WARREN COUNTY:A HISTORY AND GUIDE
Copyright 1942 By The Warren County Board Of Supervisors - Transcribed by Veneta McKinney
The Peace of Paris, ending the French and Indian War, reduced to a minimum the long existing danger of bloody Indian raids on the JL. northern frontier of New York and New England. At once the colonizing genius of England envisioned the wilderness border turned into productive farms and thriving villages. Large grants of land were made and in less than ten years from the close of the war, speculators were reaping a rich harvest and stout-hearted British pioneers were hewing a pathway to freedom in Warren County.
Hardly were they well settled when the disturbances of the Revolution began to invade their primitive domain. Although many were peace-loving Quakers, some nurtured rebel sympathies, while others had Tory leanings. Indeed, as Holden points out in his History of Queensbury, they were swept by the ground swell presaging a storm which was surging up from the Atlantic seaboard to fall with sharp and unmerited severity upon the non-combatants of these border towns.
In 1767 the Crown abrogated the powers of the rebellious New York Assembly. At the same time General Thomas Gage, his Majesty's commander in chief in North America, demonstrated to the new frontier the dangers inherent in revolt by taking steps to place Ticonderoga, Crown Point and Fort George on a war footing. Bitterness and blows between New York and the Hampshire Grants over land patents, a disputed portion of which extended to the shores of Lake George, added to the general insecurity.
Rumors of political strife and rebel activity stirred every conversation. Whigs on the border formed societies akin to the Sons of Liberty. Often neighbors and even members of the same family took opposing sides on the question of resistance to the Stamp Act, Mutiny Act, and similar decrees of the British Parliament.
The strife between Whig and Tory even reached into the family of Quaker Abraham Wing, and tore it asunder. He and his sons adhered strictly to their religious tenets enjoining peace, and there is no evidence that they sided with either faction. Possibly they felt that this was the best way to insure possession of their lands. But it was certainly a desire to protect their titles to royal patents that influenced many settlers to remain loyal to the King.
Such a loyalist was Daniel Jones, husband of Abraham Wing's daughter, Deborah. He had worked in partnership with his father-in-law to build mills using the water power of Wing's Falls, later renamed Glens Falls. He also owned land in both Kingsbury and Queensbury and was a man of importance among the pioneers. His brother David was the fiancé of Jane McCrea, the beautiful girl whose murder by Indian raiders, incited by the Tories, helped to arouse the country side against General Burgoyne and contributed to his defeat at Saratoga. After the fall of Ticonderoga and Fort George, Queensbury was no safe place for Tories, so Daniel Jones fled with his family to Montreal, and David joined the Loyalist army to become a captain under Burgoyne.
James Higson and Andrew Lewis, on the other hand, were uncompromising Whigs. With their wives, Content and Mary, daughters of Abraham Wing, they were seized in 1777 by Tory and Indian raiders and carried to Montreal. Though the men were forced to run the gauntlet by their Indian captors, Daniel Jones and other kinfolk of theirs among the Loyalist refugees were able to befriend and protect them while they were held in Canada.
William Robards, a prominent land owner in Queensbury, and his brother-in-law Andrew Fuller were also captured with Higson and Lewis. Fuller remained a prisoner for the duration of the war but Robards, a bold and hardy pioneer, broke through a boarded window in his prison and fled through the streets of the old French section of Montreal. None of the shots aimed at him by pursuing guards took effect and, encouraged by cheering Canadians, he jumped the city wall and disappeared into the forest. After a grim and hazardous journey through the wilderness, sleeping by day and traveling by the stars, he reached Lake George, found a canoe, and finally arrived home safe, but so gaunt and ragged that his overjoyed wife fainted when she saw him.
Even before the stand of the embattled farmers at Lexington and Concord an agent was sent by the revolutionists to Canada to report on the feelings of the people toward the revolutionary party. Apparently sensing the importance of the capture of Ticonderoga in the molding of public opinion, this agent suggested that on the outbreak of war Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, who were already well known for their bold resistance to New York in the land controversy, be engaged to seize the fortress.
Accordingly, Connecticut, on April 28, 1775, dispatched a small body of men, one of whom was Colonel Barnard Romans, to join forces with Ethan Allen for the dangerous enterprise. On May 3, Massachusetts commissioned Benedict Arnold to lead an expedition having the same design. When the hard-grained Green Mountain Boys refused to follow any other leader than their own, Arnold and Allen, having arranged a joint command, surprised and captured the Fort on May 10, 1775.
Another detachment of thirty men of the Connecticut expedition under Captain Herrick made a rapid march to capture Skenesborough, now Whitehall, a settlement founded and controlled by Philip Skene, an ex-major of the British army. In 1773 Skene had formulated and dispatched to the King a grandiose scheme to set up all northern New York and part of Vermont into a separate province with Skenesborough as capital and Skene as governor. The plan was under consideration when his capture put an end to the ex-major's "ambitious machinations."
Two days after the capture of Ticonderoga and Skenesborough Colonel Romans at the head of a little company of Connecticut soldiers arrived at Fort Edward. Adding a few local patriots as reinforcements to his detail, Romans on May 12 marched against Fort George at the head of Lake George. The only Britishers there, Captain John Nordberg, invalided from the English army, and two assistants, who merely expedited messages and expresses between Albany and Montreal, offered no resistance. On this same day Crown Point fell to Seth Warner, a colleague of Ethan Allen.
According to a local tradition, Colonel Romans enlisted for his expedition Daniel Parks, member of a family who owned considerable land on the Hudson River across from Hudson Falls and Glens Falls. Parks now lies buried in an almost forgotten family plot on a bluff above the river opposite Hudson Falls. A badly worn inscription on his headstone affirms "he was the man that took the key from the British officer at Lake George."
In June 1775, General Philip Schuyler was appointed by Washington to take command of the Army of the North. By possession of Fort George, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point he controlled the Great Warpath, the military trail from Albany to Montreal. But his widely scattered, undisciplined militia had little strength elsewhere along the border. Clashes between hot-tempered groups of Whigs and Tories were frequent, and daring outlaw bands roved the countryside. In one instance they even tried to disrupt court sessions at Fort Edward.
On September 4 General Richard Montgomery marched from Crown Point for an attack on Canada. About the same time an expedition of hardy frontiersmen under Benedict Arnold was organized in New England. After an incredible march up the Kennebec River and through the wilderness, they made a junction at Quebec with Montgomery c As the year 1775 came to a close the Americans captured St. Johns on the Richelieu River and took Montreal, but failed in their attack on Quebec.
While the American army lay encamped in Canada, the Continental Congress, on the suggestion of General Schuyler, sent Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase, and Charles Carroll as ministers to treat with our northern neighbor. Other members of the party were the Reverend Father John Carroll, brother of Charles, and afterward first archbishop of Baltimore who acted as the party's interpreter in Canada; Baron de Woedtke, a Prussian major on the staff of Frederick the Great, on his way to join the American army; and General John Thomas, about to become commander of the Revolutionary troops in Canada.
On April 18, 1776, the party arrived at Wing's Tavern in Queensbury on the old Military Road from Fort Edward and the next day continued their journey northward by way of Lake George. Failing in their purpose, the ministers later returned to Ticonderoga. Meanwhile, the American forces, racked by smallpox, that dread scourge of the armies of earlier days, retreated to the mouth of the Richelieu. Here General Thomas died of the fearful plague.
Faced by superior enemy forces the smallpox-shattered remnant of the American army in Canada began a masterly retreat in June under the command of General John Sullivan. In July boatloads of half-starved, vermin-infested smallpox sufferers streamed up Lake George en route to hastily erected hospitals below the outworks of Fort George. Among the hundreds of bodies at rest in unmarked graves in Battleground Park is that of Baron de Woedtke.
During the opening months of 1776 the pioneers of Warren County had begun to feel the pinch of unpaid army requisitions and to have their possessions plundered by detachments of Americans en route between frontier posts. In an affidavit made before Adiel Sherwood, justice of the peace, and lieutenant of Kingsbury and Queensbury Continental Militia, Abraham Wing sought to charge Captain Marien Lamar with "things his company stole" including "one blue Broadcloth Jactcoat. one blue quilted petticoat, 13 Dunghill fowls and one pleasure slay steel shod, painted green outside, red inside . . . worth at that time in hard cash, seven pounds."
In answer the captain certified that "the slay was hired for use of my company from the 13th of March to the first of April, 1776, when, the ice breaking up, I was obliged to leave her in the care of Mr. Belton at Willsborough on Lake Champlain." Nor was this the end of Wing's losses. On July 18, by military order of Nathaniel Buell, quartermaster general at Fort George, he gave up "15 saws, with their stearups on." These, taken to Cheshire's mill near Fort Edward, aided in sawing lumber for the American forces.
General Schuyler, sent by the Continental Congress on December 30, 1775 to seize the arms and stores of the Tories in Tryon County and "to apprehend their chiefs," soon reached Johnstown with a strong armed force. There he paroled instead of arresting Sir John Johnson, successor to the title and estates of his illustrious father, Sir William, who had died as the storm clouds of the Revolution gathered. Whether or not Sir John had been released from his parole is a matter of controversy, but at all events, secretly warned that he was to be arrested, he fled to Canada in March 1776, with a large band of royalists and Indians.
This journey, begun in winter and ended while spring thaws swelled the streams and rendered snowshoes useless, was the first penetration by a large party of white men into the heart of the Adirondack mountains. They followed the valley of the Sacandaga to the Hudson and thence northward through what are now the towns of Luzerne, Stony Creek, Thurman and Johnsburg, then a dense, uninhabited wilderness crossed only by an Indian trail. After nineteen days of terrible toil and hardship, the party finally reached the St. Lawrence and safety in Canada. Shortly thereafter, Sir John, commissioned a colonel, organized his retainers and the Tory refugees in Canada into a regiment known as "Johnson's Greens," who later engaged in border warfare.
At this time Sir Guy Carleton made plans to advance with a powerful fleet hastily assembled, capture Ticonderoga, and wrest control of the Great Warpath from the wavering grasp of the Colonies. With almost superhuman skill and energy Benedict Arnold built and armed the first tiny vessels of the American navy at Skenesborough and Ticonderoga. At the Battle of Valcour Island, October 11, 1776, his little flotilla was almost annihilated by Carleton though most of the American soldiers got back to Ticonderoga in safety. Crown Point had to be abandoned to the British, but not before Arnold had inflicted such losses during the naval engagement that the delayed and harried Carleton postponed further southward invasion. Though they actually paved the way for Burgoyne's surrender a year later, this and other defeats suffered repeatedly in the early days of the Revolution brought gloom to Patriot militia and Whigs on the frontier, a gloom relieved little by enthusiasm over the Declaration of Independence.
In the spring of 1777 scouting parties of Indians allied to the British were busy along the northern border. In March a detail of eighty red men and Tories fought a bloody skirmish at Sabbath Day Point with a scouting detail of fifty Continentals. Despite loss of half their own number the Indians and Loyalists captured 1 8 Americans, who, according to a report of Captain Alexander Baldwin of the Independent Company of Rangers, were "conducted thro' the wood to Montreal, and obliged to carry the packs of the Indians, and upon their arrival there were confined in the Recollec Church where they remained about six weeks. That while there, they were every day insulted by John Cobham, Thomas Mann, David Jones, Ebenezer Jessup, and divers others, all Americans who had gone over to the enemy." This was David Jones, the betrothed of Jane McCrea. Ebenezer Jessup with his brother Edward, held claim to Jessup's Patent in and around the present Luzerne.
By May the propaganda and ravages of the Tories in Warren County and vicinity became bold and open. Apparently informed by Indian runners that the long-awaited invasion from Canada was on its way, they welcomed the opportunity to harass frontier homes and settlements and gave free rein to such fierce hatreds as only civil wars unleash.
One of the most daring acts of violence of the Royalists resulted in the abandonment of the little settlement of Parks' Mills, located across the Hudson from Wing's Falls. The story, pieced together from history and tradition, tells of the attack on the home of Daniel Parks, Sr., 75-year old founder of Parks' Mills, by a Tory band led by Richardson, supposed to have been debtor to Parks in a land purchase, and Ferguson, a tavern keeper from the Bend, a settlement a few miles up the river. After killing the old pioneer and burning his home the Tories ambushed three of his sons who came to aid their father. Of these they mortally wounded Elisha and captured Isaac.
