New York State Anniversary

Two important events occurred in New York during 1777. One was the organization of an independent state and the other was the invasion of the British troops from Canada under Lieutenant General Sir John Burgoyne.

The 200th anniversary of New York statehood will be observed statewide in this bicentennial year of 1977.

After the Declaration of Independence was endorsed, New York’s Fourth Provin-cial Congress declared its independence 9 July 1776. The representatives of Charlotte County in this congress were John Williams, William Duer and Alexander Webster. This congress changed its name to the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York. In Kingston, the capital at that time, it established a committee to recommend a form of government. Those on the committee were an illustrious group of New Yorkers: John Jay, John Sloss Hobart. William Smith, William Duer (Charlotte county), Gouverneur Morris, Robert R. Livingston, John Broom, John Morris Scott, Abraham Yates, Henry Wisner, Samuel Townsend, Charles DeWitt, Robert Yates and later, James Duane.

Little is known of the work of this committee but on 12 March 1777 it presented a proposed state constitution to the Congress. For month the members considered this report and on 20 April 1777 accepted it without some important provisions that Mr. Jay, forced to be absent, had intended to include. One was the abolition of slavery. The constitution was published and read to the Congress and later to the people by Robert Benson.

Modeled on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution provided for a legislature composed of a senate and an assembly. Senators were to be members of four sectional districts elected for four years; assemblymen, based on the population of the counties, were to be chosen for one year. The chief executive was elected for three years with his power limited to get away from the resemblance to a Royal Governor. Voting was limited to property owners.

The first governor was George Clinton elected in June 1777 who held the office for 18 years.

Elishama Tozer was the first assemblyman to be chosen from Skenesborough. He held the office for the year 1778-1779 and was elected to the senate in 1780. Thus he was Skenesborough’s first assemblyman and first senator.

The Tozer family was an early one in Skenesborough. Elishama was a close friend of Philip Skene but became a rebel at the time of the Revolution and was a captain in the Charlotte county militia.

The Tozer farm was on the west side of Wood Creek and extended approximately between Saunders Street and Gilmore Street. The map of 1830 shows a strip of land marked Widow Tozer between the creek and the first canal. Elishama had a brother Thomas. Baruch Tozer held early town offices.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – January 20, 1977

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