Lake Saratoga. – Its Colonial and Early History. – The Great Kayaderosseras Patent .


"And many a gloomy tale tradition yet

Saves from oblivion, of their struggles vain,

Their prowess and their wrongs."



A SINGULAR feature of American scenery is the great number and beauty of its small fresh-water lakes – "fit residence for the naiads" – fed by living springs, and with shores always richly fringed with foliage, and often hilly and picturesque. They lie in the midst of wild forests, like silver mirrors, tranquil and lovely, and "mingling a refinement and an elegance with the bold character of the scenery, which contrasts, like Una with the couchant Lion."

One of the most beautiful of these, perhaps, is LAKE SARATOGA, the best view of which is obtained from the top of Caldwell’s Hill, on the eastern bank. There the scene which meets the eye is calm and beautiful rather than sublime. The broad expanse of the Lake lies below like a mass of molten silver – the reflection of the foliage at the water’s edge giving it the appearance of being fringed with emeralds. Nothing can surpass the gracefulness of the sweep of the hills which come down to the further shore, or the charm of the prospect which the scene presents of native forest and cultivated field – in one part stretching up the hill-side, and in others spreading out into wide and rich plains. It possesses more of the lovely and less of the grand than Lake George, and the beholder is lost more in admiration than astonishment. At a distance of one mile from this stand-point, the Lake takes a turn to the right or eastwardly, and is merged into Fish Creek, through which it empties itself into the Hudson. If, while the visitor is still lingering on this spot, one of those summer showers – so frequent in this region – should descend, he would feel amply repaid for his wet clothes by seeing the shower soon pass away, and the sun, now declining in the west, again shine forth in all his loveliness and glory, softening the outlines of the hills, and pouring upon the pure bosom of the Lake a flood of exquisite beauty. Indeed, it would be difficult for the imagination, in all the fairy visions that fancy can create, to picture a scene like this.

"How sweet

Upon a summer evening, when the lake

Lies half in shadow, half in crimson light,

Like hope and fear, holding within the heart

Divided empire, with a light slack sail

To steer your little boat amid the isles.

Now gazing in the clouds like fiery balls,

Till head and eye are filled with glorious thoughts

Of golden places in fairy-lands."

Lake Saratoga, moreover, is peculiar in that it can be seen from nearly every point of the compass. From the Catskills on the south, from the Kayaderosseras mountains on the west, from the Palmertown range, and French Mountain, near Lake George, on the north-west – it is distinctly visible; while from a particular point on the top of Potash Kettle near Luzerne, Lake Saratoga, as well as the vicinity of the Indian Pass, may be plainly discerned.


The Great Kayaderosseras Patent .


But our charming Lake has other associations connected with it than those of the picturesque. Willis, writing of it in 1840, says: "Saratoga Lake must depend for celebrity on its fish dinners." Not so. LAKE SARATOGA in history will long be remembered not only from the fact that the first white settlement in the county was made upon its banks, but, also, from its connection with the final adjustment of the GREAT PATENT OF THE KAYADEROSSERAS.

