Warren County Historical Society Presents …
November 15, 2014
From 1959 through 1965 Howard Mason dictated his local history column to his daughter who typed the material and sent it to the local newspapers for publication. Howard had the good fortune to live in the greater Glens Falls area during a time of great change. Warren County and the Town of Queensbury changed from an agrarian to a suburban environment. Through his columns, he was able to tell this story of change and recall the hundreds of people whom he met during his lifetime.
The Warren County Historical Society has reprinted Howard Mason’s books, Backward Glances, Volumes I, II & III into one volume. Fully indexed, the new volume includes some new photographs. It is available from the Historical Society for $30.00, tax included (add $5 for shipping and handling). Call 743-0734 for details or stop in the office on Tuesday or Thursday from 9 am – 5 pm.
The following is an article taken from Volume I of Backward Glances, by Howard Mason, printed sometime before 1963.
Today Pattens Mills is a ghost town.
There are not more than half as many houses in it today as there were in 1889. One new house and barn have been built in the past 100 years.
Seventy years ago it was a bustling little village. There were three grocery or general stores as country stores in those days sold almost everything. The store on the south side of the bridge which spans the Halfway Brook was kept by Fred E. Selleck, brother of A. J. Selleck of the O. C. Smith Co., for about 60 years. The store on the north side of the bridge was kept by Charles Rayder and his wife, Clarissa. They also had the Post Office. Mr. Rayder was a patriarchal looking man with whiskers as long as John Brown’s. He always wore a black silk skull cap.
The third store was kept by John Lavery in one part of his house in the north end of the village. The house burned some time ago. This is the same John Lavery who owned and for many years ran the store used in recent years by Doyle’s Garden Center. He prospered and built himself a fine home on the opposite corner of Sanford and Bay Streets. (The house is still standing.) He also built several other houses between there and Stoddard Avenue which he rented and sold. When Mr. Lavery had his store in Pattens Mills he didn’t have much capital and consequently didn’t carry a big stock but did a fast turnover.
On rainy days Harrisena farmers would come to the “Hollow” (It was called “Frog Hollow” by everyone in those days) to get their horses shod or machinery repaired. They would make a day of it, visiting around at the grist mill, three grocery stores and woodworking shop. As I already said, Mr. Lavery didn’t carry a big stock and those farmers got a big kick out of doing just this – Before leaving for home they would go to Lavery’s and buy everything in the store leaving him with bare shelves. So he said to me, “I made up my mind to cure ’em of that. I got a flour barrel full of black pepper, along with the regular line. Next time they came to buy me out, one by one they began to back up. But Brayton Harris, grandfather of H. Russell Harris, didn’t bat an eyelash. He says “I’ll take the pepper”. That barrel, about a third full is still in the Henry Harris home I suppose”.
After Henry B. Harris’ death, his sons held an auction and I bought the barrel of pepper. After the auction Henry M. Harris asked me to sell it back to him, which I did, and I suppose it is back in its old niche in the pantry.
John Lavery’s daughter Claire is still living at West Fort Ann, I believe. In the ’80’s there was quite an influx of Swedes in this section. All three blacksmiths were Swedes – Adolph Been, John Olsen and Gustave Surnburg. There were also Osbergs. Mrs. LeRoy Harris and Mrs. Axel Anderson – their father was Nelson Osberg. There were Holmquists who later removed to Clark’s Corners.
Freelon Orcutt kept a woodworking shop and made and repaired wagons and sleighs. His father was the local undertaker. He made the caskets himself. I have one that he made. It is now in the Fort William Henry museum. He kept his hearse in a brick building next to the grist mill. He kept no horses but when he had a funeral some farmer would furnish a team for the hearse.
The grist mill as I knew it ran by water power and was built in 1802 by Johnny Adams. There was a mill built here prior to 1800 by John Jones. Very little is known about it. Albert Lashway owned and ran the mill all the time I knew about it. Falling water always fascinated me and when I would take grain for my father to the mill to be ground, while waiting I would go out on a foot bridge below the dam and watch the water flow over the dam. It was about 1903 that Eugene Ashley was building Spier Dam. I went there several times to watch the work and I thought, “Why couldn’t I do the same thing with Pattens Mills and produce electricity for the whole neighborhood.”
So the following year, 1904, the old mill was for sale and I bought it. It was my first real estate venture but I didn’t get to make any electricity. Instead, I tore the mill down. There was no further use for it as farmers didn’t grind grain any more but put it in silos. The timber from that mill I used in building the dance hall at Cleverdale. Then I sold the land and dam site to the City of Glens Falls. The city recently sold the same to Lionel Beakbane.
Seventy years ago Pattens Mills had a resident doctor. He was Dr. John T. Barnes, grandfather of the present John T. Barnes (electrical business). His son, the late Ernest (Doc) Barnes ran the Ford Hospital on William Street and later built his own garage on Bay Street, later sold to Harold Jenkins. Dr. Barnes was followed by Dr. James H. Bowen who in 1898 formed a party to go to the Klondike. Others in that party whom I remember were Elmer Belden and Volney Richmond. Dr. Bowen and Mr. Belden didn’t get rich but Volney Richmond became a very wealthy man. Not by digging gold however, but by establishing a line of supply stations and trading posts which I understand still go on. Also, he had large government mail contracts.
In the center of Pattens Mills is the Worster farmhouse where 65 years ago Joe Worster lived. As I remember him he looked like Edwin M. Stanton, President Lincoln’s Secretary of War. He had two sons, Sherman F. Worster and Ernest Worster.
Ernest had the first safety bicycle with pneumatic tires I ever saw. Edwin S. Worster, local newspaper editorial writer, is the son of Sherman Worster.
So if you want to see a real ghost town right nearby, drive slowly through Pattens Mills.
Patten’ Mills or Harris Cemetery, Vaughn Road Town of Kingsbury 1/4 mile East of Sanford’s Ridge.
Note: To find Pattens Mills, you can drive east on Route 149 to the intersection of Buttermilk Falls Road. There is a Stove store on your left. At that intersection, turn right onto Pattens Mills Road. It is a beautiful drive of about two mils and it is easy to see where the hamlet of Pattens Mills stood next to the Halfway Brook.
© November 15, 2014, Warren County Historical Society