HISTORY OF

SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK.

by NATHANIEL BARTLETT SYLVESTER

1878

--------------------

CHAPTER III.

TOPOGRAPHICAL FEATURES.

-------------------------

I. - GENERAL VIEW.

The surface of Saratoga County is extremely diversified. Towards the north it rises into the rocky crags and towering mountain peaks of the Adirondack ranges of the mountain belt of the great wilderness. Towards the South it slopes into low rounded hills and gentle undulations, bordered by long river-valleys. Through the westerly part of the towns of Old Saratoga and Stillwater, and easterly of Saratoga lake, extends an isolated group of hills which rise to the height of some five hundred feet, with rounded summits and terraced declivities.

Along the bank of the Hudson there stretches a broad intervale, bordered on the west by a range of clay bluffs rising from forty to two hundred feet in height. From the summits of this range of clay bluffs an extensive sand plain reaches westerly to the foot of the mountain chains, and extends southwesterly from the Hudson, near Glen's Falls, across the county, a distance of thirty-five miles, to the Mohawk, at Clifton Park. This belt of "Saratoga Sands" covers the greater part of six townships, of land, viz., Moreau, Wilton, Northumberland, Saratoga Springs, Malta, and Clifton Park.

------------------------------

II. - MOUNTAINS.

The great wilderness of northern New York, now oftener called the Adirondack wilderness, is an upland region of a mean height of about two thousand feet above the level of the sea, and comprises greater or lesser parts of eleven counties of the State, viz., Saratoga, Warren, Clinton, Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Lewis, Hamilton, Herkimer, Oneida, and Fulton. A line beginning at Saratoga Springs and running westerly across the country to Trenton Falls, near Utica, on the Mohawk; thence northerly to Potsdam, near Ogdensburg, on the St. Lawrence; thence easterly to Dannemora, near Plattsburg, on Lake Champlain; and thence southerly to the place of beginning, will nearly coincide with the outlines of the great wilderness.

A few small settlements, confined mostly to the fertile valleys of the streams, lie within the boundaries above described. But in many places the ancient woods stretch down beyond these lines to the very shores of the water-courses, and cast their shadows over the great routes of travel that surround northern New York.

The Adirondack wilderness is quite the size of the whole State of New Jersey, or of Vermont, or of New Hampshire. To compare it with European countries, it is three-fourths as large as the kingdom of Holland, or Belgium, or of the republic of Switzerland, whose Alpine character it so much resembles. Within the borders of this wilderness are more than fifteen hundred lakes and lakelets, and from its mountain heights run numberless rivers and streams of water in every direction. Over it all is spread a primeval forest, - "covering the land as the grass covers a garden lawn, sweeping over hill and hollow in endless undulations, burying mountains in verdure, and mantling brook and river from the light of day."

The southeastern part of this great wilderness, into whose sombre shades the northern half of Saratoga County stretches, is traversed by no less than five distinct ranges of mountains. These ranges cover what is known as the Mountain Belt of the Wilderness. They run about eight miles apart and parallel with each other. The chains are not always quite distinct, but often their lateral spurs interlock, and sometimes single mountains are so vast in size that they occupy the whole space between the ranges and choke up the intervening valleys. These mountains are not regularly serrated, but consist of groups of peaks joined together by immense ridges. From the south these mountains rise continually higher and higher, until at length they culminate in tile highest summits of the Adirondack range proper, the old giants of the wilderness. On every hand this mountain belt of the great wilderness presents the most striking features of an Alpine landscape. In every part are seen towering mountain peaks, deep, yawning abysses, gloomy gorges, rough granite blocks, sweeping torrents, fresh fountains, and green mountain meadows.

The five mountain ranges of the wilderness are called, beginning with the most easterly one, the PALMERTOWN range, the KAYADROSSERA range, the SCARRON range, the BOQUET range, and the ADIRONDACK range. Of these five mountain ranges two of them, viz., the Palmertown and the Kayadrossera ranges, stretch a great part of their length far down into the county of Saratoga, almost completely filling all the northern part of the county with their rugged mountain masses.

