Welcome to the Grafton Historical Society’s Web Page

Preserve the Past... ...Enlighten the future

The Society’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and share information and artifacts of Grafton, New York and its environs with the people of the community. The Town of Grafton was settled in the 1780's and 1790's by pioneers moving westward from New England and by Dutch settlers moving up the Hudson River. The land at this time was a part of the Northeast Manor of Rensselaerwyck owned by the VanRensselaer’s. This area was known as Roxborough. Farmers whose lands were devastated by the Revolutionary War were attracted to the leases of large tracts of land offered by the Patroon. The boundaries of the town were set up and the town officials were chosen on March 20, 1807. In the record book containing the minutes of the first meeting, the election or appointment of officials such as Supervisor, Constable and Justice are listed. Other officials were Pound-keepers, Fence-viewers, and Overseers of the Poor. • Pound-keepers were in charge of stray horses, cows, sheep and pigs. They kept these animals at a designated location until reclaimed by their owners. • Fence-viewers settled all boundary line disputes and the • Overseer of the Poor was in charge of seeing to the welfare of the elderly, orphans, or infirmed who had no families to care for them. Most of the small towns in the area appointed these officials. The early settlers of the town devoted much of their time to clearing the land and planting such crops as were necessary to their survival. As the land clearing took place and housing materials were needed, sawmills became big business with as many as 50 mills over the years; the earliest being set up in 1800, before the town was officially erected. As by-products of the logging industry, charcoal and potash were manufactured in great quantity. By 1813, when the town was six years old, it had progressed enough to have 10 school districts set up. The districts numbered as high as 14 over the years, but possibly not all districts built schools. Also in 1813 the assessment rolls showed the following businesses in our town: Sawmills (6); Cider Mills (4); Lime House (1); Blacksmith Shop (1); Shoemaker-Tan Shop (1); Grist Mill (1). In 1814, a cheese house was added to the list, indicating an abundance of cows at that time. The town reached a peak around 1840 and was a flourishing community with churches, stores, lovely homes and many businesses. By 1850, the population was 2033, more than the present day census. During this period of rapid growth, the people of the nearby mountains did not own their land outright and were under the control of the patroon system, even after 30 plus years of settlement. The old patroon had been very lenient with his tenants and had let the rents accumulate over a number of years. When he died in 1839, his son began exerting pressure on the farmers to pay the back rents. Since the rents were to be paid with a portion of the yearly crops, to pay up the accumulation at one time would have taken all the people had. The uprising of the farmers all across the Northeast Districts came to be known as the Anti-Rent Wars. Whenever the patroon sent rent collectors or the sheriff traveling through the hills to serve evictions or collect rents, sounds of tin horns blowing could be heard for miles around. This blowing of the tin horn sounded an alarm from farm to farm, and farmers disguised in long "dresses" and hoods would descend upon the unlucky individual and drive them back to Troy and Albany, often wearing tar and feathers. One of the killings that took place at this time was that of Elijah Smith, a Grafton man who was a sympathizer with the patroon. He was set upon and killed by a band of men and his tombstone reads "Killed by Anti-Renters dressed in disguise". The only know flag carried during the Anti-Rent War hangs in the Grafton Town Hall today. In 1850 the anti-rent problems were solved when a Supreme Court ruling removed the patroons from power. During the boom of the 1850's, many new industries were set up. Among them were: • Grafton Mineral Paint Company - Shipped to Boston, then to England, 600-700 tons per year. • Blue Factory - established for the manufacture of blue dye. This was used over a wide local area and exported to Europe. • Scriven's Shirt Shop - started as a home sewing business and eventually grew to a large well-known factory In Grafton. • Tilley's Barrel Company - manufactured wooden barrels and later became Tilley Ladder Company. The 1855 census lists these other businesses and occupations: blacksmiths, hotel keepers, mercantile, clerk, physician, teacher, shoemaker, artist, copper, miller, tinker, toll collector, teamsters, mechanics, sawyers, painters and servants. After this period of movement and progress for the town, came the Civil War. Nearly all eligible men from 14-40 went off to the war. The businesses and farms suffered badly during this period and never recovered to the level it had prior to the war. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Grafton had another boom in the form of the tourist industry. Because of the abundance of the picturesque lakes in the town, it became a popular summer resort. Several large and luxurious hotels were built and the former Tilley farm became the Troy Times Fresh Air Home for children from the cities. Today, Grafton has regained some of its popularity as a summer area. Many tourists enjoy the Grafton Lakes State Park and the surrounding lakes. Summer homes are still popular and several day camps for children exist in the town. At this time, there is very little industry in Grafton. It is mainly residential and has maintained its small town image throughout it 192 years of growth and change.

Posted by Matthew Kirchner Read more Comments (0) 17.21.


Web Site Reconstruction.

Grafton Historical Society webpage is getting an unexpected "facelift"

Recently, GRAFTONNY.ORG was updated to prevent code vulnerabilities in its existing content management system(CMS) due to it being compromised. The Grafton Historical Society Web Page was recently effected by this update that was applied to it's root domain level, rendering them both unviewable. Since then, this page you are viewing has been put in its place until a later date when a permenent solution can be applied. Please return to this page frequently for any updates. Thank you for your patience.

Posted by Matthew Kirchner Read more Comments (0) 07.18.


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