AMONG THE MOST DISTINCTIVE PLACE names on a map of Columbia County is Cheviot, the name of a riverfront hamlet in Germantown. How did a Scottish place name end up gracing the Hunterstown tar camp, where German Palatine refugees labored from 1710-1712?
Sometime after the Palatine migration but before 1762, a sawmill was built by “Judge” Robert R. Livingston on the small creek that runs to the Hudson through this area. Though many thoughtful observers may be led to think that Germantown was relatively free of it from an early date, Livingston family influence on this little hamlet would linger well into the 20th century.
By the time of the 1798 Wigram map, the area had become known as Jacobi’s Landing, named for local resident and Palatine descendant Heinrich Jacobi (1753-1807). By the close of the 18th century, the area was a busy shipping port. The name Jacobi’s Landing slowly faded from usage in the years after Heinrich’s death.
The Hudson River railroad was completed through Germantown in 1851, substantially altering the look and character of the landing. The original Germantown railroad stop was located here, in the house that in recent times belonged to Edgar S. DeWitt (1925-2016).
In the period of growth and change that followed, the landing was known as East Camp Landing as well as Lasher’s Landing. The Lasher name comes from Rufus Lasher (1818-1880), the proprietor of the dock and warehouse that he constructed in this era. Mr. Lasher was a prominent citizen in the hamlet and owned nearly all of the prime real estate near the river and railroad. When approached by the railroad in 1866 about selling a parcel to build a new station, Mr. Lasher refused. The following year the railroad then constructed a station less than a mile to the north at the end of Lower Main Street.
Nonetheless, Lasher’s Landing grew and expanded in the second half of the 1800s. A post office was opened in Rufus Lasher’s hotel, the same house that served as the initial train stop for the town.
The McLean family emigrated from Scotland and started a successful well-drilling business and in the process became prominent members of the community. Rufus Lasher’s grandson, Edgar DeWitt (1866-1932), built the causeway that extended out to the shipping channel in the river. The causeway can still be seen today at low tide.
As this hamlet developed further, a Methodist church was proposed. The building site and first subscription was donated in 1884 by Robert E. Livingston (a descendant of “Judge” Robert R. Livingston), who lived in the nearby Northwood mansion and was a substantial landowner in the proximity. Within six years, enough money was raised to construct a church, though Mr. Livingston passed away in 1889. At a meeting of church elders in September 1890, it was decided that the church would be named “Robert E. Livingston Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church of Cheviot-on-the-Hudson, N.Y.” The Cheviot Hills in Scotland are less than 30 miles east of–and no doubt visible from–the ancestral home of the Livingston family, Ancrum.
Though there are some references to the area as “Cheviot” that predate the naming of this church, putting it into the official name solidified the name of the hamlet. Construction was completed not long after the naming and the church was dedicated in February 1891. The church was popularly known as “Cheviot Methodist” to distinguish it from its sister church in North Germantown. However, the name that became cemented to this area was destined to outlive the congregation.
By 1939, funds and attendance had dropped off and the building was falling into disrepair. One church elder encouraged selling the property rather quickly for fear that there would not be much left to sell if it sat vacant for the winter. The Germantown chapter of the American Legion purchased the property that year for all of $250. It has remained the “Legion Hall” and been a center of community life. Though the church lasted not quite 50 years, the hamlet still retains the name “Cheviot,” a nod to the Livingston family’s roots.
(Tom Shannon is town historian for the Town of Germantown.)