The territory embraced in this town
was formerly a part of the town of Mexico, and when erected into a town,
March 24, 1804, was a part of Oneida county. At its formation it
included the present town of Richland (set off in 1807) and of Amboy (set
off in 1830). Williamstown is situated on the eastern boundary of
the county and is bounded north by Orwell and Redfield, east by Oneida
county, south by Amboy, and west by Albion.
The surface is nearly level, or rolling
in the eastern part, where begin the hills that rise farther on northeasterly
into the plateau region of Oswego and Lewis counties. The west branch
of Fish Creek has its rise in this town, and furnishes excellent mill sites;
the other streams are small. The soil is a sandy loam, stony in some
portions, and fairly productive, but is best adapted to grazing.
In early years the land as it was cleared was devoted largely to the growing
of the various grains and vegetables, but in later years the farmers have
paid more and more attention to dairying, particularly the making of cheese
in factories, of which there are now (1894) three in town. The town
was originally heavily timbered, much of which was hemlock, and for many
years lumbering, bark peeling, and tanning were the chief industries.
All this has changed; not a tannery is in operation and saw mills are few.
The original survey township was
No. 5 of Scriba’s Patent, and was given the name of “Franklin” by the proprietor;
but the new name, given it in honor of Henry WILLIAMS, one of the first
settlers, soon superseded the other.
Settlement began in Williamstown
in 1801, most of the pioneers of that year coming from Connecticut.
Ichabod COMSTOCK made the first clearing on lot 155, near the center of
the town, and Solomon GOODWIN settled adjoining him about two miles north
of the site of Williamstown village. Mr. COMSTOCK lived in the town
until 1837. He had nine children, all of whom are dead. Herman
GOODWIN, a brother of Solomon, lived across the road from them and reached
the age of ninety years. Gilbert TAYLOR located at what was early
known as “The Corners,” about a mile and a quarter west of the site of
Williamstown village, and kept one of the first stores in town. He
sold out in 1805 to Isaac ALDEN and removed to Jefferson county.
At that point it was believed the business center of the town would become
established and grow into a village. A little hamlet gathered there,
and there the early town meetings were held. The expectations of
the pioneers in this regard were not to be realized, as will appear.
Daniel FREEMAN kept one of the first stores; he was from Connecticut and
moved out of the town early.
Dennis ORTON settled just east of
COMSTOCK, but remained only a short time. Henry WILLIAMS located
on lots 189 and 190, about a mile southerly from the site of the present
village, and near to Ichabod COMSTOCK. He became a prominent citizen,
and was town clerk in 1806-08. He was one of the county side judges
in 1816, 1821, and 1824, and member of assembly in 1826, and held the office
of supervisor from 1810 to 1825 inclusive and from 1827 to 1832.
His death took place in 1835, in Pennsylvania, whither he removed in 1833.
Henry FILKINS took up a lot in the same neighborhood with GOODWIN and COMSTOCK,
where he built a substantial dwelling and lived in it until his death.
He left seven children, all of whom are deceased.
In 1804 Dr. TORBERT came into the
town and built the first grist mill, which is a part of the present mill
at Williamstown. It has since been repaired and remodeled several
times. The building of these mills and the water-power of the creek
drew settlers to that locality and destroyed the prospects of a village
at “The Corners.” Squire MARVIN built a later saw mill.
In the winter of 1803-04 a school
was taught at “the Corners” by Philander ALLEN, the first one in town.
Joel RATHBURN and Miss P. ALDEN were married in September, 1802, which
was the first marriage. The first white child born in the town was
Julius, son of Ichabod COMSTOCK.
Thomas BROWNELL, who is still living,
was one of the pioneers in the edge of what is now Amboy. He is a
carpenter and erected many of the early buildings, among them the tannery
for Jacob CROMWELL, noticed further on.
John POTTS was an early settler and
had three sons, William, Henry, and Jacob. They located on the road
leading towards Oswego. Henry POTTS was supervisor in 1835-37, and
again in 1841. Caleb CARR, father of Caleb L. CARR, settled adjoining
and west of Henry WILLIAMS. He was member of assembly in 1837.
