The History of New York State
Book VI, Chapter III

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam




The most northern of the Champlain Valley counties, Clinton has a most ancient history, for its was from the north that the first white man came to this region. Champlain was the earliest of the French visitors, from Canada, in 1609, but it was not until more than a century and a half has passed that there came a certain John La Frombois, who built his house and cleared land in a section of Clinton, remaining there until the English drive him away in 1776, and burned his home. Other French colonists came, gut to the English and Scotch of Canada must honor be given as the first permanent settlers of Clinton. The most of these came prior to the Revolutionary War times. Americans, new made, particularly those of "Yankee" persuasion, came in numbers in the early 1800's.

With the development of the country rose the need for means of transportation and a great north and south thoroughfare between Montreal and New York City was opened as early as 1790, and became the great speedway of the day. Stage coaches left Montreal at sunrise, stopped the first night at Plattsburgh, left at two A.M. and arrived at the Metropolis four days later. This was a great improvement upon the time made when there was no cleared road. But the use made of the lake when steam navigation began in 1809, with the second successful steamer ever built in this country, was even more an epoch in transportation. Previously it had taken three weeks to navigate the 300 miles of Champlain with sail. John and James Winans had laid the keel of a steam vessel in 1807, which two years later made her maiden trip. The "Vermont," for such was the steamer named, resembled Fulton's "Clermont," but was shaped more like a canal boat and fully decked. A cabin twenty-eight feet long by eighteen served with its side berths for sleeping and dining quarters. She was expected to make the circuit of the lake in a day, and even though she sometimes took a week, it was better than three.

The great retarding fact in the growth of the county, inaccessibility, was not fully overcome until a railroad was built through its territory. The first train in America was run in 1831, but as early as 1833 Clinton County was organizing a company known as "The Great Ausable Railroad Company." Even more elaborate were the plans made in 1837 for a covered railroad to run from Ogdensburg to Boston, thereby giving the Great Lakes access to the seaboard, which the snow could not halt. Whether this grandiose idea led to the agitation for the "Great Northern" Railroad is unknown, but this scheme did not prove visionary. The road was pushed though, abut very carefully avoided Plattsburgh, for fear a competing line might be laid down the lake and thus divert trade from Boston. Agitation for a road on the west shore of Champlain began in 1847, but by a series of unfortunate happening nothing was done until after the Civil War. Since then several railroads have pushed their way into the county, of which the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company is the foremost.

The organization of Clinton as a county was made March 7, 1788, from Washington. New York claimed all the territory on both sides of Lake Champlain until 1890, when an act gave Vermont the eastern shore, including the many islands. The county as originally formed covered most of the north country from the Lake to the St. Lawrence River, but from it was taken, in 1799, Essex County; St. Lawrence, in 1802; and Franklin, in 1808. The present area of the county is 1,049 square miles; is bounded on the north by Canada; on the east by Lake Champlian; on the south by Essex; and on the West by Franklin.

Altona, formed from Chazy 1857; population, 1,911. was one of the pioneer Iron towns, which has not become strongly agricultural since the change in the former industry.

Ausable, formed from Peru 1849; population 1,636. Has one of the greatest natural curiosities in Ausable Chasm. There is much water power in the district, but the ruggedness of the surface unfits much of it for cultivation. Keesville is the principal village, where the manufacture of horseshoe nails, begun in 1850, still continues. 

Beekmantown, erected from Plattsburgh in 1820; population, 1.590. Is a mountain town.

Black Brook, set up from Peru in 1839; population, 1,822. Is much visited in the summer by tourists. The main village, Ausable Forks, is busily engaged in the manufacture of paper.

Champlain, one of the original counties, erected in 1788, lies next door to Canada, is one of the best agricultural sections, in spite of its northern situation. It largest village is Champlain, incorporated September 27, 1873, which in addition to a good mercantile center has a dairy and an ironworks making bookbinding machinery. Rouse's Point is a resort center, incorporated February 27, 1877.

Chazy, on Lake Champlain, taken from Champlain in 1804; population, 2.607. Quite a line industry has grown up around the village of the same name.

Clinton, erected from Ellenburgh in 1845; population, 1,495. Lies in the extreme Northern corner of the county. One of its main pursuits is the cutting of railroad ties.

Dannemora, surrounding beautiful Lake Chazy, was taken from Beekmantown in 1854. It has a present population of 4,061. Iron was the source of support, beginning with the Averil Mines, opened in 1832, and the Chateaugay bed, which probably was the main source of this metal to the Indians. The railroad, built to carry the iron, has in these latter days been used to transport the summer tourists who flock to this region of lakes and hills.

Ellenburgh, erected from Mooers in 1830; population, 2,475. Is a good stock raising country, where hay, milk and potatoes are the principal agricultural products.

Mooers, taken from Champlain in 1804; population, 2,778.

Peru, erected from Plattsburgh and Willsborough in 1792; population, 2,000. Both mainly agricultural in their interests with wood-working establishments scattered through their villages.

Plattsburgh, (town), is one of the original towns, erected 1785, and has a present population of 2,085. Its history is identical with the city.

Saranac, taken from Plattsburgh in 1804, still has some active iron industries, started before Civil War times. It is known best, however, as a winter sanatorium. Population, 2,684.

Schuyler Falls, erected from Plattsburgh in 1848, has a population of 1,400, and is located near the center of the county. The main industry is farming.

Plattsburgh (the city), the site of which was selected by Zephaniah Platts, in 1784, for his future home, is the county seat and business center. With a population of 10,909. It was incorporated March 3, 1815, and had been the shiretown since 1788. The county building, erected in 1789, was destroyed in 1814 by the American batteries while that part of the town was occupied by Sir George Provost. After the burning of the new building, erected the next year, in 1836, a more elaborate set of county offices took its place. Saw and grist mills were the first industrial plants; the first bank was organized in 1817; an academy opened in 1811. By 1835 the village had increased 1,000 per cent to a total of 2,500. About this time iron became the main interest, although timber products ran it a close race. Plattsburgh of today is a well-located city, with all modern appointments. Manufacturing is relatively not so prominent as formerly. The largest concern is the Lozier automobile works, although this has been absorbed by another company. The Delaware and Hudson shops employ many. Paper is the second principal product, including pulp and many forms of the manufactured article. Lumber and wood articles, shirts, woven goods are also produced. Altogether there are more then fifty factories. The city is the much appreciated headquarters of the thousands who spend their summers in this healthful region.


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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