Posts Tagged Schenectady County Historical Society

The Mysterious Cherubs…

Cherub in the right hand corner of the painting of Ella and Charles

Staurring Family

In the dining room there are two paintings of Staurring family. The first painting is of Clarinda Dygert Staurring. The second painting is of her two children; Ella and Charles. In the second painting two small cherubs were painted below the portraits of Ella and Charles, this has always raised questions from visitors about whether the cherubs represented other childrenin the Staurring family that passed away or even if the painting was a memorial to Ella and Charles. Past guides thought that the cherubs indicated one of these scenarios. Ella and Charles both lived to be adults but there were other children in the family who either died young or there is no record of after their birth so there may be some truth to the cherubs depicting other family members.

Although no conclusive evidence could be found to link the cherubic paintings to a family tragedy the Staurrings do have an interesting past. Charles was born in 1817 and Clarinda was born in 1822. They lived; respectively; to past 1900 and to 1897. The couple had many children, although not uncommon for the mid 1800s. Charles first child was James but this was from a previous relationship and not from his marriage to Clarinda. James was born in 1834. Another son Joseph was born in 1840. Joseph only appears in one census account and may have died shortly after the 1855 census or he may have elected to move elsewhere when his family moved to Saratoga sometime between 1855 and 1860. After Joseph, Ella was born in 1844. Ellen’s birth was followed by Charles in 1846. The two painting subjects, Ella and Charles were followed by William. William was born in 1851 and only lived a few years. William’s death happened in May of 1857 when he was just seven years old. Two more children were born into the Dygert Starring family of Charles and Clarinda. Daniel was born in 1858 a year after William passed. Maud was born in 1864.

The Staurring family moved around frequently. Charles Staurring, was born in Little Falls, Herkimer, NY. Evidence also points to Clarinda being born within Herkimer County. The couple moved to Schenectady and lived there until sometime between 1855 and 1860 where Charles worked as a railroad conductor. By 1860 the family had moved to Saratoga where Charles was a hotel keeper. By 1865 the family relocated to New York City where Charles traded horses. Ella, still living at home, worked as a treasurer in the circus. Still in New York City in 1870 Charles stayed in the horse trading business. In 1880 the Staurrings were back in upstate New York, this time in Albany. Twenty years after his move back upstate, in 1900, Charles was a member of the Schenectady poor house.

After a year in Saratoga, the first son James moved back to Schenectady to board at the Fuller Hotel. James was a machinist who began boarding in 1862. From the Fuller Hotel James moved to 10 Quakenbush street in 1868. In 1871 James Staurring moved to 86 College Street where he appears to have stayed. James was married at 25 to Kate Schermerhorn in November of 1859. As was customary for the time Kate Schermerhorn’s name does not appear on any of the directory listings to clarify if she and James stayed together during his various moves.

Ella and Charles Stauring circa 1850, artist unknown

It is possible that the cherubic picture of Ella and Charles is a commemorative or memorial to the departed William but that means the artist would have been drawing Ella and Charles out of memory and not true to life. By the time William passed away in 1857 both Ella and Charles were more than 10 years old, while the painting suggests ages of no more than 2-5. Could the cherubs have been added later after William and possibly Joseph’s death? Without further research into the painting itself, it is purely speculation. The painting is a beautiful work and along with the paintings of Clarinda and Charles (whose painting is currently stored until it can be conserved) it is an amazing glimpse into one family’s life in Schenectady.

Charles born in 1817 and lived past 1900
Clarinda born 1822 and lived to 1897

Family locations
1850- Schenectady
1855- Schenectady
1860- Saratoga
1865- NYC
1870- NYC
1880- Albany
1900- Schenectady

Charles 33
Clarinda 28
James 16
Ellen 6
Charles 4
Charles 38 – railroad conductor
Clarinda 32
Joseph 15
Ellen 10
Charles 8
William 10
William died at 7 yrs old on May 24, 1857
Charles 53
Clarinda 48
Ellen 25
Charles 22
Daniel 12
Maud 6

James marries Kate Schermerhorn on November 29, 1859 married by Rev Dr Backus

Typical family names
Staurring Dygert
Stauring Dygart
Storring Dagget (?)
Storing Diegert
Starring Diegart



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The USS Schenectady

Today I saw that the USS Schenectady has a facebook page (!/pages/USS-Schenectady/68478434203).

