The Great War Trail followed the Hudson River on the western border of the town. Indians followed this route long before the French and British discovered its stategic advantages in the French and Indian Wars. It was again used for this purpose in the American Revolution. General Baum's detachments and scouts used this route on their march to Bennington. Evidence of Indian settlements has been found throughout the town. One Indian trail followed Church and Academy steets to the fordway on the Batten Kill River. Indian tradition states that the Cossayuna region was the home of the Horicon tribe.
Rhode Island and Dutch families began settlement of this area circa 1763. English, Scots and Irish soon followed. Earlier settlement was precluded by the many boundary disputes and the French and Indian Wars. The earliest settlers were attracted by the advantages of the water power. Grist mills and saw mills were followed by woolen, cotton, flax and land plaster mills. Later paper mills and farming became the backbone of the economy.
Stagecoach routes passed through the town and twenty-eight licenses were issued in 1817 for inns and taverns for the benefit of travelers. The opening of the Champlain division of the barge canal provided the needed transportation for farm and factory produce.
Train service came to Greenwich in 1869 with the construction of the Greenwich and Johnsonville Railroad. Extension of the line to Schuylerville in 1900 was followed by the 1908 extension to Salem Junction. Freight service continues over these lines to the present day. Passenger service, which ended in 1931, was resumed as a tourist attraction in the form of the "Batten Kill Rambler" scenic train in the fall of 1994.
In 1895 the Greenwich and Schuylerville Electric Railroad was established. It was later absorbed by the Hudson Valley Railroad. It provided trolley transportation from the Capital District to Warrensburg. Trolleys continued to run from Greenwich to Thomson until 1928 when the tracks near Clarks Mills were washed out in a flood.
Hamlets sprang up near the sites of dams and mills. Ten of these hamlets remain with the Village of Greenwich being the largest. Artisans and shopkeepers settled the various hamlets to meet the needs of the people.
The town has been represented in every war that the United States has been involved in. During the Civil War, soldiers from Greenwich were given the honor of being named Company A of the 123rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, because of their ability to raise the necessary quota of men frst. Sergeant Henry C. Morhous of Greenwich, a member of the 123rd, recorded the history of this unit in his book, Reminiscences of the 123rd Regiment, published in 1879.
The abolition of slavery was a cause that many local people were actively involved in. Dr. Hiram Corliss guided the movement ing Greenwich. His son, George Corliss, was the inventor of the Corliss Steam Engine. Legend has is that Dr. Corliss was one of the founders of the American Medical Association. An important "station" of the Underground Railway to Canada was located in Greenwich.
The Town of Greenwich was part of five different land patents: Saratoga, Kettlehuyn, Cuyler, Campbell and Argyle. Originally part of the Town of Argyle, Greenwich was set off as a separate town with its present boundaries in 1803.
The Village of Greenwich was first known as Whipple City named for Job Whipple, its first successful industrialist. He and his son-in-law, William Mowry established a noted cotton mill here in 1804. In 1809 the village was incorporated and renamed Union Village. The name was again changed in 1867 to Greenwich.
The earliest church was the Bottskill Baptist Church which was organized in 1767. A Methodist class meeting was formed in 1797 at Reid's Corners (North Greenwich). In 1838 a branch of the Methodist group was formed in the village. The Dutch Reformed Church was organized in 1807. 1871 was the founding date for the Roman Catholic Church, followed in 1872 by the mission of the Episcopal Church. The United Presbyterians formed in 1880. A Christian Science group was organized in 1916. A 1966 vote brought together the congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church and the United Presbyterian Church into one United Church.
The village developed a municipal water system in 1959 with water supplied from three wells. Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. provides the electric power. The Journal Press, serving the town as its weekly newspaper, was established in 1842 as the People's Journal. As early as 1805, Greenwich had a public library. In 1974 the Greenwich Free Library Association built a larger modern building. Plans are now underway for further expansion.
Recreation has changed somewhat through the years, but the Batten Kill still provides swimming at the town-owned beach. There are hills and open fields for sledding, skiing and snowmobiling. Tennis courts, a nearby country club, golf courses, a driving range, and bowling lanes lend variety to the choices.
