Stuyvesant is in the northwest corner of Columbia County, bordered on the north by Rensselaer County, the east by the Town of Kinderhook, the south by Stockport and the west by the Hudson River.
Archaeological evidence demonstrates the Native Americans were in partnership with the land along the river’s edge long before Henry Hudson made his exploration in 1609. They fished the river, planted corn and pumpkin. Communication was probably carried out by signal fires built on the shale hill above the waters they named Muhheakunnuk, meaning “great waters or sea-constantly ebbing and flowing.”
In the mid-1700’s local sloops, many belonging to beaver fur traders, plied the river. Formerly known as Kinderhook Landing, Stuyvesant became a separate township in 1823.
An agricultural community, several farms have been handed down through successive generations of the same family. A second principal waterway in the town is the Kinderhook Creek, with its two-step natural waterfall at Stuyvesant Falls. Both sides of the creek were claimed for paper and textile mills in the early 1800’s.
Spectacular views of the upper and lower falls can be viewed from the historic iron truss bridge in the hamlet that spans the creek. The area at the north end of town became known as Poolsburgh, named after the VanderPoel family who settled there. They were instrumental in planning the course of the Farmer’s Turnpike (now Route 9J) which was charted in 1813.
Using the clay along the riverbank, brick-making was an early local industry. Ice harvesting, another typical Hudson River industry, provided a valuable service in the pre-electric refrigeration days. Stuyvesant had as many as four large icehouses along its more than nine miles of shoreline.
Docking sites varied over the years following the natural changes of the river channel. Freight sloops made trips to New York City as early as 1820. In 1836, the Kinderhook Stuyvesant Steamboat Association formed.
Farmers as distant as Albany and Pittsfield, MA, used the Stuyvesant docks to ship and receive produce and goods.
A ferry service that ran until 1938 was established between Newton Hook and Coxsackie in 1820.
The Hudson River Railroad Company laid track along the east shore of the river in 1850, forever changing access to this neighboring waterway. Stuyvesant had freight and passenger service through the World War II years.
Stuyvesant Falls had rail service from 1891 to 1929. At first powered by steam, the railroad was electrified by the turn of the century and extended to Albany. The power that operated the third rail for the Albany & Southern Railway Company was generated at Stuyvesant Falls.
Today, just over 2,000 people call Stuyvesant home. Community pride is reflected by many active volunteer groups and celebrated yearly on Historic Stuyvesant Day held the second Saturday of August.
Juanita Knott, Stuyvesant Historian