Before, however, giving the history of this celebrated Patent in detail, it should be stated that the Lake and the country in its immediate vicinity had been from time immemorial considered by the Mohawks as their best hunting-ground. The encampment of the latter nation was on the Kayaderosseras Flats, now in the possession of the Ramsdell family. Even if we had not the traditions of that nation as vouchers for this assertion, the archæological remains still extant sufficiently prove it. There is yet a tradition in the Ramsdell family that when their ancestors first settled on the shore of the Lake (where their descendants still reside), the remains of an Indian camping-ground were plainly to be seen. On these flats, Professor Henry McGuire (whose erudition as a geologist and archæologist, by the way, never has had the recognition which it deserves) and myself have frequently picked up quantities of stone-hatchets, scalping-knives, fish-spears, pestles and pottery, which prove conclusively that the spot had been occupied by the Indians for many thousands of moons. It was in this vicinity, also, that my friend Horace Kelly unearthed, two years since, an Indian skull with a stone tomahawk by its side – a silent witness to a treacherous murder. {I use the word "treacherous" because the hole in the back of the skull shows that the blow was struck from behind. Both the skull and tomahawk are in my possession.} On the south side of Fish Creek, moreover, between "Stafford’s Bridge" and the "Old Milligan Place," there are the remains of ancient Indian pottery, within the cavities of which are yet found sun-dried and fire-baked bases covered with quaint ornamentation. {Professor Henry McGuire, under date of July 27, 1874, writes as follows to the author in regard to this pottery: "It would seem that after the articles of earthen-ware were moulded, they were first sun-dried, then placed in cavities formed in the soil, and a gentle fire built within them, which was kept up until all moisture was expelled and the vessels had become sufficiently indurated. There is, at the point above indicated, an area containing cavities which, to my mind, point with certainty to such a conclusion, and for several reasons: 1 st . The existence of clay in the immediate neighborhood. 2 d . Fragments of clay pottery, rudely ornamented, are discerned at various points in the immediate vicinity; and I am credibly informed that, a few years since, some persons engaged in repairing the highway, while removing earth from a bank exhumed the bones of a person and several clay vases containing grains of corn having the appearance of having been carbonized. This was at a point a short distance south of "Stafford’s Bridge," on the south side of the outlet of Lake Saratoga. These specimens, so valuable to the archæologist, unfortunately fell into the hands of unappreciative individuals (with some of whom I have conversed upon the subject), and they have all either been mislaid or destroyed – so that all traces of them are lost. 3 d . The fact that these fragments are frequently mingled with implements of stone, such as were used by the Red men, would seem to establish conclusively that they were the artificers thereof. The uncouth character of the ornamentation and the inartistic forms given to them, judging from the fragments which I have seen, also point in the same direction, and lend to the subject an absorbing interest."} And if any other testimony were wanting to prove that the Lake was long a favorite resort of the Mohawks, it is furnished in an old manuscript speech now before me delivered by a Mohawk to –William Penn in 1683, in which Lake Saratoga is particularly mentioned as the "place where game abounds."

Having thus mentioned these facts for a better understanding of that which is to follow, I come to the position Lake Saratoga occupies in the history of the State.

In the spring of 1703, Samson Shelton Broughton, Attorney-General of the province of New York, and twelve others, obtained from Governor Cornbury a license to purchase the "tract of vacant and unappropriated land called by the Indian name of Kayaderosseras." Accordingly, Broughton, in the following year, bought of the Mohawks, for a trifling sum, sufficient land, as the Indians understood it, "to make a small farm." Having thus obtained the land, Broughton, under semblance of his deed, procured from Queen Anne, in 1708, a grant of all the land between the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, extending from Cohoes Falls to the Third, or as is now called, Baker’s Falls, on the Hudson, and containing about seven hundred thousand acres. Truly a "small farm"! Owing, however, to the watchfulness of the Indians, up to 1764 it had never been surveyed. In process of time the Mohawks lost all solicitude regarding it, and supposed all claim upon it had been entirely relinquished. In 1764, however, the dispute was renewed with increased bitterness.

It happened that in the spring of that year, three or four families settled at the confluence of the Kayaderosseras Creek and Lake Saratoga. These squatters were discovered about a month after their settlement by a hunting party of Mohawks, who, incensed at the presumption of the whites in settling upon their best hunting-grounds, ordered them peremptorily to leave; and upon their return to their castles they waited upon Sir William Johnson and demanded that the settlers should be removed, and that the claim of the Proprietaries to the Kayaderosseras land should be immediately relinquished. Convinced of the justice of the demand, Sir William at once wrote to Governor Colden, giving an account of the fraudulent manner in which the patent had been obtained, and soliciting his influence in procuring redress. At the same time he endeavored to prevail on the Colonial Assembly to vacate the patent on the ground of fraud, and a bill was accordingly introduced for that purpose. The influence, however, of those members who were interested in other patents of perhaps the same equivocal origin, and who therefore dreaded its passage as a precedent, defeated the bill on several frivolous grounds, among which was, that "to vacate it would be to impugn the character of the Governor who had granted the patent." Disappointed in his hopes of obtaining justice from the Assembly, Sir William next appealed directly to the Council, who, in the spring of the following year (1765), directed the Attorney-General, Kempe, to proceed against the Proprietaries by the writ of scire facias . This, however, was not satisfactory to the Baronet. "I must observe to you," he wrote to General Gage, "that there is little or no prospect of procuring justice by a trial on a scire facias , which I consider as only proposed at New York, that in case of any bad consequences hereafter arising from that patent, the people below might affirm that they offered to enquire into that fraud, though, in fact, it is doing nothing at all; for they well know the little subterfuges and quirks of the lawyers in any trial at common law, they being interested in the decision, and a patent being deemed a sufficient title at common law, hence it might have been obtained."

