Chateaugay Railroad Flyer



Rich Strike of Iron Ore

The Chateaugay Company’s New Vein 70 Feet Thick

One of World’s Largest Deposits

PLATTSBURG, N.Y., March 6.–The Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company has recently discovered that the vein of iron ore at its mines near Lyon Mountain, N.Y., which was supposed to be thirty feet in thickness, is in reality more than seventy feet thick and extends for six miles in a northeasterly and southwesterly direction from Lyon Mountain, making it one of the largest deposits of iron ore in the world. The company has increased its capital stock from $1,500,000 to $2,750,000, of which amount the Delaware and Hudson Company owns $1,400,000.

The company has hurried a force of several hundred men into its forests to get out a supply of wood for charcoal. The charcoal blast furnace at Standish will be rebuilt, with an annual capacity of 25,000 tons of charcoal pig iron. Fifty new brick charcoal kilns will be built. The company is now mining about 800 tons of ore per day and this output will be doubled.

The officers of the company are Smith M. Weed, President; Talbot Olyphant, Vice President and Treasurer; James N. Stower, General Manager. Among the stockholders besides the Delaware and Hudson Company, are Robert M. Olyphant and C. Adolphus Low, uncle of Mayor Seth Low of New York City.

The New York Times, March 7, 1902

Important Change in the Chateaugay and Saranac Iron Business

A Consolidation Company With a Capital of $1,500,000

We understand that a consolidation of all the interests of the Chateaugay Iron Company, the Chateaugay Ore Company, the private manufacturing interest of Hon. Andrew Williams, and the holders of mortgages thereon, has been agreed upon and will go into effect on or about the 1st of May. A new joint stock corporation is to be formed, in which all these interests will be merged, and it will probably be known as the Chateaugay Iron and Ore Company. The property will include the Chateaugay ore bed, the Bellmont forge and about 50,000 acres of land, the Chateaugay Railroad, the Gardner Tract of timber land and kilns at the Junction, in fact all the interests of Messrs. Williams and Weed, including their interests in the forge and blast furnace located in Plattsburgh; also Mr. Williams’ Clayburgh and Russia iron property, including forges and buildings and about 20,000 acres of land. The property we understand inventories at about one and a half million of dollars. Mortgages of about three hundred thousand dollars will be surrendered, and the holders will take in lieu an equal amount of stock. Among the new stock holders will be Thomas Dickson, LaGrand B. Cannon and other gentlemen of large capital. Messrs. Williams & Weed will be the largest individual share holders.

The new company will be a very strong one. There will be no encumbrances upon its property of any kind. It will commence business with mines, operators, kilns, forges, lines of transportation, rolling stock, shipping facilities, &c. built in order and operation. With boundless resources of ore and wood for charcoal at its command, and with first-class practical businessmen in charge at every point, a career of unequaled prosperity for this business appears to be its future promise.

When the organization is completed about the first of May, we shall be able to give further particulars.

It would be impossible to estimate the advantages which are likely to accrue to this region on account of this accommodation of interests. Capitalists of New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere representing more than two hundred millions of dollars, will hereafter be directly and personally interested in its development and prosperity. We are not at liberty to give the names of many of these who are to be shareholders, but they are all from among the ablest businessmen of the country. They will not be slow to detect the business advantages this region affords as their new associations render them better acquainted.

Plattsburgh Sentinel. Chateaugay Record, Friday, April 22, 1881

Sun Parlor, Hotel Chateaugay, Lyon Mountain

John Henry Moffitt

John Henry Moffit (with hat and gun)

Moffitt, John Henry (1843-1926) — also known as John H. Moffitt — of Chateaugay Lake (unknown county), N.Y. Born near Chazy, Clinton County, N.Y., January 8, 1843. Republican. Served in the Union Army during the Civil War; U.S. Representative from New York 21st District, 1887-91. Received the Medal of Honor in 1891 for action at Gaines Mill, Va., June 27, 1862. Died in Plattsburgh, Clinton County, N.Y., August 14, 1926. Interment at Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

from the “Political Graveyard” website

History of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company, by Joseph R. Linney


This year’s annual inspection trip of the Board of Directors of The Delaware and Hudson Railroad Corporation includes an inspection of the plant and operations of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company, a subsidiary of The Delaware and Hudson Company and a substantial contributor of freight traffic to The Delaware and Hudson Railroad.

It seemed appropriate, therefore, that this history of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company, which was compiled by Mr. J. R. Linney, Vice President, should be prepared for the information of the Board and for the preservation of a record of the Company’s activities.

Office of Senior Vice President,
Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company,
32 Nassau Street, New York,
June 1, 1934.


The history of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company is a story of an “ironworks” that was founded, among others, in the dense wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains, in New York State, about three quarters of a century ago. Adventure and romance filled many of the years of its pioneer founders and builders.

Not only the survival, but the steady growth of the Company, is due to, more than any other one thing, the exceptional quality of its iron ore, which is conceded to be the best found on the American Continent, and possibly in the world.

The President of the Company, as early as the year 1907, recognized the possibility of this iron ore becoming a large source of freight revenue to The Delaware and Hudson Railroad. Its location, near the northerly end of the railroad, added to the attractiveness of the traffic, because the ore and iron, on the way to the steel producing centers, could be carried in coal cars, many of which would otherwise be hauled empty southward.

Exploration work was begun and carried on for several years to determine the extent of this ore body, which was followed, with the exception of the war period, by extensive development and improvement in plant and equipment. Now being most modern and up-to-date, this plant has sufficient capacity to maintain, and because of the high quality of its product does maintain, a fore-most position in the markets.

The Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company has, in normal times, proven to be self-sustaining, as well as being a large contributor of freight to the railroad. It has great possibilities for the future, and some day the freight movement of its products southward, including those of its vast acreage of woodlands which have been reforested with many millions of pine trees, many of which are approaching commercial maturity, may even surpass the anthracite movement northward.

History of the

Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company

The beginning of the development of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company is closely connected with the early iron industry, which was of considerable importance to northern New York during most of the Nineteenth Century, and especially to Clinton and Essex counties which, 54 years ago, produced 23 per cent of the total iron ore output of the United States.

From 1798, when Platt erected the first forge on the Saranac River at Plattsburg, N. Y., the iron business took on impetus. Year after year new ore deposits were discovered and ironworks started. The Saranac River, due to its many rapids and falls, lent itself very profitably as a source of power in many places. Its proximity to abundance of charcoaling timber and to numerous ore beds made it ideal for ironworks locations, of which several operated successfully for many years. Thus, this section of northern New York was destined to become a large and important part of the American Bloomery.

Closely associated with this industry were two men, Andrew Williams and Smith M. Weed, the founders of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company, and this narrative would not be complete without making brief mention of some of the activities of these two gentlemen.

Andrew Williams, when a young man, began work at one of the Catalan forges on the Saranac River. Having a good common school education to begin with, he applied himself diligently year after year until he became one of the best informed and most able men in the industry, always endeavoring to improve the quality of his iron, continually prospecting and seeking purer and better ore deposits.

Several years before the opening of the Chateaugay Ore Beds, it is said that Mr. Williams had secured samples of this ore, packed it many miles through the forests to his forge on the Saranac River, and made up special samples of iron from it, which were properly ear-marked as they went to the trade, the customer being requested to report back as to the quality. The splendid reports received from various customers in the trade on the samples of iron made from the Chateaugay ore and the many requests for more of it, caused Mr. Williams to become very much interested in the opening and development of the Chateaugay Ore Bed, despite its inaccessibility. It may be that he thought along the lines of Emerson’s Mousetrap Story. In any event, he associated himself with Smith M. Weed and, despite the many natural obstacles, undertook to open up this ore and make a better iron, and did so.

Smith M. Weed graduated from the Law School at Harvard University in 1857, and in 1859 he married Carrie L. Standish, a daughter of Colonel Matthew M. Standish, a lineal descendant of Colonel Miles Standish, of Plymouth. Standish, N. Y., where the Company’s blast furnace is located, was named for Mrs. Weed’s family.

Mr. Weed, in addition to being an able lawyer, was a statesman of first rank. He was elected and re-elected many times to the State Assembly, and made and retained the friendship and confidence of Governors and Presidents.

