Mahican Indians, known today as Mohicans by the Mohican Nation, were Algonquian-speaking people who inhabited this spot as early as the 1400s. Mahicans gathered here, at Schaghticoke, Cohoes, and at DeLaets and Schodack Islands long before Henry Hudson claimed this area for the Netherlands in 1609. The Dutch established Fort Nassau in 1614 directly across the river, (today the Port of Albany) to trade with the region's Native Americans.
In 1630, the Dutch West India Company granted Kilian van Rensselaer 700,000 acres on which he was to place 50 families and a village. He planned to develop the more thriving hub of the community on the river's eastern shore, but the company thwarted that development. On the western shore, Van Rensselaer's landholding surrounded Fort Orange.
On the eastern shore in the Greenbush (named for its abundant pines) Van Rensselaer's farming estate and the village of DeLaetsburgh, which included mills, trades shops, a distillery, a brewery, and farms were established. In a 1642 letter, Jeremias van Rensselaer referred to the Greenbush farm as Crayloo (Crow's Wood), named for the family's farm in the Netherlands.