Ticonderoga is situated on a high promontory overlooking the LaChute River which connects Lake George and Lake Champlain giving it an important strategic location. It was a boundary marker from the earliest days. According to historians, Indian tribes met and fought at this location prior to European settlement. Samuel de Champlain, accompanied by Mohawks, fired upon the Iroquois here in 1609. The French and the British battled here, and the Loyalists and Patriots struggled here during the American Revolution. The armies marching and countermarching throughout this township during the 18th and early 19th centuries discouraged early settlers. Samuel Deall, an 18th century developer of these lands, abandoned all he had and returned to England when the revolution broke out.
In Ticonderoga, as elsewhere in the county, early settlers cleared the land, made charcoal, shot game and caught fish, while women spun, cooked, and raised families. When sheep raising became big business in Vermont, it spread quickly to Ticonderoga. Merino wool was a cash crop in the first half of the 1800's, while swine was raised primarily for home consumption. The Treadways built a large wool processing mill here in 1826, replacing several smaller mills. The wool business began to diminish, along with other North Country industries, when wool production increased in the west. By 1838, the Pells purchased the ruined Ft. Ticonderoga and opened a hotel during the height of the lumbering business. From 1814 to 1850, Ticonderoga was often the busiest shipping port on the Lake, transporting goods and people on Lake Champlain.
There were some early forges on the river, but they operated with little profit. In 1864, the Horicon Iron Co. built a large forge of six fires. The iron they processed came from Moriah. In 1878, a groundwood mill was built which was destroyed by fire in 1881. In 1882 it was rebuilt by the Ticonderoga Paper and Pulp Company. The construction of more paper mills followed. In 1925, the operation was purchased by International Paper. The mill continues to operate and employs over 1,000 people today.
Ticonderoga is unique in Essex County for its graphite business. The ore, in a very pure form, was discovered on Lead Mountain in 1815. Its first general use was for polishing stoves which were replacing fireplaces. In 1839, a patent was issued to a local entrepreneur for lead pencils. American Graphite Company made the Ticonderoga Pencil famous. This and stove blacking were the principal purposes for the graphite industry until it was used to line crucibles in the steelmaking industry.
The livery business still flourished in Ticonderoga at the turn of the 20th century. Traveling salesmen arriving by steamer and train, rented horses and carriages to call on customers in the hinterlands. Local stores used teams to pick up goods delivered by rail to Addison, Vermont. Heavy log loads were brought to the mills by draft teams. By 1908, however, there were 11 automobiles in town and the first garage had opened.
Fire laid waste to the town in 1875 as they prepared to celebrate the centennial of Ethan Allen's capture of the Fort during the Revolution. In 1976, the bicentennial was celebrated with a reenactment of the takeover of the Fort by the Patriots at the same time of night as the original siege.
Tourists in southern Essex County can follow an historic trail in Ticonderoga to The Black Watch Library, a Carnegie Library, to the Hancock House, a replica of John Hancock's Boston home.
Area: 88 square miles
High point: Treadway Mountain 2,248 feet
Principle waterways: Lake Champlain, Lake George, LaChute River, Trout Brook
Settled: 1775, Samuel Deall
Town Hall: 132 Montcalm St., Ticonderoga, NY 12883 (518)585-6265
Population: 1850: 2,669, 2000: 5,167
Major industry: lumber, leather, black lead, paper, tourism, military
Named for: corruption of an Indian word, variously reported to mean "brawling waters" and "between lakes"