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Halfmoon Town


Halfmoon Town Hall is located at 111 Route 236, Clifton Park NY 12065; phone: 518‑371‑7410.

Halfmoon Town Photo

Beginnings [1,2]

Halfmoon was formed as a district in 1772 and as a town in 1788. The name was changed to "Orange" in 1716, and back to Halfmoon in 1820. Waterford was taken off in 1816 and Clifton Park in 1828. The first settlements are supposed to have been made between 1680 and 1690 by Germans along the Mohawk River flats. The first church was organized about 1800.

Due to its location at the confluence of two rivers, Halfmoon has an abundance of historic and cultural resources. The following history of the Halfmoon was prepared by past Town historian Norma Harris and updated and revised by the current Town Historian Ellen Kennedy. Lucy Healey assisted by typing the text for inclusion in this [Comprehensive] plan.

In the early 1600's the site of a cluster of islands located where the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers meet along with the surrounding area became known as Half-Moon Point. Initial settlement of Half-Moon Point centered in present day Waterford where Dutch traders, trappers and homesteaders who had traveled up the river from Albany made their homes. The area had been an Indian trading site for some years controlled by the Mahicans who bartered among themselves and with other tribes. Passage across the river at Half-Moon was facilitated by the low waters, which ran from the Point to Haver (Peebles) island.

As settlement in Waterford took hold, pioneering Albany Dutch went north from Waterford and entered the wilderness that is now part of the Town of Halfmoon. The majority of lands comprising Halfmoon were once a part of the VanSchaick Patent of 1674. Records show that land in Halfmoon was purchased and developed in 1667. The pattern of Albany Dutch settlement extended up the Hudson River as more families came to the area. A group of Schenectady Dutch, mostly farmers, settled in Canastigione (Clifton Park) then later spread to the Town of Halfmoon.

The early settlers of Half-Moon were under the jurisdiction of Albany County from 1683 until 1791 when Saratoga County was made a separate governing body. Half-Moon at that time also extended across the Mohawk River to include part of the Boght and Niskayuna ending at the north boundary of the Manor of Rensselaerwyck. One of the four "mother towns" of newly created Saratoga County, Halfmoon included the present area of Waterford until 1816 and Clifton Park until 1828. When its boundaries were finally fixed, the Town of Halfmoon emerged somewhat irregularly shaped and without a central focus of settlement. For a short time, from 1816 to 1820 Halfmoon was known as Orange. Few people were comfortable with the name change and the original name of Halfmoon was restored.

Along the Hudson River Road, a farm operated from 1737 until 1747 when a raiding party of French Canadians and Indians massacred the family and burned the house. A year later Colonel Ten Broeck purchased the land and built his home this site became property of the Leland family in later years.

John Flynn settled along the Hudson River in the 1750's and opened a tavern that he kept until Revolutionary War activities forced his temporary move to Albany. Among other pre-war settlers of note were Benjamin Rosekrans from Dutchess County who held various offices; and George Ellsworth, a Revolutionary War soldier whose great grandson was Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth from Mechanicville, a distinguished Civil War soldier. The Thomas Peebles family settled north of Waterford in the 1760's and built their home, Brookwood, in 1766. Brookwood was well-patronized tavern where such notables as George Washington, New York Governor DeWitt Clinton and Alexander Hamilton stopped in 1783.

In 1718 an early settler and ferry owner, Cornelius Claes Vandenburgh, built a landmark stone house on the Mohawk west of Crescent. Cornelius Claes Ferry was later called Dunsbach Ferry.

By 1762, the existence of the Scouten saw mill near Crescent and a gristmill on the Dwaas Kill suggested some degree of stable settlement. It was not until the cessation of revolutionary hostilities, however, that Halfmoon experienced rapid growth. The proximity of water power and transportation sources provided by the two rivers, plus an abundance of gently rolling farmland were the town's prime assets. The late 1700's were characterized by the appearance of several saw and gristmills on the rivers and streams of Halfmoon. The Dwass Kill and Anthony Kill were the most important streams in the northern part of town. There were also several taverns in operation at this time underscoring Halfmoon's significance as an early trading area.

