Ballston Spa Life
Kayaderosseras Once Lifeblood of Town
Ballston Spa Life
The Kayaderosseras Creek, known locally as the “Kaydeross,” was once the lifeblood of Ballston Spa and the town of Milton. During the mid- to late 1800s, as many as two dozen large mills and factories were located along its banks and relied on its flowing waters for power.
The Kayaderosseras Creek is the largest stream whose whole course lies completely within the boundaries of Saratoga County. Beginning in the Kayaderossera mountain range in Greenfield, the river follows a tortuous and winding course south through the town of Milton. Upon reaching Ballston Spa it heads easterly, emptying into Saratoga Lake. From the lake to the Hudson River, it is known as Fish Creek.
Prior to the arrival of European colonists, the valley had been a favorite hunting ground and summer retreat for the tribes of the Iroquois Six Nations, primarily the Mohawks, who occupied the northeastern corner of New York State. It is said that wild animals were attracted by the saline waters of the Kayaderosseras Valley in such numbers that several of the tribes, including the Oneidas and the Onondagas, would make the long journey each summer to hunt and fish, and the land was even considered sacred.
The Kayaderosseras Creek was ideally suited for harnessing water power, which in an age before widespread steam and electricity was critical for powering machinery. The waters were higher than they are today, and in several areas had significant drops in elevation as well as many twists and turns that provided locations for constructing dams. In fact, at the height of mill activity in the late 1800s, the creek was more like a series of lakes than a river, since huge bodies of water were formed behind the dams of the mills.
Some of the largest of these were the Blue Mill Pond in Ballston Spa, Pioneer Pond in West Milton, and the pond at present day Cottrell Paper in Rock City Falls. These provided ample opportunities for recreation to the local residents. The banks for many of the ponds can be seen today.
Starting in the 1870s, just when industry along the creek was reaching its peak, there were reports that the flow of water was declining from years past. A Ballston Journal report in October 1877 stated that the mills of George West & Son were five million paper sacks behind their orders due to the low water in September, and that Knickerbacker’s axe and scythe works could not operate at capacity. Arrangements were being made even then to add steam power to the manufacturing process to make up for the loss of water power.
The valley is home to dense forests. For about one hundred years, the trees were harvested for the various mills along the creek, but by 1900 intense paper mill activity resulted in the area becoming largely cut over. Only in the lands surrounding Lake Desolation north of Middle Grove did significant lumber operations continue into the 1920s. After the mills closed down, second and third growth trees reclaimed the formerly cleared lands.
The importance of water power in the 1700s and early 1800s meant that all significant mill activity had to be located near moving water. The Saratoga County industrial centers of Edinburgh, Stillwater, Schuylerville, South Glens Falls, Corinth, and Waterford all flourished along the banks of the Hudson or Sacandaga rivers. Without the Kayaderosseras Creek, the town of Milton would never have been developed, and therefore is arguably the most significant single factor in the town’s settlement.
Excerpts from this article were taken from Tim Starr’s book “Lost Industries of the Kaydeross Valley,” which is available at the Brookside Museum. For more information, please stop in at the museum or visit www.ballstonhistory.com.