Town of Claverack


Jeane LaPorta, Town Historian
Phone: (518) 755-3411
PO Box V, Mellenville, NY 12544
91 Church St., Mellenville, NY 12544
Email:
jlaporta@hotmail.com
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What is the meaning of the name Claverack?

The name “Claverack” is unique, and for many it can be a challenge to pronounce. The origin of it is Dutch which was the primary language of the earliest predominant group of Europeans to settle the Hudson Valley and the area of Claverack. Fortunately, the early settlers were interested in documenting the environment, a trait that provided future generations with some resources, such as maps and journals. Based on the early maps and notes, it is probable the name Claverack is a blended word that evolved, a combination of archaic Dutch, regional dialect and the descriptions for features and landmarks common to the Native Americans and settlers.

The name Claverack is not readily pronounceable, most likely because it carries its early Dutch pronunciation to this day. It’s origin is not English and locally it is still said as the word claw and “vrick” together. Historians and linguists believe the name is a blend of the Dutch words “klaver,” which means “clover,” and “rak,” the meaning of which can vary depending on context. [1]

It is most likely the “c” in Claverack, as with many other historical Dutch names in the area, was the Anglicisation of the word “klaver ” in which the c replaced the Dutch K, and the suffix “rak” may refer to meadows or pastures or something other, depending on context. The literal translation of Claverack is basically compatible with local folklore which is steadfast that Claverack means, “clover meadows,” but according to Dutch language experts because the Dutch language is complex, the intent of the archaic form particularly can be lost. Claverack might refer to any number of landmarks, geological or geographical features or events which may suggest clover or meadows, just not literally. [2]

In the Hudson Valley, place names had their roots in Dutch and Native American languages because the area was documented by explorers for Dutch commercial interests, and they interacted with the Native Americans who had unwritten language to describe the same places. In many cases the Native American names were words for places they lived. Both the Native Americans and the New Netherlanders named places inspired by geographical or geological natural environment and described shapes or physical qualities and other distinguishing features that would help identify the place for others.

The suffix, “rak” or “rack,” may refer to meadow lands but settlements along the Hudson River bear names such as, Hooge-rack, Heorten-rack, and Deer–rack. In the context of the river, the suffix “rak” infers a measurement of length along the river. [3] The 1650 map of New Netherlands has the Dutch words Klaver rak written at the location where Claverack Landing, Claverack’s river port, was eventually established.

The 1799 Penfield map, a hand drawn land boundary map of Columbia County, has the word “klovers” penciled above a series of loops, or scallops, north of the city of Hudson, along the riverbank. That notation corresponds with the location of klaver rak in earlier maps and it may be a spelling variation. Spelling variations are often seen in historical documents and particularly where Dutch and English or other languages were used interchangeably. The notation on the map corresponds to the landmarks that formed a trefoil shape such as a clover leaf.

The herb, trifolium repens, named for the three loop shape of its leaf, is commonly known as Dutch white clover, and it is a perennial in Europe. Later it became prolific in America too. It is not believed to have been nativized in the area of New Netherlands until much later which makes it less likely the name Claverack references the herb clover literally.

Additionally, the landscape painting in oil, “Buckwheat Fields of Thomas Cole,” 1863, by Thomas C. Farrer, is a perspective of the east bank of the Hudson River where the landmarks apparently named for common clover take on an impressive dimension. The clay that formed those landmarks was used for brick works and masonry and also diminished by erosion over the years to the extent it is today by about the mid-19th century.

While it is difficult to prove the meaning of the name “Claverack,” the sources that are available provide insight about it. The name Claverack has an interesting and rare origin.

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Sources
Ellis, Capt. Franklin Ellis, Claverack, Columbia County, New York, 1878., pp. 234-235.

Farrer, Thomas, C., “Buckwheat Fields of Thomas Cole’s Farm”, landscape in oil painting, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston object ID: 33723.

Fordham University Archives and Special Collections, Belgii Novi, Angliae Novae et Partis Virginiae (New Netherland, New England, and parts of Virginia), 1650, Janzs, Johannes, FUNY-05192.

Jacobs, Jaap. “’The Great North River of New Netherland’: The Hudson River and Dutch Colonization.” The Hudson Valley Review. Marist College. Spring 2014.
Juet, Robert, Barthel, Bea, transcription. “Juet's Journal of Hudson's 1609 Voyage”, from The 1625 Edition of Purchas His Pilgrimes. “Juet's Journal of Hudson's 1609 Voyage. Copyright © 2006 New Netherland Museum/Half Moon.
Levine, David, “Hudson Valley Whaling Industry: A History of Claverack Landing (Hudson), NY.” (“Of Mariners and Whalers – Homespun Ancestors”) Hudson Valley Magazine. Online. March 14, 2012.

Penfield, Daniel, Map of Columbia County, NY, 1799. CCHS.

Rabbelier, Willem, Archaic Dutch Translation, Genealogy. Rotterdam, Holland.

Ruttenberg, E.M., FOOTPRINTS OF THE RED MEN. Indian Geographical Names. Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association , 1906, Vol. 6 (1906), pp. 1-9, 11-235., Published by: Fenimore Art Museum.

Thorne, Craig, Phillips Academy, Andover, Ma., “Early Hudson’s Proud History,” Columbia County History & Heritage., CCHS, Kinderhook, NY., Summer 2003.

Van Den Hout, J., “Van der Donck, Adraen, A Dutch Regel in Seventieth Century America.” excelsior editions, 2018.

[1] Rabbelier, Willem

[2] Rabbelier, Willem

[3] Rabbelier, Willem

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