History of Brasher, NY


Local Histories

THIS was the nineteenth town erected by an act of the Legislature passed April 21, 1825, formerly under the jurisdiction of Massena. The town embraces most of the townships of Grange and Crumack.

By an act of April 1, 1827, all that part of Chesterfield (No. 16) north of the south line of Stockholm extended to the county line was added to Brasher, without the knowledge and consent of its inhabitants. This was taken from the town in the formation of Lawrence in 1828. The town lies in the northeast corner of the county, bordering on Franklin county, and corners on the Indian reservation, St. Regis, and lies in the rear of Massena. The first town meeting was held at the house of Benjamin Nevin on the 6th of June, 1825, and the following officers were elected : Benjamin Nevin, supervisor; Daniel McMurphy, town clerk; William Stowell, Jehiel Stevens, and Benjamin Watts, assessors ; John Burrows, David Richardson, and Peter Corbin, commissioners of high ways; Benjamin Watts, constable and collector ; Francis Nevin, and David Richardson, overseers of the poor ; Luman Kibbe, Jehiel Stevens, and Francis Nevin, commissioners of common schools ; David McMurphy, Benjamin Nevin, and William Stowell, inspector of schools.

The town was named in honor of Philip Brasher, of Brooklyn, who at various dates purchased portions of the territory from the heirs of Thomas Marston, who had acquired his title from G. V. Ludlow, master in chancery, on the 18th of March, 1809. The town was sub-devided into three strips running north and south, and, according to Dr. Hough, McCormick, one of the proprietors, conveyed to Joseph Pitcairn by deed dated July 6, 1818, the middle part, and under this proprietor the first settlement began. The eastern part, which is known as the Chandler tract, of 12,235 acres, was conveyed by McCormick to Samuel Ward December 15, 1794, and formed a part of 192.000 acres, to which the latter became entitled on a division of the great purchase. It passed thence to Samuel Havens, of Dedham, Mass., December 6, 1806, and in 1834 the tract was surveyed into thirty-three lots and sold August 10, 1842, to T. P. Chandler. The west third was confirmed by McCormick, Constable, and Macomb, to Harrison and others, in a partition executed January 19, 1801. It ultimately became owned by Thomas Marston, and (as before stated), passed to Brasher.

The surface of the town is generally level, swampy in places, and was originally well timbered, the cutting of the soft woods forming for many years a principal source of revenue. The soil is a sandy loam, varying greatly in productiveness and generally better adapted to grazing than to tillage. Both the Deer and the St. Regis Rivers flow northerly across the town until they unite, when the latter flows northeasterly. Several smaller streams, among them Squeak Brook, contribute to the drainage of the town.

The town was not settled until a comparatively recent date, the first improvement being the building of a saw mill on the Deer River, a short way above the site of the iron works, by G. B. R. Gove in 1815. On the 17th of March, 1817, the first settlement was made near the site of Helena village by a company of men brought in by Mr. McCormick, through his agent, Russell Atwater, of Norfolk. In May, 1819, when Benjamin Nevin came to the town, the following comprised the permanent settlers: William Johnson, Amos Eldridge, Jeremiah Shuff (or Schoff), Enoch Hall, Francis Brown, and Francis Nevin, most of whom were located near the site of Helena. There the first birth occurred, a son of the Schoff's. Robert Means was an early settler, and the first blacksmith; James Nicholson was the first miller, and James Platt the first carpenter. Other settlers are mentioned a little farther on.

In the early years of the town the inhabitants were compelled to give much time to the improvement of the roads, which were difficult to construct and often almost impassable over the level tracts. Seven road districts were formed at the first town meeting, and Enoch Hall, Henry Hammill, Francis Nevin, Minor Hilyard, John Keenan, Josepn Macurnber, Justin Bell, and William Arnold were appointed overseers. Energetic work amid frequent sub-divisions of these districts have resulted in a commendable system of highways. The streams have also been well bridged, those over the St. Regis at Helena, erected in 1871 at a cost of over $10,000, and at the iron works, being excellent examples of modern iron bridge construction.

We quote the following from Dr. Hough relative to early navigation of the St. Regis:
Some importance was at an early day attached to the navigation of the St. Regis River in this town, and a boat capab]e of carrying ten barrels of potash was run between Hogansburg and the landing, seven miles below Brasher Falls. The inhabitants of Stockholm and Hopkinton availed themselves of this communication in reaching market. To promote this, an act of March 25, 1828, made it the duty of the assessors of the town of Brasher to designate in their next assessment all lands lying west of and within two miles of the St. Regis River, and above the place usually called the landing. The Board of Supervisors were authorized from this to levy a tax not exceeding twenty cents on an acre, in addition to the ordinary tax to be expended by the road commissioners of the town in improving the roads through these lands.

