The Town of Greenfield Historian's office is located in the Town Hall in Greenfield Center, NY and is open on Wednesdays from nine until noon. Visitors are always welcome. Ron Feulner is the current historian and Joyce Woodard, the current deputy historian. They along with a team of volunteers are working to organize and digitize an extensive collection of photos, early vital records, and newspaper clippings. If you are doing research, have items that you wish to donate to our collection (especially family histories and photos), would like to volunteer, or are just interested in local history, please contact us or drop in on Wednesdays.
Glass Factory Historical Marker
The story of Mount Pleasant Glass Factory began in the early 1800s with the business of bottling naturally carbonated water in Saratoga Springs N.Y. As this industry grew, the need for glass bottles also grew. A glass blower, Oscar Granger, was one of the sources for these bottles. Granger operated a glass factory in Mount Vernon, in central N.Y., but as demand at the bottling plants in Saratoga grew, his raw materials and furnace wood were nearing depletion, and he began looking for a new site for his factory.
He chose a wilderness site above Lake Desolation and began the task of moving his operation there. By 1842 (based on the Ormsbee Diary written at the time) Granger had the factory up and running and was building housing for his workers and support businesses.
A local banker, John W. James, of Middle Grove was probably instrumental in Granger’s choice of this particular site, as James owned timber land here and was willing to help finance the project.
Once the factory and town were up and running, an 1857 article in the Onondaga Gazette describes the operation in detail. Excerpts from that article follow:
“The glass is blown into pint and quart bottles, all of which are purchased by one firm in Saratoga, and used in bottling the celebrated medicinal waters for which that place is so famous.”
“…the method pursued. The sand , soda, lime, etc., which forms the compound out of which it is made, pre-sifted and thoroughly mixed in the proper proportions, and then conveyed to ovens where it is heated for several hours by a fire kindled beneath, being frequently turned, in the meantime, by long iron shovels which are prepared for that purpose. It is then conveyed into the ‘pots’, which are placed in the furnace, to undergo the melting process. These pots are made of a sort of clay that is imported from Germany, and requires much skill and experience in preparing them…for use. …the whole is submitted to a heat ….”
The fuel that provides the intense heat is thus described: “After being cut and drawn to the works, it [the wood] it is split up fine like oven wood, and then ‘kiln dried.’ That is about a cord of it is placed in a huge oven, (a fire being kept burning below it) and kept there until the wood will burn almost as readily as powder. Six of these ovens are constantly employed….’
“After it is thus dried and properly placed, the melting operation proceeds…. There are two openings in the furnace for the insertion of wood. They are about seventy feet apart. A man takes a single stick of this wood (occasionally two) and walks to the opening and inserts it; he then turns about and walks to the other opening, picking up another stick as he goes and shoves that in, and thus continues to walk backwards and forward for the spate of six hours, when another takes his place. …this furnace is kept burning uninterrupted night and day, Sundays not excepted, for at least 250 days.’
“When the composition is sufficiently melted, which takes from ten to twelve hours, next comes the ‘blowing’ operation. To do this each ‘blower’ is furnished with an iron tube, between three and four feet long and about three-fourths of an inch in diameter. He then inserts one end of this into the melted glass which is about the consistency of thick buckwheat batter …and takes what he judges will form a bottle. He then commences rolling the tube in his fingers, and after a little roll of the composition on a smooth stone that is before him until a rough draft of a bottle is made to appear. He then places the glass bottle connected with the tube into a cast iron mold that is fixed in the floor on which he stands and which mold is of the exact shape of the bottle to be made and he puts it in the mold drops his foot and puts his mouth to the top of the ‘tube’ and blows vigorously. He then lifts his foot, the mold opens and the bottle is made except the nozzle. He then thrusts the bottle back into the furnace and heats it slightly, withdraws it, and by a dexterous jerk, disconnects the bottle from the ‘tube.’ He next takes a small portion of the glass and forms a ring around the top of the neck, and before it hardens places it in a steel die, and turning it around a few times rapidly, the crease and protuberances are which finishes the bottle.’
“It is then taken and placed in an oven where it is properly tempered.”
Another document called the James Bank Report (dated 1846) describes the Mount Pleasant community around the glass factory. It occupied the nearly flat land that you are now standing on and more. It consisted of eleven hundred acres and included a tavern (hotel) with outbuildings, several single family worker dwellings, two mill sites (one of which was a saw mill), and one school house. Around the dwelling units were 139 acres of pasture and meadow land and around that, approximately 950 acres of heavily timbered land.
The glass factory and community continued to thrive for about twenty-five years, however, when Granger’s contract with the Saratoga Bottling works expired everything was about to change. The Congress and Empire Spring Companies in Saratoga merged and the new company was interested in building a new glass factory on the outskirts of Saratoga. This concept became possible when a railroad was built into the city which was capable of delivering large amounts of coal which they deemed a better fuel for the glass furnaces. The cost of transporting the bottles from Mount Pleasant (twelve miles away) was also a factor. By 1866 this new glass factory was under construction and when completed and in operation the glass factory at the Mount Pleasant site was shut down.
With its only industry gone, the community had no purpose and people moved away. Some farming activity continued until the early 1900s, but one by one, the residents moved and nature took over. Had this been in the arid southwest, you would be standing in the middle of a ghost town, but in our climate, the wood framed buildings quickly rotted and trees began to grow in the pastures and open land until a mature forest now occupies the site.
For more information:
Feulner, Ron, A History of Greenfield’s Mount Pleasant and the Glass Factory, 2010, self-published.
Puckhaber, Bernhard C., Saratogas, 1976, revised and updated 1993, self-published.