Cities, Towns and Villages
In 1791, Saratoga County was formed from the northwestern part of Albany County.
Most of the territory of the county had been part of the Kayaderosseras (Queensborough) Patent of 1703, which was surveyed in the 1760s. I
See Figure 1: Map of Saratoga County, at left.
After the survey, the region drew settlers from New England, New York and beyond. Four original 'mother' towns -- Halfmoon, Saratoga, Stillwater an Ballston -- produced 'descendants' over the next twenty years to create the towns and villages that now constitute the county (See Figure 2).
In biblical terms:
In 1772, there were two districts encompassing Halfmoon (with Waterford and Clifton Park) and Saratoga (the area south of the Sacandaga River, plus Washington county's Easton). The third and fourth 'mothers', Stillwater and Balls Town (Ballston) became towns in 1788.
Balls Town begat Milton, Galway and Charlton in 1792, and became grandparent to Providence (1796) and Edinburgh (1801), which broke away from Galway.
Saratoga produced Northumberland (1798) and Saratoga Springs (1819), and Greenfield (1793), which aso drew land from Milton. . Its second generation came through Northumberland, which gave up substantial land, dividing into Moreau and Hadley (with part of Greenfield) (1805), and Wilton (1818). Hadley in turn begat Corinth (1818), which added land from Moreau (1848)
Day (1819) was a descendant of Edinburgh (Ballston) and Hadley (Saratoga)
Stillwater birthed Malta (1802).
Halfmoon produced Moreau (1805) and Clifton Park (1828), the last in the county to be established.
In 1816, the village of Ballston Spa (established as a village in 1808 in the town of Ballston), became the county seat.
(Saratoga Board of Supervisors, 1900, Appendix, 1)
Saratoga County (1770s-1900s)
Village (and County Seat)
- Ballston Spa, New York (Missing)
- Northumberland, New York (Missing)
In 1791, Saratoga County was formed from the northwestern part of Albany County. Four original 'mother' towns -- Halfmoon, Saratoga, Stillwater an Ballston -- split over the next twenty years to create the towns and villages that now constitute the county. In 1808 (XX), the village of Ballston Spa (in the town of Ballston), became the county seat.
Cities, Towns and Villages of Saratoga County, NY
The town of Ballston is a quiet town which largely commemorates the Revolutionary War and how the town was settled in its historical marker, focusing on places which patriots chose to settle following the war. The town takes pride that George Washington spent the night in Ballston in the late 1700s, raising. Two or three (WHICH?) markers to that visit. Two markers stretch the history back and forward. The first marker discusses the Kayaderosseras patent issued by Queen Anne in 1708 which played into a boundary dispute with the Iroquois which persisted into the 1760s. The second marker commemorates Samuel Davis MD, a doctor who practiced medicine in the town for fifty years during the Civil War Era who used his home as a stop on the Underground Railroad. This stop on the UGRR, and the visit George Washington made to the town appear to be the most important historical events. The town lacks (or at least fails to memorialize) a history of industry; religious significance isdue to Eliphalet Ball, the settler of the town and its namesake.
Clifton Park was settled starting in the late 1700’s, around the time of the US’ independence from Great Britain. Most landmarks commemorated houses of individuals who had an important role in founding and constructing the town. These people were on the town board, town clerks, or had a certain job in town. An outlier was the Shopmyer House, owned by a free Black family that may have been involved in the underground railroad. Many interesting questions arise from this marker/commemoration, including how was the family treated in upstate New York during this time? Most of the other landmarks describe white colonials and how they influenced the town by becoming involved in local government. It was refreshing to find the Shopmyer House because I did not find a lot on African American History in Clifton Park. Of the five street names I researched, most were named after colonial settlers in local government. Vischer Ferry Rd. was named after a Dutch settler who resided along the Mohawk River. He was one of the first settlers in the area and made an impact on upstate New York and Clifton Park.
The history of Edinburg is defined by two principal themes: nature and industry. Much of the town is enveloped by what is now the Great Sacandaga Lake, which upon its creation, permanently submerged 10 smaller communities within the town. The town website offers few details about what life in these towns was like, but the history of the creation of the lake and its centrality to the geography is commemorated with several historical markers. Industry, specifically relating to timber, is memorialized around the town. Much of the history describing smaller communities within the town, like Tennantville, focuses on their role in the timber and woodenware industries. Google Earth identifies several wood-related businesses, including those that construct docks or boats, which still operate in the town today. The town was originally settled as Northfield, but town members decided to change it to Edinburg in the early 1800s because another Northfield was founded elsewhere in the state; the history of the name change is absent from the town website. I was initially interested in Edinburg because of its name, as I studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland. I know that the early 1800s were a time in which Edinburgh, Scotland was experiencing a revival and gaining global prominence, so perhaps the name change was inspired by that.
