History of Louisville, NY


Local Histories

THIS was the eleventh town erected by an Act of the Legislature, passed April 5, 1810. Louisville is one of the northern towns of the county, borders on the St. Lawrence River in the northeastern part of the county, and comprises the larger portion of the original township No. 1, It now contains 33,424 acres, and was formerly under the jurisdiction of Massena. It is bounded by Massena on the east, Norfolk on the south, Waddington on the west, and the St. Lawrence River on the north. The Grass River flows across the central part nearly parallel with the St. Lawrence. The surface is level or gently rolling, and the soil a fertile loam. Several islands in the St. Lawrence, the more important being Croil's and Goose-Neck, belong to the town.

Louisville was settled about ten years before its formation. The first town meeting was directed to be held at the house of John Wilson, but the loss or absence of the records of the first five years of its existence renders its history somewhat obscure for a time. In April, 1800, Nahum Wilson, the first settler, arrived in the town, coming in from Canada, where he had lived a year. He was originally from Peru, N. Y. He was accompanied by his two Sons and Aaron Allen, but did not bring his family until the following winter. He settled on the lot next east of the one recently occupied by his grandson, Jeremiah Wilson. They raised some corn the first season and in the next some wheat, the first produced in the town. Mr. Allen and Samuel W. Wilson, son of Nahum, cut down the first tree in their clearing and built the first log house in the town. The next settler was John Wilson, who came from Vermont in the spring of 1801. He was soon followed by Lyman Bostwick, Dr. Elisha W. Barber and several of his brothers, Griffin Place, Joseph Bradford, Alexander Loughrey, Charles Whalen, Jube Day, Jeremiah Wood. Among those of later arrival were Samuel Wells, Ephraim Wood, Thomas Bingham, C. S. Willard, Amos Underwood, Levi Cole, Chistopher G. Stowe, Timothy W. Osborne, and others whose names will appear in the succeeding pages. The first birth in town was a son of Nahum Wilson, Nahum, jr., born October 28, 1801, and the first death that of Philo Barber, in either 1801 or 1802. After about 1805 settlement was quite active and the lands were eagerly taken up. In 1805 Asa Day, one of the pioneers. erected a saw mill on the Grass River about a mile below the site of Louisville village. The first school was taught by Elisha Barber, probably in 1809, in a log school-house in the Wilson neighborhood. Sylvester Drake and Lucinda Cole, and Joel Case and Lucy Haws, were married in the year 1809, but which twain has the honor of priority is not now known.

On the 6th of January, 1806, a sad event occurred in the town which spread a pall of gloom and mourning in the little community. The following account of it is condensed from Mr. Hough's writing:

Dr. Barber and Mr. Chapman, from Madrid, and Messrs. Powell and Alexander, of Louisville, were accidentally drowned while crossing the St. Lawrence, about opposite the center of the town. They had been over to Canada, where they were detained by the roughness of the river occasioned by a strong east wind. Towards night, the wind having abated, they attempted to cross in a log canoe, but their boat capsized and two of their number are supposed to have drowned immediately. The other two clung to their boat and endeavored by cries to obtain assistance. These cries were heard on both sides of the river and to a great distance below as they floated down, but no one paid any particular attention to them, not realizing that they proceeded from persons in distress, and these two also perished. Three of the bodies were found several miles below, and the fourth a great distance from the place of the capsize, among the islands. A large dog which was aboard had been tied to keep him quiet, and he is supposed, in his struggles to get free, to have overturned them. This sad accident spread a gloom through the settlements, and was a cause of unavailing regret to those who had heard the cries without hastening to their assistance. No blame was attached to any one, and the darkness of the night and roughness of the river were such that aid could scarcely have been afforded had the situation of the sufferers been appreciated. A touching incident that occurred in the morning of the day on which the accident happened was rendered peculiarly affecting by the fatal event. As one of the number was about leaving home, a little daughter, who evinced great fondness for her lather, tame to him in a manner unusually affectionate, tenderly embraced and kissed him, and exacted of him a promise that he would certainly return before night. She seemed to have an instinctive foreboding of evil, and by the artless innocence of childlike entreaty endeavored to prevent him leaving home.

