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Northville History - by Lorraine Decker
History Articles written originally for the Sacandaga Express - by Lorraine. Decker


Main street in the early 1900's

Late 1700’s to mid 1800’s

Originally part of the Sacandaga Land Patent of 1741. The area was locally known as “Old Ford” and renamed Sacandaga. Northville got it’s name from being the farthest settlement north in Fulton County in 1827. Incorporated in 1873, Northville’s village base was surrounded by the following settlements: Parkville, Hope Valley, Sacandaga Park, Gifford’s Valley, Hardscrabble, and Maple Grove. First Settlers in 1788 were Samuel Olmstead and his brother-in-law Zadoc Sherwood who built crude huts on the east side of the river. In 1794, near the present day Northville Bridge, the land had been somewhat cleared and developed by about forty settlers. An “Indian raid” took place. War cries and gunshots were heard on the west side of the river. Settlers quickly went to arm themselves against the coming raid. The raid went on into the night. No attackers appeared at the settlement and things became quiet again. In the morning several of the settlers crossed the river to investigate . They found no one dead, only half spent wad casings , and moccasin prints in the muddy banks. But the footprints were suspicious of being Indian due to the absence of “toeing in” of the print. Upon return to the settlement it was discovered that two of the settlers were missing and were not among those who were in the investigating party. When the two returned, it was ascertained that they had been paid off ($25.00 a piece) by land developers to try to scare the settlers away so the developers could move in on the newly settled property and profit by it’s sale. The two men left the settlement so swiftly, it’s said, that one left forgetting his own wife. That was the only “Indian raid” the settlement experienced. Early farming produced wheat, rye, barley, corn, and maple syrup.

In 1790 the first Gristmill was built and another in 1815. Both operated on Hunter Creek that emptied into the Sacandaga river. In 1794 Ridge Road was a main road from Fish house to Northville. The road continued to Hardscrabble and Maple Grove and went on to Canada.

From 1800 to 1890 the population grew from 900 to 1,992 people. Despite the absence of new settlers the village took great pride in their homes maintenance and up keep. Main Street was formed in 1807 at which time six residences made up the street. A few other residences were randomly scattered throughout the village. Also in 1800 the first general store was built and in the same building was a shoe shop and tavern. .

In 1800 first school built in the village and later two more were built and outgrown. These cast off buildings were used by various groups. A brick school was built in 1888. The yearly salary of school principal was $750.00 and the position also included being the janitor. Gifford’s valley had a school built in 1830. Most settlements mentioned above had their own schools.

Circuit riders followed early settlers to hold religious meetings wherever people would congregate. Methodist Episcopal formed in 1798. In 1805 a meetinghouse was built and shared with the Baptists. Then the Methodists went back to one of the old schools in 1812. The first Methodist Church built was a wooden structure. Then later the wooden structure was moved to build brick church in 1872. After various name changes it is now the First United Methodist Church.

Baptist Church members met for the first time in 1802. The meetinghouse that had been built in 1805 was remodeled in 1847, then ultimately torn down 1869. They rebuilt the church in 1870. In 1902 exactly 100 years from it’s first meeting the church was struck by lightning causing enough damage that the church was leveled and rebuilt in 1903 in a new location.

The Presbyterian Church members met in 1849 built in 1853 and is oldest church still standing. Damaged by fire of unknown origin in 1936 it was repaired. Other religions came after 1850.

The first brick house on South Main Street was built in 1819 by Joseph Spier. In 1820 he became the first postmaster. Still know as Sacandaga in postmark, the village name changed to Northville by efforts of Spier in 1827. Mail was very irregular arriving on horseback until an established stage route came about in 1840 from Amsterdam via Fish House to Northville. On a good day, over a plank road, the journey took 7 hours. It helped some with the regularity of the mail but it wasn’t until 1875 when the railroad came in that Northville received mail on a regular basis.

Historic buildings still standing Samuel Olmstead’s house, Spier House, Gifford’s Valley schoolhouse was moved and is Northampton Museum on South Main.

Mid 1800’s to early 1900’s

Northville grew rapidly from 1850 to the early 1900’s. A lot of that growth was due to the F.J.& G. railroad that came in around 1875, but more about that later. Through that time the village had nine hotels, six dry goods stores ,six grocery stores five blacksmith shops, four harness shops, three coopers shops, three churches, three tailors, three livery stables, two wholesale flour and feed stores, two markets, two cabinet shops, two dentists, two shoe and boot stores, two saw mills and one of each of the following: knitting mill, oil cloth factory, printing office, tannery, lumber and excelsior mill, gristmill, hardware store, drug store, measure factory, granite factory, foundry, barbershop, jewelry store, and a Chinese laundry.

