Vermonters began creating a permanent settlement in what would become present day Crown Point in 1800, when Stephen Spaulding and his brothers came to the area on a scouting expedition. The flat coastal plain made early settlement relatively easy as did the short distance to their Vermont homes. They traveled back and forth between their established Vermont farms and this new land as they cleared the ground, built log cabins and prepared to move their families. To this day, residents of Crown Point still commute to work in Vermont.
Lake Champlain had long been the blue highway of the New World, an accessible transportation route for the earliest native Americans and the early French. It was an obvious and important military link between points to the south and Montreal. The narrowness of the lake passage at Crown Point, currently spanned by the bridge, was of crucial strategic importance. The French began building a fort at this location as early as 1731. The name of the town is attributed to a translation of the French fort name; Point au Chevalure (the crown of the head).
The permanent garrison established by the French gave agriculture its early start as fields were cleared to grow vegetables for the soldiers. Settlements and industries developed as farming land was cleared and Putnam Creek was used to supply power and transportation.
In 1822, C.F. Hammond and Co. was established as a lumbering and mercantile operation. The next year the Lake Champlain Canal was opened and Crown Point was poised on the edge of a great iron era. In these early years, a ferry linked the town with Vermont.
The Penfield Ore bed was discovered in 1826. A lumbering concern that employed 50 people was transformed over the century into the Irondale complex that is now remembered at the Penfield Museum and Homestead. By 1873, a railroad linked the iron centers of Hammondville and Irondale in Crown Point to the rail lines north and south.
Crown Point was an industrialized community with fine houses, lawyers, doctors, stores and an academy for training teachers, when the Civil War engulfed the country. Unlike the earlier wars, the town wasn't directly trampled by soldiers in battles, yet it gained fame from the number of its citizens who went to fight in the conflict, and from the Morgan horses it supplied to the Union Army. Three of the most famous horses, Pink, Billy, and Jeff, survived the war, returned to Crown Point and are buried there.
By the end of the 20th century, the iron veins showed signs of exhaustion and the company was sold. Today, most of the Hammondville lands are owned by lumbering interests, and have returned to their forested state.
The continued operation of a feldspar mine, and the development of graphite mines, kept industrial operations going in Crown Point in the first two decades of the 20th century. But eventually these too, disappeared.
Agriculture in the town decreased, although dairy and apple orchards remain in operation. The Essex County fish hatchery, where stock are grown, is located in Crown Point. History seeking tourists, boaters and bicyclists are drawn to the town. At the millennium, local residents, as well as entrepreneurs escaping urban life, have reestablished cottage industries in the town.
Area: 79 square miles
High point: Moose Mountain
Principle waterway: Putnams Creek
Boundary changes: 1798, 1804, 1808
Town Hall: P.O. Box 443, Crown Point, NY 12928 (518)597-3035
Population: 1850: 2,378, 2000: 2,119
Major industry: mining, agriculture, tourism
Named for: French Fort, Point au Chevalure (crown of the head)