Industry in Halfmoon was slow to develop until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. At this point, many new mills appeared and new industries were founded. The hamlet of Crescent became the focus of economic development in the 1840's and 1850's, for it was here that the Erie Canal was carried over the Mohawk River via the Crescent Aqueduct. Supply stores serving canal operations were commonplace. W. K. Mansfield, an early settler in Crescent, owned and operated a brickyard, using the canal to ship bricks to New York City. In fact, there were three other brickyards in Crescent during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Larger barges passed by Crescent when the canal was moved to the river in 1913 and became the New York State Barge Canal.

Crescent also produced ice and shipped molding sand into the early 1900's. The diversity of economic pursuits, spurred on by the construction of the canal, afforded Crescent a good deal of prominence and prosperity in the middle 1800's. Although other hamlets within the Town of Halfmoon developed their own economic bases at this time, none were as successful as Crescent. Clifton Park, while still a part of Halfmoon, developed a wagon and carriage industry and was the location of many machine shops.

In the northern part of town, in an area apart from any established community, Halfmoon resident Joshua Anthony developed his famous spice factory. He began his operations in 1869 with the manufacture of baking powder and cream of tartar. He then added spice grinding and the production of fluid extracts for flavoring in 1892. The success of his business prompted Anthony to approach the Delaware and Hudson Railroad in the hope that a station of the Schenectady branch be located in Ushers. This he secured in 1882. The following year, Anthony contributed substantially to the development of a post office at Ushers. He established a private telegraph line between Ushers, Clifton Park, Round Lake and his factory. Anthony's contributions to the community were improvements that benefited many. The spice factory ceased operation in 1920. The two story factory buildings and farmhouse remain in Halfmoon, outwardly unchanged to the enjoyment and interest of passersby.

As in all early American settlements, religious societies were an intrinsic part of Halfmoon's past. Typically, many of the church groups in Halfmoon were organized prior to actual church construction and incorporation. The earliest known religious society was a Friends group, organized before the Revolution and held meetings until 1850.

The First Baptist Church was initially established in the hamlet of Newtown where a church was built in 1790, then moving and re-establishing in Middletown in 1835. The Second Baptist Church of Halfmoon was founded in 1841 at Clifton Park hamlet only to dissolve in later years as membership declined.

About 1800, a Methodist Episcopal Society was organized. Other Methodist societies were established at Coons Crossing, Smithtown, Crescent and West Crescent in the early 1800's. Both Crescent congregations later joined the Shenendehowa United Methodists.

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church was established at Crescent about 1863 on the site of the present-day church. St. George's Episcopal Church was organized in 1870 near Clifton Park village. The 1925 original church was taken over by the Church of Christ.

In the same way that many religious societies met at private homes in their incipience, so were school-age children educated at home by their parents or tutors. The onset of public education in Halfmoon came with the allotment of $1200 from the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors in 1792 pursuant to their Act for the Encouragement of Schools passed the same year. When the New York State Legislature established a common school system in 1812, 11 districts were created in Halfmoon. Private schools as well appear in Halfmoon's history, the most notable being the Halfmoon Academy in Middletown.

This school was organized and constructed in the 1820's and was operated successfully until 1880. In 1863, the Clifton Park Female Seminary was founded also as a private institute. Because public school education stopped at the eighth grade for most of the 19th century, private schools were the only vehicle for continuing education. When public high schools were created, students in Halfmoon attended high school outside the town. The formation of the Shenendehowa Central School District in 1950 ended the era of one-room schools in Halfmoon.

Primarily an agricultural community, the early development of the town of Halfmoon reached a peak during the canal era when the town was marked by a lively and varied economy.

With the widening of Route 9, the construction of the new Crescent Bridge in 1959 and the completion of the Northway, Halfmoon was within easy access to employment in the large cities of the Capital District. At this point, farmland began to be sold and housing developments established. This activity continues today. Commercial and industrial growth is now increasing as our population grows. Halfmoon today is a busy suburban community enjoying the same opportunities as larger surrounding communities.

  1. French, J.H., Gazetteer of the State of New York: Embracing a Comprehensive View of the geography, Geology, and General History of the State ..., Ira J. Friedman Inc., Port Washington, NY 1860
  2. Comprehensive Plan Committee, Town of Halfmoon, A Lifelong Community: Draft Comprehensive Plan, 2003, Saratoga County, NY
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