Monday, November 24, 2008

The History of Esperance and Sloansville

The town of Esperance, prior to 1846, was territory in Schoharie. Esperance means “hope” in French. A man who bought Esperance in 1806 was a patriot general, who served in the state assembly , and was appointed to the U.S. Senate.

In 1792, a turnpike went through Esperance and a bridge was put over the Schoharie Creek, but was washed away by a flood in 1798. The new bridge was first used in 1812. One citizen of Esperance was appointed by President Hayes to be the Council of Italy. The first schoolhouse was built in 1805, and a new one was built in 1810. Another resident of Esperance went to the state constitutional convention of 1821.

The first store and post office were both set up in 1805. Esperance’s first fire company was organized in 1868, although receiving a charter to do so 36 years previous. The building being used for an academy was originally built as a horse stable. In Esperance was a cabinet shop, two chair factories, and a paper mill, owned by Dr. Leonard, who was Dr. Best’s father-in-law. A toll booth was built in 1810 and was passed by over 700 coaches a day, and made a thousand dollars a month. Before railroads became prominent, the coach business was popular, with between 40 and 150 passengers daily.

Sloansville was settled around 1756 by Palatines. There were four taverns in Sloansville, and the first Baptist church in the county was created there. Nearby was the Indian stone heap, built because of the familiar legend that one warrior killed another warrior, and in that spot a stone heap was erected to appease the spirits. Kneiskern’s Dorf was located near Esperance.

Lambert Sternbergh settled near the town, and he, of course, was the first person to grow wheat in the valley. The first grist mill was built by John Kneiskern, and stood until 1780. One citizen of Sloansville was the county sheriff during the anti-rent problems. In 1832, the Schoharie Free Press newspaper moved to Esperance, and became the Esperance Sentinel.

Can you imagine that, in our small county, one of the residents was the Council to Italy. Except for Governor Bouck, and eventually President Laraway, Council to Italy is the most prestigious government job held by a resident in our county.

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