This page conforms to the XHTML standard and uses style sheets. If your browser doesn't support these, you may not see the page as designed, but all the text is still accessible to you.

SCHENECTADY DIGITAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

Bringing the heritage of Schenectady County, New York to the world since 1996

You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Chapter 125

History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 125: The City of Little Falls.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1759-1777 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Biographies | Illustrations | Maps | Portraits

Go back to: Chapter 124 | ahead to: Chapter 126

Picturesque, productive Little Falls at the gateway to the west — Half-way point between New York and Buffalo — Civic and industrial progress — Added historical and descriptive data by the editor.

By W. W. Hughes, Secretary of the Little Falls Chamber of Commerce.

[Photo: City of Little Falls]

Nature has done much to make the city of Little Falls one of the most picturesque and attractive communities in New York State. Its picturesque situation is also the cause of its industrial importance. The Mohawk River, flowing in its rocky bed through the Little Falls Gorge, furnishes water power which has helped materially in making the city an unusually fine industrial center, whose products are sent to all parts of the world. The history of Little Falls and its neighborhood is covered in previous chapters. The following article describes the picturesque location, and the characteristic and progressive features of the modern city of Little Falls.

The past decade has seen Little Falls making steady advancement along civic and industrial lines and many of the business plants starting from a small and humble beginning have grown to a position among the largest and most important of their kind in the world. A few communities throughout the country have been fortunate in having public spirited citizens who have greatly helped their city's progress through their personal effort and their generous benefactions. Little Falls is blessed in having had such a great benefactor in the person of the late David H. Burrell. Every phase of community progress for years past bears the impress of the personality and interest of this great man. Mr. Burrell not alone built up a great business of his own but many of the city's most beautiful buildings were made possible through his generosity. A survey of the industrial and civic progress of Little Falls must necessarily be closely related to the life and works of David H. Burrell.

Mr. Burrell, starting in a small way, began a business in 1870 and today the company which he founded occupies practically one whole block in Little Falls with branches in several other cities. A large addition to the local plant was built in 1923. The business of the company is the designing and manufacturing of equipment for the milk industry. The products of the company are sold all over the United States with sales also in England, South Africa, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

[Photo: Little Falls City Hall]

The beautiful city hall, located on the main thoroughfare of the city and housing all of the city's various departments, stands as one of the monuments to Mr. Burrell's generosity. The total cost of the building was about $200,000 and of this amount Mr. Burrell contributed $60,000. The city's well equipped fire department occupies the lower floor and has the largest space for fire equipment of any city of the size of Little Falls in New York State.

From Main Street, one enters a beautiful corridor on each side of which are the various offices transacting the city's business. On the upper floor is the Common Council chamber, which is luxuriously furnished and offers a dignified setting for the councilmen's meetings. The mayor's office and committee rooms adjoin the chamber. The city furnishes rooms on this floor for the Red Cross and the Chamber of Commerce, both of which organizations have done much for the welfare of the community. The Chamber of Commerce has had much to do in stimulating interest in civic betterment since its formation about 1916. One of its recent accomplishments, which has greatly improved the looks of the city, was its successful efforts in having a modern system of boulevard lights installed on Main Street (the Mohawk Turnpike through the city), over which thousands of tourists pass each year. The Chamber has also been of great help in solving many of the city's biggest problems.

One of the most modern jails in the State is included in the City Hall. Some thirteen years ago (about 1910) Mr. Burrell built a magnificent building at a cost of about $100,000 and turned it over for the work of the Young Men's Christian Association and the Young Women's Christian Association. These two organizations have been doing splendid work in their respective fields and the people of the entire city have been generous in their support of the two societies.

On the busiest corner of the city, Mr. Burrell a few years ago built the Burrell Building, a modern, attractive structure which now houses the Herkimer County Trust Company, a bank which has had a phenomenal growth in the past few years. On the upper floors are modern offices which are occupied by many of the city's professional men. On the diagonally opposite corner is the new building of the Little Falls National Bank, which cost about $250,000 with its furnishings. This bank has also had substantial growth. The city also has a thriving Building and Loan Association, so that altogether the financial needs of the city are well supplied and it takes a position in the valley as a very considerable banking and financial center.

