History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Paper on The Mohawk Valley
(No idea of date or newspaper. This was in a bunch of papers dating from the late 1800's and early 1900's.)
The Geographical Journal for May, a magazine published under the authority of the Council of the Royal Geographical society of London, contains an able article, entitled, "The Eastern Gateway of the United States," written by Prof. Albert Perry Brigham of Colgate University. It is the story of the Mohawk Valley. Among other things Prof. Brigham writes:
"Leaving tidewater at Albany, we rise over a stretch of nearly 20 miles of barren glacial sands to Schenectady, when we find an open road leading to the west. This is the Mohawk Valley, the eastern gateway of the country. Northward on our right, as we go west, rise and rugged foothills of the Adirondack mountains. Southward, on our left, are seen, the bold escarpments of the Helderberg mountains, which are really the steep slope by which the long plateau drops off to low ground at its northern end.
"Before outlining the history of the valley, let us look more narrowly at its character. We have to do with a trench about 90 miles long from Rome to Schenectady. Easterly it opens into the broad Hudson lowlands; westerly it winds into the lacustrine plains of the Iroquois, the larger antecedent of Lake Ontario. Once pass the gateway at Rome and the path is clear, over the lake plains and prairies tot he far west. Seen from the railway as we pass, the valley appears to be a trench about 500 feet deep, with moderately steep sides, and with an average width of the river and flood plain of about one-half mile. Seen more truly from the bordering uplands, it is a vast gap 1,400 to 2,000 feet deep, several miles wide in its upper parts, lying between the Catskill plateau and the Adirondack mountains. The latitudes are, Hudson at Albany, tidewater; sand plains, Schenectady, 340 feet; Schenectady, 246 feet; Amsterdam, 279 feet; Little Falls, 376 feet; Utica, 410 feet; Rome, 445 feet.
Mr. Brigham referred to the great lakes of prehistoric times, and how and when the headwaters of the Mohawk ate back into the country to the west the Adirondack waters well directed to the eastward, and the river beheaded the south flowing streams of the plateau of Central New York. This headwater cutting proceeded as far as Little Falls, when it was stopped by a barrier of the ancient gneisses, which in very ancient times was faulted up across the line where the valley was later to fun. By a process entirely similar, a valley headed back to the east from the ancient St. Lawrence River to that of the southwestern Adirondacks, and beheading other Susquehanna headstreams.
The military and commercial significance of the Mohawk Valley can not be fully appreciated until seen against the background of years of physiographic development.
The first European explorers and settlers in the region now known as the State of New York, found established there several powerful Indian tribes, known as the confederacy of the Five Nations. With these sturdy aborigines the European immigrants found themselves in alliance or at war. One avenue of approach was by assent of the Hudson River. Another was through the Champlain Valley from the St. Lawrence. A third lay along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario by the site of Oswego. Thus from the first the rippling waters and bordering flood plains of the Mohawk were beaten path, frequented by French, Dutch and English in various contact of war and peace with the natives of the land.
Prof. Brigham alluded to the first invasion of the Mohawk country by the French, then to the coming of the Dutch under Hendrick Hudson and the building of Forts Nassau and Orange. He referred to the fact that the first white settlement in the upper stretches of the valley was made by the Palatines in 1723.
The next wave of immigration which swept up the valley was English. In 1784 Hugh White passed the Hollanders of Schenectady and the High Dutch of German Flats and founded Whtiestown on the upper river. His coming was a signal of a lively movement from the store houses of New England to the inviting fields of the Long House, to which the Mohawk Valley was the only road.
In conclusion, in speaking of the Mohawk, the writers says, "After its sources leave the high hills of Central New York, it follows from Rome to the Hudson a short course of 110 miles. Upon its banks are six cities, all good illustrations of physiographical control, Rome, with 15,000 people, is built at the Oneida carrying place; Utica, a thriving city of 60,000 souls, is determined by an old fording place and receives tribute from Central New York through a number of lateral villages; Little Falls, a small, but busy city, depends upon an ancient carrying place and its water power, the primal cause being an extensive fault which here crosses the river from the north to south. Further down is Amsterdam, a city of 20,000 and a great center of knitted goods and carpet manufacture. Schenectady with 30,000 people, lies on the great flats, where the river issues from he uplands upon the old estuary ground of the Hudson, as it was in time of continual depression. The last is Cohoes, a city of looms, whose superb water power is due to the falls of the Mohawk just before it enters the Hudson."
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