Mr. Weed, more than any other one man, was responsible for interesting the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company’s officers in the building of a railroad between Whitehall and Plattsburg. The history of The Delaware and Hudson Company, “A Century of Progress, says of Mr. Weed:

Early in 1872 he journeyed to New York in the effort to interest the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company. At a meeting with some of its officers and Managers, at which I. V. Baker who shared his aspirations was present, Mr. Weed readily convinced George Talbot Olyphant, acting as president in the absence of Mr. Dickson, LeGrand B. Cannon and others that such a line would be of great advantage to the company. Thereupon Mr. Weed drew from his pocket articles of association of The New York & Canada Railroad Company, already signed by several residents of Plattsburg and Clinton County. The remaining signatures necessary to effect its incorporation were quickly supplied.

In later years, the two gentlemen who successfully founded and commercially developed the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company were known as Honorable Andrew Williams and Honorable Smith M. Weed, both having won distinction in State activities, as well as in the industrial enterprise in which they were interested; one a master of the industrial arts, and the other a master in the art of statesmanship; both of noble character.

In 1781, the Legislature of New York set apart, in the north central part of the state, a tract of land containing about 665,000 acres, lying in Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties, to satisfy the claims of two regiments of soldiers which the State of New York had found it necessary to raise to protect its frontier settlements from frequent pillage by the Indians and other enemies. Congress was too poor to furnish troops for their protection, and so the State sought to raise them and pay for their services in the manner above mentioned. This land is the so-called Old Military Tract.

Due to failure of the act to express clearly its meaning, and because of its vagueness, another act was passed in 1786, defining the area to be surveyed, and allowing the speedy sale of these and other unappropriated lands within the state. However, no part of the Old Military Tract was ever awarded on bounty claims. It was ultimately all sold by the State as “wild lands.” The Town of Dannemora, in which the Chateaugay Ore Bed is located, lies in Township No. 5 of this Old Military Tract.

In September, 1794, Township No. 5 became the property of William Henderson, merchant, of New York City, who sold it in January, 1795, to Jacob Mark. In February of the same year, Mark mortgaged it to Jacob and Robert Leroy, and from that time on, for about a quarter of a century, it being considered of little value, the property changed hands a number of times. In 1822, it was owned by John L. Norton and Hannah Murray, who divided it up into 300 lots which lay in what was afterwards incorporated into the towns of Ellenburg and Dannemora. In the apportionment of the 300 lots between the owners, the part which lay in Dannemora fell to Hannah Murray, who in turn conveyed it, on November 22, 1822, to Lloyd N. Rogers.

There is good reason for believing that the discovery of iron ore in the north central portion of this tract was made many years before. Several miles westward of the Chateaugay Mine, and on the same strike as the Chateaugay Ore Bed, is an old opening (81 mine), which had evidently been worked to a considerable extent at some remote period, a shaft having been sunk, from which quantities of waste which present day manufacturers would call good ore had been thrown out and left. Trees of considerable size had grown over some of this waste pile. It is reasonable to suppose that this is the so-called Prall vein, from which William Bailey, who erected a forge on the Chateaugay River about five miles below the outlet of Chateaugay Lake, in 1803, obtained his ore, shipping it on rafts or boats through the Upper and Lower Chateaugay lakes to his forge.

However, there does not seem to be any record of the actual discovery of the Chateaugay Ore Bed up to the time of Mr. Rogers’ purchase. In the year 1823 the bed of ore, practically phosphorus free, now known as “Chateaugay,” and which has been proven to be the best in the world, was supposed to have been discovered by an old trapper named Collins.

But the Ore Bed lay in the depths of what was then considered an almost impenetrable wilderness, and it was many years before any attempt was made to work it. Even after it was known, it excited little interest among capitalists, for the reason that it was so far from lines of transportation, and lying in a region which abounded in natural obstacles, held to be practically insurmountable against the building of roads of any kind.

It was not until about 1868 that the first steps were taken toward utilizing this treasure, when Messrs. Foote, Weed, Meade and Waldo made a contract with Edmund Law Rogers, of Baltimore, son of Lloyd N. Rogers, and soon after obtained possession of the property.

However, for a period of about five years there was very little done in the way of development of this ore body. Small groups of men were engaged during the summer months in digging the ore, piling it on the surface to be loaded during the winter months and hauled by horse-drawn sleighs on the snow through the dense wilderness to the Catalan forges on the Saranac River.

The interest of the above named group was soon transferred to the Chateaugay Iron Company, organized by Smith M. Weed and Andrew Williams, and in the fall of 1873, the work of developing the property began in earnest. A plank road was built from the Saranac River Plank Road, branching from that road at Saranac Hollow, and running 13 miles through the mountains to the Ore Bed.

At this time there was only a small clearing in the dense forest, with a few log shanties, where the village of Lyon Mountain now stands. Its only tie to civilization was the newly constructed road to Russia, N. Y.

For a period of about four years the working of the ore was confined practically to the outcroppings, loading by hand directly into wagons; and as the pits became deeper, the sides were sloped on a grade which permitted the driving of the wagons on the floor of the Bed. However, this method soon became impractical. The ore was thereafter loaded into small cars, and hoisted to the surface by means of a whimsey, the power being supplied by horses. The ore was then transferred to wagons and hauled to the No. 1 Separator, which was located on the present site of the Delaware and Hudson’s turntable, on the bank of Separator Brook at Lyon Mountain.

The No. 1 Separator consisted of roasting pits, stamps, and jigging baskets. The roasting pits were rectangular in shape, approximately thirty feet long, twelve feet wide, and ten feet high, enclosed on three sides by stones. Four-foot cord wood was placed in the pit to a height of about six feet, and then covered with three to four feet of lump ore. The wood was ignited and the ore roasted until the fire burned out. In the operation there were three of these pits to a unit; while the roasted ore was being taken from one pit, the second pit was roasting another batch, and the third was being prepared for still another. This represented a cycle, with a roasted batch of ore on hand at all times. The roasting of the ore made it easier to crush.

The ore from the roasting pits was then loaded into wagons and hauled to the stamps at the Separator. A stamp consisted of a heavy stick of timber, varying in length, hinged at one end and protected on the other by an iron plate. It was raised by means of an eccentric, and dropped by gravity on top of the ore until the material was crushed fine enough to pass through 1/4 inch opening.

The sizing apparatus consisted of iron bars, spaced 1 inch apart, located directly under the stamp and, as the ore was crushed, it passed through these bars and was then shoveled into the jigging baskets for concentration.

The jigging baskets consisted of a screen in the shape of a cylinder open at the top, with a bail to which was attached a piece of wooden timber acting as a fulcrum or lever. The ore was shoveled into the basket, which was then lowered into a tank of water and “jigged” up and down. The ore, being heavier, sank to the bottom of the basket, while the rock impurities formed a layer on the top, which was scraped off and sent to the waste pile.

The operation was continuous 24 hours daily, except Sunday, producing approximately ten gross tons of concentrated iron ore, containing about 55 per cent iron. The loss of iron in the tailings, however, was enormous. The concentrated ore was then loaded into wagons, which held approximately two tons, and transported over the plank road to Russia, N. Y., where it was made into blooms in the six-fire forge owned by Andrew Williams and C. F. Norton.

In the subsequent years, the property was opened up considerably. The mines were sunk deeper, necessitating larger hoisting equipment and also the introduction of pumping machinery to take care of water drainage. Up until this time, all of the drilling was done by hand, using jumpers and hammers, two men drilling on the average twelve lineal feet per shift. With the introduction of compressed air driven drilling machines, the drilling and the tonnage per man per day was substantially increased. A steam sawmill was built and kept in constant operation, turning out lumber for new buildings, plank roads, etc. An addition was made to the separator to take care of the increased output of the mines. Additional miners and mill hands were brought in, until the total number of employed reached about 150. This, of course, meant that new houses had to be built, and at this time we find about 40 houses, a school house and church composing the village of Lyon Mountain.

A small dam on Separator Brook, which comes brawling down from Mount Lyon, secured a head of 48 feet, which was sufficient to run the separator a good portion of the year, and a 30 horse power steam engine supplied whatever force was lacking for either the separator or sawmill. The Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company now owned over 35,000 acres of land in this immediate region, a great portion of which was covered with heavy timber, well adapted to lumbering and charcoaling purposes. They also had a 40-year lease on 4,000 additional acres on which the Ore Bed was located, and with the privilege of cutting every tree which grew upon it. Thus, it will be seen that they had control of nearly 40,000 acres of land, with a large supply of iron ore under it and plenty of charcoaling timber on its surface.

With the increasing of men and machinery the output of concentrated ore reached approximately 50 gross tons per day, containing about 55 per cent iron. This was loaded into wagons and hauled over a splendid plank road to the dock on Upper Chateaugay Lake. Here it was transferred into barges, which were towed to the Company’s forge fires at Belmont, at the outlet of Lower Chateaugay Lake, by the Company’s steamer, “Maggie,” named after Miss Maggie Weed (daughter of Hon. Smith M. Weed).

