The largest of the Essex County towns, in land mass, Newcomb's history is intimately tied to timber and iron ore, the twin pillars of the county's settlement. However, the immense mineral resources were never fully developed because of the town's rugged mountainous terrain and it's remoteness from established trade routes.
According to historian G.H. Smith, an Indian of the tribe of St. Francis led David Henderson and a party from North Elba to the rich deposits of iron at Tahawus, in Newcomb, by way of Indian Pass. Through Henderson's drive and industry, a thriving iron mining community developed until his death in 1845. At that time there was a cupola furnace, blast forge, puddling mill, stamping mill, saw mill, power mill, grist mill and a boarding house that held 100 men at Tahawus. There were two kilns for roasting ore, six coal houses, a blacksmith, carpenter shop, general store, icehouse, school and church. There was a smaller community at the lower iron works, later destroyed by flood in 1856. Financial panic in 1857 added to the mining company's difficulties.
Aunt Polly's Inn, perhaps Newcomb's best known hostelry, was in its prime in 1855 before the two local disasters occurred. The deserted village was reborn in 1870 as a resort community. Sporting clubs refurbished some of the old mining company buildings as club houses for their members.
By 1900, Newcomb had a new identity as a sportsmen's resort and a thriving lumber town. Finch, Pruyn and Co. of Glens Falls had bought 13,000 acres of land, and were active in harvesting its forests. The Cough and Lung Balm Company had opened for business. A macadam road was built linking Newcomb with Long Lake and Minerva. Better transportation meant an increase in Finch, Pruyn's lumbering business.
Great camps developed, such as Santanoni and the Huntington's, acreage which still attracts people today. Santanoni has become an interpretive site and a part of the Huntington Estate is now used as an experimental forest.
On the national level, Newcomb is known for Teddy Roosevelt's mad dash to the North Creek railroad station from Mt. Marcy, following the assassination of President McKinley in 1901. The rough rider had joined his family at the Tahawus Club after visiting the injured President in Buffalo where the shooting occurred. Roosevelt and his party had ascended Marcy and were lunching at Lake Tear of the Clouds when a guide brought him the news that the President was failing. At 11 p.m., hearing that death was imminent, Roosevelt rushed to reach the North Creek railroad station, 40 miles away. Despite every effort in the race for the train, changing teams and drivers, McKinley died while Roosevelt was en route. In 1919 the Board of Supervisors provided a memorial on the road at the spot where Roosevelt heard that McKinley had died.
Tourists take that same road today on their way to visit the historic iron works, the great camp Santononi and the Visitors Interpretive Center. Situated at Rich Lake, the VIC interpretive programs and winding paths provide visitors with opportunities to learn more about the flora and fauna of the Adirondacks. Today, the area flourishes as a starting place for high peaks hiking. In addition, interpretive guides bring people to tour the abandoned mining facilities and to recall the industrial heyday of the town.
Area: 224 square miles
High point: Santanoni Mountain 4,607 feet
Principle waterway: Hudson River
Town Hall: P.O. Box 405, Newcomb, NY 12852 (518)582-3211
Population: 1850: 277, 2000: 481
Major industry: mining, lumber, tourism
Named for: Daniel T. Newcomb, the first supervisor