Visit of General Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Governor George Clinton to the High Rock in 1783.


"CAN Freedom find no champion and no child

Such as Columbia saw arise, when she

Sprang forth a Pallas, arm’d and undefil’d?

Or must such minds be nourish’d in the wild,

Deep in the unprun’d forest, ’midst the roar

Of cataracts, where nursing Nature smil’d

On infant Washington? Has Earth no more

Such seeds within her breast, or Europe no such shore?"



THE year 1783 was a memorable one in the history of Saratoga Springs. In that year, General Philip Schuyler, as mentioned in the preceding chapter, cut a road through the woods to the "High Rock"; and in the same summer, no less a personage than General Washington, accompanied by his aides, Alexander Hamilton and Governor George Clinton, honored it with his presence. The circumstances which led to this visit are casually hinted at in the following passage from Irving’s Washington . Mr. Irving says:

"Washington now (1783) found his position at Headquarters (Newburg) irksome; there was little to do, and he was likely to be incessantly teased with applications and demands, which he had neither the means nor power to satisfy. He resolved, therefore, to while away part of the time that must intervene before the arrival of the definitive treaty by making a tour to the northern and western parts of the State, and visiting the places which had been the theatre of important military transactions. He had another object in view: he desired to facilitate, as far as in his power, the operations which would be necessary for occupying, as soon as evacuated by British troops, the posts ceded by the Treaty of Peace.

"Governor Clinton accompanied him on the expedition. They set out by water from Newburg, ascended the Hudson to Albany, visited Saratoga [Schuylerville] and the scene of Burgoyne’s surrender; embarked on Lake George, where light boats had been provided for them; traversed that beautiful lake, so full of historic interest; proceeded to Ticonderoga and Crown Point; and, after reconnoitring those eventful posts, returned to Schenectady." {Griswold, in his Republican Court , page 135 states that "Washington and Clinton at one time thought of purchasing the Mineral Springs at Saratoga." This may have also been another reason for the visit – though Griswold gives no authority for his statement.}

On their return route, the party, which included, besides Clinton, Alexander Hamilton and Colonels Humphreys and Fish, visited the High Rock Spring – their attention having been directed to it by General Schuyler while guests at the latter’s house at Schuylerville. {While at the High Rock, the party tarried with the son of Samuel Norton.} Thence they left on horseback for Schenectady, with the intention of visiting on their route the newly-discovered Spring at Ballston Spa – afterwards known as the "Iron Railing Spring" – and of dining with General Gordon, who, at that time, lived upon the "Middle Line Road."

On their route through the woods between the two Springs, they struck the path leading west by Merrick’s Mills (now Factory Village) to the "Middle Line Road," and continued west toward that road, thus losing their way. Near Merrick’s lived one "Tom" Connor, who was chopping wood at his cabin door. They enquired of him the way to the spring, and "Tom" gave the requisite directions. The party accordingly retraced their steps a short distance upon the road by which they had come, but, soon becoming bewildered, rode back for more explicit directions. "Tom" had, by this time, lost his temper, and peevishly cried out to the spokesman of the party – who happened to be Washington – "I tell you, turn back and take the first right-hand path into the woods, and then stick to it – any darned fool would know the way!" When "Tom" afterwards learned that he had addressed Washington himself in this unceremonious and uncivil manner, he was extremely chagrined and mortified. His neighbors, for a long time afterwards, tormented poor "Tom" on his "reception of General Washington"! {The spot where Connor was chopping wood at the time of this encounter was two miles from Ballston, a little west of north, or about a half a mile north of Bloodville, on the east and west road through Factory Village, and a little east of the bridge crossing the Kayaderosseras Creek. At that time, as now, the most direct route from Lake George to Schenectady (via Glen’s Falls) was by Saratoga Springs, Ballston, and General Gordon’s house.}

The party, following "Tom’s" instructions, found the Spring, then flowing through a barrel, and in the middle of a dense forest. From the Spring, Washington and his companions proceeded to General Gordon’s where they dined. Toward nightfall, they parted from that General with many expressions of regret, and left for Schenectady, General Gordon, attired in full regimentals, escorting them and riding upon General Washington’s right. As the party moved off, James Scott, the father of the Hon. G.G. Scott of Ballston, then in his tenth year, boy-like, secreted himself behind a rail-fence by the roadside, and peeped through the rails. He ever afterwards retained a vivid recollection of Washington’s physiognomy and appearance on horseback.

The next year, 1784, another distinguished visitor came to the High Rock, brought there, undoubtedly, by the advice of Washington. This was Colonel Otho H. Williams, who, in a letter to the latter, thus gives an account of his visit, as well as a description of the "High Rock Spring" itself:


{ Washington’s Correspondence , vol. iv. p. 73.}

BALTIMORE, July 12, 1784

DEAR SIR: After I had the pleasure of seeing you in Philadelphia, I made an excursion to New York, and from there up the North River as far as Saratoga. One motive for extending my tour so far that course, was to visit the Springs in the vicinity of Saratoga, which I recollected you once recommended to me as a remedy for the rheumatism. They are now frequented by the uncivilized people of the back country; but very few others resort to them, as there is but one small hut within several miles of the place. Corporal Armstrong and myself spent one week there which was equal to a little campaign; for the accommodations were very wretched, and provisions exceedingly scarce. The country about the Springs being uncultivated, we were forced to send to the borders of the Hudson for what was necessary for our subsistence.

During our stay we made a few little experiments on the waters. Bark of a restringent ( sic ) quality turned them to a purple color very suddenly, and we thought that iron was discernible even to the taste. They have certainly a very great quantity of salts. A quart of the water boiled down produced a spoonful, which, being diluted in common water, there remained on the surface a quantity of insipid, tasteless matter, like chalk, which we collected; then, pouring off the water into a clear vessel, we found remaining at the bottom something like slacked lime. The water in which the first production was diluted, being boiled down, produced half a spoonful of very acute salt. But that which distinguishes these waters in a very conspicuous degree from all others, is the great quantity of fixed air which they contain. They are exceedingly pungent to the taste, and after being drunk a short time will often affect the nose like brisk bottled ale. The water will raise flour sooner than any other thing, and cannot be confined so that the air will not, somehow or other, escape. Several persons told us that they had corked it tight in bottles, and that the bottles broke. We tried it with the only bottle we had, which did not break, but the air found its way through a wooden stopper and the wax with which it was sealed. A trout died in the water in less than a minute, or seemed dead, but moved in common water. This experiment was repeated with the same effect. We observed in digging that the rocks which are about the Springs, and which, in one or two places, project themselves above the earth in a conic form, go not deep into the ground, but are formed by the waters, which (the man who lives at the place informed us) overflow once per month, when not disturbed, and the earthy parts, being exposed to the air and sun, petrify and increase. This opinion is strengthened by the shells and bodies of insects which we found in broken parts of the rock.


At Clermont, Mrs. Livingston charged me with a letter for Mrs. Washington, and with her most respectful compliments to you, Sir. All that amiable family joined in affectionate compliments to you and to Mrs. Washington; and I beg you will permit me to add my own.

I am, etc.,




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