The first Harrietstown Town Hall, built in 1888. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 18, 1986. The Town of Harrietstown, New York is in the southeast corner of Franklin County. It has a population of 5,575, most of which is concentrated in the village of Saranac Lake, where the Harrietstown Town Hall is located.

Communities and locations in Harrietstown include:

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 18, 1986

Naming of North Country towns a family affair

Harrietstown named for land baron's daughter


Of the three towns which presently corner inside the Village of Saranac Lake, Harrietstown is the largest in both area and population. This is well known, of course, but one might ask who was Harriet?

In the famous land grab of 1792, Alexander Macomb purchased almost four million acres of land in northern New York paying the State merely eight pence per acre. When he turned his business interests to banking, however, he did not fare so well. He soon over-extended his financial capability to the point where he was forced to divest himself of huge parcels of his northern Iands. An associate of Macomb in the original purchase, William Constable, quickly picked up nearly two million acres or about half of the entire holdings. Macomb moved his real estate interests closer to New York City and vanished from the Adirondack scene.

Constable was a wealthy merchant coming to New York from either England or Ireland, take your pick. Seaver's "History of Franklin County" claims England while Donaldson lists his birthplace as Dublin. In any event, William Constable played an important part in the naming of civil divisions in northern New York. He divided his land holdings into townships which he named for his family and associates. He also named several for Irish locales such as Killarney, Tipperary and Barrymore, which leads one to believe that Donaldson was right. As you might have guessed, he also named one for his eldest daughter, Harriet.

Marriage takes precedence

As Franklin County was eventually divided into towns, most of the township designations disappeared entirely from lack of use and were replaced by numbers. By marriage to Major James Duane, Harriet gave up not only her maiden name but also lost her little township to her husband. The Town of Duane, formed from the Town of Malone in 1828, was named by Constable for his son-in-law and extended south to include the area that was later to become Saranac Lake. The political seat was situated in the northern sector of the town at the hamlet of Duane Center. Apparently this arrangement was resented by the residents in the south who had to travel so far to vote. At an early town meeting a surprisingly large contingent from the Saranac River area showed up to out-number Duane's partisans and voted that the next town meeting should be held in their end of the town. Major Duane, wanting no part in having to travel 30 miles on horseback to vote, arranged a partition of the town into two smaller towns. The southern half he named "Harrietstown" to honor his wife, so Harriet regained her place in civil nomenclature and this time it was permanent. A later partition in 1858 created the Town of Brighton which was sandwiched in between Duane and Harrietstown.

When the Town of Harrietstown was formed in 1840, Captain Pliny Miller became the first supervisor and four years later the population had reached 129 hardy residents. Skipping to 1876, Beer's Atlas of Franklin County designated the settlement area as the "South Woods" and mentions such business activity as: Orlando Blood's Hotel, Milo B. Miller's general store, Ensine Miller's saw and grist mill, George Washer's shingle factory, and H.M. Frenga's carriage shop. Water was dipped from the Saranac River, the only fuel was firewood and the mail came in by stage coach three days a week from AuSable Forks. Despite this shortage of amenities, the settlement was still the up and coming community chosen to be the town seat.

Growth spurs need for town hall

Twelve years later the area had grown to the point whereby it was deemed necessary to have a Town Hall. Apparently there was no such issue as conflict of interest in those days since a member of the town board, Van Buren Miller, sold the town a building site for $1,500. Members of the board in 1888 were J. Herbert Miller, Supervisor; William Walton, Town Clerk, Walter Slater, James Philbrooks, George Williams, and Van Buren Miller, Town Justices. The building site was where the present Town Hall is located and the project was bonded for $10,000. Yet another variance from today's way of life followed when the building was completed not only on schedule but within the budget as well! This was no minor feat since the edifice was three stories high, 85 feet long, 40 feet wide and featured a tower with a four-faced town clock.

The successful construction of the building was due in no small part to the competent supervision of R.E. Woodruff, who was paid a salary of $3.50 per day to act in that capacity. Once completed the building contained a variety of public service accommodations in addition to the Town offices. An auditorium on the second floor had a stage where plays and minstrel shows provided entertainment for the entire community. It. also served as the Catholic Church until St. Bernard's Parish constructed their own church. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Kiwassa Rebekah Lodge also shared quarters here. The business office of the Adirondack Enterprise was located on the first floor while the printing press took over the basement. The newspaper was a weekly at that time and did not become a daily until Nov. 1, 1926. Off the main corridor was the village police office and jail. School classes were also held in the Town Hall until the new Main Street school was completed. When we entered World War I, Troop B of the National Guard was mobilized and trained in the building. As if all these functions were not enough, it also served as a sub post office to handle the overflow of seasonal holiday parcel post packages. Both Town and Village elections were held there and the first motion pictures to arrive were shown in the auditorium.

When the armistice was signed, which ended World War I, the news was first flashed to the community by the ringing of the tower bell. Volunteer bell rope pullers took turns to keep the good news ringing throughout the day. Both the I.O.O.F. and the B.P.O.E. used the Town Hall to distribute food and clothing to the needy. Unfortunately, all of these functions were brought to a sudden halt by a disastrous fire.

