The History of New York State
Book III, Chapter III
Part I

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam




This country has been spoken of as "the classic of America." To her belongs the honor of being the first soil of the original thirteen colonies to feel the pressure of a white man's foot. It was the warpath of the continent, situated on three of the great waterways, and the three great trails over which the Indian moved in his unceasing warfare, and in whose footsteps followed three nations later, in their struggle to determine the ruling race of America.

Washington County, or Charlotte County, to give it the title under which it was erected, march 12, 1772, comprised a great slice of Northern New York, mostly west of Lake Champlain, reaching from the Hudson to Canada, a distance of more then 100 miles, extending westward a width of fifty. The name was changed to the present nomenclature April 2, 1784, and there began but a few years later a series of reduction of its area. Clinton County was set off in 1788; the east portion ceded to Vermont in 1790; and Warren was taken from the north part in 1813. Its present dimensions are sixty-one miles in length with an average of about fifteen miles in width, comprising a surface of 830 square miles. Although not now so extensive, it is no les beautifully located, situated as it is, in the far-famed valley of the Hudson and the basins of Lake George and lake Champlain.

The terrain of Washington has three distinct parts, each of differing character: the northern mountainous peninsular; the central Champlain Valley, which extends to the Hudson; and southwestern hill region, with its triple set of ridges. The geology is as varied as the terrain, and the soils follow the type of the rock they cover, or the valley in which they lie. Slate ledges are the main characteristics of the southerly hills, and the disintegrated remains of these form some of the richest soils in the county. In the Palmerton mountain range, the gneiss and sandstone reign, with a cold, unproductive soil as the result. Minerals of many kinds are found in the different parts of the county, but the most of them have a greater value to the mineralogist than the manufacturer. Slate, limestone, graphite, and a few minor materials are the only ones used commercially. Because of the extreme variety of soil, location and drainage, the agriculture of the country is of many kinds. There are few crops of fruits growable in the northern part of the temperate zone that are not represented among the products of the fields.

Historically, the district goes back to the Indians who, using as their natural channel of travel, the part of the country lying between the Hudson and Lake Champlain, met often in conflict, the Iroquois and the tribes of Canada. Champlain, although having the honor of being the first white man in it, brought upon himself and the French the undying enmity of the Iroquois by fighting on the side of the Canadians. It was possibly this mistake of his that decided the fate of the French as the probably rulers of America. The French made excursions against the English and the Iroquois in 1665, 1688, and 1693. The English attacked the French in 1691 and 1692. In 1709 the Britons erected the Ann and Nicholson Forts, to protect the northern frontier, but abandoned them with the return of peace. In the War of 1748 a number lost their lives in the county district, and in the French War of 1755, several forts were built throughout the region. When in the end the French were driven out of the country forever, the English taking their place, they soon had the colonies seeking to force them from the area. Of the "Fall of Burgoyne," a full account may be read in another part of this work, but it must not be forgotten that, while Saratoga county had the battle that cause his overthrow, it was forts and garrisons stationed in Washington County that made the consummation possible. After the surrender of Burgoyne, in 1777, the subsequent history of the county has been the record of agricultural and commercial triumphs.

One of the first and most important of the public works in the county is the Champlain Canal extending from Whitehall on the lake to Waterford on the Hudson. This canal, completed September 10, 1823, is sixty-six miles long, has thirty-three locks and cost $2,500,000. It not only connected a river with a lake, it gave a means of transportation from the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic seaboard. The turnpike period, preceding the construction of the canal, gave intercommunication between parts of the county and the nearer parts of the State. The railroad period may be said to have begun in 1848, when the first train ran from Saratoga to Whitehall, and later was extended to the Vermont border. The Troy and Rutland opened in 1852. The county was agriculturally at full maturity, just before the opening of the Civil War. As regards population, it grew more rapidly in the first quarter after the Revolution than at any other time; for the last quarter century the population has been almost stationary. The census of 1920 gives the number of residents at 44,888. There were fewer then 3,000 people in the county in 1774, and 14,000 in 1790, the greater part of this increase coming after 1784.