Daniel Parks, Jr., who had helped Colonel Romans in the capture of Fort George escaped the ambush and gathered the settlers not already made captive. With them he fled down the river to the present Fenimore, where they crossed the stream, probably on a ferry operated by the Parks family, to Sandy Hill. According to one story, several women, detached from the main party, were accosted by Indian members of the Tory band but escaped by telling the red men that a child they carried had smallpox.
The morning following the Parks Massacre, as it is called in Holden's History of Queensbury, a party of Whigs followed the trail of the Tories and Indians along the south bank of the Hudson and across the river at its confluence with the Sacandaga. However, the Loyalists, finding they were pursued, took to the bed of Stony Creek and threw off their pursuers. It was learned later that the Whig captives had been promised death at the hands of the Tory raiders if they were overtaken.
The chief base of operations and gathering place for the Loyalists was the colony of the politically-favored Jessup brothers on the Hudson near the present Corinth and Luzerne. Ebenezer and Edward Jessup, shrewd business men and among the sharpest and most colorful land speculators ever to live in Warren County, began their settlement west of Queensbury about 1771, building homes and mills and living in a style far above their neighbors. They spent lavishly at Wing's Tavern and filled their spacious log dwelling with elegant furniture and costly paintings, covered their tables with imported linens, and dined from massive silver plate.
In 1774 the brothers accomplished their biggest land grab, the Totten and Crossfield Purchase, encompassing 800,000 acres in the south-central Adirondacks, for it is said that Ebenezer Jessup engineered this mammoth grant, Totten and Crossfield being merely dummies. Indeed until their lands were confiscated, the Jessups held title to practically all of what is now western and northern Warren County.
It is not strange that such land barons, enjoying the favor of the Royal Government and already living in the luxurious style of aristocrats, opposed the changes inherent in the Revolution. Nor is it surprising that their influence and patronage brought into the Loyalist camp such noted Tories as Richardson and Ferguson, leaders in the attack on Parks' Mills; the six Lovelace brothers, descendants of Governor Lovelace, one of whom was hanged about 1780 as a spy; the numerous Fairchilds who resided on the Hudson near the present Luzerne Mountains; and many of their retainers and tenants.
On May 6, 1777, Colonel Gordon in command of the Continental Militia in the Ballston Spa district, pursued and captured 3 1 Tories on or near Jessup's Patent. All admitted they were on their way to join Burgoyne and thus escape taking the oath of allegiance to Congress. Local tradition has it that at this time Edward Jessup, hotly pursued, made good his escape by leaping across a gorge in the Hudson where the stream then measured but twelve feet in width. Blasting away of rocks during the lumber era to permit passage of logs has widened it.
Jessup then made his way across Queensbury by an old road that paralleled the present route from French Mountain to Fort Ann, and thence northward through Skenesborough to Burgoyne's camp at Willsborough Falls. Here he joined his brother, Ebenezer, who had fled Whig fury some months earlier and had received a commission in Burgoyne's regiment. After the war the Jessups received royal land grants in Canada, where their descendants became people of wealth and influence.
A little before the Battle of Saratoga, General Gates, who had replaced Schuyler in command of the Patriot army in the Northern Department, dispatched militia under Lieutenant Ellis, to raid the Jessup colony. The Loyalist leaders had long since fled, but the lieutenant's troopers destroyed their homes, burned the grain fields, and left nothing standing but the mills. The dwellings of the Jessups had previously been pillaged and their elegant and expensive fittings carried away. Soon the site of the once bustling settlement was growing up to weeds and bushes, the abandoned clearings becoming again a part of the wilderness from which they had been wrested by the toil of the pioneer followers of the Jessup brothers.
Burgoyne's invasion, designed to secure for the English control of that bloody pathway of the French and Indian War through Lakes Champlain and George and the Hudson River, was intended to separate New York from New England, the hotbed of the rebellion. The British commander, despite a broad strain of pomposity and overconfidence, was an able and experienced officer. His staff boasted skilled and capable leaders, several of them, including himself, members of Parliament.
Burgoyne led a force of more than 10,000 men, well armed and equipped, with at least 7,000 veteran troops, an artillery corps, Hessian mercenaries, and detachments of Canadians. To oppose this array General Schuyler could muster at the various frontier posts, including Fort George, less than 5,000 militia, raw recruits, miserably clad and armed, some actually barefooted, and most of them ragged.
As the British sailed down Lake Champlain, the Americans retreated southward without opposing their advance. Near the mouth of the Boquet River, on June 21, Burgoyne accepted the services of 400 Indians and celebrated with a great war dance. Naturally humane, he tried "to soften their ferocity, and restrain their thirst for blood." Little acquainted with the unpredictable children of the forest, he could not foresee how they would help to encompass his ruin.
On June 26 the English occupied Crown Point and, on July 2, arrived at Ticonderoga. Here the Americans had fondly believed the invasion would be halted because the fort was impregnable. In truth it had been falling for some years into a sad state of disrepair. When, on July 5, General Arthur St. Clair, American commander, looked up into the mouths of British cannon on Mt. Defiance to the southwest overlooking the fort, an emplacement never before attempted, he knew that he must lose no time in evacuating Ticonderoga.
This he accomplished the following night under cover of darkness and his departure might not have been discovered at once, except for the burning, in direct disobedience to orders, of the commanders' headquarters at Mount Independence, across the floating bridge from Ticonderoga. Burgoyne promptly began to pursue the retreating Americans who split into two sections, the main body crossing the bridge to Vermont while the remainder, with the sick and the women, fled southward on Lake Champlain toward Skenesborough.
The American retreat was conducted with considerable skill. St. Clair's rear guard, frontiersmen under Colonels Warner and Francis, suffered losses in a delaying engagement at Hubbardton with the British and Hessians of Fraser and Riedesel. The thin line of sharp-shooting Americans broke out of the woods and did heavy execution on the close ranks of the enemy, but were driven back by sheer weight of numbers. When the victors closed in for the kill, however, frontiersmen scattered and disappeared into the forests in an American military maneuver that came as a complete surprise to the European officers.
Pursued by a British flotilla on Lake Champlain, the fleeing Americans were not given time to destroy their boats under the guns of Skenesborough before Burgoyne occupied the town, captured the guns and baggage, and dispatched Colonel Hill with the 9th British regiment in pursuit. Overtaken at Fort Anne, Colonel Long with many sick and convalescents among his untrained militia resisted desperately until his ammunition gave out. Setting fire to the fortress, he continued the retreat toward Fort Edward.
From Fort Edward, on July 9, the anxious Schuyler wrote Washington: "I have not been able to learn what is become of General St. Clair, and the army. The enemy followed the troops that came to Skenesborough as far as Fort Anne, where they were yesterday repulsed; notwithstanding which, Colonel Long, contrary to my express orders evacuated that post. I am here at the head of a handful of men, not above fifteen hundred, without provision, with little ammunition, not above five rounds to a man, having neither balls, nor lead to make any; the country in the deepest consternation; no carriages to remove the stores from Fort George, which I expect to learn every moment is attacked." Schuyler's forebodings were relieved somewhat on July 12 when St. Clair marched into Fort Edward with the main body of his forces intact.
In spite of these reinforcements Schuyler was still unable to give adequate protection to the countryside. Bands of Indians and Tories, operating from Skenesborough, raided far and wide, hanging and scalping suspected Whig sympathizers, burning homes, and frequently attacking neutrals. Secret Tory nests at Halfway Brook and in Kingsbury provided spies and carriers of messages between Burgoyne and Sir William Howe, who, according to plan, was to march up the Hudson Valley for a junction of their forces at Albany.
Communication between the leaders of the armies to the north and south was so vital to the success of the British campaign that Schuyler at this time received instructions from the Committee of Safety to use a spy in counter-espionage against the Tory secret agents. With the aid of an ardent Whig named Fish at Old Saratoga, Schuyler got in touch with Moses Harris of Dutchess County who lived to become a Warren County patriarch, founder of Harrisena.
General Schuyler found young Moses to be a reliable man of sharp wits and a true patriot who would hesitate at nothing in the service of his country. Moreover, as a favorite nephew of the notorious leader of the Tory ring in Kingsbury, Gilbert Harris, whom he had often visited before the war, Moses could enter unsuspected into the enemy camp. To start his career as a double spy, Moses visited his Uncle Gil, expressed disgust with the progress of the Revolution, and pretended that he would like to join the British army if nothing better offered.
Delighted at finding in Moses so promising a Loyalist recruit, Uncle Gilbert consulted Joseph Bettys, the British espionage agent, and took Moses to the Tory underground hideout at Halfway Brook in Kingsbury. There, really acting as an American spy, Moses falsely swore loyalty to the King, and accepted dispatches for delivery to William Shepherd, a Tory living near Albany.
Now that he was accepted by both sides as a spy, Moses set off down the Hudson and at night arrived secretly at the home of Fish, his American helper in Saratoga, now named Schuylerville. There he waited while Fish took the dispatches to General Schuyler to read, and brought them back promptly. Then Moses could deliver them to Shepherd without arousing British suspicion.
Naturally this double dealing more than doubled the dangers of the American agent. Hot-blooded young Tories, envious of his position and influence, threatened his life. When the British command scented a leak, Moses was suspected. Only stout insistence on his loyalty to the King saved him death at the hands of Tories who hauled him off to an island in a big swamp west of Queensbury for questioning.
Their confidence in him restored, the British allowed Moses to resume his duties. To reassure the Tories he was "arrested" in Albany by order of General Schuyler, lodged in jail, and after several days permitted to escape. He then fled to Canada where he was received as a hero by the Tories in exile. But since this episode convinced the Whigs also that Moses was really a British spy, it added a fresh peril. Bands of Patriots attempted to intercept him and one, Jacob Bensen, asserted that he would " put a ball through the cussed Tory " on sight.
Finally the suspicious Joseph Bettys discovered what Moses was really doing and sought to trap him. Forewarned he fled southward only to be ambushed by a patrol of Whig scouts whom he escaped by crossing the Hudson at Fort Miller. Exhausted, he stumbled into the home of Noah Payne, a Revolutionary sympathizer, to whom he revealed his role of double spy.
Payne helped Moses complete his journey to the home of Fish, whom they found seriously ill. There then was nothing for Moses to do but personally deliver the dispatches to Schuyler. In Albany he called on Shepherd, his erstwhile Tory colleague, who, aware of his duplicity, tried to poison him. Since his usefulness as a spy was obviously ended, Schuyler sent Moses Harris to Washington with the papers obtained on his final venture. The general offered to recommend him to the commander in chief for a safer position in the southern army. This the stubborn Harris refused with the assertion " that all the Tories this side of hell should not drive him an inch."
While Burgoyne lingered at Skenesborough and, according to tradition, indulged in "high revel and debauch, which rendered him unfit for his position, and the proper discharge of his duties," Schuyler improved the opportunity to save the cannon and powder at Fort George and destroy or carry off anything that might help the British. "If the enemy will permit me to pass unmolested three days longer to Fort George, I shall be able to bring away all the stores from thence and then draw off the few troops we have there," wrote the American commander as he pressed settlers and their wagons, horses and oxen into this service.
Schuyler's masterly withdrawal was finding little favor in the Colonies, because of the false, though wide-spread, belief that the northern frontier forts were massive works against which the British would beat in vain. Congress severely criticized both St. Clair and Schuyler, and New England members continually sought to have Gates placed in command of the Northern Department.
Even General Washington seems to have lacked adequate information on the situation. Before the Fort George abandonment he wrote Schuyler that he understood "that a spirited, brave, judicious officer with two or three hundred good men, together with the armed vessels you have built, would retard General Burgoyne's passage across the lake for a considerable distance." Apparently irked by this misconception of the facts the northern army commander replied spiritedly:
"The fort was part of an unfinished bastion of an intended fortification. The bastion was closed at the gorge. In it was a barrack capable of containing between thirty and fifty men; without ditch, without wall, without cistern; without any picket to prevent an enemy from running over the wall; so small as not to contain over one hundred and fifty men; commanded by ground greatly overlooking it, and within point blank shot. . . . Of the vessels built there, one was afloat and tolerably fitted, the other still upon the stocks; but, if the two had been upon the water, they would have been of little use without rigging or guns."
