Benjamin Pond came to the area at the turn of the 19th century and was the first settler to put down roots in the "broken and mountainous" terrain that characterizes North Hudson.
The town grew rapidly in the years prior to the Civil War. By 1811, the first gristmill had been built, saving early settlers a wagon trip to Warren County with their grain. A major stage road connecting Albany with Canada traversed North Hudson. As many as 40 wagon loads of timber were driven through the town in a day with the workers stopping at one of the numerous hotels and taverns that were built to accommodate them. The forests were thick with virgin forest for timber. The combination of Hemlock bark and water power spurred the development of a vigorous tanning industry.
"Deer were plentiful, a few elk were seen and numerous wolves heard at night" reported a travel editor in 1836. Although the elk are long gone, and it is now coyotes that are heard at night, it is still easy to picture in this sparsely settled town, what it must have looked like 200 years ago when larger game abounded in the forests. A buffalo herd can be spotted today from its location near the Blue Ridge Road.
Following the Civil War, the high cost of transportation led to a decline in the tanning industry. Raw hides had to be imported and then the finished hide exported to market. The cost of transport was too much for the industry to bear. Hemlock lost its importance as a product when a chemical tanning process replaced the natural one.
Lumber companies harvested pulp wood on the mountain slopes. Hikers, naturalists, hunters and sport fishermen explored the mountains. Hotels that had once served lumberjacks began to cater more to tourists. Classic cottage colonies such as Underwood, and secluded Adirondack style resorts, like Elk Lake developed at the turn of the 20th century.
During the golden age of small amusement parks, thousands came to the carefully crafted theme park, Frontier Town. Opened in 1952, the Adirondack attraction provided local seasonal employment and supported related service industries such as motels, gas stations, and restaurants. Frontier Town was a link in a chain of small theme parks that drew families to the area. By the 1990's, the historically based attraction included authentic industries from North Hudson's past, such as Roth's Forge and sawmill, as a part of its display.
The permanent population of North Hudson has declined steadily since the Civil War. Many factors have contributed to the loss of population; the remoteness of the area, the lack of arable land (only 1/8th of the land is suitable for cultivation) and the decline in the lumber business. The dream that drove New York Secretary of State John Adams Dix to call for a state survey of natural resources to encourage the exploitation of mineral and other resources, was of little benefit to North Hudson. The town's highest peak, Dix Mountain, was named for him.
ADIRONDACK HISTORY MUSEUM
7590 COURT STREET, PO BOX 428
ELIZABETHTOWN, NY 12932
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
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