Constable was erected from Malone (then Hanson) March 13, 1807, and originally included Westville, Fort Covington,
Bombay and the St. Regis Reservation. It is now the smallest town in the county, comprising only a part of one
township, assessed as 20,037 acres. In 1810, three years after its erection, and when it included Westville, Fort
Covington and Bombay, it had a population of 916, or 149 more than Malone, and 291 more than Chateaugay. Strangely
enough, the population increased slightly during the war of 1812, but through the erection of Fort Covington it
decreased to 637 in 1820. In 1825 it was 1,016, but Westvffle having been set off in 1829 it was only 693 in 1830.
In the decade from 1830 to 1840 the gain was 429, and 558 from 1840 to 1860, the population in the latter year
(1,680) having been the largest ever shown. Between 1860 and 1880 there was a loss of 414, and since 1880 the fluctuations
have been slight. The inhabitants now number 1,331, of whom 78 are aliens. There was a considerable influx of French
Canadians between 1837 and 1840, and also a large Irish immigration both before and after that period. Descendants
of both of these nationalities comprise a large percentage of the present population. The earlier settlements were
almost wholly in the southern and central parts, development in the northern section having been later and for
a time slower.
The town derived its name from William Constable of the Macomb syndicate, to whom the lands in township number
three had been apportioned. It has two hamlets - Constable, lying west and south of the center, and Trout River
on the Canadian frontier. Neither has a population of more than one or two hundred, nor is either as good a trading
point as it used to be. Of mercantile establishments there are now only two at Constable, and at Trout River but
four. The former place has also a grist mill, a creamery, a small shop or two, a hotel, the town house and the
school house, three churches, and a small group of houses. At one time it had also a dyeing, carding and fulling
mill, a tannery, a sash and door factory, and a starch factory or two near by. At Trout River, besides the four
stores, there are two churches, a couple of shops, one hotel, a school house, a customs office, and a few dwelling
Years ago there were in addition two tanneries, a grist mill, a planing mill, a saw mill or two, a creamery and,
a starch mill. A livelier and more important place for a small one was not to be found anywhere in this locality.
Three-quarters of a century ago, and even down to 1874 or 18Th, the volume of trade at both places, though more
particularly at Trout River, was large. As merely a suggestion of how large operations sometimes were there, it
is known that Sidney W. Gillett once had ten thousand dollars tied up in potash alone, and, Lyman J. Folsom a much
larger amount in butter, on which a quick break in prices cost him a quarter of his investment almost overnight.
Mr. Folsom had, too, a two-story and basement building literally packed with merchandise, and kept six or eight
clerks busy. His trade came from both Canadian and American farmers, and is believed to have been the largest of
any store in the county. If it be wondered where the capital came from for such extensive operations, the answer
is that almost everybody in the vicinity who had saved a bit of money would. bring it to one of the merchants at
this point, and insist upon his taking it for use in his business. It is also a remarkable incident of the merchandizing
not only at Trout River, but in the like "line" stores elsewhere, that while many of the dealers accumulated
what was deemed comfortable fortunes for the time and place, almost every one of them was overtaken by disaster
- sometimes while stifi prosecuting business where their money had been made, and sometimes in ventures in which
they engaged at other points. Mr. Gillett, the Websters and Mr. Folsom are striking illustrations. Nathan L. Knapp
and Edwin L. Meigs were exceptions, and yet the fortune of the latter was dissipated in the next generation.
Smuggling of goods by customers of the "line" stores was usual and general, the stores having counters
on each side of the boundary, and the extent of this ifiegal traffic was quite beyond present conception. A good
deal of it involved simply buying from a counter in foreign territory for the customers' own consumption, which
was practiced commonly by the very best people in both countries - men and women who were devout church members,
and who would have scorned to cheat or wrong a neighbor, but saw nothing dishonest or discreditable in evading
the payment of customs duties; and for that matter, were seldom watched or disturbed by the customs officers, who
usually confined themselves to looking after bigger game, for there were others who almost made a business of smuggling
- planning their work cunningly and operating so extensively that if caught with the goods their loss in many instances
must have spelled financial ruin, and perhaps imprisonment as well. Livestock, butter, opium, liquors, wool and
woolen fabrics and some other manufactures were thus brought out of the Dominion here clandestinely in great quantities,
and tobacco also in an early day, while kerosene, prints, cotton sheeting, and sometimes sugar, tea and tobacco
were among the articles that surreptitiously went the other way. Those who engaged in smuggling livestock were
usually only small operators, runfling in a single animal or two at a time, and now and then paying a duty on one
with the idea of thus averting the suspicion of the officer; but regular dealers, like William Dempsey, whose shipments
of cattle and horses to city markets ran for a long time into thousands of dollars a year, could not afford the
risks attendant upon smuggling, and rarely, if ever, failed to make proper entries and pay the scheduled duties.
There were informers at times, who received a share from the seizures that they caused to be made, but these were
usually spotted and so execrated both by the smugglers and by their neighbors generally that they found it more
comfortable to leave the locality than to continue to abide in it, though there was no such degree of contempt
and ostracism for the man who informed for the sake of evening a quarrel as for him who acted for gain.
