Fish House History

History Articles written originally for the Sacandaga Express 

In 1762 Fish House was the first settlement in along the Sacandaga River and it‘s history is extensive. Officially named Northampton but has always been referred to as Fish House, the settlement got it’s name from a fishing camp that was built there by Sir William Johnson in the same year. In the summer, Sir William spent much of his time at Fish House and at Castle Cumberland located on Summer House Point, on the great Vlaie. He was then the Brittanic Majesty’s Superintendent General of Indian affairs in North America, Colonel of the Six Indian Nations, and a Major General in the British service. He was a friend to the Native Americans. And he loved the outdoors. Sir William Johnson fought in the French and Indian War in 1755 but had died by 1774 before the Revolutionary War. After his death his son John Johnson remained loyal to the King and took up arms against the revolution.

Settler Godfrey Shew came to Fish House from Philadelphia at the urgings of Sir William before he died. During the Revolutionary War Fish House and nearby areas were attacked by about one hundred Loyalists and Indians. A ardent patriot, Shews home and barn were burned, livestock killed, and he and two of his sons were captured along with Solomon Woodworth of Mayfield (more about him in upcoming Mayfield history.) Of the one hundred raiders there were only seven Loyalists with one British officer, the rest were Indians. Some of the Indians among them had been friends of the Shew family. Sometimes sharing meals with them and had promised they would warn the family of any impending danger. When asked by the Shew’s why they were taking part in such an act they replied in native tongue pretending not to understand the question. The raiders took hundreds of pounds of maple sugar and anything else they pleased. Mrs. Shew and her remaining three children were left unharmed and walked from the burned out ruins to Mayfield were they journeyed on to Johnstown. The raiding party had plans to head north to Canada with the captives but Woodworth escaped near Conklingville and returned. There were ten captives, some had been taken in Mayfield before the raid on Fish House. Nine months later they were released and made their way home. Shew upon his return rebuilt the house in 1784 which still stands today.

After the war Fish House grew into a larger settlement than most. Occupied by wealthy people with large estates instead of building lots. Before 1900 there were five sawmills, a glove mill, two chain factories, a shingle mill, two harness shops, several blacksmiths, four shoe cobblers, two tanneries, three churches, cheese factory, four hotels, a school, two general stores, three doctors, and a druggist.
There was a rivalry between owners of the Fish House Hotel and the Osborn Inn. The businesses were located across the street from each. The winter of 1884 proved to be deadly for one of them. While clearing snow from a winter storm a confrontation sparked over one of them crossing the others property which resulted in one of them shooting the other dead. Although argued accidental, the verdict was first degree manslaughter. Their names have been left out due to discrepancies in references.

Some of the fines upon citizens reads as follows from in 1808 a citizen was fined $3.37 for swearing six times, fine for Violating the Sabbath $3.34. And a $25.00 fine for selling cider without a permit. In 1812 there was a $10.00 bounty on wolves.

The bridge that spanned the river at Fish House was a covered bridge completed in 1818. The wooden structure was 380 ft long cut from timbers over 100 ft in length. It’s not known whether the timbers were bent while still green or after being steamed. The bridge afforded a double lane passage. It stood for 112 years and was in excellent condition upon it’s demise.

Flooding of the valley on March 27th 1930 prompted part of the community that stayed to make the attempt to save the bridge so maybe it could be moved to another location. They lashed it with cables to tree stumps. Their efforts were working until April 23rd. A spring storm with high winds whipped the waters into waves, some were reported to have reached six feet high. The onslaught snapped the cables and the bridge slid from it’s stone piers and rocked down the river. And was destroyed. With the coming of the flood many families moved away and never returned. Only six homes and twelve buildings were relocated in the “new” Fish House

– by Lorraine Frasier