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Rensselaer Falls to celebrate 100-year history

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RENSSELAER FALLS – The village will be celebrating 100 years of history next month with a community carnival.

The earliest recorded history of Rensselaer Falls dates back 1839 when the village began the erection of a forge by Tate, Chaffe & Company.

The village was first known as Tateville, named after Robert Tate who surveyed the land and its boundaries. Located on the northwest corner of the town of Canton, the village was also once called Canton Falls.

But the village was forced to decide on a name in 1851 when the post office was instituted. It was eventually named after Henry VanRensselaer, who built the first grist mill in 1842, and much of the industry in Rensselaer Falls.

Other business and industry owners followed Mr. VanRensselaer, as the Oswegatchie River proved to be a good source of water for the mills, factories and other businesses, according to Village Historian Marion “Mimi” A. Barr.

“This was once a growing place,” said Mrs. Barr.

By the late 1800s, the village was home to nine retail stores, two churches, a hotel, a grist mill, two saw mills, the Phoenix Bent works, a chair factory, a cheese box factory, two wagon shops, school house and several mechanic shops.

“Much of the farming was exported through the railroad,” said Mrs. Barr. “My grandmother raised turkeys. On Turkey Day, my grandmother would ship her turkeys on the train to New York City, and that is how she made her living.”

But after the village was incorporated in 1912, fires and the introduction of automobiles led to the depletion of much of the industry in Rensselaer Falls.

“Throughout the years, several fires destroyed much of the town,” said Robert G. Poor, a local historian. “We didn’t have fire departments like we do now.”

In celebration of its 100th anniversary, Rensselaer Falls will host community carnival Sept. 15.

A parade will be held along with children’s games, ice cream socials, wine tasting and craft fairs. Items from the village’s museum will also be on display.

“We don’t have a lot, like Canton or Potsdam,” said Mr. Poor. “But it’s still a great place to grow up.”

Organizers say they are still seeking craft vendors, parade participants and musical acts.

People wishing to help or join the parade should call Jacqueline M. Danis at 854-0490 or Lisa A. Hammond at 261-9498.

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