The early days of Albany and Schenectady were rife with danger, fur smugglers, rebels and loyalists, thieves and murderers. Of course, they were rife with normal Colonial goings-on as well, but the villainy is far more intriguing. These two early American cities in the northeast state of New York, bore witness to everything a fledgling country included at the time, including the age old tavern. Conjuring up images of weary travelers, matron's aprons, barkeeps wiping glasses and pints of ale, the tavern was the rest stop of olde. A staple along the cart paths that at the time, before they became our modern interstates, taverns typically marked a halfway, or measurable point, between two landmarks. As a waypoint, much like in your XBox RPGs, these places served several vital purposes associated with life in the 17th and 18th Centuries. People rode horses, and those things need rest, food and water now and again. Much like gassing up your car, you had to stop your horse along the journey, but you had to overnight it to let it sleep as well. Enter that ever-present tavern again; a stable, a motel, a diner, and sometimes...a murder site.
The Truax tavern stood along what was known at the time as the King's Highway, now legally named King's Road. The road itself was a Native American pathway which the Dutch Colonists widened and flattened in 1662. It became known as the "King's Highway" after the British conquest of New York in the late 1600's. While the tavern itself burned to the ground in 1941 (😭), it was known to be a red brick and stone structure, and run by a well-liked man named Isaac Truax Sr. Like nearly all the founding families of the region, the Isaac and his wife, Maria Wyngaard, were born from Dutch immigrants, and owned a sizable plot of land northwest of what was then tiny, downtown Albany.
The frontier towns of Albany and Schenectady were budding with new business enterprises as trading and townships expanded ever farther from the Hudson River in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The tavern business was booming, and the Truax's were one of many. It was said a tavern and farm could be found every 3 to 4 miles along the road at one point. America had not invented the mall yet, so, these were our hangouts.
With the expansion of the cities came the darker side as well; thieves, smugglers, political rebels, and those who'd kill to take what another owned. Albany militiamen acted as escorts to travelers on the old highway, to protect them and to deter raids, hold-ups and attacks ending in scalping. Protection for travelers was also necessary as tensions rose between the British and the Colonists in the late 1700's. This was during the height of the Truax tavern's popularity, and the danger was real on the King's Highway. Rumors began to circulate into the 1800's about it being the site of disappearances and untimely deaths. In the 1970's, the rumors proved true.
In 1973, Don Rittner, then the Albany city archaeologist, excavated the remaining foundation of the tavern along with a crew of students from SUNY Albany. That summer, several human skeletons were discovered under the original floor! The legends of the murderous route and the tavern that aided in disappearing people yielded some truth after all. The possibility that those skeletons could be physical evidence of the tavern's reputation is stunning insight into life at the time, and a rare treat for historians and archeologists.
The tavern foundation is now protected and fronted by an historic marker sign, much like the others that dot the old road with facts and dates. These signs were installed in the 70's by Rittner, who also lead the organization to preserve the land of the Albany Pine Bush. The trails and unique protected landscape we enjoy today are thanks to his work in raising awareness about the historical significance of the King's Highway, and the small family burial plot of the Truax's, just 700 yards into the trees on the north side.
While the character and reputation of Isaac Truax the senior remained aboveboard in written recollections of his "slightly eccentric" character, "prone to gaudy dress" (I would have liked him), his business definitely bore witness to some sordid deeds and inglorious murders. His family was well respected and large; two grown sons lived nearby as per the 1790 census. However, every family has secrets, and the choices they made when something went deadly wrong in their establishment, almost remained just legend.
As a recovering archeological field technician, I love when legends find some foundation within the science of anthropology. With the physical evidence at hand, and an understanding that families do not bury their loved ones under the floors of their businesses, the Truax tavern's murderous lore (surprisingly) stands as firm as the stones it was built upon. If only we knew what happened to those people!
The only way we can even try to dig into further information now, is through the attempts we make in the paranormal. Any information or responses we receive on any electronic device is just subjective though, and never something we can prove or call fact. Our specific trip to this small burial plot and the site of the tavern is one we consider a Side Quest - as it's a small, unplanned trip. A Side Quest isn't part of the main game play, but it fills out the story arc and can provide new items and new insight. They're the bodegas to the Costco's of paranormal investigation.
We only had 3 paranormal devices with us, and we were at the mercy of cars driving by and the peepers (tiny frogs) singing their Spring cacophony in stereo. And the local Amtrak train. It only went by once though, since most service is suspended with the Big Germ we're all dealing with.
Despite the noisiness of the environment, the peacefulness and seclusion of the family cemetery was perceptible. 700 yards from the road is far enough from it to be cloaked by the forest of tall trees, and thanks to the unique ecology of the Pine Bush, it looks much the way it always has. One would never guess the surrounding plot of land or within the former tavern structure, butchery and bloodshed sauntered up to the bar often enough to spread rumors.
Our on-hand devices, the DirectLinc FX, the PSB-7 Spirit Box, and a digital recorder from 2006, yielded sometimes nothing, and sometimes things we couldn't be sure of, but found strange. We'll never be 100% sold on what or how or who the voices are that come from these electronics, but they make us wonder about the possibilities. That, more than anything, is what we seek, and gratefully, even on Side Quests, can often find.
Thanks for reading,