A century and half romance with railroads and the opening of canals along the Hudson River during the 19th Century are just a few ways our community has built itself on connections.
Mechanicville’s rail yards were the third largest of their kind in the nation at one time and it was once the site of the world’s largest bookpaper mill—and yet it is a city of less than a square mile—the smallest in the state of New York. Today, Mechanicville enjoys numerous advantages over other nearby communities, not the least of which is its picturesque setting on the Hudson River. The downtown, with an attractive Main Street setting, historic buildings, and adjacent neighborhoods, contribute to this character. Because of its scale, the City is completely walkable.
The Village of Stillwater was incorporated in 1816. It was the site of the ferry across the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War. Advent of the Champlain Canal in 1823 resulted in development of a commercial and industrial center. During the 19th century, the opening of the canals along the Hudson River spurred industry in the community. Founded in 1847, the Stillwater Academy flourished for many years. By the 20th century, Stillwater residents became more mobile, finding work outside of town, and the mills and factories began to close. Today Stillwater is known as a bedroom community with a bright future.
The Mechanicville-Stillwater area encompasses 65 square miles and is located in the southeast corner of Saratoga County. Continued growth throughout Saratoga County has inspired the Mechanicville-Stillwater Chamber to explore new revitalization opportunities, particularly within its historic downtowns, neighborhoods and along the Hudson River waterfront areas, which presents a unique opportunity to enhance the quality of life for both communities.
Stillwater was the birthplace of Abigail Powers Fillmore, the wife of Millard Fillmore, the 13th president of the United States. Abigail Powers was born on March 13, 1798. Her father, Lemuel Leland Powers, was a Baptist minister at the First Baptist Church in Stillwater with a congregation of approximately 400 people in 1798. He died in 1800 when Abigail was two years old. Abigail met Millard Fillmore at the New Hope Academy where she was teaching and Fillmore was a student. They shared a common love of books and were married in 1826.
Mechanicville is the hometown of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, the first Union officer killed in the Civil War and a personal friend of President Lincoln. Ellsworth campaigned for him during the 1860 presidential election. James Jackson shot and killed Ellsworth on May 24, 1861 as the 24-year-old Union officer descended the stairs leading to the roof of the Marshall House. Ellsworth was carrying the large Confederate flag he had just torn down from a flag pole atop the roof of the three-story hotel run by Jackson that could be seen from the White House. News of Ellsworth’s death shocked the North. Men enlisted by the thousands to avenge him, poems and songs were written in his honor. Lincoln had Ellsworth’s body laid out in the White House for public viewing. The body also lay in state at City Hall in New York and at the State Capitol in Albany. The funeral cortege continued north to Mechanicville. He’s buried under a 40-foot tall granite obelisk erected in the 1870s with carved letters: “in taking the first rebel flag in the war for the Union.” in Hudson View Cemetery. Ellsworth is the subject of exhibits at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington.
Reverend Dr. John Philip Newman was a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a friend of President Ulysses S. Grant and spoke at Grant’s funeral in 1885. He was appointed as Chaplain of the United States Senate in the 1870s. Known to the public as “Grant’s pastor,” he delivered the funeral sermon when the former president passed away in 1885 at his summer retreat at Mount McGregor. Bishop Newman and his wife, a former Mechanicville resident, summered in nearby Saratoga and socialized with the Grants regularly.
Ray Heindorf worked as a pianist in a movie house in Mechanicville in his early teens. He was nominated for eighteen Academy Awards, 17 nominations for Best Score and 1 nomination for Best Song. Heindorf won three, in the category of Best Score of a Musical, for Yankee Doodle Dandy, This is the Army, and The Music Man.
Joe McMahon, McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds: Joe grew up in Mechanicville and began working as a groom, hotwalker, and exercise boy at the Saratoga Race Track. Along with his wife Ann, Joe purchased the old Dodd farm located near Saratoga Battlefield for their stable. On April 20, 2000, Funny Cide was born at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds and spent the first few months of his life at McMahon’s farm. In 2003, Funny Cide became the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby in the race’s 129-year history.
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