What’s in a name?

Sacandaga has been mentioned as ‘Land of the Waving Grass’ other interpretations of the Iroquois origin is “drowned water” probably referring to the marshland of the Vly or “drowned land“ referring to the flooding in the spring.

Pronunciation of the word has varied throughout time most local people pronounce it Sac-can- dog-a (short “a” on the end). Many out of state people pronounce it sac-can-dag-a (dag with a long “a“).

It’s even been pronounced Scare-en-daga. This pronunciation was recently heard at Adirondack Museum as an out of the area visitor looked at an interactive map. There’s no way of knowing which pronunciation is correct but since there is no ’r’ in Sacandaga the latter probably isn’t. Spellings have been Sacandago, Sacondaga, and Sackandaga.

Sacandaga Park’s name was changed to simply “Sacandaga” in February of 1913 when the owners of the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad (F.J.& G.) got together a petition and sent it to the First Assistant Post Master General to change it. The F.J.& G. owners felt the name of “Sacandaga Park” didn’t convey in vacationers minds a visit to the area in the way of longevity. That the word “park” implied a small area with limited activities and grounds; more of a day trip to picnic.

The Sacandaga River became the Sacandaga Reservoir after the valley was flooded in 1930. There were thirty names submitted to rename the reservoir one being “Lake Sargent” in honor of the man who designed the plans for the reservoir.

This particular name drew resistance from area people as they believed the word Sacandaga needed to stay within the name. The idea for a ballot was conceived with two names “Lake Sacandaga” and “Lake Sargent” where offered as a choice. When the votes came in there were 3500 ballots for Lake Sacandaga and far less for Lake Sargent. In 1973 the reservoir was renamed the Great Sacandaga Lake, as there was already a body of water further north named Sacandaga Lake.

Other early names areas around the lake have had names changes and pronunciations differ:

Fish House was officially named Northampton but since it’s beginnings was always known as Fish House which got it’s name from the fishing lodge built there by Sir William Johnson in the 1700’s. The name was officially changed to Fish House in early March of 1961 by the New York State Committee on Geographical Names after residents banded together in the request.

Northampton was (and still is) also the name of the town area which includes the village Northville and outlying areas.

The town of Day was originally known as Concord but the name was changed in honor of Elphias Day. Day was a prominent lumberman and first supervisor.

Broadalbin was known as Upper Bush or Fonda’s Bush in it’s early history. The area was settled by Scottish immigrants in 1770. That name too has been pronounced Broad-all-bean and Broad-doll-bin.

On a copy of a 1905 map of Vail Mills is spelled Vails Mills. References and roadside signs note this area as Vail Mills. Originally it was known as “Lower Bush” The settlement of this area had grist and saw mills’ that were built in 1804 by William Vail.

Mayfield was named Philadelphia Bush as settlers from that city came there later. Sir William referred to it as “Scotch Settlement” trying to lure the hard working European settlers there. Once a year in celebration the name Bannertown is adopted due to all the banners that would line the streets in days gone by. Mayfield’s name in origin means “from the warriors field”.

Just outside Mayfield was a settlement called Riceville. It’s naming had nothing to do with the grain. It was settled by Oliver Rice and his homestead serves as the Mayfield Museum. Other Mayfield area settlements such as Red Bunch Corners were named for a type of hay that grew there. Cranberry Creek was named for the wild cranberry bog that emptied into the Tamarack swamp.

Edinburg has been misspelled Edinburgh. The “h” was dropped early in history but no exact date was found in references. It has also been pronounced Eden-burg

Conklingville and Conklinville are accepted spellings either way, as is Tenantville or Tennantville.

Northville has been referred to as Northview and Northfield (the latter actually was going to be Edinburgs name at one time). Northville was originally known as “Old Ford” probably coming from the easiest place on that side of the Sacandaga River to cross. It’s present name comes from being the furthest village north in Fulton County.

In a settlement just north of Northville was known as Johnny Cake Hollow. The hollow was part of the larger settlement of Gifford’s Valley named for the many family members of that last name that settled there. The origin of the name Johnny Cake , possibly from ‘journey cake’ as a bread easily prepared by travelers, or as a corruption of ‘Shawnee cake’.

Another road outside of Northville leads to a place called Hardscrabble. By definition it means “earning a bare subsistence“. In it’s early years it had a school and was quite a settlement.

Whether a river or a lake, village, town, or settlement. Incorrectly pronounced, spelled, or changed by unanimous decisions. All of these places (and others that may not have been mentioned) have one thing in common. They all formed the first history in our area.

by Lorraine Frasier