The “Maggie” was 28 1/2 feet long over all, with an 11 foot beam, drawing four feet of water. It was driven at the rate of ten miles per hour, by a 25 horse power steam engine. The barge, the “Iron Age,” was 80 feet long and 17 feet wide, and carried approximately 150 tons of ore. After the ore was transported to its destination, it was transferred by hand to a small car which was drawn by a cable to the stock piles at the forges.

At the outlet of Chateaugay Lake, at Belmont, ground was broken for the erection of a dam and ironworks, in the year 1874, and operations began in January of the following year. The entire operations were driven by water power under a head of 18 feet. The “mill pond” was 12 miles long, both Upper and Lower Chateaugay Lakes having been raised by the dam about 4 1/2 feet. All the wood, coal and ore were moved on the Lake in barges and rafts by the “Maggie.” Each Fall before the close of navigation, enough ore was stored at Belmont to run the forges through the Winter. There were ten first-class fires, which were increased in later years to 20, the largest Catalan forge in operation in the country, if not in the world, at that time.

The forge turned out approximately 15 gross tons of half blooms per day, which the Company found no necessity for piling up, being almost constantly behind in their orders, due to the exceptional quality of the iron and the tremendous demand for it. The consumption of charcoal was approximately 2,500 bushels per day. The Company also owned and operated a sawmill at this location.

The blooms and billets were hauled by wagons and sleighs to Chateaugay, N. Y., and shipped via the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain Railroad to the steel districts of Pennsylvania and Ohio. There is no doubt but that the same inherent qualities of the Chateaugay iron, which are in demand by the steel men of today for their toughest projects, were known and appreciated during this period. The records at this time indicate a large tonnage of Chateaugay blooms being made for shipment to the wire manufacturers for the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Catalan forge furnace, in which iron was made direct from ore, was an open hearth, about 2 1/2 feet by 3 1/2 feet, with a stack 20 feet to 25 feet high for carrying off the gases.

The blast of air was usually furnished either by a bellows, or by means of a trompe. The pipe that carried the air to the hearth was coiled in the stack of the furnace, the object being to preheat the blast of air, which resulted in a saving of fuel.

The operation consisted of a charcoal fire, stimulated by a blast of air, iron ore and charcoal in small quantities being added alternately by the blooms-men, who also regulated and adjusted the fire, until the batch of iron, called a “loupe,” weighing about 300 pounds, was made. This usually took about three hours.

The “loupe,” in a pasty state, mixed with slag, was loosened in the hearth by means of bars, and then lifted from the furnace with tongs, known as “grampuses,” promptly taken to the trip hammer and forged into blooms or billets, a bar of iron about 5 inches square, varying in lengths from two to six feet, depending upon the market demands.

The iron made was exceptionally pure. The following is an analysis made recently in the Company’s laboratory of one of the old Chateaugay blooms which has been preserved:

Iron 99.70%
Silicon .08
Sulphur .017

Phosphorus .017
Combined Carbon .130

Manganese Nil

The Company at this time was fairly prosperous. The following was told of the late Hon. John Moffitt, who for a number of years was President of the Plattsburg National Bank & Trust Company:

“It seems that in the early ‘70s Mr. Moffitt was General Manager of the Chateaugay Company’s operations. His responsibilities as Manager included the purchase of the Company’s supplies, the payment of bills, the sale of products, and the collection of all money due the Company. Shortly after the close of one successful year, the Company having manufactured and sold some 4,000 tons of iron, the late Hon. Smith M. Weed, President of the Company, asked Mr. Moffitt how much money the Company made during the past year. The reply represented a very substantial profit. Mr. Weed promptly said that he had been to see the bookkeeper, and was quite sure that the books did not show net earnings anywhere near this amount. Mr. Moffitt promptly replied that he did not care what the books showed. He had paid all of his bills and had that much money left in the bank.”

Late in the ‘70s, the Company realized that in order to develop properly the rich resources of its property to the best advantage, it must secure railroad communication with the great iron markets of the country. The question was, which way should it strike out from the mine, lying in the very heart of the wilderness. Two routes were open to it: One down the Chateaugay valley to Chateaugay, N. Y., connecting with the Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain Railroad, and the other to Dannemora, to connect with the Plattsburg & Dannemora line. In February, 1879, when the snow was four feet deep in the woods, the work of making a preliminary survey was commenced, and early in the spring the following data were at hand: Distance to Chateaugay, 1 7 miles, an almost straight line, with an easy grade all the way, and the line running nearly half way through the Company’s own land, past its Catalan forge at Belmont, and the other half through a fine farming country, from which considerable local traffic would be derived. Distance to Dannemora, 17 miles, ten of which lay through solid wilderness, a crooked line running around two mountains and alternately toward all points of the compass; a hard line to grade, with the promise of little local traffic. Everything seemed to indicate the selection of the Chateaugay route as the most natural, cheapest and best.

However, Thomas Dickson, President of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, a close friend of Smith M. Weed, concluded that the proper movement of this ore was to Plattsburg, then via the New York and Canada Railroad. On the 20th of May, 1879, the Chateaugay Railroad was organized, with Thomas Dickson as its President. Subsequently, the lease of the Plattsburg and Dannemora Railroad was secured from the State, and about the 5th of June the contract was let for grading of the Chateaugay Railroad from Dannemora to the Ore Bed. On the 8th of June the work began, and on December 6th the track laying was finished to the first shaft. On the 1 7th of December, the first regular train ran over the entire line, and on December 18, 1879, the first train of ore was moved to Plattsburg.

In the subsequent years, the operations at Lyon Mountain spread out and increased at a rapid rate. Directly above the “Old Opening” shaft, where the first blow was struck toward developing the Chateaugay Ore Bed in 1867, and continuing southwest along the strike of the vein, the Williams Opening shaft had been sunk to a depth of approximately 200 feet. Between the shafts was an engine house, 36 x 52 feet, housing a compressor for air drills, and pumping and hoisting apparatus for both shafts.

Farther along was the railroad station, a building which now contains the offices of the present Company, and directly across the tracks a building 40 x 50 feet, with two stalls for housing locomotives, had been erected. Adjoining this was the machine shop, 36 x 65 feet, with a second story for a carpenter shop. This department contained the most up-to-date iron lathes, planers, drills, and other tools needed to repair or rebuild engines or machinery, or to do car repair work.

On the east bank of Separator Brook, an engine house 40 x 50 feet, housing a 200 horse power engine, designed to drive the separator, tools in the machine shop, and hoisting apparatus, was erected. On the opposite side of the brook was No. 2 Separator, 40 x 60 feet. Above, on the slope, were the roasting kilns, alongside of which was a side track from which ore from all shafts, to be separated, was dumped directly into the kilns, and thence worked down to the ground floor of the building, which was furnished with a Blake jaw crusher and a revolving Conkling separator. A short distance above was a substantial dam. Cars were loaded direct from the separator and hoisted by an engine on an elevated track to the main track.

At this time the vein was uncovered for about 1,500 feet. Shafts had been sunk at numerous locations west of No. 2 Separator and were equipped with up-to-date steam hoisting apparatus, steam pumps, and steam-driven compressors for the air drills. The average width of the vein was 20 to 25 feet, the depth unknown.

About 1880 the Company re-opened the 81 mine, which was located a short distance, east of Williamstown (now Standish) to supply ore to the forges located on the Saranac River, at Clayburg, a distance of approximately 11 miles. A separator containing the latest types of roasting, stamping, screening and jigging equipment was built on the brook. The concentrated ore from the mill was loaded into wagons and hauled over a plank road, which had been recently built for that purpose, to Clayburg. However, within a year, the forges and equipment were moved to Williamstown (Standish), and in 1881 the first forge began operations near the site of the Company’s present modern blast furnace.

The new location was ideal, for it was in the heart of what seemed to be an almost endless supply of wood for charcoal, and only four miles from the terminus of the Chateaugay Railroad.

In this same year, 1881, the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company was incorporated, and purchased the properties of the Chateaugay Ore Company, the Chateaugay Iron Company, a furnace at Plattsburg, and the Chateaugay Railroad Company. The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company became closely identified with the new Company at this time.