Meanwhile, the cause of the Mohawks was taken up by the entire confederacy of the Six Nations, and the dissatisfaction of the Indians became so alarming that Sir William, in his correspondence with the Board of Trade, used his utmost endeavors to have the patent vacated by Act of Parliament. At length, alarmed at his persistent efforts to obtain redress, and dreading lest he should succeed, the Proprietaries offered to compromise the matter by relinquishing a part of the patent, and paying to the Mohawks a certain sum of money. The proposition, however, on being submitted to that nation in full council, was declined on the ground that the consideration offered was too small, and the attempt at compromise failed.

Thus the matter rested until May of 1768, when the Proprietaries, influenced by Sir William Johnson, waited upon the Governor, and gave him full power to settle the affair with the Mohawks as he should judge best. Meanwhile, by order of the Governor, the patent was for the first time carefully surveyed; and toward the close of July, Sir William Johnson, having returned by way of Saratoga Springs from the sea-side, a conference was again held with the Mohawks, when the results of the new survey were laid before the Sachems. Both parties being now able to judge with certainty what was claimed by each, an amicable adjustment was soon reached. By the conditions of the agreement, the patentees relinquished all the land westward of the Kill, opposite Twektonondo Hill, to the north-west head of Kayaderosseras Creek, and took for their north-western boundary a line drawn from the head of that creek to the fourth fall on the Hudson River; {The Cohoes.} the Mohawks, on their part, giving up all claim to the remainder of the patent, on their receiving from the Proprietaries the sum of five thousand dollars. {The grant was "to her (Queen Anne) loving subjects, Nanning Hermanse, Johannes Beekman (great-great-grandfather of the original owner of "Beekman’s Woods"), Rip Van Dam, Ann Bridges, Mark Bickley, Johannes Fisher, Peter Fanconnier, Adrian Hogelandt, John Tudor, Jorris Hogelandt, John Stevens, John Tatham, and Sampson Broughton," and was for all that tract of land situated, lying and being in the County of Albany (the County of Albany then included Saratoga County, afterward Charlotte), called Kayaderosseras, alias Queensborough.}

The village of Saratoga Springs lies on that part of the Kayaderosseras Patent that fell to the share of Rip Van Dam. {The Clutes of old Saratoga are descendants of Van Dam.}


The Lake .


Lake Saratoga is about five miles in length, with an average width of one mile, it being the broadest opposite Snake Hill. The Lake is continually changing its form, and it may well be questioned whether its configuration at the present day at all resembles that of a century, or even fifty years since. The current of the Kayaderosseras makes itself felt on the opposite shore, from which it takes the earth, and bringing it back, counter and under-currents deposit it on the western bank. Thus while the Lake between Ramsdell’s and Abell’s is continually becoming shallower, the eastern bank is continually wearing away. Hence, even in my day, the shore road, leading from the bridge to Myers’ Lake House has been washed away some thirty feet, until now, in high water, the road is continually overflowed. Every spring, Mr. Myers finds it necessary to widen the road, and the presumption is – and this always the opinion of the late Dr. Allen – that a century hence, the shore, instead of being semi-circular in form as it is now, will be nearly straight from the base of Chapman’s hill to the bank opposite Moon’s Lake House. {The "Lake" has recently been rendered yet more attractive by the refined taste and good judgment of Mr. Frank Leslie.}



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