The Early Settlers of Saratoga. The Arnold, Mosher, Jewel, Taylor, Bullard, and Fitch Families .


"Forgotten generations live again;

Assume the bodily shapes they wore of old,

Beyond the Flood."



THE earliest settlements made in the county were in 1764, on the shore of Lake Saratoga, at the mouth of the Kayaderosseras Creek. Owing to the jealousy of the Mohawks, these settlers, through the exertions of Sir William Johnson, relinquished their design, and vacated the spot. In 1770-1, however, the causes of difficulty having been removed, several families located themselves on the high lands east of Snake Hill. About the same time, also, John Laing, Rowland Perry, and John Stiles settled in the more immediate vicinity of what is now the village, viz., at Wilton, or, as it was then called, Palmertown. The first man, however, who ever made the earliest settlement in the village was Dirick Scowton, who cleared a piece of ground on the top of the hill in the rear of the High Rock, and built a log-house; but hardly had he completed his cabin when a misunderstanding with the Indians forced him to leave the place.


The Arnold Family .


In the year 1774, John Arnold, son of John and Martha Arnold, arrived with his family from Rhode Island, on the east shore of Lake Saratoga. Here he heard such accounts of the mineral springs and the land about them, that he was induced to continue his journey farther. Accordingly, after supplying himself with articles suitable for trading with the Indians, he put his family and household on board a canoe, and paddled from Snake Hill across the Lake, and entered the mouth of the Kayaderosseras Creek. This stream he followed for about two miles, until he struck the old Indian trail from Ballston Lake – along which, eight years before, Sir William Johnson had passed on his way to the High Rock. Here he landed; and, taking their furniture and provisions on their backs, his family soon arrived at the Spring, and took possession of the deserted log-cabin of Scowton. After keeping the place as a tavern for two years, he sold the ground on which the Upper Village now stands for a trifle to Samuel Norton, {Norton also held a portion of his land by purchase from Isaac Low, who in turn bought it of Rip Van Dam. Upon the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, Norton abandoned his improvements, and joined the British army, and soon afterwards died. By his death the "Spring" was again left without a white inhabitant. In 1783, a son of Norton removed to the Springs, took possession of the property previously occupied by his father, and prosecuted the improvements already begun, until 1787, when he sold to Gideon Morgan, who, the same year, conveyed it to Alexander Bryan, who built a blacksmith’s shop and an additional log-house, which he opened as an inn. (See chapter on "Alexander Bryan." } and settled near the base of Snake Hill, where he lived until his decease. Here he was joined by his two brothers, Thomas and Sylvanus, and by Peter Clement, also from the East. These families, together with those others who had located at Snake Hill in 1770, formed quite a settlement. Thomas Arnold’s daughter, Martha, subsequently married Peter Clement’s son, Thomas, a daughter of whom is the wife of Mr. Henry Myers, of "Cedar Bluff Hotel." Nathaniel Arnold, an uncle of Mrs. Myers, is still living, at the green old age of eighty-nine, with his mental faculties yet undimmed.

The Arnold family, as might have been expected from their coming from the State of Roger Williams, appear to have been remarkably intelligent and well educated. I have in my possession a letter written in 1810, and directed to "Mr. Thomas Arnold, at Stillwater, near Saratoga Lake," written from the mother of the Arnolds, which, for those days, is a model of correct expression and penmanship, albeit the style is somewhat quaint, especially when the writer says, "Dorcas remembers her best respects to Joseph and Betsy." Mrs. Arnold, it would appear, had left her son’s residence near Lake Saratoga, and moved to the western part of New York State – making, by the way, the trip from Stillwater in seventeen days, which was then considered very quick time. But even at that early day, the "Western fever" was prevalent, since the writer concludes as follows: "The land [here] is Rising rapidly, and if any of you wants to make his fortune now is his chance."