In addition to the various public buildings which were built through the generosity of Mr. David H. Burrell, he also had constructed many attractive residences with moderate rentals. This, not alone, has helped to solve the housing problem, but it has added many beautiful homes on sites which were heretofore unattractive. Mr. Burrell, in all of his public benefactions, had the most sympathetic support of his wife who, just previous to her death in 1924, built, at a cost of $56,000, a nurse's home for the local hospital. This was built in memory of her sister, Miss Adeline Loomis, who had always shown a keen interest in the welfare of the Little Falls Hospital. The rooms in the nurses' home were furnished by various societies of the city and some interested friends of the institution. For years every worthy undertaking in Little Falls had the interest and support of Mr. and Mrs. David H. Burrell, and much of the splendid civic and industrial progress of Little Falls for the past twenty years or more, will ever be associated with their names. Many of the thriving business plants found in Little Falls today were aided in their early beginnings through the helpful counsel and financial assistance of Mr. Burrell.

Little Falls is proud of its public library, which is housed in a handsome building centrally located. The building was once the home of Judge Rollin H. Smith, who when he died left his residence to the Little Falls Public Library, which had but shortly before his death been incorporated under the regents of New York State. In addition to giving his home to be used as a library he left about $25,000 as an endowment fund and to make necessary alterations to adapt his fine residence for library purposes. The library now has about thirteen thousand books with a circulation of about 45,000 books annually. The library is under the control of seven trustees which include the mayor and the president of the Board of Education. The library possesses a fine collection of law books which was left to it by Judge Watts Loomis when he died. Judge Loomis also left a fund of five thousand dollars for the purchase of additional law books, thus making the collection even more valuable and useful as the years go by.

Some of the Little Falls industries have had a really wonderful growth in the past few years. This has been especially true of the Little Falls Felt Shoe Company and the Barnet Leather Company. Each year has seen these two concerns adding to their plants until today both produce the largest quantity of goods in their particular lines in the world. To supply the raw products from which the Barnet Leather Company makes its leather it is necessary for the company to import hides from many of the foreign countries. The Barnet Leather Company is known throughout the world for the excellent quality of goods which it produces. Because of the variety of industries found in Little Falls its industrial operatives are assured of practically constant employment.

Aside from the two concerns mentioned above, many of the other local industries have experienced a gradual and steady development. The H. P. Snyder Company bicycle industry is one of the city's most substantial industries, and in 1923 it built a large addition to its plant. This concern employs regularly over three hundred men. The president of the company is Hon. Homer P. Snyder, who has represented the Thirty-third Congressional District in Congress for ten years with a splendid record of achievement. Little Falls has a number of knitting mills which give employment to hundreds of men and women thus helping in the prosperity of the city. Among the largest of these are the Gilbert Knitting Company, Phoenix Knitting Company and the Rex Knitting Company.

Hansen's Laboratory is a business that is quite unique as it manufactures goods which are used in practically all the civilized countries of the world. Dairy and food preparations, Junket, Nesnah, etc., are its principal products. Little Falls has two fine paper plants, the largest of which is the Mohawk Valley Paper Company. The Burrows Paper Company has only been established a few years but, in this time, has made big improvements to its plant and is a growing concern. The building of the Little Falls Dairy Company's fine modern milk plant brings farmers to the city from a wide stretch of rural territory.

In Little Falls everything can be found that could be expected in a modern and up-to-date community. The city is strong in its fraternal organizations, many of which occupy their own well-equipped buildings. The Masons have an especially attractive building which they erected in 1914. Architecturally the building is an unique example among the Temples of the country if not of the world. The local Masons take added interest and satisfaction from the fact that after the building had been planned and designed and accepted, the architect discovered that the Mediaeval Period in architecture, that was so closely followed in this building, was dominated by the Freemasons of that period who designed these buildings and built them.

