The town lies between two mountain ranges, the Schroon to the North and the Kayaderosseras to the South. The Schroon River flows between the two, broadening out to form Schroon Lake. A fertile valley lies alongside the river. During the era when the French dominated this part of the "New World", a young Huguenot woman came here with her family. She married a French poet, Scarron. In time she would return to France and become the wife of Louis XIV. Some believe the town was named for the widow Scarron.
Affordable land, abundant water, fish, game, and first growth timber attracted early settlement. Schroon grew quickly, benefitting from the Old State Road which ran through the town and on to Canada, and after 1840, from the road to Carthage in Jefferson County. Local saw and grist mills soon appeared as well as a tannery and a distillery.
As in the rest of the county, lumber was the backbone of the early economy. As land was cleared for settlement, logs not needed locally were sent down river to Schroon Lake and on to Glens Falls. The mill business grew rapidly in Glens Falls and soon the local mills were unable to compete. Although attempts were made to mine and forge iron in Schroon, the veins were not sufficient to make it profitable.
Tanning leather was the principal industry in Schroon in the 1850's and 1860's as in neighboring North Hudson and Minerva, but over time, the high cost of transportation outweighed the benefit of having accessible hemlock. Eventually, chemical methods of tanning replaced the natural process.
Methodists and Congregationalists organized in the town during the first half of the 1800's, together with many small schools. The Episcopalians, Baptists and Catholics built their churches before the century ended.
In 1872, the Leland House was built, one of the largest and grandest hotels on the lake. It could accommodate 200 guests. The tourist business developed along with the expansion of the railroad line. Before the railroad, guests were brought up the lake by steamer.
Large hotels and children's camps clustered around the lakes: Paradox, Pyramid and Schroon. All of the hotels filled up over weekends when parents came to visit their children. Although the depression took its toll on tourism, greater damage was done by polio epidemics. The camp directors decided to allow only one parental weekend a summer to reduce the spread of the disease. This took a tremendous toll on the hotels.
In 1915, Oscar Seagle bought the Brown Swan Club and established a studio there. Later, he moved to Charley Hill where he founded the Seagle Colony, a training school for vocalists. Seagle Colony students still give concerts in Schroon and other Adirondack locations throughout the summer. Wonderful music can also be heard, courtesy of the bandstand concerts, a tradition started in 1958.
Today, Schroon is once again a thriving summer community. A new Christian family camp and conference center, Word Of Life, bought up many of the old camps. They now maintain numerous facilities here, and serve visitors of all ages.
Area: 142 square miles
High point: Hoffman Mountain 3,683 feet
Principle waterway: Schroon River
Settled: 1797, Simeon Rawson
Boundary changes: 1817, 1855, 1840, 1861, 1871
Town Hall: P.O. Box 578, Schroon, NY 12870, (518)532-7737
Population: 1850: 2,031, 2000: 1,759
Major industries: lumber, tanneries, forges, tourism
Named for: Named by early French explorers for the Widow Scarron at the French Court, well known as Madame Maintenon in the reign of Louis XIV or from an Iroquois word meaning "largest lake".