Until about forty years ago, the customs officers received, in addition to their salaries, a third part of the
value of any goods that they seized. Many stories are told of the tricks played upon collectors, and especially
upon Isaac MeMaster in the years following soon after the civil war. Mr. McMaster was extremely conscientious and
devoutly religious, and clerks and proprietors alike in the "line" stores at Trout River took delight
in selling him goods from the Canadian counter without a suspicion on his part that he was buying foreign and dutiable
articles. His distress upon learning of his innocent violation of the law was great, and he invariably penalized
himself by paying the duties. On prayer meeting nights, when he was sure to be in attendance, the men addicted
to smuggling made it a point to be active. And yet it may be questioned if successful smuggling was greater during
his term of office than it was under other collectors who mingled more among men. For many years after such operations
had been practically discontinued, and when the statute of limitations had run, a common form of evening entertainment
in the stores was the recital by one or another former smuggler of how he deceived the officers or how narrow had
been his escapes from capture and the loss of his goods. But there is not enough difference now between State and
Canadian prices for most commodities to tempt strongly to evasion or violation of the customs laws, and smuggling
on the old scale is little practiced.
In its southern part Constable is broken by hills, but the northern section, though undulating, is as nearly a
plain as any other equal area in the county. It was originally densely wooded by both pine and hard timber, and
it is told that in the lumbering operations here by the men of Westville more than a hundred years ago the largest
timbers required eighteen yoke of oxen and two spans of horses to haul them to Salmon river, whence they were floated
to Montreal. The town is watered by a number of brooks, by the Salmon river, which flows for about a mile through
the southwestern corner, and by Trout river and Little Trout river, which join in the northern part. The soil,
though generally light, is rich and heavy in a few localities. Market gardening is practiced successfully and upon
a large scale, especially by Herbert P. Langdon & Son, successors to Fayette Langdon & Son, who entered
upon the business some fifteen years ago. Their first venture was melon raising, which was successful for a time,
but latterly has been a failure, and therefore abandoned. At present the concern's specialties are early cabbages,
early corn, early tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, etc. Of corn they market forty to fifty thousand cars in a season,
and of tomatoes eight hundred. 'to a thousand bushels. Most of their products are shipped to summer hotels in the
Adirondacks at' fancy prices, though considerable quantities are sold in Malone also. They have developed a particularly
early and fine tomato, called the Langdon Strain of Earlianas, from the most carefully selected specimens of which
they put up large quantities of seeds for sale to seedsmen. For the choicest of these seeds they have no difficulty
in disposing of all they raise at five dollars per ounce, with other grades selling at varying figures down to
sixty cents per ounce. They had a contract in 1916, outside of the Earliana seed, to furnish a large house with
all of the seed from two acres that were cultivated solely for this purpose. Their tomato seeds alone brought them
two thousand four hundred dollars in 1815! Mrs. Sherry lTanyea, E. A. Cooper, Edward Lynch and others also operate
here as market gardeners. About twenty years ago Gaius A. Harmon established a cannery, in which he packed from
500 to 750 cases of tomatoes a year; but the crop was not sure enough every season to make the venture profitable,
and the business was discontinued. The first garden strawberries grown in Franklin county for market were raised
by Lorenzo Coburn in Constable in 1857. Early in the season he contracted 'the entire crop to a fruit dealer in
Malone at twelve cents a quart. His largest one day's picking, on a Saturday, was sixty-four quarts, which so astonished
and frightened the dealer, lest the berries should spoil before he could sell them, that he repudiated his contract,
and Mr. Coburn then disposed of the fruit by peddling it from door to door through the village. Since then single
growers here have picked a thousand quarts each in a day, and Malone consumers have taken from dealers and growers
as many as ten thousand quarts in a single day; and a dealer told 'the writer thirty odd years ago that he had
orders which would warrant him in buying fifty thousand quarts a day for shipment if he could get them. One season
thirty years ago the price fell to five cents a quart in quantities.
The St. Lawrence and Adirondack Railway, which is a part of the through line from New York to Montreal, enters
the town about midway between the southeast and the southwest corners, and traverses it in a northeasterly course
to the northwestern corner of Burke. There is but one station in Constable, which 'is about a mile east of the
Corners. Incidentally, it is of interest to note that the first survey for the Ogdensburg division of the Rutland
Railroad ran along the ridge back of Fred Bell's residence, crossing the river almost directly west of the cemetery.
The rise by this route to the Summit was so great, however, that one farther to the south, through Malone, had
to be substituted. Otherwise Constable would doubtless have been the principal town in the county. Improved highways
bisect Constable from the Malone line north to Trout River, and from the Burke line west to Westville. And speaking
of highways, speculative conjecture carries us to a time long antedating the first white settlement. Where Charles
Denio now lives, near the Bishop bridge, over Trout river, Indian relics (a stone hatchet, a stone head for a war
club, etc.) have been dug up from time to time, and a gentleman who had made a study of Indian customs, visiting
the locality a few years ago, declared the opinion that the place had been the summer camping ground of a band
of aborigines in the remote past. Premising that all streams were formerly of greater volume than now, he concluded.
from the character of the place and its surroundings that it had been the custom of the Indians to ascend the river
from the St. Lawrence to this point, where there is a fine spring and the land is light and the exposure warm,
to plant and tend their fields of maize.
