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Quiet Cayadutta

Winding stream brought industry, shaped cities

May 17, 2009
By KAYLEIGH KARUTIS, The Leader-Herald

Though in recent years the Cayadutta has become more associated with young fisherman catching trout on its banks, in earlier years it was the source of power for a number of mills and factories that grew like weeds along its rocky bed.

Years later, the toll the mills took became apparent, when those who lived on the creek would comment on the color of the water that day, based on what dyes were being dumped by the factories.

According to documents from the 1949 Fulton County Historian R.M. Palmer, as taken from Gloversville Historian Jim Morrison's files, Cayadutta means "stone standing out of the water" in a Native American language. The stone referred to in its name apparently came from a large boulder that was situated about a half-mile from the mouth of the creek in Fonda before it was removed to construct the canal, according to Palmer and a book by Jetha P. Simms titled, "Aboriginal Places of Names of New York."

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Kayleigh Karutis
Montgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar points to the Cayadutta Creek along Cayadutta Street in Fonda Wednesday.

Montgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar said like many other creeks in the 1700s and 1800s, up until recently, the Cayadutta was a powerful source of energy that drew mills and factories to its banks. She compared it to the Chuctanunda and the mills situated on its banks in Amsterdam.

In Fonda, the Fonda Glove Lining Co. sat on the banks of the creek.

It was owned by Lucius Littauer and was in operation until October 27, 1976, when it was destroyed by a fire, Yacobucci said.

There also was a hydraulic power dam on the creek, and the Cayadutta Park off of the FJ&G Rail Trail line was a popular place for social gatherings and picnics in the 19th and early 20th centuries, she added.

"The glove lining company was right on Cayadutta Street," she said. "There is a historic marker for the Wemple House there, and it was right in that area."

According to the "Historical Sketch of the Village of Fonda," as provided by Farquhar, the Fonda Glove Lining Co. was incorporated by Littauer in 1902 and manufactured wool and cotton linings and fleece and was, in the 1950s, one of Fonda's leading industries.

According to Morrison's records, the source of the creek comes from the town of Johnstown partway up Bleecker Mountain. It empties into the Mohawk River in west Fonda.

The mills in Johnstown, Gloversville and Fonda were not the first establishments driven by the creek. On its banks was one of two Indian villages that existed in Fulton County, according the Palmer's records. The site was discovered in 1892 and was determined to have been inhabited by Iroquois around 1600.

According to Palmer's records, the creek determined which village - Gloversville or Kingsborough - would absorb the other. Energized by the creek, Gloversville saw its numbers and households grow, but Kingsborough, which was not near the creek, stagnated. When Gloversville became a city in 1890, Kingsborough was absorbed.

After years of abuse at the hands of the mills and factories along its banks, the creek became unswimmable and devoid of life.

"Our grandfathers when boys pulled many a fine fish from its sparkling water," Palmer wrote. "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."

The Cayadutta has been plagued by pollution for years, as evidenced by newspaper articles from the late 1800s and early 1900s that detail lawsuits some Sammonsville farmers filed for pollution of the creek.

"The claims against the city of Gloversville aggregate $4,400 and those against the city of Johnstown will amount to several thousand dollars," the article states.

Residents also complained about the pollution.

"A number of residents in the city ... have commenced to complain of the delay in making some improvements to the condition of the stream," another article states.

Such complaints continued into the present day, when an accidental chemical spill in 2005 killed thousands of fish. Traditional Leather was issued a number of tickets for allowing a chemical bin to overflow in a rainstorm, dumping chemicals into the creek and killing the wildlife there.

Even though, state Department of Environmental Conservation officials then noted the ability for the creek to bounce back. Spokeswoman Gabrielle Done said in 2005 the creek shouldn't suffer any long term effects and should return to normal. The creek was upgraded from a Class D stream - the worst classification - to a Class C stream in the mid-90s, a great improvement over what DEC officials termed, in the 80s, one of the worst cases of pollution in the state.

Kayleigh Karutis covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at gloversville@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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