------------------------------

PALMERTOWN MOUNTAINS.

The Palmertown mountain range is the most easterly of the five ranges of the mountain belt of the Adirondack wilderness. It begins in Sugarloaf mountain, near Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain, runs down on both sides of Lake George, and stretching southward across the Upper Hudson, which breaks through it, it extends through Corinth, Moreau, Wilton, and Greenfield, and terminates in the rocky, forest-covered hills over which North Broadway runs in the village of Saratoga Springs.

At Lake George this range forms the beautiful highlands which add so much to its wild and picturesque beauty. French mountain, overlooking the old battle-ground at the head of Lake George, so rich in historic memories, is more than two thousand feet above tide-water. In Saratoga County one of the highest peaks is Mount MacGregor, while Glen Mitchell lies at the foot of a mountain gap or gorge of this range.

Long before the northern' part of Saratoga County was settled by white men, tradition says a band of Indians, fleeing from the east after King Philip's war, settled at the foot of this mountain range, in what is now the town of Wilton, calling themselves Palmertown Indians. From them the region round about was called by the earlier settlers, soon after the French war, Palmertown. From this comes the name Palmertown mountains.

------------------------------

KAY-AD-ROS-SE-RA RANGE.

The range of mountains next easterly of the Palmertown range is the Kay-ad-ros-se-ra range. This range begins on Lake Champlain, near Crown Point, and runs down through Warren county into Saratoga County. The range enters this county in the town of Hadley, and runs through that town and the towns of Day, Edinburgh, Corinth, Greenfield, Providence, and terminates in the highlands of Milton, Galway, and Charlton From Saratoga Spring this range is plainly to be seen, filling up the southwestern horizon with its dark-green forest-crowned mountain masses. This range derives its name from the old Indian hunting-ground of which it forms so conspicuous a natural feature. The Hudson winds along for many miles in a deep valley lying between the mountain masses before it turns eastward and breaks through the Palmertown range. The Sacondaga breaks through the Kayadrossera range from the west, and enters the Hudson in this valley. The highest peak in this range is Mount Pharaoh, whose Indian name is On-de-wa. This mountain is on the border of Essex county, and its summit is four thousand feet above the sea.

------------------------------

THE SCARRON (SCHROON) RANGE.

Across the extreme northwest corner of Saratoga County, in the towns of Day and Edinburgh, extends a part of the third great mountain range of the Adirondack wilderness.

This range begins in the promontory of Split Rock, in Essex county, on Lake Champlain. Thence it runs down through Warren into the southeast corner of Hamilton and across the northwest corner of Saratoga, and ends in the rounded, drift-covered hills that rise from the valley of the Mohawk, in Fulton county. Scarron (Schroon) lake lies at the foot of this range in Warren and Essex counties, and Schroon river there winds through its deep valleys.

From this lake and river this great mountain chain derives its name. The name is now commonly written Schroon, but on all the older maps it is written Scarron. It is a tradition, which seems well grounded, that this name Scarron was given to this lake and river by the early French settlers at Crown Point, on Lake Champlain, in honor of Madame Scarron, the widow of the celebrated French dramatist and novelist, Paul Scarron: who was styled in his day "the emperor of the burlesque."

After her poet husband, who was a paralytic and a cripple, died, being still a most beautiful and fascinating woman, she captivated even royalty itself by her wondrous charms. By some means the young widow became the secret governess of the natural children of Louis XIV. by Madame de Montespan, and soon became the rival of the latter in the affections of the voluptuous and dissolute king. After the queen, Maria Theresa, of Austria, died, the king made the charming widow Scarron his wife by a secret marriage. Louis then settled upon her a large Estate, named Maintenon, and made her Marquise de Maintenon. As Madame de Maintenon, for thirty years she controlled the destinies of France.