Be that as it may, our first actual knowledge of the region, and it is scant for a number of years, dates from
1800. There seems to be good authority for the statement that the first white settlers were Jonathan Hapgood and
Christopher ("Kit") Austin, who were relatives, and came from Milton, Vt., locating on the south line
of the present town. Peleg Austin had a place near by at about the same time. Local tradition is that "Kit"
Austin was a hunter and trapper, but he must haye been a man of substance, too, for his holdings in Constable comprised
nearly three hundred acres, and in 1805 he conveyed one hundred acres in Malone, west of the present village, to
Oliver Brewster, and a few years later fifty acres in the northern part of Malone to Pliny Burgess. In 1808 he
was an assessor of the town, in 1814 a lieutenant in Captain Asaph Perry's company of militia, and in. 1816 its
captain. His Constable property he sold in 1835 to Daniel and William Bassett. The Hapgood farm adjoined Austin,
and is still in the possession of descendants of its original owner. It was here, in the Hapgood house, that Malone's
first town meeting was held in 1805, when Malone (then called Harison) included all of the county west of Burke,
Beilmont and Franklin. Looking at it now, it hardly seems at first thought that Hapgood's could have been the most
convenient point for the assembling of the people of all this territory; but it is to be remembered that then no
part of Bangor, Dickinson, Brandon or of any of the southern towns had a single inhabitant, and Moira only a very
few. The first deed recorded in Franklin county conveyed sixty acres east of Constable Corners to John Cadweil,
who, however, remained for only a short time, as shown by the fact that in 1816 as a resident of New Haven, Vt.,
he conveyed this property to Alvin Chipman. Cadwell came prior to 1805, for he appears on Malone's assessment roll
in that year, and, besides his farm, was thought to have twenty-five dollars personalty. He was an ensign in the
militia in 1811.
Dr. Solomon Wyman, the :first physician in the town, came from Vermont in 1803, bought nearly four hundred acres
of land, and erected a log house. He had recently lost his wife, and the bereavement indisposed him to practice
his profession in his new home, though he could not have the heart to refuse utterly to minister to the needs of
his neighbors when there was no other physician available. His standing in the profession is said 'to have been
excellent, though, with the barest handful of people living in the town, of course his calls could not have been
many, nor his fees munificent. But between professional earnings, the making of black salts and the bounties obtained
through the killing of noxious animals he appears to have thrived, for in 1810 he had displaced his log residence
with the substantial and commodious frame structure that still continues to be the Wyman homestead. He early held
various town offices, and was a man of force of character and quaint conversation, as is illustrated by his permission
to a colporteur to leave some tracts (tracks), provided the heels should point toward the house. His eldest son,
Ashley, was a militia ensign in 1822, hut afterward removed to Vermont, where he died. Another son, Solomon, became
a physician, and practiced at Fort Covington, while a third son, Lucius, lived and died at the old homestead. During
the war of 1812 a British deserter came to Dr. Wyman's and was cared for by him. When he departed he gave the doctor
his powder-horn, which is still preserved in the family. On it are a number of inscriptions and carvings. The former
include the soldier's name, Hamilton T. Davidson, followed by the words, "his horn, made by J. G." Elsewhere
is the name Jacob Gauy and the date 1776. Among the carvings are one representing a battle, another a duel, and
others English castles.
The date of the arrival of James Welch can not be ascertained with certainty, but, according to the diary of
James Constable, brother of William, who visited the town in 1804 and again in 1805, he had located at first in
Westville, and had been in Constable long enough before the first visit of Constable to have enabled him to complete
a saw mill in that year. This mill was located just above the bridge over Trout river west of the Corners, while
the Welch house was half or three-quarters of a mile up the stream, opposite the present cemetery. At this latter
point Mr. Welch kept a hotel and ford, across which he assisted immigrants who were moving to settlement farther
west, and also hired to them his oxen to help haul their loads up the steep hill back of his house, from which
they followed the ridge road, now abandoned, but at that time the only one that was passable, because the low lands
were generally swampy. The Welch saw mill was sold in 1813 to Joseph Coburn, who added a grist mill, and conveyed
the latter in 1845 to his sons Alexander and Lorenzo. Lorenzo was at one time principal of Franklin Academy. The
saw mill was deeded to another son, Thomas M. Both were burned in 1856, together with a shack that Lorenzo had
built close by for a store. Both mills were rebuilt by the Cohurns, and the saw mill finally went to deca. The
grist mill was sold in 1866 to James Gilmour Dickey and George F. Dickey, and has since had as owners Cyrel Hapgood,
William Lyman, Thomas R. Kane, William McKenzie, John McKenzie, Miller Bruce, and now Perry Bishop.
Mr. Constable noted in the diary which he kept on his trips that the town was getting only few immigrants in 1804,
as settlers showed a preference for Malone, but added that indications were that arrivals would soon increase;
and upon his second visit, in 1805, he found this condition realized. Evidently he expected the larger settlement
to be a mile or so north from the present hamlet, as he reserved a plot of ground at that point for sale as village
lots. Mr. Constable fixed the price of the other Constable lands at three dollars per acre, with a discount of
twelve and a half per cent. on all cash payments. He complained that trespassers had been stealing timber, and
that still more had been destroyed by fire - from which it seems a legitimate inference that Canadians must have
been operating there even before settlers moved in. The assessment of the lands here still owned by the Constable
estate in 1805, amounting to 28,013 acres, was a dollar and a half per acre.
Oliver Bell and his sons, Samuel and Freeman. were early corners, though first locating in Westville. Removing
to Constable, Freeman in 1811 built a frame house, sixteen by forty feet, with wing, a mile west of the Corners,
on the road leading to Westville Center, and kept a hotel in a clearing of an acre and a half. In the war of 1812
this house was the headquarters of the commandants of the American troops who were stationed in the vicinity, and
also of British officers who were here for a day or two after the evacuation by the Wilkinson forces. The old bench
that stood in the bar-room, and on which the soldiers used to lounge when off duty, the old fire-place crane and
a spinning wheel of that period are still preserved by Fred Bell, grandson of Freeman; but the large pewter platter
on which the old-time New England dinners used to come to the table and other souvenirs were lost when the house
was burned in 1908. The old sign, "F. Bell's Inn," that swung for many years from a post in front of
the building, inviting immigrants to rest and refreshments within, was also lost in the fire.
