History of Saratoga County, Chapter XXV, Internal Improvements - Canals - Railroads - 1795 - 1838.










That part of the State of New York which has now universally come to be known as, and called, Northern New York, and of which the county of Saratoga forms so important a part, is a region almost, if not quite, surrounded by natural water-courses, making of it virtually an island. {See Historical Sketches of Northern New York and the Adirondack Wilderness, by the author, page 17.} Northern New York, as it has been seen in the opening chapter of this work, is an elevated plateau, rising into lofty mountain peaks in the interior, and gradually sloping on every side into the deep surrounding valleys. On the north of it flows the great river St. Lawrence, draining the great lakes. To the east of it, in the great "northern valley," is the Hudson river, running southerly into the Atlantic ocean, and the waters of Lake Champlain and its tributaries, flowing northerly into the St. Lawrence. On the south of it the Mohawk river runs easterly into the Hudson, while the waters of the Oneida lake run westerly through the Oswego river into Lake Ontario. On the west is Lake Ontario, from which runs the St. Lawrence, completing the encircling chain of almost one thousand miles of living navigable waters.

Around this region the Indian could paddle his canoe, and the white, in the colonial period, could row his bateau, finding, save the portages around the somewhat numerous falls and rapids, only two carrying-places. One was from the Hudson, at Fort Edward, to Fort Nun, on the Wood creek, that runs into Lake Champlain at Whitehall. The other was from the Mohawk, at Fort Stanwix, to Fort Williams, on the other Wood creek, which runs into the Oneida lake.

But these natural obstacles to navigation were long since overcome by artificial means, and Northern New York is now entirely surrounded by navigable routes. The artificial means mentioned above are the Erie and the Champlain canals, the first running through and skirting the whole southern border of Saratoga County, and the latter running through almost the whole extent of its eastern border.

To these great artificial water-courses, thus supplementing her natural water-courses and overcoming their obstacles, the State and city of New York are mainly indebted for their wonderful material and industrial prosperity.

If to their distinguished governor, De Witt Clinton, much gratitude is due from the people of the State for the building and completion of these important works, some slight acknowledgment they also owe to their last colonial governor, William Tryon, for the conception of the scheme and its first official recommendation to their favorable notice.

In his report on the state of the province, bearing date 11th June, 1774, Governor Tryon, in speaking of the navigation of Hudson and Mohawk rivers, recommends that the obstacles to their navigation be overcome by a system of locks and canals.



The first projector of inland navigation in America was Christopher Colles. He was born in Ireland in the year 1738. He first appears in this country as delivering public lectures in Philadelphia, in 1772, upon pneumatics, illustrated by experiments in an air-pump of his own invention. He is said to have been the first in this country to undertake the building of a steam-engine for a distillery in that city, but failed for want of means, although his plan secured the approval of David Rittenhouse and the Philosophical Society.

In 1773 he lectured at the Exchange in New York on the advantages of lock navigation. The benefits of this mode of transportation had recently been demonstrated by the opening by the Duke of Bridgewater, in 1761, of the first navigable canal constructed in Great Britain.

On the 6th day of November, 1784, he addressed a memorial to the two Houses of the New York Legislature, proposing a plan for inland navigation on the Mohawk river. It was referred to a committee, of which Mr. Adgate, of Albany, was chairman, who, on the 6th of the same month, reported that while these laudable proposals merited encouragement, "it would be inexpedient for the Legislature to cause that business to be undertaken at public expense," and added that if Mr. Colles, with a number of adventurers, would undertake it, they ought to be encouraged in the enterprise.

The next time the canal policy was suggested to the Legislature was in a speech made in that body by Governor George Clinton, in 1791.

Again on the 5th day of January, 1795, Governor Clinton, in his speech to the Legislature, warmly recommended inland navigation, saying "that he trusted that a measure so interesting to the community would continue to command the attention due to its importance." On the 7th of February, 1792, General Williams, of Salem, Washington county, brought a bill into the Legislature entitled "An act for constructing and opening a canal and lock navigation in northern and western parts of the State."

These efforts resulted in the formation of two companies in the year 1795, one for the northern and one for the western improvement. The northern company was incorporated by the name of the "Northern Inland Lock Navigation Company." The object of the company was to build a canal and locks from the sprouts of the Mohawk up along the west bank of the Hudson around the rapids. For this purpose surveys were commenced in the summer of 1795, and a considerable part of the work was begun and completed before the year 1800. One of the surveyors employed on this northern canal in 1795 was Mark Isambard Brunel, who afterwards filled the world with his fame as the engineer of the Thames tunnel. Brunel had been in the French navy, and was exiled from France on account of his socialistic proclivities.

General Schuyler was at the head of this company, and the remains of this undertaking were long called locally "Schuyler ditch." The enterprise failed because private means were inadequate to its completion. But these efforts finally resulted in the building of the Erie and Champlain canals, these stupendous improvements to which our State owes so much of its prosperity.

The early but abortive efforts in this direction having been mostly made in Saratoga County, so far as the northern company was concerned, are of peculiar interest to the people of the county.




