Albany Night Watch
Stefan Bielinski

The Albany Night Watch was an additional vigilance detachment (apparently beyond constables and firemasters). A list of its members appeared as such in the City Records for January 1770. However, that event appears to have had many predecessors. This page currently focuses on the men who have been identified as members of the watch mostly dating from the mid-eighteenth century. At the same time, we will learn more about its actual functions and activities. At this point, this offering is in its initial stage of development. It will become more useful in the future.

Perhaps the so-called "Rattle Watch" had its American origins in New Amsterdam during the 1650s. In Albany, its contemporary, also called the rattle watch, was empowered and more fully described in the Beverwyck court minutes for September 1659. At that time, Lambert Van Valkenburgh and Pieter Winne were placed in charge for the next year.

In April 1754, a delegation was was empowered to lay before the General Assembly [a petition] "to gitt a Night Watch for the city of Albany." In December, the Albany council enacted an ordinance for "appointing, establishing and regulating a good and sufficient Night Watch in the City of Albany." Earlier that autumn, Johannis Seger was identified as the council's liaison to the "overseer of the Watch." A year later, the council again petitioned the Assembly for funding for the Watch. For a number of years following little action appears to have been taken on this initiative.

In March 1764, the city records published an ordinance for "appointing & establishing a good and sufficient night-watch for the city of Albany."

On January 3 1770, the city records posted a call for "twenty-one Sober persons to keep the City night watch. Resolved by this Board that an Advertisement be put that this Board wants twenty-one Sober persons to keep the City night watch and that they give their names to the Aldermen or Assistants of each ward on or before next Saturday who have a mind to serve as watchman. A few days later the names of "Joseph Hagerman, James Miller, John Wilkerson, Jonathan Brook, Jur, James Smith, John Forster, John Armstrong, Thomas Hilton, Albartus Bloomendal, Philip Young, Patrick McGrigor, Robert Bruse, Richard Hickson, James Dunneway, Nicholas Druly, John Burgess, John Flensburg, Peter Marshel, Obediah Van Benthuysen, James Green, [and] Henry Beesly" were named to serve under the direction of Joseph I. Yates. Without explaining why these particular young men were selected, it seems that many of them were relative newcomers to the city and/or that they represented Anglo rather than New Netherlandic backgrounds.

In March 1770, the city Council authorized payment of £40 to Joseph Yates, "Overseer of the Night watch," to pay the Watchmen for two months.

essay in progress


Not yet!

Home | Site Index | Navigation | Email | New York State Museum

first posted: 1/10/19