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Rensselaer Falls to celebrate 100th birthday

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RENSSELAER FALLS — The village will be celebrating the bicentennial of its incorporation next month with a community carnival.

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

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

But the village was forced to decide on a permanent name in 1851, when a post office was established. The locale eventually was named after Henry Van Rensselaer, who built the village’s first gristmill in 1842 and also was behind much of the village’s industry.

Other business and industry owners followed Mr. Van Rensselaer, as the Oswegatchie River proved to be a good source of water for mills, factories and other businesses, said Marion A. “Mimi” Barr, village historian.

“This was once a growing place,” she said.

By the late 1800s, the village contained nine stores, two churches, a hotel, a gristmill, two sawmills, the Phoenix Bent Works, a chair factory, a cheese box factory, two wagon shops, a schoolhouse and other mechanic shops.

“Much of the farming was exported through the railroad,” Mrs. Barr said. “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 historian Robert G. Poor. “We didn’t have fire departments like we do now.”

In celebration of its 100th anniversary, Rensselaer Falls will host a community carnival Sept. 15 with a parade, children’s games, ice cream socials, a wine tasting and craft fairs. Items from the village’s museum will be on display.

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

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

Volunteers or parade participants should call Jacqueline M. Danis at 854-0490 or Lisa A. Hammond at 261-9498.

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