Asaph Perry was another pioneer, though nothing is ascertainable concerning him except that in 1805, as shown by
the assessment roll of Malone, he owned a house, farm and mill, valued at $1,155, and was thought to have also
forty dollars of personalty; and that he was cornmissioner of highways in 1807, a militia ensign in 1809 and captain
from 1811 to 1816 - marching in 1814 with his company, which nurnbered only twenty-three privates, for the relief
of Plattsburgh, but not arriving there until after the battle had been fought. The payroll shows ten days' service.
Only two other persons in Malone were assessed in 1805 at as high a figure as Captain Perry, and the next year
he had to pay on only $437 of realty and nothing on personalty. Unfortunately the assessment roll does not show
in what part of Constable his lands were located. Samuel Bell (who became an ensign in 1820 and a lieutenant in
1821), John Child, John R. Estabrooks, Peleg Austin and. Nathan Hobbs were members of Captain Perry's company when
it started for Plattsburgh, and Samuel Estabrooks was a sergeant in it. The latter became its lieutenant in 1816,
and its captain in 1818, succeeding Christopher Austin, who had in turn succeeded Perry in 1816. Nathan Hobbs was
the father of Judge Albert Hobbs, who was in his day probably the best judge of law in the county, though perhaps
not the most skillful practitioner. Remembering him as a man of austere dignity and scrupulous in all of the proprieties,
a story told of him as a young man in Constable rather challenges credence. The story runs that upon one occasion
when a religious meeting had been appointed to be held at the town house, and the expected clergyman failed to
appear, some one suggested that Mr. Hobbs preach, which he did, and was afterward fined one dollar for disorderly
conduct in having presumed to act in a ministerial capacity.
Not much more is to be learned concerning John Child than is obtainable relative to Captain Perry. He was a brother-in-law
of Guy Meigs, had a saw mill at an early day near the Bishop bridge, which he sold to Haran Hastings, the son of
Joel. The mill (rebuilt of course) is now run by Peter Denesha. Peregrine White and Wells P. Bishop owned it between
Child and Denesha. A daughter of Mr. Child married D. F. Berry of Malone, and Mr. Child died, at Mr. Berry's, a
nonogenarian, forty years ago.
Sylvester and Ira Langdon arrived in 1809, the former returning to Vermont soon afterward to be married. A yoke
of oxen was a wedding present from the bride's father, and the couple were eight days in making the journey to
Constable. The nails with which Mr. Langdon's house was built are said to have been brought by him on horseback
from Plattsburgh. He was commonly called "judge," and was a man of parts, who enjoyed a wide acquaintance
and commanded unusual respect - often acting as arbitrator in cases of differences or disputes between neighbors.
He was a militia ensign in 1814, a lieutenant in Th16, and a lieutenant-colonel in 1821.
Cyrell Hutchins, Sr., Joseph and Joel Hastings and Enos Harmon came during the war of 1812 or just at its close.
All engaged in farming, though Joseph Hastings operated as a blacksmith, too. His triphammer works (listed in the
census of 1825 as an iron works) was just across Trout river from the Child (now Denesha) saw mill, and stories
of his skill with iron are yet prevalent. He learned his trade with Levi (" Tough") Hastings in Malone,
and mended mill saws so that they never broke again at the place of brazing. made axes, adzes, steel traps, steelyards,
augers and mill machinery. His son, Alfred, still has the triphammer head with which he used to work. He was a
militia lieutenant in 1826, and a captain in 1831. Harvey, George D., Joseph, Isaac, DeWitt C., James M., Alfred
and Emery were sons of Joseph, and Mrs. Alfred Bassett, Mrs. George Pearl of Burke, Mrs. Willis W. Bullock of Kansas,
Mrs. Aaron Stowers and Mrs. James S. Dudley were daughters. Emery and Joseph were physicians; the former died at
DeKaib, and the latter in Kansas, where he had a narrow escape from hanging in "border ruffian" times.
A gang of those who were determined to make Kansas a slave State waylaid him one night when he was responding to
a sick call, and except that he was unarmed and that one of the gang had once been attended by him and knew him
to be a physician he would have been executed. Harvey, George D., Alfred and James NI. were closely identified
with Constable for the greater part of their lives; all were exemplary citizens, and for a long time were among
the town's foremost business men. Harvey J. Dudley, ex-county clerk, is a grandson of Joseph. Charles A. and Hiram
of Malone, deceased, were grandsons of Joel, and Herbert C. of Saranac Lake, the late Dr. Clarence A. and the widow
of Dr. H. H. Reynolds of Malone, grandchildren. Haran, a son of Joel, had a machine shop on the opposite side of
the stream from Joseph, below the Child saw mill, and made there about every kind of machinery produced in a small
shop at that time. Among other things he cut whet-stones from grindstones. He had a brickyard in the vicinity,
which was run afterward by Harmon Hitchcock and Peregrine White. and another on the fiat just south of the Corners.
The male line of descent in the Hastings, Hutchins and Harmon families has been fruitful, so that the names are
among those most common to-day not only in Constable, but those of Hastings and Hutchins particularly throughout
the county, while the relationships through marriage are perhaps more ramified than those of any other equal number
of our pioneers. Even Bangors remarkable record along similar lines seems here to be surpassed. To trace all of
these lines would make a book in itself.
