When I first moved to Fish House, along the shores of the Sacandaga Lake, I had no idea how immersed I would become in the history of this place. Eventually I became the Deputy Historian of Northampton, concentrating on the history of the village of Fish House. Most of the time I am concentrating on documents and old photos and old deeds, but when the waters of the lake are low during the fall months, I venture out in my kayak. looking for treasures. Broken pottery, old hinges, pieces of clay pipes, horse shoes, might not seem like treasures to most, but to me, it brings home just how much this valley has changed since 1930 and how many lives were altered. I am a relative newcomer to this place. I have met people who, years and years ago, found items buried in the mud when the lake is low. Each item tells a story. There are so many stories this lake can tell. I am starting a new page in this website (Remnants of the Valley) that will have photos of the treasures I have come across. Some I have found myself, others were found years ago. If only objects could talk!
There has been a lot written lately about who is on our paper currency. Andrew Jackson, who is currently on our $20 bill, is going to be replaced by Harriet Tubman. She will be the first woman on U.S. paper currency in over 100 years and the first African-American ever! Hooray!
It came as a surprise to me, when researching our American bills, that the USA has not always had paper money. During the Revolutionary War, there was paper money, called Continentals. The Continental Congress printed them to help finance the American Revolution, but they were virtually worthless by the end of the war. After that, coins were the primary way to exchange money. For 70 years, until the Civil War, private entities, not the federal government, issued paper money. The notes were printed by state-chartered banks. The notes could easily be counterfeited.
When the Civil War began, people were hesitant to use gold,silver or other metal coins. They began hoarding the coins. As a result of the hoarding, some businesses started printing their own currency to fill the need for small change. The Ten Cent note pictured here, was printed up for the Smith General Store in Fish House, NY. Note the date, October 24th, 1862. This form of “scrip” was called Fractional Money.
Then on February 25, 1863, President Lincoln signed the National Banking Act which established the federal dollar as the sole currency of the United States. The government then started printing up Legal Tender Notes. This type of paper money was issued up until 1971. They were originally issued into circulation by the U.S.Treasury to pay expenses incurred by the Union during the Civil War.
As an historian, one expects to be able to learn about a town. But what if the town moves? Such is the case with the hamlet of Fish House. In 1927, New York state marked out the elevation lines in preparation for the Sacandaga Lake. If a house was below a certain elevation, it either had to be moved or taken down. If that did not happen, then the house would be burned.
According to the history of Fish House, twelve houses were moved and six were razed. You would think during these turbulent years from 1927 until the dam was closed in 1930, that people would be writing about the dismantling and the destruction of their town. They did not. The house pictured above is one such case. It is a beautiful Victorian house that was labeled as the Smith Residence. The house was on what they referred to as East Main Street,,,and what is now called Old Fish House Road.
Of the twelve houses that were supposedly moved, I have located ten. I had come to the conclusion that the house above must have been destroyed...but then a fellow researcher found a newspaper clipping that said that the Smith house was "taken down and moved away". Most of the houses that were moved were relocated on a high knoll of land called Overlook Heights, which is now Ryder Road. The Smith house was not moved there.
I assume that James Henry Smith, a prominent store owner and lumber mill proprietor of Fish House built this beautiful house. J.H. Smith married Jennie Fairchild and they had two children, Alanson Page Smith and Elsie Fay Smith. J.H. Smith died in 1908 and his wife died in 1896. The house was still referred to as the Smith house in 1929 so it was probably passed down to their children. Neither of their children had children of their own, so there are no descendants that I can contact to find out about the fate of the house.
Where is this house? I keep a photo of this house in my car, so when I drive the back roads, perhaps I will find it. It is like looking for a lost dog. I actually knocked on a stranger's door,,,his house resembled the Smith house and asked him if they were one and the same, but they were not. Time is slipping away, old houses are deteriorating. I feel I will never find this house.
So if you have seen this house,,,let me know!