The formation of Norfolk in 1823 diminished the size of Louisville nearly one half, but a small part of that town was reannexed to Louisville in April, 1844. Among the regulations adopted in 1819 was one offering a bounty of ten dollars for wolves killed, and two years later one of one dollar for foxes. Relative to proposed divisions of the town in 1823, two notices were promulgated; one was to form a town six miles square from Lisbon, Madrid, Stockholm and Potsdam, with Norfolk village as its center; the .other was for the division which was subsequently made in the formation of Norfolk. An attempt was made in 1849 to take a part of the town and annex it to Massena. This project was undoubtedly most objectionable to the people of Louisville, for they voted to lay the proposition under the table.

Mr. Hough has made special reference to the fact that the pioneers of Louisville previous to the War of 1812 were the recipients of numerous favors from their neighbors on the Canada shore. Why this should be true of Louisville any more than of other towns is not wholly clear, unless it was a fact that the residents across the river at that particular locality were in better circumstances than others farther east or west. Many of those Canadian settlers were Germans who had come from the Mohawk Valley during the Revolution-were Tories, in fact and they had early become well and comfortably established, had built mills, were raising crops of grain and vegetables, and it is a credit to them that they contributed to the necessities of the pioneers on the south shore, though they had differed in their former attitude towards the English king and the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Hough says:
Previous to the declaration of war (1812) the most friendly relations existed; families exchanged visits with as much freedom and frequency as if the river was but a common street, and they were constantly in the habit of borrowing and lending those articles which their limited means did not allow each one to possess. The war for a time made each suspicious of the other and entirely stopped all intercourse for a time, but necessity led them ere long to look back with regret on the customs of former times and secretly long for their return. During the first summer of the war many of the Canadians were called off to perform military duty and labor on the fortifications at Prescott, and their families were left to provide for themselves as they might best be able. Provisions became scarce and want stared them in the face. Pressed with hunger the children of one of the families, remembering the homely but wholesome fare which they had formerly observed on the south shore, one night entered a boat, and being skillful in its use, crossed over and humbly begged at the door of a house at which they were acquanted for food. The family were overjoyed at the visit, and on their return sent back an invitation for their parents to come over on a certain night and renew their old acquaintance. They did so, and never were people more delighted than these when they met, exchanged salutations and learned by those expressions which come from the heart that although the two governments had declared them enemies they were still friends.

It is said that from that time onward the nightly clandestine visits were of constant occurrence until the close of the war made them unnecessary. With the end of that struggle settlers came more rapidly into the town; the forests fell before the pioneer's axe, and the foundations of future prosperity were securely laid.

Inhabitants of Louisville were directly interested in that struggle, and early in the summer of 1812 organized a volunteer company for selfprotection, consisting of forty men. That number comprised all the male population who were capable of bearing arms. Benjamin Daniels was chosen "high sergeant," an office which they must have created for their own special accommodation. Soon after their organization they received orders from General Brown at Ogdensburg to stop all craft on the river opposite the town. This led to the capture of a raft, in the cabin of which they found a large quantity of stores, most of which they forwarded to the collector of the district. Before the close of that season a regular militia company was organized, with Benjamin Willard as captain, which drew arms from the arsenal at Russell and was in service from August to November, but they did not come into active conflict with the enemy.

It is worthy of rcord to state that the first death penalty inflicted in St. Lawrence county was for the murder of three persons in this town on the 22d of February, 1816, details of which event have been given on pages 354-6.

