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Immigrant City Historical Marker

Historical Marker in Mechanicville which talks about the rich immigrant history of the town during the industrialization that happened during the 19th century

Who Is Saratoga County?

Saratoga County is home to a population that has grown in diversity and complexity over time, as census materials and other sources reveal. Over hundreds and even thousands of years, people have moved to, through and around the region.

Looking at how the county develops over time, answering the question of "who is Saratoga County" becomes increasingly difficult through the centuries.

But just because the question is difficult to answer, does not mean we shy away from it. Rather, we explore who have helped build Saratoga County through the experiences of the people who have called it home, and how the county stands out among other counties in New York and the United States. 

Click here for a timeline of the story of people in the County.

Indian splint basket

Woven basket made by Native Americans who remained in Saratoga County and the surrounding regions after the revolutionary war. This one was made some time after 1800.

Native American pestle for corn griding

Native American Pestle for Corn Grinding

No. 51 Indian Encampment

A photo of three girls, probably Mohawk, in an Indian Encampment in Congress Park, Saratoga Springs in the late 1800s

Photo of the Saratoga Native American Festival in 2019

The Saratoga Native American Festival in Saratoga Springs, 2019

Native Americans

The history of Native Americans in Saratoga County goes back hundreds of years, before the Mohicans, Abenaki and the Iroquois roamed it’s valleys and found the rich mineral springs that would make this area famous someday. During the Woodland Period, which is the name that is used to refer to the period before European Colonization, the area that would become Saratoga County was used primarily by the Mohicans, who were a confederacy of tribes that existed in what is today New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut (Carr). It was popular narrative for a long time that Native Americans didn’t settle very heavily in the area and that it was primarily used for it's bountiful fishing and hunting grounds. In fact, the area was highly desirable for settlement by all the regional tribes precisely for the reasons aforementioned (Bruchac). They established huge villages which consisted of longhouses; large log-fitted cabin-like structures, as well as being an agricultural society which grew things like corn and squashes (Vizettes).   

By the time of European contact in the early 1600s, the Native presence in the county changed in its nature, as this area became overrun with fur-trappers and traders who went up and down the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, the two water boundaries which envelop Saratoga County and which served as highways into the deep interior wilderness of North America for Europeans. Even into the revolutionary period, Native Americans were heavily involved in the war and local politics. For example, tribes were forced to ally with either the British or the Patriots, and it is even speculated that due to poor treatment by the British, the Mohawk tribe actively chose to abandon the British, leaving them less defended at the Battle of Saratoga, which was a key deciding moment in that war (Bruchac). As settlement of the county by Americans after the war became more and more rampant through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, indigenous peoples in the county and surrounding areas were eventually either pushed westward to places like Wisconsin, or assimilated into the new society that replaced theirs (Carr). While many were forced to leave their ancestral homelands, this does not mean that Native people, nor their culture, ever vanished from Saratoga County. Native people and culture are still here in explicit and implicit ways, be it in the names of things like the Kayaderosseras Creek (or the name of the county itself), or in things like the Saratoga Native American Festival, which is held annually in Congress Park, in Saratoga Springs.  

Native Americans have played a crucial role in the history, development, and culture of Saratoga County as a whole, and they have always been essential to the identity of the county. They were the county's first and original inhabitants, and even as the county itself has grown in population and diversity over the centuries, Native Americans have remained and preserved their culture, language, and legacy in spite of everything. 

Map of Rensselaerswyck

17th century map of the Dutch patroonship of Rensselaerswyck, which encompasses southern Saratoga County

Historical Marker outside Schuylerville

Photo of a historical marker outside of Schuylerville which talks about the history of Dutch and later British forts in the area and the subsequent raids by Native and French troops

Dutch Colonial History/Influence

It is known to many who grew up in New York, that our state was not ruled by one European power, but two. New York was under Dutch control from 1614 to 1664 and despite only having direct control over the colony for 50 years, Dutch people came to New York, and specifically to Upstate New York and Saratoga County, and left a huge cultural impact on the county that we can still see today (New Netherland Institute). 