Inspiration for USS Schenectady

The USS Schenectady was a Newport Class Tank Landing Ship named after Schenectady, New York. As part of a class-wide writing assignment, a letter, written by Franklin School fourth-grader Kimberly Duto in 1968 asked “Would it be possible to name one of the ships – Schenectady” after the students learned that a new series of ships were being constructed for the NAVY. This letter began a 34-year connection between the ship and the community it was named after.

Schenectady’s Industries Help to Build Ships

According to “On the Line with MAC Motors (v2,n15 May 1, 1970),” a newsletter for employees in the Medium AC Motor Department of General Electric, the name of the ship was not the only thing Schenectady contributed, “…the locomotive and engine products division of Alco Products, with headquarters in Schenectady, was manufacturing 153 engines for LST’s (Landing Ship-Tanks) in their Auburn Plant and General Electric was manufacturing part of the mechanism to propel the crafts.” GE’s SAC (small AC motor department) made motors for deck machinery and the MAC (medium AC motor department) manufactured 51 750 kw service generators according to “Schenectady GE News, v53, n18, 1790”. Also constructed by General Electric for the LSTs were:
* winch controllers and motors
* electrical pump controllers
* a bow thruster motor
* propeller pitch control hydraulic pump
* reduction gear standing lube oil pump
* main reduction gears
* a reduction gear-shaft turning gear
* a reduction gear-salt water circulating pump

The USS Schenectady Launched 1969

The USS Schenectady was built by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego, California. The keel was laid on August 2, 1968, and launched May 24, 1969. Schenectady Mayor Malcolm E. Ellis was the principal speaker at the commissioning ceremonies of the USS Schenectady on June 13, 1970, in San Diego. He recounted the 300 year history of our city. He alongside commanding officer Cdr. David Sigsworth, offered a proclamation to the crew. Many gifts from the citizens of this area were presented to the ship and her crew. Recreation equipment, books, flags, a bronze plaque, a silver tea service and other presents were donated to the USS Schenectady.

LST’s (Landing Ship-Tanks)

LST’s, Landing Ship-Tanks, were ocean-going ships which could be beached to discharge heavy equipment and troops. They were first used in the Solomon Islands during World War II. There were 1052 built during the war. The USS Schenectady was an entirely revolutionary design in amphibious landing ships. A 35 ton bow ramp supported by two derrick arms replaced the traditional bow doors of WWII LSTs. A stern gate permitted back loading, and the new destroyer type bow allowed speeds over 20 knots. Seventeen of these newly designed ships were built in San Diego in the early 1970s.

USS Schenectady’s Career of Service

The USS Schenectady had an active career of service. Early in its career it escorted NAVY ships to the Panama Canal. During the Vietnam War, the USS Schenectady served in the following campaigns:

Vietnamese Counter offensive – Phase VII
23 to 26 May 1971

Consolidation II
12 to 9 December 1971
5 to 7 January 1972
6 to 10 February 1972
15 to 17 February 1972
21 March 1972
24 to 26 March 1972

Vietnam Ceasefire
1 April to 7 May 1972
22 May to 11 June 1972
23 June to 15 July 1972

Earning three campaign stars for its efforts during the war.


T-shirt from the decommissioning of the USS Schenectady

USS Schenectady’s Final Mission

The USS Schenectady was decommissioned on December 15, 1993. Struck from the Naval Register on July 13, 2001, the USS Schenectady’s final mission was its sinking as a target by by B-52’s, B-1’s, F-15’s along with FA-18’s during SINEX – Exercise Resultant Fury 19, 21-22 November 2004.

The former Navy landing ship (tank) USS Schenectady is seen in the waters of the Pacific Ocean just west of Hawaii Tuesday just prior to her sinking by B-52 bombers, including one that flew directly from Barksdale Air Force Base, in Operation Resultant Fury.

