History of Canton, NY


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CANTON, the sixth town organized, Formerly under the jurisdiction of Lisbon, was created by an Act of The Legislature passed March 28, 1805, and the first town meeting was held at the house of Stiliman Foote on the 4th of March, 1806. Stiliman Foote was chosen moderator at that meeting, and the following officers were elected: Supervisor, Stillman Foote; town clerk, James Parkill; assessors, William Perry, Thomas D. Olin, George Foote; constable and collector, Mason Foote; overseers of the poor, Daniel Walker arid John Farwell; commissioners of highways, Medad Moody, Amos Smith and Moses Leonard; overseers of highways, Hubbard Clark, Walter Clark, Festus Tracy, Solomon Walker, James Parkill, Uri Barber, John Hopkins, Zadock Clark, Titus Sikes and George Foote; fence viewers, Peter Brown, William Lemon, and Jonathan Day; pound masters, Stiliman Foote and Peter R. Leonard. Stiliman Foote, magistrate.

Canton was one of the original ten townships, is about ten miles square and lies directly in rear of Lisbon. Macomb was the original purchaser of the territory from the State, who transferred it to Edgar; Edgar to A. Vonfeister; he to Stephen Van Rensselaer, J. O. Hoffman, Richard Harrison, etc.

The town was surveyed by Amos Lay, assisted by Reuben Sherwood and Joseph Edsall, in the summer of 1799. Others also aided in the work, bringing the supplies by boat up the Oswegatchie, through the natural canal and up the Grass River to the falls or site of Canton village.

The surveying party's frequent visit to Canada during the summer, and their conversation with the people there as to the valuable farming lands in Canton, led to the formation of a company of about thirty persons with a view to settle there. The company started out with an ample supply of provisions to traverse the tract in various directions, and all went well for a time; but when the different squads, finding a beautiful and fertile section, and each resolved to secure it for their settlement without the knowledge of the others, then it was that trouble arose that broke up the original association.

The first land taken up in the township was by Festus Tracey, formerly of Vermont, in 1799. The farm is now owned by a descendant. In 1800 Daniel Harrington, a native of Connecticut, took up a tract of land on the east side of Grass River, built a shanty and cleared a small piece of land, sowed it. to fall wheat and raked it in with a hand rake. The patch was on or near whare the Agricultural Society's grounds are now located. Stillman Foote, from Middlebury, Vt., came to town in the summer of 1800 and purchased a mile square, on which the village of Canton now stands. He purchased the title and wheat crop of Mr. Harrington for a horse, saddle and bridle. Mr. Foote harvested sixty bushels of wheat, notwithstanding the immense number of squirrels of that year, after which he returned to his home. In March, 1801, Mr. Foote left his home in Vermont for his new settlement with two teams laden with furniture and provisions. Warm weather approaching he was forced to leave part of his supplies at Willsborough, on Lake Champlain, which were subsequently brought with irons for a mill, by Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence, and through the town of Lisbon. Daniel W. Church, who had been engaged as a millwright, followed by water, accompanied by Lebbeus Johnson and his sons, John Flannegan, Thomas Marvin, and one or two others. Mr. Church kept a diary of his journey, which was one of many perplexities and hardships, and concludes thus: " Reach Canton with seventeen blisters on my hand, occasioned by rowing and pulling the bateau along." He found Mr. Foote and his father, with others to the number of twelve, all occupying one shanty, for they had been compelled to leave every article of convenience not absolutely required at Cornwall, and come through on horseback, there being no road that would admit the passage of a team. The entire week following was consumed in getting the teams in. The first clearing was made on the west side of the river, near the stream and just below the site of the bridge. Work was begun on the frame of a saw mill, which was sadly interrupted by sickness. On the 2d of May Mr. Church was, attacked by intermittent fever, and about the same time the elder Mr. Foote was taken with what proved to be small-pox. Five of the party had previously been inoculated, and the other six were at once operated upon. Mr. Foote bore the terrible disease with fortitude, but with the appearance of the secondary fever he died on the 10th of May, doubtless the first death in the town. He was buried wrapped in the hammock on which he died, the bark of an elm tree serving as a coffin. Stiliman Foote had fallen a few days previous and broken a rib, which prevented him from rendering any assistance, and about this time the symptoms of the disease began to appear on those who had been inoculated. There was no medical aid nearer than Johnstown in Canada, and even this could not be reached on account of the swollen streams. Hard times for poor Stillman, who had to lay his own father in his winding-sheet! 13th. Rode out to Lisbon with extreme difficulty. I cannot sit on a horse. Ride barebacked. Got wet with rain through and through. From Canton to Lisbon settlement is fifteen miles without the least opening; very little road, and very many swamps and mireholes. 14th. Go to Dr. Adams' and back on foot, fourteen miles. Half an hour before I set out, while the fever was on, I could not walk across the house. 25th. So far recovered as to ride to Canton."