To these two families, the Arnolds and the Clements, is due the final extermination of the venomous reptiles from which Snake Hill takes its name. One of the first exploits of John Arnold and Peter Clement after arriving at Snake Hill was to assemble a "Rattlesnake Bee"; and for one week the crops and all farm-work were left in abeyance until, after a thorough and most destructive campaign, there was, comparatively, not a rattlesnake left. St. Patrick himself did not demoralize the snakes in Ireland more completely! The celebration of the feat was commensurate with its importance, since the snakes had become very annoying to the farmers.


The Fish and Mosher Families .


In 1783, as we have seen, Amos Stafford settled on the banks of Lake Saratoga, on that which is now called the "French Farm." One year later, Levi Fish, the father of Richard Fish, who, in 1833, taught a grammar-school in the Stafford school-house, moved from Dutchess County and settled a few rods north of Carey B. Moon’s Lake House, where he established the first ferry across the Lake. This ferry, as may be readily imagined, was exceedingly primitive, consisting merely of Indian "dug-outs" ( i.e. , logs hollowed out) with planks laid across them. Two years after, however, he constructed a scow, which was pulled across the stream with the hands by means of a rope stretched from bank to bank. This scow was in use for many years; and, indeed, up to the building of "Moon’s Bridge" this mode of conveyance across the Lake at this point was the only one in vogue. In the same year, 1784, George Mosher, grandfather of N. Mosher, settled on the farm next west of Mr. Stafford’s latter farm on Fish Creek, on the "Avery Road." The year following, "Squire" John Gilbert settled on the site of the present "Gilbert Place," at the junction of Union Avenue and the old North or Lake road. He was a man of some parts, was elected Justice of the Peace, and left a numerous and respectable progeny, among whom were the late Morris, and the present Daniel and Seymour Gilbert. At that time a bridle or foot path was the only way from the "Narrows" to the "High Rock"; and often, after a storm, it would be rendered impassable by the large trees which had fallen across. Mrs. Mosher, the daughter of Levi Fish and who died in 1862, aged eighty-six years, was on first coming from Dutchess County a child of eight years; and she was wont to recall vividly the hardships of the journey either to the High Rock or the grist-mill at Ballston.


The Jewel Family .


This family is deserving of special mention were it only for the fact that it is identified with the discovery of the "Congress Spring." Mr. and Mrs. Jewel are still living on the "old Nelson Place" on Henry street, at an extraordinary age – the husband being now in his ninety-eighth and the wife in her ninety-seventh year. Mrs. Jewel, {As mentioned in the chapter on "Grave-yards," Mrs. Jewel was the daughter of Jonathan Holmes, who built the old Columbian Hotel in 1808.} who is a remarkably intelligent lady, was recently "interviewed" by Mr. Nelson Cook, the artist, who, at my request, kindly visited the aged couple. To Mr. Cook, Mrs. Jewel gave the following highly interesting, and, in many respects, wholly new pieces of information:

At the time of her coming to Saratoga, in 1792, from Norfolk, Conn., there were a few Indians living there, some deer, and plenty of wolves and bears. Ballston was a larger place than Saratoga, inasmuch as it boasted of three small houses (one frame and two log) and a grist-mill – whereas the latter village had only two small frame-houses and one log-cabin! Visitors, who journeyed hither at that time, to drink of the "High Rock," came in covered vehicles (similar to the present prairie-wagon) with beds in them, in which they slept.


New facts in relation to the Discovery of the Congress Spring .


Mrs. Jewel further stated that in the spring of 1790, among the visitors at the "High Rock" were a Congressman (John Taylor Gilman) and an aged gentleman, his friend and fellow-traveller. One day as the former, accompanied by Mrs. Jewel’s young brother, was returning from a hunt along a winding foot-path leading to her father’s house – the aged gentleman meanwhile sitting on the door-step awaiting their coming – the boy, highly elated, ran forward exclaiming: "O mother! we’ve found a new spring!" To the question of Mrs. Holmes, "Who found it?" her son replied, "The Congress." {Henry Holmes, who was the little boy thus referred to, afterwards married and settled in Troy, N.Y., where he died in 1826, aged forty-four. He is buried in the Mount Ida Cemetery.} The aged gentleman then said, laughingly, to Mr. Gilman, who had now come up: "The spring shall always be called ‘The Congress.’ " Thereupon, the entire household "turned out" and went down to see the wonderful discovery. At this period it was necessary to climb over logs waist-high to gain access to the new spring – the water issuing from a fissure in the rock. For a long time afterward the water was conducted to the glass through a wooden spout fastened into the crevice.

