Historian

“A Brief History of Early Halfmoon”
Ellen Kennedy, Town Historian

The Halfmoon story begins with the Native Americans who were important to the settlement of this area before the European exploration.

Natives of the Algonquin language group inhabited this part of North American from Canada to North Carolina and east to the Atlantic Ocean. A subgroup called Mohicans or River Indians lived in the area surrounding Albany from the Catskills to Lake Champlain.

The Mohicans lived in small groups with “castles” or fortified villages from Cohoes to Schodac. Their lifestyle included farming on cleared flats near the river and hunting over a vast forested area. Their small villages were moved as necessary to preserve their way of life.

When Henry Hudson sailed up the river named after him and anchored below Albany, the friendly Indians he encountered were Mohicans who lived on both sides of the river from the Catskills north to Washington County. These natives offered friendship and protection to the early traders who followed Hudson.

The second group of Native Americans important to this story, the Mohawks, an Iroquois tribe, traditional enemies of the Mohicans, lived to the west. At the time of contact the Mohawks were at war with the Hurons, an Algonquin group who lived to the north in Canada.

Mahican Village was located on what is today called Peebles Island. Early Fur traders met the natives here to trade and barter. The point and the islands where the Mohawk River entered the Hudson provided easy crossing places to access trails running both, east, west and north, south. This crossroads was a hub for native trade.

The shallow rivers with many riffs or rapids and Cohoes Falls on the Mohawk were natural barriers which blocked the free flow of river traffic. Batteans and canoes had to be unloaded and carried north to Stillwater or west around the falls and returned to the water.

Contact with the European Fur traders who offered trade goods and guns in exchange for Furs changed the peaceful balance that existed in this area at the time of contact.

Wars between the Mohawks and Mohicans plus disease brought by contact with Europeans greatly reduced the native population. As the Mohicans retreated east across the Hudson River they began to sell land to the Europeans. They did not understand the European concept of permanent ownership and the result was loss of area necessary to sustain their lifestyle.

The Hudson River corridor was a major route between Albany and Montreal, used by Indians, fur traders and military groups as the French and English struggled for control of the North American continent. This route followed the west bank of the Hudson River through Halfmoon. An early military road called the Kings Highway followed this route to transport military supplies and troops through Halfmoon then north to Saratoga. A military ferry, Loudons Ferry was built above Cohoes Falls to shorten the route from the Mohawk through Halfmoon to the Hudson.

Between the wars, British settlements expand north and west of Albany however in times of danger farmers deserted the outlying farms.

The last French and Indian War was fought in 1763, settlers began to purchase land in the interior. There was a general in flux of settlers from New England to this region. Many sought streams to use as power sources for small mills.

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Ellen Kennedy Town Historian
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