By 1883 the mines and mills were producing concentrated ore for some 60 forges in Clinton and Essex counties. At Belmont; 20 forge fires were running, the largest Catalan forge in the country, besides a six-fire forge at Standish, and a charcoal blast furnace at Plattsburg. Lyon Mountain had grown from a few shacks in the wilderness to a thriving community of some 3,000 inhabitants, the busiest spot in Clinton county. Nearly a million dollars had been expended in the purchase of machinery and equipment, for even then those dauntless pioneers, Williams and Weed, realized the wealth and future possibilities which lay in this wonderful bed of iron ore.

Improved mining methods and machinery were constantly being introduced, and as the market demanded it, the output was rapidly increased. This, of course, necessitated a like increase in milling capacity. As a result, new mills were erected at strategic points on the most convenient brook.

Just below the Williams Pit, No. 3 Separator, with roasting, stamping and jigging equipment, was built, and at Bradley Pond outlet, No. 4 Separator, complete with all equipment, was erected to handle the ore from Parkhurst Shaft. Every ton of ore was immediately turned into iron which, it seems, was rapidly marketed.

The method of mining at this time, which was continued for some years, was to sink shafts on the dip of the vein to a depth of about 300 feet, and at intervals, along the strike (i. e., the general longitudinal direction of the vein) of about 250 feet. Levels were opened into the ore on both sides of each shaft every 50 feet, leaving a small pillar to protect the shaft. After the ore was blasted, it was loaded into wheelbarrows, wheeled out to the shaft, dumped into the skip and hoisted to the surface. The rich lump ore was sorted out by hand on the surface, and shipped direct to the steel mills for use in the open hearth and puddling furnaces.

As the demand and production of iron increased, so it was with the consumption of charcoal, and in the ensuing years it became necessary to tap still further the forests in order to obtain an adequate supply of wood for the making of charcoal. In the year 1885, the Company began the erection of a blast furnace at Standish, extending the railroad from Lyon Mountain to that point, and later to Loon Lake, as a part of its plant facility, in order to reach the furnace, charcoal kilns and woodlands that it owned.

In the year 1886, the Catalan forges at Standish were temporarily abandoned, and the making of pig iron commenced in the new blast furnace, using charcoal as fuel. This resulted in the development of an entirely new market for this product, pig iron being an entirely different product from bloom iron produced by the Catalan forges. However, steel making by the Bessemer process was gaining by leaps and bounds in this country, and the Chateaugay Iron, being extremely low in phosphorus, was in great demand. Many additional houses, a merchandising store, a school house and a church sprang up in the village, and Standish began to make industrial history.

The Company continued, to make pig iron at Standish, and bloom iron at Belmont, until the year 1893. The major depression of that period having gotten well underway by this time, the Company, in order to consolidate its operations at one point and close to its railroad, moved the forges from Belmont to Standish, so that both bloom iron and pig iron could be made at that point and shipped to market by rail.

The slump in the iron business continued for several years, due to the depression, and when the revival of industrial activity began to show itself in the late ‘90s, there came a great demand for the ore, as well as the iron. A comparatively new device for separating the ore came into the market about this time, known as the Ball and Norton Magnetic Separator. With this machine, it was possible to make a concentrate running 60 per cent iron, with a tailing of only 7 per cent iron, at the rate of ten tons per hour per machine. The separator at Lyon Mountain was enlarged, and a number of these machines installed, with very good results.

As steel making by the Bessemer process, and wrought iron making by the puddling process, increased, the demand for Catalan forge blooms decreased, not on account of quality, but because these new processes could make wrought iron and steel which would serve the purpose at the time for less than half the cost of Catalan forge blooms. As a result, the American Bloomery, which for many years had been the backbone of the iron and steel industry of the country, was doomed.

The Company subsequently abandoned its Catalan forge operations and continued making low phosphorus pig iron in the blast furnace, using charcoal as fuel, and also continued to ship concentrates and lump ore from its mines at Lyon Mountain.

By now, it was obvious that the Chateaugay Ore Beds were very extensive, this having been proven by openings on the outcroppings for a distance of several miles, and to a considerable depth, all of the ore being of the same character and purity. Because of the exceptional quality of the ore and the iron, the demand continued to increase, and it became evident that the property should be operated on a much larger scale.

At this time, The Delaware and Hudson Company had a considerable financial interest in the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company. After having a study of the property made, President Willcox, of The Delaware and Hudson Company, recommended to its Board of Managers that they take over the Chateaugay Company and operate it. On July 29, 1903, the Board of Managers of The Delaware and Hudson Company authorized that procedure.

The narrow gauge railroad, which meanwhile had been extended to Lake Placid, was promptly supplanted by a substantial, standard gauge road. At the same time, wherever possible, grades and curvature were reduced to make possible the heavy movements of iron ore which were contemplated from the property, and which subsequently took place.

A large steam power plant was built, and two 500 K. W. electrical generators were installed to furnish electric power for the electric motors, which were installed in place of steam-driven engines, at isolated points, and also for additional electro-magnetic separators. There were also installed two Laidlaw Dunn air compressors, to insure an ample supply of compressed air for the drilling machines in the mine.

Because of the tremendous amount of charcoal used by the blast furnace, the increasing difficulty of securing a sufficient supply, and the fact that by this time coke had replaced charcoal in most of the blast furnaces in the country, and could be secured at a much lower cost, the Standish Furnace was changed from a charcoal to a coke furnace.

Between the years 1903 and 1907, a great deal was done in the way of replacing much of the light equipment with heavier and more substantial equipment. The output of ore and pig iron was considerably increased.

Then, in 1907, came the new President, Mr. L. F. Loree, with many years of scientific engineering and practical experience behind him. A new separator, which was badly needed, was completed in this year, equipped with the latest improved magnetic separators, crushing and screening equipment, and did excellent work. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire the following year, which made it necessary to use the old No. 2 Separator, which had been closed down.

A well defined plan of study of the property was immediately put into action by the President. This included a magnetrometric and geological survey, diamond drilling, chemical analyses, and surveying and mapping the mine workings. The results of this study revealed that the Chateaugay Ore beds were tremendous in size, containing an almost endless supply of iron ore, practically free from Sulphur and Phosphorus.

It took several years to complete the above mentioned exploration work, during which time the Company’s mines and blast furnace operated continually. In 1914, plans were made for the development of the ore body on a large scale, which included a new hoisting shaft, to be 1,600 feet deep, with steel headframe and modern electrically-driven hoisting equipment.

This work was well under way, and the shaft down 900 feet, when the demands for Chateaugay iron and iron ore became so great, on account of the war, that it was necessary to postpone the development work, in order to concentrate all activities on production.

In 1917, it became necessary to build a new separator, because the old No. 2 Separator was beginning to fail badly, on account of the many years it had been standing. The new separator was completed and put in operation by the fall of 1918.

In 1919, when the demands of the war had eased up considerably, it was decided to proceed with the development of the mine. The No. 1 Shaft, which had been sunk to a depth of 900 feet, was extended to a depth of 1,685 feet, with four compartments; one for pipe and ladderways, one for men and supplies, and two for hoisting ore, all enclosed in steel and concrete.

Levels were opened east and west on the strike of the vein, at intervals varying from 150 feet to 300 feet, depending on the nature and character of the vein, Stopes were opened up, and electric locomotives installed, and by 1924 all of the mining operations were confined to the new No. 1 Shaft.

In 1921, it became necessary to make repairs and changes at the Standish Furnace, which included a new hearth and bosh, skip hoist and stock bins, pig casting machine, and a 25,000 cubic foot Turbo blower. In this connection, a sintering plant was built at Lyon Mountain, in order to sinter the concentrates for the furnace, and also to make additional sintered ore to be sold.

In May, 1924, the separator, which had been completed in 1918, was destroyed by fire. It had been intended to make this separator building entirely fireproof, but due to the difficulty in obtaining materials on account of the war, and the urgent need of the new separator because of the failure of the old No. 2 Separator, it had become necessary to use considerable wood in the construction of the interior of the building.

Plans were made, and work immediately started, on the building of a new and larger separator and concentrating plant, which was built entirely of steel and concrete, making it absolutely fireproof. This was completed and put in operation in June, 1925,

By the year 1925, the plants and equipment of the Company were modern in every way, including a well developed mine, with one main hoisting shaft, with steel headframe and concrete and steel hoist house; a large and modern concentrating plant, both built of steel and concrete, being absolutely fireproof; at the furnace, a skip hoist and bins, pig casting machine, turbo blower, a cooling system and a revolving distributor. The subsequent years have been devoted entirely to operating the plant and marketing the products.


Woodlands and Forests

The territory within which the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company forests lie is representative of the hardwood and coniferous regions of the Adirondack Mountains of New York. This is true not only in respect to general forest conditions and climate, but also economic and social conditions.