But this mountain chain, the lake, and the river bear her more humble name, - the name of her poor, brilliant poet-husband, Scarron.

The next two mountain ranges of the wilderness, the Boquet range and the Adirondack range proper, neither of them lie within the bounds of Saratoga County.

Thc mountains of the great Adirondack wilderness belong to the old Laurentian system of Canada, and not to the Apalachian system of the Atlantic slope, as is by some writers erroneously stated.

A spur of the vast Canadian Laurentian chain crosses the river St. Lawrence at the Thousand Islands into northern New York. After, by its rugged, broken character, forming the Thousand Islands in crossing the St. Lawrence, this spur of the Laurentides spreads easterly to Lake Champlain, southerly to the valley of the Mohawk, and westerly to the Blank river, forming the whole rocky groundwork of the upland region of the great wilderness. In the interior these mountains rise into a thousand lofty peaks, towering above thousands of crystal lakes and emerald mountain meadows.

From the high, rounded hills on the east side of Saratoga lake, the well-defined ridges of the two great ranges that fill up all the northern part of the county with their wild grandeur can be distinctly traced. First, the Palmertown, ending at Saratoga Springs, and beyond them the Kay-ad-ros-se-ra, in bold relief against the western sky, extending still farther southward into Galway and Charlton.

------------------------------

III. - RIVERS.

The Hudson river for more than seventy miles of its course sweeps along and washes the eastern border of Saratoga County. The Hudson is fed by a system of forest branches that spread over the whole mountain belt of the Adirondack wilderness, but only one of these main branches - the Sacondaga - enters the borders of Saratoga County.

The Mohawks called the Hudson Ska-nek-ta-de, meaning "the river beyond the open pines." To the Mohawks, when going across the carrying-place from the Mohawk river at Schenectady to the Hudson at Albany, the latter river was literally "the river beyond the pines," and thus they so called it in their language. Its Algonquin name, however, was Ca-ho-ta-te-a, meaning "the river that comes from the mountains lying beyond the Cohoes falls." Henry Hudson, its first white discoverer, translating its Algonquin name, called it the "River of Mountains."

The early Dutch settlers on its banks sometimes called it "The Nassau," after the reigning family of Holland, and sometimes "The Mauritius," in honor of the Stadtholder, Prince Maurice. But it was not celled The Hudson until the English wrested it from the Dutch, in 1664, when they so named it in honor of their countryman, its immortal discoverer and first explorer.

The Hudson is literally a "river of the mountains." It is born among the clouds on the shaggy side of Mount McIntyre, and in the mountain meadows and lakelets near the top of Mount Marcy, almost five thousand feet above the level of the sea. The infant Hudson is cradled in the awful chasms of the Panther Gorge, the Gorge of the Dial, and in the Indian Pass, called by the Indians Da-yah-je-ga-go, "the place where the storm-clouds meet in battle with the great serpent."

Near the centre of this wondrous chasm of the Indian Pass, high up on the rugged side of Mount McIntyre, two little springs issue from the rocks so near to each other that their limpid waters almost mingle. From each spring flows a tiny stream. The streams at first interlock, but soon separate and run down the mountain side into the chasm, which is here two thousand nine hundred and thirty-seven feet above tide. After reaching, the bottom, one runs southerly as the head-waters of the Hudson, the other northerly into the St. Lawrence.

Upon the south side of Mount Marcy is a little lake called "Summit Water" by the old guides, and by Verplanck Calvin, in his Adirondack survey, "Tear of the Clouds." This little lakelet is four thousand three hundred and twenty-six feet above tide- water. It is the highest lake-source of the Hudson.

After thus rising upon its highest mountain peaks, the Hudson in its wild course down the southern slope of the wilderness crosses four of the mountain chains, which all seem to give way at its approach, as if it were some wayward child of their own.

