Saturday, September 8, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Greenport

Calling itself "the forgotten town," Greenport is celebrating the 175th anniversary of its creation today. In his article about the celebration, which appeared in the Register-Star yesterday, Billy Shannon attributes the founding of the Town of Greenport to Oliver Wiswald. Unfortunately, he got the name wrong. It's Oliver Wiswall, and the creation of Greenport was more an act of secession than of founding. 

Captain Franklin Ellis, writing in 1878, describes Oliver Wiswall as a "public man of great energy and activity." He was an alderman in Hudson in 1822 and 1823. In 1824, he took over the Hudson Weekly Gazette, the newspaper started by Ashbel Stoddard in 1785. Wiswall was mayor of Hudson in 1827 and 1828, but nine years later, he was leading the effort to separate the "outlying territory" of Hudson from the "compactly built portion of the city." Here's Ellis's account of the creation of Greenport:
The name is supposed to have been determined by Oliver Wiswall, who assisted in procuring the act authorizing the formation of the town. Its significance arises, perhaps, from the beautiful appearance of Mount Merino, as it projects, with its rounded summit, to the view of boatmen coming from the north; its slopes and its heights, covered with green verdure, marking from a long distance above the entrance to the port.
Mt. Merino, in the Catskills--Sanford Robinson Gifford
The town was formed May 13, 1837, and was composed of the outlying territory of the city of Hudson, leaving to the latter only a narrow tract, beyond the compactly built portion of the city. The people in the remoter portions of the city territory had for many years been opposed to sharing the heavy financial burdens incident to the city government. The cost of paved and lighted streets--of public buildings--of city improvements generally, was being paid in proportion to their assessments by the citizens four and five miles distant equally with those in the city proper. This became very burdensome, and the movement for a town organization acquired finally a controlling power, and was successful in procuring the authority of the Legislature to organize.
There is no doubt that there was some reasonable argument on both sides. It is true that perhaps nine-tenths of the people of Greenport--weekly and many of them daily--enjoy all the city improvements, and therefore it was argued that they might justly be required to pay for them. Yet there was danger that useless and unnecessary expenses would be voted by the compactly settled portion of the city despite the protest of the "rural districts." The farmers were successful in releasing themselves from this danger. The movement, too, had an immediate practical result. Charles Hollenbeck states that the taxes went down nearly one-half the next year after the town was organized.
It is due to the citizens of Hudson to add that they made no very determined nor prolonged opposition to the formation of the town. Those friendly to the organization of the town and active at Albany in supporting the measure were, besides Mr. Wiswall, Jacob R. Hollenbeck, Michael W. Hollenbeck, Jones (sic) H. Miller, Christian Happy, John Tompkins, and probably there were others.
Gossips Note: Oliver Wiswall's home on Mount Merino, which in 1878 Ellis described as "somewhat neglected, and its fine buildings scarcely occupied," will be the setting for the benefit reception following Historic Hudson's 2012 house tour on October 6, "Rooms with a View." 

Photograph of the Oliver Wiswall House courtesy Historic Hudson

1 comment:

  1. When is the Greenport Historical Society going to start on the stone house St Lawrence / Holcin gifted them ?