New York's

Capital District

A History of its Industries, Railroads and Inventions

Albany ~ Troy ~ Schenectady ~ Saratoga Springs ~ Cohoes ~ Waterford ~ Ballston Spa ~ Corinth
South Glens Falls ~ Lansingburgh ~ Stillwater ~ Mechanicville ~ Watervliet ~ Clifton Park



Lost Industries of the Kaydeross Valley


Press release for the book "Lost Industries of the Kaydeross Valley: A History of Manufacturing in Ballston Spa, New York" - published by the Ballston Journal


As part of Ballston Spa’s bicentennial celebration, local author Timothy Starr has released the second of two books about the industrial history of the village. The first book was about the trolley line that served the industries in the early 1900s. The latest book, titled “Lost Industries of the Kaydeross Valley,” relates the history of the many manufacturing enterprises that operated here in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

Although industry existed both before and after, the one hundred year period between 1850 and 1950 was perhaps the most exciting time in this chapter of Ballston Spa’s history. Huge manufacturing enterprises crowded the banks of the Kayaderosseras Creek and the village of Ballston Spa, generating millions of dollars per year and employing thousands of people. These included Isaiah Blood’s famous hard-edge tool factories, Samuel Haight’s mammoth tannery, George West’s paper bag empire, the Glen Paper Collar Company, and a host of textile manufacturers. 

The author has uncovered a wealth of interesting facts about these industries that are detailed in the book. For example, one of the paper mill owners helped the US government fight against currency counterfeiters by inventing a new type of paper. Another business owner invented a ground-breaking double-turbine water wheel that was adopted around the country. For a brief time, the Glen Paper Collar Company manufactured a portable folding pontoon boat. One of the village’s carriage factories was so famous that its products were shipped as far away as California. And one of the village’s celebrated mineral springs was supposedly founded by the spirit of Ben Franklin, which in later years became part of a successful bottling operation. 

The book also covers some of the downsides of life in an industrial town. There were a multitude of both minor and fatal accidents, including one particularly gruesome accident at the old Kilmer Stone Mill (now Cottrell Paper). There was an affliction suffered at the axe and scythe works that gave men a life expectancy of only 35 years. One of the first lawsuits relating to pollution in this country was prompted by a landowner downstream from one of George West’s mills. The Glen Paper Collar Company was involved with a scandal that had repercussions all across Saratoga County. 

The appendices of the book are perhaps as interesting as the chapters. One appendix contains reproductions of the original patents filed by some of the area’s many inventors, including the aforementioned currency paper of Lindley Crane, Benjamin Barber’s water wheel, and Hegeman’s folding pontoon boat. Other appendices contain floor plans for the paper mills, a selected reproduction of an American Axe & Tool Company catalog featuring Isaiah Blood’s tools, and a complete auction list for the Pioneer paper mill of West Milton. The floor plans, catalog, and auction list were collected over the course of decades by local historian Chris Morley. Other information was gleaned from rare, out-of-print books published in the 1800s and early 1900s. 

This is a comprehensive 220 page, full-size book that has sections on over 40 manufacturers, as well as chapters concerning floods, accidents, worker strikes, bibliographies, railroads, and the national corporations that moved into the area in the last decade of the 1800s. The histories of George West’s paper mills, Isaiah Blood’s factories, and Bull’s Head Tannery receive extended and detailed treatment under their own chapter headings. The book contains almost 75 pictures and graphics, including 17 in color. As was the case with the first book released by the author earlier this year, it is a limited-run printing. Due to the high costs of publishing a specialty book of this type, only about fifty copies each of hardcover and soft cover editions will likely be released to the public. 

“Lost Industries of the Kaydeross Valley” is available for sale at the Brookside Museum on Charlton Street in this village, home to the Saratoga County Historical Society. Brookside also has a few copies left of the author’s first book, “Lost Railroads of the Kaydeross Valley,” about the electric trolley line that once served the industries along the banks of the Kayaderosseras Creek from Ballston Spa to Middle Grove. Prices for both books are $46.95 for the hardcover edition and $34.95 for the soft cover edition. For more information about these or other local interest books, you can stop in at Brookside Tuesday through Saturday or call 885-4000. 

Mr. Starr is the Chief Financial Officer for Peter Young Housing, Industries, and Treatment, a regional nonprofit organization that provides treatment, job training, housing, and other services to people with alcohol and drug addictions. He lives in Rock City Falls with his wife Alison, near the sites of three paper mills that are detailed in his book. Some years ago he wrote a humorous teen-oriented book about growing up in Hebron, New York based on his own experiences, which is also available at Brookside.