The History of New York State
Book IV, Chapter IV

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam




If one were to attempt to trace the history of Jefferson from its earliest occupations, a beginning would be made with the Indians of the Oneida and Onondaga tribes, whose hunting and fishing ground it was. In many parts of the country there are evidences of their early encampments and entrenchments. On the main line of travel from the Canadas to the Hudson Valley, the region was the scene of many bloody encounters between the Canadian Algonquins and the Iroquois. In nearly every town of the county, particularly those bordering Lake Ontario, are the remains of crude fortifications of Indian construction. These are usually on the hills and invariably face the northwest from whence came their enemy, The "first families" of Jefferson were red.

The first white man to visit Jefferson was, undoubtedly, Samuel de Champlain, who,. In the autumn of 615, with a force of 2,500 Indians, crossed from the "vicinity of Kingston to Galloup and Stony islands and from thence to near the mouth of Stony Creek in the present town of Henderson, where the canoes were concealed in the woods." The unsuccessful campaign against the Iroquois which followed need not be recounted, but the fact that this visit occurred only eight years after the settlement of Jamestown by the English, their first on this continent, and preceded that of the Pilgrims in 1620 by give, gives emphasis to the years covered by the county's history.

From the day of Champlain to the end of the French dominion in America, there were apparently no settlements made in this district. Military posts were established during the French and Indian war, notably at Henderson, and garrisons were placed in various parts of the northern New York county during the Revolution, but the district as a whole was only the haunt of the wandering trapper.

An indeterminate treaty was made with the Indians in 1784, which was made definite by the Oneidas in September, 1788, by which the territory of Jefferson was included in a vast domain ceded to the State of New York. Of more interest to the county was the so-called "Macomb's Purchase," which was the greatest grant of land ever made by a State to individuals, including as it did 3,670,715 acres., the area was divided into five great tracts, No. 4 of which included more than half of the present county of Jefferson. To the Macomb grant most of the titles to land are now traced.

Tryon County was formed 1772 from Albany but the name was changed after the Revolution to one less distasteful, Montgomery. In 1708 Oneida County was erected, including what is now Jefferson, and not until March 28, 1805, was this district set off with the name of the third President of the United States. As created, the county included parts of eight towns of Oneida County as follows: Adams, formed from Mexico, April 1, 1802; Brownville, from Leyden, April 1, 1802; Champion, from Mexico, March 14, 1800; Ellisburgh, from Mexico, February 22, 1803; Lorraine, from Mexico, March 24, 1804; Rodman, from Adams, March 24, 1804; Rutland, from Watertown, April 1, 1802; Watertown, from Mexico, March 14, 1800. The boundaries of Jefferson changed three times: First, February 12, 1808; from when Pinckney was included in Lewis County; second, April 5, 1810, by giving a portion of Rodman to Lewis; third, when a part of Lewis was annexed, in 1812, to Wilna. AS now constituted the area of the county is 1,274 square miles, with a population (1920) of 82,250.

Jefferson County is located on one of the most wonderfully beautiful natural section of the State. From the lavish display of the "Thousand Island," t the lower peaks of the Adirondacks it spreads in picturesque diversity. Nor does it lack in utility, for mixed with the wilds are intervale lands of richest fertility. With its natural resources so marked, for so many years known to the soldiery who passed to and from Canada, it seems strange that the first permanent settler should not come until the spring of 1797 in the person of Noadiah Hubbard. Tradition has it that Lyman and Marvel Ellis visited that same year the region which now bears their name. In 1805, as Jefferson County, it was estimated that the inhabitants numbered 1,500.

Jefferson County was originally divided into eight towns. Various subdivisions and changes have now brought this number up to twenty-three. Briefly summarized as to time of formation and first settlement, and population in 1920, they are as follows:

Adams, originally Allepo, 1805, settled 1800. It was purchased as Township No. 7, Black river Tract, in 1799, by Nickolas Salisbury. Population, 3,194.

Alexandria, 1821, formed from Le Raytown. Le Ray made a clearing to attract settlers, in 1811, but war prevented the coming of any. Population, 3,567.

Antwerp, 1810, from Le Ray, had for its first resident William Lee, who came in 1803. <ills were built in Antwerp village, in 1806-07, for Lewis R. Morris, the proprietor. Population, 2,569.

Brownville, one of the largest division of the county, 1805, was pioneered by Jacob Brown, in 1799, and who erected a saw mill the next year and a grist mill a year later. His home on the Black river afterward became the village of Brownville. Population, 3,856.