The Odd Fellows and the Knights of Columbus also own their buildings and all of these orders are in a very flourishing condition. The order of Elks is also especially strong in Little Falls and have attractively furnished quarters on the upper floor of the Richmond Hotel. Active interest is also manifested in the many other leading fraternal orders. One club which has been especially active since its formation about three years ago and which has helped to stimulate interest in civic affairs is the Exchange Club. The club aims not for a large membership but for boosters. The motto of the club, "Unity for Service," means that the club gives help and service as a unit and to a man they are ever ready to get behind any good movement for the betterment of Little Falls or its citizens. This club, of which every member is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, cooperates enthusiastically with this larger organization, which has been the means of bringing many improvements to the city.

The Richmond Hotel, built by local citizens having pride in their home town, furnishes a modern hotel for all tourists and guests who may have occasion to stop over in Little Falls. Many people make the city their stopover place because of the excellent accommodations offered at the Richmond.

[Photo: The Gateway Theater, Little Falls]

Feeling the need of an up to date theatre a movement was started two years ago and sufficient funds secured to build a modern playhouse. The Gateway Theatre, built in 1923 at a cost of over $200,000, now stands as a monument to the citizens of Little Falls. The building is one of the most attractive in the Mohawk Valley.

[Photo: Big Lock and City of Little Falls]

Little Falls has the highest water lift lock in the world. Its dimensions are 310 feet long, 45 feet wide and a lift of 40.5 feet. To commemorate the opening of this lock in 1916, a historical pageant was held under the auspices of the Y. M. C. A. and the Y. W. C. A., which proved to be an epochal event for the city. The pageant was held for two days and depicted the history of the Mohawk Valley from the prehistoric times up to the present era. Over six hundred people of all nationalities participated in the pageant and the city made the affair a great gala event, all the factories closing for the two days. Thousands of people came from far and near to witness the great spectacle and the governor of the state was also in attendance on one of the afternoons. In addition to the pageant a big civic and automobile parade was held on the evenings of the pageant days. After nearly ten years the people of the city are still talking of the wonderful event which served to bring the citizens of the entire city so closely together, thus creating a community spirit which has ever since endured.

For the last ten years (1914-1924) the city has been making steady progress in the paving of its streets which has done much in improving its general appearance and in adding to its health conditions. It is expected that the next five years will see all the city's streets improved. Every artery of travel now leading into Little Falls is an improved highway and one can now drive for miles in every direction with comfort. The building of the Paine's Hollow Road, in 1922, opened up a beautiful scenic route from Little Falls to Richfield Springs, and Cooperstown, Otsego Lake and the upper Susquehanna Valley. It is expected that in 1925 a concrete highway will be constructed from Little Falls to Middleville which will make a most desirable outlet from the city to the Adirondacks.

Little Falls is proud of its churches and schools and the religious and educational training of the inhabitants are well taken care of. There is a fine spirit of cooperation among the various denominations which are all in a thriving condition. The leaders are men of enthusiasm and vision which means much for the present and future condition of the churches. St. Joseph's Parish was founded about a year ago and a new church building was erected. This church is now doing an especially fine work among the Italian people. Several years ago St. Mary's Church purchased a number of acres of land between Little Falls and Herkimer and this property has been converted into a beautiful cemetery.

Little Falls is making every effort to keep up with its educational needs and in 1922 a fine new school building was erected, at a cost of $215,000, in a section which is fast developing as a residential part of the city. Additions have also been made to the Jefferson Street School and there is already considerable interest among the people in additional school facilities which will meet the city's future educational needs. On the school board are found some of the city's busiest people, who willingly give their time to this all important work.

In the last few years a very general improvement has been made in the Main Street stores of the city and the merchants have enlarged their stocks and an increased volume of business has been done, thus adding to the prestige of Little Falls as a trading center.

