By R. M. Palmer, M. D., Fulton County Historian (1949)
Source: Contributed from the personal collection of James F.
Almost every city and village is situated on a stream or
body of water which has been the determining factor in its location.
Johnstown and Gloversville has such a stream, the Cayadutta creek. It is a
small stream but it has had a great influence on Fulton county history.
The name Cayadutta is pleasant sounding. William M.
Beauchamp, a noted Indian scholar in his Aboriginal Places of Names of new York,
published in 1907, says Cayadutta in the Indian tongue means "stone
standing out of the water." This name seems to have been applied to
the creek by the Indians themselves. Where was the stone standing out of
the water to which the name refers?
Beauchamp says in the same book the Jeptha P. Simms stated,
"In the river (Mohawk) opposite to the ancient village of Caughnawaga and
perhaps 25 feet from the southern or Fultonville shore is a large boulder which
is the last stone seen when the water is rising and after a freshet, the first
stone seen when the water is falling." Beauchamp then goes on to explain,
"This seems to be the stone alluded to in the name Cayadutta."
It is one half mile from the mouth of the Cayadutta creek at
Fonda down the Mohawk to the place where this rock is situated before it was
removed in the construction of the Barge canal. Caughnawaga, as used by
Simms, refers to the eastern end of Fonda. This may seem too far removed
from the Cayadutta creek to have any reference to it as its as its
name. However, Indians using the Mohawk river as a highway for
canoes, may have started to use the name applied to "the creek near or just
above or below the stone standing out of the water."
Canada or Cayadutta Kill
The earliest map on which I can find the creek named is one
of 1784 made for the Commissioners of Forfeiture, showing the village of
Johnstown. Here the creek is called Canada or Cayadutta Kill.
Spafford in his Gazeteer of New York State, 1813, call it the Canada
Creek. Gordon in his 1836 Gazeteer designates it simply the Cayadutta
A curious naming occurs on a map in Burr's Atlas of
1829. Showing the entire county in detail, no name is given Cayadutta
Creek but this name is applied to a small creek flowing westward into the Garoga
creek at Ephratah village which is now called Sprite Creek. On the
Governor Tryon map of the Province of New York made in 1779, the Cayadutta
appears but is not named and Sprite Creek is labeled Caniautudd. Beauchamp
says this little creek had several variants of this name: Caniadutta,
Caijutha, Caniatudd, Cayadutha.
Flows From Bleecker Mountain
The source of the Cayadutta is in the town of Johnstown, part
way up the side of the Bleecker mountain, on the west side of the highway just
above the barn on the Edward Smullen farm. From there it dashes and
splashes over rocks down the mountain side along the highway and through Bull
Rum. It keeps within sight of the Bleecker road and first appears in
Gloversville as it crosses West Eleventh avenue, near the city line.
Passing through Gloversville and Johnstown, it leaves Fulton county at
Sammonsville and pours into the Mohawk river in the western part of Fonda.
The Cayadutta was never deep or big enough to be used by the
Indians for transportation but Indian paths ran along its banks and it was
highly valuable to them for fishing. On its bank was situated one of the
two Indian villages which are known to have existed in Fulton county. This
village site was discovered in 1892 and Indian archeologists have
determined that it was occupied by Iroquois a little before 1600. It was
located on the east bank of the Cayadutta a mile or thereabouts upstream from
Johnstown Laid Out on Shores
The illustrious Sir William Johnson selected a site not far
from the banks of the Cayadutta for his home in 1762 when he began the
construction of Johnson Hall and shortly after he moved there in 1763 from Fort
Johnson, he laid out the village of Johnstown along the very shores of the
creek. When the new county of Tryon was set off from Albany county in
1772, Johnstown became an important place as the county seat and the county
buildings built the same year were marvelous in the eyes of the
inhabitants. This was the frontier in those days.
The Cayadutta creek was the determining factor whether
Gloversville or Kingsborough should be greater and which one would swallow up
the other. Both places had a few inhabitants prior to 1800, with
Kingsborough a little larger up to about 1836. By 1842 Gloversville had
outdistanced Kingsborough and had 350 inhabitants and 50 dwellings to
Kingsborough with 300 inhabitants and 40 dwellings.
By 1860 Gloversville had 1965 inhabitants and Kingsborough
remained at 300. The Cayadutta creek was what made the difference.
It flowed through Gloversville but not through Kingsborough and its waters in
turning the wheels of industry brought work and money to those who lived near
it. When Gloversville became a city in 1890, Kingsborough became a part of
First Bridge in Johnstown
Near the Cayadutta's beginning one can step across it, but
soon in its course it requires a bridge to get over it. As far as I can
determine, the first permanent bridge in this county to have been built over it,
was a bridge crossing the creek at West State street in Johnstown. This is
the only one to appear on the oldest map of Johnstown, undated but supposed to
be about 1772. It was over this bridge that travelers to and from Johnson
Hall and the village, crossed the creek.
When Sir William Johnson was seized with his last illness on
a Monday afternoon July 11, 1774, a courier was sent upon a fleet horse to Fort
Johnson, seven miles distant to notify Sir John of his father's sickness.
He mounted a very valuable horse and ran him all the way via Albany Bush to this
bridge over the Cayadutta, half a mile from the Hall where he had to leave him,
and the animal soon after died. The weather was very warm, the horse fat
and he is said to have "melted down".
Sir John hurried on foot to the Hall only to find his father
had just breathed his last.
Another bridge which deserves a word is the South Main street
bridge between Cayadutta and Burr streets in Gloversville. Here the creek
flows under Main street diagonally as it curves from southwest to
northeast. When the present bridge was built about 80 years ago it was
thought that a stone arch could not be constructed here that could withstand the
spring floods and high water.
Niles Fairbanks was president of the village in 1868 and
having an engineering turn of mind, he advised and planned the building of the
bridge which has served the community well these many years. Mr. Fairbanks
was the grandfather of the Misses Anna and Minerva Fonda who live in the house
at 176 South Main street, which their grandfather built in 1848.
Boating on Mill's Pond
To enumerate the many industrial plants which have lined the
creek banks through the years, to name the important buildings near it and the
great events which have taken place within its immediate area would require a
longer article than is intended. I do, however, want to make note of one
of the many ponds which have been formed by damming it.
Residents of 80 years or more of age will remember Mill's
pond on West Fulton street. It was on the north side of the street
extending from West street to about where Garlock's garage is now, and from a
few yards north of the West Fulton street sidewalk to a little above Clinton
street. Where the steam railroad station now stands was the residence of
Charles Mills who owned the pond. It shows on a map of Gloversville as
early as 1857 and as late as 1875 but on a 1881 map it does not appear. I
have a picture of the pond in 1875 showing a row boat skimming its waters with
two occupants who seem to enjoy their little ride over it.
Up until this Winter the large elm tree which stood along the
pond's southern shore stood straight and strong but was felled by the ice storm
of early Winter. Some will remember several very large willow trees, which
were cut down a few years ago at this spot. These willows extended along
the old pond bank from the big elm toward the Fulton street bridge.
Sport of Spearing Boards
Through the years the Cayadutta has not only been valuable as
an economic asset, it has been the everlasting delight of every Fulton county
boy. Our grandfathers when boys pulled many a fine fish from its sparkling
water, our fathers enjoyed its swimming holes but neither fishing nor swimming
could be had when I was a boy because the creek ran all colors of the rainbow
from the mill dye and carried the sewage of the two cities.
But what we did enjoy was just to play along its banks and
especially in Spring when the water was rapid and rough, to spear boards, a
simple but exciting sport for small boys. To have been born and reared
near it is something none of us would care to have missed.