The Dutch first came to the area that would become Saratoga County in 1624 and settled on the northern banks of the Mohawk River as well as the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. It should be made clear that while this area was claimed by the Dutch, the majority of the people living in Saratoga County in the 1600s were Native American, and the Dutch, unlike their English successors, were far less interested in actively removing Native Americans from the region, they recognized that Native Americans had knowledge of the land and of it's resources that they wanted to gain access too. Maintaining good relations with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Mohican peoples was key to the Dutch colonial strategy (Bielski). This is not to say that the Dutch never had problems or even bloody conflicts with the people they were colonizing, they did. Rather, they chose more often than not to work with and learn from Native Americans whenever possible. As far as issues on which the English and Dutch differed on approach to colonization, diplomacy with Native Americans/local populations was about as different as they ever were. The Dutch, like the English, practiced slavery and in Saratoga County there was no exception to this. Many Dutch families owned slaves and passed the ownership of them down hereditarily (Richmond).  

When the colony of New Netherland was eventually seized by the English in 1664 and became the royal colony of New York, most of the Dutch who had settled stayed and continued to forge their new lives in Upstate New York, and many moved to Saratoga County. One of the earliest Dutch settlers to the county was Peter Schuyler, grandfather of revolutionary war hero and future New York Senator, Philip Schuyler. The Schuyler family settled down in the area known today by their name, Schuylerville, where they lived amongst many other Dutch families (New Netherland Institute). The Dutch legacy in the county can be seen everywhere, whether it is in the place names of Gansevoort and Schuylerville, or in the families who are descended from those original settlers who came here not knowing what they would find, or who they would become.   


Hattie Gray in the doorway of Hattie's Restaurant

Hattie Grey, the founder of the famed Hattie's Restaurant, stands in the doorway of her restaurant at its original location in downtown Saratoga Springs. 

NOW: Hostesses in front of Hattie's Restaurant

Two hostesses stand in front of Hattie's Restaurant Phila St. location. 

Solomon Northup Marker

Historical marker commemorating Solomon Northup, an African American man who was taken captive and became a slave. This marker can be found in downtown Saratoga Springs

African-American and Black Members of Saratoga County


During the Battle of Saratoga, a couple hundred African Americans bought on behalf of the Patriots. Following the Revolutionary War, a small population of African Americans settled in Saratoga County — making up around 3-5% of the year-round population (SSMP). However, this data is misleading due to both African American's and Native American's being coupled together as "colored" in census data for the early part of the 19th century (Bruchac). This overly-broad labeling of racial identity has lead to a few historical misconceptions, one of which being the "inventor" of the potato chip, George "Crum" Speck. George was not actually an African American man, instead he was a member of the Abenaki. George Crum should also not be solely credited for inventing the famous snack, as the Abenaki made this snack for centuries before its claim to fame (Bruchac).


Saratoga County was the home to Solomon Northup in the years leading up to his capture and subsequent enslavement. The book and film "Twelve Years a Slave" follows his story (Yusko, 2014). In the years leading up to the abolition of slavery, Saratoga County played host to a few stops on the Underground Railroad going from south to north on the path to freedom for enslaved African Americans. While we cannot be entirely certain if these rumored stops on the railroad did in fact exist, it still is an interesting component of the county’s history and folklore. During the Civil War, and later part of the 1800s, Saratoga County was host to the Broughton House, a hotel for Affluent African Americans. John C. Broughton founded the hotel as an alternative, and more accommodating, vacation destination for African-Americans instead of vacationing at the race track. The hotel remained open until 1913 when it was put up for sale (The Gristmill, 2021).


In 1938, Hattie's Restaurant opened in downtown Saratoga Springs and quickly made a name for its comforting southern cuisine. Founded by Hattie Grey, who became a beloved member of the Saratoga community because of her famous cooking and restaurant which was open 24 hours a day. Since Hattie's opened, the restaurant has maintained its reputation as a staple in Saratoga Springs cuisine, and has become a national chain (Hatties). Accounting for the broad categorization of colored people in early census data, The proportion of African American/Black residents of Saratoga County has remained relatively constant. According to the 2020 census, 2% of the county is African American/Black (US Census Bureau, 2020).

"The Finish" at Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga, N.Y.

THEN: View of finish of a horse race at Saratoga Race Track in 1906. Men in straw hats gather at the finish of a race. Color lithograph. 

The Finish at Saratoga Race Course Now

NOW: A more modern crowd gathers at the finish line of a race. Accepted attire has changed between the lithograph and this photo. Watchers of the race are dressed in informal attire, whereas in the illustration watchers of the race are dressed more formally in straw hats.

Dublin Historical Marker

Historical Marker acknolwedging the Dublin Neighborhood in western Saratoga Springs. Explains how Irish immigrants were drawn to the county in the early 19th century by Hotel and Railroad work and thus created an ethnic enclave in the city.

