History From America's Most Famous Valleysh
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.
This brief history of Little Falls has been compiled from many books and newspapers: Benton's "History of Herkimer County"; Hardin's "History of Herkimer County"; Stone's "Life of Brant"; Simms' "Frontiersmen" and "Traders and Trappers"; "Documentary History of New York State"; the "Public Papers of George Clinton"; Hill's "Waterways and Canal Construction in New York"; the "Johnson Papers"; and the 1911 Centennial book.
Articles have been condensed from the PEOPLE'S FRIEND, MOHAWK COURIER, ROCKTON ENTERPRISE, JOURNAL & COURIER, HERKIMER COUNTY NEWS, and last, but not least, from the EVENING TIMES, which has been published as a daily since May 10, 1886, and is celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary this year. Maps have been reproduced from the collection of City Engineer Welch, from the Harry Jewell collection, from the Oneida County Historical Society and the Herkimer County Historical Society. Pictures have been copied from the Helen Sherman collection. Special credit is due our photographer, Paul Wing, and to Leon and Kenneth Dussault, for arranging the book.
In a small history of this type a large amount of data and information
must of necessity be omitted. If I have failed to give anyone credit, living
or dead, I am sorry.
EDWARD J. COONEY, Editor
President, Herkimer County
Little Falls Inland Lock and Navigation Co. use your back button to return to this page.
A History of the City of
LITTLE FALLS, NEW YORK
By EDWARD J. COONEY
When the first white men settled Albany in 1612, they found New York State a wilderness, inhabitated by the Iroquois Indians.
The Mohawk Valley was held by the Mohawk tribe, called the keepers of the Eastern Gate, who were in the late stone age of civilization, with some agriculture but no metal tools or weapons. The tribes moved frequently, but in 1643 there was a palisaded village at what is now Auriesville, when Father Isaac Jogues, a Jesuit missionary, was brought there as a captive.
Father Jogues was probably the first white man to see Little Falls, for while a captive, he was taken on a visit to the Western Tribes, near what is now Syracuse. The headquarters of the Iroquois Confederacy and the Sacred Council fire was located there.
We can picture Father Jogues approaching Little Falls in a canoe and, as he heard the noise of the rapids and asked the cause, the Indians would reply, "Astenrogan", which in their language meant tumbling waters.
When the first white traders came up the Mohawk and had to carry their canoes around the rapids, they called the place "The Little Falls", to distinguish it from the "Big Falls" at Cohoes. This name has remained for over two hundred years, except for two years, 1850-1852, when the name was changed to "Rockton," because the citizens thought that little meant a little town, and they had dreams of a metropolis.
The first permanent settlers were a group of German Palatines, who, persecuted in their homeland, had first emigrated to England, where they swarmed around London. The Queen then sent them to New York State, where they were employed on the estates along the Hudson, and were practically serfs. Wishing to have lands of their own, they applied to Governor Burnett, and permission was granted to settle "No nearer Albany than the 'Little Falls'." Historians say that the British, fearing the approaching war with France and Canada, wished to have the Palatines as a buffer in case of invasion.
In 1722 a group of Palatines came up the Mohawk to look over the land, found a tribe of the Mohawks living at what is now Indian Castle, and purchased the land from them. The land was called the "German Flatts" and was on both sides of the Mohawk river.
The Burnetsfield Patent, issued on April 30, 1725, confirmed the Indian Deed of July 9, 1722, and granted to ninety-two persons, lots in Herkimer County along the Mohawk river beginning at the "Little Falls." It is interesting to note that, of the ninety-two persons, twenty-two were women.
The first lot on the north side, number 13, was granted to Mary Eva Staring, wife of John Adam Staring, and extended from what is now the Burrows Paper Mill to near the stone mill of the Art Backing Co. There were six Staring Patentees, and where and if John and Eva built a cabin, there is no record.
The next lot, number 12, extended from the Art Backing Mill to Hansen Island, and was granted to John Joost Temouth who was still living near Fort Herkimer during the Revolution. A member of this family. Captain John Demouth, carried the message to General Herkimer from Fort Stanwix.
