Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Little Falls, Chartered 1811
150 Years of Progress, 1961
Excerpts will be used from this book.
Map of the City of Little Falls, 1961 use your back button to return to this page.

Part Four.


Little Falls is fortunate in having a number of parks situated in various sections of the city.

Ward Square, or the Eastern Park, comprises five acres on East Main Street and was the gift of John Ward, between 1833 and 1839.

The Western Park, or Public Square, comprising two acres, was the gift of six Albany residents around 1832. Band concerts are held in both these parks on the Wednesdays in July and August.

Sheard's Park, named in honor of Senator Titus Sheard, was the gift of Richard Ray Ward and a small parcel was given by Mrs. Douglas Robinson.

Moreland Park, comprising thirty acres on the hilltop above the city, was the gift of Dudley Burwell. He died on August 18, 1876, and on the death of his friend, William Milligan on January 8, 1904, it became the property of the city of Little Falls. There is a picnic area and a pavilion built in 1911 for dancing or concerts.

The original lock of the Inland Lock and Navigation Canal, west of Lock Street, was transferred to the Little Falls Park Commission on May 21, 1883, by the State Legislature, and included the stone bridge which was replaced later.

Clinton Park, the site of the Erie Canal Basin, was given by Arphaxed Loomis in 1893 and is now a municipal parking lot.

Rev. Francis Bellamy Park and monument were dedicated in 1959, during New York State's Year of History.

The West Monroe Street Playground has a football field and track in the warm months, and a skating rink in winter. A new swimming pool is being built there, and will be dedicated this year.

The Hancock and East Main Streets Triangle was a gift to the city.

Cunningham Park, of one acre on the old Erie Canal lands, was named in honor of Alderman John Cunningham.

The school lot, the gift of John Ward and Frederick Lansing, is the parking lot south of the hospital.

The triangle at Prospect and Church Streets, the site of the Octagon church, in front of the Church Street School, was named as a park in 1861. A monument was dedicated here in 1911.

Girvan Square was the gift of Charles A. Girvan and is two and a half acres of the present ball diamond. Soldiers' Memorial Park, the gift of John Crowley in March, 1946, extends east of this park on the Burnt Rocks, between Loomis Street and the Gorge View Highway and comprises 103 acres.


The first village cemetery was the churchyard of the Octagon church. When the church was torn down, some of the remains were removed to the present Church Street Cemetery, which was opened in 1842.

The Wilcox Cemetery, on East Monroe Street, was opened in 1878 and is little used today. The upper section has been consolidated with the cemetery of the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which adjoins it to the north. In 1898 the first burial was made in Fairview Cemetery, and later the remains of a number of veterans of the Civil War, including Little Falls' "Unknown Soldier", were buried there in a special section.


The first fire in Little Falls was of incendiary origin, ignited by the flaming arrows of the Iroquois Indians, who were raiding Little Falls with the British, in 1782.

At first everyone was his own fireman and the water supply was the Mohawk river or some nearby creek. As the village grew larger and farther away from the river, some type of fire fighting equipment became necessary.

Even before the village was incorporated, a fire company was formed in 1808, in which every resident, male and female, was a member. As the militia could be called out when danger of invasion threatened, the local citizens could be called out when fire threatened.

Solomon Lockwood was appointed captain of the fire department and a hand operated pumper was purchased for $250.00. It was delivered in September, 1810, and was a "Goose Neck" type, in which buckets were used to fill the reservoir in the engine, and handles were worked to pump the water out of the goose neck standpipe. No hose was used with this engine and it had to be placed uncomfortably near the scene of the fire.

It was guaranteed, provided not more than fourteen men worked at it. There was a fire on March 5, 1811, in Craine's tavern, and the roll-call ofter the fire gives the names of the volunteers in No. 1 company, as it was called: Solomon Lockwood, Captain; Rufus Sawyer, Amos Parkhurst, Josiah Hazen, Isaac Stevenson, Felix Dutcher, Josiah Perry, Thomas Battle, Benjamin Carr, Thomas Gould, Henry Prye, Benjamin Bowen, J, 0. Mclntyre, Matthias B. Fellows, Thomas Smith, William Girvin, Brayton Buckland, John Brotheroe, John Phillips, Washington Britton, George W. Angel, Charles Hinkley, William T. Dodge, Henry Holmes, James Battle and George Plato.

