THE TOWN OF GOUVERNEUR - ORGANIZED IN 1810.
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THIS town was erected by an act of the Legislature passed April 15, 1810. It comprised the original township
of "Cambria," No. 10, lying in the extreme southwestern corner of the ten towns and was under the jurisdiction
of Oswegatchie. It was patented by the State to Alexander Macomb, December 17, 1787, after which it passed through
various owners to Gouverneur Morris between the years of 1798 and 1808, and in honor of whom the town was named.
The territory was somewhat dimished by the erection of Macomb in 1841. The first town meeting was held at the house
of John Spencer, where the following officers were elected: Richard Townsend, supervisor; Amos Comley, town clerk;
Rufus Washburn, Isaac Morgan, Pardon Babcock, assessors; Amos Comley, Benjamin Smith, Ephriam Case, commissioners
of highways; Jonathan S. Colton, Isaac Morgan, fence viewers; Israel Porter, pound master. A portion of the surface
of the town is rolling, while in other parts rugged hills and rocky limestone ledges prevail, furnishing valuable
building material which will be more fully explained further on. The soil is sandy in places, mixed with clay and
gravel suitable for agricultural purposes. The town is well watered with numerous springs, brooks and the Oswegatchie
River passing nearly twice through the central pirt (see page 109) The forest growth of timber of the various kinds
was equal to other localities in the county.
This territory was first settled by white men, as far as known, in the summer of 1805, when several men under leadership
of Dr. Richard Townsend, from Washington county, N. Y., came into the locality. Dr. Townsend had been engaged by
Mr. Morris to act as his agent for the Cambray lands and to promote their settlement. The names of the party were
Willard Smith, Isaac Austin, Pardon Babcock, John Alden, Ambi Higby and Morris Mead. Their route into the town
was from the head of Lake George through the wilderness to the Smith settlement in De Kaib, whence they proceeded
southwest to the Oswegatchie just above the natural dam. Thence they passed down and crossed the river near the
present line of Rossie. After looking over the country, they returned home by way of Indian and Black Rivers. In
the fall of the same year Dr. Townsend, with a party of those before named and others, made a second visit to the
town, coming up from the south to the Oswegatchie and up that stream to the small island on the site of Gouverneur
village. This locality greatly pleased them. Lands were selected for settement, a surveyor secured, tracts laid
out and a beginning made in clearing away the forest. The party then returned to their homes
Early in February, 1806, Willard Smith, Pardon Babcock, Isaac Austin and Eleazer Nichols set out with their families
from Hartford, Washington county, to take up their permanent residence in Cambray. They were provided with eight
bushels of beans, eleven hundred pounds of boneless pork, sugar, tea and coffee, with a small outfit of furniture
and cooking utensils. Mrs. Austin had been many years a rheumatic invalid and was carried the whole distance in
a crib. Seven cows and four yoke of oxen were driven in by the party. The women and children were left with Gershom
Mattoon, who had opened a tavern on the site of Antwerp village, while the men went forward to build the first
rude dwelling places. Isaac Austin established himself within the limits of the present village; Babcock on what
became known as the Joel Keyes place; and Smith and Nichols built a shanty together where James Maddock recently
lived. On the 31st of March, Isaac Morgan and his wife came in from Vermont, and Dr. Townsend came soon afterward,
but did not bring his family until the following year.
Through the influence of the first four pioneers and the reported value of the farming lands and the water power,
other settlers soon arrived, and in the spring of 1807 there were twelve families, the eight besides the four being
Dr. John Spencer, Isaac Morgan, Dr. Richard Townsend, Daniel Austen, Stephen Patterson. Benjamin Smith; Israel
Porter and Stephen Smith. Land began to advance in value and a large tract was purchased and divided into farms.
The original price was $2.50 per acre but was soon raised to $3.00 and $4.00. As Considerable land was occupied
on both sides of the river, the need of a bridge was felt as crossing was by boats or on a log foot path which
was made by felling trees in the river. Therefore an effort was made to provide a bridge, and as the town of Oswegatchie
declined to aid in the undertaking, the settlers with commendable zeal and energy raised the sum of $500, when
Isaac Kendall built a log bridge, in the summer of 1807, which served its purpose about twelve years. In the same
summer the route from Antwerp was worked in a more direct line and continued through to Ricbviile: Many families
of the St Regis Indians were camping in the neighborhood, who were generally friendly when sober, though their
native shyness proved a source of annoyance. Religious exercises were regularly held, consisting of prayer meetings
and the reading of Scripture and exhortation on the Sabbath, the latter service being often conducted by Stephen
Patterson. In the spring of 1806, two Congregational missionaries, named Pettengill and Nicholas, came from Massachusetts
and remained in the little settlement a short time, and a Methodist preacher named Heath came occasionally from
De KaIb and held service. Previous to the organization of the Baptist church in i8ii, religious harmony prevailed
and no outward feeling was manifested regarding sect or belief, and all parties worshiped to.. gether. The first
families were Baptist, but a large Congregational element was early developed, each giving of his ability for the
support of the Gospel by whomsoever declared. Concerning the privations of the pioneers, while establishing their
homes in the wilderness, see Chapter IX, The nearest mill was at Cooper's Falls, a distance of many miles through
the woods to go for a supply of meal.