For years subsequent to the discover of the "Congress," the communication between Saratoga and Ballston was by a cow-path; and in her fifteenth year, and for a long time afterward, Mrs. Jewel often took bags of wheat on horseback over this primitive road to be ground at Ballston; "and," proudly added Mrs. Jewel, "I always carried three bushels of grain at a load!" Two wagon-tracks only, at this time, led to the village – one from the north-west, the present road from Greenfield, intersecting Rock Street, and the other, the Wilton road from the north-east.

Mr. Jewel also stated that he had often noticed the water trickling through a fissure in the High Rock – thus confirming the statement of Mrs. Dwight that, on her visit here in 1789, the water overflowed the top, until a large tree, a few years afterward, fell upon it and cracked the tufa . {"The statement of grandmother [the wife of Amos Stafford, whose life is given in Chapter IV .] in relation to the High Rock Spring corroborates those of Mrs. Dwight. She stated also that the first frame-house at that Spring was built by Samuel Norton, who was the grandfather of Mrs. Isaac Howland of ‘Old Saratoga.’ " – Letter to the author from Mrs. Mary Stafford Rouse, of Bacon Hill, Saratoga County, N.Y. }


The Taylor Brothers .


Nor should the Taylor brothers be forgotten. Descended from a large and very respectable ancestry, they came to Saratoga at an early period in its history, and at once took a prominent and influential position among the pioneers of the place. Ziba Taylor, one of the brothers, whose only daughter married Dr. Steel, carried on for many years an extensive lumber business, opened a store in the Upper Village and resided in a house which stood, until quite recently, overlooking the hill above the Empire Spring. The Taylor Brothers were distinguished by great energy and integrity of character. They built the hotel now known as the "Mansion House," and at the same time opened the "Ten Springs."


Dr. Bullard .


Among the prominent physicians who settled early in Saratoga was Dr. Beroth Bullard, an uncle of General E.F. Bullard. He was a descendant of Benjamin Bullard, in the sixth generation, who settled at Watertown, Mass., about 1630, before Boston was known. The mother of Dr. Bullard was Hopestill Taft, a descendant in the fourth generation from Robert Taft, who settled in Worcester County, Mass., about 1670.

Beroth Bullard was born at Stourbridge, Mass., in 1769, and was fully educated in that State for the medical profession. He first settled in Augusta, Maine, but thence emigrated to Greenfield, Saratoga County, N.Y., about the year 1800. {His brother, Alpheus Bullard, came to Greenfield about 1809, and settled in Schuylerville about 1810.} Soon after, he married Charlotte, eldest daughter of Capt. St. John, of the latter place, in the year 1813. The Doctor removed to Saratoga Springs, and in 1817 built the residence opposite the present Town Hall, in which Dr. Freeman afterward resided up to the time of his death. The Saratoga County Medical Society was organized in the year 1806, with only a few members, among whom was Dr. Elijah Porter, of Waterford, father of Ex-Judge John K. Porter. Dr. Bullard and Billy J. Clark became members of the Medical Society in 1807, and Dr. Steel a year later, in 1808. Dr. Bullard, in connection with the celebrated Billy J. Clark, of Moreau, was one of the earliest workers in the cause of temperance.

During his twenty-nine years’ residence in Greenfield and Saratoga, Dr. Bullard continued in active practice and was highly regarded by his associates in the profession; but his great kindness of heart prevented his becoming a prompt collector, and which he left but few worldly goods to his heirs, he was kindly remembered by all of his patients. On the 25 th day of December, 1829, he was in his usual good health, and on that day was sent for by Mrs. Bockes, who then resided at St. John’s Corners, about five miles north of Saratoga. It was an extremely cold day, and when he arrived at her residence it was evening. After having prescribed for Mrs. Bockes, the doctor then seated himself by the fire, and while heating his feet fell backward and expired in a few moments. He literally died in the harness, in the prime of life, in the midst of his friends, and greatly lamented by all.