The names Anthony Sprague, Artemas Smith and Solomon Cook, all then resident in that part of Malone that is now
known as Constable, appear on the assessment roll for 1805, marking them as among the first settlers. Little besides
that is known concerning them. William B. Buell, the father of Edward A., was born, in Constable in 1813, and,
his parents determining to move to Michigan when he was too young to be taken with them, was brought up by Oliver
Bell. William Cooper also came at least as early as 1805, and had a saw mill and carding mill north of the Welch
or Coburn mills; John C. Davenport, who had a tannery on Cooney brook, just east of the Corners, in which Daniel
I. Coonley subsequently became a partner; Alden Haskell, who had a hotel in 1817; Peter B. Davenport, also an inn-keeper;
and Guy Meigs were other early corners. Mr. Meigs became a commanding figure in the county, both in a business
and in a political sense, and it is regrettable that more data relative to his life in Constable can not be had.
His activities from 1824 until his death in 1854 are pretty well known, but I can learn nothing of him in Constable
except that he lived at one time on a farm near Dr. Wyman's, where his first wife died in 1816, and that he leased
a saw mill on Salmon river, in the southwestern part of the town, from Jacob Wead in 1829. Whether he ever was
in trade in Constable I can not say, but his genius in that line probably made him a merchant somewhere at a very
early age. He was Constable's supervisor in 1826, when he was doing business at Westville Corners, and was elected
sheriff in 1836. He and his three wives are buried in Constable.
As nearly as I can trace the matter, through conversations with aged residents and from the records in the county
clerk's office, Peter B. Davenport and then Reuben Gillett (the father of Sidney W.) had a hotel on the corner
where Robert C. and Frank R. Wilson now reside. Mr. Gillett had a liquor license there in 1830 and 1831, and Mr.
Davenport must have preceded him. Then for a good many years the stand was a private residence, and such hotel
accommodations as the hamlet afforded were to be found at the site of the present Hutchins House. Putnam W. Sumner
had a liquor license there almost continuously from 1833 to 1845, though in 1843 the license ran to Jacob Travis,
who, however, was refused a renewal in 1846 upon the ground that he "was not a proper applicant to keep such
a place." While Mr. Sumner was landlord he had a store in the building. James Tobey, the father of Cornelius
P. and Charles, bought the stand in 1845. Other landlords there were Goodrich ("Duck") Hazen and Cornelius
P. Tobey, the latter of whom was proprietor when the house burned in 1868. It was rebuilt by Robert C. Wilson for
a private residence, and a dozen or fifteen years later became a hotel again, under the proprietorship of Lyman
Hutchins. It was again burned some fifteen years ago and again rebuilt as a hotel. It was here, I think, that Alden
Haskell had his tavern in 1817. The Davenport-Gillett stand was made a hotel once more in 1874 by Cyrell Hutchins,
and was so continued for a number of years. E. G. Smith ran it at one time. Still another old-time hotel was that
of Daniel I. Coonley, which was near the Cooney brook, east of the Corners.
After Harry Horton and Charles and Henry Hawkins had ceased to carry on a mercantile business at the Corners, Sidney
W. Gillett gave up his store at Trout River, and located at Constable - selling out there to Edwin L. Meigs, and
removing to Malone. Other occupants and dealers on this site have been Mason & Culver, James and Harvey Hastings,
James S. Dudley, Fred C. Hastings, Harvey J. Dudley, B. C. Wilson & Son, and now Roy B. Child. Across the commons
George D. Hastings built and conducted a store about 1865, in which he was succeeded by J. Nelson Aubrey and Fred
A. Dudley, who sold to Herbert J. Buell. and he to Album E. Aubrey. Mr. Hastings also built and for a time kept
the store around the corner, on the road to Trout River, now occupied by the post-office, and in which A. E. Aubrey,
G. A. Harmon, Asa Harmon, Herbert J. Buell and Fred A. Dudley were later traders. Still a little farther north
there used to be another store, kept by Hyson, Jason J. and Henry Carpenter. Opposite the postoffice building there
was, a long time ago, a cheap store or saloon of bad repute, built by William Healey, hut which is now occupied
by Harry Priest as a feed and produce store.
The Cooper saw mill and carding mill, above referred to, was run by Cooper & Hawkins in 1830, and was sold
by Robert Cooper in 1839 to Esek Sprague and James G. Dickey, and by them in 1848 to Myron Chamberlain, who operated
the property as a clothing, dye, fulling and carding mill and also as a sash and door factory. It was next run
by George W. Works, and finally was bought by Jewett J. and Albert Webb, who converted it into a creamery, which
it continues to be, with William Stebbins as maker.
Harry Horton became identified with the town about 1826 or 1828, and was influential in its affairs for a dozen
years. He was a brother of Hiram Horton of Malone, and the grandfather of Mrs. H. D. Thompson and William H. and
John H. King of Malone. lie operated as a merchant and land owner and agent until about 1840 his store having heen
on the same site now occupied by Roy B. Child. Henry H. Hawkins was another notable figure here at about the same
period. Some of the old town records are in his writing, which was as symmetrical and handsome as copperplate.
He and his brother were the first merchants at Constable in 1824. George W. Darling, a physician, came in 1822,
and practiced with notable success for a long time; and Jacob Hart was here as the pastor of the Congregational
church in 1822.