William HEMPSTEAD located at “the Corners,” kept a tavern, and ultimately
died there. He was several times supervisor and town clerk.
Asa B. SELDEN, who was town clerk
seven years, and supervisor from 1820 to 1826 inclusive, was a brother
of Joseph, and father of Gustavus V. SELDEN. He located on a farm
near Kasoag. G. V. SELDEN was supervisor in 1847-48. His brothers,
Jacob M. and Josiah, were also prominent citizens. Jacob M. SELDEN
was especially active in local affairs, was several years supervisor, and
held other positions of importance. He was a leading citizen, and
died in town a few years since.
Jesse FISH was an early settler and
subsequently bought out the heirs of William HEMPSTEAD, and kept the tavern
built by the latter. Mr. FISH was supervisor in 1839. Joseph
F. BECKWITH settled early in the COMSTOCK neighborhood, was supervisor
in 1843-44, and removed to Illinois, where he died.
Abijah TOWSLEY settled near “the
Corners” and was a prominent farmer of the town. He was justice of
the peace thirty-one years, and supervisor in 1851. He was a brother
of Hiram TOWSLEY.
In 1806 the first store of much account
was opened at “the Corners” by Samuel FREEMAN, who came in a few years
earlier and became a prominent citizen. He held the office of supervisor
in 1826, and again in 1838.
Other early settlers were Samuel
BIRD, John THORNTON, Asa BELKNAP, Obed SMITH, Philander ALDEN (the first
town clerk and a justice), Newton MARSH (the second supervisor of the town
and a justice of the peace, removed to Richland about 1812), John FARR,
Peter B. WRIGHT, Russell MORGAN, Israel B. SPENCER, and Jesse MERRILLS.
Samuel CLARK was an early inn-keeper, and at his house many of the earlier
town meetings were held.
These pioneers were all men of sturdy
character, came mostly from New England, and devoted their lives to subduing
a wilderness, that their posterity might enjoy the benefits.
Cary BURDICK came in very early,
removed to Albion, N.Y., and later went west. Daniel STILSON settled
in town early from Columbia county, and died in the town. Gaston
G. COMSTOCK, a relative of the other settlers of that name, came from Connecticut,
and was town clerk in 1809-10, and justice of the peace in 1813.
Ædanus COMSTOCK, perhaps of the same family, was town clerk
in 1811 to 1819 inclusive, and also held the office of justice of the peace.
Asa BELDEN came from Connecticut in 1807, and removed to Rome in middle
life; he was town clerk from 1820 to 1826 inclusive, and supervisor in
Some of the residents of the town
who were prominent in public affairs at later dates are Caleb L. CARR,
who was justice of sessions in 1859-60; William R. POTTS, who held the
same office in 1874; Jacob M. SELDEN, who was member of assembly in 1855,
and Channcey S. SAGE, who held the office in 1858, and 1871-72; N. A. TOWSLEY,
who was justice of the peace twenty-three years; and Henry POTTS who held
the same office twenty years.
The first town meeting was held March
5, 1805, at the house of Daniel STILSON, at which the following officers
Supervisor, Isaac ALDEN; town clerk,
Philander ALDEN; assessors, Henry WILLIAMS, Solomon GOODWIN, and Israel
JONES; collector, Daniel FREEMAN; overseers of poor, Daniel STILSON and
Ichabod COMSTOCK; commissioners of highways, Newton MARSH, Ichabod COMSTOCK,
and Benjamin BOOL; constables, Daniel FREEMAN, Samuel BIRD, and John THORNTON;
fenceviewers, Solomon GOODWIN, Assia BELKNAP, and Israel JONES, sealer
of weights and measures, Isaac ALDEN; pound masters, Obed SMITH, and John
FARNUM. The town was divided into nine road districts, with the following
pathmasters respectively: No.1, Peter B. WRIGHT; 2, Cary BURDICK;
3, Newton MARSH; 4, Russell MORGAN; 5, Israel B. SPENCER; 6, Jesse MERRILLS;
7, John INGERSOLL; 8, John THORNTON, and 9, Joseph HURD.
