BACK COUNTRY ACCOMMODATIONS
Bleecker remained a wilderness until about 1800. The first recorded transfer of land is that of the Mayfield Patent June 27, 1770. The next is to William Chase on March 23, 1792 of whom the author Jeptha R. Simms had this to say: "William Chase, the patentee, was in early life a sea captain and in the Revolution became an American Privateer. He was captured and taken to Europe and while there visited France. After the war he removed from Providence, R.I. to Hoosick, New York. At this place he built a bridge, by constructing which he was enabled to purchase some 12,000 acres of land in the western part of Fulton County. A large tract of 32,000 acre adjoining his, and which Chase intended to buy, was subsequently sold in Albany by auction and was purchased by Barent Bleecker, Cornelius Glen and Abraham G. Lansing dated April 4, 1793. It was known later as "Bleecker and Lansing Patent". Failing to secure this tract of land, on which he seems to have set his affections, Capt. Chase was heard to exclaim, with an oath, "I would rather have lost my right in heaven than title to that soil."
It was not until April 4, 1831 that the town was formed from Johnstown. Part of it was re-annexed to Johnstown in 1841 and in 1842 part of what is now Caroga was also taken off. The town was named in honor of Barent Bleecker, one of the patentees. There is another version about this name: It seems 2 men were exploring the area and became lost. One climbed a tree to try and get his bearings. The one on the ground asked, "How does it look?" To which came the reply, "Bleak". The man on the ground added, "It is bleaker still down here." And Bleecker it is to this day.
It seems rather strange that throughout all of the recorded early settlers, not one of them bore the name of Bleecker. The first settlement began about 1800 and the names of some, mostly from New England, are known and include James Morse, William Rood, Ephraim (or Hiram) Lindsley, James Landon, Samuel Shaffer, William Eglan (or Eglin), George (or Gad) Hamilton, Frederick Mills, John Donaldson, William Bowler, Henry Lippart and a Mr. Goodwell. Captain Chase erected a grist mill on the north branch of Stony Creek in 1804-1805 and is the only recorded grist mill in the town. The soil is light and thin, its surface is hilly to mountainous upland, the highest summits rising 2,000 feet and more. Everywhere the land is stony and did not lend itself to agriculture. The leading pursuits were always lumbering, tanning or associated industry.
The first school house was built in 1824 chiefly through the influence of Joseph Eastman, Nancy Foot was the first teacher in District No. 3 and Aseneth Greenfield in District No. 4.
The first house of unhewn logs was at Lindsley's Corners. The first hewn log house was built by Martin Hopfield on the old Caroga Lake road west of Lindsley's Corners. The first frame house was built at Lindsley's Corners and later occupied by a John M. Peters. The first brick house was erected in 1874 by Joseph Holler in the western part of town near the Caroga line. The oldest graveyard in town is on the flat just north of Lindsley's.
The first saw mill was built on a stream that empties into Stony Creek above Lindsley's Corners and was known as Barlows Mill. The first tannery in town was built by William Bellinger and others at Bleecker Village and it survived until about 1858. Burr and Co. built a cabinet ware factory on the stream just below this tannery but it was short lived. The first store in the town was built by Richards and Hamlin in connection with their tannery (known as the "Bleecker Tannery") near the south border of town. Around it sprang up what was called Bleecker Village. The first blacksmith shop was built and operated by Gad Hamilton north of Lindsley's Corners. The first tavern was conducted by S.S. Eastman near the south line of town where a Mr. Busey kept a hotel about 1878. The closest the town ever came to having a village was what was called Bleecker Village. It was built on land that once belonged to Issac Van Nostrand. In 1878 it contained a hotel, a brewery (legal that is), church, school house, 2 saw mills, 2 tanneries, a store, a broom handle factory, 6 blacksmith shops, and 23 dwellings in which lived about 200 souls. The town itself about then contained 4 churches, 4 stores, 5 hotels, 3 tanneries, 13 saw mills and one grist mill. The tanneries were the Pine Tannery in the northeast corner of town, Smith's Tannery in the eastern part about 6 miles north of "the village", and Peck's Tannery about one mile west of "the village". The saw mills were scattered throughout various parts of the town.
The Evangelical Methodist Church was the oldest and was organized about 1850. It was a frame building about 30 by 40 feet located about 3 miles north of Bleecker village on the old plank road. The Presbyterian Church was built in 1855 at Bleecker village. This edifice was also of wood and about 30 by 50 feet. It soon became a struggle to survive, however, and in 1874 the society leased the building to Hiram Vandenburgh for a term of 99 years for the sum of $1.00. For some reason it was soon turned over to and occupied by the Methodist Episcopal Society and they maintained it for some time. A Roman Catholic church (The first one built in the county) once stood atop a hill about 4 miles northwest of the village. It was about 30 by 40 feet and built in 1958. This church was to have the same fate as the others, ALL were torn down. But one half of this church wound up as a dwelling across the street from the community cemetery, and the other half was moved to Caroga where it became the nucleus of their church. In 1862 St. John Lutheran Church was built about 2 miles northwest of the village on the old plank road. It was of wood and about 25 by 35 feet. Across the street is the old Lutheran cemetery for this church still stands. It is now owned by the community and services are held each Sunday with the Mayfield Methodist Church supplying the pastor. The inside has recently been paneled covering the old "hand grained" panels beneath. The pulpit and across the balcony are in excellent shape and a remarkable study in this all but lost art. One George Ort was the first baby to be baptized in this church.