The first birth in the town was that of Allen Smith, son of Willard Smith, born May 8, 1806. The first death was
that of a two year old daughter of Isael Porter, in August, 1808. Previous to the spring of 1807, the nearest physician
was Dr. Seeley of De KaIb, until Dr. John Spencer arrived.
Qther arrivals in 1807 were Colburn Barrell and Roswell Wilder, while in 1808 there came Joel Wilder, James Parker,
John Parker, Ephraim Case, Jonathan S. Colton, William Cleghorn, Henry Welch, Jeremiah Merrihew, Jesse Dewey and
Stephen Patterson. James Thompson, James Haile and Jonathan Paine came in 1808. Among those who came in the following
year were Timothy Sheldon, Reuben Nobles, William W. Rhodes, Richard Kimball and Capt. Rockwell Barnes, a millwright
and a man of enterprise, who did much to advance the prosperity of the town. From this time forward, settlements
increased rapidly and farms were cleared from year to year of the original forest. In 1809 a clearing of eighty
acres was made in the vicinity of Natural Dam by Joseph Bolton, for Mr. Morris, who erected a saw and grist mill,
which were long known as Morris's mills. In the autumn of 1809 the first district school was opened, and soon afterwards
a small school house was built near the site of the Presbyterian church, taught by Silas Brooks. After a week he
left the school and was succeeded by Betsey S. Sackett, who later became the wife of John Parker.
The first slave and probably the only one brought to town was one Jenny, a cripple, who came with the family of
Dr. Richard Townsend, in the spring of 1807. She was conveyed to Ephraim Gates for the consideration of a span
of horses and sleigh, but her health failing, so as to render her nearly useless, she was repurchased by her former
owner, by whom she was treated kindly until her death a year later.
The customary regulations for the public good were voted, including the destruction of noxious weeds, bounty on
wolves and other ferocious animals, the control of domestic animals, the building of a pound, etc. The encounter
with wild beasts and the depredations committed, caused bounties to be offered for their destruction, which laws
or regulations at the present time are a dead letter.
Dr. John Spencer, who came in with his family from Windsor, Ont., in the spring of 1807, was the only practicing
physician within a circuit of many miles. Several families in Antwerp were prostrated with a malignant fever, whom
the doctor visited from time to time, going. through the woods on foot. On one of his visits in December, in the
year of his arrival, and when about three niiles from the settlement, he was startled by the sight of a deer pursued
by a black wolf. While watching the chase he observed eleven other wolves following after. The wolves, on discovering
new game, abandoned the chase of the deer and circled around the doctor with loud howls and open jaws ready to
attack him. Mr. Spencer's first thought was to retreat to the settlement, but this seemed to be impractical. The
next thought was to climb a tree; this he also considered was not safe, as the cold was so intense he would freeze
to death if obliged to stop there through the night, for the wolves would not be in a hurry to leave. He therefore
resolved to fight; so, divesting himself of unnecessary burdens, he cut a heavy beech cudgel and rushed at his
assailants, beating the icy bushes right and left and making all the noise possible, when the pack of disappointed
beasts retired; he then pursued his journey unmolested. Encounters with wolves similar to this were quite frequent
for several years after. The bear was just about as lawless as the Indian. He trampled down and carried off the
corn, stole maple sugar when left in the bush, stuck his nose and paw into boiling syrup, tipped over sap troughs,
and carried off pigs, calves and lambs. A Mr. Case adopted a novel mode of capturing a bear which was foraging
on his premises. He attached a piece of meat to the end of a long rope and retired to a hill that was frequented
by the animal. With his gun he waited for his victim, but becoming drowsy he fastened the rope to his leg and fell
asleep, when he was awakened by an unceremonious journey down the hill. He at once fired in the direction of the
motor when the bear took fright and fled.
The above is sufficient to show what had to be contended with in the settlement of a new country. For particulars
see Chapter IX.
The first public house was opened in 1808, on the west side of the river, and was kept by Israel Porter. A commodious
log school house was built near what became known as Fosgate's Four Corners, where John Cheney was the first teacher.
This part of the town improved faster for a period than the east side, but the valuable water power, and the opening
of a store by John Brown, soon turned the scale.
James and John Parker came into the town in April, 1810, and the former located on a farm. William Downs, a clothmaker,
in 1814 operated a carding machine and fulling mill, as mentioned hereafter.