People By Class in Saratoga County

Today, Saratoga County boasts the third largest income gap in New York state following the borough of Manhattan and Westchester County. Looking at this income gap by town in the county, the village of Waterford's median household income in 2019 was $55,968 compared to the city of Saratoga Springs whose median household income was $88,358 in 2019. The income differences between these two towns within the same county is stark. Looking back at history, this class divide is likely a direct result of the economic hub of the county and home to the Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs. Before the famed race track opened its starting gates for the first time back in 1863, Saratoga Springs was already a booming tourist town known for its healing mineral springs. Given the combination of natural mineral springs as well as the allure of gambling and horse races provided by the track, Saratoga Springs quickly developed into the ideal summer destination for wealthy city folk looking to swap the balmy urban streets with fresh air, gambling, and luxurious springs. 


As the summers went by, more affluent Americans set up both summer and fulltime homes in Saratoga Springs. Saratoga County became an immigration destination for upper class city folk. With their wealth, they also brought the prospect of Jobs as the economic hub of Saratoga Springs expanded. The working class of Saratoga County flocked to these jobs, whether it was working in restaurants downtown, or working at the racetrack. Of the working class who found jobs at the race track, many of the Latino and African American workers staffed the backstretch spending their days doing manual labor maintaining horses and facilities owned by wealthy track families. These jobs still exist today where workers are paid minimum wage and work long and strenuous hours seven days a week. As the decades went by, this divide between the working class and the upper class has remained, fueled by Saratoga Spring's luxurious past which persists in the current day.

John Morrisey

John Morrisey, the man who paid for the construction of the Saratoga Race Track as well as some casinos in Saratoga Springs

Meyer Lanksy with his lawyer Moses Polakoff, after posting bail in Ballston Spa in 1952

Gangster Meyer Lanksy with his lawyer Moses Polakoff after posting bail in Ballston Spa in 1952

Visitors to Saratoga Casino doing temperature checks, summer 2020

Visitors to Saratoga Casino in the summer of 2020 doing temperature checks

Gambling and Organized Crime

It’s no secret that Saratoga County, and Saratoga Springs in particular, has always been a hub for gambling. The racetrack and the casinos drew people of all different backgrounds from all over the country to our county. However there is a long history in Saratoga County that has to do with organized crime, particularly tied to the racetrack and the various gambling joints around Saratoga Springs. Starting in the 1820s and continuing through the early to mid 20th century, gangsters would descend upon Saratoga Springs and live like there were no rules (Veitch). Gangsters owned casinos, and different gambling rooms around town which would attract immigrant and domestic workers, thousands of tourists, and even some well-known criminals to our corner of upstate New York. Especially in the prohibition era, Saratoga saw many infamous faces come through such as Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein, and Meyer Lansky to name a few (Hertel).  

But the story of organized crime is not just one of famous gangsters coming in and out of Saratoga County, it is also one of perseverance, innovation, immigration, and success. After all, it was thanks to immigrants like John Morrissey who built the racetrack, and the countless others who came to work at and build the grand hotels, casinos, and racetrack that made Saratoga County a must-visit destination that benefitted greatly from the money that organized crime brought in. He also illegally opened the Saratoga Club House as a gambling venue in 1870, which later became the Canfield Casino, which then later became the Saratoga Springs History Museum. Morrisey's impact on the county and upstate New York in general is extremely large, as he had a legacy that spanned from Saratoga Springs to Troy (O'Connell). Outside of his contributions to industry, tourism, and gambling he was also one of many who championed the cause of Indian relocation to the west, specifically of the Mohawk tribe to Wisconsin (Bruchac). 

It was a two way relationship, organized crime benefitted greatly from the amenities that Saratoga County offered, and Saratoga County benefitted greatly from their business. Organized crime had a comfortable summer home in Saratoga for over a century, and it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that their presence in the county began to wein. Crackdowns on gambling and organized crime in the county even ended up with some famous gangsters spending time in the Saratoga County Jail, such as Meyer Lansky who served a three month sentence in Ballston Spa in 1953 on illegal gambling charges (Buccifero). However, their presence here, even as non-residents, left a lasting impact on the culture and especially economic development of the county that cannot be overlooked. And while the vices that brought the gangsters here are still endemic to the culture and economy of Saratoga Springs in particular, organized crime no longer reigns supreme during Saratoga Summers. 

Drawing of the Old Stone Church in Saratoga Springs

Pen and ink drawing by Marcia Barss of the Old Stone Church in Saratoga Springs.