This list of officers adds the names
of several early settlers to those before noticed, who located chiefly
in the vicinity of the creek and on the road leading towards Oswego.
At this meeting a bounty of $25 was voted for each wolf or panther killed
in the town.
In 1810 William HAMILTON began improvements
on the site of Kasoag by the erection of a dam which is still in use, and
a saw mill, which was operated many years, on the site of the present mill.
About the same time Daniel STACY built a carding mill at Williamstown,
but he did not get it in operation until 1815. It stood on the opposite
side of the creek from the present grist mill. He sold it to Hiram
TOWSLEY about 1818 and removed to Camden, and the carding establishment
finally went down.
The religious inclinations of the
pioneers led them early to form a church and in 1805 the Congregational
society was organized by Rev. William STONE, father of William L. STONE,
the well known historical writer. Services were held for a time in
Dr. TORBERT’s barn, and he afterward gave the society the use of a building
that stood near the present cemetery entrance. The church was not
built until several years later. This is now occupied, in a remodeled
form, but the Presbyterian society.
Among other settlers of the
town the following should be named:
Albert F. AUSTIN, Austin BURDICK,
George C. BRONSON, Dr. Samuel COX, H. C. CASE, Edwin COMSTOCK, Charles
CURRAN, Myron CASE, Henry CARR, T. E. COMSTOCK, Robert FILKINS, Dr. Joseph
GARDNER, James GOODWIN, Thomas and T. H. GREENBOW, E. P. HARRIS, George
HUMPHREY, Peter HUTT, William C. and M. HYATT, E. MCLEAN, J. A. NICHOLS,
Ashbel ORTON, V. R. and William POTTS, Robert S. PAUL, Frederick K. POTTS,
J. S. and S. B. SELDEN, Spafford TOWSLEY, and C. P. WINSOR.
Wild animals were very numerous through
this region in early years and numerous bounties were offered for their
destruction, being continued in some instances down to comparatively recent
years. In 1805 the bounty for a wolf scalp was $25, but this was
soon reduced to $10. This amount was paid at intervals down to 1836,
and in 1827 it was made $15. In 1809 $10 bounty was paid for bears.
The war of 1812 created some excitement
in the town, as it did throughout the northern part of New York.
General Brown, with a body of soldiers passed through Williamstown on his
way from Rome to Sackett’s Harbor, but there is no record of any of the
pioneers joining the army.
In 1847, during the plank road enthusiasm
that swept over the State, one of these useful (if temporary) highways
was projected from Rome to Oswego, passing through Williamstown.
Solicitation was made to the towns along the line to take stock in the
company, and a special town meeting was held January 27, of the year named,
at which it was decided that the town should subscribe for $10,000 of the
stock. This road was built and continued in use until about the time
the railroad was built, and was of great benefit in enabling the people
to get to market.
A settlement was commenced at what
is known as Maple Hill, about four miles north of Williamstown, in 1860,
which was the outgrowth of a large contract made by Calvert COMSTOCK with
the New York Central Railroad Company for wood and lumber. To fulfil
his contract Mr. COMSTOCK constructed a railroad from Williamstown to the
point named and there built several mills, one of which was capable to
sawing 8,000,000 feet of lumber annually. A post-office called Maple
Hill was established in 1863 and quite a village sprang up. When
timber became scarce, the road was extended into Redfield. The work
was carried on to about 1876, when the mills were removed and nothing now
remains of the settlement.
In the war of the Rebellion this
town evinced commendable patriotism, sending sixty-three men. Among
those who attained promotion were Josiah ASHPOLE, James MARSH, Byron and
William R. POTTS, Alexander ROBINSON, and Sylvester S. RODGERS.
