Area History

Cossayuna Lake

Cossayuna is the name of a beautiful lake located in the towns of Argyle and Greenwich, in southern Washington County, near the eastern border of the State of New York. Cossayuna, in this history is a community or neighborhood which includes not only the lake and the village at the south end but also the highland back of the west shore known as Dutchtown and the highland back of the east shore known as Bunker Hill. Also included are the road to South Argyle as far as the South Church, south on Sand street to the Robertson farm and the high long hill rising abruptly from the south end of the lake. This hill was called Stewart Hill in the early days, named for the ancestor of the merchant family of that name, and now known, on its north side as Ramsey Hill, on its south side as Ramsey Hill, and on its west end as Rock Hill.

The name Cossayuna is a corruption of Quabbauna, the Indian name for the lake. Tradition says that this name means The Lake of the Three Pines, for the three enormous pines which grew on the Oaks point. Indian tradition also says that the region was the home of the Horican tribe of Indians. The Horicons were kinsmen of the Mohicans and the Hoosacs, but had completely disappeared before Europeans came to America.

Tradition, handed down from the time the St. Ange Frenchmen visited the Hoosick Valley before 1600, tells of a much-used fishing and hunting trail. The trail led from the Tiashoke corn and pumpkin field of the Indians, where Grandma Moses once lived, near Eagle Bridge, up the Owl Kill through the present village of Cambridge to the Jackson ponds and thence over the hill and up the Cossayuna Creek to the lake. The hills were covered with a dense primeval forest in which great pines predominated. The same beautiful lake was there surrounded by the same hills. The only inhabitants were bears, wolves, panthers and forest denizens.

The Argyle Patent

To this beautiful but somewhat forbidding wilderness came, in 1764, Archibald Campbell of Raritan, N.J., and Christopher Yates of Schenectady to survey the Argyle Patent. So far as history records, they were the first europeans to look upon Cossayuna Lake. The Argyle patent included the present town of Argyle, the present village of Fort Edward, and that part of the town of Greenwich lying east of a north and south line passing through a point a short distance east of the Center Falls school house. This Patent was granted by the Province of New York to a large group of Scotch highlanders who came to America about 1740 from the Hebrides island of Islay. The thrilling story of their trials and tribulations in acquiring and settling their promised land and their tragic experience during the Revolution has been often told. It is a part of the history of Cossayuna but space forbids its telling. The interested reader is referred to “A History of The Argyle Patent” published by the Washington County Historical Society.

The First Settlers

The first settlers came in 1765. They were: Alexander McNaughton, Cornelius McEachron and his brother Peter, and Duncan McArthur. None of the original patentees settled in the Cossayuna area except John McEachron who joined his brothers after the Revolution.

There were very few other new settlers until after the Revolution. The frontier location, the threat of invasion from the north, and the difficulties in obtaining land titles from the widely scattered patentee owners, discouraged prospective settlers. After the Revolution there was a steady trickle of new settlers. By 1790 they were coming in considerable numbers and by 1812 some start had been made in clearing and settlement of all the lots of the Patent. The original houses had been log cabins with dirt floors and field stone mud-plastered chimneys. Soon after 1800, these had been replaced with frame dwellings.

The new settlers were principally of English ancestry from New England with a sprinkling of Scotch-Irish. But a considerable number were Palatine Dutch from the lower Hudson Valley.

The Village

The site of Cossayuna Village is a natural crossroads and, perhaps, the location made a small village inevitable but the development of a village was greatly helped by the fact that the outlet of the lake offered potential water power. Water power, even in such small measure as is to be found here, was in great demand in the early days for grinding grain and for sawing the vast harvest of logs. There were three power sites developed at the village pond and before 1800 each of them operated a saw mill. An early mill was built by Asa Carter below the village. There was an epidemic of illness and the people claimed that the pond made by the dam was the cause. The sheriff tore out the dam and the epidemic abated. The first grist mill came in 1810 and was operated for upward of sixty years. For many of these years William S. Taber was the miller. The last miller was Casper Dings.

The most extensive of the manufacturing enterprises was the blanket factory operated at the lower power site by William and James Alexander. This small factory which produced inexpensive woolen blankets operated from 1885 to 1915. It furnished employment for about a dozen men and women.

These little water powers are now idle and probably have no value as generators of power but the upper dam, near the post office, serves to maintain the present level of the lake.

Civil Government

Originally, all the community was in the town of Argyle in the county of Albany of the Province of New York. The Argyle Patent had made provision for the establishment of town government. Such government was set up in 1771. The town supervisors for the first ten years were from the East Greenwich area in the present town of Greenwich. Charlotte county was set off from Albany in 1772. The county name was changed to Washington in 1784. The town of Argyle was formally established by the state in 1786. At that time the west two-thirds of the present town of Greenwich and the whole of the present town of Fort Edward were added to the township. In 1803 the town of Greenwich was set off from Argyle. The first election in the county was in 1778. Only 198 votes were cast and there was no voting in Argyle.

The establishment of the town of Greenwich divided the Cossayuna community between the two towns. In Greenwich are; the east shore north to include the Y.M.C.A. camp, the Bunker Hill and Sand Street regions, the village of Cossayuna and as far west on the South Argyle Road as the foot of Ramsey Hill. All the remainder of the community, including two thirds of the shore line of the lake, is in the town of Argyle.

Cossayuna as a Resort

Cossayuna Lake covers 776 acres, is three miles long and seven tenths of a mile at its greatest width. The elevation is 495 feet above sea level. The maximum depth is 25 feet. It abounds with bass, northern pike, pike perch, yellow perch, sun fish and bullheads. Add the setting of forest-clad hills, and the development as a summer resort was inevitable.

The lake was known in the early years as McEachron’s lake, then as Cowan’s lake, later for many years as Big lake. Not until the later years of the nineteenth century did the name Cossayuna, come into common use. Famous from the first for its bass fishing, it was frequented by a few fishermen but it was over one hundred years after the coming of the settlers before there began the development as a vacation resort. By 1880, Hugh Lant, where now is George Kincaid, and John A. Lasher at the head of the lake, had transformed spacious farm houses into boarding houses and erected boat houses. Robert Morrow had a less pretentious place on the east shore.

Duane Hall of Hartford, NY, built the Oaks hotel on Macklin’s Point in 1889. He was a genial man, a great sportsman and ran an excellent hotel which attracted a distinguished clientele who did much to spread the fame of Cossayuna. He built a casino, or dance hall, which became a popular picnic resort.

For a time, the Oaks hotel operated a small steamboat on the lake. While it could be pressed into use for sightseeing parties, its principal function was to transport thirsty hotel guests from dry Argyle to Tom Powers Sunnyside across the lake in wet Greenwich. The hotel also had a sailboat big enough for several passengers and a crew of one. In 1897 the sailboat capsized in the widest and deepest part of the lake.

With the coming of this hotel began the cottage building era which was at its height in the decade following 1910. The Oaks hotel burned July 2, 1915, when it was operated by John Liddle and the park-like point was given over to cottages.