Hague, Warren Co., NY
Early Incidents Of Hague
Date Last Updated: 05/09/2008
This article was published by the Ticonderoga Sentinel as a three part series in August of1892. (8/4/1892, 8/11/1892, 8/25/1892)
Transcribed by Bruce W. De Larm from copies originally transcribed in 1961 by Vila (Ackerman) Fitzgerald (1904-1995), Hague Town Historian. A few paragraphs were transcribed from images of the Ticonderoga Sentinel viewed on Northern New York Historical Newspapers.
The Ticonderoga Sentinel
Ticonderoga, Essex County, New York
August 4th, 1892
Early Incidents of Hague
By Mrs. Hoyt Johnson
My first recollections of Hague extend back to October, 1816. Sometime previous my father had left his home in Windsor, VT., and penetrated the wilderness beyond Lake Champlain to the Shores of Lake George, and amid its mountain valleys had secured a home, nearly two miles west of its shores. In October he returned for his family and we started from our pleasant home at the head of State St. for a journey of over a hundred miles, over roads of which the present generation have no conceptions. We piled upon wagons our most necessary household articles; leaving our best rooms furnished intending to return, but the return trip never came. We necessarily traveled slow and it was late in the day when the reached the crossing at Lake Champlain, which was then known as Deal's ferry and retained its name and occupation of transporting people, merchandise, horses, cattle, and vehicles of all description across the lake in boats, always designated as scow boats, until superseded by the railroad bridge and steam ferry. There was a house on the York side at the crossing. From there, it was an unbroken wilderness, with only a few charred patches with a rude log house for shelter and a home, until we reached Hague. After leaving the house at the crossing, the first one we met was built just the length of a board square and stood at the foot of a hill just beyond the old Fort where the spring flows out of the hills on the north side of the road, just as it does to this day. It was here that our soldiers after the battle, heated and weary, laid down to quench their thirst, and of the number, over 300 never rose again from the effects of the chill that followed the draught. The same road that we then traveled is traveled now. This part of the journey, young as I was, had a peculiar charm. This was battle ground, and here my maternal grandfather entered the Fort under the leadership of Ethan Allen when he demanded its surrender "In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress". It was here my uncle died and was buried on Mount Independence. This was historic ground. How many of the present generation, as they pass this spring where man and beast still quench their thirst, think of those 300 whose life was an offering for our freedom.
The next cleared spot and house was the old original Squire Hay's house. The next was just after you turn the corner to the left going towards Hague, as you face the old brick yard after you pass the brick house on the right erected more than fifty years ago by Potter DeLano, then a merchant at Ticonderoga. This house stood on the left hand side and a shop opposite on the right hand side of the road, both small. The proprietor's name was Pierce. It was night when we reached this place, and as was customary in those days we sought shelter and lodging. They gave us hearty welcome but there was no room in the inn for so many of us, for we were accompanied by a family by the name of Doolittle. Their family consisted of six children, and my father's numbered the same. We had provision cooked for food, but rest was needed. Mr. and Mrs. Pierce with true pioneer hospitality were equal to the emergency. This shop had stood open and geese had been sheltered there, but they soon had it cleared and swept and an abundance of straw with blankets provided. We the children, at least, slept the sleep of the just. Morning found us early on our way. but the recollections of that night's lodging was a subject of much merriment among us, and for years we often gave our friends a description of our first night's lodgings in New York state in a goose house, we termed it. From this place it was an unbroken forest, until we reached the present site of the hotel in Hague. Nathaniel Garfield, Sr., owned and kept a house of entertainment there. The road kept directly along as today by the lake shore and the first house was occupied by Chas. Dodd, Sr., where Henry Starks now lives, just beyond what is known as the Lake Cemetery, the first burial place ever located in Hague. Beyond the Dodd home, on the lake shore, lived a man by the name of Waiste. In what was long called the Pratt neighborhood lived a family named Holman; another named Murphy; another, Pratt; a man by the name of Baird and Mr. Kenny, the miller, constituted the whole number of inhabitants in that part of the town.