The first frame house built in the place was for Dr. John Spencer, by Rockwell Barnes and Isaac Austen, and is
still standing. Rockwell Barnes was a noted mechanic and came to the town in 1808. He built many of the mills in
the vicinity, and was conspicuous in the early militia.
The War of 1812-14 created much excitement in the town. For the history of the doings at Ogdensburg see Chapter
XI. At the commencement of the war the people in the village of Gouverneur, being panic stricken in the fear of
Indian excursions, erected a block house in the road between the residence of F. M. Holbrook and H. H. Hoover's
livery stable, enclosed by a stockade containing about one acre of ground. The main building was formed of heavy
timbers calculated to withstand a siege and stop musket balls. The modern Babel was not molested by the enemy,
though a watch by day and sentinels by night were maintained for a time, when the people returned to their vocations.
The building was finally sold and the timbers used in the construction of the darn, bridges and houses.
Stephen Patterson, William Fanning, Isaac Austen and Stephen Mitchell were among the volunteers who went to the
frontier. Silas Spencer, a brother of Dr. John Spencer, went as substitute for John Parker, and by his heroism
in firing a small cannon upon a party of British who were attempting a landing from the ice at Ogdensburg, gained
Dr. John Spencer, while living on the farm now occupied by Wallace McKean, kept a small tavern. A company of soldiers
on their way to Ogdensburg in the fall of 1812 stopped at his house for breakfast, and while they were thus occupied
the doctor inspected their ordnance. Looking into the mouth of a cannon he discovered, instead of powder and ball,
several of his own chickens, which a short time before were running around the yard, their necks having been rung
and their cackle hushed. A few years later a stranger called .on the doctor and asked him if he had kept a tavern
down the river during the war time. Being answered in the affirmative, he added: "Did you breakfast some soldiers
one morning? and did you miss any chickens?" The doctor said he did and knew of the theft at the time, but
felt it a privilege to do something for his country, and was willing that they should select their own provisions.
With the close of the war the prospects of the town were brighter than ever before. In 1816 there were one hundred
and fifty families in the town and a population in the village of nearly two hundred, while immigration was active.
This progress received a check between 1820 and 1825. A few additions were made in that period, among them Daniel
Keys (1822) and Harvey D. Smith (1824), a most valuable citizen; but on account of scarcity of money, poor markets
for products, difficulty in meeting the interest accounts on purchased lands, the people were much discouraged.
But a better and more prosperous era was at hand, and following 1830, and continuing to the present time, the inhabitants
of the town have experienced almost uninterrupted progress.
The agricultural interests, in common with those of other sections, have undergone much change since early times.
The most important feature of this change has been effected within the past twenty-five years, resulting in great
increase of the dairying interest, at the expense of grain growing. This has been, on the whole, beneficial to
the farmers, for a large portion of their lands is better adapted for grazing than tillage. The first cheese factory
in the town was estabdished by A. G. Gillette in 1869; this was rapidly followed by one at North Gouverneur, by
Elias Kelsey, 1870; one at Little Bow Corners, by S. W. Crandall, in 1867; one at Smith's Mills, by Conray &
Drake, in 1875 ; one west of the village, by C. W. Overacker, in 1875 ; and one near the Rock Island bridge, by
Caleb Thornton, in 1875.
Gouverneur Village was incorpotated August 8, 1850. It is situated on both sides of the Oswegatchie, near the center
of the town. The incorporation was accomplished in pursuance of an order of the Court of Sessions, under condition
that the electors of the village should assent thereto. James Sherwin, Rodney Smith and John W. Overacker were
designated inspectors of the election, which was held on the 7th of September, 1850. The vote was thirty in favor
of incorporation and four against. The first corporation election was held on the 12th of the succeeding month,
and the following officers were elected: Trustees, N, D. Arnot, Edwin Dodge, Peter Van Buren, S. B. Van Duzee and
J. P. Smith (Mr. Arnot being elected president by the board at its first meeting); assessors, H. Schermerhorn,
Richard Parsons and O. G. Barnum; clerk, Chauncey Dodge; collector, Zebina Smith; treasurer, H. D. Smith.
The presidents of the village from that time until the present have been as follows:
Peter Van Buren, 1851; John Fosgate, 1852; Richard Parsons, 1853-55; Charles S. Cone. 1856; Whitfield M. Goodrich,
1857; .James D. Easton, 1858; Gilbert L. Van Namee, 1859-60; Charles Anthony, 1861; Charles A. Van Duzee, 1861-62;
Charles E. Clark, 1864-66; and J. B. Preston, in 1867.
