Murderers Creek – the name conjures up something sinister. People have suggested I write a column on it for some time. Why is this creek known as Murderers Creek? The state of New York has decided the creek should be called Murderers and not Murderer’s or the plural possessive Murderers’. We won’t get into that issue today. I think a lot of people believe the name was directly associated with the murder of Sally Hamilton in 1813, and so did I for a long time. I now believe that the name of the creek at the time of the murder may have been called something close to its present name and that Athens residents changed it a bit to fit the circumstances. Whatever the name derivation, both the name of the creek and Hamilton’s murder deserve some discussion.
Murderers Creek runs in a mostly southerly direction through the towns of Coxsackie and Athens and enters into the Hudson River just north of the state boat launching area in Athens. Beers History of Greene County New York published only 71 years after the Hamilton murder has this to say about the name of the creek: “The prevalent idea that this name derived from a murder committed on its banks in the early part of the century, is fully disproved by the fact that it was so called long years before. It is first mentioned in early deeds as Mudenaer’s Creek, and sometimes Mudder Creek. Probably from the corruption of these terms, by which it was known to early settlers, has been derived its present baleful name.” I think Beers was on the right track, but probably should have said “first derived” because in the same passage the writer speculates that the present name is probably a corruption of the earlier names which would indicate the murder did in fact result in the present name.