The schools received a proper degree of attention from the early inhabitants, and the cause of education has always been liberally supported. The town is now divided into twenty-two districts, and the district embracing Brasher Falls and the one in the town of Stockholm adjoining, including the village of Winthrop, united about ten years ago in establishing a graded school and erected a handsome brick structure midway between the two places. Here an excellent graded school with five departments, under the principalship of William H. Adams, is now conducted, with about 165 scholars in attendance. A successful Catholic school is also in operation in Brasher Falls.

What is known as the Quaker settlement was begun in 1824 by Peter Corbin, John Phelps and David Blowers, who were from Vermont. A company of Quakers had made purchases here prior to the above dake, with the purpose of founding a colony, but the project did not succeed. To those above named were soon added Aaron Chamberlain, E. and U. Pease, Thomas Kinney, Samuel Chambers and his Sons Charles, James, George and Thomas, Richard Tyner, Samuel, Thomas, George and William Kingston, Elijah and Abiah Wood, Asa Tyler, Abel Kelsey, and others. Joseph Merrill came here in 1830 and opened a store and operated an ashery. A large school was taught here from i 830, and a large plank building erected for it, which was also used for religious meetings. A Methodist class was formed and a parsonage erected, but the work was long ago abandoned. In common with all this section the farming community have for some years given a large share of their attention to dairying, and the production of butter in the town is now very important, and the quality enjoys a high reputation. There are nine butter factories in operation, and the industry is on the increase.

With the outbreak of the Civil War the inhabitants of this town adopted prompt and efficient measures to aid the government in putting down the rebellion. A special meeting was held at Brasher Falls August 30, 1862, to take action for raising the quota of volunteers. David Nevin, O. D. Edgerton, Joseph A. Jacobs, Elijah Wood, C. T. Huhburd, Harrison Lowell and William Curtis were appointed a committee to act in the matter, and they advised that a tax of $3,500 be levied to be used in obtaining recruits. At a meeting held December 21, 1863, a committee of twelve reported in favor of the issue by the town of certificates, sufficient to pay $400 to each volunteer, the gross amount of the certificates not to exceed $16,000. This liberal action was continued until the last quota was filled, on a similar basis to that followed in the older and more important towns. Following is a list of the supervisors of the town from its formation to the present, with their years of service:
1825, Benjamin Nevin ; 1826-28, Jehiel Stevens; 1829, B. Nevin ; 1830, J. Stevens; 1831-33, Benjamin Nevin ; 1834, Jehiel Stevens; 1835-36, David Richardson 1837-38, Nicholas Watts; 1839-41, Jehiel Stevens; 1842-43, John Phelps; 1844-47, Joseph A, Jacobs; 1848-49, John Phelps; 1850-51, James H. Morse; 1852-53, Hanuibal Andrews; 1854-55 Owen Partridge; 1856-58, Horace Houghton; 1859-60, C. T. Hulburd; 1861, Joseph A. Jacobs; 1862-64, David Nevin; 1865-66, Jehiel Stevens; 1867-68, Barnaby Lantry; 1869, C. T. Hulburd; 1870-73, Barnahy Lantry ; 1874-79, George Kingston; 1880-81, William A. Hamlin; 1882, Allen M. Mears; 1883-85, Calvin T. Fletcher; 1868-88, John F. Skinner; 1889-90, Rolla M. Hill; 1891, Lewis C. Long ; 1892-3, Bertram Hazen; 1893-4, Charles C. Lantry.

Following are the names of the principal town officers elected for 1893: Supervisor, Charles C. Lantry; clerk, John H. McCarthy; justices. George H. Butler, A. A. Baldwin, H. Chamberlain, Bernard Scullin; commissioner of highways, Patrick E. Murray; assessor, James J. Keenan; collector, Daniel J. O'Brien; overseer of poor, William Roper.