The mill being partly finished that season, the party returned to Vermont to spend the winter. In the spring of 1802 Mr. Foote returned with his family, consisting of his wife, two sons and a daughter, and they began their wilderness life in a corner of the saw mill. During the summer a single run of rock stones, driven by a tub wheel, were put into operation in a part of the mill, Mr. Church having returned to do the work, This was the only grist mill in the town until after the War of 1812.

During the year 1802 a number of settlers came into the town, among whom were Peter R. and Moses Leonard, the former of whom kept a public-house several years near the site of the new cemetery; Thomas D. Olin, who located on the road through what became known as Olin Settlement; Chester Dewey, Lebbeus Johnson and his five sons, James Parkill, the first clerk of the town; Daniel and Nathan Walker, the latter settling on what is now the county poor farm; Thomas Kingsbury, who settled on what has been known as the Judd farm. Most or all of these were from Vermont. Jacob Conkey also came in 1802, and Asa Conkey, who came with his father in April of the same year; he lived in the town seventy-one years, and served in the War of 1812. Other early settlers were Joseph and William Ames, Walter Clark, Dan Judd, the first miller in the Foote mill; Thomas H. Conkey, Joshua Conkey, Festus Tracy, who was one of the original surveying party; Peter Brown, John Farwell (came in 1805), Jeduthun Farwell, Harvey Knox, Ebenezer Sanderson, father of Nelson, Salmon Ward Squires, father of William O.; Abdiel H. Tracy, Anson Parker, Henry Mead, who lived to the age of ninety, two; Peter Langdon, who came 1807 and opened the first store in Canton, and died in 1867, at the age of ninety-one years; Benjamin and John Rose, Jesse Barnes, who came in 1810; Amos Smith, Hubbard Clark, William Perry, who came in 1805 and passed a useful life in the town; John Hopkins, who came in 1803 and settled on the river opposite the poor farm: S. G. May, Eaton Ray, Thomas Fenton, and Reuben Wilson, who located in the Morley section; William Hollenbeck, William Foster, Nathan Clark, David Olin, Luther L. Page, and the Hill, Hutchinson, Paine and Robinson families. On the river road between Morley and Canton settled the families of James Lankton, J. Wiley, Ira Butler, E. Corey, Jeremiah Day; and Amos Jones, who settled on the Potsdam road. Others were Heber Sykes, Moses Sanderson, Lemuel Jenison, Jonathan Day, Solomon Walker, who came in 1808, and Lyman Tupper in 1811. Aaron Barrows came in 1816, and was father of Parlin, Prosper and Aaron Barrows. Ebenezer Sanderson came about 1814 and settled about three miles from the village of Canton. Matthew Wallace came in 1821. Very many of them came from Vermont, a State which has sent out from her borders almost innumerable sons who have attained to worthy station in professional or industrial life. Others who have figured prominently in the history of Canton will be mentioned further on in the account of the various industries and in the personal sketches in another department of this work. The first birth in this town was that of a daughter of L. Johnson in 1803.

