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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 124: The Village of Dolgeville.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1753-1758 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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America's felt shoe manufacturing center — A modern and model American community, outgrowth of the genius of Alfred Dolge, who located here in 1874 — Settled, 1794 — Known as Green's Bridge and Brockett's Bridge — Incorporated as Dolgeville, 1891 — First Mohawk Valley hydro-electric development made at High Falls on the West Canada Creek in 1897 — Modern business developments — The West Canada Creek or Auskerada — Widest part of Mohawk Valley watershed.

Dolgeville is located on both sides of the East Canada Creek at High Falls. The eastern and lesser parts of the town and the park are on the east side of the creek in Fulton County, and the larger part of Dolgeville is on the western side of the stream in the County of Herkimer. The village is the chief felt shoe manufacturing center in America.

It is picturesquely situated in a healthful, upland country where the Mohawk Valley dairy-farming district is bordered on the north by the Adirondack Mountains and forests. Dolgeville is a market town for the surrounding fertile dairy farming country and an industrial center of growing importance as well as a gateway to the Adirondack region to the north. The village is one of the main points on the upland highway running from Saratoga Springs through Johnstown to Dolgeville, Middleville and Barneveld on the Black River Road. Dolgeville is connected with Little Falls by the Little Falls and Dolgeville branch of the New York Central Railroad, with terminus at Salisbury Center. There is also a bus connection between the two towns.

When there were thriving settlements of German and Dutch along the Mohawk, prior to the Revolution, the Dolgeville region was an unbroken wilderness. After the Revolution there was a great movement of New Englanders westward and many of them settled in the Mohawk Valley. They generally bought and cleared farms on the uplands, five or ten miles north and south (but generally north) of the river, as the Mohawk flats and slopes were in the possession of the Palatine German and Holland Dutch pioneers. The first settlers of Dolgeville were New Englandlers.

1794 — First Settlement by Samuel Low

Samuel Low was the village pioneer coming to the site of present Dolgeville before 1794, in which year he built a saw mill and a grist mill between the site of the Dolgeville iron bridge and the upper boiler house. John Faville settled on Ransom Creek in 1795, where he built a grist mill and saw mill. Here a little settlement sprang up with a blacksmith shop, tannery and school house. Families by the names of Ayres, Spencer, Ransom, Spofford, Lamberson, Brockett and Randall soon followed and settled the adjoining lands which they cleared for farms.

In 1805 a settler named Green built the first bridge over the East Creek and the little village was known for some years as Green's Bridge. In 1815 a road to Little Falls was built. In 1826 a postoffice was established with Zephi Brockett as postmaster and the office was called Brockett's Bridge, which name the village took. In 1830 a store was established at which time Salisbury Center was a much more important place than Brockett's Bridge.

1874 — Coming Of Alfred Dolge

From 1830 to 1874 a tannery and several smaller manufacturing establishments operated here, practically all of which had ceased work when Alfred Dolge came to the place in 1874, prospecting for spruce wood for piano sounding boards. Dolge was then located in New York as an importer of piano materials.

Alfred Dolge purchased the tannery property and, in April, 1875, began manufacturing operations which later developed into felt mills, and felt shoe, piano case, piano sounding board, piano hammer factories and lumber yards. Various factory buildings were erected, including the handsome big stone factory (264x64 feet and four stories high). Dolge bought 30,000 acres of Adirondack woodland and introduced electric light into his lumber mills in 1881 (in the village in 1887).

In 1881, by a unanimous vote the village changed its name from Brockett's Bridge to Dolgeville. The population had grown from 325 in 1875 to about 1,500. Many dwelling houses were built and Dolgeville was a "boom town," but built on a solid basis.

In 1887 Mr. Dolge bought the Reuben Faville farm on the east side of the creek, including the picturesque High Falls of the East Canada. Dolge laid out 500 acres of this land as a park and presented this picturesque and beautiful place to the people of Dolgeville. The land here rises to a height of 1,020 feet sea elevation.

Dolgeville Incorporated, 1891

Dolgeville was incorporated in 1891 with Alfred Dolge as president. Mr. Dolge took an advanced position with regard to both his industries and the village. He established a progressive newspaper and aided in creating a splendid system of schools. In 1890 there were over 850 employes working in the Dolge and other village industries. In 1892 the Little Falls and Dolgeville Railroad was built.

First Mohawk Valley Hydro-Electric Plant — 1897

[Photo: High Falls, East Canada Creek, Dolgeville]

In 1897 the first hydro-electric power plant in the Mohawk Valley began operations in Dolgeville. This is now the High Falls plant of the Utica Gas and Electric Company, which generates 2,000 h. p. See "Chapter 132 — Hydro-Electric Development in the Upper Mohawk Valley."

From the start of his industrial operations Mr. Dolge established an "Earning Sharing" system for his employes — a plan combining insurance, endowment, pension funds and a sick fund and mutual aid society. The amount of insurance carried by the Dolge firm for its employes was $200,000 in 1892.