Population: In 1820, 652; 1830,
606; 1835, 658; 1840, 830; 1845, 782; 1850, 1,121; 1855, 953; 1860, 1,144;
1865, 1,948; 1870, 1,833; 1875, 1,808; 1880, 1,820; 1890, 1,215.
Supervisors’ statistics of 1894:
Assessed value of real estate, $307,601; equalized, $324,255; personal
property, $5,300; railroads, 9.13 miles, $78,331; town tax, $1,380.11;
county tax, $1,845.51; total tax levy, $3,913.10; ration of tax on $100,
$1.25; dog tax, $60.50. The town constitutes a single election district
and in November, 1894, 247 votes were cast.
Following is a list of supervisors
from the organization of the town to the present time, with the years of
1805, Isaac ALDEN; 1806-7, Newton
MARSH; 1808, Isaac ALDEN; 1809, Newton MARSH; 1810 to 1825, inclusive,
Henry WILLIAMS; 1826, Samuel FREEMAN; 1827 to 1832, Henry WILLIAMS; 1833,
William HEMPSTEAD; 1834, Asa B. SELDEN; 1835-37, Henry POTTS; 1838, Samuel
FREEMAN; 1839, Jesse FISH; 1840, Jacob CROMWELL; 1841, Henry POTTS; 1842,
Jacob CROMWELL; 1843-44, Joseph F. BECKWITH; 1845, Jacob CROMWELL; 1846,
Austin BURDICK; 1847-48, Gustavus V. SELDEN; 1849, Abijah TOWSLEY; 1850,
Michael FREEMAN; 1851, Abijah TOWSLEY; 1852, W. J. DODGE; 1853-54, William
HARDING; 1855-56, Chauncey S. SAGE; 1857-58, Jacob M. SELDEN; 1859, O.
B. Phelps; 1860, Chauncey S. SAGE; 1861, C. L. CARR; 1862, Chauncey S.
SAGE; 1863, J. M. SELDEN; 1864, Isaac M. HEMPSTEAD; 1865-66, Dwight J.
Morse; 1867, Isaac M. HEMPSTEAD; 1868-71, Jacob M. SELDEN; 1872, Edwin
COMSTOCK; 1873-74, E. Delos BURTON; 1875, Jacob M. SELDEN; 1876-7, Chauncey
S. SAGE; 1878-82, John L. SAGE; 1883, Charles J. BACON; 1884-88, W. H.
SELLECK; 1889-93, Thomas LAING; 1894-95, Albert WARREN.
Following were town officers
Supervisor, Albert WARREN; town clerk,
Renssalaer L. RATHBUN; assessors, James A. HUGHES; Charles PARKHURST, Robert
ARMSTRONG; justices of the peace, Alexander MCAULEY, J. S. FOX, A. G. HOUSE,
and Austin HUTT; overseer of the poor, W. D. ROSA; collector, Thomas MORRISON;
commissioner of highways, Klock J. SALTSMAN; constables, James MADISON,
Caleb TOTMAN, Henry LAROUCHE.
By Chapter 467 of the Laws of 1871,
the supervisor, town clerk, and justices of the peace and their successors
in office were constituted a board, to be known as the Williamstown Cemetery
Board. They were authorized to buy a suitable cemetery site and establish
a cemetery, and the Board of Supervisors were authorized to lay a tax on
the town of not to exceed $1,000 for the purpose. The project was
carried out, and the beautiful cemetery in Williamstown village is the
result. The act creating this board was drawn by Chauncey S. SAGE.
The cemetery plot contained at first bout fifteen acres, and now contains
In 1860 the town had seven school
districts, which were attended by 312 children. It now has ten districts
with a comfortable school house in each, which in 1892-3 were taught by
eleven teachers and attended by 297 scholars. The school sites and
buildings are valued at $7,525; assessed valuation of districts in 1893,
$341,555; money received from the State, $1,316.74; raised by local tax,
$1,449.86. The districts are locally designated: No. 1, Stellbrook;
2, Wardville; 3, Kasoag; 4, Checkered House; 5, Carr; 6, Williamstown;
7, North Williamstown; 8, West Maple Hill; 9, Curran; 10, East Maple Hill.