Under the charter of 1811 every householder was compelled to have a fire bucket always in the hallway or beside the natural exit. If he was married, he had to have a bucket for his wife, and all the adults were required to have buckets, ready for the fire. Then, when the alarm was given, all the inhabitants physically able and of age were required to repair at once to the scene of fire. The men formed a line from the nearest cistern or other water supply, along which the full buckets of water were passed to the fire. The women passed back the empty buckets, and this bucket brigade many times proved its great efficiency in time of fire peril. The law as regards buckets was strictly enforced, for in 1835 it is noted that a number of people were fined $1 for each day they did not have the buckets as required.

At first the water supply was a natural source, but as early as 1806 the Aqueduct Association was incorporated to bring spring water to various residents who purchased stock in the project. Pump logs were drilled and laid in the streets, at first from the spring at the head of Ann Street. Reservoirs were built from which water could be drawn in case of fire. The Inland Canal north of Mill Street from 1794 added protection to that area and after the Erie was built, it also was a source of water for extinguishing fires.

When the charter of 1827 was granted, at an election held in the Stone school house, which still stands, Robert Stewart, Jacob Abcon and John Phillips were elected fire wardens-May 29, 1827. On June 14 the village laws, under the new charter, included rules for preventing and extinguishing fires. These included a stringent bucket law, chimney cleaning and premise clearing regulations. The fire wardens were to make monthly inspections.

Then, on June 16, two nights later, the first fire company was organised, and this was one of the greatest of social events in the village. The officers were Captain William Girvan, First Assistant Captain John Phillips, Second Assistant Captain Amos Parks, and Firemen Josiah Lockwood, James Sanders, Gould Wilson, Robert Stewart, Robert Lockwood, Andrew Oliver, Eliph Case, Charles Hinchman, William Talcott, Charles Ellis, Anthony E. Fatan, Robert Stewart, 2nd, John Smith, Charles Smith, Alexander Ingham, Moses Drake, I. Hodgskin, Nate Esterbrooks, Thompson Parks, James Schuyler and Joseph Colvin. Twelve buckets were purchased.

This was the beginning of volunteer fire companies. Previously, everyone was a fireman, but these fire companies were restricted to their members. As additional fire companies were organised the chief of all the companies was elected by the members. They also elected their individual captains. Dances were held during the year, and certain dates were the jealous property of certain companies. Some companies were more popular than others and to be a member was a mark of distinction.

With the construction of the Erie Canal the south side grew rapidly and the first fire company located there was incorporated in 1834 and Zenas Priest was elected captain. In September of the same year the first hook and ladder company was organized and a hook and ladder truck, hand drawn, was purchased.

In June, 1835, Protection Fire Co. (the fourth) was organized and the hand pumper was stationed with the hood and ladder truck in the Garden Street Hose House, now the site of the American Legion Home.

On August 6, 1841, the first of three fires burned the woods east of town, known to this day as the "Burned Rocks."

In 1857 sixteen lengths of leather hose, held together by copper rivets, were purchased, and on testing seven lengths were found to be defective.

On October 3, 1857, the fifth fire company. General Herkimer Co., was incorporated and J. Satterlee was elected chief.

When the Civil War broke out the chief of the fire department, Wells Sponable, was so popular that he was able to recruit Co. B, of the 34th Regiment and became their captain.

On July 3, 1866, a serious fire burned off the entire east side of Second Street, Main to Albany, including the Hinchman House, located where Woolworth's store is now standing. The inefficiency of the hand operated fire engines in a big fire resulted in the purchase of a steam pumper. In November, 1870, Number Two purchased a hand drawn steam fire engine, which was stationed in the Petrie Street Armory. In November, 1871, Number One purchased a steamer for $3,500 and Number Three purchased a steamer in June, 1877.

Before 1873 the fire alarm system consisted of shouting "Fire" and someone ran to the watch tower and rang the bell. Firemen ran to their fire house, started the fire in the engine boiler, and dragged the engine to the fire. On November 20, 1873, a steam fire whistle was placed on the Mohawk Mill and in 1879 a fire alarm system was installed.

Fire Department Photos. Use your back button to return to this page.

Explanation of the Fire Department Photos:

UPPER LEFT-Here is a picture of the Fire Department, taken July 4, 1919. Left to right, the men are August Duefell, Prall Tom Rathbun, Chief Cooney, Wilbur. J. Frank Bennett, Allen, Tom Morris, Claude Miller, who is still a fireman. In the front seats Charles Philips, Amos Clark, Henry Smerski. On the running board and in the trucks Joseph Smerski, Ray Hart, Ed Graufman, Pop Collins, Gene Noonan, Jim Day, AI Rheinhart. UPPER RIGHT-Amos Clark and Chief Cooney in the City of Little Falls' first piece of motor driven fire apparatus, in 1914. CENTER LEFT-Old Fire Department building and company, when horses pulled the trucks-located at the corner of Albany and Second Streets. CENTER RIGHT-Henry Hudson, Captain of number three fire company, the "C. B. Leigh Steamer," in 1878-1879. BOTTOM-The present Little Falls Fire Department. This is the same system that is in use today, except that in 1908 a compressed air, automatic whistle was installed to replace the hand operated steam whistle.

