney (1995 James Vanderwerken) Farm and after crossing the creek rested the night on the site of the Valley Cemetery. The crossing where the bridge stands on Junction road was done by a ferry for many years. In 1832 the State Legislature passed a law to set the rates of toll Jeremiah Bradway could charge for ferrying persons, goods and chattels. A wagon or four-wheeled carriage drawn by four horses was charged twenty cents. During the Rev. War one small skirmish occurred when Abraham Bergh, Jacob Kneiskern and one Grenadier [Jean Grantier?] were returning to the Lower Fort and came across the advance of the enemy on the Ferry Road and managed to kill one of the Indians and make good their escape to the Lower Fort. The enemy proceeded up near route 30A and into the Town of Charleston where a mortar and shells were buried and continued form their to Fort Hunter.

It would not be until the end of the War in 1785 when the Brown brothers would start the settlement of Sloansville. The road from Schoharie into Montgomery County had long been used as a footpath by the Indians as noted by the Indian Stone Heap created by them and was also used by the Palatines to visit relatives who settled in the Mohawk Valley. A map in the State Archives drawn up around 1819 shows a settlement called Sloan's Village with one road called the Charleston Canajoharie Road leading north west out of the Village probably where Sprakers Road is today. No doubt this early thorough fare lead to the building of stores and Inns by the Brown Brothers George, John and James who purchased a part of the Stone Heap Patent. The building of the Great Western Turnpike in the early 1800's lead the settlers to build along it instead of the old roads that had been where the traffic flowed. John Brown built an Inn closer to the Turnpike and got appointed toll gate keeper. To avoid the toll gate another trail was started that shunned the pike thereby getting the name Shunpike Road. James ran an Inn near the present Baptist Church and sold the property to Captain William and John R. Sloan around 1800. The Great Western Turnpike brought New England Yankees to the area and the place began to grow. John R. Sloan a son of William received the appointment of Post Master in 1818 and the settlement became known as Sloansville after the postmaster who no doubt being a shrewd business man of the day operated a store as well and the name recognition would only help his business. The Sloans operated hotels and dealt in chip goods. Sloansville grew quickly until the Erie Canal opened and the westward migration began. Many people left in groups either friends, religious affiliation or in the case of the Sloans in a family group. After the death of Mary Reed Sloan wife of William, many of the family left for Farmington, Fulton County, Illinois. The early settlers including the Sloans are buried in now unmarked graves south of the old School House and bordering the back yards of the homes facing route 20 there. After the Town was formed many of the Town meetings were held in the Sloansville Hotels, they were called the "Town House" and were elected by ballet with the usual candidates.

An early Baptist Church was started here as an out growth of the Church in Charleston by Elder Elijah Herrick. It appears the first meeting house was built around 1811 being used mainly by the Baptist, the early Charleston records note on March 28, 1811, "appoint a communion to take place once in three months in the southern part of the Church and to take place quarterly." The Sloansville Church was formally set apart in June of 1827. In 1823 a Presbyterian Church was formed here as a branch of the Church in Esperance, included among its members were the Sloans. The Esperance Presbyterian Church decided to appoint their minister to Esperance only and the Sloansville Church stopped functioning in 1835. The Baptist Church grew at a considerable rate and eventually split due to a disagreement among its members. The original meeting house near the Town Barn housed the Old School Baptist Church while the "new" School members built the current Baptist Church in the village in 1842. The old school church was moved closer to the village and was taken over by the Methodists in 1862 and rebuilt in 1877. The Methodist Church merged with the Esperance Church in 1973 and the building was sold to Provost Bros. Well Drilling Co.

The industries in Sloansville included a grist mill on the vly/fly creek south of the village where Kenneth Schweigard lives today and many small saw mills, and a tannery operated by two generations of McMasters. Remnants of one of the small saw mills can be seen on Regan Rd. A large saw mill was located where Smith's Collision Clinic is today.