The third lot, number 11, extended from Hansen Island to what is now Tastle's gas station and was granted to Mary Beerman.
The fourth lot in Little Falls, number 10, was granted to Augustine Hess. He was one of the few Patentees to see the Revolution, and was living near Fort Herkimer in July, 1782, when the Indians raided the valley. When he heard the alarm gun he started for the fort with his family, but was shot by an Indian. Two lots of Glens Purchase of 1739 comprise the land in Little Falls north of Diamond Street, and were granted to Lendert Helmer and J. DeLancey.
The land on the south side at Little Falls was granted to Hendrick Herkimer and to John Joost Herkimer, father of the General, in 1752. John Herkimer lived at what is now Fort Herkimer and his home was inside the fortification.
Ancient Map of Little Falls, probably about 1790. Use your back button to return to this page.
General Herkimer was born in this locality in 1728, and in 1760 his father deeded the land in Danube, where the home is located, to his son. A log cabin was built in 1761 and three years later the present brick house was built. On August 18, 1741, the islands in the Mohawk at Little Falls were granted to Peter Winnie. Lands north and west of Little Falls were part of the Glen Purchase of 1734, and the land east of the Burrows Paper Co. was owned by Sir William Johnson's Indian children, as part of the Royal Grant.
John Joost Petrie, the leader of the Palatines, built a grist mill west of the present Art Backing, so that the settlers would be able to grind their grain. He was living in Stone Ridge, now the site of Herkimer, N. Y., when the French raided the Mohawk Valley on November 11, 1757, and was captured with his family and taken to Canada. He returned after the war and died at Herkimer just before the Revolution.
The question is often asked, "What was Little Falls like during the Revolution?" The German Palatines were farmers, not village dwellers, and consequently were scattered around the countryside. We know there was a grist mill here, that there were the houses of the two millers, and probably the house of the proprietor, Daniel Petrie. There were houses, or at least sheds, at each end of the "Carry", to house transients engaged in carrying their boats around the rapids. The men, who operated the wagons that carried the boats, must have lived here to be near their work. There must have been a tavern, as back in 1737, when a surveying party was staking out the Van Driesen Patent in Manheim, the Surveyor complained that his Indians went up to Little Falls and became intoxicated and he was unable to complete the job.
Simms gives the names of the families residing at Little Falls during the Revolution as follows: Adam Stauring Henry Keller, John Hoever and Jacob Hoever. In addition to the two Valley roads, a farmer, by the name of Mount, had opened a road which is the present Salisbury road, to his farm, northeast of Norway. When his two sons were murdered by the Indians he abandoned the farm and never returned.
The settlement at Little Falls escaped the ravages of the French and Indian War and the early years of the Revolution. No doubt many local men took part in the bloody battle of Oriskany, and local townspeople saw General Herkimer and his brave followers march past on the way to the battle, and the wounded general return to his last days at his home in Danube.
After the destruction of German Flatts, in 1781 and 1782, the mill at Little Falls was the only one remaining. On a night in June, 1782, a war party of British and Indians attacked the mill, shooting flaming arrows into the roof. A sergeant and six soldiers of Captain McGregor's Company were stationed here to protect the mill. The exact date is unknown, but General Washington (writing from Schenectady on July 9, 1782) wrote: "Just before my arrival, a party of 300 or 400 of the enemy attacked the only remaining grist mill-at Little Falls." In October of the previous year a farmer by the name of Demooth, residing north ofwhat is now Herkimer, was captured and carried off to Canada. He claimed that he was loyal to the Crown, joined the expedition that attacked the mill, and deserted to his own side in the ensuing battle. He told how the expedition
had intended to attack Fort Herkimer, but on approaching in the darkness, found the sounds of a celebration in progress, so thought that new troops had arrived. Actually there were few soldiers there and a wedding party was in progress.