Croil's Island, which has been mentioned, has had several different names, that of the French being "Ile au Chamailles," while its inhabitants in later years have called it Baxter's, Stacy's and now Croil's, alter the names of its owners. Previous to 1818, when the boundaries between the two countries was fixed, this island was considered British territory; under that belief, Asa Baxter. who then owned it, was drafted into the British army in 1812, and on his refusal to serve, the island was confiscated. Baxter appears to have been made of patriotic material, for he deserted the British and fled to Vermont, where he remained to the close of the war. Returning to his island, he was promptly arrested as a deserter and confined in the Cornwall jail from April to August, 1814. On the way to Kingston for his trial he escaped from the officers. When the island was finally assigned to this country he he gave himself up for trial at Cornwall, but the court, of course, had no jurisdiction over him, and he returned to the island and lived there several years. He was dispossessed through the purchase of the islands in the St. Lawrence by Judge Ogden, owing to a misunderstanding between the land commissioners and the attorney-general, but he was in some measure recompensed at a later date. The island contains about i,8oo acres and is now divided into several farms.

This town, in common with others, on the river was visited by the cholera in 1832, but not with great severity. There were ten cases, only one of which was fatal. A board of health was organized, with Dr. Ira Gibson as health officer, and designated the shore of the St. Lawrence "between Robert Crawford's and Allen McLeod's farms" as quarantine grounds.

The chief industry of the town has always been farming. Aside from that a few mills and manufacturing industries have been started, but most of them have gone out of existence. The site of the little village of Louisville (formerly called "Millerville" from the Rev. Levi Miller), is on the Grass River and has a good water power. Mr. Miller was a licentiate Methodist preacher, originally from Massachusetts, but later from Turin, Lewis county, N. Y., and came to this town as agent for James McVicker, the purchaser from Macomb of the tract which embraced the village site. Mr. Miller arrived in March, 1823, and found a small clearing made a few years earlier by Oliver Ames. A bridge which had been built in i 820, also crossed the river, and the foundations for a saw mill were also laid. McVicker began making improvements and in 1833 built the stone part of the grist mill now standing. In 1837 George Redington came in and purchased the water power, of which Mr. Miller owned one-quarter, finished the mill building, put in the machinery and put it in operation. This mill has since been enlarged by a wooden part and is now operated by M. & E. Whalen. Redington owned the mill until his death in September, 1850, and afterwards it passed through various hands to the present owners

There was a dam and a small grinding mill built about a mile lower down the river, but it long since passed away.

Other manufactures were a carriage factory established in 1853 by a Mr. Sullivan, but it was closed up after a long and successful career. A saw and shingle mill now in operation was lately taken by S. F. Wells; it had been carried on about twenty years. The post-office here was established in 1827, with Levi Miller as postmaster. The present official is Willard Lougbrey, who also conducts a mercantile business. John B. Wilison was a merchant and hotel keeper for many years and a prominent and useful citizen; he held the office of supervisor for many years and was held in high respect. He died August 14, 1893. Wm. J. Mien & Co. are merchants and A. G. Taylor sells boots and shoes.

Settlement was begun at what is known as Chase's Mills, by Alden Chase, and hence its name. Others who settled ear]y in that section were Eben and Varnum Polley and James and Elijah Stearns. The hamlet is in the southwest part of the town and for many years had only a few houses and a grist mill; but the water power is excellent and led to starting several other manufactures. The first grist mill was built in 1834 and burned ten years later. Elijah H. Stearns erected the second mill in 1860, which suffered the fate of its predecessor after some twenty years of existence. A feed mill is now operated by M. Fobair. A successful tannery owned by George Graves & Son, of Rutland, Vt., was operated several years, and also a shingle and saw mill. A pump factory was carried on by Haggett & Son, but it has gone down. L. E. Barnett has been many years and still is a merchant, and a second store is kept by Nolan & Ballou. Mr. Barnett is postmaster and has held the office many years.

Louisville Landing is a port of entry from Canada, with a few houses and two stores, a hotel and a few shops. James Matthews has one of the stores and is customs officer in 1893. H. T. Clark carries on the other store, and Adelia Gibson is postmistress.

The agricultural industry of this town, since the days of lumbering and black salts, has in recent years undergone the same changes wrought elsewhere in this section. The dairying interest is large and almost wholly devoted to the production of butter. There is one large factory and several smaller ones which are tributary to it, and the product enjoys a high reputation.