With the change of name by the county in 1784, came a movement to establish some definite place for the holding of the courts. In 1792 there were three rivals for the honor of being named the shiretown--Salem, Fort Edward and Fort Miller. The Legislature empowered the supervisors to determine the place and they chose Salem. Fort Edward, not satisfied with this decision, managed to have the hamlet named as a half shiretown. With one courthouse placed in the east and the other in the west, the remaining county buildings were located in the center at Argyle, 1806. 


The division of Washington into towns, when and by whom settled, may be best told in the story of each. The names of the towns, with their populations, are:

Washington County




Argyle town, including Argyle village




Cambridge town, including part of Cambridge village




Dresden town




Easton town, including part of Greenwich village




Fort Ann town, including Fort Ann village




Fort Edward town, including Fort Edward village




Granville town, including Granville village




Greenwich town, including part of Greenwich village




Hampton town




Hartford town




Hebron town




Jackson town




Kingsbury town, including Hudson Falls village




Putnam town




Salem town, including Salem village




White Creek town, including part of Cambridge village




Whitehall town, including Whitehall village











Argyle was granted by patent March 13, 1764, and formed as a town March 23, 1786. Greenwich was taken off in 1803, and Fort Edward in 1818. It is a hilly town of nearly 35,000 acres, and boasts two beautiful lakes, Cossayuna and Argyle; on the shores of both are pleasant summer resorts. This is one of the few sections of Washington which has made much of its growth in more recent years. the first attempt at the settlement of the region was made in 1764 by Alexander McNaughton, and 106 others who had received a patent for 47,700 acres of the land between the Salem and Fort Edward grants, May 21, 1754. Argyle is a dairy town, although the making of cheese is not of such prominence as formerly. The villages are: Argyle, North and South Argyle.

Cambridge ws incorporated by patent June 21, 1761, and formed as a town in Albany County, March 7, 1788, and annexed to Washington February 7, 1791. The town comprises 322,657 acres, is hilly but generally arable, and the Cambridge Valley is noted for both its fertility and beauty. The first settlers consisted of thirty families, who located in 1761-62-63, each receiving 100 acres from the proprietors. The principal village of the section is Cambridge, which comprises what was formerly Cambridge, North White Creek and Dorr's Corners, being incorporated in 1866. It is not only a finely situated business village, but has been for years the seat of the a very successful annual fair. It has a population of well over 1,500. Other settlements in the township are; Ashton, North and Center Cambridge, Bushkirk's Bridge and the village of Coila is partly in this division.

Dresden ws formed from Putnam as South Bay, March 14, 1822. It lies between Lake George and the southern extremity of Lake Champlain in one of the finest scenic sections of the county. The population is small but little of the land is farmed. The area was principally give to soldiers in the British Colonial Army, and settlement was begun by Joseph Phippeny, at the foot of South Bay, in 1784. The present principal villages are both noted summer resorts, Knowlton's Bay and Bosom Bay, on Lake George.

Easton ws formed from Stillwater and Saratoga March 15, 1789, and annexed to Washington in 1791. It is the second largest town in area, 38,834 acres; agriculture is the main interest. Located as it is, on the east bank of the Hudson, it was traversed by the wear trails of both Indians and whites. A fort was erected in the township in 1709, with probably a few families settled about it, but the first historic pioneers to locate here came in 1760. There are several thriving hamlets in the township, including: Easton, North and South Easton, Crandall's Corners, and Fly Summit.

Fort Ann, formed as Westfield, March 23, 1786, lost in the erection of Hartford, in 1793, and Putnam, in 1806. The present name was given it in 1808, after the forts erected there in 1709 and 1757. The town is on the west side of the county, comprises 56,386 acres, the greatest acreage of the towns, with large parts of its area uncultivated. The Palmerton Mountains, which make up a large part of the township, are rather sterile, but the valleys are of better soil, and are the seat of many good farms. The so-called Artillery Patent covered the east part of the town, being granted October 24, 1764, to James Walton and twenty-three other Provincial officers, but settlement was not begun until after the Revolution. In 1773 the Harrison and Brayton families located in the region, and , as far as records go, are the pioneers of Fort ann. The principal village of the area bears the same title as the town, and was incorporated March 7, 1820, with boundaries since twice enlarged. Comstocks, South Bay, Kane's Falls and West Fort Ann are hamlets.