Schuyler's policy was to strip the country in the path of the enemy of everything useful to an army, leaving only burned homes and abandoned fields. To the frontiersmen of Warren County, who had trusted in Fort George and Fort Edward for protection even after Ticonderoga fell, all seemed lost, and the older settlements farther south were also demanding a firm stand and stubborn fighting instead of strategic withdrawals.
One person of prominence who understood the desperate measures of Schuyler with his ragged little army was Gouverneur Morris, member of the New York Provincial Congress and ardently devoted to the Revolutionary cause. From headquarters in the field he wrote to the Committee of Safety on July 17 announcing the destruction of Fort George and the safe arrival of its garrison and stores at Fort Edward, adding, "I shall give it as my opinion to the general, whenever he asks it, to break up all the settlements upon our northern frontier, to drive off the cattle, secure or destroy the forage, etc., and . . . leave nothing but a wilderness to the enemy."
Whether on the advice of Morris or not, Schuyler did, at this time, requisition supplies from the settlements. By his orders Quartermaster General Morgan Lewis seized practically all the horses and cattle, as well as huge quantities of oats, rye, corn, wheat, potatoes, and hay from the farms of Abraham Wing, his son-in-law Benjamin Phineas Babcock, James Higson, Andrew Lewis, Truelove Butler, William Robards, Benedict Brown and many other Warren County pioneers. In addition Abraham Wing's mills were dismantled, "25 Saws . . . and other utensills necessary for the two Mills in Compleat Repair" being carried away. In 1789 the State liquidated claims for these war losses by remitting the quit rents owed on the lands of the claimants for the 2 5 -year period from 1762 to 1787, and relieving them of any future quit rents.
Caught between American foraging and Indian terrorism there was little the non-combatant border settlers could do but seek refuge in southward flight. Most of the pioneers of Queensbury and Caldwell fled to their old homes in The Oblong, Dutchess County. An escort of militia, among them Solomon Parks, son of old Daniel of the Parks Massacre, scoured the countryside for any horses and oxen that might have escaped army requisition. These were for the use of the women and children, \\ nose desire to escape was heightened by the sight of small bands of Indians m war paint dogging the line of flight.
"The roads were filled with fugitives," says one historian, "men, leading little children by the hand, women pressing their infant offspring to their bosoms, hurrying forward in utmost consternation, from the scene of danger. Occasionally passed a cavalcade, two and even three mounted on a single steed, panting under its heavy load; sometimes carrying a mother and her child, while the father ran breathless by the horse's side. Then came a procession of carts drawn by oxen, laden with furniture hastily collected; and here and there, mingling with the crowd of vehicles, was seen many a sturdy husbandman followed by his household and driving his domestic animals before him."
In spite of the dangers from partisan strife and Indian raid in Warren County there is evidence that some few remained there " depending for safety upon their principles of non-resistance and their faith and reliance in God's protection." Among these were Abraham "Wing and his family, for records show that Schuyler on July 26 wrote Major Gray of the Commissary Department: "I have permitted him [Wing] to remain and consented that he should take back eight of his cows." A little later Colonel Christopher Yates communicated to Wing: "I have considered about your Sons Horse and give him leave to keep the Same until some Higher Power shall order it otherwise. I also grant you leave to keep a hunting gun in your house and forbid any one to take same without orders from the general."
Meanwhile Burgoyne quartered himself at the home of the self-styled Governor Skene and sent to England glowing accounts of his success. He had marched through the Champlain Valley in a week, had taken Crown Point, Ticonderoga, and Skenesborough; he had trounced the rebels in the battles of Hubbardton and Fort Anne. It had been a hard pull at times, but now he had only to walk through that " rabble in arms" down on the Hudson to be in Albany in a few weeks. Through this rosy glow Burgoyne failed to see the impending shadow of disaster in the forest and across the heights of Old Saratoga.
If he had correctly estimated the resistance of the irate farmers aroused by his use of Indian allies, and the transport difficulties through swamp and forest below Skenesborough, Burgoyne would hardly have chosen the route over the Great Carry merely because it was the shorter. His British and Hessian regiments in their brilliant uniforms and heavy equipment, his officers with their wives, his camp followers, his piles of baggage, were a European army, suited to good roads and open fields. But the country-side before them had returned quickly to the wilderness from which, in truth, it had scarcely been wrested. The settlers had fled; their farms, robbed of crops and cattle by the "scorched earth" policy of Schuyler, were growing to weeds. The hundreds of Tories Skene had promised would render aid and comfort, failed to materialize, many being immobilized by bands of grim patriots who visited their homes, seized their rifles, and issued stern warnings of dire consequences to follow any assistance to Burgoyne.
The march became a nightmare. Schuyler dispatched General Nixon with 600 militia to destroy bridges, to fell trees across the road and to choke narrow places in Wood Creek with logs. Thus was wiped out what little semblance of a highway had ever existed. Heavy-booted grenadiers and infantrymen sank in the mud, tripped over brush, caught bayonets and coattails in thickets, roasted in a green hell in the day time to drop down at night exhausted but restless in a strange, chilly, insect-ridden world.
When horses died of overwork and hunger, sweating men were forced to tug at cannon ropes. Sadly the officers saw their baggage sent back to Ticonderoga. Ten, fifteen, twenty days passed as the struggling army maintained a snail's pace only by the most back-breaking toil. Where was the Hudson? Was this dark wilderness of great trees that ever pressed in on them and thrust long arms in their path always to be ahead? Even the strongest faltered. Foreign soldiers longed for the open fields and the village streets of their homelands.
When at last, on July 30, that weary procession staggered out of the woods into the valley of the Hudson to see the silver-blue streak of river winding south between green hills, men wept with joy and rushed forward to throw themselves face downward in the blessed water. Little did they know the trials that still lay ahead. Delay in the advance had caused a desperate shortage of provisions. The countryside, stripped by the Americans as they retreated, provided no forage, and taking Fort Edward was a hollow triumph.
Though Schuyler's foes had scored only an empty victory, it provided occasion for politicians in a vacillating Congress to inveigh against him. The country in general did not yet understand the brilliant strategy of his retirement, and somewhat testily on July 26 he again wrote Washington:
I find by letters from below, that an idea prevails that Fort Edward is a strong and regular fortification. It was once a regular fortification, but there is nothing but the ruins of it left, and they are so utterly defenceless that I have frequently galloped my horse in on one side and out at the other. But when it was in the best condition possible, with the best troops to garrison it, and provided with every necessity, it would not have stood two days' siege after proper batteries had been opened. It is situated in a bottom on the banks of the river, and surrounded with hills from which the parade may be seen within point blank shot. I doubt not that it will be said that Fort Miller, Fort Saratoga, and Stillwater are considerable fortifications, of neither of which is there a trace left although they still retain their names.
Five days later General Schuyler was ordered replaced and General Horatio Gates assumed the command. Ironically enough the victory that would have vindicated Schuyler was achieved before the tardy Gates joined his troops. Advised by Tories that the rebels were gathering immense stores at Bennington, Burgoyne detached the Hessians under Baum to capture them. As they had done at Hubbardton and Fort Anne, the sharp-shooting rebels, swift of foot, led by John Stark, seemed to spring from nowhere upon the heavily equipped, slow-moving Germans to shoot them down or take them captive. Unavailing reinforcements commanded by Baum's colleague, Breyman, suffered heavy losses in a forced retreat. The plight of General Burgoyne and his army daily grew more unenviable.
Washington's proclamation asking help from the northern colonies was posted in every public square and read from every pulpit. From the Hudson, the Green Mountains, and the Valley of the Connecticut, farmers and shop keepers flocked to the American army. Indignation because of continued use of Indians to terrorize and burn in Queensbury, Kingsbury, and Fort Edward, was now brought to a climax as the gory tresses of beautiful Jane McCrea's scalp were exhibited in the settlements, at the Wing's Falls home of Content Wing Higson, a close friend of the murdered girl, and in the British camp, where David Jones, her fiance, was a Tory lieutenant. Instead of striking fear to the hearts of the colonists, who remembered only too well the redskin raids of the French and Indian War, it hardened and crystallized the patriot sentiments of an angry people, and sometimes drove the neutral or lukewarm to take a definite stand against Englishmen who, through their allies, warred on women and children. And when, too late, Burgoyne took his Indians to task and denounced their wanton killings, they all deserted him in his hour of greatest need.
Meanwhile the American army had grown to such proportions that it was able to detach General Lincoln with 1,500 Connecticut and New Hampshire militia to raid Burgoyne's extremely thin line of communications which had been rerouted up Lake George and along the military road through Warren County. On August 8 , the British general countered by sending three battalions of Hessians under their commander, Baron Riedesel, to John's Farm near Halfway Brook, and moving the base of reserve supplies from Fort George to the more defensible Diamond Island, seven miles down Lake George. Defenses were erected, artillery posted, and a guard of two companies of the British 47th under Captain Aubrey took post there.
These precautions availed little. Fort Edward and Skenesborough were recaptured. Colonel John Brown's attempt to take Ticonderoga was repulsed, but he seized the outworks, released many prisoners, and captured a number of boats. Then, turning the vessels about, he attacked Diamond Island. Failing to dislodge the defenders, Brown beached and burned the boats and made good his retreat.
The end rapidly approached for Burgoyne. Hemmed in front and rear, his supplies and communications cut off, and the Battle of Saratoga lost, he laid down his arms on October 17, 1777. Rejoicing, many Warren County pioneers returned to rebuild their shattered settlements. On May 5, 1778, the annual meeting of the Town of Queensbury was held as usual.
Indeed the British defeat at Saratoga spelled the end of major campaigning in the north for three years. The frontier might have been at peace except for the partisan strife between hot-headed Patriots and Tories. This local conflict kept the region in even greater ferment than the incursions from Canada of guerrilla bands of British, Tories, and Indians.
During most of 1777, while Burgoyne's might rolled across the land, Tories had the upper hand, but the next spring Americans once again came into power and some among them determined to drive the Loyalists from the country. Folk like Wing and his peaceful Quakers of Queensbury were perfectly willing to live in harmony with their neighbors and give to every man, Whig or Tory, a right to his own political opinion, but in the year 1778, neither the embittered Whigs nor the far from subdued Tories were in a tolerant frame of mind. As early as December 1777, John Younglove, Commissioner of Sequestrations for the Northern Department, wrote to the Committee of Safety: "There is likewise another set of men that took protection and then went home to their work; we want to know what to do with them, and concerning their estates. There is likewise a set of them that has been with Burgoyne through the campaign; and just before the capitulation, ran from him and came home, and now are devouring the provisions that the friends suffer for; and the populace is determined to drive them off or kill them. If something is not speedily done with them, we fear the consequence, if they are left amongst us."
What happened in some instances is disclosed by the correspondence of General John Stark, at this time commander of the northern armies. On May 21, 1778, he wrote to Colonel Safford, commandant at Fort Edward, whose militia apparently were taking sides with the Patriot hot-heads: "Doctor Smith complains that the troops at Fort Edward are turning out the inhabitants and destroying the buildings at that place. I should be glad that such disorders should be surpressed, and the inhabitants' property secured."
The following month General Stark wrote in the same vein to the President of the New Hampshire Congress: "They [the people] do very well in the hanging way. They hanged nine on the 1 6th of May, on the 5th of June nine; and have one hundred and twenty in jail, of which, I believe, more than one-half will go the same way. Murder and robberies are committed every day in this neighborhood. So you may judge of my situation, with the enemy on my front, and the devil in my rear."
At this time occurred another of those incredible Tory journeys across Warren County's western wilderness, an exploit so bold and remarkable that it met no effective resistance by the Whigs of Tryon County. A band, more than 100 strong, composed of Loyalists, who, in 1776, had escaped with Sir John Johnson by this route from Johnstown to Canada, now returned for their families. Allowed to complete their arrangements and depart unmolested, they boldly attacked Patriot homesteads and took prisoners on their long northward march via the Hudson, overland to Lake George, and down Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence.