Religious distribution data from 2010 has roughly 60% of the county identifying as not religious (i.e., Atheist or Agnostic), 24% of residents are Catholic, 8% are Protestant, 5.9% are Evangelical Protestant, and 1.3% identify as belonging to anther religion. The county's religious beliefs have trended towards Agnosticism and Atheism and away from Christianity and Catholicism. Numerous towns in Saratoga County were founded on the basis of Christian religious practices, such as the town of Ballston whose founder Eliphalet Ball, a Presbyterian Minister, helped settle Saratoga County and set up religious practices free from persecution. Despite the increase in Agnosticism and Atheism, Saratoga County is home to a few Synagogues for its Jewish residents, and in 2017 the first Mosque opened in Saratoga County. The county over recent years has embraced more diverse religious ideologies. Saratoga County is also home to popular culture relgions such as the cult NXIVM, a sex trafficking scheme which operated in Clifton Park for around 20 years. Despite the diverse religious practices in Saratoga County, the county still continues to value its history which is interwoven with many beautiful and old churches.

Timeline of People in Saratoga County

  • Woodland Period – 1000 BCE – European Contact (early 17th century) 
    • The woodland period, which is broken up into the early, middle, and late periods, is what is used to refer to the time before European colonization of North America, particularly of the area which becomes the Northeastern United states and Eastern Canada.  
    • Who was here prior to the arrival of Europeans? - primarily the Mohicans and Mohawk peoples, though the Abenaki and other Iroquois peoples did use and inhabit the land 
  • Dutch Colony – 1614 – 1664 
    • The Dutch claimed the Hudson Valley, Long Island (Lang Eylant), Parts of Connecticut, and the Delaware River harbor as theirs, founding the short lived colony of New Netherland, but amongst all the territories they had claimed, New York (or what would become New York) was the territory most heavily settled by the Dutch 
    • 1624 – The first Dutch arrive in what becomes Upstate New York 
      • Some came to Saratoga County via the Hudson river and settled in the southern parts of the county, as to be closed to the trading post of Fort Orange (Albany) 
      • They explore the area which becomes the county in search of pelts 
    • 1629 – Patroonship of Rensselaerswyck is established – a huge tract of land which was granted to Killiaen Van Rensselaer and his descendents. The land encompassed all the area surrounding the Fort Orange, as well as the southernmost points of Saratoga County, including what is today the town of Waterford 
      • Killiaen Van Rensselaer never left Europe, the space that he owned was primarily inhabited/used by Native Americans (Mohican and Mohawk) and a handful of Dutch traders and colonists 
    • 1664 – Colony gets seized by the British, becomes New York 
  • British Colony – 1664 - 1781 
    • 1684 – Peter Schuyler and others obtain the Saratoga Patent, the first title to go and settle the land 
      • Schuyler was a slave owner, as many Dutch landowners were, though it is unknown how many slaves he owned at the time of the patents issue 
    • 1688 - Bartel Vrohman, first pioneer settler 
    • 1701 – Queen Anne grants the Kayaderosseras Patent – which encompasses the modern borders of the county 
    • 1702 - Fort Saratoga (near is now Schuylerville) - Established by Johannes Schuyler 
      • In an effort to draw more settlers to the area, Schuyler built a garrison house – this was essential as many settlers of this region were fearful of attack by either Native Americans or the French who at this time still held claim to the Lake Champlain region as well as much of what becomes the State of Vermont. 
    • Mid-1700s – Fort Saratoga has about 30 homes, as well as granaries, blacksmith shops, flour mills, and some various other stores as well. 
    • November 17, 1745 – attack  destroys Fort Saratoga, garrison burned – Fort is eventually rebuilt but is continually attacked through the Seven Years War of the 1750s – 60s 
      • During this raid, over 60 black slaves were taken from residents of Fort Saratoga by the French and their Native allies back to Montreal 
    • 1770 – Saratoga Reformed Church – established by General Philip Schuyler as a Dutch Protestant Reformed Church 
  • Revolutionary War - 1775 - 1783 
    • Philip Schuyler – local hero, revolutionary war general 
    • Battle of Saratoga - 1777
  • Early United States/Early New York State - 1784 - 1860 
    • 1789 – Philip Schuyler elected New York's first senator 
      • Philip Schuyler also owns at this time, 14 slaves, more than anyone in Saratoga County 