The village was the first to have running water in 1890. The hills above Northville had many springs which supplied the creeks in the settlement below. But Northville still struggled with water problems especially in regard to fighting fires. The 1880’s brought with it rates raises by insurance companies or refused polices to businesses due to the frequencies of fires. In 1892 The Citizens Hose Company #1 was formed the first equipment being a two wheeled horse drawn hose cart. Later a horse drawn hook and ladder was added. Local horse owners were paid $3.00 per fire for use of their horses. Motorized equipment was bought in 1928. Church bells sounded fire alarms until the company bought it’s own bell in 1907. Hunter Creek was dammed to provide a reservoir to aid in the fighting of fires. Worst business fires on record from 1885 to 1934 numbered 21. One of the more devastating fires occurred in 1888 which 111 of the private cottages in Sacandaga Park burned. Amazingly no deaths occurred in those fires. Following water, electricity came in 1893 then the telephone in 1897.

When the Main Street Cemetery had reached capacity a contractor Stephen Acker, well known in the village, was hired to level and clear the new site on Prospect Hill in 1885. In 1882 he had built the concrete supports for the Northville steel bridge. Also painted the Presbyterian Church spire, and erected Hubbell’s chimney (which still stands today and is home to migrating chimney swifts) He lent his handy work to almost every street in the village. He made the comment that maybe someone would get killed just to be the first one in the newly created cemetery. Shortly afterward he was stuck on the head by a large boiler wrench which fell from above him. He died instantly. He became the first person to be interred at Prospect Hill Cemetery at the age of 45.

Continuing church history follows: St Francis of Assisi Catholic missionaries celebrated mass in private residences from 1887 - 1891 Summer masses were held in the open air Rustic Theatre in Sacandaga Park. Church was built in 1922.

Pilgrim Holiness met in 1906 and built a church 1907-08. There was a printing press in the basement where gospel literature was made.

A bank was formed in 1895. Twenty-eight men subscribed 300 shares for a capital of $30,000.00. The bank was chartered and constructed in 1895.

Village hotels included the following: The Northville House built as a private residence in 1819 eventually became a hotel , The National Hotel burned and the Whinney House was built on the property, Sacandaga Hotel burned in 1888 and at the time a wedding was being performed at a home on Prospect Street within sight of the hotel. When the fire broke out, the brother of the bride left the ceremony in wedding attire to fight the blaze. Winney House burned in 1909 part of the original remains on South Main Street, The Lyon Hotel burned in the winter of 1910 where woman jumped from a window and lost her diamonds in the snow. The woman was fine, but the diamonds were never found. The Riverview Hotel operated until 1930 when it was lost to the flood water. This hotel had steps which went down to the rivers edge and in the winter of 1906 three boys stood on those steps watching the ice break up . The ice, with it’s crushing force, swept the steps away carrying the three boys with it. They were all rescued. The Riverview had also once been part of a murder scene but no details could be found in references. The James Van Every Hotel formerly known as the Eglin House burned 1912, The Brunswick Hotel was torn down in the early 1960’s, The Tower Inn had many names including Anibal House, Kathens Flewellings, Tunnicliffs, Avalon and The Towers. It was lost to fire 1958.

by Lorraine Decker


The village of Northville is located within the town of Northampton which is in the northeastern portion of Fulton County. Northampton derived its name from a 6,000 acre of land patent of the same name granted by King George II in 1741. Northville’s name is derived from being the farthest village north in Fulton County.

The area was a fertile ancient mountain valley called Sacandaga by the Native Americans. There are different interpretations as to what the word Sacandaga means there is “land of the waving grass” and another is "the river of sunken or drowned lands”.

With the arrival of the white man came the farming of the rich valley soil along the Sacandaga River and many other industries followed. In the 1870’s a Railroad known as the Fonda Johnstown and Gloversville (FJ&G) reached the outskirts of the village of Northville and it brought many goods and summer visitors.

Historic Northville NY FAQ's


  • The latitude of Northville is 43.225N. The longitude is -74.172W.
  • It is in the Eastern Standard time zone. Elevation is 807 feet.
  • The estimated population, in 2003, was 1,138.
  • Median household income Local $37,566
  • National $41,994 (Source: 2000 census, U.S. Census Bureau)

 


Historic Main Street / Historic Midway - Sacandaga Park

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Many visitors set up tents in Sacandaga Park including religious groups and those tents eventually became summer cottages. The park grew into what was called the “Coney Island of the North” with roller coaster, midway, rustic theatre a miniature train that took visitors out to an island in the river called Sport Island complete with baseball diamond and stands for spectators. Plus many other attractions. Many hotels were built including the Adirondack Inn and High Rock Lodge to name a couple.

But excessive flooding came each spring and the decision was made to flood the valley to control the flooding of the Hudson. A dam was to be built in Conklingville and the valley was forever changed. By 1930 anything that hadn’t been moved was burned before the valley was flooded and in the wake of that destruction one of the most beautiful man made lakes came to be.

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