The early town records contain the usual account of proceedings for the primitive government, which need not be detailed here, except as they are in some instances worthy of preservation for their quaintness. In 1810 it was "voted that a fine of $12 be imposed on all jugglers, mountebanks, and wire dancers." It would be interesting to know what it was that led to the adoption of that vote. In the same year fifty dollars were raised for securing the rights and privileges of fish, and S. Foote, D. Campbell and N. Walker were appointed a committee for the purpose. This action related to the Grasse River, and in 1815 C. Wilson, F. Tracy and William Richardson were appointed a committee to make the river navigable for fish. The measure was carried out under legislative action, and was followed by further action for a similar end in April, 1824, when the river was made a public highway from its mouth to the high falls in Canton, the construction of dams being allowed on condition that sluices be provided for the passage of fish. Neglect of this condition, or the setting of nets or weirs, was punishable by a fine of twenty-five dollars. In the following year (1825) the town appointed Minot Jenison and Thomas D. Olin to investigate the condition of dams on the river and prosecute all violators of the law.

At the first town meeting the town was divided into ten road districts with an overseer in each district, as before named. These districts were subsequently subdivided, and the work of improving the highways, as is always the case in a newly-settled country, demanded much attention from the authorities and the people. Several State roads were early surveyed, and the Parishville Turnpike Company located its route through this town about the year 1815; ; this company surrendered its charter in 1827.

In the year 1835 steps were taken which resulted in the founding of the Canton Academy, an institution which flourished for many years, of which a full account is given a little further on. In 1845 the project of erecting a town hall was agitated, and on the 21st of April, 1846, the supervisors of the county were directed by Act of Legislature to levy a tax on the town of $333.35 annually for three years, to be paid to Benjamin Squire and Cyrus Abernethy, as commissioners in trust, with power to erect the building. A plain frame structure was built nearly opposite the court house. This building was used until 1877, after having been frequently repaired. On the 2d of May, 1877, a special meeting was held to act upon the project of erecting a new town hail. W. H. Sawyer, M. D. Packard and C. N. Conkey, as a committee from the annual meeting, reported in favor Of a new structure costing $20,000, to be paid in four annual installments, and that the bonds of the town be issued for that amount. The report was approved by the electors and L. W. Russell, W. H. Kimball and Worth Chamberlain were appointed to carry out the undertaking.

Plank roads, see page 167. Railroads, see page 174.

In aid of the great struggle for the maintenance of the Union in 1861-66, the town of Canton performed her part nobly. Through the liberality and energy of those who were charged with the task of filling the various quotas of volunteers, and the patriotism of the people, the several calls were promptly responded to and the required enlistments secured without resort to a draft, with one exception. At a special meeting August 23, 1862, a tax of $4,200 was voted for bounty purposes, $50 to be paid to each volunteer, on condition that sufficient enlistments were made to fill the quota; otherwise the tax should be for only sufficient to make the payment of $50 to each actual volunteer. The Legislature was petitioned to legalize this action. Ebenezer Miner, M. D. Packard, L. F. B. Winslow, Albert Langdon, William Perry, jr., Cornelius Van Waters. T. L. Harrison, Algernun Robinson and Bingham A. Sykes were appointed a committee to procure these funds and disburse them. On the 12th of December of the same year a special meeting of electors was held, at which the supervisor and town clerk were authorized to issue interest-bearing certificates of $300 each, to be granted by an auditing committee, to an amount not exceeding $18,000, to be given to such volunteers as should be necessary to fill the quota. William H. Sawyer, Joseph Barnes and A. S. Robinson were appointed a committee to audit accounts, and served in that capacity during the war The last special meeting held was on February 23, 1864, when a bounty of $400 per volunteer was authorized, subject to the foregoing conditions. These liberal bounties, with the sums paid by the general government and the State, sufficed to inspire enlistments. At the annual meeting in 1865 the sum of $6,000 was voted to be paid to such volunteers of the town who had been in service and had not received the $300 bounty.

