100 Years Ago - January, 1913
County’s first centennial feted
Warren County celebrated its 100th birthday anniversary in 1913 with nearly a week of festivities which were arranged by event chairman Addison B. Colvin of Glens Falls. This was all climaxed by a sham battle staged between Miller Hill, Glens Falls and the Luzerne mountains and involving 3,800 National Guardsmen. There was also a grand parade, the biggest parade ever seen in Glens Falls, which was said to have been witnessed by 30,000 people. The trolley company reported that they carried 45,000 passengers on the day of the parade.
One hundred years later, Feb. 12, 2013, a group of citizens gathered in the cold at 6 o’clock in the evening, on the porch of Doug and Louise Goetsche’s Cornerstone Victorian Bed & Breakfast in Warrensburg, at the invitation of town historian Sandi Parisi. With noisemakers in hand and church bells ringing they greeted the beginning of Warrensburgh’s 300th year.
The year 1813 was a troubled time in America. The War of 1812, an armed conflict between the U.S. and Great Britain, was in its second year.
On Feb. 12, 1813 the town of Warrensburgh was born, a far different place than it is today. Back in 1792 this whole area was called Thurman, named for John Thurman who came from New York city, settled here and began development in the area. The lands named in his honor contained the towns which encompassed today’s towns of Bolton, Chestertown, Hague, Horicon, Johnsburgh, Thurman, Stony Creek, Warrensburgh and a part of Caldwell. In 1799 Bolton and Chester were formed from Thurman. In 1810 the town of Caldwell (in recent decades known as Lake George) was formed from parts of Bolton, Thurman and Queensbury.
On Feb. 12, 1813, Thurman was divided, creating the towns of Warrensburgh and Athol.
When Warrensburgh was first organized, it was in Washington County, but in exactly one month, on March 12, 1913, the county was partitioned and Warren County was established with Warrensburgh located near its center. Hackensack and Spruce Mountains were within the boundaries of the new town.
The men who made it happen
William Bond came to Warrensburgh in 1786 to take up his 500-acre land grant to become the town’s first settler. It is believed that he took up residence near Bond’s Pond, today called Echo Lake, before he set his sights on Chestertown. One of his daughters stayed in the region and married into the Tripp family in Chestertown.
it is unclear how Warrensburg acquired its name. Warren County had been named for General (Doctor) Joseph Warren who died heroically in 1776 at the battle of Bunker Hill near Boston. A portion of land, called Warrensburgh Tract, was situated on the east bank of the Hudson River. At that time, land had been set aside by the state after the Revolutionary War as payment for the soldiers. This tract was probably named with General Joseph Warren in mind.
Historic family remembered
The town’s name may have other roots. In 1804, James Warren came to Warrensburgh — originally known as “The Bridge” — and he settled on river property which is today at the corner of Main and Water streets.
He conducted a tavern, store and potash factory at this site. James Warren is said to have erected a big sign that said “Warren’s” on Main Street, with an arrow pointing north to his business. Warren drowned in the West (Hudson) River in 1811 near Thurman and is buried in the Warrensburgh Cemetery with his wife and son.
Determining the town’s name
As James Warren was a well-respected citizen, the town could have been named for him or Joseph Warren or the Warren Tract, or maybe for them all. Warren’s wife, Melinda Warren and their son, Nelson Warren went on after James’s death to become prominent citizens. It was at Mrs. Warren’s house on April 4, 1813 that the first town meeting was held.
In establishing a name for the town, the community leaders considered naming it for Judge Kitchel Bishop, a man of prominence, who settled here in 1804, the same year James Warren did. Bishop, a farmer, lived on the lands where Peter Haggerty and his neighbor Eileen Frasier live today on Main Street opposite the Presbyterian Church. Incidentally, legend has it that it was on Miss Frasier’s property in 1826 that author James Fenimore Cooper, while on his Adirondack vacation, penned a section of his book “The Last of the Mohicans.”
