History of Hudson Falls

Bradshaw’s township (Kingsbury) charter was granted to James Bradshaw and 22 of his associates on May 11, 1762, thus making Kingsbury the oldest township in the adirondack region to still have its original dimensions.

Bounded on the north by Fort Ann, on the east by Hartford, on the south by Argyle, and on the west by Queensbury, the Town of Kingsbury measures approximately six miles by six miles.

Kingsbury is mostly a rural area with the Village of Hudson Falls being the largest concentration of a populated area. The original name of the village was Baker’s Falls, named for Albert Baker who came to the area from New York City in 1768.

Baker built a short wing dam and saw mill on the Hudson River at the site of the falls that today bear his name. These falls are believed to be the highest falls on the mighty Hudson River. The Baker cemetery in Hudson Falls, originally a private burial place for the Baker family dates back to 1800.

In 1810 the name Baker’s Falls gave way to Sandy Hill, a name the village held until it was changed to Hudson Falls in 1910.

Perhaps the best-known personage to come from Hudson Falls was Townsend Harris, portrayed by John Wayne in the movie “The Barbarian and the Geisha”. It was Townsend Harris who opened trade between Japan & the western world.

Harris was born in Hudson Falls on October 5, 1803, the son of Jonathan Harris, a hat shop proprietor. Townsend Harris himself became a prominent merchant, often dealing in the China trade. He went to Japan in 1856 as the first American consul to that country and his consular flag was the first foreign flag ever flown over Japanese soil.

Harris worked and lived with Japanese citizens instead of using the force that Commodore Matthew Perry had previously used to no avail. In 1858 he worked out the first modern treaty for Japanese trade with the west. By 1863 this treaty was in full operation, opening the ports of Japan to western merchants.

Today the name Townsend Harris is a household name in Japan but his accomplishments are virtually unknown in the United States. In 1981 the Kingsbury/Hudson Falls historical society placed a marker near the Hudson Falls Free Library citing his achievements.