At the time of the attack there were in the mill the two millers, Gersham Skinner and F. Cox, and a group of men who had brought grain to be ground: Peter Wooleaver, Christian Edick, Frederick Getman, Mark Rasback, John Rasback, Thomas Shoemaker, Lawrence Hatter, Peter Orendorf, and Jacob and Daniel Petrie, owners of the mill, and descendants of John Joost Petrie, who built the mill. There were some women and children and their fate is unknown.
The raiders must have been former residents who had joined the
British, for they called those in the mill by name, telling them that their
lives would be spared if they surrendered. Cox and Skinner, being familiar
with the construction of the mill, hid under the water wheel and escaped.
Getman jumped in the raceway, but the burning building disclosed his hiding
place, and he was captured. Some, including Daniel Petrie, were killed. Peter
Wooleaver, having been a captive during the French and Indian War and carried
by a prison ship to France, preferred his freedom and fled in the night to
bring word of the disaster to Fort Dayton. It is seldom that there is an eyewitness
account of events of the Revolution, but when Gersham Skinner died in the
Town of Columbia, March 3, 1824, the following article was printed in the
Little Falls paper.
* * *
Little Falls, N. Y., March 3, 1824
-From the "Peoples Friend"
Died in Columbia on the thirteenth, Gersham Skinner, aged seventy-six, a native of Connecticut.
* * *
Mr. Skinner and a number of other men and women were in the mill that stood on the spot occupied by the pond of the present mill, when on a certain night in 1782, the Indians succeeded in setting the building afire. This they did after repeated efforts, by means of barbed arrows to which lighted matches were attached, and these were shot upon the roof.
The season being increasingly dry, the mill was soon enveloped in flames and the Savages, as usual accompanied by Tories, soon rushed upon the ill fated tenants, who unapprehensive of danger at the time, were mostly unarmed and prepared to make but feeble resistance against the marauders who attacked them while surrounding hills reechoed their horrid yells "making the night horrid."
From the scene of havoc that ensued Mr. Skinner fortunately escaped (but not without severe wounds, the effect of which were felt during his lifetime), by groping his way in the dark, between the knives and hatchets of the Indians and secretly hiding in the raceway, where he remained until the Savages had accomplished their work of destruction and gone. He then made his way to Fort Dayton at the village of Herkimer, where we had a considerable force at this period.
The women and children as well as part of the men in the mill were carried into captivity but some of them nobly resolved to part with their liberty only with their lives. Among these was Daniel Petrie, son of Joseph Petrie, one of the founders of Herkimer village. Mr. Petrie being recognized by some of his relatives who had attached themselves to the Tories and accompanied the invaders in the attack, was earnestly implored to surrender, and promised good treatment if he would, but the old man scorned to yield and after repeatedly discharging his musket among them with good effect, continued to fight with the butt end until overpowered by superior force. He was afterwards led out upon the rocks, bound, and tortured to death by arrows, tomahawks and scalping knives of the barbarians.
In a horribly mangled condition, he was found a day or two after by some of our men who had gone down from Fort Dayton and buried the bodies at the scene of the desperate affair.
In April, 1783, Captain Thompson passed up the Mohawk Valley on his way to Port Oswego, and brought word of the signing of the Peace Treaty which made the United States free. The former residents of Little Falls must have been happy to leave the confines of Fort Dayton and Herkimer and return to their burned homes to start life all over again.
In July of that year General George Washington and a group of officers made a tour of the Mohawk Valley and frontier posts. He stopped at General Herkimer's house July 26th, and continued up the south side to Fort Herkimer, where he spent two nights. He looked over the carrying place at Little Falls and remarked that a canal for military and commercial reasons should be built around the rapids.
The first industry in Little Falls was the Petrie Grist Mill, which was built between 1722 and 1725 on a site Just west of the present Art Backing factory. At this time, there was a long island here and Furnace creek emptied into the channel north of the island. This formed a natural race way, and it was probably a log building, as there were no saw mills in Herkimer County at this time. The settlers cut down trees to make log cabins, cut down more trees, or girdled them, to make gardens, but since power was necessary to grind the grain, the water power of the Mohawk was used in our first industry.