Mr. Cook, grandfather of Wm. and Jackson Cook, lived on what is called Cook's Point, and it was the grandmother, not the grandfather, who laid the foundation of the Cook property. She was a woman of uncommon energy. There are many anecdotes connected with her history which would illustrate the truth of my assertion, which ought to be remembered. Her life would be a good foundation for a novel. After we crossed the bridge near Mr. Burgess' present home, we followed what is now the traveled road. It was just passable. As we turned westward to our future home, now occupied by Wm. Baldwin. The first building was a log school house just across the next bridge where a house now stands, just below the site of the old grist mill, which was then standing, and owned by a M r Kenny. From there not another building or cleared spot until we reached our home, which then included both the one occupied by Mr. Baldwin and the next one east. Westward of us not a human habitation. On our farm was a log house, and the one which we were to call our home, a framed house, which my father built that year, and the first of its kind erected in town. It was boarded and ceiled up with a large fireplace on one side. The best had been done that my father could do, but it was a strong contrast to the home we had left. This year has come down in history as the cold year. Snow fell every month in the year except one. The next year was a trying year as the produce was consumed and as quite a number of new families came to town there was real suffering in many cases. I will say just here that my father was a cooper by trade and ran a shop in connection with his farm. He returned to Vermont with a load and sold it for grain and groceries to carry us through until harvest. It was noticed abroad that he had returned, and the next evening my mother cooked for 23 visitors, and then the day following. This year,1817, Leonard Densmore took a farm opposite my fatherís, on the parallel road running west, called the upper road. They came from Winchester, N. H.
The next year Ebenezer Glazier bought land adjoining us on the west and erected a log house which stood on the opposite side of the road from the present one. He was one of the revolutionary soldiers and lived to draw a pension. He came from Weathersfield, Vt. His wife was Louise Upham of that place, and a woman of notable memory. She could tell all the births, marriages, deaths and every event of public interest, naming year, month, week and day when it transpired. Jonathan Page also came and built on the farm now owned by Spencer. Next came John and Benj. Hayford, brothers. Their farms joined. They came from Connecticut as did Jonathan Page, Mr. O Hayes now occupies the Benj. Hayford place. Then came Mr. Rising, Sen. Rufus I think his name was; Ed. Ackerman now occupies the place. He was grandfather to the present Rufus Rising on the paternal side, as John Hayford was on the maternal side. Mr. Briggs took up land and built a house where Sam Miller now lives. A family by the name of Johnson came next. These families came within two or three years after we came. Then came three families, brothers by the name of Balcom. They settled towards Northwest bay together with two Phillip brothers and Jas. Olney. The three last came from Springfield, Vt. The Balcoms came from Massachusetts. Next, came Amasa Burt. Sen. building on the hill above the Densmore home. For six years there was a steady immigration of sturdy pioneer men and women, who cleared off and burned up the wood, dug out stumps and brought the then virgin soil under cultivation. Meanwhile we went from house to house by marked trees, and our way to Vermont was by the Jonathan Page place, then an unbroken forest across the mountain, and all supplies were backed in on men's shoulders. Catamounts and bears were plenty. A man by the name of Osgood came to live near the Page homestead; some of the family were taken violently ill, and Sarah Akerman noted for her intrepidity of courage, took a torch of pine wood and wended her way in the dead of night, from the Page place to my father's for assistance, and it is told of her a few years later, that while assisting a woman in the, care of her large family of small children, whose husband in his drunkenness was a terror to his family by his drunken treatment, that one evening when his wife and children were fleeing from room to room to escape his blows, she stepped to the fireplace and placed the heavy iron poker, used in those days, in the fire until red hot at one end, then brandishing it over his head commanded him to sit down and behave himself, or she would strike. He begged for mercy which was granted on condition of future good behavior. She lived in the family sometime, and although he tapped his barrel every day a word from her kept peace for his family.
