Warren County, New York
Genealogy and History

History of Warren County, H. P. Smith
Chapter XIX: County Buildings, Societies, etc.

This transcription was produced through the use of Readiris Pro 11 OCR software. Contributed by Tim Varney.


Where Early Public Business was Transacted - The County Seat - The First County Courts - First Steps Towards Erecting County Buildings - The First Buildings - Changes in Court Terms - Burning of the County Buildings - Erection of New Ones - Attempts to remove the County Seat - Reconstruction of Buildings - The County Almshouse - Warren County Agricultural Society.

Court-house, Jail, and County Clerk's Office. - Page 270From the earliest recorded date the public business of the county, the supervisors' meetings, sessions of courts, accumulation of title deeds and involuntary congregation of convicted criminals, have been respectively transacted, held and permitted to take place in the village of Caldwell in the town of the same name, at the head of Lake George. This was the county seat when the old county of Washington was divided and Warren county formed in 1813. An act passed March 12th of that year did not mention the place, but established a Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions to meet three times a year, the terms commencing as follows: on the second Tuesday in September, 1813, the third Tuesday of January, 1814, and the second Tuesday in May, 1814. These original courts, as well as the annual meetings of the supervisors, were held at the old Lake George Coffee House on the site or the present Lake House, until 1817. On July 7th, 1815, a committee appointed by Governor Tompkins to find a suitable site for the erection of county buildings and composed of Salmon Child, Alexander Sheldon, and Charles E. Dudley, reported as follows: "Having examined and explored said county do agree and determine that the most suitable and proper place for said buildings is in the town of Caldwell at the bead of Lake George, on a piece of ground north of the Lake George Coffee House, lying between the highway and said lake, and within fifteen rods of a great white oak tree standing between said Coffee House and the church."

This was undoubtedly a description of the site of the present county buildings, and was the initial step towards the erection of the first buildings for county purposes. On the first of March, 1816, a law was passed providing that the county clerk's office was to be kept within one-half mile of the Lake George Coffee House, and the mileage to be computed from there, in this way attesting that whatever the progress of the building of the new structures, the public business was still transacted in said Coffee House. The court-house was certainly ready for use soon after, for the annual meeting of the Board of Supervisors for 1817 was held in the new court-house. It was not, however, entirely completed, for during that very session the supervisors passed a resolution that $1,050 be raised "to finish the court-house and gao1." Notwithstanding Page 271 these effectual measures, the need was felt of a safer and more commodious clerk's office. In April, 1818, another act was passed directing the supervisors of Warren county to raise the sum of six hundred and fifty dollars (with five cents on the dollar for collector's fees), to build a fire-proof clerk's office on a part of the lot occupied by the court-house, and the clerk was directed to remove all the books, records and documents to the new office as soon as it was completed. The necessary measures were at once adopted and the office ready for occupancy in the following year. Everything began to take its proper place, and business became routine until April 8th, 1824, when the January term of the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions was abolished, and two terms only appointed to be held, viz.: commencing respectively on the third Tuesday in April and the third Tuesday in October of each year. This is evidence that the litigation of the new county did not assume the enormous proportions expected. On January 24th, 1827, the Legislature further changed the time of holding the October term of court from the third to the first Tuesday of October in each year. In 1828 this last act was repealed. In 1829 the October term was abolished and the third Tuesday of each September constituted the opening day of the succeeding fall terms. This was evidently the tentative period of the courts. In April, 1833, the April terms were changed to the second Tuesday and the September terms to the second Tuesday of that month in each year, and additional terms established to commence the second Tuesday of February and the last Tuesday of June. On January 23d, 1838, the summer terms of the Circuit Court and Court of Oyer and Terminer, which had theretofore been held on and after the third Monday in June, were changed to the third Tuesday in May; and on the 27th of the same month the beginning of the spring terms of the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions was changed from the second to the third Tuesday in April. In April, 1842, the December term of the Circuit Court and Court of Oyer and Terminer was abolished and an October term established in its place. These perpetual alterations of terms of courts are undoubtedly more or less indicative of corresponding changes in the business of the county, an increase of the terms following an increase of the litigation and other court business, and vice versa.

