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The explorer Henry Hudson arrived in the area of Watervliet around 1609. The area was first settled in 1643 as part of the Rensselaerwyck Patroonship (see: Kiliaen Van Rensselaer).
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In 1776, the Shakers settled in the Watervliet region. The “Town of Watervliet” was founded in 1788 and included all of the county except Albany. This location of the future city was incorporated as the “Village of Gibbonsville”, along with the unincorporated “Village of Port Schuyler” and “Village of West Troy” in 1836. The “City of Watervliet” was incorporated in 1896 after the rest of the town became the Town of Colonie in 1895. Because so many towns had been created from the Town of Watervliet, it is regarded as the “mother of towns” in the county.
The Watervliet Arsenal, founded in 1813, is the oldest Federal arsenal in the country; it was the sole manufacturing facility for large caliber cannons.
The junction of the main route of the Erie Canal to Buffalo and the Lake Champlain branch was in Watervliet, and a weigh station and a center for paying canal boat operators was located there; as a result, it was once famous for gambling, saloons, and prostitution.
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