Ballston Spa Life
Neighbors to the North
Ballston Spa Life
Industry along the Kayaderosseras Creek did not stop at the border between the town of Milton and the town of Greenfield. The hamlet of Middle Grove was at one time home to several thriving industrial endeavors, mainly through the efforts of one man.
Gershom Morehouse was purportedly the first settler to open a manufactory in what would soon become known as Jamesville in 1786, having established a sawmill there and a grist mill in nearby Milton Center. His sawmill and a second grist mill that he built were the first two such establishments in the town of Greenfield.
The settlement that Morehouse founded remained small and peaceful for several decades until a successful entrepreneur and businessman named John W. James arrived from New York City in 1836.
James, who was born in Greenfield on May 3, 1791, first attempted to build up business interests in Greenfield Center, but the potential there was not satisfactory. He left for New York City where he accumulated enough wealth to return to the Greenfield area to try again. He used his capital to commence business development along the banks of the Kayaderosseras.
James was one of the first people to recognize the valuable potential of the twisting river that flowed through Greenfield and into Milton. One of his first acts was to build a paper mill and install modern machinery, making it the first paper mill in the county to use machinery rather than hand methods. A large tract of land was purchased on which to build houses, stores, a post office, and a bank.
The Jamesville Bank had the distinction of being the first bank in the county. It also funded the famous Mt. Pleasant Glass Factory. In 1840 Oscar Granger came to Saratoga County seeking a location to relocate his successful glass works, which had a contract with several mineral spring companies in nearby Saratoga to supply all of their bottles. On one of his scouting expeditions, Granger met John James who agreed to have his bank finance the construction of the glass factory and the village of Mt. Pleasant, which included houses, a post office, sawmill, hotel, schoolhouse, and church.
Although the glass factory was a success, in 1850 a change in the banking laws created a panic that induced people to withdraw their money. James was unable to meet the sudden demand for cash and was forced to close his bank. This had a domino affect on his business interests that depended upon a buffer of cash to weather the highs and lows of the paper market.
Upon the death of his wife the following year he headed back to New York City, considerably less wealthy than when he arrived in Greenfield. Sally Bennett, whom he married on October 21, 1819, is buried in the Middle Grove cemetery.
John James died in 1873 and his body was brought back from New York to be buried next to his wife. Despite James’ contributions to the establishment of the village in the mid-1800s, the name Jamesville was dropped in favor of Middle Grove.
Excerpts of this article were taken from Timothy Starr’s book “Lost Industries of Saratoga County,” due to be released later in the year. His biography of Isaiah Blood, owner of the Ballston Scythe, Axe & Tool Works, will be available for sale at the Brookside Museum by the end of March. For more information, visit www.ballstonhistory.com. Starr is the Treasurer of the Board of Trustees at Brookside.