Town of Edinburg, NY
Town History
Batchellerville Bridge
Copeland Bridge
Military Road
Post Office
Sacandaga Reservoir

On March 27, 1930 the gates were closed on the Conklingville Dam and the filling of the newly created Sacandaga Reservoir began. A dam at Conklingville was not something that suddenly cropped up in the 1920's. It was being talked about as early as the 1860's. In 1867 a man by the name of Samuel McElroy gave a report to the New York State Legislature concerning the purpose of water storage on the upper Hudson. This idea was not accepted, although in that same year a reservoir was built at Cranberry Lake in the drainage basin of the Oswegatchie River holding 2.5 billion cubic feet of water and covering 6,700 acres.
In 1881, the New York Legislature listened to Col. B.C. Butler of Warren County list the advantages of water reservoirs on the upper Hudson. Still the idea did not carry, although in that same year reservoirs were built at Old Forge and Sixth Lake in the Black River drainage basin.

In 1895 a State Engineer and Surveyor by the name of George W. Rafter recommended a dam be built at Conklingville 20 feet high to hold four billion cubic feet of water. Again this idea was dropped because the "unexplored expense" would probably be too much. In 1898 a reservoir to hold 4.5 billion cubic feet of water was built at Indian Lake on the storage basin of the Hudson.
Maple Avenue in Batchellerville c.1929
Also in 1898 two Glens Falls businessmen, Elmer West and Eugene Ashley, formed the Hudson River Water Power Company, their objective was to build a dam 80 feet high for the generation of electric power on the Hudson River west of Glens Falls (Spiers Falls). It would be the fourth largest in the world and the largest built solely for electric power (at that time). The work began in 1900 and finished in 1903. While doing surveys for their dam Ashley and West determined that a 24 foot dam could be built at Conklingville to aid the Spiers Falls plant.

The spring of 1902 witnessed severe flooding on the Hudson below the Sacandaga intersection. This pushed New York State to appoint a Water Storage Commission to study the causes of flooding and make recommendations. The commission recommended the state convince private enterprise to finance the construction of storage reservoirs in return for a constant supply of water for power.

The Rivers Improvement Act was passed at this time supporting the cooperation of the state and private industry to develop water resources.
In 1907 the State Water Supply Commission did a complete study on water storage for flood prevention and power development in New York State under public ownership and control. The commission gave their report to the Legislature in 1908 petitioning for the construction of a reservoir in the Sacandaga Valley. No reason was given but again this petition was dismissed.

Little more was heard until the spring flood of 1913 proved to be the most disastrous in history to down river communities including Albany, Green Island, Rensselaer, Troy and Watervliet. This time the Glens Falls Chamber of Commerce petitioned the Legislature to form a Hudson River Regulating District (HRRD). This petition was also dismissed. In 1922, after hearings were held, the petition was granted. The Governor appointed several men to the Board, among them, Edward H. Sargent, an engineer.

The purpose of the HRRD was plain and simple defined as follows: "To regulate the flow of the Hudson and Sacandaga Rivers as required by the public welfare including health and safety."

The board adopted a plan calling for 16 reservoir storage sites. Sacandaga was approved for construction at a cost of $12 million on January 3, 1924. The Water Supply Commission study of 1907 had estimated construction at that time of a cost of $5 million.
On April 1, 1924, Edward H. Sargent was appointed Chief Engineer and the entire huge project was completed under his guiding eye. A plan to finance the project was drawn up by the Regulating Board in 1925. Nineteen private industries that would benefit from the water power would bear 95.5% of the cost. The cities of Albany, Green Island, Troy, Rensselaer and Watervliet benefitting from flood control would bear 4.5%. In this way there was no direct cost to the taxpayer.
Moving building on the river prior to 1930
As in many large projects, word always "leaks out" in advance. By the very early 1920's "land sharks" were going throughout the valley buying land from the unsuspecting residents. When the HRRD started buying acreage for the project in 1923, the "sharks" turned a sizeable profit. 27,000 acres were purchased consisting of 1,137 parcels of land. Some lawsuits were pending from those fighting to save their homes and businesses. How do you put a price on a whole lifetime of hard work and love? Most residents did not have the means nor connections to fight the inevitable. The F.J.&G. Railroad finally received $1,750,000.00 for its loss of the railroad line from Northville to Mayfield to Broadalbin and its 750 acre Sacandaga Park, the "Coney Island" of the Adirondacks.
Owners were allowed to remove houses and barns if they wished. The Presbyterian Church in Batchellerville and the Cold Brook School on North Shore Road were two that were moved. Buildings not moved by 1929 were completely demolished or burned. In all 1,100 people were forced to abandon their homes.

