In the 1760s, Europeans settled the south bank of Tenendeho Creek, which drains Round Lake into the Hudson River. Woolen and flour mills powered by the creek were established after the American Revolution, when a wave of New Englanders moving westward settled in Mechanicville. Irish, many traveling south from Quebec, came to dig the Champlain Canal during the 1820s. Italians came to work on the railroad in the 1880s and later to dig the barge canal during the early decades of the twentieth century. Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, and many other immigrants also found work in the local mills and all called Mechanicville home.
The Champlain Canal cut through Mechanicville in 1823, the excavation following the route of what is now Central Avenue. The Saratoga & Rensselaer Railway came in 1835. By that time, the town enjoyed a thriving industrial economy. The American Linen Thread Company, textile mills, sash and blind manufacturers, brick makers - even one of the earliest manufacturers of friction matches in America - all found ample power, workforce and shipping opportunities in Mechanicville.
By the end of the nineteenth century and into the first quarter of the twentieth century, railroads defined the local economy. The Delaware & Hudson rail empire provided north-south transport, while the Fitchburg, later the Boston & Maine, carried goods and people east and west. Mechanicville-made products were sold in New York, Boston, Chicago, Canada and beyond.
Paper manufacture, as in other canal communities, was a mainstay of the local economy. During the early 1880s, the largest dam on the Hudson River was constructed to power paper milling. The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company grew into largest book paper mill in the world in the first quarter of the twentieth century.
When the Barge Canal opened in the area in 1915, Mechanicville was a bustling milltown. Today, it is a bedroom community for the Capital District. The wide range of international surnames is a reminder of Mechanicville's history of immigration and industry.