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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 129: Frankfort.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1818-1822 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Barge Canal land cut — Historical, 1723-1925 — Frankfort match industry — Frankfort's industries and industrial opportunities — Frankfort Gulph — Dutch Hill, 680 feet above the Mohawk.

Frankfort was incorporated as a village in 1863. Frankfort is situated nine and one-half miles east of Utica, on the Mohawk River, the Barge Canal and the West Shore and the New York Central Railroads. Interurban trolleys connect with Ilion, Little Falls and Utica. The principal industries are the manufacture of hoes and forks, chucks, castings and road building machinery. A considerable number of local workmen are employed in the factories of Ilion. The village is a shipping point for hay, straw and dairy products. Frankfort has a sewer system, electric lighting service and municipal water works. In 1912 Frankfort had eight factories, with 473 operatives. The New York Central station here is North Frankfort and is connected with Frankfort by bridge.

Barge Canal Land Cut

There is a Barge Canal retaining dam at Frankfort, to the west of which the canal generally follows a land line westward to Rome, twenty-five miles. A Barge Canal terminal dock is at Frankfort. The Mohawk River, west of Frankfort follows its original serpentine course through the Upper Mohawk Valley flats. The land cut pursues a straight course on the northern side of the river.

Frankfort lies on the broad river flats, here over a mile wide, which penetrate the lower valley of Moyer Creek, which enters the Mohawk River on the west side of the town. Frankfort is the western village of the four-town community of Herkimer-Mohawk-Ilion-Frankfort (1920 population, 27,739), and of the south side tri-village community of Mohawk-Ilion-Frankfort (1920 population, 17,286).

Frankfort's situation gives it unusual availability as a site for manufacturing, on account of the large amount of open flatland here close to the Valley main transportation routes.

Moyer Creek and Frankfort Gulph

Moyer Creek here enters the river. It rises seven miles airline distance west from its outlet, at the foot of Frankfort Hill (1,379 feet). Three miles southwest, the Gulph Hill rises to 1,500 feet. Two miles east Dutch Hill rises to 1,060 feet elevation. Moyer Creek follows a deep ravine, south of Frankfort, known as the Gulph. The Gulph begins about two miles southwest of Frankfort and extends three miles to Gulph. It is a picturesque ravine similar to Ilion Gulph, only not so deep, and a road follows the creek through its entire distance. At their highest point, its bordering cliffs rise to a height of 400 feet above the creek. Moyer Creek's headwaters rise within a half mile of the source of the Unadilla (Cedar Lake Creek) at Dayville, seven miles airline distance southwest of Frankfort. This is the most northerly headwater source of the Susquehanna and the closest to the Mohawk.

Frankfort shale and sandstone are here exposed in Frankfort Gulph.

On the north river shore Oak Hill rises above North Frankfort to a sea elevation of 963 feet, and 580 feet above the Mohawk.

Frankfort, Historical, 1723-1922

Frankfort Township contains a considerable portion of Cosby's Manor patent, 1 1/4 of a tier of great lots in Bayard's patent, 1 1/2 lots in Frank's patent, 4 1/2 lots in Staley's patent, part of Colden's patent and four lots (covering part of Frankfort Village) in the Burnetsfield patent of 1725.

[Photo: Folts Homestead, 1796]

The Folts homestead, at East Frankfort, was built by Major Warner Folts in 1796 on Lot No. 3 of the Burnetsfield patent, which was granted in 1723 to Melchor Folts, the founder of the Folts family in America. He came to this state in 1710 and was the first to settle in the town of Frankfort. Melchor Folts was one of the volunteers in the Montreal expedition (1711) and the names of his two sons are inscribed on the monument at Oriskany and the family has been fully identified with every struggle for liberty and independence. The house has suffered some changes, although the hand-hewn beams still support its floors and the large corner posts are exposed to view in every room. The original corner cupboard is in the parlor and the quaint fan-light over the door is firmly held by the old hand-made casing. The house has been continuously occupied by the family. Two generations have celebrated their golden wedding neath its roof and, at present, three generations are occupying it.

