Forgotten History: The Saratoga Homestead
(Photo by C. Almeida)
In the early 1900’s a piece of land in Barkersville, New York, was gifted to Horace Carpentier by his father. This land was his father’s homestead which later became the property in which the Saratoga County Homestead was built.
Born in Galway, New York, Horace Carpentier was a well-educated lawyer who graduated from Columbia University, valedictorian of his class. Horace Carpentier ventured out west on February 6th, 1849, during the time of the California gold rush. Whilst away he became the very first mayor of Oakland, California in 1854. His role as mayor was not looked highly upon by citizens and his career as mayor was short lived: he was replaced one year later by Charles Campbell. Carpentier became president of the Overland Telegraph Company which constructed the first transcontinental telegraph in the U.S.A. Carpentier also served on the board of trustees at Columbia University from 1906 until his death in 1918. Besides his track record of holding positions in power, Carpentier was also a benefactor to Columbia University, donating over two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars to fund Chinese studies.
Towards the last years of his life Carpentier oversaw the building and completion of the Saratoga County Homestead. The Homestead was opened in 1914 and served as a large tuberculosis hospital, in a time in which the contagious disease was rampant. Barkersville is located approximately twenty minutes west from Saratoga. It was built in a rural, high elevated area because it was thought that fresh mountain air would help cure tuberculosis.
Before being admitted to the Homestead patients were advised to bring clothing and bathroom utilities. I managed to get a copy of the annual report from 1930 and the report says that patients were to bring two suits of light underwear, three pairs of stockings, a bath robe, a pair of pajamas, a pair of slippers, a pair of rubbers (whatever that means), two changes of outside wear and toilet articles. These were the requirements for summer admission. All personal belongings had to be labeled plainly with their names written in “India ink”.
For winter admission patients, must have the following:
Two suits of woolen underwear, three pairs of woolen stockings, one heavy coat, one winter cap, one knitted helmet for outdoor sleeping, one pair of overshoes, two suits of heavy pajamas, one pair of warm slippers, a bath robe and toilet articles.
The patient demography was: most were catholic, American, single and male. Most were from the Saratoga area and were in the “retrogressive” stages of Tuberculosis.
Patients often engaged in sun bathing as it was thought that soaking in the sun would help with the disease. The children were “always happy and content” according to the annual report. The adult patients were unfortunately not happy or content. According to the report the children’s hospital was made of concrete but the women’s and men’s section of the hospital was made of wood and by 1930 the buildings were starting to deteriorate which influenced the patient’s lives negatively. In the annual report of 1930 the board urged the county to grant them more funding to rebuild the men and women’s buildings.
The budget mostly covered the staff salaries, food second, fuel, and medical supplies third.
There are approximately 3,000 recorded deaths from the hospital, only half are available while the other half is either missing or destroyed which leaves many with questions and concerns. There are quite a few records online offered by a funeral home in the Saratoga County, but the others are in possession of the Saratoga County Historian and are protected by HIPAA laws. Rumors claim that there is a mass grave buried somewhere on the property that was used to bury patients but this is false and there is no proof of a mass grave being present. When a patient died his/her family would collect the body and then proceed with funeral/burial arrangements (it is the same concept as it is today with patients dying in the hospital).
One of the doctor’s children are still alive and from what I’ve researched one of the patients from the Homestead is alive, having been a patient as a child she is now in her nineties. I have withheld her name from this article to protect her identity and privacy.
(Photos of patients sunbathing)
The Expedition Movie and Film Accident
In 2004 Canadian film makers and thrill seekers set out to Saratoga county to film a documentary on the Saratoga County Homestead, they set out on Halloween night. Unfortunately, the film project ended in tears, a crewmember by the name of Thomas King allegedly disappeared.
Four years later in 2008 the film “The Expedition” was released. Having a budget of thirty thousand Canadian dollars the film was directed by Nigel Hartwell on what supposedly happened in 2004. The film received overall negative reviews (4.4/10 on IMDB).
The movie poster claims it is on true events yet there is no credible sources or news posts that cover anything that was alleged so it’s wise to remain a skeptic.
The Homestead since its close, has become a hot topic amongst thrill seekers. Rumored to be haunted, many young adults and teens venture out to Barkersville in hopes to see for themselves if there is any ghostly activity present. There are many trespassers each year, as it is now in private ownership (supposedly owned by Patrick Brereton). Per the Times Union, Patrick Brereton must be a more recent owner, as the property was being cleaned up in 2016 by the EPA after the last owner abandoned the property for not paying taxes. Approximately forty-two drums of toxic waste (asbestos) was taken out from the building. The cleanup cost the county one million dollars.
Unfortunately, there have been some accidents that have occurred recently. In January of 2012 a seventeen-year-old girl was killed not too far from the hospital due to a truck accident. It is speculated by many that she had just come from visiting the hospital with friends. The only logical theory is that she had gone there as a thrill seeker, it is safe to say there weren’t many reasons why she was visiting the secluded town, right down the road from the building. Per the Daily Gazette the county firefighters made a statement urging the county to demolish the building to prevent future accidents. However, that was not the case, and the part of the homestead that remained is still standing in 2018.
Anonymous users post tall tales in chat rooms, claiming that they’ve been there and experienced paranormal activity. One user alleges that her and her sister entered the Homestead and upon leaving felt extremely nauseous and that her sister took a tile piece with her and that is why they had fallen sick. There is no proof of this and it sounds like something from a straight to DVD horror movies. Others claim it is” not only haunted but evil” and the doctor “experimented on his female patients” and that “everyone in upstate New York knows of the Homestead” (anonymous user).
I have been to the Homestead and brought something home with me, and never did I feel sick suddenly. I did, however, get a headache cause of how musty it was. I also had to wash my clothes because of the dusty smell but I didn’t become ill.
I had a very long phone call with the Saratoga County Historian and she told me that there was no evidence of these allegations claiming the doctor did malpractice. She concludes that these are nothing but urban myths and that there is no data to support it. After heavy research, I too conclude that there is no evidence to support these rumors.
The last allegation stating that everyone in upstate New York knows about the homestead is also fictitious.
I conducted a poll in Saratoga County asking people if they had ever heard of The Homestead and every single person said no. The Homestead is forgotten history, and most are unaware of its presence.
(The Homestead Board and Doctors)
© 2018 Elijah DeVivo