The Phelps family moved here from Enfield, Connecticut around 1806 and David S. operated a wagon shop while brother Gauis made hats. The Dwelly families operated another wagon shop and blacksmith shop near the intersection of the Shunpike with 30A. David Phelps also did ornamental painting, sold and made paint, apparently made guns and sold them wholesale and raised sheep on his farm. Most of the early businesses dealt in trade of farm produce or labor for the items purchased. During these days militia duty was mandatory for non exempt males between the ages of 18 and 45. When the militia was training it meant good times for the hotels barroom and Phelps made sure plenty of guns were for sale in the months preceding the annual drill in September. John S. Brown of Sloansville was the Col. of the 18th Regiment of Infantry in 1836 and apparently was appointed a Major General at some point as he was later referred to as Gen. Brown. The mills eventually closed and the blacksmith shops converted into the automobile garage business. Sloansville was still a busy intersection and by 1960 had a major gas station on three of its four corners. Unfortunately the hotels and stores suffered from fires which left vacant land on the south west corner of the village. Johnson's Garage built a more modern facility and sold Chrysler automobiles while Baxter's Garage on the north west corner sold Chevrolets.

Today the businesses include Smith's Collision Clinic where A.D. Johnson had a garage, Country Side Food Mart a gas station and convenient store where Baxter's Garage had been, a used car dealership, Provost Bros. Well Drillers, an ice cream parlor and Post Office. The Schoharie Valley Gospel Church in Sloansville runs a School called the Corner Stone Christian Academy.


Hamlet of Central Bridge

The early settlement of Kniskern's Dorf was largely located here. Central Bridge as its name implies grew up out of the placement of a bridge here across the Schoharie Creek. The Gazetteer of the State of New York by Thomas F. Gordon published in 1836 states;"Smithville, is a small village lately founded, on the Schoharie creek, 4 miles N. of the court house, where the stream is crossed by a new bridge; containing a store, 2 taverns, and 15 dwellings." The name of Smithville came from an early innkeeper named Sam Smith who had built an inn in 1824 near the new bridge. Smith's Hotel burned and was rebuilt in 1831 and still stands (1995). This same building had been the home of the late attorney Wallace H. Sidney. By 1837 a post office had been established here under the name "Central Bridge" with O. H. Williams serving as Post Master.

While this early settlement was mainly in the Town of Schoharie after the Town of Esperance was formed in 1846, the Railroad brought about the emergence of a new village referred to as "New" Central Bridge. As was often the case the Albany & Susquehanna Rail Road missed existing villages and new ones sprang up around the depot. By 1863 Trains were running from Albany to Central Bridge. Because of the location of the tracks many started to build around them and some such as the old Methodist Church building (now the church hall) were physically moved to the "New" village. Bethany Lutheran Congregation built in the new village as did S.K. Campbell who built the Schoharie County Agricultural Works on North Main Street within the Town of Esperance. Beckers Grist Mill moved from the mouth of the Cobleskill Creek to the present site (1995) of I. L. Richer Feed Inc. which straddles the Town line. The I.L. Richer mill is the last mill operating in the Town. Kniskern's Dorf began to disappear as the communities grew around and within it. With the railroad came hotels, stores and residences to make a neat appearing Village along the Rail Road. While most of the "New" Village is in the Town of Schoharie a significant part is in Esperance including the large Schoolhouse Dist. #5 and some of the businesses along North Main Street and the Central Bridge Industrial Complex located on the old Parson's Ford property on Rte. 30A. Pine Hill Road and Parts of Grovennors Corners Road are also within the Town.