Any history of Adirondack forest property which attempts to describe the management of forest property must necessarily connect the relation of forests with the development and settlement of this region during the 19th Century. This is especially apparent today when one considers that development of the Adirondacks depends entirely upon the mining, wood using and agricultural industries.

The early settlers, who pioneered the mountainous Adirondack region in Clinton and Franklin counties, west of Lake Champlain and the Champlain Valley, in the early part of the 19th Century, established small saw and grist mills and iron forges. The grist mills provided the necessities of life for the settlers, who in most instances penetrated through these regions to obtain the iron found over a wide and scattered area. Saw mills were erected to supply lumber for the building of homes and other building purposes in connection with the construction of iron forges.

The small iron forges first worked in the northern section of the Adirondack Mountains made no serious inroad upon the wood capital of the surrounding forest lands. Practically virgin forests existed, except for small areas cleared for agricultural and mining purposes until 1870. Prior to that date the mountainous regions of the Adirondacks were too remote for any extensive lumbering, although the many small iron forges, started between 1800 and 1870, were dependent entirely on the forest for obtaining charcoal and other wood supplies for smelting ore.

The iron industry in Clinton and Franklin counties gradually came into the hands of such prominent iron men as Smith M. Weed and Andrew Williams, who in 1873 originated and formed the Chateaugay Iron Company, starting with forges at Clayburg and Russia, in Clinton County, and at Belmont, in Franklin county. Other forges at numerous points in the counties aforementioned were subsequently constructed.

With the formation of the Chateaugay Iron Company in 1873, the managers and officers of this Company started acquisition of forest lands in the towns of Ellenburg, Dannemora, Saranac and Black Brook, Clinton County, and in the towns of Belmont and Franklin, Franklin County, in order to supply their numerous forges with a cheap and easily available source of charcoal. Charcoal kilns of various types, the last used being named the beehive kiln, were originally built on these forest lands in the vicinity of the forges. Later, with the development and construction of company-owned plank roads and the extension of railroad facilities of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, kilns were placed wherever an easily available supply of wood could be found. Purchases were continued until approximately 100,000 acres of timber land had been acquired. Records indicate that the bulk of these forest lands were purchased at tax sales by the State of New York. These acquisitions were, of course, aided and increased by direct purchases by additional tracts from individual owners. No records exist today that will tell us definitely the amount of wood taken from forest lands for conversion into charcoal, but it is known that at one time 101 charcoal kilns, with a yearly capacity of 1,000 cords each, were in operation. And it is also known that for thirty years the Chateaugay Company and its predecessors made iron with charcoal produced from its forest acreage. It is estimated that over 1,500,000 cords or roughly 135,000,000 cubic feet of wood were used for this purpose alone. In addition to this use of the forest, large sawmills were erected by the Company at various points to furnish lumber and wood supplies to erect homes and other buildings needed for the mining and manufacture of iron. The cutting of wood for charcoal purposes was continued until 1904, when coke was introduced to replace the use of charcoal.

In 1896, to increase revenue from these forest lands, a contract was entered into with the Glens Falls Paper Mill Company, later known as the International Pulp and Paper Company, whereby the Paper Company agreed to purchase yearly 15,000 cords of four foot spruce and balsam pulpwood. This contract remained in force until about 1915, when the entire Chateaugay holdings were about cleared of wood, suitable for this purpose. Although records fail to give the complete story of lumbering operations on lands included in the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company forest, verbal evidence leads us to believe that the Chateaugay Company management in 1896, held certain wise and far sighted opinions on the management of this forest. It can be noted with considerable satisfaction that, in entering into this agreement on the cutting of pulpwood, the Chateaugay Company sold only down to a 10″ D. B. H. (diameter breast high) limit, and that employees engaged in overseeing the cutting of the Glens Falls Company were careful in following out this contract condition. This practice must have been based on the experience obtained in cutting wood for charcoal, wherein it was found impracticable to completely cut the forest lands.

In 1903, the Delaware and Hudson Company, after acquiring the Chateaugay and Lake Placid Railway Company, secured control of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company, seemingly with the view of increasing the mining and smelting operations at Lyon Mountain and Standish and, subsequently, freight movements on its railroad lines. Shortly after these acquisitions, during the Summer and Fall of 1903, destructive forest fires burned over approximately three-fourths of the Chateaugay Company’s forest. A portion of the acreage, burned clean of timber, was later considered as entirely denuded. The major portion of the burned area was probably affected by serious ground fires, which did not entirely damage the remaining stands of timber, but necessitated placing this timber on an early market. The forest fires of 1903 were the first to seriously affect the Chateaugay Company’s property.

Due to the destructive forest fires of that year, the Chateaugay Company in September, 1904, entered into a contract with the Dock and Coal Company, of Plattsburg, New York, under which the last named Company purchased all the remaining merchantable hardwood and conifers not covered by contract with the Glens Falls Company. This contract also provided that lumbering for the Glens Falls Company would be done by the Dock and Coal Company, the Chateaugay Company to receive payment on a stumpage basis. Along with the extensive lumbering of the Dock and Coal Company, forest fires continued to eat into the Company’s forest lands. In the same year that stumpage was contracted with the Dock and Coal Company, Thomas H. Sherrard, of the United States Bureau of Forestry, made a preliminary survey of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company’s Adirondack timber lands at the request of the officials of the Chateaugay Company. In Sherrards examination of the Chateaugay forest holdings, it was shown that, in 1904, forest properties of the Chateaugay Company could be classified as follows:

1. Virgin spruce and hardwoods 18,000 acres
2. Virgin hardwoods with some spruce 1 7,000
3. Virgin hardwoods without spruce 10,000
4. Second growth (on which another crop of various hardwood species was mature and ready for
cutting) 23,000
5. Denuded or brush lands 28,000

Lands of the Chateaugay Company used in connection with mining and agricultural purposes were not included in Sherrards classification. The agricultural lands in 1904 were those cleared by wood contractors around their various operations to aid in supplying yearly food requirements.

Sherrard in his report to the officers of the Chateaugay Company, recommended a reforesting program for the denuded lands, and suggestions for decreasing the possibility of future forest fires. After considering this matter, the Company followed Sherrards recommendations and decided to reforest the 28,000 acres that were considered in 1904 as denuded lands.

The first tree nursery established was located at Wolf Pond in Franklin County, in the section in which it was decided reforestation should be commenced. This nursery started raising seedlings and transplant trees of White and Scotch pine, Norway spruce, and European larch. Various species were apparently experimented with to determine the most suitable for the section to be planted. It was known, of course, that certain pines, firs, and hardwoods were native to the Adirondacks, but the Scotch pine tree belonged to a European specie of pine grown extensively and with good results in Germany and Russia. No one raising forest trees in nurseries in 1906 knew much about this work and consequently the number of seedlings raised was limited. Damping off became one of the largest of nursery troubles, not only at Wolf Pond but in all the State nurseries. Not until many years later was a simple but effective remedy found to offset it. This nursery, about 1,500 feet above sea level, was abandoned after the field planting operations of 1915, as it was found that trees could not be dug out for planting purposes until late in the Spring, the season at Wolf Pond being some two weeks later in opening than around Lake Champlain, which is only about one hundred feet above sea level. In the meantime, another nursery had been located at Bluff Point, near Plattsburg, about 1910, and it soon became apparent that this location was an ideal site. White and Scotch pine still continued to be the standard trees raised for planting, although such species as White cedar, White ash, Norway spruce and Black locust were raised to some extent. It was undoubtedly estimated that the nurseries should supply each year approximately 1 000,000 trees, or enough to reforest 1,000 acres. It was soon found difficult to meet this requirement.

Forest fires continued burning the Chateaugay Forest year after year. These fires, most severe in 1903, 1908, 1911, 1913, and 1915, destroyed practically all timber that was ready for market and scorched the ground so badly that the humus, needed by the soil to establish another ground-cover of valuable hard and soft woods, was burned down to sand and stones, on which a fire cover of inferior woods began to grow in order to assist nature in enriching the soil cover. The Dock and Coal Company continued cutting in the burned areas from which salvage could be obtained, and from the lands which had not been burned until 1918, when operations ceased as the timber supply was exhausted. There remaining only scattered areas of cull hardwoods that had been lumbered once and burned over several times. Other than such hardwoods, nothing remained but undersized swamp balsam and spruce which, because of its location in wet areas, had not been badly burned.