John Porteus came to Little Falls after the Revolution, probably in 1785, and acquired land on the north side of the river. The Petrie family must have still held some of the land in 1792, as they sold parcels for the Inland Canal. John Porteus had come to the United States from Scotland in 1761 and was in New York City during the war. In 1784 he traveled to Scotland and probably contacted Alexander Ellice, with the intention of setting up an Estate in the new United States. He returned to this country in 1785, and on arriving in Little Falls, built a house on the west bank of Furnace creek on what is now Sixth Street. This house served as a residence, store, tavern and the first post office (when he was appointed the first postmaster of the village on March 30, 1797). A map, drawn for Porteus in 1790, shows his land as comprising the two lots of the Burnetsfield Patent at Little Falls, as well as lands of the Royal Grant, which he probably had purchased from the government after the war, extending as far east as the present Finks Basin bridge. Porteus set up an Estate, refusing to make sales, but signing long term leases. The burned grist mill was rebuilt and is referred to as the "Red Grist Mill", which shows that it was built of timber, rather than logs. A saw mill was also built and no one was allowed to purchase mill sites that might compete with the Porteus mills. He also owned a fleet of boats which operated on the Mohawk river and later on the Inland Canal.
John Porteus passed away on March 20, 1799, and his son-in-law, William Alexander, took over the management of the Estate. Mr. Alexander and Hendrick Frey were the executors of the will which conveyed to Alexander Ellice on March 19, 1801 the lands at Little Falls comprising the Burnetsfield lots 12 and 13.
Alexander Ellice was a Scotch merchant and one of the landholders in Bayard's Patent of 1771, before the war. Since the Estate was transferred to Ellice, rather than the Porteus descendants, it would appear that Porteus was the Ellice agent.
Barent Bleeker, an attorney in Albany, was the representative of the Ellice holdings in the United States, which also included land in the Adirondacks. Alexander Ellice died on July 6, 1808, leaving five children, one of whom, Edward Ellice, visited Little Falls in 1807. He was described as being of "imposing appearance, over six feet tall, and the most influential member of the British House of Commons." Thurlo Weed became acquainted with him in England shortly before Ellice's death in 1864, at the age of 83.
The Ellice Estate maintained a tight grip on the life of the community, as neighboring farmers had to bring grain to the Ellice stone mill to be ground. They also had to bring timber to be sawed to the Ellice saw mill and pay their prices, or haul their products to some other mill, miles away. If they wished to trade or have their produce shipped to market, they had to patronize the Ellice store and used the Ellice fleet of boats.
In 1820 William Ingham was allowed to secure a mill site, where the Art Backing brick mill stands today, but only on condition that they operate a fulling mill, which wouldn't compete with the Ellice enterprises.
Around 1824 Sprague and Dan were allowed to build a paper mill where the Little Planing Mill stands today. Previously, in 1808, Thomas Windsor had a blacksmith shop here and made scythes, axes and augurs, which were used to make pump logs. In 1839 the paper mill burned. The owners at that time were Paige and Priest, Clark Haughton then operated a plaster mill on this site, then set up a planing mill, which Andrew Little operated in later years.
Andrew Little, a Journeyman carpenter in Scotland, came to Little Falls in 1876 to install the woodwork in the present Methodist church, which was built at that time. With Charles Newell, in 1883 he operated the planing mill. The business is now carried on by Gordon Little and his son, Andrew.
The Ellice Estate sold out in 1831, and Richard Ray Ward purchased the lots in the east half of Little Falls. In 1836 the site of the Valley Mills was sold to Rodney Durkee, previous to August 13, when the remainder of the water rights were sold. Durkee built the mill, still standing, and last operated by Edward and Harry Van Allen.