The date of the first settlement in the northern part of the town, at or near Trout River, is not now determinable,
but it was at least as early as 1820. Among the first corners were Simeon Witherell, Erastus Hazen, E. J. Knappin,
Andrew MacFarlane, Peter Brewster, Suffivan Tuthill, Orson L. Healey. Augustus Martin, James Gilmour Dickey and
Washington Wooster. Arrivals a few years later included James V. Dickey (a cousin of James Gilmour), Patrick Lahey,
Warren Robinson, Peter Martin, William Scranton, Francis Waggoner, David Webster, Sr., Robert Gillard, Aaron Honsinger,
John Vandervoort, Ezra Warren, James Dempsey, Patrick Riley, and Daniel Hughes. Mr. Knappin had an ashery, just
north of the international boundary, the chimney of which has been made the starting point in many deed descriptions.
What this ashery meant for a good many years to a good many people may be conjectured from the fact that in a sketch
prepared by Mrs. Wallace H. Webster, and published in 1910, it is stated that the writer had seen an acre of ground
covered with four-foot wood, bought at fiftsr cents a cord, for heating the ovens in which the potash was converted
into pearlash, and from the further fact that when Mr. Gillett ran it and was in trade here he had on hand at one
time pearlash valued at more than ten thousand dollars! John Lamontaigne made the barrels in which to pack the
product, which went to Montreal, or fifty miles through the wilderness to Plattsburgh, whence it would he shipped
by boat to New York. Mr. Martin was prominent for a long time. and was the father of many local enterprises. About
1838 he built a saw mill half a mile above the hamlet, on the west side of the river, which was burned. He rebuilt
a quarter of a mile below, and sold the new structure to his son, Jed. This mill was carried off by ice. The elder
Martin next built another saw mill a quarter of a mile over in Canada, in which he included a carding mill, and
where he also made cloth in a small way and manufactured furniture. He was several times in the mercantile business
also. Mr. Robinson was the first customs officer here, and his salary was four hundred dollars per year. James
Gilmour Dickey came in 1825, and for ten years was in trade and had a saw mill, in which was a feed mill. The particulars
concerning the building of the mill in question are lost, but it is thought to have been erected more than a hundred
years ago by parties from Montreal, which, if true, might explain the timber thefts of which Mr. Constable complained
in his diary in 1804. The same mill was operated later by Sidney W. Gillett, and its products, both then and earlier,
were rafted to Montreal. Later still it was run by Edwin A. and Wallace H. Webster. Before, during and after Mr.
Gillett's time, Trout River was a source of lumber supply for a wide extent of country, and it was almost a daily
occurrence that teams loaded here with lumber by parties from Westvffle, Fort Covington and points in Canada. James
V. Dickey was a merchant from about 1828 to 1845. Mr. Wooster was the foster father of Mrs. W. H. Webster, who
was the daughter of Solon Bingham of Burke. Mr. Wooster was customs officer for twenty-five years, and was in trade.
Mr. Warren, a blacksmith, was the father of Herrick E. and Washington W. Mr. Lahey was the father of Patrick H.,
late of Malone, and of George of Trout River, and Mr. Dempsey of William, now of Malone, but formerly one of the
best known men in Constable - as square as a die, supervisor of the town a good many times, and an extensive dealer
in livestock and farm products.
A stone grist mill was erected by Edwin A. and Wallace H. Webster in 1858, the walls of which still stand, though
cracked by two fires. It was next owned and operated by Hector MeLeod, who afterward won success and means at St.
Johnsbury, Vt., and who sold to John B. Cameron. Then Thomas Helms had it until 1880, when it burned, and Mr. Cameron
again came into possession and rebuilt it. Next it became the property of Charles W. Hyde, now a druggist in Malone,
and in 1893 it burned again. Mr. Hyde sold to John Moore, who began a re-equipment of the interior, but never completed
the work. This mill is just over the line in Canada, as also was the old Dickey-Gillett saw mill, for there is
no point near the hamlet on the south of the border where it is feasible to develop a power.
Trout River had at one time two tanneries, on the Canadian side, the first of which was built by Alexander and
James McNair during the civil war, and the second by Hugh Sutherland. Both were burned thirty years or more ago.
The former had, however, been converted previously into a planing mill, which was owned and run by McNair and Charles
A starch mill was built on the American side of the line, probably prior to 1860, by the Webster Brothers. It was
bought and operated by Clark Dickinson of Malone, who finally sold it to Jed. L. Martin, when it was changed over
into a sawmill, to take the place of the one on the opposite side of the river that had been swept away by ice.
It rotted down.
Besides Mr. Martin and the two Dickeys, early merchants here were Goodrich Hazen, Elisha Hollister, Washington
Wooster and Orson and Joshua Healey. Sidney W. Gillett began trade probably before, 1840, and his establishment
was the best stocked and enjoyed the largest custom ever known at this point up to that time. When the Webster
Brothers succeeded him, about 1850, and had afterward Edwin L. Meigs and Nathan L. Knapp as partners for a time,
they drew custom from points thirty to forty miles distant. Wallace Webster withdrew from the firm about 1860,
removing to Malone, and the senior member continued the business until 1865, when he disposed of it to John B.
Cameron. Lyman J. Folsom traded here for something like ten years, and was succeeded when he removed to Malone
in 1876 by Brown & McNeil. Alexander Daizell, Derby & Paddock, John. McFadden, Jed. L. Martin and Charles
W. Hyde were also merchants at one time or another. Mr. Hyde went there from Malone about 1880 to open a branch
drug store for Captain George A. Mayne, then in business in Malone, eventually bought the store, added other lines
of goods, and when he became collector of customs arranged a partnership with the late James M. Hastings. Ten years
later he sold out, removed to Malone, and established the Hyde drug store. Present merchants at Trout River are
Mrs. John McCaffrey, Albert J. .Elliott, george Bruce and Berry Brothers, dealers in groceries and meats. Henry
McKane also has a meat market. Two store buildings where a considerable business used to be done, and. another
which was formerly a saloon and liquor store, are vacant, marking the decrease in business that has taken place.
