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Harrietstown Town

Harrietstown Town Hall is located at 39 Main Street, Saranac Lake NY 12983; phone: 518-891-1470.

Beginnings [1]

Harrietstown was erected from Duane March 19, 1841, and included originally three townships. A township and a half taken from Brandon was added in 1883. It has 134,247 assessed acres, is mountainous in considerable part, contains many lakes and ponds, and has only a comparatively small area, in the northern section, that is adapted to agriculture, the pursuit of which is heavily handicapped by early and late frosts. Among the larger waters are Lower and Middle Saranac lakes, a part of each of Upper Saranac and Upper St. Regis, and Lake Clear. The more noteworthy of the smaller waters are Ampersand, Follansby, Colby, Oseetah, Lake Flower and Kiwassa (formerly Lonesome). Lake Flower is an expansion of the Saranac river, and lies within the corporate limits of Saranac Lake Village. On the shores of these several waters are many summer hotels and wilderness cottages or camps, some of which represent the expenditure of many thousand dollars and reflect a wealth of care and adornment of grounds that make them exceedingly attractive. The only considerable stream in the town is the Saranac River, which takes a tortuous course of perhaps six or eight miles through the eastern and northern part before passing into Essex County. The Chateaugay Railroad runs for five or six miles almost along the eastern boundary before swinging to its terminus at Lake Placid; the Paul Smith Electric Railway runs northerly from Lake Clear Junction into Brighton; and the main line of the Adirondack and St. Lawrence extends in a southwesterly direction for five or six miles through the northern part, with a branch running from Lake Clear to Saranac Lake Village.

The town takes its name from Harriet, eldest daughter of William Constable and wife of James Duane. Hough's story attributes its erection to pique on the part of Major Duane, occasioned by a vote at the town meeting in 1840 providing that the next such meeting be held at Saranac Lake, thirty-odd miles distant from Major Duane's home. Hough states that this action was accomplished through an unusual and unexpected attendance at the meeting by so many voters from Saranac Lake that they had control; and that, resenting the procedure and resolved not to be inconvenienced again by having to drive a long distance in order to attend an election, Major Duane forced a partition of the town against the wish and remonstrance of the Saranac Lake people. But inasmuch as Major Duane was continued as supervisor in 1841, which would hardly have been the case if there had really been serious friction between the two sections of the town, I think that the Hough account should be received with some degree of allowance.

Another town meeting story runs that in early days, when it was the custom of every elector to go to the polls in the morning, and stay through until the votes had been counted, the canvass showed upon one such occasion something like twenty Democratic ballots to one lone Whig, whereupon Captain Pliny Miller, for many years the political autocrat of Harrietstown, forbade announcement of the result, insisting that some one had made a mistake, and that the vote must be retaken. After everybody had voted a second time, the count showed twenty-one straight Democratic ballots, which, naturally, was sufficient and satisfactory.

Still another anecdote with a political tang represents that a visitor once reminded Milote Baker as he closed his store for the night that he had neglected to lock the door, to which Mr. Baker responded that it was quite unnecessary to fasten anything since there was not a Whig in town.

Settlement in Harrietstown began prior to 1820, but was of slow development for sixty years or more.

  1. Seaver, Frederick J., Malone NY, Historical Sketches of Franklin County and Its Several Towns with Many Shory Biographies, J. B. Lyon Company, Printers, Albany, 1918.
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