    • 1790 – 311 enslaved people living in Saratoga County, all but 70 in Dutch settlements along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers 
      • The other 70 lived among various settlements along the Kayaderosseras and other smaller bodies of water. 
    • 1790 – county population is 17,077 
      • Ballston – 7,333 
      • Halfmoon – 3,602 
      • Saratoga – 8,071 
      • Stillwater – 8,071 
    • 1800 – County population is 24,483 
    • 1802 – Gideon Putnam establishes Putnam Tavern in Saratoga Springs across from Congress Park, which became Union Hall in 1810, and then even later the Grand Union Hotel (Today which eventually encompassed the entire city block 
      • Gideon Putnam also envisioned Saratoga Springs as a resort/getaway town for the America of the 19th century, and his vision (and some of his plans for bathouses and street planning) came true.  
      • Establishment of hotels, bathhouses, mineral springs in Saratoga sets the stage for the transformation of the county and draws people from across the country 
    • 1827 — slavery is abolished in Saratoga County 
    • 1842 – Ben Scribner opens the first gambling house in Saratoga Springs 
    • 1820s – Champlain canal construction brings immigrant labor to towns like Mechanicville, primarily Irish 
    • 1833 – Saratoga – Schenectady Railroad bisects Saratoga Springs into east and west even further 
      • Also brings many immigrants to the county to build the railroad and work the various mills around the county, primarily Irish 
      • Formation of the "Dublin" neighborhood in Saratoga Springs – this neighborhood later became more Italian in the late 19th and early 20th century 
    • 1841 – Solomon Northup, free black resident of Saratoga, kidnapped and sold into slavery 
    • 1850 — "First" Indian Camp in Saratoga Springs is established. Located in a Pine grove off of N Broadway 
    • 1853 – 12 years a slave, Northup's book about his time in Louisiana being kept illegally in slavery, is published – there is a historical marker in downtown Saratoga Springs commemorating this 
  • Civil War - 1860 - 1865 
    • 1860 – County has over 51,000 residents, most of whom reside in the town of Saratoga 
      • Same year civil war breaks out, Saratoga resident from Malta is the first known Union Soldier to die in battle 
    • 1860 — Saratoga Springs Indian Camp is relocated to Congress Park. Indians sold handmade items such as baskets, small canoes, beads, etc.  
    • 1862 — John C. Broughton buys the Broughton House, which would later become a hotel for Affluent African-Americans 
    • 1863: Saratoga Race Course Opens 
      • Bringing in more immigrant workers, though African Americans also got jobs there as well 
  • Post-Civil War - 1865 - 1900 
    • 1870 — Saratoga County has around 51,500 residents. A decrease of 200 from the past decade. The loss of life from the Civil War resulted in population decrease 
      • Also that same year, John Morrisey opens the Saratoga Club House (Canfield Casino) 
    • 1890s – Lithuanian, Polish, and Italian immigrants begin making their way to Saratoga County 
      • In Mechanicville, Lithuanians and Polish immigrants were almost exclusively employed in the mills 
      • Italians primarily worked on the railroads and were not sedentary like their Lithuanian and Irish counterparts, often going back to Italy in the winter months and the returning to the county in the summer 
    • Late 1800s/Early 1900s — The Saratoga Springs Indian Camp in Congress Park is no longer deemed necessary. The inhabitants of the camp are told to relocate. 
  • 20th Century and Beyond - 1900 - Present 
    • 1903 — Young Women's Industrial Club is founded. This club is considered to have influence on the founding of Skidmore College 
    • 1911 — Skidmore College opens 
    • 1913 — The famed Broughton House is put up for sale 
    • 1915 — Saratoga Springs becomes a city 
    • 1920s — NY-29 is built. Due to the dynamite blasting to flatten the land, an important, possible ceremonial cave connecting High Rock Park to around Skidmore's campus collapses as a result.  
    • 1938 — Hattie's Restaurant opens in Downtown Saratoga Springs 
    • 1953 — Meyer Lansky, an organized criminal, was arrested and spent 3 months in the Saratoga County Prison in Ballston Spa on illegal gambling charges 
    • 1960s — Adirondack Throughway (I-87) opens connecting New York City with Upstate New York 
    • 2006 — The first Saratoga Native American Festival is held in Congress Park, the same location which a community of Native American's called home from the 1860s - the turn of the 20th century
    • 2017 — The first Mosque in Saratoga County is opened.  
    • 2018 — The cult NXIVM is uncovered with numerous organizers  
    • 2018 — The Latino Community Advocacy Program expands in size being able to offer better service to Latino residents of Saratoga County