JOHNSBURG Locally, its common knowledge that the town of Johnsburg derives its name from John Thurman, the original patentee who purchased the land that now comprises the town back in 1788.
Thurman not only purchased the land that is Johnsburg, but also that which comprises present day Thurman, Bolton, Chester, Warrensburg, Stony Creek and part of Lake George.
Johnsburg broke off from the old town of Thurman on April 6, 1805, staking for itself a new identity based largely on the logging, mining and tanning industries.
But Johnsburg wouldnt be Johnsburg without its 10 hamlets, each possessing a unique flavor and influence. The history of the town is revealed through the 10 hamlets that make up Johnsburg.
The origins of those 10 hamlets are documented in the book River, Rails and Ski Trails.
It was to that book that Johnsburg Town Historian Doris Patton referred a reporter who came seeking information about the origins of the names of the hamlets of the town of Johnsburg.
Some of the hamlets such as North Creek, North River, Garnet Lake and The Glen base their names on geography. The hamlet of North Creek sits at the confluence of North Creek and the Hudson River.
Though historians dont specifically identify the origin of the name North River, logic suggests the hamlet is so named because of its location on Thirteenth Brook where it meanders into the Hudson River at northern most point in Warren County.
The hamlet of Garnet Lake sits at the north end of a body of water by the same name. Both the lake and the hamlet owe their names to the rich heritage of garnet mining in the town, an industry that thrives to this day under the auspices of the Barton Group.
The Glen is named for its landscape. Glen is of Scottish origin meaning a narrow valley or depression between tall mountains or hills. The first recorded mention of The Glen is in a 1793 road survey for the town of Thurman.
Other hamlets derive their names from the people who first settled them. Wevertown, for example, was first settled in 1795 by Andrus Wever, who lived at what is known as the Kenwell farm.
The hamlet became known for a tannery that operated in the hamlet from 1833 to 1885, drawing a substantial number of men to the village for employment.
The tannery closed in 1885 and the property was dormant for three years until Philip Moston purchased the property and built a dam and a sawmill.
In 1913, the Moston business was purchased by T.C. Murphy and the business became known as T.C. Murphy Lumber Company, a business that continues today.
Bakers Mills wasnt named for its first inhabitant, but rather for a late-comer whose mark on the hamlet was substantial.
John P. Baker was born at The Glen in 1826. He came to Bakers Mills in 1869 and bought the T. Warren Hitchcock property where he built a house where he lived with his wife, Julia and son Charles.
Alongside the North Creek stream, also known at times as Bakers Brook or John Marchs Brook, Baker built a dam, a sawmill and later, a gristmill operation.
The hamlet of Johnsburg gained its name the same way as the town. Under the leadership of John Thurman, the first clearing in the town took place about 1790 at Elm Hill, located one mile south of Johnsburg corners. The hamlet was spelled Johnsburgh until 1893 when the h was dropped.
Other hamlet names are less obvious. Sodom, some say was so named because its forefathers wanted to give a biblical reminder to those who settled there of what could happen to those who strayed from a godly life.
But town historian Doris Patton said thats a story the truth of which has not been confirmed. Patton said shed prefer to stick with what recorded history tells us. And that is that Sodoms first resident, Samuel Morehouse settled on a piece of land at the corner of Sodom Cross Road and Peaceful Valley Road that is now known as the Montena property. Morehouse named the area Sodom Corners a place he lived earlier in life at Fredericksburg, Now Patterson, Putnam County.
Riparius was formerly known as Riverside until the state changed the name to prevent confusion with several other places in New York of the same name. "Riparius" is a Latin term meaning belonging to a river bank, which surely Riparius does.
Which brings us to the last and perhaps least known hamlet, the hamlet of Oregon where once stood a thriving tannery and later, a magnificent great camp. For either, nary a trace remains.
Located on the road between Bakers Mills and Wells, the remote farming community of Oregon was destroyed to make way for a great camp called Foxlair, the grand vision of Richard Hudnut, an international perfumer and an early founder of the countrys cosmetics industry.
Unlike other great camps, Foxlair was far from rustic and resembled more of a Bavarian castle than a camp.
Though Hudnut died in 1928, various family members continued to live on the estate during summers into the early 1930s when the family sought to sell the property.
Two of the prospective buyers were Orville and Wilbur Wright, who wished to establish a flying school. But the stock market crash and Great Depression put an end to those plans as well as the familys prospects for selling the estate.
In 1938, the Hudnut Foundation conveyed the property to the New York City Police Athletic League and for the next three decades, under-privileged boys from New York City spent summer weeks in the Adirondacks.
In 1960, a state inspection found the camp deficient in its fire equipment and lack of funding to provide the necessary equipment forced the camp to close.
With no caretaker, the property fell into disrepair to the point of no return. Eventually, the property was conveyed as forest preserve. In 1966, the Commissioner of Conservation determined that the deteriorating remains of the once grand estate posed a hazard and ordered any remaining structures to be burned. Thus came the end of the Foxlair and little trace remains today.
To learn more about the history of Johnsburgs 10 hamlets, check out a copy of River Rails and Ski Trails at the Town of Johnsburg Library or pick up a copy at shops around town.