The County Seat Ballston Spa, New York
From: Centennial History of the village of Ballston Apa
Including the towns of Ballston and Milton
By: Edward G. Grose
A Souvenir of the Centennial Celebration held June 22-25, 1907
Published by The Ballston Journal 1907

The County Seat

ON the seventh day of February, 1791, Saratoga County was set off from Albany County by an Act of the Legislature, which enacted that the county "shall be one separate and distinct county, and be called and known by the name of Saratoga."

Governor Clinton immediately appointed officials for the new county, as follows:
John Thompson of Stiliwater, first judge; James Gordon and Beriah Palmer of Ballston, Jacobus Van Schoonhoven of Halfmoon, and Sidney Berry of Saratoga, judges; Jacob Fort, Jr., of Halfmoon, sheriff; Dirck Swart of Stillwater, clerk; Sidney Berry of Saratoga, surrogate; Guert Van Schoonhoven of Halfmoon, treasurer.

Two years later, in 1794, a commission was appointed to locate the county seat, and to build a court-house and jail. Baliston Villag; later known as Academy Hill, contested with a thriving settlement which had grown up around the Presbyterian church in the locality now known as Milton Hill, for the location of the county capital. While the claims of these two rivals were being strongly pressed, Edward A. Watrous, who lived on the hill on the "middle line," offered to give the county a site on his farm, to be public property so long as occupied by the court house and jail. The offer was accepted by the commission, and Baliston became the shire town, and Court House Hill the county seat.

The first court in the county was a session of the Court of Common Pleas held May 10, 1791, at the residence of Samuel Clark, on the "east line road," in the present town of Malta. From this time until the completion of the Court House in 1796, the courts were held in the "red meeting house" in Baliston. The May term, 1796, of the Common Pleas and Court of Sessions was the first court held in the new court house.

The court house and jail was burned during the night of March 23, 1816. The Independent American, published in Ballston Spa, gave the following account of the fire:

"On Sunday morning last at one o'clock a fire broke out in the northwest corner of the court house in the town of Ballston, which had so progressed before it was discovered that all attempts at quelling it proved abortive. The air was very still, otherwise the contiguous buildings must have shared the same fate. One of the prisoners, named George Billings, who was chained to the floor, was unfortunately consumed. Four prisoners, Shearer, Davis, (colored), Cole and Drapoo, made their escape. Two of them have since been retaken, to wit: Shearer and Davis. A court of enquiry was instituted in this village, and from their examination on the subject of the fire did not hestitate to give it as their opinion that the fire was communicated to the building by one or more of the prisoners."

At this time, through the development of the mineral springs, Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs had become the chief centers of population in the county. Each village now put forth its claims for the location of the county seat within their respective limits. The question was again determined by an offer of land. Mr. Nicholas Low, of Ballston Spa, offered as a free gift to the county the land on which the court house and county clerk's office now stand. The offer was accepted, and Ballston Spa became the county seat. This resulted not only in making this village the official center of the county, but the political center also.

The new court house and jail, erected in 1819, was a handsome brick building, and enlarged and improved in later years, was occupied until 1889, when it was demolished and the present court house and jail, and jailor's residence took its place. This building was greatly enlarged and improved in 1904.

From the erection of the county in 1791 until the year 1824, the records of the county were kept at the homes of the various county clerks. In this year the old county clerk's office was built on Front street. It was a stone building, and its builders believed it to be large enough to accommodate the county records for all time. They were mistaken, however, and in 1866 the clerk's office on High street was built. This building was enlarged in 1904 to more than double its former size.


The following residents of the village have been honored with public office since the year 1801:

Presidential Elector - George L. Thompson. 1884; voted for Grover Cleveland.

Representatives in Congrecs-John W. Taylor, 1813 to 1833; Anosn Brown, 1839; George West, 1881 to 1885, 1887.

State Treasurer-James M. Cook, 1852.

State Comptroller-James M. Cook, 1854.

Superintendent Banking Department-James M. Cook, 1856 to 1862.

Canal Commissioner-George W. Chapman, 1870.

Superintendent Public Instruction-Neil Gilmour, 1874 to

Delegate to Constitutional Convention-James M. Cook, 1846.

State Senators-John W. Taylor, 1841; James M. Cook, 1848 to 1851; George G. Scott. 1858; Isaiah Blood, 1860; Harvey J. Donaldson, 1890 to 1895.

Members of Assembly-James Merrill, 1801; Gideon Goodrich, 1803, 1807; Joel Lee, 1810, 1836; John W. Taylor, 1812-13; Alpheus Goodrich, 1828; Isaiah Blood, 1852; George G. Scott, 1856; George W. Chapman, 1865; George West, 1872-3-4-5-6, Benjamin F. Baker, 1880-1-2; John H. Burke, 1887; Harvey J. Donaldson, 1888-9; George H. West, 1899, 1900.