By act of Legislature the original village charter was repealed in April, 1868, and a new act of incorporation
passed, and the first election thereunder occurred on the 5th day of May, 1868. The list of presidents is continued:
W. H. Bowne, 1869-70; S. B. Stinson, 1871; Edwin G. Dodge, 1872-76; William Whitney, 1877; W. H. Bowne, 1878; A.
K. Jepson, 1879; E. F. Beardslee, 1880; W. H. Dodge, 1881; Dr. J. B. Carpenter, 1882; Newton Aldrich, 1883; B.
L. Barney, 1884-3; G. M. Gleason, 1886; John McCarthy, 1887-8; Henry Sudds, 1889-91; G. S. Conger, 1892; J. B,
Some of the early operations of the pioneers in the settlement here have already been noticed. The building of
the first bridge across the river was in 1808. The second bridge was built by James Parker in 1820, at a cost of
$1,000. This was also replaced by the present iron bridge in 1877, at a cost of $18,000. It was placed a trifle
higher up stream than the former ones, and the approaches to it on both sides of the river were greatly improved.
In 1809 John Brown opened the first store, at the east end of the bridge. Not long after, Moses Rowley opened the
second store. The products of the early manufacture of potash, maple sugar, grain, etc., found market in the village,
whence they were sent to Ogdensburg, Watertown or Sackett's Harbor, to be exchanged for goods. Mr. William Downs
in 1814 entered into a contract with Mr. Morris to build a dam and fulling mill at the village. The conditions
of his contract were that his mill should be in operation in time to work the wool clip of that season, which was
performed. This mill was operated many years, Downs being succeeded by Eli Robinson. Sylvester Cone was the next
owner, and rebuilt it. It was afterwards converted into a wood. working establishment by Isaac P. Fisher, and was
burned in 1853. Mr. Fisher erected on its site the fine grist mill now owned by Graves Bros. (C. H. and W. C.),
who bought it April 11, 1893, of their father, S. Graves.
John Brown erected and carried on a distillery soon after the close of the war; it was situated above the mills,
and for a number of years did quite a large business. What the effect of the distillery alone may have been on
the morals of the community, we cannot say, but it was not beneficial, according to the recollection of the older
The first saw mill in the village was built on the west side of the river in 1815 by Israel Porter, Rockwell Barnes,
Raymond Austin and Benjamin Smith, each having a quarter interest. After passing through the ownership of many
persons, it was finally burned in 1853, when John Fosgate was its owner. He rebuilt it, and it afterwards passed
into possession of Bidwell & Baldwin, who remodeled it and sold it to Starbuck, McCarty & Co., in 1869.
In 1882-3 they erected the steam mill which was burned July 9, 1887, and was immediately rebuilt. The company continues
to operate the steam and the water mill, have several lumber yards, and carry on a large business. They manufacture
sash, doors and blinds, and run a planing mill.
The first grist mill was built by Israel Porter about 1820, on the west side, and was furnished with two runs of
rock stone brought from Antwerp. This mill was burned in 1825; rebuilt by Porter, who operated it until his death
in 1836, when it passed to Almeron Thomas, and later to John Fosgate, who operated it in connection with the saw
mill above described. The mill was burned in the fire of 1853, but Mr. Fosgate rebuilt it. At his death it was
purchased by Edwin C. Dodge. The firm was then Dodge & Beardslee. On the death of Mr. Dodge, Ne]son H. Howard
bought into the firm of Howard & Beardslee. Mr. Howard bought out his partner and sold one half to J. E. McAllaster
in 1887. The two remained together until 1890, when Mr. McAllaster purchased the remaining half and took his son,
A. F. McAllaster, and his son inlaw, R. T. Allen, into the partnership, the same firm carrying on a large mercantile
business also. In the summer of 1893 an extensive addition was made to the mill, which now contains six sets of
rollers and all modern machinery for a merchant milling business.
Harvey D. Smith, whose name has been mentioned, settled in the town in 1824, and until his death, in 1864, was
conspicuous in all good works. In that year (1824) the first post-office was officially established on the 3d of
August, Moses Rowley, postmaster.
In the earlier years most of the mail had been received from the Black River country by whatever agency the people
could make use of and deposited with Haile Coffeen for distribution. About 1816 Dr. Richard Townsend performed
the duties of postmaster, though not an appointee of the government, and so continued to do until the regular appointment.
Dr. Townsend made an office of his table drawer, which was subsequently removed by Mr. Rowley to his store. His
successor was Edwin Dodge, from about 1830 to 1849. Mr. Dodge came to Gouverneur as the agent of the Morris estate,
and by his liberal and forbearing policy exerted a strong influence upon the upbuilding of the place. He died in
1877. Chauncey Dodge succeeded him as postmaster, and was followed by Charles Anthony, William H. Bowne, S. S.
Van Duzee, George B. Winslow, Horace G. Reynolds, Wm. R. Dodge and A. C. Gates.
