Historians indebted to Union professor for early work
SCHENECTADY Want a little history?
Union College president Eliphalet Nott wasn’t interested, barking, “It is small business to be raking among the dust and rubbish of the past.”
Fortunately, Jonathan Pearson didn’t agree.
A long-time professor and treasurer at the school, Pearson ignored Nott’s attitude about the past, and went about documenting Schenectady’s long and varied history. His book, “The History of the Schenectady Patent,” was published in 1883, and historians who have followed in his footsteps have forever been in Pearson’s debt.
Along with his 466-page general history, Pearson produced works on Rensselaerwyck and the First Reformed Church, the latter a collaboration with the Rev. W.E. Griffis, also quite a prolific historian as well as a popular minister at the First Reformed.
In 1886, George Rogers Howell and John H. Munsell, paying significant homage to Pearson in their introduction, came out with “The History of the County of Schenectady from 1662-1886,” and that large effort was followed in 1902 by Austin Yates’ even more voluminous “The History of Schenectady County.”
In 1904, George Roberts got a favorable review in The New York Times for his book on the city’s history, “Old Schenectady,” and in 1914 Joel Monroe came out with “Schenectady: Ancient and Modern.”
Others have written books pertaining to certain periods of Schenectady’s history, such as Willis Hanson’s “Schenectady During the American Revolution,” from 1916, and another notable piece of work is John Vrooman’s historical novel, “The Massacre,” published in 1940.
Former Gazette reporter and city/county historian Larry Hart produced dozens of picture books, many of them using his own collection of photographs from the 1940s through the 1960s, and John Birch’s 1962 book, “The Markers,” continues to serve as a reference for today’s historians.
More recently, in 1991 Thomas Burke wrote “Mohawk Frontier: The Dutch Community of Schenectady: 1661-1710,” and in 2004 Susan Staffa also focused on the city’s Colonial past in “Schenectady Genesis.”
In 2009, to help the Schenectady County Historical Society commemorate the 200th anniversary of the formation of the county, Gazette reporter Bill Buell produced “Historic Schenectady County.”