HISTORY OF

SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK.

by NATHANIEL BARTLETT SYLVESTER

1878

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CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTION.

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I. - SINGULAR GEOGRAPHICAL POSITION.

SARATOGA County, it may of a truth be said, owes its historical importance to the striking peculiarity of its geographical position.

From the Island of Montreal, in the River St. Lawrence, a narrow depression, or valley, in the earth's surface extends due south, on a line almost as straight as the crow flies, for the distance of nearly four hundred miles, to the Island of Manhattan, at the mouth of the Hudson river, on the shore of the Atlantic ocean.

This long and narrow valley, which seems to be a deep, downward fold in the mountain ranges, separates the highlands of New England from the highlands of New York. The summit level of this long northern valley being less than one hundred and sixty feet above the level of the sea, and lakes and streams of navigable water stretching through it either way, it forms a natural highway and route of travel between the great valley of the St. Lawrence on the north and the Atlantic seaboard on the south.

From the "sprouts" or mouths {The Mohawk, just before it flows into the Hudson, separates into four spreading branches, which the early Dutch settler significantly called Spruytes, which is from the Danish Spruiten, or Saxon Spryttau, from which comes our English word Sprouts. - Vide "Annals of Albany," vol. ii. page 226, and "Saratoga and Kay-ad-ros-se-ra," by the author, page 19.} of the Mohawk river, nearly in the centre of this great northern valley, another long and narrow valley, also caused by a downward fold in the mountain ranges, extends nearly due west, and reaching to the basin of the great lakes, opens the way to the valley of the Mississippi beyond. This great intersecting western valley separates the highlands of northern from the highlands of southern New York, and, like the great northern valley, is also a natural highway and thoroughfare, with low summit level, anti teeming with the travel of a continent.

Between the northern or Champlain valley, and the western or Mohawk valley, and the valley of the St. Lawrence to the southwestward, rises the rugged Laurentian mountain chain of the Adirondack wilderness. Forming the backbone of the Atlantic slope of the continent, the Apalachian mountain range extends from Nova Scotia on the north to Florida on the south.

These vast mountain ranges thus present, through the whole distance froth the northern to the southern gulf, a most formidable barrier between the Atlantic seaboard and the great central valleys of the continent. And these two deep narrow valleys thus stretching around the Adirondacks, and one running north and south and the other trending east and west through the State of New York, are the only mountain passes that lead through or over the Apalachian mountain range. Everywhere else, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico, except through these two narrow valleys, the traveler must pass over high mountain barriers in going to and fro between the Atlantic seaboard and the basin of the great lakes and the valleys of the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence.

Over the great natural highways and routes of travel leading through these mountain passes ran the most important of the old Indian trails; through them marched the armies of the long colonial period; and through these valleys now passes the world's commerce in ceaseless flow from the teeming west into the lap of our State's great metropolis, the city of New York, which sits by the sea at the foot of the great northern valley, still holding her proud position, rendered possible by her great natural advantages as the queen city of the New World.

In the angle formed by the junction of these two long deep valleys or passes through the mountain ranges, in the angle between the old Indian war-trails, in the angle between the pathways of armies, in the angle between the great modern routes of travel, in the angle formed by the junction of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers, lies the territory now known and distinguished on the map of the State of New York as the county of Saratoga.

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II. - ITS PLACE IN HISTORY.

It will thus easily be seen that its singular geographical position like that of the county of Albany, which lies in the opposite southern angle of the two rivers, gives to the county of Saratoga its important strategical position in time of war, places it along the great centres of traffic and travel in times of peace, and has already given it a long and eventful history.

And it will quite as readily also be seen that, in order to give an intelligible history of the county of Saratoga, so often the theatre of stirring events during the long colonial period, some account must be given, more or less in detail, of all the numerous expeditions and excursions which, both in peace and in war, traversed the great northern and western valleys.

During the indefinite period of the Indian occupancy terminating with its discovery by white men, that part of the State now called Northern New York was disputed ground. The Algonquin races of the valley of the St. Lawrence contended for its possession with the fierce Iroquois nations of the valley of the Mohawk and of central New York. After its discovery by white men, the French allies of the Algonquins and the English allies of the Iroquois took up and continued the long quarrel for its mastery. Thus for two hundred and seventy years, during which its authentic history runs back before the close of the War of the Revolution, there was scarcely an hour of peaceful rest unbroken by the fear of the savage invader in these great war-worn valleys in the angle of which lies the county of Saratoga.

During this whole period it was the midnight war-whoop, the uplifted tomahawk, the cruel scalping-knife, the burning dwelling, the ruined home, that made the whole country a wide scene of desolation and blood. At length this long wilderness warfare culminated in the surrender of General Burgoyne, on the 17th of October, 1777, at Saratoga.

From that day, with Lexington and Bunker Hill, with Trenton, Monmouth, and Ticonderoga, with Germantown and Yorktown, Saratoga will remain one of our country's high historic names.

In the following pages an attempt will be made to trace the history of Saratoga County, from its rude beginnings in the old howling wilderness of more than two hundred years ago, up to times within the ready memory of many men and women now living.

But this attempt is not without many and serious difficulties. A hundred years even in passing have taken one by one all the old settlers from us, and much that could once have accurately been learned from living lips now that those lips are sealed forever must be sought in the all-too-meagre records left us, or we must grope our way for it among the conflicting stories of the fragmentary lore of uncertain tradition.

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