Thurman and The Glen: History

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Traffic crossing the Hudson River on route 28 crosses between Thurman and Johnsburg at the Glen. The hamlet is aptly named, for the Scottish word means a narrow valley or depression between mountains or hills.

Today the structure most prominent at The Glen is the bed and breakfast and “W.I.L.D. Waters” business opened in 1986 by Doug Azaert. The acronym stands for Wilderness Institute for Leadership Development. “Waters”, too, is an acronym for Wilderness Adventure Training Education and River School. Doug offers clinics in canoeing and kayaking and counts Boy Scouts troops among his many clients. The rafting business from his location sees close to a thousand rafters in the spring, while skiers in the winter season add to his year-round bed and breakfast business. Doug carries on the 19th century boarding house tradition offering renewal of life and health with wilderness and outdoor adventure in the Adirondacks – at The Glen.

As the railroad advanced to North Creek bringing railroad workers and businessmen and travelers, John McInerny erected what is said to be North Creek’s first hotel in 1871 doing business as “The American” in 1872 and located on the site of today’s Copperfield Inn, there was also a large barn where guests would be able to keep their horses. When the hotel burned to the ground in 1903 it was rebuilt on the same site in 1920. Later George Gregory opened the hotel for years. The hotel catered to skiers in the later thirties. In the forties, Michael and Alice McPhillips bought the hotel and their active family were a special asset to community life. Mike died in the prime of life, but Alice continued for a few years. She sold to the Zack family of Glens Falls who operated it until Eliot Monter bought and replaced the building with the Copperfield Inn.

The present North Creek News – Enterprise was started by Warren T. Ratcliff in March 1924 and sold to Richard H. Sawyer and his wife, Myrtle, in 1925. It was tabloid size and five columns wide. Mrs. Sawyer continued the publication after her husband’s death in 1957, with the help of her two sons, Lawrence and Howard Sawyer. The publication stopped in April 1970 and was bought by George L. Gardner who continued the newspaper and printed his first copy by Christmas of that year. In 1990 the business was taken over by George’s son, Jerry, who is the present owner and editor.

 

 

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Thurman once covered over 800 square miles, all of the present Warren County except Queensbury and Luzerne. It was the parent town of nine of the present towns of the county. Set up originally by an act of the legislature on April 10, 1792, its territory was cut up town by town, as expanding population made it desirable, until, in 1813, not even the name remained. In that year what was left of Thurman’s original lands after Bolton, Chester, Johnsburg, Hague and Caldwell were set off from it, was divided, the part east of the Hudson River becoming Warrensburg and the part west of the river Athol. The present town was reborn forty years later when on November 13, 1852, the legislature passed an act to erect the towns of Thurman and Stony Creek from the town of Athol, an act which took effect April 3, 1853.

With this act, the name of John Thurman, proprietor of large tracts of land in Northern New York, who was responsible for much of the settlement and development of Warren County, was again honored. Thurman was a native of New York City, a merchant and business­man, who spent the last twenty years of his life in what is now Warren County, developing the resources, starting industry, encouraging settlement and leading in the government of the area in which he had so much interest. He died as a result of being gored by a bull while in Bolton. This occurred in 1809 and not in 1807, as is some times stated.

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Much of the terrain of Thurman is mountainous with several peaks rising nearly three thousand feet above sea level. Crane Mountain, a landmark, lies partly within its northern bounds. The east branch of the Sacandaga River flows through the northwestern part of the town and there are several small lakes within its borders.

Settlement in this town began shortly after the Revolution, although the first recorded settler was James Cameron who lived on the river road in 1773 on what is now called the Gillingham farm. Richardson Thurman settled at the forks of the Hudson and Schroon rivers in 1783. He was a nephew of John Thurman and acted as his land agent. The first town meeting held in old Thurman took place at his home by direction of the Legislature. The following year 1773, when the Totten and Crossfield Battalion of the State Militia was formed in this area, Governor George Clinton appointed Richardson Thurman Major-Commandant of the unit.

