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Historical Highlights

150th Anniversary of the Sand Lake Association for Mutual Protection Against Horse Thieves

By Mary Pat Hart


The legislature of the State of New York having passed an act incorporating Jacob Hegeman, Andrew Link, Burton A. Thomas, Coonrad Snyder, Henry D. Uline, John I. Vosburge, Harman Westfall, Philip C. Hayner, David Fellows, George Uline, William Hegeman, Wynant Younghans, and such other persons as may hereafter be associated with them into an association for mutual protection against horse thieves, NOTICE, therefore, is hereby given to those mentioned in said act of incorporation, and to all others who may wish to become members of said association, that a meeting of said association will be held at William Sliter's Inn, in the Village of West Sand Lake, in the Town of Sand Lake, County of Rensselaer, and State of New York, on Saturday, the 28th day of April, 1849, at 2 o'clock P.M. for the purpose of electing officers of said association, receiving members, making by-laws and regulations, and transacting such other business as may legally come before the association.


Jacob Hegeman
Burton A. Thomas

Dated at West Sand Lake April 14th, 1849

The Sand Lake Association for the Mutual Protection Against Horse Thieves was incorporated by an act of the Legislature of New York on April 7, 1849. Notices announcing the first meeting were posted at several public places throughout the town. That meeting, called to elect officers, was held on April 28, 1849, at 2 o'clock at William Sliter's Inn in West Sand Lake. The purpose of this organization was to help recover stolen horses of its members and the apprehension of said thieves.

The original boundaries of the organization included what is now Sand Lake, North Greenbush, East Greenbush, Poestenkill, the City of Rensselaer, and parts of Nassau, Schodack, Brunswick and Troy.

Following are highlights of the meeting minutes:

On the 29th of October, 1863, Alonzo Thomas, a member of the Association, notified the President that, during the evening, his mare was stolen from his stable, and riders were duly appointed to go in pursuit of her; and on the 30th of October, the officers of the association met and offered the following reward. viz.: Fifty dollars for the recovery and delivery of the mare to the owner, and $25 for the apprehension of the thief, to be paid upon conviction.

November 10th, 1863. George Miller notified the Association that his father, Jacob Miller, a member of this Association, had one of his horses stolen during the previous night, whereupon: The officers offered (by hand-bill) $50.00 reward for the recovery of the horse, and $100 for the apprehension of the thief, to be paid upon conviction.

December 5th, 1863. After the Association had made long and diligent searches for Alonzo Thomas's mare and Jacob Miller's horse, without success C a meeting of the Directors of the Association was held for the purpose of appraising and paying for said mare and horse, according to the by-laws, rules and regulations of said Association.

After hearing testimony in reference to the ownership, loss and value of said mare and horse, the Directors unanimously decided to pay Alonzo Thomas $100.00, being two-thirds the value of the mare stolen, and to pay Jacob Miller $100.00, being two-thirds of the value of the horse stolen.

January 10th, 1865. The annual election and meeting was held at William Sliter's Inn, in the village of West Sand Lake, pursuant to notice.

The mare of Alonzo Thomas, formerly stolen from him, having been found, was returned to him, and he paid back the money ($100.00) that he had received from the Association for her.

Also, Henry D. Uline and Samuel D. Seymour, having found out that one Sidney M. Ballard had had the Jacob Miller horse and sold him into the United States Army, reported the same to the Association, and the Association being about to prosecute Ballard for the horse, he [Ballard] settled by transmitting a draft to the Association for $100.

July 13th, 1865, Eugene Russell, a member of the Association, gave notice that he had a horse stolen from his pasture on the night of the 12th or morning of the 13th, whereupon: The Association offered a reward of $25 for the horse, and $50 for the apprehension of the thief, to be paid upon conviction.

On the 18th of the same month, Mr. Harden of the Capital Police of the city of Troy, notified the Association that he had found a horse in Troy answering the description of Mr. Russell's horse. The horse was returned and the reward paid.

August 9th, 1865; Andrew L. Weatherwax, a member of the Association, by his son Frank, notified the Association that he had a mare stolen from his pasture on the night of the 8th. After a diligent and unsuccessful search for said mare having been made, the officers of the Association met and offered a reward by hand-bill of $50 for the recovery of the mare, and $50 for the apprehension of the thief, to be paid upon conviction.

On the 16th of November, 1865, the mare not being found or heard from, a meeting of the directors was held to appraise and pay for her. After swearing and examining several witnesses, the directors decided to pay Andrew Weatherwax $133.34, that being two-thirds the value of the mare, and $9.73 for expenses for the searching for the mare.

Also, audited $7.40 to H.D. Uline for hunting for her.

The minutes continued to record many lost, stolen and found horses.

During the first 49 years: This Association by vigilance and effort all of the nineteen horses stolen from members, excepting two, have been recovered; and these two were promptly settled, in accordance with the By-Laws.

In the minutes of the Sixth Edition of the Association, published by order of the Association, dated January 11, 1898, there were approximately 325 members listed. Some of the more than 1,500 past and present members included many local families: Shaver, Rescott, Miller, Hart, Swartwout and Besch, to name a few. The current Secretary, Mary Pat Hart, has old records, if anyone is interested in checking former or current members.

The Association continues to meet annually (for mostly nostalgic reasons) on the Sunday afternoon prior to Election Day. In addition to the "normal" order of business, "current events" fuel and gas prices, temperature, news events, etc. are reported in the minutes. The traditional distributing of cigars at the end of each meeting has been dispensed with, since most attending members are nonsmokers. At the 1997 annual meeting the horse census of the active membership was 32 horses and 2 donkeys (ass). The oldest horse belonging to a member (the Besch's Hobo) died during 1997 at the age of 31 years. Our most senior member is Stanley Motilage, who joined in 1943. Our youngest members are infants Jonas Christianson and Justin Clark. Our membership roster indicates five generations of families in our 150-year history. Other current members are George Tashjian, Jr. President and Donna White and Louis Besch, Directors. New members are always welcome. Contact Mary Pat Hart, Secretary-Treasurer, at (518) 283-2705. -- from the Fall 1998 issue of Historical Highlights

2019 update: on Tuesday, November 12, the Sand Lake Association for Mutual Protection Against Horse Thieves will hold their annual meeting immediately preceding the Sand Lake Historical Society meeting. All are invited to attend the meeting and to join this 170-year-old tradition! 6:30 p.m., Sand Lake Town Hall Courtroom.

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