Keeseville is a hamlet in Clinton and Essex counties. The village is named after the Keese family, early settlers from Vermont. It developed along the Ausable River, which provided water power for mills and industrial development. Keeseville is in the towns of Au Sable and Chesterfield and is south of the city of Plattsburgh. It is located inside what are now the boundaries of Adirondack Park.
The hamlet was originally called “Anderson Falls” by settlers from New England, who moved into the area following the American Revolutionary War and forcing of Iroquois tribes off their lands. The name was changed circa 1812 to “Keeseville”, after a local manufacturer and businessman. The early hamlet was an industrial area devoted, in part, to lumber, iron processing and milling. There has also been a strong French Canadian influence, and many ethnic French have historic ties to the area. The Catholic cathedral, St. John’s, was designed in a French style. As population moved west across New York and later to more urbanized areas, the village declined in population.
In January 2013, voters decided in a referendum by a vote of 268-176 to dissolve the village. Their territory falls under the jurisdiction of the two towns in which it is located, which will provide services and government. The village officially dissolved on December 31, 2014.
Keeseville is the birthplace of William Henry Jackson, born April 4, 1843, who became a renowned photographer of the frontier and the Civil War. He also was known as an accomplished American painter. Jackson was an explorer and photographer who accompanied various geologic surveys of the time. His photographs of the American frontier are famous, and his glass negatives are held in museums around the United States. Jackson joined the U.S. Army in 1862 and was present at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Ausable Chasm is a sandstone gorge and tourist attraction located near the hamlet of Keeseville. It is directly due west of Port Kent. The Ausable River runs through it and then empties into Lake Champlain. The gorge is about two miles (3.2 km) long and is a tourist attraction in the Adirondacks region of Upstate New York. It is fed by the Rainbow Falls at its southern extreme.
Geologically, the gorge is fairly simple. The Ausable River carved a gorge a little over one mile long down through the 500-million-years-old Cambrian-Period Potsdam Sandstone since the end of the Pleistocene Epoch ice age around 10,000 years ago. The headward erosion of ancestral Rainbow Falls led to its location today near the visitor’s center.
Ausable Chasm was first seen by non-Native Americans in 1765 and, since then, has been a draw to tourists in the eastern Adirondacks. The chasm has a continuous exposure of a section of the Potsdam Sandstone more than 520 feet thick, which includes a rare, mid-Cambrian jellyfish fossil. Some of the rock formations have been given names such as Cathedral, The Devil’s Oven, Elephant’s Head, The Flume, Sentinel Rock, and Table Rock. In 1760, Maj. John Howe explored the chasm on ropes. Called by some the “Little Grand Canyon of the East”, the 1.5-mile-long chasm opened to the public in 1870
North Star Underground Railroad Museum, commemorating the Underground Railroad and operated by the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, is on Mace Chasm Road in Ausable Chasm.