This large and beautiful house was built in 1900. It was located on the Dyke Road and was the closest house to the covered bridge. Davis Harland Anderson was the builder. The owner was Harvey Wickes Hascy. He was a wealthy business man originating from Hempstead, Long Island. He had a business that dealt in brushes and he also invented improvements in paint brushes. He married Lilly Blanche Onderdonk and they had two daughters. One daughter died in 1904. Then his wife Lilly died in 1913. He put the house up for sale in 1914 and set sale for England with his one remaining daughter. This house was moved up to the end of Sunset Road, a high point in Fish House. An 86 year old resident of Fish House remembers the house after it was moved. She called it the "Haunted House" as there never seemed to be anyone living in it. The house was eventually torn down and a newer house was built in that location. For some reason, I feel sad about this house. Harvey Hascy built this house for his wife, Lilly. She would come up here for the summer and he would visit her when he could. Then just 4 years after it was built, one daughter died...then 9 years later, Lilly died and the house was put on the market. Then the HRBRRD staked out the elevation lines and the house had to be moved or burned down. Once it was moved, apparently it was abandoned. Such a sad but beautiful house.
This little house will be on the 2012 tour. An old photo showed it close to the new path of Cty. Hwy 110. The photo at left is a portion of that old photo. (The whole photo is shown below) Using this photo, the new location of the house was located just up the road. It would seem to be an easy solution. But this little house has been a mystery. It is shown on the Stark property, where at one time there was a harness shop. But this particular house was built in 1909, long after the original harness maker died. In the 1910 census, William Stark, who owned the brick house next to it (not shown in this photo) was listed as running a feed store. But other than that document, no documents have been found as to who built the house or why and the house, today, does not appear to be used as a store. An historian's job is to unravel mysteries,,,and this one continues to confuse me!
JULY 10, 2012 - I can't tell you how many hours I have worked on this house. Three items have surfaced as to its origin and purpose, but nothing conclusive. The builder's name, however, was discovered, Davis Harland Anderson. So that has been helpful. Also, after looking at other houses built at that time, it was noted that they all had a similar Victorian design.
In 1895, the railroad had finally made it to Broadalbin. There was also a plank road from Broadalbin to Fish House. With this vast improvement in transportation, it seems that these small houses were built as summer residences. Fish House had long been the summer home for wealthy families. With the coming of the railroad, it opened the way up for others to easily enjoy it as well.
AUGUST 20, 2012
This little house continues to snag my attention. I was researching another house, the one I call the Hascy House and found a real estate ad from 1913. It stated that there was also a "man's cottage" on the grounds. The builder of the Hascy House is the same builder of this little house pictured above. I then went to a 1911 map and found that the lot that this little cottage ended up on was owned by Hascy in 1911. So now my thoughts are...did this little house originate on the Hascy estate and then get moved to where it is now? Is the photo above showing the house in transport and not where it was originally? Time to go to the Town Clerk to see if I can unravel this mystery. I also contacted Hascy relatives for any photos, hopefully they have some showing this little cottage!
In preparation for the 2012 Historical House tour, I am under the gun to find out information on two "new" houses that will be on the tour. All the houses on the tour are in Fulton County except one that is on the corner of Fayville Road and Route 7. Our interest in this house all started with a photo that showed it with a sign on it: Fish House (Rooms and Meals). I have to find out when it was a hotel or boarding house. (Probably after the original Fish House Hotel which burned down in 1920). There was also a rumor that this huge house had been moved in preparation for the Sacandaga Lake. Using a website that accesses old newspapers, I came across a small blurb that mentioned this house and that it was moved to the "new" corner of Fayville Road. Success!!
July 10, 2012: This house was build in 1900. The town deed show that Marvin & Minerva Brown sold it to Abbie Seeley in 1907...so I am assuming that the Brown's built it as I cannot find anything specific as to its earlier history. In 1928, Abbie Seeley sold it to Lauren Ostrum. He took one year to move it up to its present location. Then, in 1934, unable to pay the mortgage, the house ownership went back to Abbie Seeley.
As the photo of this house was so closely cropped, there were no clues as to where or when this photo was taken. It is unlikely that the photo is from before 1920, as the Fish House Hotel was just down the road and one would not think that the owner of this house would give it the same name. Since the Fish House Hotel burned down in 1920, this photo is probably after that year. The 1920 census shows Joseph Seeley (Abbie's husband) as being a farmer, not a hotel proprietor. Abbie Seeley's grandson remembers being there (at its present location) in the late 1940's and it was not a boarding house at that time, nor since then. So my assumption is that when Ostrum moved it to its new location in 1929, he set it up as a boarding house.
In 2009, I prepared the first Historical Tour of Fish House. As a result of my work and interest, the Historian of Northampton made me Deputy Historian, concentrating on Fish House which is part of Northampton.