Area Profile - History
This town is located upon the eastern border of the county, centrally distant seventeen miles from Salem, one of the half-shire towns. It is bounded on the north by Whitehall and Hampton, east by Vermont, south by Hebron, west by Hartford and Fort Ann. It ontains thirty-three thousand one hundred and forty three acres, or nearly fifty-two square miles.
The surface of the town is undulating and hilly. The ridges are elevated from three hundred to five hundred feet above the valleys. A large portion of the township lies on what is sometimes called the Granville river, though it is better known historically as the Pawlet, the name Granville not applying to the stream until after is receives the tributaries near North Granville. It has somewhat romantically been called the Mettawee. In most of the town the slopes of the hills are gradual, and with few or no precipitous heights; the valleys are delightful. There is a quiet pastoral beauty, very attractive and charming, in the natural scenery of the town. The surface is drained almost wholly by the stream already named and its tributaries.
A range of slate deposits passes through the center of the town, mostly on the southwestern bank of the Pawlet, which furnishes an inexhaustible supply of roofing material and stock for other purposes. Clay for the manufacture of brick crops out in various places, and is used to some extent at Middle Granville.
Of early settlement, and of the union with Vermont, Hon. Hiel Hollister writes: "Settlements were effected prior to the Revolution. The first emigrants were mostly from New England. The attempt in 1781 to place themselves under the jurisdiction of Vermont was due to the fear of invasion, as the Revolutionary was not then closed, and it was thought to be easier to secure the necessary protection from Vermont than from New York. Besides, they favored the New England institutions of universal suffrage and individual ownership of land, rather than the property qualification required by New York and the feudal land system, granting the soil in large manors to be cultivated by tenants."
The progress of early settlement was slow. A state of war was unfavorable to emigration and to the development of the arts of peace. Conflicting land-titles also discouraged settlers. Soon after the war closed these valleys filled up as if by magic. The settlement of the boundary lines cleared away the difficulties to some extent, and the final adjustment between New York and Vermont, in 1790, left titles mostly clear and unquestioned. Emigrants purchased with confidence, cleared their lands, and erected their dwellings without fear of ejectment.
The first settlement undoubtedly dates back to about 1770, and probably even earlier than that; at least twenty years before the first recorded town-meeting of 1787. Several lists of names that appear under the head of church history, etc., show quite a population in the midst of the Revolutionary war. The Congregational church of Middle Granville had, in 1782, a membership on seventy-two. The petitioners for pardon and amity in 1782 thirty-seven.
These lists, together with the names found upon the town books for 1787-88, constitute the sources from which we determine the early settlers and, approximately, the time when they came to this town.
Daniel Curtice came from New Lebanon about 1780. He was the first supervisor of the town, and a prominent citizen.
It is supposed that the first house built in this place was by John C. Bishop, when he came into this beautiful valley in 1780. Mr. Bishop opened the first store, and that stood near the site of the present Friend's meeting-house. The village first grew up on the west side of the river, but was afterwards changed to the corners. Mr. Bishop secured the opening of the so-called Shun pike, drawing the travel and the business from Hebron and from the south generally. The grist-mill is very old, erected before 1800. There was also a saw-mill and fulling-mill, long since gone.
About 1840 a woolen-mill was established in the place of an earlier hemp-mill, and it is now a knitting-mill. The water-power is regarded as very valuable.
This village is connected by a stage-line daily to West Granville, and through to Comstock's, uniting conveniently the two railroads.
There has been a partial incorporation of this village for the purpose of protection from fire. Latterly, the friends of incorporation have been defeated by a popular vote.
John Bishop opened the first store. Isaac Bishop succeeded to his father's business.
The Bishops and their partners were thus the prominent merchants for the first fifty years or more of Granville history. Jonathan Todd and Colonel Lee T. Rowley were also a noted mercantile firm from 1828 to 1840.
The site of Granville was originally covered with a growth of splendid pines.
The earliest mention of school-houses in the records of the town occurs in connection with a road survey. The minute of a road laid out Sept. 4, 1784, refers to a school-house standing between Joseph Herrington?s and Ebenezer Gould?s. Another road survey, the same year, refers to a school-house that "David Skinner had set up for a blacksmith-shop." This must indicate that an old school-building had stood there years before. A school was taught at South Granville as early as 1783, by James Richards.
