Town of Fort Ann


   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:

Supervisors--1786, Stephen SPENCER and Silas CHILD; 1787-1792, George WRAY; 1793, Daniel MASON; 1794-95, George WRAY; 1796, Ralph COFFIN; 1797, Charles KANE; 1798, George WRAY; 1799, Charles KANE; 1800, George WRAY; 1801-05, Isaac SARGENT; 1806-10, Zephaniah KINGSLEY; 1811, Reuben BAKER; 1812-17, Zephaniah KINGSLEY; 1818-24, Lemuel HASTINGS; 1825-26, William A. MOORE; 1827-29, Henry THORN; 1830-31, Benjamin COPELAND; 1832-37, Salmon AXTELL; 1838, William BAKER; 1839-40, Eben BROUGHTON; 1841-42, James RICE; 1843, James FARR; 1844, George CLEMENTS; 1845, Eben BROUGHTON; 1846, John HILLEBERT; 1847, Robert HOPKINS; 1848, Salmon AXTELL; 1849, Samuel CORNING; 1850, Israel THOMPSON; 1851-52, John H. THOMPSON; 1853, William WELLER; 1854, John M. BARNETT; 1855, Isaac CLEMENTS; 1856, Hosea B. FARR; 1857, William S. GARDNER; 1858, Hosea B. FARR; 1859-60, Alanson B. AXTELL; 1861, A.H. WHEELER and Willis SWIFT; 1862-65, Alanson B. AXTELL; 1866-67, William E. BROWN; 1868-69, Alanson B. AXTELL; 1870-71, Lyman HALL; 1872-73, Orson W. SHELDON; 1874-75, John C. PATTERSON; 1876, H.G. SARGENT; 1877-79, Orson W. SHELDON; 1880-81, J.H. GARMON; 1882-83, Albert JOHNSON; 1884-86, John HALL; 1887, Orson W. SHELDON; 1888, Albert JOHNSON; 1889-90, Morris L. ROBINSON; 1891, Martin H. ADAMS; 1892-93, John H. BENTON; 1894-96, Albert JOHNSON; 1897-98, M.W. WOODRUFF; 1899-1900, C.F. GOODMAN.
Town Clerks--1786, Isaiah BENNETT; 1787-88, George WRAY; 1789-90, Nathaniel BULL; 1791-92, George WRAY; 1793, Asahel HODGE; 1794-97, Charles KANE; 1798, Isaac SARGENT; 1799, Leonard GIBBS; 1800-11, Lemuel HASTINGS; 1812-16, Henry THORN; 1817, Lemuel HASTINGS; 1818-29, Joseph M. BULL; 1830-32, Erastus D. CULVER; 1833-35, John SARGENT; 1836-38, John SARGENT, Jr.; 1839, Albert L. BAKER; 1840, Isaac CLEMENTS; 1841, Leander N. BURNELL; 1842-43, John T. COX; 1844-46, Horatio G. SHUMWAY; 1847, Reuben BAKER; 1848-52, Pelatiah JAKWAY; 1853, George S. BROUGHTON; 1854, Elijah STEVENS; 1855-56, George W. MILLER; 1857, Henry THORN; 1858, Lyman W. DAVIS; 1859, Leonard CORNING; 1860, William E. BROWN; 1861, Leonard CORNING; 1862, James F. THOMPSON; 1863-65, William E. BROWN; 1866, Orson W. SHELDON; 1867, William H. PIERSONS; 1868, Low WASHBOURNE; 1869-71, Horatio W. BROWN; 1872-73, Edward CORNING; 1874, James E. SKINNER; 1875, Edward CORNING; 1876, Patrick GILL; 1877-78, A.H. FARRINGTON; 1879-80, William Pitt MOORE; 1881-89, Stephen C. GIBBS; 1890-93, Leonard CORNING; 1894-1900, Clark E. WOODARD.

