This year marks the 192nd anniversary of the establishment of Clifton Park. Separated from the Town of Halfmoon on March 3, 1828, it was the last town to be formed in Saratoga County.
The first Town Board meeting occurred on April 1, 1828 at the inn of James Groom at Grooms Corners. The first town officers were elected, and town justices, highway supervisors, and school district commissioners were all selected. The first supervisor of the new Town was Ephraim Stevens who ran a large hotel. (He is now buried under a 1972 addition to the Clifton Park Methodist Church).
The crossroads that bore his name, Stevens’s Corners, became known as Clifton Park Village, and the hotel still stands. Nathan Garnsey, Jr., a former Halfmoon town supervisor whose home also still stands, on Route 146 in Rexford, became the second town supervisor in 1829, but Stevens would later serve several more terms. Many town meetings were held at the Grooms Tavern, the community’s first Town Hall.
In 1828 Southern Saratoga County was booming. The Erie Canal had opened three years previously and was bringing increased commerce and industry. The new Erie Canal was an object of national pride. It was considered the eighth wonder of the world, and truly an engineering miracle. This artificial river wove its way through the new town of Clifton Park carrying immigrants west to settle the new nation. Hotels and taverns stood along major turnpikes running north and south, and busy roads running east and west. People were pouring into the area, mostly from New England and Southern New York State, looking for land and work.
It was largely because of this population explosion that it was decided to create two towns out of one. The area of the Town of Halfmoon that became Clifton Park, already had an identity of its own. It had been referred to as Clifton Park since a land patent by that name had been created in 1708 by Queen Anne of England. This land patent had been granted to several land speculators in hopes that they in turn would find settlers to build homes and farm the land. Native People referred to this patent as Shenendehowa (a grassy plain).
Clifton, meaning place on a cliff, probably takes its name from the cliffs along the Mohawk River near Rexford. The area of the patent continued to be referred to as Clifton Park, and it was natural that the new town should assume this name. During the first year the town was simply referred to as Clifton. By 1829 however, it became Clifton Park to differentiate itself from other places in New York already known as Clifton.
John Scherer is the Clifton Park Town Historian and also Senior Historian Emeritus at the New York State Museum. He holds a Master’s degree in Museum Studies and American Folk Life from the Cooperstown Graduate Program. If you want to learn more about Clifton Park history read “Bits of Clifton Park History by John Scherer,” or consult the Clifton Park Halfmoon Library website for presentations on Clifton Park history and a multi media program on the Erie Canal in Clifton Park.
Photo of Tavern of James Groom where the Town of Clifton Park was formed on April 1, 1828, postcard view by Parker Goodfellow, c.1910.