The History of New York State
Book VI, Chapter I

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

INTRODUCTION.

The history of the Champlian Valley covers parts of four centuries. In the first, claimed by the Hurons of the north and the Five Nations of New York, it was an almost unpopulated wilderness, made so by the continuous warfare waged for its control. The Indians called the great lake Cani-adere-quarante--"the lake that is the gateway to the country." By it their war and hunting parties entered the passes in the Adirondacks, or climbed the more level land of Vermont. It was the century of the Indian and the wilderness.

Came, in July, 1609, a strong of war canoes into the lake. Samuel de Champlain sat in the foremost, and scanned with eager eyes the waters that never before had been seen by white man, He claimed the county fro France, and gave the lake his name, all this at a time when the only settlement of white men, south of the Canadas, was at Jamestown, Virginia.

Father Jogues, Jesuit priest, missionary and martyr, as an Indian captive, was ferried cross the great waters and taken to another undiscovered lake. He called it Lac de Saint; it is now known as Lake George. The French priests, voyaguers, and fellow countrymen traversed the valley waters, built a few forts and established a few feeble settlements in a desultory way. It was the century of the French and the birch canoe.

Well into the next fifty years continued the French control. The English claimed the country and after severe warfare, in 1759, ended the sway of France in the valley. The new folk were more persistent colonizers. They built small vessels to carry their people and products from settlement to settlement. During this century the English and the sailing sloop were dominant.

But before the close of the 1700's the colonies had taken charge, and the next hundred years saw the region being penetrated by those who loved the soil, who build substantial villages, used the minerals of the hills, established manufactures. Speed of transportation was a necessity, and the steam vessels plowed the lake. It was a hundred years of the American, the steamboat, and the development of natural resources.

In these modern days, the Champlain Valley has been rediscovered as a wonder resort section. The lake is being bridged, highways surround it, the airplane rests on the its surface. What may not the new century do for the region?

CHAPTER I.

ESSEX COUNTY. #1

Sometimes called "The Tyrol of America," Essex is the most mountainous county in New York. With an area of 1,836 square miles, the second largest in the State, an average elevation of 3,000 feet, the highest in the State, it is a remarkable combination of lofty peaks, deep ravines, glorious lakes and streams which make it the mecca of thousands of lovers of nature's grandeur. Mount Marcy, 5,467 feet, the highest summit in the Adirondacks, Lakes Placid, Schroon, as well as parts of Champlain and George, together with a hundred other bodies of water; Wilmington North, Rainbow Falls and Ausable Chasm, where the stream of that name forces its tempestuous way in a long series of falls and cascades through a ravine a hundred feet deep, all are within the boundaries of this county.

Essex lies on the western bank of Lake Champlain about a hundred miles from Albany. Much of it is located in the Adirondack Park. Its dimensions are fifty by forty miles. Its history may begin with the coming of Champlain with his companions and Indians in 1609; but as a county starts on March 1, 1799, when it was formed from Clinton County. Permanent colonization was delayed by the wars between the English and the French, with the added difficulties brought about by the confliction of grants of land made by the two governments. Champlain had been given sovereignty over the territory as a reward of discovery; a patent under the date 1758, also covered this district. With the passing of the French dominion came a proclamation by the King of England, October 7, 1763, empowering the colonial governors to issue grants within their domain. These covering the same lands already granted by the French, threw doubt on all titles for land, and in the period of adjustment, many threw their properties on the market at prices not in accord with their values. William Gilliland shrewdly took advantage of these conditions, bought several thousand acres in Essex and Clinton counties, and upon them established the first planned colony, in 1765, Willsborough. To the south near the outlet of Lake George, another New York merchant, Samuel Deall, was founding the town known as Ticonderago. With the end of the Revolution, a current of emigration set in that speedily peopled the desirable lands,. In 1790 Platt Rogers maintained a ferry at Basin Harbor and received great tracts of land. In 1792 Judge Hatch located at Brookfield, town of Essex. A small colony was at Westport; Elizabethtown already was started. In 1797 the present town of Schroon was founded, and even before this date, the better parts of Jay, Lewis, and Keene were occupied by settlers.

