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A big birthday for Coxsackie

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    Coxsackie Town Historian Michael Rausch presents a visual chronicle as residents celebrate the village's 150th anniversary of incorporation. Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media
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    A photo of the village of Coxsackie in years gone by. Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media
July 16, 2017 - 12:15 am

COXSACKIE — Milestones for communities are few and far between, but this summer the village of Coxsackie is celebrating a big one.

The village is marking its 150th year, and as part of the months-long festivities, a comprehensive history of the community, replete with photos dating back many decades, was presented recently by Town Historian Michael Rausch and Greene County Historian David Dorpfeld, who teamed up for a presentation at the Coxsackie Senior Center.

Over the years, there have been countless changes and advances in what is now the village of Coxsackie, and not all of them are recent.

“Where we are sitting right now, if it was 300 years ago, we would be in Albany County,” Dorpfeld said, opening up the presentation.

“In 1867 — 150 years ago — the folks who lived here decided it was getting pretty populated along the river and the village should be established,” Dorpfeld continued.

Over the past century and a half, the village’s population has doubled.

It has also seen its share of industry, from ship building in its earliest days to ice harvesting, creameries and shipping, among other businesses that dominated the landscape over the years since the village’s incorporation.

“During the ice harvesting season, Coxsackie was the wildest town on the river, so we have changed a bit, I guess,” Dorpfeld noted.

The village at one point was also a major hub for transportation, not only for the shipping industry but on land, as well.

“Coxsackie was the terminus of the Coxsackie Turnpike, which went out to Greenville,” Dorpfeld said. “This was very important at the time.”

The turnpike was a critical route for several industries, notably shipping livestock and other products.

Beyond industry, Coxsackie has seen its share of changes over the years in other areas as well, such as education.

“We began to educate children here formally in the 1830s,” Dorpfeld said. “In 1947, Coxsackie schools merged to become a centralized system, and eventually we built the school on Sunset Boulevard.”

With numerous churches based in the community, some may be surprised to learn that Coxsackie’s Bethel AME Church, located on Washington Avenue, is the oldest church structure in the village — it dates all the way back to the Civil War.

The community’s volunteer fire companies have also played a pivotal role in the village’s development over the years, beginning in the latter half of the 19th century.

“In 1860, there was a massive fire in what is now the village, which prompted the creation of a fire squad,” Dorpfeld said.

But one thing, he concluded, hasn’t changed.

“Coxsackie has changed over the years, but in my mind, it is still a nice village and a great place to live,” Dorpfeld said.

Rausch then presented dozens of historic photos of Coxsackie and its residents over the years, donated by people from around the community.

Some pictures, shown on a slide show, dated back many years, and helped create a visual chronicle of the village from its earliest years through the 20th century.

Many of the photos brought back memories for the audience, such as the Coxsackie beach, a crowded summer hot spot back in the 1950s. Then there was the old icehouse, which was lost to fire in the late 1950s, and a former theater, which was torn down years ago.

One photo brought smiles to locals’ faces.

“This is a unique picture of the Coxsackie school. There are lots of images of the school, but in almost none of them can you see the chicken coops,” Rausch said to laughter.

The village of Coxsackie was incorporated on April 5, 1867 by an act of the New York State Legislature. At the time it was comprised of 610 acres, according to the village’s website.