Judge Common Pleas-Samuel Cook, x8zo; George G. Scott, 1838.

Masters in Chancery-Thomas Palmer, 1808, 1823; Callender Beecher. 1843.

Examiners in Chancery-Samuel Cook, 1823.

County Judge-Jesse S. L'Amoreaux, 1883.

Justices of Sessions-David Maxwell, 1850, 1851, 1859, 1861, 1863, 1868; Augustus E. Brown, 1856-7; William Warner, 1867; John Brown, 1876.

Sheriffs-John Dunning, 1823, 1829; Lyman B. Langworthy, 1826; Joseph Jennings, 1835; Samuel Freeman, 1838; Philip H. McOmber, 1856; George B. Powell, 1859; Frank Jones, 1895.

Surrogates-Thomas Palmer, 1812, 1815; John W. Thompson, 1834 to 1847.

County Clerks-Levi H. Palmer, 1813; William Stillwell, 1815; Thomas Palmer, 1818 to 1833; Alpheus Goodrich, 1833 to 1840; Horace Goodtich, 1843; James W. Horton, 1846 to 1885; Seth Whalen, 1885 to 1887; James L. Scott, 1887; Edward F. Grose, 1888 to 1902; George H. West, 1902 to 1907.

Deputy County Clerks-J. Oakley Nodyne, M. Lemet Williams, John B. McLean. Joseph E. Westcot, John F. Hennessey.

County Treasurers-Archy Kasson, 1810 to 1815; Azariah W. Odell, 1815 to 1822; Edward A. Watrous, 1822 to 1831; George Thompson, 1831 to 1844; Arnold Harris, 1844 to 1847; Edward W. Lee, 1847 to 1849; Arnold Harris, 1849 to 1854; Orville D. Vaughn, 1855 to 1861; Henry A. Mann, 1861 to 1876; Stephen C. Medbery, 1879 to 1898.

District Attorneys-William T. Odell, 1851 to 1857; John Person, 1893-4-5; James A. Burnham, 1895 to 1899; Horace E. McKnight, 1904 to 1907.

Coroners-Hezekiah Middlebrook, 1806; Lyman B. Langworthy, 1817-18-19-20; Chester Clapp, 1821-2; Reuben Westcot, 1823; Henry White, 1844; James H. Lockwood, 1847-50; Nathaniel J. Seely. 1853-6-9; James F. Doolittle, 1859; Charles H. Andrus, 1860; John Barrett, 1863; David F. White, 1866, 1872; Benjamin W. Noxon, 1875; Walton W. French, 1881: Eben S. Lawrence, 1884.

Superintendents of Poor-Alpheus Goodrich,1827; Moses Williams. 1828; Lebbeus Booth, William Hawkins. 1835 to 1842; William Hawkins, John Wait, Edward W. Lee, 1842-3; Lebbeus Booth, Abraham Middlebrook, James H. Speir, 1844-5-6; John Kelly, John Wait, William W. Arnold, 1847; Abraham Middlebrook, 1848 to 1857.

Commissioners of Loans-John W. Taylor, 1808 to 1829; George G. Scott, 1843 to 1850; Lebbeus Booth, 1840 to 1843 Albert A. Moor, to 1861; James L. Scott, 1883 to 1886; Seymour Rowley, 1895 to 1897.

School Commissioners-Charles D. Seely, 1858 to 1861; Seymour Chase, 1861 to 1864; Neil Gilmour, 1867 to 1870, 1873-4; Henry L. Grose, 18745; Nelson L. Roe. 1876 to 1879.

Supervisors-Ballston: William H. Wendell, 1852; Abel Meeker, 1853-4; John Wait, 1858-9; George G. Scott, 1860 to 1881; George L. ThompS0fl, 1891: Douw F. Winney, 1894-5-6-7. Milton; Thomas Palmer, 1822 to 1833; James M. Cook, 1838, 1844, 1845; Abraham Middlebrook, 1839; Sylvester Blood, 1840-41 Isaiah Blood, 1847, 1859, 1869; Daniel W. Culver, 1848, 1852, 1856; John Tallmaga, 1849; George W. Ingalls, 1853, 1857, 1861; John W. Thompson, 1854; William T. Odell, 1858, 1860; George W. Chapman, 1862; Cornwell M. Noxon, 1863; Edwin H. Chapman, 1864-5; Hiro Jones, 1866-7-8, 1871; John Wait, 1890; John McLean, 1873; George West, Jr., 1874-5; George L. Thompson, 1876-7-8-9, 1881-2-3-4; Abijah Comstock, 1885-8-9 Martin Lee, 1886; John Richards, 1887; William W. Sweet, 1890; Eben S. Lawrence, 1891; Frank J. Sherman, 1892; Samuel Thompson, 1893; Frederick H. Beach, 1894-5-6-7; Thomas Finley, 1898 to 1907.

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