In 1799 came the organizing of the county with Elizabethtown as the seat of justice, and the territory divided embracing four towns--Crown Point, formed 1786; Elizabethtown, 1798; Willsborough, formed 1788, both from Crown Point; and Jay from Willsborough in 1798.

The colonists at first produced only the things needful to themselves, agriculture being the main industry, but there soon followed the need for roads, saw and gristmills. These were gradually provided, and as early as 1801 plans were laid to begin iron making from the ores brought from the Vermont hills. For the first ten years little was known of the presence of iron in their own State. Anchors and boat irons were made in Willsborough in 1801; shortly, later W. D. Ross had a rolling mill on the Boquet; in 1809 Archibald McIntyre started the Elba Iron Works at West Elba. In 1825 the iron industry had grown to quite respectable proportions. Ore bed were opened in various parts of the county and metal working became, in later years, the principal manufacturing interest in Essex.

Meanwhile, since 1800, the lumber business had begun to be pursued on a large scale. Boats of size were sailing the lakes. The first steamboat plied the waters of Champlian in 1810. A canal had been projected and built between 1818 and 1823 connecting the lake with the Hudson. Railroads came much later, 1871, and these only paralleled the Lake Champlain shore.

The county seat of Essex was first located at the town of the same name, and from 1799 to 1807 the courts were held there. In the latter year a commission appointed by the Legislature designated Elizabethtown as the future shiretown. New building were erected at the great cost of $2,500 in 1811. These were destroyed by fire shortly after, were rebuilt and again burned, 1823, and again rebuilt in 1843. The repeated burning of the county buildings destroyed many valuable records. It also led to the passing of a law which still is in force, empowering the "Court of Common Pleas" to designate any place in town for the holding of court.

As has been pointed out, when the county was erected from Clinton, March 1, 1799, it comprised the present towns; Crown Point, formed in 1788, a part of Clinton County, which has a present population of 1,413; Willsborough, founded in the same year, 1,684; and Ticonderagoa, 5,267. All these are historic names lengthy mention of which may be found in another section of this work. All three lie on the west shore of Lake Champlain and have an industrial record much alike. Crown Point is now a village of about 1,000, with a still workable iron industry. Her it was that Colonel Ethan Allen surprised the British fort and forced its surrender in May of 1775.

Willsborough village, population 578, on both sides of the Boquet River, continues to be a pulp and paper making town.

Ticonderago village, near the ruins of the old fort, is a tourist resort, and has fro its industries the making of graphite, pulp and paper. The outlet of Lake George at this place has a fall of thirty feel which is used by the mills. Population, 2,103.

Elizabethtown, erected from Crown Point 1798. The village of the same name has been the county seat since 1807; see previous mention. Population (1920) of village, 518; town, 1042.

The other town in the order of their formation are:

Chesterfield, erected 1802, population 1,538, whose northern boundary is the famed Ausable Chasm.

Essex, formed from Willsborough in 1805, population 1,025. The village of Essex, a place of half a hundred, is the principal town and was formerly a shipbuilding center.

Lewis, set off from Willsborough in 1805, population, 739; village, Lewis, a former iron town.

Moriah, on Lake Champlin, erected 1808, population, 6626, is one of the oldest iron districts.

Keene, taken from Jay and Elizabethtown in 1808, population, 1,032, has the highest of the Adirondacks within its boundaries. Keene and Keene Valley are its villages, both well known summer resorts.

Westport, formed from Elizabethtown in 1815, population, 1,492. The village of the same name is one of the prominent gateways o the Adirondacks.

Minerva, formed 1817 from Schroon, population, 610, an agricultural district.

Wilmington, set off from Jay in 1821 under the name, "Dansville<' is on the Ausable, which was once used by the residents in logging.

Newcomb, formed from Minerva and Moriah in 1828, population, 313, lies in the mountain sections of the county.

St. Armand, set off from Wilmington in 1844, population, 727.

North Hudson, erected from Moriah, 1848, population, 397.

North Elba, separated from Keene in 1849, population, 4,343. All four are in the mountain section, noted for its wonders, but having few fertile valleys which are arable. The district is famed as a summer section rather than for its industries or occupations.

 

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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