To better serve the people of the city the Public Library has from time to time increased its facilities and this institution is rendering fine service to its ever increasing number of patrons. Little Falls, like many other communities, has its golf enthusiasts and the beautiful Little Falls Country Club serves the need of those who enjoy this fine sport. One has splendid views of the Mohawk Valley from the club grounds, which is situated at a high elevation about three miles west of Little Falls. The Mohawk River, winding its way between the hills, forms a wonderful picture as one looks down from the club grounds. Mt. Okwari (or Jacksonburg Hill) and the Jacksonburg Barge Canal lock lie directly opposite the Little Falls Country Club.

The purchase of the abandoned canal lands by the city, recently, opens up a wonderful opportunity for development in this section of the city. Already plans are being made to beautify these grounds and to use them for a park, playgrounds and for a new school. These improvements will without doubt add a greater spirit of civic pride to the people living in this south side section.

Little Falls has its own water plant and, because of the farsightedness of the men who had to do with its construction, an adequate supply of water is assured for years to come. The health conditions of the city are well safeguarded and the death rate is among the lowest of any city in the state. The city has developed a number of splendid parks during the past few years which add greatly to the enjoyment and comfort of the people. Band concerts are held in these parks during the summer which are paid for by the city. The Little Falls Band is known throughout the state as a musical organization of real merit.

The Barge Canal passes through Little Falls and helps in the economical handling of freight. The New York Central and West Shore Railroads serve the city with excellent train, express and freight service. The city also has half hour trolley service to Utica and other Mohawk Valley towns to the west as far as Rome.

The civic and industrial progress which Little Falls has made in recent years is a matter in which all its people may justly take the greatest pride.

* * * * *

The following additional data regarding Little Falls is furnished by the editor to supplement Mr. Hughes' chapter:

Little Falls was incorporated as a city in 1895. In 1910 27 per cent of the population was of foreign parentage and nearly 32 per cent of foreign birth, the peoples of southern and eastern Europe predominating. The city is located on the Central and West Shore Railroads, north and south highways and on the Mohawk River and the Barge Canal, the latter passing through the city in a rock cut channel. A barge canal terminal dock is here located. This is the terminus of the Little Falls and Dolgeville Railroad. Interurban trolleys connect (1924) westward with Herkimer, Mohawk, Ilion, Frankfort, Utica and Rome and westward, from Utica, to Buffalo.

The chief industries of the city of Little Falls in 1924 were knit goods, leather, bicycles, dairy machinery, incubators, cotton yarn, batting, book cases, felt shoes, dairy preparations and butter color, upholstery fibre, knit goods machinery. Largest calfskin finishing works in United States, and here are the largest tissue paper, bicycle and hammer works in the world. There is a hydroelectric power development plant on the Mohawk at Little Falls, it being a station of the Utica Gas and Electric Company, where 1,600 h. p. is (1924) generated.

In 1909 the city had fifty-five factories, with 4,408 employes, producing an annual output valued at $8,500,000. In 1912 knit goods and hosiery industries here employed 2,345 operatives.

In 1919 Little Falls had fifty-one factories, with a primary horsepower of 8,730, with 3,688 operatives, producing manufactures of an annual value of $24,851,536 (U. S. Census statistics).

Little Falls is a trading and shipping center for an important dairying and farming section. The city has a sewer system, electric light and power, municipal water works, hospital, public library, Masonic temple and a handsome city hall.

[Photo: View from the Rollaway]

Little Falls is a picturesque, historic city, the most beautifully located of any town on the New York to Buffalo route. It is a fine, modern American commercial and industrial center and a city with a splendid future. Little Falls is picturesquely situated on a series of rocky terraces rising from the north side of the river, the Rollaway cliffs on the south side rising sheer 240 to 340 feet above the upper streets and the adjacent West Shore tracks. The views from city heights are among the finest in the Mohawk Valley. The northeastern limits of the city of Little Falls rise to a sea elevation of 1,060 feet and are 697 feet above the river. This is the highest point in any city or town on the New York to Buffalo route and on the Mohawk turnpike.

Little Falls is the eastern terminus of a trolley line which forms part of a continuous trolley route from Little Falls to Buffalo over various lines.