But if there has been a loss in industrial and commercial activity, a compensating improvement has obtained in
public order and morality. Within the recollection of men still living fighting of a fierce character, without
other motive or provocation than a lust for display of prowess, was of frequent occurrence - the combats sometimes
being between residents and stalwart men from Canada who came solely to settle which were the better fighters.
Then, too, men who had good horses often arranged races up and down the street, while a drunken and howling body
of spectators looked on as the trials proceeded. The stake usually was a jug of whiskey. Whether because of the
prevalence of these conditions, or with other significance, is unknown, but the place, originally known simply
as "The Lines," came to be called Villain Harbor. The early meaning of 'the word "villain"
not having been that which we now attach to it, but signifying a man who held land by a servile tenure, and hence
a countryman or farmer, it is possible that the name may have been applied to suggest that the locality was a desirable
point for farm settlers. The name Trout River was taken when the hamlet was given a post-office in 1852.
The first hotel at Trout River of which I have knowledge was kept by Orson P. Healey in 1831, as the Constable
town records show that he was granted an inn-keeper's license in that year and again in 1833. This• record represents
the town. board as having found the applicant to be a fit person to keep a tavern, his establishment adapted to
the business, and a hotel there to be actually necessary for the accommodation of the traveling public. The fee
charged for the first year was five do!lars, which was increased a year or two afterward to six dollars, and later
restored to the amount first stated - as perhaps the rate of fifty cents a month had come to be regarded as excessive
and burdensome when liquor commanded only two or three cents a glass. Thomas Caldwell also had an. early tavern
here, but whether before, coincidentally or after Healey can not be ascertained. Alexander and Thomas Chishoim
built the Frontier House in 1866. It was burned a year later, was rebuilt by Frank Larue and Henry Riley, and was
kept later by Riley alone. There was also at one time a hotel which James Black built and kept. The Franklin House
was built in 1876 by Patrick H. Lahey, and kept by him until he removed to Malone in 1884. For thirty years past
it has been run by Edward Dolan, and is the only hotel in the place. Long ago stages ran from Fort Covington, via
Trout River, to Montreal, and then the hotels here had many guests. Even as late as Mr. Lahey's time every room
in his house would be taken night after night. it is different now.
In Mrs. Webster's sketch, previously referred to, she states that at the time of the rebellion in Canada, nearly
eighty years ago, large numbers of Canadians fled their homes, and sought refuge until the trouble should be over
with friends on this side of the border; and that when the Fenian raids occurred in 1866 and 1870 "for twelve
miles every family but one fled to the States." In the 1870 raid the Fenians made their camp on the Lahey
farm, about a half a mile south of the hamlet; and upon their retreat when driven out of Canada they poured along
the street and through yards and fields in disorderly and panicstricken flight - many of them throwing away their
arms and accoutrements. For years afterward practically everybody in the 'town who wished for a gun or a bayonet
as a souvenir of the occasion had one, either picked up where it had been cast away, or obtained in exchange for
food. The residents at Trout River at the time of the engagement in 1870 were not themselves in much better case
than the Fenians, dread of possible personal injury or of destruction of property having seized many, while curiosity
was the dominant condition with others. Anxious to witness the battle, so-called, and at the same time to seek
safety, these latter crowded into the old stone grist mifi until it would hold no more. The story of these movements
is told more fully in a separate chapter.
Besides the starch factory at Trout River, the town had four others:
One in the southern part, in the Chauncey Child neighborhood, built and operated by W. W. & H. E. King of Malone;
a second, near the Bishop bridge, built by George F. Dickey and Henry A. Paddock, and owned, afterward by George
W. Hale, who abandoned it, and was then run until it was demolished by James S. and Harvey J. Dudley and Fred C.
Hastings; a third, north of the Corners, built by Justus P. Culver - owned subsequently by Dickev & Paddock,
then by Hiram H. Thompson, and last by Dudley, Hastings & Dudley, who demolished it; and a fourth, near the
Burke line, built by Solomon Fitch of Constable and E. P. Deming of Burke, who sold it to be converted into a barn.
The Culver factory was burned in 1856, when Culver had it, and again when it was owned by Dickey & Paddock.
Sawmills additional to those at Trout River, the Welch or Coburn mill at the Corners, the Child mill at the Bishop
bridge and that built by Asaph Perry, location unknown, but thought to have been on the Salmon river, were: one
built by Ira Langdon, which is better known as the Culver property, and which was owned at one time by Russell
J. Hall; one below the Culver mill, built by Putnam W. Sumner, and then owned by Sherburn Ingalls; one on Little
Trout river, built by Hiram Estabrooks; one near the Burke line, built by L. D. and E. P. Deming of Burke; and
the one on Salmon river which Jacob Wead leased to Guy Meigs in 1829. Julius B. Douglass and Allen Dennis had a
sash and door factory near the Culver sawmill. It was run later by O. F. Hollister, then by George W. Works, and
now by Charles H. Drum.
Constable never had a Masonic organization exclusively its own, but its membership in Franklin Lodge of Westville
was so large for a time that that organization held its communications, beginning in 1859, alternately at Trout
River and in Westville.
Constable Grange, No. 1061, was organized some ten or twelve years ago, and has a present membership of fifty-one.
It owns the hall in which its meetings are held.
There are no other fraternal, benevolent or civic orders in the town.