“The USS Schenectady has been shot at, bombed, been beached a thousand times, and she’s been there on time ready for work. Schenectady is a dependable, trustworthy work horse of the fleet. She’s hauled thousands of Marines hundreds of thousands of miles, with hundreds of thousands of tons of equipment aboard, and she’s done so admirably…many countries have special memories of Schenectady, sailors coming to orphanages and working hard to bring happiness to homeless crippled children. Our men have told the story of your area more times then we can count to people from around the world…we have been proud to represent your city”

Ltgj L.M. Barney, Public Affairs Officer, USS Schenectady

USS Schenectady’s Awards

Combat Action Ribbon, NAVY “E” ribbon, NAVY Expeditionary Ribbon
National Defense Service Medal (2)
Vietnam Service Medal (2)
Southwest Asia Service Medal (2)
Humanitarian Service Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
(Gold Star)
Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Medal

For more information on the ship and its history check out:

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Mordecai Myers

Throughout American history Jewish immigrants sought to identify with their new homeland and sought acceptance as Americans. When Charles Guiteau shot President James Garfield in 1881, Schenectady’s Jews held a special prayer service at Gates of Heaven, and when he died they joined with their fellow Americans in mourning his death, and owners of businesses on State Street, like Isaac Levy, wholesale liquor dealer, and Lewis Behr, tailor, draped their shops in black for the fallen president. In times of national tragedy, Jews showed their loyalty as Americans.
Public service provided another means of showing loyalty and their acceptance by non-Jews as Americans. Mordecai Myers, native born, got elected mayor as a Democrat in 1851 and 1854. Fifty years later, Louis M. King, the son of a German Jewish immigrant, served as City Clerk from 1899-1902. Members of the Jewish community, like S. Levy, got elected to the post of city councilman. By the early 20th Century, Jews were well integrated into the civic and political life of the city—even forming a Jewish Republican Club in the 1920s. Jews also served on school boards, hospital boards, and city planning commissions. Integration into the social life of the city was evident in the membership of the Odd Fellows.
Jews served in every war since the Civil War. During World War I, the local Jewish newspaper published a list of every Jewish resident who volunteered or was drafted for military service. Members of the community organized a Jewish Welfare Board to support men in service and help Jewish soldiers from outside the area stationed in South Schenectady during the war. Men from the area wrote they missed the baseball games sponsored by the Y with their co-religionists from Albany, another sign of the Americanization of the sons of immigrants. Similarly, in World War II, the Jewish Welfare Board was recreated in 1943 to help the troops and encourage women to assist in war related events, like bond drives. Members of the community served on civilian groups aiding the war effort, like the county War Council. In 1935, veterans of World War I organized a chapter of the Jewish War Veterans. In May 1948, the community dedicated a plaque to the Jewish men from Schenectady who died in World War II. Jewish War Veterans Post 106 conducted a special memorial service that month at Ohab Sholom-Bnai Abraham. This service reinforced the community’s identity as Jews and Americans.

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Gates of Heaven

The first Jews who settled in Schenectady, primarily peddlers, tailors, and minor merchants in clothing, liquor, and groceries, organized a congregation in 1854. The congregation formally incorporated on October 20, 1856 as Sharei Shomajim. Initially, the members came from Germany, and lived in the area near Union, Liberty, College, Front, and Ferry streets. The establishment of the first congregation in Schenectady paralleled the organization of synagogues in Albany, Troy, and other parts of upstate New York. Members of this “Israelitish Church” used German, Yiddish, and Hebrew and prayed according to Orthodox German ritual, probably similar to Beth El in Albany. At first, members met in homes but began to meet in a building on 6 Liberty Street and later 206 Liberty Street. In 1859, the congregation became one of the founding members of the first national Jewish body, Board of Delegates of American Israelites. By 1865, it acquired a new building on 7-9 Ferry Street. Most accounts suggest that it was the only congregation in Schenectady until the late 1880s, but a report in 1910 suggested it may have merged with another congregation on Ferry Street.
In 1891 the congregation began work on a new building on College Street where the synagogue remained from 1892 to 1920. Members of Gates of Heaven established the first Jewish cemetery in 1857, and by the late 19th Century, the first Jewish associations, not directly connected to a synagogue, actually consisted of members from the congregation. By this point, the Gentile community called the congregation the College Street temple or synagogue. Between 1890-1907 the congregation altered its religious ritual formally joining the Reform body, Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1907. The growth of the congregation and the movement of its members led to plans to move the synagogue to what the press called the upper part of the city in 1910. However, it took a decade before the congregation purchased a church on Rugby Road and Parkwood Boulevard, converted into a synagogue and moved to its new structure in 1920. The College Street building opened as a Catholic Church in 1922. Reflecting the suburbanization of the Jewish community after World War II, Gates of Heaven relocated to present location on Eastern Parkway and Ashmore Ave in 1956.

