“The country abounds in iron ore,” wrote Horatio Gates Spofford in 1813. When the first iron processing took place at a Catalan forge (an open hearth furnace) built on Plattsburgh’s Saranac River in 1798, the ore came from Vermont; but in 1809 the Arnold ore bed was found several miles northwest of Clintonville, the first of many rich deposits that would supply the industry. Most were north of the AuSable River above Keeseville, or in the mountains to the west. Small villages grew up around the iron works where ore was crushed and smelted into pig iron. The larger operations produced their own charcoal and wrought iron bars. Dedicated factories made wire, horseshoes and the nails to hold them in place. Clintonville and AuSable Forks, and smaller places like Russia, Cadyville, Clayburg, Saranac and Redford have their roots in the iron industry, which continued in Plattsburgh as well.
In 1880 a tenth of U.S. iron was mined in New York State, much of it in Clinton County. But soon after that year the industry declined rapidly due to competition from Minnesota where surface mining provided a cheaper alternative. The mammoth J. and J. Rogers Company won a medal for its iron at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, but shifted to pulp paper in 1890. The Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company, located at Lyon Mountain since 1868, sold out to Republic Steel in 1939 and its mine at Lyon Mountain finally closed in 1967.