Transcribed by Crist Middaugh


Genesee Reflections

Bill Greene

Schuyler: Important name in Allegany Co.’s history

Unless you are a native of Belmont, you would be inclined to call the road through the business district, Main Street. After all, that’s the normal thing. But at some time, probably when the village was first subdivided about 1840, that section from the intersection of North and South Streets easterly to the river was named Schuyler Street. This was only natural because the owner was still Philip Church, who just happened to be a grandson of the Revolutionary General Philip Schuyler. Let’s see what we have on file on the family.

“Chamber’s Encyclopedia” gives this account. Peter John Schuyler was born at Albany Nov. 22, 1733. He first saw service during the French and Indian War at Lake George where he raised a company of soldiers.

Next, he was a member of the colonial assembly followed by becoming a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775. At the Congress he was appointed one of four major generals, and given the territory of northern New York. He was preparing to invade Canada when ill health forced him give command to General Montgomery. As so often seemed to happen among generals, there was internal politicing and jealousies. This particularly involved General Gates.

In 1779 there was a congressional investigation and Schuyler was cleared of all charges, however he resigned his commission. He remained friends with Washington. In addition to sitting in congress from 1777 to 1781, he acted as Commissioner for Indian Affairs. Now it could not be done, but rules were different in those days. At the same time he was a Congressman, he was a New York State senator. He served as Senator from 1780 to 1797. Again overlapping, he was U.S. Senator from 1789-91 and 1797-98.

Meanwhile, beginning in 1782 he was a State Surveyor-General. In politics he shared leadership of the Federalist Party in New York with his son-in-law Alexander Hamilton. He was influential in organizing the state code of laws. He died Nov. 18, 1804 at Albany.

We have to go to another book, “Women of the Revolution” by Elizabeth Ellet to learn the story of Mrs. Schuyler. She was the former Catherine Van Rensselear which indicates the power base of the family. The Van Rensselears were the original patrons of the upper Hudson. Catherine superintended the construction of the family home while the General was in England about 1760.

Even during war times there seems to have been a fellowship among the aristocracy. Because the Schuylers were as fluent in French as in English their home was a favorite stopping place. Prisoners were treated like members of the family.

While the armies were retreating before the British in the early days of the Revolution, Catherine Schuyler took charge of what we know as “scorched earth.” She even burned her own home, furniture and fields to keep them from the advancing enemy.

Even their home in Albany was not safe from Indian attack. Tour guides will show you the mark in the stares where a tomahawk struck after bouncing off the head of little Philip Church. She departed this world in 1803 just after grandson Philip had commenced settlement of the tract of Angelica.