The first settlers here were Scats, New Englanders, and a few families from Dutchess County. The Scotch families settled along the Hudson River. They had immigrated from a district called Blair­Atholl, a fertile valley on the river Garry in northern Scotland. The head of the Murray Clan has for centuries been proprietor of that district and bears the title of Duke of Atholl. Among the Scottish families who settled here were Camerons, Murrays, McEwens, McDonalds and McMillens. They may have learned of this area from soldier relatives, for units of the Black Watch Regiment (Lord John Murray’s) were engaged at Fort William Henry and Fort Ticonderoga during the French and Indian War. John Cameron came first in 1785, and two of his brothers came the following year and settled nearby. Other Scottish families followed. Closely behind the Scots came families from New England and Dutchess County. Many of the men had served in the Revolutionary Army. Families of Kenyons, Parkers, Frosts, Bowens, and Potters were here before 1800.

Stephen Griffing, a veteran of the Revolution, came in 1800 and settled opposite the present river bridge. The house with later additions is still standing. Duncan Cameron became the first supervisor of Athol in 1813. The Cameron family is credited with naming the town after their old home in Scotland. Settlement continued slowly until about 1855 when the census showed a population of 1,259. From that date it has steadily declined.

In addition to farming, the early inhabitants derived some income from making potash, lime, and from cooperage. Crude potash was taken to Waterford, head of river navigation, to be exchanged for goods and cash. About 1820 cutting and marketing of the great stands of pine and spruce timber began in earnest and during the next thirty years millions of feet of timber was floated down the river to mills at Jessup’s Landing and Glens Falls. Later the virgin hemlock was cut to supply bark to nearby tanneries. Last to go were the hardwoods and pulpwood timber. Considerable acreage was once cleared and cultivated, but little farming is now carried on. Some of the marginal farmland has been reforested and now produces timber and Christmas trees. Farming, logging, and river-driving, once principal sources of income, have been largely replaced by the resort and dude ranching business. However, lumbering and milling are still important industries in town.

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Sun Canyon Ranch, one of the oldest and largest dude ranch in the east, is located in the High Street section of town. There are three restaurants catering to the resort business, and several boarding houses and lake resorts in Thurman. These facilities and resorts are no longer in operation today, but travelers continue to venture this far North for recreational and vacationing purposes. Another dude ranch that started in the late 1920’s was the Ski-Hi Ranch. The man behind this trail-blazing resort and ranch was Vern Walter who came to the East to join his brother-in-law selling locks for Ford automobiles. When Henry Ford took the Model T off the market and the market crashed, Vern Walter turned to dude ranching. In 1938, he moved to Putnam Valley and founded the now famous CIMARRON RANCH.

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The Adirondack Branch of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad follows the west bank of the Hudson through the town connecting Saratoga Springs and the mines of the National Lead Company at Tahawus. One hundred twenty-two years ago there were trains going in Thurman, two for south and two for north with freight and passengers, stopping four times a day, at the Thurman station. Thurman station was the connecting point for meeting the stages to and from Warrensburg. The railroad terminus was at the Glen, and there one met the stages for Chester, Pottersville, and the Schroon Lake Steamer. Another stage was driven to Weavertown, Johnsburg, North Creek, and North River (called the “14th”). Service was extended to North Creek from The Glen not long after 1870 for freight and passengers. Connections at Saratoga were easy for points north and south. One went to Glens Falls by way of Saratoga. Rates for many years were three cents a mile for adults and half of that fare for a child from five to twelve years old. As no lunch cars were carried it was necessary to tote a telescopic suitcase of food and drinks. After dark the engine sorted a bright headlight. A cowcatcher on the front eliminated stray animals and trash. The seats were hard, and the motion noisy. Kerosene lamps, sometimes swinging, were used to illuminate the cars.” It was on the coach of one of these passenger trains that Theodore Roosevelt learned that President McKinley was dead. Roosevelt had been driven by buckboard from the Tahawus Club, an exclusive hunting camp deep in the Adirondacks, and hastily placed on an awaiting train at North Creek Station. As the train sped through Thurman it carried an extremely important passenger-the twenty-sixth President of the United States. It continued to be an important shipping point for the business of the area until economic changes forced the company to dismantle it about 1930 and more recently to discontinue passenger and mail service.

John Thurman had a dream of a busy industrious and prosperous area. He might be surprised if he were to see it today, but he would not be disappointed. Click on John Thurman to learn more of this industrious man.