Judge Bockes, who was then a mere boy, well remembers riding on horseback to call Dr. Bullard to the bedside of his sick mother, and was present at his sudden death. The remains of Dr. Bullard were interred in the Fitch Cemetery, on the same farm where he died. He left one son and six daughters, several of the descendants of whom yet reside at Greenfield and Saratoga Springs. {Gardner Bullard, of Saratoga Springs, was a distant cousin of Dr. Bullard; Benjamin Bullard, of Medway, Mass., of the third generation, was the great-grandfather of each. The wife of Mr. Granger, of Saratoga, is a grand-daughter of Dr. Bullard, as is also the present wife of John N. Smith, of Greenfield. Nor should we omit to mention, as one of the early settlers, Mr. Thomas Seymour, who, born in Greenfield, is now residing with his daughter, Mrs. Truman Safford, at Saratoga Springs, hale and hearty, in his eighty-ninth year.}


The Fitch Family .


In 1785, the Fitch family, influenced by settlers in Ballston, came from Wilton and Norwalk, Connecticut, and selected four farms in what was then Ballston (but is now Greenfield), at a place since called St. John’s Corners, about four miles north-west of Saratoga Springs. From the Kayaderosseras they journeyed some five miles into the wilderness, marking the trees on either side the better to find their way back. They returned to Connecticut, and the year following, Ebenezer Fitch, Giles Fitch, Captain John St. John, who married Hannah Fitch, their sister, and a Mr. Smith, with their four families, removed from Connecticut to this county, and tarried a few days with their friends in Ballston, and on the 15 th day of May, 1786, the party started from the residence of Mr. Betts to erect their log-cabin in the wilderness. Ebenezer Fitch selected the north-west corner of two hundred acres; {Ebenezer Fitch afterward (in 1798) conveyed his portion to Ephraim Bullock, the grandfather of Hon. Judge Bockes.} Giles Fitch the south-west corner, Captain St. John the north-east corner, and Mr. Smith the south-west corner. Shortly after this, Major Jabez Fitch also moved up from Fairfield, Connecticut, {Hence the name of "Fairfield" was given originally to a part of the present town of Wilton.} and purchasing about five hundred acres from Dirck Lefferts, {Dirck Leffert’s first deed to Gideon Putnam of lands in Saratoga was three years later, and is dated June 2, 1791; and his first deed of lands where the old Ballston Springs were located was given to Benijah Douglas, grandfather of the late Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, November 28, 1791. In 1789, towns had been organized within what is now Saratoga County; but the territory was divided into three districts, viz.: Halfmoon, Saratoga, and Ballston. The eastern portion of Greenfield was then in the Saratoga district. Greenfield was not organized as a town until 1793.} built on the spot now known as Locust Grove, two miles north-west of the village. Soon after, the latter built a grist and saw-mill on the Creek, near the present residence of Mr. Daniels. This was the first mill built in this section of the country, but it has long gone to ruin. These three Fitches were all brothers, and were the only sons of Ebenezer Fitch, who was the third son of Governor Thomas Fitch, of Connecticut. {Thomas Fitch settled at Norwalk, Connecticut., in 1638, and died after 1665. His son, Thomas (the second), had seven children, and died in 1690, at Norwalk. Thomas (the third), a son of the latter, died at Norwalk, May 10, 1731, aged sixty. A daughter of his was grandmother of Chancellor Kent. Thomas (the fourth), was Chief-Justice of the Colony of Connecticut, and from 1754 to 1756 was Governor of that Colony; died July 18, 1774, aged seventy-five. He had ten children. His third son, Ebenezer, was born at Norwalk, February 25, 1729; married Lydia, daughter of Samuel Mills, Jr., of Greenwich, Connecticut. He died at Wilton, Connecticut, in 1762, and left three sons, as above stated, who are the sixth generation in this country. The second Ebenezer Fitch married Sarah Hobby, daughter of Colonel David Hobby, of North Castle, Westchester County, New York, a prominent actor in that vicinity during the Revolutionary War. Mrs. A.A. Patterson, of Saratoga Springs, is a great-granddaughter of Colonel Hobby.}