Port Edward, formed from Argyle, April 10, 1818, lies on the east bank of the Hudson, near the center of the western border. Its history goes back to the aborigines, and it had place in the many wars preceding the establishment of the Untied States. The French had the first settlement in the section, but after their removal, the first to locate was Nathaniel Gage, who located near the site of the village of Fort Edward, in 1760. This last mentioned village, incorporated in 1849, situated on the Hudson, is the foremost community in the township. The opening of the Champlain Canal in 1822, from Fort Edward to the lake, gave the first impetus to a larger growth. The earliest mentioned saw mill was erected in this same year, and a few years later, 1828, the village had the first bridge across the Hudson. The present industries are few, that of paper making being the largest. The population figures fro 1920 give the village 3,871. Other settlements in the district are: Fort Miller and Durkeetown.

Granville, formed March 23, 1786, lies on the east border. It has great ledges of slate, which were the basis of an immense slate industry. The intervales between the slate ridges are particularly suited to potato growing. Of the various early grants, the Barnaby Brynes, of 2,000 acres, was sold to Kenneth McKenneth, of New York, who in turn transferred to Donald Fisher. Fisher induced several relatives of his to leave Scotland and settle on his tract. This was the first known settlement; others were made in 1780. In 1850 slate was discovered in the township and brought in many Welsh. The villages of Granville, Middle Granville, and South Granville, all of which formerly had flourishing cheese factories.

Greenwich, formed March 23, 1786, is situated on the west border. Although hilly, the slopes are gentle, and the slatey loam of the area is well adapted to the growing of potatoes, large quantities of which are exported. Building slate has been another of the exports of the town. It is the best of the industrial towns of Washington. The pioneer of the region was a man named Rogers (1764). Tradition has it that the Dutch lived in the town prior tot he French War, and it is known that three Scotch brothers, Campbells, secured a grant of 10,000 acres November 11, 1763. This latter patent covered a third of the town of Greenwich. Greenwich village, with its splendid connections by railroad and other lines is the foremost industrial place of the district. Other settlements are: Center Falls, East Greenwich, Middle Falls, Clark's Mills, North Greenwich, Lake, Bald Mountain.

Hampton, formed March 3, 1786, lies on the east border. Although small in area, 12,664 acres, it is rather well developed agriculturally. The greater part of the town was included in the patents granted to provincial officers. The first settlement was made prior to the Revolution by a Captain Brooks and to others., large numbers of newcomers arrived bin 1781. The two hamlets of the township are: Hampton's Corners and Low Hampton.

Hartford, formed from Fort Ann March 12, 1793, is one of the central towns. Of the area of 27,500, the greater part is a fertile, slately loam valuable for the raising of potatoes. Although the township was covered by a grant of 1764, there is no evidence that any one located on these lands until some time after the Revolution. The principal village are: Hartford, South and East Hartford.

Hebron, formed March 23, 1786, lies near the center of the east border. More than half of its territory is covered by a broad mountain range, and the rest of the area is hilly. Much of the town, however, is not only arable, but unusually fertile. Slate quarries once supplied the main occupations; agriculture now takes the lead. The first settlement was made in either 1769 or 1770 by David Whedon and others. West Hebron is the largest village; Belcher is named from the home of some of the Massachusetts residents; East and North Hebron, Slateville, and Chamberlain's Mills are hamlets.

Jackson, formed from Cambridge April 17, 1815, is one of the east border towns. Of a very rugged character and wonderful scenically, it has only partly been tamed; the farms, while good, are not numerous. The first settlements of the region were probably made between 1761 and 1765. Hamlets: Jackson Center, Coila (in part) and Anaquassacock.

