Saratoga Springs

The mineral springs of Saratoga, New York, were first thought to have healing and restorative powers by the Indians. Their reputation spread by word of mouth, and in 1783 the first published article about the Springs appeared. The naturally carbonated water, green in color and at a stable 55 degrees, was presumed to cure various skin diseases as well as kidney and liver ailments. In 1791, Abigail Alsop of Hartford, Connecticut, traveled with a party of young men and women to the Springs, more out of curiosity than in need of treatment. She kept a journal on the trip that was later published. It is interesting that the party consisted of young men and women going off on their own. Abigail included many details about her companions and the journey, as well as a description of the Springs.

From Hartford, where I resided … our party of eight proceeded westward, and some idea of the fashions may be formed from the dress of one of the ladies, who wore a black beaver with a sugar-loaf crown eight or nine inches high, called a steeple crown, wound round with black and red tassels. … Habits having gone out of fashion, the dress was of London smoke broadcloth, buttoned down in front, and at the side with twenty-four gilt buttons. … Large waists and stays were in fashion, and the shoes were extremely sharp-toed and high-held, ornamented with large paste buckles on the instep. At the tavern where we spent the first night, we ladies were obliged to surround ourselves with a barrier of bean-leaves to keep off the bugs which infested the place; but this afforded only temporary benefit, as the vermin soon crept to the ceiling and fell upon us from above.

After stopping at Hudson, New York, Abigail’s party traveled on to Saratoga, “the efficacy of the water being much celebrated, as well as the curious round and hollow rock from which it flowed.”

The country we had to pass over, after leaving the Hudson (River), was very uninviting, and almost uninhabited. The road lay though a forest, and was formed of logs. … On reaching the Springs at Saratoga, we found but three habitations, and those but poor log-houses on the high bank of the meadow. … on the ridge near the Round Rock. This was the only Spring then visited. The log-cabins were almost full of strangers, among whom were several ladies and gentlemen from Albany. … We found the Round Rock at that time entire; the large tree, which two or three years after fell and cracked a fissure in it, being then standing near, and the water, which occasionally overflowed and increased the rock by its deposits, keeping the general level five or six inches below the top. The neighborhood of the Spring, like all the country we had seen for many miles, was a perfect forest. … We arrived on Saturday, and left there on Monday morning. …

The above passages appear in The Saratoga Reader: Writing About an American Village, 1749-1900, by Field Horne, Saratoga Springs: Kiskatom Publishing, 2004, pages 22-23. The illustration High Rock Spring, which appeared in the Columbian Magazine, March 1788, is on page 10 of Field Horne’s book.

posted July 9th, 2012 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Fashion, Health, Medicine, New York, Saratoga, Travel

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