Helena.- In May, 1819, Benjamin Nevin succeeded to the agency of lands in the town. As the little settlement in his locality grew it was given the name Helena from Helen, only daughter of Joseph Pitcairn, who proposed passing his summers here. He built a large stone mansion on the left hand of the St. Regis, opposite the settlement. Domestic affliction prevented him from carrying out his plan. Some of the first settlers have been mentioned, and others were Morris Gehan, Neil McIntyre, John Bonar, Robert Means, James Nicholson, and others, who came in the spring of 1817. Francis Nevin came soon after Ward and his brother Benjamin in 1819, succeeding Atwater as agent. John Nevin, father of Francis and Benjamin, with his other sons, Holmes and David, came in 1820. His family was for many years prominent in the town. Other settlers of a later date were James Platt, Benjamin Watts, David McMurphy, and the Lantry, Houghton, Brown, Wait and Hall families. The saw mill on the river before mentioned is long since gone. A run of stones was added to it and it sufficed for grinding until Benjamin Nevin built his mill. This was burned in 1828, and he immediately rebuilt it, and it is running at the present time, after various improvements, by Samuel Baxter. The saw mill site was occupied by the third mill, but it is not now in operation. A tannery was carried on for about thirty years near the village by A. and L. Burgett, but it has gone out of use. A store was opened here in 1823 by Stowell & Burrows. Other former merchants were L Gory, Joseph Hall and S. C. P. Thorndyke. In earlier years the settlers went to Cornwall, Canada. for their merchandise, and a custom house was opened at Helena. The present merchants are C. C. Lantry, John R. Crowley, and C. T. Fletcher. The first hotel was opened about 1840 by Ezra Ballard and continued many years. The present landlord is Hugh Geehan. The post-office here was the first one opened in the town, February 13, 1827, with David McMurphy as postmaster. The present official is William A. Hamlin.

Brasher Falls.- This pleasant village is situated on both sides of the St. Regis River, about a mile below the union of its branches, from which point on the stream is a succession of rapids culminating at the village in the falls, which give the place its name. This excellent water power, with a dam, and its proximity to Winthrop and the railroad, give the place considerable importance. John Crapser made the first improvements here in the fall of 1826, by building a dam and saw mill. He also induced a number of Hollanders to locate here, aided them in building, and supplied them with tools; but the environment discouraged them and nearly all left within a year. Mr. Crapser, however. persevered, ran the mill, introduced other industries, and the settlement finally began to grow. Among those who settled in the vicinity early were William and Joseph Stevens, Orin Patridge, Joseph Estes, David Blowers, Asa Winters, Ethan Johnson, Jehiel Stevens, Justin Bell, Samuel Blodgett, Amariah Harrington, David Richardson, and others. In 1839 Calvin T. Hulburd purchased 600 acres, embracing the village site and the water-power, and began improvements. He came from Stockholm with his brother, E. S. Hulburd, and soon took a prominent position as energetic and progressive citizens. They built a stone grist mill on the site of the Crapser mill, which is now operated by B. A Babcock. On the site of the old saw mill Elmore Church built a saw and shingle mill, which are now operated by him. A woolen factory was established below the mill in 1845 by Joseph Merrill, which is now operated by J. P. Stafford. Davis & Company, a firm from Maine, started a manufactory of agricultural implements farther down the stream in 1852, which became very prosperous. A part of the buildings were burned in 1873. P. E. Kinney operates the establishment at present. The starch factory established in 1857 by H. M. Hulburd & Company is now operated by S. W. Hulburd. In 1867 L. C. Hall erected a pump factory and did a large business, and near by J. G. Taylor built, in 1877, a large factory for the manufacture of various novelties. The latter now manufactures pumps, churns, etc. The tannery started many years ago is now operated by William Thompson. A fork and hoe factory was established in 1846 by F. and T. R. Taylor, and a very large industry was developed and carried on to 1857, when it was discontinued. The buildings were burned in 1862.

The first merchant here was John Cooper, who had a small store in 1828. Joseph Merrill began trade in 1834, and C. T. Hulburd sold goods on the west side. J. H. Morse opened a store and continued many years, and Nathaniel Buck also. H M. Hulburd, who is still in trade, began in 1852. Other merchants are J. H. McCarthy (who is town clerk), G. & J. Kingston, W. S. Blanchard, Donovan & Stevens, and W. H. Cox, on the west side, and D. J. Murray, W. F. Garvey and L. C. Hall on the east side. G. W. Ryan has a harness shop and W. J. Waugh a tin shop.

John L. Stevens erected a hotel in 1840, where he continued for thirty-five years. At present the Central House is kept by John Driscoll; the American by Edward Wheeler, and on the east side the Riverside by John Desinond. The post-cffice was opened July 22, 1840, with C. J. Hulburd postmaster. W. H Wells is now postmaster, and tl)e position has been filled by his father and himself since 1865.

Brasher Center.- This little hamlet is situated three miles below the falls on the St Regis. The first improvement here of consequence was the building of a saw mill in 1832, by John Cooper. Others who located here were Jonas Crapser and his son, E. S , Stephen Curtis and his sons, William, Otis and Lafayette, the Johnson families and others. E. S. Crapser later operated a saw mill and starch factory here, and John Crapser built a forge in 1850, which lie operated about five years. All these industries are abandoned. A feed mill is in operation by William Valiance, and there is a butter tub factory. Joseph Hall sold goods here as early as 1837, and other former merchants were Jonas and Michael Crapser (1858) and William Curtis. John F. Skinner is now the only merchant. A post office was opened here in July. 1893, with Nancy Clark in charge.