The county buildings having been finished by 1819, nothing was left excepting to keep them in repairs until the exigencies consequent upon the growth of the county, and the accumulation of business, should necessitate the construction of new and larger buildings in their place. Accordingly, we find, in 1835, that three hundred dollars were ordered raised to repair the county clerk's office, and John Richards, Thomas Archibald and Timothy Bowen, of Caldwell, were appointed commissioners to superintend the work. On the 26th day of October, 1843, the court-house and clerk's office were destroyed by fire. The loss to the county was very great, although most of the records were saved. In the following year the supervisors appointed Roswell Judson and John Tracy, Page 272 of Chenango county, and F. B. Jewett, of Onondaga county, commissioners to locate the site for new buildings. They selected the old site, and the work of erecting the buildings was immediately begun, and completed in 1845. These structures served the purpose of their erection until 1862, when material alterations were made on the upper floor of the court-house. At a supervisors' meeting held in 1868 a committee consisting of George P. Wait, F. B. Hubbell, and Alphonso Brown was appointed to procure plans and specifications for the building of cells, and otherwise repairing, enlarging and improving the court-house and jail. E. Boyden & Son, of Worcester, Mass., who were then at work on the Fort William Henry Hotel, made two plans; No. 1 providing for building an addition to the present court-house, in front, thirty by seventy feet, and two stories in height, and lengthening the court-room twelve feet; No.2 providing for building the same addition in front, raising the existing court-house another story, and using a portion of the court-room for cells, and the rest for the jailor's family, the court-room to be on the second floor, and the front room on the first floor to be left for the clerk's office. At an evening session of the same meeting a resolution was offered that the county treasurer be authorized to secure a loan of the comptroller for $11,900 for the purpose of repairing the court-house, jail and clerk's office, payments to be made in three equal annual installments, interest payable annually; that a committee of three be appointed to build according to plan No. 2; and that proposals be advertised for, and contracts made with the lowest bidder at a consideration not exceeding $12,000. This was adopted, and Jerome Lapham, George P. Wait, and F. B. Hubbell were appointed the building committee. They were subsequently restricted to $20,000, and instructed to find the cost of widening the court-room and rear building eight feet.

At this time an organized effort was made to remove the county seat from Caldwell to Glens Falls, and seemed to contain all the elements of success. A citizens' meeting was held in Glens Falls, December 28th, 1868, at which Judge Rosekrans offered a resolution in brief that Queensbury would furnish a site and build a good court-house, jail and clerk's office at a cost of not more than $50,000, as an inducement to the removal. It was adopted and Stephen Brown, Isaac Mott, Jerome Lapham and Aug. Sherman were appointed to present the proposition to the supervisors. Following this proposition was a resolution adopted by the Board of Supervisors at an adjourned meeting, to the effect that in the estimation of the board the site should be changed and a petition signed by the whole board presented to the Legislature for an act authorizing the change. A final resolution was put before adjournment that no repairs be made at Caldwell. Notwithstanding all this passing of preliminary resolutions nothing further was done towards the proposed removal. In the following year a resolution was offered at a meeting of the supervisors that $18,000 be raised by tax to improve the buildings according to Boyden's plan. Page 273 It was laid on the table. The matter reached the Legislature in 1872, when an act was passed authorizing the raising of $5,000, payable in five equal annual installments, to "build a court-house, jail and clerk's office" at Caldwell. It seems that nothing came of this. In 1877 the supervisors adopted a resolution which proved effectual, viz.: That Thomas Cunningham, T. N. Thomas, and James C. Eldridge be appointed to take into consideration the whole matter of enlarging, improving or remodeling the jail, enlarging the court-house, erecting a sheriff's house, and a building for lunatics at the poor-house. In their report this committee recommended that the jail, sheriff's departments and courthouse be rebuilt, changed and enlarged as per the plan presented; that the additions be of brick. The estimated cost of the reconstruction was $10,000, and $500 for furniture and $500 for water. Thomas Fuller, of Caldwell, was their architect. The plan was changed to Boyden's plan No.2, and with this alteration the report was unanimously accepted. The last measure before the repairs which made the buildings what they now are, was a resolution adopted with but one dissenting voice, March 7th, 1877, providing that $11,000 be raised to rebuild the court-house, etc., the amount to be paid in two annual installments. The building committee was Thomas Cunningham, J. M. Coolidge and Jerome N. Hubbell. The contract was to be let to the lowest bidder, the committee being endowed with discretionary powers. The work thenceforward rapidly progressed and by the following year the buildings were completed in their present form, with the exception of the clerk's office, which is, at the time of the writing of this work, in process of rebuilding of brick. These buildings are now well adapted to their various purposes and a credit to the county.