The terminal of the Inland Lock and Navigation Canal was located on the north side of West Mill Street, east of Little's Planing Mill. The building that houses Neil and William Donovans' machine shop and the knitting machine cylinder shop of Karl Wurzbacher and son was built between 1854 and 1859. Charles Eagan's carpenter shop was located in this building and later Howard Lyke's machine shop, from 1910 to 1922. Clayton Hammond and Harry Cook operated the Little Falls Brass and Iron foundry in the rear for many years.
Perhaps a factor which influenced the Ellice Estate to relinquish their rigid control of Little Falls was the development of water power on the south side of the Mohawk river.
In 1810 Christopher Bellinger, nephew of General Herkimer, and later the hero of the Battle of Sacketts Harbor in the War of 1812, built a grist mill near the present dairy plant on Loomis Island. In 1815 he built a saw mill and in 1828 Moses Drake built a distillery adjoining. All these buildings were demolished in 1844 to make way for the Asteronga Cotton Mill, which was called the Rockton. It was torn down in 1939, when the canal was widened. The Rollway received its name from the system of rolling the logs down to the Bellinger saw mill.
In 1829 General Bellinger sold water rights to Sprague and Dann to erect a paper mill and the following year he sold all remaining water power rights to Arphaxed Loomis, who developed several power sites along the south of Loomis Island. After several proprietors had operated the paper mill, it was converted into a tenement in 1868.
There was also a group of mills farther east, all of which have disappeared since the Barge Canal was opened. In 1823 General Bellinger sold a water lot to William and Alanson Ingham for a fulling mill. In 1832 the building was a machine shop, operated by Sheppard and Babbit, the latter the manufacturer in later years of Babbit's Soap. In later years it was part of Michael Reddy's foundry and fliachine shop. In 1828 General Bellinger sold a water right to William Pardee, who built a paper mill, later owned by Paige and Priest and by the Richmonds. This was also taken over by Mr. Reddy. Other mills in this locality were Earl Trumbull's Yarn Mill, Heath and Barber Foundry, Cunningham Machine Shop, Sheard Fibre Mill, the Loomis Mill and in later years the Textile By-Products, which moved to Hudson in 1930.
In 1839 Michael Reddy came to Little Falls and worked as a molder in Smith's Foundry on Furnace Street. He was a partner of Babbit and later of Cunningham until 1855, when he took over the Loomis Mill and operated a foundry and machine shop on Loomis Island, until his death in 1887. Before the Civil War many of Mr. Reddy's customers were in the South, and the conflict almost caused him to fail. A I story is told that after the war Reddy bought up a quantity of empty shells for old iron. One winter's day an employee was breaking them up with a sledge hammer when a tattered veteran came along. "I will break them all for two dollars", he told the man. Mr. Reddy was called and an agreement was made. The next morning, Mr. Reddy found every shell had been cracked, the tramp had poured in water, screwed in the cap and let the zero night do the work.
After Mr. Reddy's death, his sons carried on the business and John Foley told me that in 1914 they manufactured portable steam boilers and engines to operate farm machinery before the days of the gasoline engine. Matthew Foley was superintendent of Reddy's for many years and in 1931, when the buildings were torn down to make way for the gas container, he moved the plant to Flint Ave. Mr. Foley died in 1941 and his sons, John and Matthew, carry on the business.
Nearer the lift bridge was Kingston's Paper Mill and opposite the bridge was the Warrior Mower, which was on the site of Henry Heath's foundry of 1820. East of the Warrior Mower was the Enterprise Mill, built in 1875 and which housed a Swiss milk plant, knitting mills at various times, and during the Lockout of 1886, the Knights of Labor operated a Union mill, while they were locked out of their mills. Mayor Rugene Walrath operated a knitting mill in this building and the last occupant was James Dingman, who had a shoddy mill there. It was torn down around 1930 and today, there isn't a single mill on Mohawk Street.