Although the Volunteers had rendered the village a splendid service at low cost through the years there were actually too many firemen, as was demonstrated at their last public appearance on Decoration Day, 1899, when all six companies, with seven hundred men, were in line. At this time Number One Company, the Victor Adams Hose Co., was located on North Ann Street; Number Two at the southwest corner of Second and Albany; Number Three on Mohawk Street at the foot of the bridge. Number Four (the hook and ladder) was housed in the Garden Street building
but the social rooms were in the Cronkhite Opera block, where the National Bank now stands. Number Five, the Erina Chemical Engine Co., housed their engine in the Garden Street hose house and social rooms were upstairs at the southeast corner of Main and Second Streets. Number Six, the Charles King Hose Co., organised in 1889, was located in the Tighe building on Loomis Street.

In 1899 the city decided to replace the Volunteers with a paid department. A heavy, horse-drawn wagon was purchased and stored in the Star Academy, present site of the City Hall, until a new building was built at the southwest corner of Albany and Second Streets by a Mr. Sadler, and rented to the city. For many years this housed the city departments of fire and police.

In 1899 people were beginning to install telephones and the first telephone fire call, called a "Still Alarm," was received on September 14 of that year.

The Chemical Engine Co. furnished the "Volunteers" to work with the new, full-time, paid department until 1902, when a Call Force, such as is in use today, was organized. S. F. Jones furnished a team and housed the hook and ladder truck, and an auxiliary truck was stationed in the South Side Hose House, manned and drawn by a Board of Public Works team.

Edward J. Cooney, a member of Erina Fire Company, was appointed the first paid chief of the new department on May 1, 1900.

A radical change in fire fighting was inaugurated in 1914, when the Board of Fire and Police purchased for Chief Cooney an Overland car which was equipped with small fire extinguishers. In 1916 this car responded to a fire in Hank Horan's Hotel, thus beginning the present rural fire call system. In 1917, under the administration of Mayor (later Judge) Abram Zoller, the city purchased a Mack fire truck which in itself was a complete department. On May 25, 1918, the Fire Department moved into their present quarters in the City Hall. In 1922 a Dodge fire truck was purchased and stationed in the South Side Hose House, and a Ford hose wagon was added at the same time, eliminating the Board of Public Works truck. When the overhead crossing was opened in 1938 the South Side Station was closed.

In August, 1929, the first motor driven hook and ladder truck was purchased and the department became completely motorized. Although Little Falls has a splendid gravity water system, the necessity for having a pumper was demonstrated in 1932, when a leak in a pipe over Furnace creek lowered the pressure, and Chief Cooney borrowed a pumper from Herkimer, until the damage was located. On March 27, 1942, a Mack pumper was placed in use, and is still in service. The same year the two platoon system was adopted.

The fire department has always rendered other valuable services to the community, in inspections; first aid, such as in train wrecks; and all accidents. In World War I they took an active part and after the war, surplus food was sold in the fire station. In World War II Chief Cooney was appointed a member of the Civilian Defense Committee and an auxiliary fire company and a trailer pump was added to the department.

Chief Cooney retired on March 1, 1947, after forty-seven years' service, and was succeeded by the present chief, Abram Swartz, who entered the department in 1923.

On November 1, 1948, a second Mack pumper was added; on May 12, 1950, the aerial truck arrived; and on January 28, 1953, the tank truck was built, for use at rural fires.

In addition to Chief Swartz, the department consists of three Assistant Chiefs, Clarence Smith, Alfred Munger and George Miller. There are six other full-time paid men, 24 call men and 3 chaplains, who respond to fires when the alarm is sounded.


THE LITTLE FALLS POLICE FORCE in 1895, when John O'Rourke was Chief. The officers' names are, from left to right-August Hailing, who succeeded Chief O'Rour^e; Meade, Chief O'Rourke, Thelan, Waldron and James Long, who succeeded Chief Hailing
in 1905.

The growth and development of the Police Department began with the town constables, when Little Falls was part of the town of Herkimer. The local sheriff had consideable power, and when John Dygert became sheriff of Herkimer County in 1826, he moved the office to 10 Church Street, the house now owned by William and Betty Babinec. When he completed his term, he was elected president of Little Falls, 1829-1830.

