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


THIS town embracing township No. 9, or Handel, was annexed from Mexico to Harrisburgh, March 24, 1804, and divided in the erection of the county in 1805, the eastern part being retained by Harrisburgh, and the western attached to Harrison [Rodman]; and finally erected into a separate town February 12, 1808, with its present limits. It was named by the Legislature, doubtless in honor of one or all of the three illustrious citizens of South Carolina, of this name, but we are not informed as to the person who suggested it. In the year that this town was erected, there were a great number of duplicate names of towns in various parts of the State; exchanged for others, and the slightest circumstance might determine a choice.

Gen. Thomas Pinckney, his brother Charles C. or William, were alike worthy of the honor that was conferred in this case.

The first town meeting was held at the house of Stephen Hart, but as the early records were burned in 1826, our knowledge of the earlier officers is derived from other sources.

Supervisors.-1808-'09, Ethan Green; 1810-'14, Stephen Hart; 1815, Augustus T. Wright; 1816, S. Hart; 1817, G. Waite; 1818-'20, S. Hart; 1821, James Hunt; 1822-'23, E. Green; 1824-'26, S. Hart; 1827-'28, J. Hunt; 1829, Benjamin Jeffers; 1830-'31, S. Hart; 1832-'34, J. Hunt; 1835, Tyrannus A. Wright, J. Hunt; 1836-'37, John Spencer; 1838-'43, John Lucas; 1844, Joseph Boynton, Jr.; 1845-'48, John Newkirk; 1849, Jehiel H. Hall; 1850, J. Lucas; 185I-'53, Hamilton Cobleigh; 1854-'55 Gilbert E. Woolworth; 1856-'57, Phineas Woolworth; 1858-'59, Samuel H. Tolles; 1860, John M. Paris; 1861, Samuel H. Tolles; 1862, John M. Paris; 1863, S. H. Tolles; 1864, John M. Paris; 1865-'66, C. H. Chase; 1867 -'68, Thomas Carroll; 1869-'71, Samuel F. Douglass; 1872, Wm. C. Barrett; 1873-'74, Daniel D. Carpenter; 1875-'76, Lewis H. Jones; 1877-'80, Wm. C. Barrett; 1881-'82, Samuel F. Douglass; 1882, Wallace Hall appointed Supervisor in place of Douglass resigned.

Clerks.- 1826-'28 James Armstrong; I829-'30, John Spencer; 1831, J. Armstrong; 1832-'35, J. Spencer; 1836-'43, J. Armstrong; 1844-'46, Lewis M. Burtch; 1847-'48, Jehiel H. Hall; 1849, John Lucas; 1850-'55, Samuel H. Tolles; 1856- '62, Blodgett Stoddard; 1863-'66, A. S. Lucas; 1867, Charles D. Hall; 1868-'69, W. N. Snell; 1870, A. S. Lucas; 1871, William C. Barrett; 1872-'74, Lewis H. Jones; 1875-'77, G. T. Douglass; 1878- '79, Henry N. Snell; 1880, G. T. Douglass; 1881-'82, John J. Lucas.

In 1826, '31, '32, '35, a bounty of $10, in 1838, of $15, and in 1834 of $5, was offered for wolves. In 1841, a bounty of $5, and in 1845, of $10, was voted for the killing of bears. In 1834, crow bounties of one shilling if killed in May and June, and fifty cents for foxes within the year, were voted at town meetings.

This town fell to the share of William Henderson, who employed Abel French, and afterwards Jesse Hopkins and others as agents. Henderson died about 1824 and William Denning, his brother-inlaw, - subsequently became principally concerned in the title, and under the Denning family most of the town has been sold. But small remnants now remain in the hands of the former proprietors. From B. Wright's field-book of survey around the town in the spring of 1796, we derive the first estimate of its value which was as follows:- "This town is a pretty good one and is extraordinarily well watered with large and small streams. There is a pretty large creek toward the S. E. part of the town known by the name of Deer creek on which probably there are fine mill seats, although I have seen none. A large gulf where the Deer creek crosses the east line of the town. Along the north line of this town there is some very fine land. The soil in general is good and well watered. There is some gulfs on the branches of Big Sandy which are rather bad. The. timber is maple, beech, basswood, ash, birch, elm and hemlock. Along the E. line is very fine soil for about half the distance, from the N. E. to the S. E. corner. The soil is not so good but rather more cold. Some hemlock interspersed in some places with spruce, &c. Along the south line the land is rather cold, some excellent spots but some swampy and bad. The timber is maple, beech, birch, ash, hemlock, bass and some elm, &c.; along the west line there is a very fair country except that it is cut to pieces with small streams which form gulfs."