In 1915, the White pine in the Bluff Point Nursery began to be troubled with blister rust. While every precaution was taken to control and eradicate this disease, it became necessary, in 1917, to destroy all White pine in this nursery to help check the spread of this disease which caused great damage throughout the State of New York. Subsequent to 1917, no White pine was carried in the nursery for any purpose, and the trend in specie changed to the raising of as much Red pine as possible, the seed of which was hard to obtain, even in limited quantities. Scotch pine, with some White and Norway spruce, was also grown in large quantities. Numerous other species, including Douglas spruce, Austrian pine, Montana pine, Western Yellow or Bull pine, White willow, Norway poplar, Engleman spruce, Concolor fir, White ash, European larch, Dwarf Mountain pine, Balsam fir, and Colorado Blue spruce, were still experimented with, although throughout the time reforesting was carried on, nothing practical was discovered other than the pines and spruces listed immediately above.

The planting of the trees raised in the nurseries first began in 1908, when 18,000 Scotch pine trees were set out at Wolf Pond. Each year thereafter until 1927, the last planting year, reforestation was carried on with the exception only of the years 1909, 1911, and 1919. In 1913, when reforesting had just begun to be well started and some 1,100 acres had been planted to Scotch and White pine, there was estimated to be 40,900 acres of burned and denuded land suitable for stocking with trees. The forest cover changed rapidly, however, and the planting of 1927 cleaned up practically all available areas. After the 1927 program, about 12,500 acres, on which some 14,764,846 trees had been planted, constituted the reforested area. The remaining 28,400 acres, originally estimated in 1913 as plantable land, had grown up to hardwood brush under which it was not feasible to start artificial reproduction of pine or spruce.

At various periods following Sherrards examination for forest conditions, estimates were made of the remaining stands of scattered timber. One estimate, made in 1918 after all lumbering operations had ceased, is given here to indicate conditions at that time. This report shows that only 19,952 acres were covered with timber of any size, and that on this acreage there were 136,639,844 board feet of hardwoods, of which only a small percentage could be made into merchantable lumber because of the poor quality of the timber, which unquestionably had been lumbered through at least once by the Dock and Coal Company. In addition to the hardwoods, there were 8,072 cords of poplar and 13,859,775 board feet of spruce, balsam, hemlock and cedar, of which only 7,181,078 board feet were available for market, the remainder being too scattered and of poor quality.

In 1920 and 1921, field data were obtained for the preparation of a twenty-year working plan. Crews, under the supervision of Professors Spring, Bently and Guise, of the College of Forestry of Cornell University, worked over the entire woodland holdings of the Company, which had increased by this time to 120,684 acres, the major portion of this land being located in townships 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9, Old Military Tract, in Clinton and Franklin counties. The location of the Company boundary lines had been established in 1911, 1912, and 1913 by surveys which had been made in order to develop a typographical map of the property. These surveys were of great assistance to the Cornell crew. Professor Spring made a study of silvicultural conditions and laid out permanent sample plots in each of the recognized growth types encountered. Growth studies were in charge of Professor Bently, who obtained data for figuring stand, growth, and volume tables. Professor Guise conducted the timber survey and used the strip system. Where the tree growth was such as to warrant, 10 % estimates were made and all trees in the strip calipered. In other cases, strips were run at one quarter mile intervals and estimates made by the use of one-tenth acre circles.

Conclusions arrived at from this field work indicate that, of the entire Chateaugay forest holdings in 1921, 87,724 acres could not be considered as growing any timber or wood supplies that would in any way be merchantable within the twenty-year period, ending in July, 1941. This acreage included reforested lands and areas of small second growth. Of the 32,960 acres, from which some revenue could be expected, 22,749 acres were covered, in part, by a stand of poplar estimated by the Cornell foresters as being capable of producing approximately 100,000 cords between 1937 and 1941.

The 12,500 acres of Chateaugay reforestation is today in excellent condition. This reforestation comprises, in most part, areas set out in Scotch pine, Red pine and White pine. The older Scotch pine plantations contain trees between thirty and thirty-five feet high, and an estimated percentage of living trees in all Scotch pine plantations averages about 80 %. Individual trees run up to nine inches in diameter, measured breast high, although the average pines in our 1908, 1910 and 1912 plantations run about six inches Percentage of catch, or percentage showing the estimated amount of living trees in these plantations, run from fifty per cent for the poorer areas to ninety per cent in what was considered as the best types of planting soil and conditions The earlier Scotch pine plantations are now rapidly approaching a condition where extensive thinnings will be necessary. In addition to the thinnings needed, lateral branches must be pruned to clear the boles or trunks of these trees to improve butt logs for lumber. The work of thinning these plantations is being held up until it can be found possible to do this work at a minimum expense. The thinnings should, in large part, pay for themselves from the salvage that may be obtained. Hardwoods have in numerous cases encroached upon some of the later planted areas so that weeding of undesirable species is now necessary to permit rapid growth of the reforested stock.

Property acquisitions continued until 1928, when the total area of Chateaugay Company lands reached about 150,000 acres. These recent acquisitions were made, some by purchase from individuals and others by County and State tax sales. About 6,500 acres cover farm and forest lands, purchased along the Saranac River in Clinton County, but the bulk of the later purchases included forest lands in different stages of growth, most of which had been lumbered over many times. These properties for the most part are located in townships 3, 4, 8, 9, Old Military Tract and the Refugee Tract, just east of the Military Tract. The Parmalee lands, purchased in 1925, increased the Company holdings by about 7,748 acres and also included some 20,000 acres of mineral rights in Franklin County.

It is generally difficult to accurately forecast expected revenues from forest properties, as fires, insects, disease and weather conditions have in the past usually upset expectations of forest yield, but the indications today are that, before many years, the earlier reforested areas of this Company’s woodlands will be on a self-sustaining basis for a considerable period of time, and will bring substantial revenue to its owners and increased freight business to The Delaware and Hudson Railroad.

The 3 Forge Dams, by Ralph Hoy

My recollections of The Forge Dams…There were Three.

As a youngster I used to visit my grandfather Gaines at the time when he ran the Company Store at ‘the Forge’, formerly known as Popeville, later as The Forge and now sometimes referred to as Chateaugay Lake. The Gaines family lived in the Co. hotel up the hill from the river at the corner where you turn left to the road leading to the West Side of Chateaugay Lake. I spent many happy hours fishing with Fred Gaines from his one-lunge boat, “The Sputterbudget”. As we traveled up river he would tell me the history of the Forge, the old dam upriver from where the “Maggie” and later the “Emma” were docked. The Maggie was still on the East bank and the Emma tied at a dock near the bridge. When the water was low one could see the outline of an underwater dam about 200 yards upriver from the bridge. The old wooden dam which held back the river and lake can now be seen in the recent picture published by The Chateaugay Record. It was also the site of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Co. sawmill, which cut the planks for the plank road, leading to Chateaugay. The sawmill was later operated by the Murphy Family, who were good friends of my father who operated the Hoy mill a mile further down stream. Thus my memory goes back a good 70 years to when the Forge had street names and also house numbers where 800 people had formerly lived. About 1912 a Mr. Trudell also operated a steam sawmill near where the Emma used to tie up. He came from Owls Head. When he closed down, his sawyer, Arthur King then came to work for us for many years. In these days of fuel shortage it is interesting to note that the steam mill was run on sawdust from the large circular saw. Arthur was one of the fastest sawyers to have worked in those parts and a good head of steam provided the speed.

The Forge Dam was designed and built by The Cummings Construction Company of Ware, Mass. The construction engineer was Ed. Harrigan of Plattsburgh and Albany and his time keeper and accountant was a young Mr. Bundy, later a banker in Plattsburgh. Now here is where my close contact with the project came in. It all hinged on a large lumber truck my father had purchased through Eldridge and Mason of Malone, a Stewart heavy duty truck with solid tires, and the largest in the North Country at that time. As my father wished to help me earn my own money to attend Univ. of Michigan that fall he offered me the freight if I would go to Buffalo to drive it home. I took $150 amount of the freight, as the truck had a governor on it, which held the speed to 12 miles per hour. We were three and one half days getting home, the steering so stiff that it took two of us to go around a corner, and I had to crank it by standing on the crank, jumping hard, and the fourth half turn it would start, mileage at 6 per gallon. We no sooner got home than Mr. Harrigan came to see us about moving his equipment from the Rutland freight yards at Chateaugay, the first load being a 6 ton donkey engine, run by steam’ to handle the huge wooden derrick and boom with which to take out the old wood dam and excavate for the new one. Johnnie Shay went with me to help get it loaded off a flat car and onto the truck. He also rode on top of the boiler with a long pole in his hands to raise the wires on Lake Street so we’d get by without being electrocuted. Anyhow we made it on the old county road.