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In the Devil’s Snare: Schenectady’s Connection to the Salem Witch Trials

In celebration of the opening of “Wicked” at Proctors, we are exploring the more historical side of witches! This is not the first time that Schenectady has been connected with witchcraft. Learn about Schenectady’s connection with the most famous witch trial in history…

On February 8th, 1690, Schenectady faced a devastating set back when 114 French troops and 96 Native Americans descended upon the unsuspecting town. After a bloody attack, 60 men, women, and children lost their lives, 27 men and boys were taken captive, and the town was set ablaze. As demoralizing as the catastrophe was to the survivors in Schenectady and the residents of upstate New York in general, it had lasting negative effects on the settlers of New England and, according to author Mary Beth Norton, helped (along with other French and Native attacks on English communities) cause the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials.

Between February 1692 and May 1693 over 150 people were accused by a group of 40 or so individuals (mostly girls and female servants). By the end of the hysteria, nineteen people were hanged, one person was pressed to death, and as many as thirteen people may have died in prison. How could this tragedy stem from a French attack on a Dutch community over 150 miles away and culturally a world apart? In her book “In the Devil’s Snare” Mary Beth Norton hypothesizes on the emotional and psychological impact that the attacks had on people living very far away. Their fear of Native People especially helped create their image of the “Devil” and his abilities to ingratiate himself into their very community attacking their homes and families in a less visible but no less dangerous way then the Native Americans attacking frontier communities. The following selections from her book help explain the unexpected connection with the unthinkable attack on Schenectady with the most notorious witch hunt in American history.

1690 was a year of terrible attacks and setbacks for the English government in their war against France and their Native American allies. On February 24th, Samuel Sewall and his wife hosted a dinner party. “What should have been a pleasant and festive occasion, though, turned to ‘bitterness,’ Sewall noted in his diary, when the post arrived from Albany with the ‘amazing news’ of ‘the Massacre at Schenectady by the French.’” His journal went on to describe the attack “Schenectady, a village 20 miles above Albany, destroy’d by the French. 60 Men, Women and Children murder’d. Women and Child rip’d up, Children had their Brains dash’d out. Were surprise’d about 11 or 12 aclock Satterday night, being divided, and secure.”

The Schenectady attack has not the only attack undertaken by the French that cold, miserable winter. On March 18th, just as prisoners captured after the attack on Schenectady had predicted, 60 French and Natives attacked the community at Salmon Falls. Eighty to 100 people were killed or captured, the fort and more than 20 houses were destroyed as well as many cattle killed. After 5 days of fighting, the community of Falmouth surrendered to the French and their Native allies. Although promised quarter, the survivors of the attack were taken captive; many of the wounded men were killed.

These losses stunned and frightened many New Englanders and although many saw the attacks on Schenectady and Salmon Falls to at least be partially the fault of the settlers for their “unpardonable negligence” that “such a people are miserable and canot be saved,” the fear of attack and “Indians” in general put the whole country into a state of panic for the rest of 1690 and well into 1691.

This fear of attacks by Native people allied with the French may not be an easy jump to accusing your neighbors of witchcraft without the description of how New Englanders described the devil. In the various “attacks” and “confessions” of Salem residents, the devil is described as a “black man.” Historically this was believed to describe a man in black clothing and, further confusing the description, our modern terminology would bring about the image of a man of African descent. Norton asserts that “more likely than a reference to wearing apparel is that the adjective alluded to the specter’s dark or swarthy complexion- indeed, that the specter the witnesses envisioned resembled an Indian. On numerous occasions seventeenth-century colonists employed the word ‘black’ to mean ‘Indian’”

Misconceptions on the part of New Englanders that Native People were devil worshipers would explain why the devil looked like his followers. As people heard of more and more attacks after Schenectady, they feared for their own lives, for raids on their own communities. Truly believing that the devil walked among them and could attack at will, they saw his manifestation in Salem and his ability to not only attack the residents but to bring others into his circle as a logical strategy. The people of Salem were all to willing to see the “black man” their enemy amongst them.

