ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Have you ever wondered how a city or town got its name? Why is Albany called Albany? Or where did the name Rensselaer come from?
Here are the name origins of some cities, towns, villages, and counties throughout the Capital Region.
According to Discover Albany, Albany was named after the Duke of York’s Scottish title, “Duke of Albany” in 1664 when the English took control of the area. Before being named Albany, the settlement was called Beverwyck (“beaver district”) after the animal created a fur trade for the Dutch.
The area that is now Schenectady was originally the land of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois Nation, said the City of Schenectady website. When Dutch settlers arrived in the Hudson Valley in the 17th century, the Mohawk called the settlement at Fort Orange “Schau-naugh-ta-da,” meaning “over the pine plains.” Eventually, Dutch settlers started using the word, but the meaning was reversed, and the name referred to the bend in the Mohawk River where the city is today.
According to U.S.History.com, the area that was to become Troy was first settled by the Vanderheyden family, who decided around the time of the American Revolution to subdivide their farms to create a town. The town was formed in 1786, but in 1789 the residents chose to rename it Troy, after the ancient city located in present-day Turkey.
Rensselaer and Rensselaer County were named after Kilean Van Rensselaer, according to the Rensselaer County website. In 1629, Van Rensselaer established the feudal manor of Rensselaerwyck. The portion in Rensselaer County was 24 miles long and ran along the Hudson River to include what is now known as Schodack, Nassau, North and East Greenbush, Sand Lake, Grafton, Brunswick, Petersburg, Berlin, Stephentown, Pittstown, Troy, and Rensselaer.
After the War for Independence, New Englanders began to migrate and settle in the area, which was founded in 1791 and named after Van Rennselaer.
According to CityTownInfo.com, Cohoes derives its name from a Mohawk expression meaning “Place of the Falling Canoe,” in reference to the Cohoes waterfall. Cohoes was incorporated as a village in 1848, and reincorporated as a city in 1869.
The name Niskayuna is derived from the Connestigione Indians who occupied the area when the Dutch arrived around 1642. According to the Town of Niskayuna website, the name, meaning “extensive corn flats,” evolved from the original “Canastagione.”
The area springs attracted settlers to the region in the early 1800s. Mineral water, for drinking and bathing, caused the explosive development of the city, said the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center website. The springs are the only naturally carbonated mineral springs east of the Rocky Mountains.
Before being named Saratoga Springs, the area was known as Serachtague, “place of swift water,” to the Mohawks and other Native Americans and was sacred to them. They believed the water had been stirred by the God Manitou, endowing it with healing properties.
According to the Village of Ballston Spa website, the area had been named “Ball’s Town” or “Ballston” after the Rev. Eliphalet Ball. A Presbyterian minister of Bedford, Ball was contracted to find buyers for the portion of the Kayaderosseras Patent that had been set aside to pay administrative and surveying costs. The commissioners referred to the area Ball was commissioned to liquidate as “Ball’s.”
“Spa” was added because the area was one of the premier watering places in the country with its hot and cold mineral baths. The name was incorporated by the state legislature on March 21, 1807. Before that, it was called “Ballston Springs,” “Bath,” “Spa” (sometimes written, “Spaw”), or “Town of Spa or Bath.”
The town has been called Clifton Park since a land patent by that name was created in 1708 by Queen Anne of England. Native People referred to this patent as Shenendehowa (a grassy plain).
According to the New York Almanack website, Clifton, meaning place on a cliff, takes its name from the cliffs along the Mohawk River near Rexford. During the first year, the town was only referred to as Clifton. By 1829, it became Clifton Park to differentiate itself from other places in New York already known as Clifton.
According to the City of Amsterdam website, Amsterdam is named after the capital of the Netherlands to honor its early Dutch settlers. The name was officially chosen in 1804.
In 1760, William Johnson, a trader, moved to New York to establish a settlement on a large portion of undeveloped land. According to the City of Johnstown website, he named the new settlement, originally called John’s Town, after his son John.
In 1852, Gloversville was a small village called Stump City. When it became an incorporated village in 1853, the name was changed to Gloversville due to the glove trade being established there, said the City of Gloversville website.
The name “Schoharie” is derived from the native word To-Was-Scho-Hor, meaning “driftwood”, a reference to the large driftwood piles that would accumulate in the Schoharie Creek, said the Village of Schoharie website.
Glens Falls was originally called “Chepontuc”, a Mohawk word meaning “hard place to get around.” The area had a waterfall at the time that blocked the Hudson River. In 1763, Abraham Wing formed a settlement called “Wing’s Falls” but later lost the name of the town to Colonel Johannes Glen to settle a debt. According to GlensFalls.com, Glen changed the name to Glen’s Falls, and the apostrophe was eventually dropped.
According to the Town of Lake George website, Lake George was formerly called “Caldwell,” named after James Caldwell. The lake itself was originally called “Andia-ta-roc-te” by the Native Americans and was later named “Lac du St. Sacrement.” The lake was finally named Lake George by Sir William Johnson in 1755 for his King, George II of England. The area was renamed Lake George in 1962.
According to the Town of Coxsackie website, the name is derived from a Native American term that has had over 60 different spellings including Koxhacking, Koixhacking, and Koxsackie. There are also multiple translations such as “Hoot of the Owl,” “Place of Owls,” and “Migrating Geese.”