The importance of the slate business to the town of Granville justifies a brief statement concerning the geological and mineralogical character of slate as a preface to the notice of the companies developing it, taken from the catalogue of the Penrhyn company. Slate is one of the most common and universally-distributed rocks, forming in some cases very extensive beds, and even tracts of country. The principal constituents of slate are alumina, silex, talc, mica, oxide of iron, manganese, magnesia, potash, carbon and water; hence the different varieties are distinguished by the names of "Mica Slate," "Hornblende Slate," "Chlorite Slate," "Talcose Slate," "Drawing Slate," "Red Slate," and last, but of the greatest value, "Clay Slate."
The discovery of slate near Middle Granville was about the year 1850. A gentleman having bargained for one of the farms upon which works now exist, and walking over the farm with the owner, and carelessly kicking over a stone or two, remarked, "There is slate here." The remark awoke a train of thought in the proprietor, and the half-completed bargain was delayed to give time to investigate. Procuring two experts from Vermont, an examination showed valuable slate. The bargain was not completed, but soon after, George N. Bates, in company with Stebbins and Barabrandt, purchased the farm. Wm. R. Williams and brothers were the first to open quarries, about 1853.
The Penrhyn Slate Company owns a tract of slate deposits very near to the village of Middle Granville, and are employing about one hundred and fifty men in the quarries and the mills. The company manufacture roofing-slate, and have also undertaken and successfully prosecuted the manufacture of a large variety of other slate work, plain, marbleized, enameled and decorated. Their warehouse displays a choice variety and the artistic display, rivaling in richness and beauty the costliest marbles of the world.
The mills of the Penrhyn company are picturesquely located upon the Mettawee, and the fine bridge they have built over the stream for convenience of railroad connection adds to the beauty of the arrangement. The heaped up masses from their quarries, and the high, swinging derricks, afford a background for a picture worthy the pencil of an artist.
The slate business at Granville village was commenced about 1871. The quarries are over the line in Vermont, town of Pawlet, Hugh W. Hughes, proprietor. The quarries are worked by contract, about sixty men being employed. The office is in Granville. Mr. Hughes is also a dealer in slate, buying largely of others. His shipments in 1876 were twenty-three thousand squares of roofing-slate.
At the same village is located the Warren Slate company, J.S. Warren, Edward Williams, and Wm. P. Francis. Their quarries are also in Vermont. They manufacture sea-green roofing slate, employing from fifty to sixty men, making ten or twelve thousand squares a year. They are also purchasers to some extent from others for shipment.
Mr. Thompson relates the following: In 1850, when he was building his dwelling in Granville village, a company of St. Francis Indians, carrying bead-work southward for sale, came here and desired to encamp for a few days upon his grounds. The leader was an intelligent man and quite civilized. He claimed the right, by virtue of immemorial usage, to encamp at various places in this vicinity, and among them, on the beautiful spot Mr. Thompson was building upon. He said that it was the tradition among his people that their ancestors had for ages fished and hunted in this town, fining here their best beavers, and that in this section and at this place they had formerly come to make their arrows and hatchets. The chief's mother, traveling with him, an old woman of a hundred years, confirmed his account. Mr. Thompson, in the progress of his excavations for building had the pleasure of throwing up a quantity of defective arrow-heads and hatchets, clearly showing the truth of the Indian's story, that at this spot, for ages, they had made their weapons, and that here were the favorite hunting-grounds of the tribe.
The soil of this town is described as a slaty, gravelly loam. It is particularly adapted to potatoes, and large quantities are exported at times. Sheep husbandry, treated of in the general county history, has prevailed extensively. In later years the dairy business has largely engrossed the attention of farmers. The town of Granville not only contains within its own limits several cheese-factories, but it is the country beyond its own borders. The town is not, however, limited to any one form of rural industry. There is no product of this latitude to which the soil of this town is not adapted. Its hillsides as well as its plains and the meadows on its water-courses are fertile and productive.
The town is peculiarly favored with commercial facilities, having the Rutland and Washington railroad on the east, which runs the entire length of the town, and has two stations; and the Champlain canal and the Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad on the west, but three miles from its western boundary, thus giving the people a choice of markets and a choice in the mode of reaching them.
The population of this town is rapidly increasing, which is true of but few rural towns in the State.
With references to the sheep husbandry of earlier years, it may he added that there were then many fine flocks in Granville. The number of sheep in Granville in 1845 was 10,902.
More information about Granville, New York history: