Touring the North Chuctanunda Creek

On Saturday, August 16th, 2014, John Naple led a walking tour of the North Chuctanunda Creek. The event was sponsored by the Historic Amsterdam League (HAL). The tour was approximately two miles of varied, mostly down hill terrain and started at the former Mohasco site off of Forest Avenue and ended at the former Kellog and Miller linseed oil plant on Church Street. Along the way John Naple had help with certain facts and figures from Jerry Snyder, President of HAL, Tom Pikul and Dave Brownell, with many of the tour walkers chiming in as needed.

We started out on a bridge above the Maxwell Dam, named for John Maxwell, a mill owner.

“At one time over half the city was occupied in the Mohawk Mills. Wool was washed here and the dyes discharged into the creek. I remember that from when I was a kid. It’s kind of amazing that all the wool [for the carpet mills] came here from all over the world and was processed here. We read last week that the fiberglass plant was going to close. The fiberglass plant is taking 120 jobs; this is over 5,500 jobs, so it’s a different magnitude. William Green started the mills in 1836, and the Sanford’s became partners with him later,” Naple said.

Naple went on to say that in 1980 David Kohl became the CEO of Mohasco and moved operations to Calhoun, Ga. to be near the carpet capitol of the world, Dalton, Ga. In 1988 he took the carpet division private with a $120,000,000 leveraged buyout. Now, the company has become Mohawk Industries Incorporated.

We walked down a rough road, with exposed paving bricks under broken asphalt, to visit the old Mohasco steam plant situated just behind the old factory. Down into a ravine, the imposing four story brick building was framed by green trees surrounding it. The windows were busted out, giving us views of machinery inside the structure.

John Naple said “First of all, I’m not going to take you in there, and I’m not going to tell you I’ve never been inside there.”

Jerry Snyder said that the company built the plant around 1900 and that it had two smokestacks that could be seen for miles in any direction. The last of them was torn down about ten years ago.

I asked Tom Pikul, an Amsterdam native who lives part time in France, what appealed to him about the Chuctanunda Creek tour.

“I was born and raised next to it, played in it, fell in it. Still fishing in it today. There are bass and trout in it. For me, the Chuctanunda is tied up in my childhood. The past is the key to the future,” said Pikul.

Next we walked through the brush until we came to an outlet near Mohawk Dairy.

I talked to one of the tour participants, Lori Pisarczyk, about what drew her to the tour, and she said “The historical aspect and the community aspect.”

She said that she had lived in Amsterdam for about 18 years and that she worked at Grand Union on Division St. and the Mall. I asked her if she had come out on a beautiful day just to walk through brush and debris for the historical aspect.

“Yes. This is my old stomping grounds…I lived on upper Brookside, and I used to walk this area over and over. Some areas were forbidden as a kid, such as the reservoir and Mohasco, so to get my nose in these places is ‘bucket list’.”

We walked from Forest Ave. to an outlet near the 2nd Avenue bridge, then on down the trail past the Stewart Dam to a storefront along 4th Avenue, which Tom Pikul informed us was the original Bottisti’s restaurant and is now scheduled for demolition.

The next stop was the 4th Avenue bridge, where you can see through the chain link fence the remains of the Amsterdam Chuctanunda Northern Railroad spur, trestle and rail.

We finished our walk behind the Sleazak Oil building on Church St., the former home of the Kellog & Miller Linseed oil factory started by James Miller and Warren Kellog in 1853.

At the end of the tour, Naple said he hoped someday the city would establish a green-way along the Chuctanunda creek area.

Jerry Snyder commented on the importance of the Chuctanunda:

“Orignally, we were looking to combine the Chuctanunda tour with the Rockton tour because the Chuctanunda is such a major part of the Rockton area. But, the Chuctanunda is the reason Amsterdam is where it is. Without the Chuctanunda, the mills wouldn’t be here. Without the mills, Amsterdam wouldn’t be here. The Chuctanunda is a key part of Amsterdam’s history. This is an area that most people see but don’t really look at it. [This tour] gave people the chance to see the area, up close and personal.”

To learn more about the Chuctanunda creek, you can download the tour guide titled Touring the North Chuctanunda Creek from the Visit Montgomery County NY website.

Jay Towne

Jay Towne is a resident of Amsterdam, has published six books and is the writer and director of a radio drama, Any Good Thing, that currently airs on WOPG.