The first bids for the dam construction, land clearing, building and cemetery removal were let in 1927. The construction bids were awarded and new people started moving into the area: brush and tree cutters, grave diggers and building movers. Surprisingly, not many local people were employed by the project. Did too much bitterness prevail? Many of the new comers came from the western part of the state and Canada. Several of these families stayed and are now 3rd and 4th generation in the Sacandaga area.
All trees and brush were to be cut and burned. Twenty four cemeteries holding 3,872 graves were moved in 1928. The HRRD provided six new cemeteries and the bodies were re-interred in these or other cemeteries chosen by next of kin. Approximately 75 miles of highway were to be replaced on higher ground.

The S.J. Groves & Son Construction Company of Ticonderoga, N.Y. was awarded the bid for actual dam construction.

The narrows at Conklingville is a preglacial gorge between rock ledges 1,200 feet apart. Here began a work of art that today would be an easy task but in 1927 was indeed a feat to behold. The earth-filled dam is 95 feet high with sliced granite core and rock cover 650 feet wide at the base tapering to 43 feet at the top over which the highway runs. The length of the dam proper is 1,100 feet and 200,000 cubic yards of rock excavation was required for its construction: 670,000 cubic yards of earth fill, 121,000 cubic yards of rock fill and 15,000 cubic yards of concrete were used. The crest at the highway is 795 feet above mean sea level and the crest at the spillway is 771 feet.
Great Sacandaga lake from
Batchellerville Bridge.
Town of Edinburg from Sinclair Point
The hydroelectric station below the dam was built by New York Power and Light Company. The power plant was named in memory of Elmer West, co-builder of the Spier Falls Dam.

The entire reservoir project was to be completed in 1929, but every job has its setbacks and so it was with this one. The flood of March 1929 proved to be one of the worst on record. The men at the dam had their hands and boots full of gravel and water.  The flood set the project back for several months at a cost of several thousands of dollars. The flood was so bad that even the Village of Northville was cut off from the rest of the world for a few days because all the roads were blocked by ice and water.

The creation of the reservoir saw the end of many small bridges that had spanned the river. Among these was the Batchellerville covered bridge connecting Batchellerville and Beecher Hollow and the Fish House covered bridge connecting Fish House with Northampton. Ten new bridges were to be built including the new steel bridge that would be the second largest phase of the reservoir project. But where to put the bridge?

The people of Fish House wanted it to connect their village with Sinclair Point near where the covered bridge stood. They started litigation in support of this. This seemed a logical place due to the narrow span of water at this point but for whatever reason the HRRD said the bridge was to connect Batchellerville with Edinburg on the west. Fish House was promised a ferry but this never materialized.
Construction completed, Chief Engineer Sargent closed the gates March 27, 1930 and another era was created. The reservoir is 29 miles long, varying in width from 3,000-28,000 feet, it covers an area of 42.3 square miles and has 125 miles of shoreline. Its maximum depth is 70 feet, with a capacity of 37.8 billion cubic feet (equivalent to 283 billion gallons) of which 240 billion are available to keep adequate flow in the Hudson. The water may not be lowered below 756 feet between May 1 and Labor Day. This, of course, would vary if we had an unusually dry spring and summer. The men of HRRD work carefully to control this by taking repeated measurements of depth and water content of snow throughout the drainage basin as well as estimated rainfall.

After Labor Day the water level may be drawn below 756 feet to any level (considered advisable but no lower than 740 feet, "full pond" is considered 768 feet and any level higher than this causes too much shore line erosion).

The reservoir was named Sacandaga after the river it was formed from, an Indian name meaning "the drowned land." It originally referred to the Vlaie, a huge marsh of several thousand acres that lay between Mayfield and Broadalbin. In the 1960's the name of the reservoir was changed to The Great Sacandaga Lake.


Edinburg Town Hall - 45 Military Road - Edinburg, New York - 12134 - (518) 863-2034