Located on the Hudson River, Fort Edward made for a perfect place for travelers to get off the Hudson to make the portage to Lake George, and then paddle north to Lake Champlain. Little Wood Creek, on the bank of the Hudson River near the Old Fort House, was the site of major Native American occupations, one era dating back to 1000 B.C., and another to 1000 to 1300 A.D. Archaeological investigations at the Little Wood Creek site and nearby have unearthed extensive evidence of the material culture of the local population over a 2,000 to 6,000 year interval. Local folklore says that the area was originally called Wahcoloosencoochaleva, which means the great carrying place.
Fort Edward has had a front row seat for many major episodes in American history and pre- history. Fort Edward derives its name from the 1755 French & Indian War fortification named after the Duke of York and Albany, Edward Augustus. During the French and Indian War, Fort Edward stood on the frontier that bordered the French-Canadian colonies, and protected the portage that guarded settlements in Saratoga and Albany. The military population at the time made Fort Edward, and adjacent Roger’s Island, the third largest “city” in colonial North America. It became home to Roger’s Rangers, a precursor to today’s U.S. Army Rangers. (click here to read more about Rogers Rangers) [coming soon]
Around 1764 two patents were created in the Fort Edward-area. The first was the Argyle Patent,
which extended north from where the Stewarts Shop on U.S. Route 4 is located today to the town
line. The Bayard Patent covered ground from the same location of the Stewarts Shop south to
the village line. The Old Fort House, now housing the Old Fort House Museum, was built ca.
1772, in part from timbers salvaged from Fort Edward. During the American Revolution, the Old
Fort House served as headquarters to both American and British troops. (Click here to read more about the Old Fort House Museum)
In July 1777, British General John Burgoyne arrives in the wake of the tragic death of Jane McCrea. In early August Burgoyne dispatches Lt. Col. Friedrich Baum to Bennington to capture horses and provisions. (Click here to read about the Road to Walloomsac) Baum’s defeat diminished Burgoyne’s force and the troops’ morale prior to the Battles of Saratoga, while the Americans rallied to avenge the death of young Jane McCrea. (Click here to read more about Jane McCrea)
In 1818 Fort Edward separated from the town of Argyle, and the village of Fort Edward was
established in 1849. Early industries industry took advantage of the natural falls of the local
waterway, the local natural resources to process and the Champlain Canal. Paper companies,
in particular, utilized the Old Fort Edward Feeder Canal and the Fort Edward Dam to power its mills. (Click here to read about the Paper industry in Fort Edward) [coming soon]
By 1854, the Fort Edward Blast Furnace was producing pig iron from ore mined near Fort Ann
and brought the furnace through the canal. Fort Edward stoneware was produced by several local firms from 1858 until the 1940’s. The large glazed crocks, jugs, flowerpots and other vessels often featuring cobalt decoration and a brown glazed interior are highly sought after collector’s items today. These items can be seen in a gallery adjacent to the Old Fort House Museum Gift Shop.
Fort Edward was also at one time home to the Fort Edward Collegiate Institute. Located on Seminary Street, the boarding school first opened in 1854. Students, both male and female, came not only from all over the United States, but from several different countries as well. Fire struck the school in 1877, and the school was rebuilt by 1881. The school became exclusively for female students in 1889. Unfortunately, fire struck again in 1910 and the school was not rebuilt. An interesting read, Letters to Lura: 1850's Life, Death & Publishing and The Jane McCrea Story by Doris Lasselle, is a collection of correspondence between a Fort Edward Collegiate Institute student, Lura Boise and family-friend Judge William Hay. These letters were previously published by Boise in her book Rural Rhymes.
Another important area of Fort Edward is the hamlet of Fort Miller located in the southern end of
the town. Fort Miller was named for the defensive fortifications on the West side of the Hudson
River opposite the site of the village. It was built during the French and Indian War and was
named in honor of the builder, a Colonel Miller who's given name had not been recorded. Fort
Miller is now an important destination near Lock 6 of the Champlain Canal.
Hudson Falls is located along a dramatic bend of the Hudson River as it flows easterly, and then
turns sharply south. Albert Baker settled near the falls of the Hudson in 1765, just below the
present village center. The cascading falls are the highest on the Hudson River, dropping about
80 feet over the course of a mile. Baker established a small wing dam and saw mill, the first
water-powered mill at the falls. The growing community came to be known as Kingsbury until
the name was changed to Sandy Hill in early 1790's. After a century as Sandy Hill, the village
was renamed Hudson Falls in 1910.
During the nineteenth century, foundries, saw mills and papers mills were mainstays of the local
economy. Kingsbury Bluestone was quarried in the Town of Kingsbury, of which Hudson Falls
is a part. This durable sedimentary dolostone had many architectural and structural applications,
including canal walls, bridges and aqueducts. Portions of the Brooklyn Bridge towers are built
of Kingsbury Bluestone. The Glens Falls Feeder Canal runs through Hudson Falls, and was an
important conduit for sending local goods to markets far and wide, and for receiving shipments
of coal from Pennsylvania, and rags and wood pulp for use in local paper mills.