The Inn of George Severson

The Seversons were among the first settlers in what would someday become the Village of Altamont.  The Seversons were of Dutch and Danish descent.  Claas Siverse was born in Denmark and first settled in Coxsackie where he had been bequeathed land by his uncle Martin Gerritsen van Bergen.  The first Severson to settle in the area that would become Altamont was Jurrian Severson, the son of Claas Siverse, who came to what was then called the West Manor or Rensselaerwyck in 1750.  Jurrian would have five children: Nicholas, Anna, Gertrude, Simon and Johannes.  Johannes would have eight children himself: George, Frederick, Nicholas, Cornelius, Abraham, Margretha, Anna and Eva.  It was Johannes’s son George (sometimes called “Old Yerry” by the locals) that owned the Severson Inn.

The earliest license for the inn dates back to 1795.  The Inn owned by George Severson was a very prominent business of its time, with many employees.  The inn was built along the old Scoharie Road, where many travelers had to pass.  The stage line that made the trip from Scoharie to Albany would often use the inn’s great stables as a relay point.  Among the many guests to stay at the inn was the famed “Indian fighter” Tim Murphy, whose exaggerated tales of frontier adventure have been told in the Helderberg region for a long time.  Despite the initial popularity of the inn, it could not last forever in the face of changing times.  Eventually, the Plank Road came through, providing a snoother ride over wooden planks than the bumpy ride the old Scoharie Road provided.  The Plank Road took a different route and did not pass by the Inn of George Severson.  Cutting the inn off from the business of travelers and stage coaches was a death sentence for the inn which had to close its doors.  Years later, the railroad would come through not far from the site of the closed Severson Inn.  The inn, however, was not reopened.

The greatest contribution the inn may have provided could have been to the knowledge of local history.  A number of documents have been found that inform us of the day-to-day goings-on of an eighteenth century inn.  Among these documents are the inn’s initial license, issued by the commissioners of excise of the Town of Guilderland and signed by patroon Stephen Van Rensselaer himself and George Severson’s will, in which he bequeaths the inn to his sons John and George.  There is even a record of the darker days of this country when men still owned slaves.  An account of all of George Severson’s possessions made after his death includes such items as “1 red steer” and “7 earthen pots” also includes things like “1 negro wench” and “1 negro girl”.  Before the inn was torn down, a desk was found beneath the attic rafters.  In the desk was a “Writing Book” owned by the senior George Severson’s sons George and John from the time when they had taken over ownership and management of the inn.  Inside the book were records of various accounts and transactions made in the course of running the inn.  Some examples of such transactions are as follows:

An unnamed traveler                                   S.D.

1 gill of brandy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  1-0

To supper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-0

To horsekeeping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2-0

To lodging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-0

To Oats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  1-0

1 gill of whiskey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0-6

                                                                        ——

                                                                         9-6

Members of prominent Altamont families appeared in the book

Evert Van Aernam (son of Capt. Jacob Van Aernam)

Ap. 9, 1814 3 ½ gill of brandy 37 ¾.

They even believed in charging themselves

John Severson

 To 1 eggnog 18 ¾ (no discount)

 A historical marker now stands to mark the spot where the Inn of George Severson once stood.  It is located at 1001 Altamont Boulevard right next to the Stewart’s Shop.

Gregg, Arthur B. Old Hellebergh: Scenes from Early Guilderland.Albany, New York: Guilderland Historical Society, 1975.  Print.

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