Warren County Historical Society Presents …

The Digital Version “REWIND”

September 15, 2018

(Note:  Please visit again as photographs will be added to this story.)

Hamlets of Warren County in the Town of Stony Creek

 

 

       A number of small hamlets evolved in Warren County based on their ability to meet human and environmental needs.  Logging and tanning operations brought people together, as did water sources and mines.  The hamlets offered places for people to gather, obtain supplies, churches and schools.  The populations grew as these industries and business grew only to decline as the industry depleted their resources, leaving a historical settlement for tourists and summer residents to enjoy.

        In our continuing research of the hamlets that have made an appearance in Warren County at one time or another, Dr. Marilyn Van Dyke takes us to the western part of the county, looking at the Town of Stony Creek.

        The Town of Thurman, formed in 1852, was over time, divided into the towns of Athol, Bolton, Chester, Johnsburg, and parts of Caldwell (Lake George).  From Athol, the youngest of Warren County towns, the Town of Stony Creek was formed in April of 1792.

 

Highlights from the past include the following:

1876 – ‘the Crick’ got electric street lights

1894 –  the telephone reached to Stony Creek

            1904 –  The Town of Thurman board raised $ 1,000 to pay for the roads

                          and bridges

            1905 –  A snowfall of three feet fell and the roads were in the town were closed

            1908 –  Automobiles are so frequent in town, they are no longer a novelty

            1914 –  Luman Wood was appointed postmaster of Knowelhurst

Stony Creek

        Sandwiched between Saratoga County on the south and the Town of Thurman on the north, a narrow, irregular oblong piece of land extends westward from the Hudson River to the eastern edge of Hamilton County.  A few houses lie along State Route 418, the town of Stony Creek’s ‘main road.’  State Route 418 parallels the Hudson River and the Delaware and Hudson Railroad tracks, but most of the dwellings in town are scattered on back roads that follow Stony Creek and its tributaries.  These roads go up into the high hills or cut across divides from one small valley to another.

        A military highway cut through the town during the French and Indian War.  There is a story that said that two groups of people settled the area, each unaware of the other.  The town provided prime land for soldiers discharged by the military who applied for land in groups – as single families were not safe.  Between 70 and 80 men from Stony Creek served in the Civil War; 42 people from the town served in World War II.

        The town is an almost undeveloped region of vast distances, rugged, mountainous, heavily wooded land.  Peaks and long ridges rise to over 3,000 feet above sea level; narrow valleys watered by tumbling streams cut through the mountains.  Small lakes and ponds lie in high altitudes. While deer and other small game roam the mountainsides.  Trout, bass and perch lurk in the waters.

        Farming and a surviving remnant of lumbering are now being supplemented by a growing number of tourist destinations:  dude ranches, camps and farms converted into tourist accommodations.

        Today, the least populated of Warren County towns, Stony Creek was once the home to over 1,200 inhabitants.  John Bowman’s tanning operation – one of the largest in the region – was the reason.  You can see by the following chart that the tanning operation was at its height in the 1870s & 1880s:

 

Year

Population

1855

913

1860

960

1865

935

1870

1,127

1875

1,253

1880

1,253

1940

457

1970

560

1980

528

2010

767

 

            At the town’s formation, the four corners of the Stony Creek hamlet, or Creek Center, was the location of the only post office in what is the present-day town.

 

            A number of sawmills – as many as nine at one time – operated in the town along with several grist mills.  Besides the importance of lumbering and tanning, a broom factory, an inn, store, and potash factory rounded out the early businesses in the town.

Creek Center

            The four corners in ‘The Creek’ since the beginning of the tanning business has always been the business section of town.  Stores in which to purchase most needed goods (dry goods, groceries, etc.), a post office, hotels, eateries, a grain store, and even a hardware business have come and gone at the corners.

The Tannery

        In the mid-1800s, John P. Bowman started a tannery in Stony Creek which became one of the largest tanneries in the region.  In addition to the tannery buildings, Bowman provided living accommodations for many of his employees.  At its height, the tannery had a capacity of over 40,000 sides of leather a year.  After Bowman’s death, the Garnar Leather Works of Luzerne took over the factory.

 

Knowelhurst

            On the western edge of Warren County is a small hamlet on the road to Harrisburg.  Knowelhurst today hosts an active church, two cemeteries and a small number of houses and small farms.   At one time it had its own schoolhouse:  District # 7.  Today it is a pass through between Creek Center and Harrisburg.

 

Harrisburg

            Harrisburg, in the western part of the town, was named for three Harris brothers who built a sawmill there sometime before 1850.  The place was once the site of activity, with hotels and later a dude ranch.

 

            Just a few miles north from the crossroads of Stony Creek one can find Harrisburg Lake and what was once the hamlet of Harrisburg.  This beautiful, two-mile-long lake at an altitude of 1,494 feet drains through East Stony Creek, the Sacandaga Reservoir, and eventually the Hudson River.

 

            The highway ends at Harrisburg, but private roads lead to dude ranches and many private camps.  Dude ranches in the area included Sunset Valley, the Lake Club and the Lodge at Harrisburg Lake.

     This article was prepared by Dr. Marilyn Van Dyke for the Warren County Historical Society.  Material was extracted from Stony Creek Then and Now by Janice M. Whipple, published by the Stony Creek Historical Association (1980).  Additional material was provided by Stony Creek Town Historian Cynthia Cameron and Warren County Historian Stan Cianfarano.  The black & white photos come from Ms. Whipple’s book.  The colored photos are courtesy of Stan Cianfarano.

 

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