One of the best parts about being the county historian is that you get to piggyback onto other important projects going on around Schenectady.
On Oct. 11, I was honored to have the opportunity to say a few appropriate remarks about the Glen Sanders family and its impact on Scotia and the entire Schenectady area. The occasion was a small and solemn ceremony to honor restoration work done on the small Glen Sanders Cemetery located on Route 50 just a few hundred feet north of Mohawk Avenue. A few more paces up Route 50 you come to another larger cemetery and the First Reformed Church of Scotia, which owns both sacred places.
It was the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution that did all the work improving the condition of the cemetery and the precious headstones that reside within it. Schenectada, the name of the local DAR chapter, and its regent, Kim Mabee, are to be commended for their efforts.
My comments were sandwiched in between those of Christopher McCloseky, senior pastor at First Reformed, and Glenville Town Historian Emily Spinner, and it was a joy to be part of the program.
Stealing a line from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, I said how it was "altogether fitting and proper that we do this." Any kind of DAR event is significant enough to merit those words, but on this particular occasion it seemed even more appropriate.
The event honored the family of Alexander Lindsay Glen and Catherine Glen, the original "Scotia couple," as well as their great-granddaughter Deborah Glen, who in 1732 married John Sanders of Albany, forever linking the two names, Glen Sanders, together.
The descendents in that family continued to honor their history, and in 1879 another Sanders named John, often referred to as "Judge Sanders," authored a book documenting the area's rich history, "Early Settlers of Schenectady."
A later Schenectady historian, Austin Yates, in the introduction to his own book, "Schenectady County, N.Y. It's History to the Close of the 19th Century," wrote this about Sanders. "The Judge never pretended to be a historian, was only, in fact, a most delightful narrator of fireside story, and family lineage, and as such his work is invaluable."
His book certainly was and remains invaluable to local historians, but perhaps even more significant are the extremely important relics and ties to the past that family descendents continued to treasure and eventually share with the community.
Wonderful works of art, colonial-style furniture and other items that lovers of area history treasure are all available to be viewed at the Dora Jackson House on Washington Avenue in the Stockade, home to the Schenectady County Historical Society.
So along with the Rev War service to our young country by Sanders' relatives Col. Jacob Beekman and Pvt. James Bradford, as well as that of Johannes "John" Sanders nearly 250 years ago, there's plenty of good reasons to honor the Glen Sanders name.
When J. Glen Sanders died in 1960 and his wife, Pearl Green also passed away a few years later, there were no survivors. Fortunately, a number of cousins rose to the occasion to save as many items as they could from the old homestead. Some of the collection went to the historical society, some was purchased by a Syracuse collector and then resold to Colonial Williamsburg. Fortunately some of those items were eventually returned to the historical society, although a prized possession, a portrait of Debrah Glen, remains at the folk art museum in Williamsburg where it is prominently displayed.
One of those cousins who was so concerned about the family legacy was Lee Davenport. In 1987, Davenport rented a van and drove from his home in Greenwich, Connecticut to donate his personal stash of Glen Sanders relics to the historical society, ensuring that they would forever be available to the public.
A Schenectady native, Davenport was a graduate of Mont Pleasant High and Union College, and went on to be a physicist, a Harvard professor and vice-president and chief scientist at General Telephone and Electronics.
The family records indicate that Davenport was likely a 10th generation descendant from Alexander Lindsay Glen. All of the Glen Sanders clan, it seems, appreciated their history and we here today can be happy they were all so adamant about preserving it. What a great idea by Kim Mabee and Schenectada to pay them homage.