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Adirondacks Tug Hill

Port Leyden, NY

The village of Port Leyden was first called Kelsey’s Mills after Herbert Kelsey who, along with Peterw. Aldrich, came to explore the land in 1796. They selected a site and purchased two lots. In 1797, they brought their families and put up aframe for asaw mill. In 1799, they builtagristmill for grinding corn and wheat. The gristmill was located on the west side of the Black River just below the present bridge. In 1839, Kelsey’s Mills was changed to Port Leyden because it was expected that the settlement would become a thriving port upon the completion of the Back River Canal. The contract for building the canal was awarded in 1837 and the village was incorporated on December 8, 1871.

All records of Port Leyden between 1802 and 1850 were destroyed by fire. In 1921, the Back River Canal was abandoned in Port Leyden. In 1961, the last passenger train passed through the town. Route 12, the main highway into Port Leyden, was built on the bed of the Black River Canal and completed in 1933. Several sizeable businesses are apart of Port Leyden’s history. The Port Leyden Tannery employed around 300 people in its prime. The plant extended along the bank of the river on the north side of Main Street. There were ten houses for the families of workers. One of those houses still stands. The Port Leyden Iron Company was incorporated in 1865 after a deposit of black magnetic iron ore was discovered in the gneiss rock near the river. At one time, the company produced about 23 tons of iron each day. Two chimneys from the fumace still stand today. A local guide is needed to reach the location. There is one pit on the furnace grounds among a tangle of bushes and vines that is seemingly bottomless. When a rock is dropped into the opening no sound of its hitting bottom is heard. A Quilted Heart, Lincoln Street, carries quilting supplies for the many quilters in our area. If is located in a building that used to be a Masonic Temple.

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