History of Lewis, NY
FROM: History of Lewis County, New York and its people
By Franklin B. Hough
Published By D. Mason & Co. 1883


THE town was formed from Leyden and West Turin by the Supervisors, November 11, 1852, embracing a part from the narrow point at the south-western part of "Inman's Triangle," which previously had formed the town of Leyden and No. 1, and part of No. 2, (three rows of lots,) of "Constable's four towns," previously in West Turin. The first town meeting was ordered to be held at the house of Orlando S. Kenyon. Its name was derived from that of the county; but as there is also a town of "Lewis," in Essex county, the postoffice of "West Leyden," remains as before, the only one in the town.

Supervisors.-1853, Orson Jenks; 1854- '55, Charles Pease; 1856, O. Jenks; 1857, Hiram Jenks; 1858, Jonathan A. Pease; 1859-'61, O. Jenks; 1862-'71, Jay A. Pease; 1872, Mathew Kilts; 1873, Andrew Katsmeyer; 1874, J. A. Pease; 1875, A. Katsmeyer; 1876, M. Kilts; 1877-'80, A. Katsmeyer; 1881, George Pohl, 1882, A. Katsmeyer.

Clerks.- 1853-'54, David Crofoot; Orson Jenks; 1856-'57, Daniel H. Buell; 1858, O. Jenks; 1859, William Gray; 1861, J. Pease; 1862-'67, Orson Jenks; 1868-'70, J. Milton Pease; 1871, Louis Gleason; 1872, William M. Hough; 1873, J. Wallace Douglass; 1874, Louis Gleasman; 1875, Mathew Kilts; 1876, Andrew Katsmeyer; 1877, George Pohl; 1878-'80, Valentine Pohl; 1881, Willard Gray; 1882, Valentine Pohl.

The town embraces very nearly that part of Inman's triangle, known as the "New Survey," and parts of Townships 1 and 2. Township No. 1, was originally designed to be called Xenophon, and No. 2, Flora, but these names were never known as in use, even in the land sales. The principal settlements are in the eastern part, and its drainage is southward, by the head waters of the Mohawk and by Fish creek, and southwestward by Salmon river. The soil is well adapted to grazing and the coarser grains, but fruits and corn have not been extensively or successfully cultivated. Its soil is inclined to clay, and in places is a gravelly loam, or covered with flat stone derived from the underlying slate rock.

That part of this town taken from Leyden, was sold to settlers by Storrs and Stow. Township 1 was surveyed into lots by Benjamin Wright in 1797, and its outlines were run in 1795, as follows:

N. W.


N. 370, 30' E.





N. E.


S. 52°, 30' E.





S. E.


S. 37º, 30' W.





S. W.


N. 68°, 50' 'W.





The latter is the patent line, and was surveyed in 1794. Township 1 measures 27,105 acres, and the whole of Township 2, 26,2663 3/4 acres. The connection of John Jacob Astor with the titles of this town has been noticed on a previous page. Lots 1 to 19, and half of 20, in township 1, were conveyed by Pierrepont to Charles Ingersol of Philadelphia, agent of Consequa, a China merchant, in payment of a debt of $12,000 which the captain of a vessel owned by Mr. Pierrepont, had incurred. John G. Costar, afterwards became agent, and paid the taxes many years from a fund provided for that purpose. They were finally sold for taxes and were in 1860, chiefly owned by the Costar heirs. Fifteen lots, owned by Judge William Jay of Bedford, by virtue of a marriage, were sold in 1841, to Richardson T. Hough, with certain conditions of opening roads and forming settlements. Jas. S. T. Stranahan of Brooklyn, the Lawrence heirs and John E. Hinman of Utica, have been heretofore owners of considerable tracts of wild lands in this town.

These various conveyances of land to Astor and others, in No. 1, of the four towns, as also in No. 13, now in Osceola, grew out of the settlement of an insolvency in which James, brother of William Constable, became involved in 1801, as explained in our notice of the latter, in the account of West Turin.