This company was incorporated Feb. 16, 1831; Henry Walton, John Clarke, William A. Langworthy, John H, Steele, Miles Beach, Gideon W. Davison, and Rockwell Putnam, "with such other persons as shall associate with them for that purpose," being constituted a body politic and corporate, with power to construct a single or double railroad or way betwixt the village of Saratoga Springs and the city of Schenectady, passing through the village of Ballston as near the centre thereof as is practicable, and were vested with the sole and exclusive right and privilege of constructing and using a single or double railroad or ways for the purpose of transporting and carrying persons and property over the same, and were to have succession for fifty years.

Churchill C. Camberleng, Walter Bowne, Henry Walton, John Clarke, Samuel Young, Thomas Palmer, Daniel J. Toll, John J. De Graff, William James, James Stevenson, and John Townsend were the commissioners for receiving subscriptions to the capital stock, which was to be $150,000. Terminating at Saratoga Springs, and having but little business except during the summer months, the road was not a financial success until the opening of the Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad, and the Saratoga and Washington railroad, made it a part of the continuous line between the head of navigation on the Hudson river and Lake Champlain. It was afterwards durably leased to the Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad company, and has since been operated by that company. So limited was the business of the road that prior to its being leased, and on some occasions after that, it was not uncommon to cease operations in the winter season, particularly after a heavy fall of snow, carrying the mails and such stray passengers as might offer by the less expensive horse and cutter. Since the opening of the northern and eastern connections, however, it has been the highway of a large and prosperous traffic between the great west and Boston and northern New England.



was incorporated April 14, 1832, the act providing that "Stephen Warren (of Troy), and such other persons as shall hereafter become stockholders," should constitute a body corporate under that name. The capital stock was to be $300,000. The road was to be constructed "from some proper point in the city of Troy, in the county of Rensselaer, passing through the village of Waterford, in the county of Saratoga, to the village of Ballston Spa, in said county of Saratoga:" with privilege "to take, transport, carry, and convey property and persons upon the same, by the power and force of steam, of animals, or any mechanical power, or of any construction of them, for the term of fifty years from the passage of this act. John Knickerbocker, of Waterford, John House, Stephen Warren, William Pierce, William Haight, James Cook, and Joel Lee were appointed commissioners to open books of subscription.

The road was constructed, and operated with varying success, but finally went into the hands of its creditors. It was purchased by a new organization, who raised the capital stock to $600,000, and afterwards, the vigor and energy of the new management, the rapid growth of the village of Saratoga Springs, and the opening of new rail connections to the north and east, requiring further outlay to meet the wants of its business, to $800,000. In 1868 it consolidated with the Saratoga and Whitehall railroad and the Troy, Salem and Rutland railroad, from Rutland to Eagle Bridge, when its capital stock was raised to $2,500,000, and in 1870 it was further increased to $6,000,000, when the whole property was durably leased to the Delaware and Hudson canal company.

It will be seen that the original charter of the road was from Troy to Ballston Spa. The Saratoga and Schenectady railroad was already in operation from Ballston Spa to Saratoga, so that the Rensselaer railroad was but twenty-five miles in length, and made a connection at Ballston Spa with the Saratoga and Schenectady railroad for its Saratoga business.

In 1860 the Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad company took a lease - since made a perpetual one - of the property of the Saratoga and Schenectady railroad, and has continued to operate it as a part of its line since that time. It also, in 1860, took a perpetual lease of the Albany and Vermont railroad company's property from Albany to the Junction above Waterford, and in 1867 leased the Glen's Falls railroad from Fort Edward to Glen's Falls. So that, from its small beginning of twenty-five miles, it has, by gradual development of its business and the energy and thrift of its management, grown to the control and direction of one hundred and eighty-one miles of track, running through and giving facilities of transportation to a populous and important section of the State.

The village of Saratoga may well consider itself under the highest obligation to the railroad companies, which have given her her proud title of "the queen of the watering-places." Without their aid, while doubtless the heating waters which bubble from her springs would have attracted numerous visitors, as they did in the days of four-horse coaches and the Boston chaise, the throngs of thousands who now seek amusement and relaxation there would have found transportation an impossibility.

It is difficult now, in the days of powerful locomotives, steel rails, and drawing-room cars, to realize the humble beginnings of the railway enterprises of the country. The Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad was the third road built in the State, - the Albany and Schenectady and the Saratoga and Schenectady being constructed but a brief time before. The coaches of that day would now be a curiosity. For many years a single car drawn by a horse was used for the local business between Troy and the village of Waterford, and "old Fisk's hearse" will still be remembered by the older citizens of the two places. The writer well remembers how the competent and genial superintendent of those days, the late Leonard R. Sargeant, promised Mr. Fisk that if he overtook him again on the route he would "pitch his old hearse down the bank," and how he literally performed his promise. Few persons are aware that it was supposed when railroads were first being constructed in this country that the tolls for the running of private cars for freight or passengers on the track would constitute a part of the income of the company, and that any responsible party would be allowed to run his own cars, operated by his own horse or steam-power, on payment of the regular toll, very much as the practice runs on McAdamized or turnpike roads or the public canals. That this was at once found impracticable was matter of course, as time-tables and responsibility to one head by those operating the road were absolutely necessary for safety to life and property. But it will be found that in several of the early charters of the country the board of directors were authorized, among other rights, to fix the rate of tolls.