After bursting through the Palmertown range, its last wilderness mountain barrier, it encounters in its more placid course to the sea the great Apalachian system of mountains, and seems to rend them from top to bottom. Or, rather, from the natural head of tide-water, some two miles above Waterford, in Saratoga County, the Hudson virtually ceases to be a river and becomes an estuary, or arm of the sea, in which the tide throbs back and forth, and on whose peaceful bosom now float the navies and the commerce of the world.

THE MOHAWK RIVER, before it mingles its waters with the Hudson, washes almost the whole southern side of the county of Saratoga. The Indian name of the Mohawk was Te-uge-ga. It rises on the highlands of the Lesser Wilderness of Northern New York, northerly of Oneida lake, near the head-waters of the Salmon river, which runs into Lake Ontario. The Salmon river was the ancient River de la Famine of the old French explorers. The Cohoes falls, in the Mohawk, on the border of this county, were called by the Indians Ga-ha-oose, meaning "the falls of the shipwrecked canoe."

THE SACONDAGA RIVER, enters the county of Saratoga on its western border, and breaking through the mountain barriers crosses the whole width of the county, and enters the Hudson on its eastern border. For twenty miles of its course before it enters the Hudson there is a reach of still water which is navigable by small steamers. Sacondaga is an Indian name, signifying "The river of the sunken or drowned lands," in allusion to the large Vlaie, or mountain meadow, through which it runs just before it reaches the border of the county. This great vlaie was the favorite hunting-ground of Sir William Johnson, and near it he built his two hunting-lodges, called the Fish House and the Cottage, on Summer House Point. {See "Trappers of New York," by Jeptha R. Simms.}

THE KAY-AD-ROS-SE-RA RIVER is the largest stream whose whole course lies within the borders of the county of Saratoga. It rises on the southern slopes of the Kayadrossera mountains in Greenfield and Corinth, and running thence southerly between the mountain ranges, through Milton to Ballston Spa, it then turns easterly into Saratoga lake. From the lake to the Hudson it is known as Fish creek.

The other numerous smaller streams of the county are mentioned in the history of the several towns through which they run.

------------------------------

IV.--LAKES.

The principal lakes of the county of Saratoga are now called Saratoga lake, Round lake, Ballston lake, and Lake Desolation.

As the old Indian name for Lake Champlain was Caniad-eri-guarunte, "The door of the country," and that of Lake George was Caniad-eri-oit, "The tail of the lake," so the Indian name for Saratoga lake was Caniad-eri-os-se-ra, "The lake of the crooked stream." The name was afterwards written Cai-ad-er-ros-se-ra, and since, Kay-ad-ros-se-ra, its present form.

The name 'Sharlatoga, now Saratoga, was never applied by the Indians to this lake, nor to the great hunting-ground in which it lies. Saratoga was the name of the hunting-ground along the river hill-sides.

On some old Dutch and French maps, the Hudson river is represented as taking its rise in, and running from, Saratoga lake. Hence it is called on those maps Capi-aqua. The Indian name of ROUND LAKE is Ta-nen-da-ho-ra, and for BALLSTON LAKE is Sha-nen-da-ho-ra. The signification of both of these names seems to be lost.

LAKE DESOLATION, as its name indicates, is a wild, weird body of water, situate on the top of the Kayadrossera mountain range, on the border of Greenfield and Providence, its waters running, first westerly and then northerly, a long circuit into the Sacondaga, within six miles of their source in the lake. The stream was called by the Indians Ken-ny-et-to.

The other smaller lakes in the county, like the smaller streams, will be described in the history of the several towns in which they lie.

Having thus given some account of the most striking topographical features of the county, in the following chapter will be found a brief statement of the geological outlines of it, rocky groundwork and surface soils.

----------------------------------------

NEXT --- HOME

Transcribed from the original text and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 2/7/00.

Please provide me with any feedback you may have concerning errors in the transcription or any supplementary information concerning the contents. wcarr1@nycap.rr.com


Back to Saratoga County GenWeb


Copyright ©1999,2000 Bill Carr and Heritage Hunters of Saratoga County

All Rights Reserved.