The remains of the Hamlet of Happy Valley lay deep within the 8,898 acres of Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area in Oswego County, New York. In the 1800s, this area was home to a community called Happy Valley. During the Great Depression, the government bought up foreclosed farms to form the basis of this game reserve. After decades of tree planting and creating ponds and marshes for wildlife, it hardly resembles the former farmland.
The area is covered in marshy terrain and pine forest, with northern hardwoods such as sugar maple, beech, yellow birch, and softwoods such as hemlock, white pine, and spruce. In summer, biting flies and mosquitoes swarm the lowlands. Several unimproved, dirt roads travel through the area. At times, the road is smooth, at other times there are deep ruts, rocks, and steep hills. Exercise caution.
According to Scott Schild, the people who lived here were mainly hops farmers. A few wells, foundations, and stone walls remain, including a cemetery and the burnt remnants of a school house.
The French called Happy Valley Fraicheur. Residents didn’t move out all at once, rather over the course of many years. I read one account that said there were still a handful of residents in the 1950s. The ruins of a mobile home, shown below, look pretty modern.
There are, of course, legends associated with Happy Valley. Locals whisper that the town was abandoned after Malaria or Small Pox swept through the area, or that a witch cursed the town, or it is haunted by the ghost of a Civil War soldier with a hook hand.
Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area is located off U.S. Route 104 and County Route 26 in Oswego County, New York. It is free and open year-round to the public. Limited primitive camping (no water, sanitation, or garbage facilities) is allowed by permit only from September 15 through December 15 on a first come, first served basis in designated areas.