The Williamstown Union Free School
house was built of brick in 1885 at a cost of $3,000, for which sum the
district was bonded. The old school building and site were sold to
Dr. E. W. CRISPELL in 1894 for $50. April 8, 1887, the district was
organized as a Union Free School with the following Board of Education:
John L. SAGE, president; Henry A.
WHITE, Albert WARREN, Thomas LAING, Edward B. ACKER, William R. POTTS,
Oliver H. FARNSWORTH, Lucien C. CARR, and Theophilus LAROUCHE. The
principals have been W. J. TEAL, W. H. ADAMS, Jay B. COLE, Emily WILLIAMS,
Jessie E. BURKHART, Roscoe SERGEANT, and Claribel PRESTON, incumbent.
The presidents of the board have been John L. SAGE, Henry A. WHITE, C.
J. WILLIAMS, and J. B. COLE. The board for 1894-95 consists of Jay
B. COLE, president; R. L. RATHBUN, clerk; H. A. WHITE, D. H. SHAW, John
ROGERS, W. D. ROSA, J. W. RICE, W. H. HUNTLEY, and Thomas LOOK.
village is pleasantly situated on Fish Creek, in the southeastern part
of the town. The R., W. & O. Railroad (now controlled by the
N. Y. C. & H. R. R. Co) was opened through this town in May, 1851.
Many of the early settlers at this point have been mentioned. The
establishment here of the early mills and of a large tannery gave the settlement
a start and by 1830 its population had reached 606, and five years later
was 830. The tannery was built by Thomas BROWNELL for Jacob CROMWELL.
He carried it on for some years, enlarged it, and sold to Phelps, Stone
& Parker, who transferred it to D. F. MORSE. Mr. MORSE operated
it for a number of years, and sold to P. C. and P. H. COSTELLO. It
was burned April 20, 1873, and the firm immediately erected on the site
what was then the largest tannery in the State, the large yard containing
329 vats. The consumption of bark was for a time 7,000 cords per
year. The supply soon failed and the establishment was moved to Pennsylvania.
Among former prominent merchants
here were Austin BURDICK, supervisor in 1839 and many years a leading citizen;
J. & J. M. SELDEN, who also built a large hotel, the Selden House,
burned in 1884; William HARDING, supervisor 1853-4; Morse, Morrison &
Co; McCabe & Rogers; McCabe & Costello; and Morse & Parker.
H. A. WHITE came to Williamstown as clerk for the last named firm and in
1864 began trade, which he has successfully continued to the present time.
He is now one of the leading merchants. His brick store is on the
site of the old Selden House, and was erected in 1885. The only manufacturing
establishments in the village now are two saw mills, a grist mill, and
a canning factory.
The post-office was established in
1813 with Dr. Samuel FREEMAN as postmaster. It was located at “the
Corners,” but soon followed other business interests to the present village.
The present postmaster is Thomas LAING, who assumed the charge in August,
1894, succeeding Albert WARREN, who held it four years as successor in
Dr. Joseph GARDNER.
The present business of the place
consists of the stores of Henry WHITE, John TOGERS, John L. SAGE (at the
railroad station), M. T. LAROUCHE (grocery), and the drug store of G. W.
TAFT. There are three hotels, three blacksmith shops, wagon repair
shops, a tin shop, etc. LAING & RATHBUN are undertakers, and
Mr. RATHBUN has a furniture store. Hon. Chauncey S. SAGE came to
Williamstown in 1850 and purchased the Renssalaer BURDICK farm of 100 acres
lying on the west edge of the village and south of the railroad, from which
he sold a number of building lots. He engaged extensively in lumbering,
and at the depot built in the Sage House, a large three-story frame hotel,
in 1868, and about the same time opened a store there, moving from his
farm just mentioned to the station. He always leased the hotel, first
to G. C. POTTER, and afterward to others. Soon after settling in
town Mr. SAGE, in company with Goodwin PLUMB, purchased the establishment
of W. J. GOODFREY and for several years carried on trade as general merchants.