Settlement was begun at West Leyden (now included in the town of Lewis), in the summer of 1798, by two families named Newel and Ingraham, who came by way of Whitestown and Fort Stanwix, and located, the former on the farm of George Olney, and the latter on that of John Domser, adjacent to the east line of this town. Fish then abounded in the streams, and game in the forests, affording partial support, with no care but the taking, and incidents were not wanting to diversify the life of the first pioneers of this lonely spot. On one occasion, as the wivesof the two first settlers were returning on foot from Fort Stanwix (Rome), they saw a bear on a tree near where Jenk's tavern was afterwards built. One of the women took her station at the foot of the tree, club in hand, to keep bruin from escaping, while the other hastened home, a distance of two miles, procured a gun, returned and shot the bear. These families remained about two years and went off.

Colonel John Barnes came in 1799, and brought potatoes, for planting, on his back from Whitestown. A saw-mill was built in the winter following, near the present mill of Calvin B. Hunt, by Joel Jenks, Medad Dewey, John and Cornelius Putnam, who came on with their families. Major Aipheus Pease, took up four or five lots in 1801, and built the first grist-mill, one or two years after, a little above the Mohawk bridge, in the present village of West Leyden. Nathan Pelton and William Jenks, from Stafford, Connecticut, Stephen Hunt, Graham, McGlashan, Levi Tiffany, Winthrop Felshaw, and perhaps others, settled within four years after. Most of the lands first taken up were sold at per acre. Samuel Kent and Jeremiah Barnes, were early teachers, and the first school was taught at the house of Joel Jenks. The first death that occurred in town, was that of a child in the family of some travelers, but the first adult person that died in town, was Mrs. Calvin Billings, a sister of Stephen Hunt, in the spring of 1810, about twelve years after the beginning of the settlement.

The Castorland settlers speak of a road to Fort Stanwix, from their settlement at the High Falls, as early as 1795, and it must have passed through this town, about a mile east of West Leyden village, but we have no information upon this point. The first road of which we have certain knowledge, was opened to Constableville, in 1803, by Mr. Shaler; but the first direct road was not opened until 1816, by Commissioners appointed for the purpose. This became the line of the Canal Turnpike, and still later of a Plank road, which in its turn has been abandoned to the public, and is now maintained by the towns through which it passes.

These routes, now seldom used except for local travel, but consolidated and good at most seasons of the year, were, in former times, one of the principal thoroughfares for all the country north, in Lewis, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence counties. They were thronged with teams bearing southward the produce of that region, or returning with merchants' goods, and were noted for the great depth of snow that fell upon the highlands, and for their mud in spring and fall. The road from Rome to Constableville, was for a long period, a stage route that carried the mails daily each way, and because some miles nearer, and usually not much worse, it was preferred to the Utica route, by the farmers, in getting their surplus produce to the canal.

An occurrence happened in November, 1804, which caused much alarm in this settlement, and might have led to a most melancholy result. Joseph Belknap, Cornelius Putman, Jr., and Josiah Dewey, Jr., set out from the former Dewey tavern stand, westward, on a deer hunt. The snow was about ten inches deep, and they found tracks of deer plenty, but no game. They had no compass, the day was cloudy, and towards night they attempted to return, and as their track was crooked, they concluded to take a direct line for home. After traveling some distance, they came around to the same place, a second and a third time. They were evidently lost, and no longer trusting to their own estimate of direction, they concluded to follow down a stream of water which they took to be the Mohawk, which would, of course, lead them home. They passed a number of beaver meadows, and were frequently obliged to wade the freezing stream, and at other times were forced to wade down its channel instead of climbing its steep rocky banks. They tried to kindle a fire, but failed, and finally kept on traveling till daylight, when they came to a foot-path, which in two or three miles, led out into a settlement which proved to be in the town of Western, twenty miles by the nearest traveled road from home. They had followed down the Point-of-Rock stream, to near its junction with Fish creek. The half-starved wanderers having fed, pushed on over a rniry road, and reached home at midnight, when they found the country had been rallied, and a dozen men had gone into the woods in search of the lost.

