The History of New York State
Book IV, Chapter I

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam



The four most northerly of the counties of New York are grouped as one division. Only four, and yet they cover a territory of 6,845 square miles, more then many States, more than most of the countries of Europe. One of the counties, and not the largest by a thousand square miles, forms a large part of Adirondack Park, a park as large as Connecticut. Although known to Champlain and the French before settlements in the United States had been made at more than two or three places, this vast region is today relatively an unfamiliar area. On the Edges where it borders the St. Lawrence and the Thousand Islands on the north, to the west where industrial cities like Watertown have replaced the lumber camps of a century past, on the south, where the gentler slopes are partly given over to dairying, and in Adirondack Park, people have settled, places have developed, and in this last quarter century summer visitors are seeing parts of this gigantic domain. But the population is still small and the possibilities of the region unrealized. It had a quiet past but has a bright future.

Great quantities of lumber have been shipped from the section, often to the ruination of the land deforested. A wiser control of the lumber industry has come in recent years. Much of the Adirondacks have been kept untouched and, as a park, is becoming a great sanitorium and summer resort. Railroads have made the whole district more accessible, and there is a tendency to settle and develop the territory so long unknown and unappreciated. The history of Northern New York is now in the making.



When New York State established a great reservation larger then Connecticut, known as Adirondack Park, Hamilton became the center and only county wholly enclosed by its boundaries. The purchase by the State of land within the county did not encourage any increase in the permanent population, for with more then half owned by New York, and eighty per cent of the remain territory in private parks or controlled by lumber companies there was but a small fraction left open to private ownership. Hamilton, with an area of 1,700 square miles, had only a population of 3,970 in 1920; this, however, is greatly added to by the thousands who summer in this wonder camp ground of a nation.

Hamilton seems always to have been, until recent years, a terra incognita, a place where few ever had lived. Even the Indians, the "famed Iroquois," had no permanent settlements here. As late as 1771 a map of Governor Tryon shows the region as belonging to the Mohawks, but so little had it been explored, not one lake showed in this territory so filled with them. It then was a part of Albany County. But the next year saw the division of a part of this great area into Charlotte and Tryon counties. After the Revolution, the name Tryon was so hated that in 1784 this section was called Montgomery in honor of the hero who died before the walls of Quebec. From this county, Hamilton was set off provisionally, April 12, 1816, and given a permanent organization in 1836.

The most important historical incident of the colonial period was the "Tolton and Crossfield Purchase: since this covered the greater part of the county. This was really the Jessup purchase, as the two whose names are connected with it, and are placed on most of the deeds since issued, were dummies for Edward and Ebenezer Jessup. Before the ending of the Revolution came an interest in the "unknown north." The Jessup brothers had great influence with Sir William Johnson, Governor Dunmore and General Tryon. They wanted to buy all the land they could get above Albany. Having already made application for 40,000 acres, it was thought best to buy indirectly in the matter of purchasing some 1,115,000 more acres of the mountains section.

On June 7, 1771, to their agents, Tolton and Crossfield, was sold this great tract, and in the next year the Indians met in solemn conclave and also conveyed the land. For this the tribes received about three pence an acre, or a total of £1,35. Theoretically, the land was sold, but before being sealed and the bargain concluded, some $40,000 had to be turned over to King George III. Most of the modern conveyances of land are traced back to this original grant.

After two hundred years of surmise Hamilton began to be known and appreciated. Possibly Champlain passed through this section in 1615, shortly after Hudson anchored the "Half Moon," in the river that bears his name, and before there was a colony at Plymouth Rock. But it was not, however, until after the Civil War that any large number came to settle in this land of mountains and lakes. Timber was cut and the famed Raquette River, the second longest in the State, used to convey it to market. Great areas of land sold for small sums. Dr. Brandreth, whose English pill made him a fortune, bought 26,000 acres for $3,000, the timber from which, in 1900, was doing its best to make another fortune for his son, Dr. William Brandreth. The Whitney Preserve is of even vastly greater acreage.

It is as a summer resort and camping ground that Hamilton is now known best. Its mountains are not of the highest of the Adirondack peaks, but its lake are not surpassed. In 1899 the firs railroad was run through the extreme northwest corner of the county, and there is a branch of this same system reaching to Raquette Lake. Since 1900 good highways have been built to the more popular places. But is it the seclusion of most of the region which ads to its attractiveness. It is still "The Woods"; it remains "The Wilderness" of the early days.

There are but nine civil divisions of the county. These, with their 1920 populations, are: Arietta, 176; Benson, 119; Hope, 203; Indian Lake, 1,031; Inlet, 171; Lake Pleasant, 393; Long Lake, 1,116; Morehouse, 109; Wells, 652. Several, as will be noted, are named from the lake which is their most interesting feature, although Pisco Lake is in Arietta.

Indian Lake, almost at the corner of Adirondack Park, is about ten miles long and one mile wide. It is the seat of many summer colonies, and seems to have a particular attraction to teachers and college folks.

Long Lake is the straightest and longest in the reserve, being thirteen miles in length and at its widest does not spread a mile. Never having been dammed, it has long reached of sandy beach, and in one place there is one of cobble stones laid so regularly as to seem artificial. Twenty miles from a railroad, its seclusion has but added to its charm. The town Long Lake is the largest in the Adirondacks, covering 440 square miles. Founded in 1832, it did not have a postoffice until 1865, and its present population if not more then one to the square mile. (A town in this region is a division of the county, and township is a more or less diamond shape unit f about 26,000 acres.)

Raquette Lake, the best known, is the largest and most picturesque. "Lake of the Great Star," (from its resemblance to a star fish) is roughly twelve miles by three, with an irregular shore line of fifty miles. Wilbur erected here the first primitive hotel in 1857. There are many remarkably beautiful camps bordering the water, due, no doubt, to the example of W. W. Durant, son of the surgeon, Thomas C. Durant, one of the promoters of the Union Pacific Railroad. "Pine Knot," the Durant home, stood for many years without an equal in picturesque perfection.

Long and Raquette lakes are but wide stretches of the Raquette River, which has its source in another of the beautiful bodies of water that dot the county, Blue Mountain Lake. From this oval sheet at the foot of the "Hill of Storms," the river winds its crooked way until it pours its waters in the St. Lawrence.


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

HTML by Debbie Axtman

You are the Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since September 5, 2004.


[Index][Book Index][NY][AHGP]