The Mabee Farm is typical of the type of building I am seeking out for this project. Relatively unknown, this Historic Site is comprised of three buildings which have undergone very little change since the current site configuration which dates from before the Revolution. At this very moment plans are being made to preserve these structures from further ruin. A much needed renovation program is about to begin which will insure that these buildings remain standing. Unfortunately, as with all renovations, certain aspects of the original structures will be lost. These photographs are the only quality visuals to adequately describe these structures in their present state. Although extremely weakened, the viewer can readily see many key aspects of the construction techniques used by the early colonists.

 The Jan Pieterse Mabee farm in Rotterdam Junction, Schenectady County, NY is recorded by State of New York historians as having been first occupied in 1670 at what was then at the western extreme of settlement in the Mohawk Valley. A national Historical Register Site, it has been in continual residential use ever since that date. It was originally owned by one Daniel Janse van Antwerpen, a Schenectady fur trader, farmer and land speculator- who sold the farm to Jan Mabee in 1706. The farm remained in the ownership of Mabee and his descendants for 287 years passing by will until January of 1992 when George E. Franchere of Dunedio, Florida, the last Mabee family heir, respecting the wishes of his mother and aunt, donated it to the Schenectady County Historical Society for public use, display, and preservation.

The ancient residential structures are three in number: a Stone House built in about 1680 and expanded in 1709; a wood frame Mabee Inn, operated as a hotel catering to river men from about the years 1730 to 1820; and a brick/half frame Slave Quarters, apparently constructed in about 1730 upon the stone foundations of the earliest structure built by about 1670. In about 1870 an enclosed porch was added tying the Inn to the Stone House.

The fur trading monopoly belonged to residents of Albany and the earliest structure was apparently a cellar hole house used as an illicit fur trading post. In the 1660's Van Antwerpen was charged with trading on at least two occasions and fined so it is possible the cellar hole structure predates the year 1670. The height of the stone foundations of the Slave Quarters cellar, the fireplace in that cellar, and the cellar windows extending originally about 20 inches below the present ground level and later partially filled with masonry, all suggest the original use of the foundations. That the cellar hole house was occupied during construction of the Stone House is shown by the original Stone House entrance door, later converted to a window, located close to the cellar house entryway.

Photographs taken in 1909 prior to the dredging of the Mohawk for the Barge canal show that the river periodically flooded the farm. for that reason, dirt removed from the cellar hole of the Stone House had not been carted away but had been used to raise the level of the ground. When the Inn and Slave Quarters were built in about 1730, the dirt removed from the cellar hole of the Inn had been similarly used. It was in about 1730 also that the Slave Quarters building was built as a two story structure on the foundations of the original structure, the cellar windows partially closed, and the land raised against flooding.

Documentation for the above is scanty. Court records and land patents; deeds of sale, wills, and inventories of estates; family letters and business records; local histories; records of other cellar holes houses; artifacts such as a sign for the Mabee Inn, all contribute to the above account. There are indications that at times family members occupied the Slave Quarters and the Inn. Much of the evidence is soft and dates are approximate. Archaeologic investigations and closer inspection of documents may harden up some information, but much is and will remain well-informed guesswork from what evidence is at hand.

---Jon van Schaick, AB, MEd

The 'Slave Quarters" at Mabee Farm

The brick house, one of three structures at the Mabee Farm is commonly referred to as "The Slave Quarters". But was this really the home of slaves during the period of time slavery was an accepted institution in what was to become America?

The contemporary historian, when studying slavery, is faced with a dilemma: there is very little physical evidence throughout the Hudson Valley on slavery. As pointed out by Prof. A.J. Williams-Myers in his book Long Hammering, all evidence that slavery ever existed has been obliterated so we are left with very little physical evidence which directly relates to the Black experience in the rural areas of what was New Netherland. We do know that the Mabee farm, like so many other small family run farms did use slaves, usually two or three adults. We know from lists of property that the Mabee's did own slaves. Where these slaves lived is open to interpretation. It is very likely the slaves, when not engaged in work, would congregate in the kitchen- which was located in the cellar of the building in question. It is also generally accepted as fact that the slaves would sleep in the upstairs or "attic" of the house. The third floor of the brick building would appear to satisfy this requirement.