Mr. SAGE was long a leading citizen, and served as postmaster about twenty-one
years, from 1861. He was supervisor for several years, and member
of assembly in 1858, 1871, and 1872. He died November 23, 1890.
John L. SAGE, his son, now carries on a large trade there, and the Sage
House is kept by John J. BURLINGAME. F. & I. J. WHITE have quite
and extensive canning factory near the station.
Williamstown has several times suffered
severely from fires; one on May 4, 1884, burning the Selden House, Dygert
House, etc.; and one on July 3, 1888, destroying much of the business portion
of the village, only a part of which has been rebuilt. The loss at
the first fire was about $50,000, and at the latter about $30,000.
On the 16th of July, 1889, another fire destroyed property worth $6,000.
About 1872 E. D. Burton brought to
the village a small printing outfit and began the publication of an advertising
sheet in his own interests. This was the first printing business
established in town. About 1876 he sold the material to Healy &
Garnsworth. The first regular newspaper started in town was the Williamstown
Local, which was first issued on May 4, 1893, by Emerson C. SMITH, the
Kasoag.—This is a post hamlet
in the northern part of the town about three miles north of Williamstown
village, on the old Indian trail from Onieda Castle to the Salmon River.
The Oneida Indians had a camping ground on the site of Kasoag and many
relics have been found there. The settlement was started around the
saw mill and dam which were built about 1810 by William Hamilton, the second
mill in the town. The mill has passed away, but the original dam,
more or less improved, is still in use. Not much business was carried
on at Kasoag until after 1848, in which year William J. DODGE and James
L. HUMPHREY, who came from Albany, build a large barrel manufactory there,
with a capacity of 1,000 barrels a day. These were sold largely in
Syracuse and Oswego. The first factory was burned, but was rebuilt
and the business continued several years, until suitable timber became
scarce. The senior member of this firm, W. J. DODGE, was supervisor
in 1852. The business interests of Kasoag consists at the present
time of a store kept by Frank COON; a hotel, by Michael MCDERMOTT;
a feed store; a large factory for the manufacture of furniture, and the
saw mill, by the Kasoag Manufacturing Company, and a few shops. The
postmaster is Alonzo FROST, who succeeded George BAILEY.
Ricard is a post hamlet, with
a store kept by H. W. BLOUNT. There are some business interests here.
Joseph NASH is postmaster, succeeding Lewis BARNES in that position.
Herbert W. BLOUNT has a large general store and with George R. BLOUNT also
conducts the Blount Lumber Company, manufacturing and dealing in lumber
Fraicheur is a post-office
recently established in the southwest pert of this town on the Amboy town
line. The postmaster is W. H. PHILLIPS.
church of Williamstown was organized soon after the war of 1812-15 and
probably in 1817. In this year the trustees were Samuel TORBERT,
Ædamus COMSTOCK, and Daniel STACY. The ground on which the
church stands was given to the society in 1817 by Matthew BROWN.
The building was considerably improved in 1850 and also in the summer of
1866. Rev. John BURKHART is pastor.
The Methodist society was organized
about 1825, the early records not being in existence to give the exact
year or the date of erection of the building. Rev. D. M. PHELPS is
the present pastor.
A Catholic church is now under the
pastoral care of the priest, Rev. Joseph F. TIERNAN, who is stationed at
Camden, Oneida county. They have a neat church edifice, which was
built in 1884, and dedicated by Rev. Father BEECHAM, the first pastor.
The Seventh Day Adventists have a
society here and hold services about every two weeks in private houses.
The M. E. church at Ricard was built
in 1894, following the organization of the society, and was dedicated on
December 5 of that year. It cost about $2,000. Prior to the
erection of this edifice Methodist services had been occasionally held
in the school house.