The following is an excerpt from History of Saratoga County, New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, 1878.
A Memorandum by Ashbel Palmer
The settlement at this village is of early date. It grew up near the falls of the Hudson river, around the Palmer grist- and saw-mills. The village was called Upton, shortened from Up-town, as it was then the first and only settlement north of Half-Moon, or Waterford. There were only a few dwellings at first between Stillwater and Waterford. The country was most all woods. Before 1791 this was in Albany county, which extended to Canada, after which it was in “Saraghtoga,” – the old name. The earliest date of a conveyance now to be found was a deed of land, grist-and saw-mill, from Isaac Mann to George Palmer, dated 1764. Still there must have been older conveyances than this.
Many years before 1800, perhaps before the Revolution, there was an ashery and brewery a few rods north of where Stillwater brook joins the Hudson. The settlement increased slowly, both in population and dwellings.
A Presbyterian meeting-house and an Episcopal church were erected on the hill before 1800. About 1791, and a few years later, several substantial buildings were erected, which gave the hill a fine appearance over the lower part of the village; and very early, too, about 1800, a schoolhouse and a Masonic lodge were also established on the hill, – the latter then said to be the best in the State. The lodge probably first met in the tavern of Mr. Patrick.
Business became more active after Rensselaer Schuyler purchased a tract of land, as he came in with capital. This was in the year 1812.
After Ephraim Newland purchased, improvements went on more rapidly. An academy, a Baptist church, and other buildings went up; but previous to his day business was advancing, owing in part to the opening of the Champlain canal in 1825.
Soon after the Newland purchase, mills were established for the manufacture of flannel, – also for knitting goods. A second knitting-mill and a mill for making wall-paper; also a straw-board mill. The purchase by Mr. Schuyler was the cause of the future prosperity of the place, or contributed materially to it.
Long prior to these improvements, and before the meeting-houses were built, there was the old barn on the Palmer farm remembered by some now living, and the path leading to Mr. Osgood’s, and to a spring across the meadow from the barn. In this barn meetings were held by ministers that could be obtained. It was taken down by Ashbel Palmer about 1812, and the timber is now in a wagon-house on the Patrick place. Among the additions to the place was the erection of a bridge in 1832. It was burned in 1875, and with it the hotel and stores. The bridge was replaced the year after by an iron structure, and the hotel by the present large brick building. The first bridge-tender was Daniel Bradt, remaining about three years. He was followed by Tappan March, who stayed about the same time. Mr. John C. Force then took the place, and has now been at his post thirty-eight years. The new bridge above the piers cost about $9000, and the property is estimated at $15,000.
Some may like to hear that there was in the days of General Schuyler a canal commenced, intended for a communication for boats from Waterford to the Hudson river just above the Palmer falls, from thence in the river to the Saratoga falls. But the canal was never finished, – was dug only in parts, and abandoned. Some may remember having seen the remains of a lock where the canal-boats were to pass in and out, situated on the margin of the lot known in late years as the Hathaway lot. The canal was a State affair, and the management of it was under General Philip Schuyler. This was as early as 1794, as deeds of that date are in existence describing land bounded on this canal.
Stillwater was incorporated as a village in 1816, and the bounds were from the Stillwater brook half a mile up, and on the north included the Bartlett farm. Afterwards the bounds were extended south. In 1875 the census of the village showed 797 inhabitants, and 123 voters.
Surveys, and a map of “Upton in the town of Stillwater,” were made before 1800. It was on land belonging to Elias Palmer. The lots were disposed of by durable leases. The lots on the hill were not included. Those were purchased of Campbell & Montgomery, twelve in number.
Colonel Daniel Dickinson, son-in-law of George Palmer, erected a tannery by the river, probably as early as 1770. His house was near the river. The house now owned by G.V. Lansing, just south of the creek, was the residence of Rensselaer Schuyler. Before that, it was Dickinson’s, and had been that of Amos Hodgman.
The influence of G.V. Lansing was excellent in inducing citizens to paint their dwellings and adorn their grounds.
Colonel Dickinson had an orchard of the best of fruit on the lot of his first residence, started from trees brought from Connecticut, and set out before 1790. This orchard is now laid out into lots with a few trees left, occupied with houses to some extent; among them an Episcopal chapel and the unfinished Methodist church.
Schuyler’s mills and all additions were burned in 1817. The mills, etc., afterwards came into the hands of Philip J. Schuyler, who erected a new grist-mill, in which was conducted clothing works. The frame of this mill was removed by Ephraim Newland down near the Stillwater brook. A new saw-mill was built by T.J. Schuyler.
In 1838, Ephraim Newland and John F. Wetsell purchased the Schuyler property, – east side of the road for $9000; west side, $2625.
There was a brick-kiln at one time east of the canal-bridge. The clay for the brick was taken from that thrown out from the canal.
In early years the Waterford and Whitehall turnpike company was incorporated, but failed in a short time.
Stillwater was of much public importance in the olden time, as the county clerk’s office was in this village, and Dirck Swart was county clerk. The first meeting of the board of supervisors of the new county of Saratoga was held, in 1791, at his house. Didn’t need a very large room for four of them, – J.B. Schuyler, of Saratoga; Elias Palmer, of Stillwater; Benjamin Rosekrans, of Half-Moon; and Beriah Palmer, of Ballston.
The earliest town-meetings were held in the tavern kept by Wm. Mead, a son-in-law of George Palmer. Afterwards the house became the property of Elias Palmer, and his residence for many years; it is now owned by John Patrick, son of Jesse Patrick. The latter was a merchant here for a long time, and afterwards removed to Troy.
John Thompson, of this town, was a member of Congress. He was the father of Judge James Thompson, of Saratoga County court.
A hand fire-engine was bought in 1875, and a fire-company formed. The engine and incidentals cost $1200.
The Congregational church, that came to this town in an organized form, brought lumber with them from Connecticut to build their house of worship. They first built about opposite the mouth of the Hoosic, on the road to Ballston, near the Thompson place, and half a mile from the Hudson river. This building was afterwards taken down and erected over again where it now stands, two miles farther from the river. It was painted yellow, and thus became known all through the county as the “Yellow meeting-house,” and to this day it is better known by this name than by the name of the denomination that founded it. When it was repaired in 1850 it was painted white, but it was so contrary to its old name and associations that it was again painted yellow to correspond with its past history.
The gallery in the Presbyterian church was unfinished until Rev. Dirck C. Lansing came. He had the gallery contracted some, and had slips put in for singers and other seats put up. This was in Rensselaer Schuyler’s time, who took great interest in improving the meeting-house.
Crow Hill is in the southwest part of Stillwater, rising to quite an elevation from the valley of Anthony’s Kil. It is said to derive the name from the fact that one or more settlers used to go over to Schaghticoke and work out as day laborers in the hard times of pioneer life. They were said to be obliged to go abroad to earn something, as the crows fly to a distant corn-field to get something to eat; so their home was called Crow Hill.
The southern extension of this range was known for many years as Tory Hill, because there was a tall old pine which the loyalists used as a post of observation and a signal-station. This is very probable, as there was at least one well-known Tory headquarters in Mechanicville, on the site of the present Methodist parsonage. It is said that the proprietor of that house was once nearly caught, being chased far down towards Waterford, but escaped by swimming his horse across the Hudson.
For more information regarding historical items and/or artifacts from The Town and Village of Stillwater, contact the Office of the Town and Village Historian at 664-1847 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Town’s History Page