If you will visit the dam site today you will see a large mound of old timber, rock and debris just back of the west portion of the dam. Everything was removed but the remains of the old dam parts, which were used as a coffer dam to hold back or to direct the flow while the new dam was being constructed. I can recall the type of construction, involving a huge, thick mat or deck on which the upper concrete was erected. I, for one, believe that it will be there for another 58 years for I know what went into its construction. Once I had safely delivered the donkey engine, derrick and a supply of coal to run it Ed. Harrigan gave me a verbal contract to haul all the cement, reinforcing steel and gravel to build the dam. It was a six-mile plus haul from the freight yard in Chateaugay to The Forge. I was to get $2.25 per ton for hauling the cement in cotton bags weighing about 100 lbs. each. I would also get the same price per ton for hauling the 1-inch by 38 foot steel rods, using a lumber wagon tied behind the trucks 13 platform to hold up the rest. My father agreed to let me have the truck if I would drive it, load the cement, buy the gas and keep the profit. My helper was Roy Johnston of the Salvation Army. who came home with me each summer from school in Potsdam. Soon we were starting out at 6:30 each morning for Chateaugay, loading and unloading 3 tons of cement each trip, making six trips a day and getting through about 6:30 each night. In this manner we could haul 21 tons each day, six days a week. When two of us picked up a rod of steel at each end the rod would sag to the ground in the middle. If we picked up the middle the ends would touch the ground. Anyhow we hauled until Sept. 20th when I left for Michigan and Rev. Bennie Grant offered to take over the driving for me to finish the contract. A minister in those days could stand a little extra salary, especially in Brainardsville. Anyhow he stuck with the job until it was completed, including hauling the gravel from Jay Thurber’s pit on the Miller Road. Both Roy Johnston and I played for some dances after hours, as he was a top trumpet player. The week after he left he was picked up by Bob Crosby’s Orchestra at $200 per week, much better than the $2 per day and board he got working with me. Hauling cement was a backbreaking job, and worse when they ran out of cement bags and had to take the cement in powder lost in closed freight cars. We sometimes made up time by coasting from the top of Person’s Hill on the old county road. One hitchhiker who was riding on the back of the truck bounded up and down like a Billy Goat.

Many lumber jacks and river men worked on the actual building of the dam as well as some of the Kirby boys in Brainardsville, some of the Blows, Gardners, Knights, Bracys and others who lived in the area. I do not recall that anyone was injured during the construction, and Ed. Harrigans hopes of having it done by Christmas was realized. I came home for Christmas vacation and wanted to see Ed. again. I came from the R.R. by sleigh on a dark night and passed Harrigan‘s sleigh at the Persons woods, stopping just long enough to say hello as he was on his way to the night train.

In 1929 during my own contracting days I built a small dam of the same design for the City of Herkimer Water Works, located at Gravesville. Therefore I knew the type of construction which went into it. Around 1928 a small leak developed in a wing wall at the west end of the dam, which one of my crews repaired with a small truckload of crushed stone and sand from Lyon Mt., a small portable mixer and a local crew. It was a two or three-day job and the last I knew it still held. The West Gate was seldom opened during high water, most of the flow going through the East Gate. As I have fished there in recent years I have notice some scaling of the cement but the wing walls have held and the mat am the base seemed as solid as ever. As I own the next dam, one mile downstream, I am as interested as anyone else, as my dam is anchored to 18 X 18 sixty foot hemlock hewed timbers in the bottom of the pond which have been there for well over 125 years and are as solid and sound as ever.

Much credit for there being a Forge Dam goes to the memory of Ed. Wright, who had the interest of the Lake and The River at heart. He was the one who got it built. I also knew the engineers of the Cummings Construction Co. of Ware. Mass., as I worked with them on the estimates for construction of The Wead Library in Malone, which was built of Crippen Stone during the depression days at a price around $40,000. One could hardly build a good-sized hen coop for that today. Cummings was a reputable firm and the Forge Dam, which has stood the test of 1920 to 1978, is proof that they did a good job.

As a sidelight to the above story one late afternoon as we were heading back to Chateaugay for another load of cement I called out to a native who lived near the company store that his house was on fire and he better hurry home. His answer to me was “I ain’t going to hurry just for that, someone will put it out before I get there” Next trip I noticed he was right.

I am anxious to have an opinion from my son when he visits the Forge over Thanksgiving. He is with the Pittsburgh office of the Army Corps of Engineers, whose territory takes in the dams and locks of the three rivers, Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

Submitted for what it is worth by Ralph Hoy.

Spirits Now Rest in Bellmont Ghost Town

Both the beginning and the end came quickly for Popeville, called Bellmont, called Lower Chateaugay Lake, called Chateaugay Lake Post Office, called the Forge or the Old Forge.

It sprang into being full grown on the day it started its iron making operations, with twenty or more residences, a saw mill, a store, a blacksmith shop, and an eight-fire forge, already larger than the majority of north country Catalan forges which averaged from three to six fires. It was planned by Pope, Williams & Co., and outfitted with steamboats, barges, and several clusters of charcoal kilns to supply it.

It died by an act of simple abandonment, almost without warning. In May of its final year, the company (by this time the Chateaugay Ore & Iron Co.) opened the spring season by drawing ore to the docks at the forge site, and appeared to be doing business as usual. In October, 1893, the company announced that the forge would be abandoned within two weeks, after 19 years of nearly continuous operation around the clock. Within that 19 years, a busy industrious village had grown up around the iron works.

It was founded around a single industry and a romantic anachronism called the Catalan forge. It was located on a nearly inaccessible site with rough terrain for miles in any direction, on the banks of the Chateaugay River at the outlet of Chateaugay Lake. It was tied to its source of raw materials by twelve miles of lake and strait, and four and one-half miles of primitive roads. It was tied to its markets by five hundred miles of railroad track, and six and one-half miles of plank and dirt road.

The wonder is not that it died so early, but that it survived as long as it did, or that it was ever founded.

That incident in history can be credited to the efforts of three Plattsburgh businessmen. Smith Mead Weed, lawyer, politician, industrialist, was born in the Town of Bellmont. He knew the particular site as well as any many man alive. Meads and Weeds had owned the land on which the village was located for years.

Weed was involved, with Andrew Williams, in a company, which had purchased and was developing mineral claims in the Lyon Mountain area. By 1874, this firm was producing more ore than Williams’ forges on the Saranac River could successfully handle.

Weed, Williams, and L. Gardner Pope joined together to acquire the Belmont property, locating a massive forge not far from an abandoned iron works erected in 1802 by William Bailey, closer yet to the lumber mill of Erastus S. Mead who conveyed the property to Pope, Williams & Co.

Williams had a long history of association with various phases of the iron industry in the North Country, and a rather depressing fable grew up around him. He was associated during one time or another in his life with at least five separate ghost towns in Clinton and Franklin Counties, Popeville being one of them. The others were Elsinore, Williamsburgh, and Petersburgh (called Irondale) on the Saranac River, and Bradley Pond near Lyon Mountain.

Williams was born in Canada and immigrated to northern New York. He was soon associated with the business interests of Amasa Moore at Elsinore and later partnered with Weed, concentrating heavily on iron ore mining and iron manufacture.

He also ran for and won the position of representative in the New York State Assembly, at least once engaging in a bitterly contested campaign against his business partner, Smith Weed.

Not much can be traced of the life of L. Gardner Pope. Conflicting reports place his birth alternately in Ogdensburg and in Plattsburgh. His association with Popeville was brief, and the use of his name in reference to the village was uncommon after 1881.

His path can be traced westward at this point, for the Chateaugay Record of July 1, 1887, ran an exchange item from the Chicago News which located him in that area.

The story of the building of the iron works at Belmont (even then the name Popeville was not used exclusively, even locally) which ran in the Plattsburgh Sentinal, Sept. 4, 1874, described Pope as “the driving wheel in the concern” and called him the company’s agent at the iron works.

Incidental mentions of his name in news accounts place Pope in Popeville up to the establishment of the Chateaugay Ore & Iron Co.. in 1881. His name is conspicuously missing from the list of officers of this company at its incorporation meeting.

The period covering the latter half of the nineteenth century was an era of boom for the iron industry in northern New York. Linney notes that by 1883 there were 277 forges in the Lake Champlain district. In 1890, there were only 14. The greatest period of activity in construction took place after 1848.

The nearly unlimited water power of the numerous streams and rivers which cross and recross the Adirondack chain, and the amount and quality of the iron ore found and mined here, made the locale ideal for the production of iron. Great motive power was needed for the operation of the heavy hammers associated with the Catalan blooming process.

