Canaan NY covers 20,770 acres in northeastern Columbia County along the Berkshire line. The first settlers arrived near 1759 and the area was founded as King’s District in 1772.
The town’s name was changed to Canaan in 1788. One of the oldest areas of Canaan is the now Frisbee Street, originally Frisbie Street settled in 1770 by Gideon Frisbie from Canaan Connecticut. Frisbee Street fronts what was once the Albany-Boston stagecoach route.
Canaan’s topography is a mix of mountains offering some of the farthest views of the Catskills in the county, as well as a patchwork of fields lined by stone walls dating back to the 1700’s. The Taghkanic range is along the eastern border, and geologically offers commercially valuable formations of slate and magnesium limestone.
In the northwestern part of town is Queechy Lake offering pure water and summer fun including water skiing, pontoon boating, swimming, fishing and a small beach for sunbathing.
Settlement began as early as 1750 when Asa Douglas purchased the Six-Mile-Square tract from the Stockbridge Indians for £250. There was a strong Tory element in the district sufficiently large to keep active and alert the opponents of Great Britain.
During the Revolution, many of the loyalists left the district to join the British, while others remained at home to aid the invaders in every possible way. Neighbor suspected neighbor, and bitterness and enmity were engendered that the treaty of peace failed to remove. Against loud protest, a part of the town of Austerlitz was formed from its territory in 1818. Later that year New Lebanon was added. In 1776 forty-two path masters were appointed, evidence that attention was paid to the improvement of the highways.
There has been considerable manufacturing in Canaan’s history such as paper mills, tanneries, saw mills and wool carding machines. A few grist mills were operated before the Revolution, the most important of these being that of Col. William B. Whitney at Queechy Lake. While the colonel was absent in the army, some of his Tory neighbors set fire to his mill, destroying it with a large quantity of grain belonging to the government. Another mill was erected on the site which was used until the mid-1900’s. Colonel Whitney also carried on an oil mill, which was later converted into a plaster mill. Early in the century a satinet factory was operated west of Canaan Four Corners. It was succeeded by a small paper mill.
In 1830, Daniel Haight established a factory for the manufacture of satinets and woolen goods, and for a time did extensive business. It was finally occupied by the Queechy Paper Company which manufactured wrapping paper, and is now owned by Drowne & Co. for making straw cigarette paper. The Barnegat paper mill, west of Canaan Four Corners, began operations in 1860. In 1900 it was owned by Ephraim Palmer but is now unoccupied. Canaan Four Corners is the largest village in the town, and contains about three hundred inhabitants. It is located in a pleasant valley surrounded by high hills and is the center of considerable trade. The first known merchant was Elihu Phinney who came from Otsego County in 1796. Ebenezer Sutherland had a hotel and also a store which to this day are used for the same purpose. Reuben Swift was the first postmaster in 1812.
Forward to 1985 when Redline Engineering inaugurated the largest and most thriving town business, catering to the most discerning car enthusiasts from principally New York City and Boston.