Almost simultaneously another party of Tories, one of whom was Gilbert Harris, raided the isolated homes east of Queensbury near the shores of Lake George and captured Moses Harris, brother of Gilbert and father of the spy who had tricked his Uncle Gil during the Burgoyne campaign. Gilbert now insisted that his brother be taken a prisoner to Canada.
"He is an old man, and if he goes, the fatigue and exposure will kill him," remonstrated Andrew Rakely, leader of the Tories.
"Let him die then," responded the embittered Gil. But Rakely had his way and Moses was released on his promise under oath to say nothing of brother Gilbert's doings to his Whig neighbors.
The spring of 1779 opened ominously for the frontier when, in March, Skenesborough was plundered and burned, and its settlers were carried off to Canada by a raiding party of 130 Indians led by the rabid Tory, Joe Bettys. For a time following this event Fort Anne became the most northerly military outpost. The rest of the season must have remained relatively quiet, however, for the 1779 Queensbury Town Meeting was held as usual. Indeed enough interest was generated to elect for the first time in town history a supervisor to replace patriarch Abraham Wing. The office, nevertheless, remained in the family; for the new supervisor was Phineas Babcock, Wing's son-in-law.
In the opening months of 1780 alarms and rumors of invasion disturbed the frontier. Even the Quakers of Warren County moved behind the protection of Fort Edward; the town meeting in May being adjourned from Queensbury to the mansion of Judge William Duer at Fort Miller. At the same time Quartermaster Generals Morgan Lewis and Christopher Yates again dispatched foraging parties throughout the border to seize wheat, cattle, and other supplies for the destitute garrisons at Fort George, Fort Edward, and Fort Anne. By this time the Warren County pioneers, says Holden, "had little to carry or lose."
The rumors of invasion were no false alarms. A detachment of Johnson's Greens and two hundred Tories and Indians, in all 500 men under Sir John Johnson, pursued their way in secret to Johnstown and accomplished their purpose of recovering family plate from the cellar of the old Johnson mansion. Murdering, scalping and burning in the most ruthless fashion, this expedition was one of the worst outrages of the war. Pursued by hastily gathered American militia, Sir John retreated by way of the Sacandaga River and thence along the Indian trail around the base of Crane Mountain in the present town of Johnsburg to Crown Point on Lake Champlain, where his boats had been hidden. Governor George Clinton and the militia pursued, taking the route through Lakes George and Champlain, but the marauders escaped.
In June or July General Sir Frederick Haldimand, newly appointed Governor of Canada, and a force of 10,000 men had reoccupied Ticonderoga, abandoned by the British under the terms of Burgoyne's surrender. Haldimand stirred up further border strife by using the land controversy over the Hampshire Grants in an intrigue to secure the return of the Green Mountain territory to British allegiance. He also allowed bands of Indians and Tories to make Ticonderoga their base for raids against the border settlements.
Travel on the military road through Warren County became unsafe. Colonel Seth Warner, returning to Fort Edward on horseback after an inspection of the portion of his regiment under Captain John Chipman stationed at Fort George, was ambushed near Bloody Pond by a party of these raiders. Two companion officers were instantly killed; Warner was wounded and his mount shot under him. Only by grasping the bridle of another horse and galloping away was the intrepid colonel able to escape capture or death. A few days later two young men, John High and Albert Baker of Sandy Hill, while taking some horses to the officers at Fort George, arrived at Halfway Brook to find the still warm bodies of four settlers who, while working there, had been murdered and scalped.
Almost without interruption these bloody forays continued all summer, forerunners of the attack in force which came in the fall. On the first day of October Major Christopher Carleton of the 29th British regiment with a detachment of 800 Regulars, a company of German levies, 200 Tories and 175 Indians, lightly equipped for swift attacks and rapid marches, embarked in 34 vessels at St. John's for the trip up the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain. His Loyalist battalion was commanded by Colonel Ebenezer Jessup of Warren County and contained Tories from every border neighborhood, who would act as guides and make certain that not even the most isolated farmhouse should escape the wave of destruction.
At Bulwagga Bay near Crown Point 400 Regulars, Tories, and Indians under Colonel John Munro, a Loyalist of Schenectady, were disembarked. Crossing a great stretch of Warren County wilderness by way of the old Indian trail through Johnsburg and around Crane Mountain to the Sacandaga, Munro laid waste the countryside, plundered Ballstown, now Ballston Spa, put the tiny settlement to the torch, and hastily retreated northward. Meanwhile Carleton with the main force continued to the head of Lake Champlain, and, on October 8, landed at South Bay. He sent a few boats back to Ticonderoga, to be portaged into Lake George for carrying troops and supplies direct to Fort George, which he planned to attack three days later.
Marching rapidly southward he soon reached Fort Anne. Here a blockhouse of rough logs, surrounded by a stockaded inclosure, housed an untrained garrison of 75 militiamen from the neighborhood under Captain Adiel Sherwood of Sandy Hill. To make matters worse many of the defenders, including some from Warren County, had their wives and children with them. Scouts warned Sherwood of the approach of the enemy but there was little he could do except hurry a dispatch rider to notify Colonel Henry Livingston, commandant at Fort Edward, who failed to relay the message to Fort George.
On October 10, Carleton surrounded Fort Anne and demanded its surrender. When Sherwood refused, the British paraded before the garrison in force, shot away part of the stockade with cannon fire, and set the barracks ablaze with hot shot. The American commander asked a parley. Assured that the women and children would be allowed to depart in safety he capitulated. His men were made prisoners and the fort burned.
Despite the obvious necessity for his surrender Sherwood, like Schuyler and St. Clair during Burgoyne's invasion, was denounced in official papers, and fireside gossip. It was even asserted that he was bribed during his parley with Carleton. Officialdom, even including General Washington, seems to have had little knowledge or appreciation of the conditions.
Carleton now split his force into two parts. The smaller one, made up mostly of Tories and Indians, ranged southward as far as Old Saratoga, slaughtering settlers who had not fled, burning houses and barns. A line of fires along the horizon guided the fugitives as they sought to escape the raiders.
Fort Edward was not attacked, and for this Colonel Livingston claimed great credit. Although he had but 70 men he sent a note addressed to Sherwood by a known Loyalist promising to come to the relief of Fort Anne with a large force. As he anticipated, the message fell into the hands of the enemy and, according to Livingston, averted an attack on his position. Indeed it is more than likely that Carleton had no intention of being delayed by an attack on any post that might offer resistance. His principal purpose was to devastate swiftly as much of the country as possible.
From Fort Anne, Carleton quickly led the balance of his force west-ward over the road across Warren County to French Mountain and the Military Road to Lake George. On the morning of October 11, his Indian scouts were observed near Bloody Pond by a messenger who had been dispatched from Fort George to Fort Edward with a request for supplies.
An hour or two later the entire British force was attacked in the rear by a party of 48 men under Captain Thomas Sill, three-quarters of the garrison, sent out from Fort George by Captain Chipman to drive off what they supposed to be a marauding band of Indians, so that the messenger could get through. Sill had orders to follow the main road, but instead he took a route through the woods that allowed Carleton to get between him and the fort.
This attack on Carleton's rearguard was gallant but foolhardy. The men fought bravely but were quickly surrounded, and all except 14, who became detached in the melee, were killed or captured. With only fifteen soldiers left in the fort and but one cannon, Chipman stoutly resisted. Finally, almost out of ammunition, he surrendered under an offer of the following terms:
Article 1st. The troops of the garrison
to surrender themselves prisoners of war.
Article 2d. That the women and children be permitted to return to their homes, with two wagons and their baggage.
Article 3 d. Each officer shall be allowed their servants. Article 4th. No Indian to enter the fort until a British detachment takes possession of the fort.
Article 5th. Major Carleton passes his honor that no levies in the fort shall be lost, nor any person be molested.
Article 6th. Each soldier to carry his knapsack.
Article 7th. Ensign Barrett shall be permitted to return home with his family and the regimental books, on giving his parole to Major Carleton.
While Carleton occupied himself with Fort George, flying parties of his Indians and Tories swept through Queensbury and northern Kingsbury capturing 18 of the inhabitants and applying the torch to every home, outbuilding, and mill in their path. A contemporary described it thus: "I beheld nothing about me but the remains of conflagrations; a few bricks, proof against the fire, were the only indication of ruined houses; whilst the fences still entire, and cleared out lands, announced these deplorable habitations had once been the abode of riches and happiness." The Warren County settlements, which had stoutly held out for five "long years, were now entirely abandoned. There are no records of any town meetings in 1781 or 1782. Carleton, having burned Fort George and completed his mission of destruction elsewhere, embarked on Lake George and retired toward Ticonderoga. His expedition had killed twenty-seven " rebels," wounded two, and captured 118. Widespread havoc had been wrought, and the British had lost but three killed and four wounded. All this had little military significance except as a part of a larger plan that contemplated another invasion of the Hudson Valley. Washington reported to Congress: "It is thought, and perhaps not without foundation, that this incursion was made upon a supposition that Arnold's treachery had succeeded."
Although there were boats for Carleton and his prisoners of war, the captives of the Loyalists and red men were forced to trudge down the west shore of Lake George. In this party were James Higson, who had previously been made prisoner in 1777 and released, Eben Fuller and his son Benjamin, Andrew Lewis, another son-in-law of Abraham Wing, old Moses Harris and his son, William. The Tories just missed capturing young Moses Harris, the American spy, who would have been considered the greatest prize of all.
Somewhere along Carleton's red trail he had been joined by that bitter foe of the Whigs, Gilbert Harris. Gil may have been responsible for the hard treatment now visited on old Moses, his brother. This aged patriot was forced to remove his shoes and stockings and shoulder a huge pack. His bloody footprints marked the weary miles through the wilderness. William, a hardy, muscular woodsman and scout, would gladly have shouldered his father's burdens but his plea for permission to do so fell on deaf ears. Arriving finally at Bulwagga Bay, the prisoners were embarked on bateaux for the trip to Quebec.
On their arrival they were ransomed from the Indians and became prisoners of war. Higson was freed almost at once through the influence of his Tory brother-in-law and good friend, Daniel Jones. The elder Harris and three others were sent to Halifax and later exchanged, Harris eventually returning to his home in Dutchess County. William Harris and the remaining 13 were confined on an island in the St. Lawrence, and put to work under a guard of soldiers. Their provisions were brought from the mainland by boat.
On this procedure hinged a plan to escape, formulated in the spring of 1781 by William Harris and thirteen other prisoners. For several days they hid small amounts of food. Then seven bold spirits, including Harris, all that would leave when the crucial moment arrived, seized the boat and made their way to the south shore of the river. Before them stretched the vast, wilderness of northern New England. With Harris leading the way they struck off southward.
In a few days their food gave out and starvation, fatigue, and black flies dogged their footsteps. Finally, over Harris' protests, his companions built a fire in a swampy hollow and smothered it with damp wood to drive off the scourging insects. Around this the party camped. All soon fell into a deep sleep of exhaustion, unmindful of the pillar of smoke that floated like a banner above the trees.
About midnight they awoke to the sound of rifle fire. Three of the party were squirming wounded on the ground. As Harris came to his feet, he saw a tomahawk in the hand of a tall Indian raised above the head of one of his companions. Swiftly the powerful scout grappled with the red man, threw him into the fire, and forced his head into the flames. At this moment Cyrenus Parks, a Tory and former neighbor of Harris, raised a clubbed rifle over Harris and ordered him to release the squirming Indian.
" You won't kill an unarmed man will you, Parks, and an old neighbor, too?" parleyed Harris.
The only reply was a blow that broke the scout's upraised arm, and, crashing on his skull, laid his scalp open down to the ear.
Several hours later when he groaned into semi-consciousness he had another gash on his head made by a tomahawk, two lacerations on the forehead made by the butt of a gun and a bayonet wound in the chest. Evidently he had been left for dead. His companions were gone, his knapsack, coat, and shoes as well. Hardly conscious, Harris slung his broken arm through a neckerchief and staggered away.