Kingsbury, incorporated by patent May 18, 1762, was organized as a town March 23, 1786. It lies on the west border north of the center. The Hudson touches one of the corners, the Champlian Canal another, while several railroads add to its accessibility and importance. Historically it is interesting, being on the main Indian trail, and the roads over which the armies of their white successors marched. The Kingsbury Grant, 26,00 acres, given to James Bradshaw and twenty-two others, May 28, 1806, was settled by Bradshaw, 1763. The main village of the township and one of the foremost commercial centers of the county is Sandy Hill. Settled in 1768, manufacturing on a larger scale began in 1844, when the first manila paper mills in the Untied States were erected here. It was made an incorporated village March 9, 1810. This is the brief history of Sandy Hill. The fall of the Hudson, which amounts at this place to a drop of seventy feet, was the occasion of its early growth and present prosperity. The village now bears the name of that which is responsible for its expansion, Hudson Falls. The population in 1920 was 5,761. The un-incorporated villages of the township are: Patten's Mills, Kingsbury, Smith's Basin, Adamsville, Dunham's Basin, Moss Street, Vaughn's Corners, and Langden's Corners.

Putnam, formed from Fort Ann February 28, 1806, included Dresden until 1822. The town is located on the rocky mountainous peninsular between Lake Champlain and Lake George. The major part of the surface is not arable. Graphite is probably the most valuable mineral. Blair and Gull Bays and Mount Defiance are three of the scenic beauties of the section. The first settler was a squatter, Haskins by name, who came in 1782, although there probably were impermanent settlements before this on some of the lands granted to Provincial privates. The extreme northern part is said to have been pioneered by Negroes, hence the name Black Point. Putnam is the main village.

Salem, formed by patent August 7, 1764, was recognized as a town March 23, 1786. The town is a region of rugged terrain, still there is little waste land, and the soil is fertile. There were, undoubtedly, very early fortified settlements by the French, but of the later English settled towns of Washington, Salem probably has the priority. James Turner and Joshua Conkey came here from Pelham, Massachusetts, in 1761, and in 1764 a patent was secured covering 25,000 acres. A share of this was sold to Rev. Thomas Clark and his company of Scotch and Irish immigrants. Clark as the first minister in the county and saw to the erection of the first church. The largest village of the area is Salem, incorporated April 4, 1803. It is largely an agricultural settlement, with several small factories. The population in 1920 was 1,083. Other settlements are: Shushan, Eagleville, Clapp's Mills and Fitche's Point.

White Creek, formed from Cambridge April 17, 1815, is the southeast corner town. The region is noted more for the picturesqueness of its hills, valleys and streams, than for its agriculture. The area was settled in very early times by the Dutch on the Walloonsac patent, which extended into the town on the south. Years later a colony of Irish Methodists located near Ash Grove, in 1770, and here was organized the second Methodist church in America by Thomas Ashton. The principal places in White Creek are; North white Creek, Ashgrove, Pumpkin Hook, Center white Creek, Post's Corners, Martindale Corners, and the village of White Creek, the leading settlement in the town since Revolutionary days

Whitehall, incorporated by patent March 31, 1765, as Skenesborough, changed to the present name on March 23, 1786. It lies at the south extremity of Lake Champlain. The first settlement in the district was made by Major Phillip Skene, a half-pay officer in the British Army. He located with thirty families, in 1761, and then went to the West Indies for slaves, returning to find that half of his settlers had abandoned the land. Associated with others, he secured a grant of 25,000 acres, March 31, 1765. He built a massive stone house in 1770, two saw mills, a thirty-mile road a and a sloop. He joined the Tories in the Revolution, and his house was taken by the Americans in 1775. At the approach of Burgoyne, in 1777, most of Skene's work went up in smoke with the rest of the settlement at Skenesborough. The successor to this early hamlet is the village of Whitehall. This was little more than a hamlet until the War of 1812, when it became one of the supply stations and the starting point of some of the expeditions. In 1820 the village was incorporated. Two years later the canal between the two lakes was opened. Steam navigation of Lake Champlain has had a great part in the building of Whitehall. From the day of the first steamer on the lake, the "Vermont," 1810, for more than a century boats have been running to and through the village. The falls of Wood Creek furnishes a large amount of power, and mills were built here at an early date. The population of Whitehall in 1920 was 5, 285.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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