As early as the mid 1600s, a military road extended north from Albany toward Lake Champlain along the western shore of the Hudson. This road followed a trail used by Native Americans for centuries. A natural ford at the Mohawk delta near Peebles Island became known to the Dutch and English as the "water ford."
Until the development of a canal system, river sloop trade on the Hudson stopped at the falls at the Hudson-Mohawk junction. Merchandise headed north an west was moved primarily overland from here.
Abundant water resources made Waterford a natural crossroads through which goods moved to markets, people migrated and settled, and where industry flourished. During the 1820s, the King's Power Canal opened, bringing waterpower to mills that operated along it until the twentieth century. Button Fire Engines, Fuller Nailworks, and Mohawk Paper, among other early industries of Waterford, started on the King's Canal. Mohawk Paper, specialists in printing and art paper, remains a major local manufacturer.