WARRENSBURG - Time grinds away so slowly that we can barely perceive the changes that relentlessly eroding so many familiar landmarks around us.
With the exception of Hackensack Mountain looming over the town, the first early Warrensburgh settlers who populated the area before 1800 would, if they returned today, likely see nothing they recognized.
Just after the American Revolution, John Thurman acquired a vast territory which is now Warrensburg, Bolton, Chester, Thurman, Stony Creek, Johnsburg and a part of Caldwell (now the Town of Lake George). Warrensburgh, as well as the rest of the unpopulated wilderness, was covered with thick pine forests, growing on rocky, sandy soil - an expanse of 68 square miles. The forest was broken only by numerous lakes, streams and Native American trails.
Many know that originally the town was named "The Bridge," but perhaps they don't know why. In 1789, settler Timothy Stowe came to the area and soon after built a toll bridge across the Schroon River near the present Judd Bridge, which is located near D&G Hardware on lower Main St. In those early days, it was impossible to go to the River Street area of town or to Thurman without crossing the Schroon River at some point unless you hiked north through the dense forest over Harrington Hill on foot.
A dam was constructed below Stowe's toll bridge and then a sawmill and a gristmill were built. The little town began to grow from there.
Warrensburgh was also sometimes called "The Rock" for a more prominent landmark. High Rock, as it was later called, loomed across the road from the toll bridge with the top hanging over the dirt trail beneath it. The huge boulder was blasted away in the mid 1920's, in the name of progress, to make room for an expanded state Rte. 9 through town. Decades ago, the Warrensburgh school newspaper was given the name "Hi-Rock" commemorating this landmark.
Behind the rock, up on the hill at what is now the end of Rosalie Ave., was a two-story log blockhouse with portholes, a little fortified structure to protect guards who were on the watch for Indian attacks. No trace of it remains today. The Algonquins, affiliated with the Mohawk tribe of Native Americans, held possession and power over this area in the late 1700s, peaking in their influence at about 1775.
The Algonquins maintained a trail from Lake George near Bolton to the entrance of what is now Warrensburg, over which they carried their canoes in order to travel on the Schroon River and then south on the Hudson River. According to author Marie Fisher, the Indian word for the confluence of the Schroon and the Hudson was Teohoken. By 1786, there were seven families living in Warrensburgh, the new town on the Schroon River.
Every new settlement needs a tavern, and James Pitts came in 1789 to build one on the site of the present day Stewart's Shoppe. Uptown, a school stood near the present Methodist Church, the only school for many miles around.
The first town cemetery was also located near the Methodist Church. One person buried there was Dr. Zephaniah Tubbs, who died Jan. 29, 1835. His son, Dr. Nathan Tubbs practiced medicine in Warrensburgh. Zephaniah was supposedly dug up around 1895 when the cemetery was moved and his gravestone is today leaning up against a pine tree on the north side of the Warrensburg Cemetery. The tree has grown around it over the years and has nearly swallowed it. Perhaps, however, the doctor's bones still lie under the parking lot of the Methodist Church.
In 1804 James Warren came to town with his wife, Melinda (Beach) Warren and their three-year-old son, Nelson. James Warren operated a potash factory or "ashery" where George Henry's pub is now located, and he ran the town's first mercantile store next door north, where Main St. now intersects with Water St.
Warren also bought the tavern once owned by James Pitts from Jasper Duel and renamed it the Warren House. It remained in the hands of the Warren family, long after James' death, until 1866.
In 1811, James Warren and his son Nelson embarked on a trip to attend an election held at the Nathanial Griffing farm in Thurman, located on the northwest side of the Hudson River near the present-day Thurman Bridge on state Rte. 418.. It wasn't until 1836 that the Legislature appropriated $4,000 for the construction of a bridge at that place - and in earlier years, people had to traverse the river by boat.
As James and Nelson Warren attempted to cross the Hudson, their skiff overturned in the roiling water and James Warren drowned in the sight of his son Nelson, then 10. Legend has it that Nelson's hair turned white and remained that way for the rest of his life. The whole town mourned the loss of this well-liked industrious man.
Two years later, on Feb. 12, 1813, Warrensburgh split from Thurman and became a town, but historical documents don't detail why the name "Warrensburgh" was chosen.
But pioneer John Thurman's middle name was Warren. Warren County was named for Dr. Joseph Warren, the hero of Bunker Hill. It is said that coming into town there was a big sign saying "Warrens" with an arrow pointing to the ashery. James Warren had died just two years earlier and he was well remembered - and his wife Malinda, who now ran the Warren House hotel with her young son, was respected. Although many other citizens may have deserved the honor, it was decided to name the town Warrensburgh. At the end of the 19 century, postal officials dropped the 'h."
We may think that life is now as good as it gets, however great wonders are yet to come. But we, like the early town settlers, will never live to see them.