Trenton Falls combines scenic vistas with historic lineage


t was a place where John Quincy Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, Charles Dickens and other notables kicked off their boots to relax among high society. Now it’s a place where families and friends can come and enjoy nature and the view. For three weekends all year, the Trails of Trenton Falls will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Read More About Trenton Falls Openings

Picture of Trenton Falls courtesy of Harvard University

Came across a story written in 1925 by J. Lyman Gollegty, Utica Gas and Electric Co.

The western entrance to the Mohawk Valley is a center of great industrial activity. Its past has been crowned with great achievements. So great an authority as Roger Babson has predicted that this section of New York State is bound to become the manufacturing center of the United States. Naturally enough one wonders just why this is so. The answer is a most logical one. Unusual water power facilities have created an abundance of electrical energy which, economically produced and sold, affords attractive opportunities for industrial operations.

The Utica Gas & Electric Company, which supplies the demand for power in this territory, has established a decidedly high rating for itself and is now recognized as one of the 20 leading concerns of its kind in the entire country. This company was incorporated in 1902, and represents a merger and consolidation of 17 companies which have been organized and have operated in the territory it now serves. It traces its early history back to the Ilion & Mohawk Gas Light Companies and the Little Falls Gas Light Company which were formed in the summer of 1869. The Utica Electric Light Company, incorporated January 9, 1888, was the first electric power company organized in this section. Subsequently the following electric companies have become a part of what is now the Utica Gas & Electric Company: Utica Electric Manufacturing & Supply Co., Trenton Falls Electric Light & Power Company, the Utica Electric Light & Power Company, the Equitable Gas & Electric Company of Utica, the Herkimer County Light & Power Company, the Dolgeville Electric Light & Power Company, the United Gas & Electric Companies of Little Falls, Little Falls Electric Light & Power Company and the Herkimer County Light & Power Company. Through purchase of stock the Utica Gas & Electric Company also operates the College Hill Electric Light Company of Clinton, the Progressive Electric Light Company of Franklin Springs and the Central New York Power Company of Canastota.

The hydro-electric power of the Utica Gas & Electric Company’s system is produced at three distinct plants located on as many streams. These are at Trenton Falls, on West Canada Creek; at Little Falls on the Mohawk River, and at Dolgeville on the East Canada Creek. This system of hydro-electric plants is supplemented by two large steam-electric plants in Utica, at Harbor Point and Washington Street.

Trenton Falls in Oneida County is one of the most picturesque water scenes in the United States. A generation ago its magnificence was known far and wide to tourists and adventurers, who came in many instances thousands of miles to view its charm. Indeed, at one time in its history, Trenton Falls vied with Saratoga Springs and Newport, R. I., as the leading resorts of the nation. And one does not express amazement at this fact, once he views the cascades and canyon of beautiful Trenton. Here the West Canada Creek, in a series of four waterfalls drops approximately 275 feet through the gorge to a quiet pool below.

Few people realize that this provides a higher water head than Niagara Falls, and that it is one of the highest developed power heads east of the Rocky Mountains. It is a fact that when the first hydro-electric development was made at this point in 1899-1901, the highest head east of Pike’s Peak had been obtained. Since that time, several of approximately the same head have been established in the Appalachian system.

The Utica Gas & Electric Company has attained a record of perfection in its line that distinguishes it frequently from contemporaries. This is constantly shown in its progressive policy of adopting the newest and most up-to-date facilities. This has always been the case. When the Trenton Falls project evolved itself the first hydraulic turbines designed by American eigineers and built in America were purchased. These were then the “last word” in scientific and mechanical achievement. Previously all high efficiency and high head turbines had been designed in or imported from Europe. These American built machines are still giving good service. Each of the four turbines furnishes 1,350 horsepower.

With the advent of the World war it was found necessary to greatly increase the capacity of the Trenton Falls plant due to the excessive demands of the increased industrial expansion. Three new turbines and generators of 10,750 horsepower each were added. A new plant adjoining the old one was erected at this time. These two plants now have a combined capacity of 35,400 horsepower. They represent a most attractive property in a setting of rare charm. Here Nature’s beauty is retained in almost virginal state. The scars usually made by industry are at a minimum.