During the years just spoken of a man from Lowell, Mass., Loring Allen, came and occupied land adjoining the Glazier farm on the west. I think it was the third winter after we came to Hague, the school house took fire in the night and burned down. School had kept only three weeks and most of the books were in the seats. Nothing was saved as the house was so isolated. The next day the men rallied and decided to build. Meanwhile the school was opened in one room of my father's house. The school house was rebuilt in its present location, and in less than four weeks was ready to be occupied. Everybody worked with a will and energy which meant business. Men took turns keeping fires running night and day to dry the plastering between the logs. Early one morning coming from his watch night, my father broke his leg, the only accident which occurred in the hasty building. This house was built of logs with an ample fire-place on the west end. New families continued to come to town and most of them had large families. Father built a kiln and burned lime for all who needed it. A man named Sabrina Norcutt was the first blacksmith. Mr. Gilbert came from Greenfield, I think, and built a house, saw mill, and grist mill on the upper falls of the stream near the bridge. He came in 1818. The same year Thomas Gage opened his store, the first in town, where Philo Foot and wife have lived for the last fifty years. They had ten children. Some years after Charles Harris opened a store where Mr. Burgess now carries on business and lived in a house occupying the same site that Mr. Burgess' house now occupies. That store was started in 1827. There were no manufactories in the place except a cooper shop owned and carried on by my father in connection with his farming. He not only furnished supplies for the townspeople, but sent loads to Vermont, which was disposed of among the different town. Except blacksmithing this was the only trade carried on in town. The first religious society was a Presbyterian church organized in 1819 with a membership of nine or ten members, but no minister in town. The material of which it was formed was not such as to ensure permanency. One of its members was installed as deacon, if he did not honor his calling he was quite sure he was honored and often boasted of the dignity conferred upon him. One day, on entering the hotel, he found a man from his native town stopping there. After first greetings, he said, "what will the people of W. say when you tell them I am Deacon?" "That Hague is mighty short of timber," came the response. The reply was a byword for years.
The second school house built was near the place where the one stands in the west district. West Hague, as now called, was thicker settled than any other part of the town. In 1829 there were 25 to 30 families to attend school. There was a cemetery laid out in this part of the town in its first settlement, and from two to three hundred people lie buried there. The line fence between Rufus Rising and Orrin Hayís now divides it running north and south. To the south of the town it is a common pasture where herds and flocks roam at will. Before the school house just spoken of was built, school was kept in a house where Rufus Rising now lives. It was a log house and a family lived in it, but education could be acquired there just as well as college rooms, if one is disposed to learn. Two other school houses were built soon after, standing nearly where they do now.
Religious services were held in private houses and school houses, except the Presbyterian society just mentioned. The Methodists were the first to occupy the ground. The itinerant method was well sustained, and a large congregation sustained these efforts of evangelization. A flourishing church existed for a long period, but feuds divided it somewhat, but it has always had an existence. The first permanent Baptist minister, the Rev. John Parker, preached in the school house near the present Baptist church. He was well liked and people came from all parts of the town, even from Northwest bay to near him. Quite a flourishing church grew out of his labor. Some years after, Elder Grant of revival fame, came to town and held a ten days' meeting in a barn, just west of Mr. Burgess' store. Many conversions followed, and the Baptist and Methodist churches were strengthened by the addition of new members. The first church edifice built was what is now the Baptist church. Alvah Bevins was the first one to suggest the idea. He was interested in the lumber business, and made a proposition which met with favor, and the people of all shades of belief contributed for its erection. It was the people's church, not a denomination one and was free to all. The second pastor of the Baptist church was the Rev. Mr. Garfield, who staid one year. The church was not sufficiently cultured to suit his taste. The next was Rev. Mr. Webber. He did not suit the people. Others have come and gone, but the old church which was founded on Christ's teachings still stands. Pastors may come and goóGod remains.
There are many incidents connected with the town's early history that would fill columns. Some sad, some romantic, some mirthful. One came near being a tragedy. Mr. Briggs, who lived where Sam Miller does, ran short of food and started by marked trees over the mountains to Vermont to bring home a bag of provisions. A severe storm came on and he could not return. Mrs. Briggs and three children had not a particle of food. They had fasted for three days when the storm abated, but she knew her husband could not reach her. Mr. Rising and family only occupied their home through the summer, going to Vermont to work in the winter. Mrs. Briggs thought that some food might have been left, and resolved to go and search. She fastened her children in the house and started early in the morning. She succeeded in reaching the house and after searching every part she found some dried pumpkin which she took, and started for home. Darkness had come, but love lent wings to her return, which was easier as the way was down hill. She reached home and hastily boiled some to feed her famished children, and on this they subsisted until the half distracted father reached home fearing starvation had done its work. Another man came to Mr. Kenny the miller, saying his children and wife only tasted milk once a day for three days and he could not find a peck of grain for sale as no one had any. Mr. Kenny had just one peck for his own use, which had been tolled from the scanty grists that had come to his mill. He divided and gave the man half. But better harvests brought relief and more land came under cultivation as years passed by.
