History of Northampton

Source – written by Charlotte D. Russell, "Northampton, Times Past, Times Present" (Reprinted 1997, Bradford Smith) pages 3-5.


"The town was named for the Northampton Patent, a 6,000 acre parcel of land granted to Jacob Mase, John R. Bleecker and others on October 17, 1741.   This territory included parts of Bergen's Purchase, Norman McLeod's Grant, the Sacandaga Patent and Jeremiah Van Renssalaer's Patent.  The corner of Bridge and Main Streets in Northville is said to be the corner of Lot #4 of Van Renssalaer's Patent.  A metal plate is also said to rest there, deep beneath layers of road work.

Northampton lies at the extreme Northeast bordering Fulton County, bounded on the North by Hamilton County, on the East by Saratoga County, on the West by the Town of Mayfield, and on the South by the Town of Broadalbin.  It was set apart from the Town of Broadalbin early in 1799, and in May of that same year, the first Town meeting of Northampton was held.

The Sacandaga Rivers enters the town at its Northern border, and flows in a south-easterly direction to empty into the Great Sacandaga Lake just North of the Village of Northville.  This river has played a most prominent role in the history of the town.  It is the outlet for many lakes and streams in the Southern Adirondacks, and a main tributary of the Hudson.  In pre-glacial times, it apparently flowed Southward into the Mohawk River.

Originally, before the creation of the Great Sacandaga Lake, the river flowed through a valley from one to three miles wide.  Vlaie Creek emptied into it just North of Fish House, and from there the river turned from a South-easterly direction to the Northeast, entering Saratoga County.  The river then passed through a gorge at Conklingville to enter the Hudson at Hadley-Luzerne.  It was in this valley that the first settlers found a place to live.

The first settlement in Northampton came about through Sir William Johnson, who built a fishing retreat on the Sacandaga River near the mouth of Vlaie Creek in 1762.  It was from this building that the village called "Fish House" derived its name, although the post office there was called Northampton.   Sir William persuaded Godfrey Shew, a German farmer, to move to Fish House, there to become the first permanent settler within its present limits of the Town of Northampton.  Soon after the arrival of Shew, other began locating around Fish House, discovering quickly that the marshy areas near the river were excellent for hunting and fishing.

Some of the other early settlers included John Eikler, Lent and Nicholas Servis, Robert Martin, Zebulon Alger, the Ketchum and Chadwick families, Asahel Parkes (or Parker), John Trumbell, John Rosevelt, Alexander St. John and John and Cyrus Fay.   Many were to take an active part in the Revolution.

The northern part of the town was not settled until after the Revolution.   In 1788, Samuel Olmstead of Danbury, Connecticut was the first to travel north up the river.  There in an area of the present Village of Northville, he was soon joined by others, among them Zadoc Sherwood, Daniel Lobdell, Thomas Foster, Daniel and Timothy Resseguie, Caleb Lobdell, Abram Van Arnam, Nathen Hull, John McNeil, Calvin Young, Garrett Van Ness, Robert Palmer, and John Dennison.  Most of these early settlers were of New England stock.  In the extreme northern end of the town, the first pioneers were Isaac Penny, Justus Olmstead, Zadock Bass, Joseph Slocum, Caleb Meeker and Timothy Gifford.  In the central part of the town, near Denton's Corners and Osborn Bridge, the early people included John Shoecraft, Elisha Coleman, Joseph Brown, Elisha Foote, Nathaniel Meade, Henry King and Abel Scribner.  They settled that area shortly before 1800.

Early roads in the Town of Northampton deviated little from trails made by Indians, and when they did, were no more than footpaths marked by blazed trees.   Later, roads were made a little wider, but remained dirt, and often followed a stream, or the flattest part part of a valley between two hills.  They were often impassable in bad weather.  The first improvement was the plank road.  Thick wooden planks were laid on sills to keep vehicles out of the mud and the shoulders were graded and sometimes filled with gravel to aid drainage.  In 1849, a plank road was completed from Amsterdam, through Broadalbin to Fish House.  Soon after 1850, a plank road was extended to Northville by the Northville and Fish House Plank Road Co.  This improvement brought about daily stage coach trips to carry both mail and passengers.   The roads were toll roads, barriers to prevent the passing of anyone who did not pay.  A "keeper" lived in a house nearby and collected tolls at the gate.   After the plank road, came earth and gravel; and then macadam; the need for these wider and safer roads made paramount by the advent of the automobile."

".....The first settlers of the Town of Northampton made their living by farming.  Certain portions of the river and table land produced good crops of wheat until in the early 1800's farmers complained that the soil was impoverished.   Rye and barley continued to be raised, as did corn, which was a staple providing food for both livestock and people.  The first grist mill was built by Thomas Foster on Hunter's Creek.  The site is now beneath the Northville Lake east of the village.   In 1815, Joseph Slocum built a grist mill and a saw mill, also on Hunter's Creek.   Later owned by John A. Willard, they were located near the bridge which now passes Hunter's Creek just east of the intersection of Ridge Road and Maple Grove Road.

Lumbering was the first and most important industry to follow agriculture.   As the population of the  town increased, so did the need for building materials.  Lumber became big business.  And since there were so many sugar maples in the area a sizeable business was also built on the making and selling of maple syrup.  In addition, many of the women of the town were employed by the glove and mitten manufacturers based in Gloversville and Johnstown.  At first made strictly by hand, the gloves and mittens were later sewn on machines, and many households were involved in doing piece work for the leather industry...."

"From time to time, people from the town of Northampton have become prominent politically.  John Fay of Fish House was a Representative from his District in the National Congress of 1820.  And from 1809-1889, these men served in the State Legislature:  John Fay, Samuel A. Gilbert, Alexander St. John, Jacob Shew, Joseph Spier, Henry Cunningham, Nathaniel Wescot, Jacob Van Arnam, Clark S. Grinnell, Langdon I. Marvin, John Patterson, Darius Moore, Alfred N. Haner, William A. Smith, Wesley Gleason, Isaac Le Fevre, Joseph Covell, William F. Barker, L. L. Boyce, and Lewis Brownell.  At the turn of the century, William Harris and Scott Partridge were State Assemblymen from Northville."


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Copyright 1999,2000 Charlotte D. Russell
Copyright 1999,2000 Jeanette Shiel
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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:14:02 PDT