The following list of railroads and of railroad projects formerly authorized, including those abandoned and those merged in others, is derived from official sources, and is nearly complete from the first, in 1826, to November, 1877. Those now in existence, so far as can be ascertained, and either done or in actual and advanced stages of construction, have their titles printed in small capitals. Such historical and statistical data and dates as our restricted limits allowed have been given in connection with the more important.. The constant changes going on have, however, rendered this list necessarily somewhat imperfect, even at the time of going to the press, and it must become more so every day. It will, however, afford useful and, for the most part, reliable facts, so far as it goes, concerning the railroad interests of the county.

ADIRONDACK COMPANY. - Articles filed Oct. 24, 1863, and formed under chapter 236, laws of 1863, succeeded the "Adirondack Estate and Railroad Company." Allowed by act of March 31, 1865, to extend its road to Lake Ontario or the St. Lawrence, as to increase its capital to $5,000,000; finished sixty-two miles, from Saratoga Springs to North Creek, in Warren county. It is proposed to extend a branch of this road to Ogdensburg.

The articles were amended July 10, 1870, and the capital increased with the design of this extension; and an appropriation was granted by the Legislature in 1871, but failed to receive the governor's sanction. Distances - Saratoga to Greenfield, six miles; Kings, four; South Corinth, three; Jessup's Landing, four; Hadley's, five; Quarry, five; Stoney Creek, three; Thurman, six; and The Glen, eight. Besides the railroad, this company is engaged in mining and other business enterprises.

ADIRONDACK ESTATE AND RAILROAD. - Articles filed Aug. 11, 1860; merged in the "Adirondack Company" under chapter 236, laws of 1863.

ADIRONDACK RAILROAD COMPANY. - Incorporated April, 1839; did not attempt construction of road.

ALBANY AND VERMONT RAILROAD. - Articles filed Oct. 6, 1859; formerly the Albany, Vermont and Canada Railroad. Leased June 12, 1860, to the Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad, and has since (until recently) been operated by them. Length, twelve miles. A "Y" branch to near the ferry, in West Troy, was constructed, but was discontinued several years since. This branch is now under the control of the "Delaware and Hudson Canal Company."

DELAWARE AND HUDSON CANAL COMPANY. - This company, on the 9th of May, 1871, became the lessee of the Albany and Susquehanna railroad for the term of its charter. It is also lessee of the Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad (May 18, 1871), and of the Utica, Clinton and Binghamton railroad, and is building a road from Nineveh to Lanesboro', Pa. See Albany and Susquehanna railroad, etc.

SACKET'S HARBOR AND SARATOGA RAILROAD. - Incorporated April 10, 1848, and organized Jan. 10, 1852. Length about one hundred and sixty miles. The work has begun and a large amount of money expended, but nothing furnished under this name. Changed to Lake Ontario and Hudson River railroad.

SARATOGA AND FORT EDWARD RAILROAD. - Incorporated April 17, 1833; seventeen miles. Not completed. Its survey, maps, etc., were allowed by act of May 2, 1834, to be sold to the Saratoga and Washington railroad company.

SARATOGA AND HUDSON RIVER RAILROAD. - Articles filed April 16, 1864 Not built.

SARATOGA AND MONTGOMERY RAILROAD. - Incorporated May 6, 1836. Not constructed.

SARATOGA AND SCHUYLERVILLE RAILROAD. - Incorporated April 26, 1833; nine miles. Not built.

SARATOGA AND WASHINGTON RAILROAD. - Chartered May 2, 1834. Capital $600,000. Company organized April 20, 1835, and work begun, but stopped in 1836. Finally opened to Whitehall, from Saratoga Springs, Dec. 10, 1848, and to Lake station, April 9, 1851. Sold Feb. 27, 1855, on foreclosure of a mortgage, and the Saratoga and Whitehall railroad took its place.

SARATOGA AND WHITEHALL RAILROAD. - Organized June 8, 1855, as successor of the Saratoga and Washington railroad. Capital $500,000. Leased and run the Rutland and Whitehall railroad to Castleton, Vt., many years. Leased in perpetuity, and transferred under chap. 254, laws of 1867, to the Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad company, and the articles filed Oct. 22, 1868. Now operated under the Delaware and Hudson canal company.

SARATOGA, SCHUYLERVILLE AND HOOSAIC TUNNEL RAILROAD. - Article filed April 4, 1870. From Saratoga Springs to Schuylerville, about eighteen miles. Capital $300,000. Not built.

SARATOGA SPRINGS AND SCHUYLERVILLE RAILROAD. - Incorporated April 26, 1832. Not constructed.



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