Let us turn away from this picture of the woman who sent her boy to mill to get a grist ground. He had no clothes, so took a meal bag and ran a string in the hem to gather round his neck, cut some round holes for his arms, slit it up and made two legs and set him astride the grist. He had a substantial suit, if not fashionable. Another family of four men folks, the dishes being short, used to hang a Large iron kettle over the fire, stir it nearly full of hasty pudding, swing it back and when the men got hungry they would each take a spoon while the wife turned a pan of milk on top of the pudding. Then they gathered around and ate from the kettle until satisfied, wife and girls doing the same. When one pudding was gone they made another. This was varied by roasting potatoes in the ashes, and taking them in their hands with salt, sometimes a bit of pork broiled on a stick made the potatoes more palatable, I wish to add that the woman who invented the meal bag suit received her web of cloth from the mill, where she had sent it to be colored, one night just at dusk. The next morning five boys came out with new pants. Once when a child I was invited to visit a family of girls. After a time my mother said I might go. The distance was such that I should have to spend the night, as I went from school. I found that one room and a loft constituted the home. On one side of the room stood a row of leaches, the lye running, which was being boiled into potash for sale. When supper time came a large hasty pudding was dipped into a wooden bowl with milk. Spoons were given to each and they gathered around and each dipped for themselves. I was expected to join, but my appetite failed me and I wished myself at home. This cured me and I never teased to visit again.
There were bears, wolves and panthers roaming through the forests. The wolves went in packs and made night hideous by their howling. Travelers through the forests were ever on the alert for fear of panthers, which often crouched in the branches overhead ready to spring upon the unwary. All cooking was done over fire places, mostly made of stone. A crane was set in side jams with hooks bent like the letter S., some long, some short, upon which we hung kettles for cooking purposes. Large ovens of stone were used to bake in after being heated. When a warm cake was wanted a spider with legs was heated by coals placed under it, and when the bottom was sufficiently done the spider was tipped up edgewise before the fire and finished. There was also an iron bake kettle in use with a cover fitted with a turned-up rim. Underneath and on top were piled coals. In this bread, pies and cakes were deliciously cooked. Meat was roasted in the brick oven and before the fire. Whole spareribs were suspended by string or chain before the ample wood fires, and some member of the family, with a long stick, was stationed back of it to keep it turning so that every part was evenly done. Sometime in the beginning of the thirties a tin baker to set up before the fire came into use. It was open in front and the top sloped backward with trays for baking. It was a great step forward, but when a stove was brought to town many doubted its utility. The first cook stoves were the Conant, style oblong, two doors in front, one to put in wood the other directly over it opening into the oven. The pipe was in the center of top with an oblong griddle each side. We could just reach up and set in the boiler if we were of medium height. An improvement was added by the fireplace extending back far enough to take in four foot wood. This part was low with a round boiler place so that people could set on their fire pail, brass and iron kettles. The next one used in town was cast in Ticonderoga, had a rotary top with six griddle holes.
Everybody spun and wove the cloth for their wearing apparel. Wool and linen garments constituted their chief dress. The flax and wool were spun on wheels by hand. Most of the wool was carded by hand. There was at that time no carding machines nearer than Vermont and only a few there. The wool was made into rolls alter carding by the manipulation of the carder, and it was then ready for the wheel. Flax was wound smoothly over a distaff and spun on linen wheels. Linen home spun was the only thread in use and it was a source of income to the farmers' wives and daughters to spin thread, coarse and fine, bleaching some to snowy whiteness, coloring it in various colors and exchanging it with store keepers for the various articles needed. Linen dresses of exquisite fineness and beauty shining with a luster equal to silk were considered good enough for any gathering, with the lace homemade, and the knot of dainty ribbon for the neck, would vie today with some of the more elaborate fabrics. The mothers, those of them who had brought from their former homes the one best dress of silk or bombasette, were considered well to do. Calico was an unknown article. Ginghams were manufactured in Lowell, Mass., but had not been used to any extent. The first piece brought to Hague was sent to Mr. and Mrs. Loring Allen by their friends in Lowell, who were the manufacturers. When a carding machine was erected in Ticonderoga people were almost afraid to send their wool there to be made into rolls, for some of the first patrons found the fibres of the wool broken, and so cut up that yarn spun from it was too tender for weaving. I might as well say here that the first factory cloth ever brought into town was in 1837. My brother carried his wool to some factory near the head of Lake George and took in exchange cloth for a part, as an experimental test. Men and boys' garments for winter and summer were fashioned and made by a tailoress going from house to house.