In early times, before street lamps, a candle was left in the window of every third or fourth house to give protection to those passing by. A watch by volunteers was also organized to patrol the streets to guard against fires and prowlers.

The first police officers were political appointees, who changed with the political party in office.

Photo of the Police Department. Use your back button to return to this page.

<-Officer Dennis Suckjey and Chief James Long, with the first motor driven police patrol, in 1919.

Earl Harris was chief of police from 1884 to 1895, when John O'Rourke was appointed. He was succeeded by August Hailing and it was under his administration that the department moved into the Sadler building, at the corner of Second and Albany Streets, and a horse drawn patrol wagon was added to the department. Chief Hailing died on December 9, 1905, and James J. Long was appointed chief. During his administration the department moved to the City Hall and in 1919 a Ford patrol wagon replaced the horse drawn vehicle. Individuals had been hired to act as motorcycle policemen during the summer months and later the Board of Fire and Police purchased a motorcycle. The first devices to direct vehicular traffic were called "Iron Cops", which were placed in the intersections to compel the drivers to keep to the right. The firemen placed lighted lanterns on top after dark, hut many were knocked down, regardless. Eventually traffic lights were installed in 1926 and parking meters were placed in operation on October 7, 1947.

Chief Long retired December 30, 1940, and Francis Reardon was appointed chief. During the war Chief Reardon secured a leave of absence to serve with the Navy.

In November, 1952, a short wave radio was installed to keep the prowl car in contact with headquarters.

In addition to Chief Reardon, the deparment consists of Assistant Chief Daniel Kubica, Sergeant Nicholas Hollick, Sergeant Emil Schwiler, Sergeant Theodore Bugaj, eight regular full-time patrolmen and twenty-five auxiliary police.


Transportation was important in the growth and development of Little Falls. In the days of the Indians most of the travel through the valley was by canoe on the Mohawk river. The foot trails were back on the ridges to escape the numerous swamps along the river. At Little Falls it was necessary for the Indians to unload their canoes and carry them around the rapids. When the first settlers came, the Indians continued to do this work for the former, and there were many complaints from King Hendrick and others, that the Red Men were paid off in firewater, resulting in many quarrels and fights. The Germans, however, soon devised, a type of wagon which would fit the bottom of the boats, and with the aid of horses, took the trade away from the Indians. On the north side there was the Petrie carry, while on the south side, John Joost Herkimer also had a carry, These roads around the rapids were much improved, as compared to the roads on both sides of the river through Herkimer County, which were described by a French spy in 1757 as being wretched.

Probably the greatest activity at the Little Falls was during the various expeditions of the French and Indian War, when armies marched up the valley and their baggage and heavy guns were transported by boats, and had to be carried around the rapids. Gen. Prideau's expedition against Fort Niagara camped at Little Falls on June 5, 1756, with 2,680 Provincial troops, 2,300 British regulars and 600 Indians. In the summer of 1760 General Amherst's expedition, which captured Montreal, stopped in Little Falls with 6,000 Provincial and 4,000 British regulars as well as many Mohawk Indians.

The first road through Little Falls came up what is now East Main Street, crossing the gulf on the Gulf Bridge, proceeding along Main to Ann, then down Ann to the south bank of the Inland Canal, about where Mill Street is now located, then along the south bank of the canal to Lock Street where there was another bridge. The road, after crossing the bridge, continued down what is now West Main Street. This was just an earthen road, leveled by pick and shovel, and probably a mud hole in the Spring. Where it crossed the creek, just west of what is now Second Street, there was a ford and a dip in the road. Around 1800 the Mohawk Turnpike Co. was incorporated and they improved the road through Little Falls, erecting a bridge over the Second Street creek, and a toll gate and house just east of the present City Hall.

On the 1803 map, Albany Street joined Main at the Gulf Bridge, which accounts for the Episcopal Church not being parallel to the street. When Albany Street was extended to Waverly Place, the toll gate was moved to Finks Basin With the construction of the Mohawk Turnpike, the Mohawk Valley prospered, as all of the commerce was carried on by big, two'team, covered wagons, or on the Mohawk river. The "Yankee Invasion" was the emigration of soldiers from New England to the Genesee country, whichmany had visited as soldiers under General Sullivan. By1802, and possibly earlier, stage coach lines began operating through the Mohawk Valley.

Taverns sprang up along the turnpike, where the freight wagons, or emigrants, could stop for a night. A description of these taverns, in 1820, stated that there were four in Little Falls, the proprietors of which were Major Morgan John Sheldon, a Mr. Carr and a Mr. Harris. From here to East Creek there were thirteen buildings, twelve of which were taverns. The first was Major Fink's, which is still standing at Finks Basin Bridge. The third was that of John Petrie, which is now owned by the Campione family and the words, "Bar Room" are still visible over a door.