The history of the town from the date of the incorporation of the village of Canton in 1845 to the present time is largely embraced in that of the several villages, as hereafter detailed. Outside of those villages it may be said that the town is one of the most productive in the county, especially in butter and cheese. In this direction the farming community has been quick to adopt advanced practices, and with the best of results. With the beginning of the introduction of cheese and butter making in factories, these establishments sprang up in various parts of the town, and were successfully and profitably operated. In the year 1877 there were eleven factories in the town, while some others that were situated over the line in other towns drew a portion of their supplies from Canton. While the agricultural community may be said to have suffered to some extent, in common with other localities, from the general decline in land values, the Canton farmers are among the more progressive and prosperous of the county.

The population of this town since 1810 will be found on page 223 of the village, on page 224.

The supervisors of Canton since the formation of the town have been as follows:
1806, Stillman Foote; 1807-08, Daniel Walker; 1809-12, Daniel Campbell; 1813-22, Daniel Walker; 1823-24, Thomas H. Olin; 1825-27, Jeduthun Farwell; 1828-30, James Parkill; 1831-33, Silas Baldwir, jr.; 1834-35, John Heaton; 1836-40, Lemuel Buck; 1841-42, Henry Barber; 1843-44, Richard N. Harrison; 1845-46, Henry Barber; 1847-48, Cyrus Abernathy; 1849, William F. Cahoon; 1850-52, Hiram F. Johnson; 1853-54, Thomas V. Russell; 1855-56, Charles H. Allen; 1857-58, George Robinson; 1859-61, Jeremiah Traver; 1862-66, Milton D. Packard; 1867-70, Horace W. Hale; 1871, Charles N. Conkey; 1872-75, M. D. Packard; 1876-77. Leslie W. Russell; 1878- 86, William H. Kimball; 1887, Charles N. Conkey; 1888, A. B. Hepburn; 1889, William H. Kimball; 1890-93, Ledyard P. Hale.

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Morley Village.- This place was formerly known as "Long Rapids" and is situated on both sides of the Grass River in the northeast corner of the town. Stiliman Foote began the settlement here in i8w by building a dam and a saw mill. Pitts Bailey and Christopher Wilson from Vermont purchased the village site and the mill, and in 1815 placed in the mill two run of rock stones; two years later they built a new grist mill, having burr stones. In this mill Thomas Fenton had a wool carding machine; a few years later he built a factory farther çjown the stream and carried on his business about twenty years, Wilson built a frame house on the east side and Bailey on the west side of the river; the latter built the hotel which he kept for many years. The first bridge was built about 1820. The first saw mill on the west side was built by Charles Barrett, who built also a tavern on that side which was burned The first store was kept by J. P. Cummings, and he built the stone building which is still standing. Isaac Whitney was his partner six years. The present stone mill was built in 1840 and is now operated by Johnson Brothers. The hotel is now kept by Mrs. Erwin: The saw mill is run by James Whitney, and the Whitney Brothers have established a butter tub factory. Mercantile business has been considerably extended, and is now in the hands of Healey Fenton, Edwin T. Spaulding, William Scruton, and W. Z. Whitney. The name of the place was changed to Morley when the post-office was first established. William Scruton is now postmaster. The school building was erected about 1860 and now serves the purpose of a good graded school.

Episcopal Church, Morley.- Trinity Chapel (a mission) was erected in 1870-71, chiefly through efforts of T. L. Harrison, one of the most liberal and energetic citizens. It is a handsome structure of stone, and cost about $12,000. On the 26th of July, 1871, it was consecrated by Bishop Doane. From that time to the present the mission has been prosperous and has been served by the pastor at Canton. Services in this faith had been held here, previous to the building of the chapel, in the school-house. Rev. R. W. Brown, of Canton, has the church in charge at the present time.

Wesleyan Methodist Church.- Previous to 1843 members of this faith had worshiped in the village school-house. On the 23d of September of the year named they met and organized the First Wesleyan Methodist Society, with David Clemens, Joel Seger, Zelotus Whitney, John W. Allen, and Thomas Buffam, trustees. A plain frame church was built the same year at a cost of $1,200; in 1845 a parsonage was built costing $800. The present pastor is Rev. J. F. Wright.