The town was surveyed out into farm lots by Broughton White of Remsen, father of the late Albert A. White of Turin.

The outlines of this town lie 9º from the principal cardinals, and its area is 25,045 acres. The first survey gave its N. line 506 chains, its E. 490, its S. 508, and its W. 498. The whole town is elevated from 400 to 800 feet above the level region around Copenhagen, and from many places the blue hills east of Black river, and the waters of lake Ontario with the vessels upon them, may both be seen. The horizon in a serene day, is more clear and bright than in the plains below, as we find in elevated regions, and a perceptible difference is observed in its climate. Haying comes on an average about a week later than in the adjacent town of Denmark, and snows have been observed over six feet deep on a level in the woods. The winter ot 1854-'55 was remarkable for the depth of snow on this town. Drouth is however, seldom noticed, and the soil is finely adapted to grass and coarse grains, and since the introduction of dairying, the inhabitants have rapidly acquired the means of comfortable support, and a steady increase in wealth. The cold season of 1816 was peculiarly hard on the early settlers of this town, some of whom were starved out, and went off never to return. Joseph Newton and Lambert, near "New Boston," both left without selling, and their clearings grew up to brush.

The streams flow east, west and north from this town, which is entirely underlaid by the Hudson River shales. Weak sulphur springs are common, and were formerly frequented by deer. Game was abundant in early times, especially deer, bears and wolves, the latter of which often proved destructive. Trout were common in the streams when the town was first settled.

Usage has sanctioned the use of the preposition on, when speaking of residence or the occurrence of events in this town, as for example a man is said to live "on" Pinckney. This application is by no means peculiar to this town, although perhaps more generally used than in the neighboring towns of Jefferson county. The early land holders adopted the custom of speaking of such and such persons, as living on their towns, as we speak of tenants on a farm. Hence living on Pinckney or being on the town, does not imply all that would be understood elsewhere. Although there are over 1,000 persons on the town, but a very small number are paupers.

Settlement began on this town about 1803; Samuel and Joseph Clear, located in the southwest part, but soon went off. In 1804, Ethan Russell and J. Greene from Rhode Island, and one or two years after, John Lucas, Levi and Elisha Barnes, Stephen Hart, James Armstrong, James Hart, Phineas Woolworth,t Joel Webb, Silas Slater and several Stoddard families became settlers4 The first birth was in the family of James Hunt or John Stoddard, and an early death if not the first, was that of Mrs. Elisha Moody. The first school was taught by Miss Gould, before the war.

The names of voters living in this town in 1807, are included in the list given in our account of Denmark.


This is the only place in the town of Pinckney that has any claims to be called a village. It contains about 400 inhabitants, and has two churches, (Methodist and Baptist,) a hotel, (William Lane, proprietor,) four stores, selling dry-goods and groceries, one undertaker's establishment, two wagon shops, two blacksmith shops, a shoe shop, a harness shop, two saw and planing mills, a manufactory of agricultural implements, snowshovels, churn-powers, etc., a hoop factory, and a cheese factory, using the milk of 500 cows.

The town has two other cheese factories, one at Cronk's Corners, and one at New Boston, each of 'them using the milk of about 500 cows. There are also in this town five other saw-mills in various parts, the principal one being at New Boston, on the Deer river. There is also at this place a cheese box factory, a grist-mill, planing-mill and lath-mill. The stream upon which the village of Barnes' Corners is located, (a branch of Sandy creek,) a little below, descends into a ravine worn in the slate rock, which presents scenery of some interest. From a swell of land a short distance west, there is presented an extensive view of the lake, and a wide expanse of country north and west.