Living on roots and herbs and an occasional frog, caught with his good hand and eaten raw, he at length stumbled out of the woods to the bank of a swift stream that barred further progress. Looking about for materials to construct a raft, he finally became aware of two men who had been watching him from upstream. Too tired, hungry, and weak from pain and loss of blood to resist further, Harris waved for help although he feared they were enemies. They turned out to be two of his fugitive comrades who washed his horrible wounds, by this time crawling with maggots, and contrived bark splints for his broken arm.
Next morning the three men crossed the stream on an improvised raft, and several days later reached a log cabin in a clearing. One of the trio cautiously approached the house and begged for something to eat from the French woman whose men folk were not at home. She refused but the desperate fugitive found and took a loaf of corn bread. He then returned to his companions with welcome food but the unwelcome news that they were still in Canada.
With what speed their weary bodies could muster they again turned southward. Finally the gaunt fugitives reached the Connecticut River at a point in southern Vermont. At the home of a relative in Salem, several months were required to heal Harris' wounds, but after he recovered he served in the border militia until the close of the war.
After these grim experiences it is not strange that Harris carried to his grave a deep and unreasoning hatred of all Tories and Indians. These found no welcome in Harris Hollow, Harrisena, where Old Bill became a noted local character. On one occasion he is said to have shot an Indian peddler merely because the red man made threatening gestures at the Harris children who were taunting him. A sequel to this story is that he also killed a brave sent by the tribe to avenge the murder, braining the Indian with a hoe when the warrior made the mistake of asking Old Bill to direct him to the Harris home.
Cyrenus Parks, the Loyalist who had wielded the gun butt against Bill's head during his flight from Canada, had a Patriot brother, Joseph, who came to occupy the Parks home near the Harris homestead. After the Revolution he visited Bill Harris and in a roundabout way suggested that the scout forgive and forget his grudge against Cyrenus. Bill told Joseph with considerable heat that he would shoot Cyrenus on sight. Joseph pressed the point until Bill savagely shouted:
"Joseph, Cyrenus is at your house, and if he wants to live he had better keep out of my way." Cyrenus did.
With Carleton's retirement down Lake George major warlike activity ended in Warren County. General John Stark appointed by Washington to resume command of the Northern Department in June 1781, did his best to preserve order with untrained and poorly armed militia, but war parties, some of them outlaw bands, roamed the countryside plundering such settlements as still survived and effectively discouraging any attempts to resettle the abandoned homesteads.
A contributing factor to the widespread insecurity was British-occupied Ticonderoga, used as a base with the tacit consent of General Haldimand for raiding parties sent out to harass the frontier, while the general carried on his intrigue with the Hampshire Grants. General Schuyler, placed in charge of intelligence after being acquitted of an absurd charge of neglect of duty during the Burgoyne campaign, again pressed into service the spy Moses Harris, and his colleague Fish. They were to attempt to intercept some of the correspondence between Haldimand and the leaders of the Grants.
Soon these secret agents reported a conference with the Tory, Andrew Rakely, and others which purported to reveal that the Americans of the Hampshire Grants "were to lay down their arms, and the British were to advance to the south end of Lake George and erect fortifications with a view to the command and occupation of the contiguous country." But nothing happened. This with similar false messages demonstrated that the spies misinterpreted the astute politicians of the Green Mountains who were simply playing politics in an endeavor to secure a favorable settlement of their land fued with New York, and "managed for two years to play fast and loose with the Canadian authorities and the Continental Congress, being loyal and true to neither."
In the fall of 178 1 another foray was made through the western section of Warren County on the settlements about Johnstown. But this time the invaders, led by Major Ross and that active Loyalist, Walter Butler, came to grief. In the last battle of the war, fought on October 25, a few days after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, the New York and New England militia under Colonel Marinus Willett defeated the raiders, who suffered heavy losses. Their retreat became a rout. Intercepted at Jerseyfield by local militia from the Mohawk Valley, which "waiter Butler had repeatedly ravaged, he was slain with many of his men. No prisoners were taken, but it is doubtful whether more than a very few of the fugitives reached Canada. They had abandoned their baggage and probably most of them had not even a blanket, a gun, or more than a day's rations. Snow lay on the ground and fifty miles of the mountain fastness of Warren County lay between them and Ticonderoga, the nearest British base.
Through all of 1782 rumors of invasion from Canada were frequent and as often proved false. Much of this false information emanated from Ticonderoga as a part of the British scheme to secure the loyalty of the Hampshire Grants on one side and occupy the attention of the New York border troops on the other. But all the conspiring, all the unrest and uncertainty came at last to an end when, in April 1783, Washington proclaimed a cessation of hostilities. Pioneers began at once to reestablish their settlements. Less than a month later the annual town meeting was held as usual in Queensbury.
After the war Moses Harris, whose espionage work had been so effective, received a pension, purchased land in Queensbury near Lake George, and developed the section called Harrisena. There he lived until his death on November 13, 1838, at the age of 89. Some of his descendants still reside in Warren County. A grandson erected a monument to Moses in the little country burial ground of the Harrisena Episcopal Church. The stone bears this epitaph:
He was a man that was true to his friends and his country. He was the man that carried the package for Gen. Schuyler and from Gen. Schuyler to Gen. Washington. It went, and without doubt was the instrument that put Gen. Burgoyne's journey to an end. He it was that bought the Patten granted to John Lawrence and others when wild; and settled the same, being two thousand acres, to the benefit of his children and grandchildren. For which I think I ought to do something to his memory. J. J. H., Grandson
Royal patents or Colonial land grants were early used to bring settlers to the virgin wilderness. In essense the plan was sound but in practice it fell into much abuse. The grants caused trouble with the Indians who feared confiscation of their lands; they were a prolific source of court squabbles over land titles; and only too often they went to influential favorites and land speculators who never intended to become settlers. Eventually cheap land did bring pioneers, but none of their settlements in "warren County became permanent until after the Revolution.
On September 3, 1696, the Reverend Godfrey Dellius, Dutch minister at Albany, used his influence to obtain from Acting Governor Fletcher a patent to territory "lying upon the east side of the Hudson River, between the northernmost bounds of Saratoga and the Rock Rossian [Split Rock on Lake Champlain], containing about 70 miles in length and 12 miles broad, subject to a yearly rent to the crown of one hundred raccoon skins." This grant included a large part of present-day Warren County. Because Dellius' deeds to the land were declared fraudulent, the patent was vacated at the instance of Lord Bellamont on March 21, 1699.
"For the illegal and surreptitious obtaining of said grants" Dellius was removed from his ministry, and was succeeded in 1700 by the Reverend John Lydius. In 1732 the latter followed the course of his predecessor, securing from Governor Shirley of Massachusetts a confirmation of his alleged Indian deeds to land bordering on the southern shores of Lake Champlain and Lake George and extending to the Hudson. Thus it embraced some territory now a part of Warren County. No settlement resulted here, however, and the grant seems to have lapsed in 1791 with the death of John Henry Lydius, son of the original patentee.
The great Kayaderosseras Patent, issued by the Crown in 1708 to thirteen grantees, was based on deeds supposed to have been given to the influential Robert Livingston and David Schuyler by the Mohawk Sachems, Joseph and Hendrick. It contained 800,000 acres, lying between the Mohawk and the Hudson and on it are based many of the land titles in the Town of Luzerne and some in the southwestern part of Queensbury. Because of a claim that the grant encompassed more land than the original agreement, it was the cause of resentment among the Indians and consequent anxiety to the settlers for sixty years. For over a hundred and fifty years its indefinite boundaries and inadequate surveys brought about numerous law suits. Perhaps it is significant that the name Kayaderosseras is derived from an Indian word meaning crooked stream.
As late as 1857 Thomas B. Bennett sued Abraham Wing III of Glens Falls in a land claim case based on the Kayaderosseras Patent. Wing founded his defense on the same land grant, whereas the plaintiff expected him to claim under the Queensbury Patent, and Bennett was defeated. Another fact established by a lawsuit stemming from the Kayaderosseras Patent was that Baker's Falls, at the present village of Hudson Falls, was the third fall in the Hudson River, rather than the falls at Fort Miller.
The winding course of the Hudson from the western boundary of Queensbury down to Hudson Falls left a gore of over two thousand acres between the north boundary of the Kayaderosseras Patent and the southern bank of the river, east of the present South Glens Falls. This tract about 1770 became the Glen Patent. Although it was across the Hudson from Warren County, the patentee's name is perpetuated in Glens Falls.
The patent most important to the settlement of the County was issued on May 20, 1762. It granted 23,000 acres lying on the Hudson River west of Kingsbury to Daniel Prindle and others, twenty-three grantees in all. Just four weeks later, June 18, a proprietor's meeting showed that the ownership of the Queensbury Patent, as it was named, had almost entirely changed hands. Influential men had evidently lent their names for obtaining the grant, without intending to become settlers. Probably they merely acted as agents for Abraham Wing, a Quaker, and certain of his neighbors of the Society of Friends in the Oblong, Dutchess County, who proposed to pioneer on the wilderness frontier.
The patent stipulated that a community or a village be erected in the township, that town officers be elected, and that three acres of each thousand be put in cultivation within a specified time. It further reserved to the Crown all mines of gold and silver, all white or other pine trees of large dimensions suitable for masts, and provided for certain annual rentals.
In the summer of 1763 two men slowly made their way up the old military road from Fort Edward. They were Abraham Wing and his son-in-law, Ichabod Merritt, both Quakers from the Dutchess County Oblong. Their destination was the Garrison Grounds at Halfway Brook where they possibly intended to locate the community to be established in the Town of Queensbury, granted and surveyed the previous year. This was the beginning of settlement in Warren County.
Wing and Merritt were not the very first residents. Occupying the barracks at Halfway Brook at their arrival was Jeffrey Cooper, a former sailor, who was left behind by General Amherst when he withdrew his troops about 1759 or 1760. Cooper cut no great figure in the developing colony. It was Abraham Wing who, from the beginning, exhibited those qualities of political and industrial leadership necessary to the advancement of the new settlement.
In 1771 Edward and Ebenezer Jessup, sharp and enterprising land traders, secured patents for about 1 5,000 acres in what is now the central and northern sections of the Town of Luzerne. The Jessups founded Jessup's Landing and Jessup's Little Falls on the Hudson, near the site of the present-day village of Lake Luzerne, and resided there in a sort of backwoods feudal magnincance until the Revolution.
Not content with these extensive holdings, the two promoters engineered in 1772 the famous Totten and Crossfield Purchase of 800,000 acres, lying mostly north of Warren County, but embracing all the present Town of Johnsburg and part of Chester. The Mohawks and Caughnawagas ceded this vast tract during a grand council at the home of Sir William Johnson. In 1774 the Jessups obtained another grant of 40,000 acres in what are now the Towns of Warrensburg and Thurman. During the Revolution they were Loyalists and their settlement was raided and destroyed in 1777 by an American detachment ordered out by General Gates.
From time to time in this manner the Colonial, and later the State, Government patented a great share of the lands in the County. The Dartmouth Township of 1774 granted much of the territory in Stony Creek and Thurman. James Caldwell, by patent and purchase in 1787, obtained most of the land about the head of Lake George, while other tracts along the shores were granted through small military patents, gifts to discharged soldiers.
Although records are not definite, settlers probably came to the clearings around Fort William Henry and Fort George shortly after the advent of the pioneers in Queensbury. During those years a few soldiers establishing bounty claims, and settlers seeking the opportunity to market the towering pines of this wilderness frontier, scattered their log cabins on the primitive roads, Indian trails, and numerous streams surrounding the new settlements.
By the early 1770's the groundswell of the Revolution had begun to make itself felt, and by 1780 heaps of ashes and stump-blackened clearings were almost the only evidences of attempted civilization in a land abandoned. But this was only an interlude in the march of settlement. American victory and peace in 1783 brought back most of the old and many new settlers. Land was cheap and a fortune might be hewn out of the virgin wilderness ; the desire for wealth and power, here as elsewhere, was a powerful incentive spurring pioneers to brave the dangers and discomforts of an inaccessible frontier.
Beginning about 1787, James Caldwell established mills and improvements on his property at the head of Lake George. By attracting settlers with families and promoting trade he laid the foundations for a village, then called Caldwell, now Lake George.