Sheffield Farms, Slawson-Decker Company, has a milk shipping station at the railroad. Its receipts are at times
manufactured at the station, and at other seasons are conveyed to a like station of the same company at Malone,
and sent thence to New York.
The church organizations in Constable now number five, and formerly there were two others. Those now in existence
are the Presbyterian at Constable Corners (originally Congregational), the Methodist at the same place and also
at Trout River, and a Roman Catholic at Constable and another at Trout River. The records of the Champlain Presbytery
give the date of the organization of the first named as 1821, with Rev. Mr. Armstrong as the organizer, and the
date of enrollment with the Presbytery as 1822. But the records in the county clerk's office contain a certificate
that the society was formed May 21, 1817, by Rev. Thomas Kennan at the school house, which is stated to have been
the place where the participants "had statedly attended for divine worship," thus establishing the fact
that 'there had been a Congregational movement and preaching in Constable for a time previously. The first trustees
were Solomon Wyman, Samuel Perkins, Airic Man, Oliver Bell and John Child. The society has been continued uninterruptedly
since 1821 at least, and usually has had a resident pastor. Services were held customarily in the school house
until the town house was built, and then in the latter. A church edifice was erected in 1844, and the dedicatory
sermon preached by Rev. Ashbel Parmelee. In 1847 the form of organization was changed from Congregational to Presbyterian.
A Baptist society whose existence has lapsed was formed in 1833, but was always weak in numbers, and, though it
held its monthly meetings and prayer meetings with a considerable degree of regularity until about 1878, it seldom
had a pastor of its own. It is said to have had thirty-one members at the time of its organization, but the highest
number that it ever reported to the St. Lawrence Baptist Association after 1848 was twenty in 1866, and the usual
number so reported ranged between ten and fourteen. It never had a church edifice, and usually worshiped in a school
house or in the town hall.
Though it must be believed probable that occasional Methodist services were held earlier, either by circuit riders
or by pastors of adjacent parishes, the first recognition of Constable by the conference was in 1836, when it was
listed with Westville as a mission "to be supplied." It does not appear again in the conference minutes
until 1842, when, still joined with Westville, it was once more listed as a mission; but, with the exceptions of
1842-3 and 1849-50, no pastor was assigned to it until 1854. The first pastor, in 1842, was Rev. Matthew Bennett.
Beginning with 1854, it has been joined almost continuously with Westville as one charge. A Methodist organization
was effected at Trout River about 1860, and a church built a year or two afterward. It is a station or appointment
with Constable and Westville, a single pastor serving the three places.
A Free Will Baptist Society, with some of the members residing in Malone, was formed in 1841. It was always few
in numbers, and never had a church home of its own. In 1852 it had twenty members. When the society went out of
existence I am not informed. One of its pastors was the Rev. Charles Bowles, a negro, who had been a revolutionary
soldier. He died in 1843 in Malone, and is buried in Constable. On his tombstone is inscribed, "for forty
years a faithful minister of the Free Will Baptist Church."
About 1860 a union church society was formed at Trout River, and a house of worship erected in 1861, but never
fully completed for religious usage, as friction developed along denominational lines. Religious services were
never held in the building except possibly upon one or two occasions, and it stood vacant until about 1893, when
it was leased to the school district for ninety-nine years for school purposes. The structure had been veneered
with brick originally, but as the veneering had begun to fall away in places it was all removed, and siding and
According to Rev. John Talbot Smith, in his History of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, the Catholics of Constable were
dependent until 1865 for ministrations of their faith upon occasional visits by priests from Hogansburgh or upon
visitation by themselves to Malone or Fort Coyington. In 1866, however, all of Constable was attached to Malone,
and Rev. J. J. Sherry ministered to it until 1870, when an. independent charge, called St. Bridget's, was created
at Trout River, and Rev. Thomas Walsh assigned to it as its first resident pastor, and officiating at both Constable
and Trout River. A church building was erected at the latter place in 1871. A year later St. Francis's church at
Constable was formed through the efforts of Rev. Father LeGrand of Malone, which division of territory, reducing
the membership of St. Bridget's to thirty-eight families, was th'ought to render its further continuance precarious.
'The membership has since increased, however, to sixty-two families, and is further strengthened by a usually considerable
attendance by Canadian families. St. Francis's church has a neat brick house of worship, erected soon after its
incorporation, and from 1887 until 1918 was combined with St. George's church at Burke, the two comprising one
charge. The membership of St. Francis's numbers one hundred and seventy-five families.
Apart from the many smuggling ventures of large volume that formerly served as the basis for gossip in the country
stores and at the home firesides, and which enlisted the detective energies of federal officials, little of remarkable
interest or moment attaches to the history of the town. The place was scourged by the Asiatic cholera in 1832,
presumably brought from Fort Covington or St. Regis, where it was much more virulent. The death rate at St. Regis
was fourteen. in every one hundred cases; the percentage at Constable is unknown, but while there were a number
of deaths the proportion of recoveries was higher than at St. Regis.
During the Civil War, when bounties were voted to encourage enlistments, the supervisor of Constable refused to
sign the bonds by issue of which the money was to be provided, and a special town meeting then vested authority
in Edwin A. Webster to sign in place of the supervisor; but either because of the delay or for other reasons the
town failed to fill its quota. A number of men had fled, or, in the vernacular of the period, "skedaddled"
to Canada in order to escape the draft, and, therefore, when the names were drawn no man could be found who could
be held for service. Indeed, it is said that at that time there was in the entire town only one able-bodied man
within the draft age limits, and he, having located only a short time previously, had not been enrolled. All of
the others liable to service had already entered the army as volunteers, or were beyond reach in Canada.