Dolgeville (population 1920, 3,448) is some eight miles north of Little Falls, reached from Little Falls over the Little Falls & Dolgeville Railroad, which has its north terminus at Salisbury Center, three miles north, in a lumbering district. Dolgeville is the most important felt producing center in the state. At Salisbury, near there, is an iron mine, now (1925) abandoned, and there are important lumber interests in the vicinity.

The Little Falls & Dolgeville Railroad is a branch of the New York Central Lines. A bus line also connects the towns.

The Mohawk Valley is a famous agricultural and dairying section supplying great quantities of milk to the metropolitan district and, at one time, it furnished an enormous amount of butter and cheese for home and abroad. "Herkimer County cheese" was famous and Little Falls was (1830-1900) the largest cheese market in the United States. In this country "store" or American cheese making for the market originated in Herkimer County, near Little Falls, about 1800.

Utica supplanted Little Falls as the American cheese market about 1900, but now (1924) northern New York has become the state's great cheese factory, and Watertown since 1910 has supplanted Utica. The present great metropolitan demand for raw milk takes most of the valley supply. The Holstein-Friesian (black-and-white) cow is the favorite valley milch cow.

Little Falls has been fittingly called "The Gateway of the West", for through this backbone of the Atlantic slope vast numbers of settlers went westward to develop our great western empire. This traffic went by river, later by canal and railroad, and largely over the Mohawk turnpike, which here forms the Main Street of Little Falls.

This river gorge here forms the gateway to the upper Mohawk Valley, the scene of Palatine German settlement, about 1722, in its eastern end, and of a large and important immigration of New England, British and other peoples, following the close of the Revolution in 1783, into the western section of this upper valley.

The Mohawk Indians called the rocky site of Little Falls Asto-ren-ga, "place of rocks", and Tal-e-que-ga, "little bushes", referring to the scrub cedars which covered the rocks and do today at certain points.

Mohawk River traffic was carried mainly in canoes until about 1740, when batteaux and flatboats began to be used by traders, pioneers and rivermen. The Indians and early traders unloaded their canoes at one end of the carry and packed canoes and cargo on their backs over the rocks here. About 1740 the boats were portaged here on stone boats and rough sleds and later on widewheeled wagons. The portage trail was over the route of the first lock canal, which the visitor can see here.

Little Falls formed the eastern end of the Burnetsfield patent of 1725, and the carrying rights over the portage here thus became the property of the Palatine German patentees, who here engaged in hauling boats around the falls. One of these carriers was Johan Jost Herkimer, father of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer. A Palatine German named Petrie was the first settler at Little Falls. He located at the mouth of Furnace Creek, where he built a house and grist mill about 1725.

From about 1725 until the close of the War of 1812-14, the Little Falls carry was used by Colonial British and later American armies in transporting ordnance and supplies up and down the Mohawk. Supplies and material for the erection and fortification of Fort Oswego, Fort William and Fort Stanwix (at present Rome) and the later Revolutionary posts were all brought up the river and carried over the rocks here by British and American soldiers.

Colonial British-American army expeditions against Canada (1754-1760) and American armies of the Revolution and the War of 1812 all used this old carry after toiling with their laden boats up the Mohawk. The greatest of these armies was that of General Amherst, numbering 10,000 men (6,000 American militiamen and 4,000 British regulars) which, in 1760, passed up the Mohawk on its way to the capture of Montreal and the final conquest of Canada, which was finally won through the Little Falls Gorge, as all other expeditions against Montreal by other routes had failed. The passage of these armies through this then wild rocky gorge afforded scenes of vividly picturesque military activity.

The voyage of these epoch-making expeditions, through the Mohawk Valley and the Little Falls Gorge, is scarcely mentioned in American histories.

Probably many of the troops of Colonial and Revolutionary armies marched over the old Colonial highway from Fink's Basin to Jacksonburgh. Many men were then required to portage an army's boats at this carry.

