Clinton County History


Early History of Clinton County, NY

FROM: Gazetteer and Business Directory
of Franklin and Clinton Counties, N. Y. For 1862-3.
Compiled and Published By Hamilton Child, Ogdendburg, NY 1862


NAMED from George Clinton, then Governor, was formed from Washington County, March 7, 1788. Essex was taken off in 1799. St. Lawrence was provisionally annexed in 1801 and taken off in 1802; a portion of Oneida was annexed in 1801; and Franklin was taken off in 1808. It lies upon Lake Champlain, and is the northeast corner County of the State. It has an area of 1,092 square miles. The surface is generally hilly and broken, and jn the southwest mountains. The Au Sable Range enters the southwest corner from Essex County, and extends in spurs and broken ranges through more than half of the west part of the County. The highest peaks, along the west border are 3,000 or 4,000 feet above tide water. These mountains have the same general characteristics as those further South. They are wild and broken, and their declivities and summits are so covered with ragged ledges of rock, that they produce but a- scanty growth of timber, and are almost inaccessible. The uplands extend toward the North, and there is a wide and nearly level tract a1ong the Canada border. Along the lake shore the surface is level or gently undulating, and from this tract it rises gradually but unevenly to the summits of the ridges in the interior. The mountainous region in the Southwest, comprising about one-third of the County, is underlaid by gneiss, granite and other primary rocks. A belt of Potsdam Sandstone extends in a great curve around the primary region and occupies more than one-half of the remainder of the County.

Peat bogs are numerous in the nortluast part. The primitive region is exceedingly rich in minerals.

Magnetic iron ore is found in inexhaustible quantities, and of a quality unsurpassed in the world.

Au Sable River forms most of the south boundary. North of this are Little Sable, Salmon, Saranac, Little Chazy and Great Chaz3r or Champlain Rivers, all flowing into Lake Champlain. English River flows north into Canada. The numerous falls upon all of these streams afford an immense amount of waterpower. Among the mountains in the west are numerous lakes and ponds. Fish are abundant in the mountain streams and lakes, but the salmon, once so abundant, have now nearly disappeared. The Ogdensburgh Railroad extends west from Rouse's Point, on Lcke Champlain, through Champlain, Mooers, Altona, Ellenburgh and Clinton. The Plattsburgh and Montreal Railroad extends north through Plattsburgh, Beekmantown, Chazy, and intersects the Ogdensburgh R. R. at Mooers. A continuation of the road extends to Montreal, C. E.

The County seat is located at Plattsburgh, on Lake Champlain. Thefirst white man that ever visited this County was Samuel Champlain, in 1609, under the auspices of the French. From that time until the final surrender of Canada, in 1760, the French claimed and held this region of country. At the close of the war of 1760, settlements rapidly spread down the Lake shore. By the terms of the treaty between England and France the French settlers were to be secured in their rights; but the Government of New York made conflicting grants, which gave rise to controversies and quarrels and seriously retarded the progress of settlement. A few families were scattered along the lake shore previous to the Revolution, but. the expedition of Burgoyne in 1777 broke up every settlement in the County. An important naval engagement. took place September 11, 1776, in the strait between Valcour Island and the west. shore, between the British and American forces without any decisive results. The conflict was renewed on the 18th, and the American vessels were nearly all run ashore on the Vermont side and burned. Settlements were made at all the principal places bordering upon the lake within ten years after the close of the Revolution. The embargo of 1808 was openly violated, and many severe encounters took place between the revenue officers and organized bands of smugglers.

During the war of 1812-14, this County was the seat of important military transactions, and along its frontiers and upon the lake many skirmishes and engagements took place. In the summer of 1814, Sir George Provost, Governor-General of Canada, made extensive preparations for an invasion of the country along Lake Champlain. Toward the last of August a land force of 14,000 men assembled on the frontier, and commenced their march, supported by a formidable fleet under Commodore Downie. Gen. Macomb, who commanded the Americans, had a force of less than 3,000 men; but as the invading army drew nigh, he was continually reinforced by volunteers and militia. The American fleet, under the command of Commodore MacDonough lay off Plattsburgh in Cumberland Bay, awaiting the attack of the British.

The attack was commenced On Sunday morning, Sept. 11, simultaneously by the British land and naval forces and a bloody and desperate battle ensued for two hours, when Commodore Downie struck his flag, and nearly the whole British fleet fell into the hands of the Americans. After keeping up a cannonade during the day, the British land forces slowly and sullenly retreated, and in a few days returned to Canada. These engagements were among the most brilliant that occurred during the war. Upon the completion of the Champlain canal in 1823, business received a new impulse, which has again been promoted by the construction of the railroads through the County. In 1838-9 the County shared the intense excitement attending the "Patriot Wars," and several encounters occurred.

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