A topic that could be explored more in the town’s history is abolition. The website includes a fascinating story that one of the general stores mentions might have been a possible stop on the Underground Railroad. The site speaks of a widespread abolitionist fever in Edinburg but does not expand upon it, either in terms of the abolitionists who lived there or the black Americans who traversed through the town to get to Canada. Maybe that is a problem borne out of a lack of physical or informational sources, but it is definitely a topic that should be explored considering the role, or rather lack of a role, Saratoga had in the abolitionist movement.
In Galway, a lot of sites or place names were either related to important aspects of the community or had some connection to Scotland where most settlers were from. Markers such as Donnan Road, Site of John McClelland, Mc Conchie Road, Perth Road, Galway Road, and the name of the town itself have distinct connections to Scotland. Other markers, including the Joseph Henry plaque, Sacandaga Road, Stimson House, The Gere House, Parkis Mills, and Seabury Mills have more connections to the land and the people who lived there. There are two outliers from this list and those are Galway Market/Village Park and Mead House. Galway Market/Village Park is the site of a drinking fountain/horse trough erected by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Horace W. Carpentier, who we discussed as having historical significance with Lauren Roberts, founded the Society. While all these sites make a very important link the history of Galway, perhaps the Galway Golf Course best encapsulates the two perspectives: past and present. It is relevant to the today’s residents while its foundation has local and international historical ties, where golf was invented. It could be interesting to take a place like the Galway Golf Course with both ‘then and now’ meaning to highlight the history of both the area and the people in an accessible and engaging way for current inhabitants and tourists.
Greenfield is named after Greenfield, New Hampshire, a town named Greenfield owing to the area’s fertile soil and land. Everything named within Greenfield, Greenfield Center, and the surrounding areas is focused on people of European descent/ethnicity: glass factories owned by white men, town halls occupied by white men, memorials dedicated to white men, etc. Even the street names seem to be named after white people and families (the Ormsbee family, residents of the area with the last name “Ballou”, etc.), places of worship (the Old Stone Church), and placed named by white people (Dunham Pond, although I did not find any record of a Dunham Pond anywhere near Dunham Pond Road, for some reason).
In Hadley, the history of influential families is very much on full display; the Rockwell family has the most places named after them, and is the focus of several historical markers. The history of the economy of the town is commemorated by the railroad, the paper mill, the Conklingville dam, which is technically not in Hadley but is very much part of the history of this area of the county. This history is featured prominently on the town’s website, in New York State congressional testimony commemorating the 200th anniversary of the town of Hadley, and in the database on historical markers.
What is absent, surprisingly, was the use of this area by Native Americans, as the key confluence between the Sacandaga and Hudson Rivers and a region run through with many prominent trails established and used by Native Americans for centuries. There is room to increase discussion about other national and ethnic communities and individuals who settled here. One potential area of research could be the history of those who worked for the Rockwells, including what their lives were like.
Source: Congressional Testimony:
The markers in Halfmoon tell and show an interesting history, largely selected by the town government, that focuses on broad events that have shaped the town’s past and present, with some more relevant to contemporary life than others. The historical markers provide information about where the town got its name – not a sending country or area, or a native name, but the lay of the land (water). Halfmoon, and the historical marker labeled “Crescent,” were named for the crescent shape that the Mohawk River appears to have when it is viewed in Halfmoon. Additionally, markers documented influential early families, including business owners and entrepreneurs whose histories are well-represented in both street names and historical markers. The emphasis of Halfmoon’s markers is on families active before the 20th century and events that occurred before the 20th century. Perhaps government officials in charge of naming the streets and declaring historical sites believe that 20th century history does not have to be told as urgently because many living people still remember these events. However, in thinking ly with the markers and street names, visitors and residents might wonder whether were any notable events or people from Halfmoon after the 1800’s. This history seems like it will be lost if the people who remember it who are alive today do not share this history somehow
Overall, the impression one receives upon first glance of the town of Malta is largely
industrial. While that is certainly an observation that rings true, even in the tale of the creation of the town, the personal histories and stories of Malta overlap the straightforward tale of industry. In the “Town History” section of the Malta website, there is a compelling section that details “Stories from Malta’s Past”, containing the biographies of the Civil War hero Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth, Jr. who was a personal friend of President Lincoln and Katherine Anne Porter, a prolific and groundbreaking female journalist from the turn of the century. Formerly called Maltville, the name of the town derives from the malt brewery that was the first building of European settlement on the land. For most of its history, Malta was industry-centered, and largely rural, with farming as the main occupation. A surprising factor of Malta’s history was the involvement in the testing of rockets in the 1940s and 50s that helped in the space race to the moon. The stories of the Native Americans who were first on the land were at least mentioned in a few sentences on the Malta website, but it did not mention Native Americans after that time, which was surprising, as the proximity to Saratoga Lake creates desirable farming land and land to live on.