The deep interest that has uniformly been evinced in Gouverneur in educational affairs found early expression in
efforts to establish an academical school. Agitation of the subject began in 1826, when a one-story brick school
house was in process of erection It was proposed to add another story for a school of higher grades, funds for
the purpose to be raised by subscription. In pursuance of the plan $640 were raised and divided into fifty-four
shares, the shareholders to constitute an association which should use the upper half of the building and control
the school. The name of "The Gouveriieur Union Academy" was adopted, and its affairs placed under control
of three trustees to be elected annually. The school was opened in 1827 with a Mr. Ruger as principal. On the 5th
of April, 1828, this academy was incorporated as "The Gouverneur High School," with John Spencer, Aaron
Rowley, David Barrell. Harvey D. Smith, Josiah Waid, Alba Smith, Almond Z. Madison, Joel Keyes and Robert Conant
as the first Board of Trustees. The authorized capital stock was $20,000, divided into 2,000 equal shares. In the
fall of 1828 the charge of the school was assumed by Isaac Green, who was to receive as remuneration all the proceeds
of tuitions, and was granted the use of the school room free during the first term.
The school was admitted to the benefits of the Regents of the University in 1829, and in the following year the
necessity for additional room was met by raising $2,755 and the beginning in September of a new building on a lot
secured from James Averill; tills lot constituted the easterly end of what is now the public park. The fund mentioned
being insufficient for the purpose, the stockholders in the upper story of the old building conveyed their shares
to the trustees of the High School, under agreement that the latter should sell the property, donate the proceeds
to the erection of the new building, and give the stockholders an equal amount of stock authorized by the act of
1828. Arrangement was made with Joseph Hopkins, a graduate of Hamilton College, who had taught in Potsdam, to take
charge of this school, receiving as remuneration all the tuition money in addition to that received from the Regents.
The building was of brick, two stories high and was ready for occupancy in April, 1834, when the school was
opened with Joseph Hopkins as principal, assisted by A. Z. Madison and Mary A. Hopkins. In March, 1836, Mr. Hopkins
resigned and under arrangements with the Black River Conference the school was taken under the charge of the Methodist
Episcopal church. The principal features of the ment under which this change was made were that the Methodists
were prohibited from procuring sufficient of the stock, exclusive of 100 shares which were properly transferred
to them, to give them entire control of the institution; and that if the Methodists should fail to maintain the
school (by which failure they would forfeit the said transferred stock) then the institution should be returned
to the former proprietors free of all encumbrance. On March 29, 1837, 103 shares were transferred to John Loveys,
William C. Mason, Jesse T. Peck, C. W. Leet and Reuben Reynolds, ministers acting for the conference. The first
principal under the new regime was Rev. Jesse T. Peck. On the night of January 1, 1839, the building and all of
its contents were burned. In this trying emergency rooms were fitted up in the upper story of the old school building
and occupied. Of the $2,300 insurance, $1,800 were lost; the remainder, with about $2,600 in subscriptions, a large
part of which was not yet due, constituted the resources of the institution, while there was an indebtedness of
about $4,000. A loan of $2,000 was obtained from the State, to be repaid through a tax in four years, which, with
additional subscriptions, enabled the authorities to rebuild. A lot fronting 225 feet on what is now Main street,
and 182 feet on what is now Grove street, was purchased of Wolcott Griffin, May 6, 1839, and there a substantial
stone building was erected at a cost of $5,500. On the 25th of April, 1840, the name of the institution was changed
by act of Legislature to "Gouverneur Wesleyan Seminary" and so remained. By all act of 1851, an appropriation
of $2,000 was made by the State, which relieved the seminary of all incumbrances. The institution remained in charge
of the Methodists, enjoying a high degree of prosperity, until 1869, when they transferred their support to a school
at Antwerp. The town citizens thereupon held a meeting at which a vote was passed to issue bonds to the amount
of $20,000 to insure the continuance of the seminary in Gouverneur. The law authorizing these bonds passed April
23, 1869, and it also authorized an increase of the capital stock to $50,000. Of the principal of the bonds, $4,000
were used in repairing the buildings and other improvements. The stockholders' meeting of September 6, 1869, developed
considerable friction. Rev. L. Clark, for the conference, offered a vote on the 103 shares transferred to them
in 1837, which votes were rejected. He also offered to vote on 300 other shares, which votes were finally received.
The supervisor of the town voted on 2,000 shares, under the strenuous opposition of Mr. Clark. This effectually
disposed of sectarian influence in the seminary, and the following trustees were elected Hon. Edwin Dodge, Isaac
Starbuck, Hezekiah S. Randall, Stephen B. Van Duzee, Griswold E. Burt, William A. Paul, George M. Gleason, Edward
H. Neary and Francis M. Holbrook.
West Side School Building.- The rapid increase in population on the "West Side" in 1888, owing
to the development of the marble business, had so far outrun the capacity of the school facilities, that it was
decided, after a fiercely fought fight, to erect a new and more commodious school building.
