Stories: Samuel Coykendall

That’s when Rosendale cement took a back seat. Sales went down and hard times came to the cement industry in Rosendale. The fourteen huge mills recognized the fact that something drastic had to be done. They called a meeting: “Let’s form one large company. We’ll pool our resources and see if we can fight off this new competition.” They all thought it was a splendid idea except the descendants of the original Jacob Snyder. There were two brothers remaining at that time and one of them had a son, Andrew, who was twenty-one years old. They said, “Look, we’ve got a good operation.We’re right on the canal, we have a high-grade cement, we have a flat cave. We have money in the bank and we don’t owe anything to anyone. Who needs you? We’ll go it alone!” The thirteen others formed what was known as the Consolidated Rosendale Cement Company. It was actually put together by a man named Samuel Coykendall, a newly-arrived resident of Ulster County. He was a “robber baron,” a capitalist in the old sense of the word. He saw an opportunity to make a dollar and so he said to the thirteen mill owners, “I’ll form your new corporation. I have money and I have access to money. We’ll get this show on the road. We’ll show these Portland people where to get off. Just deed your properties over to my new corporation in exchange for stock. Let’s get going!” So they all turned their properties over to Samuel Coykendall and his Consolidated Rosendale Cement Company. All except the Snyder brothers. They stayed on the outside.

Samuel Coykendall made a go of the cement industry for a while. He became so powerful in the area that there wasn’t a single person’s life that wasn’t touched by him in one way or another. He bought the Cornell Steamboat Company which took freight up and down the Hudson River. He bought the Ulster & Delaware Railroad which ran from Kingston Point up to Oneonta. He bought the trolley-car system in Kingston. He bought a couple of banks and controlled them. He bought the railroad that ran right past Williams Lake, the Wallkill Valley Railroad. He bought the Hudson River Dayline. He controlled everybody’s life in the county. And all the time he was amassing this huge wealth, he was after the Snyder brothers to sell out to the new Consolidated Rosendale Cement Company but the Snyders said “No! We don’t want to have any part of it!”

Finally, Coykendall bought the canal. Again he went to the Snyder brothers, “Now will you sell to me?” They still said “No!” “Well,” said Coykendall, “you can’t ship your cement over my canal anymore!” And he put them out of business. It wasn’t long before Coykendall recognized the fact that the Portland cement industry had gotten so big and strong, and had taken such a big share of the market, that he wasn’t paying any dividends anymore from his Consolidated Rosendale Cement Company. So he closed the industry down and walked away from it. Five thousand people out of work and all the other employment opportunities that went with it: blacksmiths, wainwrights, teamsters, grocery stores, saloons (Rosendale’s Main Street was filled with saloons!). It drove them all out of business. Rosendale became a ghost town.