About 1831, ten German families settled in this town, and these have been followed by others, until the population of foreign birth equaled half, and with their children born in this country, considerably more than half of the whole population of the town. Of these Europeans, 376 were reported by the State census of 1855 as Germans, 171 French, and 21 Swiss. They are divided between the Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed Protestant Dutch denominations, in the relative order here named, and although they used their native languages at home for some years, they are now able to speak English with facility, and the rising generation uses no other. These foreigners were mostly an industrious, hardy and frugal people, obedient to the laws, and mostly became naturalized citizens as soon as the law allowed. The European settlement in this town, was preceded by that in West Turin.

In 1841, a bridge was built over Fish creek, and a road opened from the town of Lee, near the line of the old road of 1805, noticed in our account of Osceola. It led only to the line of Township 13. The first deeds to actual settlers in this part of the town, were issued in May, 1840, amounting to 1,746¼ acres, for $3,194.60. The bridge was swept off in the winter of 1842-'43, and soon rebuilt, and in 1843, a mill was built by Mr. Herron, and afterwards owned by David L. Swancott.

Several branches of lumbering have been followed in this town, for which it formerly afforded special facilities. About 1840, the manufacture of oars from white ash was begun and continued some seven years. The quantity is estimated at about 500,000 linear feet per annum, during that period, and the principal market was Boston. Whaling oars were sold in sets of seven, of which two were 14, two 15, two 16, and one 18 feet long. The price ranged about 6 cts. per foot, linear measure. The business was continued until the supply of timber became scarce.

Of birds-eye maple, Lewis county for many years produced about 100,000 feet (board measure) annually, mostly from this town, and the greater part sent off by Richardson T. Hough. Of this quantity, nine-tenths went to the European market by way of New York. The accidental variety of the sugar maple is found somewhat common upon the range of highlands, extending from this town to Adams. It was estimated by Mr. R. T. Hough, that two-thirds of all the timber of this variety, used in the world had, during the twenty years preceding 1860, come from Lewis county. The market price depended upon the fashions of the day, with regard to styles of furniture, and prices ranged from $60 to $80 per M. ft., board measure. A mill for cutting veneers was formerly established, four miles west of West Ley den, but was burned in 1845. Of hoops, for oyster kegs, this town and Ava, in Oneida county adjoining, were producing in 1860, about 4,000,000, averaging $2 per M., shaved and delivered, on the railroad at Rome. They were mostly used at Fairhaven and Cheshire, Connecticut. They were made of black ash and were bought in a rough state by a few dealers who shaved and forwarded them to market. Considerable quantities of hardwood lumber, chiefly maple and birch, for flooring, turning, etc., are still sent from this town.

This is a small village located upon the Mohawk river,-here a mill-stream almost dry in summer, but sufficient for a considerable amount of water power in the winter months. It is 17 miles from Rome, 6 miles from Boonville and 8 miles from Constableville. It is now connected with the first two of these places by a telephone. The business of the village has declined since the construction of the railroad to Boonville, as compared with the time when a plank road supplied the country travel from Rome northward. The business of the village in August, 1882, was as follows:-
Cheese Factory.- Michael Ernst. There are two others in town, viz: Bierly & Sims, known as the "Crofoot Road Factory," and the Hayes Factory near Fish creek.
Carpenter.- Jacob Rauscher.
Flour and Feed Mill.- Charles S. Myers.
Furniture and Undertaking. - Peter Lukel.
Hotel- Adolph Domser.
Saw-Mills. - Calvin B. Hunt and Charles S. Myers, each having a planer.
Stores.-George Pohl. Mathew Kilts, Andrew Katsmeyer and F. A. Edgerton.
Wagon and Blacksmith Shops.- Valentine Pohl, owner of both, but separately located.

Besides the two saw-mills above mentioned there are seven others in town, viz: George S. Thompson, George Powell, D. L. Swancott, M. Shrader, and T. L. Davis, using water power, Eames & Bridgman, using steam, and Houghton, Hough & Ambler using steam. The latter is new and large.

