Dannatburg: Remembering a lost community

The lost community of Dannatburg
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 8:42 AM EST
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WATSON, New York (WWNY) - In Lewis County there are 26 towns and villages. But once upon a time, there were others. Like Dannatburg, which was just outside Watson.

“If you were to go to Dannatburg today, you’d find there’s almost nothing there,” Lewis County Historical Society president Jonathan Miller said. “It’s what we call one of the lost communities of Lewis County.”

But before it was lost, it was found, by a man named William Dannat.

“William Dannat was from New York City originally,” Miller said. “His family spent a lot of time there and were part of an organization called Dannat and Pell which was the largest lumber yard in New York City in the 1800s, probably the largest lumber yard in the United States at the time.”

Dannat & Pell needed to buy more lumber, and he stumbled upon land that was called Crandallville.

“Dannat loved the area,” Miller said. “He built a large summer mansion over there and the area was renamed for him because it grew so quickly.”

He brought in a lumber mill, a sash and blind factory, mills to make tables and chairs. He created streets and a bridge and a canal. Houses popped up all along the Independence River.

“At its peak, he had probably 300 workers in the mills there,” Miller said. “There was a community of probably several hundred people, the equivalent today of Constableville, Turin, Castorland.”

The community was doing so well, a school, post office, and railway were added.

“He had a train line put in from Dannatburg over to where Otter Creek runs into the Black River, where he’d load his lumber and his chairs and his tables and it would go to New York City,” Miller said.

But then Dannat died. And the connection to the city was fractured. Demand for lumber dissolved, the mills closed, the residents moved. His mansion burned to the ground.

“The thought that there were streets out there and houses on both sides of the river is very different than the look you see today,” Miller said. “You can see there are none in this picture anymore.”

On the quiet land, all that remains are stories of the bustling past.