In 1790 settlement began to spread through the northern, and especially in the northwestern, part of the county. John Thurman was primarily responsible for this movement. A shrewd and industrious pioneer, he had acquired much territory in the Hyde Township and the Totten and Crossfield Purchase. It is said of him that on a visit to New York City he showed beechnuts as samples of buckwheat raised on his patent to prospective settlers. So wild and difficult of access were some sections of the north and west that it was 1820 or 1830 before even sparse settlement had spread to all sections of the County.
In these same years the State sold to individuals the large Hague, Brant Lake, Northwest Bay and Warrensburg Tracts. But gradually the practice came into public disfavor. It was becoming evident that the wild lands were worth much more than the five to fifteen cents an acre paid to the State by the private interests. Clamor, too, began to arise for the preservation of the resources and beauty of the Adirondacks. Goaded into action by a campaign for conservation, the Legislature in 1885 passed an act to prohibit the sale of any State-owned lands. But long before land grants were outlawed the settlements which were their primary object had been made.
The early settlers walked hand-in-hand with privation and hardship. Industries for many years were few and small; money was scarce. Food of necessity was raised by each family on its stump-dotted clearing, with the larder bolstered by game from the surrounding forest. Clothing was the product of the home loom; boots and shoes were made of native leather by traveling bootmakers. A farm surplus was difficult to dispose of since the only markets lay at great distances, and the scarcity of money made barter almost the only kind of business transaction.
Although forest game was a boon, the wolf, panther, lynx and other wild animals were a constant danger to the scanty flocks and herds of the settlements and even attacked the settlers. It is told that one settler drove a few sheep to his farm and put them in a pen for safekeeping. That night wolves broke into the enclosure and killed all but two. These two were summarily slaughtered to "save" them. Rattlesnakes remained a menace only until hogs, running wild in the woods and unfenced clearings, did away with them almost completely.
A new pioneer was always welcome in any of the tiny communities. His coming meant another farm cleared, a new neighbor, a helping hand in work, a comrade at play, one more in the little circle to share prosperity or adversity. The call would go out to gather and help build newcomers a log cabin. That same night the new home, usually a single room in need of much finishing, would be occupied. It was a life for the stout-hearted with comfort only a minor consideration.
In return for the help accorded him, the new settler would soon be called upon to join a house-raising or a logging bee, the latter a process by which many hands made clearings in the forest. Any "bee" was a gala fete, a social get-together, the occasion for play as well as work. Down came the trees and up went the new house to the tune of a jug, frequently passed.
This fraternity, sociability and mutual helpfulness did much to make life endurable and even gay in spite of the loneliness and hardship of isolated frontier communities. Class distinction was almost unknown for the common poverty, toil, and danger were effective levelers, destroying caste and other social barriers. All mingled freely; the joys and sorrows of one were the joys and sorrows of all; but there was scant privacy, luxury, culture, art, or book learning.
As settlements grew, one of the first considerations became the establishment of schools (see Religion and Education] . At an early date, rustic seats of learning were widely scattered throughout the wilderness. Teachers, who were boarded around at settlers' homes, were usually men better known for their ability to use the hickory stick than for any great amount of learning. Schoolhouses were as crude as the educational system. Many a boy whose homespun pants made it hard to tell whether he was coming or going might be seen on a frosty morning lugging an armful of wood to school as his share of the necessary fuel.
Increasing population brought more district schools, and it was not uncommon to find a teacher with more than fifty students ranging in age from toddlers to adults. Schools in the rural and agricultural sections were, as a rule, better attended and more liberally supported than in centers of trade and industry until, with the enforcement of child labor laws and state aid for free public schools, the wealthier urban communities set higher standard of education. Warren County still has a few one-room schools for small children in outlying districts with a sparse population, but the trend is toward transporting students by bus to large central schools, well staffed, and offering a varied curriculum on a par with city schools.
The growth of churches paralleled that of schools. The pioneers, predominantly the New Englanders, were devoutly, sometimes intolerantly, God-fearing. Church buildings were few, and schoolhouses and homes served as the first places of worship. At intervals hardy evangelists or circuit riders came long distances to minister to the religious needs of the scattered settlements. Gradually, every little district built its church, frame or brick low-steepled buildings with sheds behind for the horses and carriages. Many of these now stand forlorn and forsaken, while those less numerous descendents of the pioneers who still live in rural parts of the County drive their cars to attend Sunday services in distant villages.
Almost immediately after 1813, when Warren County was set off from Washington County, its tiny settlements were alarmed by the threatened British invasion of 1814. Many militiamen, especially from the northern towns, marched to help lift the siege of Plattsburg.
Hardly had the menace of war passed when the people of the County were subjected to a terrible ordeal by a freak of nature. During the so-called " cold summer "of 1816, ice formed in many localities every month of the year and snow fell in June. Only favored sections raised any crops at all and isolated areas lacked the barest necessaries of life. Of the few whose harvests were successful, some could not aid the unfortunate because they needed the food for their own use, while others declined to help "except at such exorbitant rates as to practically shut out the poor."
The western part of the county was particularly hard hit. In Luzerne rye brought $2.00 a bushel and pork $50.00 a barrel. Grist-mills sought to avoid loss of precious food by abandoning the usual process of separating the bran from the kernel in the grinding of grain. Bread was so scarce that families frequently went without it for a month; many, entirely destitute, haunted the mills, seeking an opportunity to sweep the beams for flour dust.
Glens Falls was already in the throes of the depression of 1815 when the cold summer added its difficulties. An old newspaper describes in part the efforts to relieve the situation:
". . . The neighbors clubbed together, raised all the money they could get, and started Mr. Varney off to Greenwich, Washington County, for a load of rye, for which he paid twenty shillings per bushel. On his return he was met in Sandy Hill by Charles Baker, who claimed that the people there were starving and he must unload. This he did, and took the money and started again for Greenwich for another load. When he arrived at Glens Falls he found the people well-nigh famished."
One fact clearly demonstrated by the hardship of 1816-17 was the need for more adequate communication and transportation. The old military highways were still little better than trails, their bridges, if any, just logs laid parallel and covered with planks. As late as 1820 travel, chiefly by carts and sleighs, was exceedingly uncomfortable, often dangerous. About this time the northern turnpike from Hudson Falls to Glens Falls and thence northward through Lake George, Warrensburg and Chestertown was completed. It was the first long step forward in local transportation.
In 1832 occurred a most revolutionary travel and transportation development the opening to navigation of the Champlain Feeder Canal between Glens Falls and Fort Edward. It gave a great impetus to the lumber and lime industries and to the growth of the County. Glens Falls became the shipping point for the entire region. A colorful sideline of the canal business was the carrying of passengers by "fast" packet boats. As rapid transportation it was surpassed by the stagecoach, but it offered more comfort and the opportunity for the social intercourse associated with water travel.
In 1844 the plank road between Glens Falls and Lake George was built and in 1848 it was extended to Warrensburg. The building of the turn- pike ushered in the picturesque stagecoach era. Until 1882 "red coaches, with top railing and spring cushions," trundled through the principal communities. While it signaled another advance, stagecoach travel was far from luxurious.
With increase in population and industries came the demand for railroads. Although the agitation began as early as 1832, it was 1871 before the Adirondack Railway Company completed the first important line to a point well within Warren County, the trackage from Saratoga Springs up the Hudson River to North Creek. Not until July 4, 1869, did the Glens Falls Railroad Company open the five-mile line between Glens Falls and Fort Edward. Then it was such a novelty that people took their lunches and rode back and forth all day long. At Fort Edward this line connected with the Saratoga and Whitehall railroad built in 1849. Soon after the Fort Edward -Glens Falls tracks were extended to Lake George in 1882, all these routes were merged into the present Delaware and Hudson system.
The rise of the railroads spelled the doom of stagecoaches and passenger-carrying canal boats. In 1885 came horse cars, supplanted six years later by electric street railways. About 1900 villages began to improve their streets while the State built better highways through the County. In 1928, after automobiles had become the leading means of transportation, busses replaced trolley cars.
The earliest known resident of Warren County was English. The first founder of a community was Welsh; subsequent arrivals were Irish, Scots, French, and Dutch in the order of their numerical importance. Descendants of these racial strains still predominate. How many people lived in Warren County during the ten years following the first settlement in 176,6 to the outbreak of the Revolution, is difficult to determine. Probably there were no more than thirty or forty families. All these fled in 1780 to escape the menace of a war torn frontier, but many returned in 1783 as resettlement commenced. At the same time new families of pioneers began to arrive.
In the first national census of 1790 when Washington County included this entire region, and Queensbury alone was named in what is now Warren County, the total population numbered 183 families, a total of 1,081 persons, including one slave belonging to John Thurman. No Indians at all are listed though there is a column for "other free persons" of whom there were only three in Washington County, and 4,642 in the entire state.
The first census lists have been republished. Many of the names that James Gordon, the assistant marshal who drew up the Washington County lists, recorded as heads of families in Queensbury are still to be found in the Warren County telephone directories. Moreover, many present-day Warren County names appear in the 1790 census lists of counties nearby or farther down the Hudson. Vermont was not admitted to the Union until the year after the 1790 census, but its 1800 census lists contain many familiar present-day Warren County names.
In 1790 there were in New York State eighteen Wing families of whom three were in Washington County, eight were in Dutchess, one in nearby Columbia, five in Albany County, and one in Mohawk, Montgomery County. They were certainly a restless, pioneering tribe. There were 67 Merritt families listed in New York State in 1790 of whom eleven were in Dutchess County. Nehemiah, Ichabod, and Daniel Merritt, three brothers, married three daughters of an Abraham Wing in the early 1740's in Dutchess County.
Only three Thurman families are listed for New York State in the 1790 census, and all had slaves. The local John Thurman, with a large family of his own, had the only slave in this section. Another John Thurman, with a family of two in New York City, where slaves made up less than 7 percent of the population, had four slaves, and Sarah Thurman, widow with a son and four daughters living at Orange in Orange County, where slaves were but 5 percent of the population, had three. Evidently the Thurmans were people of means and lived in comparative luxury, for slaves were seldom employed in New York except as domestic servants. Few families could afford them, especially in newly settled places, where labor was scarce and even people of means worked hard to keep the wolf from the door and a roof over their heads.
When Warren County was carved out of Washington County and its present boundaries definitely set, it embraced a population of about 8,000. A typical Adirondack region, except for its one urban center, it has never been densely populated, but it showed a consistent increase to 19,699 in 1860, and 29,943 in 1900. Since then the increase has been at a slower rate with a slight temporary drop in 1920, though the next five years showed a gain of 2,397.
In 1930, with a population of 34,174, about 87 percent or 31,767 persons in the county, were American-born whites. The foreign-born white population numbered 2,318; those of other races totaled 89. Foreign elements are infusions of the present century, who concentrate almost entirely in the urban area in the southeast. They consist principally of English, Irish, Germans, Italians, Greeks, and French-Canadians.
In 1940 the census showed a population of 36,035 for Warren County of whom more than half, 18,836, were credited to Glens Falls. Several hundred more who work in the city have their homes just beyond the city limits of the town of Queensbury, so that Warren County has a larger number of urban than rural dwellers.
While each successive census since 1790 (except 1920) has shown at least a small increase for the county as a whole, some of the rural towns have fallen off, a few having lost more than half the number of people they could count while the stored up wealth of the virgin forest was being ruthlessly exploited. At that time, too, the industrial workers depended for food and supplies largely upon the product of the fertile farms of the county.
The 1935 agricultural census shows that in five years the number of persons in Warren County actually living on farms increased by almost one- fourth to a total of 5,023. Only about a third of Warren County's rural population live on farms, but of the 23 percent increase of 942, more than half or 502, just 10 percent of the total number of farm residents, had been city dwellers five years earlier. It is evident that more people are turning to agriculture, both those who are already rural dwellers, and in even larger numbers, those who are moving out from cities to become part-time or subsistence farmers.
The industrial picture in Warren County began to change before the turn of the present century when the economic bulwarks of pioneer days, lumbering, tanning, potash burning, lime making, and manufacturing for local needs declined or disappeared. Modern industry thereafter concentrated in the southeast and fostered the urban development in that section. Farming in the same years became less profitable and people outside the industrial area turned to the development of the tourist trade. A more detailed account of how these developments went hand-in-hand with transportation changes, the exhaustion of natural resources, and the conservation movement, will be found in the chapters titled Industry and Commerce, Glens Falls, Lake George, and The Towns.