Aerial View of Little Falls Manufacturing District. Use your back button to return to this page.

In 1804 the Fall Hill Turnpike was incorporated, and a road was built from Eatonsbush down what is now Church Street and Ann Street to the river, where a wooden, covered bridge was built at a much lower level than the present bridge. A toll gate was built on the south side and a house for the collector, who was a tailor and conducted his business there. The road continued up what is Flint Ave. and passed southwest of Fall Hill. This was the second street, although it was some time before many houses were built on it. The south side carry, of the Herkimer family, in use before the Inland Canal was built, started west of Moss Island, as Rosecrans Island diverted the Mohawk to both sides and the road must have been over Danube, East Jefferson and oMohawk Streets.

The first lease made by John Porteus was on October 3, 1796, to William Alexander, his son-in-law. This is the first mention of street names, which became necessary to describe legal transactions. East Main was called Catherine, and Church Street was called the road to Newport. In 1804 West Main, from Ann to Sixth, was opened and called First Street. The same year Second Street was surveyed ind a lot leased in September. Third, Fourth and Fifth Streets followed, and Sixth Street, on which the Porteus house was located, was connected with Main or First Street. In 1811 Canal Street was opened, and it is now called West John. Garden Street is first mentioned in 1810 and by 1811, the Newport road was called Church Street. Albany, Mary and William Streets were opened up in 1831 and East John was graded in 1833. Petrie, Alexander and Burwell were named after prominent local men, and were mapped in 1833 but had no houses located on them at this ;date. Ward was called McKinster Street, Porteus was ailed Dudley, by Dudley Burwell, but he later named it after the first postmaster, John Porteus. Gansevoort Street was mapped around 1831, but the location was changed to make room for the Western Park. Monroe and Jackson were also changed by the park location. There were no streets on the south side before the Erie Canal construction, except the Fall Hill turnpike, which followed Mohawk Street to the bridge, and out Flint Ave. Bellinger Street was the road to Bellinger's grist and saw mills. Then President Street, now called Jefferson, was laid out and Telegraph Street, which is now the road to the dairy plant, was graded, and later called Mohawk Street. When First Street was extended from Sixth to Lock, the line of travel followed the present Main Street. This name was adopted May 17, 1847, and Eastern Avenue, Catherine, First and Western Avenue were to be known by this name. The question is often asked, "Where did our streets get their names?" Legend tells us that John Porteus named Catherine after his daughter, who married William Alexander. The latter named William after his given name, or his son William, and he also had daughters Catherine and Mary. Albany Street was the new road to Albany; Garden was where the early settlers had their gardens; Ann may have been the name of Catherine Porteus' mother as she named a daughter by her second husband, William Girvan, that name. Loomis was named after Arphaxed Loomis; Ward after Richard Ray Ward; Whited for Samuel Whited who built a house at the head of that street in 1833. Peter Gansevoort and James Monroe were Albany residents who purchased Ellice holdings.

The first streets were earth, graded with ditches to carry off the water. Gravel was rolled in, and on dry days the water wagon would sprinkle to set the dust. Corduroy log roads were built in all directions and the map of 1858 shows plank roads leading to Middleville, Salisbury and what is now Dolgeville. When the railroad was built, they purchased the rights of the Western Turnpike Corp., but made few repairs to the highway. They built a narrow bridge at Second Street which caused a disastrous flood. In 1881, when excavating on Main Street, a corduroy road was found at 576 Main Street, which was three feet below the present level of Main Street.

As early as 1877 macadam was placed on the surface of Main Street, and in 1901 South Ann Street was paved with brick. When the trolley line was completed in 1903, Main and John were paved with brick. Albany Street was paved in 1911, Garden in 1915, Monroe and Furnace in 1916 and today practically all the streets have a hard surface.

Did You Know These Early Printers?
This a reproduction of a picture taken about 1900, showing the pressroom of the old Journal & Courier, Little Falls'' leading weekly newspaper of that era. The pressroom at that time was located in the cellar of the building and was below what is now the Whitman Insurance Agency. It is interesting to note the old newspaper press and the line shafting, deriving its drive from the water turbine mounted in the fore-ground of the picture. Most of the modern plant, now doing commercial printing only, is housed in a building erected some years later, at the rear of the original Journal & Courier building. The old'time printers in the picture will be remembered by many of today's residents. They are from left to right: Thomas Highland, a former third ward alderman; William Pollock; William Nolan, a former postmaster and Democratic leader; James Alder; and Harry J. Toz,er, then a part time printer and local undertaker.

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