Photo courtesy of the Warrensburgh Museum of Local History
Warrensburg’s downtown — now the site of the Floyd Bennett Memorial Bandstand and Rite Aid Pharmacy — is depicted in this vintage photo, believed to be taken in the 1870s.
On Tuesday Feb. 12 around dinner-time, visitors to Warrensburg are likely to experience a curious phenomena.
At 6 p.m. on that day, a chorus of church bells around town will be ringing, and local citizens — if they’ve followed the advice of the local history buffs — will be standing on their doorsteps and ringing a bell or voicing a cheer. Undoubtedly, in the town’s taverns, glasses will be raised.
The occasion? It will be 200 years to the day that Warrensburg was founded.
On Feb. 12, 1813, local leaders met in the Warren House, a local tavern and hotel, and they signed documents to form the town, according to accounts of the town’s history.
Warrensburgh, as it was known until the mid-1930s, was carved out of the town of Thurman, which from that founding day forward was known as the town of Athol. Since then, it reverted back to its former name.
Apparently no minutes were taken of this founding meeting. The first meeting of the town of Warrensburgh was held in April of that year, according to town Historian Sandi Parisi. The following meeting, held in May 1813, was the first for which minutes have been recorded. Notable action from this meeting was a vote to appropriate $50 for support of the poor, as well as establishing a $10 bounty for each wolf killed within the town limits, Parisi said this week.
The hamlet’s first settler is believed to be William Bond — he arrived in 1786. A local lake, “Bond’s Pond,” was dedicated in his honor. The name of the water body has since been changed to Echo Lake. The town’s first non-native settler was believed to be Andrew Vowers, who established his home here in 1783.
The early settlers realized the vast natural assets of the town, including lush forests as well as the Schroon River, which provided water power for various industries.
Relying on this local natural power source, entrepreneurs developed various sawmills, tanneries, as well as plants that manufactured clothing, paper and cardboard. One of the town’s products, the sturdy wool Warrensburgh Pants, became nationally famous. Potash production was an important factor in the economy of the town during its formative years.
With its various industries, Warrensburg rose to pre-eminence in the 1800s, a status that endured well into the 20th Century. Over this time, it has been known as "The Bridge" or "The Gateway to the Adirondacks" because of the vast number of people who annually travel through town to reach various destinations in northern New York State.
Along the way, the town produced some notable citizens, influential in expeditions, cultural development and state politics.
Among its leading citizens through the past 200 years was Charles Reed Bishop, who grew up in Warrensburg. Bishop, who moved to Hawaii in 1846, is famous for establishing Hawaii’s first bank, and launching various enterprises. Renowned as a philanthropist, he made substantial contributions to Hawaii’s schools and educational system. He was elected as representative to the legislature of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and served as president of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce.
Also prominent in Warrensburg’s history was Floyd Bennett, an aviator who piloted Richard E. Byrd on his attempt to reach the North Pole in 1926. Both received the U.S. Medal of Honor for their expedition, and they were hailed as national heroes. Warrensburg’s bandstand was built in Bennett‘s honor, and has since served as the town’s logo.
The staff of the Adirondack Journal and Denton Publications join local citizens in paying tribute to the town on this momentous, historic occasion.