Destroyed by fire

On the night of July 26-27, 1926 the old Town Hall went down in flames of unknown origin. As the blaze swept up through the tower, the faithful town clock struck 2 a.m. just minutes before crashing to its doom. The jail was not manned during the night hours and when an inmate smelled smoke, he began, to shout for help. Fortunately, there happened to be a late session poker games at the Empire Hotel next door. Hearing the loud screams the gamblers rushed into the burning building where they found three inmates locked in their cells, but there was no way of freeing them from the iron bars. At this point, James Egan, the night watchman of the Riverside Inn, arrived and he knew where the police kept the keys. The men dragged the three prisoners out of the building and rushed them to the hospital where they were treated for burns by Dr. Charles Trembley.

The passing of the venerable edifice brought great sadness to both town and village. It would be sorely missed by a community which had become so accustomed to all of its functions over a period of 38 years. The town fathers wasted no time lamenting over the loss but decided to rebuild immediately. This time the building would be of fireproof construction using steel and brick. The new town hall was completed in 1928 and for the past 58 years has served the area needs so agreeably that only the most senior of our citizens can recall that ancient refuge which at one time seemed to be irreplaceable.

Frederick J. Seaver, Historical Sketches of Franklin County, Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Co., 1918 (text)



Harrietstown was erected from Duane March 19, 1841, and included originally three townships. A township and a half taken from Brandon was added in 1883. It has 134,247 assessed acres, is mountainous in considerable part, contains many lakes and ponds, and has only a comparatively small area, in the northern section, that is adapted to agriculture, the pursuit of which is heavily handicapped by early and late frosts. Among the larger waters are Lower and Middle Saranac lakes, a part of each of Upper Saranac and Upper St. Regis, and Lake Clear. The more noteworthy of the smaller waters are Ampersand, Follansby, Colby, Oseetah, Lake Flower and Kiwassa (formerly Lonesome). Lake Flower is an expansion of the Saranac river, and lies within the corporate limits of Saranac Lake village. On the shores of these several waters are many summer hotels and wilderness cottages or camps, some of which represent the expenditure of many thousand dollars and reflect a wealth of care and adornment of grounds that make them exceedingly attractive. The only considerable stream in the town is the Saranac river, which takes a tortuous course of perhaps six or eight miles through the eastern and northern part before passing into Essex county. The Chateaugay Railroad runs for five or six miles almost along the eastern boundary before swinging to its terminus at Lake Placid; the Paul Smith Electric Railway runs northerly from Lake Clear Junction into Brighton; and the main line of the Adirondack and St. Lawrence extends in a southwesterly direction for five or six miles through the northern part, with a branch running from Lake Clear to Saranac Lake village.

The town takes its name from Harriet, eldest daughter of William Constable and wife of James Duane. Hough's story attributes its erection to pique on the part of Major Duane, occasioned by a vote at the town meeting in 1840 providing that the next such meeting be held at Saranac Lake, thirty-odd miles distant from Major Duane's home. Hough states that this action was accomplished through an unusual and unexpected attendance at the meeting by so many voters from Saranac Lake that they had control; and that, resenting the procedure and resolved not to be inconvenienced again by having to drive a long distance in order to attend an election, Major Duane forced a partition of the town against the wish and remonstrance of the Saranac Lake people. But inasmuch as Major Duane was continued as supervisor in 1841, which would hardly have been the case if there had really been serious friction between the two sections of the town, I think that the Hough account should be received with some degree of allowance.

Another town meeting story runs that in early days, when it was the custom of every elector to go to the polls in the morning, and stay through until the votes had been counted, the canvass showed upon one such occasion something like twenty Democratic ballots to one lone Whig, whereupon Captain Pliny Miller, for many years the political autocrat of Harrietstown, forbade announcement of the result, insisting that some one had made a mistake, and that the vote must be retaken. After everybody had voted a second time, the count showed twenty-one straight Democratic ballots, which, naturally, was sufficient and satisfactory. Still another anecdote with a political tang represents that a visitor once reminded Milote Baker as he closed his store for the night that he had neglected to lock the door, to which Mr. Baker responded that it was quite unnecessary to fasten anything since there was not a Whig in town.

Settlement in Harrietstown began prior to 1820, but was of slow development for sixty years or more, as census figures show:

1845 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1905 1910 1915
129 181 340 416 533 1582 3390 4133 4755 4716

While the figures for 1915 are slightly below those for 1910 it is claimed that the decrease is apparent only, due to the fact that in the one case visitors were erroneously enumerated, while in the other none but actual, permanent residents were counted. The number of aliens is returned as 218.