It is believed that there was no church organization within the present limits of this town until 1820. There was a church in Raymond- yule at an earlier date, which was, until 1823, in this town. Meetings for religious services were, however, held by different denominations long before the year mentioned, often by ministers from Canada. Through the efforts of Benjamin and Peter Powers a small society was gathered and meetings held in the dwelling occupied in recent years by John Whalen, and there the Rev. Levi Miller formed a Methodist class. The church was not organized until 1839, and on the 3d of June of that year the following trustees were chosen: Levi Miller, Levi Miller, jr., Israel G. Stowe, John Power amid John Doud. The house of worship was erected in 1840 at a cost of about $4,000. The present pastor is Rev. W. T. Best.

The Second Methodist Church was organized at Chase's Mills with about twenty-two members, July 12, 1869. The first officers were L. E. Barnett, Robert Bardon, R. C. Allen. Apollos Jones, and I. A. Flarriman, trustees; William Bardon, treasurer; L. E. Barnett, church clerk. The house was erected in the same year of brick, and cost $2,400. Of this amount $1,000 were contributed by the inhabitants, and on dedication day, contrary to predictions of many, the $1,400 remaining was all paid up. Athough not numerous in membership, this church has always been active and prosperous. The pulpit is now supplied by Rev, Frank H. Taylor.

A Methodist Society was organized with forty members at Louisville Landing in 1852, by Rev. H. Chittenden, and a church was built in the same year. Services have been regularly held. The membership is small and the pulpit is supplied from Louisville village.

The Presbyterian church of Louisville was organized just previous to the erection of the present brick edifice in i88o. The building cost $4,500. The membership is about fifty five, and the church is flOW supplied on Sabbath afternoons by the congregational minister, Rev. A. S. Warden, from Massena.

The St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church was organized with sixtyfour families, October 2, 1869. John B. Whalen presided, and Michael Power was secretary of the meeting held for the purpose of effecting the formation of the society. The church was erected in 1871-72, at a cost of $7,000. The first trustees were Bishop Wadhams, Very Rev. James Mackey, Father Welsh, then pastor in charge, and John B. Whalen and Michael Power. The membership is about 300, and Father D. Nolan is in charge.

Since the opening of the first school in the town by Elisha Barber in 1808, in the Willson neighborhood, and of another a little later by Rev. Levi Miller, near the Louisville village site, great changes have been effected. The rude log school house has given way to tidy frame buildings, comfortably furnished and supplied with teachers of education and experience. There are now fourteen districts in the town, all of which are in prosperous circumstances,

Following is a list of the supervisors of Louisville from 1816 to the present, with dates of service:
1816, Elisha W. Barber; 1819. Christopher G. Stowe ; 1820, Benjamin Raymond 1821, Timothy W. Osborne: 1822-23, C. G. Stowe; 1824, Samuel R. Anderson; 1825- 28, William Bradford ; 1829. September 19, _____ Gould, to fill vacancy from Bradford's death; 1829-33, Jube E, Day 1834, Allen McLeod, Jr. ; 1835, J. E. Day ; 1836, Allen McLeod ; 1837-40, Samuel Bradford ; 1841-42, John Doud ; 1843, Thomas Bingham; 1844, S. Bradford ; 1845, T. Bingham; 1846-47, Nathaniel D. Moore; 1848, John Gibson; 1848, March 25, Levi Miller, jr., to fill vacancy ; 1849, Levi Miller, jr. 1850-54, John Gibson; 1855, Mark A. Moore; 1856-57, Samuel Bradford; 1858, William Miller ; 1859-60, Samuel Bradford; 1861, Levi Miller; 1862-63, John Whalen 1864-63, James Miller; 1860-68, William Bradford; ; 1869, Otis H. Wells; 1870-71, John Whalen; 1872, James Miller; 1873-77. William Bradford; 1878-79, W. W. Tuttle; 1880, Otis H. Wells, 1881. W. W. Tuttle; 1882, Otis H. Wells; 1883-84, Henry Mullholland; 1885-86, John B. Wilson: 1887-89, Guy R. Cook; 1890-93, John B. Wilson ; Otis Wells, 1804.

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