Warren County Alms-house. - This institution is located in the town of Warrensburgh, on the west bank of the Schroon River, the farm being partly in this town and partly in the town of Bolton, on the opposite side of the river. The land was purchased by the county in the year 1826, and embraces two hundred acres, seventy of which were purchased of James Durham at a cost of $950, and one hundred and thirty of Halsey Rogers for $450; it is the latter named tract that is located in the town of Bolton. About forty acres are under cultivation at the present time, the remainder being pasture and woodland. Buildings sufficient for the limited number of inmates were erected directly after the purchase of the lands. By 1860 the old county-house was found by reason of its limited capacity to be wholly inadequate to meet the necessities of the county poor, and the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution providing in its terms that $2,500 be raised to "build a plain, substantial and convenient county-house, at or near the old house on said farm," to be paid by tax, and in five installments. David Aldrich, Daniel Stewart and E. B. Miller were appointed the building committee. The present stone portion of the poor-house was thereupon erected by Peter Bewel at the cost estimated, Page 274 viz., $2,500. Before this addition was made the building was in a very dilapidated condition. At that time the annual revenue from the farm was about $800, and the average number of inmates was fifty-four, who were supported at a weekly expense of ninety cents each. This arrangement sufficed for a few years, and in 1868 other measures were deemed necessary. In 1868 a committee was appointed by the supervisors to see about the purchase of a farm; but, although the committee reported in favor of the Jonathan Potter farm three miles north of Glens Falls, the purchase was not effected. Such abortive measures not being calculated to enlarge or render more commodious the then existing capacity of the buildings, the demand for some decisive action grew more and more imperative until 1877, when a committee was appointed to investigate and report upon the most feasible way of answering this need and making a place for lunatics. The report read to the effect that the most practicable method would be to remove the old wood building (66 by 30 feet) and rebuild in wood on the same site. This would effectuate the object of accommodating more persons and providing for lunatics. The estimated cost was $1,900. Operations were spun out to 1883-84. At that season the addition was completed. The superintendent of the poor is Alexander T. Pasko. The present keeper is George Bowen (chosen 1885). He was preceded by Sylvester Hays, and the consecutive predecessors of Hays in the inverse order of their service have been: James Fowden, T. N. Thomas, Elbridge G. Hall, Asa Smith, Nathaniel Smith, --- Stebbins, James Collins, Aaron Varnum. The report of the superintendent, A. T. Pasko, for the year ending October 31st, 1884, shows that the house and out-buildings are in good repair. The average number of inmates for the year was sixty-six and one-half, and the expense per week for each was about one dollar and fifty-four cents. He estimated that it would be necessary to raise the sum of $8,500 for the support of the poor for the year following his report. The keeper, Sylvester Hays, reported that there were sixty-three inmates remaining under the charge of the county, Octocer 31st, 1884.

Warren County Agricultural Society. - During the summer and fall of the year 1856 the prominent men of the county discussed the feasibility of organizing an agricultural society, and on the 27th of December of that year a number of those most interested met at the house of Charles Rockwell, in Luzerne, and took preliminary measures toward the formation of such a society.

Benjamin C. Butler, presiding, referred in his remarks to the important farming interests of the town and county, and the advantages the proposed organization would be to the inhabitants. He therefore urged its immediate formation. The organization was perfected and during the meeting it was resolved, "that to make it a condition of membership to said society, such members pay one dollar annually to the treasurer, to be expended in accordance with the constitution and by-laws of said society."

Page 275

Charles Rockwell, the chosen secretary, was appointed to draft a constitution, and Benjamin C. Butler to arrange the order of business, to be submitted at the next meeting appointed to be held in the M. E. Church, Thursday, January 1st, 1857.

The first day of the year proved an inauspicious one, and only a small number were in attendance, and an adjournment was voted to Monday, January 5th, 1857, at the house of G. T. Rockwell. At this meeting the following gentlemen became the pioneer members of the organization: Benjamin C. Butler, Luzerne; Charles Rockwell, Hadley; William W. Rockwell, Hiram J. Rockwell, George J. Rockwell, Jeremy Leavins, Morgan Burdick, Orison Craw, Calvin C. Lewis, and John C. Beach, all of Luzerne.

