Historical Towns

Johnsburg, NY

Johnsburgh grew out of the division of Thurman, who in 1788, a wealthy NY merchant named John Thurman purchased 25,200 acres.  This region was difficult to manage and was later broken to form other separate towns of Bolton, Chestertown, Johnsburg and Caldwell.   Today, Johnsburg has six hamlets:  Bakers Mills, Johnsburg, North Creek, North River, Riparius and Wevertown. 

The first undertaking John Thurman did after his purchase was the clearing of about 25,000 acres on Elm Hill (one mile south of Johnsburg hamlet).   Johnsburgh (as it was named originally until 1893) was partitioned from Thurman NY on April 6, 1805.   Local commerce started with a grist mill and saw mill at the falls.  Also a distillery was opened for the production of rye; and in 1795 a woolen factory was built, and later converted to a cotton factory where Thurman built his first calico printing works (and one of America’s first).  John also built an ash works for making pot ash.  John Thurman was the pin of many community’s’ development.   John organized the building of a road from Lake George to Johnsburg, and organized the men to clear trees and rocks in the Hudson River for shipping.   John Thurman made many contributions to this region. 

Other settlers included Joseph Hopper who kept the first tavern and hosted annually events.  Robert Waddell operated the Thurman’s store shipping as far as ports to London and New York.

A relative, Frank Hooper, born in local Ticonderoga, was a pioneer in the graphite industry.   Frank started the Hopper Mines in 1893 on the northeast side of Ruby Mountain Range; and teamed up with this brother George to organize the North River Garnet Company.   Later in 1904, North River was transferred to Barton Mines Corp.   Frank Hooper also was active in the Republican state committee and represented Essex County in the state Legislature form 1895-97 and Warren County in 1918-19.  He was a respected businessman of the local community.

Henry Hudson Barton (1830-1905), born in England, began training as a mineralogist early.  Henry purchased Gore Mountain’s deposit of garnet in 1887.  Garnet deposits are peppered in various areas of the Adirondack (like Humphry Mtn, Chimney Mtn, Hooper Mind, Peaked Mountain) yet the Gore region produced abundance and is the world’s largest garnet mines.  The mines are still in the family and operating at the Barton’s Ruby Mountain quarry producing granite blocks for countertops, granite for abrasive substances.  BTW, garnet is NY State’s official gemstone!

John Richards (born in North Wales UK 1765-1850) held the town’s first supervisor position, and held it several more times.  He was also State Surveyor who surveyed thousands of the Adirondack acres.  John was a NY State Assemblyman during the war, a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. 

An immigrant from Ireland, David Noble (1734-1807) brought the Methodist Church to Johnsburg.   David a stone mason by trade, started the church in his home for many years before incorporating in 1838, and completed in 1843.

The Durant family, having their great camps in the area, were the financer of the Union Pacific’s railroad line.  They purchased the remains of the bankrupt railroad in the Adirondacks and form the Adirondack Railroad Company which included more than million acres.  Starting from one engine, passenger car, a mail and baggage car, and 4 or five flat cars, it soon doubled and then added fifty fright cars.  It prospered until the panic of 1873, which drove the company to almost bankruptcy until Durant turned to tourism promoting the health outdoors.  It survived for eight more years until Durant sold to his son who held it for another 4 years until he sold to the Delaware & Hudson Railroad.   It was during the tourism period of the railroad that Vice President Teddy Roosevelt was visiting the Adirondacks.  Teddy learned on September 14, 1901 while on the deep in the wilderness that President William McKinley has passed away from his assassin’s bullet wounds five days early. 

Dr. Lee Somerville (1875-1934), a well-known boxing fighter in the Adirondacks, was the local traveling rural physician.  A jack of many trades, Dr. Somerville also had a successful real estate career and was one of the largest land holders.  Lee also organized many organizations:  Director of North Creek National Bank, Organizer of the Chatiemac Club, member of the North Creek School Board, Beagle Breeder, and built a bolt/handle mill employing many.  Dr. Somerville was a very active promoter of North Creek and Johnsburg!

Today, Johnsburg and its hamlets are still active.  Gore Mountain ski mountain is one of the state’s best ski destinations because of its location closest to the city.  North Creek’s downtown flourishes in winter with the skiers and the train station in the summer.  North River celebrates its Whitewater Derby.  Johnsburg has abundant water with the Hudson River and the rapids draw the paddlers.  North River is home of the nationally known Hudson River Whitewater Derby.  The first derby was held in North Creek in 1958 by the Johnsburg Fish & Game club as a one-day 8-mile down river race.  There were 45 entrants; today more than 15K people line the Hudson River during derby day!