J A McKown and the McKown gravestones; and the Jackson Tavern

The original gravestones from the McKown family graveyard, once located behind William McKown's McKownville hotel site, were found in 1973 making up part of the cellar floor of an old house near the Prospect Hill Cemetery, just before that house was demolished. This old frame house was sited where the SEFCU credit union building now stands, and was on the west bank of the Kaikout Kill brook (now covered over here). Why should these stones have been carefully laid to form the cellar floor of this particular house?

The old maps
On the 1851 Sidney map, the house is shown with the name of J McKown attached to it by a dotted connection line; the Hotel (known as the Jackson Tavern) just up the hill to the west is labelled "Hotel" with a similar connection line, but does not have any person's name directly attached to it.
Sidney map 1851 - HamiltonvilleGould map
      1854 - Hamiltonville
On the 1854 Gould map, the names are not given connecting lines to the same two house symbols, so there is an ambiguity about the labels for these structures; it could be read as Hotel (belonging to) J A McKown and the other building unlabelled, or it could be taken to mean the same as on the 1851 map, that J A McKown is the label for the house nearer to the Kaikout Kill, separate from the Hotel.
      map 1866 - Hamiltonville
On the 1866 Beers map of Guilderland, the labelling (also names only, without indicator lines) suggests that J McGowun is the Hotel owner, and the other house near the Kaikout Kill is unlabelled. The map shows that William Knowles owned the house on the north side of the Turnpike, earlier occupied by Shubel Kelly, who had moved and owned two houses near the crossroads to the east (now the Rte 155 intersection).

Census returns

Who is this J, or JA McKown? Alice Begley stated that it was James son of William (Billy) McKown (1763-1843), but William's only son named James died in 1796 at the age of 5, so that cannot be right. Perhaps she meant John McKown (1787-1870), eldest son of William, but that John lived in a large farmhouse on McKown Road, and was owner of the McKown Hotel in McKownville. Along with his son James F McKown he ran that institution and the associated farms in McKownville and near the Normanskill during this interval. There was another John A McKown (1811-1864), eldest son of Absalom McKown (Absalom was William McKown's brother), and another alternative is Absalom's younger son James A McKown. Census records of 1850 and 1855 list James A McKown in Guilderland among other individuals shown nearby on the maps. He is listed as a farmer in 1850, even though he and his brother John A were both lawyers, and he became Surrogate judge for Albany County in 1855; he is listed as justice of the peace in the 1855 census. His brother John A, in contrast, had already moved and by 1855 was living in Albany. The later 1866 Beers map still labels J McKown (McGowun) as owner, of the hotel, and perhaps also of the house, but James had by then also long since moved to Albany, in 1856, according to a published biographical sketch.
      census listing for JA McKown

1850 US census listing for James A McKown, pages 35-36 in the Town of Guilderland enumeration. His household is immediately preceded by Shubal Kelly (Kelley), who is marked on the 1851 Sidney and 1854 Gould maps directly across the Western Turnpike from the JA McKown house.

1855 census listing for JA McKown
1855 NY census listing for James A McKown, page 1 of the 1st district of the town of Guilderland enumeration.
Living in a framed house (first column), valued at $550.
The column (9) containing "Albany" is the county of birth.
Numbers in column 12 are years resident in this city or town.

James A
      McKownJames A McKown's residence

It looks most probable that the J A McKown on the 1854 map is James A McKown, son of Absalom, and that the J McKown of the earlier and later maps are likely also referring to him. Given that the 1851 Sidney map clearly shows his name attached to the house in which the gravestones were found, it seems likely that they ended up there because of a family connection, if not an agreement. If the stones were moved in 1865, which is when the cemetery records state that the remains were reburied, no McKowns themselves lived above the gravestones of their relations taken from McKownville.

There is a biographical sketch of Judge James A McKown in a book on Albany County history published in 1897, Landmarks of Albany County, New York by Amasa J. Parker, accompanied by this portrait engraving.

Fred Abele reported that this house was later occupied by caretakers for the nearby Prospect Hill Cemetery, and that it became unoccupied by about 1963. It was demolished in 1973, unrecognized as a house once probably lived in by a distinguished member of the McKown family. Possibly it may have been the original farmhouse of Absalom McKown, brother of William McKown of McKownville.

        Tavern, Guilderland NY
The Jackson Tavern

This building is the one marked as a hotel, next to J(A) McKown's name, on the old maps above. It was built in the early 1800's, one of a considerable number of hostelries built to serve the traffic on the new Great Western Turnpike, like the hotel and tavern built by William McKown, farther east, in McKownville. It seems unlikely that it would be so labelled on all three of these maps unless it was an active hostelry and tavern at the time of their survey, and that sort of building seems an unlikely residence for James A McKown and his family, the justice of the peace in Guilderland from 1837-1855, although it is entirely plausible that he owned it.
There were two other hotels nearby, one a large brick building located just east of Foundry Road on the south side of the Western Turnpike, known as Sloan's Hotel, and the other just east of the crossroads where route 155 now crosses Western Avenue, on the north side, which is shown on the early maps as Folland in 1851, LaGrange in 1854, and perhaps Mochrie in 1866. Sloan's and Folland's are identified as hotels with innkeepers of those names in the 1850 census, but the Jackson Tavern is not identifiable. Perhaps James A McKown was using it as his residence, but that would make the clear labelling as a hotel on all three maps puzzling.
In the 1930's it became a farmhouse, for the Smith's of the Prospect Hill Dairy, which was active until about 1980. In a familiar and depressing story, the building was empty for the last 12 years of its life at this site. Purchased as part of a larger tract by a developer, it narrowly avoided demolition, instead being dismantled carefully in 1996, with the intention of reconstructing it as part of a collection of historical buildings planned for a site near Cooperstown.

return to McKown family tree and gravesites
return to McKownville local history page
return to McKownville Improvement Association index page