New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects

New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects


Each region of the nation has its own distinctive history and identity. The New York’s Capital Region—consisting of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga Counties—is no different. But what best identifies the region? What events, objects, people, and ideas have contributed to its character and uniqueness?

To learn the answers, we presented these questions to the numerous museums, historical organizations, libraries, and residents of the Capital Region. The fifty objects that were ultimately selected present an exciting history of the Capital Region, including well-known favorites but also unexpected surprises. Some of the fifty objects characterize very broad topics like the textile industry and the Hudson River School of art, while others embody large populations of people who shaped the character of the region, such as the Dutch and the Iroquois. Many objects represent specific people or events, such as writer William Kennedy and the Battle of Saratoga. In some instances, the objects represent themselves, like the GE Monitor Top refrigerator and Albany’s beloved Nipper statue. A complementary image accompanies each of the fifty objects, providing context and additional information.

Overall, the fifty objects clearly demonstrate that this narrowly circumscribed part of New York State has played an astonishing role in shaping the history of the nation and, in several instances, the world beyond the confines of our national borders.

Witenagemot Oak Peace Tree

Witenagemot is an old English word that means “Council of the Wise.” In England, a Witenagemot was called to help settle a dispute peacefully by discussion.

In April 1676, a Witenagemot was convened on the property of what is now the Knickerbocker Mansion in Schaghticoke, New York—the only one ever convened in North America. New York Governor Edmund Andros realized that there were three conflicts brewing in the area about twenty-five miles north of Albany near the juncture of the Hudson and Hoosick Rivers. First, both the Mohawk and Mohican Indians claimed the area. Second, the refugee Indian tribes from King Phillip’s War were moving into the contested area. Third, the French in New France (now Canada) were determined to take New York, and they continually sent armed troops and Indian allies south in attempts to capture Albany. For Albany, the “stopping point” for this French advance was the area around Schaghticoke.

In 1676, the Board of Indian commissioners headed by Governor Andros and his counselors, judges, and clergy, along with the militia of the King of England, traveled to the Indian village on the Hoosick River and invited the Indians from the area to participate in the Council. More than 1,000 Indians joined the group. The treaty established a link of friendship with the Mohawk, Mohican, and Hoosac tribes; it strengthened the alliance of Fort Albany militia with the Hudson and Hoosick River Indian scouts to help defend Albany from the French invaders; and, it provided for New England Indians to live in the area peacefully until they could make plans to move on to other areas.

To commemorate this treaty, an oak tree was planted. The oak tree was known as the Witenagemot Oak Peace Tree. It stood until 1949 when a flood toppled it.

Branch of the Witenagemot Oak Peace Tree

Planted 1676


Courtesy of the Knickerbocker Historical Society

The Witenagemot Oak Peace Tree

Late nineteenth or early twentieth century

Gelatine silver photographic print

Courtesy of the Knickerbocker Historical Society

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