Financial difficulties involved Mr. Dolge in 1898 and, after his withdrawal from business here, he removed to California. Mr. Dolge died in January, 1922, at Milan, Italy, while on a trip around the world. The record of his wonderful local business development and social and industrial activities gives Alfred Dolge a position in history among the big men of the Mohawk Valley.

After a depression the village has come back and is moving ever forward as a modern, progressive industrial community with the highest American ideals. The story of the creation of this modern town from an Adirondack hamlet is one of the industrial romances of the Mohawk Valley.

Dolgeville manufactures felt shoes and slippers for the sons and daughters of Uncle Sam from little tots to the old folks — also leather shoes, piano backs and sounding boards. There are important hydro-electric plants at Dolgeville and Inghams Mills and at Sprite Creek, about 9 m. n., all on the East Canada Creek. There are important lumber interests and industries at and northward of Dolgeville, in the East Creek Valley.

Beautiful Spruce Lake, 6 m. n. w. of Dolgeville and 12 m. airline distance n. Mohawk River, is one of the most southerly Adirondack lakes and a favorite recreation ground of Dolgeville and Little Falls people.

The East Canada Creek and Its Water Power Development

The development of Dolgeville and its neighborhood is closely associated with the hydro-electric power developments on East Creek. The latter stream has power plants at Sprite Creek. Dolgeville, Inghams Mills and Beardslee Falls. The latter plant was finishing in 1925. It vies in importance with the other great Mohawk Valley hydro-electric power plants at Cohoes and Trenton Falls.

The East Canada Creek was the first Mohawk Valley stream to be electrically developed (1897), antedating, by three years, the first (1901) power plant on the West Canada. In 1925 East Creek hydro-electric plants will produce 46,000 hp. as follows: Beardslee Falls, 30,000 hp.; Inghams Mills, 8,000 hp.; Dolgeville, 2,000 hp.; Sprite Creek, 6,000 hp. Sprite Creek is an automatic plant, operated by switches from Inghams Mills. The Beardslee Falls dam set the East Creek waters back in a lake to Inghams Mills, the dam of which makes a narrow lake extending four miles to Dolgeville. In 1924 work was begun by the Adirondack Power and Light Corporation to market some of its East Creek power to towns in the Susquehanna Valley and to the Pennsylvania coal mines and also to furnish the current, for electrical operation, required by the Mohawk Division of the New York Central between Albany and Oneida.

Nineteen hundred and twenty-five hydro-electric production in the Mohawk Valley amounts to a total of about 165,000 hp., the main sources of which are: West Canada Creek, 34,500 hp., Little Falls, 1,600 hp.; East Canada Creek, 46,000 hp.; Garoga Creek, 15,500 hp.; Visscher Ferry (Barge Canal), 8,000 hp.; Crescent Dam (Barge Canal), 8,000 hp.; Cohoes Falls, 50,000 hp.

The Mohawk Valley electric transmission trunk line runs from Utica to Little Falls, Inghams Mills, Johnstown, Tribes Hill, Amsterdam, Schenectady.

The East Canada Creek, an important Mohawk tributary is so called in distinction from the West Canada Creek at Herkimer. Both streams rise in what was considered Canada in the Colonial period, and hence their names. East Creek was called Ci-o-ha-na by the Mohawks, meaning "large creek." This is one of the world's ancient watercourses, draining as it does the southern Adirondack slopes. When the Mohawk Valley was formed, at the end of the coal period, Fall Hill at Little Falls formed the divide between the Great Lakes basin and the Atlantic seaboard, and then East Creek formed the headwater stream of the Mohawk. This continued until Fall Hill was cut through by the glacier.

Morehouse Lake, in the Adirondacks, 27 miles airline north of the outlet, forms the source of East Creek. In its valley at Salisbury is an iron mine which was worked for years but which is now abandoned. There have been frequent rumors of finds of gold, silver and lead along East Creek, none of which has materialized.

The chief headwater source of the East Canada or Auskerada is the Canada lakes group in northern Fulton County with their outlet through Sprite Creek into East Creek about two and one-half miles northeast of Dolgeville.

Fall Hill ridge and plateau divide the East and West Canada Creek valleys.

The widest parts of the Mohawk watershed are in the East-West Canada Creek section (74 deg. 40 min. west longitude) from Richmondville, Schoharie County, north to the source of West Canada Lake, 70 miles; and the Cayadutta Creek-Schoharie River section from Gloversville south to the West Kill of the Schoharie River (74 deg. 20 min. west longitude), 60 miles.

Aus-ker-a-da, meaning "the stream of many fishes," is one of several Mohawk Indian names for the East Canada Creek. In the Timerman patent to lands along the Mohawk River westward for three miles from East Creek the latter stream is called the Tegahuhharoughwhe. The name Auskerada is also applied to Canada Lake.

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