This blog entry is written by Schenectady County Historical Society Trustee John Gearing.
The Society is fortunate to have the Glen-Sanders Papers in its microfilm collection (comprising 18 reels, the original documents are in the collection of The New-York Historical Society in Manhattan). Toward the end of Reel 18, one finds a collection of maps and surveys that shed much light on a critical period in Scotia's history. The first item is a field book and survey map from 1834 made by James Frost, showing the lands of the Scotia Estate belonging to the late John Sanders, Jr. and their division between his heirs: Charles, Peter, and John. This is the earliest map of the Scotia Estate the Society possesses. The map not only shows which parcels were to go to which heirs, but the ownership of those Estate lots that had been conveyed prior to John Sanders Jr.'s death, which may make it interesting to those tracing their family history in Scotia.
|Overall view of Frost map of Scotia Estate, as seen on the microfilm reader. Image from Glen-Sanders Papers, collection on microfilm in the Grems-Doolittle Library (originals at New-York Historical Society in New York City).|
Two of New York's early railroads are also shown: the Schenectady and Utica and the Ballston and Saratoga Railroad. There is an annotation on the map beneath this last-mentioned railroad noting that “the True nature and style of this is Saratoga and Schenectady Rail Road.” The Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad was New York's second line after the pioneering Mohawk-Hudson. Chartered in February 1831, the Saratoga and Schenectady line only reached as far as Ballston initially, which may have influenced Frost's label on the map. The rest of the line to Saratoga was quickly completed, and horse-drawn service between Schenectady and Saratoga began in the summer of 1832. The railroad's first steam engine, the Davy Crockett, was a revolutionary six-wheel design by the railroad company's chief engineer, John Jervis. It entered service in July of 1831. Because of the bridge's weight limitations, railroad cars were drawn by horses through Schenectady and across the bridge, where they were then coupled to the Davy Crockett. The Frost map shows the location of the engine house near the Scotia end of the bridge.
The other railroad shown on the map, the Schenectady and Utica, stands out in New York railroad history as the first line that posed a threat to the Erie Canal's freight business. Chartered in 1833, the line did not begin service until 1836. Its appearance on the 1834 Scotia Estate map likely indicates that construction from the Schenectady end was well underway by that time. Interestingly, although the map shows both of the rail lines sharing the Mohawk Bridge, it also appears to show a railroad right of way (unlabelled) departing from the Schenectady and Utica line in a graceful curve and terminating on the north bank of the Mohawk River roughly where the railroad bridge stands today. This may indicate that the construction engineers were planning on building a new bridge across the Mohawk, one that would have been strong enough to carry trains pulled by steam locomotives. The threat to the Erie Canal's freight business was such that the Schenectady and Utica was forbidden by law from carrying freight until 1844, and then it was only allowed to carry freight in the winter months and then only upon the railroad paying freight tolls to the canal company.
Perhaps the most curious feature on Frost's Scotia Estate map is the structure labeled “New Canal.” The map shows a canal running easterly, parallel to and approximately 275 feet north of a road marked “Lower Ferry Road.” Sunnyside Road is the most likely candidate for this road today. The eastern end of the canal appears to end just slightly south of the intersection of today's Freeman's Bridge Road and Maple Avenue. The canal extends across both railroad lines, appearing to terminate slightly west of the Utica and Schenectady line. A stream labeled “Warme Killtie” runs south to a point about 200 feet north of the canal, and then turns easterly and runs roughly parallel to the canal. A short canal section branches from the New Canal and connects to the Warme Killtie at the point where it begins it's turn to the east, suggesting that the Warme Killite was at least a major source of water for the canal. Further up the Warme Killtie the map shows a millpond and mill, raising the likelihood that there was an intention to float the mill's products down the stream to the canal. Once on the canal, freight could have been carried west to the railroad crossings, or east to the highway junction. A map notation indicates that about 3,700 feet of the canal had been completed at the time the survey was made.
|Contemporary image of portion of area shown on Frost map of Scotia Estate. Remnants of the "New Canal" can be seen running parallel to Sunnyside Road and along modern railroad tracks. Image from Google Maps.|
Comparing this 1834 map with a contemporary Google map and satellite image, one finds a body of water that is almost certainly the canal, running parallel to and about 275 feet north of Sunnyside Road. The Warme Killtie can be made out, although now it no longer continues eastward. Instead, it now appears to connect to the surviving canal. Intriguingly, the Google map and images suggest that today the body of water that was the canal, continues westward, closely paralleling the modern railroad line (just to the north), nearly to the intersection of Route 5N and I-890. This raises a question: was there an attempt to build a canal system in Scotia prior to the development of railroads? Some accounts recall the disappointment felt by Scotia residents when the Erie Canal was routed through Schenectady instead of Scotia. The Scotia canal may have been intended to extend eastward as far as Rexford, and there connect with the Erie, or could have even been planned to cross the Mohawk River at Freeman's Bridge via aqueduct and connect with the Erie on the south shore. Consultation of Scotia histories and Google searches have so far failed to lead to any additional information about Scotia's canal, leaving a tantalizing subject for further research.