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History of the Town of Halfmoon

Town Historian
Ellen Kennedy

In the early 1600’s, the site of a cluster of islands located where the Hudson and Mohawk River meet along with the surrounding area became known as Half-Moon Point. The area had been an Indian trading site for some years controlled by the Mohawks who bartered among themselves and with other tribes. Passage across the river at Half-Moon was facilitated by the low waters which ran from the Point to Haver (Peebles) Island.

Initial settlement of Half-Moon Point centered in present-day Waterford where Dutch traders, trappers and homesteaders who had traveled up the river from Albany made their homes. As settlement in Waterford took hold, the more pioneering Albany Dutch went north from Waterford and entered the wilderness that is now part of the Town of Halfmoon. The pattern Albany Dutch settlement extended up the Hudson River as more families came to the area. A group of Schenectady Dutch, mostly farmers, traveling from the southeast settled in Clifton Park, then later moved into the Town of Halfmoon.

Records show that land in Halfmoon was purchased and developed in 1667. The majority of lands compromising Halfmoon were once a part of the Van Schaick Pattent of 1674.

The early settlers of Half-Moon were under the jurisdiction of Albany County from 1683 until 1791 when Saratoga County was made a separate governing body. Half-Moon at that time also extended across the Mohawk River to include the Boght and Niskayuna to the north boundary of the manor of Rensselaerwyck. One of the four “mother towns” of newly created Saratoga County, Halfmoon included the present area of Waterford until 1816, Clifton Park until 1828, and Mechanicville which was taken off in 1910. When its boundaries were finally fixed, the Town of Halfmoon emerged somewhat irregularly shaped and without a central focus of settlement. For a short time, from 1816 to 1820 Halfmoon was known as Orange. Few people were comfortable with the name change and the original name of Halfmoon was restored.

In 1718 an early settler, Killian Vandenburgh, built a landmark stone house on the Mohawk, west of Crescent. The house is no longer there. The Leland family operated a farm on Hudson River Road from 1737 until 1747 when a raiding party of French Canadians and Indians massacred the family and burned the house. A year later Colonel
Ten Broeck purchased the land and built his home upon the same site.

John Flynn settled in eastern Halfmoon in the 1750’s and opened a tavern which he kept until Revolutionary War activities forced his move to Albany. Among other pre-war settlers of note were Benjamin Rosedrans from Dutchess County who held various offices; and George Ellsworth, a revolutionary war soldier whose great grandson was Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth from Mechanicville, a distinguished Civil War soldier. The Thomas Peebles family settled north of Waterford in the 1760’s and built their home, Brookwood, in 1766. Brookwood was a well patronized tavern where such notables as George Washington, New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, and Alexander Hamilton stopped in 1783.

By 1762, the existence of the Scouten Saw Mill near Crescent and a grist mill near Ushers suggested some degree of stable settlement. It was not until the cessation revolutionary hostilities, however, that Halfmoon experienced rapid growth. The proximity of water power and transportation, sources provided by the two rivers, plus an abundance of gently rolling farmland, were the town’s prime assets.

Industry in Halfmoon was slow to develop until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. At this point, many new mills appeared and new industries were founded. The hamlet of Crescent became the focus of economic development in the 1840’s and 1850’s for it was here that the Erie Canal was carried over the Mohawk River via the Crescent Aqueduct. Supply stores serving canal operations were commonplace. W.K. Mansfield, an early settler in Crescent, owned and operated a brickyard, using the canal to ship the bricks to New York City. Three other brickyards in Crescent developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The economic health of Crescent during the canal era was much the product of Alfred Noxon’s efforts. Called the financial father of the Crescent-Middletown (Halfmoon) area, Noxon developed a foundry, paint works, hotel, bank and a block of stores between 1840 and 1844. The Crescent Iron Foundry produced Franklin Stoves and decorative iron railing which gained a national reputation for their quality. His Farmer’s Bank of Saratoga County was built in 1842 and chartered in 1851. Although the bank failed in the late 1850’s, the building itself stands today as a testimony to a more prosperous area. Noxon was also part owner of the Crescent Transportation Company and mid-century, employed between 75-100 people in his various ventures.

Crescent also produced ice and shipped bricks and molding sand into the early 1900’s. The diversity of economic pursuits, spurred on by the construction of the canal, afforded Crescent a good deal of prominence and prosperity in the middle 1800’s. Although other hamlets within the Town of Halfmoon developed their own economic bases at this time, none were as successful as Crescent.

In the northern part of town, in an area apart from any established community, Halfmoon resident Joshua Anthony developed his famous spice factory. He began his operations in 1869 with the manufacture of baking powder and cream of tartar. He then added spice grinding and the production of fluid extracts for flavoring in 1892. The success of his business prompted Anthony to approach the Delaware and Hudson Railroad in the hope that a station of the Schenectady branch be located at Ushers. This was secured in 1882. The following year, Anthony contributed substantially to the development of a post office at Ushers. He also established a private telegraph line between Ushers, Clifton Park, Round Lake and his factory.

Anthony’s contributions to the community were improvements from which many benefited. The spice factory ceased operation 1n 1920, no doubt the victim of new technology and shifting economic centers, yet the two story factory buildings and farmhouse remain in Halfmoon, outwardly unchanged to the enjoyment and interest of passersby.

As in all early American settlements, religious societies were an intrinsic part of Halfmoon’s past. Typically, many of the church groups in Halfmoon were organized prior to actual church construction and incorporation. The earliest known religious society was a Friends group which was organized before the Revolution and held meetings until 1850.

Primarily an agricultural community, the development of Halfmoon reached a peak during the canal era when the Town was marked by a lively and varied economy. With the widening of Route 9 and the construction of the Northway, Halfmoon was within easy access to employment in the large cities of the Capital District. At this point, farmland began to be sold and housing developments established. This activity continues today.

A Solar Town Hall was constructed in 1978. Being the first Town Hall with solar energy in the United States, Halfmoon became known as “Solartown, USA.”

In recent years, the Town of Halfmoon has enjoyed considerable economic growth and development. The Town has steadily improved its infrastructure making it more attractive to new businesses and residents alike. The combination of vast and valuable resources and its strategic location makes Halfmoon one of the most desirable places to live and work in the Capital District.

Important Dates in the Development of the Town of Halfmoon


1772 The District of Halfmoon formed (Part of Albany County
1788 The Town of Halfmoon formed (Part of Albany County)
1791 Saratoga County set off from Albany County
1816 Waterford taken off the Town of Halfmoon
1816 Town of Halfmoon changed to the Town of Orange
1820 Town of Orange changed back to the Town of Halfmoon
1828 Clifton Park taken off the Town of Halfmoon
1910 The City of Mechanicville incorporated and taken off Halfmoon
 

 
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