According to H.P. Smith's History of Essex County, written in 1885, Elizabethtown was created by the Clinton County Government on the 12th day of February, 1798. Before that date it was a part of Crown Point. The Town's boundaries were changed in 1808 when Moriah and Keene were created, and again in 1815 when Westport came into being.
The town, which received its nickname "Pleasant Valley" from earlier travelers from Panton, Vermont, lies slightly northeast of the center of the county. The Boquet River flows northeasterly across the center of the town and the Black River forms a part of its boundary with Westport. The soil is a sandy loam, generally light except in the valleys, where it is fertile. Extensive deposits of iron ore existed in the town.
The Kelloggs were among the first settlers of the town and their descendants were prominent in town and state government until the 1900's. Early settlement began near what is now New Russia and then moved closer to the current center of town. There was a gristmill and farms. David Brainard built a forge on Black Creek in 1817; Joshua Daniels built a second one the same year. Iron ore mining provided occupations for the first half of the 19th century but had largely petered out by 1885.
Elizabethtown was named the County Seat in 1807 and remains so to this date. The first two wooden county buildings burned. For the third construction, the complex was built in brick. The village was incorporated in 1876, in part, to make it more difficult to move the county seat.
For many of the early years, cutting and marketing lumber was the chief industry of the inhabitants, even exceeding agriculture in employment. Maple sugar was an important early industry. When poplar trees replaced the first growth, as many as 20,000 cords of poplar were shipped in one year to paper mills from Elizabethtown.
Early shopkeepers provided many goods. The Nobles ran a general store, a harness shop, a tannery and manufactured shoes. Periodically, floods ripped through town, taking lives, destroying businesses and homes.
In 1885, the Town was famous for its lawyers. Augustus C. Hand, Robert S. Hale and Orlando Kellogg, all were eminent. The Hand House on River Street stands as a monument to the stature of the lawyers who made their way to the county seat. Although doctors were present as early as 1808, the medical profession never attained the prominence of the legal profession in Elizabethtown.
In the nineteenth century, Elizabethtown became a resort community. Large hotels graced the center of town where city tourists would stay for the summer months. There was tennis, golf, horseback riding, walking and plenty of evening entertainment.
Today, county government and its services provide most of the economy of Elizabethtown. The large hotels are gone, but smaller hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts have taken their place. The school system and churches established in the earliest days continue to thrive. The first county newspaper was published in Elizabethtown, and the community still supports a newspaper. People from around the country come to the Adirondack History Center Museum and the county clerk's office to do genealogical research. The museum has exhibits on the county's history and industry and an exquisite colonial garden. Light industry and lumbering are still present in the town.
Area: 82 square miles
High point: Rocky Peak Ridge, 4,000 feet
Principle waterway: Boquet River
Boundary changes: 1808, 1815, 1844, 1854
Town Hall: P.O. Box 265, Elizabethtown NY 12932 (518)873-6555
Population: 1850: 1,635, 2000: 1,315
Major industry: government, law, surveying, light industry, and tourism.
Named for: Elizabeth, the given name of William Gilliland's wife and daughter. Another daughter, Charlotte who married Stephen Cuyler, lent her name to Charlotte, Vt.