Cow hides, calf skins and sheep skins were carried to the tanneries and made into dressed leather and was called upper and sole leather. When shoes were wanted for the family a shoemaker came with his bench and tools, and a corner of the kitchen was usually assigned him, as he must keep his waxed threads warm. Each member of the family stood up and had his foot measured preliminary to work. The families were all supplied, the men with heavy and light boots and shoes and women and children with such as was needed. The shoemaker gathered up his kit and went to the next family until the neighborhood was supplied.
Time brought changes, even to one little fellow who went into one of his neighbors one cold November day to borrow an axe for his father clad only in a long tow and linen shirt, hatless and shoeless. When asked if not cold, he drew himself up and said with much dignity, "why no, don't you see I've got a bran new shirt" and he was clad the best of his family. He lived to be clad in broadcloth. That Same spirit of making the best of the present led to a competence.
Twelve years made a great change in the town as regarded inhabitants. In ploughing the land hatchets, knives and flint arrowheads were often found. Two Indians, brothers by the name of Jonathan and Paul, the remnant of the Mohican tribe, resided near the lake. Jonathan, or Daunt as he was often called, ended his days here working, fishing doing odd jobs for a scanty living. His brother married one of Thomas Dunnís daughters, who lived near Northwest Bay. They went west and joined one of the tribes in western New York. After a few years they returned on a visit. The wife was thoroughly transformed into a typical Indian Princess, richly dressed. Her Indian costume was much admired. Two beautiful children, gaily dressed, accompanied them. Civilized life held no attractions for Mrs. Paul, and she said her Indian life was preferable.
Of colored people the town can only boast of one. When Mr. Gilbert came to town, building his home where the first house west of the late Philo Foote's now stands (the same Gilbert who built the grist and saw mill), his wife had two women slaves. New York had just passed the law freeing the slave after such date, but the minor children were to be subject to their owners, boys until 25 years, girls until 21. One of these slave women had a son from two to four years old. She with the others, staid with the family until the law manumitted them. Rose, the mother of the boy, I think died there. The boy, Prince Gilbert, as he was always called, remained and was often called on to play the "fiddle" at dancing parties. He was always delighted and considered it quite an honor to play for the white folks.
The first lime kiln was built by my father in 1820 and proved a great convenience to the town. Cooking soda, as now used, was unknown. Andrew Bevins was the only man who understood the process of making the most refined article of pearl ash used in those days. When clearing the land the wood was burned and the ashes were gathered, also those from home fires. Every year he spent a few weeks making barrels of pearl ash, which was sent to market. From this, in process of time our cooking soda in its present refined state was manufactured.
There was one incident connected with the early history of Hague, which made a lasting impression on the minds of many. Somewhere near the foot of Lake George a man named Comstock lived. He was noted for his fearless wicked ways, but a jolly fellow. He owned a fine sail boat and often made up a party for a sail up the lake. On one of these excursions he, with his party, stopped at the hotel in Hague, which was then kept by Captain Jennison, afterwards Governor of Vermont. After refreshments were served he drank freely and soon began boasting about his boat and its capacity to resist wind and storm, and finally wound up by saying, "God Almighty could not send a wind strong enough to capsize the boat." After starting out he was so blasphemous that two of the men begged to be set ashore. He was deaf to their entreaties, but as they were passing Holman's Point a little below Scotch Bonnet, they ran so near the shore that one of the men made a leap and reached the shore. As the boat rounded the Bonnet, a burst of cloud rain and wind swept down upon them. They hauled for the shore, but could not gain it. They shouted for aid and were heard by a man named Marie. He could not see them or render assistance. When the sun shone out the shores were searched, but not a splinter remained to tell of their struggle for life. Weeks afterwards one body floated to the shore and was buried. Thus ended the life of one who defied god.
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