The Town of Warrensburg
First known as "the Bridge," the hamlet that would become Warrensburgh developed thanks to two factors - vast tracts of accessible softwood forests and a 70-foot drop in the Schroon River in its last three miles before entering the Hudson River. This provided ample opportunity for water power, necessary for the production of lumber and the tanning of leather.
The economic opportunities afforded by these two factors attracted men and families from the lower Hudson Valley and New England after the Revolution. William Bond was the first settler in 1786 near what is known as Echo Lake.
Though farming was a necessary means of survival, the farms were comparatively small. Industries related to the natural resources developed. In addition to four saw mills, two grist mills were constructed, a tannery was put into operation and the production of potash, in great demand for agriculture and industrial purposes, became quite extensive. The original sawmill was built in 1818 by Dudley Farlin. In 1885 this mill was sawing 3,000,000 feet of lumber a year on a gang mill containing 70 saws, all water powered.
Public hospitality was an early consideration. The first hotel was built in 1789 by James Pitt. By the end of the nineteenth century no fewer than six hotels were operating. Apparently, from its earliest days, numerous people, new settlers, merchants and adventurers were visiting or passing through the town.
Prominent among the early residents was Pelatiah Richards. The Richards Library was a gift to the townspeople in 1911 by his descendents. Kitchel Bishop, who came in 1804, was a founding member of the Presbyterian Church in that year. Bishop became the town's first postmaster in 1806. In 1810 he built the town's first tannery. Judge Bishop served in the State Legislature for 13 years, including the State Senate from 1812 to 1815.
Warrensburgh was established as a town on February 12, 1813. The first town meeting was held on April 4, 1813 at the house of Mrs. Melinda Warren. The first supervisor was James L. Thurman. In addition to the usual offices of town clerk, assessors and highway commissioners, constable and collector, town government included "overseers of the poor", "fence viewers", a "poundmaster" and 22 "pathmasters."
From an 1861 record, “The village contains some 700 inhabitants and has two public houses [taverns], ten stores, a tin and stone establishment, two tailors, four book and shoe stores, two saddle and harness makers, two wagon and sleigh makers, two cabinet shops, a sash and blind factory, three physicians, two lawyers, two churches (Methodist and Presbyterian), two district schools and a flourishing academy [high school].”
Albert Cilly Emerson came to Warrensburgh at age 8 and grew to be a major force in Warrensburgh's industry. From store clerk he went on to success in the lumber industry and tanning. A. C. Emerson opened The Emerson Bank in 1884. Sons Louis and James developed the Schroon River Pulp and Paper Company and the Warrensburgh Woolen Company. They were instrumental in bringing shirt manufacturing to Warrensburg in the late nineteenth century. All three companies would employ more than a thousand people by the turn of the 20th century.
Both Emerson sons entered politics:- Louis serving first as NY State Senator, then as a U. S. Congressman for two terms, 1901-1906. James would enter the NYS Senate in 1906 and serve for 12 years. James was instrumental in getting funding for the New York State "trunk" highway system. With the advent of the automobile, this was necessary to replace the piece-meal, locally maintained plank roads, often tolled, prevalent throughout the state.
During the same period a trolley line was extended from Lake George and points south to Warrensburg. Workers could travel to Warrensburg's factory jobs. A railroad spur followed the Schroon River from Thurman Station to Warrensburg, facilitating the importation of raw materials and the shipping out of manufactured goods.
James Emerson's son, Albert Louis, as president of the Emerson National Bank, would see the decline of all the family-initiated businesses as local resources would diminish drastically in the 20th century. The Emerson holdings on the Schroon River - the sawmill and gristmill - were sold to members of the Pasco family and they endured past the mid-20th century; the woolen mill closed its doors before that. the shirt factory was acquired by a Glens Falls firm and afterwards, a dress manufacturing company. It morphed into an outlet "barn" and finally closed in the 1970s.
The missing "h"
On May 9, 1894 Warrensburgh officially lost its "h". The U. S. Post Office Department ordered that names ending in "burgh" drop the "h" unless the community chose not to. It is not known if the town fathers made a conscious decision or simply neglected to act on the issue. This writer suggests that the business movers of the time looked to the future - the 20th century and all that it promised - and chose to be part of it.
Tourism and the 21st century
The future, however, was not as certain as imagined. As previously stated sources of materials were being discovered elsewhere. Human resources were also found elsewhere, notably the deep South. So the thousands of factory jobs for which Warrensburg was known disappeared.
There were certain natural resources which could not be relocated however. The scenic beauty and the recreational opportunities inherent in the mountains, lakes and streams required the partaker to travel here. Always a hospitable town having numerous hotels and guest houses, Warrensburg now enjoys a reputation as a quiet, noncommercial location to visit and vacation. Tree-lined streets and historic homes, some converted to B&Bs, reflect a prosperous past. A local history museum and abundant historic sites, including two that have been converted into fine restaurants, make Warrensburg an appealing location for individuals and families of all ages.
Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound. The town maintains a public bathing beach at Echo Lake, hiking trails on Hackensack Mountain and a recreation field with tennis and basketball courts and softball diamond. Within the Town boundaries are additional hiking and XC trails, an 18-hole golf course and a downhill ski area. The Schroon and Hudson rivers provide rafting and tubing opportunities.
Our local hero
Warrensburg's most famous "local hero," Floyd Bennett, was born in 1890. Using his innate aptitude for auto mechanics, he became an airplane mechanic and pilot in the U. S. Navy. Selected by then Commander Richard E. Byrd, Bennett became, in 1926, the first to pilot a plane to the North Pole, for which he and Commander Byrd became world famous, both receiving the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor, from President Calvin Coolidge. Tragically, Warrant Officer Floyd Bennett died of pneumonia while on a rescue mission in 1928. The world mourned. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He is honored in Warrensburg with a memorial flagpole and an elegant elevated bandstand, erected in the former Pasko Park. This has become one of the iconic images of Warrensburg.
Next: Historical Buildings