Click on this picture of an Adirondack Farmer to get a glimpse back into time and heritage.

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Thurman’s mountain air is pure and invigorating. The Hudson River, as well as several lakes and ponds, dot the region. Garnet Lake, Daggett Lake, Number Nine Pond, Cook Pond, and Hershey Pond add pleasure to local folks and attract visitors as well. Garnet Lake and Daggett Lake are especially enjoyed by vacationers for boating, water skiing, and fishing. The highest mountain is Mount Blue, which rises above Garnet Lake for two thousand twenty-five feet. Mount Blue rises from a solid ledge from deep into the lake. The old trail has long ago disappeared. Along the far side of the lake, the mountain mirrored in the water lends to the tranquility and uniqueness of the lake. It is a mountain to admire from a distance. Crane Mountain (second only to Blue in height) lies mostly in Johnsburg and is Thurman’s to claim, but the Thurman line does run along its base, and one of its trails is accessible only through Thurman. The mountain, with its lake on the top, is a great inspiration to the climber. It is a landmark who’s beauty comes with the change of seasons. Thurman’s second highest mountain is Ballhead.

The lowest mountain, Sugarloaf, seemingly jumps at you as you cross the bridge coming from Warrensburg into Thurman. Suddenly it is just there! Known to the Indians as “The Thunder Nest,” its craggy face stares unyielding and timeless. Neither the snows of winter clinging to its rugged crevices or the bit of green springing sparsely from its scraggly shrubs in summer can take away its austere expression. Beautiful in its strangeness, it intrigues the traveler and is a challenge to the mountain climber. The road crawls around it. Moose Mountain, Cherry Ridge, and Number Nine are enjoyed by climbers and sportsman alike for different reasons. Each mountain in its own way adds to the beauty of our town.

Progress has changed Thurman over the years; some of the changes good and some not so good as in all towns. Paved roads have replaced the old dirt ones. Electricity, telephones, all the modern conveniences – the ambulance service, the firehouse, inside plumbing – are available now. Centralization did away with Thurman’s district schools. Youth programs and improved housing are available. Thurman’s town hall is modern and used for community functions.

It is interesting to note that the population is again about the same as in 1855. The town has changed, but the people like the mountains have remained the same. But even more important in their heritage is the rich tradition of Thurman’s close community spirit, which will undoubtedly flourish for the next 200 years. Thurman is proud of their town’s government’s accomplishments over the years, whether it’s helped to preserve our land, history, and lifestyle, or merely maintaining the roads, and providing necessary municipal services for their citizens.

When Thurman observed the 200th anniversary of the founding of Thurman, it was an appropriate time of reflection upon the rich heritage they enjoy there, as well as what lies ahead for their town. Blessed with some of the most beautiful natural scenery and unspoiled by overdevelopment, Thurman appears virtually unchanged. History is alive there, and flourishes alongside the modern aspects of life.

Thurman is not only proud of their culture, their music, their homespun tales, but the maintained-bred spirit of hard work, which is imbued with the survival instinct there. Two hundred years ago, their citizens were trappers, hunters, loggers, and pioneer farmers. Nowadays, many of these same activities are still important, and will continue to be.

Sources:

An Article “When Trains Stopped in Thurman” by Rosanne LaFarr Warren County Centennial 1813-1913 One Hundredth Anniversary of the Formation of Warren County New York

The History of Warren County New York Published by the Board of Supervisors Warren County Printed by Glens Falls Printing Department of the Glens Falls Post 1963

An Article “The Life And Times Of An Adirondack Farmer-Frank

A. Lillibridge” by Daniel Way 1933

Looking Forward To The Future While Cherishing The Past 200th Anniversary Thurman, New York

Other Places of Interest Regarding the Heritage and Historical Background of the Town of Thurman.

John Thurman Historical Society
P.O. Box 7 Athol, NY 12810
Phone: (518) 623-9305 or (518) 623-2018


Thurman Town Historian
Robin Croissant
P.O. Box 72 Athol, NY 12810
Phone: (518) 623-4102


The Harris House
Town of Thurman P.O. Box 29 Athol, NY 12810
Phone: (518) 623-4102