Basher Iron Works- The beginning of this settlement, two and a half miles above Helena, was made in 1835 by Stillman Fuller, formerly from the Fullerville Iron Works. He was indued to come here by Mr. Pitcairn, to develop and work the bog ore in the town. A contract was entered into by which Mr. Fuller was given the exclusive right to the ore by paying 25 cents a ton for all used, the contract to run ten years. A furnace was erected on the left bank of Deer River, to be operated by the cold blast, and was started in October, 1836. At the end of the second blast, in the latter part of 1837, the property was sold to Isaac W. Skinner of Buffalo, and R. W. Bush of Ogdensburg (Skinner & Bush), who continued the work about three years. when William H. Alexander of Syracuse took the place of Mr. Bush in the in the firm The business was continued to 1855, when Mr. Skinner assumed entire control and continued until his death in 1874. The iron was at first sold in the pig, but later a foundry was established, where stoves and other castings were made. In 1843 a machine shop was added to the plant. The furnace was four times wholly or partly burned. The shops were idle from 1874 to 1877, when John F. Skinner started the shops only. He is now the merchant at the center. The post-office was established in July, 1849. The present postmaster is John Keenan, who is also the merchant. Samuel Fletcher opened a hotel in 1846. A later house was built in 1857.

Religious Societies.- The Methodist Episcopal church at Brasher Falls was organized by Rev. Elijah Wheeler, at the house of William Stevens, in January, 1827, with David Richardson, class leader. A society was formed April 10, 1848, with I)avid Richardson, Heman Holmes, Joseph Estes, Ethan Johnson and John S. Hall, trustees. The building ofa church was soon afterward commenced and it was dedicated in 1851; it was extensively repaired and improved in 1875 at a cost of $1,500. The present pastor is Rev. Reuben Sherman.

The first Methodist Episcopal church of Maple Ridge was incorporated February 29, 1848, with D. Wait, William F. Wait, Luther S. Carter, Benjamin Bell and V. G. Carter, trustees. A chapel was built soon afterward.

A Congregational church was formed at Helena, electing Benjamin Nevin. Linus Kibble and Grant Johnson. trustees, on June 1, 1837, with several other members, by the assistance of Rev. Rufus R. Dem- ming of Massena. The society built that year and the following, a small frame church at a cost of Rev. Mr. Howe and Rev. Charles Jones supplied the church for a few years. It was known as the Congregational Presbyterian church, but the organization was not sustained very long.

The First Presbyterian church of Brasher Falls was organized on the 8th of July. 1844. There had been preaching in the school house a year before by the Rev. Mr. Birge of Stockholm ; the number of members at first was twenty four. Deacon Alvin T. Hulburd was elected ruling elder. The church was received into the St. Lawrence Presbytesy August 20, 1844. A society was formed February 24, 1845, consisting of fourteen persons, and Hiram Holcomb, Justin Bell, E. S. Hulburd, Sidney Kelsey, Jehiel Stevens, Martin Wood and Elijah Wood were chosen trustees. A subscription paper was at once circulated to provide funds for building a church, and $1,995 was subscribed. Receipts from the sale of seats were afterwards added to this fund. E. S. Hulburd presented the site and the building was finished and dedicated June 9, 1848. In 1871 about $5,000 were expended for repairs. Rev. Samuel Storrs Howe was the first pastor. The present pastor is Rev. H. Hadley Hall.

The Methodist Episcopal church of North Brasher was organized in 1848, with Downer Wait, G. Carter, Benjamin Bell, Luther Carter and Thomas Andre, trustees. Rev. E. Arnold was the first pastor. A small church was erected west of the Center, but services have been abandoned. A class is maintained at the Center, where Rev. Reuben Sherman from Brasher Falls preaches.

The First Methodist Episcopal church of Brasher Iron Works was incorporated May 7, 1859, with I. W. Skinner, J. F. Skinner, R. W. Thickens, W. H. Hamilton and M. B. Dreene, trustees. Through I. W. Skinner's generosity a neat frame church was built at a cost of $1,600, in the year of the incorporation, and Rev. E. Briggs was secured as pastor. For some years past the services have been irregular and the membership is small.

Besides these there was a Free-Will Baptist church organized in July, 1848, which continued a number of years and was discontinued. A Baptist society was also in existence some years at the Iron Works.

St Patrick's Roman Catholic church at Brasher Falls was organized in 1850 by Father James Keveny, with about sixty members. In the same year the church was erected at a cost of $3,000 Father John McDermott first had spiritual guidance of the church. The present pastor is Father W. B. Nyhan, and the society is very prosperous.

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