At that first town meeting, James L. Thurman, a prosperous farmer, became the first supervisor of the new town of Warrensburgh. He came here from Athol and lived in the old Samuel Judd farm house overlooking the Judd Bridge with his wife and three children, Susan, Charles and Samuel Thurman. The house was originally the Timothy Stow place and today known in recent years as Austin Perry’s Kit ‘n Kin Horse Farm. Following James Thurman as supervisor of Warrensburgh in 1814 and 1815 was Harmon Hoffman. In 1813 Duncan Cameron became the first supervisor of Thurman.
Transportation in the new ‘Burgh
Traversing Warrensburgh from east to west in the early days was very difficult because the Schroon River split the town in two portions. Many years after the town was founded, a total of five bridges were built in town at great cost.
I used to wonder how Stephen Griffing ever got past this watery roadblock when he passed through here in 1800 from Dutchess County with his family, horses, wagons and worldly goods to settle in Thurman. It later occurred to me that coming up on the historic old north-south trail, probably what is now Rte. 9, he traveled through the woods on today’s Baker Crossing Road, then followed the Schroon River north to Thurman. When he arrived at the area where Thurman Bridge had yet to be built, the ice blocked him from crossing the river and he had to camp out until not only the ice melted, but the Spring high waters to recede. The first Thurman Bridge, built of wood for about $4,000, was not constructed there until 1836.
The Glen Bridge, however, was built in 1816 and was swept away by a flood in 1843 but was rebuilt immediately as a covered bridge which was swept away again in 1903 by ice. The original bridge had a sign on it saying, “Warning: $10 fine for riding or driving over the bridge faster than a walk.”
River takes its toll
Sometime in the era that Warrensburgh was founded, the Judd Bridge was constructed. It was a toll bridge owned by farmer James Judd, and for many years, it was the only bridge available to get from one side of the town to the other.
Years ago my late husband, Mervin Hadden, shared a vivid recollection of an incident the afternoon of Feb. 27, 1923 — when he was 6 years old — walking with his father, Edward Hadden and he witnessed the aftermath of the collapse of the newer iron Judd Bridge. The span had collapsed under the weight of a wagon load of wood, two horses and two men, Benjamin Guiles and Walter Varnum. The two men had jumped from the load and escaped somewhat uninjured but the horses had fallen into the ice-choked river. One horse was bleeding and seriously hurt under the mass of debris, he said. The next replacement Judd Bridge was not built until Aug. 20, 1924.
Settlers flock to town
The first permanent settlers to occupy the new Queen Village of the Adirondacks were mostly Scottish and English, many of them having come from the old country looking for a good life. It was a wild country accompanied by a rough and perilous struggle for existence and it would be many years before the luxury we live in today was to arrive.
Just off Horicon Avenue, on what is today Rosalie Avenue, looking down on Rte. 9, was an old blockhouse located near the huge boulder called “High Rock,“ the landmark that once stood at the entrance to the town. In 1790 and 1791, in the early days of the settlement, guards stayed at night at the blockhouse to look out for Indian attacks.
During the period between 1810 and 1820, lumbering became quite a prominent industry. Settlers tended their small farms in the summer and lumbered their land in the winter. Even as late as 1836, Gorden’s Gazetteer described the town as being mountainous and wild, covered with woods and abounding with iron ore.
The census here on this sparsely populated tract was not counted until 1820 when 956 people were recorded as residents while in neighboring Athol there were 570 citizens. Early settler William Johnson was the first white person to die in Warrensburgh.
In 1974 former Warrensburgh Town Historian, the late Mabel M. Tucker, who loved Warrensburgh, wrote “You have come a long way, Warrensburgh, to reach the place you are to date. Since 1813, a beginner, now a top-notch winner, a credit to the Empire State!” — Rest in peace, Mabel!
Readers are welcome to contact Adirondack Journal correspondent Jean Hadden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-2210.