The Erie Canal in Halfmoon & Clifton Park
The Erie Canal ran along the southern edge of Halfmoon and Clifton Park, parallel to the Mohawk River. It continued through Saratoga County for 13 miles before re-crossing the Mohawk River at Rexford, and continuing to Schenectady along the south side of the river.
One can only imagine the excitement and frenzy of activity when contracts were let for the digging of “Clinton’s Ditch” through the area. The land that the proposed canal would pass through in Clifton Park was owned by Tunis Cragier. One of the digging contracts gives some idea of the business transactions involved: digging commenced in that town in 1822, where local residents were paid 7 cents per cubic yard of earth removed from the ditch and 10 cents per cubic yard for each yard of embankment.
When traffic began traveling the canal, hamlets became boom towns! At Crescent, molding sand was loaded onto canal boats at the Whitehead Bros. Sand Office. In addition to his other businesses, Alfred Noxon built the Crescent Iron Foundry, a maker of the Franklin stove and decorative iron railings that were shipped out on the canal. A sawmill, gristmill, cement company, and brickyards were in this hamlet. During the canal’s peak in 1853, 175 boats per day passed through Vischer Ferry. In the early 1870’s freight traffic gave the canal a period of its greatest use. Even in 1875, an average of 95 boats a day passed through Lock 19.
Canal-oriented businesses sprang up. There were three dry docks where canal boats were built and repaired. Two of these were in Vischer Ferry and the third was at a community that grew up along the canal near the Halfmoon Town line, adjacent to a canal store run by Nicholas Clute.
There were also canal stores at Willow Spring, Vischer Ferry, Fundy’s Basin and Rexford. Mule barns, where fresh mules could be hired, were located at several of these stores. There were four locks: Lock 19 at Vischer Ferry, Lock 20 at Fundy’s Basin, and Locks 21 and 22 at Rexford.
The American republic was new in the early 1800’s, and the classical models of Greece and Rome were adopted in government, architecture and even furniture. The Greek Revival architectural style of the 1840’s incorporated columned porches, pilasters and small frame "Parthenons." Many of the homes in Vischer Ferry are excellent examples of this prevailing style.
Information on Crescent businesses was taken from The Erie Canal Through Saratoga County, by Amelia T. O'Shea (2007).