Pre Revolutionary Old Saratoga
Present Seat of War Between Great-Britain and her Colonies in North America, Universal Magazine, 1776
From time immemorial the Woodland Indians roamed the banks of the Hudson River in the vicinity of Schuylerville until displaced by the Iroquois people some five hundred years before Columbus’ discovery of America.
The Woodland’s characteristic intricate crosshatch ornamentation has been found on pottery shards near buried fire pits almost always within a dozen rods of the river’s edge. Indeed, a notable find is located at the very site of the first European outpost here, the so-called Fort Vrooman, a house ordered fortified by the authorities at Albany in 1689.
For centuries our valley was the hotly contested border between the Mohawks, an Iroquois tribe, and the Mohicans, an Algonquin people. To the aborigines the area was known as Sa-ragh-to-ga, meaning “hillside country of the great river” or perhaps “place where the waters meet” inasmuch as the Fish Kill flowing from the west and the Batten Kill from the east enter the Hudson at this place and thus formed a vital waterborne transportation hub.
It was to this area that the first Europeans were attracted for the same reason. Major Peter Schuyler, then mayor of Albany, cleared a spot in the forest and built a blockhouse in 1690, giving to it the name Fort Saratoga. Soon, in the opening years of the eighteenth century, small mills harnessed the abundant waterpower offered by the kills (creeks), and homesteads appeared.
On November 17, 1745, the hamlet of Saratoga, consisting of some thirty families, was attacked and destroyed. Most of its inhabitants were massacred by the French and their Indian allies who by stealth had swept down from Canada. Peter Schuyler himself was killed in his own house. Recurring strife, continuing until the peace settlement between England and France in 1763, effectively depopulated the upper Hudson valley.
During the dozen peaceful years before the outbreak of the American Revolution, life began anew with the coming of the DeRidders, Abraham Marshall, Thomas Jordan, Conrad Cramer, John Woeman, William Green, Thomas Smith, the Welches and Strovers, the Dunhams, James Brisbin, George Davis and Sherman Pattison, all settlers who arrived during this interval. Many of these names yet attach to local places and four corners, to descendants, and to headstones in family and public cemeteries.
In 1767 Phillip Schuyler erected on the bank of the Fish Kill the first flax mill in America. In 1770 the Dutch Reformed Church built its first meeting place, later used as a hospital during the Burgoyne Campaign. The subject of this article, The Marshall House, was completed in 1773 and is the sole surviving pre-revolution building in this historic vicinity.