Rensselaer Falls.- This village is situated near the northwest corner of the town on the east bank of the Oswegatchie River, and is a station on the R. W. & 0. railroad. It is thirteen miles from Ogdensburg and ten miles from Canton. The river has a fall of about six feet at this point, affording water power, which has been utilized for several manufacturing establishments. Among the more prominent early set tlers at this point and in its vicinity may be mentioned John Shull, sr. N. Hammond, Jacob Shull, Archibald Shull, Christian Ghering, A. Johnson, W. Randall, J. Ghering, C. Goodell, Dea. Hanna, S. Walroth Leonard Herring, A. Sunderlin, and A. Sharp. The village was formerly known as "Tateville," from Robert Tate, formerly a surveyor and a prominent citizen; it was also called "Canton Falls," previous to the establishment of the post-office in 1851, when it was given its present name. The first important progress of the place was effected through the starting of a forge by Tate, Chaffee & Co. ; this was on the west bank of the river just below the dam. It was operated to about 1848, but was finally abandoned; the ore used was from Hermon and Lisbon. John Shull, Jr., as agent for Mr. Van Rensselaer. built a saw mill in 1839, on the site of the present cheese box factory. The first mill was carried off by a flood; it was rebuilt and afterwards burned. The site was later occupied by the Phoenix Bent Works; this was changed to a box factory about 1880 by B. F. Spooner. Otis Brooks is the present operator, and turns out about 1,000 boxes per day. The first grist mill here was built in 1842 by Henry Van Rensselaer and was burned in the spring of 1875. The mill was rebuilt the same year by Rose & Son, and has passed through various hands. It is now operated by Maloney & Morrison. The saw mill, with planing machinery attached, is now run by Solon Dexter. The first tavern was built by John Shull, jr., and Ihe first store was kept by Thomas Leonard, where J. W. Browne carried on business for many years. The post-office was first opened in 1851, with Archibald Shull, postmaster. The present official is George J. Hinsdale. The village now contains fourteen stores of all descriptions and two hotels, with the necessary number of mechanic shops of various kinds. Succeeding the district schools graded school was established for the village, and the present school building was erected in 1880. Three teachers are employed and the number of pupils in attendance is about 150.

The Congregational church was organized June 6, 1842, with ten members. Jeduthun Farwell and three other trustees were elected. Rev, Goram Cross served them as their first pastor. The society prospered, and it was resolved to erect a church. July 19, 1847, a meeting was held, and John Shull, jr., William Hanna, and T. F. Rathbone chosen trustees. The church was completed in the last of the year 1848, and dedicated January 11, 1849. Its cost was $800. In 1875 extensive repairs and improvements were made in the building, and it was rededicated February 16, 1876; again in 1891 the house was repaired and repainted inside and out; the whole cost was about $5,000. In 1870 a parsonage was erected, costing $1,500. The present membership is 115, and the pastor is Rev. J. O. Griffith.

Methodist Church.- The first class of Methodists here was formed in the spring of 1853 by Rev. A. Blackman, from the Heuvelton Circuit. This class prospered under the ministrations of Revs. H. Woodruff, S. F. Kenyon and W. C. Lent, until in 1857 it was apparent that a church building was necessary. in 1858 the Kendrew neighborhood (in De Kalb) was taken, and with the Rensselaer Falls class formed a charge. Thc society was incorporated November 11, 1858, with Joseph L. Gilbert, Robert Wilstrop and Joseph Wheater, trustees. In that year a church was built, costing, with the site, $1,000. A parsonage was afterwards erected, costing $400, anda church was built in the Kendrew neighborhood at a cost of $900. Cooper's Falls appointment was also added to this charge. In 1866, during a period of unusual prosperity, the church and parsonage were sold for $1,875, and a new church was projected. A lot was bought and a brick building erected, finished and dedicated September 16, 1868; it cost about $8,000. This sum was raised by subscription. The present membership is about sixty, and the pastor is Rev. Mr. Tisdale.

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