History of Moriah, New York  and the Adirondacks

 

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                                                            Welcome to Moriah, NY

TOWN OF MORIAH

     The Town of Moriah was formed on February 12,1808, the 10th town organized in Essex County. The town encompasses the hamlets of Moriah, Moriah Center, Mineville and Witherbee and the Village of Port Henry on the shores of Lake Champlain. Created by 71.15 square miles of land and water the town boasted 4879 residents.

     Moriah has a very rich and versatile heritage. After the Treaty of 1763, soldiers were given land by King George for their service in the French and Indian War. Iron ore was discovered, lumber & grist mills sprang up, farms started, furnaces were built, and the shipping of ore started, first by water and then by railroad. Many families came to work in the iron ore mining industry, which flourished from around 1824-1971. Mines were privately owned, then became the property of Witherbee-Sherman & Co., and finally in 1938, Republic Steel Corporation. In the late 1800's and early 1900's most of the large hotels, homes, churches, and schools were built, many still existing today. High-grade iron ore was mined in deep tunnels four miles inland in Mineville and Witherbee, making the town the largest pre-war producer of iron ore in the country. Port Henry's iron was transformed into everything from battleships to stoves, including horseshoes for the Civil War and tracks for the transcontinental railroad.

     In the early 1900's, ice fishing became quite an industry. Ice fish (smelt) were shipped to the better restaurants in New York City & Boston, so that people there could sample these sweet-tasting delicacies. Ice fishing is still quite a popular sport. Once the lake freezes in January, one by one, shanties are towed onto the lake. Soon there are little villages of them all around Port Henry. People warm themselves with little stoves and holes are cut in the floors of the shanties. Fishermen sit on benches and fish through the holes, using special poles. Ice is still celebrated today with an annual New York State Ice Fishing Tournament and the Eastern Speed Association "Woody’s" Ice Drags both Held in February.

     A sense of community is very prevalent in the town as evidenced by the many events held annually. Two favorites are the Chicken Barbeque by the Port Henry Fire Department in June and the St. Patrick’s Church in July. The Labor Day parade and celebration in September is an especially anticipated event. Of course, no summer would be complete without the concert series on Friday nights at the Town Bandstand. The merchants, among other events, help brighten December with their Midnight Madness event.

     When movie making was in its infancy in the early 1920's, Port Henry had a filmmaking studio here for a few years known as "ARCTIC CITY". "The Perils of Pauline" series was shot here. Many of the stars stayed at the LEE HOUSE, a lovely hotel on Main Street which is still standing.

     You've heard of the Loch Ness Monster - we have "CHAMP" the Lake Champlain monster, as seen on Unsolved Mysteries. Many people have seen what they believe to be an elongated humpy creature with a head shaped like a snake or horse. Champ is very elusive but has appeared in the Bulwagga Bay area, which is at the southern part of Port Henry. So beloved is this “monster” in our town that we pay tribute by an annual Champ Day and town-wide lawn sale in August.

     Residents and visitors alike are encouraged to explore the rich tapestry of Moriah’s past by visiting the Town of Moriah Historical Society and the Iron Center. The Town of Moriah Historical Society organized in October 1992 to collect and preserve old photos, historical information and items that have significance to our community's history. Some of these will be on exhibit in our headquarters at the IRON CENTER. The Society is active in preservation, genealogy, and education.

     The Iron Center offers railroad and mining history exhibits in a restored carriage house. Displays document the 19th and 20th century operations of the Town of Moriah's iron industry, and its impact on workers' lives. The Center's location at the former Witherbee, Sherman & Co. mining headquarters in Port Henry, directs its focus towards the preparation, processing, and transport of iron ore from Lake Champlain, to the world. Outdoor (static) display of original locomotive, ore car, and caboose is on view year-round in adjacent Witherbee Park. The Center is open for school and other groups by appointment, free of charge, May through November.

     Whether you are in town to investigate our history, to enjoy our waterfront, to camp near our beaches, to live year round or to vacation for awhile, you will find a vital, friendly area that remembers its past and looks to the future. In 2004 we are pleased to have as a special event a visit from the S/V Lois McClure on her Inaugural Tour of Lake Champlain courtesy of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Join us at the Port Henry Pier September 25 - 27 to see this new replica of an 1862 class canal schooner.

 

For more information on the Iron Center, the Town of Moriah Historical Society or the Port Henry area call 518 546 3587 or 518 546 7524 or email us at iron@porthenry.com.

 

 

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