Peter Kalm, Explorer,
Botanist, and Naturalist
Travels in North America
1748 to 1751
Kalm, provided the first written description of Niagara Falls by a scientist.
Peter Kalm, the great Swedish naturalist and traveler, came up through here in the summer of
1749, on his way to Canada. He has left behind a very interesting record of his travels and
observations in America.
On the 22d of June, 1749, he started for the north, from Albany, in a white pine dugout, or
canoe, accompanied by two guides. They lodged the first night in the vicinity of the falls at
Cohoes. On their way up the river, the next day, they had great trouble in getting over the
rapids. The greater part of both sides of the stream was densely wooded, though here and
there was to be seen a clearing, devoted to meadow and the growing of maize.
He says: "The farms are commonly built close to the river-side, sometimes on the hills. Each
house has a little kitchen garden, and a still lesser orchard. Some farms, however, had large
gardens. The kitchen gardens afford several kinds of gourds, [squash] watermelons and
kidney beans. The orchards are full of apple trees. This year the trees had few or no apples,
on account of the frosts in May, and the drought which had continued throughout the summer.
He tells of seeing quantities of sturgeon toward evening, leaping high out of the water, and
how he saw many white men and Indians fishing for them, at night, with pine-knot torches and
spears. Many of them, which they could not secure, afterward died of their wounds, lodged
on the shore, and filled the air with their stench.
"June 23d. This night we lodged with a farmer, who had returned to his farm after the war
was over. [This must have been in the vicinity of Stillwater.] All his buildings, except the great
barn, were burnt. It was the last in the Province of New York, toward Canada, which had
been left standing and which was now inhabited. Further on we met still with inhabitants; but
they had no houses, and lived in huts of boards, the houses being burnt during the war."
That night, the 24th of June, he accepted the hospitality of a settler at Saratoga and lodged in
one of those huts. We have elsewhere given his version of the French attack on Fort Clinton.
The morning of the 25th, he resumed his journey northward. They had a hard struggle getting
up the rapids, below the State dam, at Northumberland, and were obliged to abandon the
boat entirely at Fort Miller. He described the road to Fort Nicholson (Fort Edward) as so
overgrown that it was reduced to a mere path; while the site of Fort Nicholson was a thicket,
well-nigh impenetrable. The mosquitoes, punkies, and wood-lice, made life miserable for
them on their way to the head of Champlain, at Whitehall.
The fact that there was a sawmill on the north side of Fish creek, and that a blockhouse fort
had been erected here as early as 1755, would indicate that there were a goodly number of
families living hereabouts at the beginning of the French and Indian war.
Brandow, John Henry. The story of old Saratoga and history of Schuylerville
Albany, N.Y. : Brandow Print. Co..
He wrote in his journal how the people of Saratoga were living after the 1745 raid and
observed that many were living in pits and board huts because proper dwellings had not yet
been built. Farms above present day Mechanicville were burned.
His travels brought him right past Hudson Crossing Park. Among his findings he documented
numerous muskrats, Potchulaka growing like weeds, orchards and various trees.
He questioned if the red and white clover was always here or imported. Locals said it was
always here. Native Americans he met indicated that the clover was imported.
Red & White Clover
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