The village has always been a trading center for those in the surrounding countryside. In addition to a full complement of retail stores and a wide variety of dining establishments, there are three banks and several real estate offices. In 1974 a shopping center opened just west of the village.
Of the other nine hamlets, East Greenwich is the oldest. A dam was first built there in 1818. There were various factories over the years, including a sash and blind factory. This community was also known as Slab City.
A few miles west of East Greenwich, also on the banks of the Batten Kill, is the hamlet of Battenville. It was settled in 1815 when a woolen mill was built there. This was later converted to a cotton mill. In 1872 the Phoenix Paper Mill was built on this site but it was destroyed by fire in 1921. It was rebuilt and is now the site of the Bio-Tech Paper Mill. The home where Susan B. Anthony spent part of her formative years has since been restored as has the adjoining building which served as a tavern and stagecoach stop.
Center Falls, a few miles east of the village, was settled in 1970 by Smith Barber and Nathan Rogers. Once known as Franklin, it was renamed Hardscrabble because of the difficulty presented to horses getting up the nearby hill. A cotton mill, succeeded by various other mills over the years, is now the site of the Hollingsworth and Vose Co. This is a specialty paper mill which added a water pollution treatment plant in 1970.
Cossayuna, settled in 1765, was originally called Hog Hollow and later Lake or Lakeville. It was probably the first trading center in the town. Water power was developed at the outlet of Cossayuna Lake and three dams erected. Among the mills located there were a blanket factory and a cheese factory. Famous for its bass fishing, it was one hundred years after the first settlers arrived before it became known as a resort.
North Greenwich's earlier names were Antioch and Reid's Corners. North of the village of Greenwich, it was a stage-coach stop on the Albany to Whitehall route. Phineas Langworthy settled there in 1795. A school was built and in 1800 a store was in operation. The Post Office was established in 1825. Washington County's largest apple orchard was planted in 1850 on the present Reid farm.
The hamlet of Bald Mountain, situated at the western base of the mountain, is two miles from Middle Falls. It once boasted two hundred residents when it was the center of the thriving lime industry. Lime was burnt there as early as 1768. Commercial manufacture of lime reached its peak in the 1850's when Robert W. Lowber headed a company there. Lime was transported over a macadam road that Lowber had built to the canal, three miles distant. The lime industry was sold in 1872 and production never resumed to its former levels. Gradually some of the 100 houses of the workers were moved to Clarks Mills. Bald Mountain is now known for its farming.
Middle Falls' early development was also as a result of the Batten Kill's natural fall at that place. The drop is forty-five feet at Middle Falls. Just below is Dionondohawa Falls with a drop of ninety-five feet. Formerly known as Galesville and before that as Arkansaw, Middle Falls took its present name in 1875. The first settlers were Judge Nathan Tefft and his sons, Stanton and Nathan II. They migrated from South Kingston, R.I. and settled on what is now the Battenkill Country Club flats. Middle Falls has had many mills. The former Stevens and Thompson Paper Co. is now the Wisconsin Tissue Co. and the American Tissue Co. Diondehowa Park was once a recreation area that drew tourists from great distances, many of whom arrived by trolley.
Clarks Mills and Thomson are the perhaps the most historic part of town. Early records indicate a mill at this site was improved circa 1731. They both lie near the Great War Trail. In 1830 Hiram Clark purchased and expanded the the mills at this site, hence the name. Carhard and Van Valkenburg established a planing mill there during the same time period. These businesses flurished for more than fifty years. In 1891 I.C. Blandy and three associates bought land on both sides of the kill, built a dam and in 1904 opened a pulp mill. Later they established a paper mill which is still in operation and is now known as Hollingsworth and Vose Co. Thomson was at first known for saw mills and later for paper companies. New York State Governor, John A. Dix, built a home that still stands. It later became the home of the Schuyler Preparatory School for boys.
A part of the village of Fort Miller lies in the Town of Greenwich. Formerly a saw mill was located on a small brook at this site. It is said that in 1790 seven mills were built on the same stream.
A history of Greenwich would not be complete without mention of the many people who achieved fame. Many talented lawyers, doctors, governors, senators, actors, circus performers, grand opera singers, writers and artists have called Greenwich their home. Names that present day people will recognize are: President Chester A. Arthur, Susan B. Anthony, James (Kim) Gannon and Hal Ketchum.