When they first settled in this county the entire country was infested with bears and wolves; and the only means of protecting their swine and other domestic animals was to build solid "pens" and cover them with huge logs. "It was a common custom in the night-time," writes a member of the Fitch family to the author, "to hear bears upon the top of the logs, growling and attempting to make their way into the ‘pens.’ Sometimes those animals would be shot to furnish fresh meat. Thus it was profitable to keep a few swine as a lure with which to entice Bruin to his destruction. {The vicinity of Saratoga, from all accounts, must have been prolific in bears. "Dick" McLease, one of the early settlers and hunters in Saratoga, was wont to relate the following story: He was once out hunting by the saw-mill, near the locality where is now "Put’s Pond," northwest of the village. Hearing a noise like the breaking of limbs in the direction of a large chestnut-tree a few rods off, he worked his way under cover of the mill, and discovered a bear in the tree pulling off the limbs, and picking the chestnuts from the open burrs. After gaining a more favorable position and examining the priming of his gun, a well-directed shot brought the bear to the ground. McLease was a famous hunter, and my friend, Horace Kelly, who knew him well, states that it used to be said of McLease, that if pigeons ever came in sight of his "bough-house" they were sure to give him a call. So plenty were those birds at that time, that the common price of them was a sixpence a dozen.}

Major Jabez Fitch, Captain St. John, and Giles Fitch served in the Revolutionary war, the former two as officers, and the latter as a private. Hannah Fitch, the daughter of Ebenezer, was born upon her father’s farm, September 9 th , 1787, and was the third female white child born in this section of the country, or north of the Kayaderosseras, the first one having been Mary Stafford, born on the 7 th of March, 1786, {She was a very genial lady, and retained until her death a vivid recollection of the "early times." Once, during her girlhood, her father, Amos Stafford, brought home a "cub" – having killed the mother – and chained it near the house; she in childish glee ventured too near, whereupon Bruin, with his paw, knocked her down and appropriated to his own use the bread and butter she had in her hand. Miss Stafford was twice married, her second husband being John Wicks, of Fayette, Seneca County, New York. She died in 1870, and is buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery, at Schuylerville, New York.} and the second Sarah Waterbury, born in Greenfield, April 19 th , 1787. Hannah Fitch married Alpheus Bullard, of Schuylerville, and yet survives, being eight days older than the Constitution of the United States, which was signed by Washington September 17 th of that year. Several of her sons are also living, including General E.F. Bullard, formerly of Waterford, but now living in Saratoga Springs, and David A. Bullard, of Schuylerville.

Ebenezer Fitch erected the first frame dwelling in the town of Greenfield. In this house Judge Bockes was born in the year 1817. In 1798 Ebenezer Fitch removed to the east bank of Fish Creek, and bought the farm near Stafford’s Bridge, where his son, Major Edward Fitch, resided until his death, on the 29 th of May, 1875 – a model of the old-school country gentleman. {Major Edward Fitch, who was a great-grandson of Thomas Fitch, a Colonial Governor of Connecticut, and an uncle of General E.F. Bullard, was born near St. John’s Corners, in the town of Greenfield, New York, in 1794, and consequently was eighty-two at his decease. He was ever a lover of agriculture, and always remained in that peaceful pursuit. For more than fifty years his beautiful residence on the east shore of Lake Saratoga has been remarkable for its hospitality. No person ever visited the farm without bearing away a high respect for the man.}

"His walk through life was marked by every grace;

His soul sincere, his friendship void of guile.

Long shall remembrance all his virtues trace,

And fancy picture his benignant smile."



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