Although revolutionary in her theories, Mary Beth Norton’s book has some logical and convincing arguments. It shows the interconnection between Colonial New York’s Dutch community and that of New England. While enjoying “Wicked” (or simply walking down the streets of the historic Stockade District) think about the connections Schenectady has to some of the benchmark periods of our country’s history!

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Food, Drink and Celebrations: An Interview with Dutch Culinary Historian, Peter Rose

Recently Peter Rose sat down with Daily Gazette Reporter and SCHS volunteer Bill Buell to talk about her newest books and her most recent research. 

Peter’s newest program, Saint Nicholas: The Saint Who Became Santa, was a huge success at the Schenectady County Historical Society.  Speaking to a standing room only crowd, Peter explored the history of Santa Claus from a Bishop of Myra to the Dutch Sinterklaas and finally the Americanized Santa Claus of today.  Using beautiful paintings and artwork from history as well as little known documents from New York’s colonial past Peter successfully educated as well as entertained our audience.

The Schenectady County Historical Society thanks Peter Rose for her amazing program as well as the New York State Council for the Humanities’ Speakers in the Humanities grant program for making talk a reality and especially thank you to our amazing volunteers who always do so much and are able to overcome any hurdle!

If you missed Peter’s program (or just can’t get enough of Dutch Culinary History!) check out Bill Buell’s interview at the attached link.  Copies of Peter’s numerous books are available at the historical society (the perfect gift for the foodie on your list!)

<a href=" view Peter’s interview

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Faces of Schenectady: The Mabee Connection

By Ona Curran

 Curator Kathryn Weller and Guest Curator Ona Curran are planning an exhibit on early 18th century portraiture from Schenectady County.  Scheduled to open  May 10, 2010 the exhibit will showcase portraits of the Veeders, Glens, Sanders, Becks, Truax, Swarths, Van Slyck, Ten Eyck and the Society’s portraits of  Helena Van Eps and the Van der Volgens. Illustrated is the portrait of Anna Mol Fairly Beck a niece of Jan Pieterse Mabee the progenitor of the Mabee name in Schenectady and the first Mabee to own the historic Mabee house given to the Society by the late George Franchere, a descendant. Groundbreaking ceremonies were recently held for an Education Center on the site. The portrait of Anna Mol beck is the only known Mabee portrait from this early period of Schenectady history.

Van Cortlandt Manor with Anna Beck portrait

Owned and operated by Historic Hudson Valley, Van Cortlandt Manor presents the life of a Post-American Revolutionary War family. Visitors can see how the house may have been furnished during the early Federal period and learn about the excitment and difficulties of living in a new nation. View of the parlor. The two portraits (1724-1725) are of Caleb and Anna Beck, relatives of the Van Cortlandt family, attributed to artist Nehemiah Partridge. This view also provides a glimpse of the outstanding collection of Chinese export porcelain in the house.

 came to Schenectady in 1703 following her marriage to Caleb Beck. She was the daughter of Engeltie Mabee and Jan Jansen Mol and granddaughter of Pieter Casparzen Mabee and Aechtje Jans.

The exhibit will celebrate the Society’s recent acquisition of the Van der Volgen collection which includes an important portrait of Laurens Claus Van der Volgen  who was taken prisoner by the Indians during the 1690 massacre, returned to Schenectady ten years later and became interpreter for the New York Province. The portrait is attributed to Nehemiah Partridge and was painted about 1720. It is a major addition to the society’s collection.

Portraits of early 18th century residents are in major museum collections throughout the East. The various museums have been invited to participate. The Society is anxious to learn of other portraits of this period which may be in family collections and is interested in hearing from you. Contact Kate Weller Curator or Ona Curran guest curator of the exhibit.

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