New Boston is a neighborhood on the Deer river, where it is crossed by the Lowville and Henderson State road. The first improvement was made here by David Canfield, who acting as agent of Henderson, made an extensive clearing and built a bridge and saw-mill. About eighty acres of wheat were sowed the first season, which yielded bountifully, but the death of Henderson and other causes prevented the extension of these improvements. Dr. Samuel Allen was associated in this enterprise, and the locality probably received its name from them. The State road although opened through soon after 1816, fell into disuse, until many years after. It is now well settled and considerably traveled.

A large part of the business of this town tends to Watertown, and the remainder to Copenhagen.

A small social library was formed in this town at an early period, and at one time numbered about two hundred volumes. It was broken up, and the books distributed several years before the introduction of school district libraries.

The following deaths of early settlers, or well-known citizens, have occurred in this town :-
Philip Dodridge Adams, died at Barnes' Corners, April 18, 1881, aged 66.
Oliver Bissel, died April 7, 1849, aged 95.
Oliver Bissel, Jr., died August 18, 1847, aged 60.
Shubael Chickering, died April 29, 1850, aged 68.
Richard Hart, died May 18, 1880, aged 82.
Israel Horr, died January 26, 1848, aged 75.
John Newkirk, died April 17, 1864, aged 71. He was in the Assembly in 1850.
Calvin Wilder, died October 22, 1832.

Among those first to receive deeds of land, we find the names of E. Sisson, A. Babbit, F. Yandes, G. Merritt, L. Coleman, Ethan Green, P. Corey, L. White, R. Clements, D. Coffeen, E. Morton, - Wright, --- Maltby, - Thomas, John Gifford, Enoch Steele, S. Royce, J. Brown, J. Stafford, R. Porter, J. Brundage, J. Grover, W. Lacker, J. Hait, J. Barnes, Charles Neuton, Lyman Reed, ---- Birch, F. R. Laumon, E. Parmele, and W. Gardner.

This town might perhaps set up a claim to distinction that no other town in the State could rival, upon the strength of an Indian tradition that comes down to us as follows:- Captain Pouchot was a French officer employed in the campaigns of 1756-'60, and commanded at Niagara, when that post was captured by the English, and again at Fort Levi, upon the Isle Royale (now Chimney Island) in the St. Lawrence, three miles below Ogdensburgh. After his death, a journal of his observations was published in Switzerland, in 1787, in three small volumes. These were translated into English, annotated and published by the author of this volume, in two royal octavo volumes, in 1867. In these memoirs, the writer in describing the shores of Lake Ontario and the various rivers that flow into it, in speaking of the Au Sable, (Sandy Creek,) says

"Between the River Au Sable and La Famine [Salmon River?] is a little stream called by the Indians Canogatiron. The River Au Sable, in Indian Etacataragarenee, is remarkable in this that at the head of its south branch, called Tecanononouaronesi, is the place where the traditions of the Iroquois fix as the spot from whence they all issued, or rather according to their ideas, where they were born."

It appears from this that the Garden of Eden-at least so far as it concerns the native Indian race, must have been somewhere on Pinckney. If any other region can show a better claim to this distinction, let them show their title, and until then, concede it to Lewis county, In general, and to this town in particular.


The First Methodist Episcopal Society of the town of Pinckney was formed August 8, 1831 with Tyrannus A. Wright, Stephen Hart, Rufus Stoddard, Timothy Woolworth* and Barney Spalding as trustees. A framed meeting house was erected near Boynton's Corners.

The Pinckney Corners Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated March 1, 1864, James Woolworth, Amos Stoddard and Alvin Hunt being the first trustees.t The church at this place was built about 1851, and the society has a membership of about 100.

The Methodist church at Barnes' Corners was built in 1857, and has a membership of about 320.

The First Bapti.ct Church of Barnes' Corners was incorporated March 26, 1870, Andrew Plank, Daniel Gromons and John K. Russell, trustees. The Baptist society has a membership of 120, and their church edifice was built in 1856.

A Roman Catholic church was begun on the State road about a mile and a half from New Boston in 1856, but was not completed until about 1860. It claims a membership of about 400.

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