The Town of Chester
Some years before the Town of Chester was set of from Thurman on March 25, 1799, the area was already being considered for expansion. Ideally located between the east and west branches of the Hudson, it was possible to enter the virgin territory by boat, the pioneer’s easiest method of transportation.
Much of the wilderness was already familiar to men who had fought in the colonial wars, and some of the families who first moved into the Gore area had already been given colonial grants prior to the revolution. After the Revolutionary War, many of the soldiers were given several hundred acres as payment for their services. Quakers from Dutchess and Moreau were also among the early settlers.
The main settlement was known as Chester Four Corners or simply Four Corners. When the first post office was established there on June 27, 1808 this settlement became known as Chestertown to distinguish it from Chester in Orange County. Gabriel Fox was the first postmaster.
Shortly after the Revolutionary War, Seba Higley secured a piece of land on what is now Landon Hill, which he purchased in 1801. From the Higley family history one learns that he walked back and forth from his dwelling in Hebron to the Hill. He made a clearing and put up a log house and did planting in 1810 before he finally returned with his family. When Warren County was established on March 12, 1813, Seba Higley was chosen as the first Supervisor of the Town of Chester in the new county.
By the 1830’s the town had grown into two main settlements, Chestertown and Pottersville, with several smaller ones. The first post office in Pottersville, the second largest village, was established Dec. 5, 1839. The first postmaster was Joel F. Potter, for whom the village was named. Darrowsville was named after James Darrow; Starbuckville took its name from James Starbuck. Landon Hill was named after M.B. Landon, who ran a tavern at the foot of the hill. There was also Igerna and part of Riverside.
The early economy centered around farming, lumbering and tanning. Alexander Robertson built the first tannery, in Chestertown in 1849, more commonly known as C.H. Faxon & Son. Charles H. Faxon was in the business from the beginning as the firm was Robertson, Faxon & Co. William Mundy built a tannery at Friends Lake. There was also a tannery in Pottersville, at various times known as Fraser-Major, Milton Sawyer, and Fay & Co. That tannery later became a cider mill.
From its earliest days, the town’s greatest natural wonder was the stone bridge and its caves near the northern end of town. This bridge is described in Morse’s Geography of 1790 as follows: “In the County of Montgomery is a small, rapid stream emptying into Schroon Lake, west of Lake George; it runs under a hill, the base of which is 60 to 70 yards in diameter, forming a most curious and beautiful arch in the rock, as white as snow. The fury of the water and the roughness of the bottom, added to terrific noise within, have hitherto prevented any person from passing though the chasm.” This is Natural Stone & Caves in Pottersville and is a major tourist attraction for the town.
The Town of Chester had common schools beginning in 1789. In 1820 there were 7 districts, which kept school an average of 5 months a year and taught 224 pupils. There were also several select schools and the Chester Academy, which preceded the graded school system. High Schools were the natural outgrowth in both Pottersville and Chestertown. Consolidation of districts happened quickly in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Both villages built centralized schools. Further consolidation occurred in the early 1970’s, when Pottersville, Chestertown and Horicon Central Schools formed the North Warren Central School District.
The first church in the Town was the Baptist, which was organized in 1796 in Chestertown, with Rev. Jehiel Fox as the first pastor. In Pottersville the Methodist formed a society in 1810 and erected a house of worship in 1847. Today that building is the Pottersville United Methodist Church and continues to hold worship services. One of the first Wesleyan Methodist Churches in the state was organized July 14, 1843 in Darrowsville. The church was built in 1845 and became a stop on the Underground Railroad. At various times the town has had Baptist, Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Dutch Reformed, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Quaker, Christian Scientist, and interdenominational groups.
Very early on Chester became a mecca for summer visitors, and the tourist trade became part of the economy of the town. In 1898 the Souvenir Edition of the Warrensburgh News described the area as “A Thriving Adirondack Village Where Balsam Laden Air is Attracting Thousands.” Many hotels, boarding houses and summer resorts sprang up to care for these visitors. Early travelers made the journey by the D. & H. Railroad to the Glen Station or the Riverside Station. From the station travelers could take stages to their destination. Later, an autobus, known simply as The Auto, carried passengers from the train. As travel became easier and more affordable summer resorts were built on Friends Lake and Loon Lake which offered accommodations as well as many activities for their guests. The Town of Chester continues to attract vacationers today. Recreational opportunities in the area have expanded to include cross-country skiing and hiking trails, continuing development of park land at Dynamite Hill, including a hockey rink and a picnic area, and a joint effort with the state and Warren and Essex counties to develop the former Scaroon Manor site along the shores of Schroon Lake. There are also many seasonal homes surrounding Friends Lake and Loon Lake, as well as various accommodations for visitors.
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