Fort Ann is one of those historic towns of Washington County whose soil was the theatre of human strife when the "Old French War" disturbed this region, and again when Burgoyne's devastating invasion swept from Whitehall to Fort Edward. The history of all the military operations, which occurred in this tract, have already been chronicled in the general history of the county, in our earlier pages, and here we trace the civil growth of the community. This town derives its name from the old fort built here in the early days and named after Queen Anne, the then reigning sovereign of England.
The fortification known as Fort Ann was erected in 1757, at the junction of Halfway Creek and Wood Creek, and was constructed on the stockade plan. The battle of July 8, 1777, occurred about a mile to the northeast. Upon the retreat of the Americans the fort was burned.
The present village of Fort Ann includes the place where the fort stood. Another fort, known as the Mud Fort, was built in 1769. It consisted merely of earthworks, and was abandoned shortly after it was constructed.
Besides the great military road from Fort Edward to Lake Champlain, another road was built from Queensbury to Fort Ann, during the later French wars, and a trail led from the latter place to the head of South Bay.
Fort Ann lies on the west side of the county, toward the northern part, and is the largest town in the county, containing 56,386 acres. It is bounded on the north by Dresden, Whitehall and Lake George; on the east by Dresden, Whitehall and Granville; on the south by Hartford and Kingsbury, and on the west by Warren county and Lake George. The southern part of the town is rolling land, but the remainder is mountainous. Three ranges of hills traverse its surface and between them lie two fertile valleys. On the eastern side of the town is the range of hills known as the Fort Ann mountains. They begin near the Wood Creek valley, and run in a northerly direction to the head of South Bay; thence along the southeast shore of this bay to its junction with Lake Champlain. Prominent peaks in this range are Battle Hill, Pinnacle, Ore Bed and Saddle Mountains. All of these are rocky and precipitous. On this range is a large pond which lies one thousand feet above sea level. The Putnam Mountains traverse the central part of the town. This range rises just east of Fort Ann and runs north into Dresden. The principal peaks of this range are Mount Nebo, Peaked Mountain, Mount Hope and High Knob. Between this range and Fort Ann lies the beautiful valley of Welch Hollow, formerly known as Turtle Hollow.
The Palmertown Mountains run along the west side of the town and the eastern shore of Lake George. Sugar Loaf Mountain, on the line of Queensbury, and Buck Mountain, on the north, are the principal peaks. The latter is the hightest peak in the town, rising to an altitude 2,500 feet. Diameter Precipice, on the north shore of South Bay, runs up to 1,300 feet, and is a rocky, almost perpendicular, precipice.
Several ponds, of various sizes, are scattered over the western part of the town. These are Ore Bed, Sly, Haddock, Copeland, Trout, Forge, Lake, Bacon, Round, Crossets, Thunder, Little and Three ponds. The principal streams in the town are Furnace Hollow Creek, Podunk Brook, Halfway Creek and Wood Creek. Kane's Falls are on Wood Creek, about a mile north of Fort Ann. The fall is about seventy feet in a distance of one hundred and fifty yards. These falls were named after Charles KANE, who secured this water power for a mill site in the early days. Iron ore is found in this town, and a large bed lies at the foot of Mount Nebo. This mine was worked from the year 1825 up to about 1877. Of late years iron mining has not promised a profit here, owing to the low price at which ore is lade down at manufacturing centers.
The territory of Fort Ann embraces all of the "Artillery Patent," which was granted to Joseph WALTON and twenty-three other officers of the English army, October 24, 1764; this forms the southern part of the town; a part of the Lake George tract, lying in the western part; a portion of the Saddle Mountain tract, in the northeast, and the Westfield, Fort Ann and Ore Bed tract, in the central part of the town.
In 1775, two families--the HARRISONS and BRAYTONS--settled in the town of Fort Ann, and these were the only permanent settlers in the town prior to Burgoyne's raid, so far as there are authentic records. It is true that Major SKENE had erected mills at Kane's Falls prior to the Revolution, but he was simply represented there by an agent, who could not be considered a permanent settler. As a matter of fact he did not become one. In the winter of 1781 Joseph HENEGAN, Isaiah BENNETT, Hope WASHBURN, Ozias COLEMAN, John WARD, Joseph BACON, George SCRANTON, Caleb NOBLE, Josiah WELCH, Samuel WARD, and Samuel HURLBURT, had settled on the "Artillery Patent." In 1784 we find the following settlers had joined the young community in this town: Silas TRACEY, Elijah BACKUS, Andrew STEVENSON, Joseph KELLOGG and James SLOAN. In 1785 came Mead HARVEY, Nathaniel OSGOOD and Zephaniah KINGSLEY; and the following year Silas CHILD, Alpheus SPENCER, Samuel WILSON, Elijah BILLS, Israel BROWN and Samuel CHAPMAN were added. Other prominent early settlers were Benjamin COPELAND, Anthony HASKINS, Samuel WINEGAR, Thaddeus DEWEY, George WRAY, Daniel COMSTOCK, and Prentiss BROWN. In 1791 Ephraim GRISWOLD came into the town, looking for water power, and bought a large tract of land in the southwest corner of the town, and in that year, or the following one, he erected a gristmill. Some time afterwards this mill was moved farther down stream, and in a few years he built a forge for the manufacture of chains and anchors, which was operated by Elisha M. FORBES, his son-in-law. This was the nucleus of the present Griswold's Mills. A postoffice was established here in 1833, and Elisha M. FORBES was the first postmaster.
About the close of the Revolutionary War Jacob VAN WORMER settled on the site of West Fort Ann, and built the first sawmill on Podunk Brook. In 1815 a gristmill was built by Stephen PALMER, which was burned down. In 1827, Mix, Haskins & Spalding erected a forge and anchor shop, which was continued in operation for a long time. A tannery was built by Warren KINGSLEY in 1843. The settlement increased to a village, at first called Van Wormer's Village, but now West Fort Ann.
Fort Ann abounded in quaint names in the early days. The western part of the town was called "Hogtown," because the farmers turned their hogs into the woods to feed on acorns and nuts. Johnnycake Corners is said to have received its name from the fact that the first mill ground little, if any, grain but corn. The southern part of Furnace Hollow was called "Podunk," from a tribe of Indians who came from the east and settled beside the ponds.
Fort Ann was formed, as the town of Westfield, March 23, 1786, and at that time included Putnam, Dresden and Hartford, as well as its present territory. Hartford was set off in 1793, and Putnam and Dresden, as one town, in 1806. In 1808 the name of Westfield was changed to Fort Ann, in memory of the old fort at the village.
The first town meeting was held January 22, 1781, at the house of John WARD, in the "Artillery Patent," and the first town officers were there elected, Isaiah BENNETT being the first supervisor, and also the first town clerk. In 1784 another meeting was held and Ozias COLEMAN was elected supervisor, while Isaiah BENNETT was re-elected town clerk. In 1785 Medad HARVEY was chosen supervisor and Isaiah BENNETT again was made town clerk.
On April 4, 1786, the first regular town meeting was held, and following are the names of the supervisors and town clerks from that time down to the year 1900:
From: "Washington County, New York, Its History to the Close of the Nineteenth Century" by William L. Stone, 1901.
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