Automobiles, roads, radio, daily papers, the habit of shopping in town, attending the village or city churches and theaters, have all helped erase the line between rural and urban residents. In fact, with an excellent public school system and much contact with visitors from afar, the typical inhabitant of rural Warren County is not markedly different from the typical urban dweller.
Warren County has always been governed by supervisors. The founder of the earliest settlement within the area of the present boundaries of the county, Abraham Wing, took office as supervisor at the first town meeting in 1766. He was the leader of his little colony through all the hardships of frontier warfare, relinquishing the office to son-in-law Phineas Babcock after the settlement had been abandoned in 1780 to escape the savagery of Carleton's invasion.
Abraham Wing, the first supervisor of Queensbury, died 18 years before Warren County took its place among the counties of New York State. From the earliest days, when it was described as the Dismal Wilderness, until 1772 the entire Adirondack region was a part of Albany County. In that year a vast section of Albany was set off to form two new counties, Tryon in the west and Charlotte on the east. In the post-Revolutionary swing away from anything British, Tryon County was renamed Montgomery, and on April 2,1784 Charlotte became Washington County.
On March 12, 1813 Warren County, named in honor of General Joseph Warren who lost his life at the Battle of Bunker Hill, was created by dividing Washington County into two almost equal parts. This new county, which still retains its original boundaries, is a little the larger geographically. It takes in the territory north of the great bend in the Hudson River, and as far west as the Hamilton County line. The eastern boundary follows the eastern shore of Lake George, so that Warren County includes the entire lake with all its islands except for about two miles of the northern tip which extends into Essex County. South from Kattskill Bay the county line follows the Queensbury town line to the Hudson River east of Glens Falls.
After Washington County was set up, it was sixteen years before Queensbury was incorporated as a town in 1788. In 1792 the wilderness north and west of it was divided into the towns of Fairfield and Thurman. Fairfield became Luzerne in 1808. From Thurman were sliced Bolton and Chester in 1799, though no settlers are recorded in Chester until 1805; Johnsburg, named for John Thurman, in 1805; Hague in 1807; Caldwell in 1810; and Warrensburg, just before Warren County was set up in 1 8 1 3 . At that time the remaining slice of the old town of Thurman was called Athol, which, in 1852 was partitioned into the towns of Stony Creek and Thurman. There is a Thurman station on the railway that winds up the course of the Hudson River, an Athol post office a mile or two northwest of it, and a Thurman post office several miles beyond that. Horicon was carved out of Bolton and Hague in 1838.
Each of the eleven town supervisors is a member of his Town Board. With the incorporation of Glens Falls as a city in 1908, five supervisors, one from each city ward, took their places with the town supervisors as members of the County Board of Supervisors, which has jurisdiction over all matters of a county-wide nature. They meet quarterly at the county seat, Lake George.
CHURCH AND SCHOOL
Along Warren County's earliest settlers there was a transplanted religious community, not fleeing from persecution nor from an overcrowded or impoverished home land, but deliberately setting forth to found a colony on the war-torn frontier. These people were members of the Society of Friends, and came from the prosperous Quaker settlement in the Dutchess County Oblong on the Connecticut border. The fact that the original grantees of the Patent of Queensbury quickly transferred a large share of their interest to Quaker leader Abraham Wing and his followers, lends support to the tradition that wealthy co-religionists in New York City used their influence to secure this land grant for the County's Quaker pioneers.
No meeting house was built by this first little group of Friends who established themselves briefly in Queensbury between the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, but at a monthly meeting of the Society of Friends in Dutchess County in 1767 the Queensbury settlers were granted leave "to hold meetings on each First Day at twelve o'clock." In a very few years they were driven out as refugees by fire and sword, for their frontier settlement lay in the path of the contending forces and beyond the limited protection afforded to more settled communities.
But when they returned after American independence had been won, they had scarcely finished their own log cabins and mills to grind grain and to saw boards, before they erected a house of worship on Bay Road near Halfway Brook in Queensbury. This log structure served also as a school house.
About the year 1798 a commodious frame meeting house was built on the upper Ridge Road which was superseded in 1875 by the red brick Friend's Church now located on Ridge Street, Glens Falls. At that time the old building was moved to a site near Ridge Road at Oneida Corners beside the Grange Hall where it eventually was torn down and replaced by the present community church.
Before the end of the eighteenth century a Baptist Church was built beside a small body of water now known as Lake Sunnyside. The pastor, the Reverend Rufus Bates, ministered to a flock scattered in all the settlements that he could reach, numbering not less than 200 souls. Elder Jehiel Fox also preached to a Baptist congregation in Thurman before 1800.
The first Presbyterian preacher was a Christian Indian, the Reverend Anthony Paul, a full-blooded Mahican. He was educated in Connecticut and there was licensed to preach by the Congregational Association. For a while he lived in Bolton, his sermons were well received by the New Englanders there, and through his efforts a Presbyterian Church was formed in Stony Creek in 1800. Mr. Wheelock took the Reverend Mr. Paul's father-in-law, Sampson Occum, an Indian, to England. There his preaching so impressed Lord Dartmouth as to interest him in the education of the Indian people, for which purpose Dartmouth College was founded.
Itinerant Methodist preachers came early and were very active. Richard Jacobs was sent by the Reverend Freeborn Garretson in 1796 to introduce Methodism into northern Warren County, then known as Thurman. Jacobs was drowned while trying to ford the outlet of Schroon Lake, and the Reverend Henry Ryan, a local preacher, who had gathered a congregation in Warrensburg, was invited to preach there. The Reverend David Noble, who as a young Irish Episcopalian had been converted to Methodism by John Wesley's preaching, entered this region in 1798. His great-great-granddaughter, Helene Noble Wood, is the widow of Frank Wood who recently served Lake George Village as mayor and as postmaster.
By 1799 Henry Ryan and "Billy" Hibbart, itinerant preachers, were traveling 500 miles a month to fill 63 appointments. In 1810 Thurman's Patent was set off as a two weeks' circuit embracing the Hudson and Schroon Valleys from Schroon Lake to Luzerne. Tobias Spicer, who rode the circuit in 1812, visited 13 preaching places every two weeks, his route embracing also the shore of Lake George. The people he served were poor, his work was arduous, and had he counted his compensation in cash it would have been small indeed.
In 1803, forty years after the first settlement of the town of Queensbury, the chief center of population, known to many as Pearl Village, had no church, though it had a good hotel, flourishing mills, and considerable trade. A subscription " to build a house of publick worship . . . somewhere near the Four Corners," was drawn up March 4, 1803. It was December 18, 1808 before the building was completed and "The Union Church of Pearl Village in the Town of Queensbury " was organized with nine charter members.
The Reverend William Boardman was called as the first pastor in the spring of 1809, and in 1848 the name of the corporation was changed to "The First Presbyterian Church of Glens Falls." Old White, as the church was called, with its square belfry, was torn down about 1848. The brick building that replaced it went up in flames with most of the village in the great fire of May 31, 1864. In June 1867, a new structure, complete and free of debt, was dedicated. Again in 1884 it burned and was promptly rebuilt. In 1925 the old Warren Street site, then closely hemmed in by the business district was sold and a new site purchased at the southwest corner of Notre Dame and Glen Streets. Here an impressive Gothic structure of Indiana limestone has been erected, designed by Ralph Adams Cram of Boston.
Throughout the County there are many Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches. Not a few of the buildings were erected in the 1850's and 1860's when a revival of interest in religious observance swept across the Nation. In the areas that were then popular as summer resorts the visitors lent their aid in providing beautiful structures such as the Presbyterian Church at Lake George, the Episcopalian Churches there and at Bolton, and the Diamond Point Union Church. On August 14, 1940, the Kavanaugh Memorial Chimes were dedicated at St. James Episcopal Church, Diamond Point, with a radio broadcast.
Some rural churches have been abandoned while urban churches assist others by sending out preachers, some of whom serve several outlying centers. The more prosperous rural residents frequently join village churches to which they travel by automobile. Owing to the decline of agriculture there are other country people on widely scattered farms or in small rural communities who would gladly attend services and join in the religious and community activities of a church, but who are too few and too poor to maintain local churches. It is among these people, who contribute generously so far as their means permit, that home missions are maintained.
Other Protestant religious denominations represented in Warren County are the Christian Scientists, Christian Missionary Alliance, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of the Latter Day Saints or Mormons.
The history of Roman Catholic churches in Warren County parallels that of the other religious societies. Their activities began somewhat later, but they have built churches in all the communities where there is a considerable number of Catholic people. Their earliest church to be established in the County was St. Mary's in Glens Falls, organized in 1849. The Reverend John Murphy was the first pastor. A red brick building, begun in 1867, was completed and dedicated January 19, 1870. That edifice, minus the tall, slender spire that once crowned its belltower, remains in use to this day.
St. Alphonsus Church was organized in Glens Falls in 1853 with the Reverend Louis Desroches as the first pastor. The original frame building was enlarged during 1872-73, and in the latter year the first St. Alphonsus school was opened. The present brick church at Pine and Broad Streets was erected in 1888 during the pastorate of the Reverend Louis Napoleon St. Onge.
Throughout the County north of Glens Falls there are eight more Roman Catholic parish churches, and services are conducted at other places during the summer. Notable among the church buildings are those at Lake George, Chestertown, and Hague.
The first Catholic church outside of Glens Falls was St. Cecilia's built at Warrensburg in 1874 through the efforts of the Reverend James A. Kelley, a pioneer clergyman who traveled throughout most of northern Warren County and built churches in several parishes. In 1879 he built another church at Wevertown, then the most important community in that region. Since the decline in population due to the passing of the lumber industry, the Wevertown church has been attached to the North Creek parish and is now used only in summer. During other seasons of the year its members are taken by bus to services at Chestertown.
Within a few years of the erection of the church at Warrensburg, the Catholics of Chestertown established their church of St. John the Baptist in a building purchased from the Methodists, and in 1886, the Reverend James Flood built a larger frame structure to replace it. During 1936, the year of its Golden Jubilee, the building was razed to make way for a new edifice planned by the Reverend J. F. McMahon, present pastor of the North Creek parish, to which Chestertown is attached.
Dedicated in August 1937, the new St. John the Baptist Church, monastery Gothic in style, built of Fort Ann variegated quartzite and trimmed with Indiana limestone, is one of the outstanding parish churches of the Catholic Diocese of Albany. Interior work still continues from year to year. Its beautiful stained glass windows, one of which is dedicated to St. Isaac Jogues, were produced by the Connick Studio of Boston.
The first Catholic services at Lake Luzerne were held in private homes in the late 1870 J s by the same Father Kelley who built at Warrensburg and Wevertown. This energetic and popular priest also built the village's first Catholic church about 1880, raising $ 5 00 at a festival in one evening. In 1928 the old building was torn down to make way for the present Holy Infancy Church, a frame building with the low, square tower so typical of the churches of rural Warren County.
The Church of the Sacred Heart at Lake George was built by the Paulist Fathers of New York City in 1884. Its interior was rebuilt in 1925 with walls of caenstone, an altar of sienna marble, and wood carving and windows by Powell and Sons of London, England. The stained glass windows depict scenes in the life of Father Isaac Jogues, the Jesuit priest who passed through Lake George in 1646 on his way to found the first Roman Catholic mission to the Mohawk Indians. A few weeks later he was martyred at Auriesville; in 1925 he was beatified, and in 1930 canonized. It is therefore especially fitting that the church at Lake George should honor his memory.
Before North Creek had a Catholic churchbuilding it was served by itinerant priests from Lake George and Warrensburg. One of these was the ubiquitous Father Kelley, who in 1884 built St. James' Church in the parish cemetery lot. The first resident pastor, Father Grimes, later became bishop of Syracuse. The second and third pastors, the Reverend James Flood, builder of a church at Chestertown, and the Reverend Roger Ward, who guided the destinies of the North Creek parish for 29 years, were, like Father Kelley, members of the little band of pioneer Catholic priests who traveled about northern Warren County on horseback and by carriage and sleigh. Replacing the first building which had been destroyed by fire, the present St. James' Church was dedicated in 1919.
