Francis Nicoll


Francis Nicoll was born in 1742 and was christened at the Albany Dutch church on October 31. He was the son of Rensselaer and Elizabeth Salisbury Nicoll. His father's landmark estate, and Francis's eventual home, was located south of Albany.

In September 1762, he married Margaret Van Rensselaer of Claverack. By 1768, the marriage had produced three children. In December 1795, these Van Rensselaers had become members of the newly formed Bethlehem Reformed church.

Service in the provincial militia prepared him for commissions in the Revolutionary militia and also in the Provincial Congress. However, his actual service and mentalite´ are encapsulated in the traditional history and lore of Bethlehem.

Francis Nicoll was a member of the Albany Committee of Correspondence representing Rensselaerswyck. Afterwards, he received a land bounty right in conjunction with the Third or Rensselaerswyck regiment of the Albany militia.

In May 1778, he joined other Albany area notables in signing a petition in support of a "venerable" yet convicted horse thief.

Forty-one at the end of the war, Francis Nicoll was on track to take his place among regional leaders.

In August 1788, he was identified among the local celebrities who marched in the Ratification Parade. Farmer Nicoll guided "a neat harrow."

In 1790, his household was configured on the census for what was then Watervliet. With eighteen individuals counted, Nicoll was the largest slaveholder in Albany County. After that, his household was listed under Bethlehem. He appears to have retained most of his slaves during his lifetime.

Upon the passing of his mother in 1790, Francis became proprietor of the Bethlehem mansion. His prominent son-in-law, attorney Richard Sill, died in 1790. His widow, Elizaeth Nicoll Sill, and her children moved in for a time with her father in Bethlehem. Elizabeth's son, William Sill, then took charge of the landmark known today as "Cedar Hill" or as the "Nicoll Sill House."

In 1794, he was identified among the subscribers supporting Union College.

In 1796, he was elected to the New York State Senate from the "Western District."

In 1807, the will of Jeremiah Van Rensselaer made specific provision for a family debt to Nicoll to be paid out of his estate.

Margaret Van Rensselaer Nicoll died in March 1812 at the age of sixty. Francis Nicoll died in September 1815 a few months short of his eightieth birthday. His will passed probate in January 1818. Both were interred in the Nicoll-Sill cemetery in Bethlehem.

This sketch seeks to connect Bethlehem resident Francis Nicoll to city-based activities and to place his life in an Albany-related context. We cannot actively pursue a comprehensive biography.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Francis Nicoll is CAP biography number 1682. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

Rensselaer Nicoll (1706-1776). Inherited his father's Rensselaerswyck property and is said to have built the so-called Rensselaer Nicoll House in 1735. Appears to have made it his principal seat for the balance of his life. Most of his activity was beyond the scope of our enquiry. The same can be said for Francis (countryside person as well - but times were more charged and demanding than during the life of his father) who is said to have inherited the house following his father's death. At this time, we have not decided to pursue them further - but someone should as our latest sweep of IRS is not very satisfying.

first posted: 8/25/12; updated 1/1/13