A stroll through any of the old cemeteries will soon answer the question as to the origin of the old expression "Bleecker Dutchman". Truly they were and some of the early stones are in German.
One of the last of the old landmarks was the Bleecker Hotel. It was run by Charlie Robinson up until it burned to the ground in 1959.
Pinnacle was once a small community and even had its own post office from 1885 to 1927. School No. 1 and a saw mill were located here also.
The only other post office was at what we today call simply "Bleecker" and it was in operation from 1844 to 1918.
Fire was a constant worry to the early businesses and it is one of the reasons so few of the old places remain. Once destroyed, most of the owners simply lost all they had and were thus unable to rebuild. This was especially true in the saw mills for the town never had any means of fire protection.
It is still possible to see where the early settlers cleared the land to create large fields. But the poor soil and very short growing season soon put an end to all but the most hardy of them and farming was abandoned. One early writer when asking what they could raise in such a country was told, "Klein Scheisster and potatoes." Nature is reclaiming most of the land and a few good stands of timber have grown since the land was first cleared 150 years ago. Like much of the area, the year round population once 1,000, is less than anytime since it became inhabited. Gone with the farmer the woodsman's axe and whine of the sawmill. If Fulton County has a ghost town in fact, then the town of Bleecker must come about as close to it as one could image.
I could find a record of but one M.D. for this town. He was George H. Peters and a native of Bleecker. He began practice in 1891.
A town that once had 6 school districts now has NO schools for all the children are bussed to Gloversville.
Back in 1891 when the "Proposed Adirondack State Park Blue Line" was first created, it followed the northern boundary between Bleecker and Benson. Today it includes the entire township and lies a few miles to the south besides. It is interesting to note on this old map that even then (1891) there were no longer any virgin forests within the town, and an area of several hundred acres is labeled "Denuded regions". The saw mills were not wholly responsible for those old tanneries used hemlock bark in their processes and they too played an important part in clearing the land.
Perhaps the day will come when Bleecker will once again have a larger population for the area today contains many camps and "summer cottages". We also found a lot of people residing in town for but a few years, they have come to stay and replace the void left by the older residents who either died or moved away. It is extremely doubtful that industry will ever locate here and this may well be the very reason whey these new comers chose to reside in the area. There is a peace and quiet found here that becomes more rare by the day. Congestion may never be an issue for there is land aplenty.
The Federal census figures show a portion of what transpired in any given town and here is an example: In 1840 - 346, 1850 - 510, 1860 - 1,062, 1870 - 970, 1880 - 1,046, 1890 - 816, but by 1970 it was only 294.
John M. Peters, Sr. was born January 9, 1829 in Germany, a son of Jacob M. and Rosanna C. (Nuesby) Peters. The father was a painter and reared one son and one daughter. He died in Germany and his widow married Jacob Lesser by whom she had one son and 2 daughters. John M. came to the United States landing in New York, July 12, 1846. The following March he came to Fonda where he worked two years. He next went to Bennett's Corners where he worked at tanning for 7 years. In 1851 his mother and family came to this country and the mother died at the home of John M.
In 1854 he moved to Bleecker and bought 350 acres of land where he built and ran a saw mill. He then bought 1,500 acres more which included the oldest house in Bleecker and where he was to live out his remaining years. He married twice, first to Ruth A. Duell (she died in childbirth) by whom he had a daughter Ruth A. (later Mrs. Skiff). He later married Catherine, daughter of Christian and Abbolonia Hoffman, both of whom had died in Germany leaving one son and two daughters. Catherine had come to this country about 1857. She became the mother of 10 children, John M., Jr., Jacob M., Catherine G., George H., Casper J., Frank D., Amelia, Carrie A., Lillie M., and Christopher. At age 74 John M. died in 1903. His son Casper took over the old mill and another son, John Jr. built a new mill nearby. His son Arthur ran it till about 1927. George H became a doctor and an interesting story of the devotion of the old time doctors emerges. A man was seriously injured in one of the mills and Dr. Peters was called. He ran his horse till the horse died and then continued on foot to try and save the life of the injured man. Things were much different in those days.
Kenneth B. Shaw, Bleecker, Mayfield, Perth (A Pictorial History), Franklin Press, New York, 1974, pgs 4-7.
Additional information regarding Bleecker, New York History: Early Settlers, Industry, Education, and Villages can be found from Jeanette Shiel's page at the following link:
© Back To Basics Adirondack Wilderness Adventures 2004