On the north side of the Mohawk there was no expansion of industry, due to the restraining policy of the Ellice Estate, until 1831 when, through the efforts of Arphaxed Loomis in enforcing an alien land-lease law, they agreed to sell out. Richard Ray Ward bought lots in the east end of the village, and on June 25, 1834, offered water lots for sale. In 1836 a company was formed by Arphaxed Loomis and a raceway which supplied many mills along the street was built along the north side of Mill Street. The first site on the Island was the Loomis Axe Factory, then came the old Ellice Saw Mill, then the Ingham Fulling Mill, on the corner now occupied by the Art Backing Co. Next east was the Ellice Stone Grist Mill, built around 1800, and still standing; next the Red Paper Mill, then the Valley Mills; next the Loomis Planing Mill, which burned; and to the rear, the Stafford and Holt Building, originally built in 1855 to manufacture paper from bass wood. It was rebuilt, after the fire of 1863, by Seth Stitt who was then the owner of the old Mohawk Mill which was built in 1839 next to the river bridge, and which during the Mexican and Civil Wars ran night and day, manufacturing blue woolen cloth for the Army. Every little boy in town had a blue soldier's suit in those days, made from defective cloth.
In early times every community was self sufficient, manufacturing practically everything necessary for life in a frontier community. As early as 1831 Little Falls also had a tannery, where the Rialto Theatre stands. In 1844 Nelson Rust moved his tannery to East Mill Street, and as the years went by it was owned by Gilbert and Weeks and finally, in 1885, by the Barnets, who operated the plant until the mid'1920's. It was one of our most prosperous industries during the depression of 1919. In 1932-33, the Hunt Leather Co. tried to operate the plant. In 1940 Cherry-Burrell purchased the buildings and located their plant there.
Gradually, more of the United States became industrialized and competition grew up in the manufacture of various articles. Due to our abundant water power, a centralization of the knitting goods business gradually built up in Little Falls in the "Gay Nineties."
In 1871 a Frenchman came to town and manufactured the first French balbriggan underwear in the old Anchor Mill, which was located southeast of the present C. J. Lundstrom Co. He failed, but many others engaged in the knit goods business, until we had so many knitting mills that the knitting machine was adopted as the official emblem of the new city of Little Falls, when that form of government was adopted in 1895. The development of steam and electric power and the advent of central heating caused a decline in the knit goods business, until today only Gilbert's Mill remains. At one time there were the Rockton and Enterprise on Mohawk Street; MacKinnon's big mills on Ann and Second Streets, which employed more than a thousand; King's Mill; the Anchor Mill, called the Riverside and operated by Rugene Walrath; Adam's Mills, recently demolished, on Mill Street; Sheard's Mills at West Main and Furnace Streets; the Asteronga, south of the lower dam; and Gilbert's.
Back in the years when Little Falls was an important part of the Mohawk Valley's knit goods center, Adams' Mill was giving employment to many local residents. Victor Adams, Sr., was born in Little Falls on July 19, 1845, the son of Franklin Adams, a book binder. Under age when the Civil War started, he ran away from home and joined the 215th Pennsylvania Regiment.
After the war Victor Adams joined his father in the book binding business, and when knit goods began to be manufactured in Little Falls, there was a demand for pasteboard boxes and the Adams started their manufacture. Business increased, and in 1878 Victor Adams built a factory opposite the Basin on East Mill Street. He built a second building in 1892 and began the manufacture of knitwear, and in 1895, the year that Little Falls became a city, he built a third mill and at this time the north arch of the old aqueduct was blown down. Mr. Adams was a leader in Little Falls civic life. He was a volunteer fireman for many years and was elected chief in 1879, and a hose company was named in his honor. He was a political leader and was postmaster 1890-1894.
In 1900 Mr. Adams lost control of the mills and a New York stock company took them over, operating under the name of the Little Falls Mfg. Co. Landon U. Lynt came to Little Falls and eventually acquired a controlling interest in the firm, which he managed until April 1, 1946, whert he sold out. The Lifaico Mills, as they were then known, declined and finally closed in 1955 and were torn down in 1959.
