Clinton’s Big Ditch and the Rexfords and Knowltons

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Clinton’s Big Ditch and the Rexfords and Knowltons

Erie Canal. Rexford and Knowltons Historic Marker

How much do you know about the Erie Canal? Did you realize that it went right through Rexford and Clifton Park along the Mohawk River? When it was completed in 1825, the canal was considered one of the wonders of the new world and was a sense of intense pride to New York and the nation. The Erie Canal was more than twice as long as any canal in Europe and boasted heroic feats of engineering including dramatic aqueducts like the one built at Rexford.

According to Doris Schaus of the Rexford family, at the time of the planning, Edward Rexford was an acquaintance of Governor Dewitt Clinton and helped, through his political connections, to encourage stopovers and other amenities at his village of Rexford Flats along the canal.

There is no doubt about the amazing influence that the canal had on the lives along its route including the community of Rexford Flats and the Town of Clifton Park. The Rexford family was instrumental in helping to shape the economy, culture, character, and identity of what became our community.

The Rexford House still stands as a monument to our heritage on the southwest corner of Rt. 146 and Riverview Road today. The Knowltons, a family who owned the land where the present-day Edison Club is located, were intermarried with the Rexfords, and together they were buried in a family plot on Riverview Road. Eventually, many of the tombstones were moved to Vale Cemetery in Schenectady.

A new historic marker will be erected in June 2016 at what was the site of the Rexford Flats Cemetery across the road from the Edison Club. At a town board meeting, descendants of these two families, Barbara Scott from Chicago and Jackie Crucien from Pennsylvania, will be gifting the sign to the Town of Clifton Park as a memorial to honor the importance of their families in helping to shape our community of today.

So as you drive by the new marker, be sure to take a look and remember the significance of the Erie Canal and the families of our past in shaping our lives of today.

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This article was authored by Isabel Barrett Prescott who lives and works on the Mohawk Towpath Byway.

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