Banks of the Saranac, the Great Chazy, the Ausable Rivers were already settled with forges and mills when the Chateaugay Ore Co. was formed in the 1870’s. Pope, Williams & Co. seems to have chosen the Chateaugay River site as much for its scanty development as for its continuous and safe water route over half the distance from the ore supply to the nearest railroad.

Ore was freighted four and one-half miles from the Chateaugay Ore bed in Lyon Mountain to the southern shore of Upper Chateaugay Lake.

A steamboat then hauled it in barges up the twelve-mile water route provided by the Chateaugay Lake and strait system. This water complex comprised the millpond associated with the dam at Popeville, for the damming of the river at its outlet from Lower Chateaugay Lake raised the two lakes by four and one-half feet.

Below the dam on the north bank of the Chateaugay River the company built its forge. It started in 1874 with eight fires and two hammers and increased periodically until in 1880 twenty fires and three hammers were operating.

The operation of the iron works was complex and somewhat ponderous. “The company ore barges are brought up to the dock at Belmont,” reads a Plattsburgh Republican story. “A wooden tramway on the deck forms a continuation of another on shore which runs up a step grade on trestle works, a care comes creeping down the track on board; it is loaded and moved away drawn by a cable which hauls it by water power operated from the forge below. The car dumps and returns without visible direction.” (Sept. 14, 1878)

From the Chateaugay Record: “Separated ore is first put into the fires and run into blooms. These blooms are then taken in grapples (called grampuses) at the fires, and run on a track to the three hammers, weighing seven tons each. The hammers are driven by twenty foot undershot wheels. Each semi-turn of the wheels raises the hammers and their full weight falls upon the blooms. Particles of ore are thus welded through the entire bloom for the ore is not melted in these fires.” (Aug. 10, 1888)

J. R. Linney in his history of the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Co. describes the furnace as “an open hearth, about two and one-half by three and one-half feet, with a stack 20 to 25 feet high for carrying off the gases.

“The operation consisted of a charcoal fire stimulated by a blast of air, iron ore and charcoal in small quantities being added alternately by bloomsmen, who also adjusted and regulated the fire, until a batch of iron called a loupe, weighing about 300 pounds, was made. This usually took about three hours.”

It was a cumbersome and, toward the end, a prohibitively expensive process.

The failure of the Catalan forge bloomery to compete with the pigging and puddling processes which produced an acceptable product at half the price marked the end for blooming, and with it the end of Popeville which existed only as a center for iron bloomery.

Contributing to its abandonment were several other minor and major problems: its inaccessibility, its primitive roads and failure to establish rail connections with either its ore source or its market outlet, its failure to diversify its industrial base, the increasing scarcity of forest for the manufacture of charcoal, its obsolete iron making machinery, and the depression of 1893.

All along its way to abandonment Popeville scored records. The purity of its product was unexcelled, its forge was the largest in the world, its dam used two lakes and a strait for a mill pond, its existence as a settlement must have set some sort of record for brevity, and it was in its lifetime the largest village in the Town of Belmont.

Recent road maps locate a place called the Forge at the northern end of Lower Chateaugay Lake. If a traveler expects to see a village at that site he is sorely disappointed.

Two houses remain, one the residence of the Weed family in a seriously advanced stage of decay, the other the Mead residence, purchased from Erastus S. Mead and used to house the village doctor, Albert Johnson, now the residence building of a dairy farm.

A series of crumbling foundations on the east riverbank identify the site of the forge and perhaps the sawmill or Smithy. At the Forge site are rocklined tunnels in the riverbank associated with the flume. All other traces of human industry have disappeared.

At the corner where the bridge road intersects with Route 374 stands a New York State Education Department marker. It reads, “On this site was built in 1874 the world’s largest Catalan Forge abandoned in 1893.”

Chateaugay Lake History Project

Several years ago I created a website to share the historical materials about Chateaugay Lake that I’ve gathered and collected. Sources include materials from the scrapbook of my father, John D. Miles [1918-1982]. The earliest newspaper cuttings from his scrapbook dated from before he was before, therefore this project actually began with his grandparents John D. and Settie Blow Miles, with whom he lived with his sister since about the age of 4.

John and Settie must have been very special people: in addition to raising their own 3 children, Bessie, Maurice, and Frank, and a fourth child, Theodore Miles, who was an illegitimate child of John’s, they also brought up 4 of their grandparents: John and Peggy LaPoint Tourville, my dad and his sister Mayfred Miles Otis. That’s a lot of love!

My great-grandparents bought the family farm in 1890 from Millard Bellows. The property originally belonged to Fred Shutts. Shutts built a small house across from Lewis Bellows’ Lakehouse in 1844 [Charles E. Merrill, Old Guide’s Story, p. 67], who sold it to Darius Merrill. Darius and Sarah Merrill moved into their new home in October, 1864. Upon Merrill’s death, the property was passed on to his son-in-law Lee Stone, who married Minnie Merrill, in 1887. The Stones sold the property to Millard Bellows, a fine boatbuilder, who sold it to John and Settie in 1890.

My great-grandfather was a grandson of John D. and Martha Emerson Miles, who were original pioneers that settled at Chateaugay Lake in 1825. He went into business with John Jackson, and operated a gristmill known as the Jackson and Miles Mill. This mill was located on the west bank of the Chateaugay Outlet where the present dam is currently situated. There apparently was a $500 mortgage between Miles and Roswell Weed, an employee that moved to the area from Plattsburgh. John Smith Kirby writes that Weed bought the mill from Jackson in 1830; however, the mortgage (signed by Roswell Weed and Judge Gideon Collins) and deed in the Franklin County courthouse indicate that Miles and Jackson were bought out by Weed in 1826. That’s why Seaver’s History indicates that Weed “took over” the mill. Roswell Weed continued to purchase land along the lakeshore, and added a sawmill.

John D. Miles, the pioneer from New Hampshire, was also known as “Squire Miles”. He served as supervisor for the Town of Chateaugay. He also was a stonecutter who cut millwheels out of granite for the local mills. He cut two millwheels for the Douglas Mill down in Chateaugay. There is also a millwheel down at Hoy’s mill, that I strongly suspect was cut by Miles, despite Ralph Hoy’s claim that the wheel was brought over from Hoy Island in Scotland.

My great-grandfather had a small farm, of perhaps 15 cows. In the winter he cut wood, and in the springtime worked a sugarbush up back on the hill. When I was a kid, the sugar shack was still intact, but today the stove used for boiling sap is all that remains. Bob Reynolds told me that John, who was a “giant”, also worked down at the Chateaugay Lake Forge, operated by the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company. The COIC abandoned their iron works in 1893.

After my great-grandfather passed away, my dad stayed on the family farm. In 1939 or 1940, my dad bought a brand-new Ford truck. He was hired by Sullivan and used his truck to draw pulpwood on the west side of Chateaugay Lake. No wonder my dad knew the woods like the back of his hands! Later on Dad worked for the Town of Chateaugay with Bob Cook plowing the roads. I have many photos of what it used to look like when the snowbanks were 10 feet high or so. When construction started on the Seaway, Dad started working on heavy equipment, and apparently became good at it. He loved to drive a Caterpillar bulldozer, and also loved to talk about being on a roadjob. He would rattle on endlessly. My dad seemed to know everybody, which always amazed me; later on, I learned that he was a Freemason, so that more or less explains how he knew all these other people.

My dad kept all kinds of records: he maintained numerous clippings from the NYS Conservation magazine, and kept a journal detailing the weather as well as other odd entries. I lost one of the journals, probably the second one, whilst moving from Branson back to Chateaugay Lake, but I have all of the others, and someday will transcribe them to this history.

His scrapbook consisted mainly of historical clippings, as well as items about cousins and neighbors. Because it was so interesting, I began scanning the photos he’d collected as well as transcribing the historical texts, and uploaded a lot of this material to a website in 1998.

That website seems to be rather popular, based on the number of hits it receives. Also, it seems as though everybody and their brother now links to it, including Wikipedia. Therefore, although my site is in need of an overhaul and redesign, because these other people have linked not to my index page, but to subdirectories, something that really isn’t the best idea, I’m now more or less forced to maintain those pages that have links to the various articles.

However, I’ve decided to move the individual articles and photos to a blog format. For one thing, I dislike the ads that are now on the original site. Another reason, is that the blogs offer somewhat of a more open format, but what I really like is the fact that other people can leave comments on the various articles that I post. In this way, I hope that others will read, and perhaps even contribute to our history.