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A Brief History of our Towns: Clifton Park & Halfmoon

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Erie Canal aqueduct at Rexford
Erie Canal Aqueduct at Rexford c. 1900

The Erie Canal was known as “the eighth wonder of the world” because of its marvels of engineering. When it opened in 1825, aqueducts at Crescent and Rexford brought the canal across the Mohawk River through 13 miles of Saratoga County. The Crescent Aqueduct was the longest in the original Erie Canal system at 1,188 feet; 26 piers held the canal above the surface of the river.

barge canal
Lock 2, Barge Canal. Canal opening
with boat entering

The path leading north to Montreal along the Hudson was a key road during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars. The route gained renewed importance when the same legislation authorizing the Erie Canal established the Champlain Canal, which opened on September 27, 1823. Both canals were replaced in 1917 by the New York State Barge Canal. It connected the Hudson to the Mohawk River at Waterford. A dam built at Crescent raised the elevation of the river by 28 feet, inundating most of the hamlets of Crescent and Fort’s Ferry.

School #4, Halfmoon
School #4 in Halfmoon, on Cary Road
September 1914

Halfmoon and Clifton Park were primarily agricultural until the mid-twentieth century. One-room schools were established at crossroads and in hamlets. In 1950, the 22 remaining schools were incorporated into the Shenendehowa Central Schools. Churches representing a variety of faiths such as Quaker, Methodist, Episcopal, Dutch Reformed, Baptist, and Catholic sprang up throughout both towns and were the centers of social life.

Idylwilde Orchard

Idylwilde Orchard about 1905

Farming was a necessary way of life for most families. Large dairy farms led to a need for ice and the ice harvesting industry developed. Clifton Park was well-known for its large apple orchards. John Macintosh, a onetime resident of Clifton Park, is well-known as the discoverer and propagator in Canada of an apple he called the “Macintosh Red.”

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