Another forgotten industry was Titus Sheard's "Eagle Knitting Co.," located at the northeast corner of Main and Furnace Streets, one building of which is now standing and another, on the south side of the street, is occupied by the Little Falls Felt Shoe Co. Samuel Smith was appointed third postmaster of Little Falls on April 1, 1813. Shortly after this date he built a furnace on this site, after which Furnace Street was named. He made cast iron stoves and other ironwork articles and, in 1838, Joram and David Petrie purchased the furnace to manufacture parlor stoves, which were sold in their general store until 1856. For a while the building was a soap factory; then Henry Cheney manufactured furniture here. In 1875 Mitchell & Bailey used it as a storehouse, and in 1879 walking matches were held there. In 1880 Titus Sheard, who was manufacturing woolen goods on Loomis Island, bought the building and the following year Prank Senior and George White, who was later killed in the boat explosion, were admitted as partners. Business was booming in knit goods at this time and several buildings were built. Titus Sheard was State Senator, Speaker of the Assembly, and had a fire company named after him. He died in 1904 and Frank Senior died in 1930. The buildings were torn down in 1933 to make way for Clarence Hotaling's gas station. Sheard's mill was one of the few in Little Falls which was operated entirely on steam power.
Another abandoned mill that is still standing is Gilbert's "Asteronga", on Seely Island. Previous to the Erie Canal enlargement in 1841, this area was an island in the Mohawk river. At that time dykes were built at each end, and the channel turned to the north side. A water power site was developed, and a dam was built by Eben Waite and William Page, and the latter built a paper mill on the south side of the dam. Two years later Dr. Woodbridge purchased Page's mill and, in 1854, Joshua J. Gilbert came to Little Falls and built a starch factory next to the paper mill. He built the old elevator at a later date on the banks of the Erie Canal, from which an overhead conveyor carried corn to his mill, to be used in the manufacture of corn starch. In 1876 Mr. Gilbert bought the Woodbridge Mill and continued to manufacture starch up to the time of his death in 1881. In 1886 his son, J. J. Gilbert, and Rugene Walrath began operating a knitting mill in this building which was called Asteronga, the Indian name for this locality. When the Barge Canal was built Rosecrans, or Seely Island, was cut in two and the old Elevator was torn down. After being closed for some years the mill was sold to Burrows, November 16, 1954, for the water rights.
East of the mill, on Moss Island, is the remains of a once prosperous industry, George L. Smith's Wool Extract Co. His father, John Smith, was born in England and, after visiting California, came to Little Falls in 1860 and leased the old Anchor Mill from the Loomis Estate to engage in the shoddy business. He sold out to Titus Sheard four years later, engaged in the grocery business, had a mill in the Petrie Street Armory, was police chief in 1873, and in 1881 formed the Wool Extract Co. with Dr. Bushnell, operating a mill on Loomis Island. In 1887 the stone building on Moss Island was erected to process rags, so that the wool could be extracted and re-used, while the cotton was dissolved. John Smith died on January 29, 1905, and his son, George L. Smith, carried on the Adirondack Woolen Co. until about 1936. The building was being used as a warehouse when it collapsed on January 10, 1946, causing the death of four men trapped in the debris. George L. Smith died April 25 of the same year and when the railroad eliminated the Gulf Curve in 1947, the state purchased the island.
Several other industries which brought prosperity to Little Falls are unknown to the younger generation.
When Little Falls was one of the centers of the knit goods business, the mills of Robert MacKinnon employed over a thousand people. He came to Little Falls in 1881, and with two partners operated a knitting mill in the old Anchor Mill, which stood southeast of Lundstrom's. In 1887 he left the firm and built a mill on Second Street, north of Mill. Business prospered and in 1890 he built the brick building now standing at the northeast corner of Second and Mill Streets. In 1900 he built the building now occupied by Allegro on Mill Street. In 1910 he failed and died in Little Falls on March 25, 1922. The Phoenix Underwear Co. was formed to take over his holdings and, under the able management of William H. Shepardson, prospered until 1928, when they moved south to Statesville, N. C.