The earliest settlement within the Town was named for a Palatine list master name Johann Peter Kniskern a descendant of one of the oldest families in the town of Reinheim in the old Paletinate (Germany). He arrived in America with the Palatine immigration of 1710. During the 1711 Colonial War with Canada he served as a Captain with the Palatine Volunteers. Kniskern became a naturalized citizen on Oct. 11, 1715 paving they way for his later purchase of land from the British Government. He after leaving the camps on the Hudson had settled in Neu-Heidelberg (Kniskern's Dorf) by 1716/17 according to research done by Frank E. Lichtenthaeler and Hank Z. Jones. While the Palatines settled here based on promises from the British Government, they did not have any written title to the lands. After the British Government failed in attempts to arrange an agreement with the Palatines to purchase the land they were living on the government sold the land to others in 1714. Eventually the Palatines were forced to purchase land or move and many chose the latter. Kniskern being a leader and citizen met with the Royal Government in the Colony of New York and received a license to negotiate with the Indians to purchase land from them. On September 12, 1729 a purchase agreement for 300 acres of land costing seven pounds in Indian goods was signed by the mark of the turtle and deer by Native Indians Arrundias and Oquarady Soanistiowan. He brought this agreement to the Governor from which a Royal Survey was done. In 1729 letters patent were granted to him for part of the land now called Kniskern's Dorf. The original settlers were Johann Peter Kniskern, Godfrit Kniskern, Lambert Sternberg, Philip Berg, Hendrick Houck, Hendrick Strubach, and Johannes Merkle and at a later date Bartrim Entis and Harmonous Sidrick purchased nearby lands around 1731 according to Roscoe.*

According to a map drawn up in 1753 the settlers were Lambert Starnberger, Jacob Starnberger, Martinas Bowman, Barent Keyser, Hendrick Kniskern, Jost Kniskern, William Myntus, Hendrick Houck, Johan Markel, Jacob Myntus, Hendrick Dietz, Hermanus Sidnigh, Hendrick Stobreg, Godfred Kneskern, Lebs Bergh and Johan Kniskern. The name Myntus is now spelled Enders and Sidnigh is spelled Sidney. This map was copied by Rufus Grieder and is in the State Library manuscripts collection in Albany. Those farms that were part of the Dorf purchase did not have individual deeds at first rather the Dorf was owned by all the partners as one piece of land. Kniskern was also a religious man and an officer in the Lutheran Church. The 1753 map and survey of the Dorf shows that the Dorf was being divided into individual lots. When this was done an agreement was drawn up that "If any one should lose any part of their lands by law or otherwise, the rest should make it up to him or her." Kniskern early built a small mill at this place on a small stream, as the engineering needed and the materials to build one directly on the large Schoharie Creek was not available at this date. The Kniskern Mill was destroyed during the October 1780 raid by Johnson and Brant. The Strubachs and Houcks also built small mills after the Revolution. For many years perhaps decades the German Palatines of the Dorf lived in an isolated area with little contact outside it. They had rough times in holding onto their land and no doubt did not look on strangers favorably.

Harmonous Sidrick's was the last home on the Schoharie Creek before reaching the Town of Florida in Montgomery County. Sidrick's was without a near neighbor down stream from 1731 until near the time of the Revolution when Jean Grantier and some other Merkles purchased land from James Duane around 1774 on the Duanesburg side of the Creek. The Sidrick (now spelled Sidney) Farm is now owned by James Vanderwerken. The Germans spent most of their efforts and funds on their farms and their notable Dutch Barns were a testament to that. Their homes were simple and medieval in style. The land itself was extremely fertile and the land and its people were subject of curious interest by those living out side its borders. A man by the name of Richard Smith made a journey through the area in 1769 and made the following notation; "We are informed that the flats on the Schoharie are pretty wide; the Improvements there from about 12 miles up the Creek may extend 20 miles further up; they carry their Wheat & Peas to Albany 40 miles and back again in Two Days. Some of the Farmers are reported to be worth money. It is asserted and probably with Truth that fresh Settlers frequently do not till their Land for the First Crop but only rake the ground clean, then sow the Wheat, harrow it in or draw a Bush over it and reap good Crops."


Last Updated: January 23, 2008

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