Great opposition was made by the extremely conservative portion of the population, but the indomitable energy and
dogged perseverance of John McCarty triumphed over all opposition, and in 1889, under his personal supervision,
a splendid building was erected at a cost of $8,300. The structure is of wood, two stories high, has a floor area
of 3,300 feet, eight class rooms, and can conveniently seat 360 pupils. It is furnished with modern seats and all
other needful paraphernalia in keeping with the progress of the age, and is warmed by three furnaces, which are
located in the basement. A fine bell was donated by the workmen who constructed the edifice, which is an honor
to the town, and a fitting monument to the enterprise and dauntless pluck of John McCarty, to whom it owes its
It will be proper to close our account of educational affairs in Gouverneur in this connection. In 1873 the old
brick school house, corner of Church and John streets (erected in 1826) was purchased by Dr. McFalls, who fitted
it for a dwelling. A lot had already been purchased on Gordon street, where, in 1870, a new and more commodious
school building was erected, to which several additions have been made at various times, as necessity demanded.
Early in the year 1880 agitation was begun for a change in the school system to a Union Free School. While the
old seminary had many friends who deplored the necessity of seeing it lose its identity, they still realized that
it had lost much of its prestige and usefulness through competition in larger places, and acquiesced in the general
movement for a change.
A meeting was called in March, 1887, to consider the establishment of a Union Free School in the village and the
uniting of Districts Nos. 1 and 2. The majority voting in favor of the project was large, and the meeting proceeded
to the appointment of a board of nine trustees, as follows: H. Sudds, J. B. Johnson, L. M. Lee, J. W. Ormiston,
J. Laberdee, B. L. Barney, John McCarty, A. S. Whitney, and F. H. Horton. The school opened in the following autumn
and has continued with gratifying success. A new school building was erected on Depot street in 1890.
The Gouverneur Union Library was incorporated in 1815, and through contributions of money and books from private
collections at home and abroad, a valuable library was soon secured. The trustees were Rockwell Barnes, Israel
Porter, Aaron Atwood, Richard Kimball, Benjamin Brown, Timothy Sheldon, Pardon Babcock, and Joseph Smith, all of
whom served at one time or another. The library was eventually transferred to the High School and then to Gouverneur
Wesleyan Seminary, where it was burned with that institution on the 1st of January, 1839, after being a means of
On November 19, 1885, the Ladies' Reading Room Association was organized, with a president, five vice-presidents
(one of the latter from each religious denomination in the village), a secretary, treasurer, librarian, and executive
committee. The library of the association has now nearly a thousand volumes, which, with the current literature
kept constantly in the rooms, render it a popular and beneficial resort. The early success of the reading-room
was greatly promoted by the action of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (organized 1884) in turning over to
it a considerable accumulation of books, etc.
Sewers and Street Lighting.- There were no sewers in Gouverneur until the year 1876, since which date they
have been extended in several of the principal streets. Extensive improvements in this direction have been made
since 1886, until now the village is thoroughly drained and the streets are in excellent condition. In the year
just mentioned. also, was established the fountain in the park, which was paid for by a dollar subscription.
The American Illuminating and Power Company was formed with a capital of $20,000, and the electric plant erected
in the summer of 1887. The first officers were: E. D. Barry, president; W. F. Sudds, vice-president; V. P. Abbott,
treasurer; C. Arthur Parker, secretary. Power was obtained from the Gouverneur Machine Company, and the village
voted to ad.opt the lights of the company for three years. They gave satisfaction and have continued in use, while
many firms and individuals have adopted them in places of business and residences.
Water Works and Fire Department.- In the year 1868 the Gouverrieur Water Works Company was incorporated
with a capital of $20,ooo, the incorporators being Charles Anthony, Augustus E. Norton, Edwin Dodge, Peter Van
Buren, Stephen B. Van Duzee, Lyman Litchfield and Charles E. Clark. In the same year the company erected the works
on the "Holly" system on one of the islands, driven by water power. Since the establishing of the works
several changes have been made. A stand pipe has been erected above the dam and a steam engine put in to drive
the works at low water. Sufficient pressure is now obtained to force water from the various hydrants to the top
of the highest buildings. The facilities for extinguishing fires in the village were inadequate for many years,
and the people were taught several salutary lessons upon the economy of having all necessary apparatus for the
purpose. Gouverneur Hose Company No. 1 was organized by Act of Legislature April 29, 1868 It was well equipped
with carriage, hose, hooks, ladders, etc. Early in the year 1880, a fine La France steam fire engine was purchased,
which has since on several occasions saved a vast amount of valuable property when threate ned by fire. The fire
department of the village now consists of the engine above mentioned and two hose carts and equipments. The public
hydrants are the chief reliance in case of fire.
