Kinderhook, New York
is located in Columbia County
at 42.36° North, and 73.61° West. It has a population of about 1300 people.
The land that now comprises the town of Kinderhook was originally the land of the Mohican tribe. When Henry Hudson anchored in a bend of the North River, several Mohican children came out to investigate the ship. Hudson's crew named the area "Kinderhoeck" which translates to "Children's Corner". Dutch settlers came to the area around the village in the 1600's, moving inland from the Hudson River at present day Stuyvesant. By the time the English took over the Dutch colonies in 1664, Kinderhook was a small collection of homes along the nearby creek. In 1763, the village consisted of 15 homes and a Dutch Reformed church.
Kinderhook found itself on the main stagecoach route from Albany to New York, and it's economy soon grew to be the center of business in Columbia County. The village was incorporated in 1838, and at this time had a defined business district, with many of the conveniences of a much larger town. When the railroads took over much of the overland traffic, the economy dwindled and the village took on a more residential feel. A fire exacerbated this in 1880 by wiping out much of the business district.
One of Kinderhook's better-known citizens was Peter Van Ness. He commanded a regiment in the American Revolution, and later became the town's judge. He built a house just south of the village, now called Lindenwald. Washington Irving tutored Van Ness’ children while living in the house. During his stay at Lindenwald, Irving wrote "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (although Sleepy Hollow is supposedly written about Tarrytown, much of the story's basis comes from Kinderhook).
Kinderhook was also the home of the 8th President of the United States, Martin Van Buren (1836-40). He worked his way up through the world of politics, starting at Columbia County Surrogate. During his campaign in 1840, supporters used the expression 'O.K.' in reference to Van Buren's nickname, "Old Kinderhook". This is one of many theories as to how "okay" might have entered the American lexicon.
Today, Kinderhook is a small village with a definite historical touch. This government is still organized according to the town charter, which was written in 1838. A mayor and four trustees are elected to two-year terms, and are advised by the village planning board.
Many of the buildings built around the time of the revolution are still standing, and are under the care of private homeowners and the Kinderhook Historical Society. In 1971, the village created a historical district, centered on the village green. This zone was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Lindenwald is also on the national register, and is now set up as a museum to Martin Van Buren.
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