The town had a number of German settlers prior to the Revolution. In the early pioneer days mills were built on small creeks on Frankfort's eastern limits, which were burned by the savage French-Indian raiders of 1757 in the great French war (see Herkimer).

One of the early settlers was Laurence Frank, from whose fortified house, "Frank's Fort", the village and township take their names.

In 1764 a settlement of Germans was started by Peter Hasenclever (at present East Schuyler), a mile west of the North Frankfort Central station. About thirty log houses and a blockhouse were here erected and the place called New Peterboro. It was the most western hamlet on the Mohawk at the beginning of the Revolution, during the early years of which it was abandoned until its close. The township opposite Frankfort is called Schuyler, in honor of the Revolutionary American Major-General Schuyler, who held large properties in it. The hamlet of Schuyler lies about a mile west of East Schuyler.

The Frankfort section, like all the German Flats settlements, was ravaged and utterly destroyed during the Revolution, following which there was a considerable influx of New England settlers here as throughout all of Herkimer County and the Upper Mohawk Valley.

[Photo: South Shore Mohawk Turnpike Through Frankfort]

The village developed along the old military road to Old Fort Schuyler and Fort Stanwix, now the (south shore) Mohawk turnpike, which forms the main street of Frankfort as it does of the entire Frankfort-Ilion-Mohawk village (1925) community. Along this south shore turnpike it is (1925) but six and one-half miles from the western limits of the village of Frankfort to the eastern boundaries of the city of Utica.

In 1794 John Hollister built a sawmill on Moyer Creek. John Myers opened a tavern 1 1/2 miles west) in 1795. Frankfort Township of Herkimer County was created in 1796. In 1807 Joseph Ingham of Schuyler and Joseph Collins here started the woolen mill, which used its original primitive machinery until 1865. In 1807 there were seven houses in present Frankfort. In 1809 a grist mill was built. In 1810 Jacob Wever here opened a tavern, and in 1811 a tannery was built. In 1814 Matthew and Michael Myers opened the first store. Shortly thereafter an ashery, a furnace and a cowbell factory began operations here. The building of the Erie Canal (1817-1825) and the construction of the Utica & Schenectady Railroad (now the New York Central) in 1836 boomed the little village.

Frankfort Match Industry, 1844

The modern American match is said to have been developed at Frankfort. In 1844 William A. Gates here built a twelve-foot square frame factory in which he began the manufacture of matches (the first practical match having been made in England in 1827). Mr. Gates made his first matches by cutting, by hand with a plane, a strip of wood about three feet long. These strips were then cut in pieces twice the length of the matches to be made and dipped both ends into melted sulphur. After drying in frames they were cut in the middle, put into hand-made boxes and were peddled about the country, at a price ten times as high as at present. The Gates factory also made the block matches which were split in blocks but not wholly separated and were sulphur dipped, a block at a time.

Mr. Gates was a pioneer in the invention and construction of modern match making machinery. His invention of a match and matchbox making machine was perfected and constructed at the Remington Ilion works, and is said to have been the first of its kind. The industry was later absorbed by consolidation and the factory here was discontinued.

In 1854 a canal dry dock was built at McGowansville or East Frankfort, midway between Frankfort and Ilion. In 1855 the village had a population of 1,150, when Ilion had 812, and the Herkimer-Mohawk-Ilion-Frankfort village community a population of 4,688.

May 4, 1863, Frankfort was incorporated as a village. In 1872 the south side street railroad was completed from Herkimer to Frankfort.

The building of the West Shore Railroad boomed the town, during its construction period from 1879 to 1883. The road here located its railroad shops and foundry in 1883, following the presentation of land by Frankfort citizens, to the value of $75,000. This industry was later (about 1895) removed to Depew. The electric road from Utica to Little Falls was completed in 1902.

Frankfort has (1924) a considerable Italian colony.

The ten-mile run over the turnpike westward from Frankfort to Utica is through an attractive farming and dairying country.

Dutch Hill, 680 Feet Above Mohawk

Rising from the western limits of Frankfort is Dutch Hill, a small true mountain, rising steeply from the turnpike to a sea level elevation of 1,060 feet, 680 feet above the Mohawk. This is the most westerly of the high hills close to the river on the south shore. Frankfort Hill lies directly south of it.

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