Another industry, far from forgotten by those that were connected with it, was the National Automotive Fibres, which gave employment to 850 at one time, but closed down in 1954.
About 1906 Walter Becker began to operate a fibre mill on East Mill Street on the site of the present Cherry-Burrell parking lot. In 1907 it was incorporated as the Little Falls Fibre Co., and later mills were purchased in Johnstown and Cohoes. Early in 1928 Walter Becker, John R. Miller and others organized the National Automotive Fibres Co., with factories in various parts of the United States to manufacture auto body interior trim.
In December, 1926, Walter Becker had purchased three of the Phoenix Underwear buildings, and in 1930 the warehouse on West Main Street was fitted out to make body trimmings. When auto production was stopped by World War II, business boomed the manufacturing of tents and tarpaulins. Likewise, during the Korean War, there were two shifts manufacturing aerial delivery parachutes.
ANDREW LITTLE & SONS, INC.
<-Andrew Little (1837-1935)
The site of Andrew Little & Sons, Inc. is one of the earliest industrial locations in Little Falls. In 1808 Thomas Windsor manufactured scythes and axes here and in 1824 Sprague and Dann built a paper mill. It burned in 1839 and was rebuilt, but burned again in 1841, when owned by Paige and Priest. In 1843 Clark Houghton operated a plaster fertilizer mill on this site and in 1847 he set up a planing mill in the building now owned by the Littles on the south side of Mill Street.
Andrew Little was born in Scotland in 1837 and was a journeyman carpenter when he came to Cooperstown, in 1871. He came to Little Falls in 1874 to build the wood work of the present Methodist Church and when the work was completed decided to remain here. He then formed a partnership with Charles Newell and they operated a planing mill in the old Ellice stone building. There was a fire September 24, 1883, and they then moved into the Houghton planing mill. Mr. Newell retired in 1892 and Mr. Little continued to operate the mill, manufacturing sashes, blinds, doors and all parts of house woodwork. During the years when Little Falls was expanding thirty-five men were employed in processing wood for the many new homes and buildings. They also engaged in logging and, as late as 1918, they operated portable gasoline saw mills in this area. Andrew Little passed away on April 27, 1935, and the business is now operated by Gordon Little, his son, who early in life joined his father, and by Gordon's son, Andrew.
In 1938 an office and storage building was built on the north side of Mill Street.
Last fall Little's mill was converted from water power to electric power and is the last of many firms to have used the Mill Street raceway.
1857 Map of Little Falls. It might be wise to save this one to your hard drive and then print the photo. Use your back button to return to this page.
Little Falls Hospital
The contrast noted here between the original hospital constructed of wood and having a capacity of four rooms in 1893 and our own hospital constructed of steel and colorful enamel paneling with 110 beds, serves to depict the vast changes that have taken place in the medical field during the last 68 years. Who would have thought in those days that the patient of the future would one day receive transfusions of whole blood from another person to maintain life or that the cornea of an eye from a dead person could be transferred to a living blind person thereby restoring sight, or even that the heart itself could be stopped and started again! We could not perceive in those days that countless pieces of laboratory equipment and X-Ray machines would become important tenants in our modern hospitals providing information to the doctor that no human eye could evaluate. These are but a few examples of the tremendous advances made in the field of medicine over the last 68 years which have transferred the practice of medicine from old wooden houses into modern scientific buildings and have brought about an increasing life span to all Americans. In truth, the word "hospital" itself has come to stand today as a symbol of hope and comfort for people of all ages, from the newborn to the geriatric patient.
<- Picture taken about 1895, opened November 15, 1893.
If we could add up all the expenses involved in the operation of our hospital over the last 68 years the monetary sum would be quite staggering; however, I am sure we would judge it all a pittance compared with the priceless years of healthful living returned to many hundreds of thousands of people who have used the Little Falls Hospital.
The mind's eye can little grasp what tomorrow's medical service holds forth, but if the advances depicted by the simple comparison of these two hospitals is any testament of what the future holds, then tomorrow's society will assuredly be a bright one!
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