I’m not particularly articulate when it comes to explaining my fascination with bygone days in Essex. I haven’t any long term connection to the community prior to 2005 aside from a few family friends, etc. The community has been familiar to me since the mid/late 1970s, but I’m especially keen on earlier days. Pre-industrial days. Industrial Essex. Even early revitalization in the 1940s through the 1960s.
The historic image above predates my connection to Essex by about a century, I’d guess. (According to late Essex historian, Shirley LaForest, the Essex Horse Nail Company burned to the ground in 1918.) Looking north from an area approximately offshore of the Essex marinas, this early color retouched photograph captures the Essex Horse Nail Factory located on the site of present day Begg’s Park. And, according to the description on the reverse (and included in the caption above), the pier (and red-roofed dock house?) near middle right is apparently the former landing of the Essex steamboat landing. I was aware that at some point the local steamboat landing was on the eastern end of the broad pier south of the current ferry dock (and current location of the Old Dock Restaurant.)
I received this evocative artifact from Essex neighbor, Todd Goff, back on May 22, 2013, but it slipped off my radar only to resurface eight and a half years later while reexamining historic Essex waterfront images from our collection. Then as now it engrossed me, awakened my wonder about the many chapters of living and working in this fair village long, long before I came to know her. Well before Essex became the quaint, architecturally esteemed hamlet many of us hold dear, she was an industrial waterfront commercial and transportation hub. Hard to imagine? Perhaps, but if you look into these old images, and if you invite your imagination to wander, invite your creativity to wonder, these days just might come to life for you. They do for me.
And that’s only allowing for a relatively short backward glance. So much lies further back.
At the time of first European contact ca. 1530, the area on the western shores of Lake Champlain were inhabited by Mohawk people of the Iroquois confederacy, with substantial Abenaki (Algonquian) contact.
Essex was part of a land grant made to Louis Joseph Robart by King Louis XV of France. The land grant was lost after the British took over the region after 1763.
The region was first settled around 1765 with the intention of forming a baronial estate like those of the lower Hudson River for landowner and investor, William Gilliland.
The town was formed from a part of the town of Willsboro in 1805. It was an important shipbuilding location and port, but that economy collapsed after 1849 with the beginning of railroad lines in the region. (Source: Wikipedia.org)
Consider these brief brush strokes from Wikipedia a sketch offered by the collective wisdom of others. The scope of my wonder is far reaching but my own knowledge is more circumscribed, so I’ll lean on the learned histories of others to help fill in the background for this winsome vintage postcard.