The Church of the Blessed Sacrament at Bolton Landing, built in 1891 was for many years served by priests from Lake George, but now has a resident pastor.
Hague was visited by Catholic priests from Ticonderoga who frequently conducted services in the Town Hall until, on August 24, 1923, the impressive Church of the Blessed Sacrament was dedicated. It is a red brick structure ornamented with white stone trim and set in spacious, landscaped grounds. At present the pastor also serves St. Theresa's Church of Brant Lake, erected about 1925, and conducts services at Huletts Landing on the east shore of Lake George.
It was not until 1892 that enough Jewish people arrived in Warren County to establish a synagogue and Hebrew school. At present there are two Jewish congregations, both at Glens Falls. The congregation Sara Tefilo, organized in 1892 at Glens Falls under the guidance of Rabbi Laska, built a synagogue on Jay Street the following year. In 1926 the Jewish Community Building on Bay Street, Glens Falls, was opened and provided space for the first Hebrew free school in Warren County. About 1935 the Jay Street synagogue was abandoned and services are now conducted in the Community Building.
On August 21, 1925, the Liberal Jewish Congregation laid the cornerstone of the impressive Temple Beth-El on Marion Avenue with the Right Reverend Ernest M. Stires, Episcopal Bishop of Long Island, and Adolph S. Ochs, then publisher of the New York Times, among the speakers.
From earliest times the people of Warren County have by no means neglected the education of their youth. As early as 1786 the Friends Meeting House on Bay Road beside Halfway Brook was used as a schoolhouse. It was only one year earlier that Governor George Clinton addressed the Legislature with these words:
Neglect of the education of youth is among the evils consequent of war. Perhaps there is scarce anything more worthy of your attention than the revival and encouragement of seminaries of learning.
There followed laws setting up a Board of Regents with power to supervise, charter, and aid colleges and academies. Land set apart for schools in each township in 1787 was the germ of the "common school fund" from which grew our public school system. And in 1795 Governor Clinton, seeing that even more active encouragement for common schools was needed, again addressed the Legislature as follows:
It cannot be denied that they [academies and seminaries] are principally confined to the children of the opulent and that a great proportion of the communities is excluded from them . . . The establishment of common schools throughout the State is calculated to remedy this inconvenience.
The sum of $50,000 a year for five years was appropriated to be distributed to counties according to their representation in the Legislature and by them to towns in proportion to their actual school attendance during the previous year. Warren County got its share and had established several schools before this earliest grant of State Aid for Education was discontinued in 1800.
In accord with the school law of 1812 Warren County was divided into school districts and in 1820 the report of the State Superintendent of Schools, Gideon Hawley, shows that all of the nine towns into which the County was then divided made their reports. There were 64 school districts of which 5 1 reported holding school for an average of five months. Of Queensbury's 18 districts, the 10 that sent in returns reported a school year of only three months. These did not report the number of students but the number of children between five and fifteen years of age was 541 out of a total of 2,486 in the County.
A good many pupils were over fifteen years of age and there was an average of about fifty at each school. Obviously the task of the teacher in a one-room school with very meagre equipment, few books, and such a large class of widely varying ages was by no means easy.
The State report shows that "warren County was typical so far as the number of schools, students, and teachers was concerned. There was a trend toward longer school terms and an increasing number of students. Public funds provided three months of schooling but tuition was also charged, though poor families were permitted to send their children free. However, not a few people preferred to keep their children home rather than declare themselves indigent.
The tuition charges supplied at least a month or two more of schooling except in Queensbury. Luzerne kept its six schools open six months with an average of 70 students while the six Bolton schools ran for seven months with an average of 63 students in each school. It was not till the rate bill was abolished in 1867 that schools were really free.
In the same year that tuition for common schools was abolished, Federal aid was granted to academies of which Warren County has had three. Glens Falls Academy, according to some historians, grew from a select school established in 1803 by Mr. Randall, a Yale College graduate. This institution occupied two rooms on Elm Street just below South Street. With varying fortunes the academy, incorporated in 1841, continued under different masters and with sometimes as many as 285 students of both sexes. Its building on Warren Street was burned and rebuilt on Chester Street in 1914. Always known as an up-to-date progressive school, Glens Falls Academy, in a community with much wealth, fared better than most private day schools after the War between the States. It refused to be absorbed by the public school system and continued to serve those who could afford to pay tuition until 1937 when, with but 80 students, it finally closed.
Chester Academy, incorporated in 1844, secured a Regents charter in 1870, but eventually closed its doors. Warrensburg Academy, founded in 1854, got Regents recognition in 1860, and in 1888 was taken over by the Board of Education as a Union Free School.
In their day, academies played an important part in public education. They gave courses of instruction for teachers at a time when normal school facilities were wholly inadequate. In them most of the teachers in public schools received the only professional training available to them beyond district schools. So long as preparation for college or, indeed, any secondary education was not to be had except in academies, it was quite proper that they should receive public subsidy.
During most of the nineteenth century many "select schools" were started throughout the County, especially at Glens Falls. It is not surprising that people of means wanted to give their children the benefit of instruction by better educated teachers in more sanitary and less crowded rooms than the public schools provided. Some of the select schools were short lived but others, such as the Elmwood Seminary, Glens Falls, continued for many years under the direction of able scholars.
William Barnes, who founded the Barnes Select School in 1839, is said to have been the author of the Barnes Mamial of Geography which was a standard textbook in the public schools of the State for many years. John B. Armstrong, after studying at Fort Edward Institute, returned to Johnsburg and opened a select school in Good Templars' Hall in 1860. The school lasted for only three years, but at the end of the first year he staged a "Home Coming Day" which has been celebrated there in August ever since.
As standards of education in the public schools rose, private schools became less easy to run. In general, they offered advanced instruction with subjects not taught in public schools, or else they taught social grace and artistic accomplishments to young ladies, and attracted small children from wealthy families.
In the early 1860's the Plank Road Public School at Glen Street and Marion Avenue, Glens Falls, had 8 students ranging from less than five to over twenty years of age. George Greenslet, the teacher who received $30 a month, taught "the three R's" and a little geography and spelling.
In 1880, County School Commissioner Randolph McNutt of Warrensburg reported to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction that there were only three Warren County students in normal schools, but that most of the teachers had attended academies and 150 teachers had profited by attending a teachers' institute in September of that year. He complained that many districts had allowed their school houses to become dilapidated, but that there were 11 newly built schools, 14 completely rebuilt, and that others were to be repaired in the spring at his suggestion.
Consolidation of four of the school districts in Glens Falls in 1881 into a Union Free School District was a long step toward better schools. In a report many years later, Dr. Sherman Williams, the first Superintendent of the new district, gave a vivid description of the schools as he had first found them:
You can picture the old buildings, their utter forlornness, their absence of everything that goes to make up the equipment of a modern school, but the schools themselves most of you never knew. They were not nearly up to the average of the back country rural school. In fact always excepting the Ridge Street School, I had never known anything so poor, nor supposed it was possible for such schools to exist anywhere, much less in a large and thriving town.
There was no public sentiment. The schools were merely tolerated. There was a strong and widespread conviction that it was not the mission of the public school to offer more than the merest elements of an education. Not only was the grade of the schools low, but the work attempted was very poorly done.
Under Dr. Williams rapid progress was made. A building to house 500 students was erected in 1884, located where the present high school now stands. In 1888 an academic department was added with 15 students registered for a three year course of whom 10 graduated in 1891. In that year the South Street School was opened. Before Dr. Williams resigned in 1898 to conduct teachers' institutes, Glens Falls had a four year high school course and the school system was well started toward the high standing it now maintains.
In 193 5 the New York State Board of Regents made a thorough inquiry into the character and cost of public education in the State of New York. An intensive study of 43 representative school systems including Glens Falls was made and each was rated as highest, above average, average, below average, or lowest. Glens Falls was one of the six school systems to receive the highest rating, and of these six, its annual cost of $135.00 per pupil was the lowest.
At present Glens Falls still has all of District 1 8 and part of District 2 separate from Union Free School District No. 1, but the high school serves the entire city and some outlying sections. It is organized as a three-year junior high school and a three-year Senior high school covering grades 7 to 12 inclusive. The 1941-42 public school registration for all grades in Union Free School District No. 2 is 2,587 of whom approximately half, including outside students, are in the Junior-Senior High School. Diplomas were awarded to 182 High School graduates in June 1941.
The rural area of Warren County has availed itself of a liberal State-aid policy to provide the best possible schools for its children. As early as 1889 Warrensburg merged its academy in a Union Free School. In 1938 it became a central rural school district and is now considering plans for a much needed building. One-room schools for little children are still to be found in some rural districts of the County but beginning with junior high school (grade 7) most of the children are transported by school bus, along with not a few of the younger children, to first class modern schools. These are large enough to provide up-to-date departmental instruction with a varied curriculum of college preparatory, academic, manual training, and vocational courses. Such schools are located at Bolton Landing, Chestertown, Hague, Horicon, Lake George, Lake Luzerne, North Creek, Pottersville, and Warrensburg.
In 1 9 14 the State of New York, in order to help equalize the educational opportunities in rural and urban districts, provided special State aid for central rural school districts. Thus, by combining, a group of small school districts can be assured of additional aid in providing a suitable building, maintaining high educational standards, and in the transportation of children to and from school. Beginning with Hague and Horicon in 1926, seven such central school districts have been formed, and in consequence at least fifty-four one-room and five two-room schools have been closed. In several other localities a similar result has been achieved under the older laws applying to consolidated schools and union free school districts. Bolton, Hague, Horicon, Thurman, and Warrensburg have no one-room or purely rural schools, Luzerne has a single one-room school, and Caldwell has a two- room school at Diamond Point. Elsewhere in these seven towns all children attend central or consolidated schools.
Roman Catholic parochial schools were established at Glens Falls as soon as the religious groups became strong enough to support them. There are no Protestant parochial schools other than Sunday school classes. In Glens Falls the Jewish Community center offers afternoon Hebrew classes for school children.
The first parochial school in Warren County was erected by Catholics of French descent at the corner of Pine and Crandall Streets, Glens Falls, in 1873. Under the direction of the Reverend H. Huberdeault it carried on for several years. The building, a dwelling-like structure of red brick, now houses the eleven Sisters of the Assumption, who comprise the faculty of the present St. Alphonsus School, a grade school opened in 1908. In 1940 it had a registration of about 300 pupils.
On January 29, 1883, during the pastorate of the Reverend James McDermott, the Catholics of St. Mary's parish, Glens Falls, erected the first St. Mary's Academy, a brick building, now unused, but still standing in Church Street. In 1885 the school had 545 pupils, of whom two made up the first graduating class in 1889. In 1902 St. Mary's was chartered by the Regents.
By 1903 the first building became inadequate for the needs of its 1,085 students and a three-story brick structure to house the high school department was built adjacent to the first building. In 1904 a one-story addition for a kindergarten was built behind the high school. In 1924, with 1,210 pupils registered, St. Mary's was badly crowded and the old grades building had reached an unsafe state of disrepair.
In that year a campaign for funds to erect a new school building was begun and in 1930 St. Mary's Chapel, corner of Warren and Church Streets, was razed along with several adjacent buildings to prepare the site. On January 29, 1932, at the beginning of the school's golden jubilee year, the new St. Mary's was formally opened.
The faculty consists of twenty-five Sisters of the Order of St. Joseph and three secular teachers. The school is maintained by regular contributions of the parishioners, and in 1940 its enrollment approximated 1,000. It is the only parochial school in Warren County with a high school department and takes rank as one of the largest of its kind in the United States.
The State library system was set up in
1838 and today Warren County has exceptionally good library facilities with
seven Regent-chartered libraries of which six own their own buildings. Glens
Falls has a handsome building close to the center of the city, a collection of
38,830 books and an annual circulation of 172,602, while Warrensburg, with
11,038 volumes, has a circulation of 37,353. Both are open daily, summer and
winter. The Lake George, Diamond Point, Bolton Landing, Mountain Side, and Stony
Creek Libraries have an average of over 6,000 volumes each and are open from 8
to 42 hours each week with longer summer schedules.