Besides these older military movements, American troops and supplies in great number and quantities passed by railroads and canal, through the Little Falls Gorge in the Civil war (1861-65), Spanish war (1898), and World war (1917-1918).

In 1778 British and Tories raided Manheim, a German settlement just northeast of Little Falls, carrying off a dozen prisoners. During the last great Tory-Indian raid of the upper valley in June, 1782, an Indian war party came to Little Falls and attacked and burned Petrie's mill and dwelling. Daniel Petrie was killed and several farmers and soldiers in the mill were captured and taken to Canada.

About eight miles north of Little Falls is the old Palatine German settlement of Manheim, with its Old Yellow Church, where over fifty soldiers of the Revolution are buried.

Little Falls was resettled in 1789, when the mill was rebuilt and the "old yellow house" was erected adjoining it. John Porteous, a Scotchman, was the first merchant in Little Falls, coming here in 1790. Thereafter the place grew rapidly, particularly after 1793, when bridges were built on the turnpike over the East and West Canada Creeks. Among the Little Falls settlers were men by the names of Alexander, Philips, Smith, Lankton, Winsor, Carr, Moralee, Britteon, Parkhurst, Skinner.

In 1790 a toll bridge was here built across the Mohawk, the first on record to be constructed over our famous river.

Following the Revolution in 1783, a great tide of emigration flowed westward through the Little Falls Gorge to the settlement of all the northern belt of the United States westward of this famous gateway. In 1792 the first stages ran to Utica and Whitesboro, at first following the south shore highway. When the Mohawk Turnpike Company was chartered and the old King's highway improved in 1800, this great volume of travel and traffic generally passed over the old Mohawk turnpike on the north shore. Then Little Falls became an important point for highway and river travel, with several famous taverns here.

In 1796 the settlers of this growing village formed the Concord Society and built on Church Street (where the present schoolhouse stands) the old Octagon Church, which here served Protestants of all sects, and which was a famous landmark for travelers. A sort of Gabriel's trumpet in the shape of a long tin horn was used to call the citizens to worship. A marker now locates the old church site.

In 1788 Elkanah Watson, a New England engineer, investigated the navigation possibilities of the Mohawk. Having great faith in the commercial possibilities of this valley waterway to the west, he interested Gen. Philip Schuyler of Albany and others in the matter, and in 1792 the Inland Lock and Navigation Company was formed. In 1797 canals and locks were completed at Little Falls, Wolf's rift (5 m. w.) and at Rome, there connecting the Mohawk with Wood Creek. These were the first American commercial lock canals and this whole Mohawk River improvement became the progenitor of the great State Barge Canal of today.

The first Little Falls canal of 1797 is still in existence, being state property. Most of its course through the city passes under factory buildings. Its upper lock may be seen at the northern end of the upper river dam.

Prior to the Revolution, Alexander Ellice, an alien Scotchman and a friend of Sir William Johnson, secured ownership of the water rights of the Little Falls on the north shore and the property adjacent thereto, comprising most of the present city. Water rights and lands on which to erect buildings could only be obtained under lease. This interfered seriously with early village development, from 1790 until 1831, when the entire Ellice property was sold to a local company for $50,000. The purchasers made $50,000 on resales of the real estate. Several members of this local company donated large blocks of their property to form the East and West parks of the present attractive city park system.

[Photo: Old Grain Elevator, Little Falls, N. Y.]

Some other items of Little Falls history and development follow. After 1790 a considerable New England element settled in and around Little Falls, and to the north of the city, these Yankees started cheese making about 1800. In 1811 Little Falls was chartered a village, and in 1817 the Montgomery County line was moved east from Fall Hill to East Creek. By 1821 the Erie Canal was built from Rome to Little Falls, boats leaving the canal here and proceeding eastward on the river. The village boomed in this canal construction period and enthusiastically greeted Governor Clinton's triumphal canal tour on the Erie's opening in 1825. From 1840 to 1875 was a period of Irish immigration. From about 1830 until 1900 Little Falls was the chief American cheese market. In 1831 Harry Burrell made the first shipment (10,000 pounds) of cheese from here to England. Little Falls became an important station on the Utica & Schenectady Railroad on its opening in 1836.