   It is interesting to note the change in franchise which has taken place since the close of the eighteenth century, and the records of the town of Fort Ann furnish material for such comparison. In 1795 Ozias COLEMAN and James SLOAN took a census to ascertain the number of electors in the town, and also to establish what electors could vote for senators and assemblymen. At that time electors qualified to vote for senators had to be possessed of a freehold to the value of 100 pounds, and to vote for assemblymen the elector must have a freehold of the value of 20 pounds, or a rented property paying annually therefor the value of forty shillings.
   Fort Ann Village was incorporated by an act of the legislature March 7, 1820, and its boundaries have been enlarged twice since that date. The first charter election was held at the schoolhouse, May 9, 1820, and thereat the following officers were chosen: William A. MOORE, president; Lemuel HASTINGS, Henry THORN, George CLARK and John ROOT, trustees, in conjunction with the president; Amos T. BUSH, treasurer. Follwing is the complete list of the presidents of the village from that date down to 1900:
Presidents--1820-22, William A. MOORE; 1823-24, Ethan A FAY; 1825-26, Joseph M. BULL; 1827-28, Lemuel HASTINGS; 1829, William A. MOORE; 1830, George CLARK; 1831-32, Matthias A. PIKE; 1833, Moses MILLER; 1834, Matthias A. PIKE; 1835-36, George CLARK; 1837, Moses MILLER; 1838, George CLEMENTS; 1839, George CLARK; 1840-41, John T. COX; 1842, Abial W. HOWARD; 1843, William A. MOORE; 1844-54, Abial W. HOWARD; 1855-60, F.L. BRAYTON; 1861-62, Willis SWIFT; 1863, Charles H. ADAMS; 1864, Willis SWIFT; 1865-66, F.L. BRAYTON; 1867, G.W. HULL; 1868-70, George P. MOORE; 1871, John HALL; 1872, Willis SWIFT; 1873, Periam SHELDON; 1874, Pelatiah JAKWAY; 1875, David RICE; 1876, Pelatiah JAKWAY; 1877, Orville W. SHELDON; 1878-79, Eli SKINNER; 1880, D.M. EMPEY; 1881, Pelatiah JAKWAY; 1882, Silas P. PIKE; 1883-84, James GANNON; 1885-86, O.W. SHELDON; 1887-88, H.C. CLEMENTS; 1889-90, Hiram SHIPMAN; 1891-94, Isaac J. FINCH; 1895-96, Leonard CORNING; 1897, Edgar WALL, Jr.; 1898, Charles A. MCGHEL; 1899-1900, John MAIN.
Village Clerks--1820-22, J.M. BULL; 1823-29, Harvey THORN; 1830, John T. COX; 1831, John HILLEBERT; 1832, Joseph BACON; 1833, H.D. SAVAGE; 1834, F.C. MOON; 1835-36, Harvey THORN; 1837, E. BROUGHTON; 1838, E. STEPHENS; 1839, Harvey THORN; 1840, F.C. MOON; 1841-42, Harvey THORN; 1843, Joseph BACON; 1844-47, H.G. SHUMWAY; 1848-56, P. JAKWAY; 1857, S.P. PIKE; 1858-61, John T. COX; 1862, F.M. EMPEY; 1863-67, F.L. BRAYTON; 1868, H.W. BROWN; 1869-70, D.P. COOLER; 1871, W. E. BROWN; 1872, L.N. BAKER; 1873-77, Eli SKINNER; 1878, James E. SKINNER; 1879-94, F.J. BAKER; 1895-1900, C.E. WOODARD.

   The village of Fort Ann has a depot on the Delaware & Hudson Railroad; the Champlain Canal passes through it, and a daily stage connects it to Glens Falls. The postoffice was established in 1800, and George CLARK was the first postmaster. The business carried on is mostly commercial, but there is a knitting and woolen mill conducted by Edgar WALL.
   The village has three churches, Baptist, Methodist and Catholic. The Baptist Church was organized June 22, 1822, but had no regular pastor until 1824, when Rev. Bradbury CLAY was installed. The congregation at first worshiped in the village school, but soon joined with the Methodists and Universalists in building a union church building, which they purchased in 1836. In 1874 they completed their present church building. Rev. J.W. DAVIS is the present pastor.
   The Methodist Episcopal Church of Fort Ann was organized about the same time as the Baptist Church, and in 1826 aided in building the union church. In 1837 they began a church of their own, which was completed in 1838. Rev. Mr. GREGG is the present pastor.
   The Catholic Church at Fort Ann is in the Kingsbury parish, and Rev. J.J. O'BRIEN of Sandy Hill is the pastor.
   Comstocks, a depot on the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, is in this town, and is notable as being the home of Hon. I.V. BAKER.
   South Bay, Kane's Falls and West Fort Ann, are other notable places in the town.
   The First Baptist Church of Fort Ann was organized in 1789, and the Rev. Sherman BABCOCK was the first pastor, joining his flock in 1790. In 1807 they built their first house of worship. In 1810 a new church building was commenced, but not finished until 1844. In 1858 the church edifice at Comstock's Landing was completed, which has since been the place of worship.
   The Second Baptist Church of Fort Ann was organized in 1810 and may be said to have been an outgrowth of the First church. In 1868 they erected their house of worship at South Bay.

From: "Washington County, New York, Its History to the Close of the Nineteenth Century" by William L. Stone, 1901.


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