Conflagrations and Rebuilding.- On January 15, 1875, a block of five wooden buildings, three stories high,
on Main street, was burned with their valuable contents, and the old Catholic church. The burned district was promptly
covered with handsome brick structures; and it may be added that in the same year the old brick stores on the corner
of Church and William streets, built by Thomas Thompson and Rockwell Barnes about 1833, were removed to make room
for the Union Hall Block, which owes its existence to S. B. Van Duzee and Willett Bowne. It supplied the long felt
want of a public hail for various purposes. It was burned, as explained a little further on, The second destructive
fire in the village occurred in the evening of May 1, 1877, when seven stores on Main street, where Van Namee's
Block was erected, were burned, with a loss of $60,000. The site was promptly and handsomely rebuilt. Again, on
the morning of October 7, 1877, fire broke out in the rear of the Union Hall Block, which was nearly destroyed;
but some of the walls were used in rebuilding. These severe calamities had the usual effect in impelling the citizens
to make better preparations to combat the devouring element. In 1878 a substantial brick building was erected on
Clinton street, where a lot had been purchased. It has a stone basement which is used as a lock-up, while the remainder
of the building is for the fire apparatus.
Manufactures.- A side from the mills which have been described, there has never been extensive manufacturing
in Gouverneur, until the development of the great marble and talc industries of recent years, which are described
further on. Joel Keyes had a shop with trip hammer, in 1827, on the site of the Van Duzee Manufacturing Company's
plant, where he made tools, etc. It was burned about 1848 and the site passed to Asa Hunt, from whom Mr. Van Duzee
purchased it and built the furniture manufactory. The latter was burned in 1881 and the present factory put up;
at the same time the business was placed in control of a stock company with $50,000 capital. Mr. Van Duzee was
president, Lewis Eckman, vice president, and C. A. Van Duzee, super intendent. Mr. S B. Van Duzee died in April,
1893, but the business continues.
On the site adjoining the above factory Capt. Rockwell Barnes had a saw mill and wood working shop about 1829.
It passed to Milton Barney who carried on the manufacture of chairs until about 1840 when the works burned. The
shops were rebuilt and passed through several hands, finally to Richard Grinnell, who continued the manufacture
of sash, doors, etc., for some years, when the estabiishment was again burned.
A foundry and machine shop started about 1850 was carried on successively by O. S. Hill, Fox & Rich, Litchfield
& Moore, Litchfield & Corbin and finally by J. S. & A. Corbin. The business was subsquently given up
and the property passed to the St. Lawrence Manufacturing Company, with other additional real estate, which company
began the manufacture of wagons. This business was also subsequently abandoned.
A large tannery was built on the west side of the river about 1841 by H. Schermerhorn, which was burned, rebuilt
and purchased by Newell Havens in 1851. F. Freeman and Charles E. Clark also owned it, and about 1865 it was again
burned. Mr. Clark rebuilt it and sold it to William P. Herring & Co. It again burned and was rebuilt by that
firm, who did a large business for some years, but finally abandoned it. Allen and Thomas Goodrich also carried
on tanning on the west side of the river in early years, and another was operated by Benjamin H. Smith in the north
part of the village as early as 1828.
The Gouverneur Machine Company was organized for the prosecution of general machine work and the manufacture of
quarry mill machinery. The works are in a building formerly used in similar business by a firm composed of Starbuck
& McCarthy and B. L. Barney, on the west side. On the 20th of December, 1886, the Gouverneur Machine Company
was organized by B. L. Barney, Newton Aldrich, Isaac Starbuck, Charles Anthony, Frank Starbuck, J. B. Johnson,
W. P. Stacy, W. H. Hill and Joseph Laberdee, to carry on the same business on a more extensive scale. The capital
stock is $25,000 and the officers are as follows: President, John McCarty; treasurer, Frank Starbuck; secretary
and manager, J. B. Johnson.
Gougerneur Banks.- The earliest demand for banking facilities in Gouverneur was supplied by the late Charles
Anthony, who organized the private banking firm of Charles Anthony & Co., on the 1st of October, 1860. The
proprietors were Charles Anthony, James G. Averill and William J. Averill. Henry Sudds was made cashier of the
institution. The direct successor of this bank was the present Bank of Gouverneur which was organized in July,
1879, with capital of $50,000; this has twice been increased, first to $80,000 and then to $100,000. The first
officers were Charles Anthony, president; William J. Averill, vice-president; Henry Sudds, cashier. There has been
no change excepting that Newton Aldrich succeeded Mr. Anthony as president, when the latter died in May, 1892.
The bank has a surplus of about $31,000.
In 1874 the banking firm of A. Godard & Co., was formed consisting of Abel Godard and Hiram Herring; A. J.