In 1842 the manufacture of woolen goods was started. Little Falls Academy was founded in 1844. In 1845 yarn manufacture started. The manufacture of dairy machinery began originally in 1869, and the manufacture of leather in 1873.

In 1872 knit goods manufacture began. Between 1879 and 1882 the West Shore Railroad bed was blasted along the bottom of the south side cliff, its construction here involving great difficulties. In 1881 the factory for the manufacture of dairy preparations opened. Bookcase manufacture also began, and in 1900 a bicycle factory opened; felt shoe manufacture started about 1905.

The construction of the Barge Canal here in its rock channel arounds the Little Falls of the Mohawk and the building of the big lock were engineering feats which were successfully accomplished between 1905 and 1916, when this section of the canal was opened. In 1911 Little Falls celebrated its village centennial and, in 1916, the city held a Mohawk Valley historical pageant, in celebration of the completion of America's greatest lift lock, forming another chapter in the interesting history of transportation through the wonderful Little Falls Gorge.

Little Falls was the home of Judge Nathaniel S. Benton, author of the valuable "History of Herkimer County and the Upper Mohawk Valley", published in 1856. [i.e, A History of Herkimer County: including the Upper Mohawk Valley, from the earliest period to the present time, etc.]

[Photo: Profile Rock at Little Falls]

About a half mile west of Fink's Bridge and well within the Little Falls city limits, is the Barge Canal big lock, with the greatest water lift in the western hemisphere, making a rise of 40 1/2 feet from 322 1/2 feet seat [sea?] elevation below to 363 feet water level sea elevation above the dam. This dam is one of the greatest engineering works of the many created during Barge Canal construction (1905-1918). Barge Canal construction through the Little Falls Gorge offered most difficult problems, which were successfully met. A rock cut channel, following the old Erie Canal bed, was blasted out of the solid rock for a distance of over a mile along the south shore, while the river follows its original course over the upper and lower falls, but with decreased water supply, except in winter, when the Barge Canal is not in operation. The Little Falls lock is higher than any lock in the Panama Canal.

Between Moss Island and the lower falls the Mohawk is the deepest in its course — 150 feet from surface to bottom. This stretch is in reality a giant pothole cut in the rock by the giant post-glacial cataract, which probably here exerted its most titanic force.

The Barge Canal cut makes a long narrow island of part of the city on the south shore bank. At its southern end, between the big lock and the river, lies wooded Moss Island, which is one of the geological wonders of the world because on it are located the world's greatest potholes (worn in the rock by water action). Some of these holes are thirty feet across, and these, with other evidences of ancient water action, attest the power of the mighty cataract which cut through this gorge. Moss Island should be preserved as a state reservation to keep forever its geological wonders and to prevent its use for factory sites. At the northern end of Moss Island the river is 150 feet deep, the point being a pothole formed by the action of the cataract of the Iromohawk which wore down the Little Falls Gorge.

The Mohawk Turnpike, in its course from Schenectady to Little Falls, makes a rise from an elevation above sea level of 240 feet on its roadbed at Scotia, opposite Schenectady, to 360 feet just below Fall Hill, at Fink's Bridge; from there rising to 420 feet sea elevation at the business center of Little Falls. This gives a total rise from Scotia to Little Falls of 180 feet in fifty-eight miles.

[Photo: Turnpike (Main Street) Little Falls Mansions]

The Turnpike, in its two-mile course through the city, forms picturesque Main Street (east and west) in Little Falls. Roads run north to Piseco Lake, in the Adirondacks, northeast to Dolgeville and south to Richfield Springs, Cooperstown and the Susquehanna River.

Go to top of page | back to: Chapter 124 | ahead to: Chapter 126

You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Chapter 125

http://www.schenectadyhistory.org/resources/mvgw/history/125.html updated December 29, 2012

Copyright 2012 Schenectady Digital History Archive — a service of the Schenectady County Public Library