The different historical markers in the small town of Mechanicville focused on two topics of commemoration- military remembrance, and economic history. The military remembrances range from individual people like the General Henry Knox trail, to entire raids by the French and Indians to the Leland house. There didn’t seem to be a single period for these remembrances: the Revolutionary, Vietnam and Civil War have all been paid respects, the most recent being from Afghanistan in 2012. In addition, the town has a Mechanicville Veterans Memorial at the entrance of Tallmadge park. Community members clearly take pride in the military/war history of Mechanicville. Economic and business history can be cleaned from several markers and streets, including a road called “Industrial Park Dr,” and markers for Canal Square and Milltown, which both seem to commemorate the use of mills.
However, ties to the land before colonialization were missing. Interestingly, Mechanicville does have a marker called “Immigrant City,” which remembers the town’s Irish, Italian, and Polish heritage and seems to claim these ethnicities as a town identity. It would be interesting to explore if/when other peoples (individual or groups) contributed to and/or lived in the town.
Historic markers in commemorate the Revolutionary War and its leaders are commemorated. Examples include the Saratoga Monument, the Schuyler House, the Surrender Tree, and Victory Woods. Similarly, streets are often named after Revolutionary War figures like General Burgoyne and Philip Schuyler because the war was fought in and around Schuylerville. Most historians agree that the Battle of Saratoga was a crucial turning point for war, which convinced the French to assist the United States. There are also street names dedicated to military generals such as Burgoyne Street, Schuyler Heights Drive, and Gates Avenue.
Despite the many monuments and signs marking the events of the Revolutionary War in Schuylerville, there seems to be very little interest in the town’s distant past, especially from locals. As James Kunstler observed in a 1990 article for the New York Times, “Schuylerville Stands Still,” “Yet with all these tablets standing, history was lost on the local teen-age schoolchildren I interviewed, who weren’t able to tell me in which war the great battle took place.” So what seems to be lost in Schuylerville is the numen-type transcendental feeling that people sometime express when visiting other historical places. The community lacks exhibits or any kind of community-oriented museum that allows people to make personal connections to the history they are learning. History on plaques and street signs usually do little to give places “a special sociocultural magic.” (“Excursions into the Remembered Past,” p 110).
One recommendation is to explore personal, local stories from the community, including the history of local businesses that kept Schuylerville operating through the years. These stories rarely get as much coverage as events of international importance like the Revolutionary War, but Schuylerville may have a chance to create this type of museum if, as planned, the Regan Development converts Schuylerville’s abandoned cotton mill into an apartment complex. Not only would the apartments create new jobs and bring in residents and revenue to a town that desperately needs it, but it could give the town a chance to create a community museum that emphasizes the more recent past, like local businesses and notable people and events. The museum could ask the community to contribute their families’ stories and memorabilia. Locals and schools would be excited to see history that they’re a part of because the museum would be informative yet sentimental, giving people the numen experience that the current set of plaques and street signs lack.
Citation: James Kunstler, “Schuylerville stands still,” April 22, 1990, URL: https://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/22/magazine/l-schuylerville-stands-still-983690.html
Historic markers in Waterford, New York in Saratoga County tell a story based around the history of transportation and ecology. Waterford is most well known for being the ending point for two different canals, the Erie and the Champlain, as well as the remnants of the King Power Canal. This history is the most well-commemorated in the area, with most of the historical markers focusing on the canals and the surrounding industry which grew around the area. Markers such as Mill Road, honoring the paper production which has been ongoing since before the Revolutionary War, and the Northside Historic District which includes the preserved homes of former titans of industry. Outside of water, Waterford has a history of transportation which includes the creation of the omnibus used to transport higher volumes of goods. This history is less well-documented than the canals but still plays a major role in the local narrative. There is a lack of markers relating to pre-industrial history, or marginalized voices within industrial history such as the voices of women and children in the area. It would be interesting to expand the existing history of the canals to include more commemoration of the people who traveled on them, including those moving to settle in Saratoga County in the late 19th century. This additional context would help bridge the national history of the Erie Canal with a personal history of Waterford’s current residents