Holbrook was made cashier. The institution closed up its affairs in 1880, G. M. Gleason having in the meantime
purchased the interests of both Mr. Godard and Mr. Herring. The present First National Bank of Gouverneur was then
organized in the spring of 1881, with a capital of $55,000, which still remains the same. The officers were G.
M. Gleason, president; Newton Aldrich, vice-president; F. M. Burdick has since been substituted as vicepresident.
The surplus of the bank is $13,500.
Hotels.- The first tavern in Governeur has already been mentioned, and for many years it was the only one
in the place. What was formerly known as "The Brick Hotel" was on Main street near the east end of the
bridge, and a portion of it was built by John Brown, the early merchant, in 1818, for his residence. It was purchased
in 1822 by Dr. John Spencer, who enlarged the building and opened it as a public house. It was kept for this purpose
by various proprietors until 1848. The Spencer House was in the east part of the village, was built in 1828-29,
and kept by Dr. Spencer fourteen years, and subsequently by his son, Col. J. M. Spencer, and was burned several
years ago. The Van Buren House was built by Peter Van Buren immediately after the burning of his brick hotel. He
was a popular landlord and the house continued under his management until 1869, the year before his death. He was
succeeded by his son, J. B. Van Buren. The house burned in January, 1893, in the night, the guests barely escaping
with their lives. The Fuller House. on the northwest corner of Main and Park streets, was built by C. T. Fuller
and opened in 1876, by Daniel Peck, who is still the proprietor, the name of the hotel being the Peck House.
Following is a list of supervisors of this town, with their years of services: Richard Townsend, 1811 to 1814;
John Brown, 1815 to 1819; Israel Porter, 1820 21; Aaron Atwood, 1822 to and including 1826; Harvey D. Smith, 1827
to 1834 inclusive, also in 1837; Almond Z. Madison, 1836 and 1838; William E. Sterling, 1839, '40, '41 and '43;
Peter Van Buren, 1842, '44 45; George S. Winslow, 1846 to 1849; Charles Anthony, 1850, '51, '52; Milton Barney,
in 1853, '57, '58, '59; O. G. Barnum, 1855; Charles S. Cone, 1856; John Pooler, jr., 1860 to 1865 inclusive; Robert
Ormiston, 1865 to 1871 inclusive; Newton Aldrich, 1872, '78-79; George M. Gleason, 1880-81; A. K. Jepson, 1882;
Amasa Corbin, jr., 1882 to 1892; Newton Aldrich, 1892 to 1894.
Natural Dam.- This is a small hamlet a little more than a mile below Gouverneur on the right bank of the
Oswegatchie, and takes its name from a rock which nature has thrown across the iiver at that point, forming a dam
which with the fall affords an excellent water power. Here the proprietor, Gouverñeur Morris, had put up
the first mills in the town, which were long known by his name. A massive stone house was also erected here for
the use of his agent. After the disappearance of the first mills and about the year 1838, Capt. Rockwell Barnes
purchased the site and adjoining land and erected a saw mill, dwelling, etc. The property subsequently passed to
F. M. Beardslee and by him was sold in 1866 to Weston, Dean & Aldrich, who in the following year began the
erection of the extensive mills which they have ever since operated. The mills now embrace machinery for manufacturing
all kinds of lumber, shingles, planing mills, lath and picket machinery, etc. The company own immense tracts of
timber lands and have cleared thousands of acres, while the large number of employees in the mills and the several
interests drawn thither by the industry have made the little village a busy place. There are three stores kept
respectively by John A. Lalone, William Laberdee and Ambrose Laquier. The firm of Weston, Dean & Aldrich is
composed of Abijah Weston, Orison Dean and Newton Aldrich. A post-office is located here and E. J. Loveless is
One of the earliest mills for the manufacture of talc was situated about half a mile below the lumber mills, which
was established in 1876, the proprietors being D. Minthorn, B. P. Sharp, Thomas Girvan and A. C. Smith. The works
had previously been used in grinding mineral paint.
At a small settlement, known as the "Little Bow Corners," the first settler was Benjamin Smith, who located
there in 1806, with his three sons. His brothers, Rufus and Stephen, also settled near there in 1807. Mr. Smith
built a saw mill on a creek, which was operated until worn out. Moses Rowley kept a store and had an ashery here
before 1820, and another store was kept by R. K. Smith. In early years there were persons who looked upon this
settlement as a possible rival for Gouverneur and the site of the coming village.
What has been known as "Olds' Mills" is in the northwest part of the town, where Aaron Carrington settled
about 1825 and built a saw mill, which was burned ten years later while owned by Hiram Drake. Asa Hunt rebuilt
the mill, and it passed through possession of R. K. Smith, Stephen Johnson, Jason Smith (during whose ownership
it was called "Smith's Mills"), William Sudds, and finally to Benjamin Olds. A tannery was operated here
for a time in early years.
* Gouverneur Quarry Industry
* Gouverneur Talc
* Religious Societies