Buffalo Courier September 2, 1883 Article

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY
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Go to Anti-rent Wars
Buffalo Courier September 2, 1883

An anti-rent war is impending among the farmers of the Helderberg mountains in Albany county. The trouble is caused by the eviction of a number of tenants for the nonpayment of their rents by Colonel Walter S. Church of Albany, who owns several hundred farms in the county. Within a week a number of farms belonging to Church have been burned, and incendiarism seems to be on the increase. The people of the neighborhood have sided generally with the evicted farmers, and the fires are attributed to them. The difficulty arises out of the old manorial rights of the Van Rensselaer patroons. They owned extensive grants of territory in Albany county under the Dutch government and for many years were obliged to collect by process of force the rents due from squatters and settlers. For a long period it was impossible to collect any rent, as the farmers armed themselves and drove from the mountains the agents of the patroons.

In 1845 several skirmishes between the sheriff's posse, the military and the farmers occurred, and a number of farmers were captured and imprisoned. Anti-rent was made a political issue in the state in 1846, was successful,, and the imprisoned farmers were released on the ground that their offense was political, not criminal In 1860 the troubles again broke out. and the militia was sent to preserve order in the Helderbergs. The feeling against Col. Church, whose ownership dates back twelve years, is very bitter. His life has been threatened frequently, and several officers have been killed during the period. The new tenants whom he has put upon the farms have been warned that their houses would be burned if they remained, and in several instances they have been driven by fear to desert their farms. The feeling has been aggravated by the recent death of Peter Ball, a leader in the anti-rent war of 1845.

Buffalo Courier September 2, 1883