Cape Vincent, 1849, includes Grenadier, Fox and Carlton islands, Matthew Wilson and William Guilland claimed to have located on Carlton Island in 1786. Captain Abijah was the first to settle on the mainland, in 1801. Population, 2,111.

Champion, 1805, as noted, was the place of the first settler, Noadiah Hubbard. (In 1807 this town had 182 legal voters). Population, 2,854.

Clayton, 1833, formed from Lyme, had for its pioneer one Bartlett (given name unknown), who was stationed here by land agents to ferry prospective buyers from Bartlett's Point to Gananoque. Population, 3, 618.

Ellisburgh, 1805, settled by Lyman Ellis, in 1897. Population, 3,192.

Henderson, 1806; the first comer was a trapper, David Bronson, in 1801. He planted the first orchard in the region. Population, 1,229.

Hounsfield, originally Hesiod, set off from Watertown in 1806. The first permanent settlers was Amos Fox, who in the next two years was joined by thirty families. Population, 2,297.

Le Ray, from Brownville, in 1806, included three of the present towns and parts of two others. Settled in 1803 by a company under Benjamin Brown. Population, 2, 366.

Lorraine, originally Malta, 1805. Pioneered by James McKee and Elijah Fox. The first saw mill was built by Mr. Frost and a grist mill by Mr. Cutler, both in 1804, on Sandy Creek. Population, 790.

Lyme, 1818, from Brownville. Settlement as begun in 1801, under Jonas Smith and Henry Dalamater. Population, 1,642.

Orleans, formed from Brownville, in 1821, was originally settled by squatters. Population, 1,869.

Pamelia, named from the wife of General Brown, was formed in 1819, and had its first visitors in 1799 and permanent ones in 1804, Thomas Makepeace and Mr. Havens. Population, 988.

Philadelphia, was settled, as may be inferred from its name, by "Friends," who came in 1804, among the first being Cadwallader Child, Mordecai Taylor and Samuel Evans. It was erected as a town in 1821. Population, 1,549.

Rodman, originally Orpheus, 1805, was settled in 1801, under the direction of Silas Stow. Population, 1,027.

Rutland, originally Milan, 1805, was pioneered by Asher Miller, who opened a road from the river to a point in the center in 1799. David Coffeen built the first mills in 1801-02. Population, 1,810.

Theresa, set off from Alexandria, in 1841, named in allusion to a daughter of Le Ray. Settlement was begun under the direction of Le Ray, in 1810. Population, 1,762.

Watertown, originally Leghorn, 1805, with the county; first locations were by Henry Coffeen, Jonathan Cowan, two Masseys and Butterfield, 1799 and 1800. Population, 1,116

Wilna, formed from Le Ray, 1813. Settlement was begun on the Chassanis side of the township. Population, 7,014.

Worth, set off from Lorraine, in 1813. Bullock, Case, Gillet and Houghtailing are some of the names of those who came here in 1802. Population, 545.

Watertown City, township No. 2 of the Black River Tract, surveyed by Nicholas Wright, in 1796, who gave it the name it bears because of its valuable water power and privileges, must be given more then passing mention. Wright's vision of the city to be was prophetic, for it is these same water powers which made the prosperity of Watertown. An engineer, Frank A. Hinds, has made a careful estimate of the possible horse power that can be developed from the 111.75 feet fall of the river within the city. he places it as 83,928, or with all reasonable deductions, 27,976 horse power. Much of this has been utilized in building up the manufactures which give the undoubted leadership to the city in the north. Among the factories the leaders are producing automobiles and carriages, machinery and castings, knit underwear, leather goods, silks, and there are many paper and pulp mills. One of the largest concerns is the American Brake Company, and the New York Central roundhouse and shops are located here.

Yankees were some of the first to reside in the hamlet that became a city, and one of their ideas was to have a neat layout of streets, with a central commons. The result of their foresight may be seen in the public square of today, with its surrounding business blocks, churches and municipal buildings. Watertown has all the modern conveniences of which a larger city might be proud.

Among the smaller places, Clayton and Alexandria are widely known. The first because it is the entry port to the thousand Island and the seat of some of the best developed of the island; the latter as the resort to which thousands to for the summer outing. Antwerp has its Dairies' Black River is a chairmaking town; Carthage makes paper, furniture, machinery and foundry castings; Natural Bridge exports line and talc; Philadelphia, tables; West Carthage, Brownville, Dexter, Glen Park are all pulp and paper centers.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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