At the next meeting, on January 27th, 1857, the following names were added to the foregoing: Reuben Wells, James Lawrence, Sylvanus C. Scoville, Andrew J. Cheritree, John H. Wagar, William H. Wells, and Charles Schemerhorn.

February 17th, 1857, at a meeting for the election of officers, the following were chosen: President, Benjamin C. Butler; vice presidents, Wertel W. Hicks, Caldwell, William Hotchkiss, Chester, Samuel Richards, Warrensburgh, Samuel Somerville, Johnsburgh, John Clendon, Queensbury, William Griffin, Thurman; corresponding secretary, Rev. C. H. Skillman; recording secretary, A. J. Cheritree; treasurer, William H. Wells; directors, Reuben Wells, W. W. Rockwell, Charles Schemerhorn, John C. Beach, Orison Dean, George T. Rockwell.

The organization now being fully completed, it remained to adopt necessary measures to fulfill the purpose of the institution. It was, therefore, at a meeting on the 6th of April, 1858,

Resolved, That the next annual fair be located in that town which shall first raise a sum of not less than one hundred and fifty dollars, from fees of life members or in other ways (not including the regular annual dues of members), to be expended at the discretion of the executive committee in preparing and inclosing the Fair Grounds, or for such other purposes as they may direct.

From the beginning until 1861 the fairs and meetings were held at Luzerne, the town in which the movement first assumed definite shape. In 1862 an arrangement was made with George Brown, of French Mountain, by which grounds near his "Half-way House" were prepared for the use of the society, and the annual meetings were thereafter held at that place until 1868.

As the farming interests of the county developed each year, and the society became richer and more numerous, the boundaries at French Mountain were found to be too narrow, and the Agricultural Society availed itself of the offer of the "Glens Falls Citizens' Association," at Glens Falls, of the use of their grounds. Since that time the yearly meetings have been held there. Necessary buildings have been constructed as occasion required, viz.: the "Home Page 276 Industrial," "Agricultural," "Mechanics," and "Floral" Halls among these. In the summer of 1883 a grand stand was built which will seat about two thousand persons.

The "Glens Falls Park," as the grounds are called, contains twenty-eight acres of land owned by a stock company. The Agricultural Society has the use of the grounds one week each year for fair purposes, the conditions being that the stock company receive the amount collected on the grounds for food and drink.

Several thousand dollars have been expended by the Agricultural Society in the construction of buildings and other improvements, and the citizens of Glens Falls have contributed by subscription about $1,500 toward beautifying and improving the grounds.

Since the infancy of the organization the cash premiums paid have been satisfactory. In 1857 the amount of cash premiums was $10.00; in 1862 they were increased to $221.50; in 1869 to $657, and in 1873 to $1,492.50. In 1885 they were $1,008.50.

Following is a list of the presidents of the society, together with the present officers, and one or two incidental happenings connected with the history of the society legislation, etc.:

1859 to 1861 inclusive, B. C. Butler, president; 1862, William H. Rockwell; 1863, Quartis Curtiss; 1864, Abraham Wing; 1865-66, B. C. Butler; 1867 to 1872 inclusive, Henry Griffing, of Warrensburgh; 1873-74, D. S. Haviland, of Queensbury; 1875, Jerome Lapham, Queensbury. At the annual meeting held on February 2d, of this year, the secretary, A. Newton Locke, of Glens Falls, presented his report in verse. It was most ingeniously executed. 1876-77, Jerome Lapham, president; February 12th, 1878, the constitution was revised and amended to meet the requirements of legislation subsequent to 1876; Joseph Haviland was elected president and served three years. 1881 to 1884 inclusive, A. B. Abbott.

On the 20th of January, 1884, in the parlors of the Rockwell House at Glens Falls, the following officers were elected for the ensuing year: president, T. S. Coolidge; first vice-president, W. E. Spier; second, D. S. Haviland; third, Edward Vaughn; fourth, E. W. Goodman; fifth, Lewis W. Hamlin; sixth, Ed. Harrigan; secretary, T. K. Locke; treasurer, H. S. Crittenden. The present directors are: C. H. Green and J. W. Morgan for 1886; W. F. Bentley and W. J. Potter, 1887; H. R. Leavens and P. T. Haviland, 1888.

Contact Us | ©1998-2007 Warren County: Genealogy and History