Some years since, this town raised moneys to aid in the survey of a railroad that was to run from Boston to Oswego, passing through this town, but nothing further was ever done.
The hotel of Lewis Hoffman, in West Leyden, was burned December 21, 1872, and Christian Yokey was killed by the falling of timber.

The population of West Leyden village in 1880, was reported as 181.

The following are dates of death of several well-known citizens of this town, not elsewhere mentioned in these pages, some of them having been early settlers :-
Anken David, died July 19, 1863, aged 55.
Bell Henry G., died September 15, 1847, aged 59.
Billings Horace, died October 12, 1848, aged 42.
Ernst Christian, died November 22, 1874, aged 79.
Fox Ashbel, died November 13. 1860, aged 64.
Hunt Darius, died August 16, 1872, aged 100 years, 2 months, 7 days.
Hunt Elisha, died April 3, 1822, aged 41.
Kent Enos, died September 29, 1841, aged 57.
Maurer Frederick, died March 13, 1868, aged 80.
Pease Charles, died March 16, 1881, aged 75.
Terry Levi, died March 19, 1836, aged 66.

In 1872, a corresponding committee was appointed, consisting. of William Brown, Charles Pease, and Paul Finster.

August 15, 1863.- A special town meeting was held, at which Oliver Capron, A. B. Billings, F. Schopfer, R. T. Hough and C. B. Hunt were appointed a committee to borrow money to pay bounties for filling town quotas.

A second committee, consisting of William J. Gray, Hiram Jenks, Peter Stephens, Lewis Staleger, Lewis Gleasman, Paul Finster, and Alden P. Doyle, was afterwards appointed. At a special town meeting held December 29, 1863, a committee was appointed to borrow $6,000, and the sum of $300 was offered for bounties.

Meetings were first held in 1804, by Justus Billings, a Presbyterian, at the house of John Putnam.

The "Second Presbyterian Church of Leyden," was formed in the sunimer of 1806, by the Rev. Nathaniel Dutton, of Champion, consisting of Josiah Dewey, Justus Billings, Cornelius Putnam, Solomon Washburn, and their wives; Major Alpheus Pease, Widow Horton, Cyrus Brooks, and a Mr. Wood, and their wives; of whom the last four lived a mile east of Ava Corners, and the others in this town. This church erected a house of worship a mile north of West Leyden, many years after, and in February, 1826, it joined the Water-. town Presbytery. The church has become extinct, the building removed, and its site sold for cemetery purposes.

A Baptist church was formed in May, 1829, with fourteen members. Elders John Marshall, Riley B. Ashley, and Martin Salmon were present at the organization. A legal society was formed September 9, 1837, with Winthrop Felshaw, Jonathan A. S. Pease, and Nathaniel Wadsworth, trustees, and a small plain church edifice was erected. The Reverends - Burdick, William Rice, R. Z. Williams, R. W. Chafa, David D. Barnes, and others, have preached here, and meetings are occasionally held, but no regular services are at present maintained.

The Methodists have a small organization in town, and for some years used the old Presbyterian church.

The United German Lutheran and Reformed Congregation of West Leyden, was formed August 16, 1847, with Frederick Meyer, Frederick Schopfer and George Fries, trustees. It was formed of the German Lutheran and Reformed churches, and their new meeting-house was to be called the Church of St. Paul. It was to remain a German house of worship, so long as the number of members of the congregation speaking the German language was more than two. A law-suit has occurred between the two sects, in which the Lutherans have gained the case. After this decision, the Reformed Protestant Dutch built a church edifice. The church was formed September 12, 1856, with John Boehrer, minister; Philip Rübel and Frederick Meyer, elders; and Frederick Schopfer and Valentine Glesman, deacons. The Rev. John M. Reiner is present pastor.

The Lutherans have a small church north of the village, which is attended by the Rev. Mr. Cludius, from Olmstead Creek church in West Turin. Services are held both in this and the last preceding churches in the German language.

The Catholics have a small stone church three miles west of the village, which is attended from St. Michael's on Mohawk Hill.

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