Adam Blake


The legendary Albany character known as Adam Blake is said to have been born in 1770 and to have been a native of Red Hook in what became Columbia County. However, a later source noted that "Adam Blake, [was] brought to New York a slave by Jacob Lansing and sold to the Patroon." This former slave has been confused with his son (or grandson), hotel owner Adam Blake (c.1829-81).

In March 1803, the then twenty-three-year-old married Sarah Richards at the Albany Dutch church. She is said to have been a Van Rensselaer slave as well.

He was noted in A Pinkster Ode - 1803, as the "body servant to the old patroon."

By 1819, the city directory listed his residence as in Arbor Hill. His name was italicized identifying him as a "free person of color."

Beginning in 1820, the Albany census configued his household. At that time, the enumeration reported a boy and a young girl, "Free Colored" Blake and two women as living in his household.

In 1821, he is said to have been certified as "having been free for the past 10 years according to New York State law" by the Albany court of common pleas. At that time, his age was given as thirty-six and he was said to have been born in Red Hook, Columbia County.

Following the death of Van Rensselaer in 1839, he lived with his family on Third Street in Arbor Hill and was a regular participant in services at the North Dutch church. Perhaps, he lived in New York following the death of his wife in 1841.

Adam Blake died in January 1864. A remarkable and lengthy newspaper obituary summarized his life. He had lived ninety-four years. Along with his more famous son and namesake, he is buried at Albany Rural Cemetery. Letters of administration were issued on his estate in August 1865.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Adam Blake is CAP biography number 1052. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

Obituary dated January 10, 1864:" Adam Blake died, aged 94. Sentinel, the correspondent of The New York World, wrote as follows: " I do not understand precisely why this correspondent should be expected to be the necrologist of the remarkable people that die in Albany; but I have waited to see some mention made of the decease of Adam Blake, a very aged colored man who was in many respects a representative person. Born in New York before the revolution, he was brought up to Albany, and for a very long period was one of the patroon's slaves at the manor house, with a manner and style that made him a remarkable man. He was of that class of his people who, in their way, were of that high order of good breeding which we vaguely call the old school, and by which we mean a thorough courtesy. His funeral was indicative of the respect borne to his memory the patroon communicating through the Rev. Dr. Clark, of the Dutch church, his regret that he was prevented by indisposition from being present at the last scene of one of the old race of family service." His death, said the Times, has erased from the catalogue of men the last of his day and generation. Born about the close of the French and Indian war, he passed through the revolutionary struggle and the war of 1812, and lived to see his native land excited by a wicked civil war. Mr. Blake was in many respects a remarkable man. Endowed with more than ordinary abilities, he by his position was enabled to gather instruction, and to attain a strict courtesy of manners which he observed up to his death. Mr. Blake was born in the city of New York, and, when a mere boy, was brought to this city, a slave, by Jacob Lansing. How long he remained a bondman we are not reliably informed, but we subsequently find him at the manor house, in the employ of the late Gen. Stephen Van Rensselaer. As a servant of the patroon, he endeared himself to every member of the family. In his old age, in a spirit of self satisfied pride, he asserted that he brought up all the children of the patroon, for he " dangled them upon his knees." Subsequently, we trace him in the employ of De Witt Clinton, when governor of the state, and also to Attorney General Hoffman, when that gentleman resided in this city. But wherever Mr. Blake was, he always commanded respect by that high order of good breeding and courtesy towards all, for which he was proverbial. The last fifty years of his life he spent with his family in Third street, but lost the partner of his bosom in 1841. Within the past twelve years he was only once south of the North Dutch church; and then he was conveyed away from his home by his son, a resident of this city. During his lifetime, Mr. Blake was a regular attendant at the North Dutch church, and even in his declining years, when his strength failed, he was in attendance on communion Sundays. Thus passed away Adam Blake, at the age of 94 years.

first posted: 1/10/12