At Little Falls on the Mohawk River can be seen a plant which has three units with a total capacity of 2,100 horsepower. The project at Dolgeville came into existence in 1897, the first modern hydro-electric plant in Central New York. There is a head of 72 feet at this point, known as “High Falls” on East Canada Creek. Plants at Middleville and Newport, constructed about 1900 and 1910 were of a crude type. A new modern plant was erected at Newport in 1914. After being merged with the Utica Gas & Electric Company, the Middleville property was abandoned.

These represent the hydro-electric generating plants owned by the Utica Gas & Electric Company in the Upper Mohawk Valley. It is, of course, necessary in distributing the current to have adequate sub-stations in various important sections of the great industrial territory it serves. These are located at Washington Street, Cornelia Street, and Turner Street, Utica; Whitesboro, New Hartford and Sauquoit, Holland Patent, Rome and Ilion.

To guard against exigencies which, in the course of ordinary events, would interrupt the transmission of current generated at the hydro-electric plants, two large and very modern steam-electric plants are in use in the city of Utica, at Harbor Point and at Washington Street. Should lightning interrupt the service from Trenton Falls, Newport, Little Falls, or Dolgeville, the steam-electric system is immediately placed in operation, thus practically insuring a continuous service. This also is the case in the possible event of a water shortage, although the streams upon which the hydro-electric power is generated, are adequately protected. They are assured of an abundant flow of water with large state reservoirs standing by in case of such an emergency.

While the industrial activity in the upper Mohawk Valley during the early decades of the twentieth century is well provided for in the plants and properties listed above, the Utica Gas & Electric Company has looked into the future. There are several sites open for future prospective development. It will be possible to obtain 25,000 k. w. a short distance above Trenton Falls on the West Canada Creek. It is likely, too, that when necessary, two 16,000 k. w. units will be erected in place of the four turbines and generators now producing 1,000 k. w. each in the old section of the Trenton Falls property.

At Poland on the West Canada Creek, 3,500 k. w. are available at any time. It is possible, also, to increase the production from 300 k. w. to 1,000 k. w. at Newport. These projects have been considered and are listed for development when and if necessary.

Diligent study of the possibilities provided by the various streams in the adjacent territory would show other sites for development, all of which are dependent upon future needs. Two new sites that have not been thoroughly analyzed, but which it is possible to develop have been located at Taberg on Fish Creek and at Enos on Black River. The potential power of these two sites is given at 28,000 k. w. and 3,000 k. w. respectively.

Thus Utica, and its smaller industrial neighbors, Rome, Frankfort, Ilion, Mohawk, Herkimer, Little Falls and a score of other villages are adequately provided for in the present and future. Taking its cue from the federal government, the Utica Gas & Electric Company, in conjunction with the Northern New York Utilities Company, the Adirondack Power & Light Corporation, Cohoes Power & Light Company and other important hydro-electric concerns, has constructed interlinking high tension lines which form another assurance against interrupted service. This improvement also provides for sharply increased demands upon the power lines of any of the individual companies so connected. Power is thus purchased from other companies whenever the necessity requires. This Mohawk Valley super-power system is indicative of the great importance of the Valley to the industrial life of the eastern United States. It is a good augury of what the future affords.

It is not a long time since that electrical wizard, Edison, in his research laboratory, then a humble frame shack, conceived the impossible and invented the incandescent lamp. The year 1878 saw it perfected. Four years later it was introduced for commercial uses. Today, less than 50 years distant, electricity not only lights the homes and factories of the world, but has been proven one of the most vigorous and forceful instruments for progress in the history of mankind. In 1895, the first crude and seemingly impossible motor was constructed. In 1901 one of the longest transmission lines in the world — 15 miles long — was erected between Trenton Falls and Utica.

What has happened in the march of progress since that time is largely the history of electrical development. Factories, markets, shops, stores, all date their modern success and progress from the discovery of electricity’s lighting and motive power. What is so of America and the world in this respect is equally so of the Mohawk Valley. The Utica Gas & Electric Company has indeed been a vital factor in the march of industrial progress in the Upper Mohawk Valley.