Supervisors (p. 810)

Pliny Miller, 1841-44; Alanson B. Neal, 1845; Pliny Miller, 1846-50; Alanson B. Neal, 1851-52; William F. Martin, 1853; Virgil C. Bartlett, 1854; Alanson B. Neal, 1855-56; William F. Martin, 1857-58; Leonard Nokes, 1859; Alanson B. Neal, 1860; Leonard Nokes, 1861-62; Orlando Blood, 1863-65; Van Buren Miller, 1866-73; Milo B. Miller, 1874-75; William F. Martin, 1876-78; Van Buren Miller, 1879-82; R. Eugene Woodruff, 1883; J. Herbert Miller, 1884-86; F. M. Bull, 1887; J. Herbert Miller, 1888-89; Alonzo Dudley, 1890; John Harding, 1891; Richard Mclntyre, 1892-95; Frank E. Kendall, 1896-97; William A. Walton, 1898-1900; John Harding, 1901-03; Euclid C. Pine, 1904-08; James A. Latour, 1909-15; William H. Moore, 1915-18. Also, Bill Gallagher; Larry Miller -2012; and Bob Bevilacqua 2012-.


Town Clerks

Margaret Haig (died December 31, 2018)

The Palladium Malone, Thursday, Jan. 2, 1862

Abstract of Accounts audited by the Board of Town Auditors of the town of Harrietstown, at their annual session, Nov 7, 1861.

  Names and nature of Demand Claim. Allow'd
1 Leonard Nokes, supervisor 6.50 6.50
2 Van Buren Miller, town clerk, 12.75 12.75
3 Agustus Torrence, justice of the peace 7.44 7.44
4 A B Neal do 12.00 12.00
5 John B Miller, supervisor and ins. election 12.00 12.00
6 Horatio N. Otis, assessor 6.75 6.75
7 John W. Miller, assessor 6.75 6.75
8 I J Works [sic] com. h. w. & ins. election 19.50 19.50
9 John Rork, jr., commissioner highways 6.00 6.00
10 Absalom Manning, commissioner highways 14.00 14.00
11 Thomas Manning, inspector of election 5.25 5.25
12 Joseph Manning, overseer of highways 5.68 5.68
13 Amos Johnson, assessor for 1859 4.50 4.50
14 Samuel McConly, overseer of highways 1.00 1.00
15 Obadiah Brown, constable, criminal case .68 .68
16 Ephraim Nokes, constable 6.00 6.00

The Palladium Malone, Thursday, Dec 19, 1867

Abstract of Accounts audited by the Board of Town Auditors of the town of Harrietstown, at their annual session, Nov 7, 1867.

  Names and nature of Demand Claim. Allow'd
1 Augustus Torrance, insp'r of elect'ns, 14.00 14.00
2 Imer I. Works [sic] com'r of highways, 7.50 7.50
3 J. Egglesfield, oversear, 1.50 1.50
4 Charles Manning, com'r of highways, 4.50 4.50
5 Leonard Nokes, " " " " 7.50 7.50
6 Orlando Blood, clerk of elections, 22.50 22.50
7 J. H. Farrington, " " " " 3.00 3.00
8 Horatio N. Otis, " " " " 12.00 12.00
9 Van Buren Miller, supervisor, 25.75 25.75
10 George Ring, assessor. 4.50 4.50
11 Ransom Reynolds, collector 2.00 2.00
12 Milo B. Miller, town clerk 10.00 10.00
13 Reuben Reynolds, constable in 1866 1.05 1.05
14 V. B. Miller, justice of the peace in 1866 1.75 1.75

The Palladium Malone, Thursday, Dec 21, 1871

Abstract of Accounts audited by the Board of Town Auditors of the town of Harrietstown, at their annual session, Nov 9, 1871.

  Names and nature of Demand Claim. Allow'd
1 J. A. Philbrook, town clerk, 1870 21.00 21.00
2 H. N. Otis, com'r. of highways, 7.50 7.50
3 Alexis LaBonty, assessor 11.00 11.00
4 J. I. Miller, ass'r and insp. of elec., 14.00 14.00
5 A. D. Baker, inspector of election, 2.00 2.00
6 A. Torrence, J. of P. and ins. of elec., 25.00 25.00
7 D. S. Moody, t'wn cl;k. & ins. of elec., 23.00 23.00
8 O. Blood, justice of the peace 6.00 6.00
9 Van Buren Miller, supervisor 16.00 16.00
10 J. J. & J. K. Seaver, printing 8.35 8.35
11 R. Blood, com'r of highways, 9.00 9.00
12 G. Blood, overseer do 4.00 4.00
13 J. Egglefield, do do 4.00 4.00
14 N. Reynolds, do do 4.00 4.00
15 C. Brown, inspector of election, 2.00 2.00

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 2, 1970

The Year 1908

The town of Harrietstown probably deserves today the distinction which formerly belonged to Brighton of having the best roads in Franklin County, though Brighton is undoubtedly a close second. The highway connecting Saranac Inn with Saranac Inn station, though in the Town of Santa Clara, is probably the finest bit of road in the entire county and it is now to be extended from the station to the Harrietstown town line under the efficient direction of Mr. Willard Boyce. In Harrietstown the Messrs. Swenson of New York, cottage owners on Upper Saranac Lake, have recently constructed at their own expense a stretch